Saturday, February 27, 2010

A Pile of Books

When we lived in Albany, Oregon, the very good public library was nearby, and as my mother did with me when I was a little girl, I made regular trips there with our boy, who was about 3 years old. He mostly liked books about heavy equipment and trains, and was very happy for me to read to him (over and over and over) the "Golden Books" I picked up for 50-cents each at the grocery store about the Little Engine that Could, and steam shovels with clam shells, and The Huff and Puff Express. Indeed, I used to be able to recite many of those stories by memory (and he did too and would not let me skip pages). But he also liked the books we got at the library, and especially the Richard Scarry books, which I ended up buying for ourselves because he was wearing out the library copy.

If I read the lines Ma and Pa and Pickles and Penny Pig are going on a picnic. Here comes Ma with the picnic basket. Please hurry up Ma" once, I read them a hundred times.We wore our own copy out. Wonderful books.

It was a great day for me when I found the library had the great series of books about Frog and Toad by the wonderful author Arnold Lobel. I loved these simple, sweet, gentle stories about those two friends...

and not surprisingly, our boy did too.

A poem by Arnold Lobel particularly fits the situation I find myself in now:

Books to the ceiling
Books to the sky
My pile of books is a mile high.
How I love them! How I need them!
I'll have a long beard by the time I read them.
And the bit about the "long beard" is not too far from the truth, either. If my chin sprouts one more wiry white hair, I will be sorely tempted to start using the electric razor we bought our son for his birthday earlier in the month.

At any rate, on Thursday I went to the library to return a book that was due back, and I decided to try a book by Jody Picoult. She seems to have written a lot of books, if the book section at Walmart* is any indication, but I had never read one.

The library had this on the shelf.

While the clerk was checking out the book out to me, the assistant librarian heard my voice and popped her head out of the work room and said, "Oh, you remember those Alexander McCall Smith books you wanted us to buy? Well they have arrived. Do you want them?"

Yes, I certainly did want them.

Because of budget cuts, our library has had to struggle to come up with innovative ideas to get new books for its patrons to read, and it developed the "Adopt an Author" program. It's simple: The patron pays for the books the library buys at a discount, and then gets to read the books first before they are offered for general circulation.

A few weeks ago, my friend Judy told me that the library had acquired the last book in Alexander McCall Smith series about Isabel Dalhousie, The Lost Art of Gratitude" and when she returned the book, she had the librarian hold it for me so I could read it. I decided the library should have the first ones in the series as well. I had read the first two books and obviously quite a bit had happened to Isabel since then. I needed to find out the details. I told the library to buy the books. And they did

She brought a stack of books over to the counter. So instead of walking out with one novel, I brought  home 6 books.

Yesterday, I took the first two books back because, as I said, I had already read them and there was no point of them sitting here at the house when I knew Judy would want to read them. I asked the librarian to tell her. She did. But there are still four of them piled up here... 

So now in the evenings, I have put away the coloring book and have turned off the television, and am hunkered down on the couch with hot tea and the books.

*In the interest of fair reporting and to balance the "rant" of a few days ago, Richard bought a box of kosher salt at Walmart that was $3 cheaper than the price we paid for the same box of salt at the local grocery. Knowing prices so that you can compare prices is the key!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Forest for the Trees

Two things I have read recently have set the little gray cells humming. The first was a post at Life at Willow Manor about when and when not to apologize, to say you’re sorry. I hesitate to copy and paste because I don’t want to violate her copyright, so please take a minute to go there and read what she has to say. Please.
I take seriously the Biblical admonition to “Do everything possible on your part to live in peace with everybody (Rom 12: 18. TEV).”  There is a tendency when trying to put this idea into practice of misunderstanding what it means and then walking on eggshells for fear one is going to offend someone and make them mad. If one is constantly tempted to try to make everyone around them happy, which of course is impossible, then one starts feeling the need to apologize for having an opinion, or having faith, or....

The second: is from The Kitchen Congregation by Nora Seton

...whatever you know of a person within the trunk and tendrils of a friendship, it is only two percent of what there is to know, and that you live together on the surface of the ground, only vaguely aware of the vast structures underneath...
I was thinking about this especially this week when my friend came up and put her arm around me and said, “I need a hug....”

I don’t think we have much of an idea of how entangled are the roots of trees that stand near each other because this is a connection that is not immediately noticeable from what one observes above ground. Yet as conversations occur between friends and family over days and months and years, suddenly something will be said that causes one of those “aha” moments.

