Saturday, December 24, 2011

Outrage at the Eagles Club

Kids weren't usually allowed to watch the floor shows at the Eagles Club. The exception was the Christmas Show. Grampy was the manager of the Eagles Club. It was his job to hire the performers through a booking agent in Erie, PA.

I was six or seven years old and living with my paternal grandparents. So there I was at the floor show, sitting at a table with Grammy, drinking Nehi orange pop and watching the blond tap dancer. Everything was fine until she tap-danced her way over to Grampy, sat on his lap, wrapped her arms around him and planted a big "show-biz" kiss on his forehead. Everyone else laughed and burst into applause. I burst into tears. I was outraged. How dare she?

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Our Last Christmas Together

Mother got remarried on February 15, 1947. My last Christmas with her and my sister was in 1946. We spent it with  Grandmother and Grandfather at the farm.

It was a Christmas fraught with anxiety. I was pretty sure that Santa would skip Grandmother's house because my 4-year-old sister and I had been so bad. We had kept Grandfather up every night for a week because of the noisy game we played after being put to bed. Every so often, we'd hear the swish-swish of Grandfather's slippers as he shuffled wearily up the hall from his bedroom. Subject to migraines and "face pains," he often went to bed early. "If you girls don't settle down," he'd call through the door, " I'll give you the heeby-jeebies." We had no idea what the heeby-jeebies were, but it was enough to quiet us down for awhile.  Before long, our noisy game would resume and we'd hear the swish-swish of his slippers again. Finally, he played his trump card: "If you girls don't go to sleep, I'll tell Santa not to come!' 

On Christmas morning, we stood at the top of the stairs staring doubtfully down at Grandfather in the hall below. 

"Well, aren't you coming down?" 

"Is there anything down there?"

"Come and see."

Down we went! Santa had come after all. The tall tree stood in the living room, with two of nearly everything underneath. Two dolls. Two sets of plastic dishes. Two sets of roller skates. Although there was only one doll house, my Meadville grandmother, whom I'd been living with since my parents separated, promised that I would have a doll house of my own.

The toy factories had not yet recovered from the war. The Betsy Wetsy dolls cracked apart at the seams after a few feedings. The doll house had come in the mail, unassembled. Years later, we learned that part of the house hadn't even been painted.  Aunt Jean, who was in art school, had to mix up some paints and finish the job.

The skates were the clamp-on kind that were tightened with a key. Before my mother and sister left for Florida, I brooded about that key. If Barbara took the key, how could I skate? When it was time for me to return to Meadville, I made sure that the key was hidden in my pocket. Sometimes I'd feel guilty, thinking of my sister in Florida, sitting forlornly on her porch steps with her skates and no key.  I'd quickly push that picture out of my mind.

Some years later, I got up enough nerve to ask her if she'd ever skated in Florida.

"Yes," she said. "Why?"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Dress Code at the Pool Hall

We went up to Erie, PA the day after Thanksgiving to visit three of my four sisters. (Cis and her husband were with their daughter in Virginia Beach, but Cis let the out-of-town sisters, Barbara and me, stay at their house.) Margaret lives in Erie, as does Evie, who  has been confined to a wheelchair for the last ten years because of MS. Her husband, Gary, is her caregiver.

Barbara, Margaret, and I planned to take lunch over to Evie's house and spend the afternoon. Barbara, who is a wonderful cook, made a beautiful salad and baked two pies. The brothers-in-law were to take Gary out for lunch and come back later for dessert.

Off they went to the pool hall. They got back sooner than expected. After having lunch, they decided to shoot some pool. When Russ tried to make arrangements, the guy in charge told him he and his friends couldn't play.

"Why not?" he asked. The bar was half empty and a pool table was free.

"We have a dress code," explained the guy. "You can't play pool if you're wearing sweat pants." Gary was the only one wearing sweat pants. Sweat pants are what he wears around the house, caring for Evie, and it never occurred to him that he had to dress up to go to a pool hall. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011


Two tiny girls,
capped and mittened,
snug in a baby's sled,
Mother's boots squeaking
in the crisp, new snow
as she pulled us along,
down the hill
and through the park,
across the creaky wooden bridge.

The stream trickled slowly
as water stood freezing in the pond.
Bare branches rattled in the ice-blue sky,
clutching at winter as if to hold it close.

Spring was stirring in our mother's frozen heart.
Who was this man we didn't know?
Her smile was warm as April,
her laughter, dazzling as crystals.
Who was this man out walking in the snow?

