Sunday, May 31, 2009

California Trip, Day Three

Days One and Two were spent on the road, and mighty fine days they were. We hit a couple of patches of really heavy rain that lasted about five minutes each. That's perfect for washing the windshield of bugs, and makes for wonderfully interesting and dramatic clouds without causing hazardous driving conditions. We didn't see a single accident along the route, but sure passed many a car pulled over while a uniformed officer wrote out a citation. We didn't cry. Neither did we need to slow down.

We arrived at the California-Nevada border Friday night just before the end of the Laker's game, and I went in and got us a room, watching the end of the game on the monitor at check-in. Then we slept until the alarm John sent went off at five a.m. No, he hadn't warned me. After that, he slept and I lay there wondering why he set the alarm, since we had spent sixteen or seventeen hours on the road and were well ahead of our planned arrival. When I finally fell back asleep, he got up and decided we should leave. I wasn't amused, but did finally crawl out, shower and sleep in the car for another hour.

We made it to Jean and Dave's home around one instead of five. It would have been earlier, but John wanted to take the scenic back roads. I asked why, since Jean lives by the freeway and we were on the freeway, he got off the freeway to get to her house about seventy miles from arrival. He explained that it had been awhile since he'd seen the back roads, and he "just wanted to go that way." I said I didn't know that way, so he was on his own. He said he had the navigator if we got lost. I said I know where her house is, but don't have the address, since my pda got broken, "remember?" "I can find it."

An hour later, when he was lost and angry, it was all my fault. Somehow, I knew it would be. I got out of the car, found an elderly gentleman and asked him where the freeway was. He explained how to get there. I got back in the car and told John how to return to the freeway. Once we did that, it was easy to find Jean.

Now (blessed be) John and Dave have GONE FISHING. Amen to that.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

All Packed Up

The packing is done. At least, I think it's done. I still have to grab my feather pillows off the bed when I get up in the morning and put my dark brown travel pillow cases on them, but other than that, I think I'm ready. The car is mostly packed. John still has the cooler and a couple of the more expensive items to take outside. He won't take my computer out until morning, since I'm still using it. He also won't take the guitar out until morning. It's one of those things I couldn't replace if someone decided they'd rather have it than leave it in our vehicle. 

Now, if I could just figure out what I've forgotten this time...

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Lakers vs. Denver - An Embarrassment

Ever since my three sons were involved in sports, I've made it a point of honor not to badger or run down game officials. The closest I ever got was in one of our oldest son Tighe's baseball games. The ump decided before the first pitch was thrown that the other team was going to win. We found out later that he lived in the other town and had a nephew on the team. That's not what I call fair. Even had I known that then, I had my rules.

I'll give you an example from that game. There was a runner on 2nd base. It was a very windy day and Tighe was pitching. He's left handed, so he was facing first base. The wind blew his hat off and he made an instinctive grab for it. He stepped from the mound as he grabbed. The ump called him for a balk, giving the runner 3rd base. (What?) You get the idea. The whole game was like that. We lost, of course. It's hard to win when the other team owns the umpire; I'm not even sure we would have taken that game if the calls were fair. We'll never know, will we?

I do have a temper, and I'd been holding it in for the whole game, since I have those rules. However, when I reached my car, there was the umpire, parked right next to our car. He was stripping out of his gear at the trunk of his car. I couldn't resist. I walked up to him, and in a very polite voice, I said, "Don't let anyone get you down, sir. Umpiring is a very difficult job. You just keep trying, and you'll eventually learn how to do it properly." Then I got in my car, and waited for Tighe to leave the dugout and join me.

Tonight's basketball game, Lakers versus Nuggets, left me feeling the same way. I live in Colorado, and try to support the local teams. Tonight, though, it became impossible to route for Denver. They had the refs so firmly on their side, I couldn't believe it. Long before halftime I was routing for LA to beat the pants off of them, just to prove to the officials that you can't change the outcome of a game by allowing yourselves to officiate with blinders on. 

