July 21, 2015

  • Not Much

    Life has been mostly quiet and mostly slow the past couple of weeks. I am grateful for that because I've been miserable with joint pain. It's been so hot and humid, with pop-up thunder and lightning storms; perfect weather for arthritis flare-ups. I've  been moving slowly or not at all, reading a lot of books, taking pain pills, napping, icing my knees, falling asleep with the heating pad under my back (no lectures, please -- I got one with automatic shut-off so I could fall asleep without worrying), picking raspberries and running errands when I could, making jam, writing letters, doing laundry... my usual boring life. I like having a boring life; the times life has gotten exciting has almost always involved stress, expenses, property damage and health issues.

    Today wasn't as hot or humid and it didn't rain, so I am feeling better. No pain pills were needed at all today -- not even a Tylenol! I was able to get out and run some errands without moaning and groaning every time I got in or out of the van. This is a vast improvement. Now if I could just stop clenching my teeth... I realized I'd started doing that again when my molars started hurting on one side. I'm making a conscious effort to stop, but I usually only think about it when those teeth start hurting because I'm doing it again. Sigh. It's not as annoying as the eye twitch I usually get when I'm feeling stressed, so I've got that going for me.

    Tuesday night my cousin is flying in from California. I've been trying to prepare for her visit and I mostly just need to do a little sweeping and dusting to finish up. I haven't stressed out too much about the house because on Wednesday morning my cousin and I are leaving for Washington Island, Wisconsin to visit another cousin for a few days. This will involve driving my van onto a ferry which will be a new and somewhat frightening experience for me. I want to come home the long way, across the Upper Peninsula and the Straits of Mackinac which will involve driving across the Mackinac bridge - another frightening prospect. But I'm still working on facing my fears and trying to overcome them... at least in the moment. If we make good time across the U.P., we might stay overnight in Traverse City. If the bridge completely unnerves me, we might stop in Mackinaw City. I just hope we don't poop out somewhere in the middle of the wilderness of the U.P. My knowledge of the U.P. is based solely on the movie Escanaba In Da Moonlight and the stage play Escanaba In Love both written by actor Jeff Daniels. I have a feeling the reality might be a little more normal (but I hope not too normal).

    Joyouswind has been taking two accelerated classes online this summer through Ball State University. They are the first of ten classes (I think) she needs to complete her second Master's Degree. She took the final exams last weekend and she got an A in both classes. Woohoo! Proud mama here!

    Boo has been a naughty dog twice in the past week, above and beyond his usual obnoxiousness. I tell him to go to time out and he picks up a toy and saunters into his kennel. I put a blanket over his kennel for a few minutes and he doesn't make a sound. When I pull the blanket off the kennel, he's sprawled out with his toy taking a nap. When I unlock the kennel, he shoots me a look, stretches and lays back down refusing to come out. The dog has an abundance of attitude to make up for his lack of remorse. He's also taken to going out of his way to sneeze on my feet. I suppose I shouldn't be complaining at his summer misbehavior and just be grateful the long winter is over and I don't have to shove my feet into snow boots and tramp through three feet of snow in my nightgown to fetch him from the middle of the yard at 2 AM because he refuses to come inside and go to bed. I know those nights will be back in a few months and I'm not looking forward to them.

    I got to use my field guide to mushrooms the other day. Brett found a weird looking, slimy yellow mushroom growing under the pine tree in our yard. The underside was spongy looking instead of ribbed. It was a Chicken Fat Mushroom (also known as American Slippery Jack, scientific name Suillus Americanus) which only grows under Eastern White Pine trees.

    chicken fat mushroom

    I found this photo online. The one in our yard was slimier, more yellow, and had big brown moldy looking spots on it. Very icky looking, but not as nasty as the stinkhorn mushroom I found in our yard one summer.

    So that's been my life lately. I probably won't take my laptop with me to the island since there's not much in the way of internet or cell phone coverage there. The only reason I'm even thinking about it is so I can upload photos from my camera while I'm there. I don't think it will be worth the bother.

    Be good, peeps; I'll catch up with you in a week or so.

July 7, 2015

  • Friends, Fireworks, Sunsets & Stuff

    It's a rainy morning and I had a hard time falling asleep last night, so I'm being lazy for a few minutes, sitting on the couch eating a homemade cherry poptart and poking around on Facebook and Xanga. I suppose I can catch you up on the holiday weekend, even though Bookmark61 has already posted his sunset photos and murisopsis has posted her fireworks photos. Who can ever get enough of sunsets and fireworks?

    Our party went well. We made it a geocaching event, so there were a few people there whom we didn't know. They all seemed to have a good time and several of them went off at some point and grabbed a few of the caches around the village. I had been on my feet all day and I was in a lot of pain with my feet and my back. I sneaked off when nobody was looking and went upstairs to lie down for a few minutes, then changed into long pants because the evening had cooled off quite a bit. As I was coming back downstairs, one of my knees decided it was going to suddenly join my feet and back in the pain party, so I stopped in the kitchen and took a pain pill before going back out to my guests. That's probably why I forgot about the door prizes. Oops. That's okay... the geocaching ones will be easy to use or give away and the others have been packed away with the rest of the party stuff.

