Friday, December 26, 2014

New Boxing Day Tradition??

I can only hope. A local theatre that shows the "Live in HD" performances, lots of indie films, and some live acts showed "The Sound of Music" this afternoon as a sing-along. It was a fundraiser for a local charity, and for your $10 you got a fun bag with some props in it, an introduction explaining the items in the Fun Bag and when they were to be used, as well as coaching on what to say when certain characters came on the screen or certain actions (like saluting Captain Von Trapp or the hand gestures needed for Do Re Mi).

It was loads of fun, and nearly all of us there were first-timers. I do hope they decide to do it every year.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Christmas Greetings

No matter what we celebrate this time of year, I wish it to be a happy occasion for us all.


Merry Christmas
                                        Cool Yule
                                                               Happy Hanukkah
                                                                                                   Festivus for the rest of us



Sunday, December 14, 2014

Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me

I skipped hockey this afternoon because I wanted to see the documentary Glen Campbell: I'll Be Me, and it was showing only for one show in the middle of my hockey time.

I remember his tv show, and I had a bit of a crush on him. In later years, when I saw clips of his guitar playing, I was amazed. When I heard he was doing a good-bye tour after publicly disclosing that he had Alzheimer's, I had mixed feelings about trying to attend a concert. I've seen most of the performers live I've really wanted to see; he and Gordon Lightfoot were two I had somehow missed and would have been glad to drive a distance to see, but I didn't want to see him on a bad day and ending up not being able to perform, so I didn't pursue any of the closer options, which were still several hours or more away.

The documentary is an honest look at some of the things he's dealing with and his loved ones are dealing with as well as snippets from his good-bye tour. It was hard to watch at times, and I know I wasn't the only one in the small audience who teared up when he couldn't remember the names of his children or that he'd been at the Grammys where he got a lifetime achievement award. He remembered being there, and remembered what he sang, but had no idea why he was there.

The doctors talked a bit about the deterioration in his brain, and they marvelled at how the musical part of him kept going. That, for a time, it seemed to improve other parts of his brain, too. But, as we know the tide does eventually turn. The doctors were still surprised that the music stayed.

Now, i'm not a virtuoso by any stretch, but I am musically inclined. I can tell you songs come back to me that I haven't heard in 50 years, and I know all the words. They are in some deep recess, perhaps right next to my soul, and I don't need to think about it, they're just there. Same thing when I play my fife. Sometimes i'll be playing, and a tune I haven't thought about for ages just springs forth. My fingers retain the muscle memory, and I play it. I have to wonder if that's similar to what was happening with him. How even if the words don't come back, the tune does.

At the end of the documentary the audience was extremely quiet and sorrowful. I gather that most of us were Glen Campbell fans at least some point in our lives, and the documentary didn't sugarcoat this man's struggle. I was feeling rather forlorn and thought of people I knew with dementia.

I hadn't been home long when the phone rang. A dear friend called just to say hi and let me know she'd been thinking of me. I'd been thinking of her earlier in the day, too, and it was wonderful to chat. Being busy, while the truth, is still a poor excuse. We need to stay in touch with those we love while we can do so, and while each of us can be present in the moment.

I don't usually write film reviews, and this was a hard watch, but worth it.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

ruminating

The weather is dismal grey this week, and it's got me to pondering about things. One of the things that keeps coming into mind is actually a person and his behavior. A friend and I who met one another while sailing have often remarked how some people are very different on land from how they are at sea, and we wondered why that was. The only thing I could come up with was that when we were sailing with these folks, they were on vacation so maybe felt less stress or that not having the same routine that they have on land makes a difference.

As I've shared before, I joined facebook only with the greatest reluctance when a fife and drum friend urged a bunch of us to join, so we could stay in touch. I've accepted friend requests from others I know outside the f&d world, such as some of my sailing acquaintances and friends.

Apparently, there are some people whose personalities change not only when the go from sea to land, but also when they get on facebook.

This sailing acquaintance I've known for years is intelligent, witty, kind, considerate, and enjoys discussion. The few times I've met him on land, he has been pretty much the same. We get along wonderfully well, and he feels like a brother to me and I a sister to him.

Yet, on facebook, he's argumentative, narrow-minded, and bullish. For every post where he wants to present himself as a kind-hearted, loving liberal, I can show three where he's putting a group down because they don't ascribe to his philosophy.

I do think facebook provides a platform for many to get on their soapboxes, beat their chests, and rant and rave like lunatics. What stymies me is how these people change so much from people I know in real life.

I've attempted to ask this man about this different side he shows the fb world, but to date, he seems more interested in getting in the snarky reply or something he perceives as witty.

The power outage we had in the beginning of November with a longer Internet outage reminded me that there's a world full of people right here in my own community who might be cool to know. It also reminded me that living in a small community does not provide lots of space for anonymity. I'd like to think if I were acting like a jerk, someone would be kind enough to let me know.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

November came and went...like a lion!

It's not only March that can come in like a lion; we had a rather wild start to November.

It all started out innocently enough, the weather forecast was for about two inches of snow. Well, 2 inches or 5 cm for those who think in metric, isn't a lot to worry about in a place that routinely sees 100 inches/ 254 cm over a winter.

Yet despite all the high-tech instruments, the satellite photos, and what have you, the "about 2 inches" turned instead to "a foot or more" (12 inches/ 30.5 cm), and was I think the heaviest snow I have ever shovelled. A shovelful weighed about 45 lbs (20.4 kg). I know, because the kitty litter comes in
40 lb bags (18.2 kg) and the shovelful felt a tad heavier than that.

It was heavy, heavy snow, and as it fell thickly, it was accompanied by high winds. Not just gusts, which were higher still, but the average wind was 50 mph (80 km/h) for much of the time. My piano teacher told me he had to pick up his son, and while driving in a blizzard isn't his favourite thing to do, he has done it any number of times since he's lived most of his life in snowy places. But this was the worst ever drive he had because it wasn't just blinding snow that was unbelievably heavy. The high winds plus heavy snow snapped a lot of trees like twigs, so as he drove, he saw debris fly past as well as snow. Huge limbs airborne like feathers. He likened it to being in the Wizard of Oz when you see all sorts of things flying in the air.

I was home during the storm and looked out to see every branch of the huge white lilac on the ground. It was hard to know if all the branches were broken or just weighted down with the heavy snow. I went out to shake off the snow that I could, and maybe drag a few of the broken limbs away. As I was out there, with snow at least 6 inches (15 cm) by that point and showing no signs of stopping, I was surprised to find about half the branches weren't broken, merely weighted down. I dragged some of the big broken ones over to a spot between the lilac and the large hemlocks or cedars that are behind the barn, where they wouldn't be in the way once the snow was done. I wasn't out there long, maybe 25 minutes, and during that time, I heard four distinct cracks and saw huge limbs or whole trees fall in the back yard. The time between the crack and the fall was no more than five seconds, and most were within three seconds. Crack! and then a quiet whoosh.

I felt a lurch within my stomach, walked away from the lilac, to the front yard, past the barn, and to look at the boat in the side yard. So far, so good.

I then felt very unsafe and a quiet, persistent urging to go back inside and wait out the storm.

After I was back inside, the power went out. I watched a man in a Jeep Cherokee get stuck in my driveway when he wanted to turn around. He got the car out only after some coaxing by gunning the gas and letting off it to jar the car forward, and once out on the roadway, he fishtailed down to the stop sign. He wasn't driving fast at all, and I called the hockey coordinator to let her know I wasn't going to be at the rink to play later that afternoon. She said she'd already sent an email to everyone and posted on facebook. But, as I had no power, I didn't see either message.

Before daylight completely waned, I started up the coal stove, glad that I had dry firewood in the house, waiting to be used. I had thought to turn up the house heat once I saw that we were in for more snow than what was forecasted, so the house was a bit warmer than what it would have normally been, but not as hot as it would have been, had I thought to turn the heat up earlier.

I had a lantern with an emergency candle ready, I wound up all the wind-up flashlights (torches) and lanterns. I found the wind-up radio and had that ready.

When gathering things, I noticed the tree on the corner by the barn side waving strangely. The last crack i'd heard must have meant one of its branches had fallen. I went back downstairs and looked out back. I had been back inside the house for a little less than an hour and saw that one of the huge hemlocks/cedars had fallen on top of the broken lilac branches I had piled together. I was glad to have listened to that quiet, persistent urging to go back inside.

Himself was away, and I felt alone and forlorn. Glad that I'd come back in, and then overwhelmed by that sense of it could have been me as I looked again at the huge hemlock on the lilac branch pile. I looked around for the cats, and went into my office where the coal stove was.

Both were stretched out in front of the fire, luxuriating in the heat. Perfectly content and peaceful, and it did my heart good to see that. They were dry. Safe. Warm. And I looked around to see that I was, too. I had plenty of food on hand for them and me. I had two alcohol stoves that i'd gotten for the boat that I could use for cooking if the coal stove didn't answer. I'm on public water, so I could get water without worry, and if needed, I could draw water from the old hand-dug well to flush toilets.

And so I settled in, and found myself wanting to go to bed about 7:30 pm. It was dark as pitch outside, and there wasn't much to do. I listened to the wind-up radio and realized I wasn't sure what radio station would have emergency announcements. I listened to the end of a Bible study program as I moved the dial. The woman was an enigmatic speaker and she was summarizing her talk. I paused to listen and she prayed for anyone listening who needed help just then, who felt alone or frightened, who was in the midst of a storm. I smiled as I was alone and in the midst of a storm, but looking at the contented kitties, I wasn't frightened. I ended up listening to a French station in Montreal for awhile and then made my way to bed.

