Wordless in Sturgeon Bay

I’m shocked.

This afternoon I took a casual look at this blog, and realized I haven’t written since April 29. That’s nearly five months, and that’s almost half a year. Usually I always have things to say, but my fingers and thoughts seem to have dried up. People who follow my blog have probably forgotten all about me.

I thought this dry period could be because my mom died in April. Maybe, on a subliminal level, I just didn’t feel like writing something that I couldn’t print off and send to her, like I always did. But then, I wrote two blogs after she died, so there has to be another reason for stopping with those.

Then I thought it might be because I’ve been busy with other writing projects,

typing

Via Bing Images

the kind you actually get paid for. Those have deadlines, people waiting expectantly, and they have to be written no matter what mood I’m in. But that can’t be the reason, because they never stopped me before.

Maybe it was our hot summer that not only desiccated all the flowers I planted, but also stripped me of the energy to do anything terribly meaningful. Or maybe I just got lazy, because writing can be hard work, even when it involves fun things like a blog where there are no restrictions on what I write about it or how I say it.

Quilt front

My husband George and the first-quilt-ever I made for his birthday.

It could be that I’ve discovered quilting, something I said I’d never tackle. I’ve sewn apparel and household items since I was in the seventh grade, but quilting just looked like too much work. Then I heard about quilt-as-you-go, a method that doesn’t have to require tedious piecing and that allows me to quilt just one square at time–a plus when living in a small space. I think about quilting, I dream about quilting, I watch YouTube videos and read books about it, and since there’s only so much time in a day, maybe that’s why this blog has been neglected.

Or maybe, at age 70, I’ve outgrown the need to put my thoughts and my life on paper. After all, I’ve done that for a very long time. I started writing a weekly newspaper column in the late 1980s–in addition to my regular news reporting–and when I retired, I started this blog. That’s a lot of introspection, observation, and one-sided conversation. Maybe it just doesn’t seem that important or even rewarding any more.

If you’re waiting for the definitive answer to my original “why?”, there isn’t one. This also isn’t a swan song. This isn’t a long-winded attempt to explain why I’m ending this blog, because I’m not. I’m just wondering what has taken me so long to show up here again, with nothing much to say and a many-worded way to say it.

So, don’t go away. I’ve been on hiatus, I guess, but I’m back.don't go

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Posted in Blogging, Humor, Lifestyle, Reflection, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

All kinds of naked

Tomorrow I’m heading to Green Bay totally naked.

Drop your eyebrows. Close your mouth. I WILL be dressed, but clothing is the least of it. I’m having surgery tomorrow, and I’m not allowed to wear the really important things. Like lotion. Or makeup. Or jewelry.

Lotion I could probably live without. My skin won’t be baby’s-butt smooth, but it will take more than a couple days to do any real damage. Makeup, though–oh come on. What self-respecting woman of a certain age would be caught dead in public with a naked face, looking like an anemic prune? They know not what they ask.

I can’t wear nail polish, either. More enforced nakedness. nakedFancy fingers are my creative outlet. I’ve applied stripes, polka dots, floral decals, butterflies, even tiny little gemstones. All of that eventually proved to be more trouble than fun, so I’ve scaled back to just using bold colors–blue, green, orchid, purple. But naked nails? How boring. How mousey. How not me.

My jewelry, though, that’s a tough one. I’ll be walking through those hospital doors with naked holes in my ears. How déclassé. Every eye will, I’m sure, be drawn to those unadorned lobes that usually sport something elegant or bright or amusing. Maybe I’ll wear a hat.

My jewelry isn’t just vanity, though; it’s part of my self-identity. My bracelet with the medal of the Immaculate Conception, the scapular medal worn around my neck, the Benedictine Oblate pin, my rosary ring, and most important of all, my wedding ring. I’ll be stripped of rank, denuded.

And in the end, as I lay there waiting for the pacemaker to be implanted, I will indeed be naked. They’ll have managed to make the undressing complete.

Naked we’re born, the Bible says, and naked we return. This naked trip to the hospital isn’t nearly as profound.

Posted in Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Snowbound

Today we feasted on the last of the oranges and the peanut butter. Tomorrow we die.

Well, maybe not. But our larder is getting sparser and they’re still telling us to stay inside, stay off the roads, take shelter, take cover–whatever dire warning you can imagine, we’re getting it.

