Saturday, December 31, 2011

Home, sweet home…

He suddenly flung down his brush on the floor, said “Bother!” and “O Blow!” and also “hang spring-cleaning!” and bolted out of the house without even waiting to put on his coat. Something up above was calling him imperiously, and he made for the steep little tunnel…and scraped and scratched and scrabbled and scrooged… until at last, pop! His snout came out into the sunlight and he found himself rolling around in the warm grass of a great meadow….”

And so Mole temporarily abandons his burrow and gets involved in an amazing adventure with Badger and Rat and Toad…

And so it was on the last day of 2011 with that I popped out of my cave of an office and into the sunlight and took a walk with the cat. Of course it is not Spring--that is most definitely some months away, and I am not doing cleaning -- but it is unusually warm today, almost 60 degrees (even if a it is a bit breezy), and I too could feel the call…

Squeaker and I  took a walk out to the pond. I fret a bit about the pond surviving from year-to-year, especially when we have had drought, and indeed, it was very low as Summer segued into Fall. But, the recent rains have filled it up, almost to the brim. That means it will likely survive the summer.
Our land slopes from the house up toward the wood, and forms sort of a ridge, creating a beautiful south-facing slope where the wet weather spring flows along the the edge of the flat pasture.

I have often daydreamed about clearing some of the trees and building a house into the side of the slope.

Instead of heading straight back the way we came to the pond, the cat and I took a left turn and headed toward the spring. It has a bit of water in it from rain earlier in the week, and so we hopped across and headed up the slope toward the upper pasture.

And look-it here..

Someone else also had the idea of building a home into the south slope.

Yes, the cat has to look too.

Hard to say whether this house is occupied or abandoned. In any event, if someone does live here now, they have has not swept the porch recently.

And feeling much refreshed and invigorated, we head back toward the house. The cat is feeling so invigorated she does a typical cat thing and goes nuts (which is why I suppose our ancestors in the Middle Ages thought cats were possessed), charging around tailed bristled out like a bottle brush, and clawing her way up a tree for a few feet.

Happy New Year to everyone.

See y’all next year.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Kindred spirits…

Judy and I are standing in her kitchen preparing fresh fruit I brought with me that will be for a fruit salad. She is slicing red seedless grapes. I have sliced two bananas, and sectioned two tangerines and teased the seeds out them, and have carefully peeled the fuzzy skin from some kiwi fruit, and they have been sliced and added to the bowl. A lovely ripe pear is waiting. A can of pineapple has been opened and added with its juice. When I was buying this fruit, I thought cherries would be a nice, colorful touch, but when the cashier put the small package on the scale and I saw the price was $6.89, I decided we did not need cherries in the salad.

Charlie (Judy’s husband), his sister (yes Dot, you have ended up on the blog), their mother, and his niece Karen, are all working on a hard jigsaw puzzle of a very fancy snowman that has been laid on a large piece of green felt. 

Earlier, I was trying to help them with it, but not succeeding very well. I am somewhat spatially challenged. Even so, I  can see that laying out this jigsaw puzzle and getting people involved in it is an excellent way for people who do not know each other to become better acquainted. 

Dot is waiting for us to finish because she needs to put together a Waldorf salad and fix broccoli.

My husband and the other two husbands, Jimmie (who belongs to Dot) and Rick (who belongs to Karen), have moved into the living room and are occupied with a new Kindle Fire that was Rick was given for a present. Richard has hollered at me a couple of times for the names of the reference books I use for editing. I can imagine wheels turning: he will be wanting to buy one of these and load it with the dictionaries and the style guides I routinely use.

As Judy and I work a way chatting about this and that, I hear my husband’s voice and his laughter coming from the living room. My heart lifts. It can be a bit frightening to walk into a room of strangers who all know each other, and I know Richard was nervous about how this was going to turn out. My husband is a rather shy guy. It appears that they have hit it off and that they have things in common to talk about, and that he has found kindred spirits in these two very nice men. He tells me later he really enjoyed talking with Rick, and that Jimmie was very witty and funny.

I was worried about Christmas, worried that negotiating this holiday that is loaded with memories and stress was going to be akin to dancing in a minefield. Judy and Charlie and his family were there to hold our hands and it became a stroll in the park. We are so blessed.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Santa Claus done been here already

 These days, the jolly fat man in the red suit and the white beard who gets around in a sleigh pulled by reindeer has morphed into a clean shaven, slim and trim, younger fellow wearing a brown uniform and driving a big brown truck with gold lettering on the side.

He showed up here on Monday with Christmas from Los Angeles, and he showed up in Lakewood yesterday with Christmas from the Ozarks. And the respective families breathed sighs of relief that nothing happened to these boxes along the way.

Such is the situation when just about all the people one buys gifts for are 1500 miles away and there is little likelihood that any of them will come East for the holiday or that we will travel West. My sister would love for me to experience the Italian Christmas Eve seafood meal (squid is usually involved) that is traditional in her husband’s family. If it were possible to hop on an airplane in Springfield and fly directly to Los Angeles or Long Beach or Orange County, we might actually think about it, but having to change flights in Denver or Dallas-Ft Worth is an adventure neither of us wants to participate in at this time of the year.

I remember a Christmas season a very long time ago when my father took his little kids to downtown Gardena to see Santa Claus in the early afternoon. We found him, sure enough, staggering down the street drunk as a skunk. My dad was very angry --and he could get rather loud when he was mad -- and I can remember him complaining to somebody about it, but now I don’t remember if it was in person or on the telephone after we got back home.

I suppose we took our boy to see Santa when he was little, but I don’t remember doing so, and I don’t have any pictures of him sitting on Santa’s lap. I do remember going down to the train tracks several Christmases in a row to see a special Christmas Train that Burlington-Northern had put together, lit up and decorated, with Santa Claus on a flat car. It was quite beautiful.

At any rate, Christmas is coming and we are getting fat, even if the goose isn’t.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Pressing buttons...

The last time I was at the thrift store, I picked up a book for 25-cents called Three Junes by Julia Glass. 

The gold seal on the front says “National Book Award Winner.” And indeed, it is a winner. Fenno, one of the characters in this finely crafted first novel, muses on the death of his mother…

Time plays like an accordion in the way it can stretch out and compress itself in a thousand melodic ways. Months on end may pass blindingly in a quick series of chords, open-shut, together-apart, and then a single melancholy week may seem like a year’s pining, one long unfolding note.

