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Occasional letters from a prodigal daughter back on the prairie (Achoo!)

Apr 29, 2009:
"Four insane patients ar-
arrived at Oak Lawn Retreat
yesterday from Colorado."
120 years later -- no need to recruit from afar -- we're all nuts here!
Grab a cuppa and read on...


    Brewed English Breakfast in honor of William and Kate this morning before staggering off to the Y after a v. late night posting tombstone photos.  The rest of the world got up early to watch the pagent.  
    The other morning I looked around Y water class and thought what a winter of full lungs it's been.  We all hack and cough, one woman reported to have a fungus.  I call her The Cougher and keep my distance.  Where’s compassion?  (The Fan is back in class--the gal who turns on the fan in the dressing room when folks are wet and cold—because she’s hot.)  Whether or not we admit it, most of us have been sick off and on all winter, often with a flu or cold "from hell...first time I’ve been to a doc in years, folks say".  What impresses me most is a lotta folks are only sick a couple days.  My colds/whatevers drag on for months.   
    The group is increasingly bionic.  Musta been a sale on new parts recently.  Quite a few new hips and knees in the water.  People seem pleased.  I wince to imagine of a new femur head and renew my yoga practice, stretching feet and balancing knees enthusiastically.  You gotta be kidding.  I guess folks are in such agony….  Carol’s better than ever with the new hip joint; Ann got one also, same doc.  Virginia and her daughter both had both somethings replaced--knees, I think.  Cheryl's daughter has a new hip I think.  Rose has a knee.  Jan’s aunt, a new knee.  Sal's putting her knee.  However the v. oldest, charge into and through their 9th decades without so much as the sniffles or a new part!  Several are so light and limber as they climb out of the pool effortlessly, I'm jealous. 
    A new feature in water class is that Mr Fezziwig has joined us with his own program.  I can’t actually read Dickens, but I recognize his characters when I see 'em.  One morning an old character lumbered down the steps into the pool, and began walking along the floats separating the shallow and deep ends of the pool, right into the middle of our 9:30 class.  Mr Fezziwig was all I could think!!  Right here in the Y pool in No River Here city!  Honest Injun.  Who would believe it!  Silver hair, bulbous nose, elephant ears, chin wattle, piles of soft flesh.   (So now, in addition to Scrouge and Truman Capote, we boast our own Fezziwig!)  From time to time I say a feeble howdy-- we’re within inches of each other.  The eyes don’t flicker; they're in another century.  We’ve lost another strip of 3 or 4 feet of the deepest water we all fight over to his water walking from one side to the other.  Anyone else has to wait until class is over to do one's own thing--not Fezzi.  His jaw moves in constant conversation with himself.


As soon as the big snow started disappearing a few weeks ago-- without pooling, it was explained, because the ground never froze--skenes of geese called on their way north.  Amazing.  Day and night I hear their calls.  Here I am, heavy with winter, yet hear come the geese!  As blue gray as I've been, I'm going to miss the season of hibernation.  It's excellent people watching.
    The other night I went off to hear Dr. Wolf talk at the library about Lincoln's (The Lincoln--Abraham) contemporary, Koerner.  Sounded good to me!  All of seven of us showed up (including the speaker).  I took note of Dr W's spikey hair.  Instead of combing the last of his hair up and over--Dr W is way too practical to worry about hair--it was cut short around his bald head.   Looked good to me. 
    This weekend I finally visited Sal's country church--11 of us, including the pastor.  The stained glass was everything I'd been told.  But my eyes kept jumping from the windows to a head of gravity defying hair.  An older gent had combed his hair from the bottom up and over, leaving an interesting bald circle behind for me to wonder what might attach there!  Although hair can be interesting, second to the beautiful windows, were the amazing super broad shoulders of an older faded blond man 2 rows ahead. 
Visions of a blacksmith pounding red hot iron danced in my head.  Shoulders like that I hadn't seen for decades, stuffed into a black and white checked shirt with suspenders.  Not the hunched shoulders of weight lifters, but old fashioned, 3-D farmer shoulders.  A wife with big hair sat beside.  The yoga teacher in me was drop jawed and my mind ran wild.
    Two lights on each side of a ceiling fan lit the church.  The day was gray and showery.  My stomach growled--my 2nd service for the morning-- as did rolls of thunder.  Rain splattered.  Afterwards I met nearly everyone and tried taking photos of the windows but refrained from standing on pews.  Sometimes a gray day is good for light.  Excused self to find the local cemetery.  Neither rain nor snow is keeping me from photographing tombstones these days--my escape from cabin fever--I guess.  A bit dark and wet for some stones, however I had a jolly time squooshing around, and found maybe 1/3 of the stones on the request list..  As I got in the car to leave, saw the distant silhouette of a critter watching from a bare field.  Binoculars revealed Coyote. 
    Having been captivated for years by Edgar Lee Masters and his Spoon River anthology, and deeply affected by Wilder's Our Town--both of which I believe I encountered after leaving the Midwest--perhaps it was inevitable, I'd be comfortable wandering among the dead, pondering that thin veil and stories above and below.
    Steamed broccoli and carrots with Sally crowned a wonderful Sunday on the prairie.


The subtitle/ theme of my life hit me sometime last year.  Of course! Something on the order of ACHOO: a life of allergies and dripping nose.  The Handkerchief is another possibility.  (Gave up kleenex decades back.)  Some people can't go anywhere without their shadow; for me, it's a handkerchief.  A life time of sneezing started here on the prairie where it'll prob end there.  When I "see" mom, there's a drip on her nose; elder brother's droplet is backlit in mountain sunlight; youngest brother's honking still rings as does dad's loud sneeze.  Allergies to ragweed, sage, who knows what all.  Later I realized I could add anything to the list I didn't like, say dogs or cats, getting up early, boring talks...  Inner crying, whatever, got it big time.  Mid August is especially explosive, depending where I'm living.  Now that I'm back on the Illinois prairie--I'm amused to hear sneezes coming from out of the dark in the community park-- no hiding on the prairie.  If nothing else, we're a community of sneezers.  This winter I heard an astounding sneeze in Albuquerque.  I was well across the room.  Heads turned.  The sneeze filled an enormous ballroom and must have frightened those near.  I'm from Illinois, an expert.  Good job, brother/sister.  Feel better? 
    Now that we/most of us don't chop wood and carry water winters, those who don't go to Florida are left stewing in one's own juices.  That's what I do well--stew.  Haven't written much, just fermented, fomented and stewed.  A recurrent theme swung back with vengeance recently.  Writing either fans flames, or helps cool 'em.  Hopefully, I'll amuse myself.  I'm skeptical--this is a nasty one I've pushed away.  Could be why I haven't been able to sleep...
    Like to think I've done most of my forgiveness work--Patty for clobbering me in double trouble, rascally family and friends.  All are small peanuts compare to the resentment I harbor against... The Whole Country! for supporting airport security.  (Not My Country, of course.  My country wouldn't pry heirlooms out of teary old ladies hands like they're terrorists.  Not my country.  Your country, maybe, those of you who don't want to take any chances with folks like me who make the friendly skies unsafe.  Your country where old ladies are frisked so you'll feel safe while mother rapers as the song--Arlo Guthrie?-- put it, are waved through.  Grrrrr.) 
    Seems I'm STILL furious about airport security taking away (as in forever) grandfather Mann's teeny, tiny pocket knife I accidentally left in my pack a few years ago.  Maybe two inches swiveled open, grandfather's initials ASM etched on the sleeve. Cute, cute little knife; must have brought home when mom and I cleaned out the Tucson house in the early '70s, or I snatched it from The Garage Sale in Durango. 
(Of course it was not waiting for me when I got back to the airport.
    How can anyone feel safer because I no longer have Grandfather Mann's knife and the "security" person who stole does!!!!
   Have those who feel safer because of my loss had their family momentos confiscated?  I doubt it.  Would I feel safer if they had a a tiny family knife taken from them?  (I doubt it.)  What's the difference in our thinking?  Why do I think safety is more than searching bumblers for jells and creams? 
    Do Americans really feel safer because my
creme brule was snatched in the Seattle airport??  Surely not!  It's insane to take lunch or dessert or breakfast away from old ladies, or old men, or kids, from ANYONE at all, in the name of keeping airline travelers safe.  As in, should be locked up, no trial.  Those locked behind bars are small potatoes compared to what's going on in the name of keeping the country safe.  My undeveloped, cherished opinion!
    What makes one person feel safe where another feels frightened?  Who wins?  The one who's most frightened??!!  The first thing some folks say is "What's wrong!"  Guilt assumed!
    Isn't safety a state of mind?
    I need a logician!  A+B isn't equaling C.  What's going on? 
    Perhaps I'm in such a blind rage because I'm the taxpayer paying to have myself ripped off!  As I see it, airport security creates terrorists, not the other way around.  I know.  I've become one. 
So I haven't traveled for awhile.  I'm pissed at the American obsessesion with safety--from me, from storms, from themselves.  Bigger highways so loved ones will be safer, bigger cars and trucks.  Removing slides and jungle gyms from play grounds.  It's really too much folks.  Not to mention germs and drugs!  Time to take responsibility for sick thinking and actions!!!   Keillor's Fear Monger shop can't keep the shelves stocked!!
    I'm going to feel a lot better if i can work through my apparent faulty thinking, and tee hee possibly that of others! 
    Lately it's just been too hard to follow the wisdom to take nothing personally.  When I stew about airport security and hand sanitizing stations, life seems full of dirty rats and I want out, out, out.
    A few days after I faced this awful subject, I visited Great Decisions, only to learn the subject was security.  Eek.  Sure enough, it seemed as though younger folks felt safer knowing I wasn't carrying creme brule.  Good to hear some of the ancients recall the days when one was allowed onto a plane to say goodbye to travelers.  Imagine that.  In one lifetime.  Perhaps it would be helpful to think like a 20 year old to get along in this world where increasingly fear is running the show.