There were so many blatantly bad calls that we replayed some four or five times, just to see if we were wrong. Did we miss something? Going blind perhaps? Could they really strong-arm from behind and not get called? Throw an elbow and have a technical called on the one hit? It was disturbing. 

Tighe tells me Denver is called the Thuggets around the league because they play like a bunch of thugs. I sure saw that side of them tonight. I've been doing too much writing and music, and missing too many games. I was ashamed of Denver's sportsmanship, embarrassed by the officiating, and justified by the Laker victory.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Idol Upset?

Even the news programs are talking about the American Idol winner as being an upset. They're discussing what makes it an upset, and why Kris beat Adam. If you haven't followed the program, you probably don't care. It's interesting, though, how very upset some people are about the choice American phone-in voters made. I do, of course, have an opinion. I haven't heard it on television yet. Perhaps I'm alone with my idea. I'll relate what I've heard on TV first.

I've heard that Adam lost because people thought he was gay. If that were true, I wonder who voted him into the top two? That simply doesn't compute for me. One reporter suggested that Kris won because he's from the South, and there are more people in the South who like music, so they vote more. (What?) Another reporter said she thought it was Kris's "boy next door" appeal that raised him to the top. Maybe. It makes more sense than the other things I heard in the news today.

Here's my take on Kris's win. First off, lots of people don't like to hear screaming, and Adam does scream his songs. However, he screams on pitch, so you can't say he isn't talented. He's not my cup of tea, but I do recognize his talent. I don't think the screaming is the reason he didn't win, by the way. I think the judges and the producers screwed him out of the win. How? They crowned him too early.

Back up a couple of weeks. There was a guest singer on the program who came out to entertain. Was I the only one who was offended when she turned her back to the audience to hold out a cape with "Adam Lambert" emblazoned on the back? Nobody even commented on it. How did the other two contestants feel? How did their fans feel, or the ones who were sitting on the fence? 

When the grand finale song was written that both contestants would have to sing, how many people were offended that it was written in Adam's key? There was a slight apology to Kris that it was written a little too high for him, but that he did a credible job with it anyway. After the singing was over on that penultimate show, the judges basically said that Adam was the American Idol. I wish I had written down their exact words, or saved the program, but I thought at the time that you should never have a coronation before the new king is chosen.

Beyond that, look at the final show. Who was showcased? Adam was. The rock group Queen singing? That's certainly Adam's type of music. Everything was set up to make him shine. It was his moment, scripted and prepped by the producers. 

That's my opinion. People don't like to be told who's going to win before they vote... unless, I guess, it's NBC telling them who the president's going to be.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Earth Spirits

It's rare these days for me to feel restless or down, but when it hits, I tend to hide in my room with a book or sleep, hoping to lose whatever is stealing my contentment. Nothing was working today, and I was feeling transparent, like a ghost walking through my own life. That's not comfortable, to say the least. The only good thing about it is that I tend to lose my appetite, so I generally lose a couple of pounds a day when that happens. (Every silver lining has a cloud, right?)

Mid afternoon I went to sit on the front deck, to absorb the birdsong and sight of the trees. I hadn't been there more than fifteen minutes when the quiet steps of five deer caught my attention. They were stepping gingerly along the dirt road above our home. It was two does with their yearlings, two young females and a male with his first antlers looking like fat fuzzy chopsticks. They huddled by the edge of our property, looking first at me, and then at each other, as if discussing the situation. 

With prods and nudges, the mothers urged their youngsters into the shade beneath our trees. They stood and watched for about five minutes while the three grazed at the longer grasses and took a few nibbles at some of the shrubbery branches. Then the two young does settled down into the shade beneath the pines while the male, as if at a junior high dance, distanced himself and lay down close to the deck, watching me. The mothers looked at me, and then wandered off together.