The only way I can only know what is going on in her life “below ground” is if she tells me. And there is such a thrill—a bonding feeling—to find we have shared experiences. And it is better I think for these to poke up out of the ground slowly, it makes each new conversation an opportunity for discovery, even if it is about something rather mundane.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One Thing Forgotten

Just like I do every other morning, when I got up at 5:30 this morning, I gave my screaming bladder some relief, washed my hands, took my night guard out and brushed it, and brushed my teeth, and then I got dressed.

And then I went to work.

Some two hours later I hear the Richard's house-slipper shuffle coming across the linoleum in the kitchen and dining area and heading toward where I work and then I hear him "heh heh heing" behind me.

What? I don't turn around.

You forgot to comb your hair and you look like you have stuck your finger in a light socket. But that's OK, I forgot to comb my own hair too.

But actually, it is not OK, because on more than one occasion I have lept up from the computer at 7:45 and raced out of the house to get to my 8:00 AM aerobics class without bothering to look at myself in the bathroom mirror before charging out the door.

Must remember to add "brush  hair" to the morning routine.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Live better? Save money? Better comparison shop

Yes, I know this rant will have limited appeal. Some communities in the United States have been successful at keeping Wal-Mart out of their towns, and certainly any furr-ners who have happened to wander here won’t be heading out to Wally World either.

It was an amazing thing for us rural folks when Wal-Mart arrived in the town down the road some years ago, because suddenly we had access to a major store with everything we could possibly want or need at a reasonable price. This was a big deal. A Very Big Deal. The nearest comparable store – K-Mart, or Target, or Monkey Wards (oops, sorry, Montgomery Wards), or Sears, or JC Penny, or... was 90 miles away. Now we only had to drive 25 miles or 16 miles, depending on which town we wanted to drive to. Sam Walton, whose vision Wal-mart was, had a brilliant idea, and we loved shopping at his stores.

Then Wal-Mart became new and improved, and the one that was 25 miles away transformed into a  SuperCenter with food. And this was even better. Wonderful produce and an incredible variety of food items that none of the markets in town carried.

Then Sam Walton went the way of all flesh and was buried, and Wal-Mart began to change. It has become less and less fun to shop at Wal-Mart.

In the meantime, finally, other companies wised up that money could be made in rural towns, within the last 5 years or so, a Dollar General Stores was built in our town. And we have discovered that stuff at the Dollar General Store is often cheaper than it is at Wal-Mart.

On our last shopping trip to Wal-Mart, we left the store without getting 6 items on our list because the store no longer carries them or else the shelf was empty. An empty shelf at Wal-Mart! Sam Walton would be spinning in his grave if that were possible. We went looking for sauerkraut. We buy most of our canned goods by the case at Aldi, but sauerkraut is a seasonal item and is not available at Aldi during the winter. Apparently not at Wal-Mart either. We found one variety of sauerkraut on the shelf – and it wasn’t the generic Wal-Mart brand. It was 92 cents!! For a can of Sauerkraut!!! We didn’t buy any. The next day at the Dollar General Store, he found sauerkraut for 65 cents.

People who believe the advertisements and automatically assume that things are cheaper at Wal-Mart are assuming wrong.

I guess this is my second cranky post in a row. I am not planning to make this a trend; just need to let off a little steam.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Restaurant Rudeness

We went to Town yesterday and shopped and took ourselves out to lunch at a restaurant where we have never been before. Pretty darn funky place. Red tile on the floor, red upholstered stools at an old-fashioned counter like in a diner, lots of chrome, red upholstered booths, and old movie posters and advertisements on the walls, topped off with a large molded plastic Betty Boop figure in a corner.

Within a few feet of the door I heard someone call my name. I stopped by woman I knew from a woman’s group I had met with years ago. She was sitting to the right of a jukebox standing between the booths. Richard sat down on the other side. I sat in the booth and visited with her for a minute.

While we were waiting for our food, I became interested in the jukebox and saw a song I wanted to hear, Seven Bridges Road, by the Eagles. When we were moving here from Oregon by way of California in May 1981, that song began to be played a lot on the  radio as we headed East, especially as I drove across the top of Texas and into Oklahoma, and finally into Missouri. I was frankly blown away by how beautiful Oklahoma was. The images of the green rolling countryside combined with the gorgeous harmony of the song and the other emotions I was feeling as every mile passed brought me closer to the beginning of a new chapter in our lives. Well. I wanted to hear the song again.

The jukebox required $1 in quarters – four-song minimum – and I didn’t want to put in $1.00, so the guy who was cooking the food said, “I’ll play the song for you.” And in a minute or two he went over to the jukebox and fed it four quarters and punched in the music.

