Today is Friday, it’s January 11, 2013, and we’re about as snowbound as we’ve ever been in the seven years we’ve lived in Utah. We should have paid more attention to the weather predicting turtle who lives nearby here in the shadows of Mount Olympus. According to local news sources, this season’s is the biggest snowfall accumulation in the valley since 1993.  E.T. (Extra Tortoise), 69, is a 17-inch-diameter desert tortoise, rescued by Tosh Kano in 1988 through the State Division of Wildlife Resources during the construction of the Tuacahn Amphitheater. She warned us this was likely to happen back in October. Kano was the public works director for Salt Lake County at the time, and over the years he noticed a correlation between E.T.’s appetite and winter conditions. He was so certain about her ability to predict winter severity that he based his yearly order for road salt according to E.T.’s “predictions.”

Kano said that normally she stops eating in September to prepare for her six-month hibernation, but this year she was eating  kale, mustard greens, parsley, and carrots until mid-October, so he knew something was different. Those are considered “super foods” in a turtle’s diet, thus he knew she was storing up fat for a long and hard winter. Other signs were noted as well. Acorns were bigger this year and there were more of them as well as more 100 degree+ days over the summer. I remember we were forced to take our neighborhood walks long after sundown because of the heat. Then we forgot about tortoises and  went on to Italy, extended our summer for several more weeks.   (In case you’d like to see E.T. and her owner yourself, to this KSL Utah channel 5 television site.)

trevi fountain

It seems like a long time ago looking back now, but this picture proves we really did enjoy a warm interlude at Trevi Fountain in Rome this fall. Ahhh, it looks so sunny and warm. Legend has it that if visitors toss a coin into the fountain they will return to Rome. Should we hear E.T. is eating like a pig again this September, I may have to reconsider my swearing off airline travel if. I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get to Italy, which sounds very appealing now.  :grin:.

For today though, we continue to look out the window to see if it’s still snowing . . . yup! it is, and is expected continue all day. The nearly two-feet snow cake on the back deck may come close to swallowing that yardstick Hubby left in it (above photo) if it doesn’t let up. Did I mention the basement furnace broke down last Sunday? It’s working hard at the moment, but it’s an old old unit we’ll be replacing next week just in case.

I’ll be back with more news in a few days. That is, if we don’t freeze first. Does anybody know how to build igloos? Cháo for now!

what does a woman want?

What a great question. What would women answer?  They’d be as varied as the woman you talk to at any given moment.

Since 2007 I’ve been nursing my little Wintersong along, trying to figure out what–if anything–I want to accomplish with it. It’s no secret that I’ve been posting less and less these days. Lord knows I’ve probably broken every rule in the blogasphere, beginning with “post often” and “write well.”

Earlier today as I was doing my fat burning workout at the gym, I was hooked into my trusty old I-pod and heard a “little story” under just this title on a Modern Stories podcast and it led to a completely different post than the one that I’d planned. For several days I’ve been half planning to write a completely different piece–in effect “hanging up the keyboard.” What I was having trouble with was deciding whether for good or just for the summer. After I’d thought on it for awhile I decided that I may still not know what this woman wants other than balance in my life, but I sure know what I don’t want. That is to feel trapped in a routine I can’t keep up with. To have figured out what I DON’T want is half the battle I figure.

We’ll be leaving soon for a little rest and recreation in Florida, my old home state. I’m looking forward to showing my “southern estate–all 25 acres of it–to my grandchildren. We’ll also be taking them through Disney world, and I can’t honestly say I’m looking forward to the lines, but it’ll be a great experience for them to remember. We’re lucky to have the opportunity while we can still get around well. Younger daughter (#2) and her significant other will be joining us from NYC to spend a day with the kids at Universal Studios in the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. (Their parents will be having a high old time at a Conference while it’ll take all four of the other of us–grownups–to keep the kids from killing eac safe. It’ll be fun even though I’m sure it will not be a tear- nor line-free day. In the evenings we’ll all be together and I look forward to some of my old haunts–or as many as we can fit in–and lots of seafood and southern cooking–lots of sweetened iced tea and grits cooked like only a southerner knows how to do it–in the evenings.

