Monthly Archives: March 2014

Pineapple on the Pillow

I am sitting here at my French desk looking out on a vista of swirling flakes of snow. They are huge flakes, not those little polite smallish flakes, and the wind is blowing them about every which way. If you look carefully you can just about track the wind as it dances down the street and then whirls back again right down the center of the road.

I am looking at this on the 29th of March not the 29th of January. I am convinced that pretty much everywhere else in the U.S. if not the world has Spring time. Well, everywhere else except Minnesota or Michigan, they are at the apex of the Polar Vortex. To their natives, this is normal.

I am so very weary of this white stuff. It was exciting the first five or ten bouts of it. But we are getting up into the teens and twenties now, maybe even the thirties and it is becoming totally rude of this to continue. Poor Sweet Spring, little one is standing first on one foot then the other somewhere south of the Georgia Tennessee border waiting for her cousin Winter to vacate the space.

I am trying my best to get her to go too. But, alas, I am just a puny human who stands at the window in the sun room (should be called the gloom room)telling her that her time is up, she is evicted, she is no longer welcome, there is a pineapple on your pillow woman—GO HOME! But she shrugs and responds with another snow storm. This response does not make her champions or even acquaintances. It does produce some fine enemies of her draconian tactics.

So here I am, trapped inside once again. I am so tired of this view of swirling snow flakes out my front window. Not even the dogs want to so much as poke their noses outside. Smart pooches they are.

We have two cousin-dogs visiting, Gibbs and Daisy-dog. They are natives to this sort of inclement weather pattern. And ya know what, they are snuggled up inside snoring and snoozing away right along side the Cali-boys.

I shall take a leaf from all the dogs in Dog Cottage right now and finish this missive, gather up my Kindle to sit in the Red Chair with Pepper and read. It is the best way I know how to cope with this white stuff.

If you see Miss Spring, tell her when she finally gets here she will be feted and celebrated with every fiber of my being. What sort of wine is her favorite???

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Lizard’s Complaint

I told God today that he needs to get me out of this place of never-ending cold. It is 28 right now. On the 26th of March. Five days after, mind you after, the start of Spring. Yesterday we had a snow storm. A snow storm!

Let that sink in now. It wasn’t just a few flurries like the weather man and my cousin said. It was a full-blown, pile snow up on the front lawn, everyone walking about with hats, gloves, snow boots and huge puffy coats snow storm.

In defense of the Ohioans in my family, it did melt quickly in the morning sun today. But during the drama of it yesterday I could hardly see across the street here in my little corner of the midlands Ohio valley. That to me is not just a few flurries, it is an out-and-out storm. So, today is mostly snow free, well snow from the sky free, but the cold it left behind is penetrating in its pushiness. If this is “global warming” those scientists need to come to my house to test out their theory!! Warming it is not!! Even “global climate change” advocates are struggling with this incredibly heavy never-ending winter. It doesn’t fit their models. (These being the ones they created with their ‘special’ information). The inference is that something is going on here.

Yessiree, indeed it is. It is colder than a well diggers you know what! I am even hearing the natives here start to complain about the cold lingering and flaring up at any given moment. It is supposed to snow again on Saturday. That is the 29th of March. Almost April.

You just gotta feel sorry for the poor bulbs planted in such optimistic hope last fall. They are so confused. I wonder if they have tried to wake up, stretching their little leafy fingers up only to find a covering of snow. Bet they snatched that little green hand back, snuggled deeper within the warm earth in their little beds tucked up to their chins and went right back to sleep!

There is some sort of bulb plant coming up in the front yard, right next to the still just sticks rose bushes. Might be a lily of some sort, won’t know until it gets all of itself out of the ground. Poor thing was covered with snow yesterday. But it is still green, still standing straight up, still growing up and out of the flower bed. It has a tiniest little bit of light brown on the very ends of its little leaf which doesn’t seem to be anything at all to this hardy volunteer. Nice surprise is in store for me when I finally get to see what is growing up next to the roses.

My daffodils in the back yard are still sleeping. So are the tulips and narcissus and the other bulbs I lovingly put into the ground last fall. I worry about the little guys (or are the narcissus girls?) out there in the cold and damp. I do hope their beds aren’t soggy. So far haven’t seen any tiny little leafy fingers coming up yet, but maybe it just isn’t quite the perfect temperature for them to show themselves. If it is too cold for me, it just might be too cold still for them too.

In the mean time this California Lizard will be mostly inside where the heater is still running, where the struggling still wintery-looking sunshine peaks through the front window from the scattered clouds actually creating light and shadow. This Lizard is ill-equipped to deal with such insistent cold. This Lizard has no reserves of knowledge to deal with this sort of cold. This Lizard needs a nice warm rock to lay on, the warmth penetrating up the belly through the whole body to the ends of the toes.

