Monday, November 30, 2009

Thursday, November 26, 2009

The American Turkey

Dear readers, enjoy in moderation. (Photo of wild turkey taken in the mountains of North Carolina.)

If you want to do something today when you are feeling too full you can go here or here or here.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Life Story # 29 -- The Dinner Party 2009

It began with the request by hubby to invite a couple to dinner.  Tabor was not exactly excited about this burp in her weekly plans.  Thanksgiving was just around the corner and there were bedrooms to clean, meals to plan, food to buy and porches and decks to clean as well as decorations to get out and large platters to pull from the back of cupboards.  Now he wants me to cook a meal for some other company before all this?  For people I don't even know?  But Tabor realized that this dinner was important because they were like strangers in a strange land and needed to break bread with someone.

The man had just been hired to work at the nearby small community college and was still trying to find his way.  He was working with people from a different culture and people who perhaps did not have the passion for accomplishment that he did.  They were people who hesitated to make change because it probably meant failure but most certainly meant more work.  He was American but actually an Eastern Indian by culture and who for the past six years worked in the Marshall Islands.  He was tall, thin, and handsome and had not lost his country's accent.   His parents still lived in India although his father had worked in France for a while.  This dinner guest, in spite of or due to his sophisticated upbringing, was still seen as an outsider by the local community.  

His wife, shorter and pretty, was Laotian but had lived in America since she was eight.  She had stayed and worked in Boston during this time and was raising their two twin boys with the help of her parents.  She had worked her way up in a company providing support to database software and hardware for the big stock brokers and finance companies.  She had held on to this job when the company was laying off others.  The couple had sacrificed big time by being apart for months at a time over many years, knowing that in his field of science jobs were hard to come by.  Now he had been rewarded with a job stateside where he was much closer to his wife and sons.  He was so happy to be back in America but somewhat unhappy in this stagnant job.  He was smart and energetic.  They were strangers in this rural conservative community and we could be the connection they needed to maintain their sanity.

(Tabor asked hubby about dietary restrictions, having at least some idea of international eating issues.  Since there were none, she proceeded to put together a salmon with a Thai curry sauce with chopped kaffir lime from her tree.  To this was added a tumeric rice dish, stir fried swiss chard in bacon fat with chopped bacon and to cool the tongue a cucumber salad with mint/basil/sour cream dressing.  For dessert, just to really make the meal over the top crazy, she made brownies served with vanilla ice cream.  Fortunately, everyone had cast iron stomachs and she got compliments.)

The dreaded entertainment event went very well.  The couple were completely charming and well educated.  Once they realized that we saw that the world was composed of a whole group of people with common interests and common goals and that we did not view the world as privileged citizens from the top of Mount U.S. we had wonderful conversations in our attempt to solve the world's problems.  We shared stories of travels and travel interruptions and travel surprises.  Relieved that there were no talks of sports, potty training, holiday shopping, it was like the old dinner parties.

A discussion of the movie, Slumdog Millionaire, brought to light the concept that maybe this slum was actually kept in place by the government of India because it produced many cheap products and provided cheap but intellectual labor.  It was like a company town kept in place by government bureaucracy according to our guest.  The young man mentioned working with a technician from India who helped set up the cell phone network in the Marshall Islands.  When our dinner guest had returned to India with this man on a trip he found that his home was in the slum.  A one and half story shed built of tin where 8 people slept.  Tabor's guest was from a higher level in India and even he was surprised at this contrast in the man's skills and where he lived.   Tabor's guest was not like some of the haughty Brahmin's she had met on her travels and she realized she must watch her prejudices.  His life in the U.S. had made him very democratic.

By the end of the evening Tabor wanted more time to explore Laos and its customs with the wife.  She had forgotten to ask for pictures of the twins.  She knew that the young man would be moving on to other jobs when the opportunity came, but maybe she would have the chance to entertain this young couple again in the future.  They were a nice reminder of what Thanksgiving was all about. 

Monday, November 23, 2009

That Digital Sugar High

I listened to a program on MSNBC  (I think) that was discussing how hard it is for people to stop checking their Bl**kberries or logging into FB or Blogger on their computers at least a dozen times a day. They were addicted to any new items from friends or from news feeds. The network interviewed a psychiatrist and she said that our brains were hardwired for the novel. We automatically were intrigued by a new view, a new vision or new news. Therefore this new social networking was like a chemical addiction for the brain. She actually said is was like sugar for our brain.  My husband, who does not own a hand-held personal communication device like a Bl**kberry, said that on his travels many of the people he met with had these little electronic devices in hand and were checking routinely.  (It is almost as if they were waiting for a tweet that the world is indeed coming to an end.)

