Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Consumer Gripe

Same song, many verses. It boils down to this: every time I find something I really like, it becomes unavailable.

Let's start in the grocery store. There was a brand of little boxed Chinese entrees in the freezer section several years ago. After trying all of them, I settled on three as my favorites. Best flavor, best quality, a little heat in the seasonings, and meat that didn't disappear in the breading.  Guess which varieties they quit stocking? Guess who doesn't buy any of them any more?

My favorite brand of hot dogs disappeared, the one and only one that was both inexpensive and tasty. They discontinued the best pumpernickel rye. Can't find blue cheese more than once a quarter or so, except in the gourmet $ection,  and the extra hot jalapeno pepperjack is gone, the only one where you can actually taste the peppers and not just see green flecks. I found a brand of pre-cooked grilled hamburger patties with onions, just nuke for one minute. Yum. First they moved them to the top shelf in the freezer case so I have to ask for help every time I want some. Now they're no longer stocked, though the other varieties are still up on the top... way back.

It's not just food. I find some pajamas I like, or socks I like... it's like the kiss of death. Vitamins quit being offered in the dosage I prefer. I have a favorite baby powder, but they discontinued the larger more convenient size. The tiny one is still offered but either I have to pay double in a store I never otherwise shop at, or order online. Need I say I order by the double case? Just like I do with Sap Sago cheese, going back to food for a moment.

I should have known my life was going to be like this. Before I got married way back in the 60s, we picked out a china pattern, a crystal pattern, a flatware pattern. Every one was discontinued within a couple years, so whatever I didn't already have, forget it. My Betty Crocker coupons got me a lovely stainless pattern, very high quality and for everyday use, but... well, you know by now what happened there too. There actually isn't another pattern I can stand our there, and I've been looking for decades. They are ugly, flimsey, too thin and sharply cornered so they hurt my hands when I actually use them. Now I can, if I want, go on eBay and fill in the blank spots in my pattern for, say, $25 per single dinner fork!

Uh huh. Sure. Soon as I win that lottery.

Colors I like to decorate the house with, and didn't quite buy enough towels or whatever in, gone. Maybe they'll be back in fashion in 30 years or so.

Maybe not.

The type of stainless mixing bowl I love, in sizes and shapes I like and use most, that don't have those narrow bottoms that make them tippy, and do have a small loop/handle on the side for klutzes like me to hold on to them with... maybe in a thrift store, donated after some other long ago purchaser died. Same for the kind of measuring cups I prefer, the cereal bowls I like, the shoes that fit and support my arches properly.


I have been using a tube of Johnson & Johnson first aid cream for years. Occasionally it gets lost, like when I move, but eventually gets found again. It's nearly empty. I cut myself grating orange peels this afternoon and needed some. There might be one more bitty dose left. But there is NOWHERE another tube. Not even online. I've checked. Everybody thinks I want ointment instead, imbedded with whatever the latest fad in antibacterials may be. I don't. Ointments do not let the skin breathe while they are protecting it, so it won't heal as fast. I'm also not so keen on antibacterials as marketers think I should be. Anybody remember Phisohex? Everybody bought it by the half gallon jugful because it was what was used surgically, now wonderfully available to anyone, kills anything. I guess they were right. It turned out it caused nerve damage or something from skin contact. Oops.

That last tube of first aid cream with its last dollop is my treasure.

The heavy duty plastic cooking spoons that didn't scratch teflon and could really stir the thickest stews or whatever, even though lasting for 3 decades still broke. You know there's nothing like them out there any more. Not even the brand I like enough that I bought several family members some pieces (online after they too disappeared from the stores) are as sturdy as those original ones.

I have at least learned when I find socks I like, I buy a dozen pairs. Likewise undies, bras, whatevers. Shoes never come home in single pairs, nor do jeans. If it turns out I'm not so enchanted with them as I was in the store, it's a risk I take. This will be my one chance to get some.

Friday, December 25, 2015

Christmas Is For Memories

Steph just posted on her blog that Christmas is for stories. ( here  ) I have a slightly different take on the holiday. To me it's all about the memories of Christmases past, what happened through the years, both as I grew up and watching my family grow up. Or not. It's the one time of year that many of the memories are tied to, when I can say "this is when it happened."

From the early years of childhood I can remember the ornaments on the tree, the lights back when they were huge, or better yet, bubblers, stringing popcorn or cranberries, painting and putting glitter on pine cones, hanging tinsel carefully from every branch. Bags of peanuts and candies, maybe a popcorn ball were given out to us kids after church. Presents tended to be modest on the family's post-WWII budget, like a chunk of modeling clay the size and shape of a quarter pound stick of butter.  Perhaps a doll. 

The biggest present, my most asked for, was an Easy Bake oven. The family tradition was always to delay present opening until Christmas morning, the timing to be determined by our parents who thought a good night's sleep was important. I couldn't wait that year, so in the very wee hours when the family was still sound asleep and the house totally dark, I slipped down without turning on any lights to give me away, and opened the wrapping paper as carefully as I could to see what that big box for me really was. The problem was that some of the letters in the name were black, and others red which meant that they were also black at night. So I still wasn't completely sure until the next morning, when I pretended the tape was still tightly affixed so nobody would suspect my nocturnal sneaking, that my present was the much hoped-for oven.

Music was always a big part of the holiday. There were the carols sung in church, heard over the radio, played on records, tapes, CDs, in stores or elevators, even sung once out caroling through a neighborhood with a group of other single adults needing something cheery for their holiday. Concerts were sung by different generations, some a bit more musical than others. New songs became popular, some tug the heart. I learned harmonies to some, long ago forgot lyrics to others. My one choir solo ever was in the youth church choir of a Mexican Christmas Carol, never to be heard anywhere again.

When it was time to form a family of my own, the memories changed. Some were good ones. Each year there was the selection of a new kind of ornament for the tree, building up a supply from none of our own to, finally, way too many to actually put on a tree. Once the kids came along, I worked on some new traditions, trying to make up for less than ideal conditions in the home. My favorite of these, one never in my own childhood, was The Nutcracker Ballet. I first took Steph, after buying and reading to her a book giving the story of the magic. She was two her (our) first time. While that was fun, something happened that year which made it really magical for us.

We were down in southern Minnesota at the in-laws family farm. Mostly I dreaded those visits, as alcohol played way too large a part in the social interactions. While the kids were too young - I deeply hoped - to understand what was happening, and in fact told me years later that they had no bad memories of those visits, they were ruined for me.  That year I talked the family into watching the new baby for a bit and took Steph and the farm toboggan out for a walk and a badly needed getaway down the driveway and back. It had rained that day, turning everything into icicles: branches, fence wires, everything. The rain had finally ended, freeing us up to finally get out, but it was now dark and a thick fog had drifted in. Between ice, fog, and the traditional farm yard light, the world became a magical place, one that reminded us of the recently seen Nutcracker. Down at the end of the driveway the fog was so thick we couldn't see traffic on the highway, though a muffled noise and passing glow let us know when someone was crazy enough to be out driving.

Other years there were more Nutcracker ballets, all the kids going finally, but never one as beautifully etched in memory.

Other traditions were developed. Pictures with Santa, homemade ornaments for the tree, homemade decorated felt stockings for each of us. But if the holiday sounded idyllic, it also became the worst holiday. Living down in Georgia for a few years (where I was astounded to watch the neighbor mow the lawn on Christmas Eve!), Paul and I were divorcing, and at my request we postponed the announcement and separation until after the holiday that year. Unfortunately, it didn't happen quite as planned. Paul couldn't wait to get out of the house, and the very second the presents were opened he gave us his final one. He left. Steph in particular was hard hit by that. I was furious at his timing but for the most part it truly was his best gift. The alcohol and the craziness became a rapidly diminishing part of our lives and mostly ended completely in a couple years.

Many years blurred together after that, though one stands out, and just remembering it made me cry for years after - still can. I had returned to Minnesota with the kids, and Paul had remarried and was living in Oklahoma. There was no contact. In fact, there was none again until his mother died after the kids were grown. This particular year the child support was faltering, and we were about to find out that it was not going to be paid again. My job then was low paying, the kids were growing fast, the application for food stamps had been denied because one very last child support check showed up with just the wrong timing. I didn't know how on earth we were going to have either a Christmas dinner or any presents for the kids.

The neighbor across the street found out what was going on, and her place of employment, a local hospital, "adopted" a family each year to give a Christmas to. We were that family. Food and clothing poured in, toys were provided, and we had one of our best holidays ever. I sent the hospital a thank you note, but I doubt I was ever able to express just how much that kindness meant. Then or still now.

Once our family economics improved, a new tradition developed of shopping for the metro Toys for Tots drive each year. Other kids needed help with their merry Christmas.

The worst years were when there was a missing family member, when drugs and life  on the streets took over, and the rest of us tried to celebrate as a family while not knowing even whether our missing member was warm, healthy, or even alive and not the subject of the latest news reports of "there was a body found...." Fortunately those days are behind us, and we are only separated geographically. 

Most recent years the traditions shrank down to presents and  turkey dinner for whomever of the extended family could attend. Now that we are in Arizona, it involves a tree some years, always with bubbler lights if one goes up, turkey dinner with few trimmings, a box or two of wrapped things sent north, and the annual Christmas card. Each year, at some point in the year, I look at my pictures and know just which of them is going to be the one on the card that year, some times even as I take it. Other than after our wedding, the cards have all been something I shot, not the usual family portrait on the card. There was a time I could chose my own wording to go with the picture, but for the last several years the choices have been limited to the couple dozen offerings the stores have programmed into their machines. Each year the offerings are different, and each year the machines are also a bit different. There has not yet been a year when I could put together my desired card without help from some store employee, and some years like this one, not even then. (If you've seen my card, the picture was cropped too closely and one of the quail's heads was chopped short. The machine refused to zoom out no matter how many times either of us tried to do so. )

I guess it'll just have to become the special memory from this year. That, and maybe all the wonderful chocolates.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

AZ Traffic School: It's Different Down Here

Once registration was over, the first thing he said was that he always held these classes in a hotel. At the end of the evening some of us would not want to drive. Anywhere. So we could spend the night. We all laughed politely. It seemed like such a lame attempt at a joke.

