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One Fine Day on Domhan

Life on Earth is what you crack it up to be.

Updated: 2014-10-05T03:27:06.861-04:00


Fine Snowy Surreal Days


Yesterday's weather reports were apocalyptic. Six to ten (or more!) inches of snow predicted. The local weatherman offered up three weather models that he must have pulled out of his ass. All three models predicted at least 8 inches of snow, AND, he said with a very hungry look in his eye, the most likely model will be the 9-11 inches. He followed that proclamation with raised eyebrows and a twisted puckered mouth--an expression reminiscent of Dana Carvey's "The Church Lady".

So yesterday afternoon as I was driving home from work, my gas gauge light blinked on. Damn. Five deep at the pumps. Damn, damn.

Let me just say that I have never, EVER succumbed to the impending blizzard grocery shopping mania. But as I was sitting in line for gas, it occurred to me that I could be missing out on something that so many other people seem to engage in. I could see the grocery store parking lot from where I sat idling in the gas line. The lot was packed. Suddenly, I decided that I absolutely HAD to have the ingredients to make French Toast: milk, eggs, bread.

The parking lot wasn't just packed. It was completely full. Vulturous SUVs and minivans wove in and out of the lanes. I got lucky in my small car. I found a spot that no minivan could fit into between two parking-morons. As I locked my car door, the first flakes were beginning to fall.

It wasn't too bad in the grocery...until the check-out. I thought five deep at the gas station was bad. I got to know the lady in line behind me quite well, actually.

In the twenty-five minutes between locking my car door and opening the trunk to put groceries in, about a quarter of an inch of snow had fallen.

An hour later--nothing. For hours--nothing. I went to bed, scoffing at the idea of "weather models".

This morning, we have about four inches of snow. It'll be gone by Monday, but for now, I celebrate what we have. See, I love snow. I love walking in it, and I really don't mind shoveling it. But don't (damnit!) tell me that we are going to have 10 inches of snow if we're getting only five. I've heard that promise before!

And here I sit at my office computer, blogging. Why? I don't want to touch those compositions I have to grade. I want to think about being outside while the snow is still falling gently. A few minutes ago, I opened a bottle of Dasani water. I held it in the light and watched the teeny bubbles rise to the top. They looked, at first, like snowflakes rising instead of falling. Then I moved bottle so that I was looking through a ripple in the plastic. The snowflakes looked like WWII airplanes spiraling upward. Then the airplanes turned into souls with their arms outstretched.

That is what snow does to me.

Fine Winter Days


A friend of mine has, within the last year, moved to a warm climate. It's such a very warm climate that, frankly, I feel sorry for her. This weekend, an arctic blast will sweep in from where ever arctic blasts come from. The temperature will be in the negative double digits, and whoo-baby! That wind chill will freeze your fillings, so keep yer yap shut.

So why, oh why do I "feel sorry" for my friend of the temperate climate? Because I'll just bet she's forgotten the intimacy one can have with one's windshield, of course.

Explain? Oh, dear reader, are you not from these parts? Well, let me tell you about car windshields and early morning frost.

There are different kinds of windshield frost, you know. There's the thick kind that's not terribly cold and doesn't stick to the windshield too hard. This kind of frost is easy to scrape off; it's almost fun. There's the frost that's stunningly beautiful with intricate snowflake-like images, jagged lightning-like shards, and delicate lacey window trim. I had that kind of frost to scrape about two weeks ago. I stood there staring at the beautiful patterns, my ice scraper in mid-air, not wanting to remove the artwork.

I've seen lots of other kinds of frost, but the frost that was GLUED to my windshield this morning is the most irritating kind to have. It's the kind that's thin, very cold, and stuck tight. I had to take my brass windshield scraper and try to get the "just right" angle to get this crap off. If I get the angle wrong, the scraper goes veering off across the windshield (with NO frost removal), or else I get this spine-yanking screech of metal against my windshield. Ack.

But when I get the angle right and the frost starts coming off--slowly--the act of scraping the windshield can become meditative. There's the idea of making slow progress. Yes, that can be oddly satisfying if I'm not freezing my ass off. But the other thing I've noticed when the frost is stuck that tight is the curve of my windshield. Huh. I'd never noticed that before. Now I know just where the glass is perfectly flat and the exact spot it begins its gradual curve toward the roofline.

I'll bet no one who "enjoys" 60 degree winters ever gets that intimate with a windshield.

One Fine Day Thirty Years Ago


Thirty years ago today, I was sniffing my newborn son's head, wondering how on earth it was that he smelled of fried chicken.

Thirty years ago yesterday I had finally, after laboring all night long, given birth to a very healthy and normal boy.

Thirty years ago the night before yesterday, at 11:35pm, Saturday Night Live began with a Godfather spoof. Just when John Belushi (as The Godfather) looked into the camera and said, "Live from New York! It's Saturday Night!", I began to think that the elastic around my maternity pants was way too tight.

About 10 minutes later, I was yarfing my guts up.

