Wednesday, November 23, 2022

How's Your Thanksgiving Prep Going?


 In the true spirit of Dept. Holiday Preparation and Appliance Loyalty, I am awaiting a visit from the HVAC company. Our furnace is leaking--has been, apparently--and forms not only a little lagoon around itself, but a nice little group of tributaries that wander off in search of the drain.

Additionally, on Sunday I discovered the condition you see above, under my kitchen sink. It seems our faucet had been leaking, too, from its pull-out sprayer. Rick remedied that, thank goodness, and on Monday morning I could put stuff back under the sink. All it cost us was a new faucet and most of his day. (Does anyone ever make only one trip to the home-improvement store?)

Today, as I await the furnace repairman, I got busy dusting. I grabbed the yellow can and set to work on all the tables and the leather furniture. Only when I went to put it back did I notice that I had been liberally spraying and wiping with Lysol disinfectant, not Behold furniture polish. 

Am I going back and doing it over? Hell. No. I'm coming off of a three-day migraine and Thanksgiving is tomorrow. If the furnace repairman gives me some bullshit about parts and delays, I might swat him with my (hopefully fully thawed) turkey. Violence, however, solves nothing; it's more likely that I simply cry.

"These are the times that try men's souls," said Thomas Paine, who was clearly not talking about The Holidays. Every single person in the world knows that Women are the Holiday Bringers. 

Keep your fingers crossed that I make it out of this one. Happy Thanksgiving.

Saturday, November 05, 2022

I'm Back, All Stocked Up, And Feeling Pretty Good About November

 Apparently, I needed about a month off.

I wish I could tell you that all that Time was Time Well Spent, but in truth, most of it was taken up by Slothful Malaise. All of you know that I have the Best Intentions, but they all fall by the wayside because I am not a dedicated writer. Few things receive my Dedication, actually, one of them being Dickinsonian capitalization. Obviously.

Anyway, I digress.

One of the wonderful things that took up my Time was a jaunt northward to Canada for a few days, specifically to Niagara-on-the-Lake again, our favourite place. We had last been in June for a party at my International Husband's winery, and we needed to restock. This time, we were on a hunt for one wine in particular, Cabernet Franc. It's hard to find as a single varietal in the States, and Ontario does it beautifully. Our search was rewarded and our cellar is smiling.

We had another three hour session with Andrzej at Big Head Wines where we tasted pretty much everything in their portfolio plus some wines still in the tanks and barrels, and wines yet to be released but bottled. At one point the table was so full of empty glasses that his wife wheeled a cart over and admonished him to load it with the empties before they started running out. As usual, we were enthralled listening to him explain the processes and decisions that went into each wine. Not only does it delight the Wine Nerd in each of us, but it also enhances each bottle we open to drink later on:  it immediately evokes those memories, and we are right back there again each time.

Six cases later we were back home, enjoying not only gorgeous wine, but the same lovely weather we had in NotL. The autumn colours hit their peak in NEO, and the trees were in their glory, especially those with orange leaves. They're all but over now, down on the ground so that I can shuffle and crunch through them on my walks, but they were spectacular.

November is being much kinder so far than October in weather. Some of October was downright shitful--the rain, the cold, the endless cloudiness. I thought it might do me in, either with arthritis or gloominess. My arthritis is still here, but I feel less like smacking everyone (and myself), so that's Progress.

Catch me up on your Wine (do you know/like Cab Franc?), October Jaunts, and Start Of November in Comments.

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Friday, October 07, 2022

In Which I Talk About Fall, Robins, Lovely Views, And The Little Tree That Could

(This quote was NOT said by Daisy, but by Jordan. It's a lot of work to redo this graphic, so this correction has to do.)

N
ot much is happening except for Fall trying to figure itself out. It is definitely here, but it is having a hard time settling in and unwinding. We've had a few frost warnings, many days of blustery north winds off Lake Erie, and more rain than I care for. Sunshine has been in short supply, but there were two magnificent days of low seventies, slight breezes, and warm autumn sun that revived us all. On those days my walks were glorious.

The robins, who had disappeared sometime in August, are suddenly back. When they vanished, it was incredibly strange because it was all at once and completely. One day there were simply none at all anyplace, and it is the same with their return. A few days ago, they were everywhere again, on my walk, in my yard, and in neighboring trees. I'd mention it in conversation with my mother, but she interprets everything now as a sign that it's going to be a hard winter, and I am sick of hearing about it. Lots of pine cones? Hard winter coming. Less leaves turning colours this month? Hard winter coming. See a chubby squirrel? I think you get my drift. 

I won't be showing her this photo; I took it on my walk yesterday. It's either a crabapple or apple tree, and it's put out new blossoms on a few branches:

There are more in several other areas of the tree, but this is a representative sample. (I know:  it's going to be a hard winter, right?) I don't know what's up with this odd occurrence, but I like this tree's attitude, and I told it so. 

I have a good relationship with a great many trees on my route. I've just grown fond of these two baby redbud trees based solely upon their fashion sense. They've mastered the Art Of Ombre:


These sisters are in the same yard, and they're going to be even more beautiful when they start producing flowers. 

This Fall is full of mysteries so far. Many, many of our trees are still lushly green. Some trees have only a few big limbs that have turned colour completely. Yards still need to be mowed regularly when it isn't raining. In the herb garden, only the basil has been pulled out. The rest of the herbs still flourish (an understatement when it comes to my sage). A juvenile redheaded woodpecker frequents my feeder; isn't it awfully late for young birds?