We all knew how to drive. We knew the rules and regulations, had likely been driving for many years, several of which had even been here in Arizona. This was just a handy way of getting that pesky little speeding ticket, illegal turn, or whatever minor offense off of our records. Because the first thing different down here was that taking the class eliminated the offense. MVD never got informed in the first place, never mind needing to get it "erased". Our insurance companies could never get the information for an excuse to raise our rates for the next 39 months, because after the class there was no information to be gotten. And hey, if anybody needed it, this could be repeated once a year.

Or we,  or our kids learning to drive, could just take it because it was a good idea. We'd learn things. Practical things. Finer points of interpretations of the law, as well as safer driving. Things that should keep us from ever being required to come back.

To emphasize that point, he handed out a test to fill out. We could even chat with our neighbors to discuss the correct answers. Really simple, right? We knew this stuff, had it cold, were positive about our answers, scratched our heads when our neighbors had different answers than we did and were just as positive about theirs.

Need I mention that we all found out what we didn't know? Even the people whose driving had happened solely in Arizona? And as an out-stater, long time commercial driver with approximately 2 million miles under my belt, but in another state, I was astounded at just how much of what I knew was wrong.

It truly is different down here.

Arizona is ranked as the worst driving state in the union. We have three cities that rank nationally as 1, 3, and 5 on the worst drivers scale. We haven't even banned texting while driving yet, though Tempe just put a city-wide law into effect to do that. Also no cells, no cameras, etc.

Do you know where the Tempe city boundaries are?

I have done enough multi-state driving to have  made a point of checking which of several laws are in effect where I plan to go. Right turn OK on red? Stay right except to pass? Pedestrian rights / obligations? Move over a lane to avoid emergency vehicles on shoulder? Lights on in the rain? Cell phone restrictions? Once I moved down here, I picked up a copy of the rules of the road before switching my license over to here, and read it, looking for differences. Aside from finding no cell phone or texting restrictions, I thought it was all pretty much the same. If you can drive there, you can drive here; that was my conclusion.

Half my test answers were wrong! Take speed limits. I tend to watch them closely. I also tend to watch other vehicles zoom past as they ignore them, particularly on freeways. I've seen posted speeds anywhere from 15 to 25 in school zones, 55 to 75 on freeways (where 55 means traffic flows at 65, barring accidents, and 65 means 80+), 2-lane streets from 25 to 30, and 4-lanes from 40-45. I found out I didn't actually know what the default speed limits were. For the record, school zones are 15, residential and business streets are 25, highways are 55, and freeways are 65 in the city, and outstate only increase to 75 where there is an actual physical sign that says so!

If you think this only matters when you can identify a squad car nearby, AZ can use undercover vehicles like Mustangs, invite you to race them from a stop by revving their engines, and tag you for rising to the bait. That undercover vehicle is even legally allowed to carry an out-of-state license plate. But who needs a cop when the state is putting cameras up all around, and has gotten savvy enough to take 2 pictures of any offending vehicle, one of the license in the rear, one of the driver.

Back to speeds. Any ticket more than 20 mph over the speed limit, or over 85 regardless, is no longer a civil (pay the fine) offense but a criminal one. Meaning life gets complicated. Any time they can write you up for three offenses at once, it's criminal. So if you speed, forget your seat belt, let a bulb burn out, do an illegal lane change or a sloppy rolling stop, any three, watch out! Even if it's just a "simple" speeding ticket, each community can set its own fine levels, so they can vary from just over $100 to over $600.

Think you know when you can legally execute a U turn? Think again. Any left turn sign either at an intersection, or within a block enabling, for example, entry to a shopping center actually prohibits a U-turn. The only legal U-turn is in a left turn lane without a sign.

They're hard to find.

You may as well take a legal left into a parking lot, turn around and come out, making a right turn to complete your directional change. Of course, when you are pulling our from private property like that parking lot or your driveway, you must first make a full stop. Sign or no sign. Full stop. Then you must yield to everybody already on the road.

But then again, left turns too are problematic. Yes, they're legal, except....

Understand there is no recognized vehicle right-of-way legally down here, So even if you have a left turn arrow and everybody, and I mean everybody else has a red light, and you're making a left turn, if you get involved in a collision it's your ticket! That holds even if the car which hit you had to break the law in order to do so. Your ticket! It's so bad that companies like UPS and Fed EX have their drivers all make only right turns. If that means passing your turn, taking three rights around the block to be able to go straight in the direction you wanted, it's still all just right turns.

Our instructor recommended that practice to all of us.

There is one situation where you are not at fault if you get hit while making that left turn in an intersection. At the green, pull forward and wait  for everybody oncoming to clear, even if they run a red light and you're sitting out in the middle of the intersection unable to move before your light turns red. When cross traffic gets their green, they are legally not allowed into the intersection until all traffic has cleared, including you who have been sitting there more or less patiently. If they start as soon as they get the green and wind up hitting you, it's their ticket, not yours.

That of course does wonders at erasing any crunchies or injuries they may inflict.

Four way stops are another example of there being no legal right of way. It is the usual requirement that if two arrive at the intersection at the same time, drivers yield to any driver on their right. Who also have to yield to anybody on their right before they can proceed. Who also must yield to any driver on their right, who must in turn yield to you. Any time  three or four drivers reach a 4-way, legally things proceed one car at a time. Not two and two as most of us are used to and is practiced despite the law down here. So when you're facing north and the southbound driver takes their turn, you are not also allowed to take yours.

It could easily be one of those little extra things to write on your ticket, or that gives a reason for you to be pulled over. You know, by that sporty Mustang with the California plates.

Not only are cameras in place for speeders, they are in intersections with sensors that note just exactly where you stop. Exactly. The legal procedure is to stop at the stop line, the first line you come to across your lane. It's back a few feet from the intersection, and you can't properly see cross traffic for that right turn you want to make on red once it's clear. So after your proper stop you may creep forward until you can see it's safe to make that turn. The sensors are set both before and after that stop line. If you didn't stop in time, the first one is triggered. The only way at that point to avoid a violation is to stop before making your turn and stay stopped. No matter if traffic thins and you could otherwise take that turn, stay stopped. Once you get a green light, the system resets and you can proceed without getting recorded.

Minnesota recently required drivers to move left - or slow way down if that lane is blocked - when an emergency vehicle with lights flashing is on the shoulder, extending the requirement to when utility vehicles are on the shoulder as well. Many states now have a version of that law. Down here, it's - you guessed it - a tad different.

Any vehicle stopped on the shoulder counts for the requirement for you to pull over. If the land next to the road is level and dry and the vehicle pulled off by 30 feet, it still counts! Not only that, they are still legally considered to be using the right lane whether they are partly in it or not. So the next lane over must be kept clear for them, and you need to pull over into the 3rd lane in order to clear them. Of course, you can slow way-y-y-y-y down in order to pass when you can't move that far over, should the desired lane be blocked, traffic be too fast or closely tailgating each other for you to maneuver in, or that 3rd lane not even exist.

There' a twist for crosswalks down here. Pedestrians rule in a crosswalk at all times. That's not different. But watch out for the color of the crosswalk lines. White is a regular crossing, meaning you may proceed once your whole side from curb to center median is clear. Yellow means  you're in a school zone, whether you noticed the signs or not, and you may not move across the crosswalk unless it is cleared of pedestrians from curb to curb.

Speaking of curb to curb, when emergency vehicles are approaching you with lights flashing, you must pull over. You think you know that. But many states say that on roads with a center median, if it's on the other side you may continue forward. Here you must pull over and stop whichever side of the road it is on. Even on a divided highway.

Try not to get rear-ended when you are the only one who knows the law.

We thought our instructor was joking when he said some of us might not feel like driving home after class was over. As he dismissed us, many of us weren't sure any more whether it was safe for us to be out there or not.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Give Me COLOR!

I'm coming down (perhaps "up"?) from nearly 30 years of wearing uniforms, most of which required navy as the main part. That, over the years, could (must) be paired with federal blue, black, charcoal, or ... you guessed it ... more navy. Shoes were white, or black: no biggie, because that is what serious shoes came in, white or black. And the navy I didn't mind, really. Being blue-eyed, I had always been told that was "my" color. And it tends to bring out the orange in my skin, an improvement from all the red to my way of thinking.

Shopping was easy. Navy was always a staple, even as jeans became the casual American uniform. All I had to do was pick navy or what blended. See above. And I was very content to hide behind the neutrality of that palette. At work, I was identifiable, not as me but as a part of the uniformed tribe.

Even after retiring, navy was still the primary go-to choice for a while. I still had all those navy or grey pants with very little wear, a sufficient supply to last for years. For the record, the one pair I've tossed was already full of holes, brought down here as something grubby to wear for those jobs that might destroy otherwise good pants. Besides, I love the texture of those pants, probably why the wear pattern was right where my hand rested on them while taking a break from the steering wheel.

Navy so monopolized my life that back in '91 when I had the Minnesota house built I painted my bedroom a shade of blue that blended perfectly with that color, a pale greyed shade called Heron blue, and bought a bed comforter to match. That was ME at rest. Comfortable. Inoffensive. Automatic. Blah.

