Friday, December 31, 2010

May the Road Fall Before Ye

Here it is. The new year! Woohoo!

Not just one month slipping into another, but a mankind-given chance to stop, assess and start over. Great!

In my youth and middle age, I loved to go out. To party, except I almost never had a hangover. I don't do excess very well. Tonight I will snuggle in and drink some wine and then, tomorrow, clean up the detritus of Christmas and gird up for the new year. I already have four meetings planned. Next week. Not every week --just next week.

New Year's. It's like some wonderful package I'm itching to tear into.

And we all will.

This was a really good year. I bought my house--a surprise. good health. good friendships and some old ones revived. some good projects completed. Enough money to pay the bills. People to hug, including family. new friends. And I also lost four friends who were deeply important to me.
Funny about aging. I take comfort from the memories of these lost friends and add to the joys of what I gained. Yeah. It was a really good year.

The joys are just pure, shining silver. The sadnesses have a silver lining that adds to the weight of the joys.

May you have a year that shines, through tears or sunshine.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The End is not always The End

Went to a funeral today. Yeah, I know. I've had a lot of those this year.
I didn't know the deceased at all well. Have known his wife for decades.

The thing is, when you are dealing with an aging population, nowadays, you have several participants who are wearing hats because they are in chemo. They have no hair. But they have hope. And they are feeling well enough to attend.

A lot of cancer gets cured or postponed today. The deceased didn't have cancer. He died from surgical reasons. He was 82. That is okay. The infection--not so okay. So.

He died a week ago and was cremated. I want cremation myself, and wonder how our care of the dead will go. I know personally, I want the least expense. The body is the leftovers. The spirit is where the spirit goes. No cost. Shoudn't be.

I expect God to be with me when I die. What happens after happens. I don't know. I do know my present life is better with God in it. When I meditate. When I pray. When I ask forgiveness.
I KNOW God will be with me as I die. Afterwards, eh. Up to God. Much of what my fellow Christians believe, I do not. Doesn't scare me. Nor do I want to contradict others who believe otherwise.

But I do believe in spirituality. I do believe in God. As a Christian, I also believe in Jesus, but I don't believe he negates the other paths to God. We have muscles. We have brains, We also have spirit. And it is a separate mileau from muscles or emotion or logic. If you have not experienced it, you can scoff. If you have... you smile. there is no argument.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Learning to see outside the box

I think it is great that so many come together for toys for children at Christmas.

In fact, I took my own Angel tree kid and got her a Dora Explorer doll, toy, coloring book and crayons. But the food bank that issued these also has a clothing bank. So I am pretty sure she has a warm coat and a few new clothes (or gently worn). And her parents got some food if they needed--beyond Christmas baskets, day to day things like peanut butter and jelly, cereal, canned meats and vegetables, even toilet paper. I know because as a community, we donate it all year long.

I do it through my church.

But it isn't only the little kids. Teenagers need stuff, too. Razors and shaving cream. New shirts and jeans. Hairdryers. Body wash. Cheap calculators for school. Earrings for the girls, aftershave for the boys. Coats in cold weather. Sometimes backpacks. CDs. clock radios. Hair bows, headbands, even some of that gel stuff. Lip gloss.

In my area, the state provides duffel bags for the belongings when foster kids move. Used to be garbage bags. This is better.

Most are generous. Sometimes a Grinch or two wraps up rags or garbage, wraps it pretty and turns it in as an Angel Tree donation. I don't get it, but some do it. So the gifts are now asked to be turned in unwrapped.

Recently, I saw a woman with so very little take an Angel Tree kid off the list. She wanted to. She will sacrifice to do it. I honor her. With her income, it means cutting severely into any treats for the next month. Or two. But she wanted to. And she smiled so happy.


What does it mean? What do we do?

A little more.

Each year, a little more.


Friday, December 17, 2010

Want some fruit with that?

Christmas is coming. I still have gifts to wrap and baking to do, but I am confident this year I will be ready before it gets here.

Here in the Southwest, as in the South, we love our fruit salad. A friend recently served one I in turn took to a Christmas party. I like the dressing better than any other I have had. Goes well with the ham, or even with Great-aunt Bertha's melt-in-your-mouth pound cake. It's another internet prize. It's fast, delicious and can be made ahead--just add the dressing and banana just before serving. Other fruits can be substituted, but these are easy, can be bought ahead and kept in the pantry when ready.

For 6-8 persons, Refreshing Fruit Salad

1 (11 oz) can mandarin oranges, drained well
1 (8 oz)can pineapple chunks, drained well
1 medium banana, sliced
1/2 Cup seedless grapes, halved

3 Tablespoons Hellman's mayo (for best results)
3 Tablespoons sour cream
1 Tablespoon honey.
Mix thoroughly
add 1/4 Cup chopped walnuts
1/4 cup flaked coconut

Refrigerate all.

Add dressing and sliced banana just before serving. (For banana, you can slice early and thoroughly coat with lemon or lime juice to prevent browning, if you wish)

Frankly, this will go well with any poultry, as well. I had some fresh mint to use for garnish. It was both pretty and tasty.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

When Kids Spell It Out

Stealing from a friend, a young mother with two smart, precocious daughters--
They were in the grocery, picking up items, and came to a blocked aisle where two older women were talking, their carts firmly blocking passage, and oblivious to other shoppers trying to pass.

Her 3-year-old daughter suddenly yelled "AhhOOOGa!" (where did she learn that?)
She said the two women jumped about a foot in the air, came down and hastily moved their carts so the mother and her daughters could pass. Go, Bailey!

This nice-mannered mother passed with embarassment--and also satisfaction. Brilliant child. Simply brilliant. At three, she already knows how to get things done.

The other day, I was pulling into a handicapped space (my knees are bad, and my lower back has a kick), when my 8-year-old said, "Gramma, when I grow up, I think I might like to have just a little handicap. Then I will always be able to find a parking place."

When I quit laughing, I told her that good legs and backs are much better than handicap parking places, which really aren't always there, anyway.

Well, she sees the silver lining. And so do I. Life is much more doable today for persons with disabilities. I have a ramp over the steps to my front door, put in by the last owner in a wheelchair.The ramp is much better for my knees, and many of my friends. And easy for everyone, really.

This spring, I will plant some Knockout Earthkind roses that will grow 4x4, hide the ramp from the street, and bloom May to December.

And I will keep listening for the advice of the children I know.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Christmases Then and Now

On Christmas Day, about 25 years ago, we opened some gifts from an office friend and found three Santa hats.

It had been a lean year. I think that may have been the year I sold a gold ring to buy a Christmas tree and Christmas dinner.

She had wrapped what at the time I thought was a load of crap so the boys would have stuff to open. Paper clips? Postits? But they DID enjoy the unwrapping, and laughing over the triviality. And they loved the hats. They put them on. I can still remember how cute the youngest was in his hat, both of them chuckling.

But I was full of bitterness. Overflowing with it. I felt pitied, not loved. Sometimes kindness can be the deepest cut of all.

And I, without benefit of chemicals or anything alcoholic, went berserk.

What I remember, what we all remember and can now laugh about, was that I ran into the kitchen for my treasured best scissors (wonder what happened to those? can't find those anymore) and I began to cut that hat up into many, many pieces. Which I then threw on the floor and jumped-jumped! -up and down on repeatedly. Presumably noisily.

I have never behaved so before or since in my life.

I didn't touch THEIR hats. No, no. But do you think they wore them the rest of the day?
I still remember a glimpse of the bewildered, hurt, frightened youngest son, about 6, taking off his hat.

And since no permanent insanity, nor drugs, nor alcohol was involved, the rest of Christmas Day went on pleasantly. I hope. There was a witness. A lifelong friend of my oldest was there and apparently marveled.

I still remember how good it felt to go berserk. To jump up and down on those scraps of hat. But I hurt my family. They have long since forgiven me and laughed about it. Recently, so have I.

For a long time, it rankled.

Christmas hats became an icon for my lack of control over what happened at the holidays, both what I couldn't control in my life, and what I did when I reacted. As such, I wasn't fond of them.

I thanked the co-worker again, and she was so pleased she sent more stuff the next Christmas. No Santa hats, though, because we had those, didn't we? Did I ever confront her? No, I didn't. Even then, I had the sense to understand she truly meant well. I think my Nana used to say something about not slapping the outstretched hand even when you wanted to.

Life went on. I gained a little wisdom.

Despite a graduate degree, I have never chosen work that pays well. It has been fulfilling. Meaningful. And we always had enough.

I'm retired now. I still work, but for free. And I have come to realize, I not only have enough, but more than enough. When you add the wealth of family I really love and like to be with and friends, ditto, I am actually filthy rich.

All these years later, I look back at that berserker woman with amusement at what she still had to learn. Bitterness grows no fruit. Love does. I forgave both her and myself. That's what I mean when I say I gained a little wisdom.

Today, I bought two Santa hats for my granddaughters, who both have performances upcoming requiring holiday gear. They look adorable.

Heck, I may go back and get a Santa hat for me.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Noticing the Creature Comforts in the Night

Last night, another cold front came through, dropping the overnight temps to freezing here or thereabouts. In an older house, the thermostat is constantly catching up, and I keep it 68 or lower at night. The wood floor was a mite chilly when I had to get up briefly around 4 am. Still sleepy, I slipped gratefully back into the still warmed bedding and pulled the cover over my shoulders.

I was warm, cozy, snug. The bed was soft. Had a moment of thanksgiving for the luxury, and as I drifted back to sleep, I realized I didn't feel any age at all. I just felt like me. The always me that's been there since childhood.

And I was content.

I slept well.

Friday, November 26, 2010

You want good stuffing? Smell your way!

I love Thanksgiving turkey. For many years, when I have leftovers, one of my favorites is the after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwich:

2 pieces of multi-grain bread, toasted.
mayonnaise to suit.
slices of turkey-white, dark, does not matter
slices of dressing
slices of cranberry sauce
sliced piminto olives

All told, should be about 1 inch thick. Great on an empty stomach. Even greater in a lay between still-high Johnson grass on a quail hunt. Hot coffee optional. Air should be cold.

