Friday, December 31, 2010

Auld Lang Syne So Quickly

Tomorrow feels like it should be five months away rather than mere hours. I'm not ready for a new year! So much happened in 2010 that I'm still trying to come to grips with it all. Snow was a huge feature here, in the nation's capital. Snowmageddon was an apt name because the sky seemed to keep falling on us week after week! There simply was no respite. Despite that, some good came with the blizzards. People got out and actually communicated with each other -- verbally and snowbally. There was such a festive atmosphere as people had snow stuffed down their pants and shirts. Such gaiety! Uh, except for the cop who didn't take kindly to his personal SUV being pummeled with snow balls. There really wasn't any need to draw a gun, but I guess when you're out-numbered, edginess is to be expected. Sadness and disbelief also slipped into our lives. A lot of extraordinary people died during the past twelve months. Losing Lena Horne was unbelievable. She seemed so ageless and immortal. Thank goodness we still can listen to her magnificent singing and watch her movie performances. Though he was old enough to be my father, I've had a life-long crush on actor John Forsyth. Not only was he incredibly handsome and elegant, but he was an admirable man who managed a fairly regular life in the crazy world of Hollywood. Elizabeth Edwards' passing was painful because she had been so vital and uncomplaining. Breast cancer would have been enough to derail many women, but her husband's bad behavior had to have felt like the last straw. Her enduring dignity and devotion to her children will outshine anything John does for the rest of his life. I don't even want to think about the never-ending disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. Reverberations from that disgraceful and preventable event will continue for years as will the pain felt by the families and friends of those killed. The continuing ecological damage may never be completely realized and the lives of those who worked and lived on the Gulf are forever changed. Shame on B.P.! Natural and worse, man made, disasters crippled millions around the world and started me thinking about how human activity is responsible for much of the suffering. We're pretty cavalier about drilling deep into the Earth for coal, oil, gold and other "commodities." Is anyone thinking about the huge toll this is taking on Planet Earth, herself? And how about the humans who must go down into those deep holes? As we enter a new year and decade, I hope and pray that we learn from mistakes made during the last decade. Hope is a good thing but it cannot be allowed to overrule action. We cannot hope ourselves into breathing cleaner air, drinking purer water. Improving standards in education, health care and lifting people out of poverty will require hard work, sincerity, realism and sacrifice. The best I can do is hope that Congress quits the political bickering to work out practical solutions. Sadly and unfairly, hoping is the best I can do. The incoming House leadership has already decided to strip the District's non-voting delegate of her committee voting rights. At that point, the over 1/2 million District residents (local and federal tax-paying American citizens) will be completely muzzled and silenced. So much for hope . . .

Monday, December 27, 2010

Mother Nature's Firey Finest

I hope you can forgive my obession with sunsets. I just can't resist when they're this splendid! The sky towards the east this evening was hot pink and made the bare branches of trees stand out beautifully. The Washington Monument also looked lovely in front of a pink glow. ;- )

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Agony and Ecstasy of Christmas

Children agonize over listing all the stuff they want for Christmas for months in advance. Some adults do, too. There are those "gotta have" gifts that can spawn great agony and mourning if they don't appear under the tree. [In my memory, thoughts of those "gotta-have" treasures evaporated soon after the new year.] Then there are the "that's nice" gifts -- usually from one's grandparents, but not on the child's official list. If you had your druthers, you would trade all of them for just one from your list . . . but no way. If your grandparents are in the room when you open their "that's nice" gift, you are expected to graciously thank them for it, even if you have to fake it. That's a whole lot harder than it sounds, particularly for kids under the age of 14. Parents watch closely for appropriate reactions and if they don't happen there'll be hell to pay later on: "Grampa and Grandma aren't made of money you know" -- or -- "They went out of their way to find something nice for you and I expect you to appreciate it" -- or -- "Grandma made that crocheted toilet paper cover with her own, two hands; you WILL LOVE IT!" Teens have a particularly hard time with Christmas because the symbolism of Christmas gifts is incredibly important. I'm not talking about the Gift of the Magi here. I'm talking about those all important gifts given between boys and girls. Back in the dark ages when I was in middle school, "dog tags" held huge significance when exchanged between a girl and boy. These silver disks were engraved with the owner's name or initials and worn on a chain around the neck. An exchange of these necklaces meant a couple was going steady. That meant the boy should carry the girl's books as they walked home together from school and they could hold hands in public. [I know - sounds pretty dorky, but that's how it was.] Of course at the ages of 12 or 13 most boys were clueless about girls and what we expected of them. Girls matured faster than boys and often underwent growth spurts before the boys did. Many girls learned to slouch to try not to tower over the boys. My dad wouldn't have any of that. He was a stickler for good posture so for a few years, I had to just tower over boys until they caught up to me. In junior high school we put on an annual Christmas Pageant. Yes, it would have been politically incorrect by today's standards, but I was never aware of any complaints. The program wasn't overtly religious, but it did mention the reason for celebrating Christmas. The choirs were a mixed bag and sang beautifully -- no prob.
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Getting back to the agony and ecstasy of Christmas -- several years ago I decided to enter holidays with no expectations. That way, I'd always be pleasantly surprised. It's worked well for me. A neutral state of mind allows me to accept the disappointment if I goof with a gift for someone who clearly wanted something else. It also allows me to be thrilled when an unexpected gift (one not on the person's official list) brings pleasure. Besides, too much changes from year to year -- family members move away, or loved ones die. Traditions that were the glue of a family celebration just can't hold up to those transitions. So, in closing -- I believe that Christmas is for children and adults need to back off. Our only role should be reiterating the reason we celebrate on December 25th. It's not to make merchants happy and wealthy; It's not to see how much stuff you can get; It's not to compete with your friends to see who gets the latest gadget first; It's not to snarf-down pounds of fat and sugar; It's not to gripe if you don't get that thing that "everyone else has . . . whine" Christmas celebrates the birth of a baby in a barn of all places about 2,000 years ago. Because he was special, cool stuff happened after his birth and the world changed after the baby grew up and started walking and talking. Keep it simple.
Merry Christmas, y'all!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HUGE mistake / tiny correction

Though I applaud The Washington Post for correcting it's mistakes in print, at times I'm appalled by the way in which they do it. The following appeared at the bottom of page 2 in the A section today. Until now, I haven't gone looking for corrections to earlier stories, but now I'll make a routine of it.
A Dec. 15 A-section article, about the requirements of the new health-care law that Americans buy insurance, incorrectly said that, according to estimates by congressional budget analysts, the federal deficit would increase by $250 billion over the next decade if the mandate were removed. The analysts predict a decrease in that amount.
Confusing plus or minus $250,000,000,000 is not simple semantics. It's a huge mistake and should have been addressed as such! If you ask me, this called for something far more upfront than a bullet point among six other corrections. I have learned to live with the regression in the paper's attention to grammar and spelling, but this sort of thing is inexcusable. Come on, Post editors: you can do so much better than this.

Friday, December 17, 2010

It just occurred to me. . .

. . . how shocked Richard Holbrooke must have been when he discovered he was no longer among the living. One minute he was in a important meeting with the United States Secretary of State, discussing matters in which he had been deeply and completely involved. What must have seemed like minutes later, he was heading toward that "loving, white light." Holbrooke was an incredibly smart, capable diplomat who was completely devoted to his country and his mission. He was strong-willed and opinionated; characteristics that often rubbed people the wrong way. Nevertheless, he earned hard-won respect from colleagues and adversaries alike for his efforts to stop the carnage in Eastern Europe and more recently in the Middle East. There is much speculation about the short term and long term effects his loss will make on U.S. foreign relations. His inherent knowledge of human nature and the idiosyncrasies of world politics will be hard to replicate. Sure, there are capable men and women out there who are willing and able to step-in, but Holbrooke was one-of-a-kind; a legend in his own time. The personal loss for his family and friends is, naturally, enormous. The impact of his loss on world politics and peace will reveal itself soon enough. Perhaps the suddenness of his death will make others think twice before stepping back into full-on-war-mode. I hope his dogged determination to protect life and to secure and maintain peace will inspire others long after his funeral tomorrow. Rest In Peace, Richard.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Ambiguity at its Finest

Forgive me, please. I received the following in email and simply HAD to share. I have no defense other than it's a cold, windy Monday and I ain't got nothin' else . . . 1. Don't sweat the petty things and don't pet the sweaty things. 2. One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor. 3. Atheism is a non-prophet organization. 4. If man evolved from monkeys and apes, why do we still have monkeys and apes? 5. The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. 6. What if there were no hypothetical questions? 7. If someone with multiple personalities threatens suicide, is it considered a hostage situation? 8. Is there another word for synonym? 9. What do you do when you see an endangered animal eating an endangered plant? 10. Would a fly without wings be called a walk? 11. If a turtle doesn't have a shell, is he homeless or naked? 12. Can vegetarians eat animal crackers? 13. How do they get deer to cross the road only at those yellow road signs? 14. One nice thing about egotists: they don't talk about other people. 15. Does the Little Mermaid wear an algebra? 16. Do infants enjoy infancy as much as adults enjoy adultery? 17. How is it possible to have a civil war? 18. If you try to fail and succeed, which have you done? 19. Whose cruel idea was it for the word lisp to have an "s" in it? I don't know who came up with these, but some sound "George-Carlin-esque". Such brilliance gone too soon!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Why So Surprised?

