High Hopes

Yes, I know I whine about squirrels a good bit, like I think people in other areas don’t have similar problems.  Oh no, those folks have my sympathy, especially Natalie, my Canadian blogger friend who says they’re in the walls of her house.  Gulp.  Even Britain has squirrel problems.  Our squirrels somehow showed up over there and liked it, so now they’re considered a serious nuisance.  I wonder if some devious American took a couple over in retaliation for the starlings which are nuisances over here.

Hmmm.  Or maybe the starlings were retaliation for the squirrels.  Truce!

Having said all that, I’d like to point out that the scientific name for them is Sciurus Carolinensis.   Must translate to “scourge of Carolina.”

Remember the latest damnsquirrel episode that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago?  The one where a cheeky little tree rat climbed up onto the table on our second story deck and yanked out the boxwood twig I was attempting to root?   I figured that the “something” I saw him surreptitiously stick in the small planter was an acorn.  Was he hiding it for food or planting a mighty oak where he thought none of the other squirrels would venture.

Hard to tell what a sneaky squirrel is thinking.

Today I noticed something growing in the planter.  It sure as heck wasn’t my boxwood twig.  It wasn’t an oak seedling either. Mr. Squirrel wanted bigger nuts.

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The pecan he’d stuck in there had bigger plans, too, which didn’t include being lunch for a squirrel.  In just a couple of weeks, it had already rooted into a seedling of six inches or so.  There are no pecan trees on our street, so Mr. S. had to go some distance to procure the nut, probably traveling via our squirrel-chewed cable line.

I brought it in to show to Dearly Beloved.

“Are you going to plant it?  he asked.

I don’t know.

“You almost have to, don’t you?”  

I reckon.

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I’m wondering if I’ve fallen into the squirrel’s trap because it wanted a pecan tree.  All the pictures of nut-eating squirrels show them munching on acorns.  Maybe this one wanted something bigger and better.

I’ve read that without predators, the little turds can live 20 years or so.  Heck, he might even get some pecans from it.  Hmmm.  Now that I think of it, I might not.

It’s now planted in a deeper pot so the root can uncurl.  Although I have no idea where I’d plant it, I’m going to see how it grows.   As DB says, they’re messy trees, but they’re beautiful.  Nothing is better than the shade of a Southern pecan tree.

Provided there’s not some jackass squirrel up there, dropping nuts on your head.

 –   –   –   –   –   –   –

If I’m pushed, I’d also have to admit I don’t like people with allergies. They just annoy me. There seems to be something far too self-centred about it. ‘No thanks, I’m allergic.’ Why not just say ‘No thanks’? I wasn’t asking for your medical history, I was just passing around the nuts. Trying to be friendly, that’s all.
Jack Dee


Boxing Lessons

Fed-Ex and UPS trucks stop in front of our house quite often, but they’re usually making  deliveries to the condos across the street.  When a driver headed toward our door with a very large box recently, I threw open the front door in anticipation of a big surprise.  The guy ignored my greeting and shoved the box in on its side. The address label side was against the wall and when I bent over to turn it to see who it was from, the guy mumbled “thebottomcameopensignhere”  and stuck the electronic scanner in my face  for my signature before I had a chance to look.  He hurried back to his truck.

The bottom was indeed completely open–he’d been holding it closed with his hands, so I reached in and pulled out the contents:  a lovely, HUGE basket containing several bottles of wine, nuts, crackers, dips, spreads, and chocolates, the whole wonderful assortment wrapped in that crinkly cellophane that is used only for good things.  Jackpot!

There was no card.  I turned the box over and yanked off the label envelope.  Sure enough, there was a printed note from someone, saying Thank You and how much they’d enjoyed their stay at our mountain home.  Uh oh.  I yanked back my hand which had been ready to dive for one of the chocolates.  A  couple of issues popped into my head:  (1) I didn’t recognize the names on the card and (2) we don’t have a mountain house.

Dang!  Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I looked at the address label.  Not our name, not our house number.  The driver had transposed the numbers, like reading 4139  as 4319.  Since he was long gone,  I decided that rather than trying to contact the company at 5 PM, I’d simply take the basket up the street to the correct address.  I shoved it back into the box and when I picked it up, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to walk up there carrying the box.  Dearly Beloved took it out to the car for me.  I drove up to the correct address. . . where no one was home.