BUT this year, I made the best dressing I've made in years. It's purely my Dad's recipe, which relies on smell. If you can't smell, don't try it. I mean it. I have a lazy eye. Can't hit a ball. Don't try baseball anymore. If you don't smell smells, a great many don't. Other recipes will suit.
You probably can do many things I can't, and I envy you.

I happen to have a nose, as did my father, and it is critical to this. It is not rocket science. just organic. You must notice your sense of smell.

I guess this is a commercial. I've tried several cornmeals. my favorite is Aunt Jemima, and that is the recipe I use, sans sugar.

Several days ahead, buy a loaf of white bread, let it lie around.

reheat oven 425 degrees

In sifter(check internet if term is unfamiliar)
Add 1 Cup cornmeal
1 Cup flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
Sift into bowl
1 egg
1 Cup milk
1/4 Cup vegetable oil


Add to 8X8 pan, buttered or whatever, greased

Bake 20-23 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Let sit briefly, THEN

Cool briefly, then plop int LARGE mixing bowl

Fresh cornbread. Break up.

Take 4-5 slices stale white bread and toast. Don't burn it, but really toast it.

Slice bread into bite size pieces. Toss with crumbled cornbread.

On slicer board,
Slice 3/4 large onion in itty-bitty pieces

Slice three ribs celery in 1/4 inch pieces, approx.

One tart apple, peeled, quartered, and diced

Melt 1 stick margarine in skillet, add onions, celery and apple, on low medium till smells good. Shuffle with spatula
Add black pepper to taste
Add one can chicken broth,while warm
3 Tablespoons fresh poultry seasoning,
2 Tablespoons sage
Stir. Add to cornbread/toast in big bowl

Smell. It's up to you whether to add second can of broth now or when you dump the first and heat up the second. You WILL use 2. How does it smell? How moist is the mixture? Stir.

Add 2cd can broth to cornbread/toast mixture. Refrigerate at least 4 hours,

Let it sit, and smell. Smell. My father said when it smells right, it is right, and this year, it smelled perfect. And it was the best I've made in years.

This recipe will serve a family of six, 4 large men or 8 regular adults who don't work out much.
Or half of it will feed two adult sons and their mother, when said sons have been deprived of their mother's efforts in the kitchen for a few years. Let it sit in the refrigerator a few hours, then bake at 350 for one hour.

You may like gravy. you won' t need it with this. It should be moist when done.

Personally, I find gravy really overrated. I am in an extreme minority,That's okay. My sons tell me the gravy was good over this.

To me, what I have said is easy, but I know so many assemble rather than cook. Don't use a mix--scratch makes higher, tastier, cornbread. Glad to anwer questions.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A good day, unread, is still a good day

Frankly, there are quite a few influential, some even famous, people I know or have known--and past tense is probably the kicker--in my life.

I live quietly and obscurely now, and that's okay.

But my sitemaster tells me I am barely read, and that hurts. I write well. I know that for a fact.But apparently I don't care about or notice the things the rest of the world is interested in. Darn. Too many old duffers don't blog.

In my personal life, things are well. Had two grandkids and their best friends most of the day today. For me, it doesn't get better. I'm not stellar in their lives either, but being part of the bedrock--that feels good.

And at the end of the day, I sent all four home to my son and his wife to shelter for the night while I relaxed, wrote this, and went to bed early.


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Giving thanks in the face of adversity

Every state has its own list of what it supports, and what it does not.

Texas actually came out ahead in the short run on the deficit, because the state pays very little for anything besides roads, prisons, education,minimal social services,and law enforcement, but not in that order.

The legislature faces a $28 billion dollar shortfall. Legislature will be in session next year.
Beware. Euphoric Republicans are celebrating the fact that they now have the largest majority in the state legislature since Reconstuction. And I don't trust either party in a euphoric, "we're the 800-pound gorilla" mood.

A balloon has already been floated by our governor-who-isn't-running-for-President proposing cancelling Medicaid and CHIPS. Supposedly, we can fund this cheaper ourselves without any federal money. Even with Medicaid and CHIPS, Texas currently has either 5 million or 6 million uninsured.

Medical professionals are already saying this is nuts.

Fact is, Texas hasn't got much fat to trim. Politicians will have to go into the muscle.

One of the things I've learned is--we all want cuts in government spending, just not the program that directly benefits us. So it all is going to come down to who screams louder. The elderly with dementia, the homeless and mentally ill, the minor children who are being neglected or abused, these folks can't scream too loudly. The shell game with taxes and who funds education is apt to leave all but two state universities--Texas A&M and the University of Texas are protected by the state constitution--to be forced to raise tuition again as state support wanes further. School districts forced to fire teachers they can no longer afford to pay? Could happen. More potholes in the highways? less bridge maintenance? More toll roads? that's a big favorite. There are locations in the Metroplex I can't get to without a detailed pondering of highways if I don't want to pay several dollars in tolls for the trip.

The recession hasn't been fun. Nope. And whether we like it or not, the consequences are setting in. The debts always have to be paid. Most of us will survive.

Sounds grim on a holiday week, but the first Thanksgiving was celebrated by less than half the Mayflower passengers who set out for America. The others died. Those remaining gave thanks for their survival, for being alive. They looked forward to surviving another year, and making it better if they could. They gave thanks for each other.

That isn't bleak. That's core to the best of humanity. It requires steadfastness. Resolution. Hopefully a lack of self-absorption. Being alert as well.

Thar still be some bars in them thar woods.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

How Do I(fill in the blank)?

I desperately need some help in baking.

I've used Crisco all my life. Haven't baked much the last 10 years and am making a comeback--EXCEPT the pie crust and bread have both come out greasy--the crust not short, and the bread not cohesive and draining oil. I currently have most of a can. I tried making an applesauce-mincemeat bread recipe today, using the recipe amount of 11/2 cups shortening. It was so greasy, it wouldn't hold shape and oil ran from the dough after cooking.

There HAS to be a conversion table. If your old recipe used X amount, now use Y. I'm guessing half. That would be cool. I've done a brief search and found comment sites complaining the same, but no company site giving me a conversion--you know, like a tablespoon fresh herbs converts to a teaspoon dried. Something like that. Toss in another egg? No instruction on the can. That seems shortsided to me. It's healthier--no trans fats. so please tell me how to use it.

I've talked to a good cook who used to bake a lot, but doesn't anymore, and she recommends I use half the Crisco called for. I'm wondering if that is enough or if there are other adjustments I need to make. She said she now uses pre-manufactured crusts or uses butter. Expensive, and today's shortening may be more healthful, but I don't know anymore. I'm not finding ready information from folks who do.

All I want to do is bake some stuff, using ingredients I know--but I don't know them any more.
No wonder all the food ads say cooking is hard and just buy----

Less and less I trust the products I buy. Now it extends to food. All I wanted to do was make a couple of loaves of bread for my son to take hog-hunting.

My frustration is palpable.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A good week to be an American

Veteran'a Day was Thursday, and in the last couple of weeks, I've gotten a close look at patriotism and the American child. It is healthy and well.

One of my grandchildren is in elementary school, the other in middle school. Both had music to learn for a program Thursday in the football stadium (fortunately, the cold front and rain didn't come in till Friday). Both know all the words to the national anthem, the pledge of allegiance, and a number of patriotic songs. With all the enthusiasm of well-loved children, they believe in honesty, truth, and the law. They make me look at the future and smile. The adults around them are teaching them well.

In Brownies, the troop members were all given a sheet of paper and asked to draw something that symbolized America to them. A number drew the flag, two drew the liberty bell and one drew the capitol. My imaginative granddaughter drew a flag--and then drew a strong, muscular arm in the middle of it for the ARM-y, she said, and to show America is strong.

She likes to fetch my mail, and on Thursday when we got home, I told her thare was no mail because it was a national holiday.

"That's silly," she said, "You won't get your Happy Veteran's Day card in time."

I laughed at that. But maybe the card industry should look into it.

On Sunday, veterans at church have been invited to come in their uniforms, or any remnant of their service.

One Korean veteran has announced his intention to bring his old rifle, which has raised a few nervous eyebrows.

But this IS Texas.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

New Mexico sunset

I want to draw attention to some extraordinary photography of an awe-inspiring New Mexico sunset.

Clairz put some exceptional pictures up.

I literally gasped when I saw these. And remember when you view: I could be there, seeing sights like these, but five faces I love keep me here.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

When Things Change and Stay the Same

My last blog alluded to the interruption of my pleasant day by technology interruptis when heavy rain caused my tv to go off three times. It is a routine matter today--even my 8-year-old granddaughter is aware of it and the cause.

It is part of life today. I still grumble about paying for tv that was free most of my life, but the visual quality and quantity of channels is certainly improved. I suppose it is my fault I cannot seem to find any programs I want to watch regularly.

Last night, I attended my older granddaughter's fall chorale concert. The music was as sweet and good as any I've heard. The students behaved well. The auditorium was crowded with proud families and friends. And among the performers were two students who wouldn't have been there when I went to school--a vision-impaired girl and a young boy in a powered wheelchair. They and the other students took it for granted they were there and participating. Wouldn't have happened when I was growing up. The technology for the wheelchair wasn't in existence, and probably not the medical and educational techniques needed for the vision-impaired girl as well.

Something has not changed. We accept as truth facts which are untrue, information "everyone knows", accept as "always" the way things have been done in our memory. We look at one another and smile, and take comfort in our accord. It was a bit of "always" for me last night, attending a school program where kids were still fresh-faced and ready to perform with a community of families to support them.
I hope that does not change. I do think one value of aging members of society is our memory of when realities were different, even when history as we experienced it is different from "what everyone knows."

Schools still teach information that isn't true. Can't help it. A whole generation of folks going through school in the 1950s and earlier were told petroleum came from the remains of dinosaurs under the earth. I've checked with others my age and older, and they confirm: yep, we were told as truth that petroleum was basically distilled dinosaur guts. It was a tall tale. But we were told it as truth. I wonder what tall tales persist. A lot I hear about deal with "can't" and "impossible." And then we learn it can be done, or the impossible has quietly been going on without human observation all along.

