My blog. I'm opionated and I just want to sound off.
This is a way of making myself write something coherent and grammatically correct almost every day. I'm opinionated and need an outlet. I'm also prone to flights of fancy. Thanks for stopping by. |
| My dad's life has been about food. When he was 12, he went to work in a grocery store as a box boy. He'd carry groceries for people 2 or 3 blocks, and maybe he'd get a nickel tip. The store was downtown on Main Street. You had to be 13 to work, so Grandma told them he was 13. His father worked on the railroad and would be gone from Monday to Friday. Grandpa was tight with money and sometimes didn't give his wife enough to last all week. She'd take young Harry's tip money without asking and buy bread for the family.
In high school, he still worked at the store, but more hours. He did a little of everything. He ended up in the butcher shop and stayed there after he finished school. When we were kids, he had gone to a food distributor, fresh meat, frozen foods, and other packaged foods. He was a manger there and did everything. Eventually, he worked part-time at another grocery to make extra money for a growing family. When the distributor went out of business--the owner was elderly and ready to quit--, he went to a small upscale grocer in the butcher shop. When they were sold out, he went to yet another upscale grocer, with a nice clientele.
He left there at age 78, and within a few weeks, he was back at work in a small butcher shop in an exclusive little market. There's a gourmet chocolate shop, two restaurants, a spice store, a bakery, a seafood store, a cheese and wine store, a florist who does not deliver, and this little organic butcher shop. He's almost 90 and still working.
He's not a chef, but he knows meat recipes. He can tell you how to cook a piece of meat, what kind to buy for what you're preparing. He can cook soup the way they did in the store. (You play it by ear, or whatever you happen to have on hand.) But he prefers vegetables cooked the old-fashioned, country way. We get him to try modern things though. I try to get him to have healthier versions than what he learned to love as a boy with his country cooking aunts.
No one has ever left his house hungry. If strangers came to our house, they were fed. A hobo going down the street asked for a sandwich when I was in grade school. He got two and a glass of water. We have foreigners in the house for holidays.Dad couldn't stand for someone to be alone on a holiday. A coworker of his had grown children and his wife was a nurse who volunteered to work Christmas, so he came to our house to celebrate with us and eat breakfast after he took his wife to work. We learned from Dad, and so did the grandchildren. Feed people.
He grows a garden, still, not as big as in the old days, when he was steadier on his feet, and his back didn't hurt so much.He loves fruit and fresh vegetables. He loves to talk about labeling, and organics, and honesty in advertising. I think if we were to celebrate his life (he's told me absolutely no retirement party) it would have to be an abundance of food. Serve everyone until they were satisfied with such a variety, that no one would be left out.
| I grew up when afternoon teas were still acceptable. Women wore pretty dresses, hats, and white gloves and would show up for tea. There's a lot of formality involved. It does feel a little like children playing make believe, but maybe that's why it fascinated me so much. I've always wanted to have a tea party, but it takes more than one person present who knows how such a party works.
Tea is the first ingredient. These days we like choices, so having more than one variety is essential. Bags are convenient; no strainers are necessary. You don't need silver service. There are pretty little ceramic pots. Cups and saucers instead of mugs are a must. Your best spoons, stainless or silver, will do, but no plastic. In addition to sugar, lumps or loose, you need artificial sweetener. Lemon wedges on a pretty little plate, and milk in a cream pot, complete the tea part.
Real linens are required. A cloth tablecloth with no plastic cover must cover the table. If it's a large group, you can get away with paper cocktail napkins, but cloth is better. The American version of the menu will allow any small or dainty finger foods, nothing messy or dripping. Little sandwiches without crusts, for example, are satisfactory. No chips and dip. The menu can be simple and short, preferably homemade or from the bakery.
In movies or on TV, I've always seen the hostess "pour" or serve. But the etiquette books (yes, some of us still defer to the experts) suggest that a friend actually pour the tea for each guest, once the hostess has brought it to the table.
