Monday, May 22, 2017

Picking the Moss

“Do you want me to do that?”

I looked up and there he stood, propane torch in hand, waiting for my answer. I was sitting on the walkway picking tiny weeds out of the moss. We’ve lived on this property for almost forty years and have never paved the walkways. They’re moss and gravel covered wonders and we like them that way.


The weeds, poison ivy, wayward lilies of the valley and grubs like them, too. So every spring I’m down there picking the moss. It’s a chore in my old age, but also a joy. Now I had a decision to make what with Torch Man tapping his foot and waiting for an answer. There are two walkways coming up from the driveway and almost everyone uses the one going to the back door. The one I was working on.

“Go ahead and do that one,” I said pointing to the walk at the front of the house. And I went on working. Boy, does burning moss stink! I ignored the hiss of the torch as I plucked carefully at the spongy lime green moss that looked like this when I started. 

I have to admit, my old bones were kind of relieved to have only half the work this year. The afternoon moved along. Finally, I stood up and stretched then gazed at my handiwork. Looked pretty good.

Then I stepped over to the walkway that had endured the torching. Whoa, Mama! See if you can spot the difference. Holy war zone, Batman!

On the one hand the scorched earth policy did the job. NO more weeds, grubs, and wayward things. I probably won’t have to do anything on the blackened path for months. Nothing to pick. And it only took a few minutes.

On the other hand no lovely green moss. No stone pattern slightly obscured by a bright overgrowth that’s been thriving there for decades. No place for tiny creatures, like delicate blue fairies and ladybugs, to hide. And no satisfaction for me. I really like preserving the beauty in the stones and moss. It takes hours and it’s still a bit messy, but, while I’m down there, I hum favorite songs, think of great blog topics, get some exercise and fresh air, and wonder all the while how God came up with the idea of moss.

Scorched earth and get ‘er done or careful picking to preserve the good? It’s tough to decide.

Any thoughts? Foreign policy ideas? Empathy? 

Monday, May 15, 2017

All That Cool Free Stuff

Fidget spinners. Do you know what they are? Neither did I until our granddaughter explained. She spun the colorful disc between her fingers. “You can get them at Ocean State,” she said. “They have a bunch of them.” A fun little toy trend - selling fast.

This intelligence sparked a larger conversation when everyone gathered here yesterday for Mother’s Day doughnuts and gifts. Apparently this spinner craze has spawned quite a following. They’re becoming hard to get. Orders are pouring in at Amazon and they can barely keep up. Huh.

“What was that other craze when Sam was eight or so?” I asked his younger sister. She’s got a mind like a steel trap when it comes to trends – past and present.

“Silly bands.”

Oh, yes. Kids loaded their arms with them. If you didn’t have any you were an outcast. So, of course, this grandma scurried all over town looking for them. But by the time stores had them by the cart full, though, it was a faded fad.

And then the nostalgic conversation ball began to roll very quickly.

Wacky Wall Walkers – Pitched against a wall or window these little creatures, made of suspect material in Japan, would proceed to slip and slide down the wall or glass surface in a delightfully wacky way. “I loved those things,” said youngest son, now in his 40’s.

Free Inside!

When I was small Post Toasties cereal featured free marbles inside their boxes of golden flakes. Came in a little cellophane sleeve and I always hoped there would be a cat’s-eye marble in blue. I think there were three or maybe four in the sleeve.

“The Honeycomb license plates were just stuck in the cereal,” said son. He pantomimed pulling the thing out and shaking it off. 

Baking soda powered submarines. Little plastic gizmos of all shapes and sizes. I recall emptying half the box into several bowls to get “the prize”. Sometimes I'd just plunge my arm in and squirmed my hand around until I found the thing. Small magnifying glasses you could start a pretty decent fire with. Whistles. Puzzles with a little bead you had to work into tiny holes. Gosh, what else?

Also Free Inside!

When we were first married, poor as dirt, I used Duz  laundry detergent. Yup, there was such a thing.The main reason I bought it was because a free dish towel came inside. They were tightly rolled, thin and small and shaking the detergent out of them made me sneeze, but I didn’t care. It was Free!

“My mom used to get drinking glasses at the gas station,” said daughter-in-law. Free with fill up! Green and blue stamps were also a draw and many a smart station owner got with the program and offered them to customers. Perhaps the first customer loyalty plan?

We’d keep going back to certain detergents, cereals and gas stations to stock our kitchens. Clever, clever ad men. Green and blue stamps were offered at gas stations and other stores and redemption centers sprung up all over the country. My mom did mostly the green. Not as many places gave out the blue – I think.

Isn’t it funny how one tiny toy can trigger an avalanche of memories? Now I’d like to know what Free Inside! or other incentives to buy that you all remember. I’d even offer you a free fidget spinner for them, but I’d have to pry it out of the hands of a certain six-year-old.  

