Tuesday, December 30, 2008

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Goodbye to 2008

This has been an odd year for me. As things turned out, I had more time to recuperate from surgery than I needed but that was because I lost my job because of the surgery. I had time to fish, but found it wasn't as much fun to fish alone as it is with companions. I began to do freelance writing, and found I enjoyed it and although it doesn't pay enough for the number of hours it takes, it does help fill the gap between what I have and what I need. I was finally able to move from a house I detested into one I love. I have found old friends care about me and I treasure the time with them. I have finally understood that God does love ME, unconditionally.

My wish for the new year is that my children accept the Lord and teach the same to my grandchildren. I pray they will recognize the Biblical teachings concerning Mary, the Mother of God, and will KNOW that Mary, as a mother, has the same unconditional love for her children as does the Lord. I pray they will understand that a penitent heart and a request for forgiveness is all that is needed to start over. I say this as a mother and grandmother myself. Amen.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

It is difficult to believe it has been one year ago tonight that I was rushed to the hospital from my youngest daughter's home. Needless to say, my recall of last Christmas is not great nor are events in order. All I know for sure is that I spent Christmas Day in the Grove City hospital and that my family was called together because my outlook for recovery was not good. The morning after Christmas, I was moved to Butler Memorial Hospital where I had quadruple bypass surgery. The next eight days were spent in ICU and the next two in a step-down unit. Finally, I went home to my daughter's house on January 3. I don't recall much about New Year's, either.

My daughter asked me to come again this year, but I declined. Not so much because of fear of a re-run, but rather because I don't want to miss Midnight Mass at my church. I have much to be grateful for, even with all the negative events since my surgery. My cardiologist and cardiac surgeon both told me they didn't expect me to survive. The surgeon said someone must have been watching over me. Yes, that would be the angel I saw prior to surgery.

Today I am also recalling Christmases of the past. There are so many!! When I was a child, the only two children in the house were my brother, Bill, and me. Our family, like so many others in the '50s, didn't have a lot of money. Throughout the year, the only toys Bill and I received were the comic books our father let us buy when we went shopping. Those comic books were read and reread many times over. Christmas, however, was another story. Our parents didn't spare any expense and Bill and I received many, many Christmas gifts. I loved Christmas and still would love it if I wasn't alone.

I always had an extensive list of gifts I wanted, a list compiled from the Sears and Spiegel toy catalogs. Most of the time, I received what I asked for. One year, when I was in 6th grade, I got into a heated argument with another student who said there wasn't a Santa Claus. I insisted there was, because I had seen him on two occasions. Finally, the teacher drew me aside and told me the other student was right - that my parents were Santa Claus. I was crushed.

That same Christmas, as it turned out, was the one that my parents ordered our Christmas gifts from the Spiegel catalog. When the gifts hadn't arrived by Christmas Eve, my parents went to Vandergrift about an hour before closing time. It was dark and snowing and most people weren't out still shopping. Our Christmas gifts were bought at a small hardware store. If I hadn't been told at school that there wasn't a Santa Claus, I guess I would have found out that Christmas Eve anyway. Christmas was never the same, in a magical way of speaking, after that Christmas.

I know I was pretty old to still believe in Santa in 6th grade. I encouraged the same beliefs in my children, and I have found out in recent years that they only pretended to believe because they knew I wanted them to believe.

Well, I am still that little girl who wants to believe in the magic. That kind of hope has not stood me well in life, especially in relationships. It has helped my artwork.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Burglary, Death, Social Security and No Christmas

Sometimes, the crap just keeps hitting the fan. Sometimes, things seem to be getting worse instead of better. Sometimes, it seems as if there is a nasty devil directing bad stuff my way. The past month has had highs and lows. The highs have been related to my move to a new place, a wonderful place with plenty of room and perfect for me. The lows? My 27-year old nephew, a Staff Sgt. in the Air Force, died unexpectedly and was brought back here for burial. My heart just aches for my brother and sister-in-law having to endure this cruelest of life events.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Media Predictions and the Election

In light of the media circus surrounding predictions of election outcomes, I think we Americans should foil their results. Anytime you are called or approached on the street and asked the big question of the day, "Who are you voting for?", your response should be either to refuse to answer or to give the wrong answer. This would scramble all the media's reports and perhaps we could then have an honest, unbiased election of the candidate most favored by the American people, not by the liberal media.

The predictions are becoming ridiculous and the pundits are in a feeding frenzy. I wish we could go back to the days when the election results weren't determined by huge media corporations who are looking out for their own interests (and, of course, income). We have become a lot of sheep following the lead of people who really don't care how you are faring whether you are in the middle class or the lower class.

At this point, I believe the Democrats are making an attempt to shake up the three-class system in this country. They seem to want to eliminate the upper class, but the real attempt is to emerge with a two-class system. This is exactly what was attempted when Nixon was president - different time, different party. A two-class system where the 'elected' elite control the economy and YOUR income, while insuring their own power through accumulation of wealth into their own coffers. What do you honestly think Obama's comment to Joe the Plumber was about? To spread the wealth is a Socialistic concept, one which has been advocated by Obama and his political affiliations over the years. Take from the wealthy and give it to those who need it most. In other words, to the lower classes, not the middle class as he is saying. Watch out, America! We are about to be changed in ways you never would have dreamed.

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Thursday, October 16, 2008

The Spitting of Tobacco

When I was young, I thought the only living creatures that spit tobacco were grasshoppers. My brother Bill and I would catch them and hold them so their wings were closed, then look them in the eye and say, "Spit some tobacco or I'll kill you." Now I don't know where that came from, and though there wasn't any killing involved, the words certainly sounded violent. Eventually, the grasshoppers would exude a brownish-colored liquid from their mouths and then we would let them go. I found out later that people can also spit tobacco when we visited one of my father's co-workers in West Virginia.

We had traveled to the Shenandoah Valley the day before and stayed overnight at one of those forerunners of the strip motel, the small one-room cottage. When we left early the next morning and traveled up into the mountains, my father told us that soon we would be going through a cloud. Bill and I were excited about that prospect. However, when we actually passed through the cloud we were a bit disappointed because it looked just like fog. We did feel as though we had done something extraordinary, as driving through a cloud sounded like something ordinary people just didn't do.

We drove for several hours through valleys and steep mountains, and finally reached Harmon, West Virginia, in early afternoon. When we found the family we were looking for, their house was one of several small bungaloes crowded together at the summit of a mountain. The houses couldn't have been any closer to the road, and there was junk everywhere around them. The people who lived in the houses were all related, and the grandparents resided with the family we were visiting. The house had unfinished wood floors, and not a lot of furniture. The grandmother sat in a rocking chair in the center of the room, and obviously was the matriarch of the family. Not long after introductions, my brother and I were shocked to notice the grandmother spit into a coffee can sitting on the floor next to her chair. It happened so suddenly and her aim was so accurate that we couldn't believe our eyes. We looked at our mother and saw that warning look only she could give, meaning we were to keep quiet. This, of course, only enhanced the curiosity and surprise we were feeling, and the next time the grandmother spat into the can, Bill and I had to go outside because we were taken with fits of giggles. We stayed outside until Mom and Dad were ready to leave, and as soon as we got into the car, we started asking questions. Mom told us the grandmother was using snuff and that's why she was spitting into the can. She also said this was a fairly common practice among older women in some areas of the country.

I haven't seen any women chewing since, just men. Everyone seems to know or know of a woman who chewed at one time or another, though. I don't know if this was common practice in other areas of the country, or was just particular to Appalachia.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions...not good for a Libra!

The title of this blog says it all: a Libra doesn't handle decisions quickly or impulsively. We have to weigh everything, list all the pros and cons, back and forth, back and forth, until we finally reach a decision that is almost always the right one at the time.

Now I could be smug about that last part, saying the decision is always the right one. However, it just 'ain't' so. I've made more than my share of mistakes.

I wakened very early this morning because of a decision I had to make - I couldn't sleep for thinking about it. The decision to be made? Whether or not to move into a smaller place to live. I made a pot of coffee and sat down with paper and pen. I made sketches and lists. I added up costs and expenses and compared the new place against the present house. After my second cup of java, the decision was made. I am not going to take the new place, much as I want to move from my present house. The new place is less money per month, and probably costs less to heat. It has lots of parking and is air conditioned. But it is so small! I would have to use the garage as a studio and workout room, and that would be fine except there isn't any access to the garage from the living space. I would have to go outside and down around the building to the back to gain access to the garage. I know myself. In the cold, cold winter with lots of snow and ice, I would probably skip the workouts and making art. I would also have to shovel the rather long driveway in the winter.

