Friday, February 27, 2009

One down....

A person whose opinion I respect very much says " sure do let it all hang out. I would never talk, about my child's money matters so openly..."

I think he is right. I was over the top and the post revealed too much of our son's personal affairs. So, I am severely editing what I originally wrote; leaving the nuts and bolts of it.

There is a segment of the financial industry in this country that preys on poor people who find themselves in dire straights. Our son ended up with a loan from one such company, which he managed to pay off.

We all did the happy dance.

I guess in this case a picture is worth 1000 words

Yearly interest rate: 117.20%. Think about it.

From my perspective, this is legalized loansharking. I hear the advertisement for the company that he got this loan from on the radio on the mornings that I drive to town. And I wonder how many poor people who don’t have resources end up being caught in a similar trap.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Being there

One of the things we often say about the idiot kitty (at least that is printable and suitable for viewing by all ages) is that “She wants to be where she isn’t.”

If she is outside, she wants in.

If she is inside, she wants out. Makes for an interesting day. I get a lot of exercise opening the door for her.

We left the Los Angeles area in 1979, where we had been born and raised, and where our son was born, so that we could raise him in a more rural environment. We bounced around Oregon for 2 years, and then we headed East and landed here.

The culture shock has abated somewhat in recent years because the university has put a campus in a nearby town and has begun to offer amusements – film series, stage productions, concerts, performers, lecture series.

But still, there is an aura about the Very Big City. I love looking at this blog, and I occasionally am filled with longing to be “there.”

And never more than this past week when my cousin, who has moved even farther East, clear to Washington, DC, e-mailed me about going on a art show guided lecture at the National Gallery of Art, on "Dutch Cityscapes” and also taking in a photography exhibit.

The National Gallery of Art. Oh my. I found myself feeling rather green with envy. I have an "Art Museum Tour" widget on my home page, but I can only imagine what it would be like to actually stand in front of some of those paintings.

On my to-do list is "Plan a trip to Washington, DC." But I think after a few days of being “there”, in the Very Big City, I would probably be desperate to be back “here....”

Monday, February 23, 2009

We become alarmed

"It is perfectly normal," says the medical correspondent on the TV program I watch 3 days a week for the 10 minutes I spend lifting weights at the YMCA while the aerobics class I attend does balancing exercises. I suppose I need the balancing exercises as much as I need to lift weights, but some of them are uncomfortable to do on certain joints so I skip them.

She is a younger middle-aged woman who exudes confidence as she assures us that forgetting where one has put the car keys is just part of normal aging, it's not incipient Alzheimer disease.

Terry Pratchett, who is one of my favorite authors, has Alzheimer disease. I admit, this disease scares the crap out of me -- even more than cancer.

The problem, she says, is when we forget why we have car keys. This is a big relief. I don't misplace the car keys because they are either hanging on the frog hook my sister gave me or else they are in the car. But I do misplace my glasses. Often. But at least I still know what glasses are for and why I have them: I can't read unless I have them on. And as soon as I finish reading whatever it is I am reading, I take them off and set them down.

I have many more than just one set of glasses. I have two pairs at the computer -- my fancy optometrist-prescribed computer glasses and the pair of drug-store readers I had been using but find I still need (I goofed when I told the optometrist what I wanted, but that's another story) These never ever leave my computer desk, so I always know where they are.

The problem is the several other pairs of store-bought readers that are scattered about the house. When I remember, I hook the earpiece part over the neck of my shirt so I don't have to wander around the house looking for the missing glasses.

The other day I forgot they were hanging from my shirt and went searching for them, and then noted that I had two pairs of glasses hanging from my shirt.

Richard keeps a little notebook in the pocket of his t-shirt so he can write down things he needs to remember to do, right then.

But an even handier device is the alarm program that we have both installed on our computers.

Richard has his set for all sorts of things, and it goes off periodically throughout the day. It's very obnoxious, but also effective. The other day, I used my alarm to remind me to call my brother on his birthday.

Only I was off by one day.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cutting the power

Our barn roof started to leak many years ago. Richard bought materials to fix it, but got sidetracked before he could repair it. The leak did not heal itself, and the roof started leaking more and more, and then rotting. And then it needed a new roof, not just a repair job. Richard concluded that the barn basically sucked. It was poorly constructed and designed, and not really usable. Bottom line: he was not going to spend any more money on the barn. When it collapsed, we would build a new barn. He used the materials to fix the roof on another part of the house.

The roof was still hanging on, up until the ice and snow storm that hit here a few weeks ago. It really did not seem to be that bad of a storm, but the ice was heavy and the snow was heavy. Many metal buildings in town were damaged -- $3 million in damage at the walnut mill.

The walls of the barn are still standing and seem solid enough...

but all of the roof rafters are now cracked and sagging dangerously. Part of the roof came down on top of the pack rat's nest.

Richard decided we better cut the power to the barn to avoid live wires on the ground, a short in the electric circuit, and possibly a fire, and so the power company sent a man out in his bright red truck.