The reason for all this? A spring snowstorm.

snowy yard

I wonder what my tulips think of all of this.

 

Not just an overnight onslaught of snow. It’s now Sunday and this has been going on since Friday night. Snow, wind, more snow, more wind, a few ice pellets here and there. Winter is at the gates and the siege shows no sign of lessening.

George ventures out four times a day with the dog who runs frantically here and there, trying to find someplace where she can actually squat. She’s been doing her #1 and #2 in record time, out and back in three minutes, tops. George blew us out twice,

going potty

Nowhere to squat

but is now holding back because the spare gas is gone and all we have left is what’s in the machine.

Today George slogged his way to our mail station with a tube of deicer, managed to get the door open, and found–nothing. Never mind “neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night…” They’re not delivering. They’re not even attempting it. Can’t say as I blame them.

The biggest “tell” that this is a storm of ginormous proportions is that Catholic Masses in Sturgeon Bay, Maplewood and Institute were canceled for this weekend. I heard they’re closed in Green Bay, too. I never remember that happening anywhere I’ve lived–and I’ve lived in northeastern Minnesota, up on Lake Superior, where “blizzard” is a child’s first word. I can just hear the pastors, on the phone with each other: “Are you closing? I’m thinking of closing. I’ll close if you close.”

George and I held “Mass” in our living room. I have a book with daily Mass prayers and readings, so we sat in our recliners, prayed the words, read the three Scripture, and George even made up his own music for the responsorial psalm. I felt Jesus’ presence and I know he smiled.

Yesterday I made bread and George made cookies. The house smelled wonderful. I caught up on reading and telephoned my sister. Today I might crank up the sewing machine, and George is doing a “live” guitar concert on Facebook for our Door County friends who think the rest of the world has somehow disappeared, like Shangri-La. There might be a backgammon tournament in our future, or some Wii golf. We’ve discovered the remake of “Lost in Space” on Netflix streaming.

In between all that, I’m thawing things from the back of the freezer and opening cans from the pantry that I forgot I even had. If this keeps up, my neighbors can expect a phone call: “What do you have left in YOUR larder?” This could turn into the biggest, and most important, block party ever.

Posted in Humor, nature, seasons, snow, Uncategorized, weather | Tagged , | 4 Comments

Just out of sight

The mail truck just drove by the house, and my first fleeting thought was, “Maybe there will be a letter from Mom.”

There will never be another letter from Mom, of course. I spent a week-and-a-half in Michigan watching her die, then planned and attended her funeral, and wended my way back home to Wisconsin. There was indeed a letter from her waiting to be opened, one that she’d written three days before her stroke, but that’s not going to happen again.

Mom and I wrote twice a week to each other. Half the pictures I took during the week were to capture images of my life that I could share in my letters, which were always profusely illustrated. Yesterday, when I saw my dog looking cute on the couch, my first thought was, “Mom would love to see that.” I didn’t take the picture.

I’m not sitting here glumly, though. Mom would never approve. She was a firm believer in the words of a decal in her bathroom: Every day is a gift. Each of those last days we had with her, difficult as they may have been, were gifts. Having family around for love and support was a gift. Even Mom’s celebratory funeral was a gift to her, to ourselves, and to those who attended.

The funeral was done the way Mom would have wanted. “Peppy songs,” she always said. “Don’t sing any of those sad, dirgy things for me.” We were restricted by what was in the hymnal, so we chose as peppy as we could and told the organist to not dare let the tempos lag. He didn’t.

Her urn, sitting front and center before the altar, was a former urn tabletool box that she’d painted orange, decorated with butterflies and used to hold her brushes and paints. We added some clay pieces that my sister Kay made, one of her paintbrushes, and even a couple of her distinctive earrings she was known for. We put personal mementos inside along with her ashes.

I confess, we had doubts. What would people think? No polished wood, no gilded decor, just a rough-and-tumble metal box that meant the world to her. We thought maybe we should stick with the black, plastic box she arrived in when the delightful young funeral director brought Mom’s ashes home. We showed her Mom’s toolbox, and asked what she thought.

“We don’t want to scandalize anyone,” we said.

The funeral director, who had listened to so many of our stories about Mom, looked at the orange paint box and smiled.

“From what you’ve told me, your mom wasn’t a black-box sort of person,” she said. That’s all we needed to hear.