I remember learning how to write a formal letter back in 1950-51 (letter writing was a big deal back then, of course), and being called down by a teacher for writing Post Office Box 607 for our address (oh, and there weren't zip codes, either).

"You don't need to say Post Office," she said. "They all are. They always will be."

Fast forward to my driving along a rural highway in East Texas some 15 years ago, where I saw an old woman stepping up to her rural mailbox to get her mail. And I wondered how long that would be a reality.

I wish I had the analytical ability, the intellect, to shrewdly predict what would last and what would expire. Oh, what a blog I would have. Oops. Blogs are one of the things I don't know will persist.

In the 1970s, I regularly read a professional medical magazine with a columnist, Dr. (Joe?) Alverez, who knew medical lore already being forgotten and who wrote a popular collomn commenting on lore already being lost. He always quoted a saying I do believe is true:"Half of what we know about medicine isn't true, and the trouble is, we don't know which half."

Except, I think that is true in general. With so much so-called information out there on the internet, I think many would agree.

Trying to keep up, to assimulate, analyse and act, gives me a great mental workout day by day.

And that is what I like best about the present. I will add this to the value of elders in our population: with the sheer weight of new information getting our attention, things we already knew and have already discovered often get buried. Sometimes age can bring a fresh approach by retrieving information we really can't afford to lose.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Cooking Chicken and Falling Rain Beats TV Anyday

Yesterday, the thunder rumbled and invited me out to my deep, screened porch just as the rain begain to fall. Intermittant splashes became a torrent of water on land untouched by rain for at least a month. Lights were on inside--the clouds all day left a twilight visibility. It was kind of homey.

I retreated inside and set some chicken cooking. The appetising smells of chicken, garlic and sauce filled the air and it was cozy inside, with the thunder, lightning and rain outside, the comfort of a dry home, dinner cooking, and an undemanding day.

For the first time in heavy weather, I turned on the television, only to have it lose signal three times. Regained it three times. Had heard about this--in bad weather, why would I want to lose the signal? Oh well. I've Bundled. Phone, satellite tv, computer. Same provider.

Huh. I am such a non-tech. Is THAT why later, when I came to my blog, I couldn't access it? and when I went to internet tech support, I failed again and again?
But I didn't know exactly how to get where I needed to be for quite a while. I got there. And it is embarrassing how long it took. But it didn't interfere with a fine day yesterday and a fine day today, ending with a new password and the ability to write this and read some other postings.

Today could have been dicey weather again, but it was east of here. We got almost 2 inches of rain yesterday, and we needed the rain. Tomorrow, I will start chopping out way too many iris in my backyard. Today, I went to church, mellowed out, made real mashed potatoes and green peas to go with my already cooked chicken, visited a couple of friends I love, and came home. And finally got a new password and back on the internet. It took more hours than a savvy person would have, but i did it, and I still had a great weekend.

I start my week charged up with happy. Hope you do the same.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Never mind--you're not doing what I wanted.

Years ago, when I was in CPS, a woman called into the office and talked to a secretary.

She said, "You can tell that investigator you assigned not to bother any more. She's not doing what I wanted her to."

And we all laughed. Fact of the matter is, people make reports all the time about neglect or abuse of children. Concern for the child is only one of the many reasons they call.

I think we, as voters, have our agendas, too. A lot of us think our representatives aren't doing what we want. Or if they are, then their challengers are going to try to make them look like they aren't. That's politics. I think, however, voters increasingly feel they aren't getting what they asked for, and they can't find any alternatives. color us frustrated.

It adds up to a whole lot of whoppers on the airwaves this fall. Texas doesnt even have contested races in half the positions, but where we do--I don't think I've ever heard such a pack of amazing lies in my life. Not to mention inaccuracies I suspect are grounded in dumb ignorance rather than lies at times. Only a few weeks to go.

I'm gonna be listening to a lot of music for the next couple of weeks. I love it that I can go in early, at my leisure, to vote. And I can root for the Texas Rangers. That's fun to think about.

As I say, I will vote. Always have. Always will. When I was a state employee, I was expected to behave honorably with the families I worked with, to find the services they needed to make a better family for their kids. Some of them made amazing changes in their lives.

Seems to me the people we elect keep saying that's what they want to do, too, to work for their constituents. Then they get in office and it's all about party solidarity and what they can scarf up for themselves....yeah, that's been going on forever. I am just tired, perhaps.

Freedom is still good. I'm still glad to be an American, and I actually know and like several of the county candidates this time around. And the first Tuesday comes extra early this November. Lots of positives.

I can, after all, just go out and sit on the porch. Not so hot now. Lots of sunshine, and tons of butterflies. Can't do anything about all that, either, but it sure is nice to contemplate.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stopping to Look Around On a Really Nice Day.

The Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex now sprawls over at least seven large counties. We have more than seven million people and umpteen area codes, but we also are spread out some. Public transportation has improved to sucky. It used to be more or less nonexistent.

For years, I would pass the lettuce farm on both sides of I35, less than a mile from the downtown skyscrapers. Whole working ranches--some measuring in sections, not acres--are surrounded by new housing and strip malls that have sprung up to support the 300+ people that move in every day.

In short, we have a lot of rural in our cityplex. Acreage of beef cows, and increasingly goats, are scattered about. Some mighty fine horses get raised here. I have three neighbors in one block who raise a few chickens. Just enough for the family and to sell a dozen or five every week.

The late, very wet spring followed by the intense 18 days of above 100-degree heat, made for the poor tomato crop this summer, but the fall crops are coming along.

Okra and black-eyed peas are re-invigorated and producing again.

I've seen 100 degrees in October, but about three weeks ago, an unusually cool wave of air came along and hasn't really left yet. This is the last week of the State Fair in Dallas, which started Sept. 24. The weather has mostly stayed in the 70s and 80s. If attendance is off this year, it's the economy, not the weather. Nigh perfect. Texans loves to fry just about everything at the fair, but I am still a fool for the corny dogs, funnel cake and Belgian waffles with whipped cream and strawberries.

We have a bumper crop of ragweed this fall, which really needs a more useful purpose than spiking antihistimine sales.. The silvery doveweed was plentiful this year, too, and in the early mornings and evenings I've heard the shotguns in the neighboring fields as hunters test themselves against the wily, fast dovebirds in flight. Even in the so-called city, the country intrudes.

I doubt most city dwellers go out to get the morning paper, sniff, and look around to see if the passing skunk is still around like its aroma.

A couple of years ago, drinving to Fort Worth from Denton,I saw a large buck bound across the road foom the thin greenbelt on one side to the greenbelt on the other. Wild turkeys hide out, too.

Life is busy right now, but I try to stop, look around and smile at folks who, like me, are just enjoying an ordinary day in the land of North Texas.

Friday, October 1, 2010

When we choose to go easy into the night--or not

When my mother's autonomic system began to fail from advanced Alzheimer's in 1978, she was hospitalized, and I was given a form to fill out. It asked, specifically, if I would approve any of the listed "extraordinary measures" to save her life.

I remember being so very thankful Mother and I had discussed this in depth when she was still reasoning and lucid. It was hard to check "no", but I did so. (By this time, I was also her legal guardian, but still.)

Today, the patient must have a signed, notarized document on file, as I understand it. When my friend recently died of lung cancer, things got dicey when her lungs started failing and no DNR was in the orders. She was one day away from being put on a ventilator when a 24-hour hospice service finally accepted her and took her home. She died within 48 hours. If she had been on a ventilator, it would have been the end of any real life as she knew it, but she might have lasted days or even weeks at great expense. Nobody wanted that. The staff was upset. The family was upset. My friend would have been upset, but her oxygen level by then was so low she slept most of the time.

She died easily, family with her, in her own bedoom, nurse attending.

That's an institutional DNR. It seems such a simple thing, but in an emergency, it is hard to know when to utilize it.

Another friend's mother has just died. She was 88. She had never had surgery. She never took any medications, although she knew her blood pressure was high. She donated her body to the medical school, an aging, unsullied, hopefully interesting specimen for some aspiring doctor to learn from. She was so adamant about no extreme measures that she had a DNR document posted at the house. She was up for a stroke, and she knew it.

And she had it. When a daughter found her, it had probably been 12-18 hours since the first massive seizure. The ambulance transported only to the hospital. And there, not knowing the severity, not knowing enough about what was going on, her family agreed to treatment. And she survived. Half her brain gone, part of the other gone, but she survived. She shouldn't have been able to move her arm, and possibly not been able to talk, but she could. Memory and reasoning nowhere near who she had been, but there. She was in the hospital awhile. Assuming she was going to survive another few months or even a year, family submitted to having a feeding tube put in, as partial paralysis made it hard for her to swallow. The doctor expected this to rectify in a few weeks. But this extraordinary woman was apparently lucid enough, herself enough, to make her wishes known. Her three children conferred,and the tube was removed. They all understood the consequences. They brought her home on hospice. They rearranged their schedules, because hospice for them, until the last few days, involved a daily visit only. It was scary for the family, these responsible, loving, middle-aged children who nonetheless had no knowledge of caring for a dying mother. They learned. They turned her, talked with her, bathed her, changed her, yes, that, too.

My friend said her mother would have been appalled at the cost of the medical treatment. She commented herself that with the Baby Boomers aging, our nation cannot survive the cost to Medicare if everyone chooses to go this way. Her mother, she said, would have said the money would better have been spent on well baby visits, vaccinations, on those who can recover from their body's blows, on those who have others to care for.

I know this is a growing dilemma. When I went in for my physical, I asked my doctor about an out-of-hospital DNR form. She was startled and said she didn't have them in her office but she supposed I could get one online. But, she asked, what if resuscitation could bring me back to a productive life? It often does.

My medical DNR, dutifully notarized, has been in the folder with my will, my power of attorney, my medical power of attorney and my living will, for five years, at least. I don't know if a conditional DNR is possible. I guess I will have to check back with my attorney.

