Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Arts

Grandma Moses began painting in her 70s, after her eyesight got so bad she couldn't embroider anymore. And her fame is history.

In 2006, her painting Sugaring Off, sold for $1.2 million. Well, we shouldn't all aspire to lofty art sales, but we should all aspire to enjoy the creativity that is somewhere in us. Think back to finger painting in nursery school or grade school: that was fun, wasn't it? And Play-Doh? Who hasn't loved the Play-Doh Fun Factory?!

What happened to that fun? For some, the thought of someone scrutinizing your artwork took you out of the creativity world. For others, perhaps competition. Someone else had a better 5-finger turkey than you.

When we lived in East Lansing, I became an arts volunteer for our local grade school. Once a week I would present a print of a famous painting by some famous artist, and give a brief explanation of the art and history of the artist. One thing I tried to impress on the young kids was, "You can do this, too!"

Why would I tell them that? We all can make art. Paintings, jewelry, sculpture, music. We all have it in us, or did at one time. Sometimes it's difficult to share our attempts with others, but that should not keep us from...just creating!

Me? I paint periodically. I quilt. I love to cross stitch but my 49-yr.-old eyesight makes that prohibitive on most days. I play the piano. I just started cello lessons!

And this blog? I gave myself the assignment to write every day this summer. Creativity. Let me tell you, THIS assignment is difficult, yet thoroughly enjoyable.

Try some art. You will be pleasantly surprised.

Sugaring Off by Grandma Moses

Monday, June 29, 2009

Le Tour

It was a Thomas Moran morning as I climbed on my bike today, tall clouds and sunbeams pushing through. It does make the early rising and that too-shallow coffee cup worthwhile, once I actually get out and begin to focus on...nothing.

And the Tour de France begins this Saturday! Yippee! Le Tour ranks up there with Wimbledon and the Belmont in my books. I love that an entire country (albeit "small country") rallies and cheers for cyclists all along the roadsides - in the country, in the villages and in the cities for three summer weeks. (We Armstrongs don't experience a whole lot of cheering along the roadsides in our region of Americana.)

Here is where you can begin your Tour:


On most days the cyclists will ride around 160-200 kilometers (that's 100-125 miles a day!) There is one rest day each week, and three stages of the Tour are Time Trials (15-40 km).
Although the Tour de France is probably the most famous cycling race around, there are many, many such races in Europe each year. Road racing is catching on in the US, and we Americans even have three "big" races of which to be proud: the Tour of California, the Tour of Georgia, and the Tour of Missouri.

So...time to don your imaginary race kit and hop on that bike that's been hibernating in your garage for decades...

La Carte de le Tour

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bluff King Hal

On this day in 1491,
King Henry VIII was born.

He was not a very nice King. We all know the history of his six wives. In addition to a couple of THEIR beheadings, the political executions during the reign of King Henry VIII numbers around 72,000.

A very brief history of his reign in part:

His reign was during the Protestant Reformation that was going on through parts of Europe. King Henry VIII was Catholic, and had even written a book criticizing Martin Luther. But in later years, he found it politically beneficial to break with the Papacy in Rome. So he established himself as Supreme Head of the Church of England.

He died at age 56, in debt and in ill health, after 38 years of not reigning very nicely.

(And you can read more about
"Henry the Eighth, by the Grace of God, King of England, France and Ireland, Defender of the Faith and of the Church of England and also of Ireland in Earth Supreme Head" at your local library!)

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Sisters, and Brothers, too

"To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time." ~Clara Ortega
Isn't that true? To hear us kids (!) when we get together would confirm this in the best and worst examples. We're all upwards of fifty or so. (I'm on the lower end of that "or so".) Our holidays are filled with laughter and fun, a comfortable nest away from which we never seem to fly too far. When I see my parents with their sisters and brothers-in-law, it is like peeking through a keyhole, into a comfy room "outside the touch of time". It's a tremendous gift, family. Brothers and sisters.

My sister was eight years older than me. She moved away to college, and then it was years before we got reacquainted. Or acquainted in life beyond sharing a childhood bedroom, with her teen mags and makeup, and my Barbie dolls and stuffed animals.

We shared an apartment one summer in college, and that was tremendous fun! We shared clothes, talked incessantly, argued some, and laughed at every opportunity. She was the only person I knew who could sing every song I could, knew every lyric I did. She was finishing her Master's, and one class required her to read an exorbitant number of children's books that summer. We struck a deal that after dinner she would clean up, if I would read to her, just to give her eyes and mind a break. Through the Looking Glass, Go Ask Alice, Where the Wild Things Are...we covered a lot of literary ground that summer that we would revisit in our parenting years. We played flute duets. She began dating her then-boyfriend and subsequent husband that summer. It was a summer of camping, family get-togethers with brothers, and just plain fun. As so much of what we did was...simple fun! She and I met our first niece, of soon-to-be many nieces and nephews, that year. And this year, my brothers and I will welcome that little baby's baby: our first grand-niece or nephew.

And so the Circle of Life continues.

I knew far earlier than upon my sister's passing how much I relied on her. Just to be my sister. Just to call and chat, laugh, ask a silly question. She always got it right.

B. Alpert wrote of sisters:

"She is your mirror, shining back at you with a world of possibilities. She is your witness, who sees you at your worst and best, and loves you anyway. She is your partner in crime, your midnight companion, someone who knows when you are smiling, even in the dark. She is your teacher, your defense attorney, your personal press agent, even your shrink. Some days, she's the reason you wish you were an only child."

There's a lot to that. There's something really special about having a sister.

Friday, June 26, 2009


The electricity went off last night. Dinner was already served, so that was not an ordeal, but...WHAT ABOUT THE AC?! I can't live, I don't think, without air conditioning. And the guys, that spouse o' mine and the boy, would need showers after raising the roof (quite literally) on the chicken house, and running 5-10 miles, respectively. We have a well. And a pump to said well, electrically-run. Fortunately, about 9:00 pm, the power kicked on (yay for me: I was looking up the phone number for the Fairfield Inn.)

I asked that spouse o' mine, what were his ancestors thinking, settling in hot hot Nebraska, from Sweden and Norway? He countered with, what were my Dutch and German ancestors thinking, settling in even hot and hotter Oklahoma, from the Netherlands and Germany?

This past weekend, two daughters, a boyfriend of one said daughter, and I were driving back to Kansas from Oklahoma. We stopped at a roadside interest, called the "Little House on the Prairie" or something akin. It was on the property formerly owned by the Ingalls family (read: Little House on the Prairie series, both in book form and a TV series.) We have always passed by this roadside interest, but that day I was tired and irritable. So I threw 3 college kids out the car door and ambled out myself.

