Sunday, March 29, 2009

Unusual Sighting

At our last day of whale watching yesterday we spied some very
strange and rare animals cavorting on the beach. Two specimens of
homo sapiens, subspecies: female nutticus, in scanty summer plumage
(two piece bathing attire) were spotted frolicking in the cold
northern Pacific surf. Imagine our shock and consternation?

Even in mid-summer months those humans venturing into the ocean are
wise to wear wet suits to conserve body heat. March is not summer. It
is barely spring! I was braving the Cape Blanco weather in jeans,
thermal shirt topped with sweatshirt topped with windbreaker - and
was none too warm. I cannot imagine how these folks survived without
severe hypothermia!

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Day After

I made it through the birthday. I'm getting to the age that each
anniversary of my birth comes as a bit of a surprise. Hey, I made it?
And then I go about doing what needs to be done and wondering, just a
little, if there will be another. That may sound fatalistic but as
those of my generation begin to be names in the obituary column is is
just realistic. We all gotta go eventually, despite vitamins, knee
surgery, jogging, and facelifts.

Sixty-TWO (not three!) was a good birthday. Any grandma who begins
the annual celebration with "Happy Birthday" sung by an enthusiastic
three-year old who is delighted to do the duty of candle blowing for
her is fortunate. The cake, baked by my daughter, was delicious and
eaten in good company. Cards and phone calls from those dear to my
heart are the gifts most precious and I had those in abundance. If an
old dame can glow with happiness, I lit up the sky yesterday.

Docenting for the gray whale migration was a perfect birthday
activity though as usual all that fresh air made me sleepy and I had
to fight off a vicious nap attack in the afternoon. The evening was
spent watching and encouraging, even helping a bit though I know from
experience to restrain myself, my husband assemble the new media
cabinet. I'm actually looking forward to the process of "musical
furniture" yet to come as this replaces that which then moves to
replace that other thing. More on that later?

And so on to today. Another day out scanning the ocean for whales
blows and very likely another afternoon where a nap seems imminent.
This evening at 8:30pm we will join the planet girdling LIGHTS OUT -
for Earth Hour < www.earthhour.org> and I will spend the time in the
dark thinking about the planet, about the beauty we have here and its
potential for loss.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Birthday - What, Again?

I've spent the last month or two thinking I was about to be sixty-
three. It came as a bit of a surprise Wednesday to realize that
someone born in 1947 wouldn't be able to buckle sixty-three years
under their belt until 2010. The "DUH!" accompanying that realization
may have been heard round the world.

My birthday will be spent out at Cape Blanco, here on the Oregon
coast, scanning the watery horizon looking for gray whales. My
husband and I have been volunteers for the state "Whale Watching
Spoken Here" program for almost ten years. <www.whalespoken.org> And
it is sunny! Incredible. So often we've sat out there during rain,
wind, hail, fog and generally typical Cape Blanco spring nastiness.

This afternoon we'll come home from watching whales and see what it
takes to assemble my new media cabinet. Yes, it arrived! After all
the fooferah or ordering and re-ordering it is here at last and I was
able to do my little bit to perk up the US economy. Now I get the fun
of "musical furniture" as it replaces a cabinet that moves to replace
a dresser, that in turn replaces a small side table that...

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The perils of working at the library

Working at the library

I've volunteered at our small local library for several years and I
enjoy my 'backroom task" of covering newly arrived books to prepare
them for circulation. I share the task with another volunteer. I
cover hard bound and soft cover books while she takes care of
paperbacks and repairs. There is one major drawback to those lovely
hours of work which is that I see the new books before anyone else in
the community and generally have first dibs.

Uh-oh, temptation is not something I need. My to-read stacks of books
is totteringly high. I've become a junkie with the Amazon resellers
and find it impossible to attend a booksale without making a
purchase. Or two. Or three. Once a week my powers of restraint are
sorely tested as I fondle new volumes and am enticed by quotes,
reviews, and colorful bindings.

