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!  

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Day of Small Things

Well, it happened again. Not only did the White House ignore my calls about how to run the country, so also did the State Department refuse to get in touch about my policy on immigration. And I'd called them four times! I closed my eyes to calm myself and it came to me that it was probably more like being sick of winter that had my cabin fever at a high pitch. Prompt action was called for. So  . . .  

I wandered into the spare bedroom and there on the chair at the sewing machine I spotted my spiffy blue shirt. Laying there for months with a tear in a seam. I grabbed it, rummaged around for needle, thread and scissors and sat quietly making tiny stitches to close up that seam. Nobody rushing me to do it, no timetable I must adhere to and certainly no State Department interruptions.  

After that I tidied up the room, finally putting things away where they should be, and, looking out the  window, I noticed a stranger in our midst. The sun. Whoa. I asked my restless self, “How about a little trip to the garden?” Downstairs I plopped my feet into my mud boots. Hubby bought them for me and our 11 year old granddaughter, upon seeing the cheetah print, commented, “Grandma, I see you finally have some fashion sense.” She cracks me up. Take a peek. Pretty classy, huh? 

Up I went, new Kindle Fire in hand, to see what I could see. The Kindle was a four hour “deal” on Amazon so we each got one. Takes awesome pics. I swung open the garden gate and began to explore. Not much green, except for a few onions popping up. Such hardy little things! I also found this.

Kind of fascinating to see how the pumpkin vines slithered their way across the ground. Couldn’t see this when the huge leaves and bright orange pumpkins were there. Soon to be plowed under for another crop – maybe corn – and a new harvest will be set. Am I eager for all that hard work? I'll get back to you.

I tromped down the hill towards the road. And that's where I found the green.

How sweet are these tiny treasures? Every year I marvel at their willingness to push through the mud, gravel and dead leaves to show their dazzling white faces to the world. Snowdrops - the first harbinger of Spring. Lovely.

Then it was coffee time. Every day around two 0’clock. It helps the mister and me put a frame around our days. this day the small things made a big difference. No rush. Time to appreciate our corner of the world. Wish you could have been here. I’d have warmed a cup for you and broken out the Girl Scout cookies. Perhaps we could have solved the immigration problem together. Maybe next time? 

Monday, March 27, 2017

Around Town Again

Image result for fisher animal free image

Dreary weekend – rainy and looking kind of Edgar Alan Poe-ish out there. Can’t go outside and sick of being inside. Thank the good Lord for wheels. Right?

So, hubby and I hopped to and got ourselves on the road only to be stopped by the train. We live very near some railroad tracks on the Boston to Buffalo line. Both of us hoped for a short wait, but as the big arms and flashing lights blocked our exit to freedom (aka the grocery store), we knew all we could do was wait it out. And then I thought, “Hang on! Graffiti – I love graffiti and side-of-the train graffiti is the best.” My face brightened as I watched. Spray painted and bold with block letters spewing forth phrases like “Go Bulldogs” and “Hey Man” assaulting my vision. But the best one was simple. The word “Chico” in chubby black letters (remember those from school?) setting in a cloud of white with a little green thrown in for good measure all running along the bottom of one rusty boxcar. Whoever Chico is, I’ll bet he’s beaming. I wonder if railroad execs secretly hire spray paint artists so we don’t go all crazy waiting for the 120 car train to go by. In any case, it’s nice to have some interesting reading to do while you wait, don’t  you think?

Then, on Saturday, I happened to be in Walmart. As I cruised down the aisles an employee with a wide broom came towards me. An older man, longish hair and it looked to me like he and joy were complete strangers. I dodged his broom and zipped over to a clearance rack. Then I saw him again on my way to dog food. He was leaning on the jewelry counter as a fellow employee nattered on about fishers. “The only natural predator of porcupines,” he enthused, leaning in. The joyless man listened with great patience. “You don’t see hardly any of those around anymore,” opined his friend. Hearing this and glancing at broom guy’s face, I reassessed my opinion of him. He was a serious dude and perhaps reserved his joy for the chance of one day seeing an actual fisher (related to minks and ferrets) and hopefully not as road kill.

Sunday it was off to an afternoon of basketball game. #1 grandson is on a premier team and was plucked from his regular school team to play for them. HOWEVER, for this game he sat on the bench for nearly the entire time. Here was a situation that put those of us who came to watch in a bit of a snit. Yeah, we wanted our team to win. Yeah, we want Sam to be on a winning team. But our boy is our love and our favorite player and we came to see him. But I paused in my inward ranting when a thought popped into my stewing brain. Sam was a preferred player on his former team. While having to watch rather than play he may develop some empathy for those who sat on the bench all those games while he owned the court. It calmed me to think more in that direction than the other.

