Thursday, December 21, 2017

Keeping Quiet

How often have you invited someone over for a meal or to visit and immediately begin apologizing for the condition of the house or the food or…? Or perhaps someone drops in unexpectedly and the house isn’t looking its best.

Well, to quote the end of the Ogden Nash poem "Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice" about this very topic:
I think there is one rule every host and hostess ought to keep…on a handy shelf,
Which is, don’t spoil the denouement by telling guests everything is terrible, but let them have the thrill of finding it out for themself.
Which brings me to yesterday.

Earlier in the week I bought a whole chicken and roasted it in the oven. After I picked the meat off the bones, I boiled the bones and made chicken broth. Well, what does one do with nearly a quart of wonderfully flavorful chicken broth?

One makes soup, in this case Golden Sweet Potato and Lentil Soup, and then I remembered my best friend telling me how much she enjoys eating soup, and so I got the brainstorm idea to invite her over for lunch. Before I could talk myself out of it, I called her and invited her. Done deal.

And then what do you do? You panic.

The house is a wreck. So you apply yourself to wiping the grime off the appliances and the kitchen cupboards, you get as close to the kitchen floor as you are physically able (which involves sitting on a fold-up metal “church chair” because the knees aren’t cooperating very much these days) and scrub certain really nasty spots with a stiff wire brush. You sweep down a few noticeable cobwebs and dust a little, which ends up being a “lick and a promise” because you have gotten distracted by something else and fail to finish. Out comes the vacuum.

(Did I ever tell you the story of how I was sweeping the kitchen floor and saw something else that needed to be done and wandered off and about an hour later I came back to find the pile of debris still sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor?)

I had recently read the poem “Just Keep Quiet and Nobody Will Notice,” in my Pocket Book of Ogden Nash that I thought deserved a Post-it note for further review. Before my friend arrived, I read it again and reminded myself to keep my mouth shut if I happened to see something I should have taken care of but unfortunately missed…

Everything was fine until she arrived and said, “Can I use your bathroom.” And then I wished I could have dug a hole and crawled in, because although the inside of the toilet bowl was clean and I did sort of wipe down the sink the night before when I took my shower, the bathroom was really not very clean.

Oh well.

The soup was wonderful and the cornbread I made (from scratch) was good, which pleased me a great deal because frequently things I bake in the oven do not turn out very well. We had a lovely visit and we talked about the poem. She said she has told guests “don’t look in the corners…” as a way of apologizing when she thinks her house could be cleaner.

She is such a good friend and has been in my house many times, She has seen it when it was a total disaster… so I know she isn’t there to see my house.

Why do I put myself through this? Good question that deserves an answer. I don't know. I am thinking that it would be such a good idea to set aside some time each week to do routine cleaning instead of waiting until the condition of the house gets too bad. My track record of keeping New Year’s resolutions is terrible, but perhaps I can manage it for 2018.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

A Recipe for... What???

I am periodically reminded of my mother’s rather quirky sense of humor, and it happened again today.

We had a lovely Thanksgiving meal and fellowship with our friends, and we came home with turkey and some dressing. I thought I had a recipe for leftover turkey that my mother had sent me, so I started looking through the old recipe box for it. And when I say “old recipe box,” I really do mean “old.”

Once when we were there on vacation, my mother decided to go through her recipes and get rid of the ones she no longer wanted. She also decided to replace the old metal recipe box that she had used for years and years with a new and improved model.

Well, I wasn’t about to let that old recipe box go out with the trash, so I rescued it and brought it home.

Now it really did need to be thrown out. It was in bad shape then and it is in even worse shape now...

with lots of rust spots and flaking paint, but it is one of those things inexorably linked to my mom and adventures with her in the kitchen. It is precious to me, and so it stays and I use it.

I have quite a few recipes from her, written in her beautiful handwriting, and so I started
trolling through these recipe cards looking for the turkey recipe, and to my surprise, I found a recipe for Stuffed Roast Raccoon. I am almost positive she sent it to me as a joke.
Stuffed Roast Raccoon
1 lb sweet potatoes, mashed
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup bread crumbs
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup butter, melted;
Salt and pepper
4-5 pound young raccoon

Mix stuffing and set aside. Wash raccoon, dry, cut off extra fat, stuff, and sew opening shut. Bake 325 for 3-4 hours.

Here are some young raccoons getting into trouble.

