Friday, December 16, 2016

More Fun with Hearing Loss

I went to the drugstore to pick up two prescriptions, one for me and one for my husband.

"OK," said the clerk, 'I'll take care of yours first, and then I'll do his."

After retrieving my prescription, she asked for my husband's name.

"Phillip," I said."With two 'l's'."

"Phillip is perfect," she then announced.

I looked puzzled, so she repeated it. "Phillip is perfect."

I still looked uncomprehending.

"Phillip's birthdate," she enunciated clearly.

"Oh," I said.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Potted Palm

Fidel Castro appears to be listening
to a speech by an American tourist,
who probably had a few too many.

Early in 1959, my parents happened to be in Havana when Fidel Castro came to town. My parents were attending the convention of the company my dad happened to be working for at the time. It was a very small company and my dad was good friends with the company's owner, Owen M., the American tourist who is giving a speech in the picture.

Here's my dad in the middle of
a group of Castro's "campesinos."

My parents didn't know what to make of Castro, but they had a good time in Cuba. A handsome Cuban, a friend of Owen M., asked Mom to have a drink with him in the hotel lobby. Mom noticed a nearby potted palm quivering suspiciously. My dad was hiding behind it to keep an eye on Mom.

After they got home, my dad said, "I think Castro is probably OK." Mom said, "I don't know about that. I saw machine guns on top of some of the buildings." 

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Little Blue Heron

We live in a subdivision of cookie-cutter houses in South Laurel, called "Montpelier." There are many well-manicured lawns--not ours!!--with beautiful flowers. Some may say we fuss too much over our yards, but untamed nature carries on despite our efforts to shape and control the natural habitat. 

We saw a groundhog trundling along our backyard retaining wall. 

Last week a fox kit appeared beside the Japanese stone lantern in the yard down the street. 

The neighborhood coyote has been been caught on film as he's made his rounds. 

A doe and two fawns recently came to our yard to feast on persimmons from our curbside tree.  They paid little attention to passing cars.  After eating some fruit, the mother suddenly bolted toward the neighbor's back yard and her girls followed. 

On Monday, I raised the garage door and startled a hawk that had been roosting in our beech tree, assessing the birds at the feeders and in the birdbath as likely dinner prospects. This time he flew away, but we've seen him other times loitering under the bushes close to the feeders. 

On Tuesday, driving down Montpelier Drive, I saw a little blue heron coming in for a landing at the brook. This narrow brook, which runs behind the house on the corner, doesn't seem grand enough to be the home of such an impressive bird, so he may not be back. Still, who knows? 

Saturday, October 8, 2016

The Last Monarch of Summer

We raised 11 mail-order monarch butterflies this summer.  After they flew off, we were delighted to find a half-dozen wild caterpillars on our milkweeds. We waited for them to build chrysalises in our front yard, but one by one, they disappeared. We were so disappointed, and that's when we found out from some members of "The Beautiful Monarch" group on Facebook that we probably should have brought our wild caterpillars into the house to raise. 

On September 18th, I found a caterpillar on the holly bush. He was in the J-shape caterpillars assume just before they build their chrysalis. So we had a survivor after all! I had been looking for chrysalises on the milkweed plants, but learned from the Facebook group that caterpillars don't usually build their chrysalises on milkweeds. A day later, there was no sign of the J-shaped caterpillar, so I assumed we had lost him too.

Then, on September 20th, I spotted a chrysalis on our front porch, near the ceiling. If that was the holly-bush caterpillar, he'd made quite a journey. 

Ten days passed. Nothing happened. It had been cool and rainy, so we were afraid this little guy was never going to emerge. Then, two weeks after the chrysalis appeared, it began to darken, a welcome sign that a butterfly was on its way. Finally, around 7 AM on October 7th--again, it was cool and rainy--the butterfly emerged. He sat absolutely still for three hours. He was still perched motionless when I left the house after 10. When I got home around 2, the sun was shining and he was gone.

With Hurricane Matthew battering the east coast,  I hope he takes the inland route to Mexico.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

A Parody of a Nursery Rhyme

I went to the animal fair,

The birds and the Beast were there,

The big buffoon by the light of the moon

Was combing his windswept hair.

You ought to have seen the Trump,

He sat on the Elephant's rump,

The Elephant sneezed and fell on his knees,

And what became of the Trump, the Trump, the Trump, the Trump, the Trump?