After we come back, we may do a dash-over to see a new vacation property in Oregon that daughter #1 and her SO recently purchased–just to check it out. Then as fall approaches we’ll be heading off to Italy. The last three days we’ll be concentrating on a vespa tour of Rome featuring a hands-on cooking class experience at a private home. We’re looking forward to eating what we cook.

The summer is barely beginning and I’m already seeing it disappear before me. So little time. All those words just to say what my readers already know. I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to hang up the old keyboard after all, but for the rest of the summer posting will be sporadic as and when I decide there’s something I want to remember. This is a good place to file those memories. I hope I’ll still have a few readers left when I have more time. I hope by then I’ll have a good answer to the question posed. In the meantime, I invite you to share your wants, either here or on your own blogs if you crazy enough to still be doing it.

rememembering my long in the tooth whistling dentist

On Monday she’s having her favorite Vietnamese noodle salad with crisp Saigon spring rolls at her favorite Indochinese Bistro, and she takes her leftovers home to finish later. A microwave warmup turns those spring rolls into little pebbles hours later, and by nightfall the whole side of her face is beginning to ache. Something in the noodles–probably those rocks–made her teeth grow a mite on one side. She takes ibuprofen and tries not to think how expensive this munching malady may turn out to be if she doesn’t feel better tomorrow. Maybe all she needs is a good floss or a good shampoo. Something. Anything but a dentist. She spends a fitful night, getting up for another handful of ibuprofen around midnight and goes back to bed thinking about poor Dr. Burns who used to whistle classical tunes and ask about her travels while he worked on her teeth.

She knew from the beginning (2006)  Dr. Burns was well past his prime but she liked him anyway because he didn’t push expensive cosmetic procedures on her like the dentist in Las Vegas tried to. Did I mention she doesn’t have dental insurance? She bragged about him to her daughter, who conducted a study on cognitive aging years back. Rather than being impressed her daughter urges her to find a new dentist but she didn’t. She’s struggled with her bite for years, always a little long in the tooth, literally. She knew she might be facing tooth trauma someday, but it became mind over matter. Even when she picked up the local paper last July and happened to see her dentist’s obituary there. Not only is her one affordable link to dental health gone, but she learns her dentist was his 90s when he worked on her teeth a year and a half ago, not his late 70s as she’d believed. As he’d written his own obituary, quite a creative one as she remembered,  she realized that he must have known the last cleaning appointment she kept with him would be the last one. He never said a word, just whistled while he worked.

Maybe she had a sinus infection. Come to think of it her eye on that side had been paining her as well. She’s pretty sure hopes she didn’t have a tooth problem. She’s sure it’s just her sinuses again now that she thinks about it. She calls her  GP first thing Tuesday and gets a mid-afternoon appointment. The doctor takes a look in her ears, down her throat and makes her say Ahhhhhhh.  Can’t see anything going on in there. When was the last time you saw your dentist? The dentist died she answers. He was 92. She gives you the name of hers and tells you he’s really nice and gentle, and you really ought to have that checked out first. And he’s only about 60, by her calculation at least 30 working years left. She wouldn’t have to find a new dentist for a long time to come.

At home that afternoon Hubby makes that call she can’t make herself and viola, she has an early Thursday morning appointment. In the meantime, she washes down her third dinner (or fourth, she can’t remember) of mashed potatoes followed by water and ibuprofen. The early morning dental appointment with the new dentist led to an early afternoon one with an endodontist for a possible root canal! All the time she kept struggling to remember what she’d read recently about the Four Immutable Laws of the Spirit: Whoever is present (in your life) are the right people, Whenever it begins is the right time, Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened, and When it’s over, it’s over!

In a nutshell, that’s  how the whole week goes by until she found herself–quite unexpectedly–in a situation similar to this one later that afternoon for more than two hours.That was as long as the endodontist could hold up, wiping the sweat from his brow and telling her how tired he was getting. He also said hers was the hardest root canal he’d ever done, and he’d been in the profession quite a few years. There are three major roots in a series of canals and he could only find two. He’d have to close up and finish it up in a few days. He and his assistant both mentioned how they’d never had such a hard time before. She told them both how special it was to be at the top of somebody’s list. Made her feel so special even though the pain for the six days made her worry she would lose that tooth, No. 14, and still wind up in the poor house.

