Monday, July 30, 2007

Why oh why did we swallow the fly

I wanted to put a garden in the back of our house where the trailer used to sit. Just a big square garden like we had in Maryland. My husband disagreed. He wanted a raised bed. In Massachusetts, where he was from, they used raised beds for gardening. His brother in Massachusetts gardened with raised beds. Raised bed gardens were superior, end of discussion. He also thought a raised bed would be more accessible, which I went along with. How it ended up being in the front yard near our first tree field (constant reminder to weed from my kitchen window) is a complete mystery.

John built the garden with help from Harry and others. He used 12 foot long, 6 by 6 timbers, tons of them. It was a strip of sorts, maybe 30 feet long by 10 feet wide. It didn’t take long to figure out that the location was not ideal. The bed was built on an incline and so one end had a three feet high wall of timbers, and the other side was the same level as the low part of the yard. John had to buy a truck load of dirt to fill it out.

Oh, and we have this John Deere garden tractor with a tiller attachment. The one thing about John Deere garden tractors; any woman can use them. Install the attachments for the tractor? Easy, just look at the brochure, especially their sales brochures and technical data sheets. Each page has a cheerful, average sized woman riding or working on the tractor installed with one or more attachments, like the tiller or the snow blower. We have one of those too. Honestly, the woman who could install these attachments would have to be able to press at least 200 pounds and have strength in her hands like Lou Ferrigno. I’ve tried and I cannot, and I am only slightly smaller than the woman in the picture, but I digress.

John quickly discovered that the design of the garden was not optimal; another problem being I cannot back up the tractor with this big ass tiller attachment on the back of it, in the narrow strip of garden which is the raised bed. So then he added the West wing. The garden is now a U shape, so I could till riding forward at all times, no backing up required. The whole back side of the U is made up of a 3 foot wall, more bucks for timbers, and he had to order two more truckloads of dirt to fill it. In the process we discovered that it was much cheaper to buy dirt than six by sixes, and I got a center island, which was a closed rectangle that wouldn’t be tilled ever. Here I planted blackberry bushes and asparagus and gladiolas, which I dig up every fall. Of course, after a year of having to mow the grass in the center between the island and the bed I had had enough. So I told John we needed to get rid of the grass. And he did with more dirt. This last year I went out and bought an electric tiller, that I absolutely love. There was no woman pictured on the front of the product brochure, but there should have been.

Last year I got a plaque that I attached to the “wall” of the garden. It says “John’s Folly”.

Side note: Negatives aside, it is a really nice garden and with my new tiller I am starting to enjoy it more.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Awake at Night

Awake at night,
unable to sleep
Water drips, the furnace growls
refrigerator purrs and shudders
a dog barking in the distance outside,
a garbage can bangs
trees rustle in heavy breezes
I know there is a monster
in the woods
beyond my window
slide stepping slowly towards the house.
while a green warty troll
sits, on the floor,
in the kitchen pantry among
the recycled paper and plastic bags.
A silver alien with yellow cat eyes
is hovering above the herb garden
in the back yard, taking survey
of the house from a distance
And if I get up for a glass of water
everything will stop
except the water will drip
the furnace will growl and
the refrigerator will continue to buzz
i get back into bed
and pull the covers up
with my pillows over my head
for emphasis
and they will resume their postures
The monster will begin stepping slowly,
arms extended.
The troll leans forward attentively
jostling the paper bags as he moves,
and the almond eyed alien
will move and sway
effortlessly above the garden.

I used to do this thing "Make Art Every Day" and then I would make up a "poem" and send it to my sisters with a fake link that they could hit to unsubscribe. I do this sort of thing to my sisters or my family all the time. They have suffered my goofiness for quite awhile very good naturedly. I also do some crafty things and then give them handmade gifts ..they are pretty good natured about that too. Anyway the above entry seemed appropriate with the recent story. Truly I am afraid of the dark around here and what goes on at night at the edge of our "yard"...but at any far as my talent goes...I guess i shouldn't give up my day job eh?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Where it started

We moved to Minnesota twice. I’ve talked about our moves some here. The first time we moved from Chicago. It was early 90’s and Harry was two. It was a company move and we looked at houses in a couple of really small towns on the north side of Rochester, and then for some reason ended up looking out in the rural areas.

Some observations about these small towns (in Minnesota): Every restaurant we walked into looked like a convention of the Klu Klux Klan; very white and wrinkled men in overalls and a sea of john deer baseball caps, and of course the room would go silent for a full minute with all heads turned our direction when we walked in. It was creepy. Our middle aged realtor wore a jacket, one of those flannel lined nylon windbreakers like I wore back in high school, and a floppy wool rain hat. He was over 6 feet tall, so who was I to criticize his fashion sense. He had no clue what might appeal to us. If I commented on a painted door at one place (because it accented something else about the house or yard) he would immediately assume that I would go gaga over a screaming turquoise door with a fake Tudor fa├žade on some other house that was horridly inappropriate with whatever else was going on with the colors and landscape. And there was never any landscaping. They like to mow grass right up to the houses foundation or landscape with gravel all around the house. Bushes cost money. Most of what we were looking at was post WWII ticky tacky anyway. It was a tough choice. We also noticed that inside most homes, floor molding consisted of running the rug up the wall two inches, and every boy bedroom carried a monster assortment of toy tractors and farm toy paraphernalia. Oh and also, every barn had a fabulous old car that hadn’t been run in years under plastic tarp.