They are very cute when they are little, but we have had some unhappy experiences with adult raccoons, and it wouldn’t bother me if Richard were to shoot one. I’m not sure I would want to eat it though.

Now on the other side of the raccoon recipe is a recipe for stewed squirrel. I did cook a squirrel once, and it was good, if one doesn’t mind picking through tiny bones and is careful not to bite into the bullet. But getting the skin off was so hard that I never wanted to do it again. I have since learned there is an easy way to get the skin off – if I can believe the You-Tube video I saw. We are overrun with squirrels this year, so I just may try that recipe.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.― Melody Beattie
With the approach of Thanksgiving, our pastor’s sermon not unexpectedly touched on being thankful and the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit, and about how important gratitude and thanksgiving are in our relationship with God. She also talked briefly about the remarkable story of John Kralik, who, in the midst of a life that seemed to be falling apart, resolved to write 365 thank you notes–one a day for a year. It took him a little more than a year to actually accomplish this, but he did, and it changed his life.

She gave us a homework assignment at the end of the service. She asked us to choose a thank you note from an assortment in a basket and use it to thank someone.

During the 5 years that the Mollywog was an integral part of in our lives, I regularly took her to the aerobics class with me (if I was able to go), which meets 3 times a week, and I took her for a walk during the first part of the class.

Shortly after she died in early September, I went to California, and when I came home, I decided I was not going back to the aerobics class. I had weights, I was already walking for exercise, and I thought I could do without going.

In October I went to the County Health Department’s satellite clinic to get a flu shot, and I saw Kathleen, a woman who is also in the class. “Oh,” she said, “We miss you so much. Please come back to the class!”

What she said touched my heart. So I did. And I am glad I did. I seem to have gotten over whatever it was that made me not want to go to the class after the dog died, and I am once again enjoying the hour I spend there 3 times a week.

I am very grateful to Kathleen for that word of encouragement, and so she got the thank you note. I have also sent cards to a few other people thanking them for their involvement in my life.

I believe this might be a very good habit to keep.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Light Shining Bright

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Our pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about saints. She quoted the story, of which there are several versions (which leads me to think that perhaps the story was created to prove a point), about the little boy (or girl) who explains that a saint is “someone who the light shines through” after seeing beautiful stained glass windows in a cathedral.

Even if the story is not a true story, it is true. That is exactly what a saint is--someone who the light of God shines through--and it could be the man next door, or the Sunday School teacher you had as a child, or your very own father.

On Wednesday I bought a birthday card for my dad’s 93rd birthday on Monday. I thanked him for being a wonderful father and for the wonderful memories he left me. I wrote that I sometimes wished I could be daddy’s little girl again, and go fishing with him, or have him take me to school on the bicycle, or hang out with him in the garage while he worked on a car, or even making sure he had exactly 5 ice cubes in his iced tea. I put $10 in the card and sent it to my sister to buy some treats for him when she saw him on Monday. I would have told him all of that when one of my siblings called from the small party they were planning for him so I could sing Happy Birthday to him.

Yesterday morning, my youngest brother went to the group home where Dad was being cared for to wheel him to the hospital, which was within easy walking distance. Dad had an appointment with the eye doctor.  As they were getting him ready to go, my brother said Dad just stopped breathing and he died. Just like that. He died.

If he had agreed to the pacemaker the doctor wanted to implant a year ago, he probably could have lived quite a bit longer, but he refused. He had spent years visiting people in the nursing home, and he did not want to end his days as an invalid because of other medical problems but kept alive by a device. Knowing he was refusing treatment was hard to accept at the time, but now I see that it was a good decision.

I remember telling a friend in September how important it was for me to make the annual trip to California because I never knew for sure when our Dad was going to die and every visit could be the last one. This time it was the last one.

I have hundreds of picture of him at various stages of his life and with various family members, so picking a couple is rather hard.

I especially love this picture, which was taken in 1970. 

He had a very mobile face and the knack for making crazy faces and making everyone laugh. He was so much fun.  

And another side of him in a picture taken in 2008: 

He read the paper. He didn’t just skim the headlines, he actually read all of the articles and did the crossword, and although he never bet on a horse race, he loved horse racing and he picked the horses he thought might win at the area race tracks, depending on the time of year. Every day he cut out certain comics that he knew I liked. and he mailed them to me in  letter once a week.

He was the song leader at church for many years, and he loved the old hymns. And even though he could not remember what he had for breakfast, he remembered the words to those hymns.

