Month: July 2020

Some days, a person shouldn’t get out of bed

This pretty well describes what my day has been like. I’m going to go find a nice, quiet rock to hide under now. Bye. (No, I am not sliced or diced anywhere. Gratitude.)
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Raspberry joy!

Since my next-door neighbor passed away (I know; this is three in four months and they’re dropping around me like flies), his wife has asked me to help keep his raspberry patch picked. It’s about 5’x18′ or 20′ or so, and didn’t get trimmed last year, so it’s pretty overgrown and right now packed solid with raspberries. (She suggested I take a few starts, and after thinking it over, I might put some in the back. They’re thornless, taste great, and would at least be competition for the damned blackberries.)

I went out this morning after a reconnoiter yesterday and spent about 90 minutes picking berries. Plenty of them will get shared, but here’s what I got:

Roughly eight pints of berries, not counting the stowaway spiders and aphids you can’t get rid of no matter what.

After more time and effort, those turned into these, which will be a delight come wintertime:

At least, the ones that don’t get shared will be a winter lifesaver.

And, since it’s FINALLY been five days since it rained, meaning I could finish off the back deck, the railings got scraped and stained today (and I put on a second coat of stain on some of the boards, partly as an experiment: I don’t think this stuff’s intended for our climate and “don’t put on a second coat” invariably means “sand and put on another coat next spring,” so I put a second coat on some boards that were already not beading well just to see what happens. After they dry. Which will take a day or two. But it’s supposed to be dry and clear for several days, so I should be OK. Anyway, this isn’t dramatic or interesting except that I’m DONE WITH THE DAMNED THING.

I don’t know if this will show up, but for no apparent reason the system tells me this file–no larger than the other two–is too big to load, so I’ll try schlurping it from Ravelry. Can you see my eyes rolling? Argh.

SO. Since the next few days are supposed to be dry and sunny (or mostly so), tomorrow I hit the walk-thru garage door and start tearing paint off, injecting wood stabilizer, and whatever else I can do to delay having to replace the door frame (which I can’t afford). When the siding contractor put siding up there, he didn’t even bother to caulk down the left-hand side of the door–something I didn’t notice until duh, the door frame started rotting. That will be so much fun! I can hardly effing wait.

One of my kind-hearted neighbors, knowing I can no longer lay down anywhere near a decent bead of caulk (you should see it; it makes a two-year-old’s scribble look like da Vinci) has offered to run caulk down that side when I’m finished. I really appreciate that. (No relation, but Snaotheus–you know that motion light you put up? The one by the walk-thru door? It’s suddenly stopped working. I plugged/unplugged and it didn’t seem to matter, so maybe it needs a new one? The higher up one desperately needs re-aiming, too.)

Then… comes yet another bout of weed-pulling (ask me about the tree-root radishes) and still trying to figure out some way to get to the big-leaf maple saplings and cut them down before they become 300′ trees that destabilize the Cliff of Doom. NO idea how I can do that. None at all.

I hate this house crap. I hate it with a green and burning passion.

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Raise a glass to Helen, the Social Justice Warrior

My dear friend Helen McLeod, some 15 or so years older than I, passed away Tuesday (7/7) from post-surgical complications. Helen was a force of nature–a vital, vibrant, active, involved, passionate advocate for social justice, as well as a kind, generous, and gentle soul. And physically indefatigable: She hiked, snowshoed, and/or cross-country skiied until maybe a year before her death. Not to mention playing ping-pong at the Senior Center every morning before the rest of us thought it was possible for the sun to rise!

None of us expected this; she had gone in for serious elective surgery, but she’d bounced back from other things, so we all thought this would be OK. If nothing else, Helen was determined; I couldn’t imagine a physical problem not bowing to her intentions.

One of those was a broken shoulder last winter. Yes, she’s the older friend I stayed with for several days when neither of her daughters could be here to help, but she wasn’t yet able to do things for herself. I’m so thankful we had that time together.

We reminisced about our days in the early 2000s as Raging Grannies–that’s how we first met–and the fun we had singing social-justice lyrics to familiar old tunes to people who didn’t want to hear them as well as those who did. She had a thick scrapbook full of photos, newspaper articles, and other memorabilia of those years. (And she was still a member of a newer local Raging Grannies group; ours dissolved several years after I joined.) We traded stories about our young days, our kids, our working lives, growing up, family dynamics, our spiritual journeys, all kinds of things–including her growing frustration with a body that was failing her. I will really treasure that time with her.