I find this so true. We want that quick interesting new hit. But we don't really have time or energy to follow the deeper links and really understand that new/new. We read about some climate disaster, or a celebrity breakup, or political icon's last interview or that next emerging plague, but we don't research beyond the initial report. We don't apply critical thinking. What was the extent of the disaster? How are people coping days later? Where did Palin get the facts to make that scary statement? What really is the definition of a plague that they are using and what are the chances this new germ will affect me personally?  Why do I read anything about Paris Hilton anyway?  I have written before my concern about our schools no longer teaching critical thinking skills.  Analysis of what we feed our brain, instead of just feeding our brain is key.

We don't have time for deep thought anymore.  We are unexcited unless there is blood or spittle.  We are even bored at trying to think deeply about an issue, finding it hard to really study other sides and see other angles.   It is always on to the next exciting news or photo or embarrassing event.  We are always on to the next roadside accident which makes it all so simple.  Everything is black and white or start and stop and never gray and there is an endless supply of this novel two bit stuff.

That is one of the reasons I have my other blog. It forces me to sloooow dooown. It forces me to study what is happening in the very small area of my world where I live on a day to day basis. It creates a habit for me to see how I fit within that quiet realm before I try to react in the larger scheme of things. Then when I am breathing at a normal rhythm, if I see something of interest, I know that I need to ask questions about it and not just skim it and then repeat the nonsense to someone else as if I really know what I am talking about. (Maybe I need to research this report?)

Saturday, November 21, 2009

That Yucky Verbal Diarrhea

Those of us who love to write but have nothing really significant to say and even less skill in saying it are like the distracting  nats of the evening air. We arrive at a pause in the day, not large enough to really cause a ruckus, nor interesting enough to cause a little pain, but still annoyingly dancing there in front of your face and being a distraction from the lovely sunset as you lose your place in blogdom.  You feel guilty because they did comment on your post yesterday and so you tediously read through the post and hope to find some grain or idea to help you comment and to return the favor.

This writing is an addiction with us. We love the words and we love the pictures we can paint with them. No, we cannot paint like Van Gogh or tell a story like Vermeer with light and shadow, but we are compelled to take the white screen canvas and sprinkle letters here and there hoping they form words and hoping eventually the words form sentences and perhaps, miracle of miracles, a complete thought! Keeping that train of thought on the track is another task frequently beyond our enthusiastic and spastic skill. Getting to the point of a story or valuable lesson is certainly a challenge for our energetic scribbling. You may wonder...DO we have a POINT as we scribble through the list of the mundane activities of our day?

But, you, my blog readers, are ever so forgiving, because you faithfully return. You let me splash a noun here and smear a verb there and even overuse the exclamation point. You let me clutter the canvas with superlatives.  You wonder if I have ever heard of "spell check."  You wonder why I put every other phrase in quotes and you wish the parenthesis keys on my keyboard would break.  You let me split infinitives (whatever they are) and end sentences with prepositions all in an effort to capture something that was recently remembered from my past or to describe something routine that happened that day and to try to make it significant......because you know that sometimes I get lucky and actually post something interesting and a little thought provoking.   And then we can both smile at the end of the day.  I need you in this dance of design.

(The photo is something I was motivated to do because one of my bloggers is working on textures with her photos and I remembered I had this taken this rose photo in my garden this past summer.  I have reduced the size substantially, but it still holds the texture effect, I think.  You will have to click on the photo to really get the furry texture.)

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Answer

Here is the reveal on the gifts from Indonesia.  I am sure my Asian readers had it figured out, but were too shy to test me.  You may need to click on the photo to read the answers.  I have no idea how I am going to use all the large quantity of spices.  The coconut sugar is delish...just like candy or sort of like that southern Louisiana pecan candy only crunchier and wrapped in bamboo.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Travel Presents and a Guessing Game

As promised here is a photo of some of the gifts from hubby's travel in Asia.  Above is also a picture of a lovely small ikat table runner that my husband brought me.  (I have a nice collection of ikat weavings and this will add to it.)  In the first photo are all the little things that he brought home.  Can you guess all of them?  I will email a nice sunset photo or fall photo  (your choice--or perhaps a print) to the blogger who gets it right first!