By the way, the tea pot should be rinsed with boiling water just before putting in the tea bags with hot water. Or if you're serving tea bags, cups should be warmed the same way. The tea bag soaks only long enough to make it the desired strength and is then placed in a bowl or other holder. Do not use it a second time if you like good tea.
An RN friend of mine, when I lived in another county, and I talked about staging a big tea party for a women's community meeting and discussion group, but we never got our guest speakers lined up. We were both busy and let it drop. I could also see doing it as a fund raiser. A little nostalgia, and an air of make believe.
On the other hand, our world may be just a little too casual, too paper cup and plastic spoon oriented to pull it off. We'd show up in jeans and boots and would look for the taco dip. Who cares if you blow on your coffee or put your napkin in your lap? Those traditions will pass with our memories.
| Back to normal tomorrow. I'll be in the dentist office about the time I usually get up. For some reason I picked all my doctors close to home, but the eye doctor and dentist are on the opposite outskirts of town. Oh, well. My teeth always feel better after. And going early means I go right after cleaning my teeth, before drinking coffee. I'm sure the hygienist appreciates that.
We all overate at my house, except the two year old. He successfully destroyed the new elephant ears planted on the patio. We didn't have as many guests as expected. They're coming next weekend. Only family could get away with changing the invitation date to suit themselves.
So, it's back to life as usual, whether it's work or the doctors, or gardening or errand running. Set the alarm and lay out tomorrow's clothes. The holiday weekend was nice, but all nice things come to an end. Maybe the mundane duties keep us going. Another holiday is around the corner.
| It is good to have a day or remembrance of all those who have fallen in every war for our country. The sacrifice they made and that their family endured should be recognized.
It is also important to honor those who have returned wounded. Their suffering and sacrifice continues on. Their families are strained financially and emotionally as they deal with the day to day problems. Their dreams and plans for the future have been altered.
The veterans who returned alive and without visible wounds need to be honored as well. They have been brave men and women who followed command and did their duty, risking their safety and welfare for their ideals. I am appreciative of their service. Many carry hidden wounds, mental stress, and bad dreams.
Often, we overlook the members of the press who took great risks covering wars and police action, trying to bring home to us the truth. Some have been injured or killed doing their jobs. I pay tribute to them as well for keeping us informed.
With Memorial Day, we not only honor the past and honor those still living who have served, but we hold up the hope for peace. We long for that day when there is no war. no desire to kill or harm. Maybe in the back of our minds, we don't believe that day will ever come. But we should live as though it is possible and hold onto that hope.
| I have an upstairs book (on my Kindle) and a downstairs book. Which one I'm reading depends on where I find myself relaxing. I finished both within the last two days, so I'm starting new ones.
Downstairs (family room, laundry, etc.), I've had David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty Some Day. It's been out a few years now. He writes autobiographical essays that are hysterically funny. So you could skip around or quit early and still be very entertained. He has an unusual way of looking at the world and is very blunt about a lot of things. He's lived in New York, South Carolina, and Paris. He's had a long line of jobs of many descriptions. He loves to watch movies, including the oldies. I laughed out loud quite a few times.
Upstairs, I've read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The story is told by two people, husband and wife, both writers professionally. One arouses more sympathy than the other, then you have some doubt, but you never like the other. Part two turns everything around. Your faith in the first one is restored, even though you now see the serious flaws. But the second is psycho. The book gets more compelling with each chapter. The ending is not satisfying for me because justice is never served. You're left hanging with these very disturbed individuals. There are some very poignant observations along the way, making these sick people quite intelligent and insightful, as well as dangerous.
My new books will be downstairs: The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo (already saw the movie)
and upstairs: How Will Your Life Be Measured, by a Harvard Business grad. Some nonfiction.
| We feed the birds year round. I've noticed my dad is buying seed in 50 pound bags now. He puts it in a tall container, which holds about 3 pounds, with a top out in the garage where he stores it. He takes the container up to the kitchen where it lasts a few days. So every morning while the coffee is brewing, he's on the back porch filling the feeders. (He clears the snow on the railing in winter, so they can perch there.)
