Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sunday Evening

This evening while waiting for the bread to rise, and also the pasta dough to rest on its gluten laurels, I began playing chess, interspersed with reading a poem between games.

I like Billy Collins poetry.  Tonight's poetry choice was I Chop Some Parsley While Listening to Art Blakey's Version of "Three Blind Mice":
And I start wondering how they came to be blind.
If it was congenital, they could be brothers and sister,
and I think of the poor mother
brooding over her sightless young triplets.

Or was it a common accident, all three caught
in a searing explosion, a firework perhaps?
If not,
if each came to his or her blindness separately,

how did they ever manage to find one another?
Would it not be difficult for a blind mouse
to locate even one fellow mouse with vision
let alone two other blind ones?

And how, in their tiny darkness,
could they possibly have run after a farmer's wife
or anyone else's wife for that matter?
Not to mention why.

Just so she could cut off their tails
with a carving knife, is the cynic's answer,
but the thought of them without eyes
and now without tails to trail through the moist grass

or slip around the corner of a baseboard
has the cynic who always lounges within me
up off his couch and at the window
trying to hide the rising softness that he feels.

By now I am on to dicing an onion
which might account for the wet stinging
in my own eyes, though Freddie Hubbard's
mournful trumpet on "Blue Moon,"

which happens to be the next cut,
cannot be said to be making matters any better.

Friday, March 27, 2015

The Week's End

This week was a very normal week.  I spent part of last month in Australia and I think it made me goofy in the "What Season is It?!" department.  That, plus it was warm in rural Kansas last week.  Cccold this week, though.  I have so many clothes strung out upstairs (closets) and downstairs (bedroom), because one day, I am in linen capris, and the next, I am in a cashmere sweater.

This week's beginning was as it should have been: acknowledge that the cherry season is beginning in California (and ending in the Southern Hemisphere), and that means my business ducks should be in a professional row from here until August (Canadian cherry season).  What this means for you consumers a short time you will see beautiful red and Rainier sweet cherries in the produce department wherever you market.  Buy them.  It's the trickle-down effect: from the orchard grower to the orchard pickers to the orchard packers and the orchard truckers and the orchard storage and the orchard marketers, also to the orchard wholesalers and the hort. professors and hort. grad students, not to mention the hort undergrads, all doing research, and the cherry shippers (ships: really!), and even down to us: we who sell instruments to enable the growers, the pickers, the packers, the shippers and the researchers.  A lot of business goes into one of those fine, ripe cherries.  Buy them.

This week's end was busy with things other than cherry biz.  On Thursdays, our church serves a community dinner for people in the community who need a dinner.  Or, those who want a dinner. Some people arrive out of hunger, and some arrive out of loneliness.  We provide sustenance for both needs.  That Spouse o' Mine  and I had signed up for Hospitality this week (i.e., dining), and so we did. There were chess games going, some artwork, a few people were busy reading the day's newspapers, that Spouse o' Mine had brought in a photo which Daughter Gillian had sent from her historical museum: an old undefined piece of equipment, asking "What is this??"  That was fun to pass around the tables and discuss and interject what it might be...what clues we all could contribute.  (It turned to be a cork press.  {Thank you, Gillian.}  You can read about it here: )

Last week a man in our church was killed in a farming accident.  He was popular and well-loved.  It is customary in our church to provide a funeral luncheon when the need is there.  Sometimes, the luncheon is small.  Sometimes it's only coffee, or perhaps a brunch.  This luncheon was expected to feed 200 mourners.  All I volunteered to do was to provide flowers for the luncheon.

It is fulfilling to live on this property and have the capacity to share something that is so enjoyable to that Spouse o' Mine and me: flowers and such.  Happily, this week's pre-spring nature show was all about trees in the pasture and creekbeds, just teasing out some blossoms hither and yon.  After the community supper Thursday night, that Spouse o' Mine and I headed out to the pasture and creek, dusk and nearly dark, and clipped branches of beautiful dogwood, pear, forsythia, and redbud blossoms.

So pretty.

This morning at church, as I was arranging lots of vases, another horticulturally-inclined acquaintance arrived with what must have been hundreds of daffodils from her yard.  Gorgeous.  And between the two of us, the mood in the fellowship hall was made one mite brighter than what mourners no doubt felt in the sanctuary this morning.

Well, leaping from meals to funeral flowers and then...

A marathon?

Yes!  A marathon.  That Spouse o' Mine and I are doing the Wicked Marathon tomorrow!

