Wednesday, October 13, 2021

A Childhood "Haunted" House

 Some years ago, my husband was back in Cleveland, OH. He decided to visit his childhood home. He was born in that house in 1939 and it was home to him and his siblings until he left for college in 1957. After his father retired in the mid-60's, his parents sold the house and moved to the old farmhouse they owned in Knox County, OH.

The house was in Garfield Heights, a Cleveland suburb. While he was growing up, P's neighbors were all White people, largely of Irish and eastern European origin. His parents had a party line, so P often picked up the phone to hear his next-door neighbor talking in Czech. One day, thinking she might suspect he was eavesdropping, he quickly hung up when he heard her say the word, "telephone".

P knew that the neighborhood had changed and that the house now belonged to a Black family, so he wasn't sure how welcome he'd be if he approached the owner. Noticing that the yard looked better than it had back in his day, he knocked on the front door. A middle-aged woman answered the door. From upstairs, what sounded to P like "a crabby old lady"--her mother?--called down to her: "Who's at the door?"

"It's OK," the woman replied to the old lady. P explained that he had grown up in the house. The woman was very friendly. She asked him to step inside. They chatted a bit, and then she asked, "While you're here, there's something I've always wondered about. There's a bump on the floor in the basement that looks like it's been covered over with cement. Do you know anything about that?"

Always quick on the draw, P replied, in an ominous tone, "Don't dig there!"

"What???" The woman was clearly horrified.

"Just kidding," he said, reassuringly. "Actually, I have no idea. That must have happened after we moved out."

Monday, October 11, 2021

I Fell for a Scam


"Use the below" doesn't sound like normal English.
If I'd noticed that, I would have realized that something was phishy.

Instead, in my usual haste, I clicked on that link when I received an identical e-mail earlier last week. BIG MISTAKE! The first sign of trouble was the sudden disappearance of the contents of every one of our e-mail files (inbox, sent, drafts, spam, trash and contacts). P spent all afternoon recovering everything he could, but we will have to enter each of our e-mail contacts individually. 

Soon we began getting phone calls from friends and relatives saying our e-mail had been hacked. A few had received the following weird request that didn't sound like it came from me: 

Subject: Await your response

Great to hear from you, please I need you to get a Steam Wallet card for a friend who is down with cancer of the Liver. It's her birthday today and I promised to get it for her, but I can't do this now because I'm currently out of town going to sympathize with another friend of mine who his mom died of heart disease today. All my effort purchasing the card online proved abortive. Could you get it from any store around you today? I'll reimburse you once I return. Please let me know if you can handle this.  

I'll be happy to make this possible for my ill friend today. 

Other friends/relatives received only this e-mail from the scammer because of a mistake in the spelling of my name in my gmail account:

Did you receive my previous email?
Let me know if you did receive it.

One of our friends thought the e-mail was probably legit until this e-mail turned up in his spam folder the following day: 

How are you doing today? Thanks for your help yesterday. I really appreciate it. I know these would sound really stupid but I don't have a choice than to tell you these. I myself would need the Steam card. If you wouldn't be mad at me, would you mind helping me purchase another steam (sic) card for $...? I promise to refund all your $...  as soon as I am back but I wouldn't be back today again as my friend is ill due to the loss of his mom. He was being taken to the hospital and I'm here with him. The doctor said he will be fine tomorrow and I'll be back by Sunday. 

According to online information, this scam has been around since 2019. Apparently no company would ever ask you to renew your account password by sending you a link like this.  Companies either assume you will take the initiative to change your passwords or they provide a secure website for that purpose. We got busy changing all our passwords immediately. The whole episode was creepy. 

Thursday, October 7, 2021

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Here are 18 of my remaining journals. I've kept journals over the past 50 years. Some have already been lost or destroyed. At least one got thrown away, hidden in a stack of newspapers. I am now re-reading the remaining ones, intending to salvage the good parts and getting rid of "the bad and the ugly." I don't want to share everything I ever wrote, especially with those closest to me. If any of them keep journals, they will understand. 

I want to share some of the journals' good parts on my blog. I also re-read parts of my blog from now and then, and, honestly, sometimes it makes me laugh. The best stories are the funny ones. I want to pass on some of these stories to my children and grandchildren in hopes that they will laugh as well. So, before long, I plan to have copies of my blog printed for them. 

Monday, September 27, 2021

Booster Shot

 Today we got our Corona virus booster shots at CVS. Any Marylander over the age of 65 can get one. 

