Monday, November 30, 2009

Ah, Christmas peace

A note to those who are dreading Christmas.

I hope you can come to the place where you can leave the expectations of Christmas where they belong - in a hot air balloon piloted by a fat fairy tale. I fought with it for years. As long as I can remember Christmas (until recently) it has been a huge opportunity for disappointment. I'm fortunate to be able to "just say no" to the whole thing. This year I'll cook something outrageously yummy for the staff food fest because I enjoy that.
I'll try to ignore the extravagance and waste. I'll overlook the clutter and the crowds and enjoy the first two days music without thinking too much about the lyrics.
I'll say "Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukha, Have a rocking Kwanza, a peaceful Solstice, please, thank you, and pardon me."
I hope we can all celebrate a nice day or ignore it, whatever pleases us, and let the expectations of marketers and stale traditions roll off us like rain off a happy duck.

Sunday, November 29, 2009


George was a twin and his mother ewe only wanted to feed the other one. So from the first day of his life, George thought of me as MaaaaaMaaaaa. It was early spring in Virginia when he was born and he was just a bit more than a handful in a couple of ways. He lived in a box in the laundry room at first and I mixed formula and heated bottles every four hours. He was always hungry and he grew fast.

It wasn't long before he came tumbling down the two stairs from the laundry into the kitchen having escaped his box. He was a little wobbly on his spindly legs, but that didn't slow him down much. If he heard me in the kitchen or the living room he soon was there. By then he was the same size as Alice, our mostly white cat. The dogs and cats must have known that George was going to keep growing and they accepted him into the pack.

I spent a lot of time, trying to get George to eat grass, but once he caught on he made up for lost time. He wanted nothing to do with the sheep and they didn't much care for him, either. He started sleeping on the deck in a dog bed when it warmed because he wasn't much good at house training. During the day, though, the door to the deck was usually open for the dogs, cats, and George to come in and out at will. When the door was closed, George would "paw" at it until he was let in.

Every day when my mate came home from work we'd take a walk down the road and back through the pasture. The dogs, George and Alice the cat knew the route and the schedule. One spring we had too many roosters and we gave one to our neighbors. When the group of us walked to their house, me carrying a rooster under my arm, I suddenly realized what an odd picture we must have been.

When the weather was nice, we'd return from our walk and have happy hour on the deck. George was especially fond of pretzels, carrots, and peanuts and he enjoyed a beer as well. My mate was from Down Under and recognized beer as a good way for George to put on weight. Every happy hour, George sat on my lap on the deck.

It wasn't long before my mate had to lift George onto my lap. Sheep grow quickly and George went from a kitten-like pound of woolly sweetness to 100+ pounds of stinky ram that only a mother could love. No matter how big he got, he still wanted to sit on my lap. And he still called me MaaaaaaaMaaaaaa. He just said it louder. And he never forgot my voice.

By autumn he still preferred the living room to the lawn and it was long past time that he started learning how to be a sheep. Daily my mate would remind me that George had excellent genes and he had to learn how to pass them on. It was painful for me to take him to the pasture, and nearly unbearable for me to watch the way those nasty sheep treated him at first.

But George grew confident. In fact, he grew downright cocky. I reckon he wooed the young ewes with fantastic stories of salty pretzels and foamy beer. He became quite the lady's man. Well, actually the ewe's ram.

During my time on the farm, I bottle fed lots of lambs. I remember trying to hold bottles for triplets who would climb all over me as I sat in soft green grass under perfect blue skies. It's a wondrous experience to pacify a tiny lamb with your finger while you get the bottles arranged.

But even among the sweetest lambs George was special. You just can't keep a full grown ram as a house pet. It's not good for the ram or the house. So George was part of my family for a season. But what a season! I miss that sheep and I can truly say that the brevity of the time I was his Maaaaaa doesn't diminish the sweetness of the experience.

Perfect Moments

Do you ever catch yourself in a moment that you know you'll remember all your life?
Whenever I think about singular moments and what makes them special, I remember one in particular. I must have been about six years old, and I was allowed to walk to the post office with a neighbor girl, Barbara. She was older, probably nine. We walked the two blocks to the post office and then sat on the steps in front, soaking up the sun and feeling absolutely wonderful.

I said, "I'm going to always remember this moment," and so far I have.

We didn't go the remaining block to the "Square." We didn't have any money to buy anything anyway. We weren't showing off new shoes, we very probably didn't have shoes on. It was summer after all. It wasn't anyone's birthday or anything. We just walked to the post office and posted a letter for her mother.

It was a perfect time.

Monday, November 23, 2009

It could be hormones, but I cried with joy when I watched these. Thanks Charlie for showing them to me!

Don't think, just do it.

I dreamed I was building a structure with a group of people. There was urgency to get it done on time. The structure was transparent framework going up and up. At the base was a sort of trampoline-like floor only when a person bounced on it the reaction was in slow motion. We tested it out often.