That is to say, we are "doing" the marathon as the bike leads for the front runner.  I told that Spouse o' Mine that this would be the only way I would ever experience a marathon.  Even better, being in FRONT of the front runner in a marathon!!  I am always last in everything.  How fun to see what the finish line looks like before a kabillion runner/cyclists/whatever go through.  So, we volunteered.  26+ miles of riding slower than 12 mph.  It might get a little boring.  And cold??? The forecasters lied.

And here is my End of the Week.  It has been fulfilling.  Enjoyable.  Happy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Things We See

I sent this photo to a blogger friend this weekend:
She had posed the question: where is our happy place in one's home?

I have several happy places.  I tend to migrate from one room to another during a day.  Sunrise and yoga are always in the "new" living room, which faces east.  I tend not to stay long in that living room, though, for the "old" living room (above) holds a much better vantage point for sunlight, and apparently I am all about sunlight. (and lack thereof; sometimes I adore a dreary, dark day.)

The past few weeks I have visited furniture stores and home decor places, trying to make a few changes in our home.  Our sofas are in dire need of replacement.  We just removed a beautiful 13-foot church bench from our new living room, and are filling in the empty space.  I haven't been all too thrilled with what I see in some of the stores.  I am not fond of particle board furniture.  I would rather have paintings on my walls than wooden letters spelling out words.  I like natural fibers and  hardwood floors and solid wood furniture.

Ha!  I must be a dinosaur.

When I gaze at this photo, which I took several years ago, I see so many "happy" things - things that are meaningful to me, and hopefully to the rest of our family.  That old ball & claw coffee table belonged to my Great-Aunt Lois.  My father-in-law painted the nautical scene hanging above the bookcase.  The bookcase is filled with all things ponies, horses, veterinarian, travel, Spanish, Arabic, French languages.  (I have bookcases in most of the rooms in our house, and they all have "subjects".)  The sculpture on the bookcase is one of my Dad's: he made bronzes one year of this sculpture, for each of us five kids.  It's a sparrow on a wavy branch, and if you get close enough, you see a treble clef with musical notes on it.  The notes are from one of my mother's favorite hymns: His Eye is on the Sparrow.  One has to be able to read music to appreciate what he did. My Dad also carved the marble treble clef on my piano.  You see?  People can buy lots of things from lots of stores, but my "happy place" has all of this given to me by people I love.

The flowers in the window are wintering over from the past hot summer months.  If I took a photo this spring, one would see a red poinsettia, a violet heliotrope, and a peach-blooming geranium.

Our piano was a gift some thirty years ago from that Spouse o' Mine's parents.  They knew I played, although their son did not.  So during one trip they took from Australia, they surprised me with this amazing gift.

The cello...the cello...We had had an empty nest for several years, and there was a cello in this old living room.  Just sitting there.  Silently.  When I turned fifty, I called the local music store, found a cello instructor, and spent the next few years under her tutelage.  Our daughter/cellist asked for her cello back once she was married and had a home of her own.  So, I went out and bought me a nice cello.  It is about 100 years old, and it sounds really nice.  This helps, since I am not the cellist I had imagined I might become some five years ago.  I need the help of a nice cello.

The rattan rug is old and faded.  We celebrated out 31st wedding anniversary this winter, and picked out a new rug to replace this old thing.  And you know what?  Life got in the way, and we have yet to go back (two months later) and purchase it.

Puzzle, the old calico cat, crawled under our Christmas tree last year and peacefully died.  I guess you can't ask for more than that: a healthy nineteen year old cat, who just knew where and when to go, without much ado.

Oh - and finally?  The leather loveseat and chair are a pair I bought so many years ago, in such an early chapter of our lives.  The chair is still there - often with a load of books in it so that our giant Bouvier dog won't feel like it is her domain. I have replaced the loveseat with a sunny yellow linen chintz loveseat.  It was sort of a "whim" purchase, and I am so happy with it.  Buy on a whim, I tell you.

And that is the story of this happy space.  There are all sorts of stories in every corner and angle of this room.  I wonder, in that the house was built 120 years ago... how many other "happy spaces" were spent in this room?

Thursday, March 19, 2015

And Finally, a De-briefing

I call it a de-briefing.

Back in my life as a TWA flight attendant, we always had a flight briefing 1 hour and 45 minutes before a flight. The entire crew would meet and discuss every anticipated activity and many unanticipated possibilities, pre-, during, and post-flight.  The Captain would tell us flight plans - traffic control, weather, time anticipated in the air, any turbulence expected, etc. We would receive a flight manifest telling us how many passengers to expect (410 on a full 747, back in the day of "marginally-comfortable" international seating), any special meals (the flights to Tel Aviv were pretty busy at meal time, given the amount of kosher special meals to dole out up & down the aisle.), and any special passengers on board: unaccompanied minors, handicapped, prisoners, armed air marshals, stretcher patients, name it, we had a heads-up on passengers beyond the norm.  We would also be given names of any passengers of notoriety on board our flight.

