The Pool

The season that the guys in our family look forward to all year has finally arrived.  They aren’t kidding when they call this March Madness.

Since I like to select teams that I want to be able to root for, I cross a number of teams off immediately.   Kentucky, I just don’t like the coach.  If the politics of the state are so crazy,  I don’t choose teams from there, either.  (I think my Texas blogger friend there understands.)

This year, our youngest daughter didn’t have the time to spend on her selections, so she has one of those automatic quick picks:  her teams are the ones that are favored in every race.   Another family member has a ballot with all the historic favorite teams.

Of course we have the “experts,” the guys who watch basketball all year, read the sports pages religiously, and mark their selections with the confidence of their own superior knowledge.

But the ballot that is my favorite is the one completed by our youngest grandchild, little Miss NotQuite2.  Her brothers helped her, but she made her own picks, using a combination of methods.  Whenever possible, her brothers imitated the sounds that teams’ mascots make and she chose her favorites.  The Oregon Ducks, for instance, were a shoo-in.  When mascot mime wasn’t possible, she’d touch one on the screen, with much encouragement from her brothers.

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So how is all that working out?  Last night, while the superfans spent the night near the bottom, w-a-a-a-y up at the top, all by herself, was Little Miss NotQuite2.

Her mommy recorded it in her baby book.

Madness, indeed.

 

Y’all Hear That?

Usually when Dearly Beloved and I drive to Indianapolis in the winter, our visits  trigger an arctic blast of frigid winds and stinging snow.  So why do we go in winter?

We go to witness the Indiana religion:  Basketball.

This is oldest grandson’s senior year in high school.  He doesn’t plan to play in college, so we went up to watch a couple of his last games.  As soon as we crossed the state line into Virginia, we found snow covering the ground.  Surprisingly,  the farther up we drove, the less snow we found.  The temperature rose to 70 that weekend.

By the time we reached Indiana, we didn’t need the usual assortment of snow boots, gloves, or scarves.  Heck, we didn’t even need a coat.

Old Man Winter must not have recognized our car.

The pale residents of Indianapolis immediately hit the sidewalks as if someone had rung a citywide fire drill.  They walked their children and pets, bicycled, jogged, and crowded every outdoor restaurant table in the city.

Our grandsons reminded us of kids on a snow day here in North Carolina, basking in the warmth!

DB and I have come to realize that these two grandsons are Midwesterners.  They were born in Indiana and have never lived anywhere else.  Livermush and hushpuppies have probably never entered their vocabulary, much less their stomachs.  I don’t know if they even eat grits.  Their only nod to southern cuisine is the cartons of Cheerwine that we take for them when we visit.

There is not so much as a hint of southern inflection in their speech.  “Southernness”  must not be passed along through DNA,  but there was one brief incident which gave us hope.

Senior grandson went out with a girl-space-friend (not a girlfriend, he pointed out)  on Saturday night.  While he was out, his younger brother texted an urgent message to him:

When you’re on the way home, please stop someplace and get me some sour Gummies and sweet tea.

HOPE, right?

 

Fooling Around

I read somewhere that it takes 15 or 20 minutes for coffee to get someone started in the morning.  Since we make ours with half-decaf, half-regular,  it doesn’t seem unreasonable for me to take 30 to 50 minutes to vacate the twilight zone.

Sunday morning, before the coffee even finished brewing, Dearly Beloved looked out the sunroom window and casually announced:  Look.  There are two squirrels copulating on that oak limb.”  

He continued his narration without any encouragement from me.  “Now he’s run  off and she’s up there cleaning herself.”  

TMIBC.  Too much information before coffee.

A similar scene took place in plain sight later that afternoon.  DB figured it was the male practicing free love.  It made me curious, so I looked up some information on the mating habits of grey squirrels and learned that it was the same female probably, different male.  What a bunch of bastards those tree rats are.   Sheesh!