My job was to teach people how to jump. All you had to do to go all the way up was believe you could. Little children had no trouble. We would bounce and each go up through very, very fragile layers. The layers were like the incredibly thin ice that first forms on a pond. When I would break through one I'd barely feel it, but it would shatter and fall to the ground. Evidently it grew back for the next person, the next time.

To go all the way up was to escape something, and there was a feeling that we all needed to do it soon. I would jump and tell myself, "Don't think about it, just do it!"

I hadn't tried to go all the way up yet, because I was trying to teach other people, and I was fighting with the doubt that I knew could keep me down.

I had this dreams some years ago and have remembered it often. It has meant different things at different times, but the theme remains.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What Did You Say?

I love words. I love the way they rearrange and group together to change things. I love to arrange and rearrange them myself and I am a word-watcher. I notice and appreciate the way word-skilled people carve with them.

Words build and destroy; encourage and devastate; control and free. You can do a lot with words. I hope I am never without them. Words are my friends and like all exciting friends, they've bailed me out many times and they've landed me in trouble more times than I can count.

I'm intrigued with the way people who supposedly speak the same language can have a conversation and be totally in the dark, too.

When I first moved to Northern Wisconsin from Central Illinois, I had to learn a new dialect. "Come by me once, eh," meant "Please come here." Who knew?

When I moved to Appalachia I learned again. "I kindly just cut iverthang off," meant "I conserve electricity."

Friends from Australia were amazed when we asked them if they "shagged." Ooops. We meant danced.

And Brits! Well, one hardly knows where to begin. They don't know a torch from a flashlight, a chip from a fry, or fancy from like. And while the Aussies are often crude, the Brits think it's rude to come out and say what they mean. It's amazing that we aren't at war with them.

Where I grew up the word you could mean one person or several people. Up North multiple people were addressed as yous. In Appalachia it's you'ns. In the South it's ya'll. And using the wrong word can cause you to sound snooty, stupid, alien or any combination of those.

All this mumbo-jumbo, gobbledeegook, and falldarall just to make a point. Words are important. We must choose them with care. When we don't make sure that a word or phrase means the same thing to you as it does to someone else, we risk a great deal. We could ask someone to dance and end up in a most embarrassing situation.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


(I just remembered this. It comes with a smouldering blues tune)


A puff of smoke
A gentle breeze,
Can't hold them in my hand

Sparking stars
On summer seas
The writing in the sand

If I could make this world anew
I would include them all
And I'd include our brief affair
The ride was worth the fall.

Blanche Update

My sister just informed me that Blanch is spelled Blanche. With an E. I told Blanche. She thinks it's fine. She says that Nancy really should be spelled Nancee.

Blanch(e) met me at the door when I came home tonight for the first time this week. She was eager to go for a little walk with me though she'd just had walkies with her daddy. She ate greedily after I stirred up her food and made a big deal of it. She drank water throughout the day. So while she looks a bit thin and was ready to go to bed earlier than usual, she did work with her daddy in his office all day and go for a couple of significant walkies. Her eyes are bright again and she's interested in what's going on.

In other words, she's back.

And I'm relieved and joyful. You know, you just have to take the bad with the good and hope that the karmic butcher has his thumb on the scales in your favor.

Life is grand, is it not?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Meeee, me, me me meeeee

Part of my Pantheist belief is that we are all the Universe and the Universe is all there is. The boundaries between me and the bed, the keyboard, the oak trees, sky, you, that rock over there, are only my perceptions. We are all energy, vibrations. The cells of the average human completely change out seven times in that human's life. I am what I eat. To dust I shall return. So bits of me probably used to be bits of a tree, a rock, a star, other people, sea kelp, etc.

So that means the differences between you and me aren't very great. At least they can't be all that important, can they? Isn't it more likely that this thing we have in common - being a part of the same Universe - is more important?

How can I decide I am more or less significant than you? Why would I do anything but encourage you? Why would I ever want to hurt you?

I think I might be starting to sound like a Culture Club song, and I'm not sure I'm being clear.

Of course there is that ego thing. That part of me (perhaps retained in the calluses of my feet, perhaps in the neurons of my brain, perhaps only in my feeble perceptions) that pushes and pushes and screams to be heard above the truth that I am not separate from the sand and the stars. It clouds the issues. It keeps me from hearing you and the rest of the Universe.

It is that ego thing that makes me think I am so different. It makes me think that my tribe/country/religion/color/gender/species is right and the rest of you are hopelessly doomed. It's like the pot calling the kettle stainless steel. It's like cutting off my nose to spite my face. To use a psychological term, it just ain't right.

It's back again to that Golden Rule. Because when we do unto others, we are doing unto ourselves. So let's be gentle, ok? Let's be loving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Blanch Update/ people who don't get pets

Blanch is resting comfortably in her bed beside my bed. She only had one episode of illness (I'm trying to be tactful) today and she's still taking medication for nausea, vomitting, and antibiotics. She is drinking a little water though and started that last night. Her daddy said she even ate a bite or two today. But she's not a ball of fire, that's for sure. She's content to just lay about with her blankie (an old towel) and constant attention.