The week wasn’t entirely horrible. She’s had enough drama in her life so as to have learned how to take life’s lemons and make as sweet a lemonade as possible from them. She decides to use not feeling up to par as an excuse to do as little as possible the rest of the week and the next. No blogging. Just enough cleaning so as to make a path to her favorite easy chair and the television remote. No gym. As little cooking as possible. When mama can’t eat, it’s hard for mama to be enthusiastic about cooking. Only soft stuff to eat. No ice cream. Alas! Cold made her mouth ache. Hubby pitched in and either got his own dinner together or scraped up dried foodbits from the dirty kitchen counters after the leftovers were all gone. Once he was desperate enough to look up a recipe on line for Migas (a Tex Mex scrambled egg dish with salsa and tortillas) like he’d eaten years ago in Albuquerque or Austin. When he found a meatless that looked like the one he remembered, he made some for both of them for dinner one night. It was soft so that all sge had to do was roll it over and around her tongue a few times and swallow. It was delicious and easy, an unbeatable combination. If she decides to make it herself some time, she’ll find it here.

As somebody once said, it ain’t over until it’s over. She’ll be visiting her new dentist, Dr. Dickson, who is nice–but doesn’t whistle while he works–in a week or two to have the crown fixed now that the endodontist, who was nice enough to  file down those long teeth that were making it painful for her to chew, had drilled the heck out of the crown. It’ll all have to be done over again when the crown gets fixed. And she still doesn’t have dental insurance. In the meantime, she tries not to think too far into the weeks ahead now that she can eat again. Dr. Burns, god rest his soul, won’t be soon forgotten. In fact she thinks of him every time she flosses her teeth.

birds are people too

A long time ago I read somewhere that when baby birds first hack their way out of the shell, the first thing they see they will think is their “mother.” Wikipedia tells me now that in psychology, it’s called “genomic imprinting.”  That’s must be how those photographs of a dog with baby chickens or ducks following behind a dog came to be. When I was a kid, I had a three-legged pet pig that used to drag himself along behind me because I was the one forthcoming with food treats. My mom must have loved having her flowers crushed by a pig dragging his 60 pound (eventually) pot belly through them.

Naturally, when I noticed sometime this weekend that a bird had shat nearly smack-dab near the middle of the picture window, I wondered who in thunder had taught him–or them, as there were TWO big gray and blue spats tinged with white–how to poop sideways! That took some clever bird(s). Sunday morning found me on the front deck with a stepping stool and assorted soft rag teeshirts and a can of window cleaner in hand.  Thinking back over the years, I realize I’ve known quite a few clever birds who were quite entertaining in their own way, but never one that could do that sideways pooping trick.

This is Henry, the parakeet we acquired when we lived in Connecticut. As you can see, Henry had the run of the house most of the time. His cage sat on daughter #1’s dresser with the door propped open, providing a bridge to the carved pink elephant embedded with tiny pink mirrored diamond shapes he liked to use as his toilet. It was continually covered with droppings deposited as he sat jabbering to the parakeet in the mirror who looked exactly like him! He was so excited by his friend in the mirror that he also left slobber markings there. Cleaning tasks were constant, but it was worth it for the entertainment he provided for the whole family. He was quite content to fly around the house to wherever people were gathered. In time, he even taught himself to talk.

Then we moved to Ohio, taking Henry with us, and life began to change for us. The girls were growing up and eventually going to school. One day the older daughter came home with a request. Could she please bring a baby chicken home to live with us because the school year was ending and the chickens hatched in the classroom all needed adoptive homes. How could I–who grew up with mostly animals and chickens as my only friends for the first five years of life because we lived in on a farm in the boonies–say no? So that’s how Birdbrain came to live with us.

Birdbrain was a fast-growing white leghorn hatchling. By the time he came home with us he was at the gangly all-leg phase and losing most of his downy biddy feathers. Suffice it to say he was not his handsome best, and yes, he was a rooster. We set his big cardboard box house on the grate by the fireplace next to Henry’s cage. Now our Ohio house was in a neighborhood in a rural setting and we were susceptible to mice invasions.  So with the danger of possible mice lynchings, Henry was only allowed out of his cage when we were present.