I heard on the news last week that it has been 50 years since CPR was introduced to the world. This procedure, in so much time, has undoubtedly saved thousands, maybe millions, of lives. But 50 years ago, CPR could carry a patient only so far. The medical support available today didn't exist.

I see older people all the time who want to survive at any cost, literally and figuratively. I see the poor souls like my mother who had no choice, but have been treated longterm with tenderness and care.

I have seen grieving parents let their dying child go peacefully. Most of us know at least one person whose family just couldn't let go until they went through hell.

CPR. Such a simple thing. Even I have taken lessons. Hard to imagine Before.
But After involves complications that those who developed CPR never anticipated.

Before, they really couldn't.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Monday, September 20, 2010

Ordinary people and their extraordinary pets

I've been reading the want ads lately for a bargain on a good dog. I've got the house, and a big, fenced yard. Time to get another dog. And stingily, I hope. I've been thinking about it.

My younger son has a Welsh Corgi I love to death. He is smart, beautiful, and just about the perfect middle-size dog I want. But he sheds incredibly, and I am not a woman given to mopping the wood floors every day (now there's an understatement). So probably not a Corgi. I still get all excited when I see Scotties, but I haven't seen ads for any. They aren't very smart, but they are fiesty, and you can't hurt their feelings and they are affectionate and very, very cute. But. Not another dachsund--I've got stairs. I'm looking. I'm looking.

Today I ran across another pet choice. To quote, "Hand tamed fancy rats. $8 adoption fee.3mos. old. Black/grey. For pets only, not snake food,pls. Very sweet/great pets.(Number followed.)"

I snickered. With all the universities around, a proscription on using them for lab testing might also be wise.

When I was a sophomore, I took an introductory psychology class, and we were required to do a lab experiment using rats. The professor brought in his daughter's brown rat named Friar Tuck. Friar Tuck was indeed a calm, nice-mannered rat, who ran up my professor's arm and kind of cuddled next to his neck. He insisted we all come up and practice lifting the amazingly patient rat up by the tail and set him on our hands, then lift him back. This was to prepare us for doing the same thing with much less attractive, much less socialized lab rats we would be using in a maze experiment that semester.

Desensitization, I think we call it.

I had no trouble performing the chore, setting him or her in the maze and recording the results. The problem was, to me one grey lab rat looked like another. Halfway through the experiment, I somehow started using the wrong rat. My error wasn't discovered until the testing period ended. To say my professor was not pleased would be to state the patently obvious. He didn't rip me to shreds, but for a few minutes he looked like he wanted to. My mistake had basically flawed the entire experiment for everyone. I had made all my lab sessions. I had written up my results. I had done well on all my tests. So with extreme restraint, he gave me a C for the semester instead of the F he probably wanted to award.

The next semester I took abnormal psychology. I really enjoyed it. No rats.
I have played with someone else's rat on a few occasions. I have never wanted to own one.

So I wish this rat owner well in providing happy homes for the rat babies. At least they smell better than ferrets. (Do pet snakes --isn't that an oxymoron?--eat ferrets, too? I thought folks mostly bought crickets and mice.)

I look for biases in my makeup and realize I am highly skewed as a pet owner towards dogs, then fish, then cats. I knew a family with an adorable pet chicken once, and the folks across the street have bunnies, and my niece once owned a corn snake for awhile. I've seen enough ferrets to know I wouldn't want one. Gerbils, hamsters, guinea pigs? We had the guinea pig when my sons were young, and I'm still convinced I killed it by feeding it some banana. Pot bellied pigs? Parrots?

So. Did I say I was getting a dog? I'll stick with that.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Cover Doesn't Begin to Explain the Book

This is a transaction thought from a conversation from my third grader:
She was telling me how you can't judge a friend by looks(ugly or good-looking) or dress(shabby or smart). And that is a good lesson. And I thought.

Earlier, she and I had gone to Lowe's for some construction stakes for posters I want to put up for my church chocolate festival. I was told to go to aisle 13, where I met a salesman who told me I wanted aisle 16, and walked along with us to find them. They were fairly bulky, not unmanageable, but he insisted on getting a cart and walking with us to checkout. Then he offered to carry them out. I told him no, I could manage. We left. Just as we reached the trunk of my car, a well-built, 20-something man appeared and asked, "Ma'am, do you need help?"

I laughed. I told him no I didn't, but since he was there I relished the assistance. I opened the trunk, he deposited the stakes, then told me he would crate the cart since "it's on my way anyway." And he did.

When we got in the car, I told my granddaughter, "You have just witnessed three blessings. One was the man helping us in the store. The second was the man who showed up to help me at the trunk. And the third is I recognized the first two as blessings."

Earlier in the day I had been fuming to a friend because of my bad knees and arthritis, I limp. And because I lost weight after age 60, I have wrinkles. And my hair is greying. And I feel sometimes as if people spring to help because of the old lady with the limp, and I'm stronger than that and I hate it. All of which is true when I am feeling negative. BUT. All of this happened later, and wasn't it nice? Human beings are still kind to one another. Of course I smiled.

I have been thinking when to bring another interchange up. It was in the shop where my damaged car was being repaired. A woman came in, carrying a couple of Walmart bags. She was picking up her own repaired car. She was wearing a navy blue shirt and khaki pants. As she and I waited, I asked her,"Do Walmart employees get a discount?"
I was genuinely curious. I have had nothing but intelligent, good service there. And I know the pay is minimal, so I wondered if there were perks.

She huffed,"I do not work at Walmart", and sailed out the door. Almost immediately, she came back in. She said, "Why do you think I work at Walmart? I am a professor at _______." She seemed flustered.

I answered truthfully, "You are wearing a navy shirt and khaki pants, the uniform for Walmart employees, and you are carrying Walmart bags."

She blurted,"I will never wear this outfit again." And she left.

I thought at the time she was oversensitive.

Today, I examined that in view of my 8-year-old getting lessons in not picking a book by its cover, so to speak, and in my own almost terminal prickliness when good people try to help an independent, aging, limping woman. Today I had the sense not to be prickly. I hope later, the prickly professor laughed.

But all of us, my 8-year-old, myself, the middle-aged professor, are always striving to read and be read, as a book without our cover.

We aren't. Most of the time. What I personally have to learn is to bless the goodness of people when they mean well, and only whop them in the chops when they try to escort me across a street I didn't intend to cross.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

When I can't prevent evil but deplore it

I am sorry. I am a dilettente, and perhaps a sponge. I remember reading that when FDR said "We have nothing to fear but fear itself", he was quoting. Which means it had happened before.

And it is happening again.

It has happened many times. We fear, we strike, we kill, we fight....

Doesn't mean there are are not reasons to fight. Doesn't mean we don't have enemies that imperil us. But in fear, we often include innocent people.

My fear is that it is happening again. It has happened over and over. A lot of times, it is the little guy that loses--life, liberty, possessions.

There's the mosque or community center several blocks from ground zero, where by the way, several Moslem (even American) victims fell.

Then there's the bookburner who plans to burn the Koran on Sept.11. A bookburner in particular is repugnant to me. That he chooses to burn religious books, of whatever faith, makes me want to vomit. He has the right. But he is evil.

I don't use that word lightly. Evil. I've seen it. I know it exists. It is horrible when directed towards children or neighbors or supposed friends. Evil. It is a total disruption of the peaceful,loving course of life. It is a total disregard of the well being of others.

Do we have to have someone to hate? Is it a human need, at least for some? Sept. 11 gave us no country to fight, and in my opinion, no religion. But there are terrorists. Extremists. Do we blame a whole religion for that? Some apparently do.
Tim McVeighy parroted Christian teachings. And he bombed Oklahoma City. Very successfully. And we don't condemn Christianity.

We don't know the Koran. How many of us have read the Bible? Damn few. Moslems, Christians, and Jews share two commandments: Love the Lord Your God with All Your Might, and Love Your Neighbors As Yourselves. Most of us in all three religions fail to live up to that.

That causes trouble.

Will there be protesters at the burning of the Koran? I hope so.

This is a better country than that. We can absorb such as these. We do not have to agree with them.

And I do not. I hate it with every fiber of my being, and agree with my country's constitution that however repugnant it is, he has the right. Goddamn him. That, of course, is out of my hands.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Recipes before you were born feed you still

Remember the days when you had to shred your own cheese? Really good cooks, like my DIL, still do. I will on occasion; mostly I just try to buy fresh the day before. And in this big, wide metroplex I live in, I can think of only one grocery within 15 miles that has the beautiful, round orbs of quality mozzarella for sale. In fact, down here in the Texas land of cheddar and Monterrey jack cheeses, it wasn't so long ago I quit using ground parmesan in the can--and I have friends that still do.

Today is my oldest granddaughter's birthday, and yesterday was mine. Her mother was out of town till late, so tonight I'm fixing a family meal for the five of us. I have to gear up for that: cooking for my three friends for Yahzee made all of us laugh when we took recipes for four and inevitably had at least two helpings left. But this is Matt G.'s family, with his very active, rapidly growing daughters and busy wife, and I'm hoping my one 9X13-inch pan with bread, salad, ice cream and cake will be enough. I do know this: there will be no leftovers.

I pulled out a 70s pasta recipe I really like because it can be made ahead, even frozen. It's even better if made ahead. Even in the 70s, we were using prepared sauces. Shell macaroni is called for. Although I halved the recipe. I made adjustments for current eating habits. I tripled the pasta. The ground beef, of course, is 93/7, meaning 7% fat, then simmered with mushrooms, onion, a jar of sauce and a one-pound can of tomatoes--which now has been downsized to 14.7 oz. Half the meat mixture layered over the pasta, dabbed with about 1/3 cup sour cream, topped with cheese...and that was the other really big adaption. We are used to much more cheese in the dish than in the 70s. (Then we used plain hamburger, so the fat probably came out about the same.) A second layer of each, topped with the rest of the cheese and leaves from a stem of my fresh basil bush.