Seriously, is this the same man who didn't want a dog at all? This thirteen pounds of fluff has done a trick with him!

I feel so badly for (and envy a bit) those people who don't get it when it comes to pets. My college roommate and one of my favorite people, Vally, doesn't get it. She was good to the cat we had in college, Mishka Nikita Minoge, Esq., but she never loved a pet. And I've got to say as pets go, Mishka was a difficult one to love. Totally nuts, that cat.

I feel badly that she doesn't feel the joy and unconditional love that seems to only happen with animals and one's own babies. I envy her because she'll never have the heartbreak that is unique to animal lovers.

I listen to true horror stories about people's lives for a living and I'm pretty tough. I'm compassionate, but I hold it together. That is unless someone has a sad pet story. Then all bets are off and I'm a mess. I don't understand it, that's just the way it is.

I know there's a bit more going on in the world than the tenuous health of one little ball of fur and love, but the past couple of days has been really painful for our little family. I thank you all for your words of concern.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Sick Puppy

Blanch, our recently adopted 8 year old dog didn't want breakfast this morning. That was odd. She spent the morning sleeping, the afternoon having diarrhea and vomiting. By the time I got home from work she was pretty droopy and drooly and my husband, who works from home and wasn't crazy about getting a dog in the first place, wasn't really happy. I found an emergency vet hospital online, made a phone call and off we went.

There are a few significant things to note here. My husband, Blanch's daddy, was very concerned about Blanch. He wasn't just upset that she had disrupted his day and made messes everywhere, which he dutifully cleaned up. He held her in his lap on the way to the ER, petting her all the way. Blanch sat on the cold, stainless steel table and held on tight to him with her gaze. I may have brought her home from the shelter, but she is his girl.

The vet and staff were very nice. They got that we'd only had her a couple of weeks and knew precious little about her. They got that we were nervous parents. I found out a few bits of information that I wouldn't have otherwise known. Blanch isn't an all American mutt. She is a Shitsu. So that's why she doesn't shed, eh?

And she isn't spayed. The vet showed us that her nipple was leaking some milk and my husband and I began leaking perspiration.

Some blood tests, a shot and some pills later, we found out Blanch has some gastroenteritis (who knows how) and a false pregnancy! A false pregnancy?!! Give me a break. Well it does explain some of her recent behavior involving Mr. Pinky, a toy of hers. So much for the shelter that stated all their dogs a neutered or spayed, blah, blah.

Not that it would have mattered. It was all over the first time I held her. But dang, I'm glad we aren't getting puppies. Well, they would be sweet. And definitely cute. And Blanch would be a good mommy, I'm sure. But, whew! What a relief. I guess for Christmas she'll be getting a hysterectomy.

What a relief that we aren't going to have a litter of granddogs. What a relief that Blanch isn't deathly ill. What a relief that there's a vet ER nearby. But most of all, what a relief that Blanch's daddy is such a good daddy.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Religious Rules and Other Crap

Lots of religions have their version of the Golden Rule and I like it
-Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
-Do not do what you hate.
-Ascribe not to any soul that which you would not have ascribed to thee and say not that which thou doest not.
-A state that is not pleasing or delightful to me, how could I inflict it on another?
-Regard your neighbor's gain as your own gain and your neighbor's loss as your own loss.
-Love your neighbor as yourself.
-Love your enemies.
It's all the same rule.

You don't even have to be religious to figure out that if everyone lived according to that idea, life would be grand indeed. It's common sense.
That rule is Golden, because you really don't need any others. The Rule doesn't need any tweeking. It's the only religious rule I've found that is helpful in the least.

But we get it all twisted around and think the golden rule means "Stick it to them before they stick it to you."

We often live according to rules such as:
-Get all you can because everyone is out for themselves.
-If you're too nice to people, they'll treat you like dirt.
-Give them an inch and they'll take a mile.
These are certainly not golden rules. They are more like cracked formica than gold.

We have come up will all sorts of additional rules. Some of them are just amazing. Don't eat meat on Fridays. Cover your head. Face this direction when you pray. Kneal in front of this piece of wood. Get this piece of paper signed on this line before you live together. Cut off your infant son's foreskin. Don't say this word. Cut open this animal and burn it on a fire to please God. Go to church on Sundays. You may not marry if you're going to be a priest. Women can't be priests. Don't cut your hair, do cut your hair, grow a beard, don't grow a beard. It can get ding dang confusing and usually these are rules that are relatively easy to recognize as what they are - silliness.

There are other rules that are more ingrained, sort of poetical rules that are harder to recognize, but equally trash because they leave so much wiggle room for favorable interpretation.