Hey Dad, you're "gathering with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God" and it was a glad morning yesterday when this life was o'er for you and you got to "fly away to a land where joy shall never end." You're there now! Someday I'll be flying away myself and joining you and Mom and Nathaniel "in the sweet by and by..."

I love you!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No storm clouds at the moment

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay
My birthday was last week. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the date I was born to see what day of the week that was. I was born on a Monday. The nursery rhyme popped into my head, and I was disappointed when I actually looked it up that I had mixed up the characteristics that go with the specific days. I had the skeleton of a post in my head about what it meant to be “full of grace;” which is Tuesday’s child, not Monday’s.

How does one become full of grace?
Am I full of grace?
What does "grace" mean?

Okay, so Monday is "fair of face." But then I got to thinking about what “fair” means. The immediate thought that popped into my mind was that “fair of face” describes someone who is pretty or beautiful -- referring to how physically attractive their face is.

I may not be beautiful in the generally accepted sense but I am not a homely person either—I mean I do have a pleasant-appearing face—so I suppose “fair of face” does apply to me in that respect.

But I think “fair of face” does not have as much to do with the looks one is born with because of the combination of genes that have come together at their conception as it does with what one actually does with the face they are given.

I really like the analogy to weather of what the faces of us Monday folks might look like:

Fair: generally pleasant weather conditions: sunshine (perhaps a few clouds here and there) and no extremes of extremes of visibility, temperature, or wind.

I would much rather see a “plain” face with a smile or a happy expression than an “attractive” face with a snarl.

Yesterday I visited a person from our church who is recuperating in the hospital from a major abdominal operation. The surgeon removed a tumor the size of a softball from her colon. I have a feeling there may not be good news for her in the future. But, she was alert and cheerful and a pleasure to visit. As I was leaving the hospital thinking about this  marvelous 91-year-old woman and how amazing she is, I know I was smiling, Just then a man came into the lobby, looked at me, and smiled.

Fair of face is how I try to arrange the parts of me that make up my face as I go about my day. I think I do a fairly good job.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Second and Third Thoughts...

Armadillos had just started moving into Missouri when we arrived here (almost at the Arkansas border) in 1981 but were not very common. Now they are expanding their range even into the northern part of the state. How they manage this is a wonder because their habit of jumping straight up when they are frightened gets them into trouble, with deadly results, when they try to cross the road. The vehicles on the highways take a terrible toll, with dead armadillos along the road a common site. How their range can expand when so many of them are killed is a wonder.

Now we do have armadillos on our land. Several years ago, a mother raised her 4 babies in an old culvert near the house. We had no idea she was even there until one morning Richard went to get in the truck and baby armadillos were running around sniffing the tires. He had to scare them away so he could leave.

They are usually nocturnal, but in the winter especially they are out and about in the daytime looking for food – they eat grubs, worms and other insects that live in the ground, which is why they can be such nuisances.

They have never bothered us. Not really. They weren’t around when we had our garden, and the only flower bed we have now has bulbs in it, the soil is rather terrible, and we never do anything with it. They have never bothered it. If I want annual flowers in the summer I plant them in big pots.

We find the occasional hole in the ground. So what?

We don’t really have a lawn either.

Well now I am having second thoughts about armadillos. Third thoughts even.

Richard replaced the clay and hard scrabble he dug out to bury the dog with good compost, top soil, and potting soil and made a frame for a raised bed so we can plant some flowers on her grave. That night some “thing” rooted around in there.

The soil is too new for worms or grubs, so it hasn’t been back, but will I come out some morning to find the bulbs I have just planted for Spring uprooted? I’m putting a wire cage around it. We’ll see.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gone Forever

There are moments, little fleeting moments in life, like bubbles: you want to catch them and hang onto them forever, but you know they’ll only pop. I wonder couldn’t we bottle those brief, perfect memories, preserve them forever, like scent. Then, when disillusioned, or sad, or tired, we could uncap their precious contents and allow them perfume our disenchantment away?  Reluctant Memshaib
There were two messages on our digital answering machine that I wanted to keep forever. One was from my Dad, when his mind was in better shape, being silly and sweet, and the other was from my sister, mispronouncing my name on purpose. Both of these messages brought smiles whenever I heard them.

So there I was pressing the delete button to get rid of the telemarketer hang-ups and recordings. It’s not nearly as gratifying to hang up on a recording – the recording keeps right on going after you break the connection on your end. I often don’t answer the phone until I know who it is because I don’t feel like listening to the recorded spiel that starts with "Stop what you're doing right now..." and ends with “If you want to be removed from this list forever press 9”. Yeah. Right.

