Saturday, February 15, 2014

"Speech After Long Silence"

Sweet Teddy face
After a long time, I feel like writing again today.  There's nothing much going on -- we're snowed in for the umpteenth time this winter.  We got five inches of snow last night.

Teddy is loving the snow.  He doesn't seem to feel the cold and loves to snuffle around in it and get his face covered in snow.
Pepper, on the other hand, as a wire haired terrier with very little fur, prefers to curl up on the couch and go out only when it's absolutely necessary.

Pepper is particularly debilitated at the moment because she had a benign tumor removed from her right rear foot on Wednesday and she has it all bandaged up.  She has to wear the cone of shame to keep her from tearing off the bandages -- although she has worried it loose a little.  Every time she goes out, we have to wrap her foot in a plastic bag to keep it from getting wet.  Poor little thing looks pitiful, but she's dealing with it pretty well.

Yesterday was Valentines Day and, in light of the weather, we decided not to try to fight the restaurant crowd for a Valentine dinner.  I went out before the snow started and bought the fixings for a fancy dinner at home.  I cooked a standing rib roast for the first time and we had buttered new potatoes with parsley, a fresh salad with mandarin oranges and candied pecans, wheat rolls, and a delicious spinach souffle.  For dessert, I bought chocolate covered strawberries and some fancy iced valentine cookies.  I thought it was an impressive spread!

Unfortunately, Jeff was in a grumpy mood and the evening sort of fell flat.  He was frustrated about some things that happened at work.  I ended up just going to bed early.  Sometimes things just turn out that way no matter what you do.

To his credit, Jeff did bring me a dozen red roses and he brought Ally a dozen white roses for Valentine's Day.  AND some delicious chocolates.  So, I wasn't overlooked -- he just wasn't in a good mood.

This morning, he had an important meeting and his car was totally covered with five inches of snow and frozen shut -- with his coat inside it.  He went out in his shirt sleeves to poured hot water on the locks and door and finally got it to open.  Then, while he was on a business call, I cleared the snow away and took the car up to the corner for gas because it was running on fumes.  He's still grumpy, but he has some good reasons to be.

Thanks to our neighbor, Tom, who has a snow blower and cleared our driveway so Jeff and I could get out.  He's such a good guy!  He uses his superior technology -- a snow blower that he bought when they lived in Pennsylvania and it was much more necessary -- to help all the neighbors -- who don't have snow blowers because usually it's not necessary around here.

On the drama side, Kate and Austin had a big fight on Monday and it looked like they might break up.  Kate was so upset that I went down to Danville for two days to be with her.  Finally, they talked it out and made up.  I'm glad it all worked out.

Ally has been tutoring Anna next door, who is in 7th grade, and seems to be quite successful at it.  She might like to be a teacher.  Anna has ADHD and has a hard time getting through her homework.  She apparently really likes Ally's lively manner and flair for the dramatic.  It helps to make the schoolwork interesting for her.  Maybe Ally has found her "day job."  In the meantime, she's been doing a lot of writing and also working on the National Theatre Live presentations and the Diogene's Theatre Company's production of "Bebe" in April.  She seems to be regaining some of her self-confidence.

I went to lunch with Linda and her caregiver, Lisa, on Thursday.  It's good that she's still getting out and going places.  I've seen a serious decline in her abilities over the past six months or so.  After Lisa cut up her salad, she still had trouble getting it to her mouth and dropped several pieces in her lap.  She seemed to follow the conversation fairly well, but then asked questions that showed that she had already forgotten things that had been said earlier.  I can't help but be depressed after being with her.

Dad, on the other hand, seems to be perking along pretty well.  He'll be ninety in June and he and Harriett (at 91) are still independent and driving themselves.  They went to a Valentine's Dinner for seniors at Tates Creek Presbyterian on Valentine's Day and seemed to have a good time.

I've been trying to make a lace shawl from the alpaca lace yarn that Kathryn gave me for Christmas.  After re-starting it three times, I finally made it through the lace edge to the stockinette short rows and then I goofed it up.  Last night I pulled it back to my lifeline at the end of the lace and now I can't figure out how to get it back on the needles.  I'm not sure this is worth the effort.  I think I'll cast on a more friendly project today and put that one away for a while.  It's just not worth the stress.