I don't know how anyone can be surprised by the content of recently released cables between U.S. diplomats and the State Department. Yes, the contents are embarrassing but not unexpected. Trust me, I'm not trying to make excuses for Wikileak's behavior. They have done serious damage to international relations in a way that deserves, at least, a slap across their collective, smirking faces. Diplomacy is not just about friendly handshakes and smiles over glasses of wine. It is hard work best performed by experienced, intelligent professionals. Admittedly, political appointees often leave much to be desired, but that's another story. Personalities play a huge role in how countries relate to each other. We all know there are some "interesting" world leaders who make a mockery of traditional diplomacy and international relations. If their quirks aren't recognized and dealt with appropriately, relationships can be stalled or shattered. Misunderstandings can become dangerous in an instant -- North Korea is a case in point. Relations with any other country must be tailored to the customs, historical context and many other factors unique to that nation and people. U.S. diplomats must immerse themselves in these local idiosyncrasies just as foreign diplomats assigned to the U.S. must do. There is always common ground somewhere in the mix and finding it and using it to advantage takes talent and honesty. As skilled and experienced as they may be, our diplomats are not just dropped into other countries to schmooze at gallery openings. They need to read the political and economic climate and the mood of the people so that they can advise the Secretary of State and Congress on useful alliances and/or needs for support and aid. My take on this is a huge simplification -- I'm just an observer, not a diplomat. Nevertheless, common sense would indicate the need for honest evaluations of world leaders on all sides. As Secretary Clinton confirmed, there are equally uncomplimentary comments made about our own leadership and floating around in cyberspace. Our mistake was not securing our communications from those who want to harm us. That's the true shame in all of this.

Friday, November 26, 2010

"The Time Traveler's Wife"

At the time, I was not sure why I picked up this book at the store. It was another impulse buy while trying to get in and out of Target as quickly as possible. [Being female, I'm supposed to love shopping. I do not!] This novel by Audrey Niffenegger proved to be utterly entrancing and moving in ways I did not anticipate! The main character, Henry DeTamble, is a rare human: someone who moves in and out of time and place. He is never sure when he will disappear to show up in a later or earlier time, but the one constant is Clare whom he first meets when she is 6 and he is 20 something. As seems logical, time travelers cannot take anything with them, including clothing, so wherever Henry turns up he's stark naked and without I.D. or money. For some reason, he frequently shows up in a meadow owned by Clare's wealthy family in Michigan. As young children are wont to do, Clare accepts Henry's explanation of why he keeps popping up naked and different ages. She helps by appropriating some of her father's old clothes and keeping them in a box only she and Henry know about. Don't worry; there's no hanky-panky. Eventually Clare grows up and marries Henry knowing he will come and go for random periods of time. She is willing to accept this because they have built an extraordinary connection over the years. I don't want to give away too much of this fascinating tale. I will just say that I was moved to tears by the end and I'll definitely look for more of this author's work. Audrey Niffenegger's story-spinning made it very difficult to put down her book until I finished it!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A Salute to Autumn

The frequently gray, chilly days of Autumn are no match for the brilliant colors worn by the trees. Even on a cloudy day, looking at their sunny, warm colors one can almost forget about the clouds in the sky. On windy days, the leaves sparkle as the sunlight flits among them.
Happy Thanksgiving to each and all and may you count good health and happiness among your many blessings this year.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Inbound

Today fighter jets were scrambled to protect the nation's capital and part of the White House was evacuated. Seems a small plane entered the restricted airspace that covers hundreds of miles surrounding D.C. I can picture the face on the pilot of that little plane as he/she was suddenly surrounded by armed fighter jets. Hyperventilating and sweating might have made it very hard to control his plane as he was ordered to land at a small airport in Virginia. He is, right now, being interviewed. This happens more often than most of us notice, especially around holidays. People tend to forget or not be aware of the strict guidelines for flying anywhere near the District. Commercial planes, such as the passenger jet pictured above, have transponders to automatically identify themselves. Since National Aiport is minutes away from the White House, that's a good thing. So, to the poor schnook who got caught, welcome to Washington! Hope the rest of your visit is less eventful.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Is it some kind of conspiracy?

Young adults and teens have long been denigrated by their elders. I remember how out of touch I thought adults were when I was in college during the late 60s. Boy did we take a lashing for "free love" and experimentation with drugs. Some of us would try just about anything for an altered state of mind. Alcohol was usually the favored and most easily available. Nothing has changed during the past 40+ years. Kids still want to experiment and drink to get drunk. However -- there's an evil, new twist that worries me. Drinks sold in jazzy looking cans with high octane alcohol plus caffeine are becoming a dangerous habit, particularly among college students. If you're too awake to realize you're actually drunk, odds are you're going to drink more without realizing you've had too much already. Kids are being hospitalized for alcohol poisoning and some are dying. Now I totally get that the main goal of any business is to make a profit. However, when a manufacturer purposely tries to fool the buying public into overdoing something they know is not in their best interest [like smoking or chewing tobacco] they deserve a slam. I was addicted to tobacco for years and was fortunate enough to give up cigarettes about 25 years ago. I drank to excess in college because it was the thing to do. Truly dreadful hangovers weren't even enough to get me to stop. Moderation only set in when I gained some maturity and realized how stupid [and ugly] I was drunk or high. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is starting to crack down on the manufacturers of these caffeinated, alcoholic drinks. Thank goodness! This product seems to have been developed to attract teens and young adults. Having been both during the wild 1960s and 70s, I get the appeal these drinks would have. Still, it's shameful that our-not-yet-mature-enough-to-know-better-youth are being screwed so heartlessly for profit!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A Special Day

My niece, Carolyn, arrived from Anchorage, Alaska Tuesday for a visit that will last only until Sunday. The day after she arrived, about 8 more inches of snow topped off the snow pack already on the roads back home. It was over 60 degress here when she arrived with lovely, bright sunshine. Today I drove down to southern Maryland where she spent time with her grandmother to bring her back to D.C. She'll spend the next few days visiting with former classmates from William and Mary. She's revelling in the warmth and sunshine and seeing her old friends. They're all gathering tomorrow to cook a group Thanksgiving dinner.
For lunch, I took her to a favorite, out-of-the-way spot: Columbia Island. There's a tiny cafe there and we enjoyed eating outside, under the colorful folliage and warm sunshine. This weather has been a real treat considering that we had a blizzard on this date not too many years ago. And last but not least: happy birthday to my one and only. I'm so glad you are in my life.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Knee Surgery

