Saturday, February 8, 2014

So, we are en route to Florida to visit my mother for a couple weeks. Today we made it almost to Richmond, VA only to have smoke come up through the floor of what has now been dubbed "The Beast," an old RV we rather impulsively bought last October.  I was totally freaked out. My husband, D, pulled over, grabbed the fire extinguisher, as I grabbed the dogs and we fairly lept off the monster in a desperate attempt to save our lives, well, maybe not "fairly" but it was an impressive leap. We couldn't decide if it was smoke or steam, but agreed there was a whole hell of a lot of the stuff going on and so distanced ourselves from the thing. We were on 95 south, and the trucks roared and barreled by and made The Beast shake side to side as the great grey clouds kept puffing from it like some unholy dragon. I was so scared and cold my butt actually started trembling uncontrollably. I have never had this happen before. I now know it to be a sign that my inner self is convinced of impending doom. I am embarrassed by my inner self's notification system.

We stood there a great while, waiting for The Beast to be engulfed in flames...the air cleared a little...still no flames but both of us still too scared to approach. After a good while, when it was clear no fire was actually occurring, we approached the crippled monster. The whole under-carriage as well as my car, being towed behind, was coated in something. It could be oil, could be coolant, we're not sure. We are thinking now that it was a blown hose and that coolant sprayed everywhere, at least that is what we are hoping for.  We called for a tow truck who towed us to some place near King's Dominion.  The shop says they can't even look at it until Monday. The owner of the shop wouldn't let us stay in the poor forlorn Beast, which we had hoped we could do. He said it was a "bad area" and we would be safer elsewhere.

I'm not too happy about that since D's upright bass and my guitar had to be left behind, but we are in a hotel now somewhat close. We've been here now for three hours. During that time Maya, our little dog, to her, and our, horror peed on the rug and D announced that the toilet had backed up. I felt so bad for little Maya. She was horrified and actually shaking in shame. This has never happened before and I blame us for not taking the two of them out earlier. I suppose I was basking in the relief of not being immolated. She has become ever so attached to me and I had to cuddle with her for some time before she became herself again. I so adore that little beast!

Meanwhile, it is 11:30 pm, I really need to pee and the hotel clerk says no one is on staff. A $70/night hotel and the answer is take this plunger and try it or wait till morning. D took the plunger, to no avail. Now we are in room 312 instead of 310 and my bladder is relieved.

Despite all this, I'm kinda excited to be forced to check out Richmond. It has always been a drive-through town for me and it really shouldn't be. It is rich with history. Tomorrow we shall explore. As my father used to say "Why hurry? You pass by more than you get to."

Monday, August 26, 2013

What is the Point of a Sparrow

Today I found a wild baby bird underneath my outdoor laundry line. Actually, I didn't find it. My little dog Maya picked it up in her mouth ever so gently and it squeaked , I noticed, and yelled “NO”! And she dropped it. She was so so gentle though, no harm came to the little thing. Ah, it was ever so young. eyes not even open. My husband and I searched in vain for the nest. Alas, none to be found. And so, the inner voices came began debating what to do next.

My immediate thought was “let nature do its thing. I won't interfere.”

My next thought was of my chickens in the yard who would kill it, my cats, the same, my dogs, um well....

So, I picked the wee thing up, and carried it into the house.

I don't know anything about raising wild bird chicks, so I put it in the chicken chick incubator and called friends and posted my dilemma on Facebook. I followed up on one offering of a wildlife rehabilitator. She wanted to meet immediately (damn, there goes the dinner plans) and so we did.

We hear all the time, literally ALL the time, of horrendous individuals doing unimaginable cruelty to other humans, animals, the planet. Tonight I met someone really excited and happy that I had called her to save a sparrow.

As I was thanking her for taking this little bird off my hands, she was thanking me for calling her to do so.

It struck me as I was driving home from my meeting place with her. What sort of a person spends her life saving sparrows?

The answer is-a very good, kind one. Sparrows are not endangered. They are not pretty, really. They are not “necessary, ” to the environment, or anything else, that I know of. Yet Robin, clearly loves them and saves them and spends immense time and money to do so. Indeed she would for any animal, sparrow or other beastie brought to her.

So, why save a sparrow?

Because you can. Because that little thing is a little living conscious soul. Because doing so validates its being as well as your own. Because it lives and I live and we have that, at least, one thing in common. Because it, blindly, desperately thrust up its open beak begging, desperate, to be fed... to live. Because it lives and so do I and so does Robin.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Day With a "Novice" Human

Today, my husband's daughter asked us to watch her child while she and her boyfriend went to a baseball game. It didn't seem like a bad idea. Haydin is darn cute. How much work could it be? “Sure” I gamely responded. Here are my thoughts since then.

