Hard Rain

Every year a blessing falls, the nutritious fruit of the walnut trees, a free gift of nature. Besides the crop, the trees grow bigger each year becoming prime for wood harvest. Outstretched arms cannot circle the Halloween Tree and that girth tells the tale, example for all the other lesser walnut trees. Past years have produced enough to fill twenty plus fifty pound animal feed sacks. Some years we simply add to the quality of squirrel life creating mini-mountains of plenty.

Remember the concept ‘bumper crop’? Bumper to bumper is the new bar, helmet required.

With the appointment for an agent and clients to view the house confirmed, my shed painting schedule ended. First the drive-way and a heavy-duty broom to find the asphalt under the sea of green. (Walnuts fall with a green outer husk.) Dodge ball, the constant fall aided by the wind, the clear drive never happened. Fine. Call it good for now and move to the yard. Prospective buyers need to see actual grass under the pea green obstacle course.

Start the mower, hitch the trailer and think ‘3 hours to rake and load’. By now, I am lamenting another of my hasty decisions to sell our bikes. Hanging on each handle bar was a helmet and I needed a helmet now. Hard rain hurts.

Hey, maybe a quick pass with the lowered blade engaged would slice a few to minutia, saving some rake strokes. Unhitch the trailer and give it a go.

Wow. Loud and probably denting the blades. Then, of course, I heard Bob’s voice reminding that walnut oil and grass don’t work together. OK. Fine. Stop. Rake. Now you, Gentle Reader, can remember “The hurrier I go the behinder I get.”

Clock ticking. Wind picking up. New objective. Never mind picking up, just get into piles clearing pathways through the beauty of this place. Mower and trailer back in the shed. Paint tools stowed. Rake with all the gusto that these old arms can muster.

Then came the crunch at the end of the long drive-way, a two car crunch. Quickly, move to the barn so the prospective buyers can have time and privacy to admire the home, the partially cleared harvest, the beauty that could be theirs. Right.

Fifteen minutes inside the house and gone. No walk. No nodding heads struck by the beauty. No admiration of the spotless decks recently cleaned and dressed. No head shake of wonder at the number of outbuildings, some just spiffed with new paint.

Oh well. By Saturday the gift of hard rain should be finished. By Sunday, the harvest up and gone. By Monday? I’m thinking early October blizzard.


Hiding From Murphy

“Whatever can go wrong, will go wrong.”    Murphy’s Law

Murphy has a stake in perpetuating his fame by insuring that the glitches outweigh the smooth spots.  Surely, though, the law can take a hiatus now and again.  Outwitting that unrelenting LAW is my new full-time job and I need a break.

If you are a regular visitor you remember that I admitted to being spoiled by Bob’s talents for outdistancing the ‘wrongs’ of every day living.  He repaired, restored, recycled and rehashed…and most often handled it with used parts, ingenuity, as few dollars as possible.    Being spoiled was great.  I loved it, never questioning the truth that spoiled had some unpleasant synonyms.

Payback time or simply Murphy taking long overdue revenge?  Either way, that annoying Piper is pushing my can do to the back side of I don’t want to. Murphy is proving the point.

Each day something breaks my rhythm, stops the cleaning and sorting while I learn a new repair skill.  Fine.  Never to old to learn—- but for the record— maybe too old to want to learn so much so quickly.

At 10:00 PM last evening, I phoned Chris with my latest lament.  Chris works 4:00 to midnight,  takes my calls with easy acceptance and often walks me through to a solution.

The furnace wasn’t responding to the thermostat, the programmable thermostat that seems to have misplaced the script.  With calm to match my frustration, Chris talked me though finding and changing the battery.  He attitude reminded me that this is not a crisis, it is a simple and  solvable gauntlet thrown by Murphy yet easily defeated by putting Murphy in his place, make it right.

The battery was not the problem.

The weather people are predicting unseasonable and unreasonable cold starting midafternoon today.  Talk about Murphy-Perfect timing!  Chris makes the 2 hour drive every Wednesday, handles my to-do list thereby giving up his day off to help me pretend that I can do this.

With visions of potential burst pipes, chattering teeth and a very spoiled disposition, I know this one won’t wait for Wednesday.

Fine.   Bob has the paper work, all the literature, from everything he ever bought  as far back as the 1960’s…except, of course, the paper for this Jameson thermostat.  Not here.    Wait…the disappearance of that single instruction sheet IS a Murphyism, right?