I sat and watched the young deer, realizing that I felt better. They stayed where they were for the most part, occasionally getting up to stretch and eat a bit, but sticking pretty close to where they had been when the two larger deer had wandered off down the road together. During the afternoon I was in and out, and I talked to them as I always do. "Hi, deer. Nice to see you. Looks like your winter coats are almost gone..." 

Around five o'clock I was back on the deck, just sitting there enjoying the lengthening shadows. The sun sets on the opposite side of the house, so that side of the yard has really wonderful early evening contrasts and striations. The yearlings stood at the same time, stretching and gathering together. I didn't see or hear anything, but suddenly I was alert as well. They gathered together for the first time since they had arrived. They stood for about five minutes, heads cocked periodically, listening. Obviously their hearing was far superior to mine. Plodding gracefully up the road came their mothers. They didn't stop, but looked at their babies, who fell into step behind them. 

As the last one climbed up onto the road, both mothers looked over at the deck where I sat. What do you know? I've been used as a babysitter!

Sleepless Nights

Here it is, the wee hours of the morning, and my brain is running around in circles, nowhere near ready to give up on consciousness. Oh, well. I can always nap tomorrow. For tonight, at least I've got a good audio book to listen to in the dark, where I won't bother anyone. Headphones are marvelous inventions.

Being awake this late always reminds me of the old joke about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac, who sits up all night wondering if there really is a dog.

Did I mention that my thought processes work strangely when I'm really tired?

Monday, May 18, 2009

Listen To Your Body

I saw a sign once that said "Everyone serves a purpose, even if it is only as a warning to others." It was funny at the time. I stopped laughing this morning. Here's my warning. When your body tells you that you've had enough, listen.

The morning was beautiful, and I could have just kicked back on the deck and enjoyed the scenery, but I figured it would be nice to be a little more productive. My irises are coming up nicely, but the grasses around them are coming up just as quickly. When you have over an acre, and it's foothill property, you don't just grab the lawnmower. You use a weed whacker. How hard could that be?

John has two of them. I asked him if I could use one, and told him I wanted to trim the areas around my flowers and the front deck around the fire pit. He, of course, offered to do it for me—not immediately, of course, but eventually. Naturally, I wanted it done sooner than that, so asked if he could just give me a little lesson and let me see what I could do. He picked the electric one, since it keeps going nicely and is the lighter of the two... not that I could tell after about fifteen minutes.

Within half an hour my forearms ached and my back was beginning to cramp. I was wondering how John managed to do so much yard at once. When he does it, he usually does half the yard in one morning, then finishes in the late afternoon when it cools down again. Sometimes he does it two mornings in a row. I took a look around me and saw that I had only cleared about a twenty by thirty foot area in thirty minutes, and managed to chop off one of my iris plants, too. John would never have done that, but my arms were shaking. 

I considered quitting. My body was really begging for it, letting me know I'd had enough. Then I saw one more patch that would "complete" a section. Well, I thought, that shouldn't take me more than another ten minutes. I made my way over to it, thinking that if I stood in one spot and swung the thing around my in an arc, I could clear a larger patch more quickly. Unfortunately, the patch I cleared was about three inches by five inches—skin from the calf of my leg. 

That's one way to get out of trimming the grass. John was pretty upset. He'd never heard of anyone hurting the back of their leg with a weed whacker before. Where there's a will, there's a way.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Putting Things Away

Everyone has different likes and dislikes. One person enjoys math. Another loves English. On Facebook the other day, somebody was talking about the things she disliked doing. It started me thinking about the things I dislike doing in my own life. 

Here's what I decided. I dislike putting things away. Filling the dishwasher isn't bad at all, but emptying it, actually putting the dishes away is almost painfully annoying. Washing and drying clothes is no problem, but getting them out of the dryer, folding them and putting them away is really an obnoxious job. I hate putting the groceries away when I come home from shopping. 