I swear I chose right in not having kids.

If I'd have had them, they never would have lived. Four year olds are like puppies with thumbs and cleverer thoughts. They don't chew up feather pillows, but they do: spread kitty kibble all around your porch and swear it was the cat's tail that did it, notice a basket of vegetables you recently brought in from the garden and decide much joy can be had by squishing one of the tomatoes over all the other vegetables, decide it is great fun to pretend to be a dog and proceed to bite grandpa in the calf over and over, and take my collection of peacock feathers and proceed to either give them to Maya the puppy or dip them in water and sprinkle it across my school books. At one point she demanded we play hide and seek. She hid behind my chair. I said, "um, there you are." I did it wrong apparently.

"NO! You have to only look one way like crabby crab (from some cartoon I don't know about) and say 'Where is Haydin'. "

I said "but I can see you right there!"

“NNNNNOOOOOOOOO! You have to look one way and say where is Haydin!"

I obediently stared at the door and said “where is Haydin?”

There was no answer. I looked at the fish tank “Where is Haydin?” I tried again. I look down at her crouching behind my chair. “This is silly, I see you right there”

“NOOOOOO.... you have to pretend you don't see me”

And so I pretended to not see her. This gave her much pleasure. I remained completely confused.

Thankfully, or not, she discovered the bell on my side table and proceeded to ring it about the house endlessly. Earlier she had discovered the flashlight, which obviously brought her great joy, especially when she could shine it directly into my eyes.

It was a long day. It was a lovely day. It was a very unusual day for me. I spent it learning from a four year old. 

Thank you Haydin. 

Monday, June 25, 2012

A Game of Thrones Gone to the Dogs

I think the only reason dogs have survived as our pets is because they are cute. Forget loyalty, forget that “man's best friend” nonsense. When you walk into the living room and it looks like a flock of geese exploded because the puppy discovered the wonders of disemboweling a feather pillow, when you discover your once very nice set of leather furniture has been relieved of much of its leathery parts, when you go downstairs to the kitchen in the morning for a cup of coffee only to find three days worth of trash have been flung about the room in a joyous frenzy, it is then you realize that the dog is neither man nor woman's best friend, but quite the contrary. One would never put up with a roommate who behaves in this manner.  So, the obvious question is: why do we let them live with us not only rent free, but with food and medical and emotional needs all tended to as well. What does one do when one's “ward” behaves in such an unseemly (and oftentimes costly) way?

Well, this is what I do. I stare in disbelief, then shout “HEY! Did you do this?” to Maya the puppy. I have several degrees and can quote Shakespeare, but this is all that comes to my mind at the time.

Maya says nothing. She just looks at me wagging her tail. She has very pretty brown eyes I notice, but I'm not giving in. I need to assert my alpha dog position and make it clear how very bad she has been.

I try to get my point across again. “BAD DOG!!” I say most forcefully. I point at the trash, couch, feathers, (insert sin of choice), glaring into those soft beautiful brown eyes, then point at her.

Maya responds by dropping to the floor and showing me her stomach.

Dammit! I will not give in and rub her stomach. Not this time. This is an egregious act on her part. I ignore her her kowtowing and continue to glare my alpha laser beams into her eyes. As a more intelligent and superior species, surely I will get through to her.

Maya stays on her back and proceeds to wag her tail while upside down. Somehow, she also manages to wag her body in the process.

Here is where my thinking, clearly mastered by thousands of years of Darwinian dog adaptation, causes me to say the following to myself: “Damn dog, she's so cute, damn dog, that was an expensive couch! Look at this mess! God, she is so cute, look at those eyes. NO! Don't look at her eyes! She is very bad. Damn she's cute! What pretty brown eyes.

And so the belly gets rubbed.

Survival of the cutest. I swear. They've got us figured out.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Surprises

Today my mom was raped and murdered. She called me on the phone at 3:30pm and told me she had just picked up a homeless man on the side of the road who was holding a sign that said “painting.” I was horrified. She lives in Florida, I in Maryland. Mom, living alone, at age 82, decided it would be a good idea to get the kitchen painted and so she picked him up and took him home. He was only going to charge her $40. She only called to ask if I remembered her hors d'oeuvres recipe. “I want to make some for him,” she told me. I confessed what I knew of it and spoke of my concern. She promised to call when he was gone. She didn't call. I was worried. I did call her....repeatedly. There was no answer. I called my brother. He called her neighbors; no one answered there either. We discussed when to call 911. She was raped and murdered.