    We set up our yard the same way every July 3rd. Three tables across the front of the house to hold the potluck dishes, two tables along the driveway to hold buns, condiments, plates, cups, tableware, napkins, and a five gallon cooler of ice water. A child's plastic wading pool nearby filled with cans of pop and lots of ice. A roof-sized tarp strung up at the corner of the house to keep sun, rain and ants off guests who don't like those things falling on them. Lights and decorations and lawn chairs scattered around the front yard. The side lot is for parking and volleyball. Putting up and taking down the volleyball net is a major project. The backyard is set up for croquet and there are little wooden quart-sized containers left next to the raspberry patch in case anyone wants to pick berries to take home with them. I deliberately didn't pick on Thursday or Friday so there would be plenty of berries for our guests.

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    Around 10:00 PM we start handing out glow necklaces to all our guests and somewhere around 10:30 the fireworks show begins. I was using a new camera this year and had to figure out the timing for the fireworks shots. This camera is faster than my old one, so the first few shots were just to learn the timing. Here are a few of my favorite fireworks photos from this year's show:

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    And then there was the finale, where the booms were so loud they pounded through my chest. I love that feeling when it's fireworks or drums. Not so much any other thing I can think of.

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    There's an American flag in fireworks that ends the show every year. It's one that is not shot into the air, but along wires strung between two poles at the far end of the field. I remember standing in the street to see it one year. I haven't bothered since, but once the flag explodes into being and fades away, the show is over. There is a huge, drunken roar from the thousands of people on the field and in yards throughout the village and then the big exodus begins, moving several thousand vehicles out of a village of 800 or so residents. It takes a while, but not as long as the more popular show at Silver Beach on the 4th. You might have heard about that one this year. If not, CLICK THIS LINK to read about it.

    On Saturday, Brett and I worked to get all the party stuff taken down and put away. Well, most of the decorations. We left the tarp and the lights and decorations up for one more day, but there were plenty of things that needed to be put away. Brett worked outside all day and I worked inside, taking care of leftover food and emptying and repacking the storage boxes. We were both so exhausted we kept falling asleep every time we sat down, so it was slow going. Luckily, we still had another day to finish the work and we weren't in a big rush to get it done anyway. That evening we decided to go out and watch the sunset. Since our usual places for sunset watching (the bluff above the lake, and the piers at Silver Beach and Tiscornia Beach) would be packed with people waiting for the St. Joseph fireworks show to start, we went to a quiet little beach overlook in Stevensville called Glenlord Beach Park. The bluff has eroded there and the beach is no longer safely accessible, so they built a wooden viewing platform. We discovered that just standing at the picket fence blocking access to the steep descent to the beach gave us the best view of the sunset. There was a haze on the horizon, so the sunset was kind of a dud, but it was a mostly peaceful few moments as we watched boats headed south away from the masses of humanity...

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    ... or north to watch the fireworks from the water.

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    I could hear a lot of noise, muted by distance, from the direction of Silver Beach and commented that the crowds were getting rowdy in St. Joe. Little did I know! I found out the next day just how rowdy it got and I am so grateful we learned after one attempt years ago to avoid St. Joseph on the 4th of July.

    We stayed at Glenlord Beach long enough to watch the sun disappear into the haze.

    DSC00491Going...

    DSC00492Going...

    DSC00493Gone.

    Then we went home and ate leftover hamburgers and ice cream. Sunday was spent finishing up the party cleanup. We were still exhausted, but both of us managed to stay awake most of the day. We're almost recovered now. Yesterday I returned the tables we rented and Brett hauled the party boxes down to the basement, so our 24th Annual 3rd of July Party is officially over.

    And life goes on; a little older,  a little wearier, hopefully a little wiser, and our "Avoid St. Joseph on the 4th of July" rule of thumb bolstered.

July 1, 2015

  • 100 Things That Make Me Happy

    1. A sunny day
    2. A cool breeze
    3. Hanging out with my daughter 

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    4. Dogs
    5. All my nieces and nephews
    6. A field of flowers 

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    7. Deciding how to spend an amazon.com gift card
    8. Classic rock from the 70s
    9. Reflections in water

    #4 Peaceful

    10. Finding a real letter in my mailbox
    11. Homemade jam
    12. Lighthouses

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    13. A mocha moolatte from Dairy Queen
    14. National parks
    15. A road trip with my husband

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    16. The smell of Johnson’s Baby Lotion
    17. A funny movie
    18. My mother’s smile

