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Dove Tales

I actually have an appointment this morning. I know! My appointment book has been as chaste as a novitiate for weeks. Today I am to have allergy testing. I’d be lying if I didn’t insert here that going outside in the big bad world feels a little off putting. My instructions were to wear a mask and maintain social distancing. K. Yesterday I cranked up my car and drove it for a bit both to remind myself driving was part of my routine and to give my car a chance to recharge it’s battery. When I came back I dragged the industrial size bag of potting soil I purchased several months ago around to the front yard and worked in the dirt for a couple of hours. People walked by and stopped to say hello or waved while I was out there and it felt less isolating and more like being part of a community.

While outside beneath the massive trees lining my property (well, mine as long as I deposit a rent check) I was serenaded by the sad song of a mourning dove. Movement on one of the branches overhead drew my eye to where I could see a dove perched on a large nest in the crook of a limb. Mom, or so I called her, I’m not clearly versed on how one goes about telling the difference in doves and wasn’t formally introduced, remained on the nest while her partner flew back and forth to the ground or to other trees gathering whatever he was bringing to the table. Soon I could see three dear little feathery heads pointed towards the sky beaks open so I’m assuming dad had been tasked with providing lunch. A friend called so I stopped for a moment and went in the house to take a break. Telling her of my sweet birds (yes, yes I realize they are of the earth and not actually mine but they are on my property so for now I shall lay claim to them), she said doves were a sign of peace and restoration. Boy, could we use that right now. She went on to suggest I purchase food and a feeder for the birds and then they would remain in my yard and make it their home. What a lovely thought. I do love birds and all creatures. However, after spending $8.99 for eggs yesterday and $12.99 for instant decaf coffee I am hesitant to take on the feeding responsibilities for other living things beyond Boo and myself.  Nonetheless I ordered both food and a feeder before I had time to talk myself out of it. C’est la vie.

dove mourning nesting protection camouflage to protect them from predators

Going back outside to finish my potting I was pleasantly surprised how peaceful it made me to know the little family was settled in above me. Our world is populated with such incredibly beautiful and interesting wildlife. I never stop marveling at the vast selection of creatures provided for us to share space with and enjoy. When I was little my grandfather enrolled me in a course through the Audubon Society. Birds were a particular love for both him and my grandmother and this they shared with me. He and I would sit in his cozy den and study the different species of birds and their habitats. It was always special for me to spend time with the first important man in my life. Sadly we would only have seven years together before he passed away. My grandmother too was a bird fancier. Many of her knick knacks, which were plentiful, were decorated with birds.  When fall arrived I can remember walking behind my grandmother while she carried the red vinyl step stool to one of the huge trees shading our back yard. My job was to carry the net bag of suet which was going to be hung off a limb to feed the birds prolific in the trees where we lived.  Suet, for those of unfamiliar with the term is a mixture of fats and grains. From what I have read, it actually serves to keep the birds warm. In Nova Scotia this would be a plus in any form. Once the bag was suspended we would watch the birds from the dining room window as they circled down to pick pieces of the mixture out from between the holes in the netting. Funny, how some memories just stick like glue to your insides and remain there always.

Birds are interesting little beings with definite personalities, at least the domesticated variety. My friend Carol had a bird named Wilbur. Wilbur was a lovebird by description who shared a cage with his “wife”. I do not remember the female’s name but lovebirds, appropriately named, mate for life. The two were inseparable. Wilbur wiled away his days attending to his lady love while singing happily in his cage. The wife died unexpectedly one day leaving poor Wilbur devastated by her loss. They purchased another mate for him but he never warmed up to his new “wife” with anything near the fervor he had loved the first. The heart wants what the heart wants I guess spans all species.

I too have always considered myself a nester. My ex father-in-law told me once if he gave me a cardboard box and a ball of twine somehow I’d come up with a home. Home has always been a bit of an elusive commodity for me. Truth is I’ve never let a lot of grass grow under my feet. Having counted thirty-nine moves in my life hasn’t left much time for establishing deep roots.  That being said, it has been necessary to create “home” at whatever location I currently found myself in.

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While living in Longview, Washington with my ex husband home at the time was a motel room. Working a construction job at the lumber mill we knew on arrival our stay in the glorious northwest would most likely last under a year. To lease a place to hang our hat would most likely have required a one year commitment, not doable in our case. Also, with our household goods taking up space in a storage unit in the Bay Area we had nothing to furnish it with. So, we opted to stay with other construction types at a local motel catering to nomads such as ourselves. There were two rooms plus a bathroom in each generous sized “suite”. Ours was on the second floor overlooking the pool. Each unit had a sliding glass door leading out to the balcony which gave it more of an apartment vibe. There was a small refrigerator in the room off the bedroom/sitting room which comfortably held a sandwich and a quart of milk before feeling crowded. Since we would be there months rather than days I began to look for options for cooking in place and storing food as going out to dinner or picking something up every night was both expensive and is definitely not the healthiest option.

Having no utensils or cooking implements posed a problem. Someone suggested thrift shops. Up until then I had never stepped foot in one. What wonderful places to forage in. For a five dollar bill you could get a whole bag of mismatched silverware. Who knew such riches existed at the Salvation Army? I asked my husband to construct a makeshift three shelf unit with bricks and planks on an empty wall in our room. I filled the shelves with the mish mash of well loved pots and pans purchased with my bag of silver leaving the remaining shelves for food storage. After speaking to the motel owners about wanting to cook in the room they provided me with two two-burner hot plates to cook on.  This still left me with little room to store fresh items so once again I found myself standing in the motel office asking about refrigerator options. As miracles do, one showed up to help. The owner had an apartment size refrigerator in storage. The next day it was hooked up in our “spare” room. Yay. Before long I was cooking all all burners if you will. We made some great meals in that little room that year. My ex was an excellent cook. Hailing from southern Texas he made some delicious pots of gumbo or etoufee which we shared with neighbors who regularly followed the enticing smell to our door.