"God helps those who helps themselves," can be interpreted as "I'm going to help myself to this law suit. After all, ____________ has deep pockets. Besides it's ____'s insurance company that will have to pay. Everybody does it. If you don't work the system, the system will work you. A lot of these rules are just excuses to behave badly, as if most of us need an excuse.

One of my most hated rules is "There but for the grace of God go I." What does that mean? That street person over there, with an obvious mental illness, freezing in the cold has less of my god's grace than I do. That is just so icky it makes me want to spit. It means that my god likes me more than he likes people whom I perceive as less fortunate than I am. What crap.

That rule is related to the rule that says god punishes people who tick him off. That tsumami wiped out those pagans. HIV is god's way of punishing people who break rules. Those people lost their crops/baby/lives/Waterford Crystal because they sinned.

It's really a variation of the "I am perfect, you are doomed," rule. It goes like sort of like this: My god is bigger and better than your god and he wants me to kill you because you might kill people that god likes. In fact, if I don't kill you, he's likely to smite me. He's only doing this for your own good. You'll see when you're burning in everlasting fire.

Anyone can apply this to nearly any religion and justify killing (or smiting) nearly anyone. It's very successful. Been used for millenia. But it flies right in the face of the Golden Rule. If we are supposed to love everyone and treat them the way we want to be treated (which means live cooperatively rather than competitively) we can't go around smiting people.

I think we need to be on our toes for these rules. Following rules that don't make sense doesn't make us good, obedient people. It makes us easily manipulated dolts who've abdicated our responsibility to think.

That Goldlen Rule? That very simple one that just about every religion agrees on, is the one that makes sense. If you want to do the silly things, wear a green hat on Tuesdays or flap your arms while you sing a certain song, hey go for it. But don't make it a rule that everyone is supposed to follow. Because we only need one. It's Golden.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Un electric

I just got electricity back after 15 hours. It was 15 hours of my day off, too. I did the reasonable thing and slept much of it. But when I was awake, I didn't learn.

Evidently 14 is not enough hours to learn that I don't have electricity. It doesn't matter that I've been complaining about having no electricity for hours, when I enter a new room I flip the switch and then DUH. I'm no more aware than Pavlov's pups.

"How long is this going to last?" I wonder and go to the tv to see if they have an update. DUH.

Not one to give up easily, I go to my computer. DUH.

"That's ok, I'll do some cleaning," I say to myself and get out the vacuum. DUH, again. So I'll cook. DUH. I hold a glass under the ice and water dispenser on the front of my frig. DUH. Laundry? D D D Duh!

Am I really that helpless? I'll sit and read. In front the the window, holding the book just so, but it's still cloudy and dark outside and my eyes aren't that great. Oh, DUH!

I could take a shower, but it would be cold. There may be enough hot water just to wash my hair, but then how would I dry it? It's getting just a tad cool in here.

What the heck, the neighbors across the street have lights!!!! How can that be right? I'll bet they are just sitting there watching television in a warm house, eating hot food while folding fresh laundry. They probably don't even appreciate it.

Fourteen and a half hours. Boy, is it quiet here. Listen to that. All you can hear is the wind blowing the last of the stubborn oak leaves from the trees. Ida, that hurricane that didn't quite happen, happened enough to drop six or so inches of rain on us and blow enough to somehow disrupt our power. I have slippers and sweaters. My dog is warm. I have candles. I have peace. I have a cell phone and the opportunity to call people and tell them of this adventure. And I do.

Once, in a previous life, the dogs, hens, sheep, cats and I were alone during a snow and ice storm. We didn't have electricity for a long while. The sheep and hens didn't mind. We did have candles, lots of wood already cut, a wood stove that kept it warm in the house and water hot for tea. The dogs and I curled up and watched the snow come down outside. I wouldn't remember that particular night if the electricity had been on.

It's good that electricity goes off once in a while. It gives us memories. Life is grand.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

A Box of Dates

I'm no good at dates. That is, I'm not good at remembering significant dates. I really like the fruit, dates. I could eat those all day long, but specific dates I eat seldom ask me to remember them. My sister has given me calendars and address books with everyone's important dates written in them. I lose them. I don't do it on purpose, mind you. It's just that there is only so much organization given to each family and my sister got my share.

I don't remember birthdays very often. If you weren't born of me or in the month of July, there is little chance I'll remember your birthday. It's not that I don't think of you, I've had the perfect birthday card for a good friend for over two years! And when I do remember, I seldom do anything about it other than send nice vibes to the person celebrating.

I don't like holidays much either. It's not just bah humbug, though I suppose there's a good measure of that in me. To me, the expectation of a gift or celebration diminishes it's value. I just sort of like to do things regardless of the calendar. So this year I decided that I'm just not going to worry about giving people gifts or sending cards on any certain date. I regularly tell people I care about that I care about them I tell cool people that they are cool. I think it's a good thing to remind people of their wonderful traits. There isn't much danger that someone is going to hear something good about herself too much. And I'll give gifts when I find something that I want to give to someone else.

