Thursday, March 29, 2012

Bad-luck leprechauns

Last week I posted about deleting a chain-type email that threatened the leprechauns would bring bad luck if I didn't forward it to three people within one hour. I guess was too flippant about the hazards of deleting it.

On Saturday, I found out that my best friend from high school had died. Even though we hadn't been close for many years, it made me really sad on several levels.

Then yesterday, a man knocked on my door and served me with a summons. It's for a traffic accident I had nearly two years ago! The person in the other car is now suing for disabling injuries. I took the information to my car insurance agent who forwarded it to the company claims department. He could offer little advice on what will happen going forward.  It's wait and see.

I'm also going through the last-week-of-the-month doldrums. That's when you're on a fixed income and the money gets tight by then. No matter how carefully you budget, if any unexpected expenses occur earlier in the month, you wind up pinching pennies.

But, on the upside--every one of my kids, grandkids and great-grandkids are doing just fine.Of course, it would be nice if I won the lottery and could help them all out a bit, but I guess I gotta ride out this run of bad luck first.

(Some say that bad news comes in threes so I'm holding my breath.)

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Another year, another tax return

I went and got my taxes done today. What with the deadline for filing looming large on the calendar, it's a relief to have it out of the way.

I blush to admit that I am incapable of doing my own taxes. Even though I like to think I'm a reasonably intelligent person, doing taxes is like swallowing an elephant--it ain't gonna happen! I like to say that I'm a words person, not a numbers person.

Happily, I have a friend who actually likes doing taxes! She has done them in years past but couldn't this year due to family problems. So, I went online and found a place where volunteers help with taxes for low-income folks like me. It's first-come, first-served so I went early and wound up standing in line in an office building stairwell for twenty minutes.

The process was streamlined enough that it moved along at a decent pace. There was an interesting mix of others in the waiting room. Along with the usual working folks, there was a young Hispanic woman holding a toddler with a little boy in tow. There were several college students filing for the first time, a young Asian couple, and several men who appeared to be living a hand-to-mouth existence. One was wearing shoes with the paper-thin soles barely attached. There were several older Hmong immigrants accompanied by their adult grandchildren as interpreters and several people with disabilities. It was basically a composite of St Paul citizens.

I was quite impressed by the courtesy and diligence of the staff and volunteers. They even provided free coffee and packaged snacks for the long wait.

My total tax refund for state and federal comes to a little over $100 which will be nice. I found that the service is supported by donations. It's call AccountAbility Minnesota and it does good work.

Monday, March 26, 2012

The Ego, the Devil and Flip Wilson's Dress

I recently heard a quote from Deepak Chopra that the Ego is the source of belief in the devil. He claims that when we need an outside source to blame for our thoughts or actions, our Ego invents the devil--in fact, the Ego is the devil!

Many years ago, I read C. S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters. While the premise was amusing, I never believed in the devil as a separate entity that hovered around and enticed me to eat my sister's cookie.

However, my dad, a staunch German Lutheran, believed in the devil. I know this because of his elderly father's suicide. It was Memorial Day weekend in 1952. I was almost 12 years old.

We were packing for our annual weekend fishing trip to Glenwood Minnesota when the call came. I answered the phone on the dining room wall and it was my aunt. I could tell by the tone of her voice something was very wrong. (Of course, the very nature of a long-distance call was alarming in those days.) I called my mom to the phone and she immediately called my dad who was working at his construction site. He rushed home and called his sister back.

After the phone conversation, he said to my mom, "He went out in the garage and hung himself. It was the Devil, for sure!"

I was heartsick. Not because of any affection for the old man but because it was going to spoil the one and only vacation we ever took. Now, I must explain that my grandfather had never spoken a single word to me or my siblings. He was a sullen, immobile figure always sitting in a living room chair, brooding. When we went for a visit, he would say hello to my mom if she addressed him, he would exchange small talk with my dad if pressed into it, but he never, ever spoke to us kids. Once, around the age of 7, I summoned up the courage to go up to him and say, Hi. He pointedly ignored me. I never bothered again.