All in all it was an interesting experience that I will file in my memory book under “innovation”.

 

 

 

Aloha Hoy

Another week in isolation. Sigh. After hearing on the news that a woman in Texas sat in line for eighteen hours waiting for food from a food pantry I made a promise not to complain. Although my pantry staples such as paper towels etc. are dwindling I haven’t missed a meal as yet (as my scales will corroborate) so feel I had best keep my mouth shut for more reasons than one. Everyone seems to be having trouble locating paper products I’m hearing. I finally located Kleenex for my mother I believe from a website in China. I’m not kidding. It took two and a half weeks to arrive and I could have furnished my living room and had change left over for what I had to pay for it. My son, Steve, called yesterday while in Costco. Apparently he scored Kleenex but still can find no toilet paper. With a house full of teens at his location this situation is bordering on critical. Teens tend to undervalue the products they are provided I have found. One roll of paper towels could be called into service to clean up a few drops of milk off a counter.  From first grade until high school Steve played soccer. Being a working mom I wasn’t always home when he got back from practice. Team members were given carte blanche by my offspring to pillage our cupboards for snacks and juice. My grocery bill began to rival the national debt until I finally realized where the leak was occurring and put a plug in it.

One thing I am definitely noticing about me these days is a sort of general malaise. Since I seem to have all the time in the world to get things done I have adopted an “I’ll do it tomorrow” attitude which for a steady doer such as myself is a tad unsettling.  Yesterday I realized I hadn’t hopped in the shower for three days. The fact that that the cat, usually joined at the hip with me, had begun maintaining social distancing alerted me I’d better remedy the situation.

Though I may be sitting in my dining room, in my mind I am in Hawaii. Images of pristine beaches lined with elegant palm trees and caressed by glistening azure waters keep filling my thoughts. Though I could not live in Hawaii, I love visiting. Over the years I’ve been to the islands four times.  As much as I appreciate the glorious landscapes, resplendent flowers, and friendly inhabitants the thought to me of being confined to an island space with the only avenue of escape being an airplane triggers my claustrophobia. However, spending a few weeks there enjoying what the islands have to offer is definitely always a plan I could embrace.

I was twenty-two when I first landed in Hawaii. My husband at the time, the father of my children, had won a week on Oahu through a local condominium development drawing. The trip included a seven day stay at a Waikiki hotel one block from the beach, a one day Jeep rental, and show tickets to see Don Ho. When you travel, even if the accommodations are free, expenses such as food and entertainment need to be accounted for. Our budget at the time with two toddlers had room for an additional taco split four ways at Taco Bell on payday and not much else. Taking this into consideration, we decided to bring food with us. We borrowed an extra large suitcase from a family member. One of our wedding gifts had been a Farberware indoor grill which had never been taken out of the box. The grill filled half of the extra luggage with the additional space taken up by hot dog buns, bread, peanut butter and jelly, condiments, beverages and snacks.

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Stepping off the plane in Honolulu we were greeted by natives bearing lei’s and a whoosh of hot humid air capable of sucking the breath from your lungs. Next our pictures were taken, which would be pitched to us later at our hotel for a substantial price. Once our bags were collected, a hotel shuttle driver loaded them in the back of his mini-van and we were whisked off with other hotel goers down the main drag while being treated to a brief tour. “Pearl Harbor is coming up on your right, ladies and gentlemen. To your left we are passing the Dole Pineapple Factory. Tours run daily.” Check and check.  Traveling as you mature is more about seeing historical sites and local attractions but at that age it was more about “where’s the beach and the mai tai’s”?

Though I missed my little ones at home with their grandma there was something decadent about having a little time for just us. Both my children had come into the world before my twenty-second birthday so in many ways I was still a kid myself.  Waikiki did not disappoint. Our hotel, located at the very end of Kalakaua Avenue, offered an uninterrupted view of Diamondhead from the small balcony patio. My parents had gifted us a little spending money when they dropped us off at the airport which we planned to use on one night of fine dining and drinks by the pool. A reservation had been made at the concierge desk on the way up to our room for dinner out and a Jeep later in the week. All was good in the world.

The first several days we lazed on the gorgeous shoreline taking turns slapping suntan lotion on our browning bodies and washing it off again in the crystal blue Pacific. Each day around noon the sky would cloud over and a brief sprinkling of warm rain would begin to fall. At first we got up when the rain began, but after realizing locals remained in place until it passed we followed suit. Obviously the rainfall had everything to do with the incredible lush surroundings we were enjoying so let it rain, I say, let it rain. If heaven truly does exist on earth Hawaii must be included somewhere in the square footage. At night we would walk to a hotel bar for a drink and enjoy complimentary pupus overlooking the ocean. Then back to our room to plug in our trusty grill and cook a couple of hot dogs or some of the meat and sides we’d picked up at a local market. Our fine dining night we got dressed up and ate at a lovely restaurant perched at the top of a building. The revolving floor provided diners with a panoramic view of Honolulu and the food was amazing. Lights twinkled on boats passing by and drinks with umbrellas and fresh pineapple arrived regularly at our table. A lovely experience I shall always remember.

On the third day we picked up our Jeep as ordered. Immediately obvious was that the vehicle had neither doors nor a top. With the sky a clear blue dotted with a couple of fluffy white clouds and the temperature hovering around a glorious 80 degrees “who needed them”, said my husband. “K”, says I. The state park that was to be our final destination was, according to the concierge, about a 45 minute drive from Honolulu. On our way we were going to stop at the Byodo-In Temple. What a gorgeous spot that was. The serenity of the place passes over you like the touch of a gentle hand. Brightly colored koi populate a pond under an arched bridge as you enter the temple itself. Inside we were greeted by a Buddhist monk. Almost mythical in his demeanor the man lifted his arm only to have small brightly hued birds swoop down and perch atop his sleeve. I mentioned this to the desk clerk on our return and she said she wasn’t aware the temple was staffed. Odd. I think of that from time to time with wonder, but magic was in the air on that trip.