So I wait for the sunrise and a reasonable hour to find a repair person willing to work on Saturday.  This has been a very long and zero sleep night, a tribute to my lack of faith that OFF means what it says— that the furnace won’t secretly by-pass the thermostat and run to red-hot proving that Murphy runs a really big operation.  Hurry Sunrise.

Mouse vs Me/ Mouse, 1–Me, 0

Day 2  Humane vs. Inhumane

Hardware guy shows me the nifty twin garage door type, fool-proof and humane in the bargain.  Mouse goes in, door closes on unharmed creature.  Next step release in the back yard (so he can do a 30 second run right back into his warm hiding place)— or I can drive 20 miles, release Mickey, break the speed limit to beat him back to that warm hiding place.   This scenario plays out with a straight face and phony human warmth as the hardware guy did his comparison description of spring method.  I fell for it and paid the premium for humane.

Well, guess what?  No fail-safe mechanism.  In fact, the manufacturer seems to have missed the fact that Mickey has gnawing teeth.  He chewed  his way out of the plastic, escaping before I had a chance to make the 20 mile decision.  Serves me right.  Instead of simply handling the thing myself, I waited for rescue via my son who was on his way, giving those little teeth a chance to do the Shawshank.

Now what?

Two-Names suggests the glue method, which sounds fool-proof, though it require human intervention at the disposal end.  Someone has to throw the glue pad away, replace it and wait for the rest of the clan to invade.

Who knew?  Who knew that a 1/2 ounce creature could reduce me to the fool in fool-proof?  Who knew that?   I did.

Time to find a new hardware guy…one who understands expediency…one who realizes that the mouse changed those humane rules when he invaded my space.  All bets are off, rewards posted.  Glue is on the way.


Light The Lights, Crank The Music

The all night vigil beings tonight.  This isn’t going to be easy but the choice is clear:  light the lights, crank the music, sleep standing on a chair….or move.

That’s it.  No other choice.

I don’t do mice.  I don’t even do a mouse.  Cannot handle the thought let alone any physical evidence.  OK.  I can deny teeny bits of evidence by calling them crumbs of dirt from someone’s shoe, but a sighting?  An actual sighting means 9-1-1 or, at the least,  Two Men And A Truck.

It happened at 5:30 AM this day.  IT, startled by the light, did the scurry thing and darted behind the cabinet.  Not cute like Runaway Ralph or talented like The Mouse And The Motorcycle, this IT was 1/2 ounce of menace armed with all the weapons designed to cause panic–my panic.

For weeks, I have known.  Cold weather in a rural setting means that outdoor critters seek warmth.  For days, I have joked with family that I cannot do mice…that none of their suggestions were adequate…that Bob spoiled me by  handling mouse patrol…that traps were out of the question because I don’t touch traps…that it was purely a logical choice:  Mice In, Me Out.

The vigil begins.

Revenge Of The Clicker

Shoulder replacement a few years ago necessitated a cushy recliner so Bob could handle the recovery period.  A large wall clock, one of three time-collectors in the room, faced his chair.  Railroading seemed to require at least three clocks in every room.  Retirement didn’t soften that compulsion to be on the minute precise.

On October 21, the large clock stopped.  It stopped at the time of Bob’s death—on-the-minute-precise.  Bob died and a measure of time stopped.

As I sort through years of saved detritus, the measure of Bob is like opening the Sesame cave of wonders.  My John Wayne minimalist of conversation communicated through what he saved.

Bob loved us all, me, Mark, Elizabeth, Paul, Dan, Chris, Kaiya, Ida, Kristi, Cain Molly, Frank, Sam and Henry.   He loved us.  If Bob is in a place of awareness now, he is marveling at how they love him back in the way they are taking care what he loved.

Two-Names offered words of friendship, “Find My Queendom”.   I have lived in my Queendom.  There were too many times that I failed to treasure it, but I lived it.  My amazing family is preserving the Queendom by the depth of their caring.  No Queen has ever had more.

Unless, of course, she controlled the clicker, the remote, the quick change magic that flashed through the TV menu responding to only one viewers ideas of interesting.  Bob The Tyrant ruled the clicker, handing off the decision only when nothing sparked him.  Our taste in entertainment did not often mesh but I did learn a great deal about his favorites— animals, weather, maps,  history———-and the history of animals, maps and weather——–and the effect of weather on animals, maps and history.  Good thing he never found a program on the mapping of animals, weather and history.  I might have gotten really mad!

After a late evening run to the recyle bins, I needed a break.  Quick shower, beverage in hand, I reclaimed the clicker to discover the magic of that quick run-through the channels.