When a woman goes into labor, I guess her body shuts down all normal activity that it deems unnecessary. It seems my body decided that the act of digestion had been totally unnecessary for the entire day. So I spent the next hour or two charfing and moaning and laboring. Then, a call to the doctor. "Sounds like you are having a baby," the smart ass said, "C'mon in to the hospital." The Sig Oth had the nerve to ask me, "Do I have time to take a shower first?"

I have no idea what expletives I used, how many, nor for how long, but I remember flopping on the bed using a quite a few of them as I listened to water hitting the shower walls in the bathroom across the hall. Sig Oth knew that I sure as hell wasn't going to drive myself to the hospital, and he had determined that I wasn't going to have the baby for another, oh, hour or two, so he decided it was personal hygiene time. I barged in and horked in the sink.

For good measure, I made him stop the car on the way so I could chunder one last time, right in front of the phone company.

By 8:35am we had our baby, and life as we knew it would "never be the same again." At some point in your life, you realize that not only will things "never be the same again," but you realize how ridiculous that idea is to begin with. Of course nothing will ever be the same again. From one moment to the next, life will never be the same again. Life changes--constantly. We had a baby. Of course things would never be the same again. But from the perspective I have today, my life seemed to have been on hold until that day. And then everything changed. As a young parent, my life was very much day-to-day; keeping track of Ell, trying to do my best raising him, trying NOT to SCREW HIM UP! Again, I kind of felt like I was "on hold," but I wasn't. I was just trying to survive the best I could.

Today, my life is anything but "on hold." Life is flying past. I have a four-year-old granddaughter, yet it seems as if my son should still be only four years old. I wish I could go back and do it all again, this time with awareness. And to do it better, of course. With more patience. And wisdom. And with the knowledge that everything will turn out just fine.

So the morning after my son's birth, I had tossed all my cookies and more, I had given birth 24 hours before, and I was nursing him. I was ravenously hungry. And he smelled like fried chicken. Could this be one way Mother Nature makes sure mothers bond with their infants? Or could it be why some animals eat their offspring?

And I still haven't seen the rest of Saturday Night Live from November 12, 1977, damnit.

One Fine Day with the Dalai Lama


Having front row seats to listen to the Dalai Lama is probably a once-in-a-lifetime event for me. But my front row seats were far to one side of the stage, and the Dalai Lama's interpreter was seated right in my line of site. His Holiness gestures gracefully when he speaks, so at times, it appeared that some disembodied arms were playing an invisible harp. Or that I was watching the Once-ler speak.

I did get to see his face occasionally during the talk, but his message was why I was there: "Cultivating Happiness." It's a powerful message. But it's a very simple message.

Things do not make us happy. We want something, we buy it, and for a moment, we think we are happy. But the next day, we are not happy.

Alcohol and drugs do not make us happy. We may be happy while we are consuming, but the next day, we are again unhappy.

Wealth does not make us happy. Some of the wealthiest people on earth are unhappy. Some of the poorest are happy.

Religion does not make us happy. (There were a few gasps from the audience when he said this. I wondered if a gasp came from the priest I recognized there.) Many people who claim to be religious are not happy. Many people who follow no one religion are happy.

What makes us happy? The Dalai Lama says that compassion makes us happy--giving it and receiving it. Compassionate people are happy. A baby who has its needs met--is fed, is warm, is held and loved--is happy. A person who has been the recipient of compassion is happy. A person who is the agent for compassion is happy.

If we can maintain and strengthen our compassion for one another, we will be happy.

Hey, the Beatles said it, too: All You Need is Love.

I don't care, call me a granola-crunching, tree-hugging, Birk-wearing, heathen hippie. I can take it.

One Fine Afternoon in Class


My first-year composition students have just started reading (by my requirement, of course--first-year students don't read anything you don't tell them to read) the book Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams. I asked them what their "refuge" might be. Some of them looked at me blankly. I tried again. Ok, well, what do you do when you are really upset? When you want to feel safe and protected? Oh! That!

Several young men said that they like to get in their cars and take a long drive with the stereo cranked up. A few women said they like to take a long walk away from other people. One guy said he loved to just sit under a tree. Many kids said they love to go camping, and that started a discussion about sitting around a campfire, staring at the glowing embers or at the starry night sky, and the wonderful sleep you sleep in the out-of-doors with the rhythmic crickets and something rustling in the leaves.

The room got quiet for several long moments as we all smiled our internal smiles at the memory of our own personal "refuges."

After a delicious and warm silence, one usually very quiet young man said, "I don't see how you guys can possibly sleep outside in a tent. I've always been scared to death to fall asleep in case the elephants come crashing through the forest again."

Buh? Stunned silence. Then, everyone turned to look at the speaker. In unison, we all "Bwahahahaa-ed" our lungs out.

We had forgotten this guy was from the southern tip of India.

I won't be bitching about those pesky mosquitos anymore.

