Monday, January 20, 2014

Where'd you say you were from?

The character Henry Higgins in the movie My Fair Lady had the ability, or so he said, to tell where a person had come from by the way they talked (There even are places where English completely disappears; in America they haven't used it for years). And of course his ability to change the way Eliza Doolittle spoke, so that she was able to fool another expert, was a key point in the plot of the movie.

In a general sense, our language is very fluid. Words pass out of common use, new words are added, and the meanings of old words change and become something very different. And for me at least, the way I talk and express myself has most definitely changed over the years.

When we arrived here in south central Missouri in 1981, both of us California natives who had spent all of our lives to that point in California (except for 2 years in Oregon), I made a conscious decision to change the way I spoke and chose words, and even pronounced words, so that I felt like I fit in more with the local people, after someone told me “you ain’t from around here are ya…”

As I began to meet more and more people and get to know them better, I discovered that almost everyone "wasn’t from around here" either, and even more interesting I thought, were that many of those who I became friends with, who were born and raised right here in this town and who never left, didn’t have a noticeable accent and sounded just like me. Or at least I thought they did.

I was given a link to a Web site with 25 questions about vocabulary and dialect, and depending on your answers, it provides a map with three cities that are likely candidates of your place of origin.

So, where did it decide I was from? Denver, Colorado, and Louisville or Lexington, Kentucky. Huh? What?

Denver makes sense because my mother was born in Colorado Springs and raised in Elbert, which is near Denver, and she certainly influenced the way I learned to pronounce words as a young child. Not sure about Kentucky though, except that makes sense in a way too, because Missouri and Kentucky share a bit of border in common.

Even as mathematically challenged as I am, I have figured out that I have now lived more than half my life here, in a place far from my linguistic roots. My vocabulary has, obviously, changed. But I found myself shocked to the core at what came out of my mouth during a conversation with a man I saw recently.

He and his wife own a trailer house (that would have written mobile home in a past life) on a lot that I walk by every day. For a while a young couple were living there. They had two small dogs that were loose in the yard, and every time we walked by, they would bark as us; it was all bluster, no actual threat implied, but Miss Molly became nervous about passing.

Then, suddenly, the trailer was empty, but it took Molly a while to realize the dogs were gone, so I still had a bit of a struggle with her.

One day not too long after they had left, when I was coaxing her to pass by, the man pulled up in his truck to pick up mail from the route box, so I asked what had happened to them. He said they (his son and daughter-in-law) decided they wanted to live in town. I said, “Well, when they were living here, my dog was ascairt to pass by…’

Ascairt? Where did that come from?

Perhaps I need to go back to Los Angeles so I can learn to talk again.


Update several hours later: Took the test again because I just couldn't believe the first results. This time some of the questions were different and my answers map showed Stockton, Fresno, and Modesto, all cities in central/northern California. That's a bit closer to home...

Monday, January 13, 2014

I Imagine Happy Ever After

I grew up watching Walt Disney animated feature-length films. Very sad and scary things almost always happened in these films, but by the end, one could be fairly confident that the “good guys” in the story would live happily ever after.

We tend to want our novels and movies to resolve so that the characters with whom we have become emotionally involved will live happily ever after, even if we know in the real world that they probably won’t.

Even so, it upsets us when they don’t. Take, for example, what happened at the end of season 3 of Downton Abbey. The actor who played Matthew Crawley in the series decided to leave because he wanted to work on other projects. Instead of simply replacing him with another actor to carry on the Matthew character, the “powers that be” decided to kill him off. Fans of the dramatic series were furious. I admit I was too. Although I threatened to boycott Season 4, we started watching last week when the new season began.

Unfortunately, real life does have away of coming up and biting us on the butt,  just like what happened to the fictional characters on Downton Abbey, and we often face situations that do not lend themselves to “happy ever after” but must simply be “got past” and dealt with.

None of has a guarantee that there is going to be a “happy ever after” here on earth, and this was especially true of our son, Nathaniel. I have a good imagination, but as years passed in his life, it became harder and harder for me to imagine a “happy ever after” for him. Nathaniel had such a difficult time negotiating life. One of our greatest concerns was what was going to happen to him after we died and weren't around to be a safety net for him.