I would have to store things like my china closet, bookcase, most of my artwork and pottery, some other furniture, art supplies and workout equipment. All would have to stay in the garage. My washer and dryer would have to be kept and used in the kitchen/dining area. That wouldn't be too bad, but it makes the space that much smaller.

So I continue to search for something that suits me. I'm not hard to please, but this living in town in such close proximity to neighbors is not acceptable. I have a nutty and nebby next door neighbor who is scary, to say the least. He gives me the creeps and he is getting worse. I like my privacy and don't like someone trying to peer into my living space! Too bad it is so hard to control one's environment!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Not a Coincidence

Ok, I'm off the politics for a minute. Truthfully, I am absolutely SICK of the whole campaign. Tired of the lying and exaggerating on both sides of the election. Tired of the financial fiasco the markets are experiencing. Tired of the government bailing out those who are wealthy or those who purchased homes WAY out of their means. Why do the rest of us have to pay for the greed and credit overextensions of those who now find themselves losing their homes? I am inclined to think Bush's pronouncement today of the bail-out by the government is protecting HIM and HIS. Am I wrong?

I know I said I was not talking politics and there I did it again. Just can't help myself. Be glad you aren't in my presence and being forced to HEAR all this talk.

Today, I planned to go to a fishing tournament at Roaring Run, but changed my mind. There will probably be a slew of people there and I am not inclined to get my fishing lines entangled with anyone else's. My computer has been acting extremely slow and sluggish to the point of frustration. I know I should just format the hard drive and start over, but that takes so much time. Right now, I hate to spend my time doing that when there won't be many nice days left this year, not in this climate.

Tomorrow I am supposed to walk in the Diabetes Walk, and I am not looking forward to that, either. It is a 2 mile walk, and I am up to 1 mile being comfortable. But I will probably do it.

Yesterday, I had a very nice day with an older friend who lived nearby when I was growing up. We have established a friendship, though she is almost 20 years older than I am. Wonderfully bright lady who is totally in touch with society, despite her age. At the same time, a younger woman who began to write to me on myspace (because her sister was once an employee of mine), and I have realized what a small world it is. It seems her father-in-law grew up next door to me - about a half-mile away, actually - and when he married the first time, he lived across the road from us - about a quarter-mile. I used to babysit his daughters from his first marriage. Apparently, he had children in his second marriage, and this young woman is married to his son. These happy little coincidences never cease to amaze me. Actually, I believe there is a reason for them. I don't believe there are any coincidences in this world. It is far more complicated, and far more spiritual than that.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The World is Going to the Dogs (or Pigs)

I have been remiss in my posting lately. So much is going on in the political world that it is difficult to pull one's self away from the tv or the computer. It is equally difficult to not become enraged at some of the obnoxious postings online. I believe many of the often nearly illiterate posters who are writing such vile lies are paid-to-post "employees". If not, then I fear our education system has truly failed in educating students, not only in grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, but also in how to think. Most of the anti-Palin comments are of such a low nature that I worry about just how far our society has sunken.

Only worse is the media capitalizing on some of the worst of these allegations. Whoever said a requirement for President or Vice-President was a squeaky-clean, unblemished background? If that were true, we wouldn't have had any of our former Presidents, save Jimmy Carter (whose conscience made him confess to immoral thoughts). In the case of Sarah Palin, these nasty comments are directed toward her daughter. Does everyone honestly believe former presidential or vice-presidential children never have done anything immoral? And what constitutes immorality? The Bush twins drinking? Their father's use of drugs and alcohol when younger? Bill Clinton's indiscretions? JFK's infidelities? How about Obama's admitted use of crack cocaine and marijuana? Rembember the old saying, "Only the good girls get caught"? Don't you think the children of the Presidents and Vice-Presidents of this country are carefully taught, watched and protected? It seems as if children in the White House since JFK's term have been girls, girls who don't often have unsupervised time.

As for the male presidents or wannabees, and I don't care whose name is brought up, the truth remains: wealthy, powerful men have lots of women at their beck and call. It's as true today as it was in the 15th century. We have such a schizophrenic society when it comes to morals.

As for experience, why does Obama feel he has to compare himself to Sarah Palin? Isn't he running against McCain? The more I see of Obama the more I realize he doesn't have the fortitude and strength to be the leader of the free world. He is a trained attorney, as are his wife and his vice-presidential candidate. Only a few years ago, our society was attacking attorneys as being the scourge of the earth. Now it isn't mentioned. A trained attorney knows how to manipulate people with his/her words. The words don't even have to have much meaning, they just need to SOUND like they do. This is what Obama does - he uses the vocabulary which I have certainly heard many times by those who really don't have anything to say of value. Don't confuse the two, because they are different. Anyone can memorize words and phrases. Not everyone can come up with genuinely new, intellectually meaningful words that can impact the world. Do not be deceived by the false rhetoric. There are forces at work in this election that surpass just looking at the next four years in our government.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Wow...the Republican Convention rocked last night! From the governor of Hawaii, to Mike Huckabee and Rudy Guiliani, and finally to Sarah Palin -- they each delivered the message in a wonderful way. I am sure the vast majority of those watching felt as I did, that one of our own was up there speaking and leading a party for the first time in recent memory. Everyone else who is running lives a privileged life. Sarah seems so all-American normal.

The sight of her youngest daughter holding the baby and licking her hand before using it to smooth the baby's hair was absolutely delightful and obviously unscripted. And so like something that happens in an average family. There wasn't any pre-prompting of kids in this venue, as there seemed to be when Michelle Obama spoke to the Democratic convention. The Obama's youngest seemed a bit too precious and very much too obvious, and I felt uncomfortable with her grabbing the microphone and the attention several times.

Anyway, the word of the day, or the season, is "ZERO". I liked that a lot. I also like the media today recognizing the genius of McCain's selection for VP and the spectacular advent of Sarah Palin. It is as if the Media people are finally connecting with the average American.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Viva McCain and Palin!

I write this with a great sigh of relief. Yesterday, I was thrilled when I watched Sarah Palin accept the number two spot on the Republican ticket. Over the years, I have admired John McCain's maverick persona and to see him choose one of the same and a woman to boot, is exciting.

Today I listen to the media trying to find chinks in her armor. My belief is that the leftist media commentators should exert some of their misplaced energies toward investigating how Obama REALLY got where he is. Investigate further his association with William Ayers. http://www.sodahead.com/blogs/user/238181/category/8/?tko=blog_categories Consider his association with his extremely racist pastor. I personally have left churches where the words spoken by the pastor didn't fit my own philosophy of religion and understanding of the Bible.

People are calling me a racist for my decision to vote Republican instead of Democratic on November 4. To those people I say this: what is the difference between those voters (many of whom have never voted before) who are voting for Obama based on his race alone, and my voting for a senior citizen with an McC surname who has a FEMALE vice-presidential candidate? After all, I am only six years younger than John McCain, my birth surname is McCollim, and I am a woman. Yes, I am white also, which is, after all, an accident of birth the same as my name, my sex, my age.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Here's to Hillary!

Absolutely no one could address the DNC better than did Hillary Clinton last night. No one! And all I can say is this: there is going to come a day when all those who engineered her infinitesimal loss in the primary and all those who fell for the fanciful, yet empty, rhetoric of her opponent will realize the great mistake which has been made. Just as a very slim majority voted for Bush in the last two elections, so too has that majority come to realize the great error it made.

Thus, for the first time in my adult life, I will vote Republican for President of the United States. I don't like having to do that, but I am absolutely certain that John McCain has the experience and knowledge that Obama does not possess. McCain doesn't have an ax to grind with the citizens of this country nor does he need to prove something to the world. Nor does he possess the hubris to have assumed before the fact that he would be the next President of the United States. It appears as though Obama does possess a great amount of arrogance. That will not be loved by the American people.