And I continued pressing “delete” button until all the messages on the machine were gone.

All of them.


My dad’s silly message and my sister, clearing her throat and saying “Lalana…”

(The correct pronunciation phonetically would be "Lay-law-knee")

When I e-mailed my sister to tell her how upset I was, she told me about her daughter, who also lost two important messages she wanted to keep when she switched to another mobile phone.

One message was from the man who later became her husband, asking her out on their first date.

And other was Grandpa singing happy birthday to her. Sooo sad…

But, you hafta move on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Importance of Gorilla Tape

It's only a car.
If money can fix it, it's not a problem.
Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014), Car Talk

I had about an hour to rehearse what I was going to say when I walked in the door after going to town to the exercise class and to pick up the mail:

Honey, you’ll never guess what happened…
Honey, I have sort of bad news…
Honey, there’s a slight problem….

But I needn't have wasted my time. As soon as he heard me come in he wanted to know...

What was that horrible noise I heard when you were leaving?

Oh. Well. That was me sideswiping a tree and tearing off the driver’s side mirror. It’s dangling by the cable. It’s a clean break and I think it can be put back in place with some kind of adhesive.

Fixing something like that is rather expensive, but one of the upsides of driving a 23-year-old car is all it takes is a bit Gorilla Tape to hold it in place until he gets around to applying the adhesive and I’m good to go…

Thursday, October 05, 2017

In which I go to a reunion...

Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future….
Next week it will be a month since I left on my vacation, and plunging almost immediately back into the daily routine has distracted me from finishing what I wanted to say about the trip. Richard teases me that his ADD is catching and that I am becoming more like him… easily distracted.

As the plane started to hurtle down the runway on the leg from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Los Angeles, the young man sitting next to me made the sign of the cross, so I knew he had some sort of spiritual foundation. I believe God put him next to me because it would have been a rather miserable flight otherwise.

A young couple with two young children was sitting directly behind us. The girl, who was about 3 years old sat behind me and kicked the back of the seat off and on for most of the flight. Her little brother, who was maybe 18 months (or younger), began to scream and screech almost as soon as the plane left the ground. This was not the regular crying of a tired baby but more like a temper tantrum, and it lasted for most of the time we were flying over Texas (Texas is a b-i-g state). One of the parents ended up camping out in the bathroom with the screaming child until he finally fell asleep.

I couldn’t seem to get my tray table unfastened from the back of the seat, and so my seat mate showed me how to do that (I am badly challenged mechanically), and he showed me how to work the entertainment console on the back of the seat, even though I never did use it because we ended up talking most of the rest of flight. Over the sound of the screaming child we talked a lot about faith, and God's provision, and how God takes care of us. He was one of the most inspiring seat mates I have had on the many flights between here and the West Coast.

I stayed with my sister. I received instructions on how to use my smartphone (about which I am still mostly clueless), I visited our dad just about every day...

went on some outings with my sister, saw sea creatures...

  and beautiful flowers…

 and then I went to the reunion.

A neighbor from down the street who I had lost touch with was there. My boyfriend in the 7th grade, who I did not recognize at first, was also there. Some of the people I most wanted to see did not come, so I was a little disappointed about that, but it was okay. During most of high school I felt like Pluto circling around the bright shining inner circle, but there were actually a few people who did remember me after 50 years.

Each place setting at the table had goodies we would remember from our childhood in the 1950s, including red wax lips and candy cigarettes (which I didn’t appreciate too much).  Folks had a good time with those wax lips.
As a back story to the reunion, there was a large Japanese American population in the city where I grew up, and so there was a large minority of Japanese American students at the high school. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, many of the grandparents and parents (as children) of the students I graduated with had been rounded up and sent to internment camps, one of which was at Manzanar.
Nobody talked about it. I didn't find out this had happened until I was in college. Three of the students in our graduating class made a documentary film, "The Manzanar Fishing Club,"

about some of the men, women, and children who were confined there and found ways to sneak out, either under the barbed wire that surrounding the camp or hidden in vehicles that were part of work crews, and go fishing. One of the social studies teachers at the high school, Mas Okui, was in Manzanar as a child when he was 10 years old, and he was interviewed in the film. He was at the reunion and spoke about it.