Sunday, December 4, 2011

April Day Ohio

After Thanksgiving, we spent a few days at our cabin in Ohio. The weather was miserable. Cold, drippy, grey and dreary.  Not the kind of weather that inspires pretty poems, so it seems like a good time to recycle April Day Ohio  from  Free Verse and Worse, one of my two other blogs that I'm closing down to keep things simple. 

The stubbled fields are brown and bare,
the daffodils wrapped tight.
The cat-tailed pond displays a hundred downy tufts.

A woodpecker wraps on a distant door,
a groundhog ducks through a hole
in the abandoned kennel.
As we come near, the blue heron rises clumsily from her spot
by the stream and wings away over the cornfield.

Near the crest of the pebbled hill,
on the way to town,
we edge round an Amish buggy.
Three deer stop grazing to watch us pass.
A lone turkey crosses the road ahead.

At Reuben's farm,
white sheets tug at the line.
Denim pants and jackets
dance in the wind
with the goats in the field.
We soon reach Reuben's one-room school.
It's noon. He's playing second base.
A black-bonneted girl in an aqua dress
tags the small boy who hoped to steal a base.
A batter in a blue dress thwacks the ball--
a homerun for sure.

At Malabar Farm,
white-painted gourds atop a pole
invite the purple martins to summer there.
A white duck paddles on the pond,
his tail a saucy curve.
The Clydesdales turn away,
but Drifter, the quarter horse,
nuzzles my hand at the fence.

Whenever we're in Danville, I always pick up a copy of The Vendor at Miller's Hardware and turn immediately to the ads for Amish buggy and draft horses. This time an ad for a "10-year-old Belgian mare" caught my eye. "Well broke single or double," the seller wrote.  Her height was 16.2 hands and her weight approximately 1800 pounds. "Too much horse for me," he added. 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


I'm still recycling poems from Free Verse and Worse, one of the blogs I'm closing down.

This poem is about 15 years old. It's a composite of stories I heard from a couple of homeless men who were guests at our church during "WinterHaven."

WinterHaven is a cold-weather shelter operated by 20 congregations in and around Laurel, Maryland.  For nearly twenty years, these congregations have taken turns keeping homeless men and women from freezing to death during the winter. The guests stay with each congregation for one week.  They receive a warm bed, dinner, breakfast, and a bag lunch. Sometimes during his or her time in the shelter, a homeless person will decide to give up life on the street. He or she embarks on a difficult journey that may eventually lead to sobriety, sanity, and a permanent place to stay. An impossible dream for too many.

This poem reflects the kind of guest we usually saw in the early 1990's:  male, middle-aged or older, alcoholic. Since then, the typical male guest has gotten younger and is often addicted to drugs as well as alcohol. Some are veterans. Ten years ago, Winterhaven began welcoming homeless women. While the number of male guests ranges from 20 to 35 per night, we usually see no more than a half-dozen women all season. Typically they suffer from severe mental illness. 


The judge asked me,
"Why did you go there
When you knew..."
And I said,
"But Judge, she's my mother."
That other woman there,
she turned my ma against me.

I was born on Christmas Day,
had just two Christmas trees
my whole life.
Called my ma and told her,
"Ma, its gettin' cold
and I need my sleepin' blanket."
She said she'd leave it on the porch,
but that other woman there,
she turned my ma against me.

Drives her to the store
Drives her to the doctor
Drives her to the bank
I said, "Ma, I'd be glad to do that,
only you know I don't have no car."

That other woman,
she wants to get my house.
I said, "Ma, you didn't sign no
paper giving her my house, did you?"
and she says, "No, Son, I didn't,"
but that other woman there, she
turned my ma against me.

Another woman, friend of mine, said,
"Don't go over to see your ma no more,
because that woman will kill you."

No one likes that woman.
Her old man, he don't like her.
Her kids, they don't like her either.
That other woman there, she
turned my ma against me.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


We may buy us an A-frame
on Jericho Road,
where few that pass by are strangers,
near that little clutch of houses
called Greer, for those who farmed
the land 200 years.

In the bottomland by the Mohican,
the corn shocks stand dry and mute.
They used to hunt here, but they are gone.
We now and then kick up an A-shaped flint.

Sometimes at dusk 
it is easy to think
that the shocks are silent, 
ancient watchers,
but they are gone now
who once walked this land
and took the deer
with bow and arrow.

