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Stand Up!

Get up, stand up; stand up for your right!

Get up, stand up; don’t give up the fight!  — Bob Marley

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Have you ever had such a feeling of loneliness that even in a room of people you feel a welling up of such deep and utter sadness that it is an almost physical wrenching?

That’s how I’ve been feeling for the past couple of weeks. Sadness and despair so intense I fell into times of mental paralysis, forgetting things so simple and elemental that I truly feared for my sanity. I do suffer from depression, but this was different. It was may familiar bout of depression amplified so as to be unrecognizable. I felt so frightened at times, though I could not have told you what it was that frightened me had you asked.

I am happy to say that all of this shifted last Saturday. Because I found out I’m not alone. Last Saturday, millions of women, men and children around the world marched with me. Well, maybe we didn’t all actually march, because some places there were simply too many to actually march. In fact, my particular “march” gathered in a Union hall. But it was not the movement, in a physical sense, that mattered. It was the gathering. It was the communing, the fellowship, the standing together with some friends, but mainly strangers, and all looking for others who felt like me, finding strength and solace in numbers. Realizing that as low as we all felt things had become, that, together, we would work to turn this ship around and start back-paddling before it completely went over the falls and hit the rocks. At least, I hope so.

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Standing shoulder to shoulder in a tightly packed room generated all kinds of heat, and eventually we had to step outside for air. Even then, we found another hundred or so people outside, chanting, cheering, and holding up signs. And even though there were more speakers to come, we did leave feeling inoculated enough to stem the tide of helplessness.

“This is not the protest,” one speaker told us. “This is the preamble.” Now is the time, he said, to find ways to take action, to find our agenda, and figure out steps we could each take to make things happen, to start the forward motion, to seek justice.

So, even though I have a busy life, I will find a way to take small actions that can be of great consequence, and put them into each month or week or day. I will learn where I need to look to be aware of what happens in Des Moines and Washington and I will remain vigilant.*

And I will make regular phone calls or write letters. I will remain the mosquito that buzzes in the ear, that constantly pesters and annoys and makes life uncomfortable. They may want to take things away, but they will not be allowed to do so without a fight or, at the very least, an earful from me.

Yes, I will stand up! And I will fight!

*vigilant: “late 15c., from Middle French vigilant or directly from Latin vigilantem (nominative vigilans) ‘watchful, anxious, careful,’ present participle of vigilare ‘to watch, keep awake, not to sleep, be watchful,’ from vigil ‘watchful, awake’.” from http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=vigilant

 

London Calling

Yesterday, as I caught up on the latest episode of Sherlock, I found myself distracted by the backgrounds of the show, remembering London, even though the scenes on tv were not most of the places we had been, though I was delighted to see Sherlock and a companion walking through Piccadilly Circus and by the Tube station we used. Sigh. Still, all in all, it was London. And London is wonderful.

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Despite starting off the first two hours at Passport Control with 800 of our closest friends at Heathrow, this was a most wonderful and needed trip. Due to the horrific outcome of the election and other extremely stressful things going on for Ed and me, the timing of this trip was perfect. And London was perfect.

Some high points and strong images:

*Walking 27 miles in three days (no buses or Tube on Christmas Day, if you are planning a trip).

*Women smoking hookahs in sidewalk cafes on Edgware Road.

*Having an Italian lunch on Christmas Day with our new friend Bobby. During that lunch discussing how Bobby loves country/bluegrass phenom Alison Krauss. I told him she was from Peoria, which was only an hour or two from where we live. Then the man at the table next to us leans over and says, “Did you say ‘Peoria?’ I’m from Peoria!”

*Feeling like a sardine in a can at Harrods. Honestly. How can that many people fit into one store?

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*Getting lost on our first day of walking and seeing a house with the plaque “Home of Benedict Arnold, American Patriot.” The hell, you say. That’s not what we call him.

*”Mind the gap” and “This is a Bakerloo line train to Regent’s Park.”

*Watching Kitten Rescuers as well as The Glenn Miller Story on British tv. Also seeing a celebrity panel show that included Carrie Fisher just two days before she died.

*Lights, lights, and more lights on Oxford, Regent, and Bond Streets. Simply stunning.

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*The store windows of Fortnum & Mason all decked out for Christmas.

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*Thinking I might have seen British author Neil Gaiman in the Christmas Eve crush at Fortnum & Masons (I asked. It wasn’t. Though I do not regret asking.)

*Seeing Stomp in a teeny theatre. Amazing!