One of my Japanese American friends from school sent me the DVD to watch last year and I brought it with me so I could pass it on to someone else at the reunion. But before that, I showed it to my sister’s family. I was surprised to learn that the grandparents of my niece's husband were in Manzanar and that he had gone to school with the granddaughter of another individual who was featured in the DVD. It was connection I never expected.

One would like to think that would never happen again in this country. One would hope.

Saturday, September 23, 2017

A Day at the Beach

Summer means happy times and good sunshine. 
It means going to the beach...
Brian Wilson, The Beach Boys

The four of us have quite wonderful memories of our camping vacations when we were children. We camped in the mountains, we camped at the state beach parks at San Clemente and Carpinteria.

We camped the old-fashioned way: we slept in tents in sleeping bags on cots or on air mattresses, mom and dad cooked on a white gas Coleman stove, and at night we had a white-gas Coleman lantern with a brightly glowing mantel to light the campsite and flashlights to guide the way to the rest rooms. If you had to “go” after the last trip, then there was a bucket in the tent.

Dad always made “campin’ cocoa” with canned milk diluted with water, sugar, and cocoa powder. And lurking in that last swallow were usually small balls of cocoa that did not dissolve.

Last Saturday the oldest brother decided he wanted to make some “campin’ cocoa” that we were going to take with us to the pier at Hermosa Beach and drink with our pinky fingers in the air. And so we did.

The beach was a hive of activity. That Saturday was a Beach Cleanup Day on the California beaches, and at Hermosa Beach people of all ages were scouring the beach for trash. They were staging and setting up on one side of the pier.

Something very different was happening on the other side of the pier. The Best Day Foundation also had an event. A large group of volunteers were helping children with special needs have an experience that some of them had never had before: a day at the beach.

Children who couldn’t walk were pushed to the shore line in special chairs with wide balloon tires to join those who could walk...

and they waited while men on large surfboards, some of them with rigid seats, helped the children on the boards and took them out to the end of the pier.

On the return trip they waited for the right wave and surfed in to the shore.

Something about this touched my heart, and I found myself crying as I took picture after picture. That afternoon I cried as I tried to tell Richard about it, and I started crying yesterday when I told my friend Judy about it at lunch.

I lost some of the photographs I took because of a memory glitch on my camera but Best Day Foundation was kind enough to let me borrow some of theirs, which is why the surfboards are different colors..

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Paying Attention

I believe the road to hell is paved with adverbs, and I will shout it from the rooftops. To put it another way, they're like dandelions. If you have one on your lawn, it looks pretty and unique. If you fail to root it out, however, you find five the next day... fifty the day after that... and then, my brothers and sisters, your lawn is totally, completely, and profligately covered with dandelions. By then you see them for the weeds they really are, but by then it's—GASP!!—too late.” Stephen King

I would tend to agree with Mr King, but sometimes when you need 1000 words to describe something because you don’t have a picture then you do need those pesky adverbs – and adjectives – to paint the picture.

Now that breeding season is over and the Common Grackles have finished raising this year’s brood, they have begun to gather in large flocks. One such flock roosts at night in a wooded area near the house. On days when it is likely going to be too hot to walk later in the morning, I usually begin walking in that brief period while the sky is still pearly gray, just before the sun breaks the horizon, and by the time I turn around and head back the sun is up, and the birds have roused and have left the roost, making quite a racket as they discuss things among themselves, and are heading off in a group to wherever they spend their days.

They don’t fly in a nice formation like geese would but string out across the sky without much organization, like a black ribbon that seems to go on for a while before the last bird disappears over the trees.

But the other morning as I watched, the black ribbon of birds began to twist and coil and turn back on itself and swirl vertically and horizontally before it straightened out and headed off again. I stopped and watched this amazing spectacle, probably with my mouth gaping.

True, the display of this small flock of Grackles did not rival the amazing film I have seen in nature programs of a murmmeration of starlings, but I never thought I would see anything even close to that in person.

I am so glad I kept watching them instead of just glancing as they took to the air (ho hum, it’s a large flock Grackles and I've seen them just about every day for several weeks, so what?) and then looked at something else.

One morning in early winter when I was walking in the park, a bald eagle came from the woods at the edge of town and flew directly overhead toward the residential area. They do winter in the area, but are usually not that common near the town, so seeing one is sort of a big deal. It flew right over two women who had finished their walk and had cut through the car lot of the dealership that is next to the park. They were looking in the window of a new car and never saw the eagle it because they weren’t looking up.