Life. Things happen. So - how goes it in your neighborhood?  

Image: A Fisher                                                            Free Internet

Monday, March 20, 2017

Comfortable Spaces


When I was a kid I loved the funny papers and comic books. One of my favorites was Nancy and Sluggo. I know – from a very long time ago. The two of them were best buds. Always having grand adventures and  pulling stunts on each other. Similar to how my sisters and brothers and I got along. I wax nostalgic whenever I think of Nancy and her pal Sluggo. I was someone who would have jumped right into the cartoon frames to live in the world created by Guy Gilcrest.

Coming forward  many decades and some of that same feeling was roused a few nights ago when I decided to re-watch “Cranford” set in nineteenth century Britain. The opening credits are rolled out against an artist’s rendering of what the village of Cranford and its surrounding countryside might have looked like. Again, I thought of how lovely it would be to jump into that space and live the idyllic life. The sheep pastures, the flys (a kind of carriage not the insects), lace collars, bright bonnets, quaint haberdasheries and all the marvelous and quirky characters with which Elizabeth Gaskell peopled her village.

But, as comfortable as it is to inhabit those spaces, reality has a way of popping up out of the floorboards and smacking  you one. Like when Nancy and Sluggo get into a name calling contest. “You’re dumb!”  “No, you’re dumb!” In the last frame that’s the only word either of them is shouting. Dumb, Dumb, Dumb. As a kid this cracked me up. It was a very real scenario in our household of nine children and there was some pleasure in seeing that two of my favorite comic book characters knew about real life.

In the second episode of Cranford things were not so amusing. A small child is stricken with the croup and does not survive. He lies dead in his sister’s arms and the family is devastated. The new doctor in town was unable to save him and is stunned.  In the same episode, across town, Deborah dies of a stroke leaving her sister, Miss Mattie, alone. It was a fate all too common then. These two old spinsters had been life itself to each other and it brought to mind the very real possibility that I may outlive one of my own sisters. Quite sobering.

Sometimes I hate reality. Fights. Family feuds. Loss of friends, funds and function. In the dark times It takes some doing to remember that reality doesn’t always mean the dreadful things. Reality is a complete package and until the dreadful outweighs the delightful we have a reason to smile. Jumping into the comfortable frames – whatever they are - every once in a while helps us to cope and makes us better. It’s a great place to go when  you need it. I have mine. What are  yours? 

Internet Image

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

An Old Truck Story

This is a story (a repeat) from my sister-in-law, Elizabeth Bagger. She is married to my brother, Tim, and sent it to me years ago when I requested car stories from the family thinking maybe I could do an anthology of sorts. Our late brothers, Jim and David, had tough lives, but this story illustrates how crazy and puzzling those lives could be sometimes. This one's for you, boys. Miss you.

The year was 2002, and the Anaheim Angels were in the World Series.  Jim and David were at Mom’s house watching the 7th game, and the Angels won their first World Series! What a glorious time of jubilant celebration! And this was happening just three miles down the road. Dave and Jim leapt off the couch in celebration and said, “Let’s go down and watch the fireworks and join in the celebration!” They jumped in Jim’s 1978 Ford Ranger, decided a quarter tank of gas was enough, and headed toward the festivities.
The crowds were thick, and they had to park blocks from the stadium.  Knowing the potential for vandalism, Jim was sure to roll up the windows, and lock the doors.  The two brothers walked toward the stadium, mesmerized by the extravagant show of fireworks. People were in the streets shouting and cheering with joy.  They arrived on State College Blvd where there were parades of cars honking and people cheering. They talked with other members of the crowd about what a great year the Angels had had. After about an hour, having sufficiently experienced the revelry, Jim and Dave headed back to the truck four blocks away.
They were parked just east of the stadium, in an industrial complex parking lot, filled with the vehicles of other fans. As they walked, they noticed flyers for a local gym under the windshield wipers of all the cars. When they arrived where they had parked, the truck was not there.  After searching through the complex to be sure they were looking in the right place, they finally concluded that the truck had been stolen. Jim made a call to the Anaheim PD to make a report. After his interview with the officers, they found a phone and called mom to come pick them up.
The Police checked with the local tow services and impound yards, suspecting that it had been illegally parked and towed away. Nope. No records of such a vehicle.  Jim hoped to get a call from the Police Department saying they had retrieved his stolen truck. As the weeks turned into months, he began to lose hope.  
Six months later, he got a call. The police received a call from a local impound yard, looking to find the owner of a 1978 Ford Ranger. The police contacted Jim, and told him he could pick up the truck.  No, there was no record of any theft. No, there were no fees due at the impound yard, and there was no damage to the vehicle. When Jim asked how it got there, they could give him no answer. They said, “It just appeared, and we want you to get it out of here.” It still had a quarter tank of gas, and the flyer was still under the wiper.
What’s the moral of the story? When God does not want you to drive for a while, He will snatch your vehicle out of existence, and return it just as He found it when the time is right!