After looking at the log cabin and a hitching post and a schoolhouse and an ancient loo, I looked out to the horizon. Yep, it looked just like mine back in Wabaunsee County. Nothing special here. Same grass, same heat, same wind. I LOVED the Little House on the Prairie books. I loved them when I read them as a child, and then reacquainted myself with them when my kids began reading them. The TV series was catch & miss, but I enjoyed it tremendously.

But standing out on the windy, hot prairie a weekend ago, I can verify that there is no romance in the prairie in the summertime. I don't recall EVER seeing Michael Landon (Pa) perspiring, I don't recall Karen Grassle (Carolyn) ever EVER having a stray hair flying. (My life? ALWAYS looking like the wrath of Medusa.) The TV series of Little House on the Prairie was filmed on Big Sky Ranch at Simi Valley, CA. I'll bet those Californians have never felt the heat and wind of the REAL prairie, the blowdrier of heaven.

This morning there was absolute calm. The dew on the grass was as heavy as I've ever seen it, and there was a fog that stayed put even after the sun rose. A harbinger of heat to come...

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Wavin' wheat!

I saw my neighbors out cutting wheat yesterday afternoon. That's a good thing! Unfortunately, the thunderstorms rolled in before they could finish this particular field. And this morning, things are wet again.
This is an old photo of my grandfather and some of his cousins. Grandpa is the handsome guy, second from the left.

That spouse o' mine and I went on an early morning bike ride today. We started at 6:30 to beat the heat, and it was really, really nice out! There are some inherent qualities of summer cycling that are not overly-enjoyable (besides sweat trickles). As the temperatures rise, so does the strength of the eau de roadkill. Those twigs in the road are sometimes not twigs. Snakes snake across the roads, especially, it seems, in the morning hours. With all the rain we've been having, there's a lot of standing water on the roadsides. It's starting to get really smelly. And our evening rides are fraught with flying bugs.

The upside to this peripatetic pedaling is that I notice the things I don't observe when I'm in my car. I could have sworn that the neighbor's corn grew half a foot from yesterday. There was a really pretty snake in the road, and now I am going to have to look him up to see what he was. (note: Common King Snake) I pay much more attention to cloud movement, not unlike one does when mountain climbing - but while I am watching the clouds, I can let a vivid imagination roam about birds and planes and hurricanes.

And this morning's Cycling Song of Choice (because I sing, too, to keep up my cadence...) contained the lines:
...flowers on the prairie where the June bugs zoom,
Plenty of air and plenty of room,
Plenty of room to swing a rope!
Plenty of heart and plenty of hope.
OKLAHOMA, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain,

And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.

I just love that song!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


I looked outside tonight (I am in my seasonal hibernation), and wowee! Lightning bugs abound! I love them. There is a chemical reaction called bioluminescence that causes these funny things to gambol in my backyard with their lights on. And in yours.

I could research this (and so could you), but I think it will suffice to say that these lightning bugs are looking for mates and such. Blinkety-blink-blink: Are you of like species? Do you like me? Do I like you?

Nature is at its best with these guys. Who amongst us has had a lightning bug schmush up on our windshield, leaving its smear of "bioluminescence"? It is a fascinating thing. Those amongst us who believe that God created heaven and earth must revel in things such as the lightning bug. Interesting guy. (The bug. And, more importantly, God.)

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I like poetry. And I like James Whitcomb Riley's writing. A lot of his thousand-plus poems are written in a dialect-style. It may seem difficult to read such style, but if you read it out loud, it flows quite nicely. Try it:

Knee-Deep in June, by James Whitcomb Riley

       'Long about knee-deep in June,
    'Bout the time strawberries melts
 On the vine, -- some afternoon
Like to jes' git out and rest,
     And not work at nothin' else!
Orchard's where I'd ruther be --
Needn't fence it in fer me! --
 Jes' the whole sky overhead,
And the whole airth underneath --
Sort o' so's a man kin breathe
 Like he ort, and kind o' has
Elbow-room to keerlessly
 Sprawl out len'thways on the grass
    Where the shadders thick and soft
As the kivvers on the bed
    Mother fixes in the loft
Allus, when they's company!
Jes' a-sort o' lazin there -
 S'lazy, 'at you peek and peer
    Through the wavin' leaves above,
    Like a feller 'ats in love
 And don't know it, ner don't keer!
 Ever'thing you hear and see
    Got some sort o' interest -
    Maybe find a bluebird's nest
 Tucked up there conveenently
 Fer the boy 'at's ap' to be
 Up some other apple tree!
Watch the swallers skootin' past
Bout as peert as you could ast;
 Er the Bob-white raise and whiz
 Where some other's whistle is.
Ketch a shadder down below,
And look up to find the crow --
Er a hawk, - away up there,
'Pearantly froze in the air! --
 Hear the old hen squawk, and squat
 Over ever' chick she's got,
Suddent-like! - and she knows where
 That-air hawk is, well as you! --
 You jes' bet yer life she do! --
    Eyes a-glitterin' like glass,
    Waitin' till he makes a pass!
Pee-wees wingin', to express
 My opinion, 's second-class,
Yit you'll hear 'em more er less;
    Sapsucks gittin' down to biz,
Weedin' out the lonesomeness;
 Mr. Bluejay, full o' sass,
    In them baseball clothes o' his,
Sportin' round the orchad jes'
Like he owned the premises!
    Sun out in the fields kin sizz,
But flat on yer back, I guess,
    In the shade's where glory is!
That's jes' what I'd like to do
Stiddy fer a year er two!
Plague! Ef they ain't somepin' in
Work 'at kind o' goes ag'in'
 My convictions! - 'long about
    Here in June especially! --
    Under some ole apple tree,
       Jes' a-restin through and through,
 I could git along without
       Nothin' else at all to do
       Only jes' a-wishin' you
Wuz a-gittin' there like me,
And June wuz eternity!
Lay out there and try to see
Jes' how lazy you kin be! --
    Tumble round and souse yer head
In the clover-bloom, er pull
       Yer straw hat acrost yer eyes
       And peek through it at the skies,
    Thinkin' of old chums 'ats dead,
          Maybe, smilin' back at you
In betwixt the beautiful
          Clouds o'gold and white and blue! --
Month a man kin railly love --
June, you know, I'm talkin' of!
March ain't never nothin' new! --
April's altogether too
 Brash fer me! and May -- I jes'
 'Bominate its promises, --
Little hints o' sunshine and
Green around the timber-land --
 A few blossoms, and a few
 Chip-birds, and a sprout er two, --
 Drap asleep, and it turns in
 Fore daylight and snows ag'in! --
But when June comes - Clear my th'oat
 With wild honey! -- Rench my hair
In the dew! And hold my coat!
Whoop out loud! And th'ow my hat! --
 June wants me, and I'm to spare!
 Spread them shadders anywhere,
 I'll get down and waller there,
    And obleeged to you at that!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Junebugs and Such...