There once was a man 
who hunted on our posted lands,
and when another came,
his license on his back,
this man complained.
"He seems to think,"
laughed Alice Greer,
"that in Knox County
all the deer are his."

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Who Knew?

Robert Schumann wrote a song called "Samurai." I heard it on the radio yesterday for the first time. It sounded quite a bit like another song he wrote called "Traumerei."

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

A Few Haiku

In the cold spring rain
The woodpecker never stops 
Rapping about love.

Joe-Pye weed in bloom
Monarchs light on purple clouds
Floating on the breeze.

Tall green canopy,
Flattened grass in midst of pines:
Deer's four-poster bed.

Godspeed, tiny bird.
Hurricane time on the Gulf.
Via con Dios.

Autumn's beginning.
A solitary firefly
Beams "hello"  in vain.

Friday, October 21, 2011

The Cows' Chautauqua

Shredded wheat--the Breakfast of Champion Milkcows--
Is laid out on a meadow-green cloth.
But where are the cows this August morn?
They're off this week to Cow Camp
At Lake Chautauqua
To meditate on the Bovine Mysteries.

How was it that they came to be
The nursemaids of the world,
The foster mothers of so many
Ungrateful children,
Who never call,
Who never visit,
Who never say thanks,
Who just speed by
Without a wave or a glance,
Tossing beer cans
Into their roadside gardens
Of clover and Queen Anne's Lace.

All week long they will celebrate Cowhood
In story and song,
Hearing about Babe and the Blue Ox,
About Elsie and Elmer,
About the First Astronaut
Who cleared the moon in one leap.
About prejudice
And Intolerance (lactose)
And the myth of contentment.
Not to mention the Terrible Truth
About the Bull Market,
And why so many sons and lovers
Were never heard from again.

On Tuesday they will view a slide-show
On India, where cows are sacred.
On Wednesday, they will elect
A new president named Bossie.

Each night they will dine by candlelight
And moo-ed music,
Then retire to write in their journals.
("Dear Dairy," some poor spellers will begin.)

Camp will end on Saturday
In the sixth week of August.
Just before milking time
A cavalcade of cows
Will head back to their barns.
Silently, invisibly
They will go
But none of us will see or notice them
Until school buses roll by in September
And all the cows are out
Standing in their fields.

I've decided to simplify my blogging. I'm keeping LIfe in Merlin and deleting And Deliver Us from Meadville and Free Verse and Worse. This poem is from Free Verse and Worse. I couldn't let this one go.

Monday, October 17, 2011


Yellow Jacket, no!
A dip in my coffee cup
Won't keep away sleep.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Am I Being Stalked?

I think I am being stalked. Electronically. Yes, I know about cookies, and maybe this is just a coincidence, but hear me out.

The Tree Hugger keeps his aquarium stuff on a low, square table. It's a flimsy, wooden thing, over 30 years old, veneered with deteriorating white plastic. This table fits the available space perfectly and it "works," but still, it's ugly and it could collapse tomorrow. I searched the internet for a possible replacement, typing the words "end table" in my browser window. I didn't find anything I liked, so that was that. I thought.

Ever since then, ads for end tables have been  popping up everywhere. If I visit a blog that displays ads,  I'll see "Sale on End Tables", no matter what kind of blog it is otherwise.  On August 3, I printed a map of Germany off the internet. I just noticed the tiny print at the bottom of the page:  "End Tables on Sale 20%-50% off All End Table Styles Lowest Prices + Free S/H 

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

This Just In . .

We heard on the radio this morning that the "School Without Walls" was closed due to earthquake damage.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Sister Bay

While our daughter and family were visiting my sister and husband in July at their vacation house on Lake Michigan in Door County, WI, Becky made this whimsical collage for them as a thank-you. Our three-year-old grandson, Nate, looks out a bedroom window.  Lucy, Barb and Ron's Golden Retreiver, lolls in the flower bed. The Swedish flag fluttering on the porch hints of treasures within, including an antique bride clock and a red-painted Dala horse. The single swan on the water stands for the flotilla of swans that  passed by during the week. And the goat on the roof? He's advertising Al Johnson's Swedish Restaurant and Butik (boutique) in Sister Bay, where a herd of goats enjoys salad on the roof most every day.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Just an Earthquake

Andrew and I were in the gift shop at the National Aquarium in Baltimore, when suddenly the glass trinkets and jewelry began to dance. Unlike many Washington-area residents, who automatically thought "terrorist attack" when the building started shaking, my first thought was "earthquake."  It was only a few seconds later that I began thinking that maybe a plane had flown into the Aquarium's glass-pyramid top or that the building had been rammed by a ship.  Whatever. The staff told everyone go outside immediately. The quake was certainly a conversation-changer between Andrew and me about buying a $35 amphibious shark  that goes "anywhere you want, on land or in water." 

