Saturday, October 30, 2010

I play it safe

For about 15 minutes this morning my blog had one of the most beautiful banners that I have ever created.

I received an amazing card in the mail.

Go ahead. Click on the link and look at it. I'll wait for you.

Ain't it beautiful?

I took a photograph of it and create the banner and uploaded it, but then I had second thoughts about it, so I asked my husband who is an expert in all things legal having to do with copyright if what I did violated the artist's copyright. 

Absolutely, he said.

So I thought about getting permission from the artist  (click on that link too -- pretty amazing) to use the artwork -- which I have done in the past -- but I decided not to pursue it for the time being.

Richard informs me that there is a group of attorneys whose main business is suing bloggers for violating the copyrights of other people. So.... I decided to pay it safe.

Doggone it.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What was that you said?

I wrote this yesterday, intending to post it yesterday, but one thing led to another, and here it is at the end of Thursday, but we will just pretend it is still Wednesday so I don't have to rewrite the whole thing. I have a hard enough time as it is.

We arrive very early for lunch at the pizza place, and we are the only ones there. We are in the midst of eating our  salads, Richard starts to talk. I look up at him to acknowledge his comment. I watch his mouth moving, and he makes words and finishes his statement, and I realize I did not understand one thing that he has said.

This reminds me of the hilarious scene in the C.S. Lewis novel That Hideous Strength where everyone at the banquet begins speaking gibberish.

I begin to laugh. And the more I think about it the harder I laugh. As I said, no one else has arrived for lunch, which is fortunate. Heads tend to turn when I start to laugh.

I finally get control of myself and wipe my streaming eyes. I explain that I did not understand a thing he said and would he please say it again.

He did.

We used to eat at the restaurant every Wednesday because we liked the lunch special, as did another woman who would arrive on her large motorcycle with her small granddaughter who was strapped into a child seat behind her. She was a very interesting woman. He wondered if she would come to the restaurant today.

We discuss her for a few minutes. In the intervening years another granddaughter was born and she could not mange two young children on the motorcycle, so I said she probably would not come on the motorcycle. I was right. She did not come to the restaurant.

Silence breaks out and we continue to eat, and a few minutes later he begins to talk again.

One again I look up at him to acknowledge that he is talking, and the only word I hear clearly is “plate.”

Again I begin to laugh, even harder this time, if that were possible. I eat much slower than he does, and I have just finished the plate of vegetables that I got from the salad bar, the small carrots are the last things I am eating.

He has said that he wanted to have carrots but there was no room for them on his plate.

Our personal pan pizzas arrive, and we discuss a few other things as we continue to eat. Once again conversation stops as we chew our food.

A few minutes later I hear a string of gibberish and the word “glass.”

I look up at him in incredulity. Before I can say anything, he starts to laugh. 

I did that on purpose he says. I couldn’t resist, it was a perfect set up.

Well, what did you say, I asked

He begins to laugh even harder: Mumble, mumble, glass.

As I was sitting there looking at this man I have been married too since 1971, I think about the things that endear him to me, the things that I value in him and right at the top of the list is that he enjoys teasing me and wanting to make me laugh.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I am forbidden to kill the cat

It is about 6 pm. The Evil Squeaker has been captured and the doors to the outside are shut. She does not want to be inside, but we cannot leave her out all night. First, she will eventually want in, at a time when it is most inconvenient for us to let her in; second, it is not very safe for her out there – feral tom cats frequently come around to bully her; aside from her own species, there are fox and coyotes and probably bobcats and she is an idiot and doesn’t have sense enough to avoid danger.

She has learned that two of the doors leading to freedom do not always latch unless they are shut with enthusiasm, and she has become quite adept at checking these dodgy doors and teasing them open if they aren’t actually shut. So, she has checked the doors but instead of settling down and going to sleep…

she is restless and is wandering through the house meowing and making everyone cross.

Richard has retreated to take a shower, and I am heading from into the kitchen to make some tea, when I hear a loud crash from the living room area and she comes shooting around the corner like a rocket and disappears into one of the other rooms. At first I thought Richard had fallen in the shower. But he was fine.