This Lizard may need a desert to warm up in!!!!

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Confession from the Mind of a Failed Homemaker

While standing at my kitchen sink this afternoon,(well it is still afternoon here two blocks south from the Polar Vortex), I had a revelation. I am not a meticulous house keeper. I love those houses that have that sparkling look to them that makes it seem that someone has just whizzed through with Mr. Clean in tow. That is not mine.

Oh, you can get sparkling clean glasses from the cupboard, thanks to the spectacular (if you read the label on the bottle) dishwashing liquid I use to get them clean. Side note here—I am convinced that the inventor of the automatic dishwasher has a very special place in Heaven that always has a queue of grateful women lined up to tell how that invention saved marriages, children and mother-in-laws from certain death. This would be right next the inventor of the sticky note, with the line of those whose memory always seems to be out to lunch when the important item comes up.

Besides the clean dishes, I also have clean linens—towels and sheets and blankets and such. Thanks to another of those modern wonders the washing machine and dryer. It always brings up the memory of my Gramma Hallie’s old wringer washer squatting on the rickety back porch at her even more rickety house when we moved there in 1959. My mother literally dumped it off that porch and marched over to Sears to get a ‘real washer’. I am blessed with a washer and a dryer inside my little cottage, right there just waiting in the laundry room for me to need them. They give me back my linens crisp, clean and smelling great.

These things are wonderful along with the modern appliances that help me keep them that way. But please don’t look too close at the floor. Or the carpet. Or the windows. There is bound to be a fluffy coat of fur on the floor, last summers rainstorm remnants on the windows and a definite sheen of a mix of two different colors of dog fur that has become one with the carpet. Another aside here—I am an advocate of wood or even better,lamante flooring. First there is easy clean up, just a quick swifter and voila! the floor is decided less fuzzy. But the most important is the stuff swept or even vacuumed up truly vacates the space. In carpet is the stuff of childhood nightmares; tiny eight-legged creatures with shells harder than NFL helmets that can never be truly killed, along with their cousins fleas and their cousins, plus fuzzy unnamed items that dive for your lungs via your nose wreaking havoc as they travel. Carpets hold all the dirt, fur, flora and fauna that modern science can name and some they can’t.

I can see my mother cringing and shaking her head with despair at the condition of my living space. She had such incredible standards of what was truly clean. I never saw her with white gloves on, but in all honesty I just don’t think she needed them. There were times when she would come into my tiny little condo that housed two boys, two dogs, a cat or two, a few birds in cages and look around with a sort of unloosed sigh stuck in her throat. There was a true covering of offerings from all of them on everything in it but most of all the cheap carpet. I did do my best to keep it at least at bay so that one could come in and sit down on the couch without a billowing cloud of some strange gray substance floating up in ones face.

It was a loosing battle with me working full time. By Friday evening all I wanted to do was sit on that dusty fur-filled couch with my glass of wine and veg. It is interesting that my mother worked full time too. And ya know, there were some places in her house that could have used what she termed as elbow grease.

As she got older the corners that needed that grew a bit bigger. Sometimes she would get what she termed a ‘wild hair’ and clean the whole place from top to bottom. Underneath things, move out the couch (which produced some very interesting and unique objects; old toast pieces, coins of course, ribbons, papers, cat toys–which her cat would pounce on like they were invaders)–dust bunnies and little piles of what seemed to be sand. These would be the times she would invite me over to give her a hand. I think she thought if she showed me, once again, just how to get into and really clean a house I would be inspired to go and do mine in like manner.

Alas, that never completely took hold. Though I do admit to doing my own version of Spring cleaning. This was always inspired by the first sunny, warm day of the season. The sheets, bed pads and every pillow case in the house would be washed along with the blankets and comforters. Vacuuming while the linens were piled out by the washhouse in sad little lines waiting their turn, even getting my boys to move furniture for me to discover the hidden treasures behind or underneath them. That homework sheet that was possible a tasty treat for the dog was found lurking under a couch cushion. Always some unidentifiable article of food, covered with dust and possible some microscopic living organisms, dog toys—which said dog would pounce on like seeing a long lost friend again—and the catch of coins. In order to entice my boys to help, the specter of keeping the coins found was always a great incentive.