The next morning dawned sunny and bright. Trees were down everywhere, some snapped off, some simply weighed down by the heavy snow. The hemlocks or cedars bowed and some were on the clothesline. One of the supports had leaned forward but didn't break off. A few more of the lilac limbs broke during the night and I went outside to do what I could for cleanup. I walked in the front yard, in front of the barn over to the far side, and there I saw a huge tree had fallen. Well, a part of it anyhow. It was my neighbour's tree, one that was crotched with two main supports and a third, like an upside down stool. The third leg, which was closest to my house, had shorn off, and the wind carried it just enough so that when it came down, it hit the bow pulpit of the boat. I blinked a few times to absorb the sight. That's why I saw the branch waving in that funny way the day before. And this third of the tree fell where I had been when I walked over to check on the boat.

There was still no power and thankfully, I had charged up my cell phone. My landline was still working, so I called my boss to let her know that I was still without power and no business phone line (digital) or Internet. I called my ISP and they had no estimated time of when things would be back up and running.

The next few days were a blur. My power came back on late in the second day. I had taken a heavy contractor's bag, filled it with snow, and put it in the half-filled freezer to save the food in there. I waited over 24 hours before opening the fridge door to get a couple eggs to cook. On Wednesday, my boss wanted me to see if I could get a signal someplace, and I was able to get one at my local library. Power lines running across the road beside the library were typically not noticeable, as they were high in the air, but on that Wednesday, they were about a yard/metre off the ground, with brightly coloured streamers on them to warn would-be motorists to steer clear.

I downloaded my work emails, answered those that needed answering and had enough work to keep me busy the next day, even if I didn't get back online.

My drive to the library and home was a short one, but the devastation was apparent. Some of the larger trees had been cleared away from the main roads, but in some cases, only those parts that blocked the roadway had been cut. Huge, majestic trees that offered tons of shade in summer were lying on the ground, leaves still green. A road was closed because of downed power lines, and I saw a telephone pole lying diagonally across the road.

My neighbours were unbelievably kind and helpful. I wanted to get the tree off the boat, yet I knew the way it was positioned would mean i'd need to spend many hours with a chainsaw over my head, and that didn't feel safe to me. Plan B was to use my Pocket Boy® a wonderfully sharp saw that folded like a knife and cut away the branches on the boat and deal with the rest after most of the snow had melted, as the weather was to warm up.

And so it was, I was out there sawing, wearing my head and face gear i'd needed for my chainsaw class, when my former plowman's wife drove past. She had one of her sons and his friend with her, and they offered to help. If I had a chainsaw....

I did and told them it'd been a while since it had been started. The friend was 6'4" and could easily cut the branch I desperately wanted to cut off but felt unsafe doing it by myself having to stand on a 2×10 board across two saw horses so I could reach it properly with the chainsaw. So, my Plan B was to go out with Pocket Boy and cut away what I could in smaller bites.

I congratulated myself taking loads of pics with the digital camera that I could send to the insurance company, and Tall Friend started the chain saw on the tenth pull, and in three minutes had sawn the large branch and Son pulled it off the boat. They were tall enough to do so.

Plowman's wife offered to let them do more, but I didn't want to be a bother, so thanked her and told her I basically just wanted the tree off the boat. Everything else was okay as was.

Plowman stopped by later, and he burns a lot of wood in his outside boiler. We chatted a bit, he told me he'd sold his plow truck in the summer and Adam was taking over for him. Adam had shown up at my house with a backhoe to move snow around a couple times when it looked as though there wasn't going to be enough room to push the snow aside before we were done with snow for the year. I asked Plowman if he wanted the wood from the tree. If so, he was welcome to it, I needed to get some work stuff done, but planned on having a date with my chainsaw that Saturday to cut up what I could.

Plowman thanked me, showed up on Thursday and cut up not just that tree but the large hemlock/cedar that fell in the back, and a few other smaller trees, too.

Kind neighbour Bob from up the street told me to use his trailer to take my brush to the dump. To use it for several days until I could get the cleanup done. I had loaded it up one day and ran out of time to take it to the dump. Next day, I had an errand and figured on the way back from my errand, i'd hitch the trailer to the truck and take it to the dump. When I got home, the trailer was gone.

I called Kind Neighbour Bob's house. His wife answered. Bob had gone to the dump, saw the trailer all full and waiting, so he hitched it to his car and ran it over. He stopped by on his way back, dropped it off by the large pile of brush still waiting to be taken, and went on home. He hadn't stopped in to say hi, as he didn't think I was back from my errand yet.

People who've lived here their whole lives thus far say they can't remember a storm like this one. But they won't forget it, that's for sure.

Most places have been more or less cleaned up, and the day before Thanksgiving, we got another big snow. It wasn't quite as heavy, but I went to shake it off the trees as they were still a bit bent from the earlier storm. A few places lost power, but thankfully, I wasn't one of them.

Himself was here, the coal stove was merrily burning, and we spent Thanksgiving cooking and shovelling out. Friday, we went snowshoeing.

I made a success/failure/serendipity/lessons learned list after that first storm. I'm glad to say there were more successes than failures and little moments of serendipity that were a wonderful balm. Such as the hot water heater having heated the water to as hot as it gets before the power went out, so that for the two days I was without power, the hot water was at least warmish. That I had succumbed to the siren song of Oreo cookies and had bought a bag just beforehand.

Successes included having enough stores on hand so I could stay off the roads, and I could offer a place for people to stay if things got too cold at their place.

Lessons learned included that although I had the alcohol stoves, I had yet to use them, so that was a failure, yes, but my plan going forward is to have a "prep weekend" where one weekend a month, I focus on some emergency tool and really learn how to use it. Like the alcohol stove. Or, to find out which stations carry emergency information, and can I get those on the wind-up radio.

The storm shook many people to their cores, and it was a reminder to me how complacent I've become. I can't be forever vigilant because that'll burn me out in the long run, but I can pay a bit more attention to what I have on hand, make sure I know how to use it, and to practice.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Incommunicado, but not by choice

I've not fallen off the face of the earth, I simply couldn't get into my blog to write anything.

Now that i'm finally able to get back in, i'm inundated with work things and have little time to write.

sigh.

I've also a mountain of blog reading to catch up on.

Short version chez moi has been two big snowstorms in November, one at the beginning of the month, which knocked out the electrics and Interwebz for up to a week (although my electricity was restored after two days), and one at the end, in time for Thanksgiving. We went snowshoeing the day after and had fun. Also a reminder of how out of shape we were.

And here we are on the first day of the last month of the year. The wreath is up on the front door, we're down to the last five inches/ ~12.5 cm of snow, and the sun is shining!

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Another goal realised

On my Life List, I've had all sorts of things appear. One, which I mentioned earlier, here, was to learn to play the piano, which has been on the list a long time, and which i'm doing.

A recent addition has been sampling Scotch eggs. Yes, that gay Welsh raconteur as Tom Gowans calls John (how I miss Tom's blog, Hippo on the Lawn, and hope all is well by him); anyhow, yes, the inimitable John of Going Gently, mentions scoffing Scotch eggs on occasion, and I thought it might be nice to try one and see what I thought.

Of course, we've no Tesco's or Sainsbury's nearby where I can just pop around and try one, and sometimes searching for recipes online can lead one down a crazy rabbit hole. Some months back, I had a wild hair about wanting to get an old Watkins cookbook and bid for two of them ebay. Very low bids as I had been outbid on several and decided rather than win both, i'd have low bids so I could be reminded to up my bid if need be. Well, as it turned out, it seems I hit the off week for others who wanted Watkins cookbooks, because I won both, one a 1936 edition and one a 1948 edition. Many of the recipes are the same, and in the 1948 edition, there was a note pencilled in saying that there was a one-dish recipe on page 167. I turned to see which recipe she could have been looking at, when I realized as I turned the pages, there was no page 167. She must have made the note for herself so she could remove the page for her files. That led me to wonder even more about the recipe, when my eye fell on page 166, and there, as plain as day was a recipe for Scotch eggs.

I had no need to convert metric measurements and scanned the list of ingredients. Not many of those, either.

Now, at this juncture, I should point out that I think of recipes more like guidelines or starting points. I rarely follow one exactly, and if it expresses the least whiff of a dire warning that all steps must be followed exactly, I usually don't bother with it.

This had none of that, other than to mention that Watkins pepper and paprika could be used as a seasoning along with plain old salt. Still, I wanted to follow the recipe closely since John hadn't magically teleported to my house to give me the ins and outs of what made a good Scotch egg great and to oversee my efforts.

I have a pig coming to my freezer next month, and my goal between now and then is to use up what's in there to ensure adequate room, and to use up the last cuts from the half a pig I got last year.

So, I made some substitutions. I used ground pork rather than sausage, I omitted the salt, pepper, and paprika because I forgot to add them and by the time I remembered, I had already wrapped the meat around the eggs. The recipe called for a pound of sausage and six hard boiled eggs. My package of ground pork was about 12 ounces or three-quarters of a pound, so I figured 4 eggs would be enough. The recipe called for boiling the eggs 30 minutes then cooling. I thought 30 minutes excessive and boiled them 10, removing them from the heat and then after 15 or 20 minutes transferring them to a bowl and into the fridge to cool. I don't like the grey-green ring that can form around hardboiled eggs when they're cooked too long, and wondered if I should have scooped them out of the warm water before I did.

