Tuesday, February 22, 2011

My Heart Leaps Up When Spring is in the Air

This weekend, my older son and his wife assembled the really pretty wood picnic table they gave me for Christmas, and I planned to celebrate it with an al fresco lunch Monday. A front came in, however, and I know 58 degrees isn't that cold, but there was a stiff north wind. I decided to wimp out for later in the week.

I've always loved picnics. I've always loved eating out of doors. One of the things I loved about visiting in Oregon a couple years ago is the amount of outside eating (minus the fire ants, chiggers and ticks, as well). In New Mexico, (also minus the fire ants, chiggers and ticks) in the heat of the summer, we were 29 minutes from picnics at 5,200 ft.- plus, with trees, cool breezes, meadows and wildflowers. Or we could wait till evening, go to the White Sands, roll down the gypsum hills that look like sand but don't retain the heat, and either barbecue or knosh on fried chicken, potato salad, sliced garden tomatoes, somebody's pie and somebody else's cake or cookies. And cold watermelon. Just spit the seeds in the sand. MMM.

In summers, at the White Sands Monument, fantastic scientists come out mid-week to give free lectures on subjects you have not thought of, grasshopper. And the universe, in your imagination, expands a bit.

Texas in these parts has changeable, unpredictable year-to-year weather October through June. July, August and mostly September are scripted: hot.

Except for breakfast, I won't use my picnic table much this summer. But I can now, and in the fall, and even in contrary days in winter. And I hope using it can be a we as much as possible.

The extreme cold for 3-4 weeks has been followed by an extreme warmup. Just two weeks ago the temperature was in single digits. There was ice. There was snow. With fragile knees, I didn't go next door to my son's family for 10 days. Ice. Long gone.

After 10 days in the 70s, I notice the grass is greening. Oh, dear, the Barrett pear (non-bearing, but so pretty) is budding. Daffodils are budding and blooming. Native Texans muse, "Can the next snowfall be far behind?"

We will get more cold weather, just not in the single digits or teens, if usual. Dogs and cats are shedding. This early warmth must have the peach farmers terrified. One or two more big freezes are almost obligatory. Sigh. I do love me some fresh, local peaches.

Weather patterns are changing all over, some subtly, some overt. The world keeps changing, and we humans continue to be astonished at that. It's funny to me at my age, and thirty years from now, if I am around, it will be even funnier. I hope.

Meanwhile, I have my deck, my picnic table, I am chopping out the unwanted iris and planning to fill the empty space with herbs. Maybe some coreopsis, salvia, marigolds here and there.
Some deck pots to fill for bright and pretty.

We'll see how the farmer's market runs this summer. I like local. I like eating stuff locally in their time so I don't get tired of it and eat the same stuff-inferior-from thousands of miles away.

Like the fruits and vegetables, I want to savor each thing in its time.

Even life is juicier that way.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Make Room Under the Bridges-Legislature is in Session

The weather is gorgeous. Kids were out of school yesterday and wearing shorts. Last Thursday, morning temperature was 7 degrees. This morning, the low was 56.

When I went into my exercise place yesterday, I counted 15 people. Usually there are 3-6. Rest of the week will be the same. I will get out and start gardening some. Take some aggression out on iris rhizomes.

There is a lot of aggression to vent. And exercise, the smell of honest dirt and real plants will help. I write this blog as a discipline in a way. I try not to whine or point out the ugly or mean unless deeply moved, not just entertained. I do that because I can easily be negative. And when I am positive, my day not only is happier, but I get more done. I try to pay attention, though, and that's why I need to go outside and dig.

Texas undoubtedly is going to lay off a lot of teachers. How many remains to be seen. Classrooms will be larger. College tuitions are going up. The state has floated a balloon that would close 113 nursing homes that take Medicaid, by refusing to pay. Where are these people supposed to go? Will we eliminate CHIPS? The sickening thing is, this debacle is due in large part to the way previous legislators have handled the money. Other states are facing the same. Some more than others.