My mother has been gone eight years. He still calls the doves "Mama's doves" when they come to eat. He faces the window at every meal so that he can watch. The cardinals nest in a blooming tree by the front door, and come around back to eat. They share with other birds. The wrens share with the non-aggressive birds. To listen to my dad, the same cardinal has been living there for over a decade. I told him once that it was probably a younger generation, but that didn't go over. The cardinals stay all year round.
The most aggressive is the blue jay. He does not share. All the others take off before he lands. Mr. Cardinal might hang around a while, but if they get to close to each other, he leaves. Blue jay comes every evening during dinner. We watch him all by himself picking out seed while we eat our vegetables. He's our dinner guest.
Sometimes when I'm watering my flowers or planting new dill seed, a bird or two will light as though I'm not there. A sudden move or speaking sends them flying off. I'd like to put a bird bath out back in the flower bed. My grandmother used to have one in the front yard. People sitting in her living room were amazed to see that birds really do take baths! They dip in and shake like crazy. You have to rinse it out and refill it every day to keep the slime away. Birds can be fun entertainment if you are willing to work at it.
| Summer TV is here. That means I'll watch more old movies or do more reading. It looks pretty bleak for regular viewing. During the school year, good shows are sporadic. They aren't on every week. They start and end on different weeks:there's no predictable season. Some get a really big winter break. You lose interest in their absence.
I don't like messing with the schedule either. I don't know what channel a show is on or what night, I just don't see it. There are about 3 comedies and one drama/horror show I like and have stuck with. Then there are the 50 year old reruns and old movies. They've played a lot of Eastwood films lately.
But tonight, I saw some of Red Nose Day. It's had a big campaign, so I thought it might be important. Well, the charity part is good. The TV show was a big bore for the most part. The comedy routines were lousy.
The good things: Matt Laur came in cleaned up after his big bike ride from Boston to New York. He raised money for charities for children in poverty. He let us know his bottom and his legs are sore. Nick Cannon danced in exhausted with his Red Nose Team after dancing for 24 hours. They were headed home to sleep. There was some singing, okay, not unusual.
The best part were like news reports. Michelle Rodriguez went to Peru to watch child labor. Children as young as six work after school to dry and turn bricks so the family can have more money. Even a two year old tried to help. This is outdoors in the sun. Blake Shelton went to L.A. to visit with children who are homeless or hungry. They showed a grandmother who had to care for her grandchildren because her daughter had cancer and was too sick to work.
The most gripping was Jeff Black, normally a funny guy, in Uganda with homeless children. I have heard of these children for over a decade now. It's not getting any better. These young kids have no family and no means of support. After being shown around, Jeff met up with a 12 year old and spent the day with him and at least part of the night. The boy sleeps in a heavily populated area at night, exposed to the elements, to strangers, to animals. He gets his food from the garbage. He wants to go to school. Seeing the despair on his young face was heart breaking. No 12 year old should be that scared, that hungry, that hopeless. Yet he was gentle, intelligent, and eager to work and learn.
I hope they raised a lot of money. It might have helped if they had indicated a high percentage of every dollar given went straight to help. When it's not mentioned, I have a feeling that maybe only 50% actually goes where you think it's going. The rest goes to overhead and fund-raising. My hope is that all the spoiled young people who tuned in for the music or their favorite star who just said and did stupid things, also sat through the reports and see for themselves how tough it is for so many of the world's children. Maybe more of our culture could stop feeling sorry for themselves and realize how well off they are and develop compassion for someone besides themselves.
| This weekend means many things to many people. It will be a big sale day in furniture and appliance stores. Some retailers and car dealers will have extended hours. Government employees will be off, so they are expected to go shopping. Most people will have some kind of special food, a picnic or a cookout or at least some hamburgers.
There's a challenge out this year for as many people as possible to fly an American flag in the front yard. One chain store sells a t-shirt each year very cheaply with the year and the flag on it. Veterans will be dispersing paper poppies this Saturday. TV will be re-running old war movies.