I still believe a woman should have been nominated for President before any of the minorities in this country. And had Hillary been permitted to count all the primary votes, she would have won the nomination. Now, in the convention, those uncounted states are counted after the fact. Who were the men who decided a woman should not be president, and why? We won't know in this generation, but someday political scientists will delve into all that which is hidden from us now and they will tell the truth.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Democratic National Convention

It's finally here. The great DNC, followed next week by the great RNC. My parents and grandparents always watched the Conventions, and I watched with them. When I became a teen, I developed a passion for them. This comes from a woman who, when she was 6 years old, was in love with Harry S. Truman and despised, as much as a child can, Edward McCarthy. When a college freshman in 1960, I was in love with JFK and actually was fortunate enough to shake his hand. (I didn't wash that hand for a week)

Today, I am rather cynical about the whole process. What was once Democratic is now Republican, and vice-versa. Today, politics must be hashed and rehashed by political commentators trying to sway public opinion. You think lobbyists control politics? They used to, but today it's MSNBC, CNN, Fox and all the others. The average American citizen does not make the decision about who will be president. Not really. Not when the chips (or chads) are down. Those in power decide who the candidates will be and who will win. Look what happened in the last two elections. And we, the people, must pay the price.

I am hearing how the Democrats have made things better for everyone, with healthcare reform, Medicare reform, welfare reform, affirmative action, et al. Let me tell you, those reforms haven't helped the average American. Rather, things have become worse.

Since I could first vote at age twenty-one, I have never voted for a Republican for president. This year, I am facing a dilemna. I am not wanting either candidate for president, and may vote Republican for the first time. Call me a poor loser if you want, but I still want a woman for president. I believe the men in power derailed Hilary because she is a woman, and substituted a relatively unknown minority candidate who they knew would get enough minority votes to possibly win over a Republican candidate.

I am sick right now of hearing about Obama's early days of working in community action like it was some great and noble venture. I, too, worked for a federally-funded community action program when I was young, and what I saw there was eye-opening. I saw employees who talked the talk but didn't walk the walk. A lot of people pretending to work, but not really doing anything. A boss who drew a large salary and after arriving at work 1-2 hours late, sat and clipped coupons from the paper and talked to friends and family on the phone instead of working, and whose day ended several hours earlier than it was supposed to end. An executive director who had the title of "Reverend" and stole thousands of dollars from the agency. People whose words sounded lofty, but didn't have any real content. People who were only too quick to reverse perceived discrimination. President Nixon eliminated the program because he said it duplicated existing effective programs, and it may have been the best action of his presidency. It saved a lot of money. So quit talking about those days in community action and tell me what Obama has done and accomplished since then. He has only been a Senator for three years, and most of that time, I believe, has been spent campaigning.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Is There Such a Thing as Too Sweet?

I have been neglecting my blog of late, probably because I have been doing so much freelance writing. In the process of SITTING and writing, my weight has increased and thus my blood glucose levels. I suppose when I see my PCP and my cardiologist the first week of September, some meds are going to be changed. I will be told to exercise, exercise, exercise. My response will be to say that I am exercising, though not as much as I should. I won't tell them it is my fingers which are being exercised on the keyboard! They don't like to hear about how miserable it is to walk when the temp is almost 90 with a matching humidity level. Or that there are steep hills in all directions from my house, making the prospect of walking seem like some kind of torture. Don't get me wrong -- I like to walk. I like to walk where it is reasonably flat. And cool. The trouble is, I must drive to get to a flat spot, and that takes gasoline which I hate to use too much of. I know, we are all in the same situation.

Today I went with my sister-in-law, niece, and grand-niece to the Diabetes Expo at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center in Pittsburgh. My niece is a Type-I diabetic, and uses insulin. We came away with so much literature, freebies, and information! Now if I could just get remotivated!

This was the first time I have been to the new Convention Center, and I was totally enthralled with the water feature installed outside the entry. It is probably one story deep and probably a block long, and has a pathway between the two walls of water falls, one on each side, along with two other flows of water on either side of the walkway. It is difficult to describe, but is well-conceived art, in my opinion.

The river side of the Convention Center has floor to ceiling windows giving those inside a lovely view of the river as well as a panoramic view of the city. Aside from once again appreciating the beauty of Pittsburgh, I kept thinking about the unseen big fish in the rivers. This made me think that I haven't been fishing lately. Hmm...maybe tomorrow.

After we left Pittsburgh, we stopped in Monroeville at Panera Bread for lunch. I LOVE Panera Bread sandwiches! My niece is getting married in November, so we stopped at another of my favorite stores, Pat Catan's, so they could find some wedding things. I, of course, spent all my time in the art department. This is the store where I purchase my art supplies.

But I digress. After all the WALKING I did today, and it was a lot, my blood sugars were very high tonight. It wasn't because I ate a lot, either. Go figure. This is one unpredictable disease.

But all in all, it was a very good day. I hope your day was as good.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Festa Italia

First of all, I may have been one of the only non-Italians at the annual Festa Italia in our town. I know for sure there was one other present, a young man working in a food concession stand. I know he was Irish because he had on a green t-shirt which had shamrocks on the back and the words "Token Cake Eater". I'd like one of those shirts!

This was my first visit to this festival which is held in the park for one day, always a Sunday. The day begins with an outdoor Mass celebrated by a retired Italian Bishop in our Diocese. I loved it that the music used for this special Mass was Contemporary Christian, including my favorite song, "Above All". It amazes me how Communion can be so easily distributed in such an atypical environment with such a huge congregation.

After Mass, I went to the grocery store and then came home to change into something casual and cooler and then went back to the park. Parking is at a premium, but I was lucky and didn't have to walk very far. I met my friend Mary Ann and her fiance and we settled in to watch the entertainment. Periodically, I went to get water or food, and ran into people I know. It was great! I absolutely love small town community celebrations -- you get to see people you normally don't see and it's a wonderful catch-up time. Not to mention all the good food, from bagna cauda to calimari to pizza. Yummy!

Julius LaRosa was the headliner, and though I recall when he was first featured on The Arthur Godfrey Show, I was either too young for an 'idol' or I was already enthralled with Elvis. I was quite surprised at how short LaRosa is -- he looked taller on tv -- but the man can still sing! There was a group of dancers attired in traditional Italian dress who danced to all the favorite Italian dances, including the Basket Dance. (I will have to research that one to know what it symbolized). There were also some very talented Italian singers who performed. Getting chuckles from the audience was a quartet of 4-5 year olds who performed on the dance floor. One little girl in particular was a delight. She had on jeans, a pink top, and a matching pink cowboy hat. I decided she must be either a natural talent or she is taking dance lessons. She kept bowing in a very dramatic fashion and tossing her hat as she did so.

The highlight was the last group, Dr. Zoot, a swing band from Pittsburgh. They were FABULOUS! If you ever get a chance to see this extremely talented and professional band, go! I can't say enough about how good they are. What was particularly interesting and uplifting was seeing all the teens run up to the dance floor to dance and interact with the band. It gives me hope that young people appreciate true musical talent in an age when most seem enthralled with the lowest form of musical entertainment, rap. It would be wonderful to see the swing and big band sound become very popular again, and this comes from a diehard rocker. Seeing performers who are truly talented and educated in their art form is a blessing.

The day ended for me just after dark when I headed for home, sunburned and very pleasantly tired. I just wish my children and grandchildren could attend these events with me.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

My Friend Sammy

Since I've been holed up in my house writing for two days, I was determined to be outdoors today. The weather was perfect - low 70's and sunny - and I was missing it all. I called my sister-in-law to see if I could borrow Sammy, their elder dog. She said yes, that Sammy loves to go in the car. So I picked him up (I swear the dog is psychic - how did he know I was coming to take him somewhere? He ran right to my car and stood there til I opened the door) and off we went to Northmoreland Park. This is where I normally fish, which I haven't done lately. As soon as we arrived, Sammy was more than anxious to get out. My niece told me before we left to be careful because as soon as the door opened, he'd jump out and take off. Sure enough, he pushed between me and the steering wheel before I could get the leash on. I pulled the door shut just in time, got the leash on, started to open the door again, and out Sammy went. The leash wasn't too long, so out I went, as well. The door shut. Inside the car were my car keys and cell phone! The door didn't completely shut, but I couldn't open it, either. A half-locked door. I could see the darn keys hanging in the ignition, so near yet so far. I thought that we'd take our walk first and figure it all out afterwards. This is my Scarlett O'Hara persona.