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why Do I Do It?

Yesterday, as I surveyed the large wooden bread board where I’d just rolled out a pie crust, it occurred to me. I could have purchased a perfectly good strawberry rhubarb pie on the way home from church instead of undergoing all this fuss. There’s a local farm stand that sells pies and apple cider doughnuts, puff pastry, apple cider, fresh veggies and honey every day of the week. Why hadn’t I simply stopped there? Now I had flour everywhere, a pile of sugar and fruit slopped bowls in the sink, and a sticky rolling pin to clean. I brought my hand up to smack my forehead then noticed it was covered with schmutz from all this pie assembling and I stopped myself just in time.   

But then the over-thinking apparatus in my brain kicked in. Of course it did. I began cogitating on  what it took to make this pie.

First – I had two packages of strawberries still in the freezer from picking last summer. A prime ingredient in pies, strawberry daiquiris, and jam. How much longer could I imprison them in that frigid gulag?

Second – First batch of rhubarb ready to cut. Big fat juicy stalks. After pie our next favorite thing to use the stuff for is rhubarb custard bars. Oh, man, glory in a pan. Thank you, Rhonda! Will make them soon after the pie is gobbled up.

Third – Rain. Blech. More rain and then raindrops and then worms on the patio. What’s a girl to do? Bake, of course. Warms the kitchen and smells up the house – in a wonderful mouth-watering way.   

Lastly - The Great American Novel. Okay, okay. I’m stalled. Strawberry rhubarb pie making seemed so much more productive and immediately consumable. America is NOT waiting for this book. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Plus . . .

Satisfaction. Something we all need once in a while. Something we can put, “There, I did that all by myself,” to and count it worthy of our efforts. Like having your hair and nails and new spring outfit all look awesome at the same time. Or finding the perfect cheese to go with that crusty bread and a great wine. Or remembering every single word from your favorite song when you were sixteen. Or stepping on the scale after skipping lunch and . . . okay, maybe not that. Anyway.  

I could have stopped at Samascott’s farm stand and bought a pie. But why would I do that when everything in my little circle of heaven had come together to make that yummy pie you see up there? There’s some left if you want to stop by later, too. I'll make coffee.

So, let me know. What satisfies your soul on any ordinary day? 

Photo - Second pie of the season. First one swooped away by #1 son and not seen again. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

A Post to Ponder

Today I have a special word. From my brother, Tim. I love him to bits and when he sent his to a few of us siblings last week, I asked him if he’d like to guest blog for me. Guess what? He said “yes”. Here is what he had to say and I hope it strikes a chord or provokes some careful thought in you.

Signs, Lines, and Borders
(by Timothy Bagger)

I was on Facebook the other day checking the new posts.  It is a great way for me to keep up with what is going on in my family’s lives at a glance.  I received a request from an old childhood friend to play a game, “Words with Friends.” Sounded like fun. OK. I clicked the accept button and off we went. 

It is much like Scrabble. All you need to play is the ability to spell. Easy enough. I never was too good at it, but what the heck.  I wasn’t sure what the abbreviated letters meant, like DW or DL or TW. Maybe they were letters you were supposed to start your word with? Anyway, after the first game it was 68 to 783; I lost.  I told my wife about my thrashing, and of course, like a good supportive wife, she laughed. She looked at the board and explained what the abbreviated letters meant. DW means “Double Word,” and so on.   Can you say, “Hello McFly!”

Ok, I was ready for the next game.  I didn’t get beat as badly; 224 to 628. Ok not good. Room for growth, as they say. My supportive wife asked how I did in round two. “Better,” I said. I was amazed at some of the words he came up with. On the side of the board they give the definition of each word played. My wife came over as I was trying to figure out how to come up with my next word, and looked over my shoulder at the letters I had to work with. She said, “Why don’t you play ‘SEPARATE’ for 68 points?” I looked up in amazement at how fast she came up with that word with my letters. “How did you do that?”

“It’s easy if you have this on your phone: Scrabble Helps.”

“Let me see that. Hey, that’s cheating!” I said.

“Not really. How do think your buddy is coming up with words you have never heard of, let alone know the meaning?” She said, “It is just like using a calculator for math only for words.  Put the dictionary down and get with the program. Take that quantum leap into the 21st century and you may win a game or two.”

“OK, OK maybe it’s not cheating,” I said.

The games started getting closer. Then the whisper from behind me (my wife) said, “I can show you a way to win all of your games.”

“Really, how?”

“Look at this app you can download.”

They didn’t even sugar coat it. “How to Cheat at ‘Words with Friends’ and Win Every Time.”  

The voice said, “It is just a game. Nobody will know. And you can win!”