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Climbing back in our Jeep we headed for the far end of the island. The entrance to the park was marked by a huge pond with lily pads floating atop the water bedecked with enormous lotus blossoms in a variety of colors. Bull frogs sang their song from the marshes surrounding the pond.  Following a hiking trail we saw all manor of decadent floral displays. Lizards flitted in and out of rocky mounds and the air was alive with insects traveling from one bloom to the next. All and all a lovely way to spend the day.

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Late afternoon clouds moved in and we decided it was time to head back to the hotel.  The suspension on the Jeep was less than cushiony leaving my spinal cord feeling like it had pierced my brain every time we hit a bump in the road. The sky, now very grey, was beginning to look concerning. In particular, because there was nothing between us the air around us but, well, the air around us. Suddenly the sky opened up and a torrential onslaught of water careened down from the heavens. Never, other than when I lived in Alabama, have I seen that much rain fall in that short of a period of time. With nowhere sheltered to pull off and nowhere to hide we kept on moving for at least another 30 minutes before reaching our hotel. I managed to grab my purse around one turn before it floated out onto the highway on the tsunami building on my side of the floorboard. The hotel staff were kind enough to say nothing about the fact my shoes were bubbling as I walked across the lobby making sounds like pulling a cow’s hoof out of a mud puddle every time I took a step.

The rest of our trip passed uneventfully. On our last night in Honolulu after reviewing our meager cash supply we decided to walk down to a McDonald’s we had passed earlier in the day. On our way a gentlemen in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt standing outside of Don the Beachcomber’s stopped us asking if we’d had dinner. Nodding no in unison side to side he asked if we’d be interested in watching a presentation about condos for sale on the mainland in exchange for dinner and a show. Our heads were once again nodding together this time up and down. Don’t know if you could purchase a condo for $7 and change even in those days, but we were open to listening their pitch, especially with a meal involved. Dinner was a delicious buffet followed afterwards by an excellent show featuring Hawaiian dancers. What a great way to end our time there. Condos in and condos out.

So, aloha for now. I shall lean back in my beach chair and point my face towards the sun and dream of porpoises and sea turtles and something rummy and cold.

 

 

 

 

Having trouble sleeping lately. Can’t imagine why. It’s not like anything weird or unsettling is going on around me that would contribute to my being being awake. Last night I was up on the hour. The cat, who sleeps on her pillow at the end of the bed, ate a whole bowl of food at 3 a.m. while I consumed my bowl of oatmeal. I’m going to have to get two sticks from the yard for us to roll each other around the house if I don’t stop getting my exercise by opening and closing the refrigerator door.

A dream finally got my feet planted on the carpet. Not a happy dream. I was wandering in the desert with no phone or idea where I was. When I woke up my bangs were stuck to my forehead. Must have been the high heat of the day where I was hiking. Always I have had vivid dreams, many of which I can recall in lurid detail. The more memorable will stick with me for a day or two as if for me to analyze and process them before letting them go. There are several recurring themes in my dreams of late. Bears once again have made a return to my rem world along with being lost and unable to find my way home. Hopefully neither is premonitory in nature. Bears continue to be a constant in my life. When I moved into my little house last May my landlady, who lives directly across the street, mentioned I should leave my trash cans behind the fence in the back yard. It seems bears have been known to forage in the area searching for something to snack on. Fortunately I have never had the pleasure of seeing one up close and personal. Her husband went on to add I should consider leaving the cat inside while living here. He said he had recently watched a coyote heading down the street with one of the neighbor’s cats dangling from its mouth. Thanks for sharing. We’re not in the wildnerness mind you, rather the foothills of the Sierra Nevadas. However, we have invaded these animals territory not visa versa so I guess we need to learn to live and let live. Boo would not choose to go outside on the best of days so no worries there. A house cat she is and a house cat she will be, spoiled rotten til the end.

The neighborhood seems to have more animals than I realized before being isolated. Dogs pass by the window every few minutes probably getting more walks now that their owners are in forced residence. I have to say I have seen my neighbors in general much more during this pandemic. Not only are they riding by on bikes, or out walking but I actually see them in their back yards with their families playing games or doing yard work. It’s kind of nice for a change. Usually we are all so wrapped up in scurrying about we don’t stop to smell the roses both figuratively and literally.

It’s nice to have the sound of children laughing outside or people sharing a conversation. Since Rick has passed I find I need some noise in the house. The TV can drive you nuts after a while and certainly more so now with the news focusing solely on the virus and the devastation caused by it. I prefer something a little more uplifting like music. How you think definitely effects a person not only emotionally but physically so I prefer to keep my thinking a little loftier if just as a matter of health and well being.

I talked to my mom on Facetime yesterday. It is difficult not to be able to see her. I am so thankful she is not in an assisted living facility any more but rather a small board and care.  The opportunity there to pick up a hitchhiking germ is much smaller. With the dementia, having a conversation without a visual is far more difficult. She celebrated a birthday since the isolating started, as I mentioned in an earlier blog, along with several other family members so we are waiting until we are allowed out again to put together an appropriate rite of passage for these occasions.

One thing I have to say is not being able to access a store, even with Amazon and the big chains at my fingertips, my spending has gone down significantly.  My gas budget, one of my larger outlays during normal times, is nearly non existent which is really making a difference. I feel for the small business owners who are standing in empty stores or restaurants every day with no employees evident and no money coming in. Perhaps the worst of it is not knowing when they can open their doors again. Must be very disheartening.

I am also spending more time browsing the Internet. While wandering around on Facebook this morning I came across the picture below of the most gorgeous attic room. Immediately I was transported back to the house I grew up in in Nova Scotia. Houses built in colder climates often have basements as well as attics. Ours was no exception. Our basement as well as being a general catch all for winter sports equipment, was home to the the washer and dryer, an old ironing press, and an assortment of gardening necessities. The back wall of the basement served as a small shop devoted to my grandfather’s love of tinkering. On one side was a rustic wooden tool bench with a large peg board above it that displayed his tools dangling neatly from hooks alongside other ubiquitous wood shop items such as tightly rolled extension cords and a variety of paint brushes. As a child I never liked to go down the back stairs to the basement by myself. My mind, always entertaining an overactive imagination, could envision spiders repelling from the ceiling to slither down my back, rodents skittering across the cement floors, or even menacing bats swooping down out of dark corners. For several years I insisted alligators populated the space beneath my bed and should I have woken in the middle of the night with a hand draped over the side of my bed I always counted my fingers to make sure none of them had gone missing while I slept.

