Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Hanging on and letting go...

My sister added a little surprise for me in the birthday box that arrived in August for my dearly beloved -- a bar of beautifully wrapped and scented violet soap. The wrapping was so pretty that I decided to see if I could get the soap out without destroying the paper in the process.

Soap is one of those gifts that I absolutely love, but like food, is also a consumable – once it is gone, it is well and truly gone. I wanted to hold on to the memory of having received the beautiful soap, but I also wanted to use it.

My experiment was successful.

The Sunday before my birthday I was rooting around in the top drawer of my dresser to see if I could find some socks that more or less matched what I was wearing to church and came upon a bar of sandalwood soap. This was the last birthday present our son gave me. I was going to save it forever, and had promptly buried under the clothes in the top drawer where it had sat ever since. I will never get another birthday present from our son. Ever.

I have been gradually moving to a place where it is now a little easier for me to let go of some of these physical things that link my memories of him to him. I am more accepting now that my memories of him don’t depend on clinging to these things.

Having had success at liberating the first bar of soap from its wrapper, I got out his bar of soap and carefully removed it from the wrapper as well. And I started to use it.

A few days before my birthday, a box arrived from my sister and her girls and in it was yet another bar of wonderful soap, and so the wrapper for this soap has been preserved as well.

 Other things were in the box besides the soap. There is a wonderful store near where they live called World Market that has amazing “craft type” things from all over the globe. All sorts of interesting little goodies were in the box, including this fellow.

I am absolutely delighted to make his acquaintance and so pleased that he has come to stay with me for a while.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Just give it a week...

You look like a boy! My dearly beloved announces when he turns around and sees me.

Oh! You got your hair cut!  They all announce as I plonk into the room where our aerobics class meets.

Ya think?

It looks fine, they assure me.


(No! It does not look fine! I am stunned at how so not fine it looks)

The wonderful woman who took up cutting my hair when my regular beautician decided to retire, and who has done a wonderful job on my hair the past few times I have gotten it cut, did not do such a good job on it this time.

She got a bit carried away and she cut... and cut.... and cut some more.

I am not a happy camper.

Fortunately, I do not have to appear at the wedding of my sister's oldest daughter until the first weekend in December.

My hair grows fast. It will look fine by then.

In the meantime, I may be wearing one of my son's ball caps for a while.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The week that was...

There is a humorous scene in one of the Anne of Green Gables books where Anne finds a dead mouse in the plum pudding she was going to serve to the teacher. A somewhat similar incident occurred here last week, but it wasn't so funny. I made bread, and several days later Richard walks in and drops a dead fly in my hand.

Did you have any idea you had baked a fly into the bread?

(Yeah I did, actually. I thought you needed an extra bit of protein)

You're joking, right?

Nope. If I had not turned the bread over, or had cut it in a different place, I never would have seen it.

Yuck! Yuck!!! I know the federal government allows a certain percentage of insect parts in processed food. I know we probably get more protein in our food than we think we get  – indeed, I’m told that we unknowingly eat up to 2 pounds of insect parts each year, but to actually find one. And especially a fly.

The eeuuw! factor is right up there.

That is so disgusting. I can't figure out how it happened, because the dough is either covered and rising in the oven… or I am fiddling with it… or it is baking in the oven. But, in this case, the evidence doesn't lie.

We got brave last Sunday. Richard finished the final calculations on the tax return (for us April 15 means filing an extension for the return to October 15) and discovered we will get some money back, and to celebrate we took a walk out to the pond. Not sure what we were thinking -- I mean, if the pond had been bone dry that would not have been much of anything to celebrate, but much to our delight, there was still water in the pond and even a bunch of large tadpoles swimming around in it. Tadpoles? In October? Well.... whatever. The bald cypress trees that I was certain were dead earlier in the summer, look to still have a bit of life in them. So that was good.

The week has hummed along pretty well. I have had a reasonable amount of work, so I am not stressed out too much and have even slept in an hour or so a few mornings this week. I have started again to lose a bit of weight. I am hoping that by the time I leave here in late November for my niece’s wedding that I will be a few pounds lighter and will be able to wear some of my nicer clothes.

And I found out that American airlines, which I have to take to get to Los Angeles if I don’t want to go through Denver (which I don’t), has instituted a new policy to make flying on their airplanes just that much more miserable since Nathaniel and I flew to Los Angeles in November 2 years ago. All of the aisle seats are now “preferred seating” and apparently are reserved for customers who are paying the full price on the ticket (I didn’t read all of the qualifications to get one of these seats). I can’t afford the full price. I am annoyed but trying to remain grateful that I will be able to go. I can put up with a few hours of misery.