Underneath the navy, there was white. I grew up being told underthings were white. Just white. Always. If - horrors! - it ever showed, the world could instantly tell how fastidious, moral, and well-groomed you were by how white that white was. Plus, undies with dyes in them would lead to a lady developing a UTI, so for heaven's sake at least buy something with a white cotton-lined crotch if one dared to delve into a little naughtiness with color.

It's been my experience that UTIs are really caused by dehydration resulting in lack of flushing out the system, poor personal hygiene, sex with a partner who didn't consider his own personal hygiene to be of any concern to his partner, or too high levels of blood sugar. Not undies. Especially not colored undies. So those were my first, hidden, venture into adding colors to my life. Now there must be a dozen different colors popping out when the drawer opens, neatly folded and stacked, of course.

With retirement pending, my latest shoe purchase was a pair of very bright blue shoes with touches of yellow, and a pair of green and pink ones. The blue were for work, despite the recent company crackdown on black-only shoes. What? They were going to send me away early when they were already bemoaning how they would ever fill my niche of long days, late hours, and willingness to travel anywhere to the tune, often, of over 500 miles a day? I'd risk it. And did.

Not one word.

With the purchase of the Arizona house, I decided to alter my color palette a little. While the living/dining room is still a pale cornflower blue, and the concrete floor painted slate grey, options being very limited there, the Persian rugs defining usage spaces both have generous patterning of burgundy, and my recliner is all burgundy. The rug in the lanai, otherwise in a very neutral cream, has intense greens and rose shades throughout. My bedroom, for the first time ever, I had done in two different intensities of teal. You can still call it blue, though many call it green, and think of it as a southwestern turquoise shade, but it is color, color, COLOR. Accents in furniture and window blinds are white, bringing out the teal even more.

Of course, the old, perfectly serviceable grey-blue comforter needed to be replaced, though for the record, I still own it for the comfort of cool-weather guests, should there be any who chose to visit during that month. While clerking an auction a few years back, I spotted a bedspread with some curls of a dark teal wandering through the design, and without much thought as to what the rest of it might look like inside its bag, I put in a winning bid on it. Upon finally opening it to lay out on my bed, I was surprised to discover that the rest of the swirls pattern includes deep non-metalic gold, fuchsia, and a violet-purple. Little flecks of black all over too, to keep it from being obnoxious.

I love it!

In fact, I love it so much I have trouble setting it aside during those super hot nights in late spring and early fall. After all, the blankets under it are simply ugly, never mind that they are cotton thermal and nicely cool with just a touch of warmth for the wee hours just before waking. I just love those colors. All of them.  All together.

With the old long work days, I basically wore uniform shirts 5 days a week while not in pajamas, also mostly navy by the way. So I needed a new shirt wardrobe. Just in time, a line of cheap, multi-colored, glittery hot-weather shirts became widely available (OK, I admit it was Wal Mart) and I snatched up a few. And some more. In fact, mostly everything in those shirts they sold. Not a single offering on their shelves was in navy. Of course, most of what they will be paired with is still navy, but the pants are still serviceable and I'm neither silly enough nor wealthy enough to toss them all out. So I make do.

Baby steps.

I went out for some new sweats a couple weeks ago. I bet you think I bought a lot of purple, don't you? Well, those had already been picked over and my size was out, so I came home with ... navy.

And grey.

But I did find a pretty (or pretty thin) hoodie and a matching thermal long sleeved shirt in teal too. The matching pants were sold out in my size, of course.

I plan to keep trying.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Shuttin' Her Down ...Oops

For those of you who missed the excitement, or worse, for those of you who didn't but had no idea what was going on, it was all my fault. I freely confess: mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa.

I shut down the whole rec center.  Just me. The whole thing. Everybody had to leave.

It started out with perfectly good intentions.


No, really.

Joining the lapidary club comes with obligations as well as the privileges of instructional classes, use of expensive equipment,  and being able to display/sell your creations in the sales shop. You need to pay your dues and class fees, of course. And you need to volunteer a few hours to the club each month.

For me, that's been a bit of a problem. I could sell other folk's jewelry, but with the scooter I'd be a very unruly bull in the china shop. Same for the parts sales room for the members. I could be a room monitor, but I need silversmithing class (mucho $$$) to understand some of the equipment in order to properly either turn it on or shut it safely off. So finding my niche has been a challenge. I've still been taking classes and using the equipment, but cannot sell anything through the club. There is a definite incentive, besides personal pride, to figure out how I fit in.

Ideas have been proposed. Last year things were going missing, and it was suggested I could review our in-shop security tapes to pinpoint a culprit... or more. But that activity stopped and I wasn't needed. Our outgoing president thought I might be able to take just the equipment/safety portion of the silver class - free - in order to be able to be a monitor, but others shot that idea down. I'd need the whole thing at the full fee. The hunt continued.

Then last week Donna offered a solution: I could clean. Understand, everybody is supposed to clean the equipment they've just finished using. Apparently most of them skipped that part of their classes. I've always tried to be the good Girl Scout and leave it better than I found it- not a difficult thing to do. Most of the cleaning happens at my reachable heights, or does when it happens. So yes, I can do that!

This morning I showed up all gung ho to get going. I had a few stones which needed their final polish with Zam, something I was unable to do last week because lack of a monitor forced closure of the shop just before I got to that point in my process. But that only took a few minutes. I still couldn't use the slabbing saw on a fat rock since it was "red-tagged" for needing repairs. Still. After at least three weeks. But that left me between projects with plenty of time to share with the club, cleaning.

Every step of the lapidary process, from rock chunk to polished jewelry-ready stone, has one thing in common. They all produce rock dust. If you are using the equipment correctly, the dust is mostly contained in either water or oil lubricant. This means every droplet or splash leaves behind a splotch as it dries, white or colored, depending on the stone in use. These are not only unsightly, they can build up and wear down the equipment faster. Even when wiped off hastily with a damp towel after use, the machinery carries a thin rock dust coating on it. If not wiped, it and everything around it will be covered with splotches, running drips, and streaks.

Somebody else was cleaning the saws room, so I started in the grinders room. Just for clarity, this room is not the only location of grinders and polishers, but it is dedicated solely to them. By the time I neared the end of the first counter, over an hour had passed, and I had cleaned spaces where I'd never even thought to look for crap while I had been using the equipment. I started seeing accumulations of stuff in crevices and corners heretofore undreamt of. Mostly I could deal with them "well enough" with my frequently rinsed wet towel. But I finally reached the most-used machines where, logically enough, the deepest accumulations of dirt resided.

I started by locating an old table knife, thin and firm enough to scrape up over a quarter inch of rock dust and lint in narrow spaces between the machines and the frames which secured them to the counter tops. Most of that, once loosened, I was able to encourage to head out the front side where my hand could act as a large scoop to take it over to one of the trash cans. Some of it, however, exited out the back, into a narrow space between parts of the equipment where nothing really reached.

Not to worry: one of the guys had the perfect idea! (You notice this was a guy, right?) He turned on the shop vac, aimed the hose into the narrow area, and... well, maybe somebody could locate a narrow crevice tool to fit the hose another day. He had his own project to get back to. I plodded on, doing what I could, leaving what I had to. But notice, please, that the shop vac worked perfectly for him.

Remember earlier where I said the rock dust mainly was confined to the water/lubricant areas? Well, the machines I was cleaning have trays underneath, partly to hold the water running through, partly to evacuate water out a tube attached about half an inch up from the bottom. While nobody has explained the purpose of its height to me, I assume it is to keep the worst, aka heaviest, of the particles in the tray so the water exits with the least clogging of downstream plumbing. If that's not the reason, it's certainly the result. After months of use without cleaning, the bottoms of those pans hold a thick slurry. Any stone dropped in them is instantly invisible, and fingers that go fishing them out come out coated in the color of the month which is never the color of one's skin or nails and which defies all washing and brushing attempts to effect removal. I'd been thinking for a long time that somebody ought to clean those out.

Today that somebody was me. The thing is, one can only really clean them out while they are dry and caked, meaning before somebody uses that particular machine for that day, leaving me two that could be cleaned. A wedge of wood (there are plenty around, just with a different use) will scrape up and break up the sediment for fairly easy removal.

Or at least it should be easy. Access to the tray bottoms themselves involves enough angles and obstructions that what appears a wide space is in fact quite narrow. But AH-HAH! I had been shown the way: the shop vac. Its hose was both large enough for efficiency and small enough to maneuver in the spaces required. And let me mention, once again, that a GUY had just used it for exactly the same thing, just different spaces. And with no problems.

Murphy's law has a new corollary. The time it takes for a shop vac without a filter on the back end to kick enough dust into the air to set off the smoke detectors is only a quarter of the time needed to for  a person using it with their back turned to the machine to notice what is happening and shut it off. You know: two seconds.

We in lapidary all knew what the cause of the alarms and evacuation notice, loudly and constantly repeated to the point of ear pain, was: me. And rock dust. There was no fire. No emergency. One of the club members trotted down to the main desk to explain the situation so the fire truck callout could be cancelled.  We were still all evacuated, staff members checking rooms to chase us all out. It took about 10 minutes for the alarm/notice to shut off and for staff to allow us back in.

I finished cleaning the area I had been working on. There was no point in leaving it a worse mess than I'd found it. After that, I decided I'd roll on home, relax, have lunch, read a book. You know, before I managed to create another incident.

It's a rare and unique talent.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Busy Post-Turkey Day Sunday

When Steve sets the TV / DVR to watch/record not one but two football games, it's time to move off the chair, quit trying to read, and find find something to actually do. You might think the Cardinals would be one of the teams he follows, but after three winters down here, they've not even crossed his horizon yet. His teams are the Vikings - when he can stand to watch, and this year is OK so far for them - and the Broncos, unqualified. Occasionally he'll watch the Packers in hopes that they'll be humiliated.