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Unbroken Brain by Maia Szalavitz

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction

Unbroken Brain: A Revolutionary New Way of Understanding Addiction by Maia Szalavitz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

 I read this book because many close relatives have been addicted to one substance or another. For myself, it’s sugar, and that’s been bad enough. My addicted relatives have suffered and lost much more than I. Now that our grandchildren are growing up, I want to learn as much as I can about addiction from a scientific perspective.

In 1985, I had an experience that convinced me that I know something about how people get hooked. That year, I got salmonella. I didn’t feel very sick at first, but after several weeks, my husband grew worried. I was losing weight and not eating. The mere sight of food was nauseating. He dragged me to the doctor. The doctor immediately put me in the hospital, where I was diagnosed with food poisoning. For a few days, I lived on jello. That was fine with me, because the mere thought of food was still disgusting. Then the doctor said, “They’re going to bring you breakfast tomorrow. You don’t have to eat it.”

The next morning, they left me with a cold, greasy-looking cheese omelet. I took just one bite and I can only say that my brain lit up like a Christmas tree. Pure pleasure! For the next year, I tried to recapture the “high”—if that’s what it was-- from that blissful first bite by eating lots and lots of cheese omelets, but that special moment never happened again.

Szalavitz’s book sets out to provide a “new way of understanding addiction.” It lives up to its promise. She sketches the history of addiction theory and treatment in America. For years we Americans could not make up our minds whether addiction is an illness or a moral failure or a bit of both. Svalavitz presents the case that it’s neither, but rather, a learning disorder. She challenges many of our cultural myths, including that of the “addictive personality” and the idea that you can be hooked with just one “hit.” There was so much in this remarkable book—autobiography, history, psychology, neuroscience—that I really welcomed her final chapter, “Neurodiversity and the Future of Addiciton, in which she not only summarizes the book but provides new ideas for coping with addiction.

I hope the following list of subheadings in her final chapter will make you want to read this book:

Drug exposure doesn’t cause addiction.
Set and setting matter—and can be more effectively controlled through regulation, not prohibition.
People can learn, even while addicted.
Punishment cannot solve a problem defined by its resistance to punishment.
Treatment must be reformed to be respectful.
Primary prevention should focus on coping, not drugs.
Harm reduction is the most important goal of drug policy.
Celebrating diversity—including “neurodiversity”—is critical to reform.

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Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Switched On

Switched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional AwakeningSwitched On: A Memoir of Brain Change and Emotional Awakening by John Elder Robison
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This memoir tells what happened when John Elder Robison bravely volunteered to participate in a 2008 study to see what effects transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) would have on the so-called social deficits that characterize people on the autism spectrum. Mr. Robison was in his forties when he was diagnosed with Asperger's. Although he's a successful inventor, businessman, autism consultant and author, he says he's always felt like an outsider because of his blindness to emotional cues. After one TMS session, the "doors of perception" blew open. He wept tears of joy as he vividly re-experienced a rock concert he had attended decades before. After another session, he felt a soul-to-soul connection with members of an audience during his presentation on autism. Although the intensity of these initial reactions faded in time, as he was told they would, he continues seven years later to be more outgoing and sympathetic to the feelings of others. Not all of the outcomes have been favorable, however. His marriage ended. So did a relationship when Robison finally realized the "friend" had been subtly, and publicly, ridiculing him for years. I read this book because I am interested in how the brain works. especially for someone with autism.  Robison foresees a day when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) may approve TMS for the treatment of conditions other than depression, the only one it currently approves.

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Butterfly Gals

Butterfly gals, won't you come out tonight,
Come out tonight, come out tonight?
Butterfly gals, won't you come out tonight
And dance by the light of the moon?*

Only three chrysalises left. We hope they'll emerge and fly away before we fly away for a few days.  The one on the glass is starting to darken, but the other two are still bright green. 

*from "Buffalo Gals," American folk tune. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Leaving Home

Early Monday morning we found two black chrysalises.
These two would soon break out of their chrysalises.

After emerging, they hung on the wire lid of the terrarium for awhile.
Our information sheet said that the butterflies would be ready to fly after 90 minutes.
When they began opening and closing their wings,
we took the terrarium outside and removed the lid. Seven green chrysalises
remained attached to the lid, undisturbed. The two butterflies soon took off. 

This morning, six more emerged. 
We took the terrarium outside. 