Helen is also the woman who brought me into the faith-family fold I now inhabit at First Congregational Church. For that alone, I am eternally and mightily grateful. She shepherded me around, introduced me to a variety of groups and the people who led them, and (as I’m fond of saying) let me follow her around like a lost puppy for months ’til I began to get my feet beneath me and have some sense of where I might fit in at FCCB.

In talking with people about Helen over the last several days, I can’t count how many have said she was the first person to welcome them to FCCB, introduce them around, make them feel there was a place for them. She truly had the gift of hospitality, of making others feel comfortable in new and unfamiliar situations. We all agreed how amazing this is, but I doubt Helen would think so; she was just being herself, someone who loved people and accepted them as and where they were, without question or criticism. She exemplified FCCB’s motto: living God’s love, justice, and compassion.

She was also intensely practical, and I think that fueled a lot of her activism. She knew social problems wouldn’t improve unless someone took action, so she did. Our Lenten theme at church this year involved activists, protesters, and holy troublemakers. I love this photo of her, taken just before shelter in place began:

Photo most likely by Mark Gale and used with permission (thank you!). Others were taking similar photos, so if someone else recognizes it as theirs, please let me know!

She was having back pain at the time, so she sat to greet people as they entered the church.The board behind her (which we covered with a chalkboard-surfaced self-stick paper that didn’t work very well), says, “God’s Troublemaker for Justice.” She was a warrior for social justice, and I will miss her terribly. I hope to be like her when I grow up (at least within the parameters of my own personality, which is nowhere near as outgoing as hers). She was a steadily beating heart at the center of our church and community, and we’ll all miss her quiet, loving presence.

Peace be with you, sweet Helen.

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What a frog party needs…

Is a frog. I’m sure this isn’t quite the right kind of frog, but it’s the frog I drew, so it’s going down for Chilkoot’s birthday party this year.

As far as I know, this is not the kind that live behind my house.
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What a strange, odd child

I was, back in the days when dirt had recently been invented and dinosaurs newly emerged.

When I was just 6, my family moved from Oklahoma to New Mexico. (Later, I was to hear several versions of why that occurred. I still don’t know which, if any, was true.) Oklahoma contained people of color (including my huge–6’4″ or taller–and monstrous–he pulled out all my bicuspid baby and permanent teeth–Cherokee dentist), but not so much people of other languages, so the lovely brown-skinned Spanish-speaking people in my new home enchanted me. (And forced me to learn Spanish, so I’d know what they were up to.)

My new school decided pretty quickly to bump me from second to fourth grade, and in fourth grade Joyce Hoff entered my life.

Joyce was a refugee, with the rest of her family (of six children that I can bring to mind) from then-Dutch Indonesia. She and her brown-skinned siblings spoke what she called Dutch and a little English. Since my only experience of brown-skinned people at the time was that they spoke Spanish, I found her immediately intriguing and exotic.

Margaret Mead, who always said that anthropologists should run fast and far from the first person of a new tribe to approach them, because those were the outcasts and cripples and untouchables, would have run away from me really fast, because I was always drawn to the new kids, the different kids, the kids who didn’t fit in.

Joyce was one of those. The first day she was in school, her English wasn’t very good, but she didn’t respond at all to Spanish (from us kids; our teachers didn’t speak Spanish, ever, even if they might have known it). I asked her at lunch where she was from; she replied Dutch Indonesia. I asked her where that was and she gave me a fourth-grade immigrant’s response: somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean. It was years before I had the resources to look that up (no Internet, people).

I had enough money (a nickel!) for a Major Treat that day–a rare thing, maybe once a month: a Popsicle after lunch. I bought one, and broke it in half to share with Joyce. We sat on the concrete sidewalk between the school building and the playground, under the shade of a metal canopy that rippled with heat, enjoying the cool fruit-flavored ice on a desert-hot August day.