I thought about changes in popular foods, snacks, flavors from generation to generation. It's sort of a hobby. I love to get really old church cookbooks and see what they have. I was delighted last spring when a friend had a Maine cookbook with a recipe that came from the back of a can of Carnation evaporated milk in the
50s. It is a really easy chocolate sauce that was yummy on ice cream. I don't know if even Carnation has the recipe now, because it certainly is not on their web site.

When I was a kid, one of the few patent medicines for a cough was Smith Bros. Cough Drops. They came in licorice and cherry. My father loved the licorice and couldn't understand why I made a face. I did like the cherry. My dad also loved horehound, a root beer flavor of candy popular in the early 1900s. Mom was with me--Mars bars and 3 Musketeers all the way.

A major dish in the 1930s was tomato aspic. Punches usually had a tea base with added fruits and juices. During rationing during World War II, an older woman told me how she was able to buy one can of tuna on the black market and made a salad for herself and three friends which they relished. The tuna, you see, was mostly sent overseas to the troops. And Spam was born.

My parents also loved picallili and chow-chow, and a lot of people still do, but at least here in Texas, not a majority. Mostly older people eat it, but overall, probably just as many of us eat pickled okra--and that I like well. Does anyone under 70 drink buttermilk by choice? (I seem to remember a Weight Watcher recipe for buttermilk, fresh fruit and artificial sweetener that was pretty good in diet times.)
Whatever happened to Polski Wyrobi dill pickles?

In the 60s and 70s, cubed bologna and cheddar was sometimes served in bars with a beer. Summer sausage was always there in the summers--I used to make big chef salads with vine-ripened tomatoes, onions, lettuce, pepperoncini peppers, summer sausage and cheddar with oil and vinegar dressing.

For some reason, the main time I see summer sausage now is around Christmas. It's all beef, but I've found a meat plant that packages venison for hunters and makes their own sausages from the trimmings. Venison summer sausage makes beef sort of pale into the far distance. Last winter, I gave packages of the sausage, rat cheese and high quality crackers to several men I care and some friends.

I had never eaten a casserole as a child, though I had eaten many a pan of enchiladas and bowls of pinto beans. Campbell triumphed when they marketed their soups as thickeners for nutritious, easy, cheap family meals, beginning with the news-awarding green bean casserole.

There was a cookie--a scalloped edged shortbread round cookie, with orange icing drizzled with chocolate stripes. They just disappeared one year. Then there was the wave of lemon desserts. Green apple candies. This summer, almost every recipe I've seen from salads--especially spinach--to deserts, to sauces for chicken, includes strawberries.

A cross-generational conversation got me started. My youngest granddaughter asked me, "Gramma, do you like gummi bears?" I admitted I didn't because I didn't like the texture. She asked me, "What were the things you used to eat that we don't have any more?"

And this blog is the partial result of that.

I know how much I enjoyed the conversations with my grandparents, and their part of my rearing. They connected me to history through their own lives. I think ideally, three generations, at least, should rear the children. As I hear about more and more families like mine living next door, in the same homes, on the same propety with each other, I am aware that many Americans, from many, many cultures, do that.

My grandchildren keep me updated on the latest food fads in their generation. Sometimes, I feed them some of mine. We get to know each other better. And I believe fervently that eating together is an important part of family. Through food, there is communion. Add to the word and you get communication.

I'm all for that.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Seasonal Changes

On Monday, the first day of school here, the 107 degree heat tied the record for hottest day set back in 1952. We've had I don't know how many days in a row of 100-plus days, and even we natives were longing for a break. Sometime around the end of August, we usually do get a heat break or good rain AND a heat break.

Yesterday afternoon we got both, a little rain and a little heat break. I was able to sit on the porch last night at a bearable 86 degrees, and this morning promises to be in the low seventies. It hasn't been below 80 in way too long. My active, hearty 8-year-old granddaughter actually was able to ride her scooter in the street a little while. Unlike her mother, I am not the least crafty, and that makes long terms in my house a bit dull. She watches a little television, reads her books, and then is ready to Do SOMEthing. As we spend more days together, we will find those things for both of us.

I wrote last week of my friend with lung cancer. On Friday, her breathing worsened and she was approved for home hospice care. She got home Saturday, and her sons invited everyone over. It was a great party, with 30 or 40 friends and family. We all had personal time to visit. She was so content to be home. On Sunday, she slipped into sleep. Her breathing became lighter and lighter, but not labored. And shortly before 7 in the morning yesterday, she slipped mercifully, peacefully, away, with her family around her. About as good as it gets.

I was so happy yesterday, knowing she wasn't hurting, that she was really with God.
I am saddened as well. She was cremated, and the memorial service is Saturday. Next week, the three of us will play Yahzee again, for the first time at my house. We will visit and talk, as we always do. We will laugh.

We will go on.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Shilling for Sandra Brown

In my summer reading list, I left out a book I meant to mention. It is by a chick writer, indubitably chick, but this is entirely differet from anything else she has written.

I first heard of Sandra Brown on a flight from San Antonio to Dallas about 12-15 years ago. Bad weather had delayed the flight about 3 hours, and it was still raining and windy in Dallas when we landed. My seatmate was a contented woman who had this realllly goooood book she was reading, and we talked a few minutes before I let her get back to it. And I started getting the books.

Her plots are good and she writes some of the best--and longest--sex scenes I've ever read. Her books have a fair amount of glitz in them. She is huge with women.

"Rainwater" is a very different book. In the author's note, she says she wrote it when she had time between two contracted books. Set in a small Oklahoma town in the late '20s or early'30s, it is filled with historically authentic details. It is both sweet and at times a bit grim. Elements of racial tension, very much a real part of Oklahoma at that time, plays a part. There is no mystery I was puzzling out, and the last page surprised me. It has left a lingering sweetness on my mind.

Try it. I hope she will write more like this. It's a short book. I think I finished it in an evening.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Ribbon of Sad in the Mostly Happy

About the time I became a homeowner, one of my Yahzee friends found out why she has been feeling lousy for seven months. Despite repeated vists to a half-dozen specialists and her general practitioner, it was only when her oxygen level was below 90 at the arthritis doctor appointment that she was finally sent to the hospital. She was diagnosed with Stage 2 lung cancer.

Because she is already so fragile from a variety of maladies related to her diabetes, surgery was not an option. Chemo and radiation was, to my surprise. Always an optimist, she opted to try to shrink the tumor(s) in an attempt to have more time, better time. The opposite has happened.

Most of the last six weeks she has been in the hospital, now a transitional one. She is very weak. Yesterday, I was in tears when I left. She could hardly speak; she dozed a lot. Over the weeks, we have talked about things we have scarcely touched on in the years I have known her.

She is a strong woman, and an honest one.

"I smoked for 50 years," she told me bluntly. "My mother died of lung cancer. I brought this on myself."

And yes, I am still smoking. It seems more and more stupid. For me, it has been 30 years.

Her friends, her family, have to say goodbye to her, but she has to say goodbye to all of us. That's a lot of goodbyes. A lot of grief. Her two youngest granddaughters are only 2 and 3. She realizes they will not remember her--and she had looked forward so to seeing all her grandchildren grow some more. She has always looked forward to what comes next, part of her charm.

She believes strongly in God. I know I hear a lot of you puzzle out why that would matter, but to those of us who do, it's a source of strength, of not being all alone, because we can feel the spiritual tie. In her way, she's still looking forward.

The thing is, I've written about a lot of happy in the last few months, while this has been going on at the same time. The happy belonged of a piece. So does this. She is still my friend. She has added to the goodness of my life, and I thank her for that, still. Always. The happy goes on.

Any minute now, my youngest granddaughter will be over to spend the day. Oldest is at a sleepover. We went to the library again yesterday, because, as active as they are, these girls love to read. We got a couple of movies, too. There might be a sno cone later, but we also have root beer and ice cream on hand. I will reheat the spaghetti and meatballs I made for lunch yesterday.

Tomorrow I will visit my friend again. She may be weaker still, she may be a bit better. My sadness is a ribbon through the sweetness of everyday.

This is the point: Life is good. Finally, I have learned that. Life is good.

Monday, August 16, 2010

I love my books, which never lose their power

This time, I think, I'm online for good. The great experiment to save me some cash failed to stabilize. So I have bundled through the phone provider I decided I needed after all.

Having not had my computer, and having little love for television--just spent an hour politely but firmly explaining (well, most of that time I was on hold) that I don't like to sit by myself and watch movies so yes, I was certain I had not ordered HBO and Showtime. They took off the charge, and I can blog, and it's a pretty good day.

What I did do was read a bunch.

I'd like to tell you about a few, starting with the one I finished this morning, "The Butcher and the Vegetarian," by Tara Austen Weaver. Yes, she's a West Coast liberal, and grew up vegetarian. Due to health problems in her thirties, she was advised by several doctors to eat meat. Already an established writer on food, she researched a lot about meat, and goes extensively into organic beef, chicken and pork offerings. She visits Prather Ranch in northern California, within sight of Mount Shasta, which I saw last summer from the Oregon side while in Bend. Gives me a good idea where this is. She meets the author of Meathenge, "Biggles", who barbecues a hunk of bacon with the rind on, and she comments, "Bacon is the gateway drug." It's a good read, thoughtful, and it seems to me, balanced. I once interviewed a cultural anthropologist who explained that historically, men did eat the red meat because the heavier fare was sustaining for cutting down trees, cutting firewood, laying down miles of fence, etc., etc., etc. Women and children were relegated more to the chicken and lots more vegetables.
I really think a lot of male folks could get into it. It fills in some corners for me. Not so many venetarians in Texas, although I do know a woman who raises organic beef here. She's a vegetarian.

I hope this isn't made into a movie. I understand "Eat, Pray,Love" is a whiny film, notwithstanding Julia Roberts. The book isn't whiny. A friend who points me in wonderful book directions sent me this, and I confess I didn't finish it. Not, however, because I found it superficial. I think, in books, maybe especialy in non-fiction, the reader and author need to converge on a common path of discovery for awhile before each goes on in individual directions.