Lately it has been driven home to me that as we huddle under our various umbrellas with others of our shared viewpoints, it is awfully easy to dislike those with different beliefs. And sometimes I do. When the truth is so absolutely crystal clear to me, how can a friend or acquaintance have a belief that is so patently, obviously wrong? What universe are they in? Idio---oops. I just broke my own rule.

Don't they see? Well, yes, but something different than I'm looking at. Sometimes they haven't seen my picture. Sometimes I haven't seen what they are seeing, either. Too often, though, I think too many are "members of the club" who give their fellow members a free pass without looking too closely. They've been to too many pep rallies.

If I go outside and dig, I can be my ownself. I can get something done and improve my mood. I won't snap at little children or argue with some of those idio--oops--I still call friends. Or at least good citizens most of the time. I can think of something positive I can do about this. Because that's enough. I've got to do something. Something positive.

I can give thanks for a beautiful day I've wasted in fuming. And dig in.

Hmm. I won't even take my cell phone.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

My Heart goes out

Valentine's Day.

My granddaughters will celebrate Friday, if school is open, and be off on the actual holiday.

Third-grader granddaughter took home my colored construction paper, my pink and red tissue paper, her crayons and a box suitable for cards last week when the last ice storm approached.

The teacher will give a prize for the best decorated box. My granddaughter completed hers with her very artistic mom, and I presume has delivered it this week. Every kid in her class will put in a card in every other kid's box in her classroom.

Right now, in my neighborhood, in this time, homemade cards are an item. She wants to make all her cards herself. No boughten ones. Her sister in middle school is also working on cards to give some friends. And this makes me smile.

When I was a child, I understood Valentine's Day was romantic, and also about love, because my parents included me. It also was about mutual giving, because I remember my mother taking me to the store to find Valentine cards for her, and for Dad.And she picked her own. Not so many to choose from, for the man, back then. But Mom thought the romance was equal. Reciprocated. Mutual. And included the child they had made.

So on Valentine's Day, at breakfast, I always had cards from both. And heart-shaped redhots from Dad and usually a lace or embroidered handkerchief I would never, ever use, from Mom.
I think I used one at my wedding. Which made Mother smile. She had planned this.

Mom got chocolates. And yes, I was a little jealous. I loved chocolate even then. Mom would always give me a piece, though. Right there! At breakfast!

Unlike many men, my father loved Valentine's Day. Maybe it was the generation. Those old-timers didn't need biz or ads, or promotion. Dad just said St. Valentine made a special day to announce his love, and any time he could, he would. And Mom would smile at him...

I grew up in that.

Wasn't I lucky?

I was going to talk more about the holidays of my youth, but I think I will save it for another year.

There are so many good stories to tell. And again, aren't I lucky?

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Someday, grasshopper, this will end

Blech. The light dusting of snow predicted for Friday turned into several inches of the stuff.
Surrounding areas sent another 49 snowplows. I've never SEEN a snowplow in D-FW.

Stir-crazy folk, thinking snow would be easier to drive on--it is--ventured out, only to quickly meet the thick ice beneath. Cars performed like a motorized session of Dancing With the Stars.
The overnight snow was thick enough to cover streets, curbs, medians--impossible to tell where the road was. Businesses desperate to get back on schedule insisted a lot of their employees come in, and a fair number actually made it.

Director of the Denton airport got a guy with a jet engine to blast chunks of ice rapidly off the runways. We have Super Bowl patrons, coming in, dammit. And so the can-do people made it possible. Clearing the runways in this peripheral metroplex airports means a place for corporate private jets and prop planes to land.

Ice chunks were reported in the Trinity River. Never seen THAT before, either.

We are tired of this. We have more "winter precip" coming in Tuesday or Wednesday.

I am really impressed with the truckers who have brought the groceries and goods in. Yes, they get paid. For that much aggravation? I don't think so. They know they are depended on. And they deliver.

Seems like as many freight trains have gone by as usual, at the usual speeds. How does that work? Ice and snow have hit the rails, too. But the trains keep moving.

It has been interesting. I've seen a lot of individuals being kind to one another this week. I was one of the recipients. Seems I was a little overconfident about my ability to handle a skid. When I got stuck, an older woman, her daughter, and son-in-law got out and pushed me the necessary inches to reach traction. I felt so helpless, and so grateful. People really do stuff like that, all the time.