Our debriefings happened 45 minutes after each flight.  We would scurry through customs in time to meet these mandatory meetings.  On very rare occasions, our crew would be stopped and sent to guarded restrooms, so that we could "donate" to the drug abatement movement.  (i.e., pee in a cup for drug testing.)

That was twenty years ago.  I suspect, perhaps, that there is much more security involved in briefings nowdays, and MUCH LESS inflight service awareness.  That's a guess, based on my eight flights on our trip to and from Australia last month.

How were my flights?  Well, I won't complain.  They were not great.  But, they were not horrendous.  I have heard anecdotes about horrendous flights.  Sometimes these tales are told by folks that just don't have a clue about travel and flexibility.  Seating on my flights to Australia were full-loads.  No wiggle room.  That was snug and not snug-as-a-bug comfortable way.   Coming home, I got to fly on a brand-new 787!  This was exciting for me.  The 787 is made of "lighter-weight" (my description, not an engineer's) composite material which allows it to fly using less fuel consumption.  My plane had fun windows: instead of pulling down the shade in our standard aircrafts, I could tap the window itself and the "shade" would darken as much or as little as I liked.  No mechanics here, I don't think?  I think it was computerized.  I don't know.  It might have been magic.

Food to and from rural Kansas was not one whit anything to brag about.  More to muse the reality of some of the food.  REALLY?  Interestingly, last week I was opening my Baking with Julia Child cookbook, and an Air France menu fell out.  It was from a flight I took about sixteen years ago, in Coach Class, not First Class:

As our trip to Australia was towards its end, we were delayed due to winter weather in Dallas.  Yes, even though my flight did not go to Dallas, my flight to Chicago was delayed.  This is where, as a former airline employee, I get it.  Many passengers don't.  If a plane is halted by weather at Point C, then Points A and B cannot coordinate any aircraft flights to Points D,E,F,G, or H.  Simple.  More difficulty comes when the cockpit crew from Point C is stalled and cannot meet its next flight from Point D to Point L.  And the flight crew (flight attendants) from Point S which were to meet up with their next flight to Point 500 are still back in their second leg of their day, Point K.

So, this is what air travel was like upon our return to the U.S.A. But then - let's get back to airlines and such.  The planes are stuck all over the U.S.A.  So are the cockpit crews and the flight attendant crews.  FAA (Federal Airline Administration) requires so much rest inbetween flights.  This is a good thing.  It's a safety thing!!  But it sure does wreak havoc on weeks like the one of our return.  Not only are the airports all over the U.S.A. dealing with ice and de-icing, delayed flights and cancelled flights, blah blah blah, but then the poor Crew Scheduling from each airline is dealing with something the likes of Checkers+Chess+Stratego+Risk+Canasta.  I always made sure I spoke kindly to our Crew Schedulers.

And in closing, let me say that I made it home very late the day of my return.  I took a hotel in Kansas City rather than drive home in the two extra hours of dark.  I was much better for it in the morning.  That Spouse o' Mine, on a flight later in the week, did not fare so well, and ended up experiencing an odyssey of jet lag and sleep deprivation, all on the concrete floors of the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport - with, as he exclaimed to me one evening, "With the REST of America!!"  (He was toast, apparently.)   At one point, he also told me over the phone that he had been handed four boarding passes, to four different gates, and had been admonished by the gate attendant, "If the first flight is cancelled, then RUN to the next flight!"  In this conversation, I tried to cajole him, saying, "Just go to a quiet corner and play some Chess."  He replied, very irritated, "I can't think!  I can't THINK!!"

And so it went.  We are home.

Home again, home, again, Jiggety-jig.

Thanks be to God.

Make It Do, Do Without

I announced this evening, "Tonight I am going to make paella."

"Oh!  That sounds good!" he replied.

"Well, we don't have shellfish - we have a few little frozen shrimp.  And no chicken, but that's OK, I have some cod.  And no calamari, but there is a can of smoked oysters I can use..."

"So, basically, we're having rice for dinner?"

"Pretty much."

"Can we wait and I'll pick up some seafood tomorrow afternoon?"

"That sounds good."

Ah, life in rural Kansas...

Friday, March 06, 2015

What Did I Do?

What did I do during my Fortnight of G'Days?