Well, my word. The June bugs hitting my window just now sound like rain pounding the glass. I always try to think what purpose in life this creature or that one has. I'm not sure about the June bug. To morph from a grub and then die?

I decided to Wiki it, and didn't get a satisfactory answer, but I learned that there is a Junebug, Oklahoma. OK, it's a fictional place, but how fun would that be, to be able to say, "I'm from Junebug, Okahoma!"


I did go to my hometown of Pryor Creek, Oklahoma this weekend. I took two daughters and a daughter's boyfriend with me. These kids have no clue about small town life. One of them remarked, after Sunday service in the church that I grew up in, "Mom, everyone there knew you!" Not true - only those aged 45+ knew me. And that's a nice thing, "going home". It's happy (because I had a happy childhood), full of memories on every street and street corner (when, as a kid, one walks or rides a bike everywhere, memories are made at every bend in the road), and, in my case, full of family to see.

One thing I noticed that I am not sure I like. When did people in Pryor Creek start calling people by their first names? I don't mean like "Bill", or "Jean". I heard references to "Mr. Tommy" and such. WHO IS MR. TOMMY?! It took me a while to figure out that this town has changed their way of addressing people.

Yes, yes, back in my day, every adult had an easy name, and it was either Mr. {insert last name here.} or Mrs. {insert last name here.} No variation on the theme, no nicknames, no first names, no nothing. Mr. and Mrs. It was all so simple. Even now, if someone asks me if I know Mr. Thompson's first name, usually I can only reply "Mr." We kids weren't really privvy to adults' first names. And that was fine. I don't know who could come up with the idea to address people as Mr. Paul or Miss Trish. Nosirree, that does not work in my books. If you know us well enough to call us by our first names, then do so! If not, use Mr. & Mrs. Armstrong. Simple.

A nice thing at my hometown church this weekend was when Mr. Avra mentioned Bill and Jean Moss as a couple who have been very positive Christian role models in his life. (I am paraphrasing what Mr. Avra said.) And I am wholeheartedly in agreement about the Mosses being role models. Bill was the pastor of the Pryor Frist United Methodist Church when I was a kid. Kind, happy, friendly, and easy to talk to, he was. Jean, his wife, was vivacious and cheerful whenever I saw her. I love them both. Bill and Jean. Not Pr. and Mrs. But the respect is there, as much as I say Mr. Avra. Or Mr. Thompson. Or the myriad of other Mr.'s and Mrs.'s that I got to visit with in Pryor Creek this weekend.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

On the Barbie:

That spouse o' mine, like many spouses we all know and love, is a pyromaniac. Loves a fire, loves to watch things burn. He's not idiot dangerous or anything, but he does love a good blaze.

It was a beautiful spring day, years ago when we lived in the Great North (Michigan), that he gathered up all the fallen limbs, leaves, any naturally-combustible material he could find in our yard. And lit it up - high! He was having a heyday. One of our backyard neighbors, a "difficult" one, was not enjoying the inferno, or the smoke. And probably not enjoying any of the delightful goings-on that day in our yard: preschool kids running amok, happy voices and commotion in our backyard (Paul's sister was visiting), and who-knows-what else.

I was in the kitchen, preparing a preschooler's birthday cake for her small party, and I looked up just in time to see the East Lansing Fire Department fire truck pull into our drive. I ran to the back door, saw the bonfire, saw Paul, saw everything was under control (albeit burning quite healthily). I ran back to the kitchen. Oh no! I didn't want to receive some sort of civil unrest ticket for what in my life with that spouse o' mine is a regular occurrence. I thought fast. I grabbed the plate of ribs sitting on the countertop and handed them to someone (I don't remember WHO, at this point), and said, "QUICK! Take these out to Dad!"

And then I calmly walked to the side gate to meet the firemen. How embarrassing. They asked if we had a fire. I said yes, we have a fire, we're cooking ribs; come on back. And I let them into the backyard, to a pastoral scene of little preschool kids frolicking in the yard, and Paul and his sister standing and chatting around this BLAZE, calmly holding the plate of ribs, as if this was how we always spent our afternoons, cooking gigantic amounts of meat over head-high thundering flames.

We did not receive a citation from the firemen.

I love my life.

Friday, June 19, 2009

I pondered and I searched for SOMETHING to write about today, and finally had to resort to a writing prompt. (For those of you just joining this page, my goal this summer is to write every day. It's harder than you think; try it.)

And the prompt says to write 200 words about a hot day. Okie-doke!

This morning's 6:30 wind made the looking out from the in appear cool; an overcast morning when you would like to do a lengthy morning saunter down the road, for miles and miles. Well. My outlook was inaccurate. But it was too late to go back, once I was in the pasture doing things like loading up t-posts and mowing a few walking paths for the dogs and me, filling up the horse tanks, and marveling at the giant tree part that just barely missed the fence itself. (That must have been some wind the other night.) And by the time 8:30 a.m. rolled around, I was not at all pleased to be out and about in the humidity.

In my mind's eye, there is little worse than the phrase "a trickle of sweat". I hate the term, I hate the sensation. That spouse o' mine, on the other hand, asserts that sweating is good for me. He thinks it's healthy.

He is sadly mistaken.

I unloaded the t-posts, weeded the worst parts of the garden (that's a pitiful story in itself.), watered my banana crop, and headed inside for the cool of the abode. Once inside, I cooled off, showered, and continued my day in the AC, whether in the house, the car, or at the quilt show I caught this afternoon. Cool as a cucumber I was. (Except for the walking to-and from-parts...)

And now, I am waiting for dusk, in which to go do the evening things...feeding ponies, dogs, and goldfish...glance at my ignorant tomatoes (again, a pitiful story for another day) and check the mail across the dusty, dusty road. Kansas dust.

The upside to this story? The Summer Solstice is in two days! Yeehah!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

...and the livin' is easy...

Arthur Rubenstein once said, "The seasons are what a symphony ought to be: four perfect movements in harmony with each other." Reading that expressive quote, I began to think about summertime tunes. Given today's heat and humidity, the music might have to be some slow, funeral-like dirge. Because that's about how fast my heart is beating.