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*The tiniest hotel room on record, though centrally located and affordable. I will stay there again.

*Rekorderlig Swedish pear cider. Ahhh.

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*The most amazing food (Bangladeshi, Indian, Italian; and Ed had Portuguese and Brazilian).

*Accents from most everywhere in the world except Britain (or very little British). A lovely man I spoke with at the Victoria pub said most actual Londoners leave the city over the holiday. To make room for us interlopers, I suppose.

*Waterstone’s Books. A little five-story piece of heaven on earth.

*The world’s best chippie (that’s fish and chips in Brit-ese) at the Golden Union on Poland Street, just off Oxford Street. Thanks, Bobby, for that!

*Hearing the pealing bells of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day. Heavenly.

*Beautiful and ginourmous Hyde Park.

*Having Oyster cards for the Tube before we left home so we could quickly (relatively – see paragraph two above) leave Heathrow for London. So happy I did my homework on this one.

*Walking, walking, and more walking and, happily, just getting tired, not sore, feet.

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*And, to cap it off, getting surprisingly upgraded to business class for the flight home, including complementary drinks, the best food, warm towels to wash up, a nice blanket and space, glorious space to relax in. We kept poking each other with goofy grins, repeating, “I can’t believe this!”

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That, my friends, was London. Wonderful, beautiful, courteously well-mannered, polite, cosmopolitan, ancient, direction-confounding, marvelous London. A spot of tea or chippie, anyone?

 

 

 

No pictures, just words

Okay, so on my way to school this morning, I realized that I forgot to post something by last night, my self-imposed Sunday deadline. So, the thing is, I actually had written something up last week, November 30 to be exact. And then promptly forgot about it. Of course, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, and then….

So now I have a boring post with no pictures. No beautiful images of my backyard with 10 inches (rather than the predicted one inch) of snow. No pictures of the hats I’ve knitted. No cat pictures. Nada. Zip. Zilch.

But, on a happy note, I had a pleasant couple of hours in Iowa City yesterday and found out what all the fuss was about regarding Molly’s Cupcakes (I decided on Chocolate Decadence, surprise). It was indeed as advertised. Tasty, moist chocolate with a not too sweet frosting. Good coffee, too, which was a plus. So I spent a pleasant half hour researching walking tours in London. Actually, the day trip to Oxford and Cotswolds. Which, logically, for me at least, led to looking for Tolkien’s grave and then the Inklings, etc., etc.

Then I start thinking today about whether or not I should get a camera for the trip. I have been reading one of my favorite blogs, Posie Gets Cozy (http://rosylittlethings.typepad.com/) and love the pictures she includes and then I think about looking at the camera she uses and trying to take more pictures myself (for the blog, for other things, for looking back at the beauty in the world when I need a shot of beauty in my world). But then I wonder about the expense and whether or not it’s really worth it and so on. We’ll see.

So, right now, rather than ramble on, I guess I’ll just leave it at this for the moment. I promise to include more thoughtful ramblings and photos for the next post, which will be Sunday, at the latest, if not before. More than just words and no pictures. I solemnly swear.

Happiness

November 21, 2015

Charles Schultz once said, “Happiness is a warm puppy.”

Today, I would beg to differ. I say, “Happiness is a cold dog in the snow.”

You see, this morning we had the Snowpocalypse. It began snowing last night, but the blowing began earlier in the week when the weather people began wetting their pants over the “big winter storm” that was coming. You know you’re getting old when you start saying, “When I was a kid,” but when I was a kid, this kind of snow would just be considered “heavy snow” at best, or maybe even just “snow.”

Anyhow, it began snowing last night as we were attending a local monthly revue show. At intermission, they said outside it was… “Wet.” To which the audience gave a theatrical and appropriately sarcastic, “Oooh.” Last season this same bunch did a great parody of local weather folk by covering “Deathstorm 2014.” That should give you an idea of what we think of local forecasters. Yes, in the end we got somewhere around five or six inches, and yes there was some wind, but the end, which they claimed was near, is still not here. So all’s well with the world.

So, after being awakened at 4:45 by the barf alarm (a.k.a., a large grey cat on my bed), I saw it was still snowing, and rather heavily at that. Snow day! Even though it was Saturday, I decided to pretend it was a real snow day and we were trapped by a blizzard. I just love fooling myself (if only I weren’t so easy to fool).