"So", I said, "it would be my computer against his computer, right? We would both be lying."

The fact that it is ‘just a game’ is the vehicle that calls into question our integrity.  We have just crossed an invisible line that calls our character into question. Character has been defined as what a person does when no one else is looking.

What we can all see in the world today on a larger scale are signs, lines, and borders being crossed and violated everywhere. How did we as a society get to where we are?
As I thought about it for a moment an old song from my high school days by the “Five Man Electrical Band” came to mind.   “SIGNS.”You remember.“Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, can’t you read the signs?”  Kind of funny now. A silly song that I didn’t think much of at the time, but the idea that was set forth was that no one had the right to keep out anyone from anywhere. Especially “long haired freaky people.” One of the lines in the song says, “If God were here he’d tell you to your face ‘Man, you’re some kinda sinner!’”
I wondered what ever happen to the guys in that band? You guessed it. They all have short hair now and live in houses with fences and locks on their doors.

Back to those invisible lines I talked about. Sometimes I wish they had the kind of warning bumps we have on our highways that sound on your tires when you are going off the road. Sometimes we can all make mountains out of molehills as they say, and maybe this is the case here, but as I see the moral and ethical standards falling all around me it seems to me like most departures from those standard start gradually. I hope, when those alarms sound on what we call the little things, I will heed the warning and do what I know is right. A thrifty friend once told me,  “If you watch the nickels and dimes, the dollars will take care of themselves.” Well if we watch the small tests that come our way, then the big tests will take care of themselves.

Something to think about.

Yhtomit:  64 points.

What will you do when you come to the signs, lines, and borders in your life? 

Thank you, Tim!

Let us know what you think. Oh – and don’t forget to scramble your name at the end of your comment. Fun.


Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Spring Walk 2017

Went walking again last night. Of late hubby has been going with me, but he was at a ballgame, so off I went on my own. This time I thought I might look a bit closer at the ordinary things I see on my Plum Tree Drive walk. Take is slow – ya know?

The Mush – Oh, how I wish I could call it a swamp. You know with a “thing” that lives in there and eerie music playing. But no, this bit of brackish water and spindly trees is more like a plot of mush. But I went in closer than I usually do – right up to the edge. The water is consistently about six inches deep and I suspect a lot of music comes from the tree frogs hanging around the place at dusk. Not eerie, though.

The critters – Oh, my. Saw my first bunny. Silly things. It hopped a few times when it spied me then sat very still. Like if it didn’t move I wouldn’t see it. Seriously? I did speak though. Passed the time of day and asked about the family. Very glad no people were around to hear me. Guess I’m a bit silly, too. Shortly after the bunny I saw the woodchuck. At first I thought it was another bunny, but the low body and quick scurry under the neighbor’s shed told me different.

The birds – Wowsa. They were all over the place. Clustering in the grass that hasn’t seen the mower yet. Swooping from the sky. That would be the barn swallows. And then – and then – I saw a bluebird! At the halfway mark in my walk there’s a Cape Cod where two bluebird houses are nailed to some trees at the edge of the property. I saw the houses and the brilliant blue flash of the bird at the same time. Stopped dead in my tracks to stare at it. Thank you Cape Cod people for putting up bluebird housing. What a treat.

The sky – It was awesome! Blue and more blue with dashing clouds that looked like ocean waves. I stopped to stare at them, too. I turned in all directions to behold the glory. Then I had to stop because I didn’t want to fall down from dizziness right there in the road. It would have embarrassed my children horribly to have me found that way.

Satisfied, I tromped on, passed the big white house on the corner, and headed for home. Later, all snug in my chair, I told hubby I missed him on this walk and then he said . . .

“I was talking with Jeff (who has a small well drilling business just down from us) this afternoon and he told me something. You know that big white house on the corner?”

I nodded. “Don’t know who lives there.”

“Well, they had a bear rip apart their bird feeder the other night.”

Yikes! Swamp thing (who was in hiding, I’m sure), black bears and scurrying woodchucks. That rabbit better watch it’s backside. And me, too!

Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Reunion - Fun Times Comin'

This is a repeat – and for a reason. Come this July the mister and I will be heading to Rumbling Bald Resort in Lake Lure, North Carolina for another family reunion. One of the highlights will be getting to know better some of our Swedish relatives. Back in 2013 we met the Wennmans, David, Ulla, Frederika and Amanda. This year we’ll meet cousin Folke Bagger and his friend Carolina. Folke is Ulla's brother. Six Swedes all together. Can’t wait! Maybe we’ll all get another Swedish lesson like the one I tell of here.