The female is fertile for less than a day, however, she puts out a scent that calls male squirrels in the neighborhood, thus filling her dance card all day.

We may as well forget Groundhog Day.  It doesn’t matter how much more winter weather we have because my plantings will be screwed right along with those squirrel hussies.  Let’s see. . . the gestation period is about 45 days, and it takes mommas about seven to 10 weeks to wean them.  Yup. That means the little bastards will hit the ground to start digging and chewing about the same time all my warm weather plants are starting to really look good.

Furthermore, the females will be about ready to put out the word, er. . . scent again.  The obnoxious little bastards mate twice a year.   Wonder what we can do to counteract that sex scent next time, assuming we can’t lock all the fertile ones under the house for the day.

For awhile, I thought I had the solution.  Remember smudge pots?   There are to be zillions of them sitting in road construction warehouses everywhere, a dime a dozen, right?

Wrong.  The smelly old kerosene ones might work, but they’re pricey.  The new ones burn lamp or citronella oil.  Not enough stink.

Speaking of stink, I admire the Kentucky legislator who’s raising one in her state. Have you read about Rep. Mary Lou Marzian?  After the KY legislature passed another pro-birth measure, this one making any woman seeking an abortion to have counseling 24 hours prior, Rep. Marzian came up with legislation which could help prevent unwanted pregnancies and unwelcome sexual advances.  Her bill, HB396,  would require men seeking erectile dysfunction-type drugs to have at least two visits with their doctors as well as a permission slip from their wives.   Only married men would be able to obtain the drug and they would have to swear on a Bible to use it only with their wives.

Rep. Marzian is a medical professional and knows that the drugs cause risks for men and she wants to protect them from themselves.  Headaches, runny nose, body aches, vision problems, dizziness. . . .  If her bill passes, those pill users would have their permission slip-signing wives right there to nurse them back to health.  It would reduce medical costs, something any legislator should embrace, right?

As for the problems in our garden,  if Monsanto and Dupont and all those GMO-loving companies want to produce a corn containing birth control for tree rats,  I’ll see to it that ours are the best fed critters on the block.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Authenticity!

I’ve never been to Mardi Gras or, for that matter, to New Orleans.  In fact, I’m not even sure I’ve ever been to a Cajun restaurant,  although I did win a  Cajun cookbook on Velva Knapp’s blog a few years ago.

It was time for my Dearly Beloved and me to step out of our evening routine.

Mardi Gras night, here we come!  DB wasn’t as enthusiastic as I.  He’d pictured an  evening by the fire with a glass of wine, watching the New Hampshire primary returns.

We were stepping out, all right, but at our age, we step cautiously.  Our favorite little neighborhood restaurant was doing up Fat Tuesday.  Close enough!  They’d promised a King’s cake direct from New Orleans.   How much more authentic could it get, I ask you?!   Not only that, one of the restaurant owners is a Louisiana native and used to march in the Mardi Gras parade.

He was 8 years old at the time and played clarinet.

Even though we arrived before 6,  all the tables and booths were full.  They had outdone themselves;  decorations adored the walls and hung from the ceiling, and twinkle lights in Mardi Gras colors encircled the room.

We bellied up to the bar to wait for a table.  I passed up a Hurricane drink in favor of my usual glass of red wine, content to watch the bartender mixing a steady stream of the cheery-looking drinks in large glasses.  I slipped several strands of the necklaces around my neck.  They were strewn around everywhere.  Authentic beads!  Oh yeah!

Dearly Beloved could not decide between the specials for the evening, so he ordered a trio of Red Beans and Rice, Shrimp Creole, and Shrimp and Crayfish Étouffée.  He pronounced it one of the best meals ever.

When our server came around with the King’s cake,  I chose carefully, not so much in search of the baby, but opting for a slice that wouldn’t turn my teeth purple.  I selected one in the golden yellow section.  DB told me too bad, that if I’d gotten the Baby Jesus, all my sins would be forgiven for the year.