This weekend we are dry-docking the boat and putting the deck furniture in the storage shed. Lake season will officially be over. We never completely close up the house, and we'll probably still weekend there from time to time. Here's a sunrise photo taken from the bedroom view on a September morning:


The fog soon lifted, and we had another lovely day.


Earlier in September, we had this sunset:

No need for filters--it's an awe-inspiring display on its own. I'll miss boat rides; they afforded us the best views for sunsets. Still, it's not good to become spoiled.

Talk to me of your Fall in Comments. Are you noticing, like me, anything unusual?


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Tuesday, September 27, 2022

Look What I Found!

 Quite unintentionally, I found some fun stuff last week. Now you get to look at it, too.

I have a terribly sad history with Cheetos. In 2003 I had to break up with them after they turned on me in a gastric episode that stays with me still. When I saw this bag of Lay's Cheeto flavoured potato chips, I literally did a double-take. Then I stood there, trying to decide whether to take the risk and try them. The amount of hemming and hawing I did was ridiculous and pathetic. I'm sure that someone saw me and commented about it on their Twitter account: Some crazy woman is mesmerized by the new cheeto lays chips. Shoot me if I ever get that enthralled by snacks.

Anyway, I bought them (of course I did) and we tried them. 

Meh. 

And they ended up making me a little bit nauseated, so Cheetos--we're still broken up after all.




Spiders, especially the daddy longlegs kind, and spider webs are the bane of my existence at the lake. Every weekend I'm trying to get rid of the damn things in every conceivable nook and cranny. I found this duster at my goofy grocery store and bought it. It's on a nice long handle. I took it and my groceries up to the cashier, a diminutive elderly man with an impeccable haircut.

Cashier:  Wow, look at that thing!
Me:  I know. It's ridiculous.
Cashier: They should have put trump's picture on it.
Me:  Ugh. Then I wouldn't have bought it.
Cashier: (fixing me with a keen look) Oh sure you would. 
Me: Oh, so I'd have the pleasure of getting him all dirty? Yeah, maybe so!
Cashier:  What a crook! You know, my wife is the most laid-back, gentle person. But any time she hears his name, she goes off. That guy...what a jerk. What a crook.
(Woman behind me laughs and nods)
Me:  I couldn't agree more. 





Finally, I found this treasure in my Cleveland Plain Dealer over the weekend. Yes, it's rife with grammatical errors, but that's not my favourite thing about it. I know once you read it, you'll be as delighted as I am with what you find. 

I certainly hope you are similarly Up To Date and feeling fine because of it. Regularity is often something for which to be Thankful, is it not? 

Enjoy your week, and I hope you find things to brighten it up. Talk to me about Finds in Comments.


Friday, September 16, 2022

The Soundtracks Of My Life


M
y life has a lot more Music in it lately. Jared included us in his Music streaming service plan, and being able to listen to exactly what I want to hear with no ads was revolutionary. Now I understand why both my sons sit for a few moments in the driveway after we said our goodbyes; getting one's Music set up is sort of a big deal.

Because I'm old, I immediately started a playlist of a bunch of songs I loved from forever ago spanning the 70s to the present. Do you want to hear Carole King or Carly Simon? I've got you covered. How about a little Matchbox 20 or Bruce Springsteen? Here you go. Eminem, John Mayer, Steely Dan, Sam Smith, Aretha? Of course. Jeffrey James or James Bay or maybe The Weeknd? Let me play Al Green first. And that's just a little sampling (I even have Milli Vanilli; I loved those songs) because I keep adding more songs to this big bloated playlist rather than make a separate one. Why make things workier than I have to?

Sometimes, though, I need some Music that's very serene and relaxing. I don't want words and I don't want a melody that my brain has to follow. I needed that desperately a few weeks ago, and thankfully, I found a ready-made mix called Mellow Cello. That led me to Yo Yo Ma, and I discovered that I have a deep appreciation for cello Music. It's calming and beautiful, and Yo Yo Ma's artistry is profound. 

I like that this service tries to figure me out and make mixes for me, too. Sometimes it does a pretty good job. Other times, it bores me to death or strikes out terribly. It also has a pre-made mix of something they named Yacht Rock, and I have no idea why it's called that. Do aging rockers really sit on expensive boats and listen to songs like Africa by Toto, Brandy by Looking Glass, The Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes, Into the Night by Benny Mardones, and Summer Breeze by Seals and Crofts? 

I will say that when Sam and Jared have joined us on the boat this summer and we drop anchor to do a little day drinking, they are in charge of the Music. They do not choose Yacht Rock. Instead, Sam brings his bluetooth speaker and fires up Hip Hop BBQ. This Music also gives my brain a break because I don't know any of the songs except for a few words here and there. Once in a while, I make reference to how many times the rappers/artists say "In da club," and the boys assure me that only Old School Hip Hop Artists say that anymore. I'll take their word for it because they would know and it's not my genre.

Quite often I'll simply tune into WCLV, the classical Music station, as I'm driving. I've discovered that there is a great deal of classical Music that I do not care for. Some of it sounds like they're throwing their instruments down a flight of steps. Some of it sounds like jazz, but with an orchestra. At times, violins irritate me. I've listened to enough Debussy to know that I don't like his stuff. 