I realize people can’t pay attention to everything – because after all, if you are paying attention to one thing you can’t be paying attention to something else, but…

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Farewell, Mollywog

Some months ago I started to write a post, and then it petered out and never got finished:

I have returned from the groomer with Molly, and she is stretched out on the couch next to me while I read. Her coarse fur has been shaved, and her warm body feels like velvet as I stroke her. The arch of her ribs is like a knobby fan under my hand, and which rises and falls as she breathes…

We noticed several days ago that something was wrong with her breathing. We took her to the vet yesterday, it looked to him on the x-ray that she had a tumor in her chest that had ruptured and her chest was filled with fluid and blood -- from one area he got pure blood when he tried to draw it off so he stopped. It didn’t look good, he said. He wanted to keep her overnight, but we decided to bring her home.

She was still very groggy from being tranquilized, and we had put her on the floor in her bed, but by the time I went to bed she had recovered enough to to hop up on the couch and stretch out in her spot.

This morning I sat down next to her on the couch, coffee in my right hand, Bible on my lap open to this morning’s reading, and my left hand stroking her fur. And again, her ribs felt like a knobby fan under my hand. Only this morning, there was no rise and fall, because she wasn’t breathing. She had died in the night.

And appropriately enough, this morning’s reading from the Old Testament was the first three chapters of Ecclesiastics

For everything there is a season,
a time for every activity under heaven…
A time to be born and a time to die….
A time to cry and a time to laugh.
A time to grieve and a time to dance.

Today there won’t be much laughing or dancing. But it will come.

 I am going to miss this dog so much.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Going to Plan B and C

Judy and I get our hair cut by the same beautician, Amy. Back in January Amy relocated her beauty salon out in the country—way out in the country—and so Judy and I began to schedule our appointments on the same day and within 30 minutes of each other so we could drive out there together. Judy gets her hair cut every 4 weeks on Wednesday. In the past, I would often wait 6 months to get my hair cut. I am not ready to get my hair cut every 4 weeks, but every 8 weeks works out well, so every other month Judy and I go together.

The original plan was finely crafted. I would get my next hair cut on September 13. On September 14, I would go to Springfield and fly to Los Angeles to see my family and attend my 50th high school reunion. My brother-in-law’s birthday is on September 20, so I would be there for the party and come home the next day. So far so good…. except the plan fell apart.

I was rather dismayed when I went in to stand next to Richard at his computer while he went online to the Web site we always use to arrange airplane flights and discovered the airline is no longer offering morning flights from Springfield to Dallas-Ft. Worth at a reasonable time—the only morning flight now leaves at 6 a.m. (think: get up at 2:30, leave here at 3 a.m., drive 2 hours to Springfield to get there at 5 a.m. to go through the check-in process). And the next flight was at noon. There were no tickets left for that flight on September 14 or on September 13, so I had to schedule the flight on September 12. And instead of arriving in Los Angeles at about 2 p.m., that flight puts me in Los Angeles at 4 pm. Traffic is commonly congested and slow moving on the Los Angeles freeways at any given time, but at 4 pm? Have mercy!! Hardly bears thinking about.

But, breathing a sigh of relief that I was actually able to arrange flights too and from Los Angeles, even if not on the days I wanted or at the time I wanted, I came in and sat back down at my computer and lifted August on the calendar to see September and suddenly realized that I would not be able to get my hair cut on the 13th

Without dragging this out any more, Judy had an appointment today to get her hair cut, and Amy (who was on vacation) when I called last week, returned my call on Monday and told me she could cut my hair after she did Judy’s hair, so that was going to work out, but…

What we've got here is failure to communicate
The Captain (Strother Martin) to Luke (Paul Newman) in Cool Hand Luke

We began meeting at McDonalds so Judy would not have to drive down my driveway, which was a disaster until our neighbor did some work on it, and so we could have coffee after our hair cuts. When I told Judy that Amy would be able to cut my hair as well she said, “I will pick you up then at 9:30…”

So I sat and waited for her to come and pick me up. In the meantime, she was at McDonalds waiting for me to drive in, and then she finally called to find out where I was.
She came and got me, and as I got in I insisted that it was her fault—she should have said “I will meet you at McDonalds.” And we laughed about it. It is so lovely to have a good friend to tease and laugh with.

My hair looks great now, and it should still look good 4 weeks from now when I see these folk, most of whom I haven’t seen for 50 years.