I walked around the house and found a covered porch at their back door, so I left the package there.  Immediately, I started to worry:  What if they’re out of town for two weeks? I went to the house next door and the lovely old gentleman who answered assured me that the people were not out of town.  He gave me paper and pen so that I could leave a long, convoluted note (the only kind I know how to write) about why the box was opened and how I came to have it.

A couple of hours later the rightful recipient called to thank me for my delivery.  I told him that I thought the devil had made the carrier do it because it contained such a tempting basket of goodies.

I was in the bathtub when the doorbell rang a couple of hours later and I couldn’t get decent in time to answer it. When I looked out front a few minutes later, I found a pretty gift box by our front door.  I opened it and recognized the chocolates that I’d seen a few hours earlier in the large gift basket.  Ahhhh!

Yes, honesty is its own reward, but chocolate sweetens it considerably.  I called him to say thanks.

A few days later, as Dearly Beloved and I were heading out for a hamburger, I noticed two large boxes of gift-basket size on our next door neighbors’ front porch.  “STOP,”  I yelled.  “They’re out of town. We need to do something with those packages!”Image 5

DB backed up and pulled into their driveway. He went up to get the boxes and put them in the trunk of our car, but he examined them and came back empty-handed.

“They were delivered to the wrong house.  They belong to Larry up the street.”

Once again, the carrier had transposed the numbers.

DB contacted Larry and told him the whereabouts of the boxes.  Larry was thrilled because the boxes contained speakers that he’d been watching for all week.  He rushed up to get them.

Every time I see one of the trucks on our street, I have to resist the urge to run over and make sure the package has reached its proper destination.

What do you think?  Coincidence?  Dyslexic driver?  Or are our suspicions correct that yes, we really do live in The Twilight Zone?



Fashion Gone to the Dogs

Scout, the wonder dog, was ecstatic when her “nieces,” Stella and Ivy, spent a few days here after Christmas.  They were so cute in their exuberant romps that I thought it would be fun to have a picture of the three of them.  Maybe I’d frame it and hang it over Scout’s food bowl or make little Valentine cards for her to send her friends.

It didn’t occur to me to try this until our kids were already packing their cars to leave.  It’s iffy that I could even come up with a satisfactory photo of three stuffed toy dogs sitting together, so this live shoot had little chance of success.  We gave it our best.

Scout didn’t have her collar on, so Dearly Beloved was trying to hold on and keep her still without pinching.  Hah!  Anesthesia wouldn’t have kept that dog still.  There was lawn to be plowed, flowerpots to be destroyed, races to be won.

Ivy had an unusual new “do” this trip, which made her ears look like they’d grown four inches since her last visit.  Her topknot had a personality of its own, allowing her to go from serenity to insanity in less than ten seconds.


That’s a chunk of a flowerpot she’s carrying–the spoils from an earlier tug of war.

Scout continued to exhibit the need for speed.  Just because a dog has never broken the sound barrier doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tried.


Stella had already donned her sleek traveling coat for the return trip home.  While Stella admittedly has barking issues (a fact confirmed by our neighbor’s overnight guests very early one morning and relayed to us), she has the commands Sit and Stay down cold.


Ivy was fascinated with that coat.  Scout, meanwhile, was still doing her best Greyhound imitations–the dog and the bus.

Ivy assessed the situation and sat.


Dearly Beloved tried to bring Girl Scout into the picture.  Uh oh.

Ivy was still checking out that snazzy coat.

Ivy checked out the coat again.  “Can I have one like that, Mom?”

Even Scout agreed.  "Nice coat, Bitch."
Even Scout agreed. “Nice coat, Bitch.”

Out of all the photos, this one is the closest to having them do what I asked:  Okay, everybody say CHEESE and look this way!


Sigh.  We’ll try again.  Maybe DB will work with Scout on her Sit/Stay command.  My daughter sent a photo this week during the frigid temperatures.  Looks like Ivy is already gearing up for next time.  Literally.

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What We Had Was A Failure to Communicate

I don’t have to listen to the weather reports.  I’m pretty sure I know what’s happened.