I like the accordion analogy almost as well as the “time is like a river…” Time does indeed seem to stretch out and compress itself. Time indeed does inexorably march forward, and we are coming up now on the first the anniversary of our son’s death. At times, this past year has indeed seemed to pass with blinding speed. And then again, it seemed that some on days we were slogging through molasses and the day would never end.

It often seems like that, even when one is not in the midst of some stressful event. Perhaps it has something to do with the right balance of “being busy” and having “nothing to do.”   

But, the bit about the accordion caused one of those “oh yes” moments too in another way. Funny, sometimes, how memories can be triggered.

My father’s 3 sisters and their families lived within a “long-day’s drive.” We frequently (but not always) spent holidays with these aunts and uncles and cousins. Sometimes they came down from central and northern California to see us and Grandpa, who lived nearby, or sometimes we piled in the car at the “crack of dawn,” usually the day after Christmas, and headed north, toward Carmel Valley or Sacramento, depending on which aunt we were going to see.

When we went to Yuba City, we usually stayed with Aunt Vera, probably because their daughter was just a little older than me. Cousin Mark was just a little younger than me.

I have many comforting of memories of Christmas and Thanksgiving holidays spent with these wonderful people who were our extended family. They sort of all mush together.

When I read that passage about the accordion I suddenly remembered that my cousin Mark had an accordion when he was “a kid.” I thought it was quite an amazing instrument. Half of the instrument was like the piano keyboard that I was familiar with because I was taking lessons, but I was fascinated by those smooth, little black buttons on the other side that were pressed to make the chords. The instrument was much to heavy for me to strap on and work, but I can remember him playing it and letting me push the buttons. And then I wondered how his fingers knew how to find the right button to press..

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The one that got away

One of the lessons I have learned in the past year is how important it is to tell people who are suffering that you care about them. You may not understand what they are feeling, you may not know what to say, you may have no words of comfort easily at hand to offer them. You may have no words at all; in fact, sometimes it is better not to even try because sometimes people say the worst possible thing when they are only trying to be kind -- but let them know you care.

So, when I learned that a friend’s husband’s mother was killed in an accident, I had Richard fix me a sympathy card. I have a terrible time picking out cards, and the program on his computer allows one to adjust the wording on the card if it isn't quite right.

This will be an especially hard thing for this dear man, our former pastor, who drove 90 minutes to spend 5 minutes with us at the hospital when Nathaniel had his second operation. His father died last December. I am sure he is not over grieving for the loss of his father, and now his mother is gone too.

I grabbed my camera in one hand (one never knows when there will be something interesting to see) and clutched the envelope in the other, and the cat and I walked it out to the mailbox for the rural letter carrier to pick up.  

Near the head of the road, I was noticing some aluminum cans had collected down below in the thicket -- sometimes teenagers park at the head of our driveway and drink and throw the cans out -- when suddenly I noticed a very large deer.

She looked up at me, ears up and twitching, I looked at her, camera still clutched uselessly, and I said, rather stupidly, “Oh, hi there.”

She responded by leaping around, white flag of a tail waving, and took off. And then I saw there was another smaller deer, probably this year’s baby, and it too raised its white flag and took off. All I could think at that moment was “please do not bolt across the highway and get killed.” Fortunately for them, they ran parallel with the highway and disappeared into the brush.

Scared the cat half to death. The camera remained clutched uselessly in my right hand. So this post is not only not illustrated with a wonderful shot of this beautiful deer, it is also not illustrated with a hilarious picture of the cat with her tail bristled out.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

I am a thief…

The light has come on again, for a while at least, and I am feeling better than I have for quite some time, well... I was until I opened my purse this morning to clean it out.

We went to St Louis on Thursday to have a bit of fun. We did some shopping for things that could only be had at St Louis. We actually had ourselves a Starbucks coffee, thanks to a gift card Richard had received.

We had White Castle Hamburgers in honor of our son’s memory. 

His favorite thing to do when he worked the graveyard shift at the ambulance was to get 10 of them at a time.
He loved going to Forest Park. We went there, to the St Louis Art Museum, and saw beautiful paintings...

 including a special exhibit of Monet’s Water Lilies. Why is walking through an art museum so exhausting?

But the main reason we went was to attend the annual memorial service hosted by the medical students at St Louis University School of Medicine for families and friends of those who donated their bodies to the medical school during 2011.

Perhaps it seems like a paradox that going to a memorial service would make me feel better and much less depressed, but that is exactly what happened.

Perhaps the moving experience I had at seeing the glorious the church with the beautiful stained glass windows…

  Photo by Szeke 

Perhaps it was feeling the bond with the probably 1,000 other people who were there – people who were friends or families of the 435 other individuals who had also donated their bodies – who had also come to honor the memories of their loved ones.

Perhaps the overwhelming welling up of emotion when the pianist and the violinist began playing Satie’s Gymnppedia No. 1, Lent et douloureaux

And the students began coming up the long aisle in pairs and laid flowers on the basket that contained the names of those who had donated their bodies… 

I don’t know, but it was beautiful and wonderful and moving.

I will never know which of those lovely young men and women who participated in the program might have studied the body of our son in their anatomy laboratory, but seeing them and hearing their words about how grateful they were for the donation and how it would help them be better physicians… well, it gave me great comfort.

Just before we left for the cathedral in which the service was held, we had lunch at a small Vietnamese restaurant. At every Asian restaurant where we have a meal and chopsticks are brought along with silverware to the table, they are almost always the cheap bamboo kind that are meant to be thrown away. I usually always take them because there are many useful things that can be done with chopsticks that have nothing to do with eating (or attempting to eat).

At any rate, at the end of the meal, I grabbed both sets and put them in my purse and thought nothing else about it until this morning. When I took them out, I noticed that these were not at all like the throw-away chop sticks we usually get. These looked very much like chop sticks the restaurant would have collected and washed along with the silverware and reused. 

I am almost sure I stole the chopsticks.

I didn’t do it on purpose. Honest.

Monday, December 05, 2011

My shadow...

I have a little shadow that goes in and out with me…

A line from a beloved poem by Robert Lewis Stevenson that my mother read to me when I was little girl, probably over and over and over, assuming I was like most other young children who seem not to get tired of hearing things they like over and over and over. I discovered this when our boy was little and I would attempt to skip pages of books I had read to him over and over and over – books that he had memorized. Every time I tried to turn 2 pages at a time to get through it faster, he always caught me.

At any rate, I sometimes view the Depression that began stalking me last December at about this time, when our son’s physical condition took such a nosedive, as a Shadow that occasionally grasps me around the ankle and tries to trip me up and slow me down and wants to get up close and personal. I would rather not go back on the happy pills that the doctor gave me last December. They either worked very well or it was a placebo effect, but I would just as soon not take the drugs if I can avoid it.