This past Friday afternoon, Spouse had knee surgery. Last winter, he spent way too many hours shoveling and blowing snow. He is also someone who likes to do everything fast, so he didn't notice that he was doing serious damage to his right knee. While revellers were enjoying the massive and memorable Snowmeggedon snowball fight in Dupont Circle, he was shoveling snow from around the office building he works in on the circle. [Building engineers never get a break!] Since February, he's been coping with his painful knee, hoping it would just go away. It didn't. Last month, his orthopedist told us he had a torn meniscus and would need a "little surgery." [For lack of medical smarts, the meniscus is padding between the bones of the upper and lower leg, behind the knee cap.] If you ask me, no surgery is "little" especially when anesthesia is involved. To add to my concerns, Spouse has sleep apnea which causes him to stop breathing when he sleeps on his back. I'm so tuned in to it that I wake and nudge him til he starts breathing again. I hung out in pre-op with him and watched as a nurse gallantly tried to shave around his very furry knee. We were all chuckling by the time she finally finished. [Since then, I've had to reassure Spouse that the hair will indeed grow back.] Nicely breaking up the monotony of waiting for things to get started, two incredibly gorgeous young men entered Spouse's curtained area to explain anesthesia. One was his anesthesiologist and the other was a med student who would be observing. Both could have made fortunes in Bollywood but chose medicine instead. We both lost track of how many different people came by to ask Spouse to spell his name, what his birthdate was and which knee was going under the knife. When his surgeon stopped by to check in, he initialed the appropriate knee. [There was absolutely no chance the wrong limb would be cut!] The two Bollywood boys then returned to start his I.V. and not long after that, he was wheeled off. [I mean no disrespect here -- they were very professional but couldn't help being gorgeous and utterly charming!] Feeling pretty confident that the 20-25 minute arthroscopic procedure was in good hands, I headed back to the waiting area. After an hour and a half had passed with no word, I checked with the volunteers at the desk. They called someone and said they'd let me know when they heard anything. I returned to my Elin Hilderbrand novel, Barefoot, [another excellent read] and devoted about half my brain to it. Within minutes, a woman dressed in scrubs walked to where I was sitting and told me, "The doctor is ready to talk with you now" and lead me to a tiny room with two chairs and a table with a stack of brochures about the chaplain service. Her tone and demeanor seemed very somber. My heart sank and the blood drained from my head as my imagination started kicking-in. When the surgeon arrived, before he could get a word out or sit down, I asked if everything was OK. He immediately assured me that everything had gone well and I choked up. He's a very laid-back kinda guy, but I could tell he was worried about me so I told him what had happened. I took a minute or two to gather myself then headed to the closest lady's room. I appreciated that he took it upon himself to have a friendly chat with the volunteers and staff in the waiting area on my behalf. About an hour later, I was lead to the recovery room and waited with Spouse to be discharged. He looked drained, but wonderful to me.
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Epilogue: Spouse is totally inept on crutches but he's quick to heal. I'm really tired of running back and forth between his recliner and the refrigerator, but so relieved he's home and intact. Between the two of us, we've had four surgeries this year, so we've decided there will be none in 2011!

You Asked For It

That's what I'd say to all those newly elected members of Congress when they discover the realities of life as a member of the U.S. Congress. Having made boisterous, determined promises to clean-up the "mess" in Washington, they will soon find themselves very little fish in a very big pond. All their promises and threats will amount to diddlysquat. The time-honored, hardened hierarchy in Congress will put them in their places as the "freshmen" they are. It's too bad that they all seem to have separate agendas or no discernable agenda at all for solving the country's problems. Consensus is going to be even more difficult to reach with the grand-standing that each new member will feel compelled to do for the folks back home. During the past two years, it's been nearly impossible to accomplish much considering the stubborn divide between Republicans and Democrats. Throw in the Tea Party darlings and they'll be like even more wrenches thrown into the gears of government. I sincerely hope I'm mistaken and that the legislative wheels won't come to another screeching halt. Fingers crossed.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Warm-Fuzzy

We had our first frost last night and it felt like a "warm-fuzzy" was in order for today's chilly weather. Bailey is my niece Bethany's dog and I think he's just too cute for words!

Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Big Day in a Little City

Many thousands of peaceful people gathered on the east end of the National Mall today for an unusual event.
More often than not, rallies are held in D.C. to complain about something or other. This one, hosted by TV political comics Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, was instead lighthearted and inclusive. There were a few semi-serious moments, that gently tweaked political polemics.
Despite an unfortunate accident on a Metro escalator, the rally went smoothly although traffic heading out of town was clogged for quite a while. At least the drivers and their passengers had something beautiful to look at.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

It's been quite a day!

Today is my niece Nan's birthday. She lives in southeastern Wisconsin. When she didn't answer her cellphone or home phone I freaked. I was just sure she'd been swept away by the storms out there. Thankfully, she wrote this evening that she was taken out for a birthday lunch and everything was fine.
I have family living in northern and southern Illinois and southern Wisconsin. Hearing about the devastating storms out there -- perhaps the worst in 70 years -- I couldn't help worrying. So far I've been assured that everyone is OK and no one's house was damaged. I can breathe easy again.
Happy Birthday, Nan! I think we both could have done without all the excitement.
The picture is of a solid, 3 foot circumference acrylic sphere I saw at Ann Marie Gardens in Solomons, Maryland a couple of years ago. It was spellbinding! Wish I'd made a note of the artist's name.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

"I've got tears in m'ears from cryin' over you."

That was a line in a song frequently played on the jukebox of a favorite little diner during my college days in Iowa. Another favorite was "who's gonna mow your lawn when I'm gone?". They don't write 'em like that any more. But that's beside the point of this post. When I slid into bed last night Spouse was already asleep. I started recounting a disturbing dream I'd had just before waking that morning. It was the same theme of other dreams I've been having lately. They all involve me making a bad decision and ending up lost somewhere I didn't want to be. Then it hit me: My Dad isn't here to offer his guidance anymore. As tears welled up, I squeezed my eyes closed trying to stop them. Of course that didn't work and they rolled down into my ears. I had to get up. Even though I'm passed the midpoint of my life I still need my Dad. It's hard to admit that. He could be and often was the harshest critic I ever knew. He felt it was his duty as a responsible father. On the other hand, he could make me feel so special and worthy. I could depend on him. He was always there to quietly take care of things like checking my tire pressure. If one was low he'd crank up his 1930s era air compressor to top it off. He was also a skilled, gentle splinter-remover. He seemed to know everything and was willing to share his knowledge but not his tools. Dad had an enormous collection of tools all of which he used with great skill. He kept a mental inventory of all of them and if anything was misplaced or damaged, he knew it. He had a table saw, sabre saw, cross-cut saw (whatever that is) and every screwdriver, hammer, wrench and gadget known to man. He loved peanut butter and collected the empty jars. Having made a frame, he nailed the lids to it. The jars held miscellaneous (sorted, of course) washers, screws, nails and other bits and pieces that he often found usefull. Being a practical man, he couldn't stand waste. He recycled long before America got serious about it. He fashioned our first barbeque from the wash tub of an old wringer washing machine. He made an elegant hanging lamp out of the lid with some sheet brass, plastic and a big cork from a bottle of something or other. It illuminated our dining room for years. He got a kick out of the curious and admiring looks guests gave it. My subconscious is working on me again. It was about this time three years ago that we learned Dad had cancer. In less than a month, he was gone. Some of us kids had suspected serious illness, but he had already decided to play the dying game his way. It had to have taken considerable strength and courage to keep going as if nothing was wrong. Sometimes I think I'm finished mourning. Times like this confirm that I'm not. Even though the hurt has less of an edge to it now, memories keep me from completely letting go. I think that's a good thing. In many ways I still need the anchor my Dad provided.

Monday, October 18, 2010

I am red neck.

I also have red ears, a red triangle on my chest that my shirt didn't cover. The tip of my nose, not covered by my hat is also red -- not at all lovely but less painful today than yesterday. Spouse and I spent no more than an hour at Gravelly Point yesterday afternoon and that's what I came home with. It was a stupendously beautiful day and going down there just seemed like the right thing to do. Lots of young families also felt that way. Some even had beach umbrellas and one had one of those canopy things, a table and chairs. The attraction of Gravelly Point is not only the fact that it's right on the Potomac River where a channel cuts through for boats coming in and out of the Columbia Island Marina. The Point is also at the end of the north/south runway at National Airport. I'm guessing the distance from the runway to the water's edge at the Point is about the length of a football field. In other words, you're feet under the flight path of a busy airport! Planes were landing from the north yesterday, so the noise was somewhat tolerable. However, when they take off to the north, watch out!! Some fly so low it feels like you could touch them. I can even feel the pressure from their powerful jets in my chest. Then, within about 10 seconds or so, you feel the whoosh of wind that blows after them. I'm thinking this is the turbulence that takes out little planes flying to closely behind big jets -- it's strong! I'm probably a wimp when it comes to noise -- I cover me ears against it. There were lots of little kids and several babies down at the Point, including one adorable 12 week old I stopped to admire. I didn't see anyone else covering their ears -- even the little kids!! Between eardrum shattering music through ear buds and everyday noise like leaf blowers, snow blowers, motor cycles, sirens, etc. I suspect they'll have little hearing left by the time they reach 50. Wimpdom has it's positive side! I'll be able to hear the crack when I fall and break my hip after stumbling over a curb while flying my kite at the ripe old age of 93! Whoopee.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chilean Miners

Since seeing the narrow capsule that will soon bring the miners back to the surface, I've been feeling for them and subconsciously breathing more deeply. First, I cannot imagine how they have survived the trauma of being deep inside the earth for so long. Before they were discovered alive, thinking about their predicament had to have been overwhelming. Thinking about being buried alive would have been enough to kill me. Second, having been entombed in an MRI machine twice for one hour nearly drove me mad. If I hadn't believed the promises made by my Mom and sisters that they would be praying for me that morning, the test would have been impossible. As it was, they had to pull me out right after they first put me in because I felt like I was suffocating. This is going to be one helluva journey for these guys and I hope and pray they survive it. Think about how marvelous their first breath of fresh air will be and when they again see rivers trees sky stars moon rise sunset . . . . . . and touch the faces of their loved ones. Amen.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's not so much a matter of free speech . . .