One day we were rather startled when we returned home after an outing to see Henry’s cage door hanging open, with Henry nowhere to be found. We called and called, and when that didn’t work we spread out over the house, down in the basement, on a frantic search. Then somebody decided to check to see if Birdbrain was in his box. He was. And so was Henry. Birdbrain was acting like a chicken acts, scratching and peeping happily in the chicken feed sprinkled on the floor of his box. To our delight, so was Henry. Apparently he’d made a new friend, the best kind, one who could teach him new tricks. We got rather used to seeing Henry visit Birdbrain in his box, and if he wasn’t in his cage that’s where he’d be. One day we decided to let Birdbrain visit Henry. We opened the cage door and carefully set him inside and Henry dropped down to the floor from his perch and joined him scratching on the grit-lined newspaper. Not long after that, there Birdbrain was one day–balancing awkwardly on Henry’s perch, while Henry clung to the cuttlebone on the side. Who says an old bird can’t learn new tricks? True story!

As for the culprits involved in my poop-splattered window, who knows who imprinted them with the ability to do their dirty deeds? I dismiss  them as two teenagers, most likely, out past midnight after they’d snuck outside their bedroom windows, flying about looking for ways to do a little imprinting of their own. They had just happened by our house when they finally perfected their little joke. I must say, the clean window looks smashing, regardless of how it came about.

a zen story for marie

When is it okay to re-gift? I feel a little guilty passing along a book I’ve already read, but Courage Doesn’t Always Roar (by Maryanne Radmacher) was in a basket of “hope” given me by friends when I was in the middle of chemotherapy in 2010. Though it is technically “used,” its message is as valid  as when I first received it “brand new.” Procrastinator that I am, I’ve had it ready to mail to a friend in Las Vegas ever since we visited her in mid-March when we were there.  If there’s ever a time she’s needed courage, it’s now. So, re-gift guilt set aside, I’m mailing to her today.

Earlier this year Marie was diagnosed with cancer. When we visited her, she was in a good bit of pain, but had just undergone her first treatment. Having gone through that very difficult  period myself in 2010, I had a pretty good idea of all the uncertainty  she was going through. And yes, those other words that go along with it–fear and doubt–probably creeping in. I like to think it helped her a little to see me–a living example that  you can survive the treatment, and God willing cancer. Still, words are never adequate at times like these, so we all sat there together remembering old–and good–times. We were all relieved to see her wonderful wit and smile, and note that her giving loving nature was still quite intact. As we were leaving, we saw the old determined Marie rally enough to locate and tie two red-ribboned Feng Shui Good Luck Buddha Charms to my purse handles (which are still there)–one for me and one for Hubby.

On the long drive home, I made a pact with myself to keep in touch somehow, perhaps in the same ways she’s done over the years–cards on every occasion, with photographs and personal messages tucked inside–because I knew how much those things meant to me, those weekly phone calls, cards, and emails. Then the yard work began, the classes, the days helping out the grandchildren. Time zipped by. None of those reasons were ever good enough to excuse my procrastination, but those reasons plus my unwillingness to pick up the telephone (some sort of weird phone phobia I guess) got in the way. One problem too was the thing that grips any of us when we don’t know quite what to say, or how to say it. I grew up with that axiom the road to hell is paved with good intentions but there it is.

There’s a long road ahead for Marie and all of us who have had to face that long valley of shadows. After two years of followup scans if nothing bad shows up, it’s statistically less likely you’re going to develop a “crossover” cancer influenced by the toxic cancer drugs themselves.  No guarantees, but the doctors breathe a little easier, and the odds are more favorably stacked on your side. So the closer you get to five years, the better. Recently we heard through a mutual friend that Marie has been doing well. But the book about courage still lies on my desk inside a padded manilla envelope, ready for mailing.

So today I had an idea. Suppose I write about it in a blogpost. Sometimes, when I have trouble saying what I’m feeling, it’s easier to tell it in a story. That’s what I’ll do. I’ll send her a story that I like to remember, a ZEN story that I always think about when I’m facing one of those six-month followup scans, when the doubt begins to creep in and I’m afraid my luck–if that’s what it is–may be running out.