    Mom

    19. A good mystery novel
    20. Geocaching
    21. A dirty car

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    22. Freshly shampooed hair
    23. French Impressionist paintings
    24. GeoWoodstock

    with The Jester and The Blooming Idiot

    25. Blues guitar
    26. A good pair of sneakers
    27. Kitschy roadside attractions

    gemini giant

    28. A good night’s sleep
    29. Air conditioning
    30. A beautiful sunset

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    31. Warm chocolate chip cookies
    32. Christmas cards
    33. Gerbera daisies

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    34. Hot tubs
    35. Fireflies
    36. Fruit that grows in our backyard

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    37. Double canasta
    38. Spaghetti
    39. Mountains

    Sonora Pass

    40. A clear night
    41. 3-ply toilet paper
    42. Old family photos

    Oz Mount family

    43. Getting a package in the mail
    44. The African Queen
    45. Memories of Sunday drives with my dad

    Pikes Peak

    46. Dimples
    47. Lactose free milk
    48. My mom's peace rose

    6.9 peace rose

    49. Bubbles
    50. Baby giggles
    51. Covered bridges

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    52. Waterproof hiking boots
    53. Hot pink toenails
    54.   Professional fireworks

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    55. Books by J.R.R. Tolkien
    56. Giving gifts
    57.   Wine & Canvas

    4.11.15 W&C

    58. Stores with creaky wooden floors
    59. Taking off my bra at the end of the day
    60. Walking in woods

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    61. George Clooney
    62. A full gas tank
    63. My mother’s poems

    Mom book cover

    64. A day spent with a friend
    65. James Burke
    66. Round barns

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    67. Facing a fear (and surviving)
    68. Free books on Kindle
    69. Old cemeteries

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    70. Unexpected adventures
    71. The Princess Bride
    72. Pathtags

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    73. My husband’s compassion
    74. Boo’s excitement over a new toy
    75. Green leaves against a blue sky

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    76. Things that glow in the dark
    77. Farmland
    78. My Panama Jack bicycle

    713 bike

    79. Red pears, white flesh peaches, red seedless grapes
    80. Crossing things off my to-do list
    81. Silly selfies

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    82. $40 in my wallet
    83. Strawberry shortcake
    84. Autumn

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    85. Garden fresh tomatoes
    86. Glow sticks
    87. Tree fungus

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    88. Seeing my van at the end of a hike
    89. GPS technology
    90. Seeing my daughter shine

    Singin' In the Rain 2

    91. Escape the room games
    92. Homemade bread
    93. Route 66

    Rt 66 KS

    94. Lava lamps
    95. Vintage Mason jars
    96. That feeling when I know I just took a perfect photo

    #6 Footprints

    97. Reading my old blog posts
    98. Messiah sing-alongs

    99. Old buildings

    Bodie

    100. How easy it was to come up with 100 things that make me happy

    What makes you happy?

June 26, 2015

  • A Little Life Catchup

    It's been a busy summer and I haven't had the time to blog about what I've been up to lately. Not that it's all that interesting, but I start feeling bad when I let my blog sit fallow for too long. So, here's a little bit of what I've been doing.

    Watching joyouswind's dance recital.

    Singin' In the Rain 2

    She's singin' in the rain here.

    Geocaching with Bookmark61.

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    A little woods therapy was just what I needed.

    Watching things grow in my backyard.

    6.9 clematis

    6.9 tea rose

    6.9 peace rose

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    Getting ready for a geocaching event.

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    Tomorrow is our geocaching group's Where's Waldo themed event at a local botanical garden. This is a peek at Old Dog Sparky's cache called Woof Tails. I predict it will be the favorite of the series.

    Avoiding storms.

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    This happens a lot. A huge storm system will be barreling straight toward us. It hits the air currents around the lake and either veers around us to the north or south, or, as in this case, splits apart and loops around us on both sides. Sometimes the lake fails to divert the storm systems, but I'd estimate about 2/3 of the time we miss the worst of the storms.

    And that's it, other than the usual laundry, shopping, cooking, making jam, writing letters, etc. I've also been making a few preparations for our annual party next Friday. And getting ready for a day of geocaching with murisopsis on Monday. And sorting through old family photos. And... well, let's just leave it at that. I've been busy.

June 21, 2015

  • Aunt Vivian

    My Aunt Vivian died last week. She was 91 years old and had been living in a nursing home for the past ten years or so. I know what you're thinking: "She lived a long life," or "She lived a full life," or something like that. Yes, she lived a long life and she was one of those people who always looked for the blessings in each day instead of the difficulties. And she had difficulties.

    Vivian 1940s

    When you look at this photo of her in her early twenties, you see a beautiful, stylish young woman. What you can't see is the fact that she could not walk without those high heel shoes. She survived polio as a teenager, and shortly after that the tendons in the backs of her legs began "drawing up," making it impossible for her to put her heels on the floor. Women's fashion became her means of remaining on her feet. Though born into poverty, she got a good job while still in high school, married well, and by the time she was 30 years old she was a widow with a teenaged stepson and a baby daughter. A few years later, in the mid-1950s, the mystery of her leg ailment was finally solved when she was diagnosed with Limb Girdle Muscular Dystrophy. She was told she would be in a wheelchair within five years, and dead within ten years. It took fifty years and a broken leg to put her in a wheelchair, and her death came sixty years after it was predicted.