Yet another storm arrived earlier in the week… very heavy rain for a brief time until it moved through the area. Shortly after it passed I heard a fox “screaming” from somewhere toward the back of the field. Not sure what word to use to describe the noise they make – not a bark like a dog or a “yip” like a coyote -- but it was very loud.

The state highway crews came by with their machines and mowed down all of the wild flowers that had struggled through the drought of the summer and finally bloomed along the rights of way after the early fall rain. They have equipped their tractors with a new sickle device that allows them to cut down growth on the slopes and ridges that formerly were too steep or too narrow for a tractor pulling a brush hog. That is too bad because in the past some plants -- including the yucca with its beautiful bell-like flowers -- survived the mowing. Not now. For years we enjoyed seeing the large spikes of waxy yucca flowers, and now they are gone forever.

How easily something can be wiped out.

Overnight the trees have put on their fall colors, and it is quite gorgeous right now and will be for another week or so as long as we don't get any more heavy winds to strip them off. We were in West Plains yesterday for our monthly session with the grief counselor and to do some shopping and it was quite breezy. While we were stopped at one traffic light, we noticed a blizzard of golden yellow leaves coming almost horizontal from a tree in a nearby park. They were floating and swirling and it was quite fascinating to watch. Soon most of the hardwood trees -- the nut trees and the maples especially -- will be bare of leaves. Most people immediately think of the sugar maple when they think of "fall colors" and rightly so. Quite a few sugar maples have been planted in yards and it almost takes ones' breath away when they are in their full color. And we have our very own sugar maple in our front yard.

This area is not really a destination for people looking to see spectacular fall colors -- not like New England in any event, but we still enjoy it while it lasts.

Friday, October 05, 2012

Letter to dad

Good morning to you dear Father...

Well, of course it is not "good morning" to you because it is likely late in the afternoon that this letter has finally been deposited in the mailbox on the front stoop of your humble abode there in Gar-dinkey. Here, the hands on the tick-tocking clock on the wall are creeping forward in almost imperceptible clicks toward 6:30 a.m.. Richard is rustling around in the bedroom, gathering up last night's tubs of stuff, which he worked on while he watched TV, to take them back into his office to resume work, and in his office I hear the first of many alarms going off as his computer reminds him of the things he needs to do -- take medicine, gather up the household trash to haul up to the road, and on it goes and the day begins.

Richard is struggling to get control of his ADD without taking more drugs and so has ordered some books written by ADD people who have learned how to use this problem to their advantage. I hope and pray that these aids will help him get a handle on his life. I feel so sorry for him sometimes. Feeling sorry for him does not help him of course, but I am not sure how to help him. He has done an amazing job taking over the housework and the cooking so that I can "earn the money," but there is the downside too -- the "honey-do" list continues to grow -- maintenance on the house is on an ongoing thing -- never stops -- and he has less and less time, it seems, to take care of those things as well. 

He did, however, complete the project of arranging for the new propane tank to be installed and ordering propane for it while the price is still relatively low compared to what it will be as winter sets in. Of course, this like playing the arbitrage or dabbling in the stock market -- you take a chance buying when you think the price probably won't go any lower and hope that you did not make a mistake. Many of the companies that sell propane offer a "pre-buy" where you pay in advance. At the point when we took delivery on the tank, the pre-buy price was higher than the current price for propane, so perhaps we saved some money. No matter, we will at least not have the worry of running out of propane when there is 3 feet of snow on the ground and the tank is running out. I am thinking that we should turn the tank into a "yellow submarine!"

I have been here for almost more than an hour now, finishing up an article for the vascular surgery journal and getting ready to move on to the next project. Which is your letter. It is hard sometimes to pay attention to the important – writing to my precious father --

instead of getting sidetracked by the urgent (we must have this manuscript back by...)

The queue of work is getting longer and longer. For about 2 weeks last month I had a taste of what it might be like to be semi-retired -- the drought that struck us in the summer hit my work as well, and I had almost nothing to do. I floundered a little bit but found myself sleeping in an extra hour in the morning and shutting the computer down earlier in the evening. It was almost vacation, but a bit unsettling all the same. I concluded that it would not be too hard to get used to working much less than I am now. Richard repeats the mantra 3 more years... just 3 more years. Unless of course they decide to "fix" Social Security by making all of us work to an even older age. At any rate, the mini- semi-vacation came to a crashing halt -- they were wanting me to take on 3 more journals on top of what I am already doing. Impossible. Absolutely impossible.