Monday, June 19, 2017

In a precarious place

The place where I walk with the dog in the early morning or in the afternoon when the weather is not quite so hot is a long paved loop that connects at both ends of a church parking lot and wraps around a large pond in front of the building. It is a safe place for us to walk – no cars to dodge. For me, I am not afraid of falling because the road is clean -- there is no gravel or rocks or debris to stumble over. The asphalt is sort of dicey in some spots but easily negotiated. There are plenty of things to keep the dog entertained, from hunting small mammals that scurry around under the tall grass to barking at those big things in the pastures. Ah yes. Barking.

Behind the church is a large pasture that curves around to the east and then comes down the hill and stops at the pavement. Living there are 20 young heifers and steers of various breeds of beef cattle: Black and Red Angus, Herefords, black ones with white faces, and some white and cream colored ones that may be Charolais or Simmental.

I love looking at these cattle. They are on open pasture, so when they lay down to chew their cud in that mesmerizing circular grinding motion, they are not laying in a slurry of excrement and mud as they would if confined in stockyard pens. They are clean. Their hides are glossy and beautiful, especially the Black Angus.

Molly loves to bark at them.

Mostly they ignore her, but occasionally they become curious about this small gray thing bouncing around and making noise at them, so they will come up to the fence and stand in a line watching her.

And then on the opposite side of the loop is the back pasture of a small farm where a herd of goats lives, guarded by 3 big Great Pyrenees dogs.

The dogs know we are there as soon as I slam the car door, and they come trotting up to the woven wire fence, letting us know in their low big-dog voices that they are on the job. They and Molly bark at each other, trading insults, issuing challenges, and explaining how tough they are. She doesn’t seem to care that they could easily be 60 pounds heavier than she is. She lets them “have it.”

And then there are the Killdeer. As soon as we start to walk past the area where I think they have their nests, one will begin running in front us on its twiggy stilt legs, piping continuously as it goes. If the dog stops to sniff something, the bird stops and waits for us and then resumes leading us away from where its eggs are.

Killdeer prefer to nest on bare rocky ground and there is no real nest as such, just a small cleared area. The eggs look like gray stones. They have a habit of choosing very unsafe places to make their nest.

This one sits inches from the asphalt on the frontage road we drive to get to the main road into town.

She has been sitting there for a while. When cars pass next to her she will get up and spread her wings, but I fear one of these times the jerk who deliberately swerved off the road to smash the turtle 2 weeks ago will try to do the same thing to her. Pretending to have a broken wing is not going to stop him. I hope her eggs will hatch soon and she will be able to move her little ones to a safer place.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Deliberate cruelty

Yesterday a report came in on the scanner that someone in a car was seen throwing a kitten out the window while they were speeding down the highway. The car got off at the convenience store, and the local police looked for it but didn't find it, and turned the license plate over to the state patrol.

And this morning when I was driving home, I noticed a a dead turtle in the gravel right of way on the frontage road by our house. The turtle wasn't there when I left the house an hour earlier. I could see from the tire tracks in the gravel that the driver of the car had deliberately swerved off the road to smash it. I stopped to look, and it was a large female full of eggs. So not only did this horrible person go out of his or her way to kill the turtle, he or she wiped out another generation of turtles in doing so.

I get it that people run over animals. I have run over a squirrel in the road, and on our driveway a chipmunk, frogs, and in fact, I ran over a turtle once myself that I did not see because it looked too much like other rocks on the road. They were accidents, and I felt terrible when I saw what had happened.

But to do it deliberately? We are so cruel to each other--killing, maiming, and destroying--that I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it trickles down to all creatures great and small. But at the moment I am having trouble figuring out what to do with all of this anger.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Repeat and rerepeat: The same old story

I have been taking the dog to the vet about three times a week since May 12. Last Tuesday when I made the trip I saw a dragon, a whale, a pig, and a hag, complete with hooked nose and jutting chin, chasing each other across the sky. It was lovely. And then up ahead I saw something that wasn't quite so lovely -- a turkey vulture in the middle of the road picking at the remains of a very large snake that had tried to cross and was almost certainly run over on purpose. I slowed way down and crept along to give the vulture time to think things over and launch itself into the air.

And this was because some years ago when I still worked at the post office, one of the women who delivered the mail on a rural route came up on some vultures having lunch and frightened them badly. At least one of them threw up all over the front of her car. She said it was horrific. I never forgot that story.

From that point on I have always approached vultures on the road very cautiously.

