Monday, October 27, 2008

The Room With Walls or the Wren House

Due to the cooler evenings and my craving for a substantial dinner, I decided to roast a 4 pound chicken for our meal two nights ago. I marinated the fat bird in the early afternoon and started to preheat the oven. I stuffed the bird with onions and sliced apples and it took several hours to roast making the kitchen cozy and warm. Adding some cheese potatoes and a nice salad made the meal complete. When all was ready, hubby and I sat down to a perfect late October dinner. We threw our healthy caution to the wind and proceeded to stuff our little stomachs to the brim. With my last swallow of wine, I pushed myself back from the table and wondered if I would regret my piggyness.

Hubby graciously offered to clean up after dinner and I slowly burped my way upstairs to read some blogs. I heard him banging the roasting pan lid trying to get it clean. He called up to me asking what he should do with the drippings at the bottom of the pan. I did not want all that tempting but unhealthy fatty salty broth sitting around and suggested he may want to dump it in the woods outside.

I heard him open the front door and then I heard him bang the pan on the stoop and I heard a whuffet sound and my husband swearing softly under his breath.

When I called down asking about the commotion, he said that the new porch resident, a wren, flew into his face. We have a little wren that has tried to set up tenancy in my autumn door decoration and with the addition of the bug-filled split wood for the fire now added to the porch, she has a grocery store just beneath her new home.

I could hear the door was still open.

"She didn't get in, did she?" I asked.

"I am afraid she did." hubby sighed.

Well the next hour (or what seemed like an hour) of our leisure evening with stomachs full of food was spent trying to encourage a small wren to leave the house. We closed all the doors and cupboards and turned off the ceiling fans. I had to get out the very, very long light-bulb changing pole to make her leave her perch on the chains of our hanging foyer lights in the second story. Hubby almost destroyed the geranium I had recently brought inside and placed on a corner near the window as she tried to hide behind that plant several times.

After depositing bird doo on various walls, she eventually tucked in behind some decorative basket ware that we have on the shelf above the foyer. Hubby was determined to get out and balance on that shelf and try to catch her, but I was adamant that I was not willing to add a visit to the emergency room to this evening's adventures and insisted that we try alternatives.

We don't have a butterfly net, but in desperation, got out the fish net to see if we could capture her. Of course, the weave is too big and although we swooped it over her several times, she acrobatically made it through the holes. Once hubby and I almost bumped heads as we dived for her, temporarily caught beneath the net on the kitchen floor.

Eventually she became tired and we were able to catch her in our hands. We very gently and carefully took her out the front door where she instantly dive bombed into the shelter of the wood on the porch. I sw her hopping around the porch today, appearing none the worse for wear, but chiding me in her whistling fashion. (The photo above is of another wren, perhaps a juvenile relative, that was on our deck this summer.)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Full Fathom Five

According to a search that I completed on the Internet, 101 submarine movies have been made and viewed by American audiences over the years.

I have, oddly enough, been attracted to submarine movies and I am guessing that is because I would be terrified to be out on a submarine. My fear of being beneath the surface of the ocean and being cramped in a metal machine probably allowed me to enjoy vicariously the challenges by watching the adventures of submariners much the same way that people watch horror movies. Therefore, as I perused the Internet list, I have seen approximately 30 of these movies. I do not read books about submariners and their adventures or the history of the Navy.

But, I had been reading Mary Lee Coe Fowler's blog about living in Maine for over a year and when she published her book, I decided to give it a try.

ML's book is introduced this way on the cover:

"Mary Lee Coe Fowler was a posthumous child, born after her father, a submarine skipper in the Pacific, was lost at sea in 1943. Her mother quickly remarried into a difficult and troubled relationship, and Mary Lee’s biological father was never mentioned. It was not until her mother died and Mary Lee was a middle-aged adult that she set out to learn not only who her father was, but what happened to him and his crew, and why—and also to confront why she had shied away from asking these questions until it was nearly too late."

The book is filled with the extensive and dedicated research that she did to find all of the puzzle pieces to put this compelling story together. It was a rush against time as many of the people she talked to and corresponded with were quite elderly. But it is not written like a research treatise. I found it easy to identify with the little girl in search of her father, her mother who finds romance with a young Navy man, and the young seamen whose lives depend on the leadership of this man, her father. Having traveled throughout Hawaii and the South Pacific and having seen the remains of the war with the Japanese on some of these Pacific Islands, I was very familiar with the setting of the latter part of this book.