It is a benefit of age that I no longer give a poo about appearing foolish. I have soooooo much experience with appearing foolish that I do it very well. So if someone thinks I'm mushy or forgetful or Scrooge, it's ok with me. As long as they don't think I'm a Republican, I can live with it.

I don't care if you don't agree with this, either. Maybe you like the calendar. You can celebrate Christmas or or Memorial Day or National Citrus Week any old time you want. You can celebrate the day you were born or the day you turned 47 days old or the day you lost your first tooth any old day you choose. I just don't care. It's not that I don't care that you were born or that you turned 47 days old or that you lost your first tooth, it's just that the specific day on which it happened doesn't really matter to me.

I don't think we need special occasions to celebrate, either. Every occasion is worth celebrating. I'm here right now and it's grand. It doesn't matter if the glass is half full or half empty, let's fill it again and toast to the color magenta. Why wait? Life is short, but it's wide if you celebrate every moment.

In fact, I think we should all have our funerals when we can enjoy them. Come on, you know you've thought about what you'd like your funeral to be. Well if there are specifics you'd like to see, you'd better do it now. If you're concerned about being socially acceptable, call it a birthday party.

So don't be looking for that holiday card from me - at least not on a holiday. I am going to mail that birthday card to my friend now. Her birthday was in August, I think. Maybe I should send her a box of dates.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Baking Bread, Magic

I know we're supposed to "watch our carbs," or some such rubbish, but there is something magical and mystical and spiritual about baking bread. The whole experience is wondrous.

Two cups of flour, one cup water, a couple of teaspoons of yeast, a tablespoon of sugar, a teaspoon of salt and magic will produce bread. No joke. The magic part is that you use warm water, and sprinkle in the yeast. Feed the yeast with the sugar. Say the magic words and the yeast will bloom. Ok, so so the magic words are optional, but if you want to you can add your own at this point.

Now add in the flour a bit at a time and stir it up. Put the salt in there now, too. The salt keeps the yeast from growing out of control and it makes the bread taste good. You should always remember to toss a pinch of salt over a shoulder because you might have spilled some. When the dough gets too sticky to stir, dump it out on a flour dusted board and with flour dusted hands get right in there. Keep adding your flour while you knead it. I can't tell you how to knead your dough. The dough will tell you. Push it around, turn it over, punch it down, fold it in half, schmoosh it. Love it.

By now you are smelling a wonderful thing. You should knead that dough until it snaps according to my grandmother, Munny. However, Munny isn't in your kitchen, so you just knead it until it feels right to you. Is it smooth and springy? That's good. By now it's not sticking to your fingers or the board any more. Roll it into a ball. Rub a little oil around in a bowl and then roll the ball in the bowl. Put the bowl of dough in a warm place and cover it with a clean towel. If it's dry in your kitchen, dampen the towel just a bit.

More magic! The dough grows to twice its original size in 45 minutes or an hour or an hour and a half or so. Your kitchen smells delightful and it looks like you really know what you're doing because you have that board (maybe it's your countertop) with flour dusted on it. You have flour on your apron or shirt and probably the floor. Celebrate!

Stick your fist right into that big dough and it poofs right down. Plop it out on that floured surface again and let it rest for ten minutes or so. Turn on your oven to 400 degrees. When the dough is rested (you'd need a rest, too if you just grew twice your size) sort of flatten it out into a rectangle-ish shape with your hands. Does this not feel wonderful? It's alive, you know. It's springy and silky and smooth and it smells great. Roll the rectangle and tuck the ends under so it looks sort of like a loaf. Do you have a bread pan? If you don't it's ok. You can use a cake pan. Nobody said what shape your loaf has to be. Cover it again and put it back in a warm place and let the magic happen again. This time it will be faster.

When it's nearly twice it's size again, you bake it. If you want you can brush some milk on the crust after it's baked a while. I really don't know how long it will take, but you just look at it now and then. When the crust is golden and it sounds hollow when you thump it with your knuckles, it's done. Take it out of the oven, dump in on a rack to cool. Of course you're not going to let it cool before you cut into it. That would be wrong. Cut a steamy piece of bread and let some butter melt on it.

While you're eating that bread that you just made, notice that your whole house smells amazing. This has been a totally sensuous experience. The feel of the dough, the smell of the baking bread that fills your house, the taste of that first steamy slice, the crunch of the crust, the wonderous bubbles that make the bread tender beneath the golden crust. It just doesn't get much better than this.

Give thanks to the people who grew the wheat, dug the well, laid the pipes, mined the salt. That's part of the magic. Baking bread makes you thankful. It keeps you humble. You couldn't make that yeast turn the flour and water into dough. It just does it. It's magic. Be thankful.

Next time, experiment with different kinds of flour, maybe add some seeds. Use honey instead of sugar, or put in herbs. Use milk or buttermilk for some or all of the water. Use some eggs, some oil, some applejuice. You can be as creative as you want with bread. The basics stay the same. The yeast wants warmth and food and if you give it that it will reward you. Trust the dough to feel right. Don't worry too much about measurements. Use common sense.