If I could hire somebody to just put all my stuff away whenever I use it, that would be really cool. I have no idea why I feel that way. I've learned to do these things immediately so they don't stack up and stare at me. I like to have things put where they belong. I'm always pleased if John puts something away, but not if he puts it in the wrong place. It's really no harder to put something away than it is to take it out, and I don't mind getting it out. I never said I was logical about this. I'm still trying to understand it. 

John's been married to me for over thirty years, and he's not trying to figure me out anymore. Maybe I should take a lesson from him. At least he can recognize a lost cause. Every once in awhile I hear him mutter something about "ours is not to wonder why," and then the door to his radio room slams shut. We all have our coping devices. 

Thursday, May 14, 2009

While My Sister Sleeps

It's a book. I've been accused of reading too much. Moderation is something I believe in for most areas of my life, but books don't seem to count. I'm not moderate in my reading. I need to be reading. I read a book today. If it hadn't been so great, it would have taken me a couple of days to finish it, but it was easier reading than the last book I read this week, and still gave me plenty to think about. Both books were about sisters.

The first book, My Sister's Keeper by Jodi Picoult, was very heavy, and I felt like I'd been dragged behind a truck by the time I finished it. It was a moral dilemma, and I knew which side I was on, but could sympathize at times with the other side. Only at times, however. 

Today's book, While My Sister Sleeps, was written by Barbara Delinsky. Although it's also a drama based on a tragic set of circumstances, it's not as dismal, and the resolution doesn't leave a person with their guts hanging out. That's always a relief to me. Maybe I'm too fond of the "Hollywood ending," but I've never appreciated having my hero's plane go down in the last scene. Even when it's the only appropriate ending, it hurts too much.

So I'd suggest that if you'd like to read an extremely well written novel about family dynamics under crisis, in a family that's far from perfect but based on love, give this one a try. I do believe this book is a keeper. The characters are more than they first appear to be, and Delinsky manages some touchy subjects very well. She's obviously done her research. 

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

(Property) Tax Protest

We've been here for three years now, and each year it seems we're traveling when our tax assessment papers come with the little caveat that we have a two week window to protest the amount of the tax assessment. We do, of course, have to pay our property taxes based on the tax assessment. Every year we get home and realize that we've missed that window of opportunity. This year we got the blessed little thing before we left.

Today John took me to City Hall in Fort Collins. He sat in the car while I went inside and walked up to the assessor's window. I gave them a winning smile and said, "Hi. I'm a protestor." The guy at the window asked if I was there to protest the amount of my assessment. He looked amused by my wording, not annoyed, so I felt good. He signed me in and I had a seat, expecting to wait. Five minutes later I was ushered into the inner sanctum.

I had written a letter, made copies of our homeowners' documentation and the MLS sheet from the original sale of the home. I was so organized. Did she want that stuff? Not really, although she was happy to see that I had it, she said, "... in case we need it. Let's just talk first." 

It took about fifteen minutes before I was out of there. The house was reassessed at the purchase value, and we'll not only save money on our property taxes next year, but in about a month we'll be getting an overpayment check back from them for excessive property taxes already paid. I sure wish I knew how much that will be. 

I'm continually surprised by how things work here in the Loveland area. I went in expecting an argument. I was anticipating a long wait, irritation, and at best to be told that they'd get back to me in a few weeks. If I haven't mentioned this before, I've never been so happy living anywhere else. This is the life—the good life.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A Wonderful Mother's Day

Yesterday was Mother's Day. I guess that's not news to most, but for me it was just about the best Mother's Day I can remember. Maybe my memory is getting short, but perhaps it was just that the day seemed to roll along so sweetly. I got calls from Jeremy (in Louisiana) and Ben (in The Netherlands), but Tighe was here. It was the first time in years that one of my sons was with me on Mother's Day.