WINTER 2010-11

How much fun can I take?  Though I wasn't terribly surprised when Sharon scoffed at global warming last week (attends the B church); didn't expect her to take on dinosaurs and evolution while she was at it.  (Why not?)  Don't know if I replied.  She's disturbed that her late 90s mother leaves the stove on, faces moving her. 
    Have I mentioned lately that this Lake Wobegon has it's very own Scrooge and Truman Capote?  yup.  Honest injun.  Depending on my degree of mental health, some days life here is too good to be true, other days au contraire...  Stories and opinions fly out of us as we tread along in the swimming pool or gather at Wendys.  One never knows!  I calm myself when I find a neighbor's visitor's SUV backed onto my yard, parked on a sprinkler head, during a gala event.  You wouldn't park like that on your yard, would ya?  ach!  People!
    I was practically marching through Walmart today as I stewed over their nasty corporate politics and the saints who work there anyhow, chanting Rousseau's "Do not judge and you will never be mistaken".  "Take nothing personally", I added, growing more furious as I remembered I'd just been bumped from subbing classes without being told.  "They" were just gonna let me show up and find out!  Snarl, snarl. 
By the time I'd learned my photos weren't back and was told I couldn't try on earrings I've eyed for months, I was headed to the door.  Heard a commotion before I got there.  A crowd was gathering in the pizza section where there was shouting.  I overheard "close the exit" and dashed out.  As I headed to find the car, heard sirens as a police car turned into the lot.  Guess I'm not the only one in with post holiday grumps.
    Met Suz's group last night for live music.  They got the last of the soup; I had oriental salad with dressing to which chili must have been added.  grrr.  We've lost our sense of taste.  I don't like loud music OR spicy food!  What good am I!  Jon puts his hearing aids in for the music; I go to the car for earplugs.  Gonna stop right now and order some industrial ear protectors, red if they still have them.  Ach, there they are -- shotgunner hearing protector.  Maybe I'll get some shooting glasses while I'm in the mood.  Wait, wait, better check ACE first, or WM.
    Maybe I'm just rebounding from being in Minneapolis a few days over Cmas, where NPR is not a typo for NRA.  Gotta be in denial to live here.
   My list of you'd gotta- be- here to believe these has slipped from mind.  Some days I come home just bursting with delight.  Umm...  Like some weeks ago... recapping The Met Live opera at the nearby cafeteria with esteemed music faculty.  One mentions, "The fellow with the turban (lets say, I've forget the descriptor by now) who only appeared at the end..."  Before I know it, I've leaped in excited, "He was in the first Act!", disagreeing with the overeducated once again.  I was incredulous--I'd seen the guy!  Bless teachers, trained to act like they're right, even when they're not.  I may be faceblind, but with screen sized faces I do considerably better, being a keen observer of traits like scars, astonishing wigs, makeup--things men don't notice, especially not when they're sleeping it turns out.  The men shake their heads disagreeing with my siting of said character earlier.  Shortly however one of the PhDs let slip he'd dozed off early on, what with all going on in his life.  The other confesses the same.  (Read: serious sleep with snoring-- I've been near).  I'm glad a pair of buddies can amiably snooze during a 4 hr opera.  I slept later, I mention, which is why I hadn't be sure said actor had been in the last act but was sure he was there earlier!  Interesting--the need to be right addiction.  The incident had me chuckling.
    Ever since I moved back to Lake Wobegon (and was refused a library card until I could show a deed of home ownership), I've winced that the library regularly lists "lap sits" in the weekly events calendar.  Having been around the block-- this smacks of a porn term.  I'd never allow my library to advertise one (that's why I'm not in charge).  I've not said anything--who wants to hear from a prodigal daughter (son maybe, but not daughter).  In this sex obsessed country, what are they thinking!. As I was stewing over this, plodding up the library stairs to fetch or return an interlibrary loan, splatted into The Director.  Why not (because I know better.)  Brought the subject up--finally.  T.D. shrugged something about the board... floor sit would be better description... kids sit on the floor (not laps).  Bet if I put a nasty comment the Open Whine about the library pushing porn, fur would fly.  Instead, it's still in the paper, because that's the way it's always been.  Of course.
    Only my old gym teacher and I showed up for water class one snowy morning this week.  Two or 3" is considered a blizzard nowadays--schools and institutions close--someone might sue.  She was hoping to swim laps, instead found an eager student wanting to loosen up after long, tense hours in the dentist chair this week.  While she-the-teacher talked, I did the hip circles, leg kicks and hamstring stretches I needed and she followed me!  She picked up the pay check.  Whatever.
    I'll probably associate snow with the dentist the rest of my days.  I've been waiting with dread and desperation since September to get a broken tooth fixed, along with a dozen fillings put in.  First there was the root canal, then antibiotics and waiting...  Then early January, storms marched across the country.  With even the possibility of snow, folks start getting out of things they didn't wanna do--my big chance to move my appointment up weeks and week, a win-win for all.  Never thought I'd want to go to the dentist, but after waiting so long, shifted position.  Have snow tires and shovel, will travel, no problem.  Took back to back cancellations, lay on my back gassed to the max, hour after hour, peaking out the window from time to time at the snow.  Eight cavities filled one day; a crown and another cavity the next.  Of course it was rather dreadful.  However the team was extraordinary, having worked together decades.  I like to think some of my childhood horror of dentists was lessened, not far from where it all began, down the street.  What a mind-body adventure.  Some fun remains for February.