At my house, we'll have hamburgers, corn on the cob, macaroni salad, strawberries, watermelon, and iced tea. We'll use the red, white, and blue tablecloth and have some patriotic decor. If I can find our small flags, I'll put them out in the yard. The preschoolers who visit all know the pledge of allegiance, the ones that talk, that is. We'll blow some bubbles with them.
One of my brothers has a knack for meeting older men and getting them engaged in conversation about their service. He's heard a lot of great stories that way. He'll share the latest one he's heard. I'll remind them about someone in our family tree who served. And we'll give thanks for all those who have served their country, who died for what they thought was right.
To all the service men and women out there, who sacrifice for the good of their country, I pray for your safety and give thanks for you. I salute all our wounded warriors and all our veterans of any age. Thank you for your service.
| I went to visit an older woman in the hospital today. I've known her for a few years now, but not very well. She was active in my church. It seems like just a few months ago, a few women and I stood in the hall after services waiting to make sure she didn't get locked in the bathroom while everyone else was gone. Apparently she'd had trouble getting the door open once before, but one person was still there.
I signed up to visit the elderly because I figure if I live long enough I will need someone to visit me once in a while. If we believe in karma, then I'm planting seeds for my future. But I have to say I wasn't prepared for what I saw.
She always had a small frame and was lean. She was very active in the life of the church and cared about reaching out beyond the walls into the community to help others. Today, she was shriveled up, all skin and bones, struggling to breathe. One eyelid was swollen shut. One was open, but she gave no sign that she heard me or knew that anyone was there. No nurse came around so that I could inquire.
I put on my big girl pants, and stood my ground. I talked to her as though she could hear me. I babbled. Then I walked over to look out her window and commented on it. I told her I would pray if she didn't mind. I knew she wouldn't. I sat in the chair and prayed silently. Then I said the Lord's Prayer out loud, more for her benefit. I have a soft voice, so she probably didn't hear anything but mumbling if she could hear at all. I got up and talked some more.
It felt awkward. I wanted to cry seeing anyone in this condition. Instead I sang to her. Not so loud that people in other rooms or the nurses' station would be disturbed, but loud enough for this private room. After "Amazing Grace", I sang "When I Survey The Wondrous Cross". She would definitely know that one. I tried to sing more purposefully without getting louder. I went to the other side of her bed. Then it hit me. She loved missions, and I learned a missionary song as a child that I've never forgotten. So I sang "We've A Story To Tell To The Nations." With each song my conviction went up a little.
Finally, I had to go. I never saw any reaction or change in her. No hospital personnel ever entered the room or looked in the door. It was a very sad experience for me.I don't know how nurses manage to work with these elderly patients and see their once strong bodies now so weak and frail. The lives that once were so active and had so much to give, now lingering and suffering, ebbing away.
| I finally saw the movie Life of Pi. Pi is the man, not the tiger. And, the name is not because he's good at math, although he is. It's a great story, one that makes you think and ask questions. It has multiple choice endings.
First, it's an exotic looking film. There are zoo animals, nature shots, Indian scenery, and ocean views. Porpoises. whales, zebra, lion, elephant mix together in the Pacific Ocean after a cargo ship sinks. It's not only exotic, it's fantastical.
From the beginning, you are told the story is about God. Pi pursues religion and his understanding of "god" or "gods" like it's a matter of life and death. He is raised a Hindu, becomes a Christian without abandoning Hindi gods, is a Jew for a while, then embraces Islam. He learns things of value to himself in each of these religions. In fact, it is his confused vision of god that helps him survive the shipwreck for almost a year until he is found.
He tells two tales of his survival. The director never tells you which is right or wrong. I haven't read the book, but am told the book does the same thing, maybe in more detail. You, the viewer choose which to believe. It is a matter of preference, which is more satisfying to the individual. Pi very blatantly says, "And so it is with God."
He never concludes that one religion was better than another, or that one helped his survival more. But he does make a clear case for some kind, any kind of religion. He seems to support what psychologists refer to as "our higher power" without giving that power a name. Mankind needs a god to make it through the storms and the shipwrecks of life. According to this movie, God is real, and a relationship to Him/Her/Them makes life richer, stronger, more enduring.