Thursday, January 11, 2018

Scraps of Our Lives

As I pack for moving (which will be another blog post entirely), I have hard decisions to make. When you've lived in a place for over 22 years, you accumulate a good number of things that "I might need some day" or "might some day be worth something" or in the case of my sugar Easter egg, something I just can't bring myself to discard.

I've cleaned out several houses after the owner passed on and you come across items, such as a dead locust in a box in my uncle's drawer, that begged the question, "what did this mean to him?" There was no note or description. The weight of my belongings is heavy on my shoulders and I don't want to pass this weight along someday to another generation.

The egg in question was given to me by my grandmother, Eleanor. Constructed of sugar, egg albumen, artificial flavorings and colors by Hooper's Confectioners, my guess then and now was that it was prettier to look at than to eat. I liked looking inside the hole at the end at the make-believe world of a little bunny.

Sadly, the jelly beans and the edges have started to brown, possibly mold. Time to retire it to the landfill. Apparently, they sell on eBay (without browning) for $8-$10. This packing could take a long time.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Some Quick Tips

It's too bad we only get one life or that it is such a relatively short one. I'm just now figuring some things out and getting my act together. Such as today, my husband asked where the title was for an old car and I could tell him it was in the lock box at the bank. At least, I am about 95% sure - okay maybe 75% sure - that's where it is. I'm slightly more organized about important papers than I used to be.

I've learned how to clean things a little better.  For example, there are several ways to get the white mineral residue from glass shower doors. Once clean, you can keep them that way by using a water and vinegar spray and drying off each time the shower is used. Yeah, like that is going to happen but I'm sure you had the best intentions of doing so. Here's a tip though - when you first pledge that you will keep them clean and you get that glass all sparkly, tell your husband. If you don't, the next morning you'll hear him crashing into that nice clean door as if it weren't really there.

Speaking of the shower, you can clean the shower nozzle easily by filling a baggie with vinegar and using a rubber band to hold it in place while the vinegar does its magic. If you should get very busy with making dinner, washing clothes, answering the phone, paying bills, and in general, forgetting all about it, your husband will remind you what you did when he starts the shower up the next morning. You will know before he says so though as he will be trying to rub the vinegar from his streaming eyes.

Yes, I'm just now hitting my stride.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

The Smallest Cuts

The tiniest piece of glass was imbedded in my big toe. It was worse than a large cut easily bandaged and fixed. It was so small I could not see it or dig it out, yet it hurt me with each step. It took days for the body to figure out how to fight it and fester it out. Words can be like that tiny piece of glass. Tossed out sentiments, like little pieces of glass, can get under our societal skin, be difficult to remove, while hurting us all.

So it was when we bought a van, bigger, room for a service dog and multiple boys. I met our seller at the county courthouse and all was going well until I was asked if I wanted a license plate with the state logo of “Unbridled Spirit” or instead “In God We Trust”. I paused, perhaps a little too long. I do trust in God, but would it be a false clarion that I was a conservative? And I do like horses and the state motto. On the other hand, I could use the extra prayer conveyed in having “God” on my license plate. (This is the sign of someone that thinks a little too much.)

The clerk and the seller waited. “This shouldn’t be that big of a decision,” said the clerk. Finally, I chose “In God We Trust”, the national motto. That’s when the clerk told me how she spreads little, cutting pieces of glass.

She laughed. “When I see someone that comes in that’s an Arab, I don’t give them a choice. I just give them the “In God We Trust” license plate.”

The seller laughed, too. My mind reeled for what to say. “They worship the same God” was what came to mind later, but I had, as the French say, l’esprit d’escalier, that is, I didn’t think fast enough and the moment was over. While I did not laugh back, I was ashamed I didn’t speak up for these little pieces of word glass, these ideas that are thrown out like little quips, this way of thinking is what eats away at our humanity and ability to truly see and understand the person before us.