Next to the chair where I sit to watch TV in the evenings there is a plastic storage unit on wheels with three pull-out drawers. I have sat a board on top of this and on it sit my colored pencils and the pencil sharpener and other stuff.

Occasionally, I like to color at night during the commercials when I am watching TV. I am not gifted when it comes to drawing and painting, but if someone gives me the lines to color, I can have a good time doing it.

It does not take Sherlock Holmes to figure out that she is the source of the crash. She had leaped up on the board, landing on the edge, which caused the board to flip off the storage unit and onto the floor, taking it with it the colored pencils and everything else. The pencils were carefully organized, but now they are scattered everywhere.

I scream unkind things at the cat, who has vanished. I replace the board, and add a brick to the middle in case she tries it again, and I pick up the pencils.

“Sorry,” says Richard, having come out of the shower and beet red where the hot water has hit his back, "you cannot kill the cat.”

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Out to lunch…

I admit I have not been quite as excited at the prospect of turning 61, which will happen tomorrow, as I was on October 24 ...40 years ago (!) when I turned 21. It was a Saturday, and the big deal was that I was going to go on a date with my boyfriend and walk into a liquor store and buy some alcohol.

But I am happy to be alive. I do not feel 61 in my head, but my body occasionally reminds me that yes, you are indeed 61! I am grateful that I feel as well as I do, and very, very grateful that I am no longer 21. There is no point in one wishing that they could go back and try it again and

Do Things Differently

One must not spend a lot of time gazing over one’s shoulder at what was behind. About the only useful thing I think one might be able to achieve by doing that is perhaps glean a bit of wisdom to try to help someone who is going through the same thing and might make the same mistakes; but –one must continue to press on.

My mother always made sure our birthdays were a special time in which she showed us how loved and treasured we were – not by throwing presents at us but by preparing our favorite meal and making the day “nice” in every way she could. I was able to spend a few birthdays back home after we moved here, but now the tradition for most of my birthdays has shifted to picking a good place have a meal.

One of the most memorable meals I have eaten since we moved to Missouri was at the restaurant at the Rockbridge Trout Ranch, but I imagine it has been 15 years since we have been there. Plans to go somehow always got changed. Not this year though.

To get to Rockbridge, one must head out into the Ozark foothills on narrow two-lane state highways, with no wiggle room on either side. Up hill and down hill and around curves passing through woods and cleared areas of pasture with cattle of all shapes and sizes and homes dotted here and there, some nestled into the woods and others surrounded by green lawns, and passing between high bluffs on either side with rocks perching precariously ready to crash down and across very narrow bridges over streams and small rivers. It is a 40-mile drive that takes about an hour, and it is very lovely at this time of year.

And we arrive, finally, very hungry.

And we end up at the same corner table by the windows where we sat at 15 years ago when we last visited here. And I order the same thing I ordered the last time. Trout Almondine...

Lightly pan-fried trout fillet coated with something that has amaretto in it and almonds and grapes. And it is sweet and perfect. The loaf of bread that comes with it is marbled black and white and is delicious.

Not a crumb is left on my plate. I even eat the green garnish on the side.

And then we walked around a bit.

Down to the old mill, which is occupied by a private club and is not open to the public,

and to Spring Creek that flows by the restaurant and feeds the trout hatchery, to watch the men in their waders at the base of the dam that was constructed to divert water to the mill.

And under the foundation of the mill is a black hole out of which comes a spring that feeds into the creek.

And then we take a stroll down the river and sit for a while on the bank and watch the water rushing by...

and it has been a perfect day..

to celebrate being on the far side of 60.

Friday, October 22, 2010

I ponder what can be done with a cast iron skillet

Funny how thoughts will just pop into our minds as we stand around doing the mundane sorts of things that occupy most of our daily lives.

During the summer Richard finished the retaining wall to keep runoff from the lawn from rushing across the driveway, and steps to replace the gash in the bank that was eroding more and more.

He bought topsoil and back filled against the retaining wall and I decided to plant some tomatoes that he had bought but forgot to plant.