The recipe also called for bread crumbs. I don't usually have those on hand, and the few times I need bread crumbs, I either crush some saltine crackers, omit the bread crumbs, or scramble to find something else. In this case, I used corn meal, figuring that I needed some sort of breading, and corn meal was sturdy, which would help keep everything together, or so I hoped.

I peeled the eggs carefully, smooshed the ground pork in my hands and carefully covered each egg. One egg kept poking through, but the rest worked out all right, and I dipped each over large meatball in the raw egg and dredged in corn meal.

The recipe called for frying in hot fat. While I do sauté any  number of things, I don't deep fry, and broke out a 4 qt (nearly 2L) pot with its lid and used about 2 tablespoons of bacon grease. I lowered the eggs carefully after patting a little more corn meal on each.

The troublesome egg did lose part of its pork sheath, and in the appetizing looks department I don't think i'd win any awards, but the troublesome egg did provide me with a visual of just how long it took the pork immediately touching the egg to cook, which was helpful since the recipe didn't. For those wanting to try this at home, I started out on high heat and after about 3 minutes, turned it back to medium heat (current cooker is an electric model). Everything seemed thoroughly cooked in 17 minutes, but for extra insurance, I didn't scoop them out until nearly 20 minutes had passed.

I ate the troublesome egg first. It was tasty even if there was a slight grey-green around the yolk, and the ground pork to egg ratio was a little less since part of its pork covering had fallen away. I was still hungry, having waited longer than usual to eat, so had a second one. I picked the most appetizing looking one of the bunch, and this was tasty, too, with a more favourable pork to egg ratio in every bite. I had mowed the lawn and cleaned out the gutters at the back of the house before lunch, and hockey is later this afternoon, so I should be sated until I get home about 7 pm. On a less physically active day, one Scotch egg would suffice.

The verdict? I like these, and shall try making them again. I can see where sausage would be tastier than plain ground pork, so next time around i'll either use sausage or remember to season the ground pork. I liked the taste the cornmeal added to the whole shebang, and am glad I did fry them rather than bake them, which I had considered doing.

I don't see myself making these often, but as a treat, when I want something filling for lunch, I can make a batch, and that can serve me for most of the work week for lunches. I've got one to heat up tomorrow so I can assess if it reheats well. I use a toaster oven for reheating and doubt i'll ever go back to using a microwave. Yes the latter is faster, but the former heats more evenly, and with something breaded, the breading doesn't get mushy.

I wish John were here to sample one to let me know if what I made is close to the mark. Just curious if it is. But whether it be or no, i'm not sorry I attempted to make them, so that is a success in my book.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Small town living

I grew up in a small town. It's not everyone's cup of tea because it can be hard to be anonymous there. I remember as kids if we decided to hitchhike (something we were forbidden to do), we'd put our thumbs down when we recognized the car, because we didn't want someone telling our parents we were hitchhiking. So yes, we'd pray for strangers to pick us up. Tick another thing I never told me parents because it would cause too much worry.

Indeed, even now, my hometown looks like something from a Norman Rockwell painting, and the first time Himself was there, we were driving down Main Street. I was doing the driving so he could look, and while it did my heart good to see the familiar street once again, Himself was agog as we passed the butcher's shop. One of the clerks was carrying a lady's groceries to her car. Himself remarked on it, and I turned to look.

"Oh, that's Don!" I cried, happy to see a familiar face, as it had been a long time since I'd visited my hometown.

"I feel as if we're in a live-action Norman Rockwell painting," said Himself, and I turned to look at him. I simply felt that spirit of community I always had in my hometown. And it made me keenly aware how that spirit was missing from where we were then living.

I currently live in a small town, and like my hometown, it too has a large summertime population. More tourists here than we had at home, and they mix with the summer people. Once the summer is over, and by summer's end, I mean Labor Day as opposed to the calendar's 23 September, there's a collective sigh of relief as the roads are suddenly not as clogged with out-of-state license plates crawling along gawking rather than driving up to speed.

The respite is but a breather before the "leaf peepers" as they are known come to view the gorgeous fall colour as the leaves change from their summer hue. Where I am now, peak season is late September or early October. In my hometown, it's mid-October. This week's Nor'easter has blown down many of the leaves, so late leaf peepers here will have precious little colour to see on the trees, but plenty on the roadways.

There are any number of merchants here who are open seasonally, and many have end-of-season sales. I've taken advantage of those sales to snap up Christmas or birthday gifts, and there's a more relaxed air walking into their shops. Some will say how their season went. Some lie about how their season went, but I think this year's season was a pretty good one for many.

One of the places that happens to have a seasonal sale is a local furniture store. They have nice items, reasonably priced, and also offer decorating services. They deliver for a fee, and I think it's free if you're within 10 miles. I'm outside that 10-mile circle, but have stopped in from time to time to see what they have. Earlier on, I found a lovely chair that I really liked that would be ideal in the bedroom. It was made for someone shorter, so yes, I can sit comfortably and have my feet touch the ground. I hemmed and hawed about getting it, decided that while I liked it very much, it was in the want rather than need category, so didn't get it.

Then I received their post card in the mail about their seasonal sale, and went looking. There was the chair. It was half off, and I had the money, so snapped it up. Since I have a truck, I could take it home myself and save the delivery fee, so we worked out when I could pick it up.

Once I got it home, I discovered, much to my dismay, that all my doorways are just a bit too small. It took some finagling, but I finally got it in the house. It's currently in the dining room, where it shall stay until I have the bedroom upstairs ready for it. Himself is still not able to help move it as he is still recovering from his shoulder surgery, and I do think I'll need someone to help me take it upstairs. It's not all that heavy but rather unwieldy for me to carry myself AND negotiate the steps, because I'm not in the most graceful set of God's creatures.

When I picked out the chair, several of the furniture store employees' faces fell. I apologized if they had their eye on the chair as well. "Oh, we can always order it for them if they want one," the woman who was writing out the slip said. They nodded forlornly, and I got the sense that they had hoped to get it at the discounted price, too, which probably now wouldn't happen.

Within a week of purchasing the chair, I got a lovely note from the furniture store, thanking me for my purchase, hoping I enjoy the blue chair very much, and they enclosed the decorator's card, in case I had any questions or needed help. Yes, some might be more cynical and say it was just a way to promote their business, but I was touched by the simple, hand-written note. I can't tell you the last time I got one from any business, and there've been any number of them where I spent more than I did on this chair.



Thursday, October 9, 2014

Another Box Ticked on the Life List

Years before the movie, "The Bucket List," i had something i called a Life List, which were things i wanted to do before i left the planet. All sorts of things have appeared on that list over the years, and a surprising number have been realized. Not all are noteworthy, and some have been there for quite some time.

I've mentioned before how i am mechanically retarded, yet that never stopped me from listing that i wanted to build my own harpsichord and learn how to play it. This seemed farfetched even with my overactive imagination, but its closely related "learn to play piano," seemed a bit more realistic, much the way that my going to the moon is a greater probability than my going to Pluto (which i still consider a planet).

I'd forgotten about wanting to learn to play piano; it's been on the list even before i ever started writing things down on it, but one thing and another occurred, and i never lived in a space where i had access to a piano or even a keyboard all the time. I could pick out melodies and read G (treble) clef, but that was as far as it went.

I've also mentioned how i'm on facebook. I joined only after a fife and drum acquaintance encouraged a group of us on a email list to join, as it would be a great way to stay in touch during the off-season, and have since reconnected with some childhood friends and acquaintances. I've also joined some local bartering and selling sites and have found any number of things.

Earlier this summer, there was an ad in the paper for a concert where sea shanties and other folk music was going to be performed, and on a lark, i went. I had a lovely time, and Kat, the presenter had an open house at her gallery down the street from the venue after the concert. I went, and she invited me to stay afterwards as the musicians who performed, herself, and her husband were going to have a sing along, did i want to join? Yes, i did. I didn't have an instrument to play, having left my penny whistle at home (my fife wouldn't have tuned with any of the other instruments)so i sang along, sometimes harmonising sometimes not. Kat sat at the piano and played. She has a sweet singing voice, and watching her play the piano while she sang reminded me of that long ago item on the Life List. It was a cross between a pang and a yearning.

About a month later, i saw a number of ads for pianos. Some for free (you haul away), others for a nominal fee. After the fourth one, i decided i needed to pay attention to these ads, but the one that had called to me most was now three weeks old, and i felt funny about calling, sure that someone else had scooped up the piano.

While on facebook, i happened to click on one of the local bartering sites, and there was a listing for a piano in exchange for helping out at the church where the piano was. They were renovating, so plenty of ways to help out.

Before i could think twice, i sent a message saying i was interested. But, being mechanically retarded, i didn't feel comfortable helping with the renovations unless it was grunt work. Could i possibly give them some money instead so they could buy some nails or something to help with the construction?

This was a satisfactory substitute, and the woman said they really just wanted the piano to go to a good home. A parishonner's mother had died and left the church a baby grand piano, so they didn't need this upright one anymore.

I asked if the piano had wheels and its dimensions. Yes, it had wheels, and the dimensions were perfect. I could get it through the door. My friend, J, was going to help me move it. We could do it, because after all, it had wheels.

Of course, the day i went to get the piano, the skies looked threatening, so i was sure to have tarps on hand to cover the piano. I had borrowed my neighbour's trailer, and it had a ramp, so i envisioned that we could push it down the ramp onto 2×10 boards and lay them like railroad tracks to the door. Getting it up the slight incline then over the back steps through the house would be the toughest part, but i had a good bit of line, we could tie it round, and one could push while the other pulled.