    Left Illinois sweltering mid September, drove West to visit.  By the time I returned near the end of month the season had changed.  Almost didn't recognize the midwest.  We'd baked so long. 
    Slowly folks are coming back to life to join those who love the heat.  At long last, I thought I looked and felt like I was back with the living.  Then 4pm one Thursday a sneezing cold struck like a bolt of lightning.  Amazing.  I'm back in the ozone, joining the snifflers, as various harvesters work fields in headlights, surrounded in clouds of dust.  Many of us hacking and sneezing anywhere one goes.  After the rainy summer, we've had nearly 2 months without rain.  I'm carrying bathwater to the glorious, thirsty, front walk flowers.  I grow very little but it's lookin' good right now. 
They're across from the new, white railing that's in 2 sections--thanks, Gary!! 
    We're in the midst of extreme Indian summer, most of us glorying in this stay of execution.  The first week of October I still heard lazy cicadas in the nearby older tree neighborhood--wow--isn't that late?  When did the fireflies quit?  Think I saw a few in September.  Even when I camped in eastern IL a few weeks ago, heard the occasional slow saw of a late cicada, along with distant owl and coyote pack.  Oh how I love to get away and sleep under the oaks, big Jupiter and the waxing moon.  In the morning, watched leaves float, spiral as they fell.
    Others moan about winter while we're still sleeping with just a sheet.  At last I'm out of summer hibernation, back sitting on the back porch.  Pat's crew, finished draining the murky green pool I started on and stalled; refilled; the "waterfall" is back for the first time since spring, when I couldn't keep the pump unclogged.  Doves, robin, cardinals, jays, sparrows, wrens-- the winged neighborhood seems to enjoy-- along with of course squirrels and several cats (grrr).  Felt bad when I glimpsed the Coopers hawk dining on a small one last week.  Why not a cat?  As farm wife acquaintance Sally and I sat out one afternoon the small nuthatch visited.  I've met a kindred backyard observer.  We're no longer carried off by mosquitos, just a few bites.  Seriously buggy summer.
    Two falls ago the mild fall helped me make it through winter.  This fall feels similar.  However, there's a twist--i
t's the Year of Fixing Teeth.  The upcoming months/years? will target  saving teeth.  The sooner I surrender, the better.  Dental work has always been a nemesis.  Doped with benedryl from the last minute cold, somehow made it through root canal #1/?.  This medicare year is a really, really tough one--health wise.
    Fall happenings are underway.  I missed cruise night (alas ;~)) and Prairie Land Heritage Fest.  My oversized belly is relieved I've managed to miss a few church luncheons by raveling.  This being a 4th year, the hospital had it's benefit-- entirely over the top, an evening to remember.  I was moved to the core.  The miracle of the small town.  Mercy.  What an evening.  Exhausted from laughing and tearing.  Another night a high school classmate, one yr ahead, returned to play with the local symphony-- another extraordinary event followed by an open house where a saw a few more old faces I'd been waiting to run into.  Another weekend I hooted through the local theater fall play.  Recent Saturday morning listened to a  super Presbyterian elder's funeral from the balcony.  Adjourned to the UCC basement with Barb for a fair trade fair and soup lunch.
    One still mild Wed. noon Sally volunteered the backyard for lunch with the Y water women.  Made end of season vegetable hamburger soup and upside down rhubarb cake that never got turned over.  The gals stopped for sandwiches.  Mary (who I'd photographed summer before last by her corn crop of one stalk the noon she entertained us in her farm home by a pond) brought cheetos--bless her.  Sally brought liverwurst.  Probably last had that in Illinois!!  Barb, zucchini bread.  Not only am I not organized at entertaining, learned I don't have stable porch tables; will be keeping an eye out.
    The farmers market, all 3 or 4 growers, has also had a stay of execution-- no hard frost yet.  Spinach, lettuce and arugala have returned; late limas and green beans.  Such a treat!  Today I baked cauliflower and made white and sweet potatoes with leek into a potato salad in case I go to the water classes potluck tomorrow.
Simply gotta get that genealogy online and gold rush diary finished!  My latest obsession has been tracking Hemphill cousins in Philadelphia.  Learned a fair bit, but not how and why they are cousins.  I dream about this.  Most keen to go to Philadelphia and research and see the historic gothic cemetery where both cousins and wives are buried.  How are the parents???
    Halloween week is my only chance to wear my 2010 Folklife T-shirt that scares folks-- a band of skeletons playing music.  I'm a fan of right living and dying.  Last month I hauled out an old cassette player, plugged into car, began listening to favorite old tapes.  This week I've listened to Joan talk about dying.  I was a little amused that some of her descriptions of death resemble my every day experiences.
    Adventure coming up.  Ymca can't find any one to take Karen's "high level" early morning water class while she gets a new hip.  I'm gonna start showing up until they can find a cute young thing who wants to tread water with 70, 80 and 90 year olds at 8:30am.  Meanwhile, the hospital is finally willing to let us use a classroom for yoga (Y still says no.)  Can hardly believe furthermore the Y won't let me post a flyer for slow yoga.  How unhealthy!  We'll see if I can handle high level seniors.  I've no illusions of telling people anything new.  They can overachieve all they want.  The newest season of life guards are allowed to read and text during their shifts, more than a little bizarre, this new world.  I'm warned seniors don't thrash, just sink.  Going to be interesting-- old fashioned girl brushing against the new order.  Again.

JULY 2010

     Every time I pull in or out the driveway without dragging, I'm nearly ecstatic the neighbor's asphalt team had time to fill the ditch at the bottom of the drive.  Perhaps I'm easily grateful (and thrilled)!  Could be the highlight of this oh so strange "summer"--being able to go in and out of drive without scraping! 
    It's the first summer I ever remember that I'm not grieving shorter days.  Either I'm not sure it's summer, or I just don't think about it.  The whole year has pretty much been about survival.  Don't sweat the small stuff?  Like the car dragging on the drive?  Weeds coming through pavement.  Try not to.
This season's home improvement goal seems modest, though the months roll on without progress-- have the nearly dead maple by the front door removed and replaced with perhaps amelachior.  Pat has several terrific ideas.  After that, may break down and have a railing built along the walk, knowing full well those who've complained they want one will probably never return to use it.  Hopefully others will appreciate one. True, the sidewalk slants-- especially treacherous in winter.  It's why I teach mindfulness (whether or not anyone listens, esp me!)
    This morning as I poured new applesauce, recalled another highlight.  Joe showed up at the farmers market with transparent apples!  Enthusiastically filled a couple of recycled bags from the car.  Haven't seen transparents since the roadside sign in Indiana a couple summers ago.  Everywhere I live, I scout these early treasures and knock on strangers' doors.  Flavors from childhood--" real" applesauce and tomatoes.  Last night I carved the 1+ lb brandywine (farmers market of course) like a roast.  Put slabs on thin, dark German bread with onion and mayo...
    Come to think of it, I'm also delighted by the colorful entry walk flower bed that's evolved, my only gardening.  Every color flower greets me (unlike the neighbor's matching row)--peach, magenta, red, gold, blue (not doing well), pink, white... 
   Easily pleased, easily deflated, yoyo-ing my way through a prairie summer.
    A new cloud over this already turbulent summer is the recent death of a local man in Afghanistan, bringing the middle east war right here.  A week of headlines and personal interviews with family, veterans, bystanders; photos of the casket returning, parade.  A big, sober deal that can only take me back to dad's flight unit and photos I just brought back from Minneapolis.  Would it be less awful if the 5 tour sergeant hadn't left wife, who works at the hospital, and children?  I struggle, as I always do, to accept the loss of a full strong life.  His photo devastates me.  Maybe the soldier took it better than me.  The flag has been at half mast nearly 10 years now.  We as a nation, perhaps as a world, seem to want both war and peace.  Always that tension.
    Two winters ago mom's ggfather's gold rush dairy showed up in a family box I finally opened.  I'm one of those who still has unopened boxes since The Move.  Hanging out in the past is right down my alley;  I'm keen to transcribe it for all posterity (via computer, nat.).  It's high on my Must Do list, some of which is slowly getting done this summer now that I feel better, though I'm hardly a ball of energy.  (#1 on the list --Simplify--is almost too overwhelming to face, though nothing is more important.  Need to break decluttering down room by room, pile by pile. Thought I'd start with going through 3 boxes of videos in the basement, but that's getting nowhere fast.) 
    Getting started on the dairy/log was hard-- outer pages worn, faint.  Then I lost some of what I'd done in the hard drive crash of 2010, derailing me again.  Tough on eyes.  Sit with several magnifying glasses, under the light on the porch, reasonable evenings, and decipher a page or two.  Getting better reading numbers, spelling and writing as the writing is stronger and I learn William's daily rhythm.  I like the straightforward, uncomplicated entries, but am flummoxed here and there. 
    Beginning to feel like Shaharazad of the Arabian nights, saving her life by telling an endless tale, or Penelope undoing her stitching every night.  The project seem like about the only meaning in my life; I'm loath to finish; it's not long.  Then what?  Time to go!  Finished?  Lots of things coming to an end, as I struggle to get myself to go through clothes, books, cds, bedding.  Everything.  I've several inspiring examples in my life of those who keep or have simplified their lives and homes.  Extremely compelling.  Though no one would believe it, I've always loved an empty room. 
    Summer thoughts on a cloudy day, so damp that when I went outside to try to take a photo of the flowers in front, the camera lens steamed over. 

JUNE 2010

     Folks weary of my whining about trying to be health in the fried chicken/fish-greenbeans&instant mashed potatoes belt.  If you don't like it why don't you leave, they chirp between diet pepsi product refills.  Whereas I weary of them whining (or bragging) about their bad knees, doc appts, bmi-mri-catscan's and colonoscopies, gkids, ex's, face lifts, in-laws.  Why don't  they stop holding forth about that stuff!!  huh?  If I mention I'm sick, dragging around, coughing, no one but me's impressed.  I've got to do better.  Feeling sick this long--big drama for me--just doesn't make it. 
    Something for everyone to whine about in a small town.  The difference may be that I've never known this scale of intimacy.  I know whose mockingbird says what to whom as well as who has chemo where, not as in clinic, but as in body part.  Our American addiction to the need to know oughta be wildly satisfied here.  Gossip?

