Wednesday, September 30, 2020


 Does everyone do this from time to time or is it just me?

Today, I was doing a quick tidy up, gathering my morning coffee cup, the newspaper, a pen, a bottle cap, the like. You know, the sort of clutter that gets laid down and not promptly taken care of. I had a bottle of aspirin that needed to be returned the medicine cupboard. (yes. I watched the debate. All of the debate. why do you ask?) 

I was dropped the stuff off to the places that it belonged...the garbage, the recycle bin, the sink full of hot soapy water, the high cupboard over the sink, etc, and as I left the kitchen it suddenly occurred to me that I'd just thrown my favorite earrings in the trash with a discarded note to myself and a bottle cap. 

The good news is that I realized I'd done it.

The bad news is that those things managed to slither to the very bottom of the trash bin. 

The good news is I found them.

Monday, September 28, 2020

Strange Week

 Yesterday, we came home from camp early. We had a drive-thru birthday party to go to. The recipient was 80 years old. We were supposed to drive through the parking lot of the nursing home in a big lazy loop shouting our congratulations to her from the car. Her great-grandson importantly held up a basket for us to drop her birthdays cards into. 

In between where we were coming from and where we were going to, we came upon a very bad accident. EMS had not yet arrived. The car was partially under the truck that hit it. Tim said, "I sure hope there wasn't a passenger in that car. I doubt they could have survived that."

Sobered, we continued on our way to celebrate Lenora. 

Later that night, I texted my sister to see if accident had been cleared by the time that they headed back home. Her response came back, "No." It turned out that they were friends of theirs, a brother and a sister. Neither had survived. When I told Tim, there was a sharp intake of breath. The woman had been a long ago coworker. Many years ago, they had been good friends. 

Checking my messages, I was startled to see that just a few weeks after celebrating their 75th wedding anniversary, Agnes has passed away this weekend. I was so grateful that we had been able to see the two of them together one last time as we celebrated their special day. 

This morning , I was shocked to see that a coworker's son had been killed in a motorcycle accident. 

We drove back to Grand Valley tonight. We had taxes to pay on the last property, and I wanted to water my raspberries. I'd also left a half dozen heirloom tomatoes that I'd meant to bring home. I wanted to save the seeds for next year. Tim wanted to drive his old truck home. Someone he works with is interested in it. 

I followed his old blue truck home and in my quiet car I pondered things. On the passenger seat are my tomatoes, the end of this year's garden, and the beginning of next year's garden. and I don't really have anything profound to say, just an observation that life is a crazy mix of beginnings and endings, celebration and heartbreak, congratulations and condolences. 

Friday, September 25, 2020

Tim's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

 We drove to Emlenton for a funeral a few weeks back. It is about an hour and a half drive. A strange thing happened. On the way there, I got car sick. 

That doesn't normally happen, and I was a little mystified. At the end of the day, heading back for home, it started happening again. I said to Tim, "It just feels like you're jerking the car a lot more than usual. It would help a lot it you could not do that."

And he said, "It's the air shocks. The compressor has quit."


But we got home and no cookies were lost.

Tim went with the ordinary shocks. The compressor was $350 and he said, "There's no guarantee. I could install that and then find out the shocks are bad too. And he started rattling off prices and other things that could go wrong. 

He decided to replace the shocks with regular shocks and just pull the fuse for the compressor. It didn't appear to be working, but his big fear was that it would inexplicably start working, and it would simply drain the battery. Pulling the fuse was just a precaution.

The first shocks arrived, and were damaged in shipping. He grumpily returned them. The second shocks arrived, and he set to work. He jacked the car up, he pulled the tire on one side, and then on the other. I helped when he needed someone to "hold this right there like that". (That's my specialty, right there.) I was working in the kitchen, and heard him muttering. You will never meet anyone who gets impatient as quietly as Tim does. 

He managed to lose a nut. I went out to help him find it. 

While I was there, I was able to 'hold this right there like that for him.'

I went back into the kitchen. 

Pretty soon I heard the air compressor. That was a good sign. The wheels were going back on. 

More muttering. He said, "I thought it would sit lower. It's 3/4 of a inch higher in the back end."

That's the sort of thing you hear when you are married to a machinist. But the plus side of it is that you always have prussian blue machinist dye to coat the posts of your political signs to provide entertaining mental scenarios when they are stolen.

In any case, he hopped into his car to start it up. It didn't start. I stood in the kitchen doorway a bit nonplussed. He got back out of the car with a rueful grin on his face. "Let me make sure that I disconnected the air hose and not something else..." and out came the jack and the air compressor hose again. 

That is the secret to our long marriage. His patience is astounding. 

In any case, he did what he had to do, got in the car and started it. He drove it around the block. 

He looked satisfied when he came back. "I just want to pull that fuse for the air compressor, just to be on the safe side." He popped the hood and pulled the fuse indicated by his reading. He shut the hood, and got back into the car.

Once again, his car would not start.

"Well, that's just strange..." He stood there in the fading light. "It was the fuse in the position that they had on the diagram..." Night was coming on, so he made up his mind to simply replace the fuse. He'd do some more reading and hope that the car didn't do some funky thing before he figured out which fuse was the correct one.

He came into the house, and he was in rare form, by Tim standards anyway. He had a very cranky look on his face. "What's wrong?" I asked. 

And he said, "I dropped the stupid fuse into the engine and can't find it." I offered to go out and hold the flashlight right there like that for him. 

"No," he said. "Do you need your car tomorrow?" As a matter of fact, I wasn't using my car. I rarely do anymore. So he drove my car to work. He called at break time. 

