Archive | January, 2014

Cabin Fever

29 Jan

I’m not much of a January person. The holidays are behind us & there’s not much to look forward to until Valentine’s Day. It’s sort of one of those month’s that, when you think about it, just sort of stretches out in front of us endlessly with no prediction of what’s going to happen . It’s hard to even speculate because the weather is so unpredictable.

This January has been especially difficult & if you’re prone to “Cabin Fever” (not to be confused with Saturday Night Fever, although you can probably get that, too, while you’re locked up in a cabin … that & the norovirus) it’s probably gotten to you like it has gotten to me. What has made THIS January memorable & has given me the worst case of Cabin Fever I’ve had since January 1995 when we were plagued with blizzards & forced to hibernate for days on end, has been the temperatures. We’ve had record breaking low temps in the single digits, frozen pipes, worthless batteries, unbelievable electric bills, frozen nose hairs when we step outside for just a minute & a simple, on-going desire to stay inside.

When it’s really cold I tend to make homemade soup. This year so far we’ve had vegetable soup several times, potato soup, bean with bacon soup, chowder, onion soup, tomato & rice soup & bulging bladders. You just can’t eat that much soup without bladder repercussions & we’ve been walking around looking like Pillsbury Dough People for weeks. And I’m not sure we’ve been any warmer … except maybe in the bladder region.

I enjoy “snow cooking” much more than “cold weather cooking.” When it snows, I like to bake – cakes, cookies, chocolate pie, lemon meringue pie & banana pudding but this January Mother Nature has cheated us out of snow &, as a result, a lot of baked goods. I know that our friends up north & even those farther south would gladly forfeit some of their tons & heaps & mounds of snow to us if they could. It’s snowed all AROUND us but not ON us.

Mother Nature has graced us with a “dusting” of snow that melted & refroze so many times it hardly resembled snow by the time it finally turned into a trickle & headed down the storm drains. MN (Mother Nature), in a pure moment of rude, actually SPAT snow on us a number of times; “It’s spitting snow.” If we must endure these frigid temperatures I believe most of us would prefer that MN just go ahead & “take a dump” on us & to hell with impropriety.  A good snow never hurt any of us & it’s kind of nice to watch it falling … unless you have to drive in it or work in it.

The people in the hot seat who eventually get blamed for everything from weather miscalculations to fleas are the weather men & women who predict our weather with an occasional direct hit of accuracy. This year, so far, has been exceptionally brutal for them. Because of the faith we seem to have bestowed in their powers of prediction, so far this year schools & business have closed the night before a predicted“first significant snowfall of the season”   that never happened. Huge pink blocks of color have reared their ugly heads on weather predicting maps only to make an unexpected color change just as snow was supposed to hit our area. (I think that’s called “Chameleon Calculations.”) In a recent moment of frustration, the “Weather at Noon” guy said, “It will either snow or it won’t.” Finally … a weather report that was “right on” & it didn’t, but once again it DID everywhere around us.

One of my friends on Facebook said in her status, “Here I am at my new job as a meteorologist” & the accompanying picture was a palm reader consulting her crystal ball. I thought it was an “LOL status” but I’ll bet our local meteorologists didn’t. They DO get a bad rep …

While our local weather guys may be responsible for making a wrong call sometimes (frequently, lately), I can’t blame them for my Cabin Fever. I think that’s some internal thing that has something to do with meridians & longitude & latitude & sun spots & maybe brain freeze & “the five second rule.” Whatever, it’s not because I don’t have stuff to do … I’m busy ALL the time … the cold & drearies just make me not want to do it. My mind is filled with the memory of spring & the smell of early flowers & walking to the mailbox barefoot wearing shorts & a t-shirt.

So on this dreary day when MN has been spitting on us & meteorological constipation has prevented her once again from “dumping” on us, as I’m shoving another over-sized log into the wood stove, I can’t actually blame the meteorologists. It’s not their fault that this time of year gives me Cabin Fever or that the snow that would give us a much needed, cleansing change of scenery has fallen again everywhere but here. But you know what? In my frustration, I AM blaming them for fleas.

 

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 Me on our deck in my cat hat enjoying our only “dusting” so far this year

 

 

Ancestors: Sam, John & Will… Part 1: Sam

26 Jan

When I was just a little girl in Salisbury, NC two of my mom’s sisters thought it would be a wonderful idea to join that elite group of women known as The Daughters of the American Revolution.  Admission into the DAR included several specific conditions, not the least of which was having a direct blood link to some notable who was involved with the Revolutionary War. Yet another specification was being able to prove it.