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The attic in the house was far more inviting. A key dangled out of the old keyhole though the door was never locked to my recollection. A huge angled window allowed light to flow in making the room both warm and friendly and made it easy to get around in. A large full length mirror in the corner was perfect for modeling the hats and clothing stored in the old chests in the corner. Long abandoned toys from my mother’s childhood and her siblings were stored in crates which I had permission to explore. I spent many an hour entertaining myself in that room making up stories to go with the mink stole I had draped around my neck or the hat with the netting pulled down over my face. Sometimes my grandmother would come up and bring me milk and cookies to enjoy with my dolls or sit with me for a while and tell me a story of her childhood growing up on a farm in Ontario. Those memories of the rooms in that house formed the strong foundation which I built my life on.

Funny how certain rooms appear to ask you in, while others encourage you to remain outside. Maybe it is the energy remaining there from years of visitors or residents passing through its portals leaving a bit of themselves behind. Even in this small dwelling I lean towards sitting in the living room or my cozy bedroom 80% of the time. Some entire houses wear an air of uncomfortability. Perhaps they might feel dark, or stifling, or possibly just have an aura of sadness about them.

I remember such a house when I was small. When I was about six my grandparents enlisted a family friend to teach me the piano. To say I am not gifted musically would be being kind at best. If I opened my mouth to sing I could empty an auditorium in less than five minutes, possibly less. Shirley Hoyt, the piano teacher they employed, was what my grandmother referred to as a “maiden lady”. She lived with an aunt who bore the same title which indicated in both cases the ladies had never married. Shirley was a generously cut woman who wore her spectacles perched at the tip of a nose which rose prominently above an upper lip adorned by a hint of a moustache. Her salt and pepper hair was always held in check in a tight bun at the nape of her neck with bobby pins trying to escape here and there. The most distinctive thing about Miss Hoyt, as a I remember at least, was the ever prevalent aroma of moth balls floating around her which always made me feel the need to pinch my nose. The house always smelled as though the windows had never been opened causing the air to assume a musty and stale kind of odor. Tapestries covered the furniture in the parlor where the piano was as well as the bench we sat on when I took my lessons. Sometimes when I sat down a cloud of dust would rise in the air as though the room hadn’t been attended to in years. After six months of patient instruction I retained one song, “We Three Kings of Orient Are” which I can still play to this day. Though I don’t remember much else about the lessons other than my teacher, I do remember the bungalow. Even as a child I thought of it as a place that felt lacking in luster and life perhaps reflecting it’s occupants. Shirley was a lovely lady I am sure. I always wondered what her story was, why she had never found her prince or at least a mate. Perhaps we aren’t all destined to pair off, though it seems by all appearances we animals tend to break off in two’s naturally. Too late by many years to know the true story of her life, I guess I will be left to my active imagination to fill in the blank spaces.

So today I shall enjoy my space as I hope you enjoy yours. A brisk breeze is blowing beyond my window and the flowers in my garden are leaning to one side and then the other as it comes and goes. Hopefully soon we can reenter our lives but I guess for now we should enjoy a little break in the routine allowing us to recapture our serenity.

 

 

Nor’Easter

My groceries were delivered Friday. This is an event I’m beginning to dread. From now on I’m not checking the substitutions box. Got four packages of frozen broccoli, four different boxes of ice cream, and a carton of White Castle burgers in lieu of the meat I ordered. Are White Castles even a member of any of the four food groups? My guess is no.  Hmmmm. Trying to understand the logic of this but it still escapes me. By the time I washed everything, threw away all the bags and gloves, put the rest in the shed, and decontaminated and sanitized the house, I found I had lost interest in food entirely but liquor was beginning to sound pretty good. Sigh.

I did make masks last week, and the good times just keep on coming. They turned out really cute actually. The only fabric I had that was flannel had frogs on it so I’ll be somewhat of a trend setter. Ribbet. Can’t believe I’m now seeing ads for designer masks. Really? People will hop on board for anything in the midst of disaster I swear. According to an article I read yesterday Americans have been ripped off in the millions on virus scams. That particular aspect of humanity always makes my heart sad. The “hit em while they’re down” mentality. Wonder what makes people able to live with themselves after taking advantage of someone already suffering. Never get that.

Have to say I am getting so much done. I didn’t want to do most of it which is why it hadn’t been done up until now, but since my calendar is looking a bit bleak at moment doing something certainly trumps doing nothing at all, at least for me. I’m not a good sitter. Even while watching a movie, unless it is totally riveting, I usually have something else on my lap I’m working on like knitting or I succumb to the annoying habit of hopping up and down to fetch something from the kitchen, or if all else fails I simply doze off in place.

Easter Sunday has come and gone. I put out a few of my favorite bunnies around the house to make me feel a bit festive. Yesterday was spent talking to friends. The aroma of the pot roast and root vegetables we had for dinner still lingers in the air and in spite of all that seems wrong in the world something feels kind of right if only for the moment.

Missed seeing our littlest clan member gathering eggs and enjoying his chocolates but life is what it is. Acceptance has been a big part of my world for the past few years particularly with Rick passing. This pandemic is no exception. Along with accepting the reality of the virus, I can also accept I am cozy and safe for the moment. I can accept that the sun is shining brightly outside my window, and I’m about to go for a long walk in my beautiful neighborhood. I will be thankful for that. I got on Zoom yesterday for a family hello. Not my favorite way to communicate. Why is it everyone looks so odd on the screen, or maybe it’s just that I do?  At one point my cheeks looked like I was storing nuts for winter and a little while later I noticed my chin had begun to look like it extended beyond my navel. Maybe I’m doing it wrong? I need one of those APPS that has twenty-seven filters and adds bunny ears and a fake nose for effect.