The brick paver path is 1.1 miles long, and is a lovely and fairly easy walk. Sammy was a happy little dog, smiling at everyone and wagging his tail. One lady said, "What a happy little mutt that is!" Sammy just smiled and looked back at me to see if I heard that. He was very obedient, didn't chase any other dogs, geese or ducks. Didn't growl or bark at anyone. When we finished and went back to my car, he stood there facing the door and looking back over his shoulder at me, like "come onnnnn already!". Now I had to get the car open. I saw some fishermen nearby so we walked over to them and I asked if anyone perhaps had a coathanger I could borrow? No one did, but they all came to my car to check it out. Another guy in the vehicle parked next to mine offered his pipe wrench to break the window. *Gee, thanks, but no thanks!") Pretty soon, there were about 12 people standing at my car! I asked, "Where are all the car thieves when you need them?" Everyone laughed, especially the teens.

One of the guys divulged the info that he owns a used car dealership and has to get into cars almost every day. He just happened to have a broken fishing pole (I have one, too -- in the trunk of the car, along with a coathanger). While one teenager held a tree branch between the door and roof of the car, the used car guy was able to hook the car keys, but they fell off the rod onto the floor before he could bring them out. So he kept trying, and finally pushed the manual lock open and voila! The door opened. Sammy couldn't have jumped into the car any faster. He sat there looking at me as if he was saying, "What are you waiting for?" I thanked everyone and off we went. Sammy was happy when we reached his home! I may ask to take him out again one day, but he may refuse. He is good company, though. My niece told me before we left that walking with a dog is a good way to meet men. Yup, it sure was! But they were all teens or married. Just my luck!

Friday, August 8, 2008

You will notice links to my e-How articles to the right. If you check them out and rate them, I would greatly appreciate it! I am doing a lot of freelance writing in order to make my way in the world, and e-How is one of the many ways in which I am trying to do that. Of course, you could also purchase some art from me if you like. :) Just inquire as to pricing, etc.

One negative to all this creativity: I am gaining weight from all the sitting. This is not a good thing for a diabetic, so I have started to use my work-out equipment again. I would rather just use them in the winter and walk outdoors in the summer, but with the cost of gasoline these days I have been limiting my trips. My fishing expeditions have become fewer for the same reason - as well as because the trout aren't biting in all the heat.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Blackberry Days

In August, I always think of the days when our mother sent us out to the fields and woods to gather blackberries. We each carried a pail and didn't go home until they were full. Most of the berries were small, but there was one spot where the canes grew up into the trees and yielded huge oval berries. The pails filled up quickly with those berries!

Seeing blackberries growing along roads or trails always reminds me of those lazy, hot summer days. The sounds and colors of August in western Pennsylvania are so distinctive. Locusts singing in otherwise still days, grass and tree leaves beginning to dry and brown, high humidity and heat, and days beginning to shorten -- all contribute to the feel of August.

I recall my mother taking some of the blackberries to make Blackberry Cobbler, her version that had dumplings cooked on top of the sweetened blackberries. Served with milk poured over it, this constituted the evening meal. Today, it would seem outrageous to serve something so simple and so full of carbs for the evening meal. It was surely a treat when I was a child.

The rest of the blackberries were used to make blackberry jelly or jam, and sometimes a pie or two. I always preferred jelly because it didn't have all those dastardly little seeds in it.

Other berries we picked were blueberries. My father planted several blueberry bushes and they were always prolific. We never had a lot of raspberries, but collected what we could find. My mother favored the chokecherry trees and their fruit. She made jelly from those every year, and we used that jelly on her homemade pancakes, rather than maple syrup. There was also a quince tree way back in the woods, and Mom would pick that fruit and make quince jelly. I never cared for the flavor of quince when I was a child, and haven't tasted it as an adult. Who knows, I might love it today.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Happy Birthday, Baby Brother!

Today is my baby brother's birthday, and I feel older somehow. He shouldn't be 47 already because it was just yesterday he was born.

I had just finished my freshman year of college when Brian was born. A year later, I was married and had my first baby. My eldest daughter and my youngest brother grew up more like cousins than uncle and niece!

Today, Brian is not only my brother, but my best guy friend. I can count on his advice and opinions, though sometimes his opinions differ from mine. We have both been through coronary artery bypass surgery and because his was some time ago, I have been able to ask him about symptoms or problems.

He is one of the few, if not the only, person with whom I can "discuss" politics without either of us becoming angry when we disagree. He has a lot of interests -- metal shaping, learning to play guitar and banjo, drag racing (he owns a Camaro), computers, machining car parts and equipment, repairing engines, etc. He is very intelligent and creative.

What he is best at, however, is being a truly kind and genuinely good person. He is well-liked by friends, loved by his family, adored by his grandchildren, respected by his co-workers. I am proud to be his big sister. Happy Birthday, Brian!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

From Whence I Came or Alpha

For about the past twenty years, I have periodically immersed myself in family genealogy. I began with notes I took from my paternal grandfather when I was in high school. I had the names of his parents and his grandmother, as well as my paternal grandmother's parents. Also, they both gave me names of their siblings. Most of these names were familiar to me, as I heard my grandparents talking about family members over the years. I found out a book had been published about my grandmother's paternal ancestors, so I went first to the Armstrong County Library and copied all the book pages. (It took forever!).

As I began to trace my grandmother's family, I soon discovered that my grandmother and my grandfather were the descendants of the same couple who came to America in 1731 from The Palatinate in Germany. They were of the Dunkard faith. Needless to say, the blood connection between my grandparents goes back many generations and so I cannot blame my sometime weirdness on that!

As I gradually searched out more and more, I found that on my father's side, most of the ancestors came from The Palatinate in Germany, all around the same time. There were a few Irish ancestors, as well, and my surname comes from one of them.

The Dunkards were an Anabaptist sect, closely related in faith and nationality to the Amish. So I could just as easily have been Amish. I don't think I would have remained welcome in their community, though, and would have been shunned early on.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Huh? I was what?

Recently, a childhood friend unexpectedly passed away at the age of sixty after receiving a bee sting. This friend who I babysat when I was a teen (well, it was more babysitting his younger brother and sister), grew up to become a real mover and shaker in the community. He was a happy soul, with a big smile for everyone he met through the course of a day.

When I visited the funeral home, I was speaking with his younger brother who I hadn't seen for probably forty years. He said, "Suellen? This is Suellen, the wild and crazy one?" I said, "Huh?" To say I was surprised at his comment would be an understatement. I don't recall being wild or crazy. Maybe just a little off-the-wall, but certainly not crazy. Wild? Maybe when I ran, which I did everywhere I went, with hair flying and feet scarcely touching the ground. (I was a FAST sprinter, but that's another story.) This started me thinking about what I thought of myself when I was young, as opposed to what others thought of me.

I recall being very sensitive, very concerned about what others thought of me, at least most of the time. I was also extremely modest. Very shy with boys, painfully so. Swearing, drinking and smoking were not part of my life, either. Drugs were unheard of then, except in New York City according to my health teacher. My physical self-image wasn't that great, either, mostly because of my coke-bottle-bottom glasses. (That didn't change until my first pair of hard contact lenses when I was twenty-three. Contact lenses were the latest technology in ophthalmology at the time.)

So why would anyone think I was wild and crazy? I recall when I was editor-in-chief of my high school yearbook planning a "record hop" with the yearbook staff members. Because our high school was smaller than surrounding schools, I knew we needed a hook to get people to come from surrounding areas. We made posters which said, "Come and hear "so-and so" sing "such and such" and posted them everywhere. To me, I was aware that there was a catch there -- I knew at some level that people would automatically substitute "see" for "hear", but I brushed that off because of the potential financial success of the dance.

The night of the dance came and the gym filled up fast, most of the kids from our school and loads of kids from neighboring schools. We were ecstatic -- until people started asked where "so-and-so" was. It was beginning to get a little uncomfortable. So I grabbed a most unlikely overweight and nerdy kid who was on the yearbook staff and coaxed him to lip-sync the song. I knew he had a crush on me, so I guess I took advantage of that. He practiced the song in the library. Now the actual recording artist didn't bear any resemblance to our substitute, so when he was introduced and came out on stage and began to lip-synch the song, the booing started and the gym emptied fast. People were angry. I was embarrassed. Needless to say, I learned a valuable lesson about advertising that night.