. . . as it is a matter of respect, humanity and conscience. Those who demonstrate their hatred and disrespect for others, particularly during tragedies prove how little connection they have with real life and with the God they profess to follow. I'm no Bible-totin'-quotin' type. I had to dust off my fifty year old Revised Standard Version before opening it for the first time in years. Just wanted to refresh my memory on the ten commandments and came across this in Exodus 22:21-24.
"You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. You shall not afflict any widow or orphan. If you do afflict them, and they cry out to me, I will hear their cry; and my wrath will burn, and I will kill you with the sword, and your wives shall become widows and your children fatherless."
Seems to me this promises pretty dire punishment for what some of these self-described Christians are doing. If they take the Bible as the literal word of God, they might want to reexamine their actions. For those who have been subjected to this sort of disgraceful behavior [which really is all of us who deplore it], take heart in knowing that ultimate justice is not in our hands, no matter what the U.S. Supreme Court decides. What goes around comes around. Evil will always be overpowered by Good.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Cherry Crunch

Because night is showing up earlier and earlier every day, I've started thinking about comfort foods. The shortened days of Winter are not exactly welcomed by yours truly, but they do make me appreciate the long, hot days of Summer more.
With that out of the way, let me take you where you've never been before. To a world redolent with rich, buttery crispness and sweet/tangy goodness with a fragrance that will knock your socks off.
This is my take on an old family favorite, apple crisp, but using tart cherries rather than apples. When the apples come into season, I'll go with them, but for now, canned cherries are an excellent alternative. Oh, and trust me, these are not the kind of cherries you can eat straight out of the can. . . unless you like making sour faces.
Begin by heating your oven to 350. Pull out a 9" by 9" by 2" deep pan or something that equates to that. Measure a cup of juice from the cherries and pour it into the pan. Add 3 Tbs. of instant tapioca and let it soak for 15 minutes. While that's happening, melt a whole one stick of butter in a medium sauce pan. Once melted, remove from the heat and add the following: 1½ cups packed brown sugar, 1 cup quick cooking oatmeal, 1 cup all purpose flour, ¼ tsp. each salt, baking powder, baking soda [it will wait until you come back to it]. Now, back to the cherry juice/tapioca -- add ¼ tsp. almond extract and the drained cherries and gently mix together.
Now it's time to get down and dirty. With an impeccably clean hand, smoosh together the dry ingredients with the melted butter until it's crumbly. Loosely sprinkle it over the cherries and pop the pan into the oven for 30-35 minutes. It will be done when the topping is nicely browned and the aroma of the cherries and almond extract together make you weep with joyful anticipation. Spouse and I like it plain, but if you're one of those who must "gild the lily" you can top it off with iced or whipped cream.   [Note to Megan -- I triple-checked this recipe, so there are no mistakes in it . . . *sigh*]

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

"The Island"

I've read several books during the summer, but none moved me as much as the above by Elin Hilderbrand. Truthfully, I've read it twice and am trying to will myself to avoid a third read at least for a few months.
Impulsiveness is a huge part of my character. For ONCE, it paid off when I grabbed this book while speed-shopping through Target. I knew nothing of the author. The cover photo had me at first glance.
Beaches have been and remain an important factor to my happiness. If you believe in astrology, this might seem odd. As an Aries, I'm a fire sign, but proximity to water is what feeds my soul.
The story is about four women: two sisters in their 50s and one is the mother of two daughters both in their 30s. Their relationships are complex yet interwoven in surprising ways.
Starting with an attempt by the mother to help and learn why one of her daughters abruptly cancelled her wedding and succumbed to an emotional breakdown, the story takes all four women to a rustic island off Nantucket. Great grandparents built a cottage on the island years before and it had been a family vacation spot since. The island is privately owned by its residents, has rudimentary plumbing, no electricity, no telephones, TV, internet access, etc. Very rustic, but gorgeous for those who love the sea, beach and peace.
Love interests complicate the lives of these women, causing envy, jealousy, hurt and surprises. Perhaps the most appealing thing about this story is that all the characters end up resolving their "issues" and uncover lives they never thought possible.
The Island is joining my permanent collection.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

CNN: Just Say No!

Until recently, I thought CNN was a reliable, less biased source of news and watched it exclusively every evening. Right now, however I want to shout at them to SHUT UP!! The coverage CNN has given that kook and so-called pastor from Florida who planned to ceremoniously burn copies of the Koran has given me a great big headache. The guy doesn't deserve 15 seconds much less 15 minutes of coverage for his hare-brained scheme. Important news has gone unreported because of this creep. CNN is questioning its coverage, on-air, which simply prolongs the agony of this boorish spectacle. They spend prime time trying to figure out the repercussions of this idiot crackpot's planned protest and their role in it. Enough, already! If this guy gets so much free publicity, what's to stop thousands more weirdos from trying the same thing? Where has judgement and common sense gone? Presenting this kind of reprehensible nonsense as news is unseemly at least and incendiary at worst. I am embarrassed that top American officials have been forced to point out the idiocy and dangers of this guy's idea. I refuse to believe that Americans "outside the Beltway" have so little understanding of the rest of the world and our country's place in it. It doesn't require a college degree to understand that insulting someone else's beliefs is just plain wrong and particularly contemptible coming from someone who claims to be a member of the clergy. Can he not see that his small-mindedness equals the mindset of those he is vilifying?

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Is this a reasonable gripe?

We do a good bit of banking on-line. Just recently, a service fee of $2.00 was added to our statement. I didn't remember doing anything different or asking for some special service, so I checked it out (on-line) to make sure it wasn't an error. Turns out I was charged for clicking on a check I'd written to see a virtual image of it. Banks no longer return paid checks with your monthly statement, so this is the only way to make sure they end up where they belong. Cost me two bucks to click on a link to view a recently cashed check! Interest on our accounts is paultry at best and now we're being nickel-and-dimed (dollared?) for something as simple as clicking a link! Am I being unreasonable or is the bank?

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Street Diplomacy

While history [hopefully] is being made across the street at the State Department, a bit of history was made in front of our building today. During forty years living in D.C. I've never seen Hasidic Jews in my neighborhood. A black van loaded with several men in side locks, black hats and long, black coats parked and its occupants ate their lunch. I admit little knowledge of this conservative, Jewish group. However, I do know they wear layers of traditional garments. The temperature today is in the 90s with equally high humidity and unrelenting, searing sunshine. Seeing these men standing in the sun and sitting in a sweltering black van, I felt really sorry for them. Even while they took a break for lunch, they tried interesting passersby in printed materials, I assume, regarding their mission in D.C. Nearly everyone walked by without even acknowledging them. They didn't show any sign of resentment or anger. Then this gracious young man stopped and struck up a conversation. He was polite and engaged and I was so proud of him.

Friday, August 20, 2010

So What If He Was Muslim?

The current President of the United States has stated clearly and unambiguously that he is a Christian. I, for one, think he should not even need to discuss his faith. It is a private, personal matter and irrelevant to his position. It is shameful that he has been forced to respond to blatant discriminatory questions and accusations. When John F. Kennedy announced his run for President there was an equally hideous show of prejudice and fear over his affiliation with the Roman Catholic Church. If elected, he would become the first Catholic president. Some Americans feared that he would force his beliefs on the rest of us or favor his faith over others. It was a huge deal that ended up totally and utterly moot. The day after he was elected, the Earth continued to rotate on its axis and day followed night. Barack Hussein Obama has amply proved that he is a man of intelligence and integrity [not to mention patience] regardless of whatever religious box others want place him. His father may have been Muslim, but the President was raised by his Christian mother and grandparents and followed their example. Religious tolerance is a precious tenet among American liberties. It is not open to discussion, particularly one of a political nature. In other words, a person's religious affiliation or lack of one is irrelevant to anyone else but that person. A man should be judged on his actions, not on suspicions or here say. Our president has proved time and time again that he is someone quite worthy of admiration and support, not vilification.