Oh, disappointment.

But holiday gifting nears, and following my tradition of making gifts whenever possible, there is much still to do. Yesterday I tried a couple of ideas in the "how to" category. This follows months of work, parts hunting, ordering, and waiting, and anticipation of final products. Tiny details and needing to still develop skills have been holding the projects' completion back. Yesterday's results needed to be evaluated, glue strings removed, one failed project disassembled in favor of Plan B. One fix visited me as I woke from a dream, and it's been adopted now in several cases.

Hey! I can't get much more specific without spoiling surprises, but I'll share the idea with my friends in Lapidary shop. It works.  I'll just say it employs a use of wire rather than glue.

So, much of today was continuing using the new technique with new projects.  That of course meant spending about an hour sorting through supplies, figuring out which are preferred to use with what, what is on hand and what needs to be ordered or designs changed. In the sorting process I also came up with what I think will be an excellent idea for organizing all my supplies so I more quickly know where to look to see what I have.

In no way confuse that with actually doing any of that organizing, of course. Consider, for both needing and putting off the organizing: just the first case weight over 30 pounds. Then there are two more large cases, two sacks full of supplies for works under way or soon to be, but where an actual specific concept is in place, and four boxes of chunks to be sawn into slabs or slabs to be cut and shaped. And let's not forget the stack of rag towels to clean during the various stages and eventually cleaned and returned to use.

So no, semi-controlled chaos still rules. In fact, semi- may be a bit too optimistic.

Once today's projects were done, aka glue drying before absolutely final assembly tomorrow, and plans made for the next round, there was a meal tucked in. 60 degrees was almost warm enough to eat outside, so long as the sun shone on my chair. With both lasting 5 minutes, that worked. In the meantime - my version of multitasking - I noted the hummer feeders needed cleaning and refilling, so on my way inside I also collected both of them. While the new syrup boiled, dishes were done, including those from Turkey Day.

Yes, we had dishes from Turkey Day. Of course we went to celebrate with friends. But this required bringing a dish to share, one of my few excuses to actually cook each year. There were the remains of last Sunday's turkey carcass in the fridge. Even when we eat elsewhere, we both love our own turkey, fresh as well as leftovers for the next week plus. Thus, dishes.

Add all the little usual tasks of feeding and watering dogs, picking up the biggest, most visible Fred fur bunnies du jour, thinking about doing laundry, counting carbs, thinking about when new plantings need watering next, watching the hummers fight over feeders including the one that tried to dive bomb me - such timing! - as I was hanging the newly filled one up for it, thinking about.... Well, you get the drift.

The first football game is over and the next doesn't start for a bit, so I'm using the break for blogging and reading. I'm halfway through the third book in a series, wondering how they are going to all get out of this particular predicament. It won't happen before the next game starts, but I plan to see how far I can get.

Later, all.

Friday, November 27, 2015

Not Exactly A Hummer

The flowers are mostly done from summer and early fall blooms, so now the hummingbird feeders are up. One hangs in front, visible out the living room picture window from where we sit. One sways in back. positioned along the many hook options under the patio roof where, again, it is visible from the living room chairs.  Judging from the noises they make, and the bird guide book descriptions, they are most likely Costas that grace our yard and enjoy our hospitality.

I could be wrong, of course. Last year I was convinced for the first part of the season that they were Lucifers. But those are not noisy, at least according to the books I have. In addition, Costas are supposed to be rare. So someday I may change my mind again about the identity of our visitors. The only thing I am positive about are which are male and which female. And that each feeder has a  fiercely territorial visitor.

At lease, insofar as what other hummers are welcomed to approach, meaning none except when young are being raised and can first fly. But there are other visitors. Both feeders have perches, meant for the hummers to rest while feeding rather than having to hover. Other birds try to take advantage.

We occasionally see finches, or something similar in size. The shape of finches' beaks makes me sceptical of their ability to garner a sip.  Occasionally we see what may be a catbird having a go. Again, I'd have to consult the local guides to be sure of which birds of similar size and coloration are possibilities. The only year-round local birds I'm sure I can identify are roadrunners and gambels quail. Cardinals tint orange down here, and Canadian geese fly overhead to the local grass supply (fore!) with their unmistakable honking, but they are seasonal. I'm positive which birds are hummers, but not what species unless it's a rufus or broadbilled. All the others fall into the category of pink throat, purple throat, or female. That covers a lot of species.

But there is one frequent visitor that is unmistakable, somehow managing to get enough of a reward from the feeder to ensure its frequent returns: a flicker. The feeder tilts precariously, sways wildly when it leaves, but it keeps coming back, several times daily that we notice. After all, who has the whole day to watch a feeder?

Since the syrup level doesn't drop precipitously, I don't mind its visits. There is still plenty left for its hummingbird "owner". And at least it's not apparently drumming major holes in the trees or testing out the house for its habitat. We got enough of that back in Minnesota, including one pileated who thought our screen house was his perfect sounding board. Shoo!

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

72 Virgins?

It's been a few days since the Paris attacks, with much still unknown. So this is not a definitive commentary. It's more stray thoughts.

To all you terrorists and wannabes out there, extremists everywhere who think there will be afterlife rewards for spreading earthly hate and terror: I cannot comprehend a philosophy/religion that teaches such. Oh yes, I can put the words together and get the concept. But as Heinlein would say, I just can't grok it. How disaffected must one be, how angry, how self-entitled, how insane, and how evil must one be to consider the concept, much less spread it?

Steve showed me a posting on Facebook with a pair of soldiers, captioned (I don't pretend my memory yields a direct quote) "72 virgins? Let's go get these guys laid!" That sentiment, the retaliatory rage, I grok. I merely hope it is properly channeled, narrowly aimed at the terrorists and not at just any "other" that may be deemed similar and therefore, with most of the perpetrators already dead from their actions and immune from us, suitable targets to vent our fear and frustration on. Let's not turn ourselves into them. And let's not escalate their justifications for their rage, for recruiting more to their philosophy by our own bad actions in the face of theirs.

At lease one of the terrorists is believed to have entered France as a Syrian refugee. My immediate reaction to that news is fear that most of the world would now react by closing borders to the masses of real refugees, people genuinely without options for survival beyond fleeing the horrors of home. Being a refugee is so awful and risky, imagine how much worse it  must be to remain behind with absolutely no hope. Let's please not react that way. Give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses... without the religious tests that Jeb! would have us institute: Christians, fine. All others, not so much. Because no Christian has ever been violent, crazy, evil.... Right? Not during the crusades. Not during WWII. Not in Ireland. Not at the Federal Building in Oklahoma City. Not at Waco. Not in any of the militia groups springing up. Not in street gangs or prisons. Not in domestic disputes anywhere. Not a one.

Nor have any Jews, Buddhists, Taoists, Hindus, Humanists, Atheists. Never. Nuh-uh. No sirree. And no religion ever has spawned extremists of any kind. Nope. Never happens. So let's not isolate Muslims for retaliation under the illusion that we are doing something to make the world our better, safer place. Let's properly target the individuals responsible, understanding that they are  indeed individuals and not typical representatives of whatever their religion may be.

And let's understand that there is no safe place, no guarantee in this world. Nor can we make it a safe place. We can only make it a more loving place, and that is on each individual one of us, not our group, not our government, not our military. Just each of us, alone.

And as for your 72 virgins, you martyred, vicious, violent extremists, may they all be old, ugly, crabby, insane and diseased!

Monday, November 2, 2015

And The Ground Shooketh

Earthquake! Three, actually! OMG!

Down here, everybody is going bonkers over them. I expect Californians and Alaskans who hear about it - should it even make their news - are more or less politely covering their yawns and hiding their snickering. After all, the magnitudes were in the 3.2 to the low 4 point almost nothing range. They occurred a bit north of The Valley, up by Black Canyon City. A few doors rattled. A few people were awakened and got out of their beds, wandering outside to confer with other befuddled neighbors as to what had just happened. (One popular explanation at the time was The Big One had hit California and we were feeling it this far away.)

More than one person reported grabbing their gun and racing downstairs to see who was trying to break into their house. I dunno: can you shoot an earthquake? Is a gun their solution for everything?

Steve and I were still awake for the first one. It passed by unnoticed. No wobble. No rattle. No doggy meltdowns.We apparently slept through the next two, though Ellie did go a little bonkers at about the right time. But then that could have been due to a passing truck, a coyote howling in the distance beyond our hearing capacity, or sheer boredom that there was nobody to give her attention.

I find I am disappointed. Not that it wasn't any bigger or that it did no damage. No, nobody wants that sort of thing. I just feel like I missed out on having felt something that everybody else is talking about this morning.

Maybe next time.

*    *    *    *    *

While we're on the subject of earthquakes, I have a hypothesis that I can't get anyone serious to pay attention to. I believe we will find a correlation in the coming decades between global warming and increasing frequency of earthquakes.

Here's my reasoning. There is a huge amount of water still trapped in glaciers at the poles. It's heavy (duh!), pressing down on whatever tectonic plate it happens to be over. Once they all melt, scientists estimate a rise in sea level over the planet of up to 3 meters!

Yikes! That's a series of disasters in itself, topic for another time. Think dislocations of populations, wars over territory, destruction of coastline buildings especially in major cities, storm damage, disruptions in agriculture. All at once.

I'm just looking at a shift of the distribution of weight over the planet's surface. The poles will rebound, to whatever degree, and the ocean areas will be pressed downward. It may not be much of a difference in the grand scheme of things. But it will be there. I happen to think it logical that earthquakes will increase as the planet adjusts.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

2016: Surgery Year?

As all of you our there "of a certain age" are aware, this is Medicare plan sign up time. There are ads all over the TV, flyers dropped through the mail slot, even a letter from the agent we used last year.

