Joy of Summer

It hadn’t been easy, growing up without a mother, but somehow Joy had managed. Her father did the best he could, but as the only veterinarian for their village, he’d been gone more than he was home. But after his death she has hard choices to make. Can she find a way to stay in Summer, the little village she’s grown to love? 

As I started to write the title of the blog, all I could think of was that it sounded like a title for a cheesy bodice ripper novel!  In fact, nothing could be farther from the truth. A few weeks ago in a prior post, I bemoaned the loss of something quintessentially summer…watermelon with seeds. I was surprised at how many people I have since spoken to, that agreed with me: Seedless watermelon sucks. Well, I am thrilled beyond words to be able to share with you that my local grocery store had REAL watermelon a few weeks ago. It was lucious, rich, textured…just like I remembered. And yep, …there was some honest to goodness seed spittin’  going on too. That’s what summer should be about. Snow cones, and water balloon fights in the backyard (or ‘thumbs over the ends of hoses’ fights, those work too!),  sparklers and black snakes, mouthfulls of Bubs Daddy bubble gum. And fireflies, or lightning bugs as they are known in some parts of the country. I love being out for a walk at night and seeing their ethereal lights dance in front of me, just out of reach. I know you can catch them and put them in a jar, I just have no desire to. I’d rather watch them appear, then disappear, and magically reappear feet from where they were a moment ago, and pretend to not know how that happened, just enjoying the sense of wonderment again. 

I miss having summers off. As an adult, the only time I really regret my career choice is during summer, when I wish I had become a teacher just so I could have had summers off…either that or found a way to become a professional paid student! But I’m so envious of the sounds of kids playing, having fun in the summer. Our house backs up to a number of others, and I can hear laughter of the kids playing from about six houses down some days. As a telecommuter, trust me, it can be challenging to concentrate. On the other hand, our house is also located rather close to some marsh lands, or as the DNR prefers to refer to them, nature preserves. Because that sounds SO much better than marsh, doesn’t it?  There are benefits of course to living near them, first and foremost being it’s packed full of wildlife. The frog chorus at night is something to behold, and we hear it from the ‘balcony’ seats, on the side of the road opposite the marsh. I’m sure if our house backed up to it, and we couldn’t even open our windows at night because the volume was so deafening, I wouldn’t feel quite so charmed by it. Another periodic gift the marsh gives it’s nearby residents, is the coyote choir. I’m not sure what will set up the howling, but when the pack gets going it’s both thrilling and chilling at the same time. I don’t know what makes people think it’s safe to let their pets run loose around here, I really don’t. Seems to me cats and small dogs might be fair game for coyote food, and I’d be terrified my pet might not come home, but that’s just me.

The worst part however, about living by the marsh, are the mosquitos, and in Minnesota, we know how to breed ’em BIG. Mosquitos lay eggs in standing, stagnant water, and this year it seems we’ve gotten into this never ending cycle of a couple of days of big rain, followed by a day or two of sun, then more rain. So in addition to being full of rich, green grasses and cattails that are taller than I’ve ever seen, our marshes are chock full of standing water and yep, you guessed it, lovely mosquito eggs. And you’ve never even seen a real mosquito until you’ve come here. There’s an old saying, about how a nearsighted one got confused last week and drained a 747…OK, maybe not really, but sometimes it almost feels like they’re that horrible. So the DNR does what they can, and “mosquito bombs” us. What’s that, you ask? Well, in summer, helicopters fly overhead, and drop pellets into the marsh (and onto decks, patios, porches and our public boardwalk) to help control the mosquito population. The first time they came around, the “chopper” as I now fondly refer to it, flew so low over my house  that I felt the cavitation in my chest and through my toenails. I was pretty sure I could put a spitball in a straw and hit a rotor without even trying very hard as they went over the neighbors house, then to the marsh, dropped the pellets and made the turn right past their house and then came back over mine, all within about 20 seconds. I wanted to drop to the floor and scream “incoming”, as I covered my head. I know it helps, it would be so much worse if they didn’t do it, but even so, it’s just a mite freaky. I mean, what happens if an engine fails? Or if the tail rotor goes wonky? I mean, I just know it’s MY house they’re gonna ‘find’ first, and suddenly I’ve got a lovely new piece of art in the shape of a helicopter blade decorating my mantle. Next thing you know, you’re a drive-by side show for half the city.

