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.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Huevos Rancheros-regional comfort food

So. It is four days since the record-breaking 12-inch-plus snowfall. There are still pockets, especially carcasses of melting snowmen and snowwomen on the yards all over the Metroplex.

During the snow days, I fixed one of my favorite, easy-peasy comfort foods. It occurs to me some of you don't know about it.

Huevos Rancheros
For each person, take two tortillas. To me, that automatically means corn, but I realize there are people who even make enchiladas with flour tortillas.(shudder)

Same instructions apply.
Put a tablespoon or so of oil in a frying pan and heat to frying temperature. Put in a tortilla, corn or flour, and heat until it puffs a little. Flip. Toast until sligntly crispy. Drain on a paper towel. Do another. Overlap the tortillas.

Coat with your favorite pecante. Top with cheese. Yeah, white cheese is more authentic, but I usually use shredded cheddar. Stick in the microwave for a minute to melt while you add a little more oil and fry two eggs. Pull out plate with tortillas, pecante and melted cheese, and top with hot fried eggs (I like the yolks thick and liquid, and I blot the grease on these, too.) Top with a light sprinkling of more cheese, maybe a dash of cumin, And maybe a dollop more of picante.

If you have fresh cilantro, I usually don't, they are even better.

If you are feeding a family, stick finished plates in oven set on warm until all are done. Eat.

Oh, you can heat up a can or two of pinto beans and add on the side. The egg dish is enough to leave me full and happy for about 3-4 hours.

Yes, this is breakfast, but can be eaten for lunch or supper.

See? Easy-peasy. Fresh flour tortillas should puff just like fresh corn. Corn are more delicious, in my world, and a lot less calories. More fiber.

Do as you wish. It's fast, easy, and delicious.

Took very little time from watching the snow fall.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Exhibiting Privacy in Public

I have two friends who frequently send me chain e-mails--pictures, or funny statements, or incredibly sentimental stuff with the caveat to send it on. Today I got one with pictures I would have sent except for the instructions at the bottom.

So I sighed and deleted.

I get chainmails asking me to sign petitions--and occasionally one is a cause I really support. That means I write individually and send snail. I have three stores I like well enough to give my e address to. I didn't know that meant they were going to send me weekly sales notices, naive on my part. I can cancel them, but I really like these stores, so I usually glance at what's offered before I delete. Sooner or later, they may prompt me to buy something.

If I don't buy stuff from unsolicited phone calls, why would I follow the instructions of some anonymous stranger who started something on the Internet?

When I was a news reporter 30 years ago--before instant everything, no time to check the facts before putting it out there, I was sometimes given stories to write where I had to ask very intrusive questions of people probably during their personal crisis. We didn't hound much in those days, and as I asked the questions, often I was thinking,"Please tell me to mind my own business." I've often wondered if my personal reticence made a difference, or if it is just the nature of crises, but I can't remember anyone ever refusing to answer fully with good quotes which I wrote up faithfully. At least I was accurate.

When I worked for Child Protective Services again I was intruding on private lives, this time with official clout to effect change. The parents and I talked about what these changes needed to be. Given an opportunity for input, they sometimes suggested efforts I wouldn't have thought of. I came monthly, even weekly at times to see what was going on in the home. I had multiple written and verbal contacts with therapists, parenting teachers, homemakers (a surprising number knew nothing about cooking, which can drastically affect the budget), even landlords. Parole officers.

Here's the thing. People can be as eccentric and individualistic as they wish until evidence is found that because of some part of that different lifestyle, their children are at risk. Believe me, a lot of uncorrected neglect goes on, and emotional abuse, because it isn't illegal. Or maybe it is just impossible to prove in court. So folks who dealt with me had a history and/or had done something so far over the line I was assigned. I began by telling them they were going to be held to community standards. Most of them were pretty aware of what those were, the standards just seemed too hard or too much trouble. We sat down together and agreed what had to change. I wrote it up, along with what I had to do to help them, and we all signed it.

Here's the thing. I was nosy about what went on that might be dangerous to the children. I didn't interfere with their privacy in other areas. If cleanliness wasn't an issue, I never saw most of the house. If drugs were an issue, they were getting tested regularly anyway. I tried to intrude on their privacy to the extent it was necessary. Sometimes, that was pretty nearly everything. Often, it wasn't.

It surprises me with my own beliefs and behavior, that I have worked at these two jobs. I value privacy, prize it, even. I cannot think of a single person in my current life who knows exactly what I am doing or thinking, including my family. And I try to return the favor. I see a lot of them, but there is a lot I don't know and don't need to, and vice versa. I think this mutual respect and privacy makes for a good mix.

To invoke privacy for myself and others, I think involves self-respect and respect for others. If somebody frustrates me, that may just be my problem. Maybe I am the one having a bad day.

Oh yeah. I can lose it. But someone a long time agotold me,"If you are righteously angry, never say something you have to apologize for later."
It's good advice. When I ignore it and have to apologize later, I remember it and think, "well there's my refresher lesson."

And there are the two or three I can tell most anything to. ANYTHING. So again, in moments of crisis, I don't have to blab my business to perfect strangers. Another good use for friendship.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Dallas-Fort Worth has historic Snowfall

It's official.

An historic snowfall. Dallas-Fort Worth recorded 12.5 inches. Or more. Haslet, a small North Texas town, officially recorded 14.2 inches. The single snowfall makes this the third snowiest winter in recorded history. Hundreds of thousands have power outages.