Just the day before, I had been hugged by a young mother, a truly heartfelt and loving hug down to my soul. She was thankful. I had brought her our discarded old couch as they had nothing. I’d asked her what they needed. “We are very in need” she responded, and told me that she slept on the floor with her four children. Her back hurt. I also brought a quality air mattress and a few other items.

When I arrived, she took me into her home and showed me where they slept – on the floor. They’d been here two years and after one year, there was no help for refugees. I didn’t ask why they came, why they didn’t get off the ground with the help they did get at first. I didn’t ask why they continued to have more children or why the husband, who was there, wasn’t working. (These are all the little pieces of glass we throw around, that are imbedded in us, hard to excise.) All I needed to know was that she was a young mother whose back hurt because she had no place to sleep. It was right before Christmas and as she held her little brown baby, I thought of another mother who sought a place to lay her head with her beautiful little curly headed brown baby.

She has no car, so likely will never encounter the choice of license plate nor a clerk that shows her no courtesy. I won’t pretend that American society hasn’t always had prejudices against groups of people and still does. I grew up hearing that we are a melting pot, yet also knowing that differences were often met with disparagement rather than enlightenment. That pot holds many pieces of little glass. We Americans historically recognize and claim to fight injustice and large bleeding cuts, though, with the current political situation and the temperature outside, there is new meaning in the words, “A cold day in hell.”  Until we recognize how cutting and hurtful a small phrase or word can be, to both society and our own psyche, we will not become the great society we purport to be.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

No Good Deed

Leaving William at his gym workout, Murphy and I began walking along a familiar path. At the gazebo, I was started to see a small woman curled up on the bench inside a gazebo surrounded by meager belongings. I wondered if she was hungry. Well, there, that's what I'll do with my time waiting for William: Murphy and I would walk to McD's and buy her some lunch.

Passing the car wash, a yippy dog surprised us with irritating barks. Murphy swung out on her leash but kept going. We'd done so well this morning in our "Wallflowers" class and in general, Murphy has been getting less fearful. (Note: work on small yappy dogs) At McDs, an older woman asks if she could take me home with her, confusing me. She then blessed me for the "work" I am doing with the dog. I don't bother to correct her (I am selfishly training this dog for my own son) because it would invite a long conversation. I accept my blessing. 

Placing my order, I go to get a drink. Murphy is used to establishments where I need to check out, and I made the mistake doing a sit-stay and letting go of the leash. At that very moment, two young girls emerged from the restroom located for best sanitation right near the drink station. "P-U-P-P-Y!!" they shrieked.

Murphy paused, her ears back. Then, she bolted. Without thinking, I stepped on her leash, a trick that usually works. The tile floor was slippery and my right leg slid and I went down on my left, hitting the base of my nose on the chair in front of me. I did successfully hang on to Murphy and I luckily was not holding the drink.

Tears streaming down, I wondered if blood was also shooting out of my nostrils. "I'm fine," I protested as I opened the door of the men's room. The women's is always on the right, isn't it? I noticed before breaking all the bathroom laws recently enacted to keep us all safe from people that need to pee.

Just then, my phone rang. I answered, promising to return the call in five minutes. My nose appeared unbroken, no blood, so I straightened up, marched out and got my chicken nuggets, not looking at anyone. We passed the yippy dog (teach your dog manners, for God's sake!) and got to the gazebo. It was a small man, not a woman at all! Murphy would not approach, so I asked if he was hungry and left the food on one of the benches. I got another blessing as Murphy pulled me away.

Sigh. Maybe next time we'll go sit at the library. 

Friday, July 28, 2017


Shells from the beach sit in boxes in my closets. I am the keeper of these small mementos from vacations past. Each year, more are added. Pinterest is mentioned occasionally (by others), but I'm saving crafty years for when they put me in "the home" along with crocheting kitchen wash cloths. I mark the box "SHELLS" and return it to the closet.

In cleaning out some closets, I found I had more than one stash of this precious commodity. It was time to cull some of the less desirable shells, some chipped, some completely broken. ("I found a piece of a sand dollar!") I gathered these shards and thought it such a shame, carried a thousand miles to home, to relegate them to the landfill. I decided to dump them in our creek. 