As it turned out, since other relatives were handling the funeral arrangements, we were able to fit in the lakeside weekend anyway. When we went back for the funeral, they had returned grandpa's corpse--in its coffin--to the living room of the house. It was just a few feet away from the chair where he had spent his declining years. He was moved to the church for the first funeral I ever attended.

As I have gotten older and wiser, and perhaps more understanding, it seems likely that my grandfather was suffering from Alzheimer's. The devil had nothing to do with it

All of this brings to mind the wonderfully funny Flip Wilson's TV show back in the 70's. His delightful character, Geraldine, would strut around in Mod clothes and Gogo boots and proclaim, "The devil made me buy this dress!"  Whether that was Ego or devil, everybody loved it.


Sunday, March 25, 2012

For the love of movies

I've loved going to movies as far back as I can remember.  The first film I recall seeing was back in the mid-forties when I was six. In those days before television, most theaters would show three different movies a week. You could bet that at least one of them would be a comedy. Those were the days of Lucille Ball, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Bob Hope, Abbott & Costello, Ma & Pa Kettle and Blondie & Dagwood--and a host of others.

It was cheap entertainment and affordable, even for a family with four little kids. We lived outside of town in a rented farm house. Just getting dressed up and driving into town to see a movie was a big treat.

The film we saw was one of the black and white Blondie and Dagwood series. I remember sitting in the dark theater as the bumbling Dagwood is up on the roof. He starts sliding down and winds up dangling off the edge of the roof. At this point, my little brother Bobby started wailing loudly at Dagwood's plight. Even at that young age, I was terribly embarrassed. This served to imprint that moment firmly in my memory.

Sadly, many of the old comedy treasures are spurned by today's audiences. Those were the forerunners of all the TV sitcoms and comedy shows we love today. Those old comedies seem bland and hackneyed precisely because they have been copied ever since.

       Arthur Lake and Penny Singleton made 28 Blondie movies.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Keeping up with Downton Abbey

I've had an especially busy week with several volunteer projects. What really consumed my spare time, however, was the obligation to Season 1 of Downton Abbey.

For some reason, I missed the first season when it was broadcast on Public TV last year. When they began promoting the second season, I realized that it was a series that I really wanted to see. I had been a fan of the Upstairs Downstairs series years ago and Downton Abbey follows the same premise.

So, I put my name on a waiting list at the local library for the DVD of the series. I was the thirty ninth person in line. As time went by, I checked occasionally to see how I was working my way up the list. The DVD could  only be checked out for seven days at a time so the process was still very slow.

The day finally arrived when I got the automated call from the library that I could check it out. The seven-day countdown began and I was pressed for time to watch it. On the fifth day, I sat down and started the first of the seven episodes. It was worth the wait! It didn't take long before I was totally entranced by the entire experience.

I love Maggie Smith in the role of the Dowager! She's an absolute treasure with a wonderfully expressive face that puts many younger actors to shame. It's worth watching the series just to see her performance.

Now, I just have to catch up with Season 2!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Time to get it done!

I have been collecting ticket stubs for decades. I have a cigar box stuffed with tokens of those moments when I saw plays, concerts, events and movies. The tickets have languished for these many years because I've never summoned up the courage to commit to permanently fixing them in place.

What if I get them together and then don't like the arrangement? Or, what if I get a really terrific new ticket and won't be able to add it to the piece? Or, once I have it, what should I do with it? I have a surplus of pictures for my walls and a ticket collage won't make the most attractive piece of art. Plus, I have other projects I could be doing instead of this.

But, on the other hand, I really enjoy doing collages and I've put this off far too long. So, today I'm going to a class to finally do my ticket collage.


Friday, March 16, 2012

Welcome to my Happy Place!

When I retired in 2005, I had big plans to work on a novel I'd been puttering around with for years. I soon discovered that I didn't have a comfortable work space at home that would lend itself to my lofty aspirations. Regular desks were too high and desk chairs without height adjustments were uncomfortable.