My biggest concern, having lived all my life in the city, with city noises, city traffic, and dense populations, was alien sightings and crop dusting. In the city, alien ships don’t land in parking lots, but they do land in cornfields. Every place we looked had a cornfield within the immediate vicinity, so I always asked about the crop dusting because the realtor would think I was crazy if I asked about aliens. The realtor would stare blankly at me for a minute (he probably thought I was insane anyway) and then would just say “NO”. I found out later that they apply most of the chemicals with pull behind sprayers and they sometimes do aerial spraying. We lost a row of trees that way once, and there are a lot of farmers who die of cancer around here, just like in the city. Since I couldn’t ask about the aliens, I researched the topic by watching a lot of movies involving the subject. I also watched anything I could on TV, but for some reason I didn’t watch x-files, too gory. I preferred the TV journalism approach of that show narrated by the guy who used to be second in command on Star Trek, Next Generation. What I learned was that aliens for the most part have only been seen in the Northeast or the Northwest or in the Western desert, and maybe once in Michigan. We were pretty safe. So I am less worried about aliens as I am about zombies (we have about 30 acres of second growth forest), but I haven’t taken the time to do a lot of research on that topic. That’s one I am still working on.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

The Piano Lesson

When I gave birth to my son I had great plans for him. He was going to be brilliant and do all sorts of magnificent things. All I needed to do was wait for him to grow up. Well four, I figured four was going to be the age to start.

There is not much you can do with a toddler, but I will say that I read him books from the time he was very small till he was maybe eleven or twelve years old. I enjoyed reading him books, and would give commentary to him on the literary, social, and cultural merit of any book we read (the world according to me of course). I don’t think my son much cared. He wasn’t speaking English yet. He was more interested in the pictures. Some of my personal favorites were, Little Critter’s These are My Pets, by Mercer Mayer. I loved that book. It was geared toward bedtime (yeah) and the mom was always in the background mowing the yard, trimming bushes, or some kind of work, while the little critter boy introduced all his pets. It reminded me of the real moms in the world who worked as part of our job of maintaining the order of the universe. In fact, I don’t remember my mom being around when I was little, probably because she was busy doing things around the house. I also loved the Bugs in Boxes pop up books by David A. Carter. These were counting books and there would be a different number of bugs on each page, like 8 speedy spaceship bugs, or ten bouncing basketball bugs. These books are pretty much a mess because Harry would pick the bugs off the pages, but I still like to bring them out once in awhile to have a look see and count all the cool bugs.

OK, so when Harry was four I determined he was FINALLY ready to start his path to greatness. Music was going to be just one of many critical skills toward that development and I enrolled him in his first serious music class. I found a piano teacher who was good with small children. She was a teacher at the local elementary school. She was very nice. The first two lessons went excellent, just super, but we hit a major snag on the third lesson. In this lesson the teacher introduced black keys. Harry was also required to use his thumbs for one of the little songs he was learning.

When I picked him up from the lesson that day I could tell she was exasperated.
“He won’t do it. He won’t touch the black keys, and he refuses to use his thumbs. There is nothing more I can do. I have tried really. Mrs. Moore, we won’t be able to go any further.” She was genuinely sad about this. Me too!

“Oh Harry!” I looked at my son. He was smiling, happy, and his usual playful self. “Let me see you play your song…” and he played the whole song, but deliberately missed some notes (I could tell!) because it required a black key or his thumb, just like the teacher had said. Harry smiled at me very tight lipped when he finished. I tried to coax and cajole him. We went back over the song. No use. Resigned to the fact, I gathered up his book and his toys and I promised the woman I would call her. This was a major blow. By mid week I did call her. I had given it a lot of thought and some indirect discussion with Harry, and concluded that lessons were too much pressure for him. He needed to mature.

So again, I waited, and then when he was seven, I figured this was it. I told him to pick an instrument. Its time, just pick something. He picked the drums of all things and I couldn’t change his mind. It was all he was interested in. I had played the flute in band in high school. Flutists, you know the personality, usually sit in the front rows and appear very polite and attentive. The percussionists are always at the back of the band, and from my vantage, goofing off, falling asleep and generally getting dirty looks from the conductor during lessons. In my mind they were juvenile delinquents. I was heart broken. Yet deep down, I knew my son was a was a genius. I knew this because he would do things at school that displayed ingenuity and brilliance at a very early age. Like the time in second grade he forged my name on a note coming home from the principal, mid year, for throwing rocks on the school bus. He had only JUST learned to print. Most kids don’t start doing this kind of stuff till High school. (What gave it away for the principal is that the signature had been printed in pencil and then overwritten in pen. Most parents don’t use a pencil and they don’t print. ) I have other examples of pure genius, which would take too long to describe for mention here, but what was happening was clear. It now became my mission in life, hence forward, to make sure that my son used his powers for good and not evil. Its been rough but I think good is winning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Happy Birthday to me

It was my birthday a week ago Monday! I turned eh-hem, forty nine. A good friend I met through work shares my birthday. She now lives in Michigan. She called me first thing. It made my birthday all on its own, but then I spent the day in the garden weeding.