And most of the time I seem to do fairly well. We are only a few days into December, but already I have been feeling Shadow’s arms trying to embrace me in his dull, gray hug. I am determined to shrug him off. It would be easy to blame the time of year for this – the deciduous trees are now naked, standing with their skeletons exposed. Barren. Dull. A cold, gray day  today. There is a feeling of wanting to retreat and withdraw and hibernate.

It began to drizzle sleet and some freezing rain as I drove home from town this morning, but within a half or so after I had picked up where I left off working, a light snow began to sift down, reminding me of how my mother dusted powdered sugar on a chocolate cake through a wire-mesh strainer.

We watched The Adjustment Bureau Saturday night. The movie intrigued me. Now that I have seen the ending, I must watch it again to pick up things that I missed the first time through because I was nervous about how it was going to end.
Today I am wondering was it chance, or the devil, or part of a Master Plan, that resulted in my unfortunate fall several years ago in which I fractured my pelvis and spent at least 2 months camped out on the couch and needing a wheelchair to move? I suppose I will never know, except that I know God worked that event into a marvelous good. 

Yesterday, we working together in the kitchen preparing food, with the roles switched. He did the actual cooking, making cabbage sauteed with green and yellow peppers, dressed with a sweet, Asian style sauce; and a green bean dish cooked with hot chili-tomatoes and mushrooms, a bit of sugar. I did the chopping and the assembling of ingredients.

Even as I write, this I can smell the wonderful pungent odor of boiling vinegar and ginger as he prepares marinated carrots, and he has sprinkled yellow squash split lengthwise with cheese powder and spices. which will be roasted, and fish baked with a thin coating of marinara sauce. Would any of this had happened if that day in June had gone according to plan?

Hard to say, but I am enjoying this new interest of his very much.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Talkin’ turkey

Having lived in an area where hunting is integral to the culture, I was already aware that the wild turkey is a very clever bird, and “getting a turkey,” as the hunters here say, is not all that easy. I used to clean house for a man who was the national champion at turkey calling contest for years running and he used to tell tales about his adventures hunting them.

Most of us tend to think about turkeys as the dim-witted birds with the gigantic breasts that are raised in mass quantities for consumption. When I looked into raising a few turkeys for us when we were in our “back to the land” phase, I was warned that extra care was needed with them because they were not bright. And indeed, being called “a turkey” is not much of a compliment.

After watching the wonderful PBS Nature program last week “MyLife as a Turkey,” and I may just watch it again on-line, it is so beautifully done), I have even more respect for the wild birds. The program is based on the journal kept by Joe Hutto, who hatched 16 wild turkey eggs in an incubator and then spent close to 2 years raising them from poults to adulthood.

The turkeys taught him a lot. Turkeys live in the now. They don’t think about what happened yesterday or the day before or the day before that. They don’t think about what is going to happen tomorrow or the day after or the day after that. They are just concerned about what is happening right….this….minute….

Hutto pointed out that because we are able to think about the past and think about the future that we often times miss the “now” – we are cheated out of truly living because our minds are often elsewhere and we miss now.

At the moment I am definitely in the “moment” because I am somewhat concerned that something is going to go wrong with the two pies that are baking in the oven. The timer that is supposed to mean the pies are done has gone off twice and the pies were definitely not done either time.

One looks like a pumpkin pie but is actually made with butternut squash. This pie will be taken later this morning to the community-wide Thanksgiving meal that is being offered free to those who have no place to go (our church volunteered to provide dessert). The other also looks like a pumpkin pie but is a sweet potato pie that will go with us at noon to our friends’ house for dinner. They had brought a store-bought sweet potato pie to a recent church meal and concluded that it was “nasty,” so I offered to make one.

This is the day that we set aside to give thanks. There are somethings about this day that are going to be hard, and I am very thankful that these dear people have invited us to their home so that we do not spend the day by ourselves… and I am indeed most thankful that I have wonderful memories of “Thanksgiving past”…. (and excuse me while I see if buzzer going off this time – third time’s the charm? -- means the pies are really done)

And I am also thankful that pies appear to be OK…

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Quick as a wink...

My friend Judy graciously volunteered the services of her husband, Charlie, to help Richard finish the washing machine projected that ended unexpectedly last Thursday when he and the platform yielded to the forces of gravity, and it landed on his hand.

I am pleased to say that after icing and wrapping with an elastic bandage that it no longer resembles a boxing glove.  His knuckles have reappeared and the skin on the back of his hand once again looks like the skin of a man who is on the far side of 60…

I helped Richard move the platform in front of the basement door using an old cart Richard had made for our generator. Why he did not use the cart to move the platform in the first place is one of those small mysteries. He got things squared away so that it would be convenient for Charlie to swing by on Friday morning on their way home after the aerobics class – he comes with Judy and walks on the treadmill while we flail around on the other side of the curtain that divides the large room. Richard was sorely tempted to move the washing machine himself, but because he had arranged for Charlie to come, he wisely, did not attempt it. He surely would have hurt himself again.

I prepared for the event by watching a few excerpts from the Red Green show and making sure the roll of duct tape was handy.

Judy and Charlie arrived, and Richard and Charlie disappeared almost immediately out the back door. Judy and I visited for a minute or two discussing wintering-over care of the impatiens plant that I grew from some starts she gave me...

and doing quite well in front of the window in Richard’s office, and then I grabbed the camera and we went down to the basement to document the event.

The door to the basement was shut. We stood there for a few seconds, wondering if we should open it and go in, when suddenly it opened, and they walked out. We did not get a chance to supervise. The job was done.

Now he has to attach the hoses and we must read the instructions on how to operate the thing. Both of have a habit of not reading instructions first, but I think it might be a good idea this time.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

It’s not brain surgery…

I had intended to visit the laundromat on Wednesday to wash our clothes, given that…
  • our old washing machine was not agitating properly or spinning the cloths because it needed a new belt…
  • there was no washing machine belt to be had at the local hardware store, it would have to be ordered and we didn’t want to spend any money on it…
  • and a few months ago we had purchased a new front-loading high-efficiency machine but were waiting to install it until we used up the 5-gallon pail of old soap…

So Richard began working on a new platform to sit the new machine on.

He removed the old platform and cleaned up the area behind the dryer and we found this tiny baby...

the second baby salamander we have found, and one wonders what is going on in our basement behind the closed door!!