The tomatoes were very happy there but got a late start. The bucket is not sloppy yard keeping, the water from our washing machine travels down a Rube Goldberg systems of gutters and pipes  into the bucket, which has holes in the bottom, to water them.  

Right now the plants are just beautiful, lush and green, and are continuing to set tomatoes, but a hard frost is likely within the next week or so -- we almost always have had a hard frost by Oct 31 -- and so these tomatoes do not have long to live.

I picked a few of the biggest green ones to make fried green tomatoes, and with the others that are too small to slice, dip in cornmeal, and fry in a little oil in a hot cast iron skillet, I will probably make "Penne with Green Tomato Sauce" which is in the September 1996 issue of Gourmet Magazine. That issue of the magazine had a section of recipes for using green tomatoes. Every time I think about throwing away this stack of old magazines, I hesitate because there might be other gems in there.

Or I could try "Cold Turkish Green Tomato Soup", or "Green Tomato and Walnut Relish," or "Gingered Green Tomato and Apple Chutney." Or I could just leave the green ones to sit on newspapers in the fruit cellar to ripen. Or maybe Richard will pull up plants and leave them hanging upside down in the fruit cellar for the tomatoes to continue to ripen.

But in the meantime, as I was tending the slices of cornmeal-covered tomatoes sizzling away in the very hot big black cast iron skillet, I suddenly remembered one of my favorite scenes from the Fannie Flagg novel.

The scene where the seemingly frail old woman, who has been cooking for years with a hefty cast iron skillet, picks it up and whacks the bad guy in the head…

I too have been cooking with a heavy cast iron skillet for many years; fortunately, I don’t feel the need to whack anybody here in the head with it.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

I beat for 3 minutes

Sometime back in the misty past there was a mouse-like dessert available for a while called “Soft n Swirl” or something like that. It was sort of a pudding-type dessert, and Richard loved it.

And then they stopped making it and he was very disappointed.

That is why on our last shopping spree at the salvage store, he happened upon this box of dessert mix that looked very much like “Soft n Swirl” and he could not pass it up.

And he asked me to make it for him.

The package directions called for the mix to be dumped into a bowl of cold milk and beat for 3 minutes. I decided to follow the directions exactly, helped along by the handy-dandy timer that sticks to the refrigerator there next to the beat up recipe for Creole Cabbage that I clipped from a recipe page in the newspaper years ago.

So I set the timer and started beating the mixture. And I beat… and I beat… and I beat. And it occurred to me when I glanced up thinking it was about time to turn the mixer off and probably a minute and a half had gone by. 

Have you timed yourself beating something for 3 minutes?

It takes an eternity.

Creole Cabbage

1 cup chopped green pepper
1 cup chopped celery
1/1 cup chopped onion
2 tbsp butter or margarine or oil
4 cups coarsely shredded cabbage
1 16-oz can tomatoes, undrained and chopped
2 tsp beef bouillon granules
1 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp white pepper

Saute the green pepper, celery and onion in the fat in a large skillet. Add everything else. Cover and cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes. You can leave out the fat and just cook everything together. You can had hamburger or ham or meat if you want. It is really good.i

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Hangin' at the Y

The aerobics class I attend at the YMCA three times a week for "older active Americans" has become the high point in my week. Not just because of the exercise, but also because I have met some really wonderful women there.

As part of a perk for becoming a member of the YMCA, we used to get "Y bucks", which could be redeemed for stuff that the Y offers. I used mine to buy t-shirts to wear to the Y.

And here they all are, hanging out on the line.

The main reason I am writing this post is not to show off my YMCA t-shirts but because I just left a comment on another blog about "clothes lines" and if anybody decides to visit here because of my comment I think it only fair that they should be able to see my clothes line. I mean, doesn't everybody want to see it?

A man lives...

One of my favorite bloggers responded to what I wrote yesterday by suggesting I read this poem:

How right she was to do so…

Part of the poem reads:

A man lives for as long as we carry him inside us,
for as long as we carry the harvest of his dreams,
for as long as we ourselves live,
holding memories in common, a man lives.
Poets have this knack for condensing into simple turns of phrase the mysteries of life and the universe. Patten wrote exactly what I needed, what I wanted to say for myself. I dare not reproduce any more of it for fear of bringing the wrath of the copyright gods down upon my head.