    I've had several mother figures at different times in my life. I've always had a good relationship with my mom, but there were other women willing to step in and be a mom when mine wasn't available. When I was a kid, Edith Simpson was my second mom. She would correct bad behavior, put a Bandaid on my cuts and scrapes, dole out hugs as needed, and generally treat me as if I were her own daughter.

    When I was a teenager, it was Aunt Wilma who filled the "other mother" role. For a while, she lived on the other side of the small Arkansas town where I graduated from high school. Aunt Wilma was my mom's sister, and was married to Uncle Jerry, my dad's brother. Their four children were my double-first cousins. Mom and Aunt Wilma never knew which kids to expect under their roofs and at their dinner tables; there was always some combination of their own children and their sister's children and they both treated all of us like their own kids, for good and sometimes not so good. We were all spoiled, disciplined, and given chores no matter whose house we were in.

    From my mid-twenties to early thirties, Aunt Vivian was my second mother. My husband was in the Navy and the submarine on which he was stationed was in dry dock at Mare Island Naval Shipyard in Vallejo, California. Aunt Vivian lived in Sonora, California, about a four hour drive across the San Joaquin Valley and into the Sierra Nevada mountains. We spent weekends there when we could. We ate Thanksgiving dinner at Aunt Vivian's table and that's when I learned that my Great-Aunt Isabel was a prayer warrior who prayed for everyone she ever knew and every missionary she'd ever heard of while the delectable aroma of roasted turkey slowly faded and the meal got cold. Aunt Isabel, bless her sweet soul, passed away a year or so ago at over 100 years old. She was a prayer warrior to the very end. Aunt Vivian was a prayer warrior, too, but she also like her meals hot, so she exercised a bit more brevity when she said grace.

    While she was being a mother to me, Aunt Vivian was also being a grandmother to my daughter. Krysten had been born in Hawaii and spent her first six years of life either there or in California, far away from her Texas and Arkansas grandparents. Aunt Vivian filled that gap in her life. In fact, she often referred to her in conversation as her "grandma Aunt Vivian." Krysten lost her first tooth at Aunt Vivian's house and built her first snowman in Aunt Vivian's yard.

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    One of the most important lessons Aunt Vivian ever taught me occurred when I was in high school. My cousin had died suddenly at age 16, only nine months after her 12-year-old sister died suddenly. These were Aunt Wilma and Uncle Jerry's daughters - my double first cousins. As the family gathered again in disbelief to bury another child, some of us cousins went out with the surviving brothers to drive around. Back then, teenagers "cruised Grand," driving aimlessly up and down Grand Ave. in Fort Smith. Aunt Vivian decided to come along and we all crammed into the car. I was in the backseat and Aunt Vivian was beside me. As my cousin Mike drove through a park, one of his friends flagged him down and started talking about how "fucked up" it was that Mike had lost his sisters. As the conversation progressed with the f-bomb being liberally dropped in every sentence, I started squirming uncomfortably. He was using the "F" word in front of AUNT VIVIAN!!! It was like using it in front of a nun, or worse, your mother!! None of us cousins would have dared use that language in Aunt Vivian's hearing, and rightly so; she probably wouldn't have thumped us over the head with her Bible, but she would have lectured us and told our moms and we'd have ended up eating soap. I finally cleared my throat so Mike's friend would look into the backseat and see our very religious aunt sitting there. He did, and he apologized. The conversation ended and Mike drove on. I was mortified that Aunt Vivian's innocent ears had heard such words (forgetting she'd grown up on farms and migrant camps and actually been a teenager once upon a time), but Aunt Vivian patted my knee and said, "He was expressing love in the only way he knew how." That lesson has stuck with me for the past 40 years. Sometimes we need to pay more attention to what's coming out of a person's heart than the clumsy words that pour out of his mouth.

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    Aunt Vivian and my mom were particularly close. As Alzheimer's disease progressed in my mom, Aunt Vivian missed their prolific letter writing and many phone calls. Her daughter tried to explain to her, but she never really understood why Mom stopped writing to her. Now, my mom and her youngest brother are the last of eight siblings, three of whom died in the past eighteen months.

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    The hardest part of growing older is watching an entire generation of my family disappear. Aunt Vivian will be sorely missed, as is Aunt Wilma, Aunt Jeanne, Uncle Leonard, Uncle Roland, Aunt Margie, Aunt Pat, Uncle Lou, my dad, and all the others who went before them.