The clothes began piling up. Then, I was able to get an appointment on Wednesday to get my hair cut, so we calculated we could wait until Friday until I would have to go to the laundromat to wash the clothes.

There was also a glimmer of hope by late Wednesday afternoon that the new platform Richard is building to keep our new front-loading high-efficiency machine off the floor of the basement would be ready by Thursday and that the new machine would be up and running on Friday.

Thursday morning, however, Richard lost control of the newly completed and much heavier platform as he was trying to move it into the basement and it threw him off balance… he fell, it fell, and it smashed his hand.

None of the bones in his hand or wrist appear to be broken, nothing is numb, and his fingers are warm, so aside from his hand being swollen and significantly bruised, he will likely be OK.

In the meantime, I knew there was no hope that I would escape having to go to THE LAUNDROMAT.

The laundromat has a front-loading high-efficiency machine and I began dithering about trying to operate it (Stephen King wrote a short story about demon-possessed laundry equipment running amok). By Friday morning Richard was somewhat annoyed with me.
We’re not talking about brain surgery here…. 
It’s just a washing machine. 
There will be instructions.
And he was right. It was just a washing machine, there were instructions, and I was able to do four loads of clothes at one time. I returned home euphoric at how easy it was and schlepped the clothes from the back seat of the car to the basement and started the dryer….

And forgot to close the back door of the car. The dome light burned all day and probably into the night, until the battery was dead.

Brain surgery, indeed.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Stackin' up....

In 2009 I had a running sidebar on this blog where I kept a list of the books I had read and added to the list as I completed one. I intended to keep the list going for the entire year.

When I had reached 68 books and the year was not nearly over with, it occurred to me that this was becoming a source of pride, as though I was saying

Look how many books I have read! Aren't I special!!!

and so I deleted that portion of the sidebar and I stopped counting books.

I began 2010 reading at the same fast pace, but as Spring turned into Summer and we got caught up in all that was going on, about the only reading I did was when I read out loud to Richard and Nathaniel while we were on trips in the car, and by the end of year, while Nathaniel was in the nursing home.

And in 2011… well…  grief and the depression that goes with it dropped like shroud. The antidepressant drugs I took helped to keep me going, but even with them smoothing things out, I lost interest in doing many of the things that used to give me pleasure. I quit watching the few TV program I enjoyed. I pretty much lost interest in reading -- I couldn't concentrate on what I was reading even if I was in the mood -- except when Richard was driving us some place in the car. 

I still went to the thrift store and the used-book store and I bought books that looked interesting, but I didn’t actually read them. People who care about  me and know I love to read loaned me books to read. And I added them to the shelf and there they sat -- about 3 feet worth – collecting dust.

I am pleased that in the past couple of months the gray shroud has begun to lift, and I am once again enjoying a few TV programs and I have started reading again.

I finished the John Grisham book, an amazing collection of short stories … and the Alexander McCall Smith book, another installment in the delightful life of Isabel Dalhousie, and I started the Jennifer Finney Boylan book – a truly fascinating book -- and on a car trip earlier in the week, I started reading the first in Jim Lehrer’s One-Eyed Mack series to Richard.

Then on Thursday, I received this e-mail from Judy 
I just finished reading the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. You will love it!!! That's an order. Truly you will love it.  You will cry and laugh out loud and not want it to end
And true to her word, the Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society did in fact find its way into my hand yesterday at aerobics class….

I started reading it last night, and I believe her assessment will be correct. I have already laughed out loud, enough so that Richard appeared in the door between the bedroom and the living room and wanted to know “what’s so funny?”

Saturday, October 29, 2011

From biscuits to...

We got a welcome break yesterday from the routine when some friends at church took us for a long drive in the country to see the fall colors -- mostly in Ozark County, a rugged area, where she grew up.

As we passed one place, she pointed and said, “The man who lives there is a banker…”

Richard, sitting next to me in the back seat, thought she had said “…baker,” and piped up  

“I love bread. I could eat my way through a bakery.”

I am not sure what she thought about this non sequitur. She didn't say anything, but from what I could see of her face, she was little puzzled and was thinking about how she was going to respond. I quickly told Richard that she had said “banker” instead of “baker” and we had a bit of a laugh, and the conversation veered off into our respective abilities at "hearing" what we thought other people were saying.

But the fact is, he does love bread, and I make a lot of the bread we eat. I occasionally try to create some of the fancy-shaped artisan bread he likes but it seldom works.

I use the same basic recipe and try to put some variety into the shape of the bread – I have a French loaf pan, or I make flat bread in the cast iron skillet, or I use the pizza stone to make pita bread, or I make small round loaves.

Earlier in the week I decided to make Pilgrim’s Bread, which comes from my Mennonite cookbook (but which appears on a number of cooking Web sites) and is not something I ordinarily make for him because it has more oil (I leave the oil out of his bread) and sweetener (I use just enough to keep the yeast happy) which raises the calorie count.  It has an interesting texture and flavor, being made with rye flour, corn meal, and wheat flour. I alter the recipe by using sorghum for the sweetener and use all whole wheat flour instead of part white flour.

I had just emptied a large can of peaches into a container and it seemed like it might be a nice size for a small round bread loaf, so I cut out three small loaves, which I thought might turn out sort of like a like giant biscuit. The rest of the dough I made into small “long” loaves. 

Richard observed this with some amusement. Offering opinions.
The bread rose nicely but it did not turn out like giant biscuits. It did not hold it shape, but sort of slumped to the side.

Given that the dough was a little dark to begin with, and then I cooked it a little bit too long so it got just a little bit too brown…

When I pulled it out of the oven, well, he began to laugh and for good reason I think…

Not my best moment in the kitchen (although the bread tasted great).

Monday, October 24, 2011

Counting blessings, name them one-by-one

The aerobics class for geezers starts at 8:00, and as I headed out the door at 7:50 this morning, down the porch steps and around to the driver’s side of my car, I congratulated myself that I would actually arrive on time.

I saw immediately that the tire that looked sort of low yesterday when I got back from church was well and truly flat, so back into the house I went, and just as I asked hubby which of the other two cars I should take, the phone rings, and it is my father.

Happy birthday to you…” he begins to sing…

My dad has a baritone voice, and so naturally, he begins to sing the familiar melody in a funny, high falsetto. Which makes me laugh. I love this man so much.

We talk briefly, and I head down the stairs again, and manage to arrive at aerobics only a few minutes late. At the conclusion of the class, I see as wasp crawling groggily on the floor. The insect has managed not to be stepped on by any of us as we lurch around doing the grapevine and side-step kicks, and so I rescue it using a Styrofoam cup and a piece of paper towel and let it go out the back door.