Four hours later, she called me. She had dropped the dude off then went to the local YMCA to work out. She was neither raped nor murdered and is planning on picking him up again tomorrow to finish the job. Everything was fine. As for the man, I'm sure he is enjoying the hors d'oeuvres as I write this.

Why does my brain inflict this stress on me? Why must it torment me with horrendous imaginary potentialities non-stop? Granted, picking up the homeless dude wasn't a great idea, but still, why must I just jump to the worst possible conclusion? I don't know if it is imagination or worry, but I think through such scenarios almost daily and in great detail.

The other day, I am walking my dog down the road through the state park in which I live. A lovely day it is too. As we are walking, a car comes by. It slows down and stops next to me. In the front are two young men and in the back, a woman. One of the men asks me if I've seen a woman walking around. I say no. They thank me and drive away. Maybe it is because I'm in the country and can tell if the people are not from around here, or maybe I am just paranoid, but when I hear the car go down the road and then back up into a drive and turn around to come back again, I freak. I imagine they must be coming back to kidnap me or shoot me or......I don't know.....clearly something bad. I jump over a barbed wire fence, through the prickers (dragging my poor befuddled dog behind me), trip, land in the stream, and get back to my feet, staggering onto my own property. The people in the car must surely see me now, surely they see this idiocy, but they don't even slow down. The car disappears over the hill. Having successfully arrived in the “safe zone,” I make my way back to the house. Do I laugh at my silliness and resume enjoying the day? No, I continue to think about the whole scenario wherein the car of three comes back and enters our driveway and my husband and I have to once more get away. I actually plan out the escape route through the brush. Alas, this is how my brain seems to operate. It is beyond my control.

Over the years I have thoroughly planned out what my husband, I, and our animals will do in the event of: me failing out of grad school, a serial killer on the loose, a tornado, an earthquake, a Chinese invasion of our country, a new plague striking humanity, a nuclear attack on Washington DC, and an alien invasion from outer space. Some small minded people might call this excessive imagination or possibly foolishness on my part. What they fail to see is that very fine and most important line between paranoia and good planning.

Monday, July 11, 2011

A blank page. That is what I'm staring at now. An unsoiled blank page. I can write whatever I want. You will read the first sentence and judge me by that. “What Crap”! , you might say “Inspirational”! “wtf is she talking about”?!

I was speaking to a friend recently about just this phenomena we seem to have nowadays in our society. Because of the internet, because of the TV, cellphone, Twitter, what have you; we have, myself included, become instant judges of content.

One line speaks all. It is judged, if deemed ok, we move on.

You see now how I am putting spaces in my writing? That is to keep your interest. If I wrote it all as one paragraph, as they did in those “olden days” you would never be able to follow me.


I mean it.

See, you are paying attention still because I am short in my verbiage. Watch this though and see if you can still follow.

This quick edit/judgment aspect of our living has me quite concerned. “In my day” we were highly conscious about stereotyping people. Usually that took a couple of sentences. Now, it takes about two words. To have one's character judged solely on a sentence fragment-that is the world we live in. That is not the world I want to live in. [I'm so tempted now to hit the enter key and so draw your attention back in but I'm not gonna. I'll prove my point, dadgummit]. I swear, I think the Luddites had it right. Those damn factory machines should have been bashed in and down 150 years ago. Look at us now. All our “conveniences” all our “time saving” devices have only enslaved us, not liberated us. Ah, I can't bear not to give a space, and yet, yet, I yield.

Recently I read about a tribe in Africa. They have not yet been “civilized.” They have no running water, no electricity, no plumbing. They are living as their ancestors have lived for eons. They have no stress, eat well, live happy lives. Pictures presented children watering the oxen, all smiles, totally relaxed, joyous. They have no fear of crime, terrorism, or Facebook hacking. They are living right. God help them should they get “what they need.”. Compare that to Baltimore, MD-major stress, eat crap, the great mass of men living lives of “quiet desperation.”

Severing ourselves from all other species, severing ourselves from our environment is the height of not just arrogance, but suicidal ideation. There are very few who still remain in contact with the Earth and her movings. Most of us just “get along” and pop pills to prescribe our mood. So many are “depressed” in our society. Well, maybe that is the most rational way to be. Maybe, if you are depressed, you don't need a pill, you need to “get back to where you once belonged.”

What do you think?

Saturday, March 12, 2011

A Good Loaf of Bread

Why is it so difficult to get a good loaf of bread? I don’t mean that it is difficult to buy one; our grocery stores have shelf after shelf of various loaves wrapped in colorful plastic. What I want to know is why it is so difficult to get a good loaf of bread-a loaf of bread that is not only tasty, but good for you, nutritious, one that will be an asset to your body, not simply another ingested alien item that it must detoxify from your system. I never realized such a thing was so difficult until I recently took a class on nutrition.