Other than the way I used to boss my brother around, I cannot recall anything else crazy I did. I will think about it some more, though.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Out of Sorts or Out to Lunch?

Well, today I am on a rant -- not a state particularly unusual for me -- but this time it is for the benefit of all you stay-at-home moms out there. It seems that no matter how many bras my generation of women burned or refused to wear in the name of equality, nothing much has changed. Though women make up over half of the workforce in America, they STILL do not earn as much as men. Granted, some do, notably those who belong to unions. Female professionals such as doctors, nurses, teachers, and attorneys make a great deal more money than the average woman. This we all know. We also know that in the majority of marriages, the working wife/mother does the majority of the housework, shopping and child-rearing in addition to her paying job.

However, where the inequality REALLY shows up is when a woman reaches retirement age. A married woman who has never worked receives one-half of her husband's social security amount. So together, a couple would receive 50% more than the husband's social security when both have reached full retirement age. If she has worked and has earned more or an equal amount as her husband, then she might receive her own benefits, rather than her husband's. The government is saying that a woman who has stayed at home raising her children isn't worth as much as her husband. (I know, I know....she didn't pay into the system.) Raising children is not valued by our predominantly male government officials.

The only thing worse, and which I and many other women of my age are experiencing is this: we were divorced and now are only permitted to receive one-half of our ex-husband's social security, if the marriage lasted ten years or more. The figure social security arrives at is one which takes the ex's social security amount, divides it in half, then subtracts the woman's social security amount from that number. The most a divorced woman can get, unless she has been lucky enough to earn substantial wages over her lifetime, is only half of what her ex is receiving - the same amount as the wife who never worked. The difference is that the latter still benefits from her husband's full social security income. If you have been a stay at home mom, as women in my generation and the ones before me were expected to be, you are, in effect, penalized because of it. It means you either live in dire poverty, or you must work until you drop dead.

I also have some acquaintances who have never been married and have always worked. These women have not held high-paying jobs, and find themselves in a similar situation where they cannot afford to retire and will have to work for the rest of their lives. Conversely, a single man will normally retire with plenty of money coming in. I suppose there isn't any solution for this, given the mess our social security system finds itself in. After Medicare benefits are subtracted from the social security check, there isn't much left with which to survive.

The point of this is to tell younger women to work as much as possible. Personally, I believe mothers should stay home with their children at least until the children are in school, but I realize that may be impossible in today's world. Even if day care costs as much as your wages, you are building up social security wages. In the event the system is still in place when you retire, perhaps you will see some equality.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Mamma Mia and All Girl Things

On Sunday, my good friend Mary Ann and I went to see "Mamma Mia". Mary Ann had seen the stage play several times prior to this viewing, and was worried the movie might be a disappointment. Not so!! We both absolutely loved this movie, and I don't think I have laughed so often or so long since perhaps watching a Chevy Chase comedy. Meryl Streep is fabulous, as always, and so is her supporting cast. There are some interesting interplays between the three groups of three people: Meryl Streep's character and her two zany friends, her sweet daughter and her two friends, and the three gorgeous men from her past. This is a joyful movie that makes the viewer want to jump up, dance and sing with abandon, just like the characters in the movie. This is not an art film requiring great intellectual understanding, nor is it a story with a complicated plot. Beyond the question of who the daughter's father is, there isn't any great mystery. Though I do believe this is a film to be identified with and enjoyed primarily by women, men might enjoy a couple of hours of pure fun, too. I am not one to view a movie more than once or read a book more than once. The only prior exceptions to this personal choice were "Gone With the Wind" and "The Piano". I have read both books and viewed both films more than once. I would have gladly sat through another showing of "Mamma Mia" immediately after seeing it the first time, and I will watch it again one day -- soon, I hope!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Another hot and humid day and I find myself holed up in my house with the windows shut, fans going, and the single window air conditioner running at top speed. It is still hot and humid. It is worse outside, though. No fishing, no gardening, no walking. It might as well be winter.

I don't recall many days like this when I was young. Maybe it just didn't bother me as much when I was a kid. Our house was so super cool all summer because of the trees around it, that had air conditioning been available, we wouldn't have needed it. I do recall my grandparents taking a galvanized wash tub outside and filling it with water for us to sit in to cool off. That was a treat, as was running through their lawn sprinkler spray.

When I was a young mother, we would all pile into the car and go for a long ride to cool off. These were the sixties, and our car didn't have air conditioning, but with the windows all down, the breeze felt great. Gasoline wasn't an issue yet, and it didn't take much money to fill the tank. In the sixties, I had three children, and there was always a battle over who sat in the window seats and who got stuck in the middle. Sometimes we would go to KMart and walk around inside because it was air conditioned. At home, I would sometimes turn on the garden hose and let the kids cool off in the water spray. Once in a while, we would go to Girty or Rearic's Fording and wade or swim in Crooked Creek.

I can say this for certain: the best times of my life were the years when I had all my children still at home. There was a lot of work -- huge amounts of laundry, ironing, cleaning, cooking and baking -- but there were hugs and kisses and laughter and the beautiful faces of my babies. I miss that.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Life's Pleasures

Today, I witnessed my grandson help his Little League team win the championship game. He is a talented baseball player who seems to have found his niche, as my eldest daughter said. We watched him hit his second home run in as many days, and his happiness at doing so. He is an all-around good player. It's great to be a grandmother when these milestones can be shared.

I live a little over an hour away from my grandchildren, and so I miss out on many things. In today's world, things are so different from the world in which I grew up. My grandparents were nearby and visiting back and forth occurred a couple of times a week. They were so much a part of my life, and I cherish those memories and all I learned from them. Grandparents are teachers of history, and I fear my nine grandchildren have not had the opportunity to hear the old stories and oral history of their ancestors. Perhaps children today don't care about the past, or perhaps their parents don't, but the oral histories told by grandparents teach children about their place in the scheme of things, if nothing else. But I can't change things or attitudes. I can just feel saddened by the loss.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Grocery Prices

The photo to the right (What I Saw Today) shows who is getting most of my money these days. And yours, too, I suspect. Normally, I run to the store every couple of days and vary the stores depending upon what I need. Today, I went to Giant Eagle and though I know their prices tend to be higher than other stores, their produce and variety are the best around here. So I put up with the higher prices. However, today I was really shocked by how much the prices have increased. A can of Maxwell House Decaf was over $13. A jug of Tide detergent was also over $13. A bag of frozen chicken was $12 something. So three items cost $38!! I remember when I was a newly-married bride in 1962 and spent $25 every two weeks for lots of groceries. I know I sound like my grandparents and parents sounded to me when I was young, but I really think these prices reflect more than high shipping costs. The greed of all the people from the grocery store back to the manufacturer/grower is despicable. For some of us who are retired or unemployed, these prices mean that we either eat or we pay our bills. This is a disgrace in a country which has so much wealth.

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Flux Art and the Treehouse

As I was painting today, my mind was wandering a bit, thinking about various art movements of the twentieth century. Fluxism, or Flux art, was a movement which the general public doesn't really know about, much less understand. It began as anti-art, a mini-revolution against the abstract expressionism which ruled the mid-century art world. The "happenings" of the 1960's were a kind of flux art, where the audience in some way is involved with the creation of the art. Flux art was that of performance or participation. Often is is humorous and uncomplicated.

About ten years ago, I witnessed flux art being performed by a man who didn't even realize he was creating performance art. He was probably the most creative person I have ever known, though unsophisticated and unaware of his genius. His creativity was not planned to be creative, much less as works of art, and that is what made it genuine and real.

On my way home from work one early summer day, as I drove past his property just up the road from mine, I noticed that a very large tree which had stood sentinel at his driveway had been cut off about ten feet up from the ground. I thought the tree must have been diseased and was in the process of being cut down. However, every day for the following week, the tree remained the same. Then came the day when I noticed there was a wooden platform atop the tree trunk. Another week passed before anything else happened, and then a white plastic table was sitting on the platform. A few days later, a flower in a vase appeared on the table. The following week, a white plastic chair had been placed at the table. Needless to say, I was anxious every day to see how the treetop scenario had changed. I laughed aloud at each addition to the tree, but the last day was the best. As I drove past the tree, there was the creator of this art - sitting in the chair with his back to the road, reading a book. Now that is a really good example of flux art! I howled and laughed and I still laugh when I recall the entire event.