Once outside, we passed a cluster of Aquarium employees, probably from food service. Some of the women were crying. I said, "Don't worry. It was just an earthquake."

"Just an earthquake?!" laughed one.

"Well, yes, " I said, "It could have been a plane."

One of the women continued to sob. "Don't worry," I said, "We're going to be OK."

This morning I realized that perhaps she was crying because she thought her job was in danger. The  glassy Aquarium looks like the world's most fragile building. For all she knew, the Aquarium might have to close for weeks or months.  Everyone was kept out of the building for 45 minutes while it was checked for structural damage.

The building appeared sound, so we were let back in. Some interior glass shattered in the "Australia" exhibit of the Glass Pavilion, so that exhibit was closed. Andrew pressed the staff person at the cordoned-off escalator about the safety of the fruit bats in the exhibit. The man assured Andrew that they were probably all right, but I could see that the question made him uncomfortable. He quickly changed the subject. "I was talking to the people down at the dolphin tank, and they told me that the sharks began swimming around like crazy just before the quake hit." 

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Australia is Closed!

We were in the gift shop at the National Aquarium in Baltimore this afternoon when the glassware and jewelry suddenly began rattling as the building shook. We were all told to leave the building immediately. My grandson and I joined the crowds milling around the Inner Harbor. Cell phones were out. Everyone was talking about the earthquake. 

After a quarter of an hour, the Aquarium was open again. Andrew and I wanted to see the jellyfish and the fruit bats. The fruit bats are housed in an area called "Australia." We got to see the jellyfish, but the escalator to the Glass Pavilion was cordoned off with yellow tape. "Sorry," said a staff person stationed at the escalator. Australia is closed. We've got shattered glass, and we're afraid more could break if there are aftershocks." We'll have to see the fruit bats another time. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Angry Birds

The hummingbirds visit the feeders more often these days, getting ready for their autumn migration. They're so feisty. You'll see a tiny, green warrior perched on a branch, keeping an eye on "his" feeder,  ready to drive off any rival: mother, dad, brother, sister, cousin.  Funny how the first-cousin-once-removed keeps coming back for more. 

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

He's a Cribber.

I've already told you about how much I enjoy the horse ads in The Vendor, a biweekly publication for "plain people." Sometimes the ads mention a horse's pedigree. That means nothing to me, but it's fun to see some of the other details:

"A boy's horse."
"Can take girls to singing."
"Women can drive."
"Not for seniors."
"98 percent traffic-safe-and-sound." (!)
"Shies some at large trucks." (! !)
"He's a cribber."

At the Amish vegetable stand, we asked Mr. Weaver about two descriptions we didn't understand. One was "up-headed." Every buggy horse we'd ever seen certainly looked "up-headed" to us.  Mr. Weaver replied that an "up-headed" horse has an especially proud  bearing. 

Well, then, what's a "cribber?"  

"Oh," said Mr. Weaver, "you don't want a cribber. That's a horse with bad habits, almost like an addiction to cigarettes. A cribber is a horse that gnaws the wood in his stall." 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Temptation, Bodacious, and Incredible

"Temptation," "Bodacious," and "Incredible" are all varieties of corn.  

The corn stood tall and glossy-green when we were in Ohio the weekend of July 23rd.  Our neighbor, David,  hoped for rain that weekend. When the corn is tasseled, it needs moisture to carry the pollen from the tassel to the strands of silk.  Each strand forms one kernal on an ear of corn. 

There was more than enough rain that sultry weekend. We stopped at an Amish produce stand and bakery. We bought zucchini bars at the bakery and corn, tomatoes, and green beans at the produce stand. Mrs. Weaver told us that the two-color corn we bought that Saturday  was "Temptation," but that "Bodacious" would be available in a few days, and after that, "Incredible." When we went back on Monday (the stand is closed on Sunday),  her husband, Atlee, said that he picks the corn for the day's sales every morning. If any is left at the end of the day, he feeds it to the horses!

I almost howled in dismay, like that dog in "Ultimate Dog Tease" on YouTube.

Friday, July 29, 2011

At the Hen House

The Tree Hugger and I drove to our cabin in Ohio last weekend. Halfway through our nine-hour drive, the temperature hit 103.

