Thursday, August 25, 2011

An unhappy ending to an otherwise great day

 When one begins dragging 60 behind them and doesn’t need a magnifying glass to see 70 looming,  the options for funny birthday cards increase dramatically.

And leave it to my sweet sister to find one to honor my sweetie on his birthday earlier this week. 

 When we were kids growing up in Los Angeles, there was a local television program for children hosted by Sheriff John, and he did a “birthday cake” song...

which I found myself singing when the day arrived. We did not, however, have a birthday cake this year for him. We had Klondike bars instead. 

The aches and pains of growing older are not what makes the “golden years” very golden. Richard has an occasional minor problem in his back, which requires him to walk around hunched over a bit for a day until it works itself out. At this point it is still something we can still make jokes about, but it may not be so funny as time goes by.

Today would have been a very nearly perfect day. I have finally clawed my way out of the huge volume of work I was handed and feel like I can take a breath once again. I even had time to look at a blog or two. Yea!!!

We have been accumulating brush since last winter due to ice storms and throughout the spring and summer due to high winds. The pile began to breed and suddenly there were two piles, and both of them looked pregnant.

And as it often goes with us, they might have remained for quite a bit longer, perhaps even throughout the winter, except an armadillo picked one of them to crawl under and die, and the stench of rotting flesh has been wafting in the window I sit in front of for the past week – it takes the process quite a while longer in an armadillo because of the hard shell. So Richard decided to burn the piles today. Yea!!!

The last time brush piles were burned – in September of last year -- Nathaniel did the job

so it was a bit poignant for both of us when Richard went out to light it off.

And then just as the job was finished, a very bad thing happened. A turtle that had crawled under the brush pile for shelter did not get out in time and was killed.

How to explain how horrible Richard felt? Horrible. We both felt sick inside. I love turtles. 

 I probably have as many photographs of turtles (and judging by the red eyes, this is a boy turtle) on this computer as I do of lizards and flowers and…

At any rate, I am so grateful I am married to a kind man who does not take pleasure in killing things.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Strange food associations…

When Richard was young, his mother drank buttermilk. A lot of buttermilk. He couldn’t stand the way it looked. Eventually he might have come around to liking it, except somewhere along the way he took a big swallow of truly spoiled milk, and that did it. 

He has never tasted buttermilk. He also won’t eat cottage cheese. And he won’t even try my homemade yogurt, although why he turns his nose up at it is beyond me. It is smooth and does not have “chunks” of stuff in it.

One of the most memorable of a string of otherwise wonderful Thanksgiving meals throughout my childhood occurred one year at Grandpa and Grandma’s house. I am not sure how many of the cousins were there, but we had a fine time sticking black olives on our fingers and wiggling them around and then eating them off our fingers.

At some point, I suspect one of the adults became annoyed by this behavior and said something like

“Cut that out, if you keep eating all of those olives,
you will make yourself sick.”

And sure enough, not too long after eating the meal, I got violently sick and spent some time bent over the porcelain throne.

Up to then, I loved black olives, but it was quite a while before I started eating them again.

Our son was not a picky eater -- not in the least  -- and we usually did not have trouble getting him to eat. He was, however, very visually oriented, and there were a couple of foods he got “fixated” on because of the way they looked – not because of how they tasted – and he would not eat them any more.

We kept chickens for a long time and had fresh farm eggs several times a week. He loved eggs and gobbled them down.

One morning I set his plate of eggs in front of him and he took one look and started gagging. That was the last time he ate eggs (unless it was part of an ingredient in something else) until he was well into adulthood. He could give me no reason for what it was about the eggs that caused such a violent reaction.

Later, the same thing happened with long spaghetti. He quit eating it because it reminded him of worms.

He stopped eating elbow macaroni because… well, I am not sure why… something about the “bend” in the pasta, but he would eat “penne,” which is the fatter straight tube.

Now he really liked corkscrew pasta, because it reminded him of the auger that used to operate at the feed mill in town. He had started stockpiling pasta in preparation to move out, which I am now slowly eating my way through: six 1-pound packages of augers.