Today was an excellent example. There was an inviting book of native
American legends, an alluring manual of trees and shrubs. I was lured
by an illustrated cookbook - assuredly full of mouthwatering recipes
I'd never try. And I found myself fascinated by Over the Edge: Death
in the Grand Canyon, a book about fatal mishaps in Grand Canyon.
Easier to resist were several SciFi novels with lurid covers. One
wonders at the prevalence of imagined planets where the population is
dressed like Neanderthals but the women all look like plastic-
surgeonized harlots carrying spears.

I returned home empty-handed to resume reading in my private library,
safe (this week) from temptation. That Grand Canyon book is on my
list though. Someday....

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Party Hearty?

Yesterday was my semi-occasional get-all-the-local-friends-together
party. Now that the event is over I can take a deep breath and make
some observations:

1) I worry more than I used to. My anxiety over party prep was
phenomenal.
2) Renting a hall was a good idea. No fussing over house clean-up,
before or after.
3) A potluck makes a great party - especially when you know good cooks.
4) Seniors party gentler. When I was 30 we'd go until the wee hours.
Now? After two hours we're all ready to go home!
5) Women friends are the best. They arrive and help organize, and
help clean before they leave.

Even with all the above I'm exhausted today and determined this party
was the last. Will I forget and let enthusiasm carry me away again?
Memory is so unreliable in the aging me!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Thoughts of spring

Spring is officially here and despite the gray sky outside and the
drizzle/rain leaking from the clouds I have to admit the change. I
was able to sleep a night without a flannel shirt over my flannel
nightgown and it was even sufficiently warm that I tossed off the
comforter in the middle of the night. A few more nights like that and
the heavy comforter can be replaced with the heavy blanket. That in
turn will give way to a lighter blanket as summer rolls around and
the ankle-length flannel is succeeded by knee-length cotton nightwear.

Oh, for the times when I was occasionally warm enough to shuck
nightgown completely and eschew even a sheet for covering. It is hard
to recall nights when it was that warm. On the Oregon coast nights
can reach chill even at the height of summer, dipping into the 50's
so that even the young reach for a warm covering. No longer young and
rapidly passing middle age warm seems to have become merely
theoretical though being post menopausal night sweats are still
happening. My mind is ever conscious of my narrowing zone of
comfortable temperatures. I have a plethora of sweaters, shirts,
jackets, blankets, shawls, wraps and hats to fit each degree of
temperature change.

It just occurred to me that some clever fellow out there could make
his fortune with all of us baby-boomers now approaching our chill
seniortude. Invent a fabric that is both natural (remember: we are
the fledgling ecology age) and adjusts itself to keep the wearer
always at a set heat level. Non-itchy (we are fussier these days),
inexpensive (we are retiring and on fixed incomes), wash and wear
(who dry-cleans?), and comes made into clothes of loose baggy sizes
to accommodate loose baggy bodies.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Hard Work of Stimulating the Economy

How many times in recent months have you heard that lack of consumer
confidence is supporting the recession? If people will spend money,
we are told, it will stimulate the economy and businesses will
recover, jobs will be created, God will return to Heaven, and all
will be right with the world. I'm trying to do my part but the task
is much more difficult than I anticipated. Here is an example:

Seeing a need in our house for a new media storage cabinet I went
online and shopped around. Choosing a cabinet that would house our
collection and fit the decor I placed an order to (deleted) Stores,
paying through Paypal and I waited for the promised prompt delivery.
I waited. And I waited. After the delivery date had passed I emailed
customer service and and found that the cabinet was now backordered.
The promised date still seemed reasonable so I waited. And waited.
Checking online tracking I discovered the item had been even further
backordered. No one ever called or emailed to notify me, apologize,
or explain. At that point I notified the company to cancel the order
and waited while my Paypal account was credited and the credit made
back to my credit card - which had billed me and been paid while I
was waiting.