We called her. We wanted something different, something that would actually follow us around the country, rather than something that claimed to be good in an emergency and when the paperwork showed up later revealed that their brand of coverage was to deny everything.

I'd call that fraud. It may not be technically that, since I'm not that versed in the legalities, but we decided we really really wanted something different for the upcoming year.

The agent promised to check through the plans she had and find some way or another to get a plan that followed us. Maybe there was one where we could just call them and "relocate" for three months. Or something.

We had her over Monday. We've both now switched both plan types and company. Blue Cross is getting our business next year. And I've decided to sign up for what my folks had, which I happen to know about from doing the finances for them to varying degrees for several years. They used to call it "Medigap" insurance. Now they gave it a new name, calling it a Medicare Supplement plan. (Steve opted for the "Advantage" plan instead: less out-of-pocket up front.)

At any rate, regular Medicare is the first line of defense, and it follows us everywhere, with no referrals required, no pre-approval needed for a procedure, no system of doctors you have to stay within, no co-pay needed to walk in the door and over quadruple the fee if it's a specialist. Then the other, the one you pay an up front monthly bill for, covers all the rest. There's still a Part D plan to get, which covers all but a minimum for medications, but for now at least that's fairly minimal.

Our agent suggested that this year would be a good year to get my knees replaced. I'd been told years ago that this would be necessary, but put it off because of the 20% I'd need to cover for the hospitalizations. We're still waiting to see if cardiac surgery will be needed, but the doctor is optimistic that the new medication will remove that need.  Personally, I'm not so optimistic. Six months is about the time after which each of the previous two new meds failed to work perfectly, and in fact began to work progressively more imperfectly as time passed. (I have sporadically wondered if the body adjusts to those medications the way it will to painkillers, where they become progressively less effective until the only thing worse becomes none at all.) If that happens with this one, I'll schedule that surgery next year as well.

Heck, if I like, on the new insurance, I could even schedule it in Minnesota if I wanted. I really liked that cardiologist. Now, though, I need to track down a good orthopedic surgeon and start making appointments.

Friday, October 16, 2015


You wonder what will break while you watch it, what you will find damaged afterwords. I knew without really registering what was coming. I'm new here. And there weren't any warnings, certainly not while watching last night's TV.

I had looked at the radar picture, figuring that we might actually get a little rain (undetermined at this point but a large wedge of rain heading our way), but this season's experience discouraging me from the hope that it would do anything but fade out as it approached, go around to all those other neighboring areas that collected weather rather than here.

The sky had gradually changed from blue with white wisps, to distant cumulus hills climbing the sky, to gradual greying. That's when I checked the radar before going back to the TV. Then it all turned brown.

They explain that the front of a storm creates wind which, down here, kicks up a lot of dust. They call it a haboob, showing pictures of the advancing walls swallowing the city. I'm not sure today qualified as one, despite the color, despite everything whipping around. I've always thought it should be much denser, harder to see through, dramatically destructive. Since it wasn't, of course I went outside to watch it go through.

The wind kicked up plenty of dust, wisping through the yard, the neighbors' yards. Trees swayed, the new ones in the yard swayed, resisted snapping. Bits of something pelleted the metal roof of the patio, not enough to bring our basset inside. He just stood under the big pine, looking around as if wondering what the fuss was. The little one, of course, huddled under me, thunder rumbling in the distance. Empty plant pots rolled from where they had lain for several days, our energy having vanished the moment their contents had gotten into the ground, caged from rabbits,  and watered. And watered. And watered. The tiny bit of energy left over was reserved for admiring the way nearly all of them had burst into bloom once in their new homes: orange bells, red honeysuckle tubes, white sage petals crawling up and down the stems.

Wait! What? White? I thought we were getting purple. And fragrant. I haven't gone out to confirm my suspicion that in breeding out the color they'd also bred out the fragrance.

A white plastic bag danced two backyards away, suspiciously like the ones we'd used to protect the car from the plants and vice versa. Perhaps by the time it finds a stopping place it won't be traced back to us. So far there's been not a drop of rain here to weigh it down on its journey. The wind has settled down just a bit, color changing from brown to something fewer than 50 shades of grey, window views showing no signs of damage. The radar map confirms rain all around us, a clear spot in the weather right here, like magic.

Or a curse.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Food? Shelf

We have a great local food shelf here. Steve has been using it for several years now, and since I'm living here too these days, so am I. They do, of course, limit us to one visit a month, so while I am registered for it, if Steve goes I can't.

Seems more than reasonable.

Quantities are generous. There are always about 8 full grocery bags to unpack and put away. Of those, however, there are always a couple bags' worth that go straight to the garbage can.

You could say we're fussy, I guess. Maybe we're spoiled by never having to forage through dumpsters to avoid starvation. I still have high standards for the quality of food I eat. And I don't think I'm unreasonable about it.  I don't mind the very overripe bananas. Those can always be used in cooking. I do mind asparagus where the last inch on the end of every tip is slime. I have a hard time with salad bags where a quarter of the greens are also  disintegrating, apples and peaches with rotten cores.

I don't really blame the food shelf for how quickly the pasta, dried beans, and rice gets buggy. Everything not sealed tight down here does that. It could just as well be us, not them. We've learned to pop them in the freezer, then into a sealed container, which better be round and have a good screw top to qualify. Whatever isn't eaten by the time to head north goes into the car with us, after a quick check for bugs, of course. And I've just ordered a case of No Pest Strips to hang up just as we take off to deal with those opportunistic pests. Those should be good for three or four summers.

I just don't think we're too fussy, that our expectations are too high. After all, the mandatory two cans per month of green beans find a home here. (Steve says he'll eat them.) Apple sauce cans well past the sell-by date are welcomed, as long as the can is in good condition, though I do admit to treating them with a suspicious eye upon opening to make sure the sauce is not brown, growing mold, or tasting either like something else entirely or nothing at all. Canned soups, tuna, gravy, sauces, all are found a spot for as long as one of us can figure out a way of using them.

The breads are generally OK, mostly heading straight into the freezer. Steve likes the simple ones, I like the nuttier and whole grain ones. But the week-old bagels are problematic, especially since they are so carb-dense, as are all the sugary snacks which are generously included. Most of those arrive stale or are wrapped to become stale within a day or so, way faster than either of us can fit them into our carb allowances. When it's regular bread that's stale, it can be crumbled, dried out completely, and saved for holiday stuffing.

See? Not that fussy.

But all of that has become expected. People contribute to food shelves according to what they can't sell or nobody else would ever eat. OK. I get that. But last night was the final big tease. It looked like we could finally have one really wonderful meal, that three things would go together perfectly. We planned our supper together, a rarity for us for a variety of reasons, and both scheduled our carb intakes around the dinner hour.

I got out the can of parmesan cheese, tightly sealed, the jar of spaghetti sauce with mushrooms, which both of us like, also tightly sealed, the both to lavish over the package of spinach ravioli. It was organic, not that organic mattered to us, and looked a bit squished and stuck-together, again not that it mattered to us, and even came in a package which informed us the carb count was perfect for the two of us. That did matter to us.

While the water was coming to a boil, I opened the cheese can. It was brown and grainy, smelling like... well, I don't know what since I've never had that particular experience before.


The spaghetti sauce, once opened, had the top half dried out and stuck to the rim of the jar. While the rest of the sauce looked just fine, to get at it one had to pour through the solidified stuff, knocking it into the bowl I was going to use to microwave the "good" sauce in.

Again, toss.

Oh well, the ravioli solo should still be OK for a meal. It looked well seasoned, herbs and clumps of cheese sticking to the tops of each piece. The water was just hitting a boil, so I hurriedly pried the patties apart to slide into the water, being the economical sort who doesn't want to waste cooking gas.

Especially after just paying the electric bill from having the house air conditioned over the last month.

Once the patties were all slipped into the water, and I stirred them gently according to package directions, I looked at my hands prior to washing them. What was that blue fuzzy stuff? I was afraid I knew all to well what I was looking at, and went back to take a closer look at the ravioli.

Now that they were separated, I could plainly see the patches of mold that had been hiding between the patties, or raviolis if you will.

And hey, I've no doubt that, as advertised, the mold was completely organic too, just like the ravioli was.

A perfect three for three.

On the bright side, this morning was garbage pick-up day.

At least there were some still-edible chicken pieces in the fridge.

Saturday, October 10, 2015


I can't find it on line. Search engines keep diverting me elsewhere, sure I mean a different spelling or combination of words. It's the first poem I ever memorized in school. And no, poems that are song lyrics do not count. I must have run into it as an early teenager, maybe even a "tween". If I had a philosophy for how to live my life, this was it.

I still dredge it up out of memory at odd times, usually when I'm doing what the poem is talking about. We all know about the imperfections of memory. There is a strong possibility there is a word or two wrong, a line missing, the line breaks misplaced, all of which are why I tried to look it up. I wanted to get it right. But here it is as I recall it, with any apologies needed for my imperfections. If anybody can point me to the original, I'd be grateful.

by Carol Coombs

I've mending I must do, and beds to make.
I should not sit and watch the red sun set
Behind the hills of afternoon, nor take
This time to dream when I have work. And yet

Supposing that I go at duty's call
To make the beds and sweep the floors? What then?
These have no great importance after all.
Tomorrow they must all be done again.

No, I shall sit and feel the rising dew
And watch the haze around the setting sun.
And I'll find time for the other, too,
When this, the more important thing, is done.

Friday, October 9, 2015

Planting Season

Yep, it's going to take us a whole season at this rate. We did get one bush planted.


There are excuses. I found out that the rock covered bed they all are going into has been kept so (relatively) weed-free because some idiot covered it all with solid black plastic!