“Look Howard, there’s that house I heard about. You know the one where the mosquito bomb helicopter was hit with a spitball in the tail rotor, apparently throwing the yaw all wonky, and down she went. You can see one of the main blades sticking out of the side of the house, right above where the mantle sits. Rumor has it the owner was the one who shot the spitball. If that’s just not the perfect example of a karmic kickback, I don’t know what is.”

Maybe I’ll stick to marshmallow guns at family reunions. 

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From the Files of…Part 2

And now, for another installment of I can’t make this s**t up.

     First out of the gate, on March 22 it was announced that Sarah Palin was getting her own daytime TV show as a judge. Yep, Judge Sarah, because of course she is a strong litigator and jurist…oh wait, she’s neither of those things. She only appointed judges to the bench during her tenure as Governor of Alaska. That’s like saying George Clooney should have an MD’s license because he played one on ER for so long. (not that I’d mind playing doctor…oops, off track).

Isn’t it nice that we make so much money at our jobs, that we don’t even notice when we misplace a paycheck. What, that never happened to you? Yeah, me neither. Apparently, however, it did for one NFL player who recently found one that he apparently  DID misplace and didn’t even notice was missing. How you don’t notice you don’t have over $135,000 you should have is beyond me. But hey, I guess when you make what they make, that’s just pocket change.

What the hell is wrong with people? Three first graders in Alaska were plotting to poison and kill a classmate using silica gel packets from the seaweed in their lunches. I’m baffled at all the places in this story it’s going awry. First blech, seaweed for lunch. I’m more of a soup or leftovers from tater tot hotdish kind of girl, but that’s just me. Second, silica gel packets? Not poisonous, epic fail. Third, parents, step up and do some teaching here. Ever hear of a little ole commandment of “thou shalt not kill”? Even if you don’t go to church, aren’t religious, or are schooled in faith, most folks still support this statement. I am just baffled how children that age would ever have the idea that this was acceptable.

And finally, taken right from the plotlines of more romance novels than you can shake a stick at, an elderly gentleman decided his 49-year old bachelor son needed a wife, so he took out a $900 ad on his son’s behalfArthur Brooks, purchased the $900 ad in the Coeur d’Alene Press, much to his son Brook’s chagrin. The ad isn’t quite truthful, as it leads the reader to believe Baron knew about it (he didn’t) and the photo is not quite current (more grey hair) but hey, Baron says, he’ll keep an open mind. MIghty big of him I say!

Hope you don’t have too much weird in your world!

Driving 101

As many of you know, I’m the lucky recipient of a brand spanking new hip, which, for a number of reasons, has put me in a slightly different frame of mind over the last several weeks. Residual effects of anesthesia (which I’m told can mess with your brain for up to a year), pain dulling to annoying discomfort, a very slow moving body and forced down time I had all made me see things a little differently.

Among those things are the driving habits of about 75% of the general population, most of whom have forgotten what they learned only long enough to pass their driver’s test, apparently. So, how many of the following will each of you get right? Let’s see. (These are for Minnesota Driving Regulations only, I can’t speak to any other states.)

  1. Right turn on red is: a) never allowed. b) allowed unless otherwise posted, with a rolling stop  c) allowed unless otherwise posted, but only after coming to a complete stop d) always allowed
  2. A stop sign a) only requires a complete stop if there are other vehicles in visible line of sight  b) only requires a complete stop if there are police vehicles in visible line of sight  c) requires a complete stop at all times   d) what’s a stop sign?
  3. After stopping at a stop sign, you can proceed a) through the crosswalk as long as there are no pedestrians in it  b) through the crosswalk assuming you can get through ahead of the pedestrians c) the pedestrians have to stop for vehicles of course, drive on through!
  4. The Move Over Law  a) states all vehicles traveling slower than the posted speed limit need to move to the far right lane on a multi-lane road, or pull to the shoulder on a two-lane road if traffic is unable to safely pass on the left side  b)that you move to the lane farthest away from emergency vehicles, if possible to do so safely  c) we have a Move Over Law?
  5. Correctly identify the sign below:   a) Wheelchair parking only  b) Parking for vehicles with the appropriate disability plates or permits only   c) For use by anyone as long as they aren’t caught.