Later we learned that people who attended the funeral were surprised, yes, but also very approving, because “that’s just so Jeanne!”

dancerSo was the final song played once the funeral was over and people left the church-proper and entered the gathering space. It was the only thing Mom had requested for her funeral. My sister and I, first ones out, cranked up the volume on a waiting CD player and allowed the lively notes to “Music Box Dancer” to greet the people who followed us. Everyone emerged smiling. A photo of a younger Mom dressed in a flamboyant caftan sat near the recorder, a perfect illustration of the song’s mood and my mom’s philosophy of life. george playingGeorge’s guitar rendition of the song, done on two separate tracks, played on the big screen during the funeral luncheon. I just know Mom was toe-tapping in heaven.

Mom’s biggest legacy was her faith and her life of prayer. The joyous funeral we gave her wasn’t a desperate attempt to hold the reality of death at bay, it was a statement of belief that although she died to this life, she lives in heaven. The words of the prayer, read at her funeral and printed on her memorial card, say it best: “Life is eternal and love immortal and death is only a horizon, and a horizon is nothing save the limit of our sight.”

My sight may be limited, but hers is not. She prays for and guides us still, I know. I’ll have my teary moments, and I’ll miss her for the rest of my life, but I could never begrudge her the joy of reaching THE destination for which we are all intended.

Home at last, Mom. Save me a place at the table.

Posted in death, dying, funeral, mother's death, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Living in the in-between

I’m living in the between-time, and I know it won’t last. But while it does, I’m safe.

April 4 my mother died. April 9 is her funeral. The grief jumps out and bites me now and then, but mostly the days are guided by to-do lists: find photos, select paintings, choose Mass readings and songs, answer phone calls, write thank-you notes, and debate about whether I brought anything to wear that’s suitable for a funeral.

The family who were here while Mom lingered have left, busy schedules calling them home. It’s just me and Kay, here in the house she shared with Mom, a house full of Mom’s little touches. That to-do list keeps me from wallowing in the memories that live in the things she left behind, but those things also help keep her close.

Mom was an artist. Her paintings nearly cover the walls of one bedroom–minus

chairs

Mom’s hand-painted chairs, her paintings that we’ll take to the funeral.

the ones that were gleaned away by family. The dining room chairs vibrate with color and design. End tables and the coffee table hold artistic touches that were hers alone. In her bedroom, on her painting table sits an array of acrylics and a jar of well-used, paint-spattered brushes. The slant-topped writing desk is where she wrote her letters to me, two a week, to keep up with the ones I sent her.

In her room’s prayer corner, a high-backed wicker chair sits in proximity to prayer books, her breviary, a rosary, and prayer cards for her favorite saints. The prayer shawl I made

paints

Some of Mom’s paint supplies, which will be given to her art group.

her was folded over the arm, but it lay across her chest during her final journey at the hospital, and I’m taking it home with me.

“Do you want to sit in my chair when you do Morning Prayer?” she’d ask, every October when we came here to visit. And so I did. I did it then, and I’ve been doing it through this visit, too. I picked up her breviary, instead of my own, and found her personal notes to the Psalms and her own petitions for family and friends written beneath the official ones. I sat there, in her room, surrounded by all the things that were important to her: pictures of family, pictures of Jesus, Mary and the saints, mementos from early days, and–so precious–her own small notebook with pages of lined paper where she’d hand-written prayers of all sorts, her own and those she’d found and liked.

Beside her living-room recliner is her Bible, well used, underlined and marked with notes in the margin. The rosary that lay there, that she picked up to pray many times a day, is now mine, to be treasured always.

Mom is here in all her things, and that’s both a comfort and a

desk

The desk where she wrote her letters to me and to others. She died at 94, so the numbers of people she wrote to had dwindled to only a handful.

prod to grief. When I go home, I’ll take the mementos I’ve been given and enjoy the memories they evoke. I’ll look at pictures and smile. There will be joy deep inside because I know that Mom is now happy in heaven with Dad, her brother, my son, her parents, and the people who have gone before her through the years. She no longer needs a prayer book and her rosary to guide her to God, because she is now surrounded by him.

I’ve learned some things through all of this. I’ve learned that praying for a happy, holy, peaceful death “works.” Mom had time to receive the anointing of the sick and the Apostolic Pardon, and she slipped away quietly after the soft exhalation of one last breath.