And so my aunts embarked on an almost year long journey of research, attempting to find that lineage that would connect us directly to the American Revolution & grant them admission to The Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the Rowan County DAR. Elizabeth Maxwell Steele was a feisty tavern owner who played quite a role in the Revolutionary history of Salisbury, NC but that’s for another blog entry. Suffice it to say that she deserved to have a chapter of the DAR named in her honor.

In the days when Aunt Betsy & Aunt Robin were rummaging & rambling through the limbs & branches of our family tree, there were no computers & no internet to speed their research along & they had to rely on visits to courthouses, libraries & records kept in town halls in their attempt to find some blood connection of notability to the American Revolution. It was a long & difficult task but they never lost that energy that makes inquiring minds want to know, so committed were they to being members of the DAR.

My mom & her two remaining sisters could not have cared less but went along because they realized how much that special membership meant to Robin & Betsy.

Following that lengthy research, completed in spare time & on weekends that often involved traveling to nearby NC cities & digging through the records of out-of-town courthouses, they DID actually find that elusive ancestral connection that gave them an open-armed invitation to join the Daughters of the American Revolution. They were ecstatic & believed that they had finally “arrived.”

Dangling on the umbilical cord of the Rowan County chapter of the DAR was a chapter of the CAR … Children of the American Revolution. Riding high on the wave of their new membership, my aunts believed that since I shared the same lineage I should become a member of the CAR. And so it was that I spent one Saturday a month at a CAR meeting, held in conjunction with the DAR meeting just down the hall. I sat in my go-to-church clothes with my hands cupped one inside the other in my lap & never said a word. My one & only contribution was vital, however, as I opened every joint DAR & CAR meeting by singing the CAR Song.

I knew that my little girlfriends were playing somewhere, making mud pies & most likely eating them & that’s where I longed to be … but wasn’t.

I cannot remember the name or history of the ancestor whose presence so graciously allowed the women of my mother’s family membership into the DAR & maybe that’s not really important. They got in & that’s what is.

While climbing the limbs & shaking the branches of our family tree, Robin & Betsy inadvertently stumbled across a direct blood link that I found fascinating, mainly because of a movie that I was fanatic about at the time. They uncovered evidence that we … our family … were direct descendants of Sam Houston … the same Sam Houston who was mentioned in Davy Crockett, a popular Disney movie of the time.

Walt Disney’s Davy Crockett movie was all the rage for kids my age. I even had an artificial coon skin cap sold in retail stores to advertise the film & I seldom took it off. Finding out I was directly related to Sam Houston who was mentioned in that movie was the most exciting thing I could imagine.

I loved the part in the film where Crocket’s side-kick, Georgie,  played admirably  by Buddy Ebson,  made a last dying declaration to Davy Crocket consisting of, “Give ‘em what  fer, Davy”.

Sam Houston was a major player in parts of our American history & every time we read about him or he was mentioned when I was in school I was always overcome by an attack of pride. And I loved that he was mentioned, no matter how briefly, in Davy Crockett.

Because my mom’s sisters went on a pilgrimage to locate an ancestor that would ensure their admission into the Elizabeth Maxwell Steele Chapter of the Rowan County Daughters of the American Revolution, I had been given a very personal slice of history. I will always be grateful to them for discovering our connection to Sam Houston & giving me many daydreaming hours of pure fantasy, especially during CAR meetings one Saturday a month. At those meetings I was dressed in church clothes but in my daydreams I wore a coon skin cap….

As a result, my two most favorite movies as a child were both Disney classics …Davy Crocket because of my shared blood line with Sam Houston who was mentioned in the movie & Old Yeller, with whom I shared no blood line at all.

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Hairballs

20 Jan

I’m sure it says somewhere in Bootsie’s Bible or at the very least, Ratso’s Rules of Order that feline hairballs must ALWAYS be tossed up on the nearest white or off white carpet or area rug.  It’s a simple fact … off white & white carpets, & probably beige ones, too, are cat “puke magnets.”  I’ve seen our cat, Max leave a comfortable place in the sun or even his daily brushing to run the full length of the house to deposit, just in time, an orange tinted hairball on my off-white dining room area rug.

Max has a delicate system. He’s a Himalayan with a lot of long hair & hairballs are a way of life for him. I brush him every day to help prevent them & keep them from being a way of life for ME. We give him food & anti-hairball treats that have no dyes or preservatives, so I am at a loss to understand why something that goes in gray gets barfed up as bright orange & yellow & causes a stubborn stain even the Bissell man would be hard put to remove from a white rug.

Max also ushers forth a long & mournful cry … almost a howl … just before giving oral birth to one of those hairballs. I hear him from rooms & levels away & I always run, REALLY run as fast as I can up or down the steps but never get there in time. I usually arrive just as the hairball makes contact with the off-white rug. It’s defeating.