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The answers are (in case you didn’t know) 1c, 2c, 33a, 4b, 5b.  How many did you get wrong? I hope none, but over the past weeks since I resumed driving after surgery, I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve seen most of these violated, the exception being the last one. Given adequate time, even that too will happen, sadly. Why am I more sensitive about this? Probably because the speed at which I had been moving much more closely resembled that of the proverbial tortoise, rather than the hare. At Wal-Mart a few weeks ago, I had just parked my car in one of the spots denoted with the sign above (and yes, I have my permit), and got out of my car, proceeding toward the store slowly using my cane. As I approached the crosswalk, a woman came from my right side, briefly glanced at the stop sign (see question #2) decided that red octagonal signs with white outlines were optional and proceeded through the crosswalk – which I had already entered – without stopping (see question #3).

Perhaps I had my cloaking device on again. That had to be it, because that’s the only rational explanation I can come up with for the sheer stupidity exhibited by this apparently adult woman who appeared to be in her 40’s. Not a teen, not anyone talking on their cell phone, and apparently in command of all of her faculties although that is up for debate from my perspective.

I do know that most insurance companies offer discounts to drivers over a certain age if they take a defensive driving course, and in Minnesota it’s 55 years of age. Perhaps it wouldn’t be an entirely dumb idea to offer that discount earlier? Start it at age 30, then boost the value at age 55 from 10% to 15%. State Farm, are you listening? Because apparently people are stupid WAY earlier than at age 55. News flash: yellow lights aren’t for fun, they are to alert you that the red is coming so you can try to stop, not speed up, dumbass! And if you’re climbing up my tailpipe when I’m going the speed limit, knock it the hell off, I’m not speeding up just to make you happy. Ain’t happening, and all you’re gonna get by tailgating me is a) more pissed off, b) a possible ticket for tailgating  c) a possible bigger ticket for the accident you caused when you rear ended me, because in Minnesota if you rear end someone, it IS your fault and d) a lawsuit for rear ending me, dumbass.

If you recognized yourself in any of the above scenarios, perhaps a refresher in Driving 101 is right up your alley.

I Am My Age…I Think

And now, back to your regularly scheduled lightheartededness…..

 

Not old enough to know better

Old enough to know better

Not old enough to know

Old enough to know

Not old enough

Old enough

Not old

Old

Not

And so goes the poem, “The Nine Ages of Man” by F.Emerson Andrews. I was delighted to stumble on the Diane Henders’ “I Spy” series of books about a year ago, for several reasons. The first is they’re just darn good, and keep me entertained. But the second, is that her protagonist Aydan, isn’t 20 something, or even 30 something…she’s – gasp – in her 40’s!!  Someone who is at least closer in age to where I am (and w here I mentally think I will be someday, because let’s face it, I’m still only 35 in my brain.)

Then in the last month or so, I found author Donna McDonald, who writes romantic fiction with a couple of her series focusing on – but not exclusively – adults in their 40’s and/or 50’s (See “The Art of Love””Next Time Around” and “Never Too Late” Series).  The characters may be widowed, divorced or never married, are flawed and imperfect, just like we are, know what they want and don’t want because they are of an age where they’ve lived and experienced life. They aren’t going to shortchange themselves for anyone. I LOVE that! Her characters are strong, funny, and her various series of books are engaging. I really would encourage you to check them out.

But it really got me to thinking about how much I appreciate these authors. The reason? Well, quite frankly it’s all about the old expression “Just because there’s a little snow on the roof doesn’t mean there isn’t a fire in the fireplace”.  Too much women’s fiction out there today is written about the 20 and 30 something crowd and honestly, at 55, I can’t relate. I’m never again (I hope!) going to fret about my apartment roommate, or go clubbing until the wee hours looking for a man (ugh). At this age, we’re over that nonsense. Let’s just cut to the chase because we know what we want, the type of man we want, what we are (and are not) willing to tolerate and we’ll end a relationship a whole lot sooner if it’s not working out. We have jobs, careers, families, hobbies and many of us are intellectually, socially, emotionally and spiritually satisfied already with our friends. A significant other doesn’t fill a gap, it’s an addition to an already full life.

When I finally understood those last two sentences, and truly believed them, I was 38. I had finally come to terms with not being married, and was pretty sure I was never going to be, nor was I ever having children. My sister had two of them and that was going to be enough for me. (I figured I could “borrow” hers on the weekends if I was feeling very maternal, and give her a parenting break, then give ’em back at the end. It was a win-win for everyone.) 1917020_1178599432945_4986073_n

 

Here are a couple of pictures of my niece Rachel on a weekend with Auntie Beth back in the day, clearly having a blast!

