Sunday, March 29, 2009

Getting unbent

Soon after we moved here, we began buying bundles of seedling trees from the Conservation Department and the Arbor Day Foundation. Some of them survived, among them this pine tree. The winters here are always notable for ice storms, but there was an especially bad one 3 years ago during which many trees were damaged.

During this storm, this pine tree was bent almost horizontal by the weight of the ice and stayed bent over for several days before the ice finally melted.

We considered it a miracle that it didn’t snap or become uprooted.

It gradually began to straighten – not helped a bit by ice storms in the succeeding two winters and another bad one this past winter.

It has managed to almost – not quite – but almost become upright again.

In the meantime, the needles on the limbs started pointing in the wrong direction...

and now that the tree is almost vertical they look sort of odd. It will be interesting to see how long it takes the needles to point the right way.

I think there is probably a life-lesson to be learned from this tree. I know some people that are somewhat bent because of things that have happened in their lives. Sometimes we truly do get weighted down by the burdens in life and some of us never really recovered. I am going to try very hard not to become bent and pointing in the wrong direction myself.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Catching up

I have been suffering a bit from blogger meltdown here the past week. Have had trouble organizing my thoughts, the day when I would have... should have.... intended to have posted, was, well.... very stressful. So I let it slide. Then I started thinking about the different blogs I have visited in the blogsphere that are geared to a single topic - blogs about books, visual entertainment (movies, television, etc), health, kids, food, exercise, diet, frugal living, nature, and so on.

Well shoot, I can glob about all those things. Yes. That's right. Glob....


I picked up the book Arthur & George from the thrift store, and I bought it, for 25-cents, solely because of the beautiful cover...

and because I loved the Sherlock Holmes stories when I was a kid and also, much later, the dramatizations that starred Jeremy Brett (the novel is a recreation of true story about Arthur Conan Doyle whose life becomes entwined with that of Anglo-Indian solicitor named George). When I got it home and looked inside, I saw the name of Pat P___, who is the wife of Chuck P____, a man I worked with at the post office for many years. She had a reputation of being a most excellent teacher of English at the high school. She retired several years ago. I met her several times over the years at various post office functions, and then during the election, I was surprised to see her on my doorstep encouraging me to vote. It was the first time ever the Democrats in this county did any kind of campaigning. I think I know why she donated the book to the thrift store. This is a very well written book that is very tedious to read, and I confess that I skimmed sections of it. I will hold on to it for a while and then read it again.

The Dish Network keeps raising our rates, so we dropped a bunch of movie channels and signed up for the local stations. After about 5 years, we once again have PBS!!! Yea!!! What a treat to watch yet another remake of David Copperfield on Masterpiece Theater, with Maggie Smith and a young Daniel Radcliff, and Bob Hoskins. They were wonderful.

I am currently having an episode of "wind tunnel" This is a weird thing that going on with my left year and has done for several years now. I am fairly sure I know what it is. The tube leading out the back of my ear gets closed off, and then it sounds like I'm in a wind tunnel. I am not sick. There is no pain. It is just annoying. The most dramatic way to cure it is to go up in an airplane, which is how I got rid of on one occasion. But that isn't practical. Eventually it goes away, usually after a couple of days.

We had a very upsetting week with him.
Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune--without the words,
And never stops at all...
Oh yeah? Wanna bet? Our "hope" has been singing off-key for quite a while, and it took a hard fall this week. Very hard. It's off the perch for a while. Dealing with him is just so frustrating sometimes. He's broken. He can't be fixed. It will never get better. And that's all I am gonna say about that (in my best Forrest Gump voice).

I go to the YMCA 3 times a week to participate in a low-impact aerobics class for older women. We also lift weights. Recent studies have shown just how important exercise is for health and well-being. My health and well-being are somewhat impaired, however, because I am somewhat uncoordinated. Exercises for balance and coordination are also part of the class, but I usually go to the weight room for some extra weight lifting for the 15 minutes those exercises are going on because some of them hurt my knees. While failing around with the weights on Wednesday, I sort of "tapped" myself under the eye and now I have just a hint of a black eye. It does not add anything to my appearance. I am now thinking perhaps I should forgo the extra 15-minutes of weight lifting and do the exercises.