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Adventure in Cooking

Spouse comes from a culture in which males are not expected to cook, clean or do any domestic chores, at least as far as I can tell. Since marrying me, however, he has learned to clean exceedingly well. I'm happy to relinquish that chore to focus on cooking, laundry, driving, shopping, bill-paying -- well, we all know a woman's work is never done. Many years ago I tried preparing Persian recipes in hopes of pleasing Spouse. Many of these recipes are very healthy and some are even tasty, once you get used to them. I still can't stomach anything with chick pea flour in it. More on that in a moment. I still make koo-koo which are potato pancakes, common to many cuisines. The first time, we made them together, following what Spouse remembered from the way his mother made them. We found a recipe in a cookbook a friend had given us which called for chick pea flour as a thickening agent. The recipe also called for savory ingredients to give the koo-koos some flavor, but Spouse didn't remember his mother making them that way, so we left those out -- big mistake. Mashed potatoes, a dozen eggs and chick pea flour resulted in completely inedible fried lumps. Next time, I more or less followed the way my mother made potato pancakes, adding chopped onion, salt and pepper, NO chick pea flour[!], and only two eggs. I started frying them just before spouse walked in from work. Their fragrance met him in the hallway and he came in with eyes lit up. During the summer I like to make salads rather than cook hot evening meals. Pasta salad with a simple olive oil dressing sounded like a weird idea to Spouse, even though it was packed with many of his favorite veggies. Battling his annoying reluctance to try anything new, I force-fed him a bite. Surprise, surprise, surprise!! He liked it! I've developed many incarnations of this easy dish and have gotten over my shock that he prefers to eat it warmed-up. Go figure . . . Saturday, while grocery shopping, he decided he wanted to make a pasta salad. Cooking for me is another, satisfying, creative outlet, so I try to encourage this behavior in Spouse. When he decided to put his salad together, I decided to let him at it without any input from me. [evil chuckles] I hung close by to turn down boiling pasta before it boiled over and to hand him tools he didn't know he needed until he started floundering. The only pasta he will eat is angel hair, cooked to death. To this, he added a can of chick peas. He also wanted to use sweet onion, so I'd picked up a nice Vidalia. Slicing or dicing wouldn't do it -- he wanted to grate it -- the whole thing. [My eyes started watering just thinking about that.] Keeping a straight face, I suggested he use the food processor for this and left the room. He did a thorough job of crushing the daylights out of that poor onion. When he removed the processor lid, I heard him gasp as the odor hit him in the face. He didn't say anything and I stifled a giggle. Now anyone who does any cooking at all, knows you have to plan ahead and time things so that they come together at the right time and consistency. He'd picked roasted chicken off the bones the day before and frozen it in a bag. He had to bang it on the counter several times before roughly half of the chicken, ample for his salad, broke away from the mass. He plunked it into his work bowl and figured it would thaw by the time the pasta was done. [stifled guffaw]. To the frozen lump of chicken, he added the mangled onion and a little olive oil. To make it look a little more appealing, he added some dried, chopped parsley. After roughly 15 minutes, he decided the angel hair pasta was ready and yelled for me to come hold the colander while he drained it. [the burn from bumping me with the pan is healing nicely] Into the bowl went the mushy pasta and chick peas, steaming on top of the still frozen chicken, etc. Trying to be helpful, I suggested he cover the bowl to let the hot pasta thaw the chicken. He thought that was brilliant, but was soon back to trying to break up the chicken with a spoon. Eventually, he added a little salt and pepper, mixed up the lumpy blobs with a little more olive oil and put them it the frig to chill. He seemed cautiously pleased with the end results. Spouse fondly remembers and brags about eating raw onions warm from his father's garden. I hope he still has a taste for onions, because I don't think he'll be able to taste anything else in his creation . . .

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ricky Mouse Met His Maker

Last evening, just as George Stephanopoulos (filling in for Diane Sawyer) welcomed us to the ABC Evening News and before we had taken our first bite of supper, a snap trap in the kitchen stopped Spouse and me, forks halfway to our mouths. Then, when I did not spot Ricky zooming around the corner into the dining room, I assumed the worst -- he'd met his demise. Spouse and I sat for several moments, grimacing at each other. Later, I would learn it was for entirely different reasons. Ricky fought death and Spouse wanted to wait til he stopped to dispose of the body and trap. I was grieving the tragic end of such a young life. During the week after I had discovered Ricky was staying with us, I had made a conscious effort not to use the oven because the heat might discomfit him. I was not pleased that he was living behind the stove, but since that was where he seemed to spend the bulk of his time, I did not wish to be rude. We have heard of suicide by police, right? Well, I think Ricky chose suicide by mouse trap. Following expert advice, we had placed any possible source of food for Ricky in the frig and hoped he might exit as he had entered. However, the gap under our entry door had just been installed with a new aluminum and rubber strip blocking all access to that entrance/egress. I can almost imagine Ricky's desperate attempts to escape and, finding none, stoically deciding his own fate. Suicide may have been his only choice, but I heartily wish the outcome could have been altogether different. He was a vigorous, young, and to some eyes perhaps, attractive rodent. We will never know what he might have accomplished in life. Perhaps he wanted to build a mansion in an abandoned sofa somewhere for a future family/litter. Maybe he would have become a church mouse. Now, sadly, we will never know. Rest in peace, Ricky. You were clever and brave, but your timing was totally off. [Just in case anyone might be wondering, my tongue is firmly planted in my cheek ;-)]

Monday, August 9, 2010

Too many screw-ups . . .

. . . some have been my fault and others have befallen me through forces beyond my control. Today finally brought a spot of sunshine to my otherwise troubled life. A tiny mouse I've nicknamed "Ricky" has been hanging out in our apartment helping himself to -- we haven't figured that out yet. No holes in bread wrappers or packaging have divulged his presence. He does, however, leave numerous caraway-seed-shaped calling cards. Five days ago, Spouse put out a couple of traps, primed with peanut butter. "Ricky" must be picky. He apparently does not like chunky peanut butter. How rude! Today, John, who is on the best team of building maintenance and engineering guys in the city, came to my rescue. I feel silly that a tiny little mouse can terrify me, but he assured me that it was perfectly OK to be frightened and that mice do carry diseases. [I always appreciate someone who helps to save my face. . .] He went on to thoroughly inspect the usual entryways for mice and found none. Next he crawled inside the kitchen cabinet under the sink. He found a small gap and stuffed it full of steel wool and compound -- some sort of white goop. Right after he stood up again, "Ricky" skittered out from under the stove and took a tight right through the dining room. I freaked. John bravely checked the mouse's likely path while I cowered on our bed. We didn't find him, so I've been armed with a paint roller extension rod to whack him if he shows his beady little eyes. So now, thanks to John, we have mouse poison under our stove -- apparently "Ricky's" chosen vacation spot and under the kitchen sink. Each convector is fronted by two snap traps and eight more are strategically placed along "Ricky's" likely path and in the kitchen. If he manages to avoid all those, I may have to locate a tiny trophy for him. Maybe not. Anyway, our furry friend (?) is a bold little critter and I'd much prefer to see him escape into some nice pasture somewhere. You know -- the kind with tall grass and flowers waving in the breeze. Then maybe he could find a nice little girl mouse and live happily ever after -- OUTDOORS.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

This is how I feed my love for jewelry . . .

A new blogging buddy down in New Zealand, Janet's Gems, recently asked me to post pictures of some of the jewelry I make. I'm totally inept at photographing my stuff, but here are a few examples for you, Janny. I use sterling silver, cultured pearls, Swarovski crystals, erinite (looks like jade), coral, gold filled beads, onyx, jade, mother of pearl and other semi-precious stones. I also work with teeny-tiny seed beads which make me cross-eyed after a while, but the effect they make in jewelry is worth it. I don't like to see exposed stringing material. There's always a price to be paid, eh wot?! Thanks for stopping by and do visit Janet's blog. She makes some cool fabric pieces, including special dolls for Haitian children. She has patterns and information on her blog.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

A welcome coolish front rolled through this evening.
It brought with it dark clouds I hoped would drop some rain and fire works on us, but no such luck.
As I sat on the balcony, basking in the very brisk breeze, I thought I caught a whiff of someones barbecue -- just the hot coals.
Light colored leaves torn from their trees
rolled and fluttered like tiny canaries.
Crows seemed to bask in the power of the wind to hold them aloft with no effort on their parts.
Swallows were less graceful as they precariously swooped,
searching for insects that
probably had taken shelter.
Passengers on planes landing at National were probably experiencing some exciting turbulence though I couldn't see it from my vantage point.
I could imagine those daring passengers who unbuckle seat belts and stand in the isle well before they reach the gate were feeling a little foolish -- for once.
Since D.C.'s ban on plastic grocery bags, I didn't expect to see the one that went wallowing by, settling in a pretty, little cypress bush.
I look forward to the day that no more trees, shrubs or buildings will be decorated thusly.
As darkness descended the night noises started -- little chirpers and peepers.
Haven't seen many lightning bugs this year. Hope that's due to my fading eyesight and not that they are disappearing.
D.C. is magical at night.
The amber colored street lights mellow the white marble buildings that appear so grand during the day.
Townhouses and apartment buildings
lit from within humanize a city that is all business during the day.
Sidewalk cafes come alive, offering passersby savory aromas
and good cheer.
Dogs walk their owners.
Thanks to the low profile of our city, the Washington Monument is
like a beacon
reminding everyone where we are --
Washington, D.C., the Capitol City of the United States of America.