These days when I drift off of late into daydreamland I keep picturing myself on a white sandy beach somewhere decidedly tropical. Closing my eyes I can luxuriate in the glorious feel of warm sand sifting through my toes mixed with the intoxicating smell of salt sea air. Calgon? Oh, I’m back. Being confined has reminded  me of how much I truly do miss the ocean. Definitely when freedom is again possible I am pointing my car west and finding a beach. Growing up on the eastern seaboard my soul calls to the the sea when I’m away from it too long like a lost child seeking it’s mother.  My grandmother’s house in Halifax, Nova Scotia where I spent my formative years, sat atop a hill overlooking the entrance to Halifax harbor. As a child I would sit on the ridge watching for hours as massive ships entered and left.  Cargo ships riding low in the water heavy with loads were my favorites. They would make their way slowly to the docks expertly guided by the tugs hugging their sides.  Living close to the sea you find it wears many faces. Some days the water dances with joy as nympths of light hop from wave to wave across the surface. Then on foggy nights when visibility was limited the sad song of the fog horns would lull me to sleep tucked snugly away in my bed on the second floor towards the back of the house. Looking back I can’t remember feeling anything but safe living in that house on the hill. Perhaps the security of those early years helped to make me strong for a life to be filled with twists and turns such I had yet to imagine?

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When around five years old my mother, a widow four years prior, began dating a rear admiral stationed aboard an aircraft carrier. One Sunday we were invited to tea on board ship. As usual I was imprisoned in shiny Mary Jane’s, a freshly pressed smocked dress, topped off with a little straw hat. Sigh. A tomboy from the tip of my grass stained toes to the top of my unruly curls, this, as you can imagine, was a fate worse than death. However, stepping on the deck of this massive conveyance is a memory well etched in mind. The surface seemed to extend to forever and infinity from my diminutive point of view. The rear admiral, “a tall drink of water” as my grandmother referred to him, guided us below deck to his quarters. What an experience. Tea was served by an officer assigned to see to such things and included the tea amenities as well as an assortment of finger sandwiches and a lovely variety of sweet tea cakes guaranteed to make a little girl’s heart smile. After that visit he had my vote to be my new daddy. Unfortunately I didn’t carry the majority in the house so mother moved on and I ended up with my first stepfather some three years later. We shan’t go there for now. Those stories are why I pay a therapist to listen to me.

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When left to my own thoughts my mind often goes off on journeys of it’s own. In search of a project I organized my drawers and shelves over the past week. Putting pictures in order and storing them to put in albums at another time brought up so many memories. Looking at my children’s fresh young faces standing before buildings now part of our history was a reminder, along with so many reminders lately, of how quickly life can change and how flexible we humans must be to keep up with the pace.

For some of us this pandemic has been a heavier hit than others. Certainly it has been an inconvenience for all of us and a financial burden for so many there is no denying that. I’m just saying some of us have carried more of the weight I believe. Doctors and nurses, for example, unable to return home to see their offspring for fear there might be a deadly hitchhiker riding on their skin or hidden in their clothing. People who have had to remain at a distance as their loved ones slipped away in a hospital they weren’t allowed to visit, then forced to mourn their passing alone or with a few family members at their sides. I’m finding myself feeling very thankful. It is not over yet.  Our planet has flexed it’s muscles and we who share it have felt the power of nature.  A wake up call? I am sure it is. I do hope we hear the message far beyond the time the immediate danger of becoming sick has passed. The L.A. basin is enjoying glorious blue skies for a change with the freeways not clogged with vehicles spewing toxins into the atmosphere. Though we humans may be suffering Mother Nature may, for the moment, be breathing a sweet sigh of relief for this brief reprieve.

I hope this finds you looking at the screen at familiar faces, or enjoying the smells emanating from your kitchens as well. Sending a virtual hug to all of you who are kind enough to stop by and read what I have written from time to time. Have a great day!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

I Swear

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Never thought I’d find myself in a position where not being able to go to the grocery store felt like I was being sent to my room. Sigh. It feels a bit like everything in our world is tainted. Before I pick something up I question if I should pick it up at all. If my answer is yes, I break out the gloves and disinfectant, and handle it as though it was a wrapped pack of dynamite sticks with a timer ticking down from ten seconds. Whew. Very stressful. The Tai Chi was helping with my stress until my back went out. At that point my back began playing for the other team. Timing is everything. Not being able to reach down can be limiting if one is living with just a cat for companionship. Miss Boo sat at her bowl yesterday expectantly waiting for me to fill it, looking down at the bowl and then up at me as if to say, “well”? The bowl was in it’s usual spot, but since I couldn’t pick it up, I filled another dish with kibble and set on the counter. I explained, slowly of course so the cat could understand me, “I can’t bend down right now”. Pointing to the dish on the counter I went on to say, “you will have to come up to my level if you wish to nourish yourself”. I don’t know if cats can actually put up one claw without extending the others but I believe her middle claw was straight up in the air before she made her way back down the hall.  Later I did find her seated on the counter next to her bowl licking the butter. I believe this was by way of a statement on her part.

Sometimes it seems to me when you are already dealing with a challenging situation it attracts other annoying situations to it like an industrial magnet. First my back falls out of line, literally, and next the sink in the front bathroom decides to go south. The stopper, usually a simple matter of pushing a lever up or down to operate is now stuck in the down position with a bowl of dirty water swirling around on top of it. Great. What to do? Can’t call my landlord or a plumber so I guess I just shut the door and pretend it isn’t there. Ignore-ance. This is a behavior my daughter suggested I employ when she was seven.  We were driving down the road when I poured a cup of hot coffee in my lap I was holding in my right hand while while making a left turn. Duh, I know. I never said I was the sharpest pencil in the box. Not wanting to pull up my usual selection of words kept handy for use on such occasions in front of her, I just said, “darn”. Sensing the burning coffee had not made my morning, my little girl said, “Mommy, just use ignore-ance”. Got it! I have used that premise since that day, of course later on in concurrence with my stash of words saved for such occasions.