June 13, 2015

  • The Curse of the Giant Hogweed

    I have a certain route I like to take when I walk Boo (my dog). We go down the grassy alley behind our house, across the field at the end of the alley, through a pine grove, across the corner of a meadow, into the woods and, when it's not too overgrown, down a tiny path to the creek bank, along the creek for a few yards and back up the bank on a less overgrown but much steeper path. And then we do all of that in reverse. I posted photos from our usual walk a couple of years ago in THIS POST.

    The title of this post is the title of a book I read many years ago by the much missed Charlotte MacLeod. That book was the first time I'd ever heard of giant hogweed, and even then I thought the author had made it up. Giant hogweed is native to central Asia, but was imported into Australia, the UK, and North America in the early 1900s as an ornamental plant for gardens and arboretums. It was valued for it's majestic size; its height is between 7 and 14 feet tall (depending on growth stage and growing conditions)  and its leaves can reach 5 feet across. The flowers look like Queen Anne's lace, but much larger; a cluster of flowers can grow to 2.5 feet across. The leaves are coated with a highly toxic sap that can cause horrific blisters resulting in permanent scarring. If the sap gets into your eyes, you may go blind. Reactions to the sap can take up to 48 hours to appear and are triggered by exposure to sunlight. I won't post any of the photos of the blisters, but you can Google it if you want to see what this plant can do to you.

    I'm sure you can see where this post is going. A couple of weeks ago, I took Boo on our regular walking route into the woods. As we entered the woods from the corner of the meadow, I immediately noticed some really tall plants with huge leaves a few yards off the path. Somebody had just posted photos of giant hogweed on Facebook a few days previously, asking if anyone knew what the plant was, so that's where my mind went on my first sight of the plants. As we walked a little way further along the path, I noticed more plants growing closer to the path. I only had my cell phone with me and snapped a couple of photos with it. I kept Boo on a short leash until we were out of that section of woods and I couldn't see anymore of the big plants.

    I did a little research when I got home, with those photos as a guide, and was undecided whether I was looking at the highly toxic giant hogweed or the harmless cow parsnip, so the next day I took Boo for another walk and took my camera along to get some better photos. This time I noticed several places next to the path where "small" plants (about three or four feet tall) were growing. They were obviously going to be very large plants; the stalks had a diameter of approximately two inches and the leaves were already quite big and had the distinctive deeply lobed, irregular edges. While I still wasn't sure about the large flowering plants, I was pretty certain the smaller ones were young giant hogweed. When Boo and I got home, I downloaded the photos and transferred them to a flash drive which I took to the village clerk's office.

    As I walked in, I was wondering how on earth I was going to start a conversation about something that sounds as ridiculous as giant hogweed, especially if the clerk had never heard of it. I lucked out, though; both the clerk and the treasurer had heard of it. In fact, I was immediately told that it had never been reported in our county. That's a natural reaction to hearing that a dangerous invasive plant may have landed in your tiny village. Nobody wants to be the first to report something like that. But if you read the post I linked above, you know that there are ATV/dirt bike/BMX/gocart trails through those woods. Kids build forts in those woods, and I expect teenagers get up to normal teenage naughtiness in those woods. I even have a couple of geocaches hidden in those woods. While Boo and I rarely meet anybody in our rambles through the woods, the signs of activity are everywhere. I could see that realization hit the two ladies in the office even as the denial was coming out of their mouths. I left the flash drive with them, along with a description of the area where the photos had been taken, and suggested they might want to have somebody look at the photos or go into the woods and look at the plants.

    This morning, the village Facebook page had this announcement:

    "ATTENTION Baroda area residents! Giant hogweed has been confirmed in Baroda. It is extremely important that you familiarize yourself with this very toxic and extremely dangerous plant. The plants that have been found have been removed and the area sprayed. If you think you have any in your area, keep children and pets clear of it."

    They added a video that showed what it looked like and explained what to do if you find a suspicious plant. It appears that Boo and I were the first to spot and report the giant hogweed that has invaded The 'Duh; indeed, the first to report it in our county. According to the Michigan Department of Agriculture website, only 2% of reported sightings are actually giant hogweed - another reason I'd almost convinced myself I was seeing cow parsnip. I feel like I have super-vision, but the reality is that others probably saw that plant in the woods and didn't think a thing about it. I was primed to recognize it by a fortuitous Facebook post.

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June 11, 2015

  • My week so far...

    My cousin’s wife and daughter have been visiting China and their photos and videos of people doing tai chi were making me feel guilty. I haven’t done tai chi in several weeks. So on Wednesday night, since it was a rare day in which I had more energy than usual and my joints weren’t causing me pain, and since I had a few minutes before I needed to get ready to go to my water aerobics class, and since we’d eaten southern food for supper (everything brown and smothered in gravy), I decided I could use the extra exercise and went into the big room upstairs and started doing tai chi. It was as I was bent over to “pick up needle at sea bottom” that I noticed it; a yellow stain on the light blue carpet we’ve managed to keep remarkably clean for the past eight years. I paused and looked over at Boo. “What is this?” I asked. Boo turned his head away and pretended he couldn’t hear me. I thought back to a couple of mornings previously when I was awakened by Boo crying and scratching at the bedroom door. He’d managed to push open the door at the top of the stairs, but the bedroom door had swung shut and latched and he couldn’t get it open and there was thunder outside and he was SCARED!!! I got up and let him in, he laid down on the floor next to my side of the bed and we both went back to sleep. I decided I could forgive Boo an accident caused by fear and let it go.