I first have to describe what I packed for my trip.  I planned to take a daypack/backpack and a small "carry-on" suitcase for the trip.  Yes: That Spouse o' Mine and I did have a larger suitcase which he checked through both ways.  But for the most part, my things were in my two carry-ons.  I had one black dress (think TravelSmith), two pairs of linen pants (which could be rolled up to kicky- capris), one pair of linen shorts, three black t-shirts, two long-sleeved linen blouses (I hate sunscreen), a swimsuit, and some jammies.  Oh!  And a favorite turquoise sweater.  More on that, later.  A pair of running shoes, a pair of Sperry Topsiders, and some ballet house slippers.  In terms of fun stuff, I had a myriad of unread magazines in my backpack: that which I read, I saved for folks Down Under to enjoy.  This was heavy reading material in the lbs-sense, but I hope it was enjoyable to those concerned.  I also had a few crochet hooks, two spools of crochet thread, and a tatting shuttle.  Ha ha!  I intended to learn how to tat on my way down to Australia.  (And I did!)  I took my camera, and I had a smallish Chromebook, and with that I enjoyed WiFI internet across the oceans.  Yes! Can you believe it?!   I still cannot believe the miracle of technology.  Let it be known that I played many, too many, games of chess on that thing, to and from Australia. 

I had already decided that I was going to leave all driving, travel plans, and most of my financial transactions to others on this trip.  Simply thought out, I am capable of doing all the above, but why, if there are a multitude of others around me who can do the same, should I expend my energy?  If I am traveling by myself, I have no trouble driving, finding a cab, the metro, the money exchange, blah, blah, blah.  This time?  I decided to be a Queen.  I did not exchange any cash.  I only used my credit card three times.  All else, I asked someone to take care of it for me.  (I later shifted money here & there for the kind family.)  I never drove.  I did walk a lot, and run a lot, but that was my choice and I did not have to rely on anyone. 

We stayed at various family homes during our visit.  My Mother- and Father-in-law live in a gorgeous home surrounded by acres of gorgeous gardens.  I have a difficult time describing how beautiful their property is.  They have jasmine trees.  Orchids growing in the wild.  Avocado trees.  Gum trees (as in, kookaburra sitting in them...)  Lemon trees.  When my MIL and FIL still lived on their farm about 30 miles from their current home, they had orange, lemon, almond trees.  Plus corn, wheat, cotton, and cattle.  Wallabies and kangaroos, and koalas.  Geckos.  People ask why they left their South Dakota farm, loaded their possessions onto a ship, and sailed to Australia. 

Huh.  That Spouse o' Mine was a kid back then.  He remembers that his job in the South Dakota winters was to break the ice for the cattle, in -25* temperatures. 

OK, I am meandering.  What did I do for two weeks in Queensland?   I spent lovely time with my inlaws, my SILs, my BILs.  And the nieces and nephews.  I saw many beautiful gardens (Brisbane Botanical, etc), did some antiquing during the cyclone (what else is there to do during a deluge of water???), and that Spouse o' mine and I caught up with some of his high school and college buddies.  I found that very enjoyable.

Oh - the cyclone? We had planned to go to "the Coast" for a weekend with lots of the extended family.  Somehow, the numbers dwindled, but we were happy to go on.  We spent the night before with my BIL and his wife, Janette.  She mentioned, "Ah, yeah, you might be getting a lot of rain up there.  The cyclones."

We kind of poo-pooed that.  In the end, we DID go up to "the Coast",  stuck our toes in the water while the swells rose and the rain began in earnest.  I think we two would have stayed, just to experience a cyclone, but for the thought that if it did indeed flood...I had a flight out to home not days later, and that might be problematic.  So we moved back inland and enjoyed two straight days of deluge.  My FIL has a 20,000 gallon underground tank which was nearly empty, and it was full before noon of the first day of the cyclone.  I guess I should insert here that folks in the Highfields area where my inlaws live do not DO NOT water with city water.  That's a big no-no.  BIG taboo on that.  As I walked and ran every morning through neighborhoods, I would see signs in yards stating "Bore water in use" (well water) , and "Rain Water in use", etc.  They conserve their rainwater, the likes of which we must adopt in our own neighborhoods.

Ok, now to the "Tea".  Tea, in Australia Speak is both the beverage, but also the meal: whatever meal you are faced with.  Tea can be a brunch tea, or lunch.  It can be evening dinner.  High tea, tea, a cuppa, whatever. 

Tea!  We all awoke to coffee (Saints be praised), but from then on, the noun was tea.  For whatever.  We enjoyed so many family gatherings of tea, and they all involved lots of food, tea, hours, and more tea and food.  And I forgot: laughter.  We had so many hours of fun, laughter, recollections, and silliness.  Such a fun time. 

And so: what did I do for a fortnight?  Laugh, and love, and dine, and drink tea.