I learned about the bureaucracy of the Navy Department, and how back then, much like today, a bureaucratic and career protectionist leadership can hinder the safety and success of the missions we give to our sailors (military). I was inspired by the tremendous dedication these Navy men gave to their jobs under very difficult conditions.

This is a well-written and also compelling story. ML is able to step back and give the story the balance it needs as she searches for the truth about her father. It is one that is, perhaps, enjoyed more by readers with the perspective that comes with age and experience. So, if you are looking for some good reading as the seasons change and you must remain indoors for longer times, I can certainly recommend this book by the fireside.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Meeting the Spirit of Blogging

The ghost of Mary Lee

Many bloggers, especially those who have been posting for a number of years, have had an opportunity to meet and greet an actual person that has a blog that they have been reading. While I was fascinated by this social activity, as I would read about the event in the many other blogs, I often felt that it must be something like a blind date... exciting in the beginning but usually somewhat disappointing at the end. We all have images and expectations of these bloggers that we think we know from regular reading of their blog, but to put these expectations to the test I felt would only result in somewhat of a failure. What we see through the blog can be revealing, but we are complicated individuals and I think we only see a ghost of that person since we are not able to read any body language or hear a tone of voice in the sometimes superficial ongoing digital conversations that we have.

I had an opportunity to meet a 'blogmate' recently and was filled with a little dread in the beginning...would they like they really know m I know them?! I mean this wasn't just a lunch date, I actually invited her to spend the night. I live in an out-of-the-way place and when someone visits it means they have an hour and half drive to the activity that brought them to this area in the first place if they decide stop by my house as part of their travels.

I wrote Tammy about this potential meet-up
to voice my concerns because she meets bloggers fairly often, many of them involved in her mission in life. She encouraged me to go for it and insisted that I would not be unhappy with the meet-up at all. While I realized I should take her advice I also took it with a grain of salt knowing that Tammy is a really nice person and I cannot imagine her meeting anyone that she would not be able to adapt to or like.

So when Mary Lee Fowler emailed me that she was coming to give several book talks in my area and wanted to see if we could meet and also asking how close I was to several nearby cities and towns where she would be, I offered to drive up for a coffee or lunch. Then I threw caution to the wind and also asked if
she would like to come down my way. I explained that it was a lengthy trip and she should plan on spending the night if that could be worked into her schedule. She accepted! Of course, the closer we got to the day, I became a 'little' nervous wondering about her expectations and mine. Some of the few readers of my blog may be wondering about my maturity right now...but I am a little anal and want things to go fairly well or not at all. (ML is probably smiling at this revelation as she reads this.)

Well, of course, the meet-up went very well. We were in sync on politics and religion and didn't have any tension in talking about the things for
which we feel great passion. We also both love the out-of-doors and worked in a long morning wooded walk to a small beach, which is a great activity for someone who has been sitting in a car for over 10 hours. She had to leave by early afternoon which gave us just enough time to not get tired of each other. I cannot help but think how brave she is to drive alone almost 600 miles to meet a stranger and spend the night in their house! I don't know that I would have that fearlessness. I certainly hope she sold a lot of books.


Next post I will write about her book which I read.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Monday Madness--Feeling "Blue" and Needing a Nap

1. I am very very tired of hearing how getting an ivy league education makes you an elitist. It makes you (or means your already were) smart and/or rich...and only, perhaps if lucky or hardworking, you can become a member of the elite. Was our last Ivy League educated president an elitist? (Def. elite: being an expert in an area.)

I am very very tired of class warfare. Some rich citizens are greedy crooks and/or lazy and some poor citizens are greedy crooks and/or lazy. Making everyone a black or white peg is even more lazy and cannot help solve our problems. Most of us are hard working and honest.

3. I am very very tired of all the hoopla about the price of gas. We in American are not having any effect on its rise or fall in price anymore...other countries are. We have lost our strong economic lead in the world...get over it.

4. I am very very tired of hearing how the "bailout/rescue" package will work. Anything it does is temporary. The economy will be forced to correct itself when the value of everything from stocks to housing prices to jobs reaches true values once again and this will be months and months from now. There will be more death and destruction along the way. (Most of the rich will be impacted only in the amount of caviar they can consume.)

5. I am very very tired of hearing talking heads on TV discuss the stupid issues and refuse to delve into the more complicated issues because we are a nation of channel surfers and want our news microwaved not baked. (ACORN is a primary example.)

6. I am very very tired of Barack Obama being touted as the first Black American candidate who has gotten close to being elected. Our culture is so prejudiced that his mother's heritage is trumped by any tinge of 'other.' I've got news, if elected he will be our first Bi-racial President.