The whole thing actually ended up being a tree house for a fifty-year old man who never grew up, but had more creativity in his little finger than most of us who graduated from college with degrees in art. It was marvelous.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Old-Fashioned Fourth of July

Memories of the Fourth of July when I was a child are always the same. The first thing in the morning was traveling to New Kensington to watch the parade. When my father was young, he marched with the drum and bugle corps, playing the bugle. My grandfather was always involved in one way or another in the parade, as he was a policeman. Parades were exciting and special events in those days.

After the parade, we went to the home of my maternal great-uncle and his wife, who hosted both his family and hers, at an all-day picnic which ultimately was like a family reunion. I don't recall the Fourth ever being anything but hot and humid, miserably so. We all congregated in the back yard of Uncle Frank's house, and amid the group picture-taking, we kids played games and had a grand old time. Bottles of pop were kept cold in galvanized wash tubs filled with dry ice, which always fascinated us kids. We were always cautioned not to touch the dry ice, but we all, at one time or another, defied the warnings of the grown-ups. There never was any alcohol, as this group was made up of staunch Presbyterians who frowned upon drinking. I recall my parents talking about some of the men who had "stashes" in their autos, which explained the disappearances, and consequent behavioral changes, of the men throughout the day. Most of the men, and very few women, smoked cigarettes, though. Remember, this was in the 40's and 50's, prior to warnings about smoking.

Every few years, our great aunt and uncle from Scranton would come with some or all of their children. I was always ecstatic when they came and brought their son, Joe. He was a few years older than the rest of us, and I had a little girl crush on him. The last time I saw him, when I was about thirteen, he took all of us kids for a ride in his convertible and we thought he was just super.

Everyone brought a covered dish or a dessert or fruit to the picnic, but other than hot dogs and hamburgers, I don't remember exactly what foods we ate. Except for the watermelon, of course. That was as much a part of the Fourth of July as fireworks. As dusk arrived, we kids were given "sparklers" which were lit by the grownups. Other than being told not to touch the sparkling part of the wands, we were allowed to just enjoy waving the sparklers around until they died out. Everyone left after the sparklers to watch the fireworks from a neighboring hill. Ahh, that was always the best time of the summer. Fireworks weren't shown other than on the Fourth of July, so it was a real treat. My father used to tell us of the fireworks when he was a kid, and said they were far more elaborate and depicted things like the flag.

After the great uncles and aunts, including my grandparents, passed away, the reunions ceased. And the Fourth of July was never again the same.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Mathew at Two

Pencil portrait of Mathew at 2 years.

New Links

Take a look at my blog list in the right side column. For those of you who, like me, have to watch your pocketbook, there are several good sites to check. And for those of you who suffer from chronic pain, there is a good site which reports all new treatments. Of course, there is The Huffington Report for those of you who like to keep abreast of politics.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Summer Rain and Spring Engagements

I don't remember a summer like this one. We have had rain almost every day since spring began. June has been very unusual. Normally, the temps are in the mid- to high-seventies and the skies are blue with plump white clouds. This year, though we have certainly had days like that, most of them have been either hot and humid or cool and rainy. I know, however, that with July and August come the hideously hot and humid days which I don't like. Though I look forward to spring every year, when the hot summer days and nights arrive, I start to look forward to the fall and cooler weather.

Tonight I am watching The Bachelorette and thinking how nice it would be to be young again and falling in love. Or even being old and falling in love. It does happen, you know! I have a good friend who will be 71 this summer (she doesn't look or act 71) and she has fallen in love with, and now is engaged to, a very nice man who is 84. They plan to marry in November. So maybe a Mr. Wonderful will come along for me one of these days!!

Friday, June 27, 2008

This acrylic on canvas painting measures 36" x 36". The title, "The Four Aspects", is drawn from the teachings of Carl Jung, Native American spirituality, and my own questioning.

Being an Artist

There are days, even months, when the desire to create art seems to have evaporated. If this lack of motivation or absense of the Muse occurs at a time when I am working on artwork for someone else, it is like having to go to a job you hate. I am currently in such a fugue. During this time of unemployment, when I certainly have the time to make art, I just can't seem to get it done. (Of course, I am preoccupied with finding a job). When I think back to the times when I have been most prolific, I find those were times when I was most busy with a job, family, social life, etc. I have noticed, also, that when I am absolutely unable to make art due to other obligations, that is when I really WANT to make art.

I am aware of the tension which exists when making art. It is a combination of excitement in getting started on a painting (combined with the desire to finish it and move on to something else), and the wish to be doing something else entirely. Frequently, being an artist is a bit of a handicap, a curse if you will, because others feel it is a god-given talent which can be called up on a moment's notice. Others think it is easy for an artist to just whip out a masterpiece any time he/she wants to. Not so. Making art is the most difficult undertaking of my life, one which calls to me on one hand, and which I reject on the other. Sometimes I deliberately postpone working on art in favor of doing something of no consequence or importance. Almost as if I am avoiding doing that which ultimately brings me joy when a piece of art is finished and I perceive it to be decent, if not good.

I also know that when I was making art every day, it became a habit, like eating. Working at a fulltime job makes it difficult to be prolific, though. It is necessary to make art every day in order to become good at it, just like practicing a musical instrument.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

"No Hard Line"

This is an acrylic painting measuring 36" x 36" which has an attached metal plate. The latter is the base of a beehive belonging to my father. It has been accepted into several major juried shows.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Summer TV

It's a good thing summer only lasts 3-4 months, at least as far as television is concerned. It seems like the "new" programs are copy-cat, warmed over, poorly conceived and boring. I think I liked it better when all the regular season shows ran repeats during the summer. In that way, people could watch programs which they didn't or couldn't watch in the fall. Why did they change this? Maybe the advent of VCR's was the catalyst for change, with the presumption that people who couldn't watch everything they wanted to watch in the regular season, could record those shows they missed.

This week's fishing wasn't so great. Even though it was very cool all week and the lake was restocked with trout two weeks ago, I didn't catch any of them. Only a few bass and blue gills. It was nice, however, to just be outside at such a beautiful spot. Today I fished for only about two hours, then quit and walked my mile around the lake. My doctor told me I have to walk, but in order to do so, I have to drive out of town. Where I live has only long, steep hills and I am not ready for those yet. So I combine my walking with my fishing and try to justify my using extra gasoline! Most of the time my fishing by myself doesn't bother me, but lately it has. It is more fun when you have a fishing buddy.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Chicken Rustling

About a decade ago, I lived in a Western Pennsylvania community known for its Amish population. I found the Amish fascinating, as I had never lived near an Amish community nor had I ever known any Amish people.

Though most of the Amish didn't strike up friendships with the "English" (non-Amish), I did become acquainted with one family. Initially, they visited in my home, and then the parents, A. and R., began asking me to drive them to various locations which would take too long in a buggy. The mother, A., was a bit of a rebel among the Amish. She allowed her children to watch tv at my house (and they were thrilled to do so, and she was carrying on some sort of suspicious relationship with an "English" man and was consequently shunned for a time for doing so).

When we were in a grocery store in a neighboring town, I noticed A. trying to add up the cost of her grocery choices and it was taking her awhile. I just happened to have a small calculator in my purse, so I offered it to her. She was thrilled, so I told her to keep it. When she finished, she surreptitiously hid it somewhere in the sleeves of her purple dress.

One of the funniest moments in my life involved this couple. One wet, cold November evening, R. called me from a phone booth near his home and asked if I could take them out to Doc's to get some chickens. Doc was the local vet. I said I would, and about a half-hour later, I picked up R. and A. at their home. At the time, I was driving a small Nissan 2-door hatch back, and the two wooden chicken carriers fit perfectly in my little trunk. R. had to get into the back seat because he was so thin, and his knees came up to his chin as he sat wedged into the back seat. A., on the other hand, was quite round and had to sit in the front passenger seat. When she climbed in, the car noticeably tilted to the right. As we drove the couple of miles to Doc's farm, they said Doc had told them they could have his chickens.