I’ve learned that Hospice and hospital nurses care deeply and in doing so, show us the face of Christ. I’ve learned that except for God, family is the greatest strength at times like these.

prayer corner

The prayer corner in her room which she shared with me when I visited.

I’ve also learned what to do and not to do when friends, neighbors or parishioners die. “Call me if you need me” is too vague an offer. The man who said, “I love to grocery shop, and I can drive for you” alerted us to needs we didn’t realize we’d have. Bless him, Lord. I learned that bringing food to the house is a major gift when family arrives and no one has the time or inclination to cook. But call first to be sure there’s no overload.

And I’ve learned that when people suffer a tragedy, they don’t want to hear about yours. So many conversations during this past two weeks involved me listening to others talk about when their mother died, when all I really wanted–needed–to do was talk about my own mother. At that point, I didn’t care about their loss, selfish as that may sound. I have promised myself that in the future, when others suffer loss of any kind, I’ll offer sympathy, ask questions, and above all, LISTEN and shut up about my own experiences.

Mom’s funeral is tomorrow and the next day I head back to my own home, where I’ll find the last letter my mother wrote me, waiting to be opened. The between-time will be over, the details tended to, and I’ll have to adjust to living without the mother I’ve had for 70 years. I thank God for the Communion of Saints, the doctrine that says we’re all connected, that those who have died are still aware of and concerned for those of us still on the journey.

I also know that in heaven, Mom is still being a mom. For her, life has changed, not ended. And really, when you think about it, our whole life is a between-time, until, as St. Thomas More said, “we merrily meet in heaven.”

Posted in contemplation, death, Faith-filled living, mother's death, Reflection, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

The hardest goodbye

My mom is dying.

There’s no easy way to say that, no softer words to use that will make the reality any easier to accept. My mother, who bore me, raised me, loved me always, supported me unconditionally, will be leaving here soon and going to the heaven we both believe in so

F06

Mom at my house for the last time, last June. She was 94.

deeply.

And, she’s determinedly doing it her way.

Mom had a massive stroke during the early hours of March 24. Very massive, according to the doctor. It affected two parts of her brain. There will be no coming back from this, and after waiting a couple of days, it was decided to put her in hospice. We thought she had days to live.

It’s now April 2 and she’s still with us. She has opened her blue eyes now and then, responded feebly when told we love her, and confounded the doctors with her tenacious grasp on life. There is a daily decline, though, and we know we don’t have much time left with her.

Mom was the rallying point for our family, and she continues to be. My husband and I traveled to her bedside from Wisconsin, another sister came from Kanas. My kids came from Colorado and Minnesota. We’ve sat together,

Faces photo

Our traditional faces photo whenever we are together. Kay (left), Denise and me, always with Mom in the middle.

laughed together, cried, prayed and supported each other. We’ve comforted each other and comforted her. My husband had to go back to Wisconsin, my kids left today, my sister Denise flies out Wednesday, and only Kay and I will be left. Maybe that will be literally true. Maybe Mom won’t be here by then, but with her, we just don’t know.

Outside the hospital window the waves of Lake Michigan roll in relentlessly, slapping against the shore, then slipping back into the great body of water from which they came. They remind me of the short burst of activity that defines our lives, and the endless ocean of God’s love and immortality to which we belong and to which we return.

Mom would like that. Lake Michigan was her anchor, even during the years she lived along the Gulf of Mexico, or near the shores of Lake Superior. Lake Michigan, with its bands of variegated color, always drew her. She bragged about its sandy shores and light-hearted personality when she lived far from it, and she roamed its edges almost daily when she lived nearby. She picked driftwood, gathered shells and collected petoskey stones (found only in this area of Michigan). She painted it, swam in it, picnicked along its shore. In her mind, it was the best of all waters.

Now, she lays just yards away, unaware that it sings its soothing song. The lake is like an old friend who hovers near for support but doesn’t intrude. Maybe, after all, she is aware on some level.

She’s also surrounded and supported by prayer–those of others far away, and our own. We do the Liturgy of Hours, the same prayer she prayed daily for decades. We pray the rosary, and the chaplet of mercy, and we know from small responses that they resonate within her, that her spirit prays with us, that she draws comfort from them. They comfort us, too. We’ve always been bound together in prayer, all our lives. It’s what we shared no matter the distance between us. It’s what we’ll share when she’s in heaven, where the prayer never stops.

mom wave

It won’t be goodbye. It will be “see you later.”