I still like my Quiet, and it's rare that I play Music at home when I'm alone. I also don't play Music when I take my walks. It is, however, good to welcome Music back into my life. 

Tuesday, September 13, 2022

For The Birds


I have a long, long history as a Bird Enthusiast, documented already in this post from years ago. It's perplexing how I can retain so much Bird Knowledge, yet forget where in the heck I set my phone down or on which streaming service the show we're watching can be found. Right now I can hear a cardinal outside the window. I don't even have to go and check to see if I'm right.

This, however, was supposed to be The Summer Of The Blue Jay. If you remember, I was setting peanuts out on my porch in a ceramic dish every morning, and a blue jay was coming for breakfast. My goal was to get that blue jay (which I named Sassy) to eventually take a peanut from my hand. Well, that didn't happen, and I sure didn't think up enough names for my Breakfast Club.

I did try to sit out on my porch quietly, but my blue jay just screamed its annoyance and stayed away. Because I am a little bit of an anthropomorphizer and a little bit of an empath, I had to give up after several tries. It just made me feel bad. So I settled for calling, "Sassy!" after I placed the peanuts, and went in and sat on the couch by the window. Very soon, Sassy would come, and I'd say his (? her?) name a few times softly as he took his time choosing the right nut. Then he'd fly away, returning quickly for the next.

It wasn't long before Sassy's Peanut Buffet became common knowledge among the Blue Jay Community. At least four different blue jays are now breakfasting at my house, observed not just by me, but by the resident cats, Marlowe and Piper, too. Even when I put peanuts on the table directly under our gaze, the blue jays hop up and grab their meal. The jays never eat together, but always wait until each one leaves before swooping in.

I'm calling it a Win. 

In other Victorious Bird News, I have successfully repelled squirrels from my backyard feeder by stirring cayenne pepper into the birdseed. It's astonishing how effective it is. It's dramatically cut down the chipmunk traffic in the yard as well. Now if I could find a way to keep starlings away, that would be even better. Redheaded woodpeckers are abundant, even at my little stick-on window feeder that entertains the cats. The robins, who appeared in February this year and were everywhere, suddenly disappeared midsummer. I'm noticing more female cardinals than males. Does any of this mean anything? Who knows. 

Finally, here's a bit of an Oddment:  In my entire life I've never found a cardinal feather. I've found countless blue jay feathers, starling and grackle feathers, and brown feathers from any number of sparrows or whatever. At the lake we find goose feathers quite often, and we've found duck feathers, too. Have you ever found that beautiful red feather?

Enjoy your September now that we're in its midst. How did that happen?


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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Cheers To Seventeen Years: The Dept. Of Nance Is 17

 

I just realized that the Dept. of Nance is Seventeen this month. It seems impossible, but I've been writing here for Seventeen years. Aside from marriage, motherhood, teaching, and voting Democrat, I'm hard pressed to think of anything else I've devoted myself to with that sort of determined longevity. 

Admittedly, writing here has not received the same sort of fervent attention all along that the other four above have consistently enjoyed. As my students used to say years ago, My Bad.(And that would be eleven years ago, by the way. I retired from teaching high school English in 2011. It's one of the many milestones recorded here at the Dept.)

Isn't that some of the value of writing a weblog--to have a timeline, a record of your life and your perspectives over the years? Sometimes a diary or journal can be too emotional and introspective. Here, under the gaze of intimate strangers, we can tell the stories of our lives without the asides, the footnotes, and the companion text.

Seventeen years have seen a great many changes in my life, and so many have been positive. Some of the positive changes have come from hardships and challenges. Others have come from hard work and perseverance, plain and simple. Still others have been luck--the good fortune of timing. Many have been because I was willing to learn from my mistakes. 

Within those Seventeen years has been some heartbreak as well. Most often, that heartbreak is having to say goodbye to people I have grown to love. Other times, it's letting go of expectations that are no longer possible. Sometimes, it's simpler than all of that. For someone as stubborn as I am, pure acceptance can be difficult.

And, I'm surprised to say that in these Seventeen years, I actually have learned some Patience after all. As so many of my LongTime Readers know, it has never been my gift, but I work hard on it every day. I'm learning to Slow Down--finally!--and that is helpful with finding my Patience. It may not be there for me every time, but I'm finding reserves of it more and more. 

Thank you for being with me here at the Dept. of Nance as I write about the world around me from my perspective. Some of you have been with me for a long, long time. Some of you have have joined me In Progress. I hope you all look forward to what I have to say.

Here's to more years ahead with fewer days (weeks!) in between. Again, thank you all so much for reading here. I value your presence more than you know.

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Friday, July 29, 2022

When I Went Bananas And Took My BFF And Rick With Me (And A Little Politics)

 

It's back to the Bananas War with me again. Devoted readers will recall that, back in April 2021, I introduced you to my Ongoing Outrage at the price of Bananas at my funny grocery store. I continue to not only fuss about the Banana Fee, but I also faithfully text a photo of the sign (and price) to my BFF Leanne in Maryland. 

I know she appreciates these Vital Bulletins and that they enrich her life immeasurably.

Not so long ago, it pained me to have to send this message to Leanne:

(That is not, by the way, a photo of Leanne. That is a picture of her Boston terrier, Stella.) And I truly did not buy the wretched BananaS.