So, what do I do first? Clean the bathroom. Wash the dishes. Mop the kitchen. I’m funny about getting all the boring stuff done before I get into the snow day fantasy. So, all the drudgery out of the way, I take my coffee to the sunporch and watch it snow out the window. Mind you, it’s still only 6:00 or so and not yet light, but the snow made it light enough to see. It was delightful, no pun intended. With my little heater chugging away, the porch was nice and toasty. So, after a bit of a stare out the window, I journaled and then read for a while.

As the morning progressed and the snow began to add up, the wind began. So this is when I decided to use the snow day fantasy to cut spinning class. Ed wasn’t up in time anyway, so I let my lazy side take over. We had hot chocolate, watched Rick Steves tour Austria and learned four ways to prepare turkey ala Martha Stewart.

The plow arrived at around 10:30, so Ed decided to watch the Iowa game at the local watering hole. Rather than fritter away an entire day, I put away fall decorations. I refuse to get out anything Christmas-y until the day after Thanksgiving, but I did put out a few “winter” things, just because all that snow made it feel and look like winter.

After that I decided to replace the lost workout class with a snowy hike. As soon as I put on my snow shoes and stepped outside the garage, the dog knew what came next. She bounded across the yard and through the hole in the fence and onto the golf course. I trudged along after, seeing her pause and turn to make sure I was coming.

If you want to see the definition of happy, watch my dog on a snow-covered golf course. The six or so inches of white stuff were like adrenaline for that dog. She wanted to go everywhere at once. She’d bound off in one direction and when she saw I hadn’t caught up yet, ran back to me only to run off in yet another direction and then another. She’d stop, she’d spin, she’d snuffle her nose into a drift and then charge forward, not so much a dog as a freight train pushing the cow catcher into the drifts. I plodded along behind as she’d dart back and forth, then find a deep spot and wade in, her energy boundless. You’d never know she was about 12 years old the way she was flying through the snow.

The past couple days I’d been feeling a mite depressed. The short, dark days of November do that to me. But watching that dog run around in the snow like a crazed thing, radiating happy, that helped. I just had to laugh at her. Well, at least until she tried to take home part of a rabbit carcass as a sort of dog take-out.

There’s just something about watching pure happiness. And, rabbit carcass notwithstanding, that’s what my dog was today. Yes, happiness is definitely a cold dog in the snow.

 

 

Kraut Junkie

Any similarity between this writing and that of The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson, can be blamed on the fact that finally, after two weeks of hovering over my mailbox, her new book, Furiously Happy, arrived.

I retrieved it after nearly colliding with the mail truck as I was trying to back out of my driveway without hitting one of the roughly 50 or so trucks that have been intermittently parked on the street for the past year for the re- “construction” of the house across the way.

I apologized to the mailman for the near collision and he said (and I am not making this up), “I didn’t see you, either.” Really? You are driving forward in a truck with a windshield the size of a football field and you didn’t see me? Well, raise my rent.

And so, as they say, back to our story.

As I walked into the kitchen yesterday, I thought that my husband and/or the dog, and maybe even the cat, had passed gas. And I asked as much.

“No. I always claim mine.” Patently not true, by the way, for those keeping score. But I realized he was telling the truth, or he had developed some powerful hang time, because even fifteen minutes later, the smell was still there. Then it hit me — cabbage!

For the past six weeks or so, Ed has been fermenting sauerkraut (not a euphemism) in the pantry, and it’s almost time to can it (thank heavens, because we are having friends over in a week or so and I’d hate to have to explain that, no, we don’t have a gas leak –that is a euphemism– but a bubbling cauldron of bacteria-laden cabbage waiting to be canned).

In an experiment a few years ago, Ed decided to use one of our stone crocks to try his hand at making sauerkraut. As the first batch was a tasty success, he’s made a little more each year, getting maybe six or seven quarts each time, so we are very careful to make it last until the next season. To some of you, that might not sound like a problem. But then: 1) you may not be fans of sauerkraut like we are or 2) you’ve never had Ed’s kraut, which is milder and a tad sweeter than any store-bought variety.

Growing up with a German ethnicity, I think I was probably hard-wired for kraut even before I was born. As a kid, the only kraut I ever had was Frank’s, from the store. But there was something about that mouth-puckering tang with just an edge of sweetness that hooked me. So much so that (I’m almost afraid to admit this), as a kid, I’d open a four-ounce can of Frank’s and eat it right from the can as a snack. I think that might make me what you’d call a kraut junkie.