I may try to fix the washing machine today.  It makes a horrible noise during the spin cycle and I'm not entirely sure why.  My best guess is either the clutch (which is fixable) or the bearings (which are not).  I ordered a replacement clutch and I may try to take the back off and see if I can pinpoint the source of the noise.  If it appears to be the clutch, I'll try to fix it.  If not, we'll probably need to get a new machine.

I guess that's all the news in my life.  It's kind of nice to be back on the net.

Today's good thing, obviously, is our neighbor, Tom, who cleared our driveway (and has done so three or four times over the winter) without being asked or expecting any thanks.  Good people really lift your heart.

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Monsoon Warmth and Comfort

Today's good thing takes some explanation.  Last night it was pouring rain when I went out to feed the rabbits and -- despite my umbrella -- my velour bathrobe got soaked.  I hung it up thinking it would dry overnight, but this morning it was still damp and cold.  So, I put it in the dryer while I made my coffee and, after a while, I took it out and put it on.  Heaven!  I was cold from running around in my nightie and the warm velour on my back and arms was ecstasy.

It was so good that I guess I'll get to do it again in a few minutes!  When Jeff came down, he was concerned about the drainage patterns around the new patio and in the back yard.  He insisted that we go out in the backyard with a shovel and dig drainage ditches to the backyard drain while the pouring rain was showing us where to dig.  Actually, he did the digging and I watched under an insufficient umbrella.  So, my bathrobe is in the dryer again.  I can't wait to get it out!

My friend Annette is missing her little Daisy, just like I'm missing Sam.  Daisy was an adorable little Bischon and the light of Annette's life.  She developed an auto-immune disease and had to leave us last week -- just a week after we lost Sam.  They will both be greatly missed.  Maybe they're playing together in the great beyond and comforting each other until we rejoin them.  I doubt that it works that way, but it's a nice thought.  Austin had a wise comment.  It's likely that heaven isn't bound by time the same way we are.  So, Sam may not feel the separation the way I do.  He's such a mama's boy -- it's hard to imagine him being happy without me.

They certainly enriched our lives.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

The Truth and Nothing but the Truth

Today's good thing is that my daughter got safely home from a two week trip to Shanghai -- where she contracted bacterial gastritis and had to make two trips to the ER for IV fluids.  We were so worried, but now she's back home and feeling better.

I have a little rant today about "The Butler."  We went to see it last weekend because it was reviewed very positively and, as history buffs, we thought the life of a man who had been a part of the Whitehouse staff through five administrations would be fascinating.  Even more interesting, he was a black man seeing the civil rights movement from a privileged place inside Washington politics.

What we saw was a rabble rousing indictment of how this man had been oppressed as a black man in a white culture.  The story opens as he picks cotton on a Georgia farm.  The overseer openly rapes his mother and when his father speaks a word in protest, the overseer shoots the father in the head in front of the entire group of workers.  There is no punishment for the overseer, but the lady of the house takes pity on the traumatized son and teaches him to be a house servant.  

Over the course of time, he marries, has two sons of his own, and works his way into a job as a butler at the White House.  His older son is a rebel and becomes part of the civil rights movement, marching with Dr. King and spending a lot of time being beaten and thrown in jail.  In fact, much of the movie's focus is on this older son.  The younger son is dutiful and home-loving, so he is sent to Viet Nam, where he tragically dies.

The only white people who are nice are Ron and Nancy Reagan, who invite him and his wife to be guests at a state dinner.  But this is also portrayed as a token gesture meant to make the Reagans look egalitarian to their other guests.  He and his wife are embarrassed and ill at ease.

At the end, he resigns from the White House staff and goes to join his elder son in a protest that lands him in jail. The son later becomes a congressman.

At the very end of the movie, Barack Obama is elected president and the theater erupts in applause and cheering.

We left the theater thinking, wow, what an amazing journey this man has had.  They made it clear that it was based on a real life person, so I went to the Internet to find out about which parts actually happened.  Was his father murdered?  Did his son become a congressman?