Learning how and when to say Bra! was part of our lesson. Of course, as Americans, we all got a big kick out of repeating the word because it brings something else to mind. But our Swedish cousin and lovely new friend, Ulla (pronounced Oola) was giving it her all. Bra in Swedish means “good.” Ulla stood with the Karaoke mike in one hand and her flash cards in the other all full of enthusiasm and eager to share words and phrases with us. Please don’t ask this old lady to remember them all although kör som fan, “run like hell,” stuck in my mind as I imagined a bear rearing up in the blueberry patch. Okay, I confess, I had to Google translate this one partly because we don’t have those two little dots over any letters in our alphabet.

Perfect weather, canoeing, hiking, golf, howlers (the little ones) and growlers (a brown jug of beer for the big ones), cavernous houses, and crummy hair (me) were the order of the day. I was in charge of the cooking and my menus were well received though not perfectly executed. The kitchen was awesome however lacking in equipment. And my assigned sous chefs were at the ready for each meal and after all the food was on the table and devoured, I walked away. Cooking and not having to clean up has always been a dream of mine. Am I a simpleton or what?

After supper one evening several of us sat on the plush chairs and sofas and asked Ulla if her experiences with Americans met her expectations. She didn’t answer right away but you could see the wheels turning. “I was surprised at how gentle Americans are,” she said. “Not arrogant like some other countries.” She puffed out her chest in a slightly bullying fashion as she said it. She also said it seemed like the people were satisfied with their lives here. She and her family visited Manhattan before they flew on to Oregon and even in the city she said, “The workers at McDonald’s seemed happy with their lives.”  It was so nice to hear!

I’m not one to blather on and on about a good time. But you’ve had wonderful times like this haven’t you? Times when you really, really wished everyone you know and love could be there having just as much fun, sharing stories of their lives, yukking it up at the antics of the kids, and chowing down because the food always tastes so much better when the good times are a rollin’. Yeah, I know you have.

For the 35 Americans and 4 Swedes who gathered at the Sunriver Resort in Sun River, Oregon last week it was bra times all around. Next time why don’t you come along? 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Easter - When You're Five

I was five when I realized that Easter was something. From my kindergarten classmates I learned about things like bunnies, colored eggs, baskets and small green nests made out of special grass. We lived in upstate Minnesota then and sometimes snow was also a factor. I remember very little of how the world was at such a tender age, but I do have a kind of blurry vision of Easter morning that year.

Deep down I knew that our house must surely be on the Easter Bunny’s manifest, listing all the children who qualified for bright eggs and chocolate.  Other kids talked about the little nests that were tucked into nooks and corners all around the house just waiting to be found by eager hunters. This was back before the shiny cellophane grass we see now not only in green, but yellow, pink and purple, too. No, this grass was made of something else, a little bit dull and waxy. It formed a tidy little nest in your hand and tucked perfectly into corners or under chairs.

I was certain Mom and Dad knew all about this, too. After all, for weeks Dad would sing “Here Comes Peter Cotton Tail” to the four of us.  He had a way of building excitement for all special occasions. I loved that about him. So the night before Easter I was beyond excited about what I’d find the next morning.

I got up very early to beat my sisters out. Our brother, Tim, was an infant so I wasn’t worried about him.  I crept down the stairs in the small two story house we were renting from my grandfather. I began my hunt for Easter eggs in earnest. I found nothing. I checked everywhere I thought that happy little rabbit might have set down a nest. I found nothing. Perplexed, I went into the kitchen. Had the Easter Bunny put everything in one room? I searched and searched and then I saw something way on top of the refrigerator. I dragged a chair over , climbed up and peeped over the edge where I saw . . . a partially eaten cake. There may have been some green tinted coconut on top and a few jelly beans scattered, but that could have been my childish imagination wanting so badly for something of Easter to be there for me. I was one crushed little girl. 

It took the distance of many years and a few quiet conversations with Mom to realize what had happened. When I was five my parents were poor. Poor. They were also very young and probably overwhelmed with their responsibilities. Green grass, dyed eggs, baskets and chocolate were beyond their means to provide for us no matter what romantic notions we may have had about the day. The cake was leftover from a card game the night before. Mom also told me that she and Dad were pretty sure we kids wouldn’t realize there should be something special for children at Easter. They may have been right about my siblings. But not me. I knew.

And I know now, too. I know what Easter really is. I know Who died and why He did it. I know there's something special at Easter for every single one of us. But I've given up childish notions of bunnies and candy and waxy grass as anything akin to what the day is about. Yes, I understand the symbols of Spring. I love them. I dyed eggs with my children and gave them candy and do so now for my grandchildren. I don’t ever want them to be disappointed like I had been that first Easter of my memory. But we talk about the real Easter, too.

Here is what Easter is now for the big grown up me.

If you celebrate the Resurrection, I hope for you the most blessed of Easters.

He is Risen Indeed!