Down here, the ground is penetrable when it's nicely wet. The rain we just had should have accomplished that nicely. Only, not when those damn plastic sheets cover everything. They don't even do a good job of sorting out the decorative rocks from the dirt underneath. And really, tall weeds and spurge do come up just fine anyway. We still get to kill tall stuff and pull out the spurge that the ants have been using for their shade parasols about twice a year. So I figure the only real reason for the plastic is somebody owns stock in the company.

I freely grumble about it the whole time I'm trying to get the shovel to break through the plastic and all the rocks and all the concrete-like ground just to make one singe little hole. Just dirt with a few rocks? Not a problem. This? There are lots of resting stops while a little more bucket water loosens dirt enough to get a couple more shovelfuls out, then more water, more chopping through the hole, more water....

You may gather that we are just back from the Botanical Garden's semi-annual plant sale. Today is Member Preview Day, just a fancy way of saying our membership lets us and 30,000 other folks in a day earlier than just plain folks to select our plants. They open at 7 AM, and really, it was just as well we arrived 15 minutes later than that because they were still letting in the waiting line of first arrivals
as we got there. The thought of getting there early enough to stand around and wait, stand around and wait, stand around and wait, and finally have the privilege to walk through a couple acres of plants and select the ones we wanted just makes me cringe.

And I came with my scooter!

Poor Steve decided to try making the sale using just his walking stick rather than putting his scooter in the back also and still expect room to tote half a dozen bushes home. He learned just how sensible a decision that was. Yes, we did fit the bushes in. But he's currently lying down trying to find a way to feel better, recovering from our morning.

We arrived with a plan. It started with a list that we had been working on for over a month, including some last-minute revisions. Most of those were changes in varieties in favor of fragrance or being better for hummingbirds. The next part of the plan was to wake up really early, hit the road fighting rush hour traffic since the Garden is on the other side of downtown Phoenix from us, and hope for a close parking spot to the sale entrance.

OK, that last little bit wasn't perfectly implemented. At least we did find handicapped parking, but it was much closer to the Garden front entrance than the sale entrance. Still....

The last part of the plan was to find a staff volunteer both helpful and well informed as to what was located where, and convince (him) to lead us to the good stuff. In turn, he parked us in a findable spot and took our shopping list with him, returning six times with a listed item. Oh, we forgot to tell him that we only really wanted 5, but when his first find was the rarest of the plants on the list, we decided to make room for all six. Why argue with success?

Steve and I swapped which of us was sitting and which standing while waiting for our plants, so it wasn't complete torture  for either of us. Still, it wasn't the last time this morning that we mutually agreed that this was our last time to stock the yard with plants.

When I said that the above was our last part of the plan, I lied. Sorry. We also brought garbage bags with drawstring tops to surround the plants as much as possible. They kept dirt confined on the ones that had to be tipped to fit in the car, and kept most of the branches confined on the sprawlers. We'd already noted several broken branches as we were checking out and wanted to minimize the damage.  Then we sat in the car for a few minutes, partly to rest, and partly waiting for a break in the traffic as other customers wound up and down the aisles looking either for parking or exits. Apparently none of them wanted our spot.


So, home before 10 AM with delusions of planting. By 11:30 we settled for getting one in. The bags were opened around the rest so they wouldn't bake, water was added to their pots, and the biggest broken branch was pruned and set in the water tub that the dogs have been under the illusion was for their personal private use. I had given up on the branch, wilted as it was, but it started perking up quite quickly, enough that I now suffer from delusions of it rooting and providing us with a bonus plant.

Of course, with space being limited, I expect if it does survive, it'll get planted right next to its clone. Just a bigger bush faster.

Or not.

At any rate, we think maybe another bush can go in early this evening. It'll still be beastly hot but the sun will be gone. If we pick the littlest pot, we should manage planting and rabbit caging it before the light is all gone. Then one tomorrow morning before the sun comes up, etc., etc.

Assuming we still have some energy for the task.

I think I've got a sunburn.

The first bush in was the Flame Honeysuckle, and we didn't even have it in the ground yet before it's first winged visitor was exploring the nectar content of the red blooms. Kinda makes you want to keep going.

Later, that is.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Counting New Recipe Carbs

Polish up those math skills, ladies and gents. I don't mean trig or calculus, not even algebra. (Like Peggy Sue, I never ever have needed those, and whatever I learned is vanished. Some, like calculus, were wiped clean two minutes after I walked out of the final. Aced it, by the way.) No, I'm talking the basics: addition, multiplication, division.

Ever notice when you're talking about carbs, calories, stuff like that, there is never any subtraction?

Back to the task at hand. I was given a new "simple" recipe by my sister-in-law, in this case meaning Steve's younger brother's wife, Alta. Raising 4 rambunctious kids, easy is her preferred version of cooking unique treats for the family. This one was pumpkin spice chocolate chip cookies.

While easy is also my preferred method of food prep, I have the kind of brain that finds so many alternative ways of interpreting contents and instructions that a host of questions arise before we even get to the store to shop for ingredients. Good thing this recipe has only three of them.

Here are the directions: combine a spice cake mix, a can of pumpkin (pie filling), and a bag of chocolate chips. Drop onto a cookie sheet like you would any cookie, bake 10 minutes or more at 350.

I bet you could go right out and get busy. Me? I need to know what size can pumpkin? What size cake mix? Do those still come in sizes? I do presume the smaller size bag of chocolate chips, though my favorite grocery store has double-sized ones, because the larger quantity of chips would be just too good to be true.


Then I need to know whether you follow the directions on the cake mix box for eggs, water, etc. Turns out you don't, that the pie filling adds all the moisture needed. Armed with this information, and Alta's assurances that this is a very favorite treat for her whole family, you'd have them half made by now. Not me. There's one more step I need to take. Here's where the math comes in.

I get to count carbs. Steve and I both need to count those these days. So we have to know, once the cookies are done, how many carbs we're talking about. Can we have one? Two? Only half a cookie?

First, the chocolate chips. The label believes that there are a total of 220 carbs in the whole package. That of course isn't that simple. They arbitrarily pick a number out of the air that nobody would ever actually consider a full serving, then assign a carb count, leaving us to multiply it back out for a package count. In this case, 220.

The cake mix box presumes that somebody can cut their baked cake into 10 pieces. Ten? Really? Twelve, maybe. Sixteen if you're stingy, two if you're really into cake. But ten? And by the way, this time of year it's impossible to find spice cake mixes unless you know to look at the island display that holds all the goodies that somebody might conceivably use for Halloween holiday baking. That aside, the total carb count for the cake mix is 360, with or without adding the eggs and water. (If you don't know why, well, you need a lecture on carbs vs. protein vs. fats....)

The can of pumpkin pie filling lists a total of 42 carbs, once  you can get past the concept of 3 1/2 servings. (C'mon guys: really? Who only gets the half serving? And how do you cut a pie into 3 1/2 pieces? Think of the fights around the table that that would create!) That gives a total for all the cookies of 622 carbs. Divide that by your number of cookies, which you're only going to figure out after you see how many you've spooned out on the sheet. Burnt ones that  you toss in the garbage, not that we know anybody who ever does that, still count towards that total.


Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Storm Report


No, nothing like South Carolina, though no doubt there will be plenty of people down here complaining about it. Personally, I've gotten tired of watching the precipitation going around us in every direction but never falling here. Mesa, Tempe, Scottsdale - they've all gotten plenty of rain this so-called Monsoon Season. Those are just in-The-Valley communities. All the mountain areas have shown lots of water on a regular basis. We get TV coverage of flooding - yeah, looks like a whole three inches there, buddy! - and the usual stupid folk who think whatever they see that used to be pavement is OK to drive through.

But as for weather here, it's been dry and sunny, with temperatures in the three digits. I'm sure the AC bill is also going to be way higher in the three digits for the last month than we'd like too, and we cranked it up over 80. Hey, not bad for folks coming down from a Minnesota summer where there were a whole two days over 90 in our three months there.

It's been wet for us the last three days. You could actually hear the occasional raindrop hitting the metal roof of our patio. That is, as long as you were quiet and listening for it. I've been optimistically checking the new rain gauge I put up in the fence a couple weeks back. It's the kind that collects from a wide area so the rainfall of an inch rises about 4" in the tube. The orange ring floating on top of the water makes it easy for our geezer eyes to read, even from inside the patio or house.

Nada. Even the more optimistic 5 minute sprinkles that occasionally stray into the actual shower category, the kind that actually coat the driveway enough for it to get wet rather than each drop evaporating by the time the next one lands, don't show up in the gauge. Yesterday morning my neighbor across that fence asked what that gizmo was for, so I got to explain the concept to him. He left scratching his head. He had long since decided that Del Webb had measured precipitation in various spots around The Valley, found the one where it never rained, and built a whole community there, calling it Sun City. Truth in advertising, don'cha know.

Last night there was enough rainfall that it was dripping off the roof. I mean really dripping, enough rain to slide down the incline and splat on the ground! Wheeee! I looked at the rain gauge this morning and... nothing.

I headed out to lapidary this morning, leaving after another such memorable but unregistered shower, planing to spend a few hours at least, making up for staying away for over a week with a miserable cold. I've improved to the point where I can actually yawn without feeling like I was ripping open the back of my throat prompting yet another coughing fit. Plus, it's been well over 5 days and I shouldn't be contagious any more.

You're welcome.

A shower went through while I was busy inside. I never noticed it, but somebody commented on it and there were actual puddles here and there! Puddles! Golleee! The only reason I noticed the puddles was that they locked up the room and shooed everybody out about 11:30. They can do that because there aren't enough volunteers back south yet, and without a monitor (to call 911, I guess, if you decide to do something really clever like pour molten metals over yourself or grind your fingertips off while working a stone) you can't stay in the room alone.