No threatening tornadoes during the weekend, as we'd had in June.  Just several end-of-the-world rainstorms. On Saturday afternoon, we stopped at Roman's house. Roman is the Amish man who built our cabin six years ago. A falling branch ripped a hole in the cedar siding last February, cracking the wallboard and knocking a kitchen cabinet askew. After assessing the damage, Roman sent an estimate to the insurance company. The check arrived just before we left for Ohio. We needed to tell him about it, but  he has no phone. So we stopped at his farm.

Roman's family was about to have a cookout to celebrate Gary's birthday. Gary is their "English" neighbor. He, or more often, his answering machine, takes messages for Roman.  Roman also uses Gary's phone for occasional calls. Roman was in the shower. Two small boys, each pushing adult-size mowers, were cutting the grass. One of the girls had just laid a rack on the grill, which was ready for dozens of hamburgers. Esther, Roman's good-natured wife, chided her duaghter gently for placing the rack upside down. Then she said, "Oh, well, I guess we'll just use it like that." 

While Phil was waiting to talk with Roman, I watched ten or eleven red hens strut around in their grassy pen, pecking at bugs. The air was heavy. Three little brown birds flew out of a small opening at the base of the hen house. Could any of these plump dowagers squeeze through that narrow door? What would happen if they panicked and all tried to get in at once? Lightning was flashing in the sky and thunder was muttering in the distance. Suddenly, directly overhead, BOOM!  

One of the larger hens registered a brief look of surprise. She stopped pecking, stood upright, elongating her neck. Her beady eye widened momentarily. The others kept on pecking. There was no hoped-for squawk!, no scramble for the henhouse.  What a disappointment!

Then it was time to go. All eight of Roman and Esther's well-behaved children lined up quietly on the porch, watching us drive away.  We were a few miles down the road when the cloudburst hit. I wonder what the chickens did then. 

Monday, July 18, 2011


If there's one word that captures the Japanese spirit, it's "ganbatte." Pronounced "gahn-baht-tay," it means "persevere!', even when things are going against you. People say it to a student studying for exams, to an out-of-breath cyclist struggling to reach the top of the hill, to a figure skater who's fallen for the 20th time while perfecting her double axel. The Japanese admire a the person who just keeps  going, no matter what.

The Japanese women's soccer team displayed the spirit of "ganbatte" yesterday. During the first part of the match, the Americans looked strong. But the plucky Japanese team came from behind. I am happy for them. After the earthquake, the tsunami, and Fukushima, they needed something like this to lift their spirits.

We had a neighbor, a native of Japan, a medical doctor who researched retroviruses at Walter Reed Army Hospital.  He was a gentle person, very shy and reserved. Every day he'd take his scruffy-looking mutt, "Whiskers," for a walk. He held his head high and moved with quiet dignity, as if he were leading the Emperor's horse. My husband would say, "There goes the 'samurai dog-walker' again."

Tatsuo admired perseverance. Long after our daughter grew up, he'd marvel at her determination in learning  to ride her two-wheeler at age seven. "She'd fall off, but she'd get back on again and again."

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Hope-to-Win Situation

Just read a fascinating interview with Ira Wangler on the blog, Mr. Wagler is the author of a memoir called Growing Up Amish. Six copies of the book are being given away. My chances of winning a copy are said to increase if I mention the book on my blog (done!) and mention it on Facebook.  I don't really like Facebook, but I guess I can get on long enough to mention the book and improve my chances. 

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Win-Win Situation

Thanks to our community listserve, I was able to recoup some of the money we spent on the "costly mistake" I wrote about on June 7th. I advertised my special-order room-darkening honeycomb shades online. Within a few days, I had a buyer!  She travels a lot on business and sometimes needs to sleep during the day.  "Room-darkening" was just what she wanted. Meanwhile, we ordered new shades. I got the "airy and cheerful" look I was after and she got better daytime sleep.  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Little Extra Excitement at the 50th Reunion

So we went to my husband's 50th reunion at the College of Wooster, or at least to part of it. The big dinner on Saturday night was supposed to be a formal affair. The Tree Hugger said, "No way."  So we settled on the late-Friday-afternoon patio picnic. We met up with a couple of old classmates and were having a great time at our table in the big, white tent when a woman came up and said, "Please pick up your plates and follow me."