When i got to the church there were quite a few folks working on the renovations, so a group of two men and two boys moved the piano onto the trailer quite easily. One was impressed by how i could back up the truck. Well, it was easy since we'd taken off the trailer and moved it to the spot and then i backed the truck up. One of the ladies there liked my truck and had a few questions about it. How much could it tow? 6300 lbs. What was the mileage like? about 20 mpg, a bit less in winter, but i'd gotten it to tow the boat, which it does beautifully. The mileage concern wasn't the driving force in my decision to get it. A few remarked on the tiedown system in the truck's bed. Yes, it's quite handy.

And so they bade me well, i gave them some money and thanked them, and away i drove. I called J when i got back, and we discussed the Plan to Unload. I won't bore you with all the details, i'll say simply that on paper it looked like a good idea but reality demonstrated something a bit different. It took an inordinate amount of time to get the piano halfway to its destination when J had had enough. I thanked her for her help, could see that she was really done in, and after she left, i moved it myself a bit more, but couldn't manage the incline by myself, and i'd never manage the up over the steps and through the back doorway. A couple sailing friends were free, and within 10 minutes of their arrival, the piano was in the house. I now understood very clearly why movers ask if one has a piano when one is moving households and why there's a premium.

After that, i went online to facebook and right away saw an ad for music lessons on one of the local pages. I called, left a message, and wanted to see if there were other places, perhaps one a little closer. There was. And before i could call them, the other called back. We talked a bit, and i could tell that this man would be a good teacher for me.

So, four days after the piano came into the house, i went for my first lesson. That was in early August.

I've been playing nearly every day since then. Sometimes only 15 minutes, but i go over the new material i need to work on, over the material i've already worked on, or both. The cats have decided the piano is all right. They both love the bench, Phoebe likes sitting on the top of the piano from time to time, and only once has each cat walked on the keys. Each looked surprised that they could make the noise.

In the first few weeks, each cat would sit when i played, as if to make sure i was practicing. Now, they sometimes sit with me, and sometimes ask me for food, or to be let in or out, much the way they do when i'm on the phone.

Bass clef is still a strange, new world for me, and in some places i've written the names of the notes to help me know where i need to be on the keyboard.

I'm still in the key of C major at this point and getting into the world of syncopation. Currently, i'm all thumbs; i know what it should sound like, but getting my fingers to coordinate is the struggle for this week. I've a feeling this will be a struggle for a little while yet, but i'm okay with that. I didn't have any illusions of being a prodigy, i just wanted to be able to play. And now i'm learning how.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Brains....I need brains....

When i saw this picture someone posted on facebook, I immediately thought of John Gray over at Going Gently. Hope you enjoy it, John. Maybe you can do the same with the Berlingo?


Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The Scottish Question

By this time tomorrow, we'll know how the vote turned out. I've been mulling over the Scottish Question and can see both the Yes and No sides. Since i live across the Pond, it's not my decision to make, but it has made me think of earlier times in my country's history as well as when the USSR broke apart. In the latter situation, which occurred in my lifetime, i got the sense that some people felt once they were free of Mother Russia, all would be well. I remarked to Himself at the time when some of them seemed surprise at the tumult after declaring freedom, "They're looking at us and asking why it's not all sorted, as it seems to be here. Don't they realise they're looking at us 200 years out? That when we were first free, we went though a big, giant mess until we could find our way? And, we nearly didn't." Some would say we're still in a big, giant mess, but that's a different discussion topic.

Although there are those who would paint the picture that nearly everyone on this side of the Pond wanted to be a free and independent state, that was not the case. There were many who were loyal to the Crown and a great many more who really just wanted to live their lives, work their land, raise their families. Deciding to end one system of rule and start another is no small task, and although the American Experiment ultimately succeeded despite great odds against it, it didn't come without cost. I think in our case it was a bit easier because there was a rather large body of water dividing us from the Mother Country, communication wasn't instantaneous, there were a list of grievances to which most would agree, and we had a lot of natural resources at hand. And yet, we still had the process of disentangling ourselves, establishing ourselves as our own nation, no more tyranny, etc. What i see, though, is that the apple didn't fall far from the tree. We became a super power and wanted to dictate things to the world at large. Leave our stamp everywhere we go. And, for better or worse, we have. Truly, we've done the Mother Country proud.

Our disentanglement easily took upwards of 50 years, and we were a British colony for only 150 years or so. Scotland's history intertwines with England's for many more centuries, and they're right next door to one another. They share currency, banks, businesses. Will Scotland keep a constitutional monarchy, and proclaim Elizabeth as Queen of Scots, or will they decide to separate completely, install a Scotsman or woman as their monarch? Will they dispense with monarchy altogether and become a republic? Will they join the EU? Will they keep the counties they've always had or make the counties more like provinces or states?

I know some of this has been already discussed, but i also see these points as needing to be reconsidered should the voters say yes. Once they have decided to pull away from the UK, they may feel differently about some of these things. Or that the earlier decision was made in a vacuum, which has since punctured.

And if the yes vote carries, what are the next steps? Who decides which traditions will be maintained or discarded? Passion runs high on both sides, and what plans have been made to reconcile, because no matter how the vote falls, these people will need to find a way to work together, either to establish new practices, policies, and procedures in a free state, or to improve on the system already in place.

Does one choose the unknown path or should one stick to the devil he knows? If the current situation is truly onerous and one sees little chance of change, then i can see where the unknown path would hold more appeal. I understand how it chafes when some place well away from where i live holds sway over what i may and may not do. I also understand the idea that should the vote go no, there'll be some sort of punitive backlash. Some of that may be unintentional but interpreted as malevolent and some may indeed be sinister. Power and cloudy perception can do funny things to otherwise intelligent people.

I don't envy Scotland their position. I do hope that however the vote goes, it's what's best, even if not everyone can see that's clearly the case.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Sailing, Sailing

I started a new job in mid-May, and I like it very much. But, I didn’t think about not having any vacation time accrued for summer, and summer here is fleeting, so my opportunities for sailing this summer have been curtailed. When I’ve time, the wind is too strong or absent. Or it’s raining. One weekend I met up with an old school chum, and it was lovely to catch up. Himself had a surgery recently, and while he’s mending, he can’t sail. So, that leaves me to single hand or go with friends.

It’s been mostly single handing, which is okay because I can learn more. But there’ve been times where I wasn’t quite sure to go because the wind was at the edge of where I feel comfortable. I’ve found that where I am at the moment in my sailing life, that 20 knots is about as much wind as I want. More than that makes things a bit too scary for me. I think my boat can handle 20 knots all right, and even 25 knots, if I want to sail with just the jib or consider putting a reef in the mainsail. Or, if I go with someone who knows a bit more than I do, then 25 knots could be doable.

Anyhow, between starting the new job and getting acclimated to that, it’s somehow become the middle of August. Summer has galloped along, and I asked SFB once again if he’d like to go sailing. Every other time I’ve asked, he’s been busy doing other things, family birthdays or get-togethers, and he’s been helping out at a kids’ camp near his house. This last time, when I asked, he said, “You know, I can’t quite believe it’s the middle of August. If I don’t say ‘yes’ now, the next time you ask, it’ll be to ask me to help you take your boat out of the water!” And for a wonder, he didn’t have any activities planned, so we went sailing on Saturday.
He insisted on rowing the dinghy, tried out my new-to-me oars, which are longer than the ones I got initially. SFB and Chuck, the clerk at the marine store thought that 5.5 ft oars would be good for me. They determined that taking my height into consideration, and though they didn’t say it, the fact that I was female. I was thinking longer oars, like 6.5 ft better. But, I took their suggestion since they have lots more experience than I do. This year, I twice was blown around trying to row back to the float where I keep my dinghy. I just couldn’t get enough oomph with the shorter oars. I decided to get longer ones, found a pair of used 6.5 ft ones, and tried them out two weekends ago. Perfect. Yes, they’re heavier, but they also fit my dinghy better because she’s wide. Small in length, but wide. I should have had 6.5 ft all along, and I’ve no doubt had I been male, the guys would have said at least 6 ft oars if not 6.5 ft oars. Now, I can sit and stew about it or I can remind myself that just because someone has loads of experience doesn’t mean he’ll be right in every instance. I really was unsure what size would be best, but if I had stuck to my inner voice, I’d have gone at least 6 ft. Lesson learned.

Once we got out to Retrouvé, SFB waited for me to tell him what to do and wanted me to do what I typically do. He did start up the engine, which did not get balky at all, he helped with removing the sail stops from the mainsail after asking if I were going to raise the main before I left the mooring (yes, I do do that, I don’t mind raising the jib underway, but I want the main up when I single hand). I went forward to cast us off the mooring, SFB was at the helm. I went aft when that was done, and we sailed for several hours.