One Fine Weekend in Boston


And so both of my regular readers have given me hell for not posting since July 19th. Feh. I had nothing to say. Not true. I had stuff to say, but I had no time to say it. And then, when I had time to say it, I forgot what it was that I wanted to say. I didn't want to list what I had for dinner, or how many times I'd stubbed my toe that day, so I blew off the blog altogether. But now, I have a few quiet moments, and I had a great time in Boston last weekend with one of my "regular" readers--my son (Ell)--and with my daughter-in-law (Bee) and my granddaughter (Ess). They live there, and based only on my brief stay, I don't know how they will ever be able to leave that city. What a neat place!So first of all, there's a beach to go to. I ran and played in the surf with Ess, and I never once gasped for air like I do on that god-forsaken eliptical trainer at the gym. It must be the salt air, or maybe it's running on sand. Maybe it's just having a great time with someone you love. Maybe you go into a different kind of flow that transcends any awareness of physical exhaustion. I did sleep well each night...And then, there's public transportation. Where I live, public transportation consists a bus system in which the drivers must daydream a lot. They don't seem to make consistent stops, and they don't always stop for you when you are standing five feet into the street, waving your hands madly and jumping up and down like you have hot coals in your pants. If the bus system suddenly stopped in this city, I'm not sure anyone would notice for a good hour. In Boston, nearly everyone rides the "T" and busses. Public transportation is considered a god-given right, and BY GOD don't take it away from them! Here's how I found this out. I flew into Boston and took a bus to a subway stop so I could ride downtown to meet Ell near his office. We were going to get back on the T and pick up Ess at her daycare, and then take MORE public transportation to their apartment. (See how this works? It would take HOURS to do all of this via public transportation where I live!) Ell and I were on the T a total of three mintues when the train just stopped. We were stuck on a bridge on a stopped T. People began to grumble. Loudly. Then the train moved about a foot. Backwards. More grumbling. Louder. This was repeated about five times before we began moving forward again. We slowly rolled into the next station (not the one we wanted), and eventually found out that there had been a fire in one of the stations, that fire engines were blocking the path of the T, and that no one knew how long it would take to get things moving again. The Red Line and the Green Line were not moving. A guy sitting on our train started hollering, "This is BULLshit! This is BULLshit!" He looked like a homeless jogger; he was wearing gym shorts, he had a terrycloth band around his graying ponytailed head, and by the time he had worked himself up into a screaming lecture about the bullshittedness of what "the man" was doing to his public transportation rights, he had yanked the front of his T-shirt over his head so that his belly was showing, yet he still had sleeves. Soon, people started whipping out cel phones to call someone who might have some knowledge of what was happening on the outside. Then, a woman hopped onto our train and shouted, "My friend and I are going above to hail a taxi. We are going south. Anyone want to split the fare?" No one responded or moved. The woman shrugged and took off. Ell and I looked at each other. "Got any cash?" he asked me. "Yeah, wanna go?" We took off after this woman. We didn't know where we were going, what we were going to do, where we might end up, but it was better than sitting on that train listening to a crowded trainful of disgruntled maniacs.But above ground was chaos. I didn't realize that a Red Sox game was about to begin, and apparently you don't fuck with Red Sox fans and the beginning of the game. [...]

One Fine Day at Trader Joe's (and one stupid day at a grocery)


I have a handful of favorite people. One of my most favoritist favorite people has a blog at My post today is a response to his "Clueless Crusade" rant.

Today's blog entry is a response to jinserai's entry, "Clueless Crusade." I originally wrote today's blog as a comment on his, but I erased it. I decided my own rant belonged on my blog. But I'm certainly giving jinserai credit for getting me wound up about the topic again.

I have my own personal crusade against plastic bags. But my gripe is that I don't like the things blowing through the air (especially those flying out the back of garbage trucks), I don't like them stuck in the trees, and I don't like them tossed in my yard. Yes, we humans do use TOO MUCH, but I also don't especially want the government telling me I can't use a plastic bag when I want to (or even charging me 15 cents to use one). So what do we do? Change our *own* GD behavior and use some common sense! Stop being so f**king greedy with our resources! Think beyond our own pitiful lifetimes!

Recently, I purchased several reusable bags and tried to use them at the local big-chain grocery store. I made sure the cashier knew I had them, and she let the sacker know. At first I wasn't watching the sacker (I was unloading the cart), but when I looked up, he was over half finished packing my reusable bags...WITH EVERYTHING FIRST ENCASED IN PLASTIC BAGS! At that very moment, the cashier leaned over to him and said, "And be sure you put the meat in plastic, too." I asked her, "So what's the point of all the plastic bags? I asked you to use my resuable bags." She shrugged her shoulders and said, "I dunno. I've never seen them before." HUH?!?

When I unpacked my groceries at home, I had a pile of 18 plastic bags that encased my food, which was all then placed in my reusable bags. The sacker used at least three times more plastic bags than my purchase would have required withOUT the reusable bags!

Completely different experience: Yesterday, I went to Trader Joe's with two reusable canvas bags. I purchased about the same amount of groceries as I did in my previous big-chain grocery store purchase. I walked out with my TWO canvas bags full and one sack of potatoes. The cashier didn't even ask if I wanted my potatoes in a plastic bag. (They already come in a plastic bag, for crissake!) I can't count how many times in regular grocery stores the sacker automatically puts my milk in a plastic bag. And my sack of potatoes go in a plastic bag. Plastic encased in plastic encased in plastic.