When I got home, I told Richard all about the vulture I saw and about the woman at the post office. She had driven to a house nearby to wash her car off, and the children who lived there later gave her a card with a drawing of a vulture puking on her car. I told him about that too.

He hesitated a minute, and he said…

Don’t you remember you told me very same story about two weeks ago when we went to vet together and there was the group of vultures at the side of the road….

 No. I did not remember until he mentioned it.

I guess I am now at the age where this sort of thing starts happening. It is scary though. Very scary. Hard to know what is “normal” for a geezer and what is not. I have always hoped that my mind would remain "sharp as a tack" as I approach old age and if I live long enough to become an "elderly elder." Now I am not so sure that is going to happen.
I will be making another trip to the vet tomorrow for the dog’s last treatment. No telling what I might see between here and there, but I will think carefully about it before I say anything to him…

Monday, March 27, 2017

No padding here!

I find it rather annoying that authors have forgotten how to have their characters “walk” from room to room. Especially female characters. Oh, sometimes they do walk, but with increasing frequency they seem to “pad” from room to room:

She padded from the bedroom to the kitchen.
She padded from the kitchen to the living room

This usually happens in the morning when she first gets up or in the evening as she is winding down.

And so it goes with variations.

Last night I cracked the window a good 5 inches and fell sleep listening to the chorus of spring peepers in our pond at the edge of our pasture.

And I woke up at 2:45 to thunder and lightening and pouring rain, and it took a while to fall asleep again. Our place has been struck twice by lightening; fortunately, both times it was just the well pump was that damaged, but still. I say fortunately (although replacing the pump wasn’t cheap either time) because a friend at the aerobics class lost her house to a fire caused by lightening. One tends to be a little “concerned” when a thunder-and-lightening storm moves through.

So I was rather groggy when I woke up a little before 5 a.m., and I most assuredly did not “pad” from the bedroom to the bathroom and from there to the kitchen to get my morning cuppa coffee. I might have lurched, staggered, or wobbled. I may even have walked.

As I headed for the coffee pot, I looked at the floor and found myself remembering with surprising clarity the summer of ’62, when I was 12-going-on-13.

Two of my dad’s sisters and their families were going to the Seattle World’s Fair, and Aunt Vera invited me to go along with them. Her oldest daughter, who was the first grandchild born to that generation (I was the second) is about 18 months older than I am. Our ages were close enough that we could really enjoy each others’ company as we grew older.

We stayed in a campground outside of Seattle at the edge of the rain forest. Some of us had a close encounter with stinging nettles. We saw huge yellow slugs. We had a wonderful time. 

Back to the real world: no, giant yellow slugs were not oozing their way across the kitchen floor, but there were 2 (!) garden-variety slugs laying down a trail of slime.

I knew better than to use my fingers (have you ever tried to get slug slime off your fingers?), so I used a scrap of paper to scrape them up and deposit them outside.

And launched myself into the day, profoundly grateful and feeling very blessed to have had such a wonderful Aunt.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Baked projectiles

The daffodils and blooming shrubs are covered with about 2 inches of very wet snow, and I suspect the lizards that have been sunning themselves on the foundations of the house and the porch will once again retreat back to where they go when the temperature is too cold.

This too will pass, of course. It will be in the mid 60s in a couple of days.

He has split the biscuit with a fork around the edge and added blackberry fruit spread to each half. But instead of just picking the biscuit halves and eating them, he begins using the edge of his fork to cut each half in half and eats it that way. With a fork.

Then, a piece of biscuit that he is trying to cut in half shoots out from under the fork and smacks into the plastic bowl of the salad spinner at the edge of the table, leaving a purple smear. He wipes that off with his finger and licks it (no point in wasting good fruit spread). 

Why don't you just pick up the biscuit with your fingers? Why do you have to eat it with a fork? 

With a fork? he says. I need a jackhammer. 

And then begins to laugh, spears the biscuit on his fork and starts eating it and making exaggerated chewing motions.

This is like eating hardtack, he says. 

When I was having dinner with my brother and his wife in November and commented on the wonderful biscuits they served, he said "Bisquick," and then this sweet man sent us a box of Bisquick for Christmas. The biscuits "made from the box" were wonderful, but the Bisquick is gone and Richard is adamant that he does not want to eat "store-bought biscuits." 

So we are back to "same-old same-old"  Just another exciting Sunday morning breakfast, where jaws get the exercise.