(pause for deep breathing and while I handle disgruntlement)

Having been stung I was shy about leaping into the process again but
I still wanted the media cabinet. So I returned online, located it at
another outlet- (Deleted) Stores, and prudently (I thought) called
the customer service number hoping to verify that the cabinet was in
stock. I was asked to call back the following morning so that they
could contact the manufacturer from which the item was directly
ordered. I called back at the stipulated time and found that the
service rep did not have the authority to contact the manufacturer
and needed to wait for a manager who would be in an hour later. She
mentioned that their company was more likely to have it since they
dealt directly with that manufacturer, not a wholesaler. I was
promised a return call. Two and a half hours later I called back.
Customer rep #3 says if the item was backordered with another company
it will probably be backordered with her company as well (!) but she
promised an email response.

The email response came (!!) with the news that my item was not on
their backorder list. (Manufacturer not contacted after all?) so I
could order from them. I called the rep number and got phonemail.
After a short wait she called and I began my order, whereupon we were
disconnected in mid-call. When she called back I completed my order.

Now I wait to see what transpires. Any bets on whether the media
cabinet is actually delivered? Percentage chance that it is
backordered? I'm not feeling any sense of confidence. How hard do I
have to work to stimulate the economy?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Volunteering

I've volunteered at my local library, covering books and designing
posters for library events, for several years and I have a number of
friends who also donate their services to their home communities.
They work in school reading programs, clean trash from beaches and
parks, serve on boards, and do paperwork for assorted organizations.
For seniors, being involved in positive ways and giving of what we
have the most, time, is important to our well being and important to
the institutions we benefit.

That said, there is an art to volunteerism and it is an art that both
giver and receiver would be wise to remember and practice. When
either side is clumsy, or forgets the give and take skills, the
system breaks down and both sides lose. Some facets of the knowhow:

Volunteers:
Do the job you are asked to do.
Be on time, appropriately dressed and behaved.
Be respectful of the fact that some folks are employed. They need to
meet schedules and standards.
You may know better but you aren't in charge. Offer your ideas, then
shut up.
If you aren't happy, don't sabotage. Go find another place that suits
you better.

For those interfacing with volunteers:
Volunteers are there to help. Discover their skills and utilize them.
Be appreciative. They are doing work you didn't have to budget for.
Try to listen. You may learn something.
You are not a general. This army can desert at any time.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Wearin' the Green


St. Patrick's Day. Do they still make a big deal of it in school with the kids wearing green or getting pinched, and decorating the classroom windows with construction paper shamrocks? The Irish must have had a good PR man when I was young. I can't recall any other ethnic group that was celebrated in elementary school in that fashion. Later generations may have made paper dragons for Chinese New Year and now it is mandatory to study black history and Martin Luther King Day. What we focus on ebbs and flows.

I was thinking how odd we don't have a national East Indian Day, or Italian Day (is that Columbus Day in some towns?) or a national day when we are all encouraged to have a meal of sushi, or haggis, or maybe shrimp on the barbie. Perhaps spaghetti and pizza have gone too mainstream? And in my house at least curry powder is a staple seasoning. Sushi is still a trifle upscale, you can go to Outback for the Aussie experience , and most people avoid haggis and settle for whiskey as a taste of Scotland.

I look forward to St. Paddy's Day and the traditional corned beef and cabbage. Trying to find corned beef in our local market in July or December is impossible so I leap for the chance to savor in March. It comes about as close to my own ethnic cuisine as anything. When as a child I asked about our family roots Mom would say "You are English, Scots, Irish, Dutch, German, and Danish." It was a lilting chant summing up Western Europe and generations of nameless peasantry looking for up and out. With that sort of mix there was no heritage upon which to lay claim other than American, no folk dances, or country dress or language close enough to have a hold on family memory. Like many immigrant groups my forefathers and mothers leapt into assimilation.