I like poetry even better when I can hear it, and  You-Tube has kindly provided a video of the poet reciting the poem at the grave of a friend.

Thank you Weaver

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Reflecting on a year

At about this hour of the morning last year on October 13, I received a call from my brother telling me that our mother had died not too long after midnight. I knew when the phone rang what it was going to be about. I had just woken up from a dream in the wee hours of the morning – probably at the very moment she passed out of her physical body – that she had died, and I knew that it had been a true dream.

So today I mark the first year of my mother’s death. My friend Judy called me yesterday and told me to think about “happy times.” Not a problem. I don’t have any bad times with my mom to remember.

Children who have grown up together in a family don’t always get along when they are adults. When they marry and their spouses join the clan, things can get a little unpleasant sometimes.

I used to be friends with a woman who had married into a large family of about 8 children, mostly boys, all of whom had large families. When they gathered for the weekly Sunday dinner at the matriarch’s house, quarrels between the adult sons would often break out and on more than one occasion turn into fist fights.

One thing I have the fondest memories of were the family gatherings with mom and dad. One thing I admired so much about my mom was that she was determined that her family was going to be kind and considerate of one another and that there was not going to be any fighting and bickering around her, or behind her back either, if she had anything to say about it.

We’re not a havin’ that in our family

she would say to my sister at the first hint of trouble brewing, and she would nip it in the bud.

We respected her enough to honor that request. And when we got together for a family celebration, that is exactly what we were going to do: Celebrate! And we did.

Everyone worked hard to make sure that the irritations, upsets, and flares of temper never got out of hand.

Another thing that I remember and admire about her was her gift for encouraging people. I used to stash the cards and notes she sent me in between the books on my bookshelves for lack of a better place to put them, and on more than one occasion during the past year I have come across one of these precious notes while on a search for a book. So I have had little reminders of her warm, sweet sprit all year long.

Grief can be a minefield for some people. The pivotal moment for many of the hoarders we have been watching on TV struggling to clean up their houses was inability to deal with the grief after a loved one had died – usually a parent – and they began accumulating stuff to fill the void. I know other people who have been plunged into a black depression that they can’t seem to climb out of.

Thanks be to God that neither of those things happened to me.

I am doing well. I miss her. I miss her a lot. I realize now that I am always going to miss her, and that I am never going to “be over it.” But it doesn’t hurt so much any more.  

This is also the birthday of my blog. I can hardly believe I began writing this blog 6 years ago today. How fast the time flies by.

I started it as a hobby. I mostly intended it to be journal for me to sort things out in my own head and to share our life here with my extended family, all of whom are very far away. Writing is very hard for me and it takes much more time than I really want to spend. On more than one occasion, I have just about stopped in frustration at not being able to say what I want to say in the way I think I should say it…. And I go back sometimes and look at earlier posts and cringe. But I am glad I have plowed ahead with it. Being able to look at the past through what I have written here has helped to keep me from forgetting things I need to help me keep my perspective. And in the memory department the “old gray mare ain’t what she to be.”

Friday, October 08, 2010

Swimming in circles

At some point in the misty past, the people who owned this land built a pond to water their cattle.

It is not very large and it is not very deep, especially at the end of summer when the water level has dropped owing to evaporation and the lack of rain.

When we first lived here, and our boy was young, we went to the pond often. We especially had fun in the winter when it was covered with ice. The cat would follow us and trot out on the ice, and we would chuck small rocks in her direction and she would go nuts batting them around on the ice.

And then time passed, and we sort of stopped walking out there, and the trees and brush grew, and soon the path we had taken to the pond was impassable, choked with brambles and honeysuckle and poison ivy. The field where a few beef cattle once grazed gradually turned into mostly a cedar forest.

Several years ago the electric company hired a contractor to clear the brush and trees from under the power lines that stretch across our field. When that was done, we walked out into the field for the first time in years and found that there were deer trails meandering all through it, and so about a year ago we decided to expand one of those deer trails into a new path out to the pond. Richard marked it and we put our boy to work to widen it.