Over 100 members of the class of '61 and their spouses crowded into the basement of the nearby Lowry Center to wait out a tornado warning. The TV weather map showed tornados threatening to touch down here and there north of Wooster. The sky grew black and the wind blew. Buckets of rain fell. We were down there for about an hour, until the danger was past. 

The storm continued after the warning was over. Phil and I headed back to our cabin in Knox County, certain that Ramsey and Violet (two elderly dogs) were in a state of panic. Lightening flashed across the sky all the way. The dogs seemed fine, although they had unmade our bed. 

Phil spent most of the rest of the weekend planting three American chestnut seedlings, which he received from the American Chestnut Foundation. The weather turned from muggy to cool after the storm, which should give the seedlings a good start.

Phil and nephew-in-law, Pat, planting a chestnut tree

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

A Costly Mistake

We just spent some money on new siding and a new roof for the house. I decided I could not go up on a ladder to deal with the mold on the bedroom ceiling, so we had our bedroom and bathroom painted professionally. "Antique white" turned out to be a warm, peachy color. Love it!

Next we ordered honeycomb blinds for our two bedroom windows and two windows in the guest room. Here's where the house-project train, which had been rolling along smoothly, jumped the track. At the last minute, something or someone (the devil?) whispered "room-darkening" in my ear. So that's what I ordered. Room-darkening honeycomb shades in pearl white. Except that when they were installed, they looked grime-grey. I wanted "airy and cheerful," but I got "doom and gloom". 


I can't live with these things. They look like a sooty Russian town near the Arctic Circle in February.  Archangel maybe?  They's bought- n-paid for. I hate them. What to do?

My sister says to just get rid of them. I think she's right. First, I will try to sell them, and if there are no takers, then I will give them away. 

Friday, May 20, 2011

Helga the Horrible Goes to the Reunion

In a matter of days, we attend the Tree Hugger's 50th reunion at the College of Wooster in Wooster, OH.

Some people try to lose weight before a reunion. 

Others lose teeth, without even trying.

I am going to feel like Helga at that reunion. I had to have a lower front tooth pulled on Tuesday. I'm still pretty self-conscious about it.  I'd had two root canals on this tooth, so it was fragile to begin with. I really shouldn't have held that pillow in my mouth while changing the pillowcase. Anyway, the root cracked and the tooth is gone. 

I'll have to put up with a gap in my grin for at least four weeks. It's not pretty, but eating and talking pose no problems. I think I can have a good time at the reunion anyway.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

A Hearse of a Different Caller

Sorry. That's the punch line of a lame joke, a play on the words "horse of a different color." 

It's just a workings of a sick mind, that's all. Because yesterday, I really did see a horse of a different color. Two of them, in fact. 

I always thought that the Amish could have any color of buggy horse they wanted as long as it was dark brown or black.  That's what you usually see: a buggy drawn by a single dark horse. The horse may have white socks, a white star or blaze on its forehead, but the rest of it is always black or brown.

Driving along Route 62 near Killbuck, in Holmes County, OH, we passed a buggy drawn by a team of cafe-du-lait horses with cream-white manes and tails. We've never seen such a thing before. Perhaps they were being driven by a teen-aged girl, because the rules are relaxed a bit for young people.

We had a pleasant weekend in Ohio. The wild dogwood is everywhere in bloom.  We also saw ragwort, spring beauties, phlox, dames' rocket, and trillium. Near our creek, we saw a deer, three blue herons, and a hawk. It rained a lot. The rivers are high and I am sorry to tell the folks downstream that more water is on the way.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Second Wind for the Birthers?

Just when we thought the birthers had finally been proven wrong, Fate throws them another bone to chew on. How long will it be before the conspiracy theorists accuse Obama of lying about the identity of the guy now sleeping with the fishes?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Best Possible Scan Results

Our daughter had a scan on Thursday to assess how well the Radioactive Iodine (RAI) treatment worked. The residual radiation showed up in the area once occupied by her thyroid; there was none lurking here or there, where it shouldn't be. This means the cancer was contained in her thyroid and hadn't spread. 

The RAI she received is the same type that is causing all the grief at the Fukushima reactor in Japan. Nuclear power plants have always given me the willies. The damage from accidents seems so hard to contain and radioactive waste so difficult to handle.  Even the threat of unwitting contact with RAI, which has a half-life of eight days, is a problem. For instance, you're not supposed to spray surfaces with cleaner,  because the RAI could become airborne. (We're to stay out of the "isolation ward" for two months.)

Sometimes I think it would have been better if mankind had not opened this Pandora's box, and yet, without atomic medicine, where would our daughter be? 