One went to the bottom of the terrarium. It tried to climb 
the glass wall, but couldn't gain traction.
Then it climbed onto a branch inside the terrarium.
Phil moved the branch close to a milkweed.

The butterfly crawled onto a broad milkweed leaf. Like the other five, 
it spent a long time hanging out in the milkweed, opening and shutting its wings
and then resting. This group seemed to be in no hurry to take wing.

A swallowtail dropped by to show the monarchs
how to fly and where to find the choice nectar flowers. 

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

All Quiet on the Butterfly Front

All eleven of our caterpillars are now in chrysalises.

"One of these mornings,
You're going to rise up singing,
Then you'll spread your wings
And take to the sky . . "

Lyrics by Dubose Heyward in lullaby, "Summertime,"  from George Gershwin's PORGY & BESS

Monday, August 22, 2016

Chrysalis Palace

My husband, the Tree Hugger and proud butterfly Foster Father chimes in:

Eight of our babies are in chrysalises, a 9th has finished feeding and is climbing the glass. A 10th is fat and will climb within a day.  And of course, we've been blessed with an 11th. Junior (don't call him "the runt") may take another two days.

When they reach the lid of the tank, they kind of loafor 8 hours or so, then they let go at the head end, and hang down attached to the lid only at their tail end.  Then the head starts hooking upward so the caterpillar looks like a "J".  After about a day, they form chrysalises, and this seems to happen very abruptly.  We look in and it's a "J"; then look in a half hour, and it's a completed chrysalis. You never see a half-built chrysalis. 

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Butterflies Aren't Exactly Free

When I wrote my last post, "The Nursery Is Ready," I was displaying my ignorance. We thought our crop of milkweed would be the nursery for the monarch butterfly eggs we planned to order. Eventually our milkweeds would become the pantry, as you will see. Although the website* mentioned the need for a "suitable rearing chamber," we thought we wouldn't need one because of our outdoor "nursery."  So when 28 eggs arrived on August 5th,  attached to a little milkweed plant, we were shocked to learn that we were supposed to raise the butterflies indoors. It was the weekend. We had nothing around the house that would do as a "rearing chamber." So we felt we had no choice but to put the little milkweed out on our patio and hope for the best. Something chewed up the leaves of the milkweed, but we never saw a single caterpillar. Not one. We felt bad.

I decided to try again.  Borrowing a terrarium from our daughter, I ordered just 10 eggs (or  caterpillars, depending on availability) for a little over $26. A box of caterpillars arrived within 2 days, cradled in a nest of milkweed leaves.

After laying a sheet of newspaper on the floor of the terrarium, we placed the caterpillars inside and said good night. 

Every morning for the next 10 days, we gathered 6 milkweed leaves from our front-yard plants. We washed them and patted them dry (butterflies get all the water they need from eating the leaves). Next we lifted the newspaper, containing the caterpillars, their poops and yesterday's shredded leaves, out of the terrarium. We laid fresh paper and returned the caterpillars--still clinging to shredded leaves--to the terrarium.  Finally, we placed the fresh leaves in the terrarium and closed the screen lid. 

Within 24 hours, the hungry caterpillars changed the sturdy milkweed leaves into tattered lace. They ate and ate and ate and mostly lolled around. One day a couple of them got into a skirmish that looked a little like a fight, but it was over almost before it began.  Mostly they ate.  And molted. And ate. I briefly considered ordering another batch of eggs/caterpillars, but our milkweed plants were turning yellow during the hot, steamy weather. Just when we thought their demand for leaves would exceed our supply, two of  the larger caterpillars stopped eating and began climbing the wall.

Reaching the top, they lay stretched out straight on the top for a day or two and then curled into a "J" shape.  Several hours later, I went in to check on them and was surprised to see two bright green chrysalises, along with a third caterpillar what had just reached the top.

When I saw the two chrysalises, 
I felt a little like a mother 
whose children had gone off to college 
without saying good-bye. 

As of today, there are 6 chrysalises at the top of the terrarium, plus 1 J-shaped caterpillar. A 7th chrysalis adheres to the glass, halfway up the side. Two large, fat caterpillars and 1 "runt" that has just molted remain on the bottom. Yes, you counted right. A few days ago we suddenly noticed that we were raising 11 butterflies. There must have been an egg on the leaves they came with.

It takes 10 to 14 days for a butterfly to hatch. We may be out of town for our nephew's wedding when that happens, so we may miss the finale of this miracle. Our daughter and her family will probably be the ones who see them off to Mexico.  Still, we are grateful for the part we got to play. We hope to do this again next year, maybe more than once. 