We pulled into the driveway and up to the barn. I noted it didn't look like anyone was home, and A. said it didn't matter whether Doc was home or not. So we got out of the car, got the chicken carriers out of the trunk and carried them into the barn. R. scrambled up a ladder into the hay loft, where there wasn't much hay. There were chickens everywhere, however, roosting in the rafters of the barn. The sheep in the back of the barn were nervously bleating and the chickens began to cackle, especially when R. grabbed one of them. I had climbed halfway up the ladder, so R. handed me each chicken which I, in turn, handed to A. She then put each chicken into one of the carriers. I asked them, "Are you sure Doc knew you were getting the chickens?"
"Yah, yah, he said ve could get all ve vanted." I started to laugh because it was so funny watching R. trying to catch those chickens. Wings were flapping, chickens were flying, and sheep were bleating. Then A. slipped on the muddy dirt floor of the barn and fell on her behind in the mud. Her purple and black dress was covered in mud, and she didn't share my amusement at all. Finally, both carriers were full of chickens, so we carried them out and put them into my trunk. I commented that I wished Doc had been there so that he would know we took his chickens. They said it didn't matter.

As we drove back into town, I was increasingly uncomfortable with the situation and asked, "Did Doc know you were getting the chickens tonight?"

"Oh, no, he didn't know ven ve vere getting the chickens. He just said to get them."

I asked when he told them this. The answer: "Oh, about a year ago."

Oh, no, I thought. He could have changed his mind in a year. Then I started to laugh, and told R. and A. that the headlines in the paper tomorrow might read, "English woman and Amish couple arrested for rustling chickens." They just looked at me like I was crazy. Somehow, the humor I saw in the situation escaped R. and A.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Don't Ever Laugh at an Orangutan!

Our school district took elementary, junior and high school students by bus to the Pittsburgh Zoo and the Planetarium every spring. Because of this, my family didn't take us, except for one time when my grandparents wanted to go to the Zoo. My parents, my brother Bill, my grandparents and I piled into my grandfather's dark gray DeSota coupe and we arrived at the Pittsburgh Zoo about 45 minutes later. In the 'fifties, trips took longer because the roads were all two-laned and narrow, and the cars didn't go so fast.

Since my brother and I were very familiar with the zoo, we lead the grown-ups around, pointing out the many exotic animals in cages or fenced-in areas. My grandmother, who we called "Mimmi", had a bad habit of sometimes making fun of others. On that day at the zoo, she directed her laughter toward the hippopotamuses, the elephants, and most of the apes. The animals were oblivious to her behavior until we reached the cage of the Orangutans. As we all stood gazing at these most intriguing, colorful creatures, my grandmother stepped up close to the cage bars and started to laugh as she pointed and made faces at the Orangutans. All of a sudden, the largest one pursed his lips and spit. His aim was excellent and Mimmi was hit in the face with the spittle. The rest of us didn't know how to respond -- with horror or with laughter -- because we were as shocked as Mimmi was. I can remember feeling embarrassed for my grandmother, and at the same time wanting to laugh. And there was a mean-spirited part of me that felt like she got what she deserved. Needless to say, Mimmi was much more subdued the remainder of the day. We all knew not to EVER mention the episode in her presence, but over the years, we had many chuckles at her expense.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

US Economy

What is happening economically in this country is disgraceful. The high oil/gasoline prices are blamed on high global demand. It is interesting that this high demand, which is different from a decade or so ago, is coming from countries which have been given American industries by American industries. We were sold out and now we are beginning to pay for it across America. Not only have we lost jobs to countries like China, but in the process of taking our industries and manufacturers, we are now in financial crisis. Where do the soaring gasoline, power, and food prices end? Are we going to experience not just a recession, but another Great Depression? When people have maxed out the credit cards paying for necessities, lose their homes to pay for gasoline and food, begin to live on the streets because they can't pay the rent, can no longer afford any medications, lose jobs because of the cost of transportation, what is going to happen? None of the industries we have left in America will have any buyers for their products, excepting the countries to whom we were initially sold out.

I realize I am not an economist nor an elected government official. However, why can't our government limit the obscene profits the oil companies are making? The oil companies say they need the huge profits for research and prospecting. However, if our country, as well as other industrialized countries, move to alternate forms of power, then all that profit for research and prospecting will be unnecessary. Should the oil companies be required to give the excess profit back to the consumers? Not likely.

Friday, June 6, 2008

A Bear Story

One lazy summer day when I was about 13 and my brother, Bill, was 12, we heard a lot of barking dogs over the next hill. We realized our two dogs were missing, and Bill and I decided to go check it out. We walked quite a distance down one hill and up another, and then further up the hill where the trees had been cut down to make more farmland for our neighbor. There was a large pile of brush and by the time Bill and I reached it, we could see all the neighborhood dogs surrounding something much larger. It took us a minute or so to realize what we were seeing. It was a young bear, probably a yearling, and though the dogs were biting at it's legs, it kept trying to move along. Bill and I were behind that pile of brush, but not for long. Bears were unknown in our area in the fifties, and our father had told us what not to do should we ever run into a bear. Well, I didn't give his instructions a second thought. I ran, FAST, the whole way home. Poor Bill was running somewhere behind me, calling, "Wait for me! Wait for me!" Brother or not, I wasn't waiting for anyone because I was terrified. I don't think my feet hit the ground very much, because I think I was bounding, rather than running. I could have made the Olympic sprinters team that day. We breathlessly told our parents about the bear, and my father later asked around and found there were two bears, probably a mother and her yearling cub, around the farms that week. One neighbor's beehives were toppled over and destroyed as the bears ate the honey. Daddy said he would have to keep an eye on our beehives, but the bears must have moved on because we neither saw them nor heard anything more about bears in the area. Bill and I started asking questions again about what to do if a bear came along. Daddy said not to climb a tree because bears can climb trees. He said not to run away because bears can easily outrun people. He really never told us what to do, and until recent years, I have often pondered what you are supposed to do if you encounter a bear. Now they say to play dead. Personally, I think that would take nerves of steel. I can't run like I did when I was young, and I couldn't shimmy up a tree even when I was young, so I think I will buy some pepper spray and carry it with me all the time, hoping that should I run into a bear, my aim would be good enough and that the spray would effectively deter it.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hillary Loses

I am sad tonight because my presidential candidate of choice has been declared the loser by the media. As appalling as it is, misogynism is alive and well in this country. The veiled comments by the male politicians and media stars may not have been consciously noted by most people, but for those of us who were a part of the women's rights, bra-burning generation, they were all too apparent. I find it very interesting that first of all, a black male would choose THIS time to run for president when his primary opponent was the first woman to run for president; and second, that so many men in power would back the male rather than the female. I would guess that Obama knew that his chances of winning the Democratic nomination would be easier if he was running against a woman than against a man.

Tonight, the pundits are saying that Obama doesn't want Hillary for Vice-President, but will stall awhile til the issue kind of dies down. Of course he doesn't want Hillary -- she is too strong a presence for the secondary role in the government.

Personally, I think all those who voted for Hillary -- more than those who voted for Obama -- should write-in her name on the ballot rather than vote for Obama or McCain. What would happen in that case? Would the winning number of votes win, or would the Supreme Court once again override the choice of the people? I am beginning to think the whole election scene is a joke.

Depending upon McCain's choice for VP, he may be the first Republican nominee for President who gets my vote. I don't agree with many of his stances on issues, but I believe Obama is WAY too liberal. He wants to totally disarm America. Why?????

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Never Could Say No

The committee chairman handling procurement of artists to paint "palettes" for display in the town has shamed me into painting yet another palette. This year's palette is in the shape of the town's historical landmark, The Casino Theatre, rather than the shape of an actual palette (the format used in 2007). Personally, I think it looks like a birdhouse for very large, but skinny, avians. Much as I would like to paint something avant garde on the palette, as a responsible member of the community who is painting this FOR the community, I must adhere to more conventional standards. Mine is going to be late, because I just received the palette, a 1/2" thick piece of plywood which measures about 5 1/2' x 4'. So it will be a lot of painting in a hurry. Since it is raining off and all today, it seems a good time to get a large part of the painting finished. I will post a picture of it when it is ready.