In the meantime, an old woman had breezed in, apologizing for being late because she had car trouble as she hurried to the back of the restaurant where there was a makeshift stage with an amplifier, microphones, stools, and a piano, and started bustling around with microphones and doing thing to the piano. The Eagles had not gotten much farther into the song than “...southward as you go...” when suddenly she was at the jukebox, had reached behind it and turned off the music and made her way back to the piano.

I turned around to look at the owner of the restaurant when she did this, and he said, “Sorry about that,” and the woman I had been visiting with said, “Well, at least you got to hear a few bars of the song....”

She started playing some ragtime music, and she was pretty good. But then she began to sing in a ruined soprano voice, “He’s in the Jailhouse Now.” Awful. Then she said “Sorry I had to turn off the jukebox...

In the movie, this would be the point where the hero or heroine looks at the camera and says, “Had?” She didn’t HAVE to turn off the jukebox! She could have waited the 3 minutes or so it would have taken to let the song finish before she started playing

...and this next song is dedicated to the couple by the jukebox,” which was us. She launched into an old-time song I had never heard before. Richard said he couldn’t understand what she was singing. Fortunately, I was done with my food so we did not have to listen one second more. We got the heck out of there.

I almost wrote a note about her turning off the jukebox in place of a tip in her tip jar, but I realized I didn’t have any right to be angry, because it was not my money that had been fed into the machine. And now that I have had some time to sleep on it, I am very glad that I did not. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

I wonder how the younger set would react in a similar situation if in another 15 years or so I was the live entertainment in a restaurant and began playing songs by Crosby Stills Nash and Young, and Peter Paul and Mary, John Denver, Joni Mitchell, the Rolling Stones, and The Who, singing in my ruined alto voice.  

When we got back home, I went on over to You-Tube and listened to it there. And you can too if this embedded video doesn’t work on your browser.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Guns and Roses

We have many pictures of my sister's sweet woman-child posed with flowers...

here she is in front of a flower bed in Paris in 2007...

 and she held a lovely rose when this photo was taken on her 22nd birthday back in October...

For the past four years that she has been attending college, she worked part-time as an intern at a local police department and has gone with the officers to the shooting range. She is dating a man who is going to the police academy and has gone with him to the shooting range.... and all of a sudden...

this has come into her life and now she is posing with something new...

And to everyone's surprise, she is shockingly good at it too...

Monday, February 15, 2010


Armadillos began expanding into Missouri in the 1980s, and this is about the northern edge of their range. We have seen many dead ones along the sides of the road and occasionally alive at our house, at night. This is the first year we have seen one active in the daytime.

The Weaver thought she might like to see an armadillo walk across her yard. About the best I can do to help her out is show these photographs I took yesterday afternoon.

They don’t see very well, which is why I was able to get within about 5 feet of this one...

before it finally looked up..

and saw me, and took off.

They have to dig for their food, and if there is too much snow and ice on the ground for too many days, they die of starvation. Last night, I mentioned to Richard that I might stop by the convenience store and pick up some fishing worms, and he said, “No. We are not going to start feeding the armadillo!”

There is more snow on the ground this morning, and as I drove by the convenience store on the way home from aerobics and noted the sign “FISHING WORMS,” I was sorely tempted. But I did not stop. Nature will have to take its course with this one.

Did I mention "DIG!?" Weaver can be glad that there is no armadillo walking across her yard...

because this is what it looks like after they are finished...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Love of My Life...

I met him when I was 17, the summer after I graduated from high school. I had a part time job in a library. He had just gotten out of the Army. He would be starting college in the fall and was living at home that summer. His mother worked at the library, and she introduced us.

We dated that summer and I fell in love with him, but we gradually drifted apart and didn’t see each other for about 3 years. Then early one morning, the day after my current boyfriend -- the boy I was sure I was going to marry – had dumped me, he called on the telephone, out of the blue, and asked me to marry him. I was in a stupor, groggy from lack of sleep, sick and hung over, having attempted to drown my sorrows by drinking an entire bottle cheap wine the night before. But I said, “Yes. Yes, I will marry you.”

And I did.

And now almost 39 years later, I hear the whisk-whisk sound the material of his parachute pants makes as he walks toward me. He kisses the top of my head.

“I’m off,” he says. “I love you sweetie.”

“I love you too.” And I do.

Some years ago my mother sent me a lovely book of wonderful love poems, illustrated with pictures of paintings and sculpture and other objects of art from the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

And from that book a poem by Rabindranath Tagore in honor of the love of my life for Valentine’s Day. This poem was meant for a woman, but it’ll do for him too...