I didn't venture out yesterday. Today--I'll see.

It's already 29--highest temp in six days. (sob) We may even break freezing.

One thing I know--there was money to be made this week in the Metroplex. We just didn't think so much of it would be going to the auto body shops.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Thank God the Groundhog Predicts an Early Spring!

Monday, the ice, sleet and snow came in.
In my portion of the D-FW Metroplex, that meant about 2 inches of ice, topped with another 2 inches of snow. And cold. So much cold. It has been decades since I have experienced single digit cold. With wind.
My newspaper carrier hasn't delivered in three days, which is okay. I can drive on this stuff, but with two bad knees, I can't walk on it. So I couldn't have gone out to pick up the paper.
Yesterday, I finally got out and drove around. I checked the streets around the schools and accurately predicted we would have an unprecedented third Snow Day with the schools closed.
Friday, I don't know. Probably.
We have had about 16,000 households that lost power. Not so many, with a population of several million. Some of them will have fireplaces. They will get through.
Yesterday, with the failure of a bunch of energy plants around the state, we had rolling blackouts all over the state. Most Americans are really ignorant on the size of Texas. It is almost 1,000 miles deep, about 800 miles across. The whole state has been affected by this Super Storm.
While the overnight temperature in the Metroplex was about 7 in my neighborhood, it was in the 20s in Corpus Christi, on the coast. At least we are prepared for the cold, and build for it. In South Texas, this has been like a horrible cosmic accident.
The rolling blackouts were supposed to be for about 15 minutes. No schedule; we didn't know when they were coming. Most of mine were 20 minutes, about 11/2 hours apart. But some folks had them only minutes apart. Others had an hour off, 20 minutes on. It wasn't fun. I thought of the people in Iraq, who have been living with this for years. It's hard to plan anything. I've put off a wash, and I've cooked when the power was on.
Around the Dallas and Fort Worth downtowns, the blackouts were exempted. Cowboy Stadium and the venues where Super Bowl events were happening also were exempted. This is business, and I understand it. But school children who WERE in classes yesterday in South Texas were in dark, cold classrooms for minutes or hours at a time to provide that power.
Today, there is buzz that the power stations that failed are newer ones that were built improperly and not weatherproofed for the extreme cold. Apparently, they were built on the cheap. And how we have all paid.
Overall, it hasn't been bad at all. My daughter-in-law's office was closed, and she defrosted a turkey and made dressing, sending a big dish over via granddaughter, so I didn't even have to get out. Yum!
Yesterday I took the roast potatoes left over from a pot roast, nuked another two potatoes, and made potato soup. I used the pot roast juice and beef broth, added diced onions and a bay leaf, more garlic, and pureed the potatoes in my blender. I chunked up some of the roast and added a can of carrots. I ended up with a brown, smooth soup that is yummy and tastes like really good brown gravy. With a chunk of bread, it's a really good meal.
I found my long johns, not needed for years, and topped them with sweats. Layered T-shirt, longsleeve shirt and sweater. I'm keeping the thermostat on 68, or 69, and I am comfortable.
Yesterday, it was colder here than in Green Bay or Philadelphia. Both teams opted for indoor practices. Sunday, those standing outside in the parking lot will be in a chilly 40s with wind. I'm sure they'll enjoy it,and again, I understand our whole state sacrificing a bit for the Super Bowl.
I have some issues with the guy who lost power in the middle of his home dialysis, with his blood in the tubes.I have issues with the fast food places having to close because they couldn't depend on power to feed the usual crowds, much less the visitors. I'm sure our visitors from all over will grumble about how we have handled this huge weather crisis.
We did get a few snow plows to scoop the icy slush off the busiest freeways because of the Super Bowl. Those go back Saturday.
I am not sure if I will watch the game Sunday. It is still awfully icy for safe walking most places if I go out. But if I stay home, I may miss part of the game anyway if rolling blackouts resume.
And they may.
Fortunately, I went to the library Monday while I filled up the car and bought enough extra diet Dr Pepper. I can always curl up with a good book.
Sometimes, the old solutions are still the best.