In return, she taught me a little song in what she called Dutch but was probably some combination of that plus the language of the island on which she’d lived (based on the fact that Google Translate’s Dutch version of the words bears absolutely no likeness to the words I know, and I still remember both the tune and words). I have absolutely no idea how to spell them, and I confess the following is colored by my father’s elementary and frustrated German instruction to me:

De besom, de besom,
ich fea me, ich fea me,
I vee, I vee

This translated, Joyce said, to, “The broom, the broom, what do you do, what do you do? I sweep, I sweep.”

A baby’s song. Along the lines of patty-cake, patty-cake. But I thought it was inordinately cool. A Dutch song! Imagine! All the way from somewhere out in the Pacific Ocean–and since I had family who lived in San Diego, I knew where at least the eastern shore of that was.

Joyce was my connection to a world so exotic, so strange, so immense, so full of wonders that I could hardly take it in. I could not understand why no one else in my class, or my teacher, seemed to think this of any interest at all.

During the next eight years we went to school together, Joyce and I had our ups and downs. At times, we were best buds; at others … not so much. She went on a few longer trips with me, to El Paso a few times and I believe on a national park camping trip or two, but I can’t remember where. In high school, we went in mostly different directions, though we both felt more comfortable with the brown-skinned people (in her case, the other brown-skinned people; in my super-pale-skinned case … well, it wasn’t because of skin color).

We stayed in occasional touch after college, but not until years and years later did we reconnect. She married (and remains married to) her high school sweetie; I remain single 23 years after divorce ended a 25-year marriage. Her grandkids are almost grown; the oldest of mine are thinking about the possibility of approaching puberty.

Now we’re in fairly regular communication. Her parents are gone; her husband’s parents either gone or in shaky health; her brothers and sisters scattered all over and in various life situations. My parents are likewise gone and I never had siblings; my kids and grandkids a fair bit younger than hers. She’s a retired physical education teacher who’s still athletic; I’m a retired journalist who knows how to spell “athletic.” She gets back to our home town fairly regularly because of her husband’s family; I haven’t been there since 1990.

But even after 60 years, when we talk, that Popsicle still lives.

“You know,” she says, “it meant so much to me that someone in a new place would share a Popsicle with me. I still remember that.”

“And I,” I reply, “still remember the song you taught me about the broom.”

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Mr. Bean Man lives

Mr. Bean Man started life nameless. He was a silly line drawing my dad put on the back of a birthday card envelope for me or something, and he showed up several times after that. I was little; he caught my fancy; but I never named him.

So when I started putting him on things for the grandkids, and Chilkat and Chilkoot (or one or the other; I don’t remember) called him Mr. Bean Man, that’s what he became. He’s shown up mostly on the backs of birthday cards I’ve made for the grandkids and their parents, with a parodic wink to the artists’ habit of noting what number this is of an edition of how many of a given artwork that was made in a given year.

Sorry; I don’t have anything handy to crop, adjust color, or otherwise clean up with. That’s basically what Mr. Bean Man looks like. His stick arms and legs can point in just about any direction, according to my whim.

Chilkoot is known for his mercurial interests and whimsies as well as his not-very-large interest in Things. He’s almost 7, and The Plan is that I’ll go see them next Saturday (for the first time since early February; taking my life in my hands, I guess) and deliver his present. In discussion with him through his dad, Snaotheus, he said he wanted a Mr. Bean Man toy for his birthday. (I suspect this was because we’d just been talking about the rocks I’d sent him and his sister with Mr. Bean Man on them, but of such are his brain connections made.)

So. How does one make a stick figure into a toy? What does one use? How does one arrange the parts? How does one make it work? This one had no clue. After a couple of long days of trial and error, flinging around fabric stash, and finally cannibalizing a pair of shorts, this is what we came up with Chez Grandma’s Workshop.

No, he has no face on the other side.

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Invader (not) Zim

The last couple of years, as noted previously, I’ve not had spoons for outside stuff, so I was pleased to put the bird feeder up this year. While I get a nice variety of birds (this year’s first: a western tanager!), my local, native Douglas squirrels are the real reason I bother with this:

Douglas squirrel, PNW native, stealing sunseeds from the bird feeder on my deck. They like coniferous forests, so my back “yard” is their spot.

They’re cute, smart, funny, utterly fearless, and curious to the point of suicidality. What passes for my back yard is pretty much entirely their habitat (cedars, junipers, hemlocks), and I’ve had the pleasure of watching several family groups grow up.