Unending Love
I seem to have loved you in numberless forms, numberless times,
In life after life, in age after age forever.
My spell-bound heart has made and re-made the necklace of songs
That you take as a gift, wear round your neck in your many forms,
In life after life, in age after age forever.

Whenever I hear old chronicles of love, its age-old pain,
Its ancient tale of being apart or together,
As I stare on and on into the past, in the end you emerge,
Clad in the light of a pole-star piercing the darkness of time:
You become an image of what is remembered forever.

You and I have floated here on the stream that brings from the fount
At the heart of time love of one for another.
We have played along side millions of lovers, shared in the same
Shy sweetness of meeting, the distressful tears of farewell--
Old love, but in shapes that renew and renew forever.

Today it is heaped at your feet, it has found its end in you,
The love of all man’s days both past and forever:
Universal joy, universal sorrow, universal life,
The memories of all loves merging with this one love of ours --
And the songs of every poet past and forever.

Happy Valentines Day!

Friday, February 12, 2010

On This Day in History....

Some fairly important things happened on February 12. Among them

Abraham Lincoln was born
Women residents of the Utah Territory were granted the right to vote
National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) was founded
Our boy was born.

As I write this, he is clomping around the kitchen in his steel-toed work boots preparing his lunch and complaining about having to go to work today when he just wants to stay home and play. He also would like to be 16 1/2 again instead of 33. His father makes a joke.

I think I should be able to stay home and play too. Having the baby was a big deal for us and for my family, because our boy was the first grandchild, and it marked our transitions from man and woman to father and mother. 

Raising this child has been an interesting journey, and it ain't over yet -- in fact, it will continue as long as we walk the earth. Babies don’t come with an instruction booklet. God assigned this soul to our family for a reason and we tried to do the best we could when he was a kid, and we are still trying to do the best we can now that our man child is a man.

Last night I thinly sliced beef and put it in citrus marinade for fajitas, and I made the chocolate cake that will be turned into his birthday dessert later in the day. As an aside, I should be an honorary member of the Cake Wreck blog. I make the worst looking cakes ever -- before they are frosted, which is why they are usually cut in cubes and covered with pudding and whipped topping and bits of crushed Heath bar.

A small celebration will be had, and we will debate about whether to watch any of the opening Olympic Ceremony, and a good time will be had by all.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What Color Is Your Wump Today?

A blog friend who I stopped by to visit today asked, "When it is cold outside, what is your favorite thing to do?" Well, I spend a lot of time looking out the windows. At lunch on Monday, Richard and I were together at the counter fixing our food and we saw an armadillo come out of the brush on one side of our driveway and move purposefully across and into the brush on the other side. There was still some snow on the ground  -- this was before yet another 5 inches or so fell on Monday night. We wondered how the creature is surviving. Most people here feel the only good armadillo is a dead armadillo - much like some of the folk where Weaver comes from feel about moles (we have moles too, though). Armadillos can really tear up a yard.

But when I am working, what I mostly see are the birds, and chipmunks when it is warmer. I keep one eye on the computer and one eye out the window, watching what goes on at the bird feeder. I sometimes wonder who got the privilege of assigning names to the birds I see.  I am especially amused by the name given to this little bird ...

yellow-rumped warbler...

It does indeed have a bright patch of yellow there at its rump.

Suppose we were designated by the color of our rumps? I guess today I'd be a "magenta-rumped geezer" seeing as that is the color of the sweats I am wearing.

These winter visitors do not eat seeds with the rest of the birds, but they began coming to the feeder several years ago, attracted to the high-energy stuff I put in the suet feeders.

A real treat this year has been the frequent visits of this little bird, the brown creeper, which is very well camouflaged.

It lives here year round, but in all the years I have been watching birds, I have only seen one a few times. It too is aptly named. It clings to the tree and goes round and round as it creeps up the trunk. This is the first year it has gotten brave enough to come this close to the house.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Few More Bubbles and Why I Love Thrift Stores

In the early years here we heated our home with a wood-burning iron box on legs that sat in the living room. It was not specifically designed as a cook stove, but it had two generous flat surfaces, one a bit higher than the other, which easily simmered pots of soup or stew. Simmer, meaning not actually boiling, but certainly steaming and perhaps an occasional bubble.

Most of the time the hope I feel about our Boy is simmering there like the soup on the stove. But there was a serious bubble of joy over the weekend. He got off work from the sawmill early on Friday and went to the thrift store in town. He came home with a suit and a pull-over shirt to match it that he bought for $4.