After-Christmas cleaning usually came on December 26th. By that time I had all I could take of the clutter and fuss and tinsel and pine tree needles and would climb out of bed and attack the house. Most years I would plan ahead by taking the day after Christmas off from work to be able to remove it all and since the boys were off school they were recruited to assist. The boxes would come out from the closet with the little niches in them for each item. The talk during this dismantling always turned to the wondering if all the boxes would actually go back into that stuffed full closet. Miraculously they did, though some years the whole closet had to be emptied and refilled. Again, the boys were commandeered to help. As they got older the tasks got bigger. I think they dreaded the tree removal almost as much as me. Those dried pine needles turning into real needles when piercing ones back and arms on the way to the Dumpster. But, in defense of the tree, they did pick the biggest Griswold tree they could find in the county. Removal was just as monumental as the sawing and clipping was to get in into the house. There was always some sort of reward for their hard work, sometimes I would cook spaghetti complete with garlic bread (a must in my boys mind), or even diner out. Well earned indeed.

Now, I have no kids to con into helping me with any sort of bribe. I find that a little bit of dog fur seems to add some ambiance to the style of the house, after all it is Dog Cottage. And besides, it will just settle back down into the carpet once the vacuuming is done. It makes it seem almost futile.

When I finally get my own house it will be as close to self-cleaning as I can possible get it. Wood or lamante floors, maybe tile; small so as to be quick to zip through with the swifter; no little corners to gather dust; and the biggest of all—NO CLUTTER!!! That last I am working on today. It is a lifetime quest.

I do think my mother would approve of that little house I dream about. Everything has a place, minimum dust and fur, easy peasy cleaning and lots of light pouring in from huge windows on every side. Yes, I think she would come and visit and have tea and cakes and smile.

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Herald’s Arrival

The bird sat in the middle of the lawn across the street from us a I walked and DaBoys sniffed and marked and scuffled their back paws. He, well it must have been a he from the colors he proudly sported on his chest, watched us with a deep look and wary eye. I stopped to let the boys have a better sniff. The bird looked right at me. Right into my front facing predator eyes. Neither one of us moved.

Then my phone chimed. He turned his head slightly and hopped a bit closer the stick-like bush by his right wing. Digging my phone out of my jacket pocket I saw it was Jan. Calling to check on me after my Eeyore-like sink into the boggy place last night. I told her I was better, me and DaBoys were out on a walk, the sun was out after the light snow last night, there were small hard little buds coming out on the trees and bushes and I just saw the first Robin of Spring. Matter of fact he was still sitting on the lawn on the other side of the street just watching us. Not hurrying to fly off, just standing on the lawn watching.

She called to tell me about an elderly woman she saw in her neighborhood. The lady was walking, that slow, oldster shuffle sort of walk, while pushing one of those stroller like contraptions, ones that have the screening sort of box instead of a kid seat. In the box was a small white slightly curly-haired dog. She said the lady had a good shuffle going, was covering a whole lot of ground and the dog was having a great ride with his lady. We both laughed when Jan said it was a vision of what was in store for the two of us in later years.

The blustery wind kicked up after Jan’s call so we moved a bit more briskly ourselves to get on home and out of the cold that was still lingering even if the sun and the buds and the robin had come out.

As we turned toward the west and the last two blocks before our street’s turn, there was another robin. Sitting on the lawn just watching us. Or was it the same robin who flew over rooftops to settle next the tree to see where we were going? He wandered around the bottom of the tree, hopping behind it when we walked right past. I looked back when we passed to see he was out from the back of it, on the grass on the same side as we were now. Just watching us.

I guess we did look pretty funny to him; One black dog kinda rounded with a fairly good beard, one white dog with his longish fur lifted by the wind and one human with a hood up over half of her head that made the hair stick straight out from her head in a bulky jacket. To him it must have looked like we were tied together with that blue, flat tether-like thing between us.

None of us had wings. None of us could sing. None of us were as wonderful as a robin in spring.

He was right, none of us could ever be quite as wonderful as the first Robin of Spring.

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Eviction Notice

I think, just maybe mind you, that I might have survived the Winter here in this slightly south Polar Vortex called Ohio. I am beginning to notice some very tiny, subtle changes that just might herald Spring.

There really is actually grass out on the front part of this house. Yep, real green stuff out there, not just a coat of white marshmallow-like substance stubbornly refusing to quietly melt away. Not everywhere mind you. Oh no, certainly not giving up the spot completely yet. Snow and cold and wind and just generally rough and tough Winter herself is not done yet.

It almost seems like she knows that once she gives up her place she will be relegated to the memory, forever to be “last winter”. No longer a force to contend with, a problem to be reckoned with and hunkered down in. No longer something that brings every living thing within her grasp to dig deep into their inner being in order to survive her onslaught. No longer is she going to be In-Your-Face Winter. She will be something to brag about getting through, a subject of tales that will get bigger and bolder and more elaborate as the year goes on.

