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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Missing pieces…

A few years ago Richard threw up a wooden scaffold attached to the porch and running along the side of the house so he could tear into the wall, repair some termite damage, replace a window, and put up new siding, and he extended it around the corner and across the front of the house part way so he could work on some siding on that side of the house that is falling apart.

The scaffold was supposed to be temporary, but it has yet to be taken down (and, alas, the second part of the project has yet to be done), and for several summers it has served as a handy place to sit large pots of tomatoes and some of my cactus.

It has also become a playground for a small army of lizards that patrol it regularly for insects.

One day some years ago, just before I was going to open the screen door to go outside, I watched a little lizard race across the porch and gobble up a cockroach that was headed in a determined way toward the house. So I think of them as our first line of defense during the Spring and Summer.

After I inherited Richard’s old camera, I began to have a lot of fun trying to take pictures of them. They are nervous, very fast, and usually don’t sit still too long for their portraits, but once in a while…

 They will sit still long enough so that I can get a few shots.

The cat also hangs out on the porch and the scaffold – she likes to stretch out in patch of sun and sleep, or perch on a board that forms a shelf at the corner, as is true with most cats, she is very alert to anything that moves.

In the last few days, I have noticed at least one lizard with a missing tail.

Isn’t too hard to guess who was responsible. The lizard’s tail will grow back, assuming she doesn’t kill it. Wouldn’t it be interesting if we also could grow replacement parts?

Monday, September 05, 2011

Memories of Labor Days gone by

Many of the federal holidays are more or less like ordinary days for us, the only difference being the post office will be closed, and the Y will be closed, so there is no need to go to town. Being self-employed, we can take off anytime we feel like it and do something. So the Labor Days of years gone by tend to run together as being rather unmemorable. Except recently.

In 2009, Nathaniel had the day off— as an unpaid holiday (which annoyed me a lot; where are you Mother Jones!!!)— and he and I decided to take a drive out to Noblett Lake, maybe 10 miles away early, before people started to arrive for picnics.

The lake was created back in the Depression era by a group of workers from the Civilian Conservation Corp. They threw up a small concrete dam across a creek and made a pavilion and a picnic area, and it has been a favorite spot for local people to picnic, camp, and fish, and have a good time.

We spent a nice morning there, walked the trail around the lake, enjoyed the peace and quiet of the place and its beauty. 

We had no clue that the cancer that would eventually kill him had probably already started spreading its seeds of death throughout his body.

Last year, he had a “divine appointment” on Labor Day to visit Jason, a childhood friend who had moved to Arkansas to go to college shortly after high school and who he had not seen for maybe 15 years. My friend Naomi, Jason’s mom, invited Nathaniel to go with them on a trip down to Arkansas to a nice park where they got to hang out and visit. Although they visited frequently during the last months of Nathaniel’s life on the telephone, it was the last time they saw each other face-to-face.

So, when this Labor Day morning dawned  -- a beautiful, crisp clear almost fall-like day, it occurred to me that we could drive out to Noblett Lake and walk on the trail and enjoy the quiet serenity there… and remember… and then I realized that nope, that isn’t going to work.

Noblett Lake is…well… gone too. A few weeks ago vandals, opened the gate in the dam and drained the water. The creek that feeds the lake is still flowing, but the lake is empty. 

For a while, there was some doubt whether the Forest Service was going to rehabilitate it and close the gate and let it fill up again. Local outrage has, perhaps, changed its mind. I have firm faith in the resurrection of the body; perhaps the lake will be resurrected as well.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

And then there was one…

It was one of those September mornings when the temperature difference between day and night has resulted in a fine white mist that hugs the ground in low spots along the road and flows like water down and out across asphalt.

As I walk down the driveway and come up out of the hollow to the paved frontage road, I see the sun is barely peeking over the trees on the horizon, glowing like an orange-red ball in the early morning haze. It reminds me of times we had cookouts at the beach when I was a kid, watching the setting sun, glowing orange, sink lower and lower in the sky, its powerful light diffused by the fog bank rolling in off the ocean.

I head off down the road. An occasional car or truck whizzes by on the highway to my left, but it is still rather early, and there are fairly long moments of silence. I imagine what it would be like if there were no cars at all, how quiet it would be. The insects have not yet started to sing, and the birds are still.

I pass Big Tony’s house, and it is quiet as well. Sometimes his yappy rat terriers are in the yard barking wildly, but this morning they are still inside.

And then up ahead, I see them walking toward me through a finger of mist that has poured down across the road: two old women, enjoying an early morning walk. Visiting with each other as they amble along.

These two widow women have lived near each other for years. There used to be three of them who walked together, and now there are just two.

Their faces are relaxed. One says something to the other, and they both smile, I hear a laugh. We draw closer and smile at each other and exchange greetings, and they pass by and make the turn at Big Tony’s house to go to their respective homes.

The Simon and Garfunkle song “Old Friends” begins to play in my head.

No, they aren’t old men sitting on a park bench, but they are old friends.

If stages of life are indeed as the seasons, then they are Winter companions. I am entering the Fall of my life, and I wonder as I continue walking down the road, if I will have someone to walk with, a companion, when it becomes Winter for me and I am old.

The days slip by and summer moves further into fall, and if they are still walking together, they aren’t doing it when we are taking our walk or when I am driving down the road heading for town.

And the seasons, they go round and round and another summer comes. I go to a garage sale at the house of one of the women and learn that she was seriously injured in a fall and now living in the nursing home in the Alzheimer’s unit. I go to visit her, but I am not sure she knows who I am.

A few weeks ago her obituary was in the newspaper.

Yesterday when I went for a walk, the remaining little old lady, and a woman who was probably her daughter, turned the corner at Big Tony’s house as I was passing by on my way home. We smiled at each other and commented on the lovely morning.

Thursday, September 01, 2011

Stepping carefully

The hot water heater, the washing machine, and the dryer live in our walk-in basement – on a platform to keep them out of the water that invariably seeps in when a hard rain falls -- along with other stuff, like the barrel full of sunflower seeds that I feed to the birds. There is a room attached to that, which we call the fruit cellar, where our freezer lives.

In my dreams, I imagine the room where our son used to sleep before he moved away has been remodeled into a new home for the washing machine, drier, and freezer, so that multiple times a day we do not have to walk down the porch steps, around the house, and into the basement.

And even if we don’t have to go down there for something out of the freezer, or to do laundry, or to get seeds for the birds, invariably, Richard will have moved something I am not using routinely “down to the fruit cellar,” and invariably, within a day or two I will need it.

It is cool and damp in the basement, and a lovely place to be on hot summer days. There are lots of crickets in there and other insects, and snakes… who knows what else. A huge spider lived in the basement for a few weeks last summer, and this summer a small toadlet has taken up residence.

The little toad is very hard to see against the concrete and the thin film of rust-colored dust in certain spots left by water seeping in when it rains. Richard warns me to “be careful” so you don’t step on it.

I do not have a picture of the toadlet, but I do have a picture of a lovely sign.

It would be fun to change the wording slightly and put it on the door of the basement. I borrowed this, with permission, from Non-Working Monkey who took this photograph when she went on a holiday to England.