Now, however, I have no trouble at all imagining him living happily ever after. I have no trouble imagining the scene that took place when Nathaniel stepped out of his body on the morning of January 13, 2011, sometime between 11:30 and 11:45, and walked into eternity and into the arms of the Savior in Heaven.

Knowing that he is now living happily forever after, knowing where he is, gives me great comfort.

The crushing grief of his death is passing away, but I still miss him and always will.

In loving memory of our son...

Nathaniel (Feb 12, 1977--Jan 13, 2011)

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

A Different Drummer

I drove to town yesterday afternoon to pick up the mail, run some errands, and go for a walk in the park. Despite the bitter cold, very little snow fell on Sunday, and so the roads are not bad at all.

In fact, we were having a bit of a heat wave yesterday: it was a balmy 29 degrees according to the thermometer on the sign at the local grocery store, the wind was not blowing, and it didn’t seem that cold. It really didn't.

I had a very odd feeling when I got to the park.

On Monday when I went to the park to walk, I could see that nobody had been there since the light snowfall on Sunday. I knew this because the snow on the walking path was pristine. There were no footprints at all, anywhere, except for some meandering trails made by rabbits, squirrels had been scampering around near some trees, and a dog (or perhaps a coyote) had passed through.

Yesterday when I went to the park, the walking path was still pristine, except for my footprints from Monday.

We like to think of ourselves as special and unique – there is nobody exactly like us in the whole wide world, right?
If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away---Henry David Thoreau
Some people do indeed walk to the beat of a different drummer, but usually they can find someone else who also walks to that same beat. I think we all feel bit more comfortable when we are not so far out of step from everyone else.

As we made our way around the park, I began to feel very uncomfortable as it dawned on me that I was obviously, the only person in town crazy enough to walk in the park in the cold.

It is all the dog’s fault. She has unhinged me.

I see now that I have a screw loose. I need help.

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Who was that masked woman?

Well, that would be me, of course.

Once upon a time I worked for this organization...
Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

And although I did not deliver mail in the gloom of night, I did deliver mail when it was very hot, in a torrential downpour with thunder crashing and lightening flashing, and when there was a foot of snow on the ground.

I don’t have to do that anymore. And indeed, I don’t venture off more than a few feet from the back door if there is heavy snow or ice on the ground (I cannot afford to fall down again).  

However, a compulsive dog owner will take the dog for a walk if it isn't raining too hard or if the road is clear enough of ice and snow that it is safe to walk. This is part of the costume one wears when she ventures out on a balmy 15° afternoon (with a brisk breeze blowing).
What the picture doesn’t show is the two pairs of sweat pants, an undershirt, flannel shirt, zippered hoodie with the hood pulled up, heavy winter coat, and gloves. My sweet sister gave me the knit cap not long after we moved here – I’ve had it about 30 years and it is very warm.

And the dog? Well, to spare her the embarrassment, I did not take a picture of her, but she is decked out as though she vying to be on the list of the Top 10 Worst Dressed Dogs. Richard jokes that, “the bag lady has a bag dog.”

This came about because in our search for the pack rat, Richard went up into the attic and found several plastic bags of clothes that were not actually in the bags any more because the plastic had disintegrated (that gives you an idea of how long the clothes were up there). Amongst the clothes was a very nice bright red crocheted pullover vest type sweater thingy. Obviously homemade. I no longer remember where it came from.

The clothes were washed and rebagged to go to the thrift store, but I held back the red sweater. I no longer wear bright red because parts of my face are permanently red, and wearing red just makes my face look more red. But I could tell it was very warm... and the dog needed a warmer sweater....and so I cut the sweater apart to make a warmer coat for the dog than the vinyl-backed fleece coat she wears when it is rainy out. And yes, we go for walks in the rain.

I haven’t finished her new coat yet, and so I have used the other half of the sweater to make a temporary coat for her, which I have to sew on her so it stays put. And then I put her vinyl-fleece raincoat on over top of that.

She looks ridiculous, and probably so do I...