I think it meant I’d get a free dessert.

DB said he’d had King’s Cake often during our years in Memphis because one of the guys in their office went down to New Orleans and picked one up every year.  He hadn’t particularly liked it–he remembered it as tasting very vanilla-ish.  This one wasn’t; it was deliciously light, with a hint of lemon.   I was glad that DB is gluten-free these days–he’d have loved this one.  In fact, I was tempted to order a second slice to bring home for breakfast this morning.

The atmosphere was festive and bright, yet cozy. DB admitted that it was much better than the evening he’d planned.

Laissez les bon temps rouler!

This morning I was telling a friend about our evening and how much we enjoyed it.  DB came in toward the end of our conversation and asked,   “Did Mary tell you about our big Mardi Gras night?”

“She said it was fun and that the food was great,”  our friend answered.

I knew what DB was going to say next before he opened his mouth:

Did she tell you that she ordered pot roast?

sigh.  No.  I’d omitted that part.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reading By Moonlight (2016)

(Last week, our North Carolina weather went from relatively mild to snow, freezing rain, and plummeting temperatures.  The full moon added light, but no warmth.  As always, it reminded me of the interminable winters we encountered during our years in the upper Midwest;  especially one  particular January night some 30 years ago.  Our latest bout of weather has prompted me to tell that story once again.  My original post went much like this:)

Sometimes I still check the weather in the northern Wisconsin town where we lived when our children were young. I see that the low temperature tonight is -6.  Got that?  Not the windchill, but the actual temperature: minus 6.

Weather can fool you there. Bright sunshine and glistening snow, a sparkle in the air…?  Those sparkles are ice crystals.  Stay inside and wait for the cloudy days.

I remember looking out my kitchen window many wintry nights when the snow reflected the moonlight beyond the shadows of the trees.  In fact, it seemed so bright that I could have gone outside and read by the light of the moon,  I preferred the lamplight of my own cozy home.

Our daughter Boo used to call that negative weather, an apt name on several levels. A deep breath of that cold air sent a sharp, knifelike pain into the lungs and left the nostrils frozen. To say that the cold became wearying about this time of year is to vastly understate its effect on the psyche.

I led a Brownie Girl Scout troop at the church next to the neighborhood elementary school. The Jr. Girl Scout troop met at the same time, right after school ended.   Coming up with indoor activities to use up some of their pent-up energy became more challenging each week. The two groups were congenial, so we decided to plan a combined activity: we’d hold a Father-Daughter Square Dance.

The other leader found a square dance caller: a farm couple who did this to make some extra money during the winter months. The wife taught the moves while the husband acted as caller and provided the music. We planned refreshments and rounded up big brothers to come and dance with any girls whose dads couldn’t be present.  I made my own little Brownie a special outfit: a blue gingham dress and bonnet like Laura Ingalls Wilder might have worn.

It didn’t take long for the dance to grow into a much-anticipated event for the girls. A date with daddy!

The temperatures on the appointed evening chilled to the marrow, cold even by Wisconsin standards.   I believe the windchill was -30.  The snow crunched beneath our boots as we trudged from car to fellowship hall, unloading the refreshments and decorations. By the time the girls and their dads began arriving, everything was in place except the caller and his wife.  No word from them.

A few games–Duck, Duck, Goose and Strut, Miss Lucy– entertained the girls for about thirty minutes. The fathers stood around the punch bowl, introducing themselves to each other. The other leader and I led the games and smiled even as we shot each other questioning looks and kept glancing at the outer doors. The caller was bringing the equipment, the music, and the talent.  We had no Plan B.

A blast of cold wind swept through the room when the double doors opened to reveal, not the expected caller, but a uniformed police officer. He walked over to the group of dads and asked which one of them was in charge. The men pointed silently to the two of us. We walked to the corner of the room with the cop where he explained that he had stopped a car for speeding and the driver had said he was on his way to a church function where he was supposed to be the entertainment. The policeman said he wanted to make sure because the story had sounded implausible. We assured him that the man was exactly what he professed to be.