The state of Missouri is kind enough to send renewal notices 60 days in advance of one’s birthday, so I received notice and did not procrastinate and got my license renewed a few weeks ago. The picture on my last license was actually quite good. The picture on this one would do well as a mug shot. Horrible. I was the first person that morning to renew a driver's license, and when she took my picture and told the computer to print the license, I broke the computer. I kid you not. She had to shut the thing down and reboot it, which seemed to take quite a long time but probably not more than 10 minutes or so. I have no idea what the first picture of me she took might have looked like, but I guess it must have been pretty bad! All I know is that when all was said and done, I walked out of the office with my new license, still warm from the lamination, complete with horrible picture – if I were a horse I’d say I look like I had been rode hard and put way wet with a hangover on top of it. Good to go for another few years.

One of the channels we get on the "small dish" has been running a program called My Cat from Hell about people with really bad cats, and then this person who is a cat expert tries to help them figure out why their cats are so horrible and how to fix the problem. I do "get it" that people become attached to their animals and are not willing to simply get rid of them when there is a problem. In quite a few of the programs I have seen so far, the cat is so bad that it is causing rifts between couples -- the cat hates the boyfriend or the cat hates the girlfriend, or the cat hates the couples’ friends, and in several of these programs it becomes very clear that if the choice is between the keeping the cat or maintaining a relationship with the "significant other" or the couple's friends -- the cat would win. That bothers me a bit. Quite a bit. Of course all of the programs end up with the guy solving the problem and everything is happy. After seeing some of these truly horrible cats I am thinking now that we do not have it quite so bad. Our little Squeaker is an aggravation...

 and annoys us quite a bit, but she is a very sweet tempered, so I see that we do not have it "bad" at all.

October sneaks in the back door it seems -- all emerald and golden -- thanks to the rains that finally came toward the end of September. For most of the summer the fields were burnt up, beige, with the beef cattle hard pressed to find much to eat and farmers running their wells dry trying to water them with field ponds dried up and scrambling to find hay to feed them, with prices beginning to skyrocket as demand increased. Now the fields are again lush and green again for a brief time at any rate before the first frost hits and the landscape puts on its winter clothes. We did not have many wild flowers this summer because there was so little rain – only one of the ranks of surprise lilies came up, and the second batch of tall purple flowers that usually fill the yard only bloomed just around the base of the maple tree and in the front flower bed where we were dumping water from the house. Now the goldenrod wave their yellow plumes gently in the breeze and yellow daisy-like flowers dot the rights of way. It is just lovely. Richard found an amazing fuzzy golden caterpillar outside,

which will become the next generation of a rather large, plain dagger moth, after it spins its cocoon to weather the winter.

The hummingbirds were still here and fighting with each other as late as last week, but in the past few days most of them have left and what I am seeing now I think are migrants stopping of for a day or too "tank up" as they head further south. Because our hummers don't have quite as far to fly as those coming from the upper midwest they can hang around a little longer. Unlike you, I will not get to see them year-round and I will miss their antics. Ornery little fellas! Soon the winter birds will be here -- snowbirds  (not people snowbirds but the real snowbirds) and the yellow-rumped warblers...

Yesterday when I went down to the basement to feed the birds I came upon the big black snake that patrols in there looking for mice -- the bottom of the basement door is starting to rot so there is a piece broken out of it that is big enough for this rather large snake to come in and out. Most of it was stretched out in the sun along the wall with the first foot or so of its body vertical up the side of vertical wood blocks that contain the flowerbed. There is a huge hole under the alcove, probably made by an armadillo, and we think it hangs out in there as well, or perhaps it is looking for one of the chipmunks, which also may be living under there -- rather precariously I think. Richard told me one morning he happened to walk around the corner of the house to see the chipmunk coming out from under the alcove just as the snake was going in. But the snake had just eaten something so the chipmunk lived – that time at least – another day

I am teaching Titus for Sunday School, and Paul's advice to him about instructing older women to teach the younger ones how to live reminds me so much of mom, and the wonderful legacy she left Jennifer and I as her daughters, and her sage advice and the example of her life as your wife and our mother. We were so very blessed to have her as our mother and I know you were blessed to have her as a wife.

Hard to believe she has been gone now almost 3 years.

Well... I guess that is all for now.... I love you...