Who's Minding the D.C. Treasurey?

I'm worried that the Commander of D.C.'s Office of Tax and Revenue jumped ship a long time ago. I'll explain. Last January I was shocked to receive an unsigned letter from a "tax auditor" at the OTR. It was to inform me that the department had no record of my every filing D.C. income tax forms! [FYI: Since 1971, I have diligently filed D.C. and Federal tax forms.] Once the angry/nervous hot flashes settled down, I immediately phoned the guy to inform him of his misinformation. I also corrected the spelling of my name which he had spelled two different ways in his letter. Normally, I have no problem talking with people who have an accent. My own Spouse has one. Over the years, I've learned to listen more carefully to folks for whom English is a second language. However -- this guy mumbled so badly I had to ask him to repeat information several times. It was embarrassing! After all that, he did follow-through on my request to put in writing the fact that I had filed jointly with my husband for the past three decades. That letter arrived without a signature or date and without the old OTR office address crossed out. [maybe I'm just being petty about the out-dated letterhead . . ?] Our lovely CPA always does a superlative job for us, so it was a surprise when we didn't get our refund right away. The mystery was solved when I read in the Washington Post that about 3,000 D.C. residents were erroneously sent tax bills including sizable penalties and interest for non-payment. It was because someone had put the decimal point in the wrong place. Our letter was dated June 9th and received three days before this news came out. When I couldn't get anywhere near someone by phone, I immediately responded in writing including copies of pertinent information. I knew it was a D.C. OTR mistake and expected a refund check soon afterwards. Spouse kept bugging me about the refund check so, again, I tried calling OTR last Thursday. I won't go into the ugly details about time spent on hold and being cut-off. When I finally reached a human being, I explained the situation. Of course she grilled me for information and put me on hold again. After holding perhaps 12 minutes, she came back on the line, giggling I'm guessing about what someone in the office had said to her. No apology for the long hold just: "Your refund has been approved and will be mailed in the next 7 to 10 days." WHOOPEE!! I'm left to wonder if OTR would have bothered to correct their mistake if I hadn't called. When I asked about my letter and corroborating evidence, she said there was no record of it having been received. So I'm thinking we'd still be in limbo if I hadn't persevered on the phone. Maybe if OTR had to pay fines, penalties and interest when THEY were late with payment, they'd be a little more careful, eh wot?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Tribute to a Guardian Angel

My college roommate, Mary and I have remained good friends though we seldom see each other. Last summer she brought a French couple over to tour parts of the U.S. When they came to D.C. I had the pleasure of showing them around my favorite city. It always amazes me how we can reconnect as if no time has passed. I wish we lived closer, but her home is in Michigan and I can't imagine leaving D.C. The first time I met Mary was during move-in to the dorm room we would share for two years at a small, liberal arts college in Iowa. We weren't exactly fish out of water, but neither one of us had lived anywhere near livestock. Nevertheless, we came to enjoy the curious dairy cows in a pasture a block from our dorm. As we unpacked I realized I would be rooming with a clothes horse. The saving grace was that she made most of her clothes. She even covered shoes with the same fabric as a couple of the outfits she'd made. I made some of my clothes, too, but it was evident even to non-sewers that I had. On the other hand, Mary's suits, dresses, blouses and slacks looked like they came from boutiques. Was I jealous? Well, yeah! One of my biggest regrets during my two years rooming with Mary was convincing her to start smoking. Once I was free from my parent's smoke-free rules, I let loose, so she almost had no choice. The dangers of cigarettes hadn't sunk in yet, so there were lots of us puffing away in dorm rooms, lounges, hallways, wherever we wanted to, except in classrooms and the chapel. I quit in 1985, but Mary still smokes and it's my fault. Beer drinking was another avenue we explored together. During our second month on campus, we somehow got invited to a kegger at a local guy's house on the edge of campus. Trying to be cool and hip, we quickly chugged 4 big cups of beer from a keg in the middle of the living room. The next thing I remember is lying on a stack of coats on a bed with some guy groping me. If Mary hadn't noticed I was missing and come looking for me, I could have lost a whole lot more than my dignity. Two impossibly handsome brothers -- not college students -- were famous for "breaking in" freshmen women. The brother trying to get into my pants was so angry he pushed both of us out the front door leaving us to stagger back across a major highway and to our dorm. In the late 1960s, colleges had curfews which were probably a good thing for inexperienced, gullible girls like us. I don't remember signing back into the dorm in front of the dorm mother. We must have held our breath doing it because we never heard about it from her. I have to disclose that alcohol was strictly prohibited on our Methodist campus and, of course, we were both under-age, but that didn't stop anyone from binge drinking. Not much has changed over the past 40-odd years. Mary's biggest role was putting-up with my waxing and waning in an impossible relationship I had with an older man. The trauma lasted for a year and a half and she was always there for me. When the break-up finally came, she stopped me from slicing my wrists. She was and is rock solid and wiser than she believes she is. I feel so lucky that she came into my life and remains an important, cherished friend. If anyone reading this has their own guardian angel, I'd love to hear about it.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

My Home Town on Independence Day

The Fourth of July always is special for me because of the fireworks. When I was a kid, the history behind the holiday was strictly peripheral. Real pyrotechnics came to town only once a year. Sure, we lit snakes, those black discs that put out lots of smoke and bloomed into fragile, long tubes of ash. But fireworks that exploded high in the air were forbidden to private citizens. My home town had a large private country club to thank for our annual display. It was a short drive from our house and attracted nearly everyone in town. Club members sat in Adirondack chairs on the huge veranda, served frosty drinks by the help, smoked cigarettes and cigars and schmoozed. We plebeian masses parked the family station wagons on the polo field and sat on old blankets or bedspreads. As the time drew near to shoot off the first shell, excitement among the children had grown to fever pitch. Then it happened -- one big burst of color in the sky followed by shrill screams from the kids and dignified oohs and aahs from the adults. Then we waited what seemed an eternity for the next burst. Only for the finale was more than one shell shot off at a time. Between each one, we'd hear babies crying and the occasional dog howling in terror. In the end, the club members retreated into their clubhouse for more refreshment and socializing while the rest of us jockeyed for a spot in the exit lines. The memory of open car windows, glaring headlights, choking exhaust from hundreds of cars, fussy children and frustrated parents is an indelible memory of the Fourth of July in my home town. Thankfully, now I can enjoy the show down on the Mall from the comfort of our balcony. I even feel a little like one of those high-rollers on the veranda -- sipping a cool drink of my choice, sitting in a comfy chair, then watching the masses as they fight traffic to get out of town.
Happy Independence Day!!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Lovely Memories

In my previous post I was thinking the heat couldn't get worse. I was WRONG! The next few days will remain in the high 90s. We haven't planted our balcony flower boxes yet because of the excessive heat. We miss them. The sparrows that used to eat our petunia blossoms also miss them. Following are pics I took of previous flower crops. Thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

It Could Be Worse

The temperature outside is in the high nineties and what I call the misery index is considerably higher than that. As if that wasn't enough, the air quality has been poor for several days. It's too early in the summer for the cold tap water to be as warm as bath water, but it is. And what should be cooling breezes are more like siroccos rolling off of the Sahara. Being happily sequestered in our air conditioned apartment, I started thinking about summer in D.C. during my parents' generation. During the build-up to and the actual U.S. engagement in WWII thousands of office workers migrated to D.C. and it's surrounds. They were crowded into small and un-cooled office space. Paper weights, now quaint reminders of bygone days, were a necessity against electric fans that were a nuisance and mostly impotent against the heat. Perfume was useless against body odor once it was sweated-off. I cannot imagine trying to handle paper and carbon paper with sweaty hands. Heading home after such a stressful day just continued the agony. Buses and street cars were not air conditioned and few houses or apartments were either. Some movie theaters installed coolers. It must have felt heavenly to sit in a cool, darkened room enjoying a get-away from real life and the heat. How office workers during the days before air conditioning were able to think straight and actually accomplish any kind of work is beyond my imagination. There must have been alot of frustrated, grouchy people walking our streets. This picture has been my PC's wallpaper since it got stinkin' hot. My sister, Patty took it a few months ago. Her husband, Tom and the family dog, Tucker took a breather from shoveling and cavorting [respectively] to watch the plows come through yet again to fill the end of everyone's driveway. As much as I like the changing seasons, I wish Spring and Autumn lasted much longer. I must remember to be grateful for a roof over my head, heat in the winter and cooling in the summer. Each season comes with good and bad points over which we have absolutely no control. I guess that's a good thing. HAPPY SUMMER!!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fathers' Day 2010