When I arrive back at the house, I grab my wallet in my left hand, and the keys, the cup, and the paper towel in my right hand, and as I pass the trash can, I throw in everything in that hand. Then, just before I reach the steps up to the second story, I realize that I am no longer carrying the car keys, so I go back to the trash can and find them. It occurs to me that if I had not immediately remembered--remembered right then--that I had thrown them in the trash, how long would we have had to search for them before I would have remembered? I shudder to think about it.

I am now officially 62 years old. Yes indeed. Welcome to the new normal.

Richard tells me my brother called while I was gone, and he will call back later. We leave the house for about 20 minutes to get our flu shots and pick up the mail at the post office.

Not too long after we return home, the phone rings again. It is my sister. She has arrived at work, and once again I hear Happy Birthday, this time in a lovely alto voice. As we chat on the phone, I open the package from her that we have just picked up from the post office and the birthday cards that have arrived. We chat briefly and go about our respective jobs.

About a half-hour later, my brother calls. I hear Happy Birthday for the third time. I used to think my brother was tone deaf, but as I listen to him sing the song, I realize that he is not tone deaf after all. He has written a funny message in the birthday card he sent me, and we laugh together about it.

The day for me is now winding down, but it is two hours earlier in California and a few minutes ago, the phone rings and it is my other brother. He is taking a walk on his lunch break, and is climbing a rather steep hill. He does not sing to me, but I have a pleasant conversation with him and he hangs up.

And before the day draws to a close, I receive yet another phone call.. This one from my brother's wife. She too sings "Happy Birthday", but a different version. This time its the "Put another candle on my birthday cake" version that we both watched Sheriff John sing on TV when we were kids.. 

I appreciate so much the gifts I have been given. I am grateful of course, for the material things I have received – Victoria's Secret Amber Romance bath products; some clothes, some money. I remember with joy how much fun our mother had at birthdays, preparing a favorite food and making the day fun; I remember with joy the wonderful birthday present our son gave me a few years ago. The chief of the volunteer fire department he belonged to had his own plane, and Nathaniel bought me a 30-minute ride over the Ozarks countryside, and while this area is not exactly a tourist destination for viewing fall foliage, the patchwork of browns, bronze, gold, and an occasional blaze of red and orange, was quite lovely…

But I think what I am most grateful and thankful for are the intangible blessings that come from being part of a good family -- blessings that one can't put a price tag on. Blessings that are indeed priceless.

My family. I am truly blessed.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Up a tree...

When I was a child growing up Gardena, a suburb of Los Angeles, our neighborhood had fairly large lots, and although downtown Los Angeles was perhaps 10-minute drive on the Harbor Freeway, the atmosphere was still a very semi-rural. The woman who lived in the corner house across the street kept chickens, and so did the woman next to her. The family down the street had a couple of horses on their place.

Our house sat the very back of the lot facing “sideways”, and outside the front door grew a huge California pepper tree, very similar to the ones in this photograph

I do have a few pictures where a glimpse of the tree is visible.

This picture was taken in 1954, probably on my birthday, when I was 5 years old. In the other picture, which I am guessing was taken a year later, probably at Christmas...

I am holding a stuffed animal that I called “Cooney” (short for raccoon), but a closer look at it leads me to think it was actually a panda bear. No matter.

The California pepper tree, which is native of Peru, has lots of horizontal branches that are often very close to the ground (or would be if they haven’t been pruned so the homeowner can mow underneath them without bashing his or her head). Our tree did have big branches close to the ground, and I spent a lot of time climbing the tree. I also ventured up into the acacia tree that was next to the house. I loved its small yellow flowers. It was much more spindly, and one time I climbed too high and got stuck up in that tree. Well, not stuck, just afraid to come down. I remember my mother at the foot of the tree trying to coax me down, and eventually I worked my way down. I remember she suggested that it might be better not to try to climb that tree any more.

The neighborhood was already in transition in the early 1950s, many of the single-family homes had been torn down and replaced with small apartment buildings. When I was about 11 years old, my parents succumbed to the lure of making extra money by renting to tenants and had duplex apartments built on our land. The pepper tree and the acacia tree were bulldozed along with almost all of the other trees on the place, and the duplexes were built. The venture turned out to be a disaster; fortunately, they were able to find a buyer and we moved a few years later into the home where my father still lives.

Now fast forwarding a few (!) decades and 1500 miles away/ Our place seems to be a destination for every feral cat for miles around. The first cat we had was a big female--“Big Kitty” we called her -- who was as big as or bigger than the average tomcat and did not take crap from any of them. It was a common site to see her tear off down the driveway after an interloper, and they ran.

Our current, Squeaker, being a little pipsqueak, is constantly being bullied by the other cats that show up here, and although she puts up a good bluff, if we are not here to rescue her when the caterwauling starts, she ends up climbing a tree to escape.

Her favorite choices are... 

The sugar maple in the front yard...

the silver maple at the side of the house...

or the pine tree on the back side of the house. And on more than one occasion I have found myself at the foot of one of these trees trying to coax her down. 

I will soon be 62 years old, and so even though I am somewhat mathematically challenged, I can deduce that it has been at least 50 years since I have climbed a tree. I can hardly get my mind around that. Whew.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Rising to heaven...

Fourteen of us have trailed behind the hospice bereavement coordinator and the chaplain, each holding blue and white helium balloons on ribbons that are tied together in a knot. We gather around them in the parking lot of the senior citizens center. It is warm, the sky is bright blue, and a breeze suddenly springs up to tug at the balloons.

The manager of hospice medical services comes with scissors and cuts a balloon free from the knot and hands one to each one of us. Our son had lovely blue eyes. I ask for a blue balloon. I will later realize that this was a mistake. I should have gotten white.

The chaplain and the bereavement coordinator speak a few words. The symbolism of releasing the balloons in connection with the death of our loved ones is obvious. We let our balloons go. The woman next to me says “The souls of our loved ones rising to heaven.” 

They race up into sky climbing higher and higher. I am able to watch my balloon for quite a while, until the blue of the balloon blends with the blue sky and I can no longer see it. The white balloons remain visible.

The last time I cried was several weeks ago when I unexpectedly found the birthday card he gave me last year. The last birthday card I got from him. I will never get another birthday card from him.

I start to cry, again, as the balloon symbolizing our son fades into invisibility and I can no longer see it. I feel alone and isolated. And then the moment passes.