I'm thinking of messing with the cashiers and sackers the next time I get groceries. I could tell them, for the love of god, DON'T put my stuff in plastic bags! I am deathly allergic to plastic bags! I could die within minutes if you put my stuff in plastic bags.

The big-chain cashier and sacker who encased all my stuff in plastic bags would believe it, no doubt.

Fine July Days in the Backyard


July in the midwest. Today: cool, sunny, wonderful perfect weather. Next week: probably 95 degrees with 98% humidity. So I spend these few bearable days in the backyard as much as possible. Here are the delights. (image) First, squirrel under glass. Next week, this squirrel feeder will be a squirrel steamer. Hmmmm, hassenpheffer minus rabbit/plus squirrel.

And critters falling from the trees. I put my laundry outside on the wooden drying rack, and somewhere high in the maple tree, an egg sac of praying mantises (praying manti?) have hatched. If you look closely you can see a tiny mantis next to the blue vein on the back of my hand.

Let me just say that photographing praying manti is not easy. They are curious creatures, and seem to like studying me as much as I liked looking them over. But as soon as you ask the little suckers to "vogue" for you, they freak.


The critter communities in the front yard are skittish, nervous and wary, but the squirrels and birds (and that pesky chipmunk) of the backyard sit and watch me come and go and read and grill and garden...and fling peanuts at them. They beg for food and think nothing of coming within two feet of me. We are used to each other in the backyard.

One Fine Day in the East Room of the White House


These kids give me hope for the future (click on title).

In case you haven't heard, 50 Presidential Scholars that appeared for a photo-op in the White House on Monday handed the president a signed and handwritten letter asking him to recognize human rights and to cease torture in the name of the United States.

I find it interesting that the only places I can find complete descriptions of this event (complete with video of John Roberts interviewing three students and transcripts of both the CNN and NBC interviews) are on the websites and blogs that claim the "liberal media" has taken over the minds of these young scholars. Meanwhile, the so-called "liberal media" is giving this event only a passing mention.

What do we make of that?

For one damn funny take on the day's events, see

One Fine Productive Summer


At least this year I can say that I got something constructive done during the summer.

(image) (image) With my own hands, yes, I caned two chair bottoms. Keep your admiration and awe to a minumum; caning these chairs was easy. The caning material is "pre-manufactured," that is, it is pre-woven. All I had to do was dig out the old caning material (including the spline and decades-old glue), cut the cane and the splice pieces to size, soak the materials in warm water, fit it all together and glue the splines in place. Each chair from start to finish took probably three to four hours. Most of that time was spent carefully cleaning the old glue and materials out of the grooves so as not to damage the wood.

History of the chairs: These belonged to my maternal grandmother. She was the last person to cane them, and my estimate is that she did so in the late 1950s. I remember them in her kitchen when I was a small girl; her friends would sit in them around the kitchen table to play Euchre with her. (If you don't know what Euchre is, then you probably are not from this area of the United States!) Grandma died in 1975, and the cane was just starting to break in a few places then. I have been the steward of these chairs ever since.

It was an interesting experience, to remove the work she had done decades ago and to replace it with my own. I have a book of instructions that I use, but it often felt as if she were there with me as I worked the cane into the grooves and tapped the splines in place to secure the cane. At times, I understood just how the cane should react; other times, it was as if I could hear her say, "See? That's why you pull the diagonal cane corners before you tap the spline!" Working on this project was meditative. I became lost in time as I listened to the wood. And now I want to finish caning her old rocking chair that I've kept in storage. I abandoned this project two years ago. This one is much harder; it requires that I weave individual strands of cane. When I thought I was nearly finished with the back of the chair, I realized that I had been weaving the cane too tightly. I need to start over, and I need to cane the seat.

But for now I have two kitchen chairs that match, are reasonably comfortable, and that don't look like I dug them out of the dumpster at Goodwill.

One Fine Day with Processed Food Products


Here's a tip: you can get free stuff if you contact manufacturers and talk about their products.

Several years ago, I found two (2) fly wings in a bag of pre-washed and cut lettuce. To me, this was no big deal. I've worked in food manufacturing and in restaurants before. These were just a couple of insect wings, for god's sake. It happens. But when I showed the little wings stuck to bag's inside to a wise-guy co-worker, she went nuts. She called the company and went on and on about those fly wings and how the mere sight of them right there in front of her almost made her throw up. She kept telling the person on the phone how disgusted she was, how germ-ridden their products must be, and just how nauseated she was becoming just thinking about it again. She sounded like a lunatic with her over-the-top messing with this poor quality control person.

And then my co-worker, bless her heart, gave the company MY name and address.

Well, the good thing is I soon received coupons for FREE lettuce, pineapple, dried fruit, juice, and a few other things the company manufactures and distributes. It had to be over $20 worth of stuff.

A few weeks ago I was irritated by the instructions on a box of Lean Pockets. The instructions said to place the product in the "crisper sleeve" and to definitely NOT reuse the enclosed crisper sleeve.