We’re blessed to have this time, to accompany her on this journey. Not everyone gets this opportunity to travel with their mother from this world to the horizon that leads to the next. It hurts, and we cry, but we’re blessed. We should be so lucky when our time comes.

My mom is dying. This is a sacred time.

Posted in death, dying, mother's death, Uncategorized | Tagged | 6 Comments

Bean cakes? Who knew

It’s Lent again. In fact, we’re halfway through it, and that means George and I are halfway through the third-world recipes that come each year with the Catholic Relief Services’ rice bowls.

I don’t intend to write here about praying, fasting and almsgiving, although those are the practices of Lent and it all does have something to do with those recipes for simple meals. Spend less on the grocery bill, share what you save with others–it’s a good system.

It also makes for excellent meals, if you’re game to try things you wouldn’t normally eat. Gallo pinto and fatet laban have become regulars on our menu since first trying them during past Lents. This year, it’s bean cakes.

I know, they don’t sound appetizing at all. When George asked me what we were having that Friday (meatless Fridays for Catholics during Lent) and I told him “bean cakes,” his face fell. The list of ingredients didn’t make him or me feel any more hopeful. Can you say o-r-d-i-n-a-r-y?

Well, surprise! This was another of those sleeper meals that we’ll add to our regulars. We both smacked our lips–literally–as we put away those bean cakes and realized, for the nth time, that eating simply does not have to mean eating bland.

Here’s the recipe:

Bean Cakes

• 1 can black-eyed peas, drained
• 1 small onion, chopped
• 2 carrots, peeled and chopped
• 1 egg, whisked
• 1/2 t. salt
• 1/2 t. black pepper
• 1 C. flour
• 1/4 C. vegetable oil

Place the black-eyed peas in a blender with the onion, carrots and egg. Blend to a smooth paste, and add salt and pepper. If bean mixture has too much liquid to form cakes, add flour, 1/4 cup at a time to thicken until you can form into cakes. Divide into 6 to 8 portions and place in hot vegetable oil. Flatten each one into a disc using a spatula. Fry until browned (about 5 to 7 minutes), turning occasionally. Serve with rice.

I didn’t have a can of black-eyed peas so I cooked up bean cakessome dried peas. I found I did have to add flour to get it thick enough for cakes. And serving with rice just seemed like too much starch, so I substituted a few corn chips for crunch, and some fruit.

This meal comes from Burkina Faso, and I confess I’d never heard of the country so we Googled it, of course. We learned that Burkina Faso, formerly known as Upper Volta, is in Western Africa, and exports huge amounts of meat to other parts of the world. However, it’s one of the poorest countries in the world, and the people grow a lot of beans for their own use. You can see a video about the country and one woman, Safiato, by clicking here.

So, whether you’re eating simply for Lent or just trying to cut down your grocery bill, try this. I’d be really surprised if it didn’t become a favorite at your house, too.

Posted in Catholic, cooking, CRS Rice Bowl, Food, Lent, Lenten food, Lenten meals, meatless meal, recipes, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Laughing at the errant “r”

(Is it cheating to reprint one of my old newspaper columns as a blog? Although I didn’t save all the things I once wrote for the “Lake County News-Chronicle” (Minnesota) where I worked, my mother did save a few. Every now and then, one of them shows up in a letter to me. So, here’s one from March 2009–and the only reason I know the date is because of the ad on the back of the clipping.)

I got a phone call from the man whose story I had posted to the News-Chronicle’s web page.

“Hey lady,” he said. “I do NOT study the bumps on people’s heads.”

Since we’re good friends, I could laugh and not be alarmed, although I did promise to correct the mistake before anyone noticed.

IF anyone would notice, that is.

My friend writes about phenology, which is the study of the natural calendar. He tells us when various flora is in bloom, and what the fauna is doing at any particular week or month of the year. I, in a spastic jerk of a typing finger, added an “r” to the word and turned it into phrenology: the study of the bumps on people’s heads.r

Although he was anxious that I make it right, I really wonder if anyone noticed. The letter “r” seems to wander in and out of words, changing their meanings, without anyone taking note. For instance, although the subject isn’t funny, I can’t help but laugh inwardly when people start talking about prostrate cancer.