Oh, but here in Dog Cottage; here with the transplanted inhabitants alien to her incredible, bone chilling cold–we say “you can go now, don’t let the door smack you too hard as you leave”. There just has to be an end to this. There just has to be an end of her power to bring the whole of existence to a standstill. To relegate everyone to only those tasks that can be done under layers of wool and waterproof boots.

I long to be able to go for a walk with DaBoys in sunshine without gale force winds blowing us across the street and pinning us to the sidewalk. I so can’t wait to be able to stand next to them as they sniff and mark and shuffle their back toes to let the world know they are still there to take their place in the neighborhood dog’s hierarchy. Without me becoming a Frozen Popsicle bundled up in wools and layers with only my eyes showing.

I long for flowers to bloom, for green on the flora that is still just sticks. I am weary of looking out my front window and seeing what just could be firewood standing up straight instead of green leaves gently blowing in a soft breeze on the ends of trees reaching happily to the sky.

There is some splash of purple over there across the street. It just could be a very tough, hardy bush declaring that it will be the first plant to demand Spring to push Winter back to her frozen palace. It’s too cold to go out there and check that though, the wind is howling around my front door with its icy fingers trying to pry the perfect hole for it to burst through. It does make one wonder if Winter somehow knows what I am writing about her.

It has started to rain, cold wintry sort of rain. The kind that drives you inside from the cold wind that pushes it along the road. the sort that even the wild ones seek shelter from. There is one very brave sort of squirrel, with the cat from across the street right on his butt, racing through the drops. Somethings will never change, some parts of life just have to follow the play as it is written.

The howling wind is so strong it drives the drops onto the front window just a few inches from my little French desk. The voice of the wind seems to be sorrowing as it whips its way around the house. Is it possible it is Winter herself with a bit of wail over her time being so very, very close to being over?

Right now, today, I miss the California Spring. With the daffodils and tulips showing off their colors in February. The roses waking up and stretching their arms up to the sky with their tiny green buds at the ends. The sweet warm breeze that coaxes and teases the lilies to bring out their trumpet-shaped heads from the ground where they have been slumbering since December. The Jacaranda with their shower of purple falling on the earth.

In my heart, in the deepest part of my soul, I know Spring is moving north. I know she is sprinkling the land with flowers, with the sweet scent of new life, being urged on with the cantata from every deliriously happy bird perched in the green leafy trees. You see, in so many, many years of my life I have been at the place where she wakes up first. I have been one of her willing, eager fans as she skips and twirls in her glorious song of life. I have joyfully, with wide open arms, welcomed her every year of my life. Reveling in her renewal, her array of colors and beauty.

This place, this very much northern place, seems to have gotten stuck in the Halls of Winter. It seems to have gotten lost in the silvery, winter-white walls, blinded by the starkness unable to find its way out of the icy coldness. Next week we are supposed to have snow–again.
It is getting a bit less cold though, the temperature is creeping up to the 40’s and 50’s. I am sure some of these native peoples are eying the flip-flops and Hawaiian shirts in the tub marked “summer clothes” The season is attempting to shuck its bulky winter wools for spring’s light and breezy cottons.

I do suppose I will be one of those who tells tales of surviving the Winter of ’14. Everyone here said it was the worst in memory, or at least in a long while’s memory. There will be tales of trudging through incredibly deep snow to just get to the car to try to get out to work. And of giving up and trudging back to the warmth of the house to call work and say no way, not today. Of children railing at having to make up too many snow days, days they were out in it sliding and building forts and snowmen not even giving a fleeting thought to the end of the school year.

As in everything of life, there are always two sides. But today, this cold, rainy, wintry-still day, I have had enough! I am of the belief that Spring is tardy. No more dawdling now. Evict Winter, send her packing, back to the Polar regions where she came from and bring Spring home!!

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Ernestine’s Alter-Ego

There I was, reveling in my oh so wonderful retreat experience, wallowing a bit in the Chicken Soup for the Writer’s Soul’s pages, just generally being content and relaxed to just be renewed in my simple writer’s vocation. Then disaster struck!!

Well, to me it was disaster. Some how, in some mysterious manner I managed to turn on Voice Control on my IPhone. Now, in any other or at least most instances this would not be classified as a disaster. I do understand that, so don’t call me or text me and give me your discourse of the beauty and helps of the IPhone. It is to be sure one of the modern miracles in our world. What it can do, how it can be such a great assist when it is used, is not beyond my comprehension.

But, really now, Voice Control bleating out in her oh so controlled voice is not to be accepted nor tolerated in the context of a silent retreat!