Don’t know where I picked up my rich repertoire of colorful language. Perhaps my mother passed on one or two words. Certainly wasn’t my grandmother. My grandmother never swore in her lifetime as far as I know. The strongest declaration of anger I ever heard come out of her mouth was “mercy”. Not exactly a word that leaves strong men trembling in their boots. In spite of her lack of verbal armor she was a tough old woman. I recall a story about her when she was in her eighties. At the time she lived alone in her apartment.  One morning preparing to get ready to start her day while coming towards the kitchen she caught the image of a young man hiding by her front door reflected in her hall mirror. Grabbing my grandfather’s solid wood cane she rounded the corner and whacked him about the body until he opened the door and fled down the hall howling in pain. You go girl.

Now let me preface, I’m not implying here I have a prolific potty mouth. I do not. I do, however, from time to time feel the need to express myself in a potty mouth kinda way. Some who do not dabble in swearing at all, may say it shows a lack of intelligence to insert vulgar language into one’s speech. I can accept that. Nonetheless, if I have dropped an anvil on my foot, shouting “oh my goodness”, will absolutely not get the job done lowering my IQ or not. Most of us if prone to swearing might have one or two “favorites” we lean on from the familiar “bad word list”. The words available to us when stronger language is called for than “gosh” or “my, my”. Some people may even combine several choice selections from the bad words list when using them to add impact to a particularly passionate statement.

So, as I said my week got off to a rocky start. A friend who I trust to be totally honest about observing no contact came to my rescue since I seemed to be unable to help myself. He began his visit by locking his truck, a good idea generally unless you have left both your keys and your dog inside. Welcome to my world. After choosing a lovely word, one of my personal favs, from the bad word list he dialed Triple A who sent someone out here spit spot (if you will) after learning there was an animal in the vehicle. Observing all the correct social distancing the vehicle was disinfected, the dog rescued, and life, as they say returned  to normal. (Well, whatever normal might be these days because the definition of normal has become definitely blurred over the past month or so.)

Interesting side fact, the “s” word s_ _ _, often found in the middle of “up _ _ _ _ creek” or “_ _ _ _ faced” is the oldest record curse word, dating back about 1,000 years.

Words, bad or good, fascinate me. Personally I believe your intent might be malicious when using a specific word but the word itself is innocent of any wrong doing. Using words to form a story that can be slanted in so many directions depending on how you arrange them is tantalizing to my imagination. Because I have always been such an avid reader and grew up in a household where words of all sizes and shapes were tossed about willy nilly, I have accumulated a fairly extensive vocabulary.  A dear friend and I share a “word of day” on the phone each morning. I try to come up with a word he has not yet conquered and he borrows it and makes it his own. Another thing I do which stimulates word knowledge is do crosswords and play a lot of Scrabble. My mother is an excellent Scrabble player. For many years this was something we shared. Even now with the dementia manning the wheel from time to time she can still come up with impressive words to place on the board. It may take her longer, of course. Sometimes I cook dinner or knit an afghan before it’s my turn, but I don’t mind. The fun after all is in the game not the winning. Can’t believe I said that. Such a lie. Our family is very competitive. The fun is in the winning.

Have a great day. I hope it won’t be long before we can close the book on this dark chapter and go forward with our lives. I wish all of you a safe and virus free week.

 

 

 

 

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Had my groceries delivered to my door for the first time last night. Ordering on line was a piece of cake (so to speak), but putting everything away was the challenge. Do I lather up each item with soap and water or coat the food I am planning to put in my mouth with disinfectant wipes? Hmmmm. Door 1 or Door 2? I heard not to wash fruits and vegetables with soap and water. This, if you do, apparently will allow you more time for reading in the bathroom. Washing with water or scrubbing with a vegetable brush should do the trick. Check. Took me over an hour to figure out how to make everything safe to bring inside and I’m not the least convinced any of it actually is. Someday, if blessed, we’re going to say we lived through this assault on our population. For now, however, we are deep in it and I am running out of gloves. The kid who brought the groceries looked to be about twelve. Guess they are having trouble hiring people. He waved at me through the window and smiled displaying a mouth full of braces. What an odd time. I gloved up and sorted through my bags on the front porch. When ordering I checked the substitutions acceptable box. I didn’t know this meant if you ordered toothpaste if out they could send you Preparation H. I had to pull the paperwork on the order to see what my original intention was on so many items. Ah well, I shall not complain, or is it too late for that?

There are so many mixed messages floating around. One’s whole perspective can be based on what TV news channel you tune in to.  A friend will call suggesting one plan of action and ten minutes later someone else will call to tell me something totally the opposite. On the plus side I, am tearing through Tai Chi and meditation videos like applesauce through a baby trying to keep my energy and my mood in check.

If the social networks I frequent are any gauge, everybody seems to be in the kitchen cooking including myself. At my house last weekend it was banana muffins, today it is chocolate chip cookies. Thank God for Yoga pants. When not feeding my face, I am catching up on my paperwork. Yesterday I went through a stack of stuff I have been avoiding for months clearing off my desk. That was gratifying. I rewarded myself with a muffin, and quite possibly a muffin top, if I don’t find another way to find my joy.

If, as I said in the first paragraph you have indeed washed your fruit in soap and water and are spending more time in the bathroom, good news! Yesterday an anchor on a morning show said with so many people confined to their houses, reading has made a comeback. I hadn’t realized it had gone out of style. If I don’t have a book on a table somewhere in my house I feel naked. Reading is an integral part of my life. I’ve mentioned often I like the feel of a book in my hands. Kindle is fine for those of you who enjoy it but I like to actually turn the page and place a bookmark in a physical book before placing it on the nightstand and turning out the light. Just me, sort of a personality quirk.