The officer, still looking dubious, went out to the parking lot and returned with a tall, slim, slightly stooped man in overalls and a flannel shirt, followed a little blond girl about the age of my Brownies and a boy who was perhaps 11. The children were thin and solemn. One carried a small record player and the other, a stack of 33-rpm records.

The man introduced himself to the two of us and apologized profusely. “We had to milk the cows before we could leave. It takes longer when it’s cold like this,” he told us, “and my wife is feeling bad and couldn’t help. Don’t worry though. . . I can call and teach too and I’ll stay the full time we agreed on.”

Within minutes he had the group in a circle, explaining terms like “allemande left” and “promenade right”.  It didn’t bring out much hidden talent on our part, but certainly evoked much merriment. Learning “Swing your partner” and “Grand Left and Right” to take the inner and outer circles in opposing directions was easier and officially threw the evening as well as the dancers into full swing.

The other leader, also named Mary, and I couldn’t escape a feeling of unease. Something didn’t feel right. The boy would disappear, leaving the little girl to operate the music for her daddy, then the boy would return and whisper something to his dad. A few minutes later we’d see the little girl slipping quietly through the swinging doors.  When she returned, she’d whisper urgently in her father’s ear as he continued calling the dances.

Finally the man asked would we mind if he took a little break so he could go outside and check on his wife. His wife? We’d had no idea that someone had been outside in that subzero darkness all this time.

“Please,” we urged, “have her come inside. She can sit in the kitchen, she can lie down on a pew… bring her in to get warm!”

The man said he didn’t think she’d do that, but he’d ask her. He came back in alone a few minutes later. He shook his head at our questioning looks and came closer, lowering his voice. “She may be having a… miscarriage,” he murmured. “She doesn’t want to come in and disturb the children.”

It was obvious he meant our children; his own children held critical roles in the family drama and carried them out seriously. They’d politely refused the refreshments we offered. They were not there for fun.

We protested as adamantly as we could without letting the dancers overhear us. “We can cancel this,” we insisted to the farmer. “We’ll do it another time. Does she want to go to the hospital? What can we do to help?”

He was adamant in his refusal, insisting that we’d hired him and he was going to honor the commitment. He wasn’t going to disappoint all these little girls. We sensed that the money–$90, as I recall–was very important.  Health insurance?  No need to ask. We could tell by his reaction there was no way this woman would agree to a hospital visit.

We tried to reassure him that he HAD honored his commitment and had more than earned the payment, but he stubbornly refused to stop.

“I don’t take the pay if I don’t do the full job,” he said firmly and stepped back up to the microphone.

We were the only two adult women in the building, but the other leader’s husband was a physician and after she whispered the unfolding situation to him, he went outside to assist her however he could. The police officer, inexplicably still hanging around, followed him. The doctor was back in about ten minutes, shrugging his shoulders to us.

“She says this has happened before and she knows what to do. Doesn’t want to go to hospital and won’t come inside.  I think she’ll be okay. She’s pretty calm; it’s the cop who is in a panic.”

About 15 minutes later the little girl pulled gently on my arm. “Miss,” she whispered, “my mom says do you have some kind of little container you won’t be needing any more.”

I was confused. Did she need water to drink?  She shook her head. “She says it doesn’t need to be very big, but if it had a lid, that would be good.”

Suddenly I realized why the woman needed a container and went into the church kitchen.  I found a clean cottage cheese container with lid and handed it to the child. She accepted it with that same solemn expression and headed for the door, walking along the wall to be as invisible as possible.  My heart literally hurt as I watched the small figure heading out to serve as midwife for the mother who waited alone in the Arctic-like night.

The policeman rushed back inside and drew the doctor aside, whispering excitedly. The doctor shook his head and spoke briefly as if trying to reassure the policeman, who looked beyond ragged by then.