This year, despite having the feeder up for nearly two weeks, I’ve seen only one of them (dubbed Mr. Tufty Ears), and him (definitely him) only briefly on three occasions.

I fear this is because the invading gray squirrels, larger and more aggressive, have grown in numbers, thanks in no small part to a neighbor down the street who puts large amounts of feed out for ducks and squirrels (without any notion or concern that he’s feeding invasive squirrels, or willingness to acknowledge that he’s also growing the local rat population).

Over the years, my kids have provided me with possibly the county’s largest arsenal of bizarre lethal weapons, which include the standard airgun as well as a blowgun and a pistol-grip crossbow. Unfortunately, my wobbly hands make me reluctant to use the latter, because I’d hate to wound and not be able to finish the job. (This universe contains no physical laws under which I could actually hit one with the airgun any longer, so I don’t bother to try. The bird feeder has an interesting pattern of pellets in it to prove this.) The blowgun (surprisingly easy to aim with accuracy) will sting and scare, but not kill (not with the Mike & Ikes that fit its bore, anyway, though come to think of it, I may have some hunting points… hmmm… ). These weapons have previously proven at least somewhat useful in convincing the grays that They Are Not Welcome.

Ordinarily, the Invader Grays don’t show up at my house ’til late July or even August. This year, a gray showed up within three days after I filled the feeder. I suspect this is a preggers female, just from her look (I haven’t been able to get a gander at the gender parts). The last thing I want is an entire family of the damned things moving into the natives’ turf.

So we’ve been having Dialogue.

I don’t hate Nature’s creatures. We all belong here, more or less. We all have our niches to fill. Even if we don’t belong, it’s not necessarily our fault if we are here; our parents may have chosen our location, likely without consulting us. We humans, as invaders, have certainly done our share of harm, too, intentionally and otherwise.

The first day, I went out to talk to her. She sat unafraid (!!!) on the deck railing, munching a sunseed and watching me with rapt attention.

“Look,” I explained, “four houses down that way, you can have all the food you could possibly eat. You could explode from overeating. And you wouldn’t be depriving the little guys of what’s here for themnot for you. So head on south a ways, why don’cha?”

Rapt attention. No movement.

I stepped a little closer and repeated myself, slightly louder. Maybe she’s a little deef, but she’s bound to understand English if she’s in America. Right?

Rapt attention. No movement.

I am not the world’s most patient of squirrel whisperers. In this case, I went straight to squirrel shouter. “Get the hell out of here!” I screamed in what, given her rampant disrespect, seemed a reasonable voice.

She did.

We had the same “get out!” conversation for a couple of days before I saw her hanging upside down on the far side of the feeder, where she couldn’t possibly see me. I went quietly outside, approached the feeder, and without warning smacked her one, hard, while shouting “Get out, you evil freaking sow!” (While this may not be an exact, erm, quote, this is the actual term for a girl squirrel.)

Lest you think me vicious and horrible, be aware that squirrels are like cats. They parasail and land on their feet. She shot eastward at a high rate of speed, saucer-eyed, whirling and spreading feet and tail for all she was worth. She sailed way back, deep into the woods, a good thirty feet from the feeder, before I heard her hit branches and drop through a few.

“Hah!” I thought with great self-satisfaction. “That’ll show her!”

She didn’t show up the rest of the day. Not even that evening, when her already-regular pattern had been morning/evening.

I felt smug.

Next morning, I finished my email, got a cup of tea, and sat down on the couch. Darned if she didn’t pick that moment to show up.

We reprised the whole act, right down to her not seeing me ’til she was airborne, Frisbee style.

Within half an hour, she was back. Half. an. hour.

That was three days ago. Now I’m leaving the broom against the deck railing, ready to knock her into next week (which is, come to think of it, next month, too). I’ve been out at least five or six times a day, morning and evening, scaring the peewaddins (whatever those are–Google doesn’t know) out of her.

Makes no difference. She keeps coming back.

Given squirrels’ intelligence and the power of intermittent reinforcement (first paragraph only, insert “squirrel” for “person”)–I know better than to think I’m catching her every single time she’s there–I’m aware this is a losing battle. She will win.

But because I’ve seen Mr. Tufty Ears only once since That Evil Sow showed up, I’m unwilling to give up. I can’t help it. Just give me an underdog, and my battle plan is on automatic.

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