It was a beautiful day, nice wind, some sun and some clouds, and SFB stayed on the helm. I was fine with that, and about a third of the way through, I really watched SFB. He became one with the boat, eye constantly looking ahead and put Retrouvé through her paces. He wanted to see what she’d do and how she handled. His eyes are a striking blue, and as he was fully engaged at the helm, they became a really saturated blue. We tacked a few times, he answered my question about backing a sail (he did it very easily and showed me how the wind went to the backside of the jib, forcing the bow to turn), and I went forward a few times to untangle the telltale or adjust a fender.
But clearly, for much of the sail, he was simply enjoying the feel of the tiller in his hand and watching what the boat would do, quite oblivious to anything except the boat, the sea, and watching as he navigated. I felt her respond differently, and it were as if she sighed with relief and said, “Someone at the tiller who knows—really knows—what to do.”
She seemed eager to please and very happy to be out and about. I silently apologized to her, letting her know that I was doing my best. Perhaps if I had the summer off, I could become a more competent sailor a bit faster. But for now, I had to be content with slow improvements, and I thanked her for being patient with me.

I was reminded of when I’ve heard new fifers play. You can often tell what tune they’re playing, it’s recognizable, and you can see that the new musician is in earnest. But it doesn’t have the same depth of when someone more experienced plays it. And, there is no shortcut for that experience, that wealth of knowledge and hundreds of hours of playing time that come after a while. And so it is with the boat. I’m still learning, I don’t have 60+ years of sailing experience in my hands, but I’m getting there as quickly as I’m able.
In the four or so hours we were sailing, other than explaining about backing the jib, or asking if he saw the lobster buoy or small boat that was partially obscured by the jib, I don’t think we exchanged 20 words.

It was glorious, to be enjoying the sea, the breeze, and not feel any pressure for small talk. As we sailed back to the mooring, I lowered and stowed the jib, handed it to SFB who put it below and handed me the boat hook so I could pick up the mooring line.

He was tired, but happy, and looked 10 years younger. I was happy, too, as being out on the water feeds my soul as nothing else does.
I had mentioned a mutual acquaintance having a new-to-him Friendship sloop, at the other end of the harbor, so we went down afterwards to see her. She was moved from where I’d first seen her to a mooring. Had we known, we could have sailed up to her. Maybe next time.

Rain spat on and off for much of Sunday, so I stayed home and attended to housework. Today would have been a delightful sailing day, but work calls. It feeds my boat habit, so I’m not complaining. I just hope the weekend has nice weather like this, too.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

First Fig

My candle burns at both ends;
It will not last the night;
But ah, my foes, and oh, my friends—
It gives a lovely light!
--Edna St. Vincent Millay

This poem has floated through off and on in my mind since i was reacquainted with it last week. Funny what your brain forgets and then when it sees something again, it greets it like an old friend and wonders why it fell into that forgotten space.

This poem has knocked on my consciousness more often over the last 24 hours or so since hearing the news of Robin William's death. It saddened me that he most likely chose to end his life. [After initially posting this, i heard the suicide was confirmed.] Perhaps he simply grew tired of trying to outpace his demons or keep them at arm's length.

I didn't know him personally. Each time i saw him being interviewed or in any of the movies or tv shows i watched where he had a role, i always noticed his neverending energy and sometimes wondered if it would suddenly burn out, like a sparkler. I don't think i would have been as surprised had he died at a younger age as a lot of brillant people in the arts have. I suppose i was lulled into a place where he seemed to be managing all right, and i hoped he'd make it. That if he couldn't successfully harness all that energy, creativity, and ingenuity, he could at least hang on for the ride and not let go of the reins for a long, long time.

I am sorry that he was ready to let go.

It's made me reflect on the people who have come in and left my life, and on those dark times where i didn't know how i was going to hold on or for how much longer i could hold on. To date, each time i have, and am ultimately always glad i did so. I hope i am never in a place where suicide appears less painful than continuing on and getting through whatever darkness to the next place of light. I hope that when i let go of the reins, it's because it's time to let go.

And, for all i know, he knew it was time for him to let go, so he did.

I don't think every successful suicide is a cry for help that went beyond. I think that for some, they feel ready to do it and follow through. No histronics or threats, they just have a quiet moment and are ready.

When i worked as a waitress in a family restaurant, we had lots of regulars who'd stop in for a meal. One couple were a hoot, Jack and Lynn. They laughed a lot, and often made me laugh, even if i wasn't having a great day. Each was on their second marriage, and each had their first marriage go horribly wrong. Both were astounded that each was eager to try again and so happy not to be disappointed. Jack had some horrendous illness before i knew him, and Lyn said he nearly died. He was in the hospital for a long time and went in before Christmas. He told her he'd be out of that @#($( hospital at some point, so don't take the tree down. They had a cut tree that year, and Lynn kept the tree up. Jack was discharged in March. The tree barely had a needle left on it, but it scraggily stood all the same to welcome Jack home. Lynn said it might sound silly, but the tree gave her hope, and she wasn't going to take it down while Jack had a chance. That started a tradition for them where they kept up the tree an absurdly long time. By the time they were relating the story to me, they both laughed about it, although i still get a lump in my throat thinking about it.

Lynn said it's the weirdest thing how something so small or silly could change your life. She confided that she was ready to commit suicide. It was after her first marriage had been so horrible and ended. She hadn't yet met Jack, she felt her life was in the toilet, and she was going to off herself. She got all the paperwork squared away, cleaned the house well, and decided slashing her wrists was the way to go. She said there was an absolute certainty in her decision. It wasn't a cry for help, she simply decided that she was done with living. Period. Full stop. So, after tidying up the paperwork and living space, she was ready. Calmly, she went into the bathroom, turned on the water in the sink, looked at her face in the mirror before she took the razor blade to her wrists. She saw the determined look in her face and was ready.

She said she would have been successful, too, if it weren't for a friend who had a key to her place, knocked a short while later, knowing Lynn was home, and grew very concerned when she didn't answer. The friend found her, called emergency responders, and Lynn survived. Was angry as hell that her attempt had been unsuccessful. And then she met Jack, and was glad it had been unsuccessful. She wasn't angry with her friend any longer and would have done the same thing if the situation had been reversed.

"But," she emphasized to me, "When i had made my plan, i was ABSOLUTELY sure it was the right thing to do. I didn't tell anyone about it, because i knew they'd try to talk me out of it. I just calmly decided how and then picked a date."

She told me that on the other side of that attempt came the greatest joy she'd ever known, and she was sure in part, that she enjoyed it all the more because she very nearly didn't have chance to be present for it at all. Rather than make herself crazy with wondering about it, she accepted it as a gift.

And so i wonder, about those who are in that space where they feel ready to go. That this is the right thing. Is it? Or is it just around the corner from something wonderful, if only they could get through this patch?

It was a reminder to me that if i feel i'm in a dark place, i have options, even if it doesn't feel that way. And for my part, i need to be available to others in case they are struggling. A smile or kind word that costs me nothing to give might make a huge difference, like ripples from a small pebble tossed into a pond.

Friday, July 25, 2014

It felt like a reward

I was getting done with the mowing yesterday, in the final moments before it was almost too dark and was rewarded by hearing a favourite bird call of mine, that of the wood thrush.

I've heard it nearly every year since i've lived here, and thanks to the Cornell Ornithology Lab and the Interwebz, i can share with you what the bird sounded like:

click here

Although i'd heard them, i didn't see one until earlier this year, when i followed the call and happened to look up as i saw it fly briefly from one branch to another. On that day, i was talking a walk up the street after a long work day, and had turned around to come back down the hill, when i heard its song and stopped to listen. The one last night was singing quite loudly and i heard it as soon as i stopped the mower. It was diagonally across the street in a smallish stand of trees, and as i walked over for a listen, the bird promptly fell silent.

I've heard either a Swainson's thrush (click here) or Hermit thrush (click here) recently, too. I know i've heard both of these calls, but as they're similar, i can't say which one it was i heard the other day. Having the recordings available makes it much easier for me to identify what i heard. I've also heard an Ovenbird recently Ovenbird (click here). I do still dutifully look in my Petersen's A Field Guide to the Birds East of the Rockies, but some of the calls as written aren't always easy for me to decipher.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Was lost, now found

One of my sailing friends and her husband took in a dog who'd been abused. Toby's been with them since Thanksgiving, still skittish, but learning to trust more and more, and has picked the husband as his favourite human.

Whenever one or the other has to leave for a few days, the other stays home with Toby. They decided to try a doggy daycare for a day to see how Toby fared, so if they want to take a few days away together, they'd have a place where Toby would be well looked after.

So, they dropped him off about 20 miles away from home at the doggie day care, and Toby did a runner.

He's been missing since 10 July.

Hundreds of leaflets have been printed up and plastered all over the region. Facebook has been busy with friends of the couple posting their best wishes and prayer support. People who live closer to the couple have been helping with calling for him, walking through woods and fields. Dog finders were engaged and tracked for two days. They said they'd come back when there's a sighting. Two women kayaked along the river where Toby was tracked, looking to see if they could find him or some trace of him. Another woman took all the back roads home from work to see if she might see him, as some of these backroads were near where he was tracked.

So many good wishes and such outpouring of support.

Toby returned to the kennel from whence he escaped. The owner's son was able to catch him. And Toby is now back at home where he belongs.

His face says it all.


Welcome home, Toby.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Galvanising moment

I remember driving home from work when this song came on the radio, and i knew in that moment that my days living inland were numbered.

It took a few more years, but i eventually returned to the coast. It wasn't that where i was living was bad, it just didn't feed my soul.



Have any of you a song that crystalized something for you in such a way that you knew you had to do something different?

Sunday, June 22, 2014

When the student is ready at some level, the lesson appears...

I didn't sleep well last night, in part because i fell asleep late afternoon/early evening on the sofa, and awoke with a start about 2 hours later. So, when it was time for bed, i wasn't all that sleepy, and i ended up with an abcessed tooth, so that plagued me much of the night.