We got our flu shots last Friday. At first I told P that I didn't want to get the booster so soon after the flu shot. "Why not?" he asked. "Are you like your mother's cat?"

Mom (who lived with us for ten years, until she was 99) always insisted on multiple vet visits to space out her cat's annual shots. "You're not going to put all those vaccines into this tiny cat all at once," she told the vet when she was still living in her hometown. The vet allowed her to stretch out the visits. When she moved in with us, she told the vet the same thing. This vet just rolled her eyes and said nothing. Toward the end of the first annual visit, the vet gave the cat a single injection. Mom was immediately suspicious. "What did you just do?" she demanded.

"I gave your cat her annual shots. She'll be just fine." 

Mom wasn't happy, but the cat showed no ill effects. 

Saturday, September 11, 2021

We sat and sat . . . .

I wasn't going to write about 9/11 again, but here's what's going through my mind today.  My husband and I worked for the Department of Defense, so we were both in our respective offices that morning. In my office, on the fifth floor of the main building, we watched in amazement as a plane plowed through the first tower of the World Trade Center and in horror as another plane hit the second. 

Within minutes, we were all told to go home. Then came the challenge of making one's way down four flights of stairs crowded with hundreds of frantic people. I found my way to our car in the parking lot. My husband was already there. As a high-ranking 35-year employee,  he was entitled to a special parking place just a few rows from the front door of the building.  The downside of this plum spot was now apparent. We were far from the single parking-lot exit. Yes, there was just one exit to this huge lot, because terrorism was on everyone's radar even before 9/11.  The bad guys had to be kept out. 

Those who had to park farther from the building every day were now able to leave first, but even they were hampered by the bottleneck at the gate. Everyone inched along for what seemed like hours. We mostly just sat and sat, glancing at the sky and listening, wondering if we were going to be targets. My husband thinks it took us about two hours to reach the gate.  I cried all the way home. 

Work was never the same after that. The going-away party scheduled later that week for a beloved team leader was cancelled. The Iraq War came along in 2003 with a lot of flag-waving and fanfare. "Shock and Awe." It made me sick. When my 97-year-old mother began to wander down our driveway and complain to passersby about the treatment she was receiving from the "strangers" in "that house,"I knew it was time to retire. It was 2006.

The world was never the same after that either. Our first grandson arrived nearly a year after the attack, in 2002. His due date was supposed to have been on the first anniversary of 9/11, but he appeared nearly two weeks early. He arrived during the days when a sniper and his young sidekick were terrorizing the Washington suburbs. His parents couldn't even take him to the park in his stroller until after the pair were caught, in late October. 

The country is still under the spell of 9/11. We are so angry with each other and so fearful of "the other" that we are barely able to cope with any of our problems, let alone Covid. What will become of us?

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

A Beautiful Start to the Day

 We left the house at 6 AM. The "waning gibbous moon" had not yet set. (I had to look up what you call a moon that was full two days ago, but now has a tiny nip taken out of it. ) The air was cool and pleasant. We saw only a few people out and about.

We were on our way to the lab for a test I have to get three times a year to see if the powerful medication I take for idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis (IPF) is leaving my liver alone. Liver damage is just one of the possible side effects of this miracle drug. Only one other patient was ahead of me. I was in and out in no time. 

IPF makes you cough. I am glad I didn't cough in the waiting room or during the blood draw. People would have thought I had Covid for sure and I would have gotten dirty looks, even though I was wearing a mask. 

Sunday was my 81st birthday. Our daughters came over and brought dinner, most of which I couldn't eat. My appetite is still a distant memory. "No appetite" is another side effect of my medication.  I have become a skeleton. I don't know whether to get clothes that fit (size 4 as opposed to my normal size 8) or to keep on hoping and trying to regain some weight.

I confessed to my daughters that I am guilty of what I call "IPF Kabuki."  I frequently act as if I am worse off than I really am, if only to make sure that everyone knows I need to be taken care of.  I still have not accepted the fact that I have this disease and that limits have been imposed on my life, against my will.  I realize that every person on earth is subject to limits, and that I am hardly alone in this. Still, there is something about chronic illness with a stated life-expectancy of "3-5 years after diagnosis" that dims your hopes. 

That said, from what I read on line, I don't seem to be that bad off. I may be wrong, but I suspect I could be doing more. Instead,  I have been lolling around, having my kind-hearted spouse bring me this and that and do more than his share around the house. Meanwhile, I have stopped doing all of the things that are supposed to be helpful in my situation. No exercise for over a month. Not pushing myself to eat more. Not doing any breathing exercises.  I am pouting, I guess. I am just so angry and so unaccepting of what has happened to me.  I need to grow up.