I made one of my favorite breakfast treats, French toast made with cinnamon bread, and scrambled eggs with onions and cheese. I got cards and flowers—not just flowers, but tulips. My daughter-in-law Ruth would appreciate that. She's always loved them best. I've given tulips many times, but never received them before. I'm still smiling.

I used my Koehler cousins' brat recipe for lunch, letting those good Johnsonville brats simmer along with sliced onions for a couple of hours in a dark unnamed brew. Yum. When they were done, their life expectancy was very short. (And no, you can't get drunk on them. The brew just adds to the flavor.)

Dinner was a family affair. We all worked on it. Tighe marinaded sesame chicken and cooked rice. John grilled the chicken on the barbeque. I did a medley of tempura vegetables and a pear and apple cole slaw for side dishes. It all came together beautifully. I need to add that sesame chicken to the things I cook. It was beyond excellent. Then Tighe made one of my favorite little extras, peanut butter cookies for dessert. I was definitely spoiled yesterday. I went to bed kind of early, feeling fat and sassy. 

The only sour note in the whole day was when Tighe turned his ankle. I felt doubly bad. Not only was he in pain, really having trouble walking, but he did it while cutting wood in our yard. He had gone out to our trimmed tree branches with the saw and cut them into fire pit sized pieces. We've had a couple of days of rain, and the ground and wood were fairly soft. He got down near the bottom of the branch pile, and the wood was no longer cutting well, so he decided to give it a couple of days to dry before tackling it again. Then he turned around to jump down a bit and his ankle rolled. It's huge and swollen. 

I'll have to spoil him tonight when he gets back from work. Maybe we should do this again next year... without the ankle pain. I vote yes.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

An Old Poem—In Honor of Mother's Day

I've written before of my mother's penchant for reciting old, and often strange, poems to us kids. I've heard from the other three that they think it's weird that I memorized these arcane bits of poetry, but I guess they're parts of my history, and even though few people ever seem to know them besides our family, I believe they're part of the personal lore of growing up.

I present for you here one of the little rhymes Mom swears she got from her own mother. I can't see any reason why she'd make that up, and Grandma didn't have time to write poetry, with fourteen kids, so I'll just mark it Anonymous. (He wrote so many things, anyway.)

Me Mudder

Who, when I was a wee wee tot,
Would take me from me warm warm cot,
And put me on the cold cold pot,
And tell me to go if me could or not?
Me Mudder.

And who, when me prayers were poorly said,
Would take me from me little bed,
And spank me til me bum were red?
Me Mudder.

And who, when the morning light would come,
And in me crib me dribbled some
Would wipe me tiny little bum?
Me Mudder.

And who would me hair so neatly part,
And hug me gently to her heart,
And sometimes squeeze me til me fart?
Me Mudder.

Who looked at me with eyebrows knit,
And nearly had a king-sized fit
When in me Sunday pants me S***?
Me Mudder.

And who when at night her bed did squeak,
And me raised me head to have a peek,
Would yell at me to go to sleep?
Me Fadder!

Friday, May 8, 2009

The Simple Things

It's truly the simple things in life that surprise you with the strongest emotional impact. I realize that Mother's Day is coming up this week, and I expect there will be some surprises and special treatment. On a daily basis, I have very little to complain about anyway. But today was not Mother's Day. Or was it? It also wasn't Father's Day or Grandparent's Day. But it felt like it.

John walked out for the mail and came back inside with a big grin on his face. He stuck out a post card from the Netherlands with little two year old Ashley's careful printing of "I love you" on it. I imagine Ruth sitting there helping her with the letters, thinking of us. 

Today was not a special day on the calendar, but a special day because she made it one. These things happen just often enough to be surprises, to let us know we're thought of, cared about. How do you explain how much that means? Ben brought a good woman into our family. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Political Irony in Tax Speech

Was I the only one choking back laughter yesterday when the Secretary of the Treasury introduced the President with a pompous speech about tax evaders? You'd think they could find someone who wasn't guilty of tax evasion to give that particular speech. Politics has become one of those professions where mothers tend to say, "I'm sure grateful my son didn't go into..." 