Rambling back to St. Patrick's Day... I'm wearing a bit of green and cooking corned beef for dinner. I'll dig out my CDs of the Chieftains and be Irish, albeit distant, for a day. My English, Scots, Dutch, German and Danish bits don't mind.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

New Age Knee Jerk

A friend loaned me a CD this week. "I'd like you to listen to this,"
he said, "You'll love it." The disk was a compilation of New Age type
tunes, peppy electronic jazz with great rhythm. I listened as
requested and returned the disk with what I hope were polite thanks.
And I've been musing since then about my reaction to the music.

A number of years ago I enjoyed New Age music. The airy light stuff
was a bit amorphous for my taste but that with a strong beat and
form, long on hand drums, was something I actively searched out and
bought. Back then I'd have loved the music loaned by my pal. But
something has changed and I'm not sure what. The stuff I heard had
nothing objectionable to it but it left me unimpressed and extremely
put off.

I asked my husband for instances in his experience, times when some
genre of music, or literature. or art (or whatever) was a favorite,
but subsequently became something he avoided. He mentioned incense.
And Disco. I'm not sure these are quite the same as my dislike of
New Age. He became intolerant of smoke of any kind and will listen to
Disco as an occasional nostalgia trip. It isn't the same toothache,
don't-want-to-touch response.

Tastes change as we move through life. That is the simple and obvious
reason New Age music no longer pleases me. But the vehemence of my
negative feelings suggest something more complicated. More thinking
to do...

Friday, March 13, 2009

Oregon Reads Book Review


I read this book because it was chosen as the "Oregon Reads" book for this year. My approach was somewhat in the dutiful vein but that soon gave way to a fascination with the material. The pioneering spirit of Masuo Yasui as he began a life in Hood River makes for compelling reading. This is the story of every immigrant in the US.

When the story segued into the advance of WWII and the increasing racism I was chilled. Knowing it existed and reading the facts of it in the lives of people I'd come to know are different things. Kessler's book brought a reality to a dreadful part of our national history. The life of Min Yasui would have made a novel all by itself.

The third generation of Yasui kids are like the Japanese Americans I've known. Still somewhat focused on achievement but so American one doesn't see anything but just one-of-us.

I'm hoping our local librarian can locate Holly's film about Min to compliment other activities related to the book and the Oregon Reads program.

You can find out more about the Oregon Reads program at - www.oregonreads2009.org

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Change

I confess that I'm not a big fan of change. It isn't just creeping
old age that makes me feel this way. It has been a lifetime
personality quirk. We live in a society that embraces change, often
calling it "progress", at almost any cost. Too often the changes made
are made merely for the sake of seeming to DO something rather than
as a result of real need. Having a thing remain as it is, regardless
of the fact that it works well and fits the demand, is almost un-
American.

How many small businesses perfectly meet the customer base but either
over-expand with the pressure to grow and make a bigger profit, or
are purchased by a bigger expanding company that either doesn't
understand the customers or doesn't care and closes the smaller place
down? We've all seen recent instances of corporations booming one day
and declaring bankruptcy the next. How many products are "new and
improved" only to charge more for less? Great added features are
promised when the price goes up but are often features you don't want
or need. Upgrade! Trade in! Bigger! Better!...... Bah, Humbug!

There is nothing wrong about sticking with what works. There is
nothing inherently better about newer. There is a lot of honor in
doing something well and not over-reaching. It is okay to stay small,
local, and not be a mega-multinational-consortioglomerationment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Angst-Day(s)

The past couple of days have seen me in an orgy of angst, first
wading into the shallows, then wallowing more deeply, struggling like
a mammoth caught in a tar pit. There may be a magic vine dangling
somewhere for me to grab and get pulled out but it sure isn't visible
from out here, neck deep, in the middle of the ooze. I find myself
humming loudly with an I-can't-see-you, I-can't hear-you whimper at
the muck hoping that if I ignore it some miracle will change it to
water and I can float to the top and paddle to the shore.