The following week I went to a different town so that I could shop the same store and avoid the dumb spelling of BananaS. They were still 59 cents a pound, but I took it as a win.

Soon after, Rick had a day off, and he accompanied me to the grocery store in town. He is brave and tall, so this happened:

(Sadly, I did not have a red pen, but Rick pulled down both signs--one from each side--so that I could make the necessary correction to both:  no apostrophe for plurals!) I felt victorious and overflowing  with relief. The whole world seemed somehow righted. I smiled and felt...lighter. I didn't even mind paying 59 cents a pound for BananaS.

The following week I strode confidently to the produce department. I looked up at the sign for BananaS and was rewarded tenfold. I couldn't wait to text Leanne!



Indeed. I may be retired, but I am still Out There, Defending And Promoting The Language. Teaching In The Wild, as it were. It never stops, you know. 

Until it does.

Because here's what I found the last time I went to the grocery store.


Bless her. We have a motto, Leanne and I. Everything crummy can eventually be traced back to the republicans. And she can always make me laugh.

Want to give it a try, tracing this Sign Saga back to republicans? Do you have a BananaS Story to share? Have you ever corrected a sign? Can you relate to my Pain or are you the Leanne in this story?
Or, just natter away in Comments about the Silliness Of It All.

Thursday, July 07, 2022

Time For A Cerebral Sweep: Cranial Clutter That Needs To Be Dumped


 How about a little Random This 'N That sort of post to clear out some of my Thought Nerfuls that have been bouncing around my brain? I need a sort of Cerebral Sweep, and I don't want to fuss about format much, either. Here we go.

Stuff I Meant To Mention Awhile Back

1. I won the Fantasy Basketball Championship for our league back in...March? I beat out 9 men for the coveted virtual trophy and bragging rights. I won't bore you with the details, but I do want to mention that I was without my core of stars for most of the playoffs, and I had to pull off miracles. 

2. Zydrunas's DNA results came back and he is a mix of pit bull and American bully breeds. No boxer in there at all, which surprised me. He could not care less about this info, and honestly, either could we.

The Politics

1. I have not missed a January 6 Hearing yet, and I watch with a mix of astonishment, smug validation, admiration, and frustration. And General Outrage. Liz Cheney and I have zero in common politically, and I can't see myself championing her candidacy for much of anything, but she is laying it down in these hearings. This Committee is outstanding in its preparation, presentation, and its command of the facts in evidence. The DOJ had better come through.

2. SCOTUS is breathtaking in its corruption. The ruling overturning Roe v Wade is a travesty; Alito's writings are almost insane. The fact that Clarence Thomas is still adjudicating matters brought before the court while his wife is implicated in the Insurrection taints any and all decisions (or even debates) he is involved in. A major correction is needed, and what shape that takes (expansion to match the number of federal circuit courts or losing tainted judges appointed by a seditionist president) should be decided soon.

3. Young Sorta-Democratic voters need to stop getting stuck on student debt forgiveness and understand that there are other critical issues facing them and their future. Or--failing that--they need to ask themselves, "Who is more likely to ever forgive my debt at any time, a Democrat or a republican?" and vote with that in mind. Duh.

Life In General

1. I am feeding a blue jay with raw peanuts in the shell on my front porch at home. Every morning, early, I leave them in a little ceramic dish on the table and watch as it flies in and grabs one. If the windows are open, I talk to it quietly. (I've even named it, Sassy.)  My next move is to be out there when it comes to feed, sitting still and quiet. I am working up to having it eat from my hand.

2. Rick is on vacation this week, so we are spending a great deal of it at the lake. Jared and Sam came down for boating and fireworks and brought Zydrunas. I spent most of the hour-long show lying on top of the dog, who was trembling with terror. Eventually, as I spoke to him and he felt my weight keeping him safe, he was able to relax and feel better. 

3. I planted dill from seed that I harvested from my dill last year. It did not come up. I have dill, however, all over the place where I did not plant it. It is everywhere except in my herb garden, where I planted it. Regardless, I have a lot of dill, so Yay! I've already made quarts and quarts of pickles.

4. I was reading names of 2022 graduates, and I love this one:  Mysterious Destiny.  Obviously, I won't give the student's last name, but how great of a name is that? And how very, very true.

  Talk to me of Things You Forgot To Mention, The Politics, or Life In General in Comments. And wouldn't you agree that Mysterious Destiny is aptly named? From the moment we take our first breaths in the world, little about our journeys here can be known. How different we all thought our lives would be right now, even five years ago! Mysterious Destiny's mother is a poet and a prophet.


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Thursday, June 16, 2022

Wine Weekend

O
, Canada! Thank you for being there after all these months and months and months of separation! The Things About You We Love Best were all still there, almost exactly as we had left them. It felt so very good to be back.

The last time we were in Canada--in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, specifically--was well before the pandemic. In the ensuing months/years, our wine cellar dwindled sadly, and we missed all of our friends. Each time we drank the last bottle of a particular wine from Canada, we sighed wistfully, wondering how long it would be until we would be able to go back.

An invitation to Big Head Wines' (our favourite winery) New Release party on 5 June showed up in my email late in May. Rick and I had been to their last big party back in 2018, before Covid made such things impossible. We researched travel requirements for driving to Canada, Rick got the time off approved for a quick jaunt north, and we RSVP'd happily that yes, we'd be there. They kindly booked a tasting for us the day before the party. 
They know us so well.