A couple of months ago a friend gave me two pairs of nice shoes that her husband could no longer wear that fit him.

Last week he went to church wearing a nice shirt my sister had given him and some old, very ugly sweat pants that were stained and baggy and looked terrible. Yesterday he dressed for church in his new suit and these shoes and he looked wonderful. Fortunately, I was not speechless. I told him repeatedly how great he looked. I took pictures of him to send to the folks back home.

In the amazing move we saw Saturday night on HBO about Temple Grandin, there are several amusing scenes pointing out how oblivious she was about grooming. I sometimes wonder if Nat has a similar unawareness. On several occasions he has gone straight to the bank from the sawmill, filthy and not smelling so good, and wonders why the tellers are not falling over themselves to be friendly. 

Now I see a glimmer that he does actually care about his clothes and how he looks.

This is good. Very good indeed, because books are judged by their covers, and we are judged by how we dress. He already has a few strikes against him, he doesn’t need one more.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

No! I Am NOT Doing It Again

We have definitely passed into the CRS stage of life -- as in can’t remember stuff unless we write it down -- but, as long as our memories don’t fail us completely, he will always remind me of something I did several years ago. 

For whatever reason -- and I have no idea why I did this (didn't I just mention we were at the CRS stage of life?) -- I stuck several half-filled plastic jars of coffee in the freezer, which we eventually discovered when we were emptying the freezer to defrost it. 

I have no idea why I froze the coffee. Perhaps we were going on vacation and the coffee was left over. I can't stand to waste anything, and so I guess I froze it instead of pouring it down the drain. 

Or, maybe I got the brilliant idea to make a shaved iced coffee. Yes. That's it. Shaved iced coffee.

So yesterday at lunch as he was kneeling before the refrigerator god getting out food, he hands me a jar half-filled with muddy brown liquid.

Him: What is this?

Me: Oh, that is coffee from yesterday afternoon that tasted nasty, and so I....

Him (interrupting me before I can finish): Oh my God (and he means this as in a cry for help). She is doing it again....

No. I’m not. Honest. 

I dumped in some more milk and a bit of Starbucks Sugar-Free Mocha-Flavored syrup and I drank it after lunch. And it was good.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Places in the heart...

In the fall of 2008 I went to the vet to pick up some flea treatment for our dog and was persuaded to rescue a cat that had been brought in to be euthanized because her owner had to take care of a grandbaby and didn't want her any more. Her name was Skeeter. She hated us on sight and never warmed up to us. We never developed a bond with her. We gave her away, and the people who took her called three days later and told us to come and get her. We did.

Then our son moved back home temporarily while he was between jobs, bringing with him his little cat, also called Skeeter. So we had Big Skeeter and Little Skeeter. I started calling her Squeaker because she has a very high, squeaky meow.

He got a job a few weeks later in St Louis, and once he was settled in his new apartment, we traded cats. He took Big Skeeter and we kept Little Skeeter. He changed Big Skeeter's name to Fat Toad and she promptly fell in love with him, and they were  best friends forever, at least until she died a couple of years later.

Funny thing how animals that we take into homes also have a way of getting into our hearts if we are not careful. 

This little cat infuriates us. She is hilariously funny. We hate her. We love her. She has us, me particularly, well trained.

She certainly loves us. When we take a 2-mile walk -- and yes, it is frequently nice enough here in the winter to take a walk -- she often follows to the beginning of the road

and then sits and waits patiently for us to return.

And when I go outside with the camera to take pictures of crocus in the snow,

she comes along. Doing any sort of work in the snow takes extra energy.

Walking in it,

and especially going berserk

 takes a lot out of a small kitty.

That is why after a few minutes of having fun in the powdery white stuff, it is important to come in with your human... assume the hairy meatloaf position on the couch in front of the heater.... and then one's head gets so.... so.... heavy and pretty soon....

plop, down it goes.

Monday, February 01, 2010

Free at last... free at last?

It has been a very hard thing for us as parents to stand on the sidelines and watch our Boy get tangled up in a relationship that we could see was going to be a disaster. Not much we could do about it except tell him what we thought, on occasion.

But him moving back in with us did not end the relationship. It drug on...and on... and on because he couldn’t bring himself to hurt her feelings by just ending it.

But he did manage to stick to his guns (stick to his guns? What the heck does that mean?) by saying “NO” when she kept pressuring him to go back with her, and this weekend it has been 5 weeks since she has called him on the phone.

Five weeks, friends and neighbors! He and I did a little happy dance last night. In the past, she has been nothing if not persistent, so perhaps our celebration is a bit premature. But it sure feels good.