I checked the sky while scootering home and saw the cloud that had recently pretended to wring itself out over the area. I also noticed a darkening to the south, from whence our weather commeth these last few days. Looked like we were in for another teeny shower, if we were lucky.

I checked the radar when I got home. It looked like we might be blessed with another shower but we could just as easily be skipped, depending on upper level winds. Steve and I had errands to run, and I talked him into our using the car rather than scootering.

Just in case.

OK, I get it. This all seems really minor to you, doesn't it? Ho hum, a few drops of rain, big deal. Really, I get it. I also get the water bill, and to try to figure out what bushes we're going to be able to plant in the yard this weekend after the Botanical Garden's semi-annual plant sale and maybe have them survive over next summer. I get to check the daily radar for the homesite from up in Minnesota while we're vacationing, so I can see what's not happening. A whole month of dashed hopes in situ does matter in our scale of things.

So back to actually getting our storm.

Our last stop was KFC for their Tuesday special, then heading home. Since the last few days were cool even if not wet, our plan was to sit out on the patio and watch the weather roll in. Or not. Facing the system on the last mile of our drive, we noted not only how dark the clouds were, but the greenish blue tint where the clouds kinda split apart.

Now that was a familiar sight!. Hail, maybe?

While we sat out with our lunch, we heard a steady rumble, and I mean steady. No breaks. Lightning flashes didn't bring an increase in noise levels, so we knew there was enough of it going on in the tops of the clouds to give an unceasing barrage of cloud to cloud strikes. We only saw flashes of brightness, not individual strikes, so it all must be high. By the time we finished eating, there was again the pitter patter of little raindrops on the metal roof.

Dang! It looked like we were going to be missed again.

But then we weren't. Boy, it came down. In fact, it still is, though it's back to a light shower now. The wind has shifted, so I had to close the windows on the north side of the house. We'd kept them open the last three days to cool off the house and quit running the AC. It's officially 62 degrees outside at the moment, and that stiff breeze has me chilled.  The sky's lighter to the south now, so it should clear before too long, though the radar still shows plenty of green over the area. The buckets we set out under the patio eaves when there's a reason to expect runoff are full up. The rain gauge, read from my bedroom window, shows about a half inch. Puddles stand in the yard, including over the painted spots left this morning by the call-before-you-dig guys. The paint isn't water soluable, apparently. Good thing, though the yellow and orange flags are still standing. We start digging as soon as we feel up to it, and now we know where and where not to. I'll take pictures too, but not till after the rain stops.

Hey, do you know how long I've waited to be able to say that?

*    *    *    *

For the record, we're going to be looking for orange bells (yellow bells if there are no orange), Chihauhaun sage, Texas mountain laurel, yellow San Marcos hibiscus, yellow bird of paradise, flame honeysuckle. If all are available, we have priorities, since space has some limitations. All will be kept pruned to bush size. All need TLC the first 6 months or so, and then should adapt to Sonoran conditions. It worked for the 3 trees and 4 ocatillos we planted last fall. The succulents gave mixed results. We did learn about protecting EVERYTHING from our voracious local rabbits. In fact, I just finished pruning dead branches from our palo verde where the bunnies burrowed under the fencing and stripped the bark before we discovered it and went out and purchased tent stakes for the fencing. The red yuccas will be getting taller cages, since our bunnies don't know that bunnies don't normally eat those and have leaned in over the top to prune them low for us.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Doctors, Doctors, More Doctors

OMG! I've turned into my mother!

OK, I know. I've been working on that one for decades. But do you remember back in the days when their primary topic of conversation was your parent's health? We reacted by pitying how narrow their worlds had become, hoping that ours never became like that. Of course it wouldn't. We had jobs, were raising kids, stayed young and healthy... until we didn't anymore. Just like them.

I still try to keep busy with other things. But on returning to Arizona, where the health insurance kicked in full time again, there were a series of medical tests and doctor visits. And now the verdicts are in.


For me, it was the cardiologist. There was an echo, then a stress test, then an interview. The tests showed I was perfect. It was a head scratcher. Why was I even in his office, anyway? Lucky for a productive conversation, I had asked for, received, and brought along a copy of the EKG tape from my June ambulance ride.

After a brief exam of the patterns, his comment was, "This is not a flat-line." Of course it wasn't. There was nothing flat about any of it. And, folks, I watch TV. I know what a flat line is on an EKG. So do you. Before I could comment, however, he added, "It's just as bad."

Do you know how hard it is to be relieved that you feel justified in being scared by what happened when you are busy going back to actually being scared all over again by remembering that night in the ambulance and the way I felt at the time? Not to mention wondering what might happen next time?

We discussed a few details. Yes, I could feel my arrhythmia. No, it hadn't happened beyond a beat or two since the new medication. I could feel it start and as quickly stop. That being the case, if it continues that way, with the medication working for me, I was to make another appointment for late December (aka before insurance changes may kick in, when... who knows which docs will be included in the plan?) and if it held true, he would recommend that I stop taking warfarin. It was, after all, to prevent strokes formed by blood pooling while the heart misbehaved, and if it wasn't misbehaving.... So we'll see. This would be my second medication change, and after each one, things were better for a while and then got progressively worse, both in severity and frequency. So we'll see.

Steve went through the same kind of thing with his primary care doc. He's had this cough, along with other symptoms, for a while now. They did all kinds of tests, finally sending him to a lab for blood work. It took him a week to feel well enough to actually go get blood drawn. He's had days meanwhile where he's felt better, then days where he felt worse.

We thought it couldn't be contagious, whatever was causing it, since I hadn't gotten anything. That was both reassuring and worrying. Steve packed away his pipes. He had x-rays taken. Much was ruled out. Questions remained.

Then two things happened. Two days ago I picked up some kind of bug. I'd say maybe just an increase in allergies, but there's a bit of fever with it. No joint aches, so likely not flu. Maybe a cold? I get so few of those now that I'm not around those walking germ incubators called kids so much these days. But it feels like a cold and it's getting home treatment like one: sugarless cough drops, more chapped lips goop, going through tissues, gravelly voice that I'm trying to use less despite having people that I want to keep in touch with while they are going through their own stuff, liquids and vitamin C. Comfort stuff.

This afternoon the lab called with Steve's results. First, he's borderline diabetic. Just like me. We can work that out together. He's paying attention. He's already been reading labels for carbs and portions to see what he could share with me. We've been discussing options. The second thing is that his doctor requested he be tested for Valley Fever. The results came back at intermediate levels. Whatever that means. He has it a little bit? He had it before? They can't quite tell?

Since they didn't bother to give him A1C levels or blood sugar levels, or tell him just what the other actually means, he's going to ask a few questions when he sees his own doc on his follow-up visit. I can suggest a few for him if he needs any ideas.

Meanwhile I'm gonna go lay down. Take another cough drop. Some ibuprofin. Turn on the ceiling fan to blow the AC air my way. Try to sleep in in the morning, despite a dog who sincerely believes that If I get up to go, then she should get to be let out to go, when by then I'm fully awake.


Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fond Memories (Of Things Now Deemed Dangerous)

Remember mercury fever thermometers? They started their lives as a tool for telling Moms just how sick their kid was. Occasionally (well, frequently, actually) one broke, and they changed from tool to toy. Kids gleefully scooped up all the little drops of mercury, stored them someplace safe - from discovery and/or loss, that is - and when time and parenting permitted, took the precious treasure and - GASP! - played with it! No gloves, no face masks to prevent inhalation, no school evacuations when drops taken to school were rolled around on desks, split and shared with friends,  rejoined, rubbed onto pennies in an attempt to fake nickels if the two metals finally consented to bond.

Imagine the scandal if that happened today.  Mercury was such fun that many in my generation find it hard to take spills seriously as any kind of danger. Close the school? Ridiculous! Decontaminate a factory? Hey, can we get in there first and grab a stash of our own to take home? Look, we spent as much time as we could playing with it, experimenting with a property some of us later learned to call surface tension because that was the strongest and cheapest example of it around. We're still here, still healthy, still whole, still sane.

OK, maybe not so much sane when you look at election polling, but still.

Since returning to Arizona, I'm redeveloping a fondness for the old No Pest Strip. It was a yellow slab of (plastic?) coated in insecticide, a bit gooey on the surface but who cared? One opened the foil packet it sat in waiting for use, then - barehanded again! - slid it into a heavy paper box with lots of air openings on the sides to let the chemical out into the air and hung it up. About 4 months later it came down and if bugs were still incoming, it was replaced.

They hung in the house. Near food, even. After all, they kept bugs at bay, killing flies way better than rolls of sticky flypaper hung from ceilings and way less work than a flyswatter. More sanitary too. Flies are so-o-o-o disgusting! We'd seen the filmstrips in school showing us how nasty flies were, and we surely didn't want them anywhere near our food.

They were so effective that my grandparents-in-law told how, every spring when they left Arizona for their cabin in Minnesota, they'd hang one or two in their mobile home. When they returned in the fall, they didn't have to shake scorpions out of shoes in their closet before putting a foot in. No flies. No tarantulas. Heck, they were so strong that they'd even kill a rattlesnake if one crawled in!

No Pest Strips were so strong that they disappeared from the market decades ago. It seems that they could damage people as well, especially when improperly used. Who knew? I used them regularly for years with no ill effects.

I think.