Our stay would be short--arriving Saturday and leaving Monday--with the party on Sunday afternoon. We decided that we wouldn't try to cram a lot of stuff into the abbreviated weekend, but instead focus on relaxing, reconnecting with friends, and good wine. So we did all of those things.

After some lunch and a nice walk on Saturday, we headed to the winery where we were enthusiastically greeted by all the Big Head family. We were led to our tasting bar, and although we were supposed to have tasted with another staff member since the family were all busy getting ready for the party, Andrzej (owner, winemaker, and my Canadian husband) insisted upon doing it himself. As he always does. 


This is always wonderful for Rick and me because we not only taste wines that are still in tanks and barrels, we also learn so much about how he makes wine. Even if you're not Wine Nerds like us, it's fascinating to hear about his decisions and methods (which include making wine in concrete, terra cotta, and Slovenian oak, among other vessels). We also got a sneak preview of wines that were being released at the party. 

Sunday was Party Day, but before that, we were able to reconnect with a friend of ours of many years. She dropped by our inn after breakfast for some catching up, and we had a nice chat on our private balcony. The weather was nothing short of perfect the entire weekend, and we spent a lot of time out there, sheltered by a redwood and bamboo, among other shade givers.

We made sure we were on time for the Release Party because we knew there would be a big turnout. Its guest list is usually about 500-700 people. The winery, already big and airy, had all its doors open and there were canopies set up outdoors. New wines were being poured in appropriately shaped glasses--not a fragment of plastic anywhere--and samples of all their offerings were also available at tasting bars strategically placed. 

And the food! It was catered by Treadwell's, a sustainable farm-to-table restaurant/caterer. It was delicious and smart:  mini porchetta on focaccia sandwiches, frites with garlic aioli, house made soppressata on focaccia, honey soy glazed pork belly, bbq beef cheek sliders, wild mushroom toasts, and probably more. But I could have eaten nothing but that pork belly all day. And every day. 

As it often happens, we met many truly nice people at the party and had some great conversations. Some were about wine, some were about Big Head and their new winery, and of course, some were about the state of the world. Many were about the state of America and its politics. As to the latter, they expressed support and pity, and they hoped that we'd get our collective shit together because it's concerning. I assured them that we are trying and that we more than share their concern.

Our one stop on the way home Monday was to pick up our...several cases of wine and say our last goodbyes to Andrzej and family. At the border we declared our haul and, after a bit of eye rolling and sighing, the agent justified our cargo by referring to our Pandemic Dry Spell and saying we were grandfathered in. Both traffic and our hearts were light on the way home.

Getting back to Canada and our friends was an Unexpected Joy. I am already looking forward to a return trip. If you click the link above for Big Head, you can meet my International Husband, his family/our friends, and read about some of the wines we experienced and bought there. I wish you could have come with us. 

Wednesday, June 01, 2022

The World Is Too Much With Me, To Paraphrase Wordsworth


 Hello.

I've been away an awfully long time, and I hardly know how to start in again. First, let me say a grateful and slightly embarrassed Thank You to the Kind Readers who reached out to express concern. I'm perfectly healthy. I had no falls and no illnesses. I am again so astonished at the kindness of my community here.

I will say, however, that after feeling entirely Fed Up With March, I was Quite Dismayed With April. It didn't get any better, really, and Spring was capricious and slow in her arrival. I know that so many of you had the same sort of rollercoaster weather. Daffodils rose, bloomed, and were bowed with ice and snow. One day, I could take a long and lovely walk; the next, I watched in desperation as it poured buckets of rain and my furnace kicked on. What a mess.

May arrived, I turned 63, and Mother's Day was a gloriously sunny day in which my husband and sons set out my porch and patio furniture. They also got my pond mucked out, the waterfall falling, and reset the basketball hoop so that they could play Around The World and shake off some rust. Zydrunas came over and happily chewed a huge stick. Rick and Jared made dinner. It was simply The Best Day.

But I am constantly reminded of the William Wordsworth quote "The world is too much with us" and I know many of you are, too. My life continues in its orbit, more or less, but I cannot help but be affected by the suffering and madness that is outside my small perimeter. I feel outrage, helplessness, sorrow, and worry. It's a challenge to be informed and involved without sacrificing my mental health.  I am so thankful not to be in the classroom anymore, but I despair for friends, family, and colleagues who are. Actually, my heart goes out to anyone who is in the classroom now; I cannot imagine that life for any of you--teacher, student, administrator, janitors--at this terrible time in our history.

Even though I say "outside my small perimeter", all of these things affect me because I live in this world. I want it to be better. I want safety from too many guns. I want women to have control over their own bodies and their own destinies. I want people to have equal access to the ballot. I want lower drug prices. I want better access to child care for working parents. I want fair representation free from gerrymandering. I want the people who are responsible for the January 6th Insurrection at all levels to be held responsible. I want Putin to leave Ukraine alone. I want republicans to just stop it. I want the majority to matter again.

It's wearying and tiring to care. I still find Joy in so many things. We are enjoying the lakehouse and boating. Our time there is relaxing and rejuvenating. There is a bald eagle there that thrills me every time it swoops low over our shoreline, sometimes with a fish in its talons. The mallards glide so smoothly and look so dignified on the surface, like little maitre d's in a banquet hall. Now and then a bluebird will alight on the tree by the deck, and that never stops being wonderful.