What crisper sleeve? Nothing was packaged with the Lean Pockets except...Lean Pockets. I microwaved them sans the mysterious "crisper sleeve" and they tasted just like the cardboardy things usually taste. (Sorry Hormel...these things are merely convenience foods that I use in a pinch. Tasty they are not.) But the lack of proper materials in the Lean Pockets box bugged me enough that I finally got online and wrote a message to the company. I was not "bitchy"; I merely informed them that something was missing from my Lean Pockets product.

(image) In return for my feedback, I received coupons for FREE Lean Pockets, cents off Hot Pockets products, and a letter explaining that the instructions were in error. It seems that Lean Pockets no longer requires the use of these "crisper sleeve" things, but someone forgot to edit the old packaging. Apologies, apologies, please accept our coupons so you may continue enjoying our fine products.....

So now, I'm thinking that maybe I'll try writing to companies with glowing compliments for their products. I'm curious to see if happy customers get free stuff.

One Fine Experience with a Banking Survey


I did an online survey the other day. My credit union, in conjunction researchers at the local university, wanted the members' opinions on matters of security. Based on their thought-provoking questions, here is the comment I left at the end of the survey:

(image) "I am not at all in favor of having fingerprint scanning technology as a means of security for my ATM transactions. I tried it a year ago, and most of the time the ATM would reject my attempts. By the way, thank you for giving me something new to worry about. Until this survey, it never occured to me that a criminal might actually cut off my finger in order to gain access to my bank account."

That is all I have to say for now.

One Fine Day at Wendy's


Can't 5 bucks buy a lunch anymore?

It can if you order a grilled chicken sandwich and a SMALL drink at Wendy's. I left my purse in the car and took with me only a 5 dollar bill. I didn't even look at prices. WHO KNEW that a freakin' sandwich and a MEDIUM drink would cost $5.17?

I looked at the woman behind the counter in disbelief. I held up the 5 dollar bill limply. "Oh, crap," I said. "I'll be right back! I have 17 cents in my car!" The helpful lady running the register said, "Well, if you don't care about the size of the drink, it's only $4.85." That seemed reasonable to me, but then a voice behind me said, "No. Give her a medium drink."

I thought the dining room was empty; it was only 11:00am. I whirled around to see a rather nice looking man I've never met before. He tossed 17 cents on the counter. "Go on, give her a medium!" he said.

The woman behind the counter and I looked at each other in disbelief. Several thoughts ran through my head. Was it some guy just being nice? Or was he in a hurry and he decided that 17 cents was a small price to pay to get the airhead out of his way?

I decided it was probably a combination of the two, but really, does his motivation matter? I needed to take this as an act of kindness. I thanked him and got the hell out of his way, just in case that WAS his primary motivation.
I know it was only 17 cents. This man was well dressed, and he probably has a job where he makes 17 cents in half a second (I haven't done the math to see how much that could possibly be in a year). But those 17 cents made me smile for the rest of the day.

One Fine Day Four Years Ago, Part 2


Four years ago my son celebrated his first Father’s Day.

Can I tell you how proud I am of my son’s parenting abilities?

No. No I can’t. I’m not sure I have the words to do my feelings justice.
But I can write about the time I was lucky enough to witness a very tender moment between my son and his daughter that showed me she will have the daddy that every little girl wants, needs, and deserves.

My son (El) had been away from home for about a month on job business. My granddaughter (Ess), who was not yet three at the time, missed him terribly, but she handled his absence very well; the kid’s a trooper. When El returned home, Ess understandably wanted to be the center of his attention, but the well-adjusted kid she is, she wasn’t clingy or whiny at all. When he visited with other family members, she played next to him, often asked him to read to her, or happily sat in his lap, enjoying the chance to have him physically near.

At one point, El was sitting on the floor, deep in conversation with his father—some technical computer discussion, I’m sure. But his attention had been completely off of little Ess for entirely too long. She had been sitting contentedly in his lap, but she began to fidget. The conversation went on. She kept turning and looking up at El, but he still was not noticing. She squirmed out of his lap and sat on the floor facing him, cross-legged, gazing right into his face. Still nothing but techno-blab between El and his father.

Ess could stand his inattention no longer, so she did the most amazing thing. In a beautiful, clear voice, she sang, “Twinkle, twinkle little star! How I wonder what you are!” She sang the entire song very deliberately, very slowly, perfectly in tune, and without taking her eyes off her father’s face. She sang it as if everything depended on it.

El’s reaction was to stop talking in mid-word. He looked back at her with astonishment. He was entranced by his daughter’s song.

And when she finished singing, he scooped her up in his arms, told her what a beautiful voice she had, how much he loved her song, and what a wonderful and appropriate way she had found to get his attention. He spent the next half-hour playing with her, saturating her with “Daddy time” until she wandered off to play by herself for a little while. El’s father and I really didn’t exist to either of them in that half-hour. The techno-conversation ended with my son’s mid-word, and I don’t think it was picked up again that day. All was as it should be.

THAT is a Father, a Pop, a Daddy, a Papi, a Dad. That was the reaction every little girl should get from her father. Ess is a lucky kid, and I am so thankful she has Bee and El as parents. They are the best!