It turns out that ALL the horrible things were completely fictious.  His father wasn't shot by a lecherous overseer.  His older son, the civil rights worker, was COMPLETELY made up.  He only had the one son and that son returned safely from Viet Nam.  One true thing is that he and his wife were invited to a state dinner by the Reagans, which was one of the happiest memories of their lives.

Why make this stuff up?   What's the purpose except to sow dissension between people?  This man knew five presidents intimately.  Wasn't his life interesting enough without making it into a racist pile of propaganda?!  Even if his integrity prevented him from revealing personal information about about the presidents, surely his unique perspective would be interesting and there would be some interesting stories over the course of thirty years.  But no.  They hung a fictious and inflammatory story on this guy's life and most of the people leaving that theater will forever believe that it actually happened just as it's portrayed.  

I think that's irresponsible film making and it only hurts understanding between the races.

That's my two cents.  

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Dog Days

Today's good things are dogs playing joyfully together and Trixie Koontz's book "Life is Good."

This morning when I let the dogs out, our neighbor's dog Ginger was in the front yard.  She's a large reddish dog -- maybe a golden or setter mix -- and I wasn't sure how the dogs would react to this stranger.  After some cautious investigation (and sniffing), Pepper and Ginger began to play and it was such a treat to watch.  Tiny Pepper would jump at Ginger saying "chase me!" and then run at top speed in a big circle around the front yard.  To Pepper's delight, Ginger was just as excited about the game as she was.  Poor Sam hasn't been much of a playmate for her -- although, once they got going, even Sam joined in to the chase game for a few rounds.  Ginger chased Pepper and Pepper chased Ginger and they had such fun.  They ran and jumped and Pepper would lap Ginger and come up behind her.  I wish I could have filmed it, but I was afraid they'd stop if I went to get the camera.

One interesting thing happpened -- and I don't think I was over-interpreting their behavior -- but Pepper got a little tired on one of the rounds and took refuge behind me.  When Ginger pursued, Sam gently moved between the two dogs as if he were protecting Pepper.  Maybe he was protecting me, but it seemed like he was protecting Pepper -- which is very interesting since he generally seems to regard her as a bratty little sister.  Pepper has recently taken to gently licking his face and ears and paws and I think it may have formed a bond between them.

The second good dog thing is that my copy of "Life is Good" by Trixie Koontz arrived.  Trixie was a golden retriever who lived with the writer Dean Koontz.  She wrote this book because, as she described it, she is unhappy for about a minute and a half each day -- for thirty seconds after her food bowl is emptied three times a day.  Humans, she observed, seem to be unhappy for a much larger portion of the day.  So, she shares her doggy wisdom about joyful living.  I haven't read it all the way through yet, but here's a representative sampling:

"The poet Homer (not a dog) wrote 'Sleep is the twin of death.'  Get me a blue doodoo bag.  That Homer stuff is a pile of poop.  Sleep is just life slowed down.  So you can rest.  So you can dream about bacon.  And chicken.  And sausage.  And cantalope.  And peanut butter.  And about buying a fancy convertible and driving around the U.S.A., pee-marking territory till it's all mine."

"Water is restful.  Swim in water. Play in water.  Never pee in water.  Only fish pee in water.  Fish have excuse, are never out of water and are very dumb.  No offense to fish, but is true.  No fish ever wrote book like this.  Lassie saved Timmy every time he fall down well.  No fish ever saved Timmy or ever could."

Life with dogs is good.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Summer Sunday Morning

Today I feel like I have a lot of blessings.  First and foremost, Sam is still getting along okay.  He's not showing any acute signs of disease -- he just seems to eat less and less every day and he's getting boney.

This morning after my meditation I felt led to take my coffee out to the new patio.  I let Charlie out in the exercise pen and Sam and I enjoyed the morning air.  There's a young rabbit who frequents our crabapple tree and eats the fallen apples and it was out there investigating the planter and chairs under the tree.  I wonder if I could tame it like Annette has tamed Pip but, with the dogs around, I don't think I'll get a chance.