I'll try and write here much more often, starting now, and starting small. Thanks for sticking around.


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Wednesday, March 30, 2022

In Which I Give March The Boot And Discuss Its Fallout


M
arch is blustering off, and I say Good Riddance. You were a bit of a bitch, March, and I didn't appreciate it. At all. About the best thing I can say for you is You Were Not February. Now get moving and don't even think about giving April any advice.

Over the weekend, we had two inches of heavy, wet snow dumped on us very unceremoniously. It was not the Dept.'s fault; we had our snow shovels prominently displayed next to the door as custom demands in NEO until mid-April at least. We know how this works. No, Dear Readers, I blame these people:

Taken on March 24th

Do you see the dead, deflated Christmas Thing there flanked by blooming daffodils? On March 24th? That is, right there, the reason we got hit with shitful snow last weekend--Climatological Confusion caused by Seasonal Dissonance. These individuals have a lot to answer for. A. Lot.

Because of that lousy snow, I forced myself to take the whole day Saturday (after shovelling) and complete some projects. One of those was The Dreaded Cat Brushing. The cats have become so belligerent about it that I now shut myself and one of them at a time in the small hallway. All the doors to the rooms are also shut. I sit on the floor and rotate like a child on a Sit 'n' Spin, wielding a brush, taking swipes as a cat deigns to pass. During a break in the action, I paused to take a photo of my new shoes--bought at Target on clearance for only nine bucks:

Remember when vegan leather was just vinyl?

I sent it to Jared and Sam, bragging about my bargain.
 
Me:  These are my 9$ shoes!
Jared: What a bargain!
Sam:  Why are you on the floor?

Now that I look at the picture, my ankles look terrible and hairy. They are not, honest. Just in need of lotion.

Finally, one last photo. March has been cruel, and my dear BFF Leanne in Maryland knows it. She decided to send me my birthday present very early, and I am so glad she did. My tears were happy and grateful ones when I opened it. It's a day late for Tiny Needle Tuesday, but she made me this beautiful sampler. We share its sentiment so very, very deeply:

Sorry it's skewed. It's so hard to photograph glass in any light.

It's not March's fault that my friends live so far away, but it did nothing to help it, either. So, screw you, March. Hit the road. You were even devastating for my fantasy basketball team (SIX players on the Injured Reserved at once! Steph Curry out. Damontas Sabonis out for five games in a row. I can't even go on.) 

Join me in saying So Long to March. Let's have High Hopes for April. Certainly more Christmas decorations will be gone...won't they? (Tell me what I want to hear in Comments.)


Thursday, March 10, 2022

How I Celebrated International Women's Day And Other Sundries

 Oh, hello. Welcome back to the Fabulous Life that I somehow lead. How to Sort It All Out for you and where to begin? Let's just jump in Anywhere and go.

~*~On Tuesday the 8th, I showed up at 9AM (what was I thinking?!) for my mammogram. I put on the requisite pink mammo-shirt and walked into the chamber--freezing, of course. The technician greeted me warmly and said, "What a great day for a mammogram! Happy International Women's Day! It's the perfect way to celebrate!" Luckily, I am a Tactful Person, born of years and years of teaching teenagers, and I was able to respond with, "And to think I had no idea when I made this appointment. What a terrific coincidence!" She was kind, professional, and even gave me a nice pink pen.

~*~Piper and Marlowe, the Resident Cats, turned twelve earlier this month. Our relationship has become...strained. Shall I blame it on The Pandemic? The old adage "Familiarity breeds Contempt"? They've gotten mouthy and demanding. They start staring at me and snarking for their meals at least an hour before time. Marlowe never, ever shuts up unless she's asleep. I cannot sit down without having Piper commandeer my lap. AND THE HAIR. Is there such a thing as an industrial strength vacuum that one can install at one end of the house and it just sucks really hard and pulls out ALL THE CAT HAIR AT ONCE? I need that. Pronto.

~*~I cannot believe that I have to say this on March 10th, but here it is:  CHRISTMAS IS OVER. TAKE DOWN YOUR OUTDOOR DECORATIONS. At this point, they are abusive. If you would like to keep Christmas in your heart and in your home, for whatever reason, please do. Keeping them outside to lower property values and everyone's spirits is selfish and lazy. Today on my walk, I had the jarring experience of witnessing a deflated Santa flanked by a shamrock wreath and an Easter egg tree. If there were a bar on my route, I'd have stopped in and had a stiff drink.

~*~Things are, however, Looking Up. We're getting longer stretches of decent weather between winter storms. The silver maples are full of bright red buds. The magnolia trees have soft little catkins all over their branches. My daffodils have emerged from the landscape beds about an inch or so--brave things! Robins, having arrived back in early February, are now everywhere and singing. My sage, chives, oregano, and thyme are already coming along in the herb garden. With the weather giving me safer sidewalks, I can walk far more often, so my moods are less gloomy and grey. I'm starting to believe that Spring May Come.

Tell me if our Worlds collide or anything about Your World in Comments.


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Saturday, February 19, 2022

Ray

The other day Rick was looking outside and remarked, "Wow.  Look at those clouds. What an ominous sky."

I immediately smiled and corrected him, "It's pronounced om-nee-us. It's an omnious sky."

He chuckled.  "Right. Omnious. How could I forget?"

"Well, you can, but I can't. Ray said I'd never forget him, and that kid was right. Every single time I hear the word Ominous, I think of him, smile, and silently pronounce it Omnious. I loved that kid."