Happy Father’s Day, my boy. You are doing an amazing job.

One Fine Windy Day


Hot, dry high winds all afternoon. So odd. The light green maple leaf underbellies showed all day long, a sign my grandmother always told me meant rain was soon to come. Multiple branches litter the yards, and clusters of live green leaves are strewn in the neighborhood streets. This is an unusual wind--unusually strong, unusually long-lasting. Something is blowing in. Yes, there are tornados in the upper midwest today, but here there is not a cloud in the sky. This wind is hot and mysterious, as if something entirely different is being conjured. And this evening, even though the humidity is low, the sky appears dusky as if the air is full of moisture.

In the normally humid summer of this area, today's mere 42% humidity is an oddity. I drank a half gallon of iced tea. In an attempt to take advantage of the drier air, I tried to hang laundry on a wooden rack in the back yard, but no matter how I oriented it to the wind, the entire rack of clothes would end up collapsed. The wind has been strong enough today that I saw very few birds or squirrels in the yard; normally I watch 6-9 squirrels and countless birds. They are hunkering down. I'm sure it's just too much effort for the birds to fly, and who knows what the squirrels are thinking?

One Fine Day, Four Years Ago


Four years ago today, someone was born who has changed "everything."

My granddaughter, Ess, has changed how I love and how I view love. Oh, sure, I've always loved, but she has given me the focus to understand how it is that I love. And why.

She has changed how I see myself as a parent by allowing me the time to be her grandparent. In return, I have given her the time and patience that I never had while I was "just" a parent.

She has given me a perspective on others that I never had before. Now I can understand that all humans start out wanting to please others as well as themselves, that they never want to do harm to others, and that they all simply want to have a "senselessly joyous" life. She has taught me that all any of us really want is to be seen, noticed, acknowledged, thanked, fed, kept warm, but most of all loved.

Because of her, I have far more compassion and patience for my students, for the man driving 20mph in the 35mph zone, for the woman in the grocery store who keeps getting in my way, and even for screaming children in restaurants. Because of her, ANY crying child makes me hurt inside.

She managed to do all of these things and much more by the time she was a year old, and each year she has reinforced all that she has taught me.

Happy Birthday, Ess! You are a bright light in my life, and the most powerful little soul I've ever known.

Gramma Ell

One Fine Day as My Father Grilled Sausages


Another funny father story.

About fifteen years ago, my father had triple by-pass surgery. Overnight, my mother went nuts with serving him NON-fat food, so much so that my father developed a new sentence to describe her cooking: "This tastes like crap." After the horror and shock of his surgery (and his new description of her culinary skills) wore off, she eased up on the non-fat cooking. Over the years, however (and much to MY horror), she now ignores all of the low-fat food suggestions and they eat pretty much anything they want to.

This story is about the day, while my parents were still fat-conscious, that my father decided what he really wanted was some grilled sausages.

He asked mom to make the cole slaw. He fired up the gas grill. He listened to the sizzle of the sausages as he placed them on the grate. After a few minutes, he turned the sausages over and saw that they had plumped. Curious about the plumping, he poked one with a fork. Juices flowed out and caused a flare-up on the grill. He quickly closed the grill lid, but that gave dad an idea.

He opened the grill lid again and poked ALL of the sausages. Surely, he decided, the stuff dripping out of his poked sausage was nothing but FAT since the flame licked up so much. And if he could only drain all of that fat from the sausages while they cooked, he could have his delicious meal without fat, right?

And so, my father cooked the sausages until no more juices dripped from them. He stacked them on a plate and proudly carried them into the kitchen to show my mother his sheer low-fat cooking genius.

He was practically drooling. He had waited so long for this--so many dry, baked chicken breasts! So much steamed vegetables! And now: grilled sausage!

He said that when he tried to cut the first one with his fork, dust flew out. His exact description to me (with a look of disgust on his face) was, "Poof. Dust."

And once again, my father laughs at his own actions. He laughs because he thinks it was the stupidest thing anyone has ever done. I laugh because, yes, it was a pretty dumb thing to do, but more than that because my father can laugh at himself.

Happy Father's Day, Dad.

One Fine Day at the Supermarket


I had heard them fussing at each other in the produce section. I didn't mean to listen to their squabbling, but I was caught behind them waiting to see how many different kinds of potato salad there could possibly be for the cookout SigOth and I were having together. These two--probably in their 80s--were shouting at each other about a party they were hosting, and their bickering was first-class. These two were no newlyweds; they had been perfecting the fine art of irritating the piss out of each other for 60 years.

Him: How much potato salad do we need?
Her: I don't know, it depends on how much people eat!
Him: Well, how do I know how much anyone will eat?
Her: It always depends. Might be that it's really good potato salad. And then there'll be people who don't eat none. You have to figure that, too.
Him: That's just complicating things. Why did you bring that up?
Her: I'm just saying that it's true. Some people don't like potato salad and they won't eat it.
Him: How am I supposed to know who is going to eat potato salad and who don't like it?

He gets an idea. He decides to attack the problem from another angle.