Anyway, the environmentally correct substitute became the sticky trap, whether on a flat sheet or inside a little "house". No chemicals, just adhesive. Really strong adhesive. I still recall finding one in the garage with a chipmunk partly stuck on it, thrashing around until it managed to work itself with trap into a plastic grocery bag. Of course, I found the thrashing bag before I identified what actually happened. That was fun. Once things calmed down a bit, we took such pity on the poor chipmunk that we pried it off the sticky board and turned it loose in the garden, quite a feat when one is trying not to get bit, before, during, or after. We have no knowledge of what else it may have stuck to after vacating the trap, as it still had adhesive blotches, or even whether it survived. I kind of enjoy imagining it stuck to a neighborhood cat. Likely it just carried around a layer of dirt and bits of dried leaves for a month or so.

The nostalgia kicks in now because I've spent much of my spare time since arriving finding and removing bug residue from the cupboards, tossing foods we thought were sealed effectively, scrubbing shelves and drawers, washing all their contents, including towels and potholders, that we didn't toss.

I'm not done.

Yes, the sticky traps caught a whole bunch of critters. Just not enough. And I still have not managed to locate the 8th trap that was set out last spring. I have my suspicions, but....

I'll let you know if Steve ever cleans his room down to the floor and finds a trap stuck to the bottom of whatever he brought in from the car and tossed onto his floor in the dark. But meanwhile he's been sick, so I'm still waiting to find out. And I'm not absolutely positive that's where the 8th trap was placed. It's just the only spot I haven't checked three times.

Out of intense dissatisfaction, I hit the internet to see if anybody anywhere still sold No Pest Strips. Legally or not. And they do! Of course, one warning label would cover a whole set of strip holders even without the holes, but they are still out there. I'm planning to order a bunch, while I can. Next spring before we hit the road - the last available second before if the warnings are to be heeded, and not forgetting a thorough hand washing - I will set out two or three, depending on square footage covered, and lock the doors. Once back, they get removed, all the windows thrown open for a few hours before turning on the AC, and I should be able to confidently expect an end to the endless search and destroy in the kitchen, larder, the bathrooms, the closets, the library, the....

Ahhhh, sweet fantasies!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Waiting For The Sun To Rise

The clock says nearly 5 AM. I need to be up at 6, and I've been awake trying to get back to sleep for an hour. Pointless. My bladder reminds me it's been a whole hour since it was last given attention, and it's about to get cranky. May as well get up.

While in the bathroom I take my morning pills, all but the one which needs food first. My activities today include brunch, so it'll be something light. I open the window to check whether it has cooled down enough to allow in some fresh air. It was still too warm last night when I went to bed. It must be low 70s, so both bedroom windows get opened. They'll have to be shut by the time I get dressed, but some fresh air is still welcomed.

By now my dog is up, fully believing that since I relieved my bladder, it's only fair that she get a chance to do the same. I can't disagree. I also get Steve's dog out of his room, not bothering him despite his noisy door. I've figured out that if you lift slightly as you open it, the noise is much diminished.

The house is still black, barring the tiny glowing LEDs on various appliances. With them I navigate. First the front door is opened, leaving the locked grill to filter fresh air from intruders. I feel for my water cup and fill it from the fridge door, borrowing the trick of a finger inside the cup to tell when it has filled. Then we all three go outside.

Outside it is as dark as it ever gets here. There is a perpetual glow from the city to the east. Phoenix needs its lights. Otherwise the sky is black, everything is black or the slightest shade of lighter black in the deeper black to tell where you are. I pick the chair nearest the sliding door, the one with a nearby table for my cup. The dogs, seeing I have come out with them, start to roam the yard.

Fred wanders a bit before laying down in his favorite spot under the big pine. To me he is just a darker shadow among black shadows. I have no idea whether he may have lifted a leg on his wanderings or not, but I assume he's tended to whatever was needed. Ellie is invisible but her jingling collar tags pinpoint her location. Eventually she comes to sit by me, as always seeking reassurance I'm still there. Plus an ear scratch. Fred somehow senses those are in the offing and hauls his black shadow in for his share.

By now the faint glow has resolved itself into a patch of cloud on the horizon, and darker sky that isn't cloud. The cloud is hinting at the merest touch of color, not even enough to tell what it might become, yet. Behind me, since I've angled my chair to the east, all is still dark. No stars there, so I assume clouds cover much of it also. A lighter patch also resolved itself between branches on the pine to my south, so I presume cloud there also. Again, no color, but foreground silhouettes begin to emerge against the faint lightening of their background. 

I can now see clearly Fred's black and a hint of white feet against the ground where he lays, once again back to his favorite spot. The paving stones leading out there begin to form. Ellie dashes past me, barking, Fred joining her briefly. Something has banged a block away. Perhaps an offering to the garbage can deities?

To the east, a suggestion of dusky salmon forms under the big cloud. The sky has lightened enough to trace the cloud's edges, revealing a smaller one a bit closer to me, still just a darkness in the sky. I realized I hadn't noticed when it switched from the sky being darker than the clouds to being lighter. As I wait for color, I notice that the faintest of lighter spots have emerged in the western sky, revealing the tops of a cluster of fluffy cumulus clouds, their bottoms now darker than the sky they float in.

Back to the east, pale yellow forms at the lowest part of the sky visible through the neighbors landscaping, while the sky above it has become blue. The big cloud remains a dusky salmon, no longer a hint, but never bright, never reaching toward any shade of pink. The distant foreground is still only silhouettes, but my own yard emerges in shades of grey now. I can pick out the rock beds, find the other chairs on the patio. The neighbors' concrete slap heading from their screen house to their grill glows white, its surface finish catching the available light.

The dogs bark at a few neighborhood noises, but mostly the background is the freeway a mile away. Even on a Saturday morning, there is plenty of traffic. No birds sing yet, but I find the solitude a perfect opportunity to hum the earworm that has been plaguing me for a week now. I used to know all the words, but the years and lack of refreshing the memory have left me able to dredge up only one verse and the chorus.

The puffy clouds to the west have turned light grey with a few white tops now. I can distinguish both shapes and height by the changes in color. No salmon encroaches here, but the glow behind the pine has picked up the color even as the eastern cloud has gone grey again. No fancy color show on display today, then. Even the bluing sky to the east has gone to just light, no more color. The first birds have begun their singing, first one off to the northeast, then filling in from all around. No doves yet, though, our usual noisy morning chorus, punctuated by the quail.

Colors have emerged in the yard even as they've left the sky. I'm finally getting chilled by the lovely temperatures. It's time to get busy. The sun will rise on its own without me, just as every other morning, and indeed, while I write this  it sends a ray sneaking through the clouds to land on the stems of the large ocatillo in the back yard before it hides behind the clouds again.

Thus the morning begins.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

I Too Stand With Ahmed

You've likely heard the story by now. A young Texas student built a clock at home and took it in to school to show his teacher his talents. That should have been the end of the story. But the school had him arrested in suspicion of being a terrorist bringing in a bomb. Handcuffs, even.

They claimed that his being a Muslim had nothing to do with it. Any student would have been treated the same way, they insist.

Of course they do.

Even when their idiocy has been pointed out to them, Ahmed is still suspended until Thursday.

He is looking to change schools.  Maybe he should look outside Texas. After all, a state that values religion above science in its public school curriculum can perhaps be understood when they mistake a clock for a bomb.

Understood, yes. Forgiven? Not so much.

Friday, September 11, 2015

How I Spent My Birthday

“So, what did you do on your birthday, Heather?” you ask, all unsuspecting, like it’s a perfectly normal question. Which it is, sort of. But it’s never really that simple, is it?

“Hey, funny you should ask”, I reply. “There’s quite a story there.”

Long sigh. Your most patient sigh, as you know what that means. Better settle in, get comfy. Need to grab a beverage? Blow your nose first? Make a phone call?

“After blogging, which since we didn’t have internet yet meant saving it as a word processing file to be copy-pasted afterwards, I headed over to Wally World for groceries and a badly needed Rx refill. Astoundingly, I managed to find everything on my list! That’s not to say the list was complete, or even that my shopping is complete with the items I added. But we’re good for a couple days, until I find out what I missed.

“Now, a funny thing happens when you arrive home in the dark, tired and ready to unwind for sleep, in a hot house with a zillion things to do before actually hitting the pillow. You rush, trying to hit all the essentials, not really noticing the small stuff. Not even some of the big stuff.

“We were in a hurry to clean things out of the freezer where they were stored for the summer, not to freeze, since the power was off, but just to keep them away from bugs and wildly fluctuating temperatures. If  some of them actually froze, we’d have a monster mess. So we shifted them to other locations, some into the fridge in another hurry, since with the power coming on, and the door propped open to let it air out for the summer, it needed to be shut so not to waste energy. With the AC also coming on, that bill was already going to be sky high.

“Once home from shopping, the freezer items went in first, starting with the most important: ice cream. It already sat in the shopping cart while I tried to locate that final item I nearly forgot, then for the long checkout line, and then rode home in a very hot car. Even that early, outside was 93. I shudder to think what inside was, even with the car’s AC full blast.

“Then I opened the fridge.  OMG! Seriously. OMG! Bugs, stuck-on food, crumbs, onion skins, and I didn’t want to even imagine what else might be in there. In full light of day, those shadowy corners weren’t just shadows. But, there were several bags of groceries that were in dire need of a good chill.

“Gag. Gulp. Shudder.

“Of necessity, they went in anyway, but I compromised. The groceries all stayed inside their bags. Steve and I had lunch out: KFC.

“Then, I spent my birthday washing the fridge, inside and out. Of course, this was after doing the dozen dishes left from the morning we headed north. And after, on a hunch, seeing the mess on the counter and stove and cleaning up every surface there too, I checked the silverware tray and washed it and all its contents as well.

“Hey, we could almost eat here now. But it’s my birthday, and Steve is taking me out to dinner at his favorite Mexican restaurant.

“Wait, where did you go? Is that a snore I hear? Or are you just throwing up in the bathroom? Don't you want to hear about...?”