Weight loss...
We have been on a weight loss campaign now for almost 3 years. My husband has lost 60 pounds and now weighs as much as I did when we started. I lost about 50 pounds, but then gained back about 10 pounds when I went to California in October and then didn't control myself over the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. So I am back on the wagon to loose the extra 10 pounds, and I still have about 5 pounds to go. It is sometimes frustrating and disheartening because it takes next to no time at all to gain weight and a very long time to loose it. We have noticed bizarre things happen when we get on the scale every day, which is always after we have just gotten out of bed and gone to the bathroom--but before drinking coffee or eating breakfast. Sometimes the amount on the scale differs up to 3 pounds from one day to the next, without either of us having done anything extraordinary as far as overeating. If you are dieting and checking your weight, you need to do it every day and then average your weight over the week. Your day-to-day weight may not be accurate at all.

Frugal living...
Once you think the tube of toothpaste is empty, put the cap on it and cut off the flat end with a pair of scissors and pry the tube apart. I use a paper punch to put a hole in the tube and then I hang it on a hook since it won't fit upside down in the slot in the toothbrush holder. You will discover enough toothpaste is left inside to continue brushing your teeth for at least a week, maybe even longer. Just scrape your toothbrush on the inside of the tube. As you work down the tube, cut more off. I'm not kidding about the extra week either. Try it, you'll see.

My neighbor Tony cleaned out his freezer and brought me a front leg from a deer. Aren't you glad I did not have Richard take pictures of me with the hacksaw disarticulating the meat at the joints so I could get it in the crock pot? I adapted a recipe called Carolina Roast Venison for the crock pot. Poured over the meat is a sauce made with pepper, dry mustard, vinegar, sugar, salt, garlic, and onions, and then it is basted every so often. Hours later the meat falls off the bone and a lovely pot of highly flavored broth can be used for soup.

Trees are starting to leaf out, and the fruit trees and shrubs...

are starting to bloom... It is beautiful.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

I try to explain a book

Every once in a while I go to the thrift store to see if any interesting dishes and or books have been donated. One never knows what one may find there. Occasionally a treasure. One of the books I happened to pick up on a recent quest was Extra Innings, by Doris Grumbach. I almost didn’t buy the book because one of the most boring dates I ever had was at a professional baseball game that went into extra innings. It was excruciating. But then I opened the book and read a bit and immediately changed my mind.

Once upon a time, this book was part of the collection of the Thomas Jefferson Library in Jefferson City. And then it was discarded. How did it come to be in a thrift store some 150 miles away?

I had never heard Doris Grumbach, and I suppose nobody else did either, which is why the book was probably not checked and why it was probably taken off the shelf. I suppose I should have known her because she was a regular contributor on National Public Radio, which we listen to. She had written a book called Into the End Zone which chronicles the year she became 71 and how she coped with getting old. Then she wrote the book I found, called Extra Innings, again using a sports metaphor for the aging process.

She began this book on the date of the publication of her first memoir, some 2 years later, and then she goes on to detail the subsequent year in her life. The woman has written some novels, which I have never read but intend to check out to see if the writing in them is as marvelous as it is in this book.

Judy comes up to me in aerobics class and says, “Tell me about Doris Grumbach” as she hands me some Madeline L'Engle books to take home. And she has put a post-it note on one of the books that says "Doris Grumbach," as a reminder that she needs to ask me. I don’t know where to begin. I usually don’t read books with the intent of offering a review. I just know I find her writing exquisite, but I can’t really define what that means. The pages are bristling with post-it notes where I have marked things she has written that caused me to pause, and think.

She writes: "One of my daughters said she liked letters better than calls. 'I like to read them over.' Letters are history. They are the savored and saved past, the instigators of memory....."

I agree. My parents call me every Saturday morning because they have a flat-rate long-distance plan so it doesn’t cost them anything. I love talking to them. I love hearing their voices, and my Dad’s laugh, and my mother always has an interesting story to tell. I look forward to Saturday morning when I know the phone will ring and we will be connected across 1,500 miles by that telephone wire.

My dad also writes me a letter every week.

He just writes about what is happening in his life. Some would think it boring, but as I read this, I can picture him bustling around the house, doing his chores... I can picture the mail lady “steaming by” as he puts it.

