Tuesday, September 07, 2021

Terms of Endearment

I imagine most couples, at least at the beginning of their relationship, refer to each other with terms of affection: Honey Bunch, Snookums, Poopsie, Angel Face, Sweetie Pie and the like.

I don’t remember Mom calling Dad anything but his name, but Dad frequently called her “Mus.” This was short for “Muscles.” Mom was rather frail and not a robust woman. I think this was a result of scarlet fever, which she contracted when she was 9 and was seriously ill. She, her mother, and grandmother (who lived with them) were quarantined in the house. She couldn’t leave her room. She writes

 I was really sick with scarlet fever, had big nodules up and down my neck and swollen lymph glands. My ribs looked like a washboard and scared mother and grandma when I was finally well and stood up because I was so thin. The doctor came to the house but all he could offer was bed rest and a very strict diet…

Antibiotics were not available in the early 1930s, so the disease had to run its course. I don’t have any real proof of this, but think the disease probably damaged her heart.

I think dad started calling her “Muscles” when he was teaching her to drive and then shortened it to “Mus.” She probably had a struggle turning the steering wheel and shifting and pressing the clutch pedal to the floor and all that business.

We used to own a big, old pickup truck that did not have power steering, so I can appreciate how much strength it takes. So “Mus” made sense to us.

This brings me to Jack and Ruth, who are both in their 90s. When she is able, Ruth comes to the monthly Bible study at church. She requires a walker, is tethered to an oxygen tank, and does not drive, so Jack ushers her in and gets her settled and then returns and picks her up. Jack is a “character,” which is a story for another time.

Ruth publishes a newsletter that includes stories, anecdotes, historical facts, poems, and jokes, that sort of thing. Some she writes and other items are things people have sent her. On occasion she has printed (with my permission) things from this blog in her newsletter.

In the most recent newsletter, she writes, “I used to call Jack “Dear Heart.” He evidently didn’t like the endearment because he started calling me “Elk’s Liver.”

Saturday, August 28, 2021

Birthday Surprise

 My sister has a remarkable gift for giving us presents. 

We look forward with great anticipation to the boxes she sends for birthdays and other important days in our life. Sometimes it is clothes—every shirt Richard wears to church is one she sent him, and likewise, most of the nice clothes I wear to church were gifts from her. Almost always there is something interesting to eat she has bought from Trader Joe’s (the nearest one is 300 miles away in St. Louis) or World Market, which does not have a location in Missouri. 

About 3 weeks before Richard’s birthday, which was earlier in the week, I received an e-mail from her wanting to know if there was anything Richard would like for his birthday.

At first he said, “A card would be fine, she doesn’t have to send anything.” He is of an age now where if he needs something he just buys and it is hard trying to think up things that someone else can buy him. 

But then he thought about it: “Tell her she could send me a 63 Corvette if she happens to have a spare one lying around.”

Richard has had a love affair with the Corvette Stingray. The first one he owned was a 1963 with a removable hard top. At the time he was a student at Chapman College. The Homecoming Queen rode in it during a parade.

He tells me he took it on the freeway once and got it up to 110 mph, but then realized that if something went wrong, he was going to die.

The car had a special racing carburetor, and he could not find anyone to work on it, so he let it go.

But after we got married, we drove at least two different Corvettes. One of them was a miserable car. It had exhaust pipes running on both sides, which made getting out of the car without getting burned very tricky. The last time I remember riding in that car I was about 8 months pregnant, and Richard had to help me get out.

We replaced that one with a 1978 model that was a lot of fun to drive. By then we had a baby. The car did have a back seat, but trying to get the baby in and out of the car seat was too hard.

That car made way for a regular family-type station wagon, and there have been no more Corvettes. 

Until now.

As it happened, my sister did have a 1963 Corvette lying around.

It was hilarious, but I guess you had to be here.

Saturday, August 21, 2021

What We Leave Behind

Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads in every place the fragrance that comes from knowing him.

When livestock trucks carrying cattle or pigs barrel down the highway past our house...

the smell lingers for quite a while.

Likewise, yesterday morning, while I was walking at about 6:00 a.m., a trash truck drove past me on its route, and I could still smell it after it was gone from sight. It wasn’t pleasant.

It occurred to me that we too produce an “odor” as we go about our activities of daily living. I suspect we have all on occasion been near someone whose odor is offensive because they haven't t bathed in a while or washed their clothes.

But I am not referring to body odor. I mean the effect we have on others when we interact with them. What impression do we leave with them? Sweet? Sour? Stinky?

I hope that my relationship with God produces a fragrance that is pleasant to those I interact with and that they aren’t left wrinkling their noses in distaste after I have passed them by.

Monday, August 16, 2021

An Unexpected Harvest

We have a few vegetables planted in 5-gallon buckets: jalapeƱo peppers, bell peppers, squash, and tomatoes. The peppers and the tomatoes have done well, the squash, not so much.

But something else has been busy planting in our buckets, and so we are getting an unexpected harvest.

I have had to position my hanging bird feeders to make it more difficult for squirrels to leap on them, and so the chipmunks are no longer able to get on the feeders and help themselves.  

Not too long after this picture was taken...

a squirrel leaped on the feeder and knocked it to the ground and it broke in pieces.

This feeder (obviously a feeder I made myself out of a plastic gallon jar and the lid from a 5-gallon pail) is now hanging from the eve of the second story of our house.

But the furry monsters can stuff their faces with the sunflower seeds that are in the wild bird seed we put on the ground platform for the birds that prefer to feed on the ground (doves, indigo buntings, towhees, etc) and the rabbits.

And then they plant the seeds in our buckets...

and clumps of sprouts appear after a while.

I am enjoying the sprouts in my salad. 

And if you have a few minutes, head on over to YouTube and listen to this wonderful song by Nancy Griffith, who died a few days ago.