7. I am very very tired of the lack of statesmanship and honesty that this election has been reduced to. Both sides have gotten mud all over themselves and it isn't even solid enough to make good pottery. Where are the great leaders?

8. I am very very tired of the argument that 'experience' trumps intelligence when we are looking for leadership. A President will have access to great advice. So if an intelligent candidate seems inexperienced look at the advisers that he/she selects. And of course the counter argument put out is that being an insider and having lots of experience is bad. Just look at the their record.

9. I am very very tired of the lack of transparency in our Republican candidates. John McCain's wife said that Sarah Palin was vetted very carefully and she was ready for prime time and to "Bring it on." OK, when is this babe ready for taking on the "liberal press?" As Tina Fey comments, she gets lost in a corn maze when talking about important issues. (I remember Bush's restriction of access by the press and lack of press conferences. The free press may be mostly liberal because it constantly questions, but truth trumps all.)

10. I am very very tired of the fact that this Presidential election has taken the focus off of our Congressional and State elections. This is where much important work will be done in this economy. Thus, I am all for shorter campaign trails with more restricted spending on them. (Disclosure: Since I have recently moved to this local part of the state I need to get my game on in this area.)

Now I will go take a nap and not rant about this election anymore because whomever inherits this mess deserves a medal, it is a promise!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Thursday Thoughts #13

1. Yesterday we put in a three-foot high retaining wall and moved about 15 wheelbarrows full of dirt to the area. I said to my husband that my mother would be greatly dismayed to learn, after my expensive college education, I had become a 'ditch digger' in my old age. His response: "At least it's your own ditch!"

2. I do not know which I hated most yesterday as I sat on a small stool in the dirt and wound large bolts into the posts of the retaining wall...the smell of the deer repellent I had just sprayed throughout the yard or the smell of the Deet that I had sprayed on my legs due to the mosquitoes.

3. We are approaching what is called 'open season' in the health care world and my husband and I will be changing health insurance carriers. Why do I think this is going to be a maze from which I will probably need hospital care?

4. I have been married 38 years yet I keep forgetting that when my husband asks if I want to go for a boat ride, he really means do I want to spend 4 hours fishing up and down the bay---NOT a lovely sunset ride with a glass of wine in hand?

5. My kitchen floor is frequently covered with bits of food after cooking which is a very good reason I need to get a dog. My floors were clean when I had a dog. Even the one-year-old granddaughter cannot keep my floors clean these days.

6. I am thinking about letting my hair go gray...yep...Oddly, Hubby is more shocked about this thought than I am.

7. #6 above means I am probably letting myself go in retirement, but I still put on mascara and lipstick before I head to the Post Office. All of my vanity is not totally gone.

8. The whole family sat around the metal fireplace that we put out on the new patio last weekend. I noticed that sitting around fires keeps the 20 and 30-somethings and even the little ones subdued long enough to have great conversations.

9. Loving this 80 degree weather but I know that the colder fall air is jet-streaming over the trees this week.

10. I have been using the elliptical machine fairly regularly (running 2.5 miles about 3 times a week) and after much sweat---real, honest, disgusting sweat---I have finally lost 10 pounds. 15 to go...I hate the the free weights and the yoga and most especially the stretching at the end when I get to lie down.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Who is to Blame?

The media seems to be ignoring the statistics and facts on the demographics of the subprime crises perhaps because they are not sexy. But, by paying attention to these demographics we can perhaps craft a better fix so that it does not happen again.

"The problem with portraying the foreclosure crisis as a minority and low-income problem is that it affects how solutions will be approached. If, on one hand, it is believed that subprime rate loans were predominately made to marginal segments of society (Black, Hispanic or low-income) housing policymakers may approach solutions with bias assumptions about minorities and minority qualifications (low education, bad credit, and low-paying jobs, etc.). Thus, there may a tendency to write-off the subprime lending debacle as a type of affirmative action gone bad. On the other hand, if it is believed that the foreclosure crisis affects broader and more
demographically diverse segments of society then a more politically responsible approach is likely, thereby changing the tone, climate and context of how solutions are crafted.

Not enough research and media attention has been devoted to other causes of the subprime crisis that may have race and gender effects. Issues of steering, weak underwriting, fraud, and discrimination have not been aggressively investigated. Despite the presence of federal regulation and periodic examinations for safety and soundness, Community Reinvestment Act compliance and fair lending compliance, efforts to uncover whether subprime rate loans can be explained by legitimate business justifications will be impaired based on erroneous assumptions about the
demographic distribution of subprime rate loans.