Before, when I worked at the insurance company, the company nurse had set up my cubicle to be ergonomically compatible for me. The desk height was lowered and the keyboard and mouse were adapted to curtail the threat of carpel tunnel syndrome. Plus, I had a swell desk chair that was nice and comfy. I missed those things terribly.

I set about making myself a nice comfortable "cube" at home. There was a wide closet in the spare bedroom with bifold doors. We took out the doors and frame and stashed them in the garage. I measured the dimensions and went to Menards and they made me a formica-covered desktop for $35. A kind friend lent me her handyman as a birthday present. He came over and installed the desk top at a proper height. With another birthday present of an adjustable desk chair, I was in business.

But it still didn't feel quite right. I felt exposed on my right side--I was accustomed to the ell-shaped desk and cube enclosure. So, I went to a second-hand store and bought a small desk to set at a right angle to the built-in one. I got my new-used computer set up and I was good to go!

This truly is my happy place. When I'm at my computer, I totally lose track of time. But, even better, when I'm not feeling well or aching all over or really tired, I barely notice when I'm in my little cube! 

                                                             Yup, I'm a pack rat!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Threats from chain emails

I got another one of those emails today. It came from a nice, friendly gal I used to work with. Now I enjoy getting most forwards with humor, witty sayings or interesting pictures. However, it really ticks me off when supposed friends forward things like this with threats!

Really? Why would you do that to anybody? (Even if it had cute little leprechauns all over it.)

So, at the risk of adding another year of questionable luck to my lifetime average, I promptly deleted it. Stay tuned for reports on the repercussions!


"Leave it up to the Irish to come up with the answer to all our wishes.
Well, at least one.
Make sure you follow the directions carefully. I think we all need a little luck right about now.
Hope the Leprechaun dances his jig for you!
Good luck to everyone! And may all your dreams come true!!

       May there always be work for your hands to do;
       May your purse always hold a coin or two;
       May the always shine on your windowpane;
       May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain;
       May the hand of a friend always be near you;
       May God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you..
       OK, this is what you have to do...Send this to all of your friends!
       But - you HAVE to send this within 1 hour

       From when you open it!

       Now.......Make A Wish!!!!!!

       If you delete this after you read it. You will have 1 year of bad luck!
       But, if you send it to 2 of your friends you will
       automatically have 3 years of good luck!!! )

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

A nice afternoon.

My daughter called yesterday and said all the kids were at home and they'd like to go to a movie with me. We looked over the listings in the paper. Their unanimous choice was the new Lorax movie. That wouldn't have been my first choice but over the years I have been in the habit of sitting through kid's movies with grandkids--and sometimes even loving it.

So, my daughter, three grandkids and I went to see Dr Suess' The Lorax. The theater was filled with other moms, grandmas and kids. The film was very colorful, had great music and a wonderful message about the importance of trees. We all enjoyed it a lot.

I might mention that we were the oldest bunch in the theater--my grandkids are 19, 21 and 23. What a great bunch of kids! And what a great mom they have to share this day with me!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Squirrel's Nest

I guess that what I have here is a "variety" blog. I didn't start out that way and it used to bother me that I couldn't produce a consistent product (so to speak). I've since accepted it and decided to just go-with-it. That being said, I now feel obligated to maintain an ongoing variety of subjects.

Toward that end, today I will post about my next-door neighbors, the Gray Squirrels. (I googled "grey vs gray" and learned that "gray" is the American preference and "grey" is the British.)

I'm blessed with a small wooded lot next door to my building. My bedroom window is only 15 feet from the retaining wall that separates the properties. This is wonderful for my three cats and me, especially because the lot is four feet lower so the branches of the trees are more at eye level. We have a great view of the birds and squirrels that live there.