Most of us have our little quirks, some more distinctive than others. Food quirks can be interesting. For example, I knew a man once who had to touch his food to the end of his nose before eating it, and another who had to sniff everything before it entered his mouth. Some people don’t like their food to touch on the plate or eat each menu offering in a specific order, potato, peas, meatloaf, repeat. I lean towards counting my food. For a snack I often have four crackers and four small chunks of cheese. Not five, not three, but four. I know! Most likely a food disorder tucked in there somewhere. Some people swear catsup on eggs is the best while others gag at the thought. A close friend of mine dips his grilled cheese sandwiches in catsup.  Once I dated a man with a very selective palette. Menu choices in his case were limited to corn, peas, potatoes, and meat. At twenty-seven a green vegetable had never crossed his lips and there wasn’t one fruit other than bananas he would consume. Cooking for him was about as challenging as watching the grass grow. The only boy in a family with four girls raised by a single mom, mom was a dominant presence in his life. The way she told it she had never insisted as a child he do anything that didn’t make him happy. After a short time I gave him back to her with a note pinned to his lapel, “Returning attached – he doesn’t make me happy”.

This train of thought took me to other men I’ve known along the way. Having been married four times this is an engine having left the station often and been derailed as many times as it has begun a trip.  One of the men in my life, shall we call him No. 2, lined his clothes up in the closet according to days. Monday, navy suit with white shirt and red tie, brown shoes, etc. You get the idea. This routine never deviated as long as I knew him. Had a tornado alert been issued warning “imminent danger, run do not walk immediately to the shelter” when pushing across the yard, wind pressing his lips back from his face, shingles flying through the air, if it was Monday he would have be wearing his navy suit. I’m not lyin’ here.

Aside from quirks people also have “tells”. Tells are subtle body movements or behaviors letting others know what they are thinking. Gamblers often speak of these. A player who twitches his right eyebrow when sitting on a royal flush or another who perpetually clears his throat when bluffing about the pair of twos he’s holding in his hand. When lying, a person may display any number of telltale hints their story is not true. Could always tell when my children were knee deep in the throes of a whopper. Young people, well known for providing one word answers such as “nothin” when asked what they are doing, suddenly become founts of information when involved in a lie. They go into such vivid detail relating their story you could write a novel around the plot they have woven and create a best seller.

Body language tells can also include animals. Makes me think of those funny videos showing dogs caught with pieces of batting hanging from their mouths standing next to a destroyed piece of furniture. They stare pitifully at the wall or divert their eyes while questioned by their owners about who tore up the couch. Reminds me of Barnaby, a golden retriever we had many years ago. He really was comical. At times when he lived with me I found him less than funny, but looking back he makes me chuckle. One weekend we had invited friends from my husband’s office, a couple and their two kids, over for dinner. The wife was kind enough to have baked a delicious looking white coconut cake. Yum. After consuming a huge dinner a walk seemed in order. I left the cake on the table. On the way back the conversation turned to the cake and everyone was looking forward to enjoying a piece. Gathering some plates and utensils when home I went in search of dessert. The table in the dining room was empty except for a trail of coconut extending down to the floor and forming a line across the hardwood floor. Hmmmm. Following the suspicious evidence down the hall it ended at my bedroom where I found Barnaby sitting in the corner facing the wall tail wagging nervously. Knowing he was in trouble it appeared he had already put himself on a time out. “Barnaby”, I asked, “what did you do”? More tail wagging ensued but he never looked my way.  When I went to stand next to him his tail began to nearly beat a hole in the carpet. Looking down I could see his ridiculous dog face was now a mass of coconut and frosting. The empty well licked plate was all that remained of the cake.

I get it, Barn, lying isn’t in my wheelhouse either. Should I ever need to lie to save my life I’ll need to have a prayer in reserve to slip in before I go. My face gets red, I shift from one foot to the other, I overstate, and generally leave all my cards face up on the table. Couldn’t be more transparent if “LIAR” raised up emblazoned across my chest. Not a good scene for me.

Another interesting personality tic is how superstitious people behave. People who won’t step on cracks in the pavement or refuse to walk under ladders for fear of bad luck descending on them. Beings for whom Friday the 13th is a day to stay home, pull the covers over their heads, and hope for the best. One guy I dated back in my twenties entertained an interesting superstition. It seemed he had struck a good luck bargain with the statue of Jesus bobbing back and forth on his dashboard. He raced U-boats or what they call unlimited hydroplane boats, more of a death wish than a vocation to my estimation. These boats skim across the water at speeds upwards of 200 MPH.  Each time we entered or exited his car I observed him giving Jesus a friendly pat on the head before securing or releasing his seat belt. When I questioned why he was doing this he said he believed performing this ritual would keep him safe during his races. I guess this is sort of like football players wearing the same pair of socks, or baseball players allowing their beards to grow during the season to ensure their team makes it to the playoffs.

Funny isn’t it no matter how alike we may be we each have little differences which make us unique and well, distinctly us? Sort of like personal fingerprints. So from distinctly me to distinctly you have a great and healthy day.

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Lobster tales

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Lordy, I am tired of me.  Thank God my therapist does phone sessions. Self reflection, so they say, is good for the soul, but too much introspection is, well fattening. Last weekend I baked delicious banana muffins with cream cheese frosting so as to use up the bananas before they ended up in the trash bin. As an aside, is it just me or does it seem like the bananas start getting brown spots somewhere between the store and home the day you buy them? Can’t understand that. Don’t remember it used to be that way but then I can’t remember what I had for breakfast. What’s weird about making twenty-four muffins is I don’t have a sweet tooth, never have. Well, when I was a little pudgy girl I did have a bent for pastries and chocolate but that desire dissolved with the extra fifteen pounds I was carrying when I reached my twenties and has never really returned since then…..until now. Sigh. My Achilles heel would be salt. I would sell world secrets for a basket of great curly fries. Pringle’s are my closet addiction. When all this started I only had five cans on hand and nearly had a breakdown.