Him (holding up a half gallon container of potato salad): So how many people will eat out of this?
Her (not even turning to look at what he's holding up): They ain't a-gonna eat out of that. They're going to dish it out and put it on their plates!

He stood there looking completely perplexed for a good 20 seconds, and then he slammed the potato salad in the bottom of the cart. She had doddered off by this time. I heard him mutter, "goddamnit" before he wheeled the cart in her direction.

I stepped up to the counter, very happy that they didn't even notice there were three different kinds of potato salad.

One Fine Day on "Summer Retirement"


I teach during the academic year, but I work year-round, even though I am paid for only 10 months. Part of my job involves university administrative work, and that kind of work doesn't stop just because it's summertime. I work on administrative projects and do all of the things that I can't get to during the academic school year. But I have decided not to teach in the summer--that I need this time to re-coup my sanity.

Today, re-couping my sanity means that I have chosen to not go in to my office. I usually cannot work well at home: too many fun distractions. Today I am going to allow those distractions to direct my life. My day shall go where it wants to go. Plant those last wilted pansies? If I feel like it. Maybe I'll finish caning the chair that belonged to my grandmother. Clean out my tiny corner of the garage? Maybe I'll read--that delicious reading for pleasure I miss so much.

Books that are currently stacked up on my reading list:
* Refuge by Terry Tempest Williams (just finished). Williams weaves many topics together in a beautiful and rich story about the connections in her Mormon family, the 1950s bomb testings in Nevada, cancer and deaths in her family, and a bird refuge in Utah. I ordered two other books by Williams. It seems that the local bookstores in the Midwest do not keep her books on the shelves.

* Mormon America: The Power and the Promise by Richard N. Ostling and Joan K. Ostling. (reading in progress). I am reading this book because right before I read Refuge (that involves a Mormon family), I watched the 4-hour PBS series on The Mormons. I simply wanted to know more about this group. (Convert? Uh, no. You obviously do not know me if this thought even crossed your mind.)

* Bush on the Couch: Inside the Mind of the President by Justin A. Frand, M.D. (reading in progress) My son (El) and daughter-in-law (Bee) got this book for me for Christmas in 2005. I read about half of it, but grading papers took over my reading time. The book was shuffled around and ended up on the bookcase behind my couch. (Hmmmm, somehow Freudian?) Psychoanalyzing this president seems even more interesting now.

* The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. I can't wait to start this one. It's the only novel on my list. Note to self: add a few more novels.

* Spellbound: The Surprising Origins and Astonishing Secrets of English Spelling by James Essinger. Well of course I'd read this book. I just had to find it.

* A Crack in the Edge of the World: America and the Great California Earthquake of 1906 by Simon Winchester. I have to be honest. I bought this one because 1) It was on the sale table: $5.98 in hardback and 2) the jacket cover is a fascinating bit of origami. You'd almost have to see it. It has horizontal folds, accordion-style, and then the jacket wraps around the book. The folds are such that when you completely open up the jacket, a poster-sized collage emerges. Refolding it is like dealing with a roadmap; ACK! Ok, so even though I purchased this book because of the jacket, the text looks pretty good, too! Life in 1906--my grandparents were children--was hard, but it held promise. And then...I can't imagine the destruction people saw in 1906 California.

So I need to start my "summer retirement." I'm off to read. Or to clean something. Or cane a chair. Or maybe to shine a red laser pointer light on the ground next to the neighbors' incessantly barking dog. Maybe it'll go crazy and forget how to bark.

One Fine Day as My Father Bought Stamps


A funny story about my 81-year-old father--it was mid-December, and he needed postage for his bills. He went to the kiosk in the mall where they were selling stamps, and he stepped up to the counter. The nice lady there asked him, "Would you like flag stamps or the Madonna ones?" My father, who had obviously been watching way too much Extra! on TV and no time at all in church, frowned at her and growled, "I don't like that Madonna!" The woman sheepishly slid the flag stamps across the counter to him.

He told me that 10 minutes later he realized that the woman was asking him if he wanted to purchase stamps with THE Madonna on them, not that "dirty" Madonna on television. The cool thing is that he sees how damn funny this situation was, and he laughs at himself for it.

This is just one example of how unintentionally funny my father can be. Stay tuned. There will be more.