I forgot to return to my favorite turquoise sweater!! 

I have a traveling rule that says, "Don't pack your favorite 'anything', because by the end of your trip, you will HATE IT. Pack only things that you could live without."

You know what?  I LOVED that turquoise sweater.  It fit me.  It was colorful.  It was warm without being HOT.

Why, oh, why, did I pack it?!

I hate it now.  People germs.  Blech....

Tuesday, March 03, 2015


I have been home from Australia exactly one week.  It has, sadly, taken me the one week to get a grip on the jet lag thing, coping from time changes from Queensland to Kansas.  I KNOW this song and dance from travels past, but for some reason I never accurately estimate the time it is going to take my mind and body to compensate for hours in the plane, on the ground, NOT in bed, all the airplane food and lack of liquid intake therein (I know, I know!  Drink water!  Drink water!  I do!! I do!!)

For some reason, the flight to Australia is, for me, very difficult and uncomfortable.  Once I am on terra firma, I take a day or two to acclimatize. Coming home to the U.S.A. is an easy flight for me (is this mental??), but coping with the time zones and all seem to throw me for a loop, and this trip was no different.

Looking back over the years of this travel to visit the inlaws, I see some pretty remarkable trips.  I think I should have earned some sort of Koala Nobel Prize for a couple or three of them.  Starting, (I have mentioned this in an earlier post), I traveled first from Egypt to Oklahoma, and then straight to Queensland to meet my newlywed husband's parents and brothers and their wives for the first time, six months AFTER our wedding.  I was young, SOoo sleep-deprived, and had no idea what to expect upon arrival from our two-hour drive from the Brisbane airport to my inlaws' farm. My mother-in-law had made a marvelous roast beef dinner, part of which I enjoyed before I excused myself in order to go thankfully to bed for many hours.  Ughhhh.  What a way to win over new inlaws?  (They were and are wonderful.)

The next trip saw us toting two toddlers down the airplane aisles along with us, from Michigan to LAX, to Sydney, to Brisbane, and then to the farm, a two hour-drive away..  Our two daughters were terrific travelers and most of the trip was uneventful - but for the morning sickness I was experiencing with the pregnancy of our third child. This was a tired, tired trip for me, and one that surprisingly presented the "NO FRIED FOODS" into my second trimester life.  Ugh.  And, not to mention, the first time either of my children had thrown up/pewked.  I was in bad disarray with this, in that I was reeling from my own morning sickness at the time.  Double Ugh.

Another visit saw us with two elementary school daughters, and a nursery school son.  Six weeks in Australia.  Pretty smooth sailing.  That Spouse o' mine left for the U.S a couple of weeks before us.  My plan was to head back with our three kids, with stops in Honolulu and LA, to acclimate the kids before school started in September.  Well.  Can we say EXHAUSTION?  JETLAG?  NUMBNESS?

To this day I credit the kids and God for taking care of our trip home.  I was numb.  We four frolicked on the Waikiki Beach, we climbed Diamond Head.  We WOULD have gone to Pearl Harbor, but the youngest in our group, Graham, was only four and not tall enough to go on board.  From Honolulu, we flew to LAX for a night.  This, to "gently" bring us back to life in the U.S. 

Well, LA is the place that rings so loudly in my mind's ear.  LA was where this mother had discerned that she had reached her jetlag/parenting valley.  I was so tired.  So, so tired.  I explained to my kids, ages 4, 7 and 8, that I was going to sleep and that they should NOT, under any circumstances, open the hotel door or go outside.  NO CIRCUMSTANCES. 

I hit the sack.

The next morning, we all were safe, all three kids were hail and hearty.  I had a very small spring in my step; life was going to be good, all the way home.  Jiggety-jig.

But wait:  my four year old son had a very pronounced, round bruise on his forehead. 

Well. The story came down that Graham had a Batman (or something) figure that had a suction cup on the end.  While I slept/was comatose, big sister Gillian mischievously told him to stick it on his forehead, and so he did.  For the night. Well, a night's worth of suction = a mighty grand forehead hickey.  He looked like a very devout 4-year old Moslem.  Sheesh.  I just went with it.  Whatever.  I was toast.

And so, with those three trips, I gained a real respect for anyone - anyone at all, who might be traveling anywhere.  One never knows WHAT the other traveler is experiencing.  Morning sickness?  A pewking kid? Bruises which look really, really suspicious?  And how about a mother who falls asleep just on the take-off roll?  What about her???

Case closed.  Everyone, every traveling family has a deep, dark, and funny story.  Smile and be helpful to each and every passenger you meet.  It might be me...
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