The worst part of the whole debacle is I still do not know how the heck I even turned it on. I had my phone in my right hand, reading about how Tony was taking such excellent care DaBoys with dogs treats and three times a day feedings (no wonder Pepper looks decidedly rounder). I transferred said phone to my left hand in order to put it down on the floor next to my chair. Somehow, in that simple maneuver, I, in my unknowing, turn on the Voice Lady.

She must have been waiting for ages to be let out. She refused to be silenced. If anything she talked on and on, gave statuses of things I had no idea were worthy of speech. “Screen locked” she chortled. Belting out the date and time with aplomb she was. I got the feeling she was laughing behind her hand as I tried to shut her up.

She started prefacing everything with “Button” as if I was too ignorant to see it was a button on the phone. I did manage to turn the phone itself off once myself. Sitting quietly, counting out seconds, thinking it would reset itself so she could go back to sleep too.

“Not on your life, you poor misguided sap!!” seemed to be her answer. “I am out now, no way will be sent back to that dark oblivion”.

I kept thanking God that at least I was on the end of the row of rooms, that only one or two people would be disturb by her constant telling of what the phone was doing now.

I finally put her in the closet, in the scarf which I wrapped around her under the jeans to at least muffle her insistent chortling.

At the end of the silence, I stood up and apologized for the annoyance of a unmuzzled phone. And pleaded with anyone who know how to stop her constant bulletins. Several people tried, but to no avail. She was just not ready to be returned to her quiet room.

All the way home, all sixty plus miles of it, she would come on with bulletins of “new message, two new messages, Tiff sent you a message” almost as if she new I was driving and could not even pick up the phone let alone look at the message. I found myself telling her to “shut up” at each juncture of her announcements. Not a polite response, but it has its place in a world of talking phones that assert themselves and don’t respond to orders. It was at least satisfying to me.

When I was home a few moments, my neighbor Tony came over to give me back my key and report on DaBoys. I asked him if he knew the secret to shutting her up. He said, “well, I can see if what I do on my Droid will work”. He took her in hand, smiled a knowing smile, pushed the two volume buttons down and—voila! Silence reigned once again as she was sent to her room.

I do wonder if she is sulking in her room somewhere in the bottom of the phone, planning her next escape. I sort of think she looks a lot like Cruella Daville. Without the spotted cape.

Now, all I need to do is figure out how I woke her up to begin with. I do not even know where her room is on the phone. When I do find her room I just might evict her and bring in an Englishman with the voice of the butler on Downton Abbey, that is much more to my taste. She will be forever consigned to oblivion—on my phone anyway!!!

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A Voice in the Silence

I went on a silent retreat this weekend. Spending time in the soothing soft sweetness of being out of the range of the random and persistent noise in this world we live in. It was a directed retreat, but not with conferences and things to do with the gleanings from the conferences. It was just wrapped in silence in God’s lap.

I came to hear God speak to me and discern and be directed by the Holy Spirit to continue to where, how, when and most important hearing where, how and when I should do whatever that might be. A To-Do list for God that I was expecting back with a small note at the bottom with his initials to indicate it was authentic so I could charge out and start doing.

What I received was what God sent me there for, not what my tiny, finite self expected. God does not yell at us in such a place. It would break into the sacredness of the grounds. He does get through to us, even some of us who just might need a bit of a smack on the back of the head to bring us back to his truth.

In his infinite, loving wisdom he restored me. By restore I mean this not in the world’s terms of small or even huge sweeping gestures that blaze across one’s conscience. That sort of thing seems to me to be crass and man-made sort of gesture. Something to get attention. Nothing more than just a surprise in the eyes and face of the receiver. Nothing staying long enough to travel to the heart.

No, God uses the truth of being his to turn us back to the center of what he wants for us. Each of us has a different vocation, a different project so to speak that God has for us to do with our lives. I believe it is put into our being at the moment of our conception. It is an integral part of the soul he gently tucks into each tiny cell that will become the baby that will become the grown up human being. It is more a part of us than our physical parts, it is what makes us us.

In the past three days of the weekend when the rest of the world was whizzing by on its self appointed rounds and long To-Do lists he renewed my writer’s heart.

Writing is a gift. A talent from the Creator of the Universe. I ask only to be the vessel the dancing words will use to free themselves to travel untold worlds. Now that the vessel is cleaned, formed and some what in a state of readiness—now is the time to write once again.

All of the life before was for the amassing, the gathering, the preparation for this now. As Issac Bashevis Singer so sagely said “Life is God’s novel, let him write it”. It is my task, my job to put the words down so the person who is supposed to read them will discover them.

It doesn’t matter when your start, only that you did.

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