Image: The truck in question. 

Monday, March 6, 2017

Magazines - A Few Reviews

Done any good magazine reading lately? That’s a question readers don’t hear too often, right? But this morning it occurred to me that while book reading is awesome, so too is magazine reading. Shorter and often of greater impact. And even though I’m not being paid (darn!) to mention any of the following, I think you may enjoy my review of a few of my recent reads.

Reminisce – I actually have a subscription to this one and it arrives every other month via the Way Back Machine. Memories of the adventures, ill spent moments of youth and grandma’s fabulous Sunday chicken dinners abound. Written by readers and accompanied by all manner of old photos, it’s a big hit at our house. The photos are awesome and bring it on home as far as memories are concerned. We who grew up in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s love this one.

Popular Mechanics – This was a Christmas gift to hubby from our youngest son. It’s been relegated to the “necessary room” and gets snatched from the basket when something short and informative is called for. That’s where I learned about gas – uh – natural gas, that is. The kind from the ground! Settle down. I took the Test Your Fuel IQ quiz that popped up in the article sidebar. But even after reading the article, I failed the question about which firewood has the highest BTU. See? That’s why I read the mag. To find out good stuff and never use it.

Woman’s World – This one brings out the girly in me. Well, and the bound and determined writer who wants to sell them a mini-mystery or a romance. That comes out, too. Been trying for years. Anyway, this one is full of the latest diets and rich desserts (go figure), fashion, home décor, and a complete diagnosis of what your guardian angel may be telling you if only you'd pay more attention. I love it. It’s a weekly pub and I grab one at the grocery store at least once a month.

Now watch. Because I’ve written so wittily and in-depth about magazines, the Prize Patrol will probably arrive to award me with a gazillion of them instead of the $$$ check. Just so you know, PP – I’ll take the check. Okay?

What are  your faves in the magazine realm

Image: The Fuel Quiz is in this issue  

Monday, February 27, 2017

While Out Driving

We were in the car a lot over the weekend. Basketball, bowling and an International Food Festival. The mister was at the wheel which gave me a lot of time for random observations. Of course he observes during the ride, too, or perhaps it’s just mind wandering. In either case that truly only adds to our excitement and sense of adventure.

“Hon,” I whisper. “You’re heading for a guardrail.” I whisper because I don’t want to alarm him. He tends to over correct and if we’re next to a semi – well – you can imagine.

But other than those few rare and terrifying moments there’s lots going on as we whiz down the highway. Like the pine trees. We had to use the Snarly to get to the food festival at Albany Academy. I call the web of overpasses, big green signs, off ramps and bridges the Snarly. I do lots of “whispering” when we’re on it. So we’re heading for an off ramp and as the road dipped slightly there appeared a patch of rough ground on my right out of which three pine trees were growing. Kind of dusty and windswept looking and reaching plaintively for the sun. I looked quick as we sped by and I think I saw a small sign in their midst saying “Help!” in pine script. Maybe not. But there may be some kind of movement afoot and you heard about it here first.

The next day we took the long road home from granddaughter’s bowling tournament. Lovely ride. Lots of open fields, stone walls and balloons. Say what now? Yup. Right there stuck in the overhead wires. There were four of them all bouncy and giggling with helium and tangled string. Two were red, one silver, and one white (I think. It was kind of hiding). They didn’t’ t look like birthday balloons – more like the ones you see for an open house. Probably the white one was hiding because the price of the house was on it. 350K. For that dump? That’s what the balloon was thinking, not me. No wonder the bunch of them cut loose and headed for the high wires. Balloons can be so judgmental. 

The last thing I noticed was the lack of snow. A week ago Sunday we had a near blizzard and them Wham! Impossible degree weather attacking our white quilt all over the place. But March is just around the corner after all, and someone must have told the sun. Early spring? Hmmmm. You never know around here.   

Dining room Still. Not. Done. That’s what happens when you’re in the car all weekend. But how else would I have seen the lonesome pines, runaway balloons and brown fields yearning for warmth? I’m telling you, sometimes you just need a break. Right?

How was your weekend?  