Several times I’ve been able to grab him & move him off the rug in mid-hurl but Willy says that’s cruel. “How would you like someone snatching you up & moving you while you were heaving?” Really? Probably if I were pretty intent on the heaving process I would hardly notice. But those “snatch & move” in mid-heave maneuvers seldom work & seldom happen & I mostly just don’t make it in time.

It has to be hard on the cat. He is fastidious & likes to stay clean so he bathes a lot. That can only be a problem when bathing means ingesting large quantities of fur that make a second appearance as something extremely remarkable. The size, width & girth of his average hairballs are just plain amazing & you have to wonder how any food makes it past them on its way to its final destination in the litter box.  Any day now I expect the Smithsonian to contact me & ask for one of those gargantuan hairballs to keep “on loan” at the museum.

While I was still working in the Operating Room we’d done a particularly unpleasant surgery just before I came home one afternoon. It was a contaminated case from someone with an infection & I just felt dirty. When I got home all I wanted to do was get in our big whirlpool bathtub & relax.

Our big, beautiful tub is a corner tub between two windows & it was still early enough in the day that the sun was shining through the west window. I filled the tub, got in, turned on the motor & settled. With my eyes closed, the sun shining through the window on my face & the warm water swirling I was in heaven. It was far better than any Calgon Moment seen depicted on TV. I started saying to myself, “I’m at the beach. I’m at the beach.” And in a true Stephen King moment I actually felt as though I’d been transported there…until…

…to my right I felt Max jump up on the tub. He kind of likes sitting there watching the water swirl around while I’m bathing so I didn’t even open my eyes… until I heard the first heave. By the time I’d made my unexpected return from the virtual beach I’d been enjoying, Max heaved his final heave & tossed a Smithsonian-size hairball, trailing cat food & anti-hairball treats into the tub. The motion of the water quickly spread it throughout the bath except for the massive lump that was the hairball.

I turned off the tub as fast as I could before the gargantuan “foreign-body-thing” got sucked into the motor & I de-tubbed immediately. By the time I reoriented myself the cat was gone & the hairball was circling the drain.

After working really hard this afternoon cleaning the telltale orange barf stain off the off-white dining room area rug (again), I decided that was the most frustrating part of sharing our lives with a long-haired cat … until I remembered this story & my afternoon at the virtual beach cut short by that hairball interloper. Somehow the hairball on the off-white rug took on less significance….

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Door-to-Door Meat

14 Jan

Maybe it’s because we live out here in the county (not quite in the “boonies” but not in Lynchburg either; more rural than city) that we get at least once every-other-month at our door someone selling door-to-door meat. I don’t even know if people in the city have this “remarkable offer & service” but after a while it gets to be annoying. Oh, & this is NOT the Swan guy who enjoys a fairly good reputation for door-to-door food.

What happens is that someone in a truck … a small truck … not a Mack truck or a refrigerated average size truck …pulls into your driveway & out hops a guy who heads for your front door. These guys are usually wearing jeans & hoodies & look clean, meaning they have haircuts & don’t smell funny. I’ve never kept one long enough at my door to check out his nails & probably, subconsciously, I didn’t want to…either keep him there for an extended period of time or check out his nails.

Anyway, they usually begin by asking, “Do you like meat?” A better approach & one that might indicate some level of class would be to ask, “Are you a vegetarian?”  If you answer yes to the “Do you like meat?” question (& don’t unless you have time to hear “the rest of the story”) then the “street meat monger” will tell you about these beautiful steaks – filets, rib eyes & T-Bones, beef tips & roasts & pre-made already pattied burgers that are just waiting for you in his truck. And these fantastic, fresh cut (recently killed???) meats are available to you at “bargain basement prices.” WOW! Meat from a bargain basement!!! If they can just sign you up, they will deliver this gift of wrapped & frozen meat on a monthly or weekly basis… customer’s choice.

After my first encounter being “meat solicited” I learned just to say I was sorry but we are vegetarians. The meat solicitor usually puts on a face that is similar to one you might see on someone who has been told his winning the lottery was just a joke. Usually, to their credit, they aren’t pushy & sort of leave, hat in hand, head down & walking at a much slower pace. It’s obvious your rejection has ruined his day & perhaps been a life altering event.

What concerns me is where does this door-to-door meat really come from? If the quality is so fabulous, why isn’t it bringing top dollar at the market? How long has it been frozen? Is it REALLY beef? I have a real aversion to consuming Thumper & Rocky & I’m not too crazy about Bullwinkle either. If it’s “gamy” I’d prefer not to have it on my table & if, by some mistake it ends up there, I’d like to be told honestly what it is & where it came from.