It was starting to drizzle, and I wanted to ask him if it was such a good idea for him to be messing about with electricity in the rain. But I didn't ask, and I guess that it was starting to rain didn't matter.

He did his job and the lines were cut, and now the barn is truly dead. Soon it will be a pile of rubble. I am somewhat sad to see this happening. But it is too late now to fix it -- a stitch in time really does save nine -- but perhaps eventually a much better barn will take its place.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

I survive a conjunction

With some regularity the objects in our solar system line themselves up in pleasing arrangements...

conjunctions... that people enjoy watching...

and photographing. And sometimes even more spectacular things appear in the heavens.

I used to venture outside on such occasions, and then would often return to the house and grab Richard by the ear and drag him outside to see as well.

The last time I did this was a few years ago when a comet appeared in the sky that could be seen if one used binoculars and was patient. I saw it, and then urged him to come outside and see it too. I showed him where to look and gave him the binoculars, and he said he saw it and we went back in.

Later on, he told me that he didn't see it. He was just tired of standing out there in the cold and wanted to back in the house. It was then I finally realized that he really was not interested in this and that I should leave him alone. So I did.

Whenever I told him I was going outside to look at a planetary conjunction or that I was going to take a ride in car to spot with a clear view of the West so I could see the planet Mercury low in the sky just after sundown, he would tease me "Oh boy, more white dots in the sky," he'd say.

I don't star gaze too much anymore. I have sort of lost interest myself in seeing the white dot, although I do have the Astronomy Picture of the Day as a widget on my desktop.

If I can be forgiven for expressing what I do to earn money as a metaphor for the solar system, then I have been experiencing my own "conjunction". A conjunction of the journals. I edit for two large journals - not the ones that are in the press all the time - but they are major journals for their respective fields.

I think of them as Jupiter...

and Saturn.

I edit for two smaller journals, also important for their specialty but not as big....


and Venus

And then whirling into this mini-Solar system a couple of times a year is

Pluto.. No. Not that Pluto.

This Pluto.

At any rate, about 2 weeks ago, a lot of work for all of the journals - including Pluto - arrived at once. It has been a bit overwhelming.

One the one hand, I blessed God that I still have a job, especially since the ripple effects of the economic troubles have hit the publishing industry and my very favorite issue manager -- she handled Jupiter -- is now out of a job.

The journal is traveling to another location and I have moved with it, but she has not. The party is over, she says, in an e-mail. I am going to miss her so much. I would like to cry right along with her. As a matter of fact, Pluto's issue manager is also out of a job. I don't know yet whether I will be traveling along with that journal when it lands in its new home.

On the other hand, I was on the verge of panic: "how am I going to get all of this done."

Richard patted me on the back. Of course you will get it done, he says. And he was right. The deadline is Friday for the last of it. I have now finished, and will be sending it within a couple of hours this morning -- just a bit tweaking is left.

All this extra work has happened at a good time. We may need the extra money to get our septic system lined out. It is working now, but it is still not not quite right.

and they have been trying to the bottom of the problem.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nipped in bud

The cycles of our seasons tell us when Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter officially begin, but nature doesn't always follow the cycle in this part of Missouri.

Often in February or early March, the icy grip of winter lifts for a few days in a row, and the temperature will climb to the 60s, and it feels like Spring. And the creation thinks its Spring too. Birds start to sing. The bathroom ants emerge to invade the toothpaste.

And then suddenly, overnight, there they are.

The sweet little crocus spring up in the flower bed in the front yard.

In an earlier post, I said that it would be 6 weeks before the first flower bloomed. I totally forgot that the crocus would indeed bloom before Spring was officially here.

The blooms close at night, which protects them somewhat from the cold, but inevitably within a few days, winter will descend again with a vengeance, the temperature will plummet and stay cold, and they will freeze. In years gone by, I struggled to keep them alive by covering them but it inevitably failed; now I just let nature take its course.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Happy birthday...

Today is our son’s birthday. When my obstetrician visited me in the hospital (he was playing golf when the baby was born and another doctor I did not know delivered our son), he teased me about naming our boy Abraham. And not just because it was Abraham Lincoln's birthday. My OB was Jewish and his name was Abraham, and he sent me into the giggles when he used the Yiddish word “tuchus” to refer to well, what was going on “down there” when he took a look the next day.

We did not name him Abraham. We had already settled on Nathaniel, which means gift from God.

He truly was a gift – a gift we were not expecting. Sometimes over the years since his birth, I have wondered what God had in mind when He landed this gift in our laps.

I have learned... and learned... and learned... that God’s grace is sufficient. And as long as our son continues to draw a breath, I will go on learning....

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

-Reinhold Niebuhr

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A bit of color

It will be another 6 weeks or so before we'll see the first blooms of spring. I do have a flower though. My Christmas cactus usually blooms sometimes in the winter. Usually it is covered with blooms. This year though, it isn't very happy. It is a very old plant. Maybe it's just tired. It seems to be sulking a bit, and a few of the buds fell off.