    This morning I filled a bowl with soapy water, grabbed a scrub brush and some odor eliminator and went up to clean the stain out of the carpet. As I was sitting on the floor scrubbing away, I couldn’t help but notice that the carpet was in dire need of vacuuming. Once the stain was taken care of, I covered the wet spot with a washcloth, turned on the track lights so I could see better and started vacuuming. That’s when I discovered three more yellow stains on the carpet. (We really need to turn on the lights up there more often.) They were all small stains. I guess Boo was scared and running around in that room for a while before he woke me. So that’s how I started my day. Wahoo! It could have been worse, though; much worse.  (But then I probably would have noticed it sooner.)

    Monday afternoon I stopped at a farm stand and bought a flat of strawberries. Brett helped me get them prepped and on Tuesday morning I started making jam. I was so hot I had to keep drying my face with a towel and I was stepping outside in the 80 degree heat to cool off. I made two batches of jam that day and everything I wore was soaking wet by the time I was finished for the day. On Wednesday I made two more batches of jam. I didn’t get as hot that day. I ended up with 18-1/2 pints of jam. The extra half-pint was not quite full, so it went straight into the fridge.

    Today I went out to check on our little strawberry patch. We’ve had terrible luck with it over the years. The evil, thieving bunnies keep eating the strawberries as soon as they get ripe enough to pick. Brett has put up different kinds of borders trying to keep the bunnies at bay, but nothing has worked very well. So this year we decided to try a new tactic in the ongoing bunny war.

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    That’s 20 strawberries in the basket! I don’t think we’ve ever gotten more than six at a time. It’s not 100% effective; some of the berries had been nibbled by bunny teeth. But it’s a start.

    What else have I been up to? Not much; just getting older. I took both my pairs of glasses in to be adjusted today. Neither of them has been comfortable. In fact, the pair that is usually comfortable has been downright painful lately, pinching the bridge of my nose and causing a red knot on one side. The lady who adjusted them has been taking care of my new orders and adjustments for years and she said that sometimes it’s just that we’re getting older and our skin is more sensitive to the pressure. I really didn’t need to hear that when I’m just four days into a new age number. Bah! Humbug! Who needs to see, anyway? Stupid glasses. Stupid birthdays. Stupid nose.

    Friday night, Brett and I are doing Wine & Canvas. I keep thinking that maybe this time I won’t have to drive and can actually do the Wine part of Wine & Canvas. That would be fun! I’m also hoping to find time to get a pedicure on Friday. I’ve been trying all week, but… jam…

    So that’s my week. I complain about getting older and my stupid glasses hurting my stupid nose, but I’ve been very grateful this week that my joints have not been too painful. I’ve had issues with various fingers and one wrist throughout the week, however none of those lasted more than a day or so at a time. My knees, ankles, feet and shoulders have been relatively pain-free. This is a huge blessing; I was popping Tramadol like candy for a while there, but I haven’t needed to take one so far this week.

     

June 8, 2015

  • Crossing a Line

    I know I said I was going to celebrate every single one of my years on my birthday, but I suddenly realized that today I am officially closer to age 60 than I am to age 50. It’s a sobering thought. I never thought of 56 as being any kind of milestone birthday, but here I was getting all depressed about crossing an age marker. So, I pulled up last year’s Birthday List and it cheered me up. I also ate birthday cake for breakfast (because calories don’t count on your birthday), and that cheered me up, too.

    On Friday I got a birthday card from my mother-in-law that made me laugh.

    BD card

    I laughed even harder when my husband came home from work looking bummed and gave me this.

    BD cake

    Even though I shamelessly ate birthday cake for breakfast, I’d like to think I’m more like the cake than the cat; battered by circumstances, but still with something good to offer. In that spirit, here is my annual birthday list of good advice, lessons learned, and things to work on, with something new added for this year. Read, enjoy, and most importantly, learn from your elder who has paved the way for you!