(With the new Blog editor bar it appears that there is no longer a spellcheck?   I am a terrible speller and apologize until I can figure this out!) (I will turn on comment moderation.  I just checked the comments and no one has gotten all of them yet.  I'll give a clue...Indonesia was known as the spice islands.)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Odd Neighbors

Every neighborhood has someone strange living in it. That odd person that you pretend to be nice to, but you often wonder about them. They are just a little odd. Some idiosyncratic behavior of theirs makes you keep your distance. Perhaps they wander around in loud colored shorts or perhaps they peek at you through the drapes or perhaps they spend too much time washing that fancy car or perhaps they sit on the porch and pick their nose for what seems an endless amount of time. I am sure that sometimes my neighbor has second thoughts about asking me out to lunch as she did the other day. Her husband was out running a tractor, grading the roads to the farm they lease out, and she knew I had been alone for several weeks. So she offered a lunch date followed by a healthy walk around the island.

The reason I think she must have second thoughts about my stability is that she can now see me in my yard as the trees have become sparse of leaf cover. She can see Tabor walking up and down her driveway or standing out on her deck at all hours of the day with camera in hand. She sees me stop and then bend over peering into my camera with my butt out in the air like some freak flag flying and taking a picture of the driveway, or photographing the seat of my deck chair or even taking a picture of what at times looks like my feet!

I am sure she thinks I am a very strange bird. But I keep finding beautiful things as I walk around the yard that I need to photograph. I keep trying to stop time!

Do you blame me?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

This and That

What does it say about us when we post colored charts for threat levels on terrorism and Canada posts colored charts for this .

I decided that I would adjust my blog settings so that any comments that come in more than 10 days after a post would be held until I could moderate. I did this because for some reason blogger lets spam and scam through for commenting on older posts. I get comment posts weeks later and of course I don't get back fast enough to read those posts to delete. So now they sit on my dashboard hidden until I decide to delete. I have been getting quite a few lately.

I also have been feeling guilty for not commenting on some blogs. I read the entry but can't really think of anything interesting to say when everyone ahead of me has said the same thing. So I just keep my keyboard shut.

My husband's trip took him across the many, many, many islands in the Indonesian chain as well as some bordering countries. Indonesia is both Muslim and Christian but Bali is mostly a hybridized Hindu. He noticed that the island and/or villages where the majority of citizens were either Muslim or Christian remained relatively peaceful and the areas where the division was 50/50 or 40/60 were full of rancor and anger as each group fought for control of the local political system. Why does God make people so angry? I know, I know...just had to write that

While staying at my daughter's house last week a young father came by with his son to play with my grandson. As we got to talking I learned that his wife worked for the FDA and was in the office where they worked on drug approvals for humans. He said she had been there for 10 years. I asked how she liked her job and he said that during the past administration their budget had been cut substantially and they had also felt pressured to get drug approvals moving faster and she had been very miserable. Now she is happy as they have been given a decent budget and are being allowed to do their job as professional scientists without any outside interference.

I took hundreds of photos of fall scenery over the last month and recently found that my camera settings had been on a lower resolution than I usually have. I guess it was from fiddling around with settings that I don't really understand as I experimented with photos. When I was younger I could immediately figure out a camera setting and easily focus on the subject. Now with age I forget to make changes and focus...well even depending on autofocus doesn't always work! I do not like getting old, but I do love having the time to play with the camera.

Hubby brought back a number of gifts from the islands...most from him but some from friends of his. I will post on that later. They are not the usual things one brings from an overseas trip.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Lucky Friday the 13th

I do not fear Friday the 13th. Both hubby and daughter are due home today. The winds have slowed and so have the rains. The water rose to the end of the dock but not over the top. No downed trees although the yard looks like a major battle took place. Those two trees that lean across the dock on the right in the photo above are widow-makers and I wish we could get someone to cut them down. It appears that since they are so close to the water we have to get a permit. (Others, of course, were not so lucky in this storm.)
I will actually venture out on this lucky day to shop for food since I have eaten every scrap that was in the refrigerator and now need to begin cooking for two again.

Boy I hope Mother Nature doesn't tie one on again like that anytime too soon!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Rushing (T)Rains

I had just returned from two days of taking care of two preschool grandchildren last night. They had tag-teamed me and while the deafening roar of children screaming, laughing, crying, shouting was still ringing in my ears, I removed faded jeans and sweatshirt to put on the softer pajamas as I heard the roaring and banging of the weather. The wind has been pummeling this end of the bay for over 24 hours. The rain bangs intermittently on my kitchen skylight and I can see the glisten of water in every area hit by outside lights.