Rang the dental office this morning, the prerecorded message gave the usual business hours and then each dentist's cell phone number if it were an emergency. Well, i still had a pulse, so was it really an emergency? Still, involuntarily moaning and groaning because of pain and crying was not normal for me. Even Phoebe started purring and walked on me at one point, trying to make it all better.

I dialled the phone number for dentist i usually see, and she answered quickly. I told her what i could, she guessed i had an abcess and would call in a prescription for me, any drug allergies? Well, truth be told, i've had very few prescriptions in my life, one 10-day course of antibiotics in 2003 where i felt as if the life force had been sucked out of me, and the last time i had an Rx was in 2005 when i broke my leg: Tylenol 3 (acetaminaphen/paracetamol and codeine). The doc had wanted to give me Percoset but that was too strong. I took one dose and hadn't been that stoned since the 1970's.

The dentist suggested an Advil (ibuprofen) and Tylenol (acetaminophen or paracetamol, depending on which side of the Pond you reside) on their own separate schedules but overlapping so one could help the other. She's prescribe good ol' penicillin and would try to get to talk the pharmacist directly rather than leave the message on the machine, which they'd check every hour.

She assured me that the pain would gradually lessen if i followed that protocol, although it does always seem worse at night, perhaps because we don't have anything else to think about. She was out of the office Monday, but the other dentist could help, or she'd see me Tuesday.

Oh, and yes, i DID do the right thing in calling her.

I told her i felt better just talking to her, and i did.

Now, the weather here has been absolutely STELLAR, and after the long, long winter we had, i didn't want to spend such a beautiful day feeling like crap. I searched for my HSA card, which i never use, and could only find the one that expired in March. Oh, wait, they were supposed to send another, did they? and i honestly couldn't remember. Searched high and low. At least some pesky filing is now sorted as a result. I also had a few paper checks for the HSA, so i could take one of those. And my insurance card, although i couldn't remember if this was the current one. WHY don't they put a date on them?

I'm not usually this scatterbrained, but insurance stuff makes my eyes glaze over. I can wade through oodles of tax forms, banking legalese, and muncipal code, but the buck stops there. Himself is the one who's got the insurance thing down, but of course, he's not here at the moment, so there you have it.

I go with my insurance card, a paper check, and i hope the Rx is ready.

I arrive, and it is. The pharmacist looks very young, he has to get all my info since i'm a new customer. I ask questions about the Rx, with food or without? How often? And here he looks at me with a funny look. I apologize and tell him the last Rx i had was in 2005, and no offense, but i don't keep people like him very busy. He smiled and relaxed his gaze. "Not to worry, there are more than enough people taking your place," and here his smile widened a bit more.

I thanked him, he answered my questions, and then i left. There were now four people waiting, and two looked at me in disbelief. How could i not know the drill? Well, i'm medically boring, and i want to make sure i understand everything. I get to the car, look at the notes that come with Rx. It tells me among other things that penicillin is absorbed fastest in the bloodstream when i take it either an hour before or two hours after a meal. Hmm, the pharmacist said it didn't matter, some people take it with food else they get an upset stomach.

So, i got home, popped a penicillin, and started to work out my dosing schedule. Gadzooks, not the mental arithmetic i wanted to do. And i laughed at myself. Three different meds, and the Rx is for 7 days. I can suck it up for a week. I thought of some folks i know who do this every day, and not just with three meds. This one with food. That one without. This one has to be taken three hours before so as not to react with that one. I had my schedule, i did eat something about 40 minutes after the penicillin because i was hungry, and i had wanted to go sailing.

Three aspirin can put me to sleep, so i wanted to see what i felt like after taking my Advil (11:00 a.m.), penicillin (1:15 p.m.) and Tylenol (1:35 p.m.) before i took off for the boat. Other than a little relaxed, i felt all right, so i loaded up the oars, pfd (personal flotation device or life jacket), my backpack with water bottle and extra bottle of water, sunscreen, another layer if temps got cooler, cell phone in stay-dry thingie, and my portable marine radio.

As i rowed out to Retrouvé, I saw my friend who's captain of one of the schooners near my boat. She'd invited me for a lobster on her lobster cruise that evening, if i was game. I wanted to, but remembered i hadn't brought my meds, so declined her polite offer. It didn't take long to bend the jib, raise the main, and get underway; i was glad to have time for a short sail. I decided to sail through the "parking lot" part of the harbor, where i'd spent much of my first sailing season, just trying to figure things out. Winds were light and variable, and that protected cove would mean they'd be lighter still, but probably enough for me to take a spin through before working my way down the harbor. The harbor is a big one, at least to me, about two miles (3 km) long, and it's a working harbor, so that might be a nice ride for an hour or so.

I got caught in a spot where the wind died, and was waiting to catch any zephyr. I was getting closer to one of two big barges parked there, and i decided i'd start up the outboard, and motor past. I never leave the mooring without starting the outboard, and today was no exception. The wind was out of the west, and i had raised the main before casting off the mooring line. It took only several moments for me to be sailing and about a minute after to realise that although i had the engine running, it was in neutral. So, i switched it off and enjoyed sailing up the channel.

So, imagine my surprise when i pull the outboard string, and nothing happens. I was finally able to get it going, just enough to get out of the barge's way, when the engine cut out again. I recalled the steps i went through at the mooring. I had done everything i always do. So, what was different? Well, i had topped off the gas tank as it was low, and the gas can i brought was the one that's dedicated to the boat's mix of 1:100. Oh, but was it old gas in that can? Maybe. I add stabiliser in all gas i get for the mowers and boat since they all are two-stroke engines, and don't see as much use as the car or truck. ##@(*$#( ethanol in gas. But, that's a rant for another day.

I try the engine again, and it still doesn't want to turn over. Then it does, but won't stay motoring, just cuts out. I want to try again but figure i've probably flooded the engine at this point, and feel it's in my best interest to get back to the mooring. The wind has picked up a little, and i can make it back to my mooring fairly easily, if the wind keeps up. So, i make my way back, taking note of how the boats are pointing, what's the best course for me to get to my mooring, and what happens if i can't the engine to start but MUST rely on my sailing skill and caprices of the wind?

I decide i'm not going to try to start the engine again until i'm closer to the mooring. If it's going to give just a little oomph then nothing, i might need that little jolt closer to the mooring.

I think of yesterday when i sailed with a sailing friend who's a great knitter. We had a lot of fun, and motored most of the way back once inside the harbor because the wind was blowing east, or dead on our nose when we were in the channel before we turned off to the mooring. The outboard was fine, reliable, and we putted along, laughing and having a lovely time motor sailing as they say.

At least today, the wind was blowing from the northwest, so it would be fairly easy to stay in the channel, and i'd have to pick my way past a couple of boats, to port hard, head into the wind, pick up the mooring line, done.

Oh, but that second channel marker was about where i'd need to veer off and pick my way through. Looked as though the wind changed direction just a little and just past there, so go around the marker or cut before? Cutting before gave me more margin to wiggle to the mooring, so cutting before it was. And when i got there, it was at the wind shift point, and turning Retrouvé just a bit port to avoid the channel marker and make my way into the anchorage, saw me in irons. Oh, dear, and channel markers don't move for anyone. I started the motor or tried, and it spurted just a moment, enough so i could lurch forward, before it conked out. The lurch got me past the danger zone, and provided just enough oomph to catch the next zephyr. I glanced at my friend's schooner. It was full of people going on the lobster cruise that evening. I was glad for her, and from the way they stood still, i knew she was giving the safety talk she's required to give before any sail.

I turned my attention back to my mooring. Twig, my dinghy was in plain view, and Retrouvé sidled up to her. I turned port, and was a bit farther from Twig, and more importantly Twig's painter (like a lead line) that was attached to the mooring line than i thought i would be. But, close enough to reach with the boat hook. I grabbed the painter from the boat hook and walked forward to the big cleat. I wanted to see if i could figure out what was what with the motor.

I walked aft after striking the main, put my hands on my hips, and stared at the outboard. She looked as she always had. Pressed the priming bulb a few times, felt a bit more air than i usually do, and pulled the string. She started right up, purring merrily along. Tra-la-la. I shut her down after a few minutes. Maybe sediment in the line? I stowed the jib back in its bag, furled the main, tied the sail stops, covered it with the mainsail cover. Went about my usual routine of getting the boat ready to be back on her mooring.

I smiled involuntarily. I remember telling SFB that at the helm i felt i should be thinking deep, nautical thoughts, but i couldn't think of a damn thing other than that i should be thinking deep, nautical thoughts. Today, my brain took in things, like wind direction, boats that were nearby, places i'd most likely be able to sail without too much trouble (somewhat successful as i hadn't hit anyone or hurt anything), and how to sail to my mooring, safely, and without incident. I was glad and relieved to have done all that. Not the weak-in-the-knees relief i'd felt that first season, when the motor cut out was i was picking my way through the boats to my mooring, and she wouldn't start up until the last moment. And this time, the feelings of gladness were stronger than the feelings of relief. I had paid attention when those with more sailing experience had talked, and i happened to listen when they used words i could understand, and i was ready to hear the message. I had enough point of reference so what they said made sense to me. I was grateful for the teaching.

That other day, when the motor cut out inopportunely as it had, it did for seemingly no rhyme or reason. Next time out, it started up and chugged along as if nothing had ever happened.