For five minutes, it would not respond.  Nothing.  No clicks.  No quick changes.  Nothing.  “This isn’t funny, Bob.  We can watch together, but the clicker is mine.”  It worked.  I clicked.  I saw.  I watched some animal show.

Smiling at my nonsense.  Bob didn’t say hello by an intervention with the remote.  It doesn’t happen like that.  It was a moment away from the hurt of missing him, the loneliness following the death of a piece of the Queendom.  He made me laugh.  The Queen will grow to become whole again.

My Life In Misery

Americans are out of work.  Unemployment is far too high.  Granted, telemarketing and telephone Customer Service jobs are not the best kind of job,  but they are work for which money changes hands.

A disclaimer:  I have one language.  I am good at that one language and I rarely have difficulty with accents.  In fact, I enjoy the musical quality of many accents.   However,  the poor quality of outsourced phone connections, misunderstanding colloquialisms and unfamiliar accents do not a happy customer make.

Frustration # 1

One hour on the phone.  One solid hour because the company did not install the updated program for which they had my money.  Actually, they have had my money for six months.   Repeated visits to the website did nothing.  I read the stuff, followed the directions and continued to receive the emails.   Determined to correct the problem and get rid of the constant email reminders, I took the plunge.  I dialed the 800 number.   Nice soft-spoken man, not so musical accent and too many repetitions to count.  Bottom line?  The nice man said he would send me an email copy of what was on the website–that very same material that I had read.    “Please don’t.  I have read it many times.”   He did it anyway.   The emails continue.

Frustration # 2

An airline requires a physician’s statement if a passenger must bring an oxygen concentrator onboard.  Perfectly understandable.  A visit to the website gave me the opportunity to find the link to the statement, but….the statement did not load.  After repeated attempts, I again took the plunge and called this 800 number.  After 20 minutes, the CS woman said:   “Well, I can read it.  I don’t know why you can’t read it.”   Bingo!  That is why I phoned.  I cannot read it because it won’t load.   In my best nice person voice, I asked for an alternative source for the physician statement.  The response this time?  “I can read it.  You don’t need an alternative source.”    Time for a supervisor.

Frustration # 3

I saved the best for last.  This one is more fun than it deserves to be.  I still laugh whenever it comes to mind.   The call is to an insurance company so any sane person realizes that this one won’t go smoothly.   After explaining my problem/concern to the very nice CS woman with a musical accent, she asked where I was.

“Missourah”, I said, using the pronunciation that I have used for 72 years.

“I don’t know this place.  Please to repeat.”

Ah ha…I get it.  “Missouri.  I live in Missouri”–stressing the ending eee sound so the state would be identified.

“Oh, I am so very sorry that you live in such misery.  It is sad to live in misery.  I wish better for you.  I will try to help you.”

Now that is a nice CS person.  My problem was not resolved, but compassion (and laughter) go a long way to easing that bit of frustration.

A Pot for the Chicken

Gourmet, I am not, but adequate-plus works for me.  Greek Wedding Bread is terrific as are my sticky buns.  Just ask Molly.  Even though I don’t eat the results, I love to bake beautiful desserts.

Salads, soups, chili, casseroles, breads and desserts get the plus.

Brisket and oven roasted meats are difficult to mess up, but I can turn a beautiful steak or a fine pork chop to crispy critters in the time it takes to say “Turn off the smoke detector!”

A church sale had piles of clay pots called Romertopf. The  number of these discards should have been my clue, but the $2.00 price was my undoing. I hurried home with the pot, stopping to buy a plump chicken, some celery and onions.

Thinking like Julia, I planned a nice rice dish, a salad and a huge apple pie to top off my Romertopf dinner. Staying with Julia’s methods, I slathered on the butter after washing and stuffing that bird. Even at this point, the smell was terrific, though the fit of bird to pan was a bit tight.

Soaked pot (cold water for 15 minutes), cold oven, and 450 temp reached gradually. Two hours later, the chicken was golden though the pot had little juice. Ummm…odd, but maybe the meat is all tender and moist with that butter bath.

It was. Dinner was fantastic.  After the dishes drying and putting away the dishes, it was time to make the brownies for tomorrow’s event.   Back to the oven controls, whipped up the batter while the oven came to temp, but it didn’t. It came to fire–smoke and fire, actually, while those not-so-vanishing juices blackened the oven floor.

Forty-five minutes later, I had enough of the mess cleaned to turn on the self-clean cycle and finish the job. Rubber gloves blackened and sticky, yucky bucket of water, kitchen smelling like burned bird and a batch of brownies waiting for a turn.

Anyone for ice cream with that second piece of pie?