    1. Start eating healthy while you’re still healthy.
    2. Start wearing sensible shoes before your feet, knees and back get bad.
    3. Dye your hair the color you always wished it was.
    4. Drive with the windows down and don’t worry about your hair getting messy.
    5. Take that road trip you’ve always dreamed of.
    6. Learn a craft or develop a hobby that will engage you when you’re bored.
    7. Keep in touch with aunts, uncles and cousins, no matter how busy your life becomes.
    8. Get off the interstate and take the back roads.
    9. Stop hiding from the camera.
    10. Adopt a pet from an animal shelter.
    11. Learn how to cook three things really well.
    12. Do volunteer work, even if it’s only an hour a week.
    13. Get all those digital photos printed.
    14. Write letters using paper, stamps and envelopes.
    15. Do something that frightens you.
    16. Make a conscious effort to smile at people.
    17. Walk with confidence.
    18. Look for moments of beauty, joy and gratitude each day.
    19. Keep a journal, even if it’s boring.
    20. Appreciate a boring life; excitement is usually related to disaster.
    21. Think before you speak.
    22. Think before you blog.
    23. Think before you post those photos online.
    24. Never, ever send naked photos to anyone. Never…  Anyone.
    25. Reuse what you can.
    26. Recycle what you can’t reuse.
    27. Send postcards to your friends when you travel.
    28. Act silly in public.
    29. Take selfies with children; you will be the coolest grownup in the room.
    30. Walk in the woods.
    31. Stargaze.
    32. Mail funny birthday cards to your friends when it’s not their birthday.
    33. Call your mother.
    34. Listen when your parents or grandparents tell you stories about their lives.
    35. Learn to play an instrument.
    36. Taste new foods.
    37. Retry foods you didn’t like when you were a kid.
    38. Sing Christmas carols in June.
    39. Buy yourself flowers for no particular reason.
    40. Always keep a road atlas in your vehicle.
    41. When you get lost, make it an adventure.
    42. Learn to be alone without being lonely.
    43. Sing in the shower.
    44. Sing in the car.
    45. Dance when the spirit moves you.
    46. A good mattress is one of the best investments you can make.
    47. Paint your toenails an outrageous color.
    48. Watch as many sunsets as you can.
    49. Play in the rain.
    50. Eat chocolate without guilt.
    51. Go to a movie at a drive-in theater. (Take lots of bug spray.)
    52. Wear earplugs at concerts. You’ll thank me later.
    53. Keep your cookie jar filled at all times.
    54. Always keep Bandaids and ice packs on hand.
    55. Look for the good in people.
    56. You are allowed to eat cake for breakfast on your birthday.

June 5, 2015

  • That time of year

    The other night I was reading an article about the king and queen of the Netherlands visiting Grand Rapids, Michigan. I was scrolling through the pictures that were posted with the online article and realized I was crying. I told myself it must have been the photos of the children in the oncology wing of the children's hospital the royal couple visited that made me feel so sad. I closed the article, pulled myself together and, feeling bored, clicked a link on my Facebook feed to a YouTube video. As I watched the video, I realized I was crying again. There were no sick children in the video; there was nothing sad in the video at all. And that's when it hit me - it's that time of year.

    June and July are hard months to get through. Even when I'm not actively thinking about what month it is and why it makes me sad, the sorrow is lurking inside like a locust, ready to claw its way to daylight for no other reason than that nature has ordained that this is the day, the month, the time of year. Nature is a bitch.

    Aging... disease... death... all are part of nature. There is joy during this time of year, too, but the sorrow gets me whenever I'm not actively engaged in the happy moments. I spend the majority of my days alone, which usually doesn't bother me. I'm comfortable with solitude - I even like it most of the time. But on a quiet day in June when I'm not keeping myself busy, BAM! I think of my mom and how her birthday is... today, actually... and how it's no longer a day for sending flowers and making happy phone calls. Now it's a huge mixed bag of emotions and gifts carefully chosen for their usefulness. Scrub shirts with big pockets, elastic waist pants, socks because she's always losing them even though her name is on each one. (Shoot! I forgot to buy her socks for her birthday!) I sent her two cards. She'll forget about them both within minutes, but that will be two happy little moments in her day. She'll recognize my name when the cards are read to her, but she probably won't be able to remember  my face, or the fact that I'm her daughter. I stole a photo off my sister's Facebook page. She took a cake to the nursing home that was so big it fed all of the residents AND all of the staff. My sister is awesome like that. I just hope Mom didn't notice the number that wasn't a 3. It's an 8, and even though she  told me on one of my visits that she was going to live to be two or three thousand years old, I don't think she would be very accepting of the number 83.

    6.5.15 Mom BD

    Tied up with the mingled joy and sadness of Mom's birthday are feelings of anger and guilt I have toward my dad. The guilt is because of the anger. Because I know when I called eight years ago to wish Mom a happy birthday, Dad didn't realize it was her birthday. I know he didn't purposely choose her birthday to announce to the family that he was no longer going to eat anything and hopefully he'd be dead in two or three days. That was how he greeted me on the phone. I know he was in pain, he knew he was dying, we all knew he was dying and we understood that life had become a burden in his diseased body. For eight years, I've lived with the guilt of being angry with my dying father for choosing that day to decide to hasten death. He lived another 20 days...