I'll look over the manual again, to make sure i did all that i was supposed to do. I'm nearly ready for my next round of pain med #2, and about 1.5 hours from now, before i go to bed, i'll take more penicillin and pain med #1. Not quite every 6 hours, but close enough. Upon waking, which ideally will be a tad over 6 hours, i can start the pill regimen again.

The lesson appeared, and the student was capable, even if she didn't feel entirely ready. She's glad it went as well as it did.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Of American Football and the Team Once Called the Washington Redskins

American football is one of those games that people seem to hate or love. There are very few of us who are in the middle of the spectrum. If the game is a good one, i'll watch. If it's boring or terribly lopsided, i lose interest in it pretty quickly.

Himself is an American football fanatic. He knows scads of facts about the game in general, and can tell you about a great many of the players. It's how i came to learn so much about the game.

Teams have changed names over the years, chiefly because they changed locations. Many fans were outraged when the Oakland Raiders moved to L.A. then back to Oakland, and now they just go by the name, "the Raiders," since it seemed ludicrous to have the team in L.A. still refer to itself as "Oakland." And yet, the NY Giants and Jets whose home field is now in New Jersey (i still think of it as "The Meadowlands") do NOT call themselves the Jersey Giants or Jersey Jets, and i think, each team would think it anathema to do so. They are NY teams, dammit, no matter that their home pitch has moved across state lines.

Then there were the Cleveland Browns who left town, but had to leave the name behind. This was in 1996, and also known as "The Move," when the team formerly called the Cleveland Browns, left town and moved east to Baltimore. The Baltimore Colts, who'd been there since i could remember, and as ignorant of the game as i was as a kid, knew that Johnny Unitas was synonymous with the Baltimore Colts--yes, those Baltimore Colts had skipped town and went west to Indianapolis. It just didn't have the same ring, Indianapolis Colts. Baltimore Colts effortlessly rolled off the tongue, but Indianapolis Colts felt like a real workout to say. A few sports commentators called them wrong city a couple times.

So, the now nameless team who had arrived in Baltimore became known as the Baltimore Ravens. Some sportscasters will refer to that Indianapolis team as "the Colts," much the way baseball's Brooklyn Dodger fans couldn't fathom/stomach the Dodgers having another hometown in front of their name.

I always thought it was neat that in St. Louis, both the baseball and football teams were known as the Cardinals. Then St. Louis's football team moved to Arizona, and are now called the "Arizona Cardinals."

I don't care if teams want to change their names when they move, and in some cases, such was when the Cards moved to Arizona, it's an idea that seems to make sense. When i think of Arizona, i don't think of cardinals, but of roadrunners. Shrug.

I can't remember a time when the Washington Redskins were anything but the Washington Redskins. I do remember cheering for them in 1971, wanting the "over the hill gang" to win it. I never thought about the name or felt it deregatory, but then again, i'm pretty white, even for a Caucasian. There've been murmurings for awhile how the name was racist or derogatory, and it should be changed. I thought of when Himself and i went out west for a visit, and passed by some schools that had large Native American populations, and the teams were known as the Redskins. We were there during high school football playoffs one year, and i saw a number of kids wearing school colors or holding signs saying "Redskins pride" as they looked forward to the game. Some kids were white, some Native American. All of them excited to see their school's team having a chance to win in the playoff game. Not one sad face in the bunch.

Now, this was in the dark ages of the early 1990's, before political correctness had gotten the strangling threshold it seems to have had for awhile now, and i might be showing my age just a little, but i really don't see what all the fuss with the name is about.

Still, i listened to those who said how deplorable the name was. Someone on facebook had provided a link to an article that showed the reason the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) cancelled the federal trademark of the Washington Redskins based on the grounds that the team name is disparaging to Native Americans.

I did happen to read a few of the comments made below the article. One woman was saying that for those of us who didn't find it offensive, maybe we'd find it all right if we called an all-black team the [city name] Niggers or a mostly Asian team the [city name] Chinks. I refrained from replying to her comment, but thought that her logic was skewed. I don't think there are any Native Americans currently on Washington's roster, and what happens if the racial or ethnic balance changes? Change the name based on that? Oh, and in case she hadn't gotten the memo, the "n word" as it's now known, is disparaging only when it comes out of a white person's mouth. Darker skinned people have a free pass to use this word as much as they like, in its entirety, with no backlash, although most darker skinned people i know who are my age, near it, or older are as infuriated about that stupidity as i am. It's like saying the word "fuck" is only a bad word when green-eyed people say it, otherwise it's perfectly acceptable. I had that logic when i was four years old, only i said the word "shit" when i couldn't pull off my boots. My mother asked, "What did you say?" and i told her. She told me that was a bad word to say. I told her, "But i didn't say it TO anyone, Mommy, i said it because i couldn't get my boots off." She explained that the word was a bad word, no matter when it was used.

Um, okay, let's move on from the comments and digression to the article itself. Show me the proof how this is disparaging. And i don't say that in a taunting voice, but really and truly, i am open to increasing my awareness. And they showed footage from the 1960's through the 1990's. Use of the what was then known as the Indian headdress in the marching band. Same headdress worn by the cheerleaders. Nothing from the 21st century, i noticed. And quite frankly, if you watched footage from the 1960's in general, you'd see that it was a very white world then on tv. White makes right and all that. Since that time, the cheerleaders don't wear headresses, and i can't remember the last time i saw a marching band at a professional football game. So, yes, it may look disparaging to those of us who live in this decade of the 21st century, but--and here again i may be just too damn white--i haven't seen anything in recent memory that would be considered disparaging.

What i find far more appalling is the undue hype these players receive, their outlandish salaries, and quite frankly, in ANY job i ever held, had i been found guilty of killing someone, i'd have lost my job. Then there's the blind eye turned to domestic violence, although that has been mentioned once or twice in the last decade. I suppose it's simply what the market will bear; if the money flow suddenly stopped because people were outaged by team names or the actions of some of its players, then i think we'd see changes occurring PDQ.

For now, the name stays, but i do see a time in the near future where this will be the all-consuming news story so we can hyperfocus on this instead of real problems. The old create a diversion to keep them from seeing and wanting to address the real stuff once again. Instead of simply changing the name, how about making *real* reparations? Yeah, i thought the silence would be deafening, and, alas, i am correct.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Allegheny Flight 485

Jim Z. and my dad both worked at the sub base, and they drove to work together, taking turns behind the wheel. I know Mr. Z. breathed a sigh of relief when my dad finally sold the little red MG because, as it seemed with English cars at that time, this one could be tempermental. There was the time they were on the turnpike going 60 or 70 mph, and the steering wheel disengaged and fell onto my father's lap. "Here, Jim," Dad had said, "Take the wheel."

Mr. Z. blanched while Dad stuck his finger in the drive shaft, or whatever the housing is called to which the wheel was attached. He could manuever the inward bits enough so to get the car over to the shoulder and reattach the wheel.

Another time, when they were approaching the toll booth before they crossed the bridge, the brakes went out. Completely gone, and they were driving turnpike speed, so it was not going to bode well, as all other cars were stopping to pay the toll. This was years before EZ-Pass, and all cars had to stop, and give money to the collector. Dad pumped the brakes and kept pumping. Enough air got into the line, i guess, because he was able to stop and pay the toll. Tra-la-la.

When Dad wasn't driving them in the MG, Mr. Z. would drive them in the Simca. It was white with white interior. When Dad sold the MG, he had removed the seatbelts and given them to Mr. Z. to put in the Simca. The red seat belts contrasted sharply with the white interior, but you certainly couldn't overlook them. As the advert at the time said, "Seat belts are lumpy only if you sit on them."

Dad was several years younger than Mr. Z. I don't know how many, but Mr. Z. served in WWII; whereas Dad was almost 15 when the war ended, and he ended up serving in the Korean War. Both had been in the Navy, and although both were now civilians, they worked for the Navy at the Sub Base. They didn't talk much about what they did, because they worked on classified things, and sometimes they had to travel to other places to do whatever it was they did.

I always thought that sounded exotic, and Dad would come back with goodies for us kids. Once he had to travel over my birthday and sent me flowers from the florist since he couldn't be there on the day itself. Mom and i had gone to town to run errands, and when we came home, a huge bouquet of flowers were waiting for us on the front porch. They were beautiful, and i was stunned when Mom read the card and saw they were for me. Even though i was old enough to read, i could scarcely believe it.

Sometimes Mr. Z. would have to travel, sometimes Dad would. They didn't usually travel together, usually one stayed behind to hold the fort down at the Sub Base while the other one went and did whatever.

The Z's lived kitty-corner from us, and Mr. and Mrs. Z. had three daughters. The oldest was about five years older than i, the middle one two years older and in my brother's class, the youngest, Cindy, about a year and half younger and two grades behind me. All of us kids in the neighbourhood played together, although the oldest daughter was enough older that we didn't play together much. That five years made for a very big gap. Still, we had neighbourhood ball games, those of us younger would play hide and seek (or as we said, hide and go seek), and we rode our bicycles everywhere.

When it was time to come home, our parents would yell for us. If we were at another house playing baseball, hearing one parent call usually signalled to all of us that our parents would be calling next, so we'd end our game and go home. Mr. Z. always called for his girls, and when we heard his voice, my brother and i knew it was time to go, as we ate supper pretty much the same time the Z's did.