As I understand it from the brochure from Rose Franklin's Perenniels, our end-of-summer babies will probably migrate to central Mexico and spend the winter there. Their life spans will be longer than the 4-to-5-week lifespans of Monarchs hatched between spring and midsummer. After mating next February, the wintering Monarchs will start north as milkweed comes back to life in Texas. They will lay their eggs on the Texas milkweeds and their lives will end. It is their children that will continue the northward migration. 


Monday, July 11, 2016

The Nursery is Ready

Last year we planted milkweed so that monarch butterflies could lay their eggs. All that we knew about monarch butterflies at that time is that baby monarchs require milkweed. Unfortunately, we didn't see a single monarch all summer. Then we found out that sometimes you have to order butterfly eggs from a vendor. We found a vendor, but the eggs--often available as early as June--will not be available until mid-July. No orders will be accepted until then. We are waiting, waiting, waiting.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Brief Moments in Hell

We were back at the beach in Lewes, DE the week of June 18th with our daughter, son-in-law and 13-year-old grandson.  The weather was heavenly, but we had some brief moments in hell.

Last year, when my daughter suggested a trip to one of her favorite shops, "Christmas Tree Hill," I thought she said "Christmas Tree Hell." It was another "fun-with-hearing-loss"moment. The family mascot was then 12 and spent nearly the whole week playing video games (with earphones) with occasional breaks for fishing or swimming. This year, when  his mother asked him to go with us to Christmas Tree Hill, he replied, "Why would I want to go to Christmas Tree Hell?" Did he hear her wrong because of a new testosterone-driven aversion to shopping? He stayed home, but my husband, daughter and I went to "Hell." Actually, my husband didn't venture into the store. He sat on a bench outside, watching the passers-by.

When the week was over, I rode home with Margaret. We stopped at an outlet mall to shop for shoes before getting on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, because Margaret needed some shoes. As luck would have it, I found two pairs I liked and she found none. Returning to the car, she fished in her bag for her keys.


What a heart-stopping moment! Of course she could have called Michael and of course  he would have turned right around, but he would have been grumpy. We returned to the store and asked if anyone had turned in a set of keys. No one had, so we scanned the aisles for the keys. A clerk suggested Margaret had dropped them in a shoebox. The shelves were lined with hundreds of identical shoeboxes. "Uh, I don't think so," said Margaret. The clerk advised her to go to the mall security office, so Margaret took off, half running. As I headed for the parking lot to look for the keys, I heard the clerk calling me. She was waving the keys.  She'd remembered that Margaret had tried on a certain pair of navy-blue sandals. She found the keys in the box. 

So now we joined the bumper-to-bumper traffic headed for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. On the bridge, Margaret drove in the middle lane. I was impressed with her bravery. I always choose the outer lane because I don't like being tail-gated by drivers who think the posted speed limit is for sissies. I concentrated on the distant sailboats out on the water and tried not to think of the woman whose car was nudged over the railing by an aggressive truck driver last year. Fortunately, the accident happened soon after she got on the bridge, so she didn't fall all that far and she was able to swim to safety. 

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Small Town Memorial Day Celebration

We were at our cabin in Knox County, Ohio, the week of Memorial Day, 
so we went to the parade and ceremony in nearby Danville.

Actually, we arrived too late to see most of the parade, but at least I got some pictures of the part of the parade I wanted to see most--the riding club for special needs kids.
PELIA stand for "Positive Equine Learning in Action".
I love it that the horses wore red, white and blue ribbons on their tails.
After parading down Main Street, they passed a bank  and a large pasture before turning right to go into a farm at the edge of town.  All the cows that had been calmly grazing near the bank building turned and dashed like crazy things across the field as if to greet the horses.  

After the parade, a brief ceremony honored the sons and daughters of Danville who had died defending their country. The high school band played "America the Beautiful."

Then a speaker talked about a recently fallen soldier.  Her voice broke. She had the mother come forward and she hugged her.  The words on the T-shirts on the couple in the photo captured the spirit of the day: "Danville: Small Town, Big Heart." 

Friday, June 3, 2016

Honk If You Love Geeses

The flotilla of geese gliding on the mirror lake
Blurt out the name of the town:

Burke!  Burke!  Burke!

The iris purples the water's edge,
Ignoring their nasty noise.