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Payment Waived

Last Tuesday, our daughter received her radioactive-iodine pill at the  Greater Baltimore Hospital Center. They told her not walk through the hospital to get back to her car. She'd have to exit by the nearest door and find her way as best she could to the parking lot. This turned out to be quite a hike. Finally, she was in her car, approaching the payment booth. She was wearing a surgical mask and had ticket-plus- payment in her blue rubber-gloved hand.

The attendant took one look and waved her through.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Little Iodine

Does anyone else remember this cartoon from the forties and fifties? Little Iodine was an imp of a girl who was always getting in trouble and always getting spanked by her feckless father, Henry Tremblechin.

I guess I know why this little pest has been intruding on my thoughts lately. For the past two weeks, our younger daughter has been on a low-iodine diet, getting ready for her radioactive iodine treatment on Tuesday. One Saturday morning in early February, she and our grandson came for breakfast. "I don't want you to worry," she said, "but I have a growth on my thyroid. The doctor thinks it's probably benign."

Well, it wasn't. That was the bad news. The good news was that she has "papillary" thyroid cancer, which is highly curable. Her thyroid was removed on March 1st. 

The low-iodine diet has been a bit of a challenge.  It allows no dairy, soy, egg yolks, commercial baked goods, seafood, potato skins, certain kinds of beans or anything with iodized salt.  Becky found a low-iodine cookbook* on line with over 100 pages of good recipes. Yesterday, I spent the morning in the kitchen making a pasta salad and a fritatta. I baked a loaf of low-iodine bread  and a coffee cake. I had to make the coffee cake twice, because I accidentally omitted the cinnamon from the streusel topping the first time. So much for trying to follow four recipes at once. 

After her radioactive iodine treatment, our daughter will have to stay in isolation for 5-7 days. She can have no contact whatsoever with her three-year-old son and limited contact with everyone else. She'll  stay at our house, in the "apartment" my mom once occupied. She wants us to get a pizza on Wednesday night, but we'll have to wait and see about that. The information sheet suggests hard candy on the second day to avoid nausea. 

One of her friends from work e-mailed the following today: 

"September 2010 (As stated on Snopes website), Dr. Oz had a show on the fastest growing cancer in women, thyroid cancer.  It was a very interesting program and he mentioned that the increase could possibly be related to the use of dental x-rays and mammograms.  He demonstrated that on the apron the dentist puts on you for your dental x-rays there is a little flap that can be lifted up and wrapped around your neck.  Many dentists don't bother to use it.  Also, there is something called a "thyroid guard" for use during mammograms.  By coincidence, a friend had her yearly mammogram this past week. She felt a little silly, but she asked about the guard and sure enough, the technician had one in a drawer. She asked why it wasn't routinely used. Answer: "I don't know.  You have to ask for it." Well, she thought, if she hadn't seen the show, how would she have known to ask? ... Please pass this on to your friends and family."

* Here's the link to the wonderful cookbook from the Thyroid Cancer Survivors' Association:

Monday, February 28, 2011

Cars and Planets

The other day Nathaniel and Tom were playing with Nathaniel's toy cars. Before I go any further, you have to know that one of the main decorations in Nathaniel's bedroom is a solar-system mobile. Anyway, Nathaniel picked up a toy car and asked his dad, "What's this?"  Tom replied, "Looks like a Mercury." Nathaniel picked up another and asked, "Is this a 'Mars'?"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Rush to Judgement, or Who Asked Him?

The Great Fathead recently weighed in on the subject of the First Lady's sparerib dinner. He accused her of choosing clothes that hide her real waistline. At least she has a waistline. Did you see the photo of Mr. Blimpbaugh in an oversized pastel blue T-shirt that barely concealed his pot? Someone should clue  the pignoramous in on the slimming effect of darker colors.

Monday, February 14, 2011

A Love Story, of Sorts

It was the autumn of 1933. My mother, Mary, had just started studying piano at a college in Kentucky. Grandmother received a phone call from the dean's office. "Your daughter's been taking the bus to Pittsburgh every Friday evening. We think she's meeting a man."

Grandmother had a good idea who the man was. Mary was being pursued by a young law student she'd met at a picnic during the summer. Grandmother and Grandfather left for Pittsburgh in the middle of the night, driving over 100 miles from their farm near Cambridge Springs, PA. They reached the bus station at dawn. Just as expected, they found my father waiting for the bus. Grandmother said, "Are you by any chance meeting the same person we are?"