The other day I cooked some augers to make a small pasta salad for lunch—lentils and whatever vegetables I could scrounge with salsa on top…

And as I put the augers on the plate...

 I suddenly got my own association with something.

Along with the chickens, we raised Muscovy ducks for meat. The drakes are big and are very meaty.

(Our main drake was pure white. But I don't have a picture of him. This one is from Wikipedia)

We had lots of Muscovy ducks. They are the “rabbits” of duck-dom. They are prolific breeders, and the ducks raise large batches of ducklings.

I couldn’t help but notice that the augurs look very much like a certain organ that the male duck has that is vitally important for procreating.

I had a very clever title picked out for this post and when I mentioned it to Richard he said.  

You aren’t going to use that, are you? 

I sort of hemmed and hawed and he said...


I have a new name for the augurs, which I will not share. My little pasta salad was very tasty. And we will be eating augurs tomorrow in macaroni and cheese.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Get'er done

There have been a few moments during this week where I have just wanted to shut the computer off…

walk out the door…

and never come back.

Not really.

But during this week occurred one of those periodic events that I call the “conjunction of the journals,” when all of the issue managers of the journals I copyedit have manuscripts that need to be worked on, and they need me to work on them.

Last Friday I received an e-mail from the woman who handles the dermatology journal: She has 21 manuscripts she needs done right way--by the 16th in fact--which would only be possible if I were a machine and not a flesh and blood person who needs to eat and sleep, get some exercise, watch a bit of television and have lunch with my friend at Subway, which I did on Thursday.

Who offers the suggestion that perhaps what I really do need to do is "walk away for 10 minutes..."


That is something I could do. I could take the camera and see if I can get a picture of the toadlet that lives in our basement;

I could take a short walk with Richard...

down to Big Tony’s house (who lives at the "T" up ahead there in the picture).

On Monday, the woman who handles the transplant journal sent 6 files for me to work on, and then on the Wednesday, she sent 4 "rush items" that she needs back right away, and that I was to set aside the other 6 she sent me earlier in the week. I told her that I could not get them back to her "rush" because I had too much other work piled up and that she might want to send them to someone else.

No, she writes back. You are my favorite.

I am her favorite.

I thought I was done with the orthopedic journal for the month, and on Tuesday, here came 6 more.

Also on Tuesday the journal covering diabetes sent me a manuscript. These manuscripts are incredibly difficult. It is due back Monday.

I log-on to the Web site where I retrieve the manuscripts for the vascular surgery journal, and I see there are 14 of them waiting. Fortunately, the deadline for the last of them stretches into September.

As the week progressed, I was hoping that the only journal I had yet to get anything from – the thoracic surgery journal – would not send me anything. And he did not. Thank goodness.

Richard helps to keep me grounded. He gives me a hug and a pat on the back and says...

Do the best you can and ask for more time. They will give it to you.

Of course, he is right. Having a mental meltdown will not help. All  I can do is plug along, doing the best I can.

So I have plugged away:

  • I will send the last of the rush manuscripts back on Monday. 
  • I will have the manuscript for the diabetes journal ready on Monday. 
  • I have finished 1 of the orthopedic manuscripts. 
  • I have finished 2 of the vascular surgery manuscripts.
  • I will have 14 of the dermatology manuscripts ready by the 16th and will ask for more time on the 16th.

I wonder what would happen if Richard were not here. I hope that if that time should come, that I will be retired; but then I think, because of the sort of job I have – which I really do love – I could continue to do this for a very, very long time…

As long as I don't become demented.

Friday, August 12, 2011

A chorus line of naked ladies…

Beginning at about 8 pm Sunday evening, we were without power for about 10 hours because of a strong thunderstorm that moved through the area with very powerful straight-line winds that broke a lot of trees. The dead tree alongside our driveway, which Richard has been eyeballing for some time and talking about “having someone come in and take it out before it falls and hits one of the cars,” did indeed come down. It fell behind the cars parked at the garage, at an angle, and did not hit anything.

Our TV-watching plans were set aside. We got in my car, which could still be backed up and turned around despite the dead tree, and took a tour of the neighborhood to see who did and did not have power. We didn’t get very far. There was a tree blocking the road just past Tony’s house -- he did not have power -- so Richard executed a perfect 5-point turn on the one-lane road to get us back headed the other direction.