And he does very clever and creative things on the envelopes. When I used to work at the post office, and the clerks actually sorted the mail that came in, they always watched for my dad’s letter because of what he would put on the front.

Click on the picture to enlarge it...

There is something extra special about holding that letter in my hand and reading it over and mulling about it. I know that some day these letters will stop. But I have these instigators of memory on hand for the future that I know is coming...

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Gimme a second...

I don't have very good gross motor skills. I am rather uncoordinated and clumsy and have never been good at sports. I have also never been very good at holding on to objects within my grasp. So it was no surprise to anyone, certainly not me, that when I attempted to remove thel clock on my office wall on March 8 to spring forward an hour for Daylight Savings Time that I dropped the clock and it broke.

I got a clock off the wall in another room that we don't frequent very much and put it on the wall so I can keep track of the time while I am working. Yes, there is a digital readout of the time on the computer monitor, but I prefer to look at a clock with a face and hands. I like the visual image of 10 minutes past 8, with the big hand on the 2, rather than reading "8:10" in numbers. That may not make any sense, but I can't articulate it any better than that.

The only problem is that the ticking of this replacement clock was really loud, and Richard found it annoying. The separation of my office from the bedroom is mostly symbolic in the form of a large shelf for the TV and some books.

So he bought a new clock. It was a lovely clock, and very quiet, only the face was sort of a brown color and the hands were sort of a brown color, and it was very difficult to read from a distance. The way our house is designed, one can come in the back door and see the clock on the wall at the other end of the house, where my office is. He suggested I take it back and pick one that I liked, so I did.

I found a nice big clock with an easy-to-read face and it was only $6.00 (£4.13).

After I got it home I noticed something was missing.

I asked N to look at the clock and tell me what was missing. He didn't notice. But I certainly did. What the heck happened to the "second hand?" Not that I use the second hand all that much, but still. It just doesn't seem right without it....

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

It was a dark and stormy night...

It didn’t start off that way, but when Tim showed up to ask if N wanted to go out to the woods, they stood around and talked for a while, but by the time they decided to go, a serious thunderstorm was brewing and the sky was very black. So instead of chopping down trees themselves, they decided to watch TV about men chopping down trees. And then it was time for Tim to go home, so they walked out on the porch and it was pouring rain so N said he’d get Tim an umbrella.

He started to grab the one hanging there by the back door. (The sign says "Please place package in tub" in case FedEx or UPS shows up with something)

And then I hear him yelling "M-O-M." Can you find an umbrella for Tim? The wrens have built a nest in the umbrella..

Yes indeed. They had. So, we found another umbrella for Tim to use.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

F-e-e-d me.... F-e-e-d me....

In college I dated a boy named Seymour for a while.

A friend happened to take this picture of me sort of sitting next to Seymour. I had a burning yearning to be involved with the young man who was standing in front of us; he liked me as a friend, and it never went any farther than that.

On one of our early dates, Seymour took me to a reception at his parents' house (now that I think about it, he lived there too) in honor of the Bat Mitzvah of his younger sister. There was a large table filled with an amazing assortment of food.

Eat some of this! Try this!

His parents had come from England. His mother was English, and his father went to England as part of the Kinder transport from Germany. His mother had a strong English accent, which surprised me somehow. Idiot that I was, it didn't dawn on me that Jews could be English too. She was very nice. One of the most amazing things there ...

Oh, you really must try this! --

was a huge glass bowl filled with layers of cake and fruit and creamy stuff. Seymour said it was English Trifle. I had never heard of English Trifle, and I had never tasted anything remotely like it. It was.... it was... amazing. There was liquor in it, too.

There is a point to this story... bear with me, please.

Not too long ago I searched for his name on the Internet because I was looking through photo albums and saw the picture and was curious about what might have become of him. Seymour and I never fell in love, and the relationship fizzled, so this was just a trot down memory lane and not an attempt to resurrect a long-lost love. I did eventually find him, and he has had a very successful life; but before that, I made a mistake when I typed in his last name and I ended up on Web sites for the movie Little Shop of Horrors because the main character in the movie is called Seymour.

Poor Seymour. He creates a plant that has a taste for blood. And it demands to be fed.