But...some other "summertime music? Certainly Gershwin's Summertime:

And the livin' is easy

Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Oh, Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

One of these mornings
You're going to rise up singing
Then you'll spread your wings
And you'll take to the sky

But until that morning
There's a'nothing can harm you
With your daddy and mammy standing by

And the livin' is easy
Fish are jumpin'
And the cotton is high

Your daddy's rich
And your mamma's good lookin'
So hush little baby
Don't you cry

Yep, that song is ideal, isn't it?

And most everyone is familiar with Vivaldi's Four Season's "Summer". It is very enjoyable to listen to, but does not, in my opinion, fit the Kansas summer. (Except the thunderstorm part.)

But I like this one for "summertime":
Vitali Chaconne

Here's a Youtube link for the Vitali Chaconne:

and Summertime (w/ Ella Fitzgerald):

And Vivaldi:

Listening to music like this makes the heat and humidity just a bit more bearable. Yessirree.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009


So this evening husband Paul & I were discussing holidays. Specifically, Mother's Day and Father's Day. We were in agreement regarding our thoughts that these two holidays, while very, very nice, are indeed "Hallmark" holidays and we both agreed that both Mother's & Father's Days don't HAVE to be set on the Sundays designated for them; any day can be Mother's Day. Any day can be Father's Day.

But then, uh-oh! BIG BIG UH-OH!!!!

Paul takes it a bit further (bad, bad turn) and says that Valentine's Day is exactly the same.

WHOA, BUCKO!! Valentine's Day is #2 in my holiday book, only behind my favorite of winter/Christmas...I LOVE the winter months. NOTHING can compete. Cold weather, Christmas, and swiftly followed by Happy Happy Valentines.

So there.

He has been reminded. (He should really already know this; 25+years of happy pink things going on morning, noon, and night on February 14th.)

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gray's Hollow

This is The Cliff.

It's in the cove called Gray's Hollow, on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. The Cliff is across the cove from the boathouse my family had in my childhood. I am not sure how old I was when we got the boathouse, but we (Mom, Dad, and 5 kids) spent many, many weekends there. Grand Lake back in the 60's was not populated, developed, or crowded. So quiet was our cove that Dad would swim across with us kids, to The Cliff. The Cliff is pretty high - maybe 3 stories? We kids and Dad would swim over, climb up the rocks, and jump off!

I marvel at my parents (mostly my Mom, because I am such a worrier Mom compared to her), that they thought nothing of letting their kids A) Swim across a 40' deep cove, {I was....maybe 7?} B) Jump off a cliff??! I am not sure I could watch our three kids do such a thing!

Our childhood was so rich in experiences like these! Thank you to Mom & Dad. You wonder, why all we kids are like we are? It's a mix of Nature vs Nurture. And we appreciate it.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Love Thy Neighbor

The Pig War occurred in 1859. Who in the world has ever heard of the Pig War?!

The Oregon Treaty of June 15, (today!) 1846, gave the United States possession of the Pacific Northwest south of the 49th parallel, (get out your globe), extending the boundary to:

"the middle of the channel which separates the continent from Vancouver's Island; and thence southerly through the middle of the said channel, and of Fuca's straits to the Pacific Ocean."
(This is in our son's soon-to-be neighborhood!)

This treaty left out any clear guidance as to who owned San Juan Island, which is between Vancouver Island and the coast of Washington. (check your map...)
There were two channels on either side of the San Juan Island: Haro Strait, (on the west), which was used by the United States, and Rosario Strait, (on the east), used by the British. And both sides claimed the San Juan Island as their own. A few dozen Americans settled on the island. A British company, Hudson's Bay Company, set up a sheep operation on the island.

Exactly thirteen years after the Oregon Treaty, on June 15, 1859, an American named Cutlar shot and killed a pig that was out rooting in his garden. The pig, apparently, was eating his potatoes. Well, the pig was owned by a British Hudson's Bay Company employee (Griffin) who let his pigs roam freely. And until this point, the Yankee and the Brit had lived in peace. There is a lot of talk about what happened next; who knows? But according to history, Cutlar offered Griffin $10 to compensate for the "offing" of his pig. Griffin counter-offered, as it were, for $100.

Cutlar said he should not have to pay for the pig because the pig had been trespassing on his land: "It was eating my potatoes."

Griffin replied, "It is up to you to keep your potatoes out of my pig."
Well, British authorities threatened to arrest Cutlar, and the American settlers called for military protection. (This, while there were (?) 25-29 American settlers on the island...)

In the meantime, the British were concerned that a squatter population of Americans would begin to occupy San Juan Island. So they sent three British warship to San Juan Island.
And great Scott! The escalation continued! By August, 460 American soldiers were met with British warships holding 2,140 men. All this, because of a DING-DONG pig???!
When word of this crisis reached Washington, officials there were shocked that the simple action of an irate farmer had grown into an explosive international incident. Let this be a lesson to all of us: LOVE THY NEIGHBOR. Or become an International Incident.

Husband Paul asks, "Did they roast the pig?"

Sunday, June 14, 2009

I...Love a Parade!

Who doesn't like a parade? I am a parade's biggest fan. I am ready to hop on that bandwagon and play along with them! Ditto a band in general. I love bands, love orchestras, love choirs, and mostly, LOVE to be in them. There is nothing finer, let me tell you, than getting together with some fellow musicians and having a great time making music together!

My family is chock full of musicians. If we put together the full Reese-Webster contingent we might possibly be able to rival the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. (Certainly in spirit.) At Christmas time, we like to gather and sing Handel's Messiah. Not the Hallelujah Chorus, silly, the ENTIRE thing. It takes upwards of 2.5-3 hours (depending on food and visiting in between). It is a marathon that is not always popular with the inlaws and inlaws-to-be, but it's just something we do. Period. For years my sister Barb would play the entire piano accompaniment for us. (More on my gifted sister Barb in a future writing...) After she passed away, the CD accompaniment was never quite right. But we go on.

Bands, orchestras...we (Paul & I) required of our three kids that they must take some sort of music every semester in high school. I loved it! Orchestra and choir concerts every semester. And now they have graduated. I hope they continue in their musical skills and interests.

A very generous gift was sent our way this weekend, and Paul and I attended the Symphony in the Flint Hills. Once a year, some ranch in the Flint Hills region of Kansas (Google it!) hosts the Kansas City Orchestra on their ranch property. This summer the concert was at the Doyle Creek Ranch near Florence, Kansas. 3000 people in attendance. You must sit and try to imagine the logistics of the people and parking, and all other human problems. The site was amazing: tents on the 30,000 acre prairie, rolling hills, gorgeous 80 degree weather, food and drink, families, music enthusiasts, ranchers, and great music!

