Monday, May 31, 2010


If you close your eyes and remember this past winter...I know you don't want to go there, but stay with me... perhaps you will remember how we escaped from my front yard with the downed trees via canoe crossing two feet of snow as we left early for a week in sunny 'tropical' Florida.  And, naturally, once we got there, warm weather...well, not so much!  It was as cold as a Minnesota fall.  Six weeks later we left once again, this time with the grandkids and their parents, for another jaunt in an attempt at finding early summer and summer was still was being held hostage somewhere down near the equator.

Our first day at the beach late last March was really not so bad...just pretty windy but not enough to blow sand in your face. We tucked behind a sand dune and when I got up to go exploring I saw this 'person' on the other side of our dune in the shelter of another little sandy hill. It was NOT that cold.  I cannot fathom what on earth he was thinking if this was the necessary costume and attitude for him to spend a day at the beach.  He should have stayed back at the condo or hotel or saved money and stayed at his home up North...or PERHAPS he was here hiding from all of his family that were holding up back at the condo avoiding the wind.  Hmmmm.  Maybe I feel sorry for him.  (This isn't you, hiding from you know who, is it?)

(Remember our troops this Memorial Day weekend if you live in the great U.S.A.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Moving in and Out.

Cleaning out the garage the other day I decided to wash out all those buckets and containers full of gardening stuff.  Resealed or re-wrapped all the bags of fertilizer and growth enhancers.  I re-wound my balls of string and collected some plant identifiers for my files.  After a thorough cleaning, I painted the handles of the brown garden tools a fluorescent green primarily to use up some leftover paint on the shelves.  Then I took those pruning shears and others with moving parts and proceeded to cover them with W-D 40 to stave off new rust.  I even spent some time sharpening the edges of the cutting tools!  Well, pat me on the back!

I keep a small green plastic wastebasket full of plastic stakes and small bamboo poles in the corner by the garage door and it was full of stuff so I decided to empty it all out onto the lawn and get things really organized.  The item in the photo below fell out on the lawn as I began my project.  Nice to see I had some temporary spring (winter?) neighbors!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

How to Run a Volunteer Program

Volunteers are like full blown roses.  They arrive with energy and expectations (perhaps inaccurate), but expectations none the less, that their time donated to you is valuable.  They are somewhat overwhelming in their eagerness to help.  They may only last a short time in this full bloom of volunteering if they get bored or realize they are only doing something tedious.  Here are just a few basic rules that will keep your relationship with your volunteers running smoothly.

1) Have a consistent and clear schedule but be flexible because you are getting free help.  Pretend that you think their time is valuable even if they are old retired farts.

2) Provide a tour of the facility and make sure you introduce and re-introduce staff over time.  Us older folks cannot remember a name to save our life.

3) It might be a good idea to assign the volunteer to a specific staff person (and a back-up) so that they know who to go to when they get there each time.  It is not courteous to have them stand around grinning at people until they catch someone's eye.

4) Be cheerful and start a small conversation each time they arrive so that they feel welcome.  Don't act distracted even though you are busy, just two to three minutes of cheerful exchange should suffice.  Whatever you do, do not give them the deer in the headlights look when they show up and then look around for someone else to help.

5) Always have something for them to work on.  Try to fit the activity to their expertise and interests if at all possible.  Do not waste their time by going around to other staff asking if they have anything to give the volunteer to do.

6)  And the absolutely most important tip is if you do not need volunteers be honest about that.  Take their name and phone number and tell them you may call them in the future.  Do not feel guilty in turning them away.  Women are particularly bad about this!

The advantages of volunteering in a library is you get to see all the new stuff first, you get to peruse the collection when you read shelves and it is amazing what libraries have today.  You had forgotten, perhaps, that videos, CDs, DVDs, books, magazines, etc. are all for the checking and free!  You have access to dozens of libraries via the interlibrary loan system, so chances are you will be able to get anything you want if you are patient.

Needless to say, my decision to help out at the local library which I began to do this winter is not working out as well as I had hoped.  I encountered some of the issues I mentioned above.  I also overlooked the fact that most of my work would involve moving books and re-shelving books and reading shelves for misplaced or lost books and other media.  I told myself that this re-enforced my Dewey and alphabetical skills and strengthened my biceps and laterals.  I tried to remember some yoga stretches and moves when I got up off the floor after reading the lowest shelves with my trifocals tilted for an extended time .  I was somewhat limited in this yoga moves partnering as I did not want to scare the customers.  I also found it necessary to stifle my groans as I tried to get up with books in hand.  Most days I pretend that they really are happy to see me and a few of them are.  But I if I do not like this as much as I hoped I guess I will be looking for a new volunteer activity in the future.
As a post script when a volunteer leaves you might want to ask them a few questions such as: 1) Will they be volunteering elsewhere? 2) What did they like about this volunteer experience?  3)What didn't they like?  