Fathers' Day is bittersweet since my Dad died in 2007. There is virtually no photographic documentation of his childhood with his dad. I can only imagine how this adorable little guy made his parents feel. He had an older brother and later on a sister joined his small family. He then became the middle child. I never had the nerve to ask him if that position bothered him. He was reluctant to discuss personal stuff life that. Looking at his baby picture, I can sense that he was a quiet child and went out of his way not to make trouble for his parents. Too bad none of his own children were like that! We were challenging to say the least. Sibling rivalry ran rampant til we got considerably older. A little of the "pecking order" still exists, but it's all in fun now. Dad adored his grandchildren. Some were a little put-off by his cool, rather formal demeanor and droll sense of humor. Now that they've grown up, I hope they realize he would have given his life to save any one of them. Today, I wish I could cuddle this little guy, ruffle his perfectly combed hair and make him giggle. Sentimental tears still sting my eyes, but I'm also smiling.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Kaleidoscope

Spouse is working tonight and I'm sitting here wondering if I can sleep without him. Not so much . . . Anyway, in an effort to entertain myself I turned to my trusty PC and started diddling with a picture Spouse took of me last weekend. I'm not one who likes having her picture taken, so this a rare exception. I get a kick out of tweeking pictures with the Microsoft Picture It program that came installed on my PC. [I'm too tight to buy one of the costly, cool programs.] When the picture reached this point, I thought it had a distinctly Picasso-esque-ness to it. It's also kinda creepy looking -- WAY COOL! BTW --the turquiose blob on the end of my nose is not a giant zit! I think it was a shiny spot that ended up taking that color. Y'know, I could have erased that, but it would have been dishonest. The title for this post is something a former boyfriend said about me. He thought I was a kaleidoscope because, in my youth, I was a little crazy-fun. I loved that he thought of me that way! Hope y'all have a great weekend and, please -- don't hate me cuz I'm beautiful . . . ;-}

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Love in a Hospital

Yes, I was in the hospital for another procedure yesterday. Fortunately, I came out of this one not feeling as if I'd been in a wrestling match that I'd lost. For whatever reason, I fight anesthesia and it's normally calming affects. This time I was able to get by on twilight sleep which uses fewer and gentler drugs. While I killed time waiting to be hauled away for my procedure, I observed others in the pre-op area. Being in the heart of Washington, D.C. I heard several different languages. Couldn't translate any, but I'm sure they were all expressing about the same thing -- it will be fine, don't worry, we'll be waiting when you come out, we love you. Across the spacious room, a couple who looked to be in their 40s arrived and were shown into a curtained cubicle. Both were tall, slender, wore glasses and Bermuda shorts. The same nurse who helped me, gave Wife a plastic wrapped gown, a pair of those ugly, nonskid booties and a plastic bag for her street clothes. She then closed the curtain on the patient and Hubby. A small gap in the curtain allowed a glimpse of Hubby helping Wife undress and tying the back strings on her gown. When he opened the curtain again she was up on the bed. She fiddled with a tiny little shoulder purse then handed it to Hubby. They chatted quietly, he stroked her hair a couple of times then the nurse was back to do some other prep on Wife. Hubby waited right outside the curtain, awkwardly holding Wife's tiny shoulder bag as if it was a talisman. He wound and unwound the narrow shoulder strap, took one or two steps, but never away from the curtain separating him from his beloved. Next thing I new, my curtain was closed and my adorable nurse was back to start my I.V. I hoped against hope it would not be necessary to drill it into the top of my hand, but no -- that's where the anesthesiologist wanted it. Warning: if you ever have to have this done to you do not look while it's being done! Inside a large hollow steel needle is a serrated plastic doo-jobby that is inserted into the tender, blue vein on the top of your hand. Taking it out is equally painful, so you have to prepare yourself. Anyway, once that had been accomplished, my curtain was pulled back again and I was left to mutter to myself about the pain that had just been inflicted on me all in an effort to prevent pain during the procedure. I sometimes wonder if a swift bop with a baseball bat wouldn't be more humane, but I digress. Hubby was still shuffling in front of Wife's curtained cubicle, winding and unwinding the shoulder strap that had now become just something to do with his hands. At times, he would face the curtain, standing very close to it and I'd wonder what was happening behind it. Thankfully, I couldn't hear anything they were saying from so far away. Before Wife's curtain opened again, I was trundled off to another holding pen, awaiting the finish of my surgeon's previous procedure. He'd done several that morning, making him more than an hour late to start mine. I didn't want Spouse to accompany me through pre-op because it's too hard on him. Unfortunately, he had no way of knowing that I hadn't "been under the knife" all that time. Then, when I was awake enough to be released, someone forgot to notify him so that he could bring our car around to get me. After waiting for quite a while, I begged the nurse to let me go on down to see if Spouse was there already. The waiting area is on the first floor and the entrance/exit on the Lobby floor below that. The nurse said patients weren't allowed to leave on their own, but I convinced her I could handle it. She let me go after I explained how long Spouse had been waiting. I was a little wobbly, but made it to the elevator and across the lobby to where I hoped to see him in our car. After waiting there about ten minutes, I decided to check the waiting area. When the elevator doors opened, Spouse saw me before I saw him and came running. No one had notified him of my release. He was as distressed as he was angry and I just wanted to get the hell out of there. Spouse doesn't enjoy driving and this trip was made even more exciting by his angry tirade. He got us home safely then went off to work. I guzzled about 1/2 gallon of water and slept off the rest of the anesthesia. All's well that end's well. As for the other couple, I pray that their day ended well and that they too got home safely. I've been on both sides of the curtain many times and know how worry and love mingle to turn your heart into a mass of quivering jelly. There's nothing better than going to bed at home, wrapped in your lover's arms after a day like that.

Monday, June 7, 2010

What is it?

We've been enjoying a truly scrumptious day today. The weekend was hot and stormy and today a cool breeze blows just enough to freshen the air and my mood. On days like this, I like to hang out on our balcony with a good book.
Minutes ago, I noticed this critter clinging to the balcony wall. I watched it for a while, but it never made a move. I have no idea what it is, but it looks totally cool.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Fame -- who needs it?

Though it is absolutely none of my business, I felt compelled to comment on the separation of the Gores. My first reaction was sadness that any family has to go through such a thing. My second was hoping that they would be protected from public scrutiny and comment. Of course that is unlikely in this day of instant news. Again, no one asked for my take on their decision, but I do have an opinion and then I'm finished commenting on them. Both Gores are honorable, decent people who fell in love and did the natural thing: they got married and started a family. I think the disconnect started when Mr. Gore decided to run for public office. I don't think that was something Mrs. Gore had bargained for. The constant attention and traditional role of a political wife may have been the very last way she would have chosen to live her life. I, for one, have never had a desire to attain fame, notoriety or celebrity. Anonymity and privacy are among the things I cherish most in my life. No amount of money could make up for the loss of either of them. Frankly, I cannot understand why anyone wants to be famous. Part of my job at one time was to liaise with an organization started by a former movie/TV star. His program was and remains worthy of support. However, meeting with the founder in person was always off-putting. One incident that stands out was a meeting scheduled in the restaurant at the Hay-Adams hotel. The local rep. of the organization was late leaving me to entertain Mr. TV. I don't exactly have the gift for gab, but I made a valiant effort to engage him in conversation about his organization. The entire time, his eyes roamed around the crowded room. I took turns wondering if he didn't want to be seen alone with me, or if he was looking for recognition. I was relieved when the local guy showed up. But then they ended up talking to each other, leaving me out of the conversation. That was so typical in those days. I hated it when I asked a man a question and he answered it to my date! It's as if women were superfluous and merely decoration. Tipper Gore may well have been subjected to years of such dreadful behavior during her marriage. Political wives have long been the butt of nasty jokes and innuendo. Honestly, I'm surprised that she could put up with it as long as she did! Once all the commotion dies down, I hope she can live the rest of her life as she wishes and without intrusions from strangers like me or anyone else. I wish them both good luck and a speedy resolution.