A book that would make a good movie is a chick read, "The Christmas Cookie Club," by Ann Pearlman. Pearlman has been nominated for a Pulitzer for a previous book, and the writing is excellent. Twelve women between their early thirties and early sixties bring cookies they have made to share with the group, and to tell their year of passage to the others.

Oh, yeah. Each chapter starts with some excellent cookie recipes (in fact, she has co-authored a cookbook as a spinoff from this.) There are essays on baking ingredents between the narratives. That it is cold and starts to snow as the book progresses made it perfect for me, hibernating in the air-conditioning on a 100-plus degree day to read it. I can see this being a beach book, too.

Another chick read by a favorite author, Anne Quendlin, is "Every Last One." It isn't a fun read, but it engages and invites thought. No one gets out of life without tragic consequences from time to time. Some events just happen. And sometimes--did that misstep in the past weave through, loop around and contribute to this? And now, how do we live with it? How do we go on? And most of us do.
It ends on a hopeful note, and I was satisfied.

There were a bunch of other books too. At the library, I was surprised to find two Robert Parker books I had somehow missed. I read them with both pleasure and sadness. He keeled over on his computer at age 88. Boy, that sounds good. All of it.

Read a new Lee Childs paperback featuring Reacher, the caring guy who can fight so bloodily, and never keeps ties or owns possessions. An impossible anomaly, I think, but a fascinating concept, and I enjoy most of them, even though oldest son tells me disgustedly that Childs doesn't know his firearms.

One movie detour. The grandkids wanted to see "Despicable Me," so we went. It was okay. I was disgruntled to spend $27 for a matinee for three tickets when I can't see 3-D. (Poor kids didn't get any popcorn this time around.) I kinda maybe got a hit or two in "Avatar." But something has changed in the technology. As I say, the cartoon was okay. BUT! I could see almost all the 3-D effects, especially the cute antics during the credits at the end. And I cracked up to see the voice for Gru's mother was Julie Andrews.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

OH THE HORROR! Accidentally shot with an epi pen

At exercise class on Monday, one of our most vibrant members breezed in. Vitality vibrates off her. She walks so fast, she could be a New Yorker, not a native Texan. She runs on the treadmill. She does the eight pound free weights (I currently am at four and starting five.) She is violently curious, indefatigably enthusiastic, and constantly on the go. She hates exercise, she groused once to me. But she had a heart attack a few years ago, so she perserveres.

They had an oldies station on, and the woman on the next mat and I began talking about some of our favorites. Anita breezed up, exchanged a few comments, said, "Bye, Lucy!" and left.

The woman laughed. "Lucy!" she said with another laugh. "That's not my name. She's my neighbor." And, she said, there was a story with this.

Anita is allergic to wasps. I guess it's all the rain, but they are bad this year. About a month ago, Anita came running across the street (not recommended when fearing anaphelactic shock), waving an epi pen in the air.

It was early, and the narrator hadn't even had her morning coffee yet.

"You've got to shoot me," Anita cried. "Shoot me! a wasp stung me."

She pressed the epi pen in her neighbor's hand and promptly dropped her pants.

"Wait a minute," the woman said. "I've never seen one of these before."

She carefully read the directions, took off the lid and plunged--the needle into the palm of her own hand. She had held it upside down. She got the full dose. Anita didn't get any.

Her husband drove BOTH women to the emergency room. Anita was fine. She was treated in time, and felt very well in a few minutes. The woman who had accidently shot herself with the epi pen, however, shuddered and shaked and experienced a rapid
heart rate. She had to stay a couple of hours. She felt AWFUL.

And that's when Anita started calling her "Lucy".

Huh. I have my own ideas about who Lucy is.

But I admit, this woman made an awesome Ethel.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Home and a Functioning Computer--Sweet!

THAT took longer than expected.

Moving itself took a matter of hours. Basically camping out the first night, I still felt "home" the next morning in a brandnew place. I think, perhaps, because this house is mine after renting for 16 years. I own this space, good, bad or indifferent, and apparently, that makes a difference.

The green space makes a difference, too. The large backyard is just begging for flower beds, and, of course, a vegetable garden. I've gotten some plants out in the front bed particularly, and I have basil, oregano, rosemary, parsely, dill and mint growing for cooking. Between my own family and several friends and new neighbors, I have a steady supply of yellow squash, zuchinni, eggplant, Bell peppers, fresh corn, chilies, and tomatoes.

I haven't really thought about it before, but in this part of Texas, many people, even on suburban streets, have begun raising chickens--most town ordinances allow them so long as no rooster is in the mix to crow and make noise. On my street, roosters are allowed. Why not? We are close to the railroad track and have frequent train whistles we are accustomed to ignoring. A crowing rooster is pretty feeble next to that. The roosters are the administrators of the flock, I find. If no rooster is present, the Head Hen takes over. A young friend, knowledgeable in types of chickens and their pluses and minuses, tells me a Head Hen not only bosses the other hens, she often ceases laying. Too busy, I guess. The eggs are wonderful, and I have three sources to buy eggs--two women charge only $1 a dozen. These eggs are two or three days old at time of purchase. Supermarket eggs are generally four to six weeks old. My fresher eggs beat much higher, and I swear they taste better. And I don't eat them with guilt over the way the birds have been treated to produce my eggs. Good eggs from happy chickens. Makes me smile.

I didn't get my hardwood floors refinished. The price, though fair, was more than I wanted to spend at this time. Maybe later. I'm going to check Home Depot to find out whether polishing has changed since the 1960's, my last time with hardwood floors. Surely so. Meantime, I've bought a Swiffer instead of a dust mop.

The weather has been crazy. More than 100 degrees during most of June, the temperature abruptly dipped just before July, and daily rains came. My grass is brilliant green. It rained so much, in fact, my newly planted flowers gasped, drowned, and are lying flat on the ground at this point. Temps going up again this week, only into the nineties, but the heat index with all the humidity is over 100. As a former resident of New Mexico, I like humidity about as much as most cats like water. (It was a pure shock at age 18 in Dallas when a bead of sweat rolled down my back. At first I thought it was a bug. In New Mexico, sweat evaporates.) All these years later, I am still sweating--in no way "glowing", as ladies were supposed to do. Hoeing and weeding is hot, sweaty work. The trick is to do it before 9 a.m.

My neighbor has made good on his promise to mow my grass. I get eggs for them, too, and share the extra produce, a pretty lackluster return for his work on my behalf. I seem to be making out like a bandit.

I still have four boxes to go, then the task of getting a few rugs and some curtains.
The delay has not been so much due to so many boxes as that I tire of the process and wander off to do something else. Such as writing this. Those boxes are waiting, but I have fresh peaches my DIL brought me to peel, sugar, and freeze, and then need to make eggplant parmesan with the two eggplants a friend brought me.

So I have moved and settled in. Youngest granddaughter came over yesterday after church with a deck of cards to play Slapjack. She had to tell me what to do--I hadn't played it since I was her age. When my friend recently brought me a four-pound zuchinni, I took it to my talented DIL, who whipped up some incredible muffins full of spices and sugar. She sent youngest granddaughter over one morning last week with a warm muffin straight out of the oven. Great start to the day.

I need to buy a new jug and begin making sun tea again. (With hot summer sun, water and tea bags are set in the sun for a couple of hours to gently diffuse a most delicious beverage) My fresh mint will be tasty, too. As a Southwesterner, I prefer cold tea unsweetend for the most part. On really hot, humid days,though, it is delicious with slices of orange, lemon and lime squeezed in with the mint over much ice.

I look forward to having the house "finished". I have a little more time. Then I will begin having folks over in a way, I believe, I never have. Certainly not in the past 30 years. The last third of my life is beginning.

I think I'm really going to like it.

Monday, May 24, 2010

A Moving Experience (couldn't resist the pun)

Things have been busy. I'm packing boxes. My sons are renting a truck Thursday and moving me. This week a man from my church is painting the inside--tan walls, white woodwork, to go with the hardwood floors. He may have to suspend a day to let our hustle and bustle take over.

I wonder how long it will take to UNpack? But it's coming along. I'm disappointed that the temperature is predicted to be mid-90s, but then, it IS almost Memorial Day. It only goes up from here, which is why family is planning to blow in more insulation in the attic ASAP.

So much to do. It really is a nice little house, and I am happy to have all these things to do.

I won't be online until after. Maybe a week or two. Huh. and my computer has Microsoft XP which needs to be updated before July 13. There's always something, isn't there?

When we are happy, that fact is security.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A day to remember

Yesterday was a memorable day.

I bought a house. And my car is NOT totaled. A great deal to do.
I went to a meeting last night with a lot of folks older and much younger than I, and the common trait of all seemed to be awareness of others, and an eager air of curiosity and looking forward. Or maybe I am projecting, but I am too comfortable with these folks not to share a lot of common ground.

My car will be ready in a couple of weeks, and I will begin a new life. There is something to be said for taking out a 30-year loan in my sixties. I most certainly did not encounter age discrimination, gender discrimination, or any other kind.

As I signed my name over and over yesterday, I thought of my dad, considered so liberal and forward thinking because he made a loan to two sisters widowed in WWII without requiring a male relative's signature. In 1948, he let them sign their very own selves to buy their candy shop, Ma-Lee's, and set up in Ruidosa. New Mexico. They did smashingly. Best divinity and fudge I have ever tasted. (sigh) It was a great business.

Yesterday three women--me, the bank officer and the title company representative, sat down to do a little business ourselves. It was a sweet taste of the present and the possibilities for women today.

Friday, May 14, 2010

There I was, just minding my own business...

To be honest, I am procrastinating. But I do have a story to tell.

The most excitement I've had in years occurred at 4:10 p.m. May 12. I sometimes get teased because in a line of traffic, I usually stop 3-4 feet behind the car in front. It paid off bigtime.

Traffic was barely crawling along. The street is only two lanes and needs widening. Texas, like most states in the USA, doesn't have money to build more roads for the increasing population, so congestion is usual. The speed limit is 50 mph, which means you can probably go the limit about 2 a.m.