    Some of my dearest friends are in big cities living lives all but 180 from my Lake Wobegon existence.  They endure world class programs, music, art and of course, food.  They can't imagine living without city excellence.  I'll always miss some of that.
    Maybe this round of intimacy started with a woman telling me how her foster mother decided not to waste money sending her to beauty school.  When she got on her own she won both contests getting her into beauty school-- her dream came true.  Suddenly I understood perfect hair and strapless swim suits in senior exercise!  Then I learned more than I wanted about a baptist marriage--from the husband; twice I responded-- not touching that with a 10' pole.  Noooo.  When Sal pulled me to the side to share backyard nature dramas, I began seeing the pages of a wonderful kids book turn--yes, yes.  Maybe some evening we'll sit on her country back porch and watch stars.  Maybe travel together with our local bard if a grandkid isn't having a birthday or a shower... 
    One never knows what will slip out during a story... kidneys failing...  taken alzheimers drugs for years.  I prefer hearing stories about snakes in trees.  It's all here if one... listens.
    Invited self over to sit on L&J's porch the other Sunday night.  When the 3rd emergency siren zoomed by, J went for the police scanner and we listened in!  "I know the family", J said.
    I was with the prof the other afternoon when he answered the phone (caller i.d. of course), explained the situation to yet another caller wanting walmart, then proceeded to have an extensive catch up with a former student.  Reached for a magazine.
    Last weekend I cooked much of one day--the frig was avalanching--scrumptuous soup and apricot-peach cobbler.  Hoped to snag bible therapy folks for lunch the following Monday.  My scheme was foiled by a trip to the emergency room I missed witnessing (being late as usual).  I was left with 2 reluctant takers both above cooking, would probably have preferred Dairy Queen, but were too hot to fight my invite.  They were a bit confused by fresh food, but came around; I think we all enjoyed the change of pace and a different configuration of personalities.  No longer a part of the in crowd, I enjoyed cooking for 3.
     I support the small farmers market here with missionary zeal, buying from everyone (4 opportunities a week!).  I so appreciate folks growing vegetables and fruits.  One never knows what might appear.  Like, just one basket of gooseberries (still sitting in the frig).  Yesterday for the first time in several years, "out of the blue", a box of transparent apples appeared--never seem 'em in Jax, though I've inquired.  The man who sells anything he can catch had beauties.  Now they're in bags on the floor, waiting to be sauced.  Don't keep well--my opinion.  The frig is stuffed as solid as the Great Wall.  Hasten slowly!  Gooseberries and transparents await!  Time to quarter and cook.
    I'm traveling as though I've waited all winter, which I have.  Shortish trips--Chicago, St. Louis, Minneapolis, long weekends I call them.  Driving.  But I hurry home.  To water front yard flowers, though we've had record breaking rain again this year, and to feed ants.  With ever drop on the kitchen sill I feel guilty; I share the kitchen, especially, with no one.  Now euonymus is threatening to cover the walk; shrubs have shot upward.  The dying maple in front needs replacing...  Sigh.

APRIL 2010 - showers and more

    This is becoming something of a dairy of a manic depressive (as if the obvious needs mentioning), as the seasons zigzag along midwest style.  Spring truly burst open suddenly, though I remained in a gray wintery mood.  Drove self to Albuquerque, Flagstaff, Utah and Colorado for a spring revival after Easter.  Loved driving hwy 36 slowly thru MO and KS, feeling sun again (drying into a prune), visiting old buddies, camping, enjoying inspiring church conference.  Sublime weather; no need to say the world is exquisite everywhere in spring
    My lighter mood lasted several days.
    Then the central Illinois rain and storms re-started.  When I got back, my mini flower strip had deep dry cracks, had hardly seen rain while I was away.  My spirits began flagging.  Again.  I love listening to rain--I think--now we can pull weeds--but once again I can't wrench myself out of the cozy bed mornings.  The other morning I learned the birds start singing almost at 3am on the dot, when I couldn't sleep and took an early morning bath (where I finally fell asleep).  Last Sunday I barely dragged myself to the latest (church) service.  Came out revived, recentered and grateful again.  A sublime late Sunday afternoon library concert lifted us higher.  The frosting on the day that started so slowly came by surprise around the big round table at the usual Sunday early evening senior supper gathering.  Like migrants, several lutherans returned after months away, and out of the mouth of one of the most proper came the tale of her pursuit of truth re: who's hanging out with whom in the dressing room as seen through a clothes rack in Penny's!  Perhaps a tiny woman in the size small section can get away with this!  We listened with jaws dropped to this improbable investigation from it's unlikely source.  Nothing more satisfying that a surprise drama!
    Headed into the new week in pretty good spirits.  After senior singers practice we adjourned to the rummage sale around us.  In the parking lot as I chatted with our coach, looked over at my car, parked at the farthest end of the parking strip and saw a sizable bash in the bumper.  One of the group I'd be singing and rummaging with, had hit and run Silver Bell!  In an instant, my attitude and spirits plunged.  Again.  Those sly, lying seniors! I grumbled and groused.  My unsympathetic listeners laughed and told me how run over medians and such.  ha ha--suck it up, sister.
    Who needs a yoyo; I am one.

MARCH 2010 - Surviving

    The the name of the game since October has been survival (my view only, nat).   What a tough haul--this long winter.
    Took at least a month to adjust to the shock of winter starting so early.  Became sorta hysterical, not wanting to believe what was happening.  The longer the snow sat, the funnier.  Got sick early.  Then got through the holidays without my usual glitches (some illness) by ignoring the season--not baking a thing or mailing off a box.   First time in decades, if not ever, I stayed put, didn't go anywhere.   
     To my great disappointment my most meaningful Christmas even--taize with Dominicans-- was canceled (flu scare).  Christmas Eve I was grateful to be included with D's family and friends.  Since I hadn't got to early Cmas eve mass with everyone, left after dinner to pick up Prof K for church in the country.  En route, stuck in mud--rescued by Baptists coming out of their service. 
    Christmas day-- congenial lunch in the Prof's tiny kitchen with a couple misc faculty.  Paper towel placemats, baked squash, white & sweet potatoes; turkey, canned gravy; I brought green vegetables, whipped cream...; Sharon butter, other essentials and good music....  The show was stolen by John's homemade pumpkin pie on blue patterned Russian plates.  Prof K did his best to carry out his new resolution to drink more.  Good conversation.
    Although there wasn't all that much snow, Christmas week's stuck around into January, was joined by more that stayed into February.  Come early March, snow was still piled in parking lots, and drifted in ditches.  Ha ha.  To understate, I ran out of good humor, not to mention energy.  Probably not the only one.  I sure knew it.
    To survive, more or less successfully holed up and dug into family lines I'd been waiting to do.  On the computer I pulled together both mom's Layer and dad's Hemphill information I've been slaving over into tidy outlines and sent files to a brother or two, hoping they'd be interested. 
Then in February, the computer crashed, knocking me almost all the way back to Go.  Years of photos vanished.  Haven't recovered--mentally or genealogy-wise
    Another memory very much alive of this winter, is the plague of pseudo ladybugs. 
"Ladybugs" moved into cracks in houses from fields last fall by the millions.  They survive by sheer numbers, crunching underfoot.  This week, I crunched and spit one out.  Blech.  The first thing I do when I've been away for the weekend--or most mornings--is pick up upside down bugs (small, half rounds, difficult to get a nail under).  All winter they buzzed into lights, tucked under pillows, walked walls, ceilings; laid on the floor, wings poked out, dead or dying.  One of my associates gives them the run of the house, like dogs and cats.  Gloomy as I am, I still don't allow outdoor critters inside.

    Continue to learn about the people of Jacksonville as Col. Vern Fernandes entitled his book.  Several times lately breakfast mates have mentioned things that were happening, say, at their church or an organization function that would appreciate our financial support.  When I scuttle off to said event, I notice whoever promoted the event, lured me in, is not there.  Reminds me of the "do as I say" philosophy in Idaho, where folks had no intention of following their own advice but delusionally expected others to!  Ha!  Maybe once.  Where's community?  Off at private parties I'm thinking, perhaps the Chicago Opera; visiting grandkids.  There really is a group here called The Club.  Now, who wouldn't want to belong to a club that would have them (and not others).  Ha ha, sour grapes.
    Month after month I remember, I've pondered the phrase "mean-spirited".  Perhaps a step beyond stubborn?  I know mean folks were once hurt.  However, I don't think I've ever been in the midst of so many who enjoy making snide remarks, lying, hating and making fun,  Old folks, not children!  Why me?  Sometimes I just walk away.  More lessons.