Sunday, May 30, 2010

What He Missed

In my previous post, I told you about a young man from my home town who died in Vietnam about a month before his 21st birthday. He was special to lots of people. Then I started to think about all the things he missed since his untimely death in 1967. I'm sure there are additional significant milestones, events and developments that I've forgotten, but these are what I came up with. Carl never had the chance to: -graduate from college and start a career; -hold a newborn son, daughter or grandchild; -enjoy the freedom of a cordless telephone; -watch a flat screen television in HD; -vote for our first African-American president; -use a personal computer or cellphone or GPS; -serve as best man at his best friend's wedding; -mourn the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. or Bobby Kennedy; -see a single Star Wars movie; -write the great American novel; -ride in the Concorde or an ultra light plane; -watch the first human step onto the surface of the moon; -behold any of the space shuttle flights or the international space station; -celebrate the end of the cold war and demise of the Berlin Wall; -celebrate his coming-of-age 21st birthday; -figure out what LED, LCD or IDP mean; -worry about covering a bald spot; -watched CNN or cable television; -drive a front-wheel-drive car with ABS; -witness the dissolution of the U.S.S.R.; -buy a CD or DVD or even a VHS tape; -use a key card to open a door; -burn popcorn in a microwave oven; -drive the snazzy new VW Beetle or a Mini-Cooper; -shop at Ikea or Trader Joe's; -spend our new, colorful paper money; -use an electric toothbrush; -dance at a discotheque; -see auto manufacturers ditch the tailfins; -view awe-inspiring pictures from the Hubble telescope; -have a blog where he could opine at will; -try in-line skates; -see Lake Erie make a comeback from near death; So many things didn't exist and hadn't happened yet in October 1967. Life has been made easier by some inventions and more complicated by others. We waste more time fiddling with electronics than we do interacting with each other. Too few of us remember that our lives or those of people we care about could be snatched away before we take another breath. I can only guess how Carl and others of his lost generation would have reacted to life these days. I so wish they had the chance to engage in long, productive lives.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What might have been . . .

In October 1967 a twenty years young man's life was brutally taken from him in a Vietnamese jungle. One tribute I recently read about him said that he was our generation's JFK. At first I thought it was an exaggeration, but the more I thought about it the more I had to agree. Carl Thorne-Thomsen was one of thousands of America's best who went to war in Southeast Asia. At the time, he was a popular, top student at Harvard. I learned recently that two of his friends and classmates, Al Gore and Tommy Lee Jones, were among those deeply affected by his death -- just three months after he was deployed. In high school, Carl and my brother were seniors when I was a freshman. Carl was the epitome of the straight arrow student -- clean-cut, intelligent, cute, great sense of humor incredibly popular yet humble. I don't think anyone there at that time would disagree that every girl had a crush on him and every boy wanted to be him. He was the definition of a gentleman and scholar. My 1964 yearbook reminded me that had presided over several organizations, participated in several sports, was elected king of the junior prom and won awards for scholarship and leadership. In short he did everything to make his parents proud of him without tooting his own horn. The premature death of a young person can never be justified. It wasn't necessary for Carl to die before his 21st birthday. He had a deferral from the draft. But he couldn't stand the idea that other guys were paying with their lives so that he could stay in school to earn a degree. The summer following his junior year he walked into a recruiting office and volunteered. Within three months, he was dead. I began to wonder what might have been had Carl survived and completed his degree. He could have done anything and been successful. Carl was one of those guys who would have touched many more lives in memorable and positive ways. Now when I read reports and see pictures of our casualties [such a polite sounding term for the dead] in Iraq and Afghanistan, I wonder who among them might have been their generation's JFK. Today, the young men and women who volunteer to fight our country's battles may have different reasons for enlisting -- financial, family tradition, an educational opportunity, occupational training or -- simply, heartfelt patriotism. Whatever the reasons, they know they are putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. Some say there is great nobility in their sacrifices. While that is true, the loss of each and every life is tragic. Who knows what impact any one of them might have had on our world. Their families and friends believe they know and grieve their losses. In the late 60s and early 70s, I was out in D.C. protesting the Vietnam War. I was tear-gassed and pepper-gassed on the U of Md. campus in College Park. When this happened, I wasn't protesting, just trying to get to classes or to my part-time job. What some still fail to realize is that we were not out there because we didn't support our troops. We didn't want them sent to Southeast Asia any more than many of them wanted to go. The military draft was a scary, demoralizing fact and ruined many lives. Guys did horrible things to avoid it. One friend shot off his own toe. The Vietnam war was a mistake and everyone knew it, but we were in too deeply to admit it. The war machine -- the military/industrial complex -- was more powerful than any gaggle of college students. We were accused of being disloyal and unAmerican. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Very simply, we wanted to stop the bloodshed and chaos inflicted on combatants and civilians alike. It was a war no one could win. The war in Iraq will not end because Americans bring it to an end. It will end when the Iraqis have had enough and send us packing. Afghanistan is a more difficult proposition because the Taliban and Al Qaeda have unlimited funding thanks in part to our bumbling and misguided allegiance to a large, oil-rich Middle Eastern nation. "Death to America" is chanted in nearly every Muslim country because we are perceived as the infidels that are trying to eradicate Islam. The United States didn't exist during the Crusades of the 4th Century, but stories of the atrocities against Muslims are still taught in their schools. Somehow we need to acknowledge the mistakes our ancestors made in the name of Christianity. The Islamist extremists believe they are avenging the crimes committed against their forefathers by the Crusaders. My incentive for posting this was not to rant about past mistakes. Rather, it was to encourage every American to take at a minute this weekend to remember people like Carl whose dreams and lives were cut short by war. Who knows what impact any one of them might have had. Maybe a young corpsman in the Korean War might have gone on to discover a cure for Lupus, or an Army nurse during World War II might have gone on to become a concert pianist. For each life lost to war, dozens if not hundreds more are affected by it. For some of our wounded warriors, death sometimes looks preferable to life as they now must live it. Suicide among veterans is a shameful legacy. Only during recent history has the military taken a stab at recognizing and treating post traumatic stress disorder and survivor guilt. How our fathers and grandfathers managed to thrive after what they saw will remain largely a mystery. My own Dad waited until weeks before his death from cancer to mention a few WWII experiences. These came out only when I asked what he thought about a PBS special on WWII. Those of us who have not served in the military owe more than we can ever repay to our active military, their families and veterans. Rolling Thunder comes through town to remind us of this obligation. These guys realize how lucky they are to have survived. They also crave support as they agonize over lost buddies. So, for Carl and so many others whose chances to contribute to society were stolen before they could even offer their service, I will take time to reflect on what might have been and what is. It's the very least any of us can do.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Idiotic or Brilliant?

Watching coverage of the horrendous and continuing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico I'm troubled by the idea of spreading dispersing agents over the oil. Yes, it breaks the oil into smaller blobs, but it doesn't remove it. It's going to wind up more widely spread this way, isn't it. Dispersing it just seems like a cosmetic fix to me. Wouldn't it be easier to scoop up the blobs if they were bigger and more solid? Isn't there some way to coagulate or congeal the gunk into scoopable chunks? Someone with knowledge of these things, please set me straight.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Something else a woman must bear

So there I sat, wearing the equivalent of an opened paper napkin with cap sleeves and a string to tie it around the neck. Even for an average sized lady this thing is not going to maintain her modesty. Being a well-endowed lady, wearing this thing open in the front -- as instructed -- could get me arrested for indecent exposure. So I leave it open in the back choosing to reveal my bare back rather than my front. Folks walking by the big windows in the waiting area get a bit of a show, but not as much if we'd been facing the window. The other issue I have with this particular garment is that it is about six inches long. [Just teasing -- it's probably 10 inches long -- still too short.] Now, gravity is decidedly unkind to well endowed ladies of a certain age. The inevitability of sagging seems to slip the minds of the people who make these paper tops. Soooo . . . I spend my waiting time slouching with my arms crossed over my lap to avoid making a scene. Knowing glances from sisters also waiting to be tortured is small comfort as we all assume approximately the same position or use a strategically positioned magazine. There's an odd odor in x-ray rooms. It always makes me wonder if the rays not absorbed by body parts are doing something dastardly to the air in the room. I hope it's just my imagination. The x-ray tech. is always a cheerful, slender lady in a pastel pants suit. She's very good about keeping her eyes off the subject at hand until she has to handle the subjects. Then she gently but firmly lifts and drags one's subject onto the plastic plate. She winces sympathetically while she slides the crusher down on the subject, squeezing it to seemingly impossible proportions. We both sigh with relief once the picture is taken and the vise is released. This goes on several more times since I have history and they want to get every millimeter of tissue, including my ribs, on film. Once all the films are done, more waiting commences, only this time in the over-heated x-ray room with the funny-smelling air. Eventually a doc comes in to explain what they did or did not find. After donning my civvies again, I quickly exit the building, take a few big gasps of fresh air and thank God that I won't have to go through that again for a whole year!! P.S. I admit to laughing at jokes about how men might handle it if their subject was subject to a similar test. We both know they wouldn't do it and rather accept whatever the consequences! wimps. . .