Let me give you an example, one of America’s most beloved breads, Wonder Bread. Here are its ingredients: Whole wheat flour, water, wheat gluten, high fructose corn syrup, contains 2% or less of: soybean oil, salt, molasses, yeast, mono and diglycerides, exthoxylated mono- and diglycerides, dough conditioners (sodium stearoyl lactylate, calcium iodate, calcium dioxide), datem, calcium sulfate, vinegar, yeast nutrient (ammonium sulfate), extracts of malted barley and corn, dicalcium phosphate, diammonium phosphate, calcium propionate (to retain freshness). Even my spell checker is not recognizing some of those ingredients; it’s underlined them in red. I randomly chose one of those mystery elements to google. Here is what Wikipedia says about diammonium phosphate:

DAP is used as a fertilizer. When applied as plant food, it temporarily increases the soil pH, but over a long term the treated ground becomes more acidic than before upon nitrification of the ammonium. It is incompatible with alkaline chemicals because its ammonium ion is more likely to convert to ammonia in a high-pH environment.
DAP can be used a fire retardant. It lowers the combustion temperature of the material, decreases maximum weight loss rates, and causes an increase in the production of residue or char.[4] These are important effects in fighting wildfires as lowering the pyrolysis temperature and increasing the amount of char formed reduces that amount of available fuel and can lead to the formation of a firebreak. It is the largest component of some popular commercial firefighting products.[5]
DAP is also used as a yeast nutrient in winemaking and brewing mead; as an additive in some brands of cigarettes purportedly as a nicotine enhancer; to prevent afterglow in matches, in purifying sugar; as a Flux for soldering tin, copper, zinc and brass; and to control precipitation of alkali-soluble and acid-insoluble colloidal dyes on wool. [1]

I need to stop myself now from Googling Wonder Bread ingredients, fun and horrifying as it is, or this will turn into a research paper. Each ingredient seems to have quite a tale to tell. Let’s just leave it by saying, Grandma didn’t make bread like that.

I find it both amazing and distressing to live in a society that knows more than any other about health only to be the least healthy society I’ve ever heard of. In the world today, there are more books, movies, studies, ads, clubs, clinics, and workshops than in the entire history of humanity combined, yet, the modern way of life is the least healthy way to live. We’ve tried hard and successfully for many years now to make things easy, accessible, and cheap, only to seemingly have forgotten how to make them good, nutritious, and life enhancing. In fact, we’ve gotten so far from such things that to obtain those most important aspects of a diet has become quite a chore. If I desire a loaf of bread and go to the store, what I find there are odd chemical concoctions mixed with flour and preservatives. That cheap common store-bought bread bounces like a ball when squished into one (try this with Wonderbread; it’s quite a disturbing sight). Realizing the horror of the “Frankenfood” and taking it upon myself to make a “good old fashioned” loaf, I still need to examine all the ingredients at length. Ingredients ain’t what they used to be. For example, I must consider what kind of flour to buy. I don’t want white. I don’t want bleached flour from wheat that had pesticides on it. I wonder as I buy my nice unbleached whole wheat if it has been genetically modified. I wonder about the processing plant it came from. There’s no way to tell these things. A dash of salt? No, better get sea salt and avoid the additives in “regular” table salt (I just found out a month or so ago, after 46 years, that my good old iodized salt doesn’t just contain salt. I’d never thought to read the ingredients). Should I really add brown sugar to it? No, that’s not good. Cane sugar is addictive. I’d better get honey. But where did that come from? Is it even real honey? Has it been processed? And so it goes down the list of ingredients. That one staple bread, the one food item some say was the cause of civilization when people began to grow grain rather than hunt so that they could bake a loaf, has nearly become extinct.

I think I shall become a food preservationist and rescue these dying and endangered food species. They are highly vulnerable right now. If not protected and preserved, they will certainly fade away into the distant memory of humanity. One by one they will vanish into embodied modern chemical metaphors of food. The only thing left will be a fossilized rye or sourdough with a forlorn spent Red Star Yeast packet by its side. Alas, how the mighty will soon fall! The fresh cow’s milk, the chicken eggs, the homemade bread replaced forever by Lactaid, egg beaters, and Wonder Bread. This must never happen. Somehow, we must ensure that in days to come Mommy and Daddy never have to gather the family around a microwave to tell a story of the magical bread that once could sustain whole civilizations as little Timmy and Mary listen doubtfully, bouncing a ball of Wonder Bread back and forth under bright fluorescent lights.