    Mrs. Mayflower (the same who attended the lecture a year ago few could hear) and I attended a fundraiser the other night.  We're both considered "new" (to town), having
attended high school here, but wandered off for decades, only to show back up much later.  Those who did not leave tend to ignore us.  Mrs. M-F and I are genially assigned tables at the backs of events.  Most recently however, we were seated with 2 friendly, out of town couples, first time attendees (folks who ought to be met and greeted by the Most Charming).  Luckily they encountered us returnees; we were delighted to have company!   Surely the long timers who ignore us, don't think Mrs. M-F or I yearn to steal the short supply of the male escorts!   It's the only thing I can think of!

    As I dropped off Mrs. M-F she mentioned one of her sons is going to move into her home when she dies.  I was stunned and delighted that she confided this.  So few are willing to talk straightforward about life going on after death.  Oh, probably more folks than in my former life out west, but still, death is somewhat verboten here, even among those who have known each other generations, and could die at any moment, even among those undergoing chemo....  Have to agree it seems like many folks go on forever here--lotta tough stock here!  However, it this hasn't been a winter where thoughts turn to death, then there isn't one!
    Although I have a sense of "home" I haven't had for decades, I've come to recognize a loneliness midst people with extensive friends and families, literally closed clubs.  It's been a helluva winter.  If it wasn't for out of state friends, I'd be totally adrift.  After Christmas I faced this loneliness and started reaching out, calling "new" people.  My first attempt failed, but now, every few weeks I spend a pleasant afternoon drinking tea downtown with "new to me" faces.  Suz and I talk ourselves blue.  I'm grateful.  Next week--the first classmate lunch in numerous overcast moons. 

    Surely there were amusing incidents this bleak winter.  Let's see....  No stunning funerals like last winter; au contraire several notably unpleasant ones that made one wince.   Sobering visits to hospital while J. had feeding tube and port installed.  Watched her get weaker and weaker, unable to rest.  Important lesson: the system is not my path.
    Bank sponsored cruise came and went in February.  Weather--sublime.  Otherwise, rather outa my comfort zone, this experience of way too much.  Needlesstosay this contemplative is not a born cruiser, though I do love to pieces being on and in water. 
    At least for now, any humor from the winter has been wiped out by the hard drive crash that happened on return from the Caribbean.  What a teaching of letting go, simplicity.  Indeed, be careful what you ask for.
    OK.  This just happened when I stopped by Barb's to see if she needed groceries.  This time she did.  One of her caregivers brought in a tv (far as I know B and I have the only tv free homes in the area).  I found  B and her helper blissfully watching what should have been an X rated nature show, something of a spring mating spectacular.  I shifted and rolled my eyes as B laboriously wrote her shopping list.  (How I hate to shop for "applesauce" when I'm sure there's a preferred brand and size!!)  Piles of snakes writhed, praying mantis and black widows chomped lovers, others humped, thumped, bumped, lumped, pumped, rumped, you name it, whatever was near.  To keep folks awake, each drama was but a few seconds, jumping from one uhhh scene to the next.  I was a wreck, beside myself to bolt from the tv to the store.  Why me!!  Equanimity, Jeannie, equanimity!!  One never know what one will come upon at an early spring stop at a senior's abode.  Back to the peaceful ashram!

    I'll do most anything to get myself to exercise.  When the machine room where I enjoyed reading while I stepped (but loathed the tvs) became dreadfully hot last summer, began spending more time in the weight room.  It's agreeably cool, crowded with rusty basic equipment, though the floor and a few ripped benches were recently been replaced.  (Never thought anything was wrong with the old floor, but no one asked.)
    Takes a rather high degree of mindfulness to negotiate the maze of benches and bars jutting out.  When I stop in late mornings, most of the fellows don't mind if I take the edge off the radio volume (generally the oldies station).  Lately no "Christian" has yelled at me for lowering the volume and turned the Christian station even louder.  In loose plaid pants and tank top decorated with colorful frogs, I zigzag to the back of the room, slip between machines, face a mirror, and try to get myself to do qigong standing.  Goal: 15 minutes of stillness (accomplished occasionally).  Either because of the current economy or new competition, few others stop in.  Sometimes I take advantage of being alone, walking meditatively through the machines, "opening and closing" arms with each step.
    Usually I have at least part time company.
    Evidently I'm a bit ADD.  Watching bodies and overhearing banter keeps me standing when I might quit.  I love studying alignment and how bodies move.  Several friendly young fellows are regulars, along with law enforcement men (retired and nearing).  While they run through their routines, I stand "like a post", or isolate repetitive tai chi moves like "cloudy hands" of "brush pony".  Working in pairs, the men often chatter and gossip, ignoring me.  Terrifically entertaining while I'm supposed to be holding still.  When the jokes or cracks get out of line, I pick up my swimsuit and bag and announce, "Whoops, time to leave".
    Other women come in occasionally, serious young workout gals--a prison guard or student.
    This week I was extra entertained listening to officers discuss what they anticipate their wives cooking for Thanksgiving.  When the junior officer (whose smooth lifts of the bar especially impress me) confessed his wife doesn't cook, I cringed as I anticipated responses.  Lured by the subject matter, a roving custodian paused and offered the classic retort, "You need to teach her to cook".  I was interested that the subject was ignored among happily married men.
    Much time was devoted to detailing and comparing sweet potato and pumpkin pie.  As a cranberry lover, I was surprised to hear raves about cranberries.  When the officer with no cook wife said he didn't like cranberries, the men turned on him until I heard him say "Maybe he ought to try 'em".  I was floored: when was the last time I heard anyone say they'd be willing to try something they didn't think they liked!  I'm his secret admirer in the corner.
    Need I mention, the bellies on all of us in the room that day cross thresholds first?  A couple of young fellows who work out have wasp like waists--almost a thing of the past in Illinois!  A few young ones have excellent posture, something I really, really admire.  Mostly we enjoy Thanksgiving all year and it shows.
    I particularly enjoy the wisdom of several mature men who workout regularly, who have given me shoulder ideas, beyond the conventional just work harder!  Most of these men know their muscles and workouts well, something I appreciate.

    As for my take on that favorite Thanksgiving subject--cranberries--which ran simultaneously during the officers conversation in the weight room--on this 4th (I think) Illinois Thanksgiving...  This was the first Thanksgiving I remember since the 1970s that I did not chop or cook cranberries.  Started making Beard's raw horseradish cranberry relish in the late 1970s and never stopped.  Ever since acquiring the Vegetarian Epicure while working at Denver Public Library, early 1970s, I've also cooked up cardamom cranberries.   Brought both cranberries to any gathering, whether or not I was asked.  (Often they went home with me, untouched, while canned berries triumphed.)
    However, since returning to the prairie, Thanksgiving has changed.  Not only do people no longer cook much but families and definitions of "friends" have changed.  Wish I had a list of where I've spent Thanksgiving since moving west--all the total strangers who've included me in all the different places (Salt Lake city, Grand Junction, Seattle?); a dozen or more agreeable Bellingham Thanksgiving gatherings where we all cooked and washed dishes and I stayed a night or two; a couple where I cooked...  I remember food, people, slide shows, after dinner walks...)
    Fortunately or unfortunately this year my strongest memory of Tgiving 2009 is likely to be Stan explaining his ear wax project.  If I'm not mistaken, he lives to offend.  I laugh inappropriately; Stan likes to gross folks out.  Who's perfect!  Delighted he can hear better; can't knock self care!  But that's my memory.
    Nevertheless I'll keep looking for an ear trumpet.