I figure with the 800 new IRS agents Geitner boasted the President plans to have the IRS hire to catch the scoundrels cheating on their taxes, maybe we should set up some guidelines. I have a few suggestions. Start with congress. Make sure to do a complete audit of all cabinet members. Check their staff members and aides. Begin at the Federal level, and then go State by State. If your tax return lists your occupation as "politician," you should be audited.

Money recovered from just those discrepancies should more than cover the cost of those 800 new agents. It should also insure that I'm not laughing by myself.

Monday, May 4, 2009


I'm having trouble keeping my eyes open, but we had a great day. I think I ate too much. Betty's sister Bobby and her husband Apple came from Alabama (without the proverbial banjo on their knees, unfortunately). They stopped along the way at a friend's place along the Texas/Oklahoma border somewhere and went fishing, bringing a mountain of cleaned filet of fish with them in their motor home's freezer. 

We all met up for a Southern fish fry at a third sister's home in Grand Junction. JoAnn and her husband Don, also known as Johnny for some strange reason, hosted the boisterous group. Between the laughter and food, the dog racing through, and tours of the Ambassador-sized motor home, it was a day to remember. 

Tomorrow we'll be staying here, having a quiet day. Since our son Tighe joined us in Grand Junction at the end of the evening and followed us back to Pat and Betty's, we'll have a full house tonight in Parachute. Tomorrow Tighe will head back to our house after a round of golf with his Uncle Pat. John and I will follow the next morning. Meanwhile, I do believe I'll be sleeping quite well tonight.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Too Far Away to Help

Our dear little granddaughter Ashley, just two years and four months old, had her first emergency room experience today. She got her fingertip caught in the door and nearly severed, and it was necessary to have it sewn back on.  If you want all the drama and details, her mom Ruth shared the experience and the anguish on their family blog today.

John and I had stopped for breakfast on our drive to my brother's home, and had just ordered when the cell phone rang, with Ben bringing us the news of her injury. I've never appreciated people who sit in a restaurant and chat on the phone, so I headed outside to talk to him. They usually call us on Sunday, so I expected a nice Amsterdam to Colorado conversation, catching up on the last few days since we've talked or emailed. Suddenly I was sagging against the outside of the building with my stomach upside down.

Ben sounded so upset that he'd gotten light headed enough to have to leave the surgery. I admitted to him that the first time they sewed up Tighe, my oldest, he was only two. I passed out cold on the floor before the first stitch was taken. It's so hard to be far away, but especially in very good or very bad times. I very much want to be there to share the burdens and the hugs.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Travel Plans

We'll be leaving Sunday for a quick trip to see my brother Pat and his good wife Betty in Parachute, Colorado. We haven't seen them in far too long, and it's only about four hours away, so we'll take a few days for a visit there. As the saying goes, eat, drink and be merry. Tomorrow we may diet. 

As we get ready to leave, I realize that we're packing light for the trip, but will only be home a couple of weeks before the next trip to California for John to work at the missile base again. Unfortunately, the contract still calls for us to pay our own transportation, and our own hotel and food once we get there. The government sure knows how to spend money, but they're not spending it on us. By the time we pay expenses, we'll be gone three weeks and come out ahead by about $250 to $300, depending on how much we eat, and whether or not we bring food with us in the cooler. Food is cheaper by far here in California than it is in California.

We should be in Ventura County by Memorial Week—that is, of course, unless they change the date again. They originally wanted us there the first week of June. They just changed it. Too bad we won't be there in time for Mother's Day. I guess I still need to mail my Mom's gift out there. I hate to ask her to celebrate late. It makes me feel like I'm too cheap to drive to the post office with her gift and card. 

I'm full of complaints today, aren't I? I think I'll just concentrate on going to see Pat and Betty. That's the eat, drink and be merry part. Betty sure knows how to cook.