401485_3375010141840_1509729840_nI mean what kid wouldn’t have fun when she can wear her ball cap backward, cool sunglasses, and her aunt’s dive mask and snorkel (which she found all on her own and surprised me with!) Wouldn’t you have waited to go to your Auntie’s house too if you could have had as much fun as we did?  Of course you would have!

 

 

 

I remember when I started feeling really peaceful about all of this too.  I was on a sailing cruise in the Carribbean and stood on the deck of the ship with the wind blowing through my hair, just feeling the boat bob up and down, watching the horizon ahead of me as the sun slowly set on the water. The dolphins were swimming just ahead of the boat, giving us a great show as we sailed along, the wind catching our sails. Take a moment to go to Islandwindjammers.com. 149The line that I sailed with is no longer in business, but the photos here will give you and idea of what the boats were like. It was an incredible experience, and I was lucky enough to sail with Windjammer Barefoot Cruises four times before they went out of business. There are thousands of us still in mourning. Here is a shot from the deck of  the boat my husband and I sailed on for our honeymoon, which was the last time I sailed with them. As Jimmy Buffet says “salt air it ain’t thin, it can stick right to your skin and make you feel fine, it makes you feel fine”. And oh boy, does it ever.
Ah, the stories I could tell…but that’s another day.My life was my own and I had no one to answer to. The sense of accomplishment and freedom was amazing, no kids to worry about, no one that needed my time or anyone to split my income with. It was all about me. Then I came home and started seriously dating the man who became my husband. Yep, he was the addition to my full life. As it should be.

So what age am I now? I don’t know. I look at the poem and I laugh, because it depends on the day. I guess I’m at least at the “Old enough to know” mark, but then feel like I do move back and forth a bit, sort of how one moves through Kübler-Ross’ stages of grieving. I’m “Not Old”, then “Old” then back to “Old Enough” again. I’m certainly “old enough to know better” when it comes to going out clubbing, and “old enough to know” that a man will never make me happy, only I can do that. I’m “not old enough” for retirement and AARP (although AARP thinks I am!) and I’m “old enough” now that parts need fixing and replacing. I can only hope it’s a very long while before I feel and act like I’m truly “old”, and even longer before I’m “not”.

Life Lessons

You’d have to be living in another universe lately to not have heard about the Stanford rape case. I am so saddened and horrified by this. The fact that it happened at all is horrific in it’s own right, but the pathetic tripe that has come from both Brock Turner and his father, Dan Turner, make me alternatingly nauseous, furious and just sad. I’m not entirely surprised at the crap from Brock, he’s young and stupid….and by the things he has said publicly, he’s validated just how stupid. Most of us are a product of how we were raised, and it appears that Brock isn’t any different.

His father sent a letter to Judge Persky, asking for leniency since he’s a good kid, never been violent, etc. Now I could understand that if this were about shoplifting, TP’ing public property or some other nuisance crime. But it’s not. This was a horrific crime that violated another individual. If you haven’t read the victim impact statement, please take the time to do so. Her letter is 12 pages long, and I promise it will touch your soul, and speak to you in ways you wouldn’t have thought possible. I didn’t get through the first few paragraphs before I started to cry. This should be mandatory reading for every high school senior and college freshman, man or woman, for anyone who has ever gone to a party and had too much to drink, for everyone in college now and for everyone who thinks “if she isn’t saying ‘no’ then it’s ok” so they understand how wrong that is. Maybe just mandatory for everyone. Period.