Last, if it is believed that subprime rate lending is predominately an urban minority problem, officials will fail to see that in 2006 non-Hispanic Whites had 1,108,676 subprime rate loans of which 868,806 or 78.36% were in census tracts <30% minority. The subprime lending meltdown is better described as a mainstream white suburbia problem with aspects that affect minorities and urban communities. Erroneous assumptions about the demographics of subprime rate lending will only lead to poor decisions that result in ineffective solutions." The whole report is here:

In addition, note that the primary areas for defaults on subprimes are in the states of Florida, California, Arizona and Nevada and a substantial number of these defaults are for NON_OWNER occupied homes.

We can't fix this if we don't fully understand the details and try to determine the causes.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing

If you look closely you will see two trees (actually two sprouts from an older cherry tree that is growing straight up right next to these two widow-makers) that are going to fall anytime soon across the path to the dock. The last tree fell without a wind, heavy rain or anything else that would give one pause.

This is the wood from the most recent tree which we have put at the back of the wood pile to dry.

This is the first tree (another cherry) that fell that we still have to move to the wood pile!

This is the pile of old logs (perhaps you remember from my "build that house blog") that my husband asked the builder to leave so that he could use them for firewood. Yeah, right! Here they sit sheltering snakes and creating food for termites. He did say he would split the wood this year...we will see. The orange tarp to the back shelters a LOT of wood that has been split and cut for the fireplace. Enough to keep us warm for this winter and perhaps next!

Friday, October 10, 2008

One Down, Three Thousand to Go

This is the second time in a month that our contractor has been blocked from exiting (first time was entering) the lot to work on the patio due to a fallen tree across the road. This happened just 30 minutes after he return from an errand! Please bring your trailer by if you need any firewood this winter. We have two widow makers over the path to the dock and no cash to deal with them at this time!!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Fall Projects

We had saved up a sum of money to put in a patio under our deck this fall and we now realize that was better than leaving it in the market! For the past week or so we have been doing our little bit for the economy by employing almost 4 men full time to clear grass, put in drains, set paver stone, aerate the lawn and seed the destroyed areas. It was supposed to take a little less than 4 days, but I think that with economy slowing down the landscape firm was in no rush to have staff return to the store and sit waiting for another assignment and so the crew was actually here for 7 days which did not increase the cost of the contract.

During that time my husband and I began clearing the garden and moving ALL of the soil (he did most of the work as I have been fighting some illness) and now we will level the whole area and put in a series of raised container beds. We spent the last of the wad of money on cedar boards--the worst grade they had which is stunningly beautiful even so---for the walls of the beds. Hopefully with landscape cloth and mulch on the paths between the beds, we will get some control over the weeds next year.

They had to tear up the lawn with the little bulldozer, but also aerated and reseeded the areas and now we wait for the lawn to come up once again. We also had them take down some dead trees on the edge of the lawn in the front yard, and now, guess what? I get to put in ANOTHER flower bed. (I still haven't gotten the deer fence up but I tend to be more optimistic than realistic!) The far side of this bed will be for cut flowers. I love cutting flowers and bringing them inside the house to enjoy as I do my chores.

The new patio provides a rather large sitting area beneath the deck that will be handy during the hottest part of summer and also nice for fall when we want to sit around a small fire pit. Right now a fine layer of dust and dirt is everywhere --- on the window sills, the deck chairs, the potted plants and the brick. Thus the project today, if the weather stays warm enough, is to wash all of the outside before the grandchildren show up on the weekend. S'mores anyone?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Walk the Walk

Sunday, an absolutely perfect fall day, was our reward for going to watch our son's band play for the Humane Society Walk for the Animals. This first photo was before most of the crowd showed with their dogs. His band played off and on for FIVE HOURS---10:00 to 3:00. He was fighting a head cold and had to be there at 6:30 that morning for early set up as they were closing Constitution Ave. in the A.M. It was a good cause, but I am glad he still has his day job.

The location, Constitution Gardens, was perfect for both dogs and their owners.

And my little Xman had a good time listening and dancing to his Uncle's beat. We all were afraid he would fall into that "E. coli" lake, but he kept his coordination together.

They were supposed to have a tent with potential animals to adopt and I was worried my husband would lock eyes with a mutt and fall in love from across the room (tent). But this was put on hold for another day, because we were so busy visiting, listening to the music, and watching the toddlers that we didn't make it back up the hill. We ARE going to get a dog, probably sometime this year, but we have escaped mutt love for the time.