A red-winged blackbird
Longs to perch on cattail or cornstalk
In the sea of suburban green,
And finding none, he grumps:

Burke Burkity Burke.

Thursday, June 2, 2016


Honeysuckle June:
An Amish dog's Rumspringa.
Dody is so strict.

Always on a leash,
No suitors, no puppies, no
Whoopie Pie for her.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Woman in a Chador

I think what the woman was wearing is called a chador. She was dressed head to toe in a flowing black robe. Only her eyes were visible. Passing through the hall at the Senior Center, she paused for a few minutes to watch our Zumba class. Eight men and women of various ethnicities faced an instructor who led them through a fast-paced dance combining elements of salsa, cumbia and cha-cha. I wonder what she thought. Was she scandalized or did she long to join us? 

Such women are becoming a more common sight in our town. About twenty years ago, I was in the the old mall when a chador-wearing woman rode down the escalator with her husband and two sons. The man and his boys were dressed like any other American male in July. They wore shorts, tee shirts, sandals and baseball caps. Maybe her black tent-like garment protected the woman from the summer heat, but it looked heavy. Somehow I doubt it. A nearby African-American man who was watching them turned to his little boy and said, "Now you just know they're not from around here." 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Easter-Egg Colors

It only seems like it's rained 40 days and 40 nights. The last two weeks have been a succession of grey skies and dripping rain.  The sun was out briefly yesterday, but we had a thunderstorm last night.

Two weeks ago we were at our cabin in Knox County, OH. Half the days were warm and sunny, but the weather turned chilly and rainy toward the end of our week. Sunday, April 24th, the day we drove home, was warm and sunny. We saw a pretty sight on the highway near Berlin, OH--a group of Amish or Mennonite girls and women, all wearing white caps and all riding bikes, wearing dresses the color of Easter eggs--pink, lavender, yellow, robins-egg blue, aqua.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

She "Elfed Her Hair into Knots".

Our 20-month-old granddaughter got hold of some Vicks and went to work on her hair. The quote is from Shakespeare, don't ask me which play. I always wondered what it meant. Now I know.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

At the Library at Monticello

During 8-year-old grandson's Spring Break, daughter and family went to Thomas Jefferson's home, Monticello. The weather was dreary the first two days of the trip. The 2-year-old was cranky from teething, so our daughter, Becky, didn't get to finish the tour of the mansion. Just Tom and Nate joined the group in the library. The guide said that Jefferson owned editions of 19 percent of all the books published in his day. He had the largest private collection in America.

Nate raised his hand.

"Yes?" said the guide.

"I'm going to write a book, " Nate announced.

"That's nice," replied the guide.

Yesterday his Grandpa asked Nate about the title of the forthcoming book.

"I'm not really ready to say," replied Nate.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Little Things Make Me Happy

The shower curtain liner has gotten grimier and grimier over the years. Still serviceable, but oh, so ugly, with rust stains and splotches of mildew. I pictured myself on the driveway this summer, dealing with the mess. I'd put on my grungies, spread the white plastic liner on the driveway and spray it with a chlorine-based cleaner. I'd ignore the stares of the neighbors.

Mind you, I don't like using chlorine. It's bad for the environment, or so I'm told, but it's also something I know I should never ever fool around with. No matter how careful I am with the stuff, I inevitably end up destroying a favorite piece of clothing when I use it. Don't know why. Don't know how. White spots just happen.

That's why I am so happy with a recent discovery. After a shower, I sprayed the liner with that daily shower cleaner I use when I think of it. I rubbed a notebook-sized area lightly and the grime just disappeared.

So I don't have to take it down.

I don't have to spread it out on the driveway and clean off the leaves and grass adhering to the backside afterwards.

 I don't have to mess around with dangerous substances.

I don't have to mutter and swear when I'm rehanging the liner and miss one of the shower hooks. (They're the devil to open and close.)

I'll just clean a little patch of the liner every time I take a shower from now on. Kind of like painting the San Francisco Bay Bridge. It's a job that never ends. I am so happy.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Hotel Catifornia

His name was Clarence and he came with a sibling called Conan. Their names did not match their personalities. Conan was timid. Clarence--who soon came to be known as "Clance"--was the bold swashbuckler. Our daughter adopted the pair when she was living in a rowhouse on Baltimore's Federal Hill. One day the intrepid Clarence ran away. He swaggered back a few days later with an oil spot on his head and an attitude: "Don't even bother to ask where I've been and what I've been doing."