It was a discombobulated December for me.  I lost my iPhone around Thanksgiving and quickly realized how much I’d come to depend on it and all of its uses.  Out Christmas shopping, I couldn’t take a quick picture of something to text to someone for a second opinion.  I had to borrow the customer service phone in Harris-Teeter to call Dearly Beloved to see if I needed to buy beer for visitors.  That proved to be a fruitless exercise, as he rarely gets his phone out of his pocket in time to answer.  (He says it’s because I always call when he’s picking up dog poop.)

He told me later that he figured it was me, so he returned the call. . . until he realized he was phoning a supermarket and I wouldn’t be apt to answer.

I couldn’t look up directions, addresses, or recipe ingredients when I was out there in the jungle. It felt downright primitive, I tell you!   For a month now I’ve been asked dozens of times, Haven’t you found your cellphone? or, from realists,  Haven’t you bought a new phone yet?  I’ve had to go back to carrying a book to waiting rooms, where Free WiFi seems to have suddenly sprouted up everywhere.

I despaired, then surrendered.  I was never going to find it.

Today is my birthday.  DB asked what I wanted to do and I said I wanted to start with breakfast at the restaurant that serves red velvet waffles.  I never get them; I just like to  make sure they’re still on the menu.  After breakfast,  I wanted to go to the mall and get a new phone.  It being my birthday, bless him, he didn’t even gasp at the four-letter ‘m” word.  He froze a second, then nodded.

Speaking of freezing, it was SEVEN degrees when I let the dog out this morning.  SEVEN degrees on January 7!   Definitely a day for my Minnesota coat.

I wear that old full-length, warm, hooded coat so seldom now that I no longer even keep it in our crowded coat closet.  Instead, it’s stashed in a guest bedroom closet along with odd items like a size 4 ring-bearer’s suit,  a pink polka-dotted piano recital dress, and an assortment of old ski pants.  I found the coat, slipped it on, and, deciding not to mess with gloves, stuck put my hands into the soft plush pockets.

And pulled out my cellphone.  Deader than a flat possum on I-95.

At first I couldn’t remember even wearing the coat at all, then decided it could have been one night when I took the dog for a short walk.  I wore it then, not because it was that cold, but because I was wearing my pajamas underneath.  I must have stuck the phone in my pocket in case I got arrested.

At least three members of the family had stood on their heads looking under all the car seats.  I’d gone through drawers, pockets.   I’d looked underneath every cushion.  I checked the dog’s toy basket and honestly, even eyed her poop suspiciously for a couple of weeks.  I’d checked every closet.  Except the one with the polka-dot recital dress, the ring bearer suit, etc.   Oops.

On my computer, the FindMyPhone app identified the phone as being at this address, but we couldn’t hear the audio signal it said it was sending out.  The next time I tried the app, it told me there was nothing.   I decided that the first time the phone might have been in the outside trash bin and had been carted off to the landfill by the second time I tried.

There was nothing to do except buy a new one.  Buying a phone just like the one you had  is like buying a replacement hot water heater.  It’s necessary, but it’s not exciting.

Had the Arctic blast not hit today, I wouldn’t have bothered with the Minnesota coat.  We’d have headed for Apple and bought the phone.  If the icy cold hit tomorrow instead, I’d have worn that coat and found myself the disgusted owner of two cellphones.  (Tomorrow is, of course, Elvis’ birthday.  You DO go out and celebrate, don’t you?)

It’s like the Elf on the Shelf has been messing with me.  Maybe I entered The Twilight Zone.  Or perhaps Saint Anthony was giving me a preview of what life would be like if I became a Catholic.   One friend called it serendipity, another said it was a senior moment.  Heck, it was a senior MONTH!  Dearly Beloved has reminded me that patience is indeed a virtue.

I received this e-mail today in Twilight Zone fashion: 

A sound was played on iPhone.
A sound was played on iPhone at 7:06 AM on January 7, 2014.

So what does this have to do with how cold it is?  I’m thinking that hell must have frozen over.

Getting Lit

Getting lit on our end of the block doesn’t involve a drink, although we could certainly use one afterwards.  Had Thomas Edison been our neighbor, you’d still be lighting candles right now.  I think it’s something in the air.