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, February 20, 2017

Blast From the Past

Crazy busy with a paint job in the dining room. It’s taking forever but we’re hoping it will be a masterpiece. So . . . that means I haven’t had a lot of writing time. But we have been taking time out for grand kids and this repeat exemplifies what can happen at a soccer game. Off to the paint brush I go and leave you with this . . .

It must be tough, I thought, to sit on the sidelines and watch your two older brothers sparring on the soccer field. Out there with their buds defending the reputation of the Crane team. Dad and Poppy are on the sidelines making sure you don’t get into trouble. But then there was . . . the monkey.

Julius had come along to keep him company and I could tell it was a love match. From the second step on the three tiered bleachers Julius got flung again and again. Soccer game? What soccer game? When you’re not yet two it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than monkey flinging. And it never got old. Over and over the beloved stuffed animal took to the air.

As I sat on the third step I was peeped at with scrunchy little eyes and his grin was impossibly cute. “Go get him,” I whispered. And he would. Julius was rescued from the narrow bit of Astroturf that dad had allowed as a play area. Then it was back to the second step and off Julius would go. Whee . . . “Oh, no.” That’s what he said each time. Then he’d look at me and wait.

It was hard for me to give the soccer game my full attention with this little boy and his monkey for a distraction. He was being so good and entertaining himself superbly. I was enchanted. It made me realize how much time had passed since Sam was that small. Now Sam is Number 8 on a rocking soccer team that won both of it’s games last night. A boy taking the direct route to manhood. I sighed inside – a deep grandma sigh.

Towards the end of the game little Ryan must have realized there was a need for his input. His brother was being called upon to “Shoot!” and needed to hear “Go!” from the sidelines. Guess who yelled that out? With his head back and a little hop at the end. Doing his part in the clinches. Go team!

And here in a nutshell is what I know about men. Little boys, not yet two, grandsons out on the field, dads pacing as the soccer ball flies, and grandpas beaming with pride. This is what unites them, I think, more than anything. This contest. This mission to win. This common love through the generations of all things sporting. It satisfies a deep need, one that’s sometimes hard for members of the fair sex to understand. But it’s a universal intense form of bonding that I’ve observed for decades and I have to say . . .

I completely approve.

Image: sattva                              Free Digital Photos

Monday, February 6, 2017

A Peek at Book # 3

It’s Monday, the Patriots pulled it off, the sun is out and things are okay here. I thought  you might enjoy another excerpt from my latest Minnie Markwood Mystery, The White Pizza Caper.
In it Minnie has just taken a seat in the theater where she’s doing a head count for Chapel Marketing. As the movie begins she hears, for the first time, the voice of Meathead Mulovich, a Russian mobster who is soooo not a nice guy. And he’s in the seat right behind her. Yikes!

     I munched on my no butter, lightly salted popcorn, and took a few deep breaths. There were five trailers all together. Most people call them previews or coming attractions, but in the industry they’re still called trailers as they were long ago when they ‘trailed’ the main feature. Trouble was most people began to leave before the trailers were over. Now we’re stuck with them up front, and they are a must watch if you want to see the feature.
     By the time the movie started I was nearly done with my popcorn, down to the half popped kernels. I was rudely jolted from my bottom of the bucket dig when the back of my seat was kneed by someone taking the seat next to pizza guy. The man began to whisper in Russian. I had never heard Meathead Mulovich’s voice, but I had the chilling thought that this might be him.
     Then he said, “I will do English. Let girls enjoy movie.”
     I was afraid to move a muscle. This was even better than I’d hoped. Now I wouldn’t have to hang out in Bianco Pizza all night. I only wished I had a small tape recorder with me. To stealth and coolness I now had to add ‘mind like a steel trap’.   
    “Evelina is well?” Meathead asked with a bit too much nonchalance.
    “I had money. It was delivered at wrong table. I will get it.” Pizza guy’s voice shook with emotion and fear. But he hadn’t answered the question.
     “My American friend is disappointed with your sister. He is rich and offers much.”
     “He is very big crap!” Pizza guy hissed vehemently.
      Creep, I was pretty sure he meant creep. And then, of all things, a stray popcorn kernel took a crooked path through my esophagus forcing me to sit bolt upright. I fought off the coughing fit I felt coming, but it was no good.
     “Gack.” A sharp intake of breath made it worse. “Gack, gack!” I bolted from my seat and flew past Meathead who looked up at me with black soulless eyes. Pizza guy looked like he wanted to kill the man.
     The dark theater aisle suddenly seemed the length of a football field as I staggered along, and I wondered what day I’d reach the lobby doors. A woman pushing a baby stroller was right in my path as I came through, and my toe caught on one of the stroller wheels. I went down on one knee like a mobster at confession.

PS: I hope to have this book out in 2017. Fingers crossed!