I am not quite in the pickle that poor Seymour finds himself, and I won't give away the plot of the move, but sometimes I feel like I could be walking in his shoes when it comes to this blog. The blog wants me to write. It has come to life and is screaming at me to be written for.


And doggone it, sometimes it is hard to come up with stuff!

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

A bit of beauty...

That Weaver woman often writes posts that make me ponder things a bit more closely than perhaps I would otherwise. I wonder about her a lot. I think about the little weaver birds of Africa who raise their young in these unique intricate woven hangings of grass. She wrote about beauty recently.

People are making an effort to try to improve the appearance of our downtown area. To beautify it. And it definitely needs beautifying.

And so murals have been painted to try to distract from the ugly walls that were left exposed when some old storefronts were torn down.

They made an open area with picnic tables, and a stream water feature, which I have only seen working once..

Some other building owners had a bit more ambition. On the four corners of the main intersection stand four ancient brick buildings. About $1 million has been spent to save one of the buildings, which was about ready to collapse, it has been unoccupied for some years now. Plans are to put in an arts center.

This used to be the old bank building. It is now occupied by a cabinet maker. Local artists painted scenes on the side.

But the most amazing painting was done around the top of the building. I imagine the owner spent quite a bit of money to hire the expert painter and her crew who recreated in amazing colors and details what it must have looked like when they were built back at the turn of the century (1900!).

A bit of the town's history has been drawn on walls of the building on the right in the aerial shot.

The old ice house was still standing when we first moved to this town. Now an auto body repair shop occupies the land.

Our town used to be a stop on the Frisco line.

And a local Boy Scout troop, worked to fixed up the old "Welcome Sign".

There used to be a depot here, once upon a time. And a grand hotel, as well.

And finally, a couple of horses have been installed on the front lawn of the local bank.

This bank has branches in several of the surrounding towns, and these bank branches all have quite a few more horses than we have, but at least we have some.

And a sad sign of the times is that they must be chained to the ground so that nobody steals them.

I love looking at these horses. Scraps of metal turned into something unique and... yes.... beautiful.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

They’re ba-a-a-a-a-ck

This time last week it was snowing and church had to be cancelled because there was so much on the ground. By Monday afternoon it was almost entirely melted and it has been in the 60s for most of the week. The temperature reached in the mid-70s yesterday, and last night we slept with all the windows open. Today it will again be in the mid-70s and thunderstorms are likely. Winter is not officially over, of course, and it could be snowing again by the middle of the week, but certain subtle signs let us know Spring is not far off.

After several months of silent nights, it has once again become very noisy. The spring peepers out at the pond begin their song before the sun even goes down and go at it until dawn. And for my family in California who have never heard a spring peeper...

But the main sign of spring for us is that the bathroom ants are back.

I have no idea what compels them to swarm in our bathroom sink. There is nothing for them to eat. But there they are.

This is benign. This is nothing. This the calm before the storm. Soon the other colonies of ants that we unhappily live with– the kitchen ants and the living room ants and the office ants – will also appear. And anything left out, even for a minute, will soon be infested.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Touching books

Having seen the movie 84, Charing Cross Road quite a few times because I enjoyed it so much, my excitement when Judy handed me Helene Hanff's little book with the same name to read was tempered somewhat by wondering how the book was going to differ from the movie.

The makers of movies are almost never content to just to follow the book on which the movie is based. Sometimes the changes help the story and sometimes they don't. And sometimes the changes seem to be for no reason at all. The movie made of Runaway Jury started off so differently from the book, we thought we had stumbled into the wrong theater.

In one of the early letters Helene Hanff wrote to Morris & Co, which is dated 10 days after my birth, she says...

...the Stevenson is so fine, it embarrasses my orange-crate bookshelves. I'm almost afraid to handle such soft vellum and heavy cream-colored pages, being used to the dead white paper and stiff cardboardy covers of American books, I never knew a book could be such a joy to the touch.
I love books and I love holding them in my hands -- I will never ever become an "e-book reader" -- but I have never owned a fine, beautifully bound book such as she describes that is a joy to touch. The books I read are mostly temporary residents, either from the library or borrowed from another person (usually Judy!). And the occasional books I do buy are almost always from the used-book store (thought I better throw the hyphen in there in case Miss Thistlebottom is reading this) or the thrift store or garage sales.