Most of all be thankful and notice every good thing about baking bread. Carbs, smarbs. I refuse to believe that anything this wonderful is bad for me.

Saturday, November 7, 2009


I think this was first published Tueday, August 19, 1997 in the Clinton Daily Journal, but that may have been the second printing. I’m not sure. The editor titled it.


What a treat. I bought a new c.d. today.
Actually I have the album, but I haven’t played albums for so long, I’m not sure my equipment works. I bought Carole King’s Tapestry. It’s playing as I type this. (I sort of feel like a traitor since I always have Eric on when I write.)

One million years ago, when I was in high school, I sometimes went home for lunch so that I could lie on the floor in front of the speakers (which were about as big as I was) and listen to Carole King. Actually it was more like absorbing Carole King. That woman wrote so many songs about me that it was almost embarrassing. I was sure that any moment she was going to come through the door and adopt me or at least take me on the road with her. (I though it would be a great way to meet James Taylor!) I can’t explain how much I loved her music. And let’s face it, she is one of the best musical poets the world has ever known.

But I hadn’t listened to Carole King for a long time. A very, very long time. I was in a music store looking for more Eric Clapton when I saw Tapestry.

Someone had put it back in the wrong place or maybe it was kismet. So I brought it home and put it in and by golly, I sang along with every single song! I didn’t know I still knew those songs. They are part of me, I guess.

But something even stranger than remembering the words to classic songs happened. Those songs that Carole King sang about me when I was sixteen are still about me. They made me happy and sad. They made me remember wonderful times and they made me homesick, too. I mean, sometimes I wonder if I’m ever gonna make it home again, it’s so far and out of sight.

I’m not sure why the song, Tapestry made sense to me when I was sixteen. How many bits of blue and gold did I actually have then? I’m sure I hadn’t yet glimpsed the drifter passing by at that age though I can describe him in detail now.

And I’m absolutely sure that I really didn’t know anyone who made me feel like a natural woman when I was sixteen. Oh, sure, I felt the sky tumbling down and my heart tremble a few times, but I can’t really say I’d ever felt like a natural woman.

But I knew some people who truly did have a friend, myself included. I had really good friends then.

We’d drive around the lake and sing along with the radio. When we heard Tonight with words unspoken you say that I’m the only one. . . will you still love me tomorrow? We’d yell back, “No!” We knew better than to trust our boyfriends farther than we could throw them. They’ll hurt you and desert you. . . .etc ..” We were wise. Life was simple then. We knew the rules.

What happened to my friends from that world? We were so close. Doesn’t anybody stay in one place anymore? It would be so fine to see their faces at my door.

Nick would break up with What’s-his-name and we’d shake our heads knowingly singing, Something inside has died and I can’t hide and I just can’t fake it.

We actually were high on life.

We really did get up every morning with smiles on our faces and we really did show the world all the love in our hearts. Somewhere we always had shelter from hunger and cold. We knew the shelter. We didn’t know the cold. It was a garden of wisdom in some long ago dream.

Could it be that I don’t remember it all clearly? If that’s true please don’t tell me. It’s taken me more than a couple of years to perfect these memories and I don’t want anybody messing with them. Let me just absorb the music. It makes me feel so good inside. You know, Carole, you make me feel so alive.

This was the best $13 I’ve spent in a long, long time. I guess my equipment is working after all.

Living Simply - Acorns

I'm sure you've heard the phrase Live simply so that others can simply live. Much to be said for that, I think. You might take a second and figure out what that phrase means to you. Living simply can mean taking advantage of the bounty of food that the Universe has put in your front yard.

Maybe your mother told you that acorns were poisonous, but that's because she didn't know that early American settlers and Native Americans often got half their protein from acorns. We just forgot that they were a bountiful, free, easy food. I don't know why.

I am blessed to be living with ten oak trees on this property. Next door is a bit under two acres of mostly oaks. This fall I've been collecting acorns and experimenting with how they are best prepared to eat. People at work think I'm a bit off but have been bringing me bags of acorns from their oaks as well.

One thing I've learned is that you have to start with good acorns. There is nothing I can do to those little acorns from Red Oaks with the beautiful, pumpkin-colored meats, to make them eatable. They are just gonna be nasty. The later, larger acorns from White Oaks have pale yellow or white meats and are much better when it comes to eating.

Acorns are full of tannins, which need to be removed before they are going to be tasty. There are a couple of ways to do this. The way I've found most effective is the boiling water technique.

Have two pots with enough water to cover the nut meats (oh, yeah, you have to shell them and discard any meats the worms have beat you to.) When the first pot of water is at a full boil, drop in the acorn meats and turn off the heat. Let it cool to the point that you can put your hands in there without burning them.