As a kid I always loved to see the films taken with time-lapsed cameras that showed the blossoms opening up within a few seconds.

I got the idea to take a photo of one of the blooms over several days as it swelled from just a tiny bit of pink at the end of the branch until it finally until it finally opened...

but naturally, half of the pictures didn't turn out

No matter, the plant has brightened the room quite a bit.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Well, here's another nice mess

Only I can’t blame Stan for getting me into trouble. And actually just like Olllie, it is me, myself, and I who are to blame for the messes.

What? You don’t know what I’m talking about? Stan, who? Ollie? It’s Stan and Ollie, as in Laurel and Hardy. Just showing my age a bit; that's what we watched when we were growing up.

All I wanted was a cup of frothy hot chocolate.

I don’t have one of those nifty Mexican doohickeys that people use to make Mexican chocolate, but I do have something else that works good....

really good... better than it needs to....

I have been cleaning up after myself for a very long time now, and I guess it will never get any better. I lack the gene that says “think about what is likely to happen....”

Here is a recipe for hot cocoa mix that is very good

Hot Cocoa Recipe
courtesy Alton Brown

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup cocoa (Dutch process preferred)
2 1/2 cups powdered milk
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cornstarch
1 pinch cayenne pepper, or more to taste
Hot water

Thoroughly combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Heat 4 to 6 cups of water or milk.
Fill a mug half-full with the mixture and pour in hot water. Stir to combine.
Store the mix in an airtight container.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

I hear something unexpected

The icy grip of winter has broken, if only temporarily. It will probably reach 50 or 60 degrees today and the ice and snow of the 12 days or so is melting rapidly.

I went on the porch this morning to hang some plastic bags to dry on the line and....

I heard cardinals singing!!!

After weeks and weeks of silence. A lovely song...

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Flashback 2: The secret lives of animals

We miss much of what goes on here between the hours of sundown and sunrise. Animals go about their secret lives, leaving little trace behind that they have passed through. We are not totally unaware that we share their land. They may wake us up, especially if they find their way onto the roof and play tag in the wee hours of the morning, or get into a fight, or decide to engage in a noisy mating ritual.

There are no secrets, however, after it snows. In the morning when the sun comes up, all sorts of goings-on are revealed, but many mysteries remain.

A rabbit comes come out of the field and moves diagonally across the yard by the barn.

Or more than one rabbit. Birds are everywhere, or perhaps this is the trail of a mouse.

A deer moves out from under the pine tree near the forsythia bush and stops to nibble on the shoots.

The snow is dotted here and there with reddish blotches. Plums or berries... or...?

Crisscrossing the yard is the trail our kitty. Or perhaps this was left by one of the feral toms who includes our land in his territory and occasionally cruises by to terrorize our cat if she happens to be outside.

The opossum has amazing feet, which don't show up so clearly in the photo...

its front paws are almost like little hands, with pink fingers.

The tracks in the snow don't last very long. And as the snow deteriorates, the prints get larger and larger, until it is a mountain lion meandering down the driveway instead of a 7 pound kitty.

Mud is a good revealer of secrets, too. In some parts of the country, Arizona, Utah, and other places, fossilized prints of dinosaurs that walked in the mud can be found. One wonders how those footprints were turned into fossils.

Some years back, a raccoon left his footprints in a thick deposit of silt left behind after a heavy rainfall eroded the newly landscaped highway right of way up the hill from our house and re-created the small river that had flowed down from the highway and on to the watershed that courses through town. I was still cleaning the dentist office then, and I called and asked him if I could have a bit of the plaster they use to make molds of peoples' mouths. He said, yes.

So I got some and made some plaster casts of the footprints. I had never done it before, so they didn't turn out as good as they could have. I almost sent them to my nieces for Show-and-Tell at school, but then I considered they were probably too old for Show-and-Tell, and so I changed my mind. And then I realized I wasn't absolutely sure this was a raccoon, it could have been a possum. In any event, they remain among the odds and ends on my bookshelf that I look at and remember.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Flashback 1: Gettin' out.

Instead of just hunkering down for a couple of days after a ice and snow storm has hit, my husband seems to have a compulsion to go to town for no real reason except, I guess, to prove that he can. Someone I e-mail regularly lives in Vermont and says his dad does the same thing. He thinks it has to do with refusing to accept restrictions on one's ability to roam freely.

The truck was so iced up that Richard couldn't get the doors open, so he started up the Toyota, which was in the garage, and went to town - without a shovel, mind you. He got stuck twice in piles of snow and ice that the city trucks had left. Fortunately, one of the city workers happened by while he was struggling and helped him get free.

Next morning he decided he would put the snow tires on the truck and go to town. And he got out the rubber mallet and went to work.

Whap whap whap...

Whap, whap...

Whap.... whap.... whap.

And he went to town.... for no reason at all.