Ray was a student in my Creative Writing class many years ago. He was skinny, almost wraithlike, with platinum blonde hair that he wore just below his ears. His skin was pale and his eyes were large and blue behind his glasses. He had a sort of bug-like look about him, but in an endearing sort of way. His smile was large and easy, and he was thrilled to be in a Creative Writing class. When he found out that all the writing was to be read aloud, he was a bit leery, but upon hearing assurances that each writer first got a round of applause, then positive comments before one constructive critique, his concerns were settled.

As it usually happens in CW, the students formed partners or small groups among themselves. Most often, these turn out to be writing critique/help associations, and not based upon friendships. I individualized instruction in the form of one-on-one conferences at my desk during class time, so students found the groups/partnerships to be extremely valuable.

Ray, who was into Wicca and Native American spiritualism, and had recently come out (very difficult back in the 90s--he helped found our school's Gay Student Union), chose as his critique partner Nathan. I sat back and waited for...I don't know what. But something, certainly.

Nathan was joining our huge, diverse urban high school after being homeschooled for his entire life.  He was a fundamentalist Christian who always had his Bible with him. He was very quiet and from a big family. Creative Writing was already quite a jolt, I was sure, and Ray had to be a living, breathing Culture Shock for him. 

Those two, however, got along famously. Ray was so kind and gentle, and he was so accepting and tolerant that he could get along with anyone. He once confided in me that his father had no idea what to make of him, and that he had little in common with his own family; he loved school where he could be himself and be around all the people he really liked. 

One day Nathan admitted that it was difficult for him to work in CW class because it was often a bit chatty and he couldn't concentrate. Ray asked if we could have one day a week where we worked in silence, except for my conferences. I immediately said yes, and that we would even call it Nathan Day. And so we did.

Ray ended up truly enjoying reading his work aloud. He got quite good at it, and often became very dramatic. In CW2, which was the poetry semester, the students had to write a sonnet. When Ray came up to read his aloud, he took a moment at the lectern to compose himself, then made a sweeping gesture with his hand as he intoned in a deep and un-Ray voice :  The omnious horizon loomed ahead--

And I almost lost it. Almost. Omnious. Honestly, I can't remember if I corrected him later, during critique, or if I just corrected him on the paper or what, but bless his heart, I will never forget that as long as I live.

At the end of the year, Ray gave me his photo. On the back he wrote a great many nice things about me and our time together. At the bottom he wrote, "You'll never forget me." I remember when I read it, I chuckled at its confident assurance. I also thought it was just like Ray--most people would say, "I'll never forget you," but not Ray. Even now, I'm smiling and shaking my head.

He was right, of course. I've never forgotten him. I've no idea where he is now or what he's doing (of course, I hope he's writing), but I bet he's remembered fondly by many, many more people than just his Creative Writing teacher. 

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Saturday, February 05, 2022

Z Is For Zydrunas

 Meet Zydrunas, my granddog.

Zydrunas's name is pronounced zih-DROO-niss, but you can call him Z. As is usual in our family, he has a lot of nicknames, too:  BrownDog, Brown, Best Brown Dog, Bubba, and Big Brown are just a few of them. There is not a single person or pet that exists in our family who doesn't have a dozen or so nicknames. Your family may be the same.

His name comes from the Cleveland Cavaliers All Star center, now retired, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who both of my sons greatly admire. 

Jared and Sam, who lived together in 2014, adopted him from the Cleveland kennel. They told them that he was already a year old, had been found wandering around a chemical plant, and was in very good health. Sam and Jared specifically chose a dog from the city kennel because they euthanize dogs after they've been there too long. 

Here's a photo of Zydrunas on his Rescue Day.


 That smile was the first of many in his new life. There cannot be a more joyful, more exuberant, more completely happy dog than this Big Brown Dog. Here he is right now, just so darn happy to be alive and with the people he loves.



When the boys stopped living together, Jared took full custody of Zydrunas. Then when Jared moved in with his new family, Sam took full custody. Throughout it all, they have co-parented Z and shared the costs associated with his care. Jared comes for visitation frequently, and Z can barely handle it. The zoomies are cataclysmic; nothing is safe.

Like many big and strong dogs, Zydrunas has no idea of his size, and he often climbs onto me for a Visit and a Cuddle. He is a 70-pound dog, and when on his hind legs, he is only about a foot shorter than I am. Still, when he wants Nance Time, he must have it. And because I am so completely and crazy in love with this dog, I am more than happy to oblige.

For Christmas this year, I got Sam an Embark Dog DNA kit (which he has yet to use) so that he can finally find out exactly what kind of dog Zydrunas is. We think he's probably part pitbull and part boxer. We don't really care; we're just curious. We love this dog no matter what he is.

Wouldn't you?


(Other posts about Zydrunas's early days are here, and here.)

Zydrunas wraps up the Alphabet Posts for me. We hope you have a restful week ahead.





Saturday, January 22, 2022

Y Is For Yes

 

It's dreadfully cold here in Northeast Ohio (aka NEO), and there's nothing I want to do less than leave my home where it's warm, comfy, and everything I need is easily within my reach. I'm wearing leggings, a fleece zip-up, and behind my back is my heating pad--on High. I'm hoping that This Is It for me for the rest of the day and night; however, if, say, Sam called and invited us down to his house, or our friends sent a text and invited us to see their new home, I'd say Yes.