Messy stuff, this tarry goo. Much of it is vague and formless in
shape making it hard to find a lump to fight against. It is
suffocating, heavy, and weighs down attempts to wriggle free. Those
bits that do have structure are trivial so I bob to the surface, gasp
for air, and sink back feeling stupid to be worrying about such
nonsense.

So here I am again. Yup, been there, done that - over and over. Age
gives me the knowing that it will pass - I'll be out of the mire and
back on shore eventually. It also hints that I'm likely to blunder
back again. Angst is self-inflicted after all like so many of the
things we do to damage ourselves. "Whoops!" I holler as I plunge in,
"That's still here!" Yup, still a quagmire and in it again.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

The Hassle of Daylight Savings

Last night was the eve of daylight savings time which means one of
two nights a year when living with an engineer-electronic technician-
computer geek sort-of guy becomes a strain. He is a clockaholic. We
may be retired but that state has not dimmed his need for the
household clocks to be accurately set. He plans his timepiece
adjusting strategy days ahead and sees to it that each and every
chronometer is re-calibrated on schedule.

I'm a bit more laid back about clocks. Close is close enough. Left on
my own I'd probably just leave the clocks alone and make a mental
accomadation. This sort of attitude is an incredible irritation to
the time maintenance master. This is a guy who visibly twitches when
he sees the flashing Twelve-Twelve-Twelve on a recording device and
who still fusses over the unset camera time on a friend's Nikon. When
possible he wants things set to the second. In a typical house such
as ours there are enough time devices to keep him hopping. VCR and
DVD player, microwave and stove, wall clocks and table clocks and
wristwatches. Clock radio, travel alarm, clock in the car, clock in
the digital camera. It was a frenzy of setting and since each has a
different mode of being set there was an accompaniment of swearing.
He persevered and the job was completed before bedtime.

Well, sort of. I woke at 4:30 AM to hear him muttering as he rose to
set the forgotten analog wall clock in my sewing room. With luck we
are all keeping proper time today and peace will reign until the next
clock setting marathon in the fall.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

'Tis the season

The gasp and sneeze, cough and wheeze time is upon us. Everybody I
know is sporting itchy eyes, clogged sinuses, and an attitude of
misery. We've survived the worst of winter cold and flu by imagining
the sun and warmth of spring only to arrive at Allergy Season.

Allergy Season: The part of the year when we decorate the house with
used tissues and greet each other with "Howbaryu" and a list of
symptoms. When we meet we gasp for air and discuss the relative
merits of nasal irrigation, herbal remedies, and over-the-counter
medication. The conversation touches upon the various shades of
phlegm. It skips lightly through a list of what is blooming and trips
heavily into the phrenology of headaches. Then we return home to sit
stupefied, brought low by microscopic pollens from hell.

Is there a biological ecological physiological benefit to this annual
misery-fest? Or is it merely a test of physical spiritual
perseverical stamina? I'll think about an answer - while I go blow my
nose.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Teen Birthday

Ah, the hurdle to be leapt for grandparents of a teen at birthday time. And Christmas as well. Even though our grandson lives relatively close, well three hours away by car close, choosing an appropriate gift is awesomely treacherous territory. What do you get when you want to please the kid, not upset the parents, and not appear either uncaring or totally out of touch. It seems to be a losing proposition.

We settle on money or gift cards to somewhere he can shop. It seems impersonal but we are free from parental "Oh My God - why did you chose THAT!" and also from the dutiful and somewhat sad "Thank you for the nice shirt" from the boy himself. What I want, of course, is to psychically divine and be able to afford the perfect grandchild pleasing lifetime memorable present. I reconcile my grandmotherly self to (hopefully) not embarrassing myself by giving a Tonka truck to a teen!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Glorious Whimsy

Let me begin by wishing you all a Happy Square Root Day!