You'll notice that the water turns brown. The harder shelled acorns yield a light brown water and the softer shelled acorns yield a very dark brown water. Pour off some of this first broth into a little jar that you'll keep in the frig. When you get a scratch or an insect bite, put some of this natural astringent on it and it will fix you right up. I understand that you can also use it to tan your animal hides, but I don't want to think about that.

Ok, back to the acorn meat. Get the second pot of water boiling before you strain the first pot. They'll still be hot when you plop them into the second pot. Taste one of the meats. If the bitterness is sufficiently gone, you don't even have to give them a second boil. Each type and every tree of each type produces a different level of bitterness. Also, what you consider terribly bitter, I might rather like. It seems we all have different taste buds. Go figure. Anyway, you just keep doing this until the meats are un-bitter enough for you.

Now you've got a bunch of chunks of un-bitter acorn meats. Let them drain onto a towel a while then put them on a cookie sheet in a 200 degree oven until they are crunchy. The time differs of course, and will usually take 1 to 2 hours.

Now you can put the chunks in the frig to use as nuts in cooking or you can grind them into flour to use in baking. I cook them in my oatmeal at lunch. They give the oatmeal a nutty tea flavor. And they give me a protein boost mid day. I also use the acorn flour in bread, substituting it for a quarter to a third of the wheat flour.

Ok, so why would I do all this when I could just go to MacDonalds? Acorns are healthy, they are plentiful, they are free and I enjoy hunting, collecting, shelling and processing them. I really enjoy finding new ways to use them. So my question is why don't more people do this?

Friday, November 6, 2009

Ooops. Population Growth

I just read a very interesting article in The Economist about population growth. Half the world is at replacement rate now and sometime between 2020 and 2050 the world will drop below replacement rate. True, this may be too little too late, but I prefer to see it as steps in the right direction. But I'm not sure it's all on purpose.

Our unbridled population growth has brought about some things that will kill us. Not only poverty and hunger, but toxins that result from our industrial "progress," hatred brought on by our politics, and the changes in our weather, might contribute to our population size.

People with money and education tend to have smaller families and therefore continue their wealth. People without money and education tend to have larger families and therefore continue their poverty. Perhaps people are catching on that fewer children = more wealth. But that's not the only thing going on, I'm afraid. (I'm going to try not to talk about China, which takes the decision away from individuals when it comes to having smaller families.)

Remember Silent Spring? Dioxins mess with the fertility of animals and we are animals. Dioxins don't go away. They are a byproduct of our "civilization." They are human-made powerful bits (chemicals) that cause cancer, birth defects, and infertility. Maybe we're just killing ourselves off.

Then there are some new viruses to be afraid of. H1N1 (Hiney or Swine) flu and in fact, all viruses tend to be more fatal in children who haven't had time to build up immunities, and people who are frail. The bird flu promises to be a pandemic in the waiting. Add in some misguided souls who think god wants them to manufacture new strains of small pox or anthrax and cut it loose and we have to admit that there's a reasonable chance that a good old-fashioned plague will prune the population right down.

Global warming will do it's bit as well. Increases in weird weather such as hurricane, tsunami, mega storms, will whittle away at population, either directly or indirectly as it affects our ability to feed ourselves.

This doesn't mean we should forget about slowing population growth. We still need to educate the world about how to have fewer children and why to have fewer children. We still need to counteract the idea that having lots of children is somehow god's will. If you want a huge family, there are children waiting to be adopted - go ahead have a huge family. But do it responsibly.

What I'm saying is that the decisions we make today will change the way population is controlled tomorrow. Maybe we should have realized this a few generations back, but shoulds don't get us anywhere, so we need to do it now. We control the birthrate, or the consequences will control population rate for us.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Beverly has changed her name to Blanch. It happens.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Dining alone

Last evening I went to a pub where I was supposed to meet people from my office for a "night out, team building" thing. My office probably has 30 plus people working there and they were all invited. I was the only one who showed. So much for team building.

However, I had a grand time. I've travelled alone and lived alone enough to learn to eat dinner out by myself and enjoy it.I'd never been to this pub before, but I'll be back.

Should I admit what I ate? Oh, why the heck not. This place, McGee's, had an "oyster shuck" last night. I ordered an appetiser of oysters, thinking this would be 4 to 6. It was 12. And they were wonderful. A bit of hot sauce, some horseradish and cocktail sauce. . . . yummy. But I really wanted fish and chips and thought that just because I had more oysters than I'd planned didn't mean I should deprive myself. Another yum. And the Guiness was fine, of course, but I also tried a beer I'd never had before. Three yums. And what the heck. I was there nearly three hours, so having dessert wasn't out of line, was it? I can sum up dessert in one word: warmpecanpieandvanillaicecream!

If my new dog wouldn't have been home by herself, I would have stayed a bit longer and had my tarot cards read. The tarot reader was just about to start when I left. But responsibility called me home.

The servers liked their jobs. It was easy to tell. They were really hosts and concerned with making sure that I didn't feel uncomfortable. They needn't have worried, but it made me think.