I had arrived in the dark and hurried out of my car in the pelting rain to open the gate. There were no trees down in my driveway, but I am too far from the dock to see how high the water is and it is too dark to see if the wind has brought down trees elsewhere in the yard. I snuggled down beneath the covers so thankful that I have shelter from the storm and can worry about damage until tomorrow.

The continuing tempest of nature woke me at 4:00 this morning and I am sitting here waiting for the sun to push a little gray light through the tropical storm clouds. I am curious to see the sudden transformation of naked trees and also to see if there is damage. This lovely summer without any storm made me complacent and I am surprised by this violent aftermath of late summer that pushed her way up here in our late fall.

The sound of rushing trains continues as I post.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Danger, Will Robinson!

When I was a little girl we only shopped at two department stores. My father called them Monkey Wards and Sears and Roarbucks and of course, we laughed at his joke.

During the first week of November I had to head up to the city to do some babysitting as both parents had to do some business opposite directions, of course. During the two days that I was there and after dropping children off at their respective schools, I decided to take advantage of being near the large malls and get started on my holiday shopping. I tend to forget that traffic problems begin this early.

Well, I would like to caution others that may have this same plan. First, do not shop at Sears. It has not changed. There is no help, only one register with long lines (even in the middle of the week), and staff that speak limited English and always seem to be learning how to use the register for the first time. After spending many minutes waiting in line to pay for my purchase I was then rewarded for my patience by having the alarm go off as I left the store with a loud voice blaring that the security tag MUST be removed. I walked all the way back across the store to the ONLY open register and was told that the security tag was "probably" inside the box and to just ignore the alarm. I cannot tell you how hard it was to 'steal 'myself to leave the store a second time while a very loud robotic voice demanded that I return to the store!

The second shopping warning is to let you know that sales people in both the chain stores and the kiosks in the mall have been given strict instructions to part you from your money using any sales pitch they can find. Clearly this recession has convinced them that they will be closing shop if this holiday season does not turn a substantial profit. The recession is hovering darkly over the retail industry. These staff are the managers who hope to be working there in January as temporary staff have not yet been hired. If you ask for assistance they will answer your question or direct you to the correct area, but then will proceed to convince you to buy at least three of the item due to the huge discounts and sales. If you explain you really only want one, they will then direct you to their other sales specials, their newest products, etc. etc. and it will take some very polite determination to get out of the store with your wallet and sense of humor intact. I actually had to pull my hand away from a young Israeli man who insisted his product would make my hand 20 years younger!

(The blog title is for those who can remember 1960's science fiction TV.)

Sunday, November 08, 2009

Just Teasing

Today was the oddest day. It started out in the 50s (F) and then climbed to the 60's. A batch of orange robins had flown in the night before and blended perfectly with all the orange brown leaves that I had not raked or blown away. We do not have robins here during the summer months, so I knew they were on their way to Florida. I got started on the yard at mid-morning and was enjoying watching roils of leaves tumble into the woods revealing the spring green grass beneath. I cleared the patio and the deck and stored that nutrition in the compost bin. Then I began to clip away those perennials that had gone brown.

When I went to put away the rake and leaf blower I was met by a couple of sulphur butterflies and one bright orange and brown butterfly enjoying the last of the lavender flowers. I hadn't seen butterflies for more than a week, so it was a surprise to watch these dancing across my herb bed.

Later after I had picked some green tomatoes and arugula and several of the hot peppers and the last of the roses for my table, I noticed a number of small flying insects filling the air like little fluff machines. One landed in my hair and I discovered that it was a lady bug. They were everywhere looking for food. One even made it into the house that afternoon.

I was just beginning to wonder what had happened to fall when the sun started to set and the most lovely haze hung on the golden horizon making me think that I was back in Asia where the cooking fires created a smokey haze at the end of the day. It smelled dusty and musty and reminded me of the dry season in Indonesia. It was so much like summer and such a tease that I made my way down to the dock barefoot. Anyday that I do not have to wear shoes is a GOOD day. I was almost ready to believe that winter was not hiding somewhere up North.

The Last Roses

The last roses of summer. They are like gentle and fragile old ladies with lace collars and fancy fans that smell gently of soap and sweet bath powder. They are high maintenance because they know they are beautiful and popular. Their heads hand low from fall rains. They are lovely even as they fade. I miss that they must hurry off, but their cruise ship is waiting. Late in November, while I will sit by the fire trying to warm my toes, they will be having tea and ginger cookies along the warm equatorial waters somewhere. They promise that they will send their favorite nieces and they will arrive in sweet pale dresses in the spring and if I show them love, they will stay for a long visit in the rose garden next summer.