I guess that’s the kind of cancer people get when they’re lying down, because that’s what “prostrate” means. The word they’re looking for is “prostate,” with no second “r.” I have the kind of brain that can be startled into inappropriate hilarity even when talking about something serious. So, when someone mentions “prostrate cancer,” I want to say, “tell him to stand up.”

Here at the newspaper, we get another set of words confused. When people come in to sign on for a year’s worth of papers, they’re getting a subscription. It’s surprising how often they call it a prescription. There’s that letter “r” again, bringing a “p” and an “e” with it to totally changing the meaning of the word.

Now, it’s entirely possible that the people who say prescription mean what they say. I think the newspaper could be considered a good prescription for a lot of things. Just like a medical prescription produces a solution to some physical ailment, the newspaper brings its own kind of relief.

Nowhere else in this community, for instance, can people find a complete schedule of coming events (provided, of course, that they’re submitted to the paper in the first place). Knowledge of what’s going on around here can be the perfect prescription for curing cabin fever.

newspaperNowhere else can residents find even some of the details of the city council and county board meetings–unless they stir themselves to actually attend the meetings. The stories in the newspaper might be a prescription to cure apathy. Or, depending on what went on at the meeting, they might be a prescription for disturbing peace of mind.

Nowhere else can people enter the living rooms of the neighbors they don’t know well and listen to their stories. Those stories appear regularly in the newspaper, though.

The newspaper is also a good prescription for quelling rumors. Chat rooms and discussion groups can blithely accuse, amuse and reuse incorrect information because no one holds them to accountability, no one demands that they check the facts as carefully as possible. They can jump to conclusions without ever asking anyone to verify. And they do it all the time.

This newspaper may not print ALL the news, considering the restraints of time and staff size, but we sure do our best to get the facts straight. Occasionally we’re given wrong information–intentionally or otherwise, we’re not always sure.

Sometimes, the mistakes are our own, and we rue them more than the readers do. In my case, maybe someone should probe the bumps on my head and see if there’s one to insure accurate typing. On the other hand, this one was a prescription for a good laugh.

Posted in Humor, Memories, Social commentary, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Still alive and thinking

A writer I like from the online Blessed Is She group I belong to recently started her column by admitting it might just involve a bit of navel gazing, but that she was in the mood to write so she was going to simply put some things down.

The result was a lovely, thought-provoking blog.

I don’t guarantee that’s what this will be, but like her, I feel the need to write. Maybe you’ve not noticed (but I surely hope you have!) that I haven’t written a blog in a long time. Extra-curricular activities, REAL writing assignments, the holidays, a few good books, a frenzied new interest in quilt projects–they’re all to blame for my absence.

I did THINK about writing, though. Every now and then the lead sentence to a promising blog would pop into my head. I should write that down, I’d think, but I never did and the ideas never got developed.

That’s where my blogs often originate: from a sentence I like, an image I’ve seen, an inspiration during prayer, a remark in a conversation. The challenge is to knead and mold, push and pull and expand that thought to something meaningful. writerSometimes it can be done. Sometimes it’s best just to jot down the thought in my journal and let it remain mine alone. Not every thought needs to be shared. (Tell that to some of those Facebook people.)

Here are the leads I’ve written in my head for blogs I’ve never written:

• Today is my birthday, and I’m 70 years old. You’ll notice I didn’t hedge on the number. I’m trying to counteract all those instances where I’ve found women panic-stricken that someone will find out how old they are. I can’t figure out why. Is age a shameful thing?

• “Let’s play some golf,” George said, and I agreed, but first I headed to the bedroom to suit up in appropriate clothes: my bathrobe and slippers.

• I live in a small house, but I just discovered how roomy it really is. I took down the Christmas tree.

• With age comes wisdom, they say. I my case, I don’t know if that’s true. But what it did bring me was the appreciation for the word “no.”

• Be honest and answer this question. Which do you prefer: a nice long email from a friend, or a letter in an envelope pulled from your mailbox? (If you can’t remember what the second option is like, this blog is still for you.)

• Someday, when you’re dead and buried, will there be any proof that you were ever alive? More importantly, SHOULD there be?