One Fine Evening Locked Out of My House


This actually happened to me nearly two years ago--August 3, 2005 to be exact. You might wonder how I know the exact date. You may keep wondering. One fine day, my son called me to tell me he’d locked his keys in his car, and could I come pick up his wife, take her to their apartment so she could change, and then take her to work while he waits for the locksmith to show up? Sure, no prob. She and I had pulled up outside their apartment before she realized that her house key was on the keyring...that was locked in the car! So we went back to the parking garage where the car was, and there was my son with the locksmith. The locksmith was way too talkative. He kept up a stream of consciousness yak that went from how Hondas sometime come with inferior glass windows to how the locksmithing business caused his divorce to what a piece of crap his van is to what the average time for a locksmith to pick a lock is (20 minutes in case you are wondering) to how fast HE can pick a lock (7 minutes in case you care). I’ve never seen a jaw flap so much, I swear to god. So when he finally left (and I swear, he was still talking when he slammed his piece of crap van door and drove away), we decided that my daughter-in-law could just take the car, and I’d feed my son some lunch and take him home. So during lunch, my son and I talked about how we rarely lock ourselves out of anything, that he usually has a ritual attached to locking doors, and that I am nearing obsessive-compulsive with my own door locking ritual. I make sure I have my keys in my hand, and that the hand that holds those keys is the hand that actually locks the door. I dropped him off at his apartment and I went home to work on some much-needed interior house painting. I ended up working all afternoon into the evening, and then decided that what I then needed was a hot shower and a trip to Barnes & Noble/Starbucks for a latté. On my way out the door I grabbed the garbage bag that needed to go to the curb, and I slammed the front door behind me. Uh oh. Apparently, my door locking ritual involves having SOMEthing in my hand, but not necessarily keys. My first thought was, “oh crap. Now I can’t get into my car.” But then it quickly changed to “Hey, waaaaait a minute!” and then straight to some creative cussing. Of course, "Significant Other" was at work (not to be home until midnight) and it was 9:00pm. That’s a long time to sit outside and swat mosquitoes. So I began my first attempt at a home break-in. I have discovered that you can indeed break into a house in my neighborhood and the neighbors will not notice—even when you make quite a bit of noise doing it and even when the next-door neighbor is a reserve police officer. I knew that we had only one window that isn’t locked, but it is--get this--duct taped shut. "Significant Other" uses this window to run antenna wires out of for his ham radio stuff. (Sometimes I think I live with Gomez Adams.) The bottom of this window is at least four feet off the ground, and the window is not even 18 inches wide. This was going to be a real trick. I scoured the yard for something to stand on. Earlier in the afternoon, I had just happened to put a big plastic tub of sticks on the curb for trash pick up. I dumped out the sticks and used the bucket to reach and pull off all the duct tape outside of the window...but SigOth had duct taped the INSIDE of the damn window, too! I had to wiggle and jam the window to try to wretch it free...finally! But the window was still too damn high f[...]

One Fine Morning at the BMV


Today, I woke up and everything went to shit. That is, until I walked into the BMV. Now that I use a debit card instead of checks for most of my in-store transactions, no one ever looks at my license. Four years ago on my birthday, I wrote a check. The cashier asked to see my license. “Happy Birthday!” she said, “and don’t forget to renew your license today!” Oh, crap. Very funny, I thought. It’s 4:30 on a Friday. So I had to slink into the BMV on the following Monday and hand the woman at the check-in counter my expired license. “It’s expired,” I explained. “What happens now?” “Well, first we arrest you,” she deadpanned. I swear my stomach flipped. I cannot imagine what expression was sliding off my face. And this woman was good. She waited for it. She stamped a couple of documents loudly before looking up at me…and then laughing loudly. “Nah, ya just take it over there to the next counter,” she said. She was still chuckling. So this morning, I woke up groggy. Damn, out of chewable B-Complex vitamins. I love those things. Looked at myself in the mirror. Shower? Nah. I’ll just go to the coffee shop early and start reading that book I’ve been wanting to get to for, oh, a year or two. My students would be handing in portfolios beginning at 10:00am today, so I thought I’d sit, sip, and read for a few hours before my grading madness had to begin. Ah, but first: the crossword puzzle. But something was really wrong with the crossword puzzle today. No, not with me. With the crossword. I couldn’t get it right. Had to be the puzzle. Something picking at me….couldn’t figure out what it was. Then, I saw an article about the BMV in Indianapolis extending its hours. BMV…BMV…I turned the page to read the editorials. BMV…flipped back to the BMV story. BMV. BMV? Oh, shit. It’s amazing how a realization like that creeps up on you. My first thought was NOT that my license had expired. No—my first thought was that I could have been arrested. Then I thought I’ve been driving Jim’s car for (counting on fingers) nine days with an…expired license! So it was as if I had at least three thoughts before I even got to the expired license part. And then, denial--it couldn’t be. I dug my license out of my purse. This picture on my license is what I see every time I open my checkbook; it’s who I identify with when I pay my bills—yes, there I am; yes, this is my checkbook. The photo doesn’t look like the image in the bathroom mirror, but it’s one image I have of myself that never changes. It’s the face I’ve attached to paying bills. That shirt I’m wearing? I don’t even know where it is, but it’s my bill-paying shirt. Has it really been four years? Sure enough, the license had expired nine days ago. Time to renew. Today. So I had to rethink my entire morning. Leisure book reading was probably off the agenda, unless it was while waiting at the BMV. Shower? No time. No, wait—I have to have my picture taken! Shower’s back on. Now, which BMV branch? East side? West? Oh, hell, does it matter? The woman who waited on me reminded me of those pushy teenagers at Wendy’s drive-up window. Everywhere you go these days it’s all business, and fast, fast, fast. My change is being tossed in my car window, and my cheeseburger and a Frosty are bagged and dangling from the drive-up window worker’s grasp even before I’ve moved forward from the “Pay Here” window. Egads. WHERE’S THE STRAW AND NAPKINS?!It’s the s[...]