“He radioed for an ambulance,” the doctor told us as he returned from another trip outside. “The blood scared him.”

The farmer overheard this exchange and asked urgently, “Can you cancel it? She won’t go!”

But at that instant,  flashing lights strobed through glass block windows. The doctor grabbed his coat again and we took another break so that the man could go to his wife and join the growing tableau in the parking lot. Inside, our scouts and their fathers, except for our two husbands, remained oblivious to what was happening out there. The fathers, in an unspoken pact, appeared to be working overtime to make it an evening to remember for their little girls.

The farmer came back inside and began calling another dance for the revelers. The doctor whispered to us that he’d sent the ambulance away and would make sure the man wasn’t billed for it. Ironically, the ambulance fee at that time was $90.

At the end of the dance the farmer did accept a cup of punch while his children packed up the equipment. We did not insult him with small talk, but thanked him, quickly paid him his fee and wished them well. The trio did not look back as they headed out for their car and the woman who had waited in the frigid night for over two hours.

To talk of the incident seemed somehow to dishonor the dignity of that family, so we did not speak of it to each other afterwards, but I know that night affected me in ways I still don’t understand. When I hear of young women expecting “push prizes” for childbirth. . . when I hear Congressional arguments about how we can’t afford health care for all. . .  when I read of blizzards in the midwest or look at the moon on a winter night, I think about that family and what it must have been like driving home on that night.  I picture the mother, who was probably near my own age then, feeling that cottage cheese container in her hands lose its warmth… the father, driving more slowly on the return trip, facing another round of milking and feeding the herd before sunrise . . .and the children, who would help with chores and ready themselves for another day at a school where students segregated themselves by whether they were farm kids or town kids: Dirts or Jocks.  These children would be Dirts.

Other families often have visceral realities so very different from our own, but we see them  through our own small lens.   Until, that is, we step away from our own warm hearth. . .  and learn to read by moonlight.

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I Sense A Lack of Appreciation

No, I did not miss Squirrel Appreciation Day yesterday.  Someone made certain I knew of it. . .  the same person who sent me this birthday card:

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Thanks, Beanie.

There’s a DAY for that?  Who the heck came up with that idiotic notion?

Huffington Post says:

Christy Hargrove from Asheville, North Carolina started Squirrel Appreciation Day on January 21, 2001. Christy is a wildlife rehabilitator in North Carolina, and is affiliated with the Western North Carolina Nature Center.

Holy crap!  One of my own kind!!!  It sounds so SOUTH Carolina-ish!

Here’s the thing, Christy. . . In Asheville, you have forested mountains.  Now that’s a good place for the tree rats to live.  Here, I have flower beds and not a mountain in sight.

ROAD TRIP to Asheville!  Wonder if I’ll need to rent a truck.

Wayside Gardens, a wonderful source for plants of all kinds, also sent notification of Squirrel Appreciation Day.  In fact, they included an article by listing all the reasons we should have such a celebration.   Read it and weep.  I’ll give you the gist of it.

Gag me with a peanut, it had to be a real stretch for the author to come up with any pluses.  Squirrels aerate the soil?  In my world, it’s called, digging up my darned flower bulbs.  Squirrels  add nutrients to the soil when they break off branches and stems.  Again, in my garden it is described as the little bastards are ruining my trees.  Oh, here’s a good one:  they sometimes forget where they buried their nuts, thus planting new trees.  Yeah.  That answers the question of why are all those freakin’ oak seedlings coming up in my rose bed?  

Here’s something interesting, according to the article:  Their four front teeth never stop growing, lengthening about six inches a year so they aren’t worn down from all that chewing.  That explains why my dogwood trees look like teething rings for the little bastards.

We’re having a snowy/sleety/freezing rainy weekend here.  The birds have flocked to our feeders, tanking up, but amazingly, we haven’t seen a single squirrel all day!

Now THAT’S something I can appreciate.