ALL the schools are closed. Most probably had Valentine parties planned today. Power outages mean closed businesses, too. Just heard a man with no power at home bemoaning his search for miles to someplace with power and hot coffee. He's driving on black ice to find it. Your heart hurts for him, doesn't it?

Along about next August, this will be a fine day to remember.

NBA convention in Dallas this weekend. Good luck with that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Wonder of a Snowy Day

All day I have been sitting near my computer, mostly staring out the window.

A winter storm with maybe 1-3 inches of snow was predicted, snow to start around 3 a.m. today. I awoke about 3:45 a.m., and in curiosity glanced outside. Nothing. Cold and sere, No snow. I awoke three hours later to find at least 2 inches of snow and a steady fall. I've been watching every since. I even left in mid-morning to go to the store--can't run out of diet Dr. Pepper--and played in the snow a little. Wiped about 4 inches off my car to drive. I was gone about half an hour, and when I returned, my footsteps were filled with nearly another inch of wet snow. The guy who picks up our trash on his golf cart was grounded in too much snow. He was stuck. In at least 25 years, we haven't had such snow. He eventually dug out. His muddy spot where the vehicle had foundered is totally level with the rest of the pristine snow as of now.

The snow continues to fall. And fall. I never in my memory remember seeing snow fall, vigorously and energetically, all day. With more to come. Call me easily enchanted, but it is exciting, and beautiful. My amazement and fascination is a reality check to parts of the country whose people are used to snow, but not the current 70-plus inches. They are having to endure long-time

In mid-North Texas, the snow has been falling all day with almost no wind, temperatures around 30-33 degrees. So there is melting and slush. Tomorrow morning, temps are predicted to be in the mid-20s, and lethal. We will have ice on the roads, and little equipment to alleviate it. I will not go out at all tomorrow before noon. I can drive on ice. I am less willing as I age to walk on it without salt, kitty litter, or some way of clearing the walks. But today I loved listening to the sqee-runch, sque-runch of walking in it. Of breathing the clean snow-air--nothing like it.

I've thrown out birdseed under the trees where the snow may not cover it, or the birds will find it as the snow melts. Predictions were for a high of 50 tomorrow earlier in the week, but with all the snow, highs in the 30s are predicted. More cold, but no moisture, on Sunday.

Okay, factual. I have never seen a White Christmas, which I would have if I had stayed for Christmas this year, but I went to Austin. It was the first white Christmas since 1927 in the North Texas Metroplex. When we got back, there was still enough snow for the grandkids to play in.

I keep looking out the window. The snow keeps falling. I still wonder. And exult.
Bless you all, I drove in this stuff for years. Now I don't have to. As long as it is not more than a day, I can stand the isolation. And blessed North Texas Metroplex, it won't be much more than that.

See why people move here?

Summer is coming. It will be hot. And we have had so much rain, gardeners don't know if they will get their onions, potatoes and spinach out in time.

Future crises. Today, I have watched the snow fall all day on a beautifully white landscape. It has been beautiful. Amazing.

Memorable. How old do we get before memorable is not important? I don't think I want to get that old.

It is still snowing.

Friday, February 5, 2010

I've been thinking a lot lately about bases. Where do you go for the camaraderie and comfort of a home base? Most of us have several. Bases are a way of identifying ourselves. They are also a way of belonging to a "we", not just an "I". And humans mostly need that, at least a little bit.

This week my son and I attended the funeral of his great-aunt, a dear, sweet woman who slipped quietly away at 94. It was a happy funeral, a celebration. It's a large family. Several couldn't get there, and still, about 25 or 30 were together for lunch after. It was a time to touch base, to remember that, no matter how scattered, all these folks have others they are related to. It is a pleasant reminder, particularly since this is a warm, caring family.

So. A base.

When you do work you like and/or believe in, that is another base. It becomes stronger if you manage to work there several years, an increasingly difficult feat. I am definitely defined by all three of the professional careers I have had. I still keep up with people from all three. For two of the professions, in particular, I don't know any other people I have so much in common with. It's not just memories we share. It is ideas and ways of examining the world around us. They are real bases. I get so hungry to talk to people with keen curiosity, wide-ranging interests, depth of knowledge.

The third is churches. I've finally found a liberal Christian church that encourages questioning, harmony, and diversity. I'm loving it. The kids are great. They have attentive, caring parents. I suspect the parents enjoy getting together to talk and having others of us in the church take over for an hour or two. The older people are wise and open. I realized recently that yes, this is truly a major base. A family in our church has started bringing an adolescent boy they know with them to just everything for his age level. He has a rough home life. As he spends weeks and months coming, participating, and yes, lots of eating, I am watching him slowly smooth out a bit. His home is not a base, but the church is becoming one. I see it happening. I think this is a good thing. He belongs somewhere.

Schools and colleges can be bases for many. I have two degrees from two universities. I have never attended a reunion at either school. I keep up with some of the friends I made, but not the schools. I do read my alumni magazines. But a home base? Not so much. Both of the schools are fairly name brand, so it's not the prestige factor. I'm proud of the degrees. I just don't need to go back there. (I always meant to frame the diplomas, but I never got around to it.)

And of course, the neighborhood bar. I have several friends who have spent every Friday or Saturday night at the same bar for years. They all know each other. They dance. They laugh. They celebrate each others' birthdays. They bring food over when a family member dies.

THAT is a base.

Maybe I am old-fashioned, because all of these require actual physical contact. I am not sure that a chat room can be a base. I love blogging and reading others, but for me it is a fun social activity, not a base.

Still, one of my personal bases is writing, and this blog gives me a chance to touch that. For that, I am thankful.