Both sets of parents were furious. Kenneth still had a year of law school at Pitt; Mary was barely out of high school. The young folks assured their elders that they were already married. No matter. They had to be married again by the Methodist minister. 

The marriage lasted thirteen years. Kenneth wanted to build a successful law practice, enter local politics, and make lots of money. He thought Mary would be perfectly happy working at his side as his secretary. Mary wanted a family; Kenneth, not so much. Mary liked to read and play the piano. Kenneth liked to go to parties. Mary hated all the drinking and flirting that went on at these parties. If there was a piano in the house, she would sit and play until Kenneth was ready to go home. 

In 1940, I was born, despite my dad's plans to put off having kids indefinitely. Although I was a surprise, he seemed delighted to have a baby daughter. He told Mother, however, that  he wanted no more surprises. He was therefore not pleased when my sister arrived in 1942.  Our parents were divorced in 1946. Dad asked Mother not to leave until after New Year's. He wanted to have one last party at their house. She agreed. 

Mother and my little sister moved to Miami with Mother's second husband.  I lived with Dad's parents until he remarried in 1949. I'll say this about him: he never said one mean word about Mother. Nor would he allow his mother to criticize his "ex"  in my hearing. He'd say, "Mom, don't say that. She's Cynthia's mother."

When I was seven or eight,  he took me to Hunter's News Room to buy Mother a valentine. He found a card with a  satin-covered sachet, shaped like a heart. "Why don't you get her a card that smells?" he suggested slyly, knowing that the pretty clerk was listening.  She laughed and said, "Watch out what you say about our cards, Kenny." 

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Still the Year of the Cat

When I told the Cat of Cats that the Chinese calendar's Year of the Cat would end tomorrow, she coldly replied, "Every year is the Year of the Cat." Here she is with her hapless and clueless pitbull brother, Ramsey. 

Georgie has found yet another way to tease him. He has a chair. This stained, broken-down orange monstrosity is over 65 years old (I'm talking about the chair here) and should retire, but Ramsey loves it. So it sits in our family room. I've hidden its bulky presence under a light-weight fawn-beige "throw."  Twice this week, Georgie has weasled her way under the throw, creating a small lump in the corner. Ramsey is completely flummoxed. He puts his feet on the chair, nudges the lump, and whines. After a moment or two, she hisses indignantly and shoots out from under like a rocket. He looks vaguely guilty.

Do you think she's deliberately tormenting him?

Saturday, January 29, 2011


If your true love gives you a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas next year, you'd better check it out. If the tree is a Bradford Pear (BP), stay out from under. These trees are dangerous!

We have them throughout "Montpelier," a community of 750 Levitt houses built nearly 50 years ago. BP’s are fast-growing, showy trees, which were once the darlings of landscapers. They bloom spectacularly each spring. Other than that, they smell bad, provide no food for birds and crowd out native trees in the wild.  Worst of all, they are brittle.

The taller and older they grow, the more fragile they get. They shed branches with little provocation, dropping them on parked cars or strolling people. Sometimes a tree will split right down the middle, falling across a driveway or blocking a front door. One neighbor, who defended the BP for its beauty after my husband called it a “junk tree,” woke up the next morning to find half his tree lying in the street.

This week, we had three inches of heavy, wet snow. BP branches and half-trees still litter the landscape. 

The BP was developed in 1963 as an ornamental tree by a scientist at the USDA station in Glen Dale,  Prince George’s County, MD.  It was adopted as the “county tree” by the County Council of Prince George’s County in the 1970’s. A resolution to disown the tree was introduced in 2008.  I can't find anything online that tells me the resolution was passed. My guess is that the County Council just wishes the whole problem would just go away. 

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Noodled to Death

The shelter is full. The Winterhaven Board has decided that 30 men is the upper limit. Most congregations just don't have space for more. When the number approaches 40, trouble begins.  People get edgy. Fights break out. We're now at 32.

Which brings me to the problem of "Clarence."  He shows up every night with his "admit slip," has dinner, then retires to his van to sleep. Why is this a problem?  Having been accepted as a guest at the shelter, he is entitled to a bed. By refusing to sleep in it, he literally "freezes" someone else out of a bed. 

He could eat at the local soup kitchen, Elizabeth House, before bedding down in his van. When Winterhaven was at our church a few weeks ago, I asked him why he didn't.   He waved his hand dismissively. "Elizebeth House!" he snorted. "They noodle you to death there." I guess he just doesn't like pasta.