Our neighbors on the other side–Beauregard and Boo–have always had tall, lovely, aromatic NC Frasier Firs until this year.  After years of cajoling, she’d finally convinced Beau to try an artificial tree and she’d hit the after-Christmas sales and found a real beauty:  a large, very deluxe, artificial tree for Christmas 2013.   She was understandably nervous when they finally took it out of its box last week.

The assembly didn’t go smoothly.  Boo encouraged Beau to read the instructions, but he declared that he didn’t have time to do that.  Instead, he began shoving the parts together, figuring he could build a tree, whether it was the one on the front of the box or not.  It was definitely more “NOT.”

When the branches became a tangle of twisted wires, Beau began ripping the lights off the branches, even though they were carefully wired in place and even camouflaged with a pipe-cleaner-like material covering every wire.  (It was a VERY deluxe tree!)

Seeing the lights and the camouflage material being yanked was enough to make Boo panic.  She called the store where she’d purchased the tree.  They told her to bring it in and they’d have one of their technicians put it together properly.

Again, things didn’t go smoothly.  Now that the eight-foot genie was out of the box and lying in crazy-quilt fashion all over the den floor, there was no way they could get it into their car.  They called a friend for help.  She rushed over in her van and they loaded it up with all the tree it could hold: about 2/3 of it.  The top part had to ride in the car with Beau and Boo.

When they arrived at the store, it took all three of them to get it inside.  I can imagine the scene,  the three walking parade style, carrying the pieces still tethered together by wires, some of them dangling.  The tree technician took it back to Critical Care and told them it would take some time.

The technician was able to work his miracle and the wounded tree is in full glory now, standing proudly in their den, lights glowing.  Boo added a small stick with balsam fir scent to make it seem even more authentic.

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Dearly Beloved hooted at their tree story.  He wanted to know why Beau hadn’t called HIM for help, since tales of DB’s…um… expertise in matters of electrical wiring are circulating through the neighborhood.

After they left, I went back to assembling our own pre-lit tree and DB went back to carrying wheelbarrows of leaf mulch around back to the azalea beds.

Our little tree is several years old.  We’ve always set it up in the bay window of the sunroom and the direct southern sun has taken its toll.  Instead of the original deep green, the tree has faded to a sickly greyish-blue.  (My friend Beanie suggested I think of it now as a blue spruce.)  Blue or green, it has always been easy to assemble and I’ve assembled it so many times,  I went ahead and decorated it without bothering to test the lights.  Oops.

I plugged it in, but only a small belt of lights around the middle of the tree came alive.  GOOD GRIEF, did we have an epidemic in the neighborhood???

When DB came inside and saw the sorry sight, he immediately reached in among the branches to fix it, not even pausing to remove his jacket.   He appeared oblivious to the ornaments bouncing off the tree as he worked.  As I’ve mentioned before, sometimes The Jackass takes over in these situations and for a while there, I was understandably nervous.


Several broken ornaments later, the tree was in one piece and lit from top to bottom.  Applause!  Applause!!  Applause!!!  My man!

Notice the Christmas tree skirt in the picture above.  It’s an inheritance from a relative who never met a sequin she didn’t like.  She made them all by hand.  Consequently, I have three tree skirts, plus a large, round tablecloth that looks much like an enlarged tree skirt.  Ghosts of Christmases past.  They’ve been stashed in the attic for ages, but this year I decided to bring out my heritage in all its sequined…um… glory.  We may be light-deficient, but danged if we don’t still sparkle.

Maybe that contributes to the tree looking more anemic than ever this year.   It’s also wonky; the treetop angel keeps leaning left.  I wonder if Santa ever puts a tree under the tree?

I’ve a mind to hit those after-Christmas artificial tree sales myself.  I’m thinking that I’d better start at the store which has a tree technician.

Just in case, mind you.

Deck the Malls

Every December Dearly Beloved and I go to The Cheesecake Factory at the nearby mall for a Christmas lunch and to see the mall decorations.  That last part is tricky because technically, since The Cheesecake Factory’s entrance is outside the mall, he has, on occasion, tried to weasel out of actually stepping inside the mall proper.

DB dislikes any shopping but take him inside a mall and by comparison,  Jack Nicholson in The Shining seems like Santa Claus.  The khakis and jeans he wears daily are not shabby chic, but ragged.  He wears the same tired pants that he walks the dog in whenever he takes me out to eat and even on trips.  It isn’t that he doesn’t have more, it’s… well, who understand Martians’ reasoning?!