Now I walk to the pond frequently, especially when I have had enough with sitting in front of the computer. Especially on a bright blue fall day, when if I spend one more second inside the house I feel as though I am going to crawl out of my skin.

There are no fish in the pond. But plenty of other life abounds.

Including these guys --

...the whirligig beetles (click on the picture). I have spent quite a bit of time in the last few months watching in fascination the large colony of these silvery beetles that live on the surface of the pond. They swim in meandering circles and figures-of-eight, reminding me of the bumper cars we used to ride as kids at the amusement park.

Ripples from their whirling merge and interact and set the surface of the water to dancing.

And I began to see patterns in their circles and that there were interactions going on between them.

Sometime in the early 1960s, my Uncle Johnny (the husband of my father’s oldest sister, Betty), who was an ornithologist, received a grant to study a sparrow in Peru. I can remember my father shaking his head, somewhat in disgust, I think, at the idea that they (I guess it was UC Berkeley or some group connected with the university) were giving my uncle a huge amount of money so he could take Aunt Betty and their 2 kids to Peru for a year to track down this bird. I know he was thinking that it was a terrible waste of money and “who cares about some dumb bird in Peru!” On the other hand, my Aunt Betty wrote the most amazing letters of their adventures, pages and pages of thin onionskin paper came frequently during the year that they were gone.

I started chasing that rabbit because of what I found out when I did a search to try to find out what these mesmerizing silvery beetles were all about. So I looked them up on the Internet and found that quite a bit of information is available on these bugs.

Although some might think it was a waste of money for someone to be paid to study this insect, but I am rather glad that someone thought it was important to find out what makes this funny little insect tick.

Perhaps it is never a waste of money to pursue knowledge.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Musica mentis medicina maestae

A friend, who is the wife of the pastor of the church we used to attend before they moved on to another church, sent this to me in an e-mail the other day…

We have so many heartache stories that don't directly affect us, but those we love, serve, work with, or worship with. Lots of cancer. We have had 4 deaths in 2 weeks. Lots of crisis situations. I am beginning to suffer from compassion fatigue.

Compassion fatigue.

I can understand a little bit of how she feels.

Last Winter, a woman who I know slightly – she operated the beauty salon when we moved here in 1981 and cut my hair several times – came to our church because her church had canceled services because of poor road conditions. She brought her 6-year-old grandson, who was autistic and hyperactive. He wandered around the auditorium during the service playing with a cellphone. He came up to Richard and asked if we had a cellphone. Richard said yes and gave it to him, and a few seconds later he had turned it on. I sat in stunned disbelief because a few weeks earlier I had attempted to use that cellphone while I was out and about on an errand to the house of the very friend who sent me that e-mail, and I desperately needed to call her, and I  could not figure out how to turn it on.

The little boy died a few days ago. He went to bed that night and did not wake up in the morning. They think he might have had a bad reaction to some medication he was being given to manage the ADHD and the autism. Perhaps he had a fatal seizure.

Then I got the upsetting news Monday morning about my friend’s new grandbaby.

And then I read entry at the Far Side of 50 blog and found out something was seriously wrong with her daughter.

And then there were a couple of other things that happened before noon, and I found myself feeling drained and sad and gray inside.

And then I went on You-Tube

First I watched the silly parody of the Beyonce Single Ladies video with Justin Timberlake. I didn't laugh out loud but I did grin some...

and then I started listening to music, randomly as I thought of a song from the past that brought back a happy time – even if the songs weren’t particularly happy in themselves….

Cyndi Lauper--Time After Time  

Steve Winwood and Eric Clapton--Can’t Find My Way Home

The Rolling Stones--Moonlight Mile

Bonnie Raitt--Angel from Montgomery

Vince Guaraldi--Cast your Fate to the Wind

Bill Pursell--Our Winter Love

and some others… and after a while I could feel my spirits lifting… and lifting… And today, the news about Connie's daughter is still serious but not quite so grim. And prayers for my my friend's new grandson are being answered...

Monday, October 04, 2010

All things are possible

There are times when my faith to believe in miracles and that with God all things are possible is so strong, and then there are times when I seem to be floundering. I have seen God work miracles, and I have seen God accomplish what seems to be the impossible. So I know it can happen.