Friday, August 20, 2021

Breakfast at Burger King

Photo by Richard Sacredo on Unsplash

On the way home from a week at our cabin in Knox County OH, we bought our breakfast at the drive-through window at Burger King and then found a spot in the parking lot. My husband was so charmed by our close encounter with a red-winged blackbird that he wrote this story. 


We paid for our breakfast croissant sandwiches and parked to enjoy them. I put down the car window and started opening my sandwich. A bird is trying to fly into our car! What is happening? I start rolling the window back up. The bird is fluttering, suspended just outside the driver's side window, squawking.  It's a redwing blackbird,  its red (patch) brilliant in the morning light.

We get the message right away. He's earned a bit of my sandwich. I toss it out and it's quickly gone.

Wait. There are more of them. A whole family is on the pavement outside the car door. I toss out another crumb. An apparently young bird shyly pecks at it. Its siblings look on, but do not challenge him. They are taking turns!

Several more crumbs, and it's my turn. I settle to enjoy my croissant sandwich. But there he is again. The brilliant father is perched on my side mirror only inches away, looking me square in the face, squawking--resplendent in the prime of his life. How can I deny him?

These birds seem very orderly and know exactly what they are doing. So if you're heading east from Coshocton on Ohio's Route 36 and are stopping for breakfast at the Burger King, buy a little extra. 


Saturday, August 7, 2021

I Know They Have to Repair the Roads, but . . .

 A week ago, on our way home from a vacation at our cabin in Knox County, OH, we were cruising along on US Route 40 east of Uniontown, PA, when we suddenly encountered a "Road Closed" sign.  Oh no!!

The 25-mile detour took us along a narrow, 2-lane, winding country road. Near Confluence, PA we laughed at the name of a nearby town--"Lower Turkeyfoot"--but otherwise, our mood was grim. When was this detour ever going to end? It threatened to go on forever. It bypassed our usual rest stop in Addison, PA and finally dumped us off near the Mason-Dixon Line. The sign on a roadhouse said, "You survived the detour! Let's party!"  All we could think of at that point was getting home, so we kept going. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Middle Class to Follow the Billionaires into Space

 SpaceBus will launch in November, 2021, carrying 250 middle-class subscribers into space. Tickets for the 22-minute ride will cost just $100,000 each. 

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Sardonic Humor on the Fourth

 I've reached that time of life when I live mainly on Memory Lane. At least for now, as I still seem to have a fair number of marbles. 

Anyway, some years ago, all residents of Montpelier, the name of our Levitt-house community in Laurel, MD, woke to find small American flags at the bottom edge of their driveways, with a post-card-sized ad for the local realtor who was responsible for placing them (over 500) before dawn's early light.  

While most of us were pleased when we found them, one resident was not.  He posted a message on the community's e-mail bulletin board, protesting that the realtor had taken advantage of our national holiday to advertise his business. As if this was somehow un-American.

Another resident replied, "If you'll just provide your address, I'll come and remove the offending item." 

I loved that. 

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Day of the Locust

 . . . is drawing to a close.

Quite a few carcasses litter the ground. The volume of the raucous love-call made by the males is diminishing just a bit. The ones that are still flying around seem to be slowing down. They are not particularly skillful navigators, frequently bumping into windows and siding with a soft "plunk". 

Today's Washington Post says that it's the female cicada who's in charge. She decides whom to accept. "Within an hour (of mating), she will slice open a small tree branch and lay her eggs securely in the opening. Soon, she will also die." 

Ah, poor thing. Six weeks after Mom passes on, the eggs hatch. The nymphs drop from the tree and burrow into the ground to stay for the next seventeen years. 

Know this, Ladies:  the pickings are getting slimmer by the day.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

They Are Here!

                                        Red-Eyed and Weirdly Beautiful

                    Just a few of the hundreds of carcasses beneath a single tree

                              Recently Hatched and Ready for a 3-Week Frolic

We wondered if they were ever going to emerge, and here they are. They're making a LOT of noise. My husband was startled when one landed on the back of his neck. Fortunately, it flew off immediately. 