    Being such a grinch, hate to admit I rather enjoyed Halloween this year.  Hung basket of peanuts-in-shell on front door (cynics: porch light on) with help yourself sign.  Headed off to the symphony Halloween concert that promised symphony and audience in costume.  I'd managed to find (minor miracle) the mask I got while living in Seattle.  And the feathers hadn't disintegrated-- 20 years later.  With black cape and pants, I was off to sit in the balcony on a beautiful crisp full moon evening, after weeks of soggy rain.
    The first thing I noticed was a policewoman at the timpani!  So convincing, decided she was the real thing.  (Not so.)  Concert started with Bach's classic organ toccata.  Then the conductor stepped out of a casket, swishing an attractive black and red cape, which he abandoned shortly explaining it cramped his movement.  (He needz to werk on hez transylvanian accent!)  Although I couldn't keep my eyes off the policewoman, slowly I recognized the slip of congregational woman violinist wearing desert storm camouflage, complete with pants tucked in boots.  Probably one of those peaceniks--perfect!  Who would have thunk it.  After a while, recognized the mormon cellist in surgery gear--from spacey gaiter booties to head cover; by second half the white coat was off (too hot I'm sure).  The small fellow playing first violin (presumably a guest professional) sported a tidy set of wings.
    From Witchcraft to Night on Bare Mountain, Danse Macabre, Berlioz' part 4 March to the Scaffold in Symphony Fantastique, Batman theme...  I couldn't hold still during Phathom of the Opera medley!
    Another high point.  At half time when I walked to the main floor, what to my wondering eyes did appear but the insufferably pompous retired teacher who can't lower himself to attend local productions donned out as a near perfect Rumpole, in barrister's wig and gown.  Personally I'd rather have ale with real Rumpole than our own ill tempered clone, however, it was an excellent show (he took home first).  (Later I learned the secret to the unexpected gift of his presence was a free ticket; though I'm inclined to believe the opportunity to dress up was the real thing.  Now we've got his number!)
    Turns out wearing a mask suited me; too bad it tickled so!  I usually sit alone; everyone busy with friends, why not be incognito? and let folks try to bait me to talk.  Since I'm in the midst of the sniffs, all the more reason not to open my mouth and start coughing.
    My opinion--the symphony never looked or sounded better (like Rumpole-for-the-night, I've been known to wince repeatedly).  Alas came home without my dark Italian shawl.  Retraced steps from balcony to car, no sign of it.  Trick or Treat!  Maybe I'll run an add in the college paper...


    What happened to fall!?  Moved off the porch and almost immediately brought out the down comforter.  (Now I can't find the seamseal for the new tent.)  Spent our 2-1/2 days of Indian summer, waiting for tax phone calls, much like the kettle that never boils.  So tonight on the way home, just as it turned dark, parked at the laundromat and walked a loop in the old neighborhood.  Looked in vain for the new moon.  How can one lose a moon!  Lost in trees and scattered clouds I guess.
     With sudden warm days, gobs of "Lady Bugs" appeared.  (We're told they're beetles disguised as lady bugs.)  Whatever they are, they're everywhere. Somehow I hoped we weren't going to have them this year!  Don't recall them as a child--ahh, an import!  Pick them off the white bedspread I added to the front window to darken the bedroom another notch.  Tidy people are probably going nuts.  Being a camper pays off.  I flick them off without much drama, though I winced to find beetle wing under the covers this morning.  Wish they weren't inside but they beat raccoons, now that I think of it, and ticks hands down.  (Recent police report: raccoon fell through roof into occupied room.)
    Jag brought home a church pie and offered to share (he knew I hadn't been invited to the gourmet party the other night.)  Decided to bring zucchini linguini along as a pre-pie offering.  Picked up Jag at school where he mentioned he'd invited cat consultant girlfriend.  Whatever.  Ended up recommending they start a 12 step cat dependent program in the neighborhood.  Though dinner was appreciated ("great broccoli and onions" --hadn't used either), the true focus of the evening was the successful relief of the constipated cat, achieved in moments by switching to designer litter.  Why me--must I be surrounded by the pet crazed!  Yup.  This was no Garrison Keillor skit, but my life.
    It was foolish of me to fish for interest in an orphan thanksgiving in front of these family folks.  For his amusement, Jag suggested I invite notoriously unpleasant married couples.  Shudda forgone apricot pie and dropped the rascal at his door and gone straight home!  Oh that I weren't such a sucker for homemade pie.  Food!--the root of all evil!  As Jag and friend practiced making fun of their new target, she/target, gathered up pans and left over farmers market tomatoes and savoy cabbage, and headed out, reminding herself how much she loves small town life.  She does?  (As one of my buddies moans--time to get a life!!  Indeed.)
     Hate to see the farmers market finish.  It's been glorious and now it's pumpkin, squash and apple time.  One of my favorite sellers is resourceful fellow willing to sell anything that can't out run him.  He offered the first purple grapes I've had since childhood, or so it seems.  Juiced 'em and went to heaven.  Still haven't had a hard frost.
    This afternoon we seniors sang at coach Mary's mom's nursing home.  I was pleased to see a couple of water exercise class gals, one now also living at the home.  Several of the tough singers in the back row, enjoyed watching me sit and jump up from a very wet chair.  Moved over with the men.  Coach was in good form, walking well again--yeah!  Between songs, she presented grand stories.
    Evidently we do what it takes to get through tough times, others be hanged.  I oughta know.  I snap, crackle and pop regularly.  Why oh why didn't I run away to the convent (and find the same lessons waiting).  Ha!  I'm impressed by current stories of iron willed folks exploding at each other.  It's tempting to use the cliché "mild mannered elders", but it's rarely the case; most are fierce.  How often these days I/we get to make the decision whether to take three breaths, or snap and let it rip.  Touchy times.
    Speaking of elders/nonogenarians, been making calls to learn if I can be helpful to mom's old birdwatching friend Barb.  Seems I can't.  If she doesn't want a power of attorney, so be it, it'll all work out.  This newcomer will learn yet.
    I love reading local columns by the regional Mark Twain.  Freida has a way of putting things in perspective, just in the nick of time, that I appreciate no end.  They're my idea of a insightful ramblings with humor.  Look forward to the upcoming indigenous play by said story teller.  (Why am I so surprised that the center of recidivist religious and social life here, who specializes in sharing contentious news, scorns the bard he won't read?)
    Something tells me, despite predictions, almanacs and caterpillars, it's gonna be a long winter.  After all, it started way early.  Just received a query about sharing yoga with a support group come April.  April?  As in next year, 2010??  Who knows who'll still be around?  We may have done each other in, like overcrowded rats!  More likely, upended like overstuffed turkeys from so many church dinners!  They're well underway!


    Whata mild summer.  Boy did those whose remaining brain cells melt in the heat luck out!  Of course, others "froze".  (I always shuddered at the sign in Boise saying something like "Never Fear, Heat is Near".)
    Need I mention it's a heck of a wild world these days?  (Of course, not all agree.)  One of the inmates here (I refer to the entire town as the state hospital) is oblivious--"What do you mean by crazy world", she says.
    Didn't start sitting on the back porch until well into the summer, but when I did, I fully relocated, blissfully enjoying the glider, hours at a time.  Initially started going through boxes from the garage but that didn't last long.  Loved listening to unprecedented rainfall.
    More or less stayed home 'til the end of August, save jaunts to surrounding counties, plus one to IN to meet cousin Ann for the first time since toddler hood.  (Noted a dandy lake to put the kayak in some year.)  Genealogy prowls are still my main excuse for visiting central Illinois courthouses.  Love those midwest oaks, rivers and valleys, as one goes east.
    I know it's a crazy world, because after years of safe driving I've been clobbered twice on the main drag.  Once from behind, last time T boned on the right side.  Although I felt kinda lousy, laughed when I thought I recognized the officer.  When I asked if we hadn't just met, he said he files hundreds of reports.  I WILL no longer drive on Morton.  Real jumpy now.  Though the body shop fellow I'm getting to know thought the toyota might be totaled, heard yesterday the check is in the mail.  Doors and leaks to be fixed.  Again.  Starting to look for a prius--the RAV's a few miles from 200,000-- and staying off Morton..
    Whenever I can, I put the tent up in eastern IL to listen to night sounds.  Don't remember the occasion, but there must have been a chance of rain 'cause I pulled on the gooey rainfly, stuck to the tent, to spread it, when the tent began splitting in rows and I knew it was the end of an era.  Deeply offended--absolutely love "Cloudy Hands" as I named the tent!  Only used about 20 years!  No replacing, I learned; apparently dome tents are "out" of fashion.  Ended up with a biker tent, as in motorcycle, that may do the trick.
    Since I purchased the new tent from an unfamiliar store, figured I'd better try it out on the back deck.  Ended up moving in for the rest of the summer, putting rainfly on and taking off daily (for both bird and rain protection), drying bedding often, since it continues to rain.  Sleep so much better outdoors.  Alas the tent is red and can be seen from the street, not to mention neighbors....
    Summer got better when I moved outside.
    Also a wonderful summer for ants.  I've "fed" them all summer on the kitchen windowsill.  Only a few weeks when they weren't parading.  Perhaps the rain?  Hate to have the whole house sprayed.
    Off traveling some this month.  Thought I'd missed Cruise Night, but no, it was tonight, so I stayed in--still recall blundering into it on Morton, of course, another Sept.  Earlier today I'd gone to the Steam Show to see coal and gas fed engines saw lumber; to eat beans and wander in the mud.  Allegedly between the Steam Show and Cruise Night, Jax population doubles.  I'll dash back tomorrow to see if I can get more sorghum for those who don't like mud.  Good exercise?  Ran into Steve who it turns out is an antique hawk; slogged slowly around the giant flea market.  He snapped up an intriguing WW2 watercolor, saying You Wouldn't Understand, one of his favorite dismissals--maybe true, maybe not.  Grrr.  While he caught his breath, we chatted with the trader.  I admired her remarkably easily crossed legs--no back problems, she affirmed.  She and S. swapped smoker and COPD stories, meds and treatments.  Steve advised her re: medicare.  Coal smoke drove him home.
    Fall means Met broadcasts start soon!  Yeah.  Today I was disgusted that the breakfast group heavies somehow managed to snigger about sex nearly the entire time.  Why me!  Happens more often than I like to admit.  The ring leaders never tire of their same claims and jokes.  Mind you, we're all social security drawing seniors (except for a young twosome who keep mum at such times).  Eventually someone managed to derail the dirty minded seniors going on like grade schoolers who think they're shocking rather than b-o-r-i-n-g) by bringing up the upcoming scandalous new Tosca production.  Thank you!  Possibly we were ripe for anything!
    Time to turn in!  'night!