We return to the dining room. I visit a bit with the woman who was sitting next to me, whose son died of AIDS, and another woman whose son died of cancer, and another woman whose daughter died. I no longer feel so alone.

Eventually the balloons will pop and the shreds of rubber with the attached ribbon will fall back to earth as litter someplace. The bodies of our loved ones will eventually become dust or ashes, but least their souls will not end up as litter.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Serenity and cacophony

Yesterday we decided to take a break and celebrate the tax return being done and so we headed off to Springfield for some R and R (and then wondered if it wasn’t something of an oxymoron to link “Springfield” with R and R in the same breath).

At any rate, our first stop was at the Mizumoto Japanese Stroll Garden (there are lovely pictures of it here and here in the Spring).

This park is part of a huge park complex outside of Springfield. This is a lovely area, with winding paved paths through pine trees and Japanese arrangements of plants and rocks, and a huge koi pond with lots of interesting little bridges and stone pathways, and trickling waterfalls and a replica of a Japanese tea house, and one of those meditation gardens with the combed gravel. Just lovely.

We fed $1 into the machine and bought a few handfuls of food to feed the koi...

And then all of a sudden here comes a turtle – a much larger version of the sort of turtle little kids used to be given as pets.

 It came right up to me...

and I tried to give it some of the koi food, but the fish were too aggressive.

Now, to set the stage for what happened next, the U.S. Medical Center for Federal Prisoners is in Springfield, and as the name implies, it houses Federal prisoners who require medical treatment or who have mental health issues. Occasionally the prison makes the news -- John Gotti died there, the man who shot the Congresswoman in Arizona is being sent there.

The lovely Japanese stroll garden borders the back of the prison -- there is a large open area outside the main prison fence where there are various outbuildings and then a chain link fence separates this from the garden. We were enjoying our mosey on the path that meanders around this lovely pond and its artistic plant arrangements, we start hearing this funny-sounding amplified woman’s voice echoing. A tram tour of the parks is offered on certain days of the week and I thought perhaps was one of the trams with someone giving a guided tour.

Richard listened a bit longer and said, "No, that is a gun range." A gun range? Sure enough. As we continued to move forward the voice became clearer, and she was giving instructions to people who were about to shoot guns. Everything was quiet for a few seconds.

And then it sounded like we were in a war zone.  

Ka-bam, blam, blooey, bang bang bang.
We could smell the gunpowder wafting in the morning breeze.

We made our way through the row of trees blocking the view of the back of the prison from the park,

and there was a line of people shooting at targets. Probably prison guards or perhaps Springfield policemen.

We had to laugh -- this is exactly the sort of thing that happens to us regularly -- nothing like a little gunfire to add to the ambience.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dancin' the night away

When I was in high school, my mother enrolled me in a charm school sponsored by Sears at the local mall, and for good reason. I did not move with very much grace. The way my knees and hip joints are constructed has given me sort of an odd walk. My brothers teased me about it. They said I “plonked” and they would chant “Ling plop, long plop, lugga lugga blug blug.”

So, I have been somewhat uncomfortable in situations where graceful moment is required. Hence, my precious mother’s attempts to help me.

Last year I went shopping and found the perfect gown to wear to the cyber ball at Willow Manor,

but I did not actually have the nerve to put it on and attend the event. I was not planning to go this year either. 

The anniversary of my mother’s death 2 years ago is tomorrow and I was not exactly in the mood. 

However, when I read that Nigella Lawson is attending, I immediately decided that I would love to spend some time chatting with this wonderful witty woman, whose reports on NPR I have loved to listen to, and so I asked Danny (my lovely husband does not enjoy crowds) if he would escort me – he is a good dancer and he will make me laugh – and he agreed.

I suddenly find I have instant recall of all of the charm school lessons I learned on how to walk and hold myself gracefully and so I have refreshed the gown and am waiting for Danny to arrive.

After a dance or two, I am sure he will be lured away, and then I will go in search of Nigella (wherever Willow has stashed her).

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Laughin' and cryin'...

There is an advantage for self-employed people to get the extension to October 15 to file the tax return that is due in April. Self-employed people are required to make quarterly payments of estimated taxes based on earnings from the previous year, so this is not about paying the tax--unless not enough money has been paid in each quarter--we’re just talking about the tax return.

I take care of entering the income and expenses into an accounting program, which prints out all sorts of handy dandy reports, and we have a computer program that does the calculations and prints the return, but getting to that point is very, very stressful for him because operating a business out of your home complicates things and he still has to come up with the raw figures to plug into the computer.

The death of Steve Jobs last week certainly did give pause for thought. Our first computer was an Apple IIE...

and it took almost 8 hours to run the reports that I can do now in 3 minutes.

Every year I hope that Richard will set aside a certain time each week to work on the taxes so that when the deadline looms he will basically have it done. So far, this has not happened. He has been in panic mode for about a month now, and he finally finished it over the weekend.

We always celebrate filing the tax return. Yesterday morning after I came back from aerobics, he was in and out of my office several times over the course of an hour – right when I was in the middle of finishing two manuscripts for the hardest journal I have to work on – coming up with ideas for what we should do. We would tentatively decide something and then he would come back with another idea; or, to be fair, I would come up with an idea and go tell him. In any event, by about 10 a.m., I was ready to bop him in the head.

By 11 a.m., I had just about finished the last of the manuscripts (“it was all over but the shouting”) I had started working on hours earlier, and went into the kitchen to get my lunch. Richard was in there bustling around getting food on his plate, and I started talking to him about this journal and how hard it is, and then I sort of laughed and said, “It’s just a journal for cryin’ out loud” and then I really did start to cry at the same time that he started to laugh, and then I was in his arms and he was laughing and I was crying and laughing at the same time and yes, one really can laugh and cry at the same time. The crying helped, actually and the day improved dramatically.

Shortly after lunch Richard walks in and hands me a list of things he wants me to print from the check record for 2011. “I am not going to go through this again next year,” he says.

Then about 2 pm Richard says “I’ll be outside for a while…”

Can I come? I was in my "afternoon slump" and ready for a break. 


No? How come?

But he was out the door and I was stewing. I walked out on the porch but I didn't see him anywhere in the yard. In a little while he came in with vase of flowers, scooted things around next to my monitor, and set them down.

“Happy Fall,” he says.


Saturday, October 08, 2011

Beauty from bits and pieces

It has always fascinated me how one can sometimes take bits and pieces from plants, stick them in water or sand or some other medium, and get a brand new plant out of the deal.

I have had some success in collecting new plants in this way from bits and pieces of other peoples’ plants, but plenty of failures as well.