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Waiting for Cicadas

Brood # 10 of noisy, red-eyed cicadas will emerge any day now in the Washington, DC area.  We went through this before, 17 years ago.  They hatched, they sang loudly day and night,  they mated. They didn't eat and probably never slept. After three weeks, they were worn out. They flew ever more slowly, bumping absent-mindedly into things and people. It was if they were half asleep or dying, which they were. And then they disappeared. Their progeny will emerge 17 years from now, but we won't be around to see it. 

Although many people claim to be grossed out by the mere sight of a cicada, Dilly Dog will be delighted. She was born on an Amish farm seven years ago. During her first few months of life, she seems to have supplemented her diet by digging for moles and voles. When the cicadas arrive, she'll probably think "mice with wings" and feast on them. Fortunately, they're not toxic. 

Saturday, April 10, 2021

Waiting for Hummingbirds


We put our hummingbird feeders out two days ago, on April 8th.  I make the nectar myself, following an Audubon Society recipe:  

(1) Bring 5 cups of water to a rolling boil.

(2) Stir in 1 and 1/4 cups of granulated sugar. Let it boil for a minute to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat. When cool, pour into two 20-ounce mason jars and refrigerate.  

(3) Pour 3/4 to 1 cup of cold sugar water into each feeder, depending on demand. Making 40 ounces at a time provides enough nectar to fill our two feeders twice, with some left over.  

We have two feeders. one in the front yard and one in the back.  I change the nectar twice a week. I bring the feeders with the "old" nectar inside, empty them,  and clean them with hot water and white vinegar. Left alone, they will develop mold and mildew. I put "new" nectar in clean feeders. (We have two sets of feeders.)

The water in the little cup above the feeder is meant to discourage ants, and works quite well. Bees and wasps are another matter. They visit the feeders constantly, so you have to watch out for them when removing a feeder. 

While awaiting the arrival of the feisty hummingbirds (they will get into fights over the feeders throughout the spring and summer), we can see evidence of nesting activity among the seed-eating birds. The male finches have turned bright yellow. A male cardinal will court a female by offering her a sunflower seed.  Male mourning doves waddle purposefully after the ladies, who feign complete indifference.  It's a wonderful circus. 

Monday, March 8, 2021

You Can Fool Some of the People Some of the Time

 Late yesterday afternoon our younger daughter stopped by for a short visit (with social distancing and masks.) She brought sandwiches for our dinner. As usual, we talked about the grand children. The older one, a boy who will turn 13 the day after tomorrow, has had a year of distance learning and doesn't much like it. He's noticed that the teacher takes on a sugary persona when the session is being recorded, but reverts to normal off camera. When the recording stops temporarily,  she'll bark at the students. "You need to sit up straight! You need to pay attention. All eyes should be on me!"  When recording resumes, she's all sweetness again. 

Tomorrow both children (his sister is six) will return to the classroom two days a week. Our daughter is a little apprehensive about this. She's over fifty, but has not been vaccinated. She doesn't know how many, if any, teachers have been vaccinated. Her husband, who's in the US Army band, has been vaccinated. 

Saturday, March 6, 2021

Neatness Counts

 Neatness is important to me. After a year of Covid living in a menage a trois (two people and a dog), clutter abounds. It's driving me crazy. My spouse doesn't seem to mind it as much as me. When one pile of stuff threatens to topple over, he just starts a new one. 

We had two vacuums that were beasts. Now that I have less stamina, I no longer want to wrestle with them. Although my husband is more energetic than I, he was becoming less inclined to drag them out. On the suggestion of a fellow blogger, "High Riser," we bought a powerful, lightweight stick vacuum and are very pleased with it. I've already given one of the beasts away. The other will soon follow. 

The new cordless Dyson needs to be recharged.  Our temporary "solution" was to just lay it on the floor and plug it into the nearest outlet, but after a couple of months of tripping over it, we knew we had to find it a permanent home. Our tiny laundry room was the obvious choice, but the builder of our 50-year-old house provided only one outlet, which was already being used by the washer. 

On to "the addition", which we built twenty-five years ago before Mom moved in with us. First, we assumed we'd just screw the docking station directly into the wall, but the "easy" You Tube instructions involved first installing a 4-foot long wooden plank and then mounting the docking station on that. To make things easier for ourselves and also to avoid damaging the wall, we opted to buy a portable stand.

Nothing is ever easy nowadays. There was still a bit of a hassle in the form of "some assembly required". The stand arrived with a large sheet of small-print instructions involving numerous miniscule screws. Oh, the patience of that man! He persevered and soon we had a handy little "tree" that holds not only the vacuum but the attachments as well.  

See what I mean about the clutter? Would anyone like a never-used sewing machine with its own little table? 