For those composer enthusiasts out there, we heard Grofé, 2 Copelands, Dvořák, and Bernstein. Out beyond the orchestra shell there were cowboys riding the range for our visual aid to the music. It worked! To hear
The Red Pony and see the horses out loping in the grassy hills made the evening such a bouquet of imagination!

At the concert, husband Paul & I were settled in our seats when a trio came and sat down beside us. I pegged them immediately, being married to such: the man was wearing a pair of boots peculiar to Australia (and to our tiny Armstrong neck of the Wabaunsee woods..). After the last song, I turned and asked them where they were from? Australia was the answer. Ah! I was right! A fun evening commenced. It turns out this fellow and his wife are Aussie ranchers in WA (Western Autralia) and were visiting ranches here in Kansas for two weeks. They use helicopters to ranch their 3.5 million acres!

A few months ago I overheard a conversation between grandfather (the former band director) and granddaughter (the violinist). He was telling her to keep up with her violin and her music. She took his wise admonishment to heart, and also took her violin back to college with her the next semester.

As for me, I haul out the flute on occasion. (ALWAYS on the 4th of July to play the piccolo part of Starts and Stripes...makes my family crazy.) Our piano is there for the playing. The guys play their guitars regularly. I cannot imagine what it must be like to not know music.
And the night shall be filled with music,
And the cares that infest the day
Shall fold their tents like the Arabs
And as silently steal away.
~Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, The Day Is Done

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Fun

I went on a bike ride this morning. As did a whole lot of other cyclists out here in the middle of nowhere! I met and passed more cyclists than cars, and it was 10:00 on a Saturday morning!

As a kid I used to love riding my bike all over the place. I took up riding again several years go. (That would be a 40-year fast-forward.) It was quite some feat for me in the beginning to even ride 4 miles! I progressed, slogging on through that first hot hot summer of riding. (Mind you, I HATE HATE HATE to sweat. And I don't like sunscreen. Wind makes me crazy.) I finally got to where I could ignore the sweat (somewhat) and tolerate the sunscreen. Wind still makes me crazy. But I have slowly gained mileage and can easily ride 20+ miles and the odd 50 here and there.

I even rode 104 miles one day. In cycling lingo they call it a Century. Maybe because it feels like it takes a century before you finish. Or maybe because you look like you're a century old at the finish. But finish it I did: across the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. My big brother Bob went with me! He was funny all along the way. In a field of road bikes, his mountain bike sort of stuck out. As did his huge yellow snow parka (the same one he uses for mountain climbing) and his wind pants. (note that it was 38 degrees when we started our day's trek, and all cyclists were dressed like sleek-whippet-Nanooks-of-the-North. Except Bob. He REALLY hears the beat of a different drummer.) Bob's parka, when he was flying down the highway, expanded with air and he looked like the spitting image of a giant Sponge Bob Square Pants pedaling like a madman across the missile range. With a silly grin on his face.

The Missile Range is closed to the public except on a few days of the year when they have planned cycling or runs, although there are highways all around and through it, for the military. This is the home of the first nuclear testing (Trinity: 1945), and there is still a lot of testing and research going on out there. Although I could not for the life of me tell you anything about it, or comprehend anything I saw. We were not permitted to carry any cameras or cell phones with cameras with us into the missile range, and that was complete w/ threat that if any were suspected and found they would be confiscated and most likely never again seen by the owner/rule breaker. And the man reading these rules to us had a scowl on his face, and I took this authority about White Sands Missile Range more seriously than I did the Chilean Customs people and their prunes.

And Bob and I spent the better part of the day (for me, sunup to sundown) pedaling 104 miles (Bob: 108) around this valley. Somewhere in the afternoon, I found myself all alone, just cycling out there in the desert. For about an hour. No one around. Not a soul around. No voices. Acknowledging my SERIOUS propensity for getting lost, I convinced myself that not only was I off the approved beaten path, but that with my luck I was so lost, it would be an embarrassment in the newspapers the following day. At last, though! I saw some humans in the distance ahead of me - all would be well! Yeehah. But that was an eerie feeling, to be sure.

At around mile 75 I started feeling a little whiney. Bob said his knees or back were starting to bother him. We got off our bikes at one point and lay down on the highway for about 15 minutes. (remember - no traffic to deal with!) A few fellow cyclists stopped in concern, but we assured them we were just resting.

FINALLY, in late day, we could see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel, that our ride was close to the end! Bob went on ahead for several miles, and at that point I was more than fine with him leaving me, because I was in ultra-whine mode then. So I continued on, and the sun began to set. A military vehicle pulled up beside me. Two men were there to pluck me off the Missile Range, as per some rules and hoo-hah about the Missile Range closing at sundown. Oh, dear. So close, I was. In fact, I asked them how far the gate was. 2 miles, they replied. So I asked them to go pick up all the cyclists behind me (yea, right, how many cyclists were really behind me, I suppose?), and by the time they got back, I assured them I would be finished and off the Missile Range. And you know what? I was! (Well, they had already locked the gates to the Missile Range, so first I had to figure out how to get my bike and myself out. But the story ended well.) I have the dubious honor of being the last one off the White Sands Missile Range that day.

A funny (sort of) postscript to that weekend:
The next morning, Bob & I took the rental car to the gas station to refill before returning it. We had our bikes on a bike rack on the back. Bob, who is an infinitely better pilot than he is car driver, backed the rental car into a concrete post at the gas station. It was MY bicycle that took the hit!!

(Husband Paul bought me a new bike that winter, though, so all's well that - oh, you know!)

Friday, June 12, 2009

Book Club, anyone?

Soon after we moved out here to rural Kansas, I called and emailed a few of my new friends and neighbors and even a few people I didn't even know very well at all. (The other day I figured out that I have lived in 5 states, 2 countries, and 16 homes in my adulthood; calling virtual strangers gets pretty easy after so many moves...) I asked them if they were interested in starting a book club.

Presently, seven years later, the Wabaunsee Book Club has grown to 17 members.
Once a month we meet in one-anothers' homes, with a title we've picked the previous month, and presumably read. You can peruse the Wabaunsee Book Club website and see What We've Read:
It's a fun group and we share a lot of laughs. And we can really get into interesting literary conversations. We have learned to steer clear of politics and religion. At least one of us is writing a book. One of us has finished her PhD. One of us is an artist, and one of us is a rancher. We all are strong readers!

The Wabaunsee Book Club has been a really worthwhile club for me, and I would sure encourage everyone to join or form a book club! I have read (and enjoyed) books I would have normally thrown in a trash heap! Ordinarily not a fantasy/science fiction fan, I have gamely read a couple. And my fellow members did groan, but did read MY pick o' the month, Taming of the Shrew by Mr. Shakespeare. (The host for the coming month gets to pick the upcoming book, and this makes it fun for all who host.)