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Spilled Fortune

If you are the kind of optimistic person who carefully plants seeds in the cold dark days of late winter and places them on heating pads under grow lights only to be disappointed that a tiny 30% actually germinate, be patient.  My husband's Thai Pepper plants spent 6 weeks in the little pots of seedling soil, and just as he was ready to toss them all into the compost pile, they perked their green pointy heads to the surface.  They germinated!

Another reason to be optimistic is when accidents happen.  I spent much time planting outside on the patio a few weeks later and put my little trays of seedlings from various annuals and a few perennials in the cold frame and watched them with intense love and interest as spring came and went.  One one of the breezy spring days I had accidentally spilled some seeds on the patio, and I cannot remember what they were.  I just remember the little envelope escaped my hands.  Looks like all that nurturing and care are not really necessary.  When a plant is ready to grow it will survive almost anywhere.

I will be most intrigued to see what these turn out to be if they actually bloom!  (They are looking more and more like baby bok choy...darn!  Looks like hubby spilled some seeds as well since he does the vegetables.  We had to clean the patio and thus it looks like these all went out the little holes.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


When you have nothing in your fried brain it is nice to be able to regurgitate your brilliance that was dumped onto the Internet in prior posts by linking to it. The recent headlines about Nashville brought to mind a post of mine that I have linked to once before about a challenge I faced when I was younger and stronger.  For some antique knowledge of that time go here.  Some of you have been readers for a long time and I am thankful but this may be an old story for you.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

An Abundance of Richness Today

Make some tea or some cool lemonade and come walk with me though my spring garden. I am REALLY lucky this spring that not much has eaten, destroyed or killed my beautiful flowers. So I am enjoying them, because like any experienced gardener, I realize these beauties are most temporary.  I wish I could pick a bouquet and bring them right over!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Over-planning vs. Full Speed Ahead

If my daughter says she is coming for the weekend I tend to over-plan. I head out to the grocery for kid-friendly snacks, make sure linens are changed, put out new towels and refill the soap dispenser.  I do a quick dusting even though no one will notice and make sure the sidewalk is free of grass clippings.  I check the weather to make a soft list of activities in case of rain.  I get out the toddler dishes and sippy cups.  Of course, I charge my camera battery.

My husband, on the other hand, tends to go with the flow.  His most recent approach was to decide after the toddlers had arrived for the weekend to sleep in a tent in the back yard with grandson.  He was pretty excited about this adventure.  Our two man tent has not been used for maybe a decade (it smells) and the directions have long since been lost along with our foggy memories of how we used to set it up.  No surprise, but help from the five-year-old was not as useful as he had hoped.  After a couple of hours and some stifled bad words, this was as far as he got before he admitted defeat.  I think I am happier facing less disappointment and spending more pre-time as the one who over-plans.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Savouries of Life, Repetition on a Theme

When I was a child I remember how rare candy was at my house.  It was rare because of cost, not so much the enforcement toward healthy eating, but I am sure that was part of it.  I can remember squirreling away my Halloween candy (admittedly a large bag of it) in my dresser drawer and stingily eating little pieces of it all winter and into the spring until Easter candy took its place.  I can remember the rare bag of M and Ms being parceled out piece by piece to all three (long before the birth of my two younger siblilngs) of us kids making sure we all had the exact same number of pieces.

New clothes were also a big deal.  I remember one Christmas getting a pink sweater with golden new-moon shaped beads around the neck that I wore and wore until the moons were tarnished, it had become tight under my arms, and it had developed too many holes to wear anymore.

We never had any magazines at our house and I remember devouring them in the reception area of the doctor's office, always hoping that we had to wait a long time before the nurse called us into the examination room.

There were no distractions of children's television, video games, computer activities or phone texts.  I could savour the lilacs blooming each spring in the back yard right after breakfast and I did.  A good book and my imagination took me on wonderful journeys more detailed than any Avatar movie whose scenes were designed through another's vision.  A trip to the city was an exciting adventure, even though we didn't do anything more fun there than shop in a few stores.  It was the change of scene and sound that I savored.

If you are allowed every distraction, adventure and luxury as a child, do you ever really savour it.  It will be there tomorrow or next season surely once again, why bother to savour it?  Do your learn the technique of savouring something or does your life consist of hurrying on to the next best thing?  Must the skill of savoring be learned?  Does a chocolate cupcake crammed into one's mouth or with just the frosting eaten first taste as good as that one that you eat ever so slowly and think about each bite as it coats your taste buds knowing that it will be a long time before you get to savor another?

Thursday, May 06, 2010


For some weird reason we decided to use the rest of the tax refund (i.e. that free loan that you give to Uncle Sam, AND in our case, the State for a year) and spend it on paving the driveway.  Hubby and I have gone back on forth on the environmental issues, the weeds with ticks that appear by August down the drive vs. the toxicity of herbicide and pesticide vs. the oil runoff of asphalt and the heat that it will bring to the front yard.  I think what pushed us over the edge was the inability to shovel a gravel driveway with any success this past winter after week after week after week of snow.