But she indeed is very warm, and so am I..

Friday, January 03, 2014

Taking care of the girls…. it was quite a hen party

We were not sure what to expect when the young family with 3 children moved in to the building next door that used to be our church. For the first time we have had actual “next door neighbors” that are not a half-mile down the road.

We wondered what the children would be like. Great kids, it turns out. Happy, cheerful, polite, and very friendly. Two of our neighbor’s three children are girls, and the oldest child is a boy who likes to ride motocross. We were a little alarmed when they turned their front lawn into a motocross track, but because of the lay of the land and the trees between our property and theirs, the noise of the motorbikes wasn’t bad at all. 

A couple of days before Christmas, she came to the house with the kids and told us they were going to leave on Christmas day in the RV and head South to someplace near Florida so the boy could ride on a large motocross track and get some training.

Would I take care of the girls?

Sure I would. But it wasn’t her daughters she was talking about, it was these girls….

 I don’t remember how long it has been since I have had chickens but it has been many years. And even in the last years when I did have chickens, they were not permanent residents – they were the Cornish cross chicks that one buys from the feed store and raises for 2 months and the eats.

I had forgotten how much I like chickens. The soft sounds they make as they talk to each other, the clucking…

And these girls are beautiful… 

One of them laid an egg almost every day, despite the cold and the short days.

I did not mind taking care of them at all, but it came to an end today.

When I took the dog out this morning for her morning squirt, I saw the RV parked in the yard, so I did not go today carrying hot water for their bowl.

We did have omelets for dinner though.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Fatcicles and Channel 13

On Saturday nights I listen to the Prairie Home Companion radio program, but because our local National Public Radio station does not broadcast reliably – the transponders in our area frequently not functioning – I usually stream the broadcast from Minnesota Public Radio in Minneapolis, which is the link given on the PHC Web page. Periodically there will be breaks in the program for station identification and what not, and Minnesota Public Radio is good about giving weather reports during these breaks. Last Saturday night I found it very helpful to know that the forecast for overnight low was going to be “30 below.”

I am not being sarcastic. I am very grateful that –30° is not our temperature here. I feel a little less compelled to complain when it is in the “high teens.” It could be worse.

The fact that it has been colder outside overnight certainly -- and often during the day -- in recent weeks than it is in our refrigerator has been a big help.

Now, my husband does not go hunting for food with a weapon, but he does arm himself with grocery ads and fulfills that primitive instinct to “hunt and gather” in a less bloody way. Turkeys and chicken went on sale just before Christmas, and so within the last week or so he has come home with 4 turkeys and 9 packages of chicken legs and thighs.

Two turkeys spent two days in the car because there was no room for them in the refrigerator, and they were still frozen when we finally brought them in.

The house has been periodically filled with the smell of baking poultry and the stove top occupied with a large stock pot of boiling bones for broth. And with the refrigerator filled with plastic bags of meat ready to go into the freezer, it is a simple matter to put the 2-gallon pitcher of hot broth in a bucket with a tight lid (to keep the raccoons from getting it) and leave it out overnight for the fat to rise to the top. And indeed it is not only risen to the top but is semi-frozen, which makes it even easier to peel off the top of the broth.

And the fact that it is on the porch makes it is less likely that I will forget that I have the broth (things have a way of getting pushed to the back of the refrigerator, dontchaknow) and end up throwing it away because it has gone bad.

And we are still giggling at what my younger brother did at Christmas.

When we were in L.A. in October, both of my brothers made references several times to “Channel 13,” and Richard didn’t get what they were talking about. Back in the day, Channel 13 was an independent TV station in the metro Los Angeles area that ran a lot of commercials for gadgets that you could only buy on TV (But Wait! Order now and we'll double your order. Just pay extra shipping and handling...)

So, my younger brother sent Richard a “Channel 13” present.

A “Clever Cracker.”

It actually does work. It does crack the egg, but it also broke the yolk on all of the eggs I used it on. Perhaps that they were jumbo-sized eggs might have had something to do with it.

My brother assures me that we can look forward to a Channel 13 present every Christmas from now on.