Two years ago when I visited my family home in Gardena and saw my mother for the last time, I carried way pieces of some of the plants growing in their backyard, including pieces of the “orchid cactus” that she loved so much and which was continuing to thrive in the backyard under the apricot tree, and blooming so beautifully when we were there in June for my niece's wedding...

 and which had bloomed some 50 years ago in my grandfather’s yard when he lived in the same neighborhood. All these went into moist sand... and they lived.

Some day I hope that it will bloom. The tangled waxy-leafed hoyas vine next to it, which on occasion has produced clusters of pink flowers, also came from a piece from my parents’ yard, years ago.

Earlier in the Spring, my friend Judy gave me starts of an impatiens plant that were starts from the starts from the starts from the starts (and perhaps a few more starts of starts) of a impatiens that grew in her mother’s yard years ago.

And so I found a big pot that had been used to grow tomatoes in last year and dutifully planted them.

I do not actually have a green thumb—nor a black thumb either, for that matter. Sometimes I can figure out what a plant needs—and provide it—and the plant does well; sometimes I make an effort and the plant decides it would prefer to have a new home in Heaven.

In this case, I guess I did the right thing, because the impatiens grew and grew – very much taller than the nursery-grown impatiens I have planted in the past in shady spots in our yard, and finally, just as the last day of summer turned into the first day of fall, they began to bloom...

There is still some time left before the first hard frost is likely to occur, maybe a couple of weeks, so they will continue to live on the porch for a while longer.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Mental fruit loops

One of the writers/photographers  whose blog I will read regularly (when she posts), and who is a Facebook friend, writes humorously and lovingly about her Jack Russel terriers,

 (a photo of one of her crazy little dogs from her Web site)

indicating in a most recent FB comment that… “physically they are great specimens.... but mentally.... well.... mentally they are fruit loops.”

Not just dogs are afflicted with mental fruit loops, we are finding out.

Richard learned on Friday that the macular part of his eye has “bump” in it rather than a “dip.” Today we went to back to Town to see the ophthalmologist about the problem, and he is very confident that this will resolve on its own and has prescribed some eyedrops. If it does not resolve by the end of the month then some sort of procedure will be necessary.

Richard is very relieved that he will not have to undergo a procedure on his eye – at least not immediately. And the ophthalmologist assures us that should the “worst” happen and they cannot fix it, he may have some trouble with up-close reading but he will not go blind in the eye.

We will turn around and make another trip to Town tomorrow to see the grief counselor. And eating out will figure prominently in the days' events.

One of Nathaniel’s coworkers at the sawmill gave him a gift card for a steakhouse that has several locations scattered around this part of the state. He and Richard had gone out to dinner once, and when it became obvious that he would not be leaving the nursing home again, he gave us the card to use.

I took two friends out to lunch, and there was still some money left on the card – enough for at least one more lunch.

So, Plan A was for us to go to the steakhouse tomorrow and use up the rest of the money on the card. When we got back from Town this afternoon, I looked in my wallet for the gift card and it was not there. I looked everywhere I could think of that I might have stuck the card to keep it safe until we used it again.

I cannot find the gift card.

But in the throes of tearing “high and low” through all of this stuff, I did find an anniversary card from my sister from June 2010 with money in it that we were supposed to have used to take ourselves out to dinner.

As each month passes, I find more and more evidence of bizarre behavior from 2010 and in the 10 months since January 2011. It seemed to me we coped beautifully with the "macro events" involved with our son's illness -- making appointments and keeping track of appointments and getting him to the appointments, negotiating the crooked and obstacle-filled paths of Medicaid and Social Security Disability and SSI, and all of that, but when it comes down to the "micro events" we did all sorts of weird stuff.

Richard does not particularly like the steakhouse, so now we are discussing… and discussing…. and discussing… plan B.

And wondering if our own mental fruit loops will resolve…

Thursday, September 29, 2011

I am a bit stuck…

One can always tempt fate about when the first frost will come here in the southern Midwest, but I usually bring the indoor plants that have spent the summer outdoors on the porch or under the shade trees on stands in shortly after the first day of fall. Even though the days are often very warm, the temperature can get rather brisk at night, and some of the plants I have are semi-tropical and sulk if the temperature drops too low.

The migration indoors is a fairly uneventful and painless procedure for most of my plants. I pick them up – even the big boy here...

who is just delighted to be on the porch for the summer -- bring them in, and set them down in their spots in front of windows or under skylights.

However, there is inevitably some pain involved when it comes to moving these guys--

and there was a funny piece about “guys” on NPR the other day that is worth listening to or reading…

And of course it doesn’t occur to me to wear gardening gloves when I pick them up (duuuh)…

and so this is me a short time later...

wearing the handy dandy hands-free magnifiers and using a pair of tweezers…

to pick out the bits the cactus have left behind.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Where the wild things are…

Resisting the temptation to start another blog called the Basement Chronicles, or something along those lines, I guess what goes on in our basement does qualify as “odd moments” in our daily comings and goings.

Watching the Pixar film Monsters Inc does tend to give one a different perspective of creatures that resemble a salamander.

Fortunately, this baby that I found in the basement a few days ago, and which Richard agreed to hold for me so I could get a picture of it...

was a bit squirmy but totally benign.

And then there was this fellow who showed up on the towel that we keep draped over our dryer to help protect it from the inevitable dings.

I did not hand it to Richard to hold.

But on to more serious matters. As I have mentioned before, I often listen to the police scanner during the day when I am working. Yesterday a call came in that Mr W was shouting at Mrs W when she drove to senior housing to pick up her mother. They are separated and she has a restraining order. The unit where her mother lives is across the street from the house where Mr W lives. Although he was obviously creating a public disturbance, apparently, the restraining order does not stop him from screaming at her from his front yard and I guess he was not arrested for that.

I listened to the police chattering back and forth for a bit about Mr and Mrs W, and then that call went away and it was mostly license checks, reports of C and I driving, and livestock on the road from the Highway Patrol for the rest of the day.

Mrs W owns a shop on Main Street, and this morning shortly after I came became back from aerobics, a call came in that Mr W had showed up at her shop and had assaulted her, that he had left in his truck and that he had a weapon. So I listened to a police officer in a plain car as he followed Mr W around the town until another officer with “lights” showed up. They got him pulled over, but he decided to run for it, and then there was a foot pursuit with Mr W running down the street…. and eventually they got him. And a tow truck was called to impound the truck and an ambulance to attend to Mrs W’s injuries, and the day moved on.