The cats and the pit bull moved to a crackerbox of a house when our daughter got married. A large sheepherder-type dog belonging to our son-in-law was already in residence. In due time, a baby boy arrived. When the baby was a few weeks old,  Conan suddenly had to be put to sleep. A stray cat turned up the next day, as if an invisible "Vacancy" sign had been hanging in the window. Our daughter was so sad about Conan that our son-in-law briefly considered letting it into the house. Talking it over, we quietly agreed that two big dogs, a cat and a baby were probably enough, so he didn't encourage the stray to hang around. Clance thus became King Cat. 

A few years passed. The family moved to a spacious 4-bedroom house.  The two big dogs died. A beagle joined the family and was made to understand that Clance was In Charge. Clance aged well. He was wiry and energetic.  He had the run of the house until they found out that our grandson was allergic to cats. So Clance was confined to the large Master Bedroom, where he spent much of the day under the quilt, impersonating a loaf of bread. Our daughter even had a screen door installed so that the bedroom door could stay open all day. She didn't want him to feel lonely. He was still very much a part of the family. 

A few more years passed. Clance, now in his late teens, seemed likely to live into his twenties. Alas, he was getting forgetful. "What's this box for?" he asked one day. He used the air duct instead, creating a yellow spot on the living-room ceiling that also showed up on a long list of "Things to Fix Before We Sell the House." The year before, our daughter and husband decided their the house was too big and too far away from the husband's workplace. By this time last year, they were planning to put the house on the market in June.

A realtor came by. She wrinkled her nose at the Master Bedroom. "You've got to do something about that cat," she said.  It didn't look like the Feline Grim Reaper was going to visit anytime soon. Anyway, despite his growing forgetfulness, he was still beloved. Reluctantly, our daughter moved him to the basement bathroom. She felt awful about it.  She gave him a comfy upholstered chair and turned on the electric heater to ward off the chill. 

The family went away for a week. When they got back, our other son-in-law called me. "Do you know when they're going to pick up their aquarium?"


I asked my husband, "Why would they get an aquarium when they're getting ready to move?"

"Oh, it's really just a fishbowl," he said. "It's supposed to give Clarence something to look at."

About a month later, Clarence were berserk. He smashed his water bowl and feeding dish. Our daughter was in the basement at two in the morning sweeping up shards of glass. The cat was no longer himself. Heartbroken, our daughter took him to the vet. The diagnosis was kidney failure.

The day after he was put down, a Professional Organizer (PO) was at the house, helping our daughter get a handle on the monumental job of downsizing and moving. I was there, too, helping to take care of their newly-adopted baby girl. The PO was working in the garage and the rest of us were in the kitchen. Suddenly, we heard the insistent meowing of a cat. Daughter and I looked at each other in disbelief. Was there another invisible "Vacancy" sign in the window? The meowing continued. Where was that cat?  Then the PO appeared and pulled her cellphone out of her purse. "Sorry," she said, "That's my ringtone." 

Monday, March 7, 2016

High Noon at the Post Office

I stopped in at the Post Office about noon on Sunday to mail three Netflix CDs. Seeing the self-service kiosk, I decided to buy stamps. The first thing I noticed was that "This machine accepts only debit or credit cards." OK then. I inserted my debit card and ordered 4 sheets of stamps, ten stamps to a sheet.  My card was debited $9.60. The screen advised patience, as about a minute was needed to print the stamps. Soon some stamps appeared. But only one sheet.

Well, this was no good. I ripped a piece of paper from my pocket calendar and wrote a curt note to Uncle Sam. I told him what had happened and that I would be coming in on Monday for the remaining three sheets. I happened to glance at the machine again. Lo and behold, another sheet had appeared in the meantime, but only one. So I stood there in the deserted post office for about 5 minutes, staring hopefully at the machine, waiting for two more sheets to print. 

Fortunately, another customer arrived just as I was about to give up. When I told him what happened, he replied, "Oh, sometimes they get stuck." Twisting his hand up behind the plastic shield, he reached the stamp-dispensing slot, but no sheets were there. "Let's see what happens when I buy my stamps," he said. He inserted his card and ordered two sheets. Four sheets promptly appeared. He handed me my two sheets and was on his way. 