    ... which leads me to the anniversary I always try to forget and the grief of losing my beloved dad. I wrote a letter to a friend a few years ago after she lost a family member. I typed that letter and saved it as a private post before mailing it because I thought it might be a good thing for me to look back on when the grief blindsides me late at night, so I pulled it up the other night when the realization hit that it was June 1st and that's why I was crying. As I reread the letter, I nodded my head. "Yep... mmhm... oh yeah... I hit that nail on the head... " Everything I wrote about what to expect in the days, weeks, months and years to come was still relevant and, while I could probably add a few paragraphs to what I wrote then, there's really no need to expound further. Grief is part of nature, and nature is a bitch.

    In the next month, there will be Father's Day, when Krysten and I will happily celebrate Brett for the awesome father he is and I will quietly miss my dad at odd moments during the day and probably cry a few more tears late at night. And there will be Dad's birthday when I will keep my mind occupied with Other Things all day so I won't be thinking about Dad and how he loved chocolate cake with no icing, stuffed into a tall glass and covered with milk. Yes, my dad drank his birthday cake; he was awesome that way.

    Also in June - my birthday. That will be a happy day and I plan to celebrate every one of my many years. Unfortunately, I usually feel every one of them, too these days. But that's okay. Aging and pain are part of nature. Say it with me...

     

     

June 4, 2015

  • Crystalline's Quiz

    Crystalline posted a quiz! That takes me back to the good old days of Xanga.  Since I am already hopelessly behind on murisopsis' scavenger hunt and feeling uninspired, I'll do this instead.

    1. Watched an episode of Game of Thrones? One episode only. I was curious what all the hype was about and Comcast was showing the first season On Demand, so I watched the first episode. Actually, I'm not sure I made it all the way to the end. I do not enjoy endless scenes of violence, especially when they are only broken up by endless scenes of nudity. I might try to read the books someday, but there was nothing in the first episode to make me want to waste any more of my time with the TV show. Sorry Crystal... different strokes.
    2. Made your own play-doh? Oh, yes. I was a Girl Scout leader, a Sunday School teacher, a babysitter and a mom.
    3. Slept overnight in a car? Every time my family went on vacation when I was a kid. For some reason, Daddy didn't like to share a hotel room with five kids. It was a rare treat when we didn't sleep in the car.
    4. Been to Canada? Yep. And not planning to go back. I was at the hotel with Krysten while Brett and Dad ran out to get something for supper. There was a Mexican restaurant with no place to park. Right next door was a doughnut shop with 40 empty spaces. Dad parked there, thinking he'd run in and put in our order at the Mexican place, then go buy doughnuts for breakfast while they got the dinner order together. He wasn't in the restaurant ten minutes and when he came out, the van was gone. Doughnut shop owner had it towed and towing company would only take Canadian money. Luckily, Krysten was so excited to be in a new country, she'd changed all of her money when we crossed the border, so Brett grabbed a cab back to the hotel, the ten-year-old child is the one who got the van out of impound and I refused to spend another penny on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls.
    5. Been hitchhiking? Nope. But my dad was always picking up hitchhikers because he'd hitchhiked across the country several times when he was in the Navy, stationed in Virginia with a girlfriend in California.
    6. Been part of a ‘live studio audience’? Not for real, but in one of the movie studio theme parks back in the 80s. Brett, of course, was chosen to be in the "sitcom."
    7. Had a Cabbage Patch doll? I'm too old for that, but my daughter had one, courtesy of her great-grandparents.
    8. Raised sea monkeys? No, although I have a dim memory of Brett doing it shortly after we were married. I could be wrong.
    9. Eaten a starfruit? No. I don't remember even seeing them in the grocery store until the last few years.
    10. Seen a humming bird? Many times. One of my favorite memories of my mom is the time she was wearing a little straw hat with bright silk flowers on it, and carrying a Diet Coke. We were in a beautiful glade in Cloudcroft, New Mexico. She kept waving her hand in front of her face and over her head and finally she said, "There are HUGE wasps divebombing my head!" It was tiny hummingbirds, attracted to the syrup in her soda and fooled by the bright silk flowers on her hat. They were driving her crazy!
    11. Had a lady bug or butterfly land on you? Of course! I had a panic attack over the butterfly when it unrolled its nasty proboscis and started poking at my shirt. I used to like ladybugs until we moved here and met the Asian ones that bite.
    12. Made your own icecream? Yes. I especially enjoy snow ice cream made with Kahlua.
    13. Fired a gun? When I was seven years old and we were driving through the desert, Dad stopped for some target practice with his Colt 45 and let me shoot it. It knocked me on my ass and I've never shot a gun since.
    14. Been fired from a job? The church I worked at through three pastors asked me to leave, but they don't consider that firing me.

    15. Changed a tire? I used to be able to change a tire on my humongous '74 Monte Carlo with the bumper jack. Now, even though vehicles are lighter weight and tires are smaller and lighter, I can't figure out how to work the goofy jack that cranks up. This is why God gave us husbands and AAA.

    Thank you, Crystalline!