Tonight's WBC meeting was down the road at my neighbor Mary's cabin in the woods. We rode up to the hills and looked at wildflowers and rode down the hills to cook dinner over a campfire. Some of the ladies are camping out at the cabin. Our book for this month was Three Cups of Tea.

And this is one thing we do here in rural Kansas.


People always seem to look startled when I call daughter Claire by her middle name. Maybe they are panicked, thinking, "On no! All this time I thought her name was Claire!"

It started eons ago up in Michigan. Our backyard backed up to 5 other neighbors' backyards, and we were most fortunate that some of these neighbors had kids our kids' ages. So there was a lot of neighborhood activity on any given day.

If any of us Moms wanted any of the kids, we could just yell out the door: "Gillian!" "Jocelyn!"

For some reason, when I yelled Claire's name, it always sounded like some shrew was screaming at her hapless kid: "Claaaaaaaaaaire!" No. That didn't sound nice at all. But if I called out "Hilary!", I sounded like the June Cleaver mother that I actually am. It adds a lilt to one's voice! And besides, I LIKE her middle name. I like it as much as I like her first name, so why not enjoy both names?

And that's how it came about. She's Claire, she's Hilary.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


It's been exactly 365 days since the most recent Manhattan tornado.

Last year we Armstrongs (including the Australian contigent, my inlaws!) went "downtown" to watch the boy run in the Poyntz Mile Race.. The Poyntz Mile Race was in the early evening, and the skies showed some excellent thunderheads, but we Kansans see them all the time; what was the big-durn-deal?

Well! After celebrating 3rd place, we all went back to rural Kansas (Wabaunsee) and settled into our evening, although short indeed it was: we took a glance at the weather, and it showed a tornado right over Manhattan!

I called daughter Claire immediately: Hilary!!! (more on this later): Do you know there is a tornado in your neighborhood?!!

Her reply:"No, Mom, I just woke up. Can I just put a mattress over my head in the bathtub?

I think I went nuts about then; Claire claims she was safe the whole time... OK !!!

Whatever! She was safe, thank God (no kidding, we believe in prayer), but the other parts of Manhattan were in shambles. It looked like, from the radar, that the tornado hit the hills just before Claire's apartment, and then hopped and skipped, and hit the homes east/southeast of her apartment. Her apartment was unscathed.

The next day and on into weeks, volunteers helped with the damage and removal of . One thing I learned through this: homeowners asked for volunteers to help pick up glass shards from their yards: their kids could not play in their yards because of the tiny glass pieces left from the tornadic winds.

Some homeowners would walk outside, and find, maybe a photograph. And they would show it around, until someone would recognize it as a photo of someone down on "???th?" Street. Things we do not think of.

There was the story of a family who had a sofa appear in what had been their living room. It was their living room, yes, but certainly not their sofa.

And so it went, perhaps still goes to an extent.

Did this teach me anything?? YES!

  1. Wear incredible shoes if a tornado is imminent.
  2. Have your cell phone.
  3. Have your laptop, or hard drive or flash drive.
  4. Have your insurance up-to-date. One of my friends is in the insurance business, and omigoodneess, how busy she was! First, busy with the tornado victims. Then, busy with all the people who came in AFTER the tornado to review their homeowner's policies. (And have your insurance guy's number on your cell phone.)
No doubt at all that there are so many more facts to get a grip on; these are just the few I learned from last year's Manhattan tornado.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

What I Love About That Spouse o' Mine Even After 25+ Years of Wedded Bliss:

  1. I love that he's smart. He knows the odd things one needs to know in order to win the Jeopardy National Championships, like, " CO2 + 2 H2A + photons(CH2O)n + H2O + 2A". "What is photosynthesis?"
  2. I love that he loves that I know fun facts like, "How to make morning coffee".
  3. I love that he's always up for adventure.
  4. I love that he always thinks I should be included in the adventure. Even though we both know I cannot climb Mount Rainier.
  5. I love that he can fix things. Even if it involves duct tape after hitting a deer.
  6. I love that YEARS AGO, he would deal with the kids' puking issues, and not invite me to get involved.
  7. I love that he calls me on a moment's notice to invite me to lunch with his counterparts.
  8. I love that he invites me on the 20-mph bike rides every Saturday. He's a dreamer...
  9. I love it when he tells me I smell good - even when I am eating smelly cheese and crackers.
  10. I love that he doesn't mind my cold feet in the winter, or the air conditioning on 68º in the summer.
  11. I love that he will call one of the kids and invite them to do something with him - bike, eat lunch, whatever.
  12. I love that even when I feel like I am looking very much like the 49-year-old that I am, he will have a compliment for me.
  13. I love that we're pretty much on the same page in terms of religious beliefs.
  14. I love that we can banter about politics and international policies.
  15. I love discussing books with him.
  16. I love to watch him talk to college students.
  17. I love laughing at him mowing the lawn in his Jethro Bodean hat and his glass of wine.
  18. I love to look out at him talking to the horses.
  19. I love that he and Graham can sit and talk guitars and Bob Dylan.
  20. I love that he doesn't even laugh when I ask him how to spell "Bob Dillon".
  21. I love him for his awesome talent at painting. Which he does not do NEARLY enough.
  22. I love it when he shows me amazing things in nature that I don't know.
  23. I love that he listens to my inane details of my days out in rural Kansas with the ducks.
  24. I love it when he takes my hand - in a park, across a rushing stream, climbing a mountain.
  25. I love that we have done this dance for 25+ years.

Monday, June 08, 2009

Royal Recollection

OK, cute kid story from years ago. Indulge me, please....

In Michigan, little daughter Gillian and I were digging in the garden and planting things. I stuck the shovel down, and noticed lots and lots of ants. And there was an acrid odor. (I don't know WHY I know this, I just do...) I mentioned to Gill, "I think we have an ant colony here. We might be able to see the queen ant."

And Gill, earnest as ever, replied," Will she have a crown?"

Lovely memory!

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Incline Thine Ear

This morning daughter Gillian and I left the house on a mission: to go to the neighbor's pond (Lake JoeBeGone) and acquire some vertical bog element for my little water feature in the grotto. (With said neighbors' blessings.)

Gill and I took with us one dog, one shovel, and one red wagon. My Radio Flyer was unbelievably noisy going down the road. I felt sort of bad, this being the Day of Rest, and here we were, tramping some mile or so on a gravel road, pulling a rattly wagon that was so loud that neither of us bothered trying to start a conversation. Probably awaking our 5 neighbors along the way...