I’m not suggesting the “mobile meat guys” are pushing road kill. I don’t imagine they could do what they’re doing without some kind of license (could they?) And maybe, comparatively, we don’t actually know what we’re getting at the grocery store either but I still have a greater sense of trust in a rib eye that has been packaged & wears a Kroger, WalMart or Food Lion label. I’m just funny that way.

Today’s door-to-door meat peddler DID have a truck that had a picture on the side advertising meat. There was even a picture of meat on the grill looking like you’d expect it to & reminding me, in this frigid weather, of summers & hamburgers & picnics.  But even with those positives I just couldn’t bring myself to enter into an “animal flesh contract” with a guy selling Quality Discount Meat out of the back of a truck. Something just doesn’t feel right about that.

Admittedly, today after the “meat-in-a-truck” guy left I started seriously considering becoming a vegetarian. We mostly eat chicken & fish anyway but enjoy other meat, too, but not enough to buy the discounted prime cuts offered from a door-to-door meat truck. I believe we’ll just stick with fins & feathers for now unless young men in jeans & hoodies start coming to our door offering Quality Discount Poultry & Fish. That would be too much of a sensory overload & I simply don’t want to go there.

Perhaps the best bet is just not answering the door unless the person ringing the bell is your Orkin man or obviously wearing a FedEx uniform & has a package in his hand that isn’t frozen.

 I’m thinking about putting a sign at the front door right above the bell that says:

   We are vegetarians (not meat eaters)

   Thank you but we had family prayer earlier this morning

   We have self-cleaning gutters

   Man of the house LOVES doing our lawn care

   Our downspouts don’t need painting

   We both gave at the office

   Sorry, we haven’t seen your dog

   GIRL SCOUTS WELCOME – Please bring cookies

           *                 *               *                 *

I do a lot of research & here’s what I found out:

http://fox4kc.com/2013/05/09/buyer-beware-door-to-door-meat-sales/#ooid=85cTlqYjqnOhbyMBwxRE3asbdrpBP7rZ

 

 

Darrell Laurant: We Miss You!

8 Jan

When I was a child I remember older folks getting the newspaper off their porch or out of their mailbox, bringing it into the house & immediately checking the obituaries. My mother, in her more mature years, once told me if she didn’t see her name in there, it was going to be a good day.

These days when we’ve gotten the newspaper on our porch, in our mailbox, on our computer, on our SmartPhones or on our notebooks we haven’t needed to go straight to the obituaries for facts or local updates. For almost 30 years we’ve had Darrell Laurant & his wonderful columns. His newspaper column has been the place the majority of us in our area turn FIRST when checking out the Lynchburg News & Advance. We’ve known we were going to be informed, entertained & often intrigued.

Darrell’s columns have been a reflection of our area, society & the colorful people who live here. He’s introduced us to little known facts of local history & to local personalities who have done so many news-worthy things … or who have done the things we ALL do or have done, made more interesting through Darrell’s telling of it. He has exposed us regularly to the richness of our local culture & has presented it to us through his unique perspective & his quirky view of life. He has entertained us, made us laugh & on occasion has made us cry.

I’m convinced that many people have maintained their newspaper subscription primarily because of Darrell & his charming, insightful, entertaining columns.

In November Darrell decided to take a well-earned retirement. He has a book in the works & is involved with his group of writers through The Writer’s Bridge. He will still be here & he will still be writing. He just won’t be entertaining us in the newspaper.

As a personal friend for many years I plan to stay in touch with Darrell.

A couple of years ago when Darrell had been ill & hadn’t done a column for a few weeks, while looking through our Sunday paper I saw a photo of him in the obituaries. My heart sank, thinking that’s why I had been missing his column. On closer inspection I realized that the newspaper had simply chosen the obituary page where they had extra space to advertise Darrell’s local column. I was relieved & called him to tell him about his photo being where it was & we both got a laugh out of that … but I was glad to hear his voice on the phone.

Since 1985 Darrell has featured our science fiction club is his column on numerous occasions & he has done it in a way that always preserved our credibility. He liked the charity & community work we do & was always careful to point out those good works.  I believe Darrell’s August article about our Annual Charity Auction was directly responsible for the near-capacity crowd we had at the auction & the fact that we made the most money EVER for our charities.

Those of us who know Darrell personally & those of us who feel he is part of our lives because of his newspaper columns wish him so much enjoyment as he settles into his retirement.

However ………this past Sunday when we got the newspaper out of the mailbox (yes, we still get a paper copy), I sat at the kitchen table & absently turned to the obituaries first. In the absence of Darrell’s column I wondered how many other people in our area were doing the same thing.

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