Why is it that people are uncomfortable being in public "alone?" We really aren't alone if we're in public, are we? And we probably wouldn't be uncomfortable to be home alone. But there is some sort of stigma attached to going out alone - to be seen to be alone. Oh, the poor dear has been stood up. Oh the poor dear has no friends, no mate. If we are one of two or more at a table, we're much less likely to wonder what strangers are thinking of us or if they are looking at us.

First of all, why should I care? What other people think of me is really none of my damned business. If they are spending their time wondering why I'm eating alone, they really need to get a life. Secondly, if I am dining with someone, I want to concentrate on the other person as well as the restaurant experience. When I'm dining alone, I find myself able to totally concentrate of the food, the music, the ambiance.

If you haven't acquired the skill of dining (going to a movie, concert, museum, etc.) alone, I think you may want to considering developing it. I mean, if you don't want to spend time with you, who else would?

Go, Team!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Beverly. My heart smiles.

Ok, so I went to Pet Smart to meet a Chihuahua from a shelter. However, this black, 8-ish year old dog was in a cage looking oh, so sad. Her 75-year old human had been killed in an auto accident and her human sister lives in an apartment and couldn't take her.

I held her once and it was all over.

She is calm, smart, house trained, loving, and she has a tiny bit of an underbite that just makes her all that more endearing. She likes her fenced in backyard and the house and doesn't go too far from me. She is a great communicator, though I've not heard her bark.

While picking up a few essentials in PetSmart, a woman came up to me sobbing and hugged me. She told me that she was this dog's human's daughter and was so greatful that I was going to give her a good home. She was afraid that because of her age no one would want her.

Here we go with that age thing again. This fine lady has a lot of puppy love left in her. She makes my heart smile. While typing this she jumped down from the bed and came back with a chewy in her mouth and asked to be lifted back to the bed. I'm pretty well trained already.

Beverly has been through a lot and has come out with wisdom, love, and grace. I have a lot to learn from her. I am so lucky that she came home with me!

My husband is away on business, but I've told him about her and emailed a picture. He is understanding and once he meets her in person, he'll be hooked. How could anyone not be?

In the family way

Today I'm considering adopting a new member of my family. I'm going to visit some rescued dogs. I would like to share my home with an adult dog who is calm and cuddly and who understands that outdoors is the potty place.

I have always loved animals. I don't think I've ever met a dog I didn't like, and I have loved very many in my life. When people ask if I'm a dog or a cat person, I have to answer yes. However, husband is one of those rare, unfathomable people who would rather not have a dog or cat in the family. I'm afraid it's some sort of disability. He says it's for practical reasons - you have to arrange care for them when you travel, they require healthcare, you have to let them outside, etc. Well, yes. Those things are true. And we have a fenced in back yard, he normally works from home during the day, and veteranarians and animal hotels are not the least bit scarce around here. Sounds like we have the perfect opportunity, doesn't it?

He finally has grudgingly agreed to just be unhappy about it if I bring an addition to the family home rather than kick us both out. The poor dear doesn't understand how much joy and love a pet can bring to its human, and that's to be pitied. My hope is that if we are blessed with an addition to the family, he learns.

My husband is going away on business for a few days, so today I'm going to the orphanage. I have talked with three shelters, emailed my applications, and am meeting a few prospects today. I have a tentative appointment to meet with a second tomorrow. What do you think are the odds that I fall in love with the first dog I meet? What do you think would happen if I brought home more than one?

I'm nervous. I have to go to work tomorrow. What if the baby has an accident while I'm gone? Well, an accident I can clean up, but what if the baby chews a chair or a rug? There would be precious little chance that my husband would overcome his disability any time soon if there was any evidence like that when he got home. And how will the baby do on it's first day at home alone?

Days before my first child was born I told my doctor that I was terrified. I had absolutely no idea how to be a mother. I didn't even know how to fold diapers. (I guess that statement dates me, eh?) What if the baby gets sick? What if he/she wouldn't eat? What would I do?

That baby has lived fairly healthily and happily to the age of 30. Her baby brother is 28. They survived my learn-as-you-go mothering quite well, possibly in part because they grew up with pets. Dogs, cats, fish, a bird, even a mud puppy. I'm proud to say I have two granddogs now, though I seldom get to visit them. My 86 year old mother has adopted a four-legged youngin', who is definitely part of the family and my brothers both have dogs and cats.

Wish me luck in this venture. My only hesitance is that bringing a bundle of joy into the house may cause my husband angst. On the other hand, we've been married two and a half years and I've wanted a pet the whole time. Surely compromise would say that it's time to have one now. (Oh, how I can justify). Surely he would come to love a little darling - I mean, who could resist?

That unconditional love that only a four-legged family member can bestow, the devotion, the peace that comes with just stroking him, the lessons learned from him about play and joy and acceptance - you just can't get that anywhere else. It's blood pressure medicine for the soul.

I'll let you know how it turns out.