Monday, February 22, 2021


 "I have life," Earth brags.

The mean planets laugh at her.

"Covid, too," they sneer.

Friday, February 12, 2021

Covid Shot # 2

 We got our second shots yesterday. Arms still slightly sore today, but that's all. Thank you, University of Maryland Capital District Health Care Center

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Possible False Negative, But . . .

It's a beautiful snow day here in Maryland. This is our daughter's dog, Mabel. She's a bit porky. She's convinced she is starving. She's adept at grabbing pies on the kitchen counter that the baker thought were well out of reach. Christmas a year ago, our daughter and I spent hours, hours, baking and decorating four dozen fancy sugar cookies for her book club's Christmas cookie exchange. The cookies were hung high up in a bedroom closet, encased in plastic. Mabel helped herself to two dozen. Fortunately for Mabel, I did not learn of this until six months after it happened. 

Our grandson--the one who was tested for Covid last Thursday--shares the house with Mabel and his parents. His test came back negative, but then his mother went on line and learned that the test should be given three days after symptoms appear to lower the chances of a false negative. He was probably tested too soon. However, as always seems to be the case with him, he quickly recovered from his cold and feels great again. If it weren't snowing, he'd want to go skateboarding. His dad has the cold now. 

Friday, January 29, 2021

Fur, Beautiful Fur

 This is an old photo of Dilly, but it shows her fur as it used to be before low thyroid thinned her coat and gave her a tail that looked like an attached rattlesnake. 

Her fur is back, thanks to several months on thyroid hormone replacement therapy. When you take your dog to the vet, you hope that the prescribed remedy will work, but you're more often afraid that it won't. Well, in Dilly's case, it worked!  Last month, we began noticing that her rattlesnake tail was disappearing under new fur growth. She also had a bare spot under her collar. That's gone as well.  She has cowlicks I never noticed before. 

It's a very chilly day today, still under 32 degrees fahrenheit around 11 AM. Dilly is out walking with Phil. He's bundled up in his winter coat and she is resplendent in her new fur. (I don't go out unless the temperature is at least 40 because the cold air makes me cough.)

Yesterday our 18-year-old grandson had to be picked up from school. He had a sore throat, fever, and congestion. His dad took him for a second Covid test. They'll get the results in a day or so. Meanwhile, he's isolated in his room.  His mother says he's feeling better today. Over the years, he's missed very few days of school because of illness and he's always recovered quickly from colds. We hope that it's just a common cold this time and that he continues to recover. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Covid Vaccine, First Shot

 So the vaccines arrived in Maryland, causing some chaos and controversy. Those in "Tier 1B" (people over age 75 and others such as at-risk prisoners) were invited to register for appointments beginning last Monday, the 18th. At Zoom Bible Study on Sunday, January 17th, Shelly said she couldn't find out if, when, or where the shots would be available in Laurel. Cheryl said she'd managed to register herself online. She logged out, realized she'd forgotten to register her husband, tried to log back on, but couldn't find the site again no matter what she did. 

My husband spent Monday morning chasing down information on the internet. Our older daughter soon plowed through the thicket of too-much-information, located a climic less than 10 miles from our house, and even talked to a worker at the clinic. She gave us the phone number we needed to make an appointment. 

Our appointment was on Thursday, January 21st, at 5:30 PM, at the Prince George's County Hospital Center.  Fortunately, we arrived a little before 5, which gave us time to recover from getting lost. The detailed directions we'd been given didn't exactly match the lay of the land. We were to enter the "ASC Building" at 3001 Hospital Drive. Hospital Drive abruptly turned into Mercy Lane before we saw anything with a number on it. We couldn't find any "ASC" building.   After ending up in a parking lot full of dumpsters and tractor trailers,  Phil gave up and dialed the clinic number. We were told to drive into the parking garage, which was right in front of us, and enter the building. I studied the building's exterior later, after we ended up on the top floor of the parking garage while searching for the exit. Where did it say "ASC"? Nowhere! Instead, big bold neon letters proclaimed this large, hard-to-miss brick edifice to be the "Prince George's County Hospital Center."  Oh well. 

At the clinic, however, everything went smoothly.  Check-in, injection, followed by a 15-minute wait in the lounge in case of an allergic reaction. We were a little apprehensive of having to wait in a long line, but we were in and out in less than a half hour. Kudos to everyone at the clinic and the arrangements they had made to keep everyone safe and socially distanced. We have appointments to return on February 11th at 3:15 for the second shots.