She concludes the letter with...

Will you please translate your prices hereafter? I don't add too well in plain American. I haven't a prayer of ever mastering bilingual arithmetic.
Laughing out loud here. I was counting up calories yesterday and added 62 and 62 and come up with 134.

As I work my way through this book, I see that the movie was perfect. And this evening when the day's work is done, I will go on what is probably a fruitless search to find video cassette #388, on which we recorded 84, Charing Cross Road and Empire of the Sun, and watch Ann Brancroft and Anthony Hopkins -- and indeed the rest of the wonderful cast -- give flawless performances as Helene Hanff and Frank Dole.

Monday, March 02, 2009

"A rose by any other name...."

I belong to an e-mail discussion group for copyeditors and others involved in various fields of editing and writing that is maintained by the LISTSERV at Indiana University -- the COPYEDITING-L. This has been shortened to CE-L, which has morphed into "CELery," which helps to explain the graphics in the logo.

We often refer to each other as "Stalks." All sorts of people from all around the world belong to the list -- librarians, authors of books, copywriters, copyeditors, indexers, teachers, proofreaders, translators -- all sorts. At least one famous author, the great science fiction writer Damon Knight, participated in the discussions up until his death.

People pose questions about all aspects of writing and editing. Other people answer, and discussions erupt. The discussions can be to the CELery as a whole, or they can be private.

I have books on English grammar, language, and usage by Fowler, Follett, and Strunk and White, and Bernstein and others, and I can usually find the answers to the mysteries in the sentences I work with, but asking the Stalks is often faster and often much more amusing than searching through my reference books, although this one manages to generate some laughs...

I recently posted a question to the CE-L group about something I see frequently in the manuscripts I work on for the orthopedic journal.


The shoulder from a newly dead person is being harvested for a study. The shoulder is fresh. The shoulder is frozen

Is this a...
fresh frozen shoulder...
fresh, frozen shoulder....
freshly frozen shoulder
fresh-frozen shoulder....

The sentence is: The study used a fresh frozen shoulder from a deceased donor.

Opinions please

Leilani, freshly confused....

And my goodness, did they have opinions. The first responses, mostly from the other medical copyeditors on the list, simply answered the question: "fresh frozen" was correct. A few others who responded thought it should be "fresh-frozen." And then the discussion moved away from my specific question, and they began taking issue with the term "fresh." I had to send another e-mail explaining that the term "fresh" was used to differentiate from "embalmed." And then I basically opted out of the discussion, until I got this private e-mail from Geoff, who writes books and lives in Melbourne, Australia:

I remember getting fresh and being told to drop dead then being given the deep freeze treatment -- the assumption being that this would discourage me from being fresh. How the world changes. Or was it just me? More seriously, I see the fresh referring to the frozen rather than the shoulder in all these. As distinct from a frozen cooked shoulder, or a frozen preserved shoulder. Maybe that's what they want to say. Maybe that's just me, too! A frozen fresh shoulder is best of the four, I think, but really, really, really, I think we can do without the "fresh" when talking about donated body parts!


I responded with
Thank you for the good laugh at the end of the day.... But no, we really really can't do without the "fresh" in these studies of the mechanics of shoulder joints. The joints can't come from embalmed specimens because that messes with the properties of the tissue.... and it can't be from a decomposing specimen either. It really must be fresh...

And Geoff responded with...
I appreciate it must be "fresh" but I would have thought fresh was too imprecise a description for scientific work... still, I would hold it should be "frozen fresh shoulder" rather than "fresh frozen".

And beware, Leilani, I can do awful things with your name.

Having been familiar with your name from the song, "Sweet .....", back in the 1970s I convinced a group of young Motu speakers (Papua New Guinea, and an Austronesian language related to Hawaiian) that in their own language (in which I was fluent), "leilani" meant a toilet seat with a square hole in it. It was supposed to be a joke, of course, but somehow I managed to keep a straight face and come up with convincing explanations for why they, with Motu as their mother tongue, were unfamiliar with the term.

But months later, I happened to be in the same room as one of the group and heard him repeating it ... seriously. I had to take him aside and quietly confess. One of the most embarrassing moment of my life!

And now I don't think I will ever think about my name, and what it means, in quite the same way...