The noise took me back to a time long, long ago, when Paul & I spent a year living in Cairo. The population, dirt, dust, noise, smells, and all elements of living in this city were often overwhelming. Paul & I lived in a sumptuous flat (balconies, marble floors), and the flat was such a contrast to what was outside in the neighborhood world. My kitchen was tiny (perfectly fine, since my newlywed kitchen skills, too, were miniscule.) The heat to the kitchen stove was a butane gas cylinder, which we had to replace periodically, much like the propane gas tanks one uses for barbeques here in the States. It was called buta gas (pr.: bootah). It was quite some time before I got clear answers as to how one acquired one's buta gas. Neighbors would say, "The buta man came today." I didn't see him! How could I keep missing him?!
Finally, one day, a friend pointed out that the buta men walked down the street with their donkey-led carts, pulling buta cylinders. They tapped the cylinder with a pole which made a pingy-sounding "ting-ting". And this is what I should listen for, on any given day, since the buta men did not have schedules or routes to their days. And I soon learned to recognize the "ting-ting" from the midst of the cacophony of the streets of Cairo.

How funny, looking back. How many of us can pinpoint a tiny sound in their day which might signal something necessary to one's household?

I know my dogs can discern the UPS and FedEx trucks a mile away; it just makes their day! I can't figure out what sounds so different from those two trucks and any of the other tractors, trucks, and whatnot that travel down our road. But our dogs have it on their aural radar.

Much as I learned to listen for the "ting-ting".

When I sit outside in my grotto, I can hear a hummingbird before I see it. Out gardening this morning, I heard the cyclist's wheels whirring long before he appeared round the bend. I had time to stand up, turn around, and yell, "Good morning!" to the unsuspecting rider. Our sense of hearing needs to be honed. Too many people take no notice of the sounds around them. One, perhaps two days each spring, we can walk out to our orchard in the evening and hear an ever-so-gentle buzzing atop the peach trees. Honeybees. Doing their jobs. It's quite amazing to listen to them.

I see that summer storms are in the forecast in the next few hours; it certainly won't be difficult to hear the thunder. What about the birds singing after the storms have passed?

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Arts and Leisure

Once upon a time there was a man who had gone through the educational school system professionally: band director, to high school principal, and finally, to assistant superintendent of schools.

He was always very good at what he did. In college at Oklahoma A & M, he ran on the track team. He will tell people today, if it weren't for his track scholarship he would not have been able to go through college. His father had died when he was in high school. He used to hitchhike home to his Mom's on weekends.

One day he went home from his assistant superintendent job, and commenced carving a squirrel out of a piece of walnut. He had always had a talented knack at woodwork, had built on numerous times to his family's house, and had made many beautiful bookcases and cabinets. But, he had never carved a squirrel.

This squirrel looked good!

So he carved some more things.

And more.

He retired from the public school system.

And became a sculptor.

And this is his work today:


And he is my Dad.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Nice things!

So...some days I resort to online "writing prompts" (en lieu of some English teacher standing in front of me with an assignment) to give me creative writing ideas. Today's prompt was: "What is the nicest thing you have done for someone?"

Well. Matthew 6:3 (KJV, because that's how my mind thinks...) says, " let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth:" and this is regarding outward show of religious duties. So I am going to turn the table somewhat, and discuss some nice things others have done for me!

In my early motherhood, in Michigan and far away from family, daughter Claire underwent several months of medical tests which were sometimes hours-long and not at all what the kindergartener SHE wanted to be doing that day, needles and nurses and all, and the whole time was sad and trying for me. One morning I got a call from my backdoor neighbor, who simply said, "I will bring dinner over for y'all tonight because I know you will be having a long day." Bless Mary's heart. (She was from Arkansas, I was from Oklahoma, we were kindred Southern spirits in the great North...) I still think of that day as one of the nicest, NICEST things anyone could have ever done for me. It was totally unexpected, and I was oh, so grateful.

Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Davis were two old ladies in our church who did our Sunday School music for us. Now, looking back from my 49-year old vantage point, I suspect they weren't QUITE as geriatric as I took them for back then. They had us grade school kids sing old hymns out of old hymnals. I think we kids were OK with it. My friend Sarah always requested singing Onward Christian Soldiers. I suspect we all have that one memorized, even now. Last week I was listening to a radio station that plays old hymns and such. A song came on that immediately took me back to the First United Methodist Church in Pryor Creek, Oklahoma, some 40 years ago: Peace Be Still. It's a story/song about Jesus calming the waters in the fishing boat. My goodness, how many times in the midst of thunderstorms (see previous blog) have I mentally sung this song verbatim?? Thank you two ladies, post mortem, for your time with us kids. It has had a lasting effect.

We moved here to rural Kansas in late August, seven years ago. In late October, the week before Halloween, in fact, I got a late-evening phone call. Mrs. Crenshaw from down the way was inviting our family to the Crenshaw Annual Halloween get-together at their house at Shamrock Farms. The Crenshaws are semi-retired ranchers who are stalwarts in this region. We Armstrongs knew very, very few people in this rural area, and we were even in a quandary as to what to do with young son Graham, regarding Trick-or-Treating. We, family of five, put on forced smiles and made our way to the few homes in our area. It was hard. The kids had always had a huge neighborhood full of families and friends with which to cavort on Halloween night. This was just painful for all of us. We knew noone! As soon as we got through the requisite T-or-T'ing, we made our way to Shamrock Farms for what we anticipated would be yet more pain in our already uncomfortable evening. Oh, such a pleasant surprise! The Crenshaws could not have been more gracious hosts. They are so kind. George and June made sure that we made the rounds, met everyone, and that everyone knew just where we lived ("you know, the old Wilson place.") And now, seven years later, we look forward to our October phone call, and we get over to the Crenshaws for the Halloween fried donuts and cider. A more gracious welcome for newcomers into this area could not have been asked for!

Beecher Bible And Abolition

Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote a good book a long time ago: Uncle Tom's Cabin. (That should be underlined, but I can't find the "underline" button on Blogger.) Most of you are no doubt acquainted with the book, an anti-slavery novel written in 1852 - before the Civil War. Harriet Beecher Stowe was a Connecticut Yankee who spoke out against slavery, as did her equally-famous abolitionist brother, Henry Ward Beecher.

Down the road from our house is an old stone church named the Beecher Bible and Rifle Church. Henry Ward Beecher and his church supplied rifles and Bibles to the Connecticut folks who came out west here to settle. (You can Google it.) Along our pathways around here in the Flint Hills is amazing history of that pre- and post-war era. The Underground Railroad went through this county. Our house was built ca. 1887, the land of which was once owned by a former Civil War soldier.