It was sort of an exciting deal sitting hear listening to all this unfold over the radio. But I am sure it was not very exciting for Mrs W. I cannot imagine what it would be like to live with an abusive person, and I am so very thankful I don’t have to find out. Our son got taste of it – he lived with a woman who hit and punched him on occasion when she got mad. I was so thankful when he was able to get out of that toxic relationship forever.

What happened today pretty much proves the point that victims of abuse have been complaining about all along: restraining orders are very little help in actually protecting the person who is feeling threatened. Having a restraining order against Mr W certainly didn’t help Mrs W today. My heart goes out to her.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Sweet and salty...

Having the need to periodically defrost the freezer means that there is less chance of things ending up at the bottom and not being discovered until they are so badly freezer burned they are hardly edible. And over the weekend Richard did just that -- defrost the freezer -- and presented me with a nice chunk of deer meat that someone had given us and that I had no idea we had. I took it out of the refrigerator when I went to bed Monday night and left it sit out overnight and it was nearly thawed in the morning when I got up, and into the salt and vinegar it went for a few hours.

And was it just a happy coincidence that the talented Tess recently just happened to post what sounded like an amazing and unusual recipe at Willow Manor for pot roast? A pot roast cooked in foil with some rather unusual ingredients: cocktail olives and raisins and balsamic vinegar.

I couldn't resist.

Not having any cocktail olives on hand, I went to the store yesterday to fetch some and seeing that the jar of cocktail onions was $5.49, I instead bought some "salad olives," which looked exactly the same but were much smaller and not quite so pricey. But other than that I actually did follow the receipt exactly, well, almost..

Even though the weather has changed such that one might consider turning on the oven, I decided to use the crockpot instead so I wouldn't have to pay as much attention to the cooking process. At the end, the pot roast was outstanding.

I have concluded I cannot take decent pictures of food so you will just have to imagine the slices of meat covered with this amazing sweet and salty sauce.

World Famous Pot Roast indeed! If you happen to be in the mood for a pot roast, this is excellent.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Soap fit for a… giant

I went to an indoor yard sale on Saturday and I bought a nice bar of olive oil moisturizing soap.

I paid 50-cents for it, which I know is a good deal because I found it on the Internet for a variety of prices, usually between $12 and $14.95.

The soap is indeed lovely, creamy with a wonderful fragrance.

It weighs 12 ounces.

I find it a bit hard to hold, especially when I have it with me in the shower and am attempting to use it. 

It might be comfortable in the hand of Madame Olympe Maxime the giant woman played by Frances de la Tour in the Harry Potter movie.

But I can barely keep a grip on it.

I am thinking about getting out the hacksaw and cutting it smaller pieces.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Losing the past..

I have concluded that should I die without warning, I do not want to leave behind things that would hurt the person most likely to be left with the task of dealing with them – my husband.

I have sporadically over the years of my marriage kept journals, which were quite useful as a way to keep secret from others (mostly him) the things that were on my mind and yet “get it out” at the same time. A cursory search of the places where I usually kept the journals shows they are not there, so I have obviously moved them. I have no idea at the moment where they are. This is a bit disturbing. I have not yet gone on a “tearing things apart” search to find, but I am confident they will turn up.

In the mean time, I did find one journal, the oldest one, under the clothes in the bottom drawer of my dresser. I began writing in this “1-year diary” as early as 1966 and continued off and on through 1970, and there is one entry in 1975.

We went through a hard time in our marriage in 2004, and once we had moved safely away from the brink of the chasm, I picked up the diary, for some reason, and began thumbing through it. I have never quite forgotten who I was in that era, but the specific details of my behavior had faded. As I scanned the pages I obviously became more and more depressed about the person I was in the last half of the 60s. On the first page of the journal, January 3, I had dated it 1970 and had written “Here I am at 20 years old….”

And on the next blank page after that, dated Sept 7, 2004, I had written…

Here I am now at 55, still holding on to this diary that has entries dating back to 1967, 36 years ago. I wonder why I kept it all these years. What does it say about the person who scribbled in here? Much, I think. Mostly about a confused and foolish young woman who stood at the brink of the cliff and deliberately stepped off. Which launched her into a free-fall…
I watch the broadcast of a service at my sister’s church on Wednesday night, and the preacher, Bayless Conley, said – well I don’t remember exactly how he worded it – but that we shouldn’t get too far from our salvation experience – we shouldn’t forget what we were and what we have become – because it is too easy to be judgmental toward people who are struggling with things that we perhaps struggled with ourselves. Something like that.

He certainly is right. There is a phrase that goes something like "the church is the only place that shoots it wounded..." Those of us who have reformed from some destructive behavior can certainly be harsh and not very compassionate toward others who are still struggling.

But, in the days that have passed since then, and as I have gotten deeper and deeper into the diary, I have decided I do not need to have it around any more to remind me of what I was. No indeed. So, page-by-page, it is going into the shredder. I think I prefer to “leave the past behind and press on…”

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Birdie num num

You just never know when something you’ve seen… or heard… or read... will pop into your mind unexpectedly. Yesterday evening when we were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner, I cast a sideways glance at my beloved, who was up to his elbows in hot sudsy water doing the dishes (I was rinsing), and the phrase “birdie num num” sprang unbidden into my mind.

Hollywood and romance novels and advice columns present all sorts of ideas about what is romantic, but a guy who will lovingly do the dishes for me is right up there at the top of the list.

In 1968 Peter Sellers made a rather silly movie “The Party. He plays an inept Indian actor, who instead of being fired from a movie set where he has totally screwed up everything, gets invited to a big Hollywood party. Where he totally screws things up. Some parts of the movie are very funny – well, at least they were in the early 1970s. At the time we found this scene especially humorous.

The words “birdie num num” just popped out of my mouth before I realized it. We laughed. Probably because it brought back memories of more than just the movie: back in the day, “birdie num num” became a code phrase for well... you know....

But about a half-hour later, the phrase took on a bit of another meaning when about 4 feet away from my window, a medium-sized hawk suddenly appeared on one of the limbs of the tree trunk I have rigged up to hang the hummingbird feeder on. It sat there for maybe 20 seconds, and then flew onto a nearby branch, and then off it went.

The birds did not come back to the feeder for quite a while, and for good reason: these hawks eat birds. This is only the third time since 1981 that have actually seen one of these hawks at my bird feeder, so I am not too concerned that it will start hanging around what it must see as a “buffet table.”

This morning, Richard pointed this out to me underneath some trees around the corner from the feeding platform.

It obviously had dove for dinner. We will have to see if it comes back for seconds.