Since last October when my mother died – and especially since May when we got the terrible news about our son – I have been so blessed by the up-lifting e-mails and emotional support of a friend in California who has encouraged me and our son in so many ways by just “being there” in cyberspace.

Now she is facing a crisis of her own. Their first grandchild was born a few days ago, and he is in serious trouble. He has blood on the brain.

If the doctors can stabilize him over the next 48 hours -- and he survives -- there will almost certainly be some damage, but they won’t know the extent of it for a while.

I haven't forgotten that God will need to work a miracle in our son's life. But right now I am praying with all of my heart that He will work another miracle here for this little baby.

One miracle has already occurred -- the mom has a genetic defect that was not passed on to the baby.

Now they need another one.

My heart is just breaking for her and her husband, and their son and his wife. They thought they were going to go to the hospital and come home in a few days with their new baby boy. It may be 6 weeks before the baby can come home, and the future for this baby is uncertain.

I don’t even know how to articular a prayer for them.

God, have mercy.
God, have mercy.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Digging in... and meeting an old friend

After having sat in front of the computer for most of the day yesterday, and after our evening meal (we eat very early) I felt like I had to get outside for a while, and so the cat and I meandered through the cedars and the pine trees in our back field.

There is no real path, and I had clippers in the tote bag just in case with the camera, and also the mobile phone. Seems sort of silly to me to be tethered like that with this electronic device, but he worries about me falling when I am out roaming around and wants to make sure I can all for help if I need.

So, I happened across two big old pine trees that had died, but not before dropping quite a few pine cones from which had sprung up a bunch of baby pine trees, and then I noticed this fellow.

Not sure if he or she had just found a place to spend the night or if this is the beginning of an excavation for a winter place to hibernate.

And then today the town had its annual fall festival and so we walked around and stopped at various vendors to look at their wares. I bought a beautiful.... well.... it will be part of the presents I am collecting for my niece who has just announced her engagement and a June wedding, so I guess I will not say what it was I bought.

One of the venue at the street fair were various contests involving cutting up wood -- forestry stuff. Willow Springs used to be the home of the National Forest Service District Ranger Office for the Mark Twain Forest, and I was the janitor that cleaned the offices. One of my favorite people who worked at this office was this guy.

It was impossible to dust his desk because he had the most amazing collection of animal skulls of all kinds all over the place. About all I could do was go in and wave my hand over it all. A few years ago, budget cuts axed my job. Then the Ranger's Office was shut down and moved someplace else, so I hadn't seen him in a long time.

Friday, October 01, 2010

A sip of this…. and a sip of that…

An assisted living wing is attached to the local nursing home. This is where people who cannot live by themselves, but who are also not sick enough require nursing home care, have small apartments where they can live semi-independently. A few weeks ago the nursing home celebrated National Assisted Living Week by taking the residents on special outings.

One of those outings was to a local winery. While I was sitting in the waiting room here

waiting for our son to have a radiation treatment, I watched a program on History Channel about the history of this state that has become our adopted home, and found out something I did not know: Missouri was the top producer of wine in this country during the middle 1880s, and Missouri growers rescued the wine industry in France by sending vines to France when the grapes there were hit by some sort of disease that did not affect the Missouri grapes.

I sort of shirt-tailed myself on this outing: I am not a resident of the assisted living apartments, although sometimes I do need quite a bit of assistance with my life, and I don’t have a relative who lives there, but our friends Judy and Charlie do have a relative living there and they went, so I tagged along with them.

This is not an upscale winery like one might find in Sonoma.

This is the “down home” variety run by a nice couple and their kids.

 (Click on the picture in case you can't read the notice on the door)

They have big stainless steel tanks with wine in various stages of fermentation.

They have baskets of big bottles in other stages of production.

They have entered their wines at state competitions and have won some medals.

And after we had all had a taste of this one and a taste of that one, he came out with a mason jar of peach wine that isn’t quite ready yet. 

 Many of those on the tour thought they might like a bottle of that peach wine by-in-by.

A very good time was had by all.