Down the road the other direction from Beecher Bible and Rifle Church is a lovely and old cemetery. There are graves from the late 1800s, and one can also take note of the numerous graves dated around 1918: the years of the Great Flu Epidemic. Fort Riley, Kansas is believed to be where the onset of the great epidemic originated.

There is a grave in this old cemetery, said to be the grave of a white former slave. There's a book written about him: The White Slave, by Fanny Howe.
Years ago when I heard about the man, and now as I am writing about him, I wonder what piques our interest about him, perhaps moreso than if we were to read about a black former slave. *gasp!* A white slave?? How could that be?! Let's all just make sure we never ever become desensitized to the idea of slavery of anyone; we should all be horrified at the enslavement of our fellow human beings, regardless of ethnicity.

And that's all I've got today...

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Green things

It was a really green day today! By that, I am not referring to that buzz-phrase of late, environmentally-improved upon or any such thing. The world just appeared very green. I noticed it first early this morning, driving over the Viaduct. (What some of us would call "the bridge over the river".) Possibly the rain we've had the past day or so had something to do with it - not only nourishing the flora and fauna, but even washing the dust off the leaves all over the place. (Kansas can be very dusty.) The trees around the hills and along the river were incredible variations on the green theme. This evening I noticed the greens and soon-to-be-goldens in the fields as I drove home.

Back to that reference of "going green": who thought that one up? Probably someone in the same camp as the person who came up with emoticons. (Ok, ok, that's not entirely fair. But it seems like every time I look at punctuation now, I don't see, say, a quotation mark and a colon {see above}, but rather some inane facial expression that we all have been subjected to in emails and such. I hate emoticons.) "Going green"... nope, that expression kind of leaves me with nothing. I am environmentally aware, we plant trees, we recycle, drink our coffee out of proper cups and not paper ones...we even have a compost bin. But to me, this is just the way we are.

"Going green" is just this year's logo. Yes, sure, jump on the environmental bandwagon - it will do us both good. But don't get caught up in all the marketing ploys brought about by those two words. I hate to repeat myself, but if I may refer to a recent post, which quotes Will Rogers, the thought still applies.

Last year (and perhaps overlapping into this year), the buzz phrase was "buy local". Great, in concept. And people rushed out to their Farmers Markets in April to purchase those locally-grown tomatoes and potatoes. But wait a minute!! Oh, come on, do we consumers not comprehend that, at least in Kansas, tomatoes are not in season till, say, late June?! Local corn-on-the-cob in May? Hmm...not Kansas-grown.

People are so taken up with trends and fads and nonsense. Pass the word: be smart, live for the future, and question nonsense. It will take us all farther.

Now excuse me, I am going to go have a gander at my peas and tomato plants...

Monday, June 01, 2009

A Time Portal

A reader of this blog (Thank you! I have a reader!) asked about the time given on my blogs.

I set the time to Greenwich Mean Time, just because it's an easy thing for my wee mind to grasp. If I have readers from parts of the world other than Central Standard Time, it is meaningful to me (and perhaps them) to see when they have visited my blog site.

And it's fun, too. Think about what that photojournalist in G. Britain is doing at 13:00 GMT, allthewhile what that family in Ecuador is up to... not to mention the serviceman in Iraq...

~ Tricia

Garbage In, Garbage Out...

The past week or so, I have watched an obnoxious TV commercial regarding trash bags and odor. The premise of the ad, from a major (hefty) trash bag corporation, is that the bags start smelling when they are only partly full. So, the ad tells us, we should buy the new odor-free trash bags which kills the odor of whatever so that we don't have to throw the trash out till the jumbo bag is full.

Hmm. I learned WAYyyy long ago that "smells" emanate from bacteria. Bacteria is a bad thing. Bad things should be prevented AND iradicated before they get a grasp on an environment. In this case, the kitchen. And the bathroom. What's the solution according to any archaic Home Ec class from days of yore? Smaller trash cans wherever. Frequent disposals. It is such a ding-dong given.

Will Rogers, one of my heroes, said, "Advertising is the art of convincing people to spend money they don't have for something they don't need."

Can we all just listen to common healthy sense and ignore the other?

Thank you. I have vented.

Great Balls o' Fire

I am not a fan of thunderstorms. I assure you that part of the reason is my childhood upbringing. An Okie kid who grew up in a home that had no basement, no cellar of its own. In fact, no basements whatsoever in the neighborhood, and only 2 cellars within running distance of our house. Picture a young child, on several occasions, being awakened from a peaceful slumber, hauled into the living room, a raincoat thrust over her shoulders and pushed out the door into the wind and rain with the instructions, "Run, Trish, run!" And into the dark of night, of lightning flashes and thunder, I would run! Terrified! I was more often than not first of us five kids to arrive in a neighbor's cellar during a tornado warning.

Fastforward to adulthood: I still get a little undone by storms. Husband Paul told me years ago not to teach our toddlers fear. So during tornado watches, I would make the pretense that our basement needed cleaning. Lots and lots of cleaning. (Note: As an adult I have always managed to live in a home with a basement.) And on the few occasions when we would be under a tornado warning, and would have our own neighbors running over to seek shelter in our basement, I covered my fear well by serving ice cream and cookies in the basement.

What is it exactly, that bothers me so such about thunderstorms?

Well, no doubt the aforementioned post-childhood traumatic stress. Lightning is a real danger that I have experienced a few times: a box fan smelling like electrical fire after a strike. Sitting in a room that lit up with the most brilliant light I have ever experienced accompanied simultaneously by a HUGE bang. (Again, the electrical fire smell, one computer, one phone system, one router and one light bulb all burned out.) That one was too close - and the storm had passed minutes before.

When does the thought of lightning NOT bother me? When flying. Today I am reading reports of the plane going down on a flight from the coastline of Brazil. Some reports are blaming a lightning strike. So now we can expect a flurry of press regarding lightning and passengers all the world over are going to panic if their flight goes through a storm.

If lightning is the reason for the Airbus going down, it will be a rare instance indeed. Yes, lightning regularly strikes airplanes. In the 80s, NASA flew a jet into 1400 thunderstorms during which lightning hit it more than 700 times. Lightning did not damage the airplane. And there is only one record of an American airplane being downed by lightning, (Pan Am, in 1963), and that was because the lightning caused a spark that ignited fuel vapor in a tank and that caused an explosion. 46 years later, modern planes are built so that sparks will not ignite fuel tanks.

So, allay your anxieties about flying and lightning. But the subject of "tornado on the ground and heading your way", well, now... that's a whole 'nother ballgame...
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