I have to confess that simply writing those leads down has made me anxious to follow up on them. Maybe I will–later. But for now, I managed to put enough words together to call this a blog and post it. Pretty sneaky, eh?

Posted in Blogging, Humor, Lifestyle, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , | 6 Comments

Making schizophrenic squirrels

I have schizophrenic squirrels. The poor things don’t know who they are, welcome visitors or hated moochers, and it’s probably our fault.

I never started out to feed squirrels. Those things hanging from our shepherd’s hooks and the tree are BIRD feeders, filled with sunflower seeds and shelled peanuts. A couple are platform feeders for birds like cardinals who like those flat spaces. One is a tube feeder for the chickadees and goldfinches. One is a “house feeder,” with a roof and glass sides and perches so the birds can sit and stay awhile. Of course there’s the suet feeder for the nuthatches and woodpeckers. And yes, I do toss out a few peanuts-in-the-shell for the squirrels and the jays and the cute little chipmunks.

So, it all sounds pretty orderly, doesn’t it? They all have their own place settings at the various tables and I’d be oh-so-happy if they’d just sit where they’re supposed to. It didn’t take long, though, for the squirrels to take over.

They dangle from the house feeder, back feet wrapped tube-feeding squirrelaround the rope, bodies swaying with the breeze. I don’t know how they do it. If I were chewing and swallowing upside down I’d have food in all my sinus cavities. They sit in the platform feeders, all day long, and gorge. They leave only when there’s a pile of hulls. That wouldn’t be so bad if they’d truly leave at that point, start foraging in someone else’s yard. But they don’t. They wrap themselves around the tube feeder that’s supposed to be too small for them, and they dig and gouge at the suet feeder so that by the time the nuthatches show up, there’s only an empty cage.

Sometimes I tolerate it. In fact, I tolerate it so well that they’re not afraid of me. The other day, when I’d about had it with the tube-feeder raider, I went slamming out the door onto the deck, hollering, “That’s enough! Just go find food somewhere else!” The squirrel sat up, little paws folded inward, and looked at me. He didn’t run, he didn’t leave the feeder. He just stared at me, wondering why my mouth was flapping at him.

squirrel antics Collage

You see? Hard to stay mad at antics like this: on a hot day, grab seeds from the feeder, then sprawl on the shady railing and eat them.

He was so cute. My voice dropped from a 60-mile-an-hour screech to a slow, soft drawl as I asked him, gently, what he thought he was doing. He went back to eating. You see? I’m creating these little monsters. One minute I’m ready to borrow someone’s .22 and shoot them all dead. The next minute I’m scattering peanuts at the base of the tree and giggling to myself as they start coming, from all directions, nearly running me over in their hurry to be the first at the trough, totally ignoring me although I’m only two feet away.

The other day, though, I’d had enough. The same six squirrels had been squatting over every single food source the entire day. These experts at deboning sunflower seeds had parked their ever-expanding butts in one place and refused to share even with the chipmunks, let alone a pretty bird or two. No wonder I haven’t had the opportunity to take some of the beautiful bird photos I have from years gone by, birds like indigo buntings and rose-breasted grosbeaks.

“Look at that,” I said to George. “I haven’t seen a bird in days. And THERE’S the reason why!”

George accepted the challenge. He didn’t just go out there and holler at them (and he WOULD have hollered. He doesn’t fall in love with them in mid-stride like I do), he grabbed the garden hose and went after them.

One blast and they scattered. And came back, of course. Another blast and they ran a little farther. For a while. Finally, they actually gave up and left altogether. The next morning, back they came. I got my bowl of sunflower seeds and peanuts and went out to fill up the feeders, as I do every morning, and they fled–until they realized it was me, the soft touch. Down from the tree, out from the hedge, across the lawn they came, with me talking softly to them.

Half an hour later, George raised the kitchen window, hollered “get out!” and headed for the hose again. And thus the cycle goes.

If squirrels could just learn to share, I’d be fine with them. If they’d come, stay a while, and then leave, I wouldn’t mind. If they didn’t chase away the tentative advances of birds one minute and then pose cutely the next, I wouldn’t have these ambivalent feelings toward them.

So, until I can make up my mind whether they stay or they go, I’ll be dealing with schizophrenic squirrels.

Posted in Animal antics, feeding birds, Humor, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 7 Comments