The teenager pulling out of the nearest side street behind me didn't realize how slow we were moving, just that he had a space of clear street, and he began accelerating. Being an inexperienced driver, when he realized he couldn't stop in time, he thought to pull left, realized he had oncoming traffic, and pulled right. He must have been standing on the brakes.

I heard the screech, glanced into the mirror for a nanosecond before he hit--hard.
And without thinking, I jerked the steering wheel into a hard right and hit the gas, even as the crash propelled me forward. I stopped on the side of the road, about even with the front doors of the car in front. I missed it entirely. Granny still has some reflexes!

He got out and ran forward. "ma'am! ma'am! Are you hurt?" I told him I thought not. I was aware I had banged my knee and the seat belt had burned my neck. I got out my cell phone. I was trembling all over...I had just released mass quantities of adrenaline. I called my oldest son, the policeman. And my voice was teary. He ascertained where I was and said he was on his way. He told me to call 911. I was composed when I called them.

I knew it had been a significant fender bender. Debris was all over the highway.
My bumper was completely dislodged on the ground, barely attached on the right side. Trunk floor crunched, lid as well, but operational, lights and left quarter panel damaged.

The boy was driving a 5- or 6-year-old BMW. It was crumpled back to the engine block. He and his two friends seemed unharmed. We exchanged names and shook hands, and I haven't a clue what his name is. A chance sheriff's deputy passing by stopped and helped with traffic till the dispatched police officer arrived. It looked pretty spectacular, and for awhile, traffic couldn't move. Several people stopped, including a a couple of adults who looked like teachers from the nearby high school.

The police officer gave me the report number and said it would be on file the next day. He also gave me the driver's insurance info. I remember saying at least with the vehicle being a BMW, I didn't have to worry about the insurance.

Both cars were towed. I rented a car and went home. Two mugs of hot tea and a couple of glasses of wine later, I was relaxed. Slept well. Woke up without a twinge.
Found out in late morning that the insurance on the BMW was not in effect.

So there actually is a reason I've been paying car insurance for years, including uninsured motorist. I'm covered. And since I haven't had an accident in forever, my rates won't rise.

Now to cross my fingers that my car won't be totalled, because while a nice car, it is six years old. (Totalled means the price of repairs are higher than the agreed commercial value of the car, meaning the insurance company pays the current value, not the cost of repairs or replacement value.) I have a good chance, though. With care, I expected it to last 20 years. It has 14 to go.

And me, I'm counting on at least another 14 years as well.

Back to packing.

Monday, May 10, 2010

When You Get So Much More Than You Pay For

I have had a new job this last month, and yes, I'm paying for the privilege.

It's called Buying a House, something I never expected to do again. This week we should close. I'm starting to pack. Arranged the electric today. Have to nail down the house insurance.

It's been so long since I was an owner, I qualify for firsttime buyer bonus.

It's a little house, perfect for one or two, although I am sure a whole family could be fitted in comfortably should someone wish. Hardwood floors. A large, screened front porch. A big deck, which faces west and won't get much use until fall, when I hope I have a table and chairs for outdoor eating after summer heat gets below 90 degrees--around October.

A large backyard. Small front yard with some nice plantings and trees. The neighbor who is selling it has promised to continue mowing.

I asked my son for a gate in the backyard fence, because that fence separates his larger home from my new home. The gate will facilitate passage back and forth for all of us.

I do not have a big fortune, but I have some savings. I also haven't had a credit card in seven years and haven't had a time payment in more than ten. And yes, I have had to work hard for this. I have considered this my job. What the banker has wanted, I dropped everything else and got it. Twice, I was sure I wouldn't get it. Each time the glitch resolved. And they were big glitches. Actually, they were problems I couldn't do anything about but pray. So I did. Each time I was at peace with whatever the outcome would be. And we have gone forward.

I'm nervous about talking now, before we close, but you know, I'm going to (or as we say here in Texas, "I'm fixing to") be really really busy, and when I move, I'm going to be offline a week or more while I change service.

I look at the future and I see so much I'm going to have to do. And I'm joyous.

My paternal grandmother was really mean to my mother, so much so that Mother told me once to make sure I lived across town from my inlaws. And yet, when my mother was a widow and slipping into illness herself, she went over every evening to pick up my grandmother and brought her home for the night when my grandmother became afraid to stay alone at night. My grandmother looked at me with wonder when I came home from college to visit. She told me how kind my mother had been, when she had been so mean to her. She asked God, and my mother, to forgive her, and she cried a little. She was at peace.

I was thinking about that yesterday. Wasn't I lucky? Maybe my mother's legacy has made me someone who my daughter-in-law actually wants to live next door. I am very honored. My son is delighted. My granddaughters already refer to it as "grandma's house." My younger son anticipates the happiness with which my granddog will explore the fenced lawn.

I know it is doable to grow up without security and support and become an adult who can be kind and supportive to others. It is easier if one has grown up with a good role model, or two, or three. But I have friends who grew up with the bad example and turned away from it to find a more satisfying, happier way to live.

Multi generations are important. While not the majority, many families choose to live together with three or even four generations together. I know a good half dozen with side by side homes like we will have, many others with a suite or outbuilding on property for the grandparents. I knew a family where the woman had her adult daughter and granddaughter living with her and her husband, and also her mother, who was quite active. The toddler was taught to call the oldest family member GiGi, or really, GG for Great Grandmother. I thought that was charming.

The grandparents died off early for my sons, and I always thought they missed out. My granddaughters have three grandmothers, a grandfather, three uncles and an aunt. Whew. They have a richness of love and connections.

Soon, one of those will live next door. I promise to do my best in the years to come to contribute as much as possible to the happiness we all feel today.

I can't wait to find out what comes next.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Spring is Sprunging

I see the drift of falling white and smile.

On only March 21--the first day of spring--it was snow. Today it is crabapple petals.
When I step outside, there is a constant buzz. The bees are so happy and busy. Out my back door is a sea of several hundred purple iris. I'm not that fond of the plant, but right now they sure are pretty.

December through March had a preponderance of cloudy days and rain. Now suddenly the temperatures are normal and we actually could use a little rain. Gardeners have finally gotten their seeds and potato eyes and green onions in. It is time for the squash and beans. A couple of weeks and the okra and tomatoes go in.

Texas is a big state, but our tomatoes are mostly small. We can't grow Beefsteak or Big Boy or whatever tomato that will cover a slice of bread with a single slice. We get too hot too soon. Porters, grape tomatoes, Romas, Celebrities, Carnivals, these do well. Anything smallish to middle-sized will continue to produce some in 100-degree weather.

I had to laugh the other day leaving my son's home. My daughter-in-law had bought green onions for a dish she was preparing and had several left over. She simply plugged them into the dirt of one of her patio planters. They have gotten hearty and healthy on their way to becoming fullsize white onions.

I like to eat, and I love fresh produce. But my real love is the flowers. Bluebonnets are spectacular is south Texas this year, I hear. I love Indian Blankets, Texas primroses, wild larkspur,fairy cups, yarrow, painted daisies, paintbrush in red, yellow and white. The wildflowers are a wonderful dividend in Texas, sometimes stretching in a colorful blanket as far as the eye can see. Once you get out of the Metroplex, of course. But we have our fields--no, not meadows--in the complex of many cities and highways and buildings as well. The redbud was spectacular but went really quickly, less than two weeks.

Texas doesn't do fruit trees so well. We have a lot of peaches in certain locations, but the clay soil right here carries cotton root rot, which kills many of the trees. It is a fungus found in clay and the reason cotton no longer is grown in central Texas. Small apple trees do pretty well, but cherries don't grow at all. We have some areas to grow strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Others, not so much. Apricots don't thrive. On the other hand, pecans do well. We get a fair amount of pistacios from New Mexico. We like our pecans because they are sweeter than walnuts. and they are what we are used to. Parker County peaches will come in July, and we will flock to buy them, peeling and sugaring and freezing some for later. We don't usually have vidalias, but we have 1040s, which are sweet onions. We have all kinds of peppers--banana, Bell and chiles of all kinds. Green beans. Pintos. Blackeyed peas. Sugar snaps but no English peas.

I try to buy organic when I can and always cook from scratch, avoiding the high sodium and preservatives. It balances out some of my bad habits, I think. I used to buy a popular cooking magazine until I realized every recipe pushes some prepared product high in sodium and products. Tsk, Tsk.

I will fix a fresh garden salad for lunch when I get back from the store. I need to drive the block there and get some more cigarettes. With the windows up to block the pollen from all these blooming plants.

Yeah. I have a lot of bad habits to balance.

Monday, March 29, 2010

An extraordinary man

When I wrote abou my friend's death, it wasn't about him. It was about me. And while I think he would have appreciated the sentiment, albeit with some surprise, it tells nothing about him, and he was extraordinary.

John Garling was curious up to the end of his long life. He was gentle, and unfailingly polite. He was fully aware he was a good artist, and cartoonist, and he was happy about it. He wasn't egotistical.

He was born in England in 1909, and remembered sitting on the seat of the pony cart as his mother drove to the village. He was two or a bit more. That was his earliest memory. He hated school pretty much until he was accepted in the Royal Academy of Art, and then he thrived. He was an officer in the British Signal Corps during World War II, and while in service, had a nice chat one afternoon with Princess Mary.

Hired by a cartoonist company, he moved to South Africa where he met his wife, Anne, the widow of a Seventh Day Adventist missionary with three children. They married, and he was an excellent father, I think. Certainly well-loved. They emigrated to the US, and they became a naturalized citizens. He worked for years for Hanna Barbera, on Yogi Bear, The Flintstones, The Jetsons, Tarzan, and Fat Albert. The Garlings much admired Eleanor Roosevelt, and one afternoon in New York, a friend arranged for them to be invited to tea. They enjoyed it very much.

He enjoyed life hugely. He wasn't sentimental. He enjoyed planning cartooning more because the physics than the plots. But he loved absurdity and was a huge Monty Python fan. We agreed John Clees was brilliant. I never could convince him of the genius of Dr. Seuss. He much preferred his fellow countrywoman, Beatrix Potter.