 I’ve been telling him for some time that he needed some new casual pants and each time he says, “Get me some next time you’re out shopping.”   

Sure.  As soon as they start selling them at the supermarket.

Finally, Senior Day at one of the large department stores, not to mention the extra discounts for their cardholders was enticing enough that he agreed to go.  We could  even have our Christmas lunch while we were there.  

Ahhh!!  I e-mailed our daughters that their dad was going to the mall with me.  Willingly.   A whine-free excursion!

There are at least five department stores and many shops in this large mall, but I knew that  one-store shopping was going to be as much as I could count on for his good intentions to last.

I over-estimated his good humor.  We’d barely walked out of the parking garage when  he announced:

“I’m not trying any pants on.  Let’s just get them and you can bring them back if they don’t fit.”

I stopped in my tracks and glared at him.

“I told your children this was the one day when you’d go shopping with me without being a turd and you have already blown it.   

He looked momentarily chastened.

“How about if I am a good sport the second we step through the door?”  

I was adamant.

“I don’t think so.  We’ll come another time for our Christmas lunch.   Without the jackass.”

As soon as he stepped inside the store,  he stuck his hands in his pockets–the international signal of Husband in Distress.  He moseyed  around, showing no interest except to occasionally offer his opinion to other guys trying on clothes, telling one man why he shouldn’t buy the vest he was trying on.  (That was the point I began watching for Store Security.)

As we rounded the Ralph Lauren section, we heard a woman telling her husband, “The pants are TOO LONG!”

DB stopped and assessed the scene, then told the guy, “Those pants fit you perfectly.  That slight bend in the length is exactly what you want.”  

The man’s wife scowled.  (I don’t know if it’s relevant, but let me mention here that the woman was using a walker and had an oxygen tube in her nostrils.  She may not have been using either when they first arrived.)

DB continued meandering, but signed, “I’m just not feeling it.”

“That’s because pants are not going to jump into your arms.  Take your hands out of your pockets, ask a salesperson, and get in there and find what you need.”  

I felt like a football coach.

The salesperson he found was already working with another man so sullen and unpleasant to his trying-to-be-helpful wife that I’d have thought the poor woman must have held a gun on him to get him there, except that by now she would surely have fired it.

But back to my Prince Charming…. When the salesperson turned to him, he said, “My wife thinks I need some new britches.”  


“DB, they haven’t been BRITCHES since you were six years old.”

People around us were were beginning to giggle and stare.  He told her in a stage whisper,  “She called me a JACKASS.”   A bit more of his “long-suffering” humor and–I’m not kidding–the poor sales woman,  snorting with laughter, put her head down on the counter as she pounded her fist and gasped, “You’re killing me!” 

Finally, after she helped him find two pairs of pants and a cashmere sweater that he liked,    he asked me hopefully, “Are we through?”

Nope.  I decided we’d have one more stop.  We rode the escalator to the third floor:  Ladies’ Lingerie.

“I’ll just find place to sit down,” he said, assuming there would be a “man chair” around.

I browsed through the department and eventually made a purchase, then headed back to find him.  I spotted a store mannequin in a set of lacy black bikini bra and undies, posed seductively on one of those short platforms stores use.  Sitting on the platform, his head about crotch level to the mannequin, was my Dearly Beloved.

We didn’t have our Christmas lunch or go out into the mall to see all the holiday decorations that day.  Guess we’ll schedule another outing very soon.

I can hardly wait.

Backroads With BroJoe: Sampson County, North Carolina

When my brother Joe travels the winding backroads of eastern North Carolina where several generations of our family lived, he often sends photos of the dishes he tries at some of the local restaurants–the ones where no part of the hog goes unused.  He likes to mess around with my gag reflex.  Chittlins, cracklin’ bread, bone marrow… get the drift?  (I’m not sure if I mean literally or figuratively here.)

This time, the photo he sent back surprised me.  I remember visiting farmer relatives in that part of the state when I was a small child.  Perhaps that is why I found this photograph so hauntingly lovely and nostalgic.

Than again, maybe it’s because I didn’t find myself staring at a plate of brains and eggs.  I promise that you won’t, either.  Enjoy.

Backroads: Sampson County, North Carolina.