We took a left at the “T” with gravel road right in front of Tony’s house and immediately saw that this road was also blocked by a tree. We could see that some people further down the road did have power.

We came back, and by the light of the Coleman lantern, I started reading him the John Grisham novel, “The Confession,” and after a couple of chapters, he decided he better fire up the generator to try to keep the refrigerator cool because the power probably was not going to come on right away.  He fired it up and saw that it needed gasoline so at about 10 pm we made a trip to the convenience store and ran the generator for another hour before we went to bed.

We got up to a quiet house Monday morning, and fired up the generator again. And at 7 AM, just about the time my laptop computer battery was running out of juice, the power surged back on. Hallelujah! And the day commenced.

The good thing about the storm is that it broke the heat wave and the drought for our area and we got some lovely rain over the next few days that we needed badly. Everything that was looking so sad and tired suddenly sprang to life again, and up popped the naked ladies.

Amaryllis or “surprise lilies” are a more polite name for them. We were bewildered during the first spring we were here to see the thick, lush vegetation at about the same time the daffodils and tulips came up, but no flowers.

And then, surprise!

Saturday, August 06, 2011

Put a cork in it…

Many years ago, a friend’s husband made me a concrete birdbath that sits on the ground where I can see it from the kitchen window. It has a round hole in one end into which a cork will fit to keep the water in and to let the water out to clean it and to keep the mosquitoes from breeding.

Corks tend to deteriorate over time when they are left submerged, so occasionally I replace the cork with a new one. The type that come in the occasional bottle of sherry Richard buys work well.

The birdbath is extremely heavy and difficult to move, so permanently blocking the hole would mean tipping it on its side to drain water out, and that is not an option.

This birdbath is a popular gathering place for birds…

 And little warty toads….

The cat drinks out of it.

I have no idea who comes to visit it at night, but for sure the raccoons are interested in it.

Earlier in the spring, I got up in the morning and noted the water had been drained out, and I discovered the cork had been pulled out.

This happened a few more times, but it didn’t bother me too much because the water needs to be drained frequently. And then I decided to put a "sort of a brick" on the cork.

And then the cork disintegrated.

So I found a new cork in the junk drawer (how could one survive without junk drawer?), but it was slightly bigger than the hole in the birdbath and it took several tries throughout the day before I could get it wedged in there firmly enough to stop the water trickling out. After about the third trip out with my small pail of water, I finally resorted to whacking on it with a hammer. Round cork. Round hole. Should fit.

Satisfied, I replaced the sort-of-a brick on top of the cork, but the cork stuck up too much which left the brick at just enough of an angle that it did not thwart the raccoons. When I got up the next morning, the sort-of-a brick had been pushed off and the new cork pulled out, and the birdbath was empty.

As I stormed back into the house fuming at this clever, clever animal, I recalled that one of the writers of a blog I used to look at fairly frequently (and I am slowly, slowly, starting to be interested again in all the blogs these lovely people have written) has Lucy, which appears to be a pet raccoon or else a very tame wild one, and I wondered – how does one live with a raccoon? How would one go about keeping them OUT of stuff?

At any rate, after several false starts, I got the cork back in and doubled up on the “heavy things that are sort of like bricks” and so far that seems to have done the trick.

I have been thinking in the past few days how it is that the minutia of day-of-day life, the innumerable little problems that crop up that need to be solved, the small decisions that need to be made that help to keep me focused on the right here and now instead of what has happened.

Which manuscript will I work on next?

What shirt will I wear to the Y this morning?

The things that constantly demand my attention and help to keep me going – to keep me from floundering.
To keep me from thinking too much about the gaping hole that suddenly opened in the fabric of our life.

And then, inevitably, every once in a while, I find myself looking over my shoulder as I sit at my computer, feeling at any minute he is going to walk into the living room, and I’ll hear his voice “Hi Mom!” in that funny way he had of saying it.

I miss him so much.

And then the lyric of a song will float through my mind….

“And as I stumble through the darkness
I will call Your name by night…”

And then the moment passes and I ...'

until the next one…