Sam was alert to the rabbit and watched it carefully, but he didn't really get preturbed until a lousy chipmunk came down the hill.  That was simply too much and he took off up the hill after it ... almost as fast as he did in younger days.  After running the chipmunk underground, he sniffed around on top of the hill and then decided to take a tour of the neighborhood.  Ever since we've had patio and drainage construction, the invisible fence has been torn up and non-functional, so Sam -- who usually stays close to home without the fence -- was free to roam.  I saw him sauntering around the neighbor's yard and then lope out to their front yard.  I followed him there and he knew he was busted and came home.  It's good to see that he still has some life and adventure in him.

Another joy was seeing Charlie binky all around the exercise pen.  He hasn't been out in a few days and he was thrilled with the opportunity.  One reason he hasn't been out is that last time he discovered a way out of the exercise pen and went on a romp of his own.  I wasn't sure how he was doing it, but I watched him this morning and I think I blocked up his escape route.

Yesterday was peach day.  We've been overrun by fruit flies, so I decided to cook up all the peaches we had and get them out of the kitchen.  I made peach jam and peach cobbler and both are delicious.  Die, fruit flies, die!!!

Three tips for making peach jam.

  • First, put the peaches in boiling water for minute and then allow them to cool a little before peeling them.  You're going to cook them anyway, so it doesn't matter if they cook a little. The peels will come right off with very little effort.  
  • Second, use a melon baller to remove the bits of coarse fiber that are right next to the pit.  I've never seen this suggested before, but I thought of it yesterday and it worked like a charm.  It's probably an old trick, but I prefer to think I'm a genius.  
  • Third, mix the pectin with 1/4 cup of sugar before adding it.  This will prevent it from blobbing up or making little gummy balls.  

I like jam with a strong flavor, so instead of the four cups of peaches the recipe required, I started with six cups and cooked it down into four cups before adding the pectin.

The results of my peach jam experiments have been very satisfying.  I think I may try some other jams and/or jellies.   

Monday, August 5, 2013

Home Comforts

Today's good thing is my velvety full length teal bathrobe.  I love the color and the soft velvet of it. It's not too bulky but it's cuddley.

This weekend we made peach jam, just like my Mom used to.  Kate bought a bunch of lovely peaches at the farmer's market on Thursday and on Saturday she helped me peel and prepare them.  We ended up with seven and a half 8 oz. jars of luscious peach jam.  It has been a long, long time since I had made any jam and I was afraid it either wouldn't jell or it wouldn't taste like anything -- but it turned out beautifully and was delicious!!!  We've already eaten one jar!

Thursday, August 1, 2013


Today's good thing was brought to my attention by a friend's facebook post.  She works at Chase Law School and posted a group picture of the graduating class of 1921 with the following observation:  When the two women pictured above started law school in 1919, it was illegal for them to vote.  Imagine that!  

What extraordinary women they must have been.  I wonder if they were supported by their families -- they certainly weren't supported by their culture.  I wonder what their friends thought.  They took the bold step of studying for the legal profession and yet they were forbidden to take part in the political process. And this was less than 100 years ago.

I remember learning about the fight for women's sufferage when I was a teenager and eagerly asking my grandmother, who lived through it, what it was like.  The answer was disappointing.  She didn't really pay attention to things like that.  She was more interested in nail polish and romance novels.  I expect there are a lot of women like her -- then and now. 

I'm hardly an activist myself.  I think politics is a dirty dirty business and I stay as far away from it as I can.  It's hard to support any politician when you make the assumption that ALL of them are lying to you and are ultimately working for their own interests.  

At heart, I'm a Libertarian.  I don't want anyone to tell me what to do and I don't want to control anyone else.  Live and let live as long as you don't hurt anyone else.  Government regulation and the tax code have become tyrants that overshadow everyone's lives.  Government surveillance and misinformation remind me, shockingly, of what I was brought up to believe were the characteristics of the Soviet Union during the cold war.  

So, I guess I do have strong feelings about politics.  Maybe I need to be more like the women pictured above and act on my beliefs.