Next time I'm buying my stamps from a person. 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Tree Down

For several months, everyone has been nervously watching this tall evergreen as it leaned toward the street. Every one agreed that "someone"--preferably the home owner--should "do something" about it. However, the owner's car hasn't been seen in the driveway since maybe last fall. This person is reclusive and apparently told no one where he was going and when he would be back.  Today the inevitable happened. Fortunately, no one was hurt and nothing was damaged.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Magic Moment

This is our granddaughter. She will be two years old in May. We spent the day with her a week ago, so that her mother could get some work done. Like all little kids her age, she enjoys feeding others. She wants to share pieces of waffle or cracker with her grandfather and me. She tosses food to her dog attendants from her highchair-throne like a tiny queen.

That afternoon, when we were playing toddler games with her in the living room, she fed us again. Only this time, the food was imaginary! We were pretty impressed with that, let me tell you.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Snow Siege, Day Five

We may get out today.
The snow shrinks down, compacts.
Yesterday's igloo blocks
Have turned to whited bricks.
Paved tracks appear on the street.
Perhaps the paper will come
And maybe some ads, some bills, a letter.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Snow Siege, Day Four

When the snow was still young and exciting, 
Boys came up the street with shovels,
But my husband waved them away.
"I've got this," he said.

The snow kept coming
and when it stopped
it settled into igloo blocks.
Slowly slowly melting,
it still stands one foot tall in the driveway.
The car is stabled like a restless horse.
No line dance class for me today.

The pie is gone.
The milk is soon to go.
No morning paper.
No afternoon mail.
Just the drone of CNN
with Hillary, Bernie, Donald and Ted.
Who cares?

Did some laundry.
Steam-cleaned the carpet
Of two years' dog spit-up, coffee slop-spots,
And stubborn goo.
Who cares?

Played "beer" on Scrabble for 14 points.
Who cares?

The sky is leaden,
The sunshine doubtful, pale and wintery,
Like the smile of a Puritan divine.
Who cares?

Monday, January 25, 2016

After the Storm of 2016

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Well, we survived. They're saying we'll be allowed out on the roads by Wednesday. The populace seems to be heeding the official advice. Church was cancelled today for me and many others.

It started snowing around noon on Friday. Schools were closed for the day and the Senior Center closed at noon. Snow continued all night, with a blizzard and hurricane-force winds predicted for Saturday. That didn't happen, but we ended up with over two feet of snow. Friends with ocean-side property watched helplessly as the storm tore away the pier in Ocean City and caused floods in Lewes, DE.

This camellia bloomed by our porch during the warm spell around New Year's.

I scared most of the birds away when I took this picture.
Sometimes more than 40 birds were clustered at the feeders.

It's white and it's pretty. We spent the day shoveling short paths to the bird feeders, keeping them filled and fostering a culture of dependency on our Feathered Friends. Dilly Dog romped to the back fence once and called it a day. She snoozed on the couch while we watched Immortal Beloved, a DVD about Beethoven and his alleged love affair with his brother's wife. I cooked barbecued ground turkey in the crock pot and baked a cherry pie, hoping that the power would stay on. Talked to the kids on the phone. One lives nearby and the other in Northern Virginia. All is well.

Happy to say that the power stayed on!

Now comes the Digging Out. The neighbors across the street spent a lot of time this morning moving their four cars to the street so they could clear the driveway. The black car got stuck in the street and required a lot of back-and-forth rocking and shoveling to get it back in the driveway

We played on-line Scrabble with my sister in Chicago. Her talent at this game is positively demonic. We are drawn into new games again and again. We managed to win yesterday's game, but it was the two of us against the one of her and we barely squeaked by. A new game has started and we will probably go down in flames once more. 

Also started a new jigsaw puzzle, a 300-piece Ravensburger with large pieces. Two months ago, we learned our lesson with a 1000-piece puzzle that soon had us wailing and gnashing our teeth and wanting to cast the puzzle into the Outer Darkness. With great joy we finally tossed the thing in the recycling bin.

The Puzzle We Threw Out

I finished two books--The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout and The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. I also did seventh grade math problems on line. I started this project last year when our grandson was in sixth grade and struggling with math. I'd hoped to help him with  his homework. It turns out he didn't want my help and has pulled himself out of his downward spiral on his own. Still, the last time I took math I was a silly girl who often cried and threw her math book across the room. Now that I am an old girl, married to a patient mathematician, I don't get nearly so frustrated. I actually enjoy math. Somewhat. I hope to stay with it until I finish 12th-grade math, if I don't get dementia in the meantime.