It seems odd to me, growing up in a heavily German-influenced area that no one I knew ever made their own kraut. But in the 1970s, maybe it wasn’t cool. Maybe I was too young to really pay attention if anyone did or not. Or maybe, less than 50 years after the Second World War involving aggressors from my ancestral homeland, folks had distanced themselves to a point where they were no longer interested in reproducing what they could easily buy from the store.

Or maybe they didn’t want to have their kitchen pantry emit questionable gaseous odors for six weeks, making a wife look askance at her husband, the dog, and even a cat before remembering that said husband was really a culinary genius who took a head of cabbage, some salt, and a stone crock to create the food of the gods. At least those from Valhalla.

Nirvana, my friends

 

Nirvana is a well deserved bloody mary, a book and a comfy chair on my newly completed sun porch.0906151127

Despite the fact that it is starting to heat up outside (looking for a high of 93 today before the heat breaks tonight), it is pleasant on the porch with a breeze, the ceiling fan lazily spinning and my feet up after house and yard work. And, of course, the aforementioned beverage, book and chair.

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I also put up my lovely twinkle lights. Just laid them across the tops of the windows where they obediently stayed. All part of the blissful magic that is my sun porch. A porch complete with wicker furniture, a giant fern, and Sunday Baroque on the radio, as it should be.

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And this is my gorgeous new floor, which my dear Ed designed, complete with mitered corners. He spent hours gluing, stripping, sanding, staining and sealing. He is justifiably proud of his efforts with our reclaimed flooring, which he found at the Gold Coast salvage store. The wood came from a house near Argo from roughly 1870 or so. It feels good to have such character, such history, in this room with us. We both feel that using recycled materials is important, even though it may take a little more time and effort. This was definitely worth it.

Years ago I remember hearing and then reading about what you want in life. You know, one of those Oprah things. And what I have now, here, my porch, this house, my gardens, pets, loving husband, this was what I wanted. Even though there are days when I whine and complain and scream, “I hate my life!” as I think we all do from time to time, this really is my Nirvana, my Zen, my place of peace. To all the powers of the Universe that have conspired to land me in this very moment, thank you.

Playing hooky

I could cry that summer is now over as I start in-services tomorrow, but I can’t and won’t. I had a lovely summer, with lots of things going on and some nice trips. In fact today, on the spur of the moment, I played hooky of sorts and drove up to Wisconsin. I even got Ed to go with me. I took Molly to dog daycare and off we went.

It was wonderful! I just thought it would be a good idea for the two of us to just take off and forget everything, and that’s just what we did!

We began with a stop at beautiful downtown Platteville, which I’d always wanted to see and now I have. We got some delicious blueberry pastries and I got a fabulous coffee and the greatest t-shirt with a bee drinking coffee and a giant “BZZZZ” across the top (picture to come later). We stopped at a consignment store and both found some things. And we generally meandered. Ahhhh.

Next stop: my favorite adopted hometown, Mineral Point, where we visited the garden center and I met a kindred spirit in Marcia. We talked about Wollersheim Wines, the Grumpy Troll, shopping at the Shoe Box in Black Earth. And we talked quite a lot about one of my favorite authors, and one of hers, Wisconsin’s own Michael Perry. Holy cow, (or maybe I should say “Sneezing Cow” — and if you are a Michael Perry fan, that will make complete sense to you) did we chat and chat. It was so much fun. That and getting a cat weathervane for the garden shed, some new plants and a retro Halloween garden flag. Good times.

Then it was on to Hook’s Cheese (of course) and then to the store across the street for, what else, Spotted Cow beer from New Glarus. No trip to Wisconsin is complete without Spotted Cow (which can only be purchased in Wisconsin – smart on the part of the brewery, boosting tourism like that).

The final stop, more or less, was the Grumpy Troll in Mt. Horeb for lunch (and a little side trip to the yarn store and chocolate store, though I exhibited great self-control in both locations — mostly because I had spent boatloads already and I figured Ed was being pretty indulgent but would likely kill me if I brought giant bags of yarn to the car).

Then it was a happy trip home. This was just what I needed for my last day of summer. And I was so glad that I could have my wonderful husband with me.

Did I mention that he is now growing a beard? I told him that was what I wanted for my birthday and that since it wouldn’t cost him anything he really “ought to do this for his wonderful wife.” Ah, guilt. It’s a powerful tool when wielded correctly. But I try to use my power only for good.

So, stay tuned for a picture of the caffeinated bee shirt and progress on the beard (can’t recall if I mentioned it, but after forgetting his razor on RAGBRAI, when he got home between the beard and the red bandana, he looked like a pirate – OOOH!).

Cheers!