Then hubby, who is the least pretentious person I know, decided he wanted pavers for the part closest to the house.  (Yes, you can close your mouth.) That is an expensive decision and certainly not necessary.  I was/am so shocked I decided to go along with it.  As I frequently say these days, I am going to die someday, so why not?  I do not fear or welcome death;  I just know that I am now on that downhill side and any decisions I make are not that important when they help employ others in this recession.

Anyway, I sit here at my desk with clouds of powdered cement drifting across the outside front yard and coating every green leaf and colored flower petal as workmen begin to saw into chunks the current cement sidewalk before starting on the driveway paving.  Oh yes, this will be major.  The house shakes as they lift huge chunks of cement with a bulldozer and dump it in their truck.  The workers (you know, the ones with the green cards that everyone wants to ask for to make sure they are legal ...the ones who are essential to our lifestyle...the ones that actually helped, in a small way, keep retail businesses open during the recession... and one of whom has only two pairs of work shoes but will not wear the other pair for weeks because a bird nested in them on his back porch) are covered in cement dust as they use cement saws to cut chunks of 4 inch thick concrete into manageable sizes.  The white guy sits in the front loader and moves the cement to the truck.

They had to carefully move quite a few established plants from either side of the walkway.  I am hoping they survive.  

Mrs. Bluebird left early and I have not seen her return, and I am VERY concerned that we have driven her off her nest.  The distant chickadee in the far birdhouse is still hanging in there in spite of the noise and dust.  We had forgotten the issues of spring when we scheduled this project.  We also should have been prepared for the washing machine gasket problem (in prior post) and the compressor going out on my little wine cooler in the kitchen.  

(Did she say she has a wine cooler in the kitchen?   Really?)

Anyway, neither of these are going to be repaired anytime soon.

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

A Puzzle for You

Discovery and serendipitous cleaning are some of the hallmarks of the time spent in wandering one's house post-visit of toddlers.  One cannot just wander through the familiar hallways or saunter into the bedroom as you normally do.  Make sure that you have shoes on.  Make sure you have your glasses on.  Make sure your hands and pockets are free to collect treasures.  Do not be squeamish.  One child's treasure is ... well, never mind.

If barefoot crossing the kitchen floor you will encounter surfaces that grasp your toes and heels with ardent stickiness.  You cannot see where this sticky surface rests, but it is there and will grasp every bit of dust and dirt in the days to come, revealing its presence unless it is scrubbed away right away.

One cannot just vacuum a floor without the same careful perusal of the areas that one uses before mowing the lawn.  Something will be camouflaged within the pattern of the Oriental rug or slipped just out of sight beneath the edge of the sofa.  Something will stymie that vibration brush on your vacuum or cripple your barefooted arch and leave you limping for days as you step upon that first stair. 

The expertise of looking for tiny fairy slippers, pointy plastic swords, and teeny legos is something that must be practiced and learned well.  Impatience in this arena will punish you.  I have learned this the hard way.

Yet, even I can learn something new.  I had collected all the sheets, pillow cases and assorted bath towels and had begun the first load of laundry.  When it was done I pulled the heavy damp sheets up into the dryer.  Within minutes I heard a clanging noise.  I stopped the dryer and pulled wet heavy fabric right and left and found nothing.  I continued the dryer again and heard that odd noise.  The photo of the metal hoop above is what I finally was able to retrieve from my damp laundry but only after it has torn a small corner off the sheet.

I have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what it is, where it came from, or whether I should be a little panicked by my lack of knowledge.  I do not have one of those fabric tunnels that children can crawl through.  Everything is still working in the house.  Any ideas?  Should I worry?  Do you have one of these?

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Best Laid Spring Plans

The local theatre brochure arrives by post.
I peruse
and mark those entertainments that look promising.
Unfolding the town paper, I scan the insert
and make a mental note of
weekend frivolities that are intriguing.

A new restaurant in town has live music for lunch, and
I jot a mental note to make sure and drop by.
The evening news showcases a local sports team and
I mark the calendar to see the next game.
My favorite artist has an exhibit in the nearby town and
I clear some space in my week.

The weekend comes and the drama of
the osprey nest building show,
"Engagement one week only,"
claims my time.
The following week there are hyacinth bean seedlings
in the coldframe
demanding transplant.
During the coming spring days,
my lunch hours are filled
with the dance recitals of
hummingbirds and new butterflies.
By month's end, the lonely canoe needs a quick
paddle down the creek to stretch its spine.
So, I will admire the spring landscapes painted by 

the local artist, Mother Nature,
while pulling my paddle through the silver water.