What is great about this activity is the dog, a very high strung, overly enthusiastic chocolate lab who lives outside, will leave me alone. He has learned not to come in the garden. Although adorable, he’s a royal pain. I love it.

What is not great though is that weeding becomes a major project because it can be so messy. I went through four sets of gardening gloves with all the dampness and mud. I get dirt on my knees and shoes and feet. I am just absolutely caked with it. So once I start I don’t want to stop till it is done.

I was out there for most of the day, and by afternoon, I started getting calls from family members with birthday wishes. John would shout to me from the house. He was taking the call and then telling them I would call back. Then he was coming up to get me. He was doing this while the event was fresh, to avoid forgetting, which would definitely happen otherwise.

When I finally finished in the garden, John was in the kitchen. He announced that he had made calls to everyone on his phone list (HIS PHONELIST), telling them or leaving them messages to call and wish me a happy birthday. He told me this in the kitchen. He had done it so he could get all the incoming birthday calls at once and avoid all this having to go up and down the stairs and outside to give me messages. He has a talking computer and his phone list on the computer is the list of all HIS friends and whatever businesses he might call or need to call in the course of a day. The rest of the evening was spent by me talking to people that I didn’t really know very well. I have to confess he does have some friends that are my friends too, so it was very nice after all. I am just glad I didn’t have to talk to his stock broker (who he left a message for, but never called back).

Saturday, July 21, 2007

One more

These are my sister's husbands on the last day of our vacation. They love the surf.

Friday, July 20, 2007

More about vacation

I am in the middle. My sisters are on either side. We made John (my husband) hold the beer can as a prop. After all, a man is a man, and all good men drink beer. It took the whole vacation to get John into his bathing suit, and he went swimming in the pool! Yeah! He's doing a great job for a guy who is blind and has had stokes up the ying yang (amen).

Thursday, July 19, 2007

How I spent my summer vacation....

Like this. And, when we weren't by the pool, we were on the beach.

My sisters and their husbands did a lot of fishing in the morning(wives 3 husbands 0). I had fishing rods for our family, but frankly, it was too much work.

Lots of walks along the beach, to the point at low tide,very peaceful, and my son made the following observation: This vacation provided a big change for our family from Chicago, but for us, personally, there wasn't much difference between this and home, except for the beach of course. My son, like his cousins, was in pursuit of the perfect vacation tan. My sister dubbed one of the nieces the President of the PTA - Professional Tanning Association. This sister would have been the Vice President as she takes her tanning very seriously.
By the end of the week, being much less competitive on this front, I had had enough. John and I went over to the Brookview Botanical Gardens and spent a day amongst the marble and granite Sculptures, walking through the "rooms", reading the poetry on plaques on the walls, and enjoying the fabulous green green architecture.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

I can't make this stuff up

We lost the car in Knoxville Tennessee. I am not kidding. It was the second day of our trip to Garden City, SC (Myrtle Beach). We were at a gas station just off Interstate 40 in Knoxville, Tennessee. I parked the car at a gas pump and put the nozzle in and all that. Then I told John and Harry I was going in to buy some water. I am in the habit of leaving the pump while I’m fueling the car, doesn't everybody? Well, then Harry said he was going in to use the rest rooms. John didn’t need to go. I actually used the rest room too (I think) and at any rate I met Harry at the counter buying an ice cream bar. We walked out together.

“Harry where is the car?”

We looked. It was gone. We went to all the pumps, nothing in back.
We were freaking, and then Harry pointed. The car was about 500 feet or more away, across the street. It was sitting between an electrical utility pole and the wires that they use to support it. It had rolled across a street, through a grassy ditch full of who knows what, through utility wires, just missing a utility pole, and into an old arborvitae that was cracked and falling over from the impact. There were two guys who looked a bit shell shocked standing near the car. They must have seen what happened. John was in the passenger seat. He was white. I asked the one guy how fast the car was going… he thought maybe 10 mph maybe faster. It took Harry a couple of tries to get it out of the tangle of shrub and grass. Amazingly, while the bumper smelled strongly of spruce, there were no dents. Everything seemed to work. No scratches on the underbody. We still had to go through the mountains and I was hoping we didn’t have alignment problems. John’s only comment when we asked him if he was alright was “I DO NOT WANT TO BE LEFT IN THE CAR BY MYSELF AGAIN!” I was too stressed to do any more driving so Harry drove the rest of the way to Garden City. We found out later
when John was describing the incident to my sister, that John was trying to turn on the air conditioning. He put the car in neutral and turned on the car. The parking brake was up but didn’t work. The car was on an incline so it rolled forward. Harry confessed that in the excitement he had dropped his ice cream bar. We should have bought a lottery ticket.