My husband objected, "You'll throw off some future archaeologist!" Perhaps ruin the local ecology? Pffah! The idea of puzzling some future human only adds to my the fun of it. Our creek has long been a treasure trove of finds. We also have hundreds of pounds of horn coral in my keeping. 

Horn coral is pointy rock in the middle
As our creek has widened and the banks eroded, many of these horn coral lay as proof that millions of years ago, our land was underwater and a sea was home to these creatures. We also often find broken glass, washed from upstream and the occasional virus. 

This bend in the creek which used to be the only "swimming hole" is no longer the only deep place in the creek now and itself, is much deeper. It is home to frogs, tadpoles, and some small fish - oh, and of course, those little skimming water-walker insects. It is flanked by the "elbow tree".

The creek was one of the strong attractions to moving here. There is so much to learn just laying there.

Thursday, July 27, 2017


My breath caught when I first saw it from the other side. A Luna Moth! I thought from the size. I was confused when I saw all the brown. I'd not seen this type of giant moth before. I Googled on my phone "from the silk moth family". It is an Imperial Moth, or Eascles imperialis of the Saturniidae family. Her wingspan is 4.5 inches.

Immediately, I worried that perhaps our elementary school experiments had ruined the local ecology and released silk moths in our neighborhood. We used to mail order the eggs and grow them to caterpillars, feeding them the mulberry paste or gathering leaves from our own mulberry tree. I don't remember releasing the moths, in fact, I do remember the caterpillars forming a cocoon - we watched them spin it - but I don't remember any moth ever hatching.

I was relieved to learn that this particular moth is indigenous to our area. I am seeing so many moths these days because I've been leaving on the porch light at night as a deterrent due to some robberies in the area. My niece asked me to look for caterpillars or cocoons, as she wanted to hatch some moths, but in this particular subfamily of moths, when the caterpillars are ready to pupate, they burrow underground. I have been keeping an eye out for the dead moths (they live only a few days after mating) but they have all flown off.

It seems over the years, I've written a number of blogs on moths and butterflies. You can find them by using the search box on this blog.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Grandmother Tree

If ever I leave this place, I will miss the trees. Kentucky is filled with trees but these are our trees. They are like old friends. Many I remember when they were much smaller. Some, we have planted ourselves. Two were transplanted from our first house. Two average sized oaks stood over our pool for over a decade, giving us shade but also causing yellow algae. The pool is now gone, the twin oaks are majestic and shade our house. We have an evergreen grove, baby trees planted by my husband when we first moved. He was going to transplant them around the property, but somehow, they got too big before he thought to do it. It makes a nice place for deer to sleep.

The tree I treasure most you would not see if you came to my house. It is on the hill in the back overlooking the creek. I call it our "Grandmother Tree". I often think about the history of our property, what it might have been like before Europeans arrived, who might have lived here before and since. We are only 5 miles by bird to the Ohio River, so it is not hard to imagine that natives roamed my creek, though I've found no proof.

This Grandma Tree is still healthy. She needs a few limbs removed, but shows no trunk rot. Measuring 177" or almost 15 feet in circumference, it is in the white oak family. I used "Leaf Snap", an app for identifying tree leaves, to determine that it was a white oak. Then, using a calculation for oak trees, I figured that this tree is 282 years old. This means it sprouted in 1735 or so.

The first main excursion into Kentucky didn't occur until 1750 when Thomas Walker came through the Cumberland Gap. Some of my ancestors would later follow this route to settle here. Many of my ancestors were still in Europe. This tree would have been 15 years old already when the first Europeans started infiltrating this land. It would have been a 34 year old tree when Daniel Boone led his first expedition and a full grown adult 40 year old tree when he founded the first permanent European settlement. Dan Boone was all over this land and could easily have sat under our tree. He wouldn't recognize the spot: the creek is much wider (due to runoff from development in the neighborhood) and I'm sure many trees weren't as hardy as our Grandmother tree.

If only she could tell me what she has witnessed...


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