For the most part I am a very healthy eater. There is really not a vegetable I don’t like, well other than okra and I’m not a huge fan of kale. Sorry to all you southerners who are going to tell me I just haven’t had okra cooked the right way. I’ve had them fried, boiled, in gumbo, in stew, baked and skewered and they never got any tastier. Slime in the end, is still slime even if you bread it. So far I haven’t found any fruit I simply cannot abide. I have a dear friend who would rather be shot in the foot than eat fruit. Blueberries, sweet little morsels of deliciousness I eat almost daily, she finds completely without taste. Her parents lived in the far northern regions of British Columbia when she was growing up without easy access to fresh fruit. This formed her taste palette which she’s carried through until today. On the other hand I called her last week and she said she’d call me back she was making a tongue sandwich. Ok, ewwww. I too had tongue growing up. As I remember likely having blocked it out, it wasn’t totally disgusting but I have seen the whole tongues sitting in the meat section at the market and kept right on walking by.  Nova Scotia cuisine is highly influenced by the British Isles so another menu item I no longer enjoy that showed up on the table was beefsteak and kidney pie. Sorry, anything you have to soak urine out of in order to eat is not going to be a part of my dinner plans. Sweetbreads were a favorite of my second husband. Sweetbreads are thymus glands or pancreas I believe. Please don’t quote me, organ meats are not my strong suit. Satisfying his desire for these was usually a going out to dinner situation as I had no clue how to prepare them nor any desire to learn.  Rick enjoyed both liver and hearts. When we were in Paris visiting his mother who made her home there, we went to a beautiful restaurant for dinner. Rick and his mother ordered Foie Gras as an appetizer. Foie gras, it was explained to me, is goose or duck liver which has been enlarged through a special feeding technique. Check please. No emails, not one tiny tidbit of that poor bird’s liver made it’s way on my fork.

We all have family favorites. Our food tastes are usually formed by what our parents put on the table when we were children. So many people have told me over the years they prefer their mother’s potato salad to any other, or believe their grandma’s turkey stuffing to be the tastiest they’ve ever eaten. Since I have too much time on my hands at the moment and this causes me to think, I can’t help wonder if using this premise if your mother was a terrible cook you grow up disliking good food. Something to ponder when you’re studying the pattern on your bathroom tile.

I think children should be allowed to have food preferences. Just like adults not all children are going to like blue cheese dressing or want a second helping of Brussels sprouts. I do think they need to explore a new taste before deciding they don’t like it, but if after trying it several times they still choose not to partake perhaps that is all right. If liver had showed up on my plate every night when I was a kid I guarantee you we’d have had a very fat dog. On the other hand a child can’t just decide to eat nothing but Dorito’s and bean dip either. There is a happy medium to be found. When my two were young my daughter disliked onions and my son pickles. I didn’t stop using onions when I cooked, however if my daughter choose not to eat them I didn’t insist she had to, nor did I put pickles on my son’s hamburger knowing he didn’t like them. Maybe as parents we don’t always have to have our way. I’m just sayin’.

Growing up in the maritimes, fish was a staple at our house. Lobster was a constant because it was plentiful. Far less of a delicacy, other than flavor, than it is on restaurant menus in the U.S. My grandfather would get the lobsters right out of the traps.  A huge pot of boiling water was prepared and into the pot they went. Being a lover of animals and creatures of all types, this was not a process I participated in until much later in life. In my twenties I bought four live lobsters for a Valentine’s dinner I was hosting for myself and my date and another couple. The meat department wrapped the four condemned inmates in butcher paper and handed them to me to be paid for on my way out. Watching the paper pulse and move in the cart as I pushed it along made me a bit squeamish as I made my way to the front of the store. Placing the package on the conveyor belt with my other items the checker made her way to the lobsters, wrapped her hand around the package, screamed and propelled them in the air where it landed on top of a pile of Presto logs. “It moved”, she was yelling at me. “Well yes, they are live lobsters, hello?” I told her for the price I’d paid for them rather than cavalierly throwing them in the air, she could be calling a limo to give them a ride home. I retrieved the package myself, placed it in the bag and paid for my items. I was told by the butcher to put them in the refrigerator overnight and cook them no later than the next day. K.

Opening the refrigerator I deposited the package on the lower shelf, draped a damp cloth over them and shut the door. The thought that I’d just closed livings things in my fridge did not escape me. The process did not go unnoticed by the cat either, blessed with a feline’s keen sense of smell. If I opened a can of tuna no matter where that animal was in the house she would be appear next to my feet before I could say albacore.  Thinking she had at last hit the mother lode, she laid next to the refrigerator until the following day when I took the four crustaceans out and set them on the counter. One of them raised a claw and pointed at me. I swear. In my mind I heard “murderer”. Sigh. My friends arrived. The men were in the living room eagerly anticipating a fabulous meal. My girlfriend and I stood over the boiling water looking at the lobsters and then at one another. Head first was what I was told. Hmmmm. Being dropped in a pot of boiling water does it really matter which way you go in? They say it’s most likely not painful, but who are they exactly and has someone actually conversed with the lobster on this?  Nonetheless, I lifted one by the tail, closed my eyes and let it go. The screaming began immediately. I later learned this was caused by air escaping around the shell, but to this day…….? At any rate the men were called in to dispatch the other three. My friend and I ate tuna sandwiches while both men devoured a two lobster Valentine dinner. I have had lobster and cooked it many times since then, but never cooked it live myself.

My maternal grandmother grew up on a farm. She told me you get used to sacrificing animals raised on the farm to feed the family. Once she told me the farm would sometimes get overrun by kittens in the spring. Feral cats were plentiful and needed to keep the rodent population manageable. When too many kittens became a problem, my great grandmother would take a burlap bag and put them in it with a rock and head down to the stream. I shall not go into further detail but you get the gist. Guess I’m just not farm material.

Signing off for now. Make the best of the day. Stay well.

 

 

 

 

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