My Campaign Of Yes began some time ago, when I retired. It was inspired in no small part by a quote in the book The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton. In it, a countess is trying to flee her brutish foreign husband and seek comfort back in her American home and family.  Society is unkind, and she is confused by its coldness to her. She ignores Society and does what she wants. "I must go where I am invited, or I should be too lonely," she tells a friend. 

I certainly didn't have the countess's problems, but I decided that I'd take her advice and go wherever and whenever I was invited so that I would fill my days. And I did--to movies, to lunches, to shopping trips, to various outings and visits--as often as I could, saying Yes as much as I was able. 

After a time, those things naturally faded as retirees started to spend more time with their families or travel or find other things to do. And I did the same things, too. But it was fun while it lasted.

I still continue with my Campaign Of Yes, however, and I highly recommend it. Of course it's easier to say No and stay home with a cat on my lap and read or play Words With Friends. But I have almost always been happier that I went to Wherever It Was. This morning, Rick had to go to the lakehouse and troubleshoot the Nest thermostat, which we had lost connectivity with almost two weeks ago. It was a bone-chilling five degrees when he asked me if I was going along. My face must have been a mix of horror and panic because he immediately said, "You don't have to! I just thought I'd ask." I admit that I did struggle for a moment or two, but stuck to my Campaign. "Yes," I said. "Of course I'll go."

We hadn't been to the lake in a month or so. The community is shrouded in snow and quiet. From the driveway, we could see the lake, silent and frozen. Here and there in our yard were pawprints from rabbits and squirrels. I knew that if we went out and looked down at the lakeside, we might see hoofprints from deer. As we looked farther out towards the southern end, we could see several people ice fishing. The sun broke through the clouds and revealed a brilliant blue sky.

As always, being at the lakehouse was relaxing and brought back such happy memories. The place is a Haven Of Yes--everyone is encouraged to do what they want. If you want to swim, fine. If you want to fish, do it. If you want to just lie on a chaise longue and enjoy the day, do that. If you want to stay inside and watch TV, then Yes you can. 

I said Yes, and again I was glad I did. It was good to get out, go for a drive, and get things sorted out at the lakehouse. It was lovely to gaze out at the frozen lake and appreciate its sleeping beauty. One small and simple word gave me all of that. Yes.

Do you have your own Campaign Of Yes? If not, how do you feel about trying it out?


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Wednesday, January 05, 2022

X Is For eXhausted, eXasperated, And The X Factor

 

As you can see, I'm Creatively Forcing It for letter X. I don't have a lot to give these days, but I wanted to pop in here, wish you all a Happy New Year, and tell you that in addition to some really thoughtful and wonderful Christmas gifts, I also got COVID.

Like you, I am fully vaccinated and boosted, and so are all of my family, yet by the time this exposure ran its course, ten of us tested positive, including my 91-year old mother.  And there was never a time when all ten of us were in any place together. 

Also perhaps like you, I mask up anytime I'm in public--the grocery store, the pet food store, the pharmacy--and as soon as I get in my car, I use hand sanitizer, even before I take off my mask. I'm religious about handwashing, about social distancing, about wiping the handles of carts with the disinfecting wipes at the stores. It's eXhausting, but I never wanted to get sick.

The thing is, not everyone does that. Ohio's corrupt and gerrymandered republican legislature has gutted all COVID safeguards. Many people, even those who are vaXXed and boosted, are eXhausted by this pandemic and don't even wear masks at work or in stores. And when Omicron arrived, that behaviour did not change, sadly. And here we are. 

My symptoms began the day after Christmas with a slightly scratchy throat, which I shrugged off. Jared and Sam had both been fighting a cold for a day or two, and Jared had already tested negative for COVID. By that Monday, Sam had been sent home from work with a positive test result, and Rick and I were scrambling to find an at-home test. Quite simply, there are absolutely none in Ohio, period. 

A friend with a stockpile of tests gave us two, and we tested positive. Each day last week, our symptoms worsened. I felt like I had a head cold with the flu. The fatigue and muscle weakness were almost debilitating for me. I never got a fever, but I lost my sense of taste and smell. I've only today regained a bit of them both, and not consistently. I'm still weak and tire easily. Rick is still coughing and weak. He never lost his sense of taste or smell and never fevered up, but the coughing takes a lot out of him. He is working from home until he has a negative test. 

(A quick aside--my mother is great. She largely had cold symptoms, and under the fine care of my brother, she not only recovered, but continued her daily exercise regimen as well. She's a marvel.)

 I am finding All Of This incredibly eXasperating. I did everything right. I worked so hard to Be Safe. And for so long! Why are we still fighting this virus, one that we have vaccines for? Why are we in Year THREE of this pandemic? 

What in the hell is going on?!

I'm sick of all of it and sick of being sick. I thought I'd be able to toss my masks by now, yet I read that I have to go looking for new ones, that N95 are the only ones that will keep me Safe now. If there is such a thing as Being Safe.

That Safety is an Illusion, really. In the end, we're only as Safe as the people around us allow us to be. Other People will always be the X Factor. That's a Tough Reality, but that's the Way It Is, especially with Omicron out there now, and the monitoring of yet another variant in France. All we can do is our best to Be Safe, but we have to know that, ultimately, it's not completely in our control. Other People never are.

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