He drove a car into his 90s, and when his knees gave out--He had had knee replacements 20 years before--he decided rather than compromising with a wheelchair, he would simply stay at home. His living room had a faux fireplace with a fake fire in the grate that he built "for coziness," he told me, twinkling.

His son came to visit every day except when he was out of town, and when that happened, he phoned every day. John thought the Iphone was awesome. He just marveled at all his son could do on it. John's daughter-in-law kept him in oxtail soup, chicken teryaki, And these huge cookies that were magnificent.

He had outlived most everyone but family and was content to stay at home. He never read fiction, only non-fiction. He loved biographies. He did anagrams for mental agility.

He was active, and quite strong in his prime. He enjoyed a good glass of wine or ale and conversation at a party. He and his wife loved the grandchildren and played games with them that they remember as adults. His wife died many years ago.

He went along when he had to, but he remained solidly himself. He might decide to go along, but he didn't compromise. At 99, if he was a bit frail, he was still substantial, and very much a man. He never complained. I never heard him lie. I never saw him be impolite, even when he was amiably disagreeing--which wasn't often. He was pragmatic.

But I think he was wrong about the end. He was adamant with his family and the chaplain that there be no service, no burial, no obituary. Just cremation, and leave the ashes at the funeral home. No celebration of his life. He was trying to be kind, to make no fuss. Well, he always was a definite individual.

He was one of the most interesting persons I ever met. I'm glad we could be friends for a few years. So much more I could say, but he was also very private. I respect that. He was molded by his times.

Privacy was easier to come by in 1909.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The more life changes, the more it stays the same

I heard today California once more is going to vote on the legalization of marijuana. And the climate is more welcoming now, because the state is broke. Sales tax on legal marijuana would be a welcome new source of revenue. The complications of doing this and making it work are myriad.

Who raises and sells it? Certainly, unlike tomatoes, squash and avocados, we don't want it imported from Mexico. In fact, the marijuana businesses in Mexico are called cartels, and are probably going to sneer and say, "we don't want your stinkin' peanuts for our stuff. We got our own rate schedule and delivery system." So. what agency oversees growth, quality, strength, etc.? Who oversees manufacture, packaging, and distribution? A newsman on the radio joked this morning that he could see the convenience store chains offering a real deal--one price for a 20-oz. drink, bag of chips, and bag of weed. "Yeah, his colleague joked." Now that's a real happy meal."

Strength is an issure. I don't know if you can breed back to the comparatively innocuous weed of the 1960s compared to the stuff available today. Do we want "light", regular, and fortified weed?
I mean, commercially. In California.

Quality of life is an issue, especially in California. You probably don't want a pig farm next door. From what I have read, you probably don't want more than 20-30 marijuana plants, either. They stink.

Now, chickens stink, too. It takes some effort to keep the chicken poop spread out in the beds and lawn. My son and his wife have solved this with a portable coop they trundle around the yard. No stink, but yummy eggs, and potential meat. And contented chickens sort of sing. They cackle when they lay. They are company.

Frankly, I think legalizing marijuana, even in California, is highly unlikely. Akin, in fact, to paramutual racetrack betting and casinos in Texas. And frankly, there are some good reasons for doing neither in both states.

In addition to actual factual considerations, there's Tradition: The Way We Have Always Done It (in our memory, anyway).

We are getting a lot of change these days we have no control over (just this morning, I found my busy computer had Updated, requiring me unwillingly to close out of files, close down and reboot. I didn't want to do this. I didn't have time. But I had to. And if I want a computer and internet, this is part of the system.) We all want change that goes our way, but not change that alters our behavior--unless maybe enlarged spending habits. We have Attitudes: the way I do it is Right; the way you do it is Wrong.

I have to say one thing about life these days--in the last couple of years, it sure has gotten interesting.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

On the death of a friend

Funny how you know--and you don't know.

Last week I saw John in the Health Center, and he had a cold. He was on oxygen, and about 15 minutes into our visit, a technician came in to give him a breathing treatment.

"I'll see you later," I promised.

Well, other life events have been pressing, I told myself. I didn't get back until yesterday. To find a hospice chaplain there. John, 99, was asleep, almost waxy. The chaplain left and I sat awhile, but I didn't talk. I wish I had! But I sat with him awhile. I left a note, as I always do when he is asleep, so he will know I came,and a piece of dark chocolate, his favorite.

Yesterday was beautiful. High in the 70's, pear and wild plum blooming, fluffy clouds in a blue sky, japonica and daffodils blooming. Often, when I come, I insist on opening the blinds to let him see a beautiful day. I didn't yesterday. It seemed useless.

It was.

Today, I went over in the morning and walked to his room. I noticed yesterday he had a cross on his door, decoated by a school child and signed with her name. I looked at the decal on the center and read, "Hallelujah! He is risen!" and I knew. It was there yesterday,and he was there, but I knew. I looked around and saw another on another room. So only on the hospice rooms. And I knew.

I opened the door, and there was a pristine bed, with no personal artifacts. His clothes were still in the closet. Nothing else. An empty bed.

I went back down to the nurses' station, and two were there. They aren't there often, they are usually with the patients. They give not only professional care, but human caring. But they were there.

"John?" I asked. "he's gone?"

And knowing the answer, I began to cry.

Four o'clock this morning, they said.

I wanted to say, "But I didn't say goodbye!"

And that hurts.

When we met, July 3, 2008, I knew it would be a fairly short friendship, and if MY life was good, this day would come. And it has. I know his family is sad. His son came every day, and other family members frequently. He had only a few friends left. He outlived most of them. He had a remarkable life.

We laughed, and joked, and argued and discussed about three hours a week. Until recently, he had hubris, and vitality. He impacted my life.

I will miss him more than I thought I would. Today, I mourn. I cry. And who wants to die without one friend weeping? I am that friend.

Someday, I hope I am good enough that some friend weeps for me.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Caring for the Next Generation

This has been haunting me, so might as well write.

A couple of weeks ago,my granddaughters and I went into the local dollar store after the older's game ( which was awesome, she blocked five saves by the other side and...)

There was a couple ahead of us, with a child about 4 or 5. She had on a coat with a hood. Never saw her face. She had a rope around her back, attached to a cardboard sign in front of her.

Having come from a sports game, I assumed her sign was a yea team for someone.
So I asked her what her sign said. She didn't answer or turn around. No worry. Lots of young kids are like that.

Being a busybody, I reached for the cardboard and read the sign. And stood in shock.
It read," KEEP AN EYE ON ME. I STEAL FROM PEOPLE." I was speechless.

I looked up at a man I assume was her father, and an upset woman I assume was her mother.

He said they had tried everything, and this was the last thing they could think of.
He said she had taken things from Kroger's three times.

The little girl kept her head down. They paid, and his hand was somewhat affectionately on her shoulder when they left.

The checker commented, "Nothing illegal about what he did."

There were murmers of agreement and incoherent sounds. We were discombobulated.

What went on? was this a child who couldn't control her like for candy in the store?
What else had the parents tried? Were they the parents? was this a scam so that they could steal while eyes were on the kid?

I'll never know. It felt genuine. And I wondered what they had tried. Parenting skills aren't taught, valued, or acknowledged. If you are lucky enough to be born into a healthy family, you have the skill. If not, LOL. What do I do with a culture I belong to that doesn't value parenting?

I can try to spend time with kids, and try to give them boundaries and imagination.
It's all I can think to do.

It sure is fun.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Droning on about the Weather

Everywhere I have gone the last couple of days, I hear people talking about the snow to come. The foot-plus everyone got almost two weeks ago is a factor.A few shady lawns still have patches despite temps in the 40s.

Today, Dallas and Fort Worth are getting an inch or two. People are excited about this because if it hits 2 inches, it will set a record for snowiest winter. And it is snowing. Further south, the snow is heavier.

But I am slightly north, and not a snowflake has fallen. I'm minorly disappointed, partly pleased. Lows in the 20s overnight with no moisture means no icy roads, Good. It rained Sunday, and the landscape is already dotted with puddles that have grown into semi-permanent ponds. It is an interesting problem. I wonder what the aftereffects will be, besides less local produce and many more mosquitoes.

Two years ago, we had a drought so severe outside, watering was almost forbidden. Texas continues to have hundreds of people moving in daily. Add that to less water, and public officials all but banned outside watering. The ban on watering between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. remains in effect. Public outrage last summer when some miscreant blatantly watered midday was similar to public outrage if a smoker lights up in a smoke-free restaurant.

The H1N1 flu scare last fall seems to have dwindled, but it is pleasant now always finding soap dispensers in public bathrooms well-filled. Using hand sanitizer regularly seems to be a new cultural custom. In a mall last week, I saw a store with spa products displaying a basket of cleanser-moisturizer samples for public use. My friend pounced on it and was greatly pleased.

Humans are adaptible. We are proud of ourselves for that. Nowadays, we tend to be shocked when nature is bigger than we are. And it is. But we maneuver. We adapt. We change some of our behaviors.

Having lived in this area for decades, I hadn't realized how long it had been since a cold winter in North Texas. I talked to a man yesterday who moved here in 1994 and said he never remembers sustained cold weather here. Hmm. That means December in 1983 was the one when temperatures rose above 32 degrees only a few days. Like today, that also was an El Nino year. Not much moisture, though.

In the winter of 1977-78, I remember commuting to work when it snowed-or sleeted-every Wednesday for five weeks. On the sixth, it snowed 9 inches on Friday. Curltural reaction? The next fall, we had much warmer clothing in the stores than are usually available down here. I think the cities bought a lot more sand for the trucks, too. Probably didn't use it up for several years.

Areas where snow is usually plentiful are having near drought this winter. Other places are having record amounts. Aberration or pattern change? We'll have to wait and see.And we'll have to wait more than a year or two.

(sigh) there's so much more. Weather really is important. Resurces--and people--really are finite.

I suspect average citizens in third world countries understand this quite well without the science involved. The average citizen here is still an innocent.