Several weeks ago, I saw a squirrel in the lot pulling with all her might on a plastic bag half-buried under snow. She tugged from one side for a while and then moved around to the other side to work on it some more. After ten minutes, she finally gave up. I watched as she came running back and up into the nest (also called a drey) outside my window. She dived into the side of the nest where her babies were.
                                                               (Borrowed photo)
There is already a plastic bag over the top of the nest placed there several years ago by another protective mother. I had watched as she struggled up the tree with the bag flapping around impeding her progress. She straddled the bag and spent a lot of time and effort getting it in place. I'm sure it still serves to keep the interior of the drey nice and dry for the babies.

This leads me to wonder, is it typical behavior for squirrels to put a "roof" on a nest? Is this something that's being passed on from mother to daughter or is it an evolutionary leap? Which begs the question--if squirrels are capable of evolving, how many years will it take for them to develop the sense to stop running across the street in front of cars!?

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The English are picking rhubarb!

Elaine at Pear Tree Log already has rhubarb in Lincolnshire.. It will probably be a month before we see any growing around here. But, just to be friendly, I'm sharing some of my favorites from my family cookbook.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Thursday, March 8, 2012

I was a 50's Teenager

Today, being a girl is waaay more fun than it was when I was a teen! My granddaughters can experiment with different hair colors, decorated nails, an endless variety of cosmetics--and even tatoos!

My experiences were much tamer. Of course, I wasn't inspired to use much makeup since my mother never used anything but lipstick to "dress up".  Dyed hair and rouge were for hussies. When I turned 13, I began to use Tangee orange lipstick. It would turn a soft pink on your lips.

As I grew more adventurous, I would buy envelopes of hair tint to change the color of my hair. The result was so subtle that nobody noticed. The only way to curl your hair was if your mom gave you a Toni Home Permanent and then set it with Bobbi Pins.
When I got a little older, I became more daring and started using Maybelline mascara. The little box had the brush on one side and a strip of brown paint on the other. You had to moisten the paint and work it around to get it on the brush ( as I remember, I just used spit to get it going. I know--ewwww!) Note the use of the head scarf to hold the Bobbi pins in place, otherwise they were dropping all over the place.

For those awful teenage skin breakouts, I had a jar of Noxzema skin cream in the medicine cabinet. To this day, the smell of Noxzema brings me back to those years. For "personal daintiness",  the only deodorant I had was Mum Deodorant that came in a jar and had to be applied with the fingers. Thank goodness, the marketers eventually came up with the roll-on idea!    
I certainly did not have a lot of confusing decisions on what to spend my meager allowance on during those years. I probably would have chosen to spend it on movie magazines anyway!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

A token post

I often start to write a post and then lose heart. I feel like it's too trivial or edgy or just plain stupid.

Like yesterday, when I posted about the Iceman. I debated whether to delete it or not. I tell myself that just because something is really interesting to me, it's not necessarily interesting to others. As a result,  it's really gratifying when others comment, and I appreciate the fact that nobody ever says, "Gee, you are weird!"

I attribute this lack of creativity and confidence to the fact that I don't have a really reliable Muse. Here is the only picture I have of her. (She's a muppet!)

What does your Muse look like?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Meet the Iceman

This is the reconstructed face of the 5,000 year-old Iceman found in the Alps ten years ago. He was only 45 or so when he was murdered, but that was pretty old for his time. He lived a hard life and they tried to depict that in his face. They learned from his DNA that he had brown eyes and brown hair and his general geographic origins.

I don't know why I find this story so fascinating but I have saved every article and documentary on the subject.
Since my ancestors came from Northern Europe, I suppose it's possible that I might be related to him but I doubt it.

Maybe, it's just the pleasure of having a delicious mystery solved. I love how Science always comes up with the answers eventually.

Monday, March 5, 2012

This is crazy-making!

I have been trying for over a week to figure out how to get back on my blog. I'm not sure this is going to work because the screen is all weird. I'm embarrassed to tell you how many days I've been struggling with this mess.
Anyway, here's hoping this is going to work!