My parents would throw a neighbourhood party every so often. Sometimes these were planned events, and sometimes spontaneous. For instance, one day, my dad saw Mr. L. who lived next door to Mr. Z. painting his house. Dad invited Mr. L. over for a drink when he was done. Mr. L. thanked my dad and when they were sipping libations, they thought it might be nice to have a cookout. So, Mr. L. went home to tell the family, my dad got the charcoal fire started, and looked to see what we had on hand to grill. Mr. L. brought stuff over, and Mr. Z. saw Mr. L., asked what was happening, and when he found out, he got some food together and told the family they were going to a cookout at our house.

The spontaneous parties were always the best because everyone brought something, and no one really stressed about it. There was always plenty of food to go around, the kids would help a little, sometimes by making the salad, others by watching the younger kids, or sometimes, we'd just play.

At one of these spontaneous parties, we reminisced about the MG, and Mr. Z. said how relieved he was to carpool with Dad's more reliable Chevy. Next, we laughed about the time that i had a balloon that popped on his whiskers. It startled all of us, and none of us had heard of that ever happening to anyone else.

It was late spring, and you could feel summer in the air. The party broke up a bit early because Mr. Z. was flying out to someplace for work. Originally, Dad was going to go, but then a problem cropped up at the Sub Base, and both Mr. Z. and Dad felt that Dad was better able to handle the problem at the Sub Base, and either of them could handle what needed doing for the business trip. So, they switched places. As Mr. Z. left, he and my dad were joking about something, and they kissed each other good-bye. We were all laughing as they feigned broken hearts at parting. All of us enjoyed the silliness.

Monday was a brillantly sunny day in early June, and i could taste summer in the air. I was almost done fifth grade, and would be 11 in a few months. I rode the bus home as i usually did, and when i stepped off the bus at my usual bus stop, a stillness filled the air. I could almost touch it, and it disquieted me.

My brother had gotten home earlier because he was in jr. high, and they got out of school a half hour earlier than we did in grade school. So, he was already home when i got there, just as always.

"Where's Mom?" i said as i came in the house. Even though my mother worked at a neighbouring school's library, she usually was home when i got home from school. Her car was in the driveway, but she wasn't in the house.

"She's at the Z's," he answered with a frown on his face.

"What?" i asked with some impatience. My brother had grown moody since being in jr. high, and there were times i irritated him just by asking a simple question, which irritated me a great deal. Just because i two grades behind him, didn't mean i was stupid.

"Nothing. Mom will tell you."

See, i knew it was something, and to be told, "Nothing," when i damn well knew it was "something," irked me all the more.

"Why can't you tell me?"

"Because."

"Why?"

He saw i wasn't going to let this go and was in no mood to talk. I tried to feign indifference but didn't succeed. I wanted to know what was happening. If Mom wasn't here, but her car was, then why couldn't he tell me anything else. Mom wouldn't normally be a the Z's this time of day. She'd be starting supper, looking to see how much homework i had, and if i should get started with some it before supper or wait and do it all after.

Mom came home, and she didn't look right. Her face was very drawn. She looked at me, and then at my brother. "Did you tell her?" Mom asked as if i weren't there.

"No, you told me not to, but she kept asking. I still didn't say anything."

Now i knew something was clearly up. Was it about me? Had i done something wrong? I scanned my brain, recapping the last week's events. Nope, couldn't think of anything. "He's right, Mom, i did ask, more than once, but he wouldn't say anything. What is it?"

And in a quiet, faraway voice, she told me that Mr. Z.'s plane had crashed. They were coming into land, the pilot misjudged where the landing strip was because of the fog, and they crashed. Mr. Z. and nearly everyone else on board had been killed.

I blinked hard a few times. My brother said, "See, that's why i couldn't tell you." A huge lump was growing in my throat. Mr. Z. had kissed Dad good-bye! He was the last of the Z family to leave our house that day of the party, and i had turned around to look at the clock. 3:33. And i felt a chill as i looked at it. Had it really only been two days before?

My mother had been speaking and i came back to the conversation to hear her say, "Cindy will be getting home from school soon. When she gets off the bus, we're going to tell her that her mom had to go into town, and when Mrs. Z. is ready, she'll call us, and then we'll send Cindy home. You're not to tell her what happened, Megan, do you understand? Her mother will tell her, she just needs a little time to collect herself."

I nodded, and my eyes started to fill. Oh, this would never do, i couldn't cry right now. That would give the game away. I blinked hard, and my mom suggested that i get a game that Cindy liked to play. I nodded, and got a game ready. Because Cindy was two grades behind me, she was in the primary school and got home on a later bus. The bus came, Cindy got off just like always, and i heard my mom call to her, asking her to come over to our house. Cindy did, and my mother explained that her mom had to go into town for something and would call when she got back.

I don't know how long Cindy was at our house, maybe a half hour. We played a game that she liked, and i couldn't believe i could talk to her normally when there was such a huge lump in my throat. How such a beautiful day could feel so sad. Couldn't Cindy feel the stillness in the air, too, as i had? Couldn't she sense something wasn't quite right?

I was relieved to hear the phone ring. My mother answered, and said shortly after that, "Oh, it's no problem, yes, we'll tell Cindy you're home."

And here, my mom told Cindy her mom was home now, and i couldn't believe how my mom delivered the line. Just as if there was nothing wrong.

I closed the front door after Cindy left, got the game, and went to my room to put it away, when i heard Cindy scream. I could hear it through closed windows. It shattered the stillness in the neighbourhood, and the tears flowed freely down my cheeks. I closed my bedroom door, lay on my bed, and in huge, gulping sobs, processed what my mother had told me.

It turned out that the co-pilot and stewardess survived, although the co-pilot lost both his legs. I think one passenger survived, too. Mr. Z. had been in submarines during WWII, and i had wanted to work on a sub. Girls weren't allowed then, of course, and i was born a generation too early to get my chance. Dad said that Mr. Z.'s fear during the war was that he'd burn to death in a sub. He didn't, but he did burn to death on the plane. They had to identify him by his dental work.

There was an investigation as to what happened with Allegheny Flight 485. Part of the problem was the airport, as the landing strip was at the edge of a swamp, so it made landings tough with the fog. Some people wanted to extend the landing strip, but environmental groups, which were new then, didn't want the swamp flora and fauna disturbed by that any more than they already were.

They blamed the pilot for the crash, and there was talk of suing. I remember wondering what good suing would do. It wouldn't bring any of those people back. The pilot lost his life, and the co-pilot lost his legs plus had to live with that the rest of his life.

The Z.'s families were in Chicago, and there was to be a service there. Mrs. Z. was adamant: they would fly to Chicago for the service. She ignored the protests of her daughters, telling them that they were living in the 20th century, and flying in an airplane was a part of that. Like it as not, they were flying. There and back. I remember thinking how brave she was to be so adamant about it, and how i cried happy tears when they made it back safely.

Since he was a veteran, Mr. Z. would be buried at Arlington National Cemetery. This was before it was so full, and my dad told my mom that even though he could be buried there, too, since he fought in Korea, he'd rather be buried beside her. She wanted that, too.

My father never spoke of how he would have been on that plane, but for a problem at the Sub Base he was better able to handle. I sometimes wondered if he felt guilty about it. How many times do we do something so small as to be considered inconsequential, when rather it leaves a huge ripple in the pond?

Today's weather was very much like that June 7th in 1971. That early taste of summer, the delicious feeling of warmth, brilliant skies, and sunshine. I welcomed it after the long, cold, winter we had. In the late afternoon, i felt a bit of melancholy, as i recalled that earlier June 7th, hearing the news and Cindy's harrowing scream. I can still hear Mr. Z.'s voice calling the girls home for supper. Hear him laugh with my dad. And i smile through the melancholy. If i have to have a last memory of someone, there's something comforting about it being a happy one.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Merci beaucoup


The longest day, 6 June 1944. My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, was on Omaha Beach 70 years ago today.


My kind, up-the-street neighbour, Bob, and i were in the shed addition of the barn, where he had stored his two ride-on lawn mowers. He had asked me if he could store them there for winter, and i readily agreed.

He owns both, and when he got the second one, which belonged to his brother-in-law who moved and didn't need it any longer, he gave the first one to his son to use. At the end of mowing season, after he had prepped both for the winter, he asked if he could store them in the barn.

And so, earlier this spring, he asked if he could get them out of the barn. Most of the snow had melted making access to them easier. He had removed the batteries in each in the autumn, and had brought both along with him to put them back in. I wanted to help if i could, and we repositioned one of the mowers so it would be easier for Bob to back it up and out beyond the sliding door. He asked me if i knew a foreign language, because i was explaining something and used my hands a lot. I laughed, told him i knew French, and when i had lived in France, found out just how much French i didn't know, and how speaking with my hands seemed to help. Guess i kept up the habit after i returned.

Bob then related he could remember merci beaucoup in French, but not much else. In his plain yet eloquent way, he explained,

"I wanted to go to college after the war, and I could use the GI bill. In order to be accepted into any college, I had to have a foreign language and I hadn't graduated high school, so when I went for my GED, I had a French teacher teach me all that summer so I could know enough to pass and get into college. It didn't stick with me, though," and here he pointed to his head, "other than merci beaucoup."

Merci beaucoup. It means, "thank you very much."

I was dumbstruck as i realised this nearly 90-year-old man had quit high school to join up, and once the war was over, got on with his life. I couldn't think of anyone in my generation who would have been willing to do that, nor could i think of anyone in younger generations who would be willing to do that. I couldn't say a word as he shouted over the lawnmower's din that he'd be back for the second one later, and waved as he rode the mower up the street. I waved back with tears rolling down my cheeks.

Merci beaucoup, Bob.