The little gal has what is called rose bloom balling due to the cooler weather followed by days of rains. It still looks lovely even though it will never open. I have to move many of my roses this spring as they are in one of the side beds that gets way too little sun. Living in a forest is deceptive. Roses are greedy for sun and I am lucky that I have not gotten any serious fungal outbreaks this year. Come spring I will begin the spraying as these are the only plants where I use pesticide and fungicide for prevention.

Friday, November 06, 2009

In the Mail Thursday Thoughts #25

About eight months ago I started to receive in the mail a billing notice from a collections agency regarding $113 that they say I still owe from the time I rented an apartment in 2005 through the summer of 2007. About two months after I checked out of that place I sent them that amount as they had raised the rent that month and I forgot to include the increase in my last month's payment. I do not have access to that bank account as it was closed and so do not know the exact number of the check sent. I have called the leasing office and the accounts receivable office and left at least 6 messages with no return to my calls. I even drove up there several months ago and met with the accounts manager who said my account appeared paid in full but they were re-doing the books and that they would get back to me. This "unpaid debt" now sits on my credit reports as an unresolved issue and no one returns my calls.

At my local post office there are several large blue recycle bins in the lobby. These are used by 80% of patrons to immediately dump without reading all those ads from various stores. The rest of the patrons are too stupid or too lazy and just leave their mail detritus on the window sill or the floor. These paper products for landfills is what is keeping the Post Office afloat. I would even accept this junk by email if they agreed to stop printing it on paper.

I subscribe to a newsletter "Consumer Reports: On Health." I have found it interesting for the most part, except the October issue had this brief paragraph: "Hugging Laundry. Dirty sheets, towels, and clothes can harbor bacteria and other germs, so use a basket---not your arms---to gather and transport laundry. And wash your hands after loading it into the machine." ??? While this might be good advice for those who are hired to do other's laundry, I think we are getting a little too germicidal in our in the heck do I get the laundry into the basket and out of the basket...rubber gloves? Does this mean I shouldn't hug those who wore the clothes?

I must be richer than I know on my fixed income. I also got a card in the same mail telling me I was pre-qualified to receive the exclusive Visa Black Card. (It appears that silver, gold and platinum have peaked in swankness.) If I get the Visa Black Card I am assured the highest caliber of personal service and concierge services. This card is limited to 1% of U.S. residents (how exclusive is that?), and they say it is guaranteed to get me noticed! No duh, so does a really bad hair day. Since it has an annual fee of $495 ($195 for each additional user) and an APR of 13.24% I guess I will pass. Swankness has its price and its level of stupidity.
Unfortunately, what I rarely get in the mail is letters.

( This post was written before the tragedy at Ft. Hood yesterday. More troops suffering from being exposed to trauma and tragedy will be coming home and resolving their issues by using either violence or suicide. War is a nasty disease.)

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Century recycling

Above is a photo of something we use every year to hold the fall leaves and to transport to the compost bin. It is a tattered parachute. Hubby got it from some surplus store about a century ago and, while spotted with various paints and stains from our housekeeping life, it still holds strong and true to carry our leaves.

This photo is some of the oak wood we had split to use to warm ourselves this winter. I think this tree grew about a century ago before it was removed to build this house.
Most of the wood that we split now is from deadfall and the disease scars are revealed in the heartwood. Seeing such lovely grainwood as above is rare and you can see the war it declared with the chainsaw.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Fine, Just Fine, Thanks

The sun is getting cooler every day, you know? I mean, over the long term, it is burning out. The spin of the earth is slowing down by about one second every ten years as well. So much for the old phrase, "Stop the world, I want to get off." Perhaps someday it will stop and you will fall off. There are times when I get overwhelmed by the fact that everything is evolving slowly but dramatically over time. The history that I know is very different from the history that my grandchildren will know. The picture that I paint is coded with time. I now realize that I have actually lived through history.

I hate the passage of time when I think how I am away from my son and my youngest brother, both very different in age and activities but similar in some ways. I know that you must love someone with open arms so that they can fly free. You must let them go but leave your arms open so that you can catch them if they fall. Both my youngest brother and my son need to be free. They fill their days with the busyness of living. I will always be here with my arms open, but the earth is spinning so fast that I can barely see them at times and I know they are not looking for me. They are staring at another planet.

Today I feel much smaller than that grain of sand because after I disappear, it will still be here.