JUNE 2009

Dear Ina,
...    Essentially everything is pretty much the same here--I'm fat, moody, busy, genealogizing, happy, depressed, lonely, crowded and overwhelmed, same same.  (Never bored.)  Life is good enough.  I have shelter (G. added attic fan); more food than I can eat in a lifetime; more clothes than I could wear in 10 lifetimes. Restless about church.  Write a lot; read a bit.  Visit a couple of folks who aren't well.  Otherwise it's all about me, something I'm not terribly comfortable with.  Write 2 prisoners (try as I do, keep getting them confused).  Miss the West terribly; enjoy people and history here enormously.  Like coach Mary announces at the end of singing: "We're done singing".   I'm done writing.

MAY 2009

    Have I mentioned becoming a regular "at the opera"!  Right here in no river city (more or less).  Bumped into a woman in TX this winter who waxed eloquent about The Met's live broadcasts and thought, ha--check that out when I get back.  There's been a click ...urrh group going over to Springfield for months now.  Why wait forever to be included?  Seeing "Turnandot" at Santa Fe Opera years ago (recall only losing the coral bracelet I finally dared wear, and taking along a light wool shawl from mom), and a regional production of Madame Butterfly in Durango CO (with an Auduboner in the chorus), are the sum total of my exposure to live opera.  Fondly remember dear Bellingham friend Barbara listening religiously to The Met Saturday afternoons.  Try as I have, time and again I turn off the radio when it's opera.  However, loving music, esp vocal, as I do, why not crash the party?
    Knocked cold by Lucia di Lammermoor.  Beside myself to "discover" Bel Canto.  Where have I been!  Thank you, passing stranger in TX.
    Been a "regular" at the opera ever since.  What a winter bonus!  Everyone insists these shows are live, however they look like movies to me.  That's how unsophisticated I am.  (Ever since I saw The Emperor's New Clothes at Mac as a kid, no one's slipped anything over on me.  Movie to me.)  (No Idea what HD is.)
    Not that I'm invited to carpool.  I'm usually already in Springfield for meditation, just head west down Wabash to the theater.
    As the weather warms, the theater's less crowded.  The Jacksonville contingent is still strong.  It's heavily episcopalian, save (ha ha) one Muslim and one undecided/uncertain (me).  When the theater was crowded, we sat in clumps according to differently able.  Now that the crowd's thinned, we scatter all over the theater almost as though we've never seen each other before.  Jon who doesn't see well, always sits in a first row.  Sometimes with Stephan, depending on his (S's) physical stamina.  Jane hobbles up the aisle on bad knees.  Kathy who doesn't see at all, sits happily in the top back row or where Chas escorts the heavy (church) benefactors on either side of him.  It's an seriously elderly, peculiar crowd.
    Today was the most entertaining layout yet.  (I) scampered (I wish) up the stairs, ahead of the crowd, choosing the middle of the 3rd row from the top row, which included a sour local character I'm beginning to recognize to my left.  He was joined by friends of my parents.  I beckoned to Dave, particularly, to join me, without response.  Just below me sat Carrie; below her, Dave.  John2 sat alone yet another row down.  Never did notice where the recent chemo returnee sat.  Sometimes folks attempt to talk across the rows, though most are among the hearing or torso twisting challenged.  I attempted to talk up to Kath, but she, as always, was deep in conversation.  Impossible to snag that woman.
    In my enthusiasm for the final opera of the season, forgot I was v. short of sleep.  La Cenerentola was just beginning, when I heard my esteemed neighbor's (several seats left) hearing aid squeal and considered moving.  The next thing I knew, I awoke, breathing uhh heavily, as in snoring.  Wince--my poor neighbors below!  Deep seats and lights off was irresistible.  Before falling asleep a second time, heard snoring a few rows down.  Can't expect anyone to believe I've literally been sitting on the edge of my sleep--darn--SEAT--with enthusiasm during the other performances (except when I closed my eyes in order to adjust to a 50 year old woman playing 15 year old Madame Butterfly... just a brief snooze.)  Later, as I apologized to Carrie just below; she confessed she too had lost consciousness-- only momentarily she explained.  I knew better.  Others flatly denied sleeping, which makes the snores all the funnier.
    At half time, as I call it, a clearly annoyed woman quickly moved out of the dorm.  Don't blame her; I was sincerely embarrassed by my zzzzs.  Hadn't chosen my seat with sleep in mind.
    Ok, ok, another opera just came to mind-- slept through Mozart's entire Magic Flute in Seattle.  Walked into the auditorium, saw the gray scenery and costumes and was out for the evening.  Hence, not on resume of operas seen.
    To add to the surreal experience of watching The Met in central IL, in a theater lightly scattered with folks, I was sure I was seeing a red dot glowing on a head.  Finally determined-- not a reflection.  Some kind of headphone gear or hearing implant??
    By the second act I was rested, fully engaged.  The audience children didn't go off until the final amazing group sings (whatever they're properly called).  Their crying was mostly drowned out by sopranos, tenors and baritones.  Whoever would inflict a 3 hour opera on little kids????  We are indeed a crazy people.
    I was moved by the short black tenor prince winning beautiful blond Cinderella (not that I approve of blondes).  I'd fallen in love with both voice and personality of the black tenor in "The Audition".  Still haven't fully recovered from learning young Brian only lived another year after his stunning success.  No!
    Afterwards I walked in the woods at Washington Park before heading back to the barn, as it were, to hear Prairie Home Companion, my Saturday 5pm date for years now.  Tried out the swing on the back porch.  Yup, the next thing I knew I was waking up, but without disturbing others this time.  Really missed that night of sleep.
    Look forward to next winter--Tosca, Aida, Der Rosenkavalier, Les Contes de Hoffmann...
    Time to sleep in the right place!!  'Night now...