Dan Turner is a prime example of what’s wrong with white privilege and why we even have that phrase in our lexicon. Oh, how I wish we could rid ourselves of it in this lifetime! But as long as there are fathers like him out there, we can’t. Fathers that write to judges, pleading for leniency for their sons who rape, saying how it’s changed their life, and now he can’t enjoy his rib-eye steak. His life won’t be the one he dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve. Here’s an eye opener for you Mr. Turner – his victim’s life is forever changed. She probably isn’t eating well or sleeping well, and no longer enjoys her favorite things.  Her life will never be the same, and won’t be the one she dreamed about and worked so hard to achieve either. She’s been violated, first by your son, then by the hospital where she was examined, in court where she testified and had to relive it all over again and be re-raped by your son’s attorney, and finally by you. All because your son didn’t have the balls to say “guilty as charged” and accept the punishment due him, and because he had daddy to ask the judge, a Stanford buddy, to go easy on his little boy. I’m sure you’re heart is breaking too, your life changed in that moment, so did your wife’s. You’ll forever be known as “that rapist’s parents” and that’s probably not how you ever envisioned the rest of your life. You didn’t ask for it, true, but…and here is the caveat…what did you teach your son about women? Did you teach him to respect himself as well as others? To be courageous in the face of fear? To stand up and say “no” when it really counted? Did you teach your son to be the one to stop on his bicycle, when he saw something wrong in an alley and do the unpopular thing, perhaps risking himself, to take care of someone else because it was the right thing to do? Or did you just laugh off his drunken high school escapades with “boys will be boys”? Maybe ground him for a few weeks, or take away the keys to his Beemer? Or perhaps punish him by telling him that he couldn’t go on a trip for spring break? And Mrs. Turner, you’ve been silent on this, I would imagine as a nurse, there has got to be some measure of shame you must be feeling; after all, part of the Nightingale Pledge says “as a missioner of health, I will dedicate myself to devoted service for human welfare.”  Yet your son was anything but, when he acted like an animal. But you helped raise him, did you not? So don’t you also have some accountability in this? I find it hard to believe you sat idly by and never voiced an opinion, never contributed meaningfully to raising your son by teaching him any kind of values, so it logically follows you must have also influenced the person he has become in some way. Did you turn a blind eye to his escapades and just not punish him? Let yourself be convinced by a charming liar that you didn’t see what was really there?

For the sake of the victim, it’s time that Brock Turner stops saying anything at all about himself, unless it’s to say “I have done a horrible wrong to her. I can never make it up to her. ”  Then shut up. And Dan Turner should either say nothing, or if he feels compelled to speak, say only that “my son did a terrible thing and should have accepted his punishment, I’m sorry I interefered”. Then shut up. There is nothing else either of them can say that can justify it, mitigate it, relieve it, erase it or reverse it. Nothing. Don’t get a publicist, don’t have your lawyer speak for you. Just apologize, shut up and for the victim’s sake, go away.

 

Anesthesia Brain

“Scientists have found that the drugs used most often in the administration of general anesthesia, produce memory alteration and loss side effects that can last anywhere from one to twelve months following surgery. These effects closely resemble that of…..squirrel!!!!!”

Sounded like a plausible headline at first, didn’t it? And much of it actually is an amalgam from several stories that I did read this morning on the web (because you know if you found it on the internet, it’s true). Well it was mostly true, right up to the part about the squirrel…although that part is true enough for me. I am finding that I’ll be thinking  about somthing I need to get at the store (and in fact as I write this, I just remembered something I didn’t get when I was there a short time ago, in spite of the fact it was on my list, dammit), then suddenly before I can write that thing down, I will be onto something else totally unrelated and I have zero memory of what I was just thinking about. None. Zippity-do-dah it’s gone. Before you know it the front door is left unlocked overnight, the shower is still running, the oven is on but there is nothing in it…and I’m taking a nap, because why not? It’s a short nap, because my brain freaks out after about 7.2 minutes and says “hey, remember the THING you were going to put on your list for the store and you forgot” and by the time I wake up enough to write it on the list, I’ve forgotten it again, but at least I turned off the stove. Just not before I stopped to pet the cat, water the plants, get the mail and take out the trash.

And words are gone too…I HATE that. It’s like living in a game of perpetual Charades. “Sounds like…, two words” argh. It’s not like they are complex or unusual things either. Every day items just don’t have a name for a moment. “Honey, have you seen my…” as my voice trails off. Poor husband. He just has to wait it out patiently as I pound my head on whatever flat surface is nearest to me, in frustration. “oh crap, you know, that….thing….it’s almost there…ah, shit, it’s gone. It’ll come to me someday”.  And it does, at 2 am, when I want to desperately be sleeping rather than having this random verbal vomit of words in my head. It slowly is resolving, and I can now go a couple of days without an issue, then suddenly it will creep up on me and WHOOMP. Here we go again.

It can be embarassing too, depending on when it happens. I was talking to a colleague at work the other day, and needed to ask her a question when the topic of the question was just gone. POOF!!  Into thin air. For about 10 min we had to just chat about stuff. Eventually it came back to me, but honestly, the idea was just airborne on the wind until then. Even writing this, I start out thinking “hey, I’ll add….squirrel!!” and off I go again. I’d try writing things down, but that damn squirrel would bury the paper someplace, like an acorn, and then next spring when I’m cleaning I’ll dig up the list and wonder why the hell I wrote down these weird, seemingly random statements.

In the meantime, if you’re talking to me and I just go off on a tangent, bear with me. I’m sure it will improve in time, and remember my husband really needs your understanding and….squirrel!!!