Speaking of art, I have found some interesting art blogs you may enjoy. This is art of a different genre, namely computer art. And it is art into which you can interact. Have fun!
http://artpad.art.com/artpad/painter/ and http://www.jacksonpollock.org/

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Puppy Raffles and Water Bottle Battles

There were certain advantages in going to a small, rural school in the fifties. We could play practical jokes on our classmates without being labeled a bully or being sent to the principal's office. Boys actually carried pen knives in their pockets and weren't suspended from school for possessing a dangerous weapon. To fear getting shot in school meant it was time for polio shots, not actually being shot by a fellow classmate wielding a pistol. There was a sense of discipline in students and great respect for our teachers. In light of all that, I wonder how my brother, Bill, and I were permitted to bring the mixed-breed puppies of our family dog, Baby, to the school science fair each spring. We sold raffle tickets and each winner was awarded a puppy. The money went to the school, and I don't recall ever taking a puppy back home. There weren't any parents who complained or refused to allow their kids to take a puppy home. Amazing, when you really think about it.

I had a penchant for water bottles which, when squeezed, performed like a super squirt gun. Every spring, I would bring one to school and squirt other students in the halls between classes. Pretty soon, other kids would also bring them and we would have water battles in the halls and sometimes on the school buses. No one ever got into trouble - I guess because our teachers were wise enough to realize this was good, clean (no pun intended) fun and the interest in the water bottles would end after a week or so. How things have changed!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Little Kids

When one finally reaches the state of grandparent-hood, there is time to just sit back and watch children interacting with one another. I think the most apparent difference between children and adults, aside from size differences, is that children don't worry about what you may think of them, what they look like or sound like, or whether or not they are politically correct. They just ARE. They truly live in the moment, something we should all be doing. When do we lose what we apparently are born with - this lack of self-consciousness and inhibition? Society teaches each of us how to be and in the process, we become what we think we are supposed to be - someone other people tell us to be. Obviously, society needs children to learn how to live within its boundaries, but it is sad that individualism is often lost in the process.

On Saturday, I was watching a group of five children playing together. The eldest, a seven year-old girl, was in the role of leader. The other children, all pre-schoolers, followed her in a line, much like a mother duck and her ducklings. Everything the eldest child did, the others mimicked. It was quite touching to see these little ones learning, in a very basic manner, how to BE in our society, while playing a game.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Stop Smoking

Smoking is an addiction I have struggled with since I started during my freshman year at college, way back when. I half-heartedly tried to quit many times, to no avail. In the early 80's, when I was an EMT, I convinced all the other EMTs and firefighters to quit along with me, starting on New Year's Day. Everyone joined in, and I was elated! I love competition, so this was a great challenge for me. At the time, there was a kind of cigarette substitute on the market which looked like a tobacco cigarette, but surely didn't smell like one. I decided to use this product as a crutch. It worked! These 'cigarettes' made real cigarettes smell like manure, literally. They really helped me, and as I recall, I used them for about a month. I also, unfortunately, used hard candies as a crutch. During that first month of non-smoking, I broke a molar requiring a visit to the dentist, and I gained twenty-five pounds.

The competition went on for five months. One by one, the other quitters stopped being quitters. As each one resumed smoking, I felt sad and a little angry. I stuck with it, however, and felt very, very proud of myself. I could dance and walk a distance without getting winded, and generally felt pretty good. It finally was down to two people, Jeff and me. Then came the day when I found out that Jeff was bumming cigarettes and smoking them at work. I was devastated. It wasn't until one day when my now ex-husband and I were having an argument, that I started smoking again. He had promised to quit drinking if I quit smoking. He didn't quit, and that is what we were arguing about. He said he wasn't the one who told me to quit smoking. I got the car keys, went to the store, and bought a pack of cigarettes. I came home and very dramatically lit up a cigarette in front of him. He said, "Do you feel better now?" Needless to say, he is my ex for more than one reason.

I continued to smoke until December 24 of last year. That is when I had a second and more severe incident of not being able to breathe very well. I was at my daughter's home for Christmas, and I had to waken her to call the ambulance. It was so very frightening to not be able to inhale more than what felt like about an inch. My breathing was so rapid and I couldn't say more than one word in between breaths. And, of course, the more the rapid inhalations continued, the more anxious I became. I don't know what the ambulance crew did other than getting me onto oxygen, because I don't remember any more than being put into the ambulance. I must have been sedated or I passed out. I vaguely recall a little about being in the emergency room where I stayed all of Christmas Day. The day after Christmas, I was transferred to another hospital where coronary artery bypass surgery was done. I haven't smoked since!

The downside of this is that instead of smoking, I am once again eating hard candy and just about anything else I can get my hands on. I have cracked a tooth. I have gained weight. I am diabetic and eating candy. At least when I smoked, I didn't have any desire to eat candy and my weight stayed about the same always. So now what? One vice seems as bad as the next.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Way Men Talk

Have you ever noticed that when two or more men gather to talk, they stand in a row, side-by-side, looking out in the same direction? I have always wondered about this behavior and how it differs from the way women talk with each other. Women normally stand face to face or in a circle and chat. Anyone have any ideas?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Obama and the Media

Our system of elections has been undermined and completely taken over by the media. It is despicable that the cable news "stars" spew forth endless diatribes, rants and predictions on the November Presidential Election. These omniscient "talking heads" have decided that Hillary Clinton should quit the race because Obama has won. The thing is, the votes of the PEOPLE of this country (who are supposed to decide the candidates) indicate that about half of said voters want Hillary and the other half want Obama. It seems to me in past primaries, the decision was left to the Democratic Convention.

Further, I am sick of hearing about racism involved in the primaries. Hillary is blamed for playing the racism card, but the black race itself made the election about racism. Blacks, by registering to vote in huge numbers for the first time in the history of this country, brought forth race as an issue. The media is now trying to decide if the white blue collar voters and the white female voters will vote for Obama or switch parties and vote for McCain. By subtly denigrating white blue collar workers by saying they are uneducated and thereby implying they are not smart enough to make the right decisions, the media attempts to shame them into voting for the most liberal of the candidates. Many of these workers are political conservatives and don't want to see someone as liberal as Obama in office.

I speak as someone who was once quite liberal in beliefs, but who has lived long enough to see where that liberalism has led this country. Does anyone recall the Communist Manifesto? Even though the Communist Party is no longer a major world threat, their Manifesto has been, if not completely, then almost completely fulfilled. It was done not via conservatism, but rather through liberalism.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

When my brother, Bill, and I were young, we each received a duckling for Easter. We fed those ducks and watched them grow. Our parents warned us not to get attached to those white ducks because the plan was to cook them one day. I guess Bill and I didn't believe that and we became quite fond of the quacking, messy ducks.

Then one Saturday, our mother told us to catch one of the ducks. We caught Bill's duck, and Mom decapitated it (while I, as usual, held the metal funnel used for the same purpose on chickens). Mom cleaned the duck and early Sunday morning, she prepared it for the oven. She said it takes longer to roast a duck.

Our grandparents came for dinner, and the duck was the main course. The house at that time was built into the hillside so that windows on the upper side and the back were at ground level. As we were eating in the dining room, I had a clear view of the living room side window and was startled to see my duck peering in the window as we ate its buddy. My brother and I could not eat any more duck. The adults were rather amused, as all of them except our father, were born and raised on farms.

The next week, Mom decided my duck was next for the funnel guillotine. She told us to catch it. Bill and I chased that duck for a long, long time before we actually were able to hold onto it. It seemed to know what we were going to do and it didn't want any part of it.

To this day, I have never eaten duck again.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

The One That Got Away

Finally I can say, "Today I caught the biggest rainbow trout I've ever caught, and it got away!" It put up a good fight, and just as I got it onto the shore, the hook came out and it landed at my feet. I bent and picked it up and it wiggled, slipping out of my hands and into the water. Off it went, no worse for the wear. I didn't catch another fish all afternoon. What I did get was wet because it rained off and on all day as the forecasted cold front moved in. Another fisherman felt sorry for me and gave me three trout, so at least I have some to cook.

I came home to discover that John Edwards has endorsed Obama. Jeez, could it be that he is trying to get the vice-presidential bid? Guess he was waiting to see who he thought had the best chance of getting the nomination. That seems a bit underhanded to me, but most political acts seem that way to me. What a crock! He seemed really without class tonight as I saw him on stage with Obama. So easy to read. I am tired of men taking control of everything - they keep telling Hillary to bow out, when not one of the men would quit under the circumstances. It is time for a female president. Females in this country were denied rights, especially the right to vote, until 1920. Granted, blacks received that right later, but the inequality of women continues today, even after all the bra burning and marches of my generation.

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