MARCH 2009

    Can so easily wile away hours writing that I have to hold myself back each winter!  Small towns are veritable gold mines of stories if one's easily entertained like I am.  Two weeks ago the big news was a septuagenarian running into Dairy Queen (drove forward instead of back).  Verified this.  One of the hazards of my rare health kicks (walking 'round community park) is passing DQ.  Waited a whole year for the annual March special-- mint oreo blizzard-- to return.  Detoured across the street--saw the bashed in wall--picked up an oreo blizzard and put on 1000 calories as I walked around the park.  Not fair.
    Been angry and cranky 'bout this weight biz.  Seems one has to give up everything, the rest of one's life, in order to battle hulkdom.  I'm haunted by the memory of the slight elder I met last fall who eats nothing whatsoever the day she has strawberry shortcake at September's Chatauqua.  Clear evidence life isn't fair.  I'm furious at the idea of giving up food.  How American can one get!  Got the winter crankies pretty bad this month.
    I like it cold and nasty, the way I feel!  Everyone else is whining about the weather.  Suits me to a T.
    The other evening I noticed a vegetable soup benefit for the prairie museum.  My spirits lifted at the thought of a healthy soup social.  (Couldn't interest the Friday night fish fry regulars.)  Although I sat with "strangers", before I'd fully squeezed in, several of us recognized each other.  My elderly neighbor on the right--a classic ageless farm woman--stunned me with easy friendliness and perfect hearing!
    Passed up the dinner sandwich and had soup....  Was half way through (soup), when my young neighbor on the left pointed to the (obvious) hamburger.  We smiled-- midwest vegetable soup--soup with vegetables v. soup without vegetables.  Heartland this may be, but menu wise, the area is not all that vegetable friendly outside french fries and green beans.  Before I left, I fished lemon filling out of a large piece of (commercial) lemon pie.
    One needs a will of iron to lose weight in this region of fried foods and mega desserts!
    Surely I can find news not linked to food!  Wait, wait, maybe this.
    The usual history buffs headed to the college one evening when a historical sociologist came to town.  I wrote a classmate:
    Since everyone sits on the ends of rows, blocking others from getting in, I waddled across the entire row to sit by a familiar but ferocious, bright eyed, fellow recidivist (as I call those of us who moved back to town).  She returned to town 'bout the same time I did-- after being away even longer than me--60 years!  Looking down her aristocratic nose at the rest of us who haven't (lived), she likes to say, "I've REALLY lived."  I'm sure she has.  Enjoy her 'cause she's wild about history.
     Because Mrs. Mayflower (who cares!) has Indiana roots, I mentioned I was looking for the IN marriage of a preacher gggfather.  "Go down to the church here, and push, push, push.  You've got to push people to find things!" she reminded me.  Right.  Heard the lecture before.  Imagined myself throwing a tantrum down at The Church, folks paying no attention at all.  Why should they.  Perhaps for a Mayflower descendant they'd ask how high to jump?
     A local prof (short and bearded) introduced the speaker.  Referring to Prof. Beard, the aristocrat turned and hissed, "Sure wouldn't wanna meet him in a dark alley".  (I rather like Prof. Beard.)
     Clamped my jaw tight.  My mind was practically shouting, "Wouldn't want to meet YOU (meaning Mrs. Mayflower) in a dark alley!!!"  Give me a bearded prof anytime over a fierce elder.
    If I'd thought aloud, Mrs. MF wouldn't have heard.  Like ever so many of us here, my fellow recidivist is fairly hard of hearing.  (Not me, I come from a line of CIA quality listeners.)  The evening got funnier.  The speaker was so far from the microphone, I knew half the gray heads couldn't hear a word.  Early on, on behalf of the elders I announced loudly, "Can't hear!" (not being a pusher, I didn't yell), cupped hand by ear, etc.  No dice.  The students behind suggested we move forward (pretty sharp, eh?)  If I hadn't been blocked in, I might have fearlessly gone up and spoken to Prof. Beard.
    Unable to hear, Mrs MF began reading the speaker's book.  After 20 minutes I realized the speaker wasn't going to get to the subject so I sashshayed back across the row and headed home.  Students were happily text messaging.  Everyone happy, I guess.  No one listening.
    Life in Jax.  Watch out for old ladies in dark alleys.
    A few weeks later I seized another opportunity to hear Burlingame speak on his Lincoln research.  He knew how to use a microphone and how to say a lot in a short time.  Stunning.  A faculty friend clarified that our expensive "luncheon" tickets were for the speaker (not the meal).  Luncheon turned out to mean lunch meat, soup and potato chips).  Having kept myself away from potato chips for several weeks, I couldn't hold back.

Yours truly,
    dreaming of asparagus, baked vegetables, fresh spinach, beets, and of course new peas.  Must be time for spring!!


    Mid January:  Digging out of winter hibernation to drive south, get to know new country.  Is it really warmer where everyone's heading?  Last winter I swore I'd take a break--here it is.  Really cold, yet I drag my feet.  How can I pack up to leave, when one thing leads to another!  Not only does the threat of travel inspire me to do what I shudda-- laundry, cmas cards, dishes, endless unfinished projects--there's stuff I absolutely gotta do to leave--organize plants for absentee watering; stock up on engine oil; chose music, books, magazines, books on "tape"/CDs; find extra cigarette lighter adapter.  Assemble food box; print maps.
    Keen to sew together the wool sweater I quit knitting in the early '80s.  Found crazed knitter willing to finish my unfinished project.  How much did it cost?  Our lips are sealed.  Finishing will have to wait 'til the return.
     Veni, vidi, vici.  Back from The South.  Two weeks later, can barely remember I was warm for a week, swam outside (Austin), wore t-shirt, camped comfortably under the stars, read by candle light.  Loved visiting Austin's designer grocery store--mint malt balls--yum yum--and other delicacies (most of which probably looked better than they were).  Still dream of the case of gelato.  Possibly I'm in a lighter mood, able to tell days are longer.  Rested deeply.  However, as soon as I opened the overdraft I was more or less back to same old, same old.
    Back home, falling into habit up picking up supper in take out styrofoam from the tiny catering biz across from the grocery store we had our first popsicles as kids.  Last week I looked at the set of savory dollops of beiges--smothered pork chop, corn, cheesy potatoes, plus cool whipped fruit cocktail and thought: home--love it or leave it.  Not a green leaf in sight.  Don't let my Seattle friends see this!  (Hold on, belly!!)  Fall progress with TOPS vanished over the holidays.
    Over the years, eating out has become the main way to socialize winters.  Last week, locker room chums met for lunch one noon, another noon, high school class mates.  The highlight of the classmates get together was the fight in the parking lot, right by my car.  Cops had arrived by the time I took my camera to the window, and handcuffs were on.  (Later, I was chagrined that I didn't pray first.)  The scuffle in the parking lot says a lot about how challenging both winter and the economy is right now.  Lotta us on edge.
    One January genealogy Saturday turned into a long one.  At the local library met another crazed long time researcher I'd heard about.  She tells stories of her Portuguese family, but, of course, doesn't write 'em up like I think she oughta.  Time rolled as I listened.  Vowed to get back with her to write up her fine stories.  Imagine a mom holding Saturday etiquette classes for the kids!!  Yet another unrecorded  living treasure, right here in No River City.  Ahh, the past; I'm in the right place.
    Slowly, slowly I get to know "neighbors".  The other morning at the Y, a social dam broke, for a moment, and several of us talked openly in the weight room.  K struggled to show this highly disconnected body/mind (me) shoulder strengtheners--how uncoordinated I am!  Hear, but can't follow.  When I saw K at the wall, I was soon demo-ing alignment.  Fun to swap expertise.  No speeding up Getting To Know You.
    I sense a lot of us were affected, directly and indirectly, by the January suicide of a treadmill buddy.  I will always seeing him listening to books in the machine room.  And miss his warm, devilish smile and wave.  Always.  A lot of us feel cheated that he's not growing old with us.
    Last Sunday night I had what I refer to (though not to faces) as the widows and orphans group over for supper, about 18 of us.  All week I hauled stuff out of the main rooms to the back porch or back room.  Put leaves in table; borrowed others.  Set places with all the silverware I had, then moved to plastic.  Emptied much of hall closet for coats.  One thing led to another of course, as I dug out bowls and pots.  End of week began soaking beans, cooking soups, grumbling to myself about how picky we all are.  Maybe seniors have earned the right to demand this and that, and leave food on their plates!??  Recalled gloomingly all the prime food left on plates to throw out, when I did something similar 2 years ago--precious home canned tomatoes!!  Not appreciated.  It's all "just food".  Home cooking appreciators these folks are not.  Nor are they clean plate clubbers.  Just because I slaved over the stove and sink, who am I to tell elders to try something before they take a lot and I end up throwing it out!  We sure live in the land of too much.
    With everyone's help, the evening went well.  To my surprise, several women brought side dishes that fit well; one Lutheran, a hostess valentine's gift!!  One never ever knows about folks, that's for sure.  Folks didn't hurry off.  What's to do in February?  Two long tables socialized.  Nan scooped my gingerbread by bringing cake, which folks always prefer.  However, that was a blessing; the gingerbread turned out to be pudding, in the oven long after the cake was served, delicious to the couple of us who tried it.
    I was assertive this time about everyone staying away from the dishes and dishwasher.  Appreciated that Jan folded up her borrowed tables while I was escorting elders out to cars.  After everyone left, leisurely loaded and ran dishwasher twice, as I listened to Christmas carols.  Then collapsed into bed early, unable to stand up another moment.  How people host big dinners effortlessly is utterly beyond me.

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