A long time ago, there was a Monk being chased by a tiger. He is so frightened and tired, but he can’t stop running or the tiger will surely catch up with him. Soon he sees the edge of a cliff coming up. Just as the tiger is about to close in on him, he  notices a vine trailing over the edge. He quickly crawls over the edge and begins to carefully let himself down the vine, little by little. Just as he’s beginning to feel safe again, he looks down to see how far is left, and sees another tiger waiting for him below. As he looks up again, he notices a mouse gnawing away at the vine. At first he feels such despair, what point is there in going on? Then he spots a luscious looking red strawberry just within arm’s length. It looks so delicious he reaches out,  grabs it and eats it.

I hope this story I pass along to her through this blogpost will remind her that–while there may be terrible things behind and before us, complicated by vexing everyday annoyances like that little mouse, we all need to keep our eyes open for that strawberry. I hope Marie knows that we think of her every day, even though we’re not very good at day to day correspondence.

when I’m an old woman I shall wear purple

So much has been going on I hardly know where to start. Last Friday the hubby disappeared–he does that a lot since it must be a great challenge to live with an older woman (he’s exactly 10 months younger, you see).    I was in the office because there had been a telephone call a few moments before that I expected Hubby would answer, as I was sure he knew I was busy catching up on my ironing in the bedroom. But he didn’t. After four rings, the answering service picks up. I wondered why he hadn’t answered–so I went looking for him, deciding first to check to see if the missed call had been important or if there was a message. The doorbell rang. I waited a moment for Hubby to appear because I was still in my pajamas even though it was nearing 11:00. Then it rang again, this time more urgently.

What to do? First I called out to Hubby. No answer. Where was that man this time? I can see the front stoop from my office window, so I glanced out and saw the back of a young man’s head, but I could tell from the voices there was at least one other person with him. My first thought was missionaries. Or Jehovah’s witness.  Now I have nothing against either group, but I was so behind on seasonal switching out chores I truly didn’t have time to chat. The doorbell chimed again, then the banging began. I started to the bedroom to find a robe, but when I saw the heavy winter fuzzy hanging there, I thought it would look sillier than the white tee-shirt with blue fish (yes, the very one I was forced to wear in Edinburgh in September when the heat wave hit) and the blue plaid pajama bottoms I had on.

I was so rattled, maybe startled is a better word, as I opened the door and saw the black haired young man was Ben, my NY daughter’s Significant Other, and two women. Time seemed to stop! What in heaven’s name was Ben doing here? It was when shouts of “Happy Birthday” or “Surprise” or something like that it hit me! The next day I would be having a significant birthday–the big seven and O! Hubby has always said that’s an important birthday in India, but he usually had such trouble keeping secrets and he gets so excited that I always know something’s afoot. I’d already figured out that he and the daughter who lives down the street were possibly planning something bigger than the usual dinner and cake she usually prepared. I even told him please don’t throw a surprise party or making a big deal out of it. Particularly this one! His answer was Don’t worry. You know we aren’t party people! Suddenly Hubby appears out of nowhere, and chores and everything else were forgotten. For this birthday and Mother’s Day, the whole family would be here; they’d all been planning it for months! It was the first time I ever remember being totally taken by surprise in almost my whole life.

Of course everyone came bearing gifts–themselves for the festivities (dinner out at our favorite Indian restaurant that evening and dinner with favorite cake at daughter’s house onn Saturday), books, a new linen blouse, and lime green sandals with such pizazz I’ve hardly taken them off my feet since. I am one hot mama–or grandmama–as the case may be! I’m planning to post a picture of my feet in the new shoes just as soon as I can get to the store and buy some nail polish and paint my toenails! Crimson or Cerise. Or how about Hot pink?

As for birthdays, I think 70 is a good time to start getting funky. You probably remember the book and cards from the 70s, so you know the drill. When I’m an old woman I shall wear purple! I’ve even begun to plan a new color scheme for the big room of our house that we plan to have repainted next year. One purple accent wall–with a natural gray or light charcoal walls all around with white wooden trim! (Let’s see if I still have the gut nerve next year when the time comes!) I got the idea from the new Community Center (gym, library, cafe) that opened in our township just a few weeks ago. Just in case it’s clear what that artwork is made of, here’s a close-up:

As for birthdays, especially the really really big ones, I think 70 is a good time to start counting backwards. Next year I’m going to be 69. Again. And I’m really looking forward to 21!