I find it delightful to know about and (possibly) celebrate some of
the imaginative days of play created "just because". We have enough
days of remembrance for the dead, for wars and strife, days to atone.
And I'm not much for big bashes like Mardi Gras where it seems to be
revelry-en-masse at a frantic pace. But Square Root Day? Or Talk Like
a Pirate Day? Those tickle me.

If you have any special ones I can add to my calendar please let me
know.

Square root day - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

International Talk Like a Pirate Day - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monday, March 2, 2009

Chicken Chat

After a winter of rainy days a break in between storms allowed me to
go outside for a chickenchat. Since my knees have gotten so painful
my husband attends to the daily chores of feeding, egg collection,
and hutch securing. Winter months keep my attendance to glimpses of
the girls from the front room window and the occasional holler
(Heyyyyy, Chickens!) on the way to or from the car. The sun and mild
temperature recently encouraged me to occupy my bench beside their
fence and enjoy some poultry palaver with the hens:

There are the Lydias - Lydia Whitebutt and Lydia Greybutt. Whitebutt
is the talker. She keeps up a constant stream of buck-buck-buck as
she marches sharp-eyed and eager for any stray bug.
The Rhodas - both reds. One is a bit darker than the other.
The Marilyns - Marilyn Crookedbeak, MARILYN, a huge busty beauty, and
Mary, who is also called Speckles. She is quite friendly and happily
takes treats from my hand.
The Wedgetails - Winnie, Fred, and Winifred. They are slightly
smaller than the rest - basic white chickens with a few stray black
or brown feathers so they can be differentiated from each other.
Betty Beige
Greta Gray
And Mrs. Brown. - these last 3 are auracanas with lovely shaded and
edged feathers.

Brandon, the new rooster, seems to be doing fine considering he is
but a young fellow and was recently introduced to the flock. I spent
a few minutes worrying about the trauma of what may be considered a
15 year old kid being tossed in with a bunch of horny older women.
Brandon may have spent a day or two in shock but he's recovered and
already doing what roosters do. I don't mean just crowing.

Chickens are amazingly easy to anthropomorph (Did I just verb an
adjective?). They are cranky and territorial, ever aware of the
proverbial pecking order. Watching them provides quite an interesting
mirror to life in a small town. I invite you to come for a
chickenchat when you are in the neighborhood.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ants!

This morning I ate an ant.

Did that get your attention? It sure got mine. I'd just gotten out of
bed and was blurry-brained as I reached into the dresser for
underwear. Absently running my hand over my face a crumb of something
was pushed into my mouth and I bit down. Eeeeuuuuuuwwwwww!! All
systems on instant alert as the taste of formic acid filled my mouth
and I began spitting and gagging... and shuddering from disgust.

Ants have been a recurring theme experience in my life. Everywhere
I've lived they have from time to time become a problem. There was
the house In hayward, California, built on an old orchard. Forget to
take the kitchen garbage out at night and morning found it a heaving
brown mass of ants. In the apartment in Sunnyvale the gingerbread
house I made for Christmas was invaded and occupied overnight. It
never occurred to me that ants could locate that sweet in a second
story living room. In our first home during a California drought year
ants emerged from the bathroom electric socket to form a line across
the vanity reaching to the nearby toilet tank where they presumably
found water. Such resourcefulness!

The house we are in now is no exception. Ants have at times - invaded
the kitchen trash, discovered the cat kibble, wandered randomly
through the bathroom and my sewing room. They even seized control of
my bed one night. Spraying isn't a happy choice for me but I've
accepted it as a necessary evil. It did take me a time or two to
realize that spraying around the outside of the house merely forces
the tenants to move inward. We now spray the inside perimeter to
force their movements elsewhere.

Even a single ant is too many. My nose is very reactive to the smell
of Formicidae (singular or plural) and a lone one squished on a
fingertip reeks like the spray of a whole can of Raid. I do not
hesitate to apply a death grip but tend to make like Lady Macbeth
after the deed is done.

Back to my morning snack. Quite crunchy, bad tasting. Not recommended
before, during, or after coffee.