Saturday, August 07, 2021

The Choices We Make

Last fall, my brother’s daughter and her husband decided they did not want to raise their 2 children in the Los Angeles metro area. They sold their house and moved to Idaho, and my brother and his wife also sold up and moved to Idaho.

I understand the motivation. We did the same thing. When our son was about 2, we sold the house, packed up, and moved to Oregon. My parents, however, did not follow us because they had other children living there. Good thing too, because we only stayed in Oregon 2 years before moving here.

Thursday morning, my brother was sitting in his back yard having a “cuppa caawfee” (he says this like John Wayne might say it – and of course I can’t write it like he would say it -- and it is hilarious) and decided to call me.

We had a nice visit. At one point he wanted to know “how are your teeth?” (How are my teeth? Why in the world does he want to know about my teeth?). “Oh, I just spent $900 on a crown – cracked filling that’s probably 40 years old – but other than that they are fine. My gums are healthy and I haven’t had a cavity in long time…” I guess he wanted to talk about his teeth, which he did.

And then I was dismayed to learn that he and his wife, Debbie, have not been vaccinated against COVID and that they don’t intend to. Debbie says: “What’s the worst that can happen? We go to see Jesus.” Well, yeah, that’s true but…

I am concerned about my brother, especially as the COVID variants sweep the country and only 37% of the people in Idaho have received both vaccinations. Not much chance of “herd immunity” with that low rate.

Closer to home, our next door neighbor (young man, late 40s) died of COVID earlier in the week. A friend’s son-in-law (also a young man) died of COVID Thursday evening.

The vaccination rate in our county is 20%, and this area of Missouri has made the national news several times in the last weeks because of spikes in COVID, with 97% of patients filling the hospitals not vaccinated.  

I understand that people have researched COVID and the vaccine—whether the information they have looked at is from reliable sources or misinformation from anti-vaxers—and have made their own personal choice. I understand that vaccination is not a guarantee that the vaccinated person will escape getting COVID. I also understand that on issues where people are set in their ways, it's futile to try to change their minds.

So, all I can do is pray for God’s protection for my precious brother and his wife and hope that their choice doesn’t have disastrous consequences.

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

Appropriate Attire

It is not often that a person can do more than just glance at the sun without risking damage to their eyesight. But this morning, I could.

When I left the house at 6 a.m. to walk and pick up trash, the sun was rising up through haze on the horizon, it was huge (as the moon also is as it rises) and was a brilliant orange, but damped so I could look right at it. It was glorious.

It reminded me so much of home. The city in Southern California where I was raised is about 10 miles from the Pacific Ocean, and often in the early evening fog would come in off the ocean, and as the sun set, it would become damped and easily viewed.

Well, the beautiful vision this morning only lasted a few minutes, because the sun rises quickly and moved through the haze and then gradually got too bright to look at.

Now, on these hot summer days, I knock around the house in a pair of Richard’s old boxer shorts, with the fly sewn shut, on top of my regular underwear. Cool and comfortable and eminently practical. We have some zone air conditioning in the part of the house where I work, and Richard has a unit in his office, but the central part of the house is not air conditioned and it gets hot as the day wears on.

So I’m galumphing along and spotted some trash. And as I looked down to grab it with the picker-upper, I happened to look down and realized I forgot to put my regular walking shorts on top of Richard’s old boxer shorts.

How embarrassing. Fortunately, there is not a whole lot of traffic on the highway at 6 a.m. Yeah, people are heading to work, but I figure people on the highway who saw me walking were going too fast to register that I was wearing men's underwear.

And even more fortunately I did not meet the two women who I regularly see walking on our frontage road on Tuesday and Thursday mornings. I don’t always walk on our frontage road or cross the highway and walk on that frontage road, but if I do and they are also walking, then we pass each other coming and going. There is plenty of time to check each other out. One of the women always wears tight yoga pants and the other one always wears knee-length shorts and a blouse or t-shirt (see?).

Fortunately, this morning they had not started their walk, so I got away with it.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Wanted: Females

One of the first things we did when we move here was to try to grow our own vegetables. It was a hard row to hoe. The soil here is terrible, mostly heavy clay and rocks. So we spent a lot of time and effort trying to build it up by hauling in manure, sand, and compost and making raised beds.

I can remember one summer when we had worked so hard putting in an asparagus bed, and no sooner did we get it planted than a torrential rain caused the wet weather creek to leap its banks and everything was washed way.

Unfortunately for the garden, my husband never met a tree he didn’t love, and when one would sprout up in the wonderful soil I had worked so hard to prepare, he wouldn’t let me pull it up. So the cleared areas where I was trying to plant vegetables soon became very shaded and filled with tree roots, We gave up trying to grow in the ground.

We bought whiskey barrel halves and planted in them for a while, but that project came to an end when the crew hired by the electric company came and cleared the right of  way under the lines, which is where we had the whiskey barrels, and they bulldozed them all to smithereens.

The last time I attempted to grow squash, which was probably 15 years ago, the plants were invaded by these awful beetles, and then the few squash that started to develop rotted when they were about 2 inches long.

Now we have a few vegetables planted in 5-gallon pails. Jalapeno and bell peppers, tomatoes, and this year, we thought we would try again with squash.

We now have several really healthy looking plants in 5-gallon pails on our deck. 

Unfortunately, only 1 squash has developed. 

Richard did some searching and thought perhaps it was because we didn’t have enough insects around to pollinate the flowers. So he found a YouTube video on how to pollinate by hand.

When he went out to try it, he discovered that all of the flowers are male blossoms. There aren’t any female blossoms to pollinate with. Some flowers have both male and female parts, but not squash. We hope that some female blossoms will eventually appear.

Guess it takes two to tango, even for squash.