I said, "I see you made it in!" and he commented on how nicely my car drives. "Good," I answered. "Just promise me that if there's a problem you won't fix it."

And he laughed like I was the funniest person ever. 

He came home tonight with a fuse. He replaced it and once again, his car started up. He came in to examine the fuse diagrams once again before realizing his mistake. His car has two fuse boxes. He had counted right, but he was in the wrong fuse box. He pulled out the back seat and there it was. He pulled the fuse to the air compressor and he replaced the seat. 

He took his car for another drive and came back. I had a big bowl of cold watermelon waiting. 

He ate happily and he said, "That's how I learn about cars. I make mistakes. Boy, that car drives nice..."

Most patient person I know. 

Thursday, September 24, 2020

Ordinarily Extraordinary

 Today was one of those golden days. 

I had my morning coffee, researched some stuff about propagating grapes from some family vines. I wanted to get cuttings and let them go nuts in the office's southern window over the winter. It is my hope that they'll be well established and ready to grow by next spring. 

I went up to water the raspberry suckers we planted two nights ago. We planted 12 and I was glad to see all but three looking perky with no trace of wilt at all. Two others have some wilted leaves but over all look good. One just looks very droopy and depressed. Not so sure about him. Over all, they appear to like their new home. We will let them go until it starts getting cold and then we will lie them down and cover them with a thick layer of leaves for the winter. 

I was surprised to see that three frosty mornings in a row have left our poor apple tree completely leafless. That is one of our big projects this winter. Big, not because of the size of the job, but because of the importance of it. We love that old tree. It is ancient and it has been untended for years uncounted. Part of it shows rot and insect damage. We meant to remove the dead wood during the summer but got scared after getting some advice from someone who knows more about these things than we do. (Thanks again, Ed!) It's too early to do the work, but it is surely not too early to be considering how to best do it. I marked two  'definitely-got-to-go-branches'.

Our grand old lady produced well for us this year and is a deer magnet, and the game camera also caught a coyote coming by to eat the apples on a regular basis. Tim has had suspicions. He's a pretty observant fellow, and has been seeing signs. 

Iris needs a winter coat. The coats at the consignment shop that Brittani uses go for $30. We both agreed that if you were going to spend that kind of money on a coat for a two year old, you might just as well buy new. I told her I'd keep my eyes open when I got home. Yesterday at my regular thrift store, I found a pair of Columbia snow pants. I waffled about buying them because I was afraid that I wouldn't find a coat to match, but finally went ahead because they were in such perfect shape.

Today on the way home, I stopped at a little hardware store in a neighboring town for some rooting hormone. On the way through town, I passed by a little shop called 'The Restore'. This store is kind of unusual. They sell everything, no matter what it is, for 50c. I've never been there before, but on the spur of the moment, I decided just to check them out. I was shocked to find a little brown winter coat with pink embroidery, a perfect match to the pink snowpants with brown trim that I found just yesterday. I checked the size, absolutely certain in my heart that it would be the wrong size, but it wasn't! I mean, what are the odds???

To celebrate, I blew another 50c on a purple corduroy jacket for her.  
Grandmas Gone Wild.

I got home and got supper going and then came in to check my e-mails  I had written to someone about writing for their publication a couple days back. I had not heard from them, and was telling myself how foolish I was to even think to be considered. Yet there it was: I will be writing again. It is small scale, but I'm happy for the opportunity once again to do something that I really love. 

For an ordinary day, it was extraordinary.

Wednesday, September 23, 2020


Tim and I spent the weekend putting the rafters up on the garage. He's a very careful person, and ponders his next step very carefully before proceeding. He's never done a project like this from scratch and he is really enjoying himself. 

We set 9 six by six posts in concrete one weekend. That's a heavy job for two, but we got it done. We were fortunate to have a brother in law with a post hole digger attachment for his tractor. If not for Dave, that little project would never have been completed in a weekend. 

The following weekend, we began work on the beam work that would support the second floor storage area. 

Last weekend, we installed 13 sets of rafters, It was a good weekend to do heavy work. There was a coolness to the air which allowed us to work hard without working up a miserable sweat (which seems to attract the bugs). 

We worked together after a rough start. I have to say, initially I didn't know what he was doing. We've always built trusses, but this time, he used a ridge pole. I eventually figured out what he was doing.  We pulled the long heavy boards up two pair at a time, and set them into place, climbed back down the ladder and made two more pair which I pushed up while he pulled up. 

Tim made the bird's mouth notches in the rafter tails by using his grandfather's handsaw. This pleased him. His grandfather bought old run down farms back in his day. He rebuilt them and turned them into working farms once again, and then sold them and moved on to the next project. There is a dirt road that still carries his name. Tim's father ended up with those tools and when he passed, Tim's family gave him that old box of tools. It seemed right to them that he should have them.

We worked in the cool air and it was hard not to remember Uncle Herman, gone now. He would have gotten a big kick out of this work and would have been chomping at the bit to have his hand in it. He would have been a font of carefully considered advice. I pictured him, that quizzical look he'd get as he seriously pondered a new idea. I miss him still, and that missing comes at odd little moments. 

A lot has changed in the 24 years that we've been together, and it was nice to remember those bygone days. Our property is across the road from a cemetery. I found myself looking across the way from my vantage point, pondering that too, the people resting there that were also once a part of our lives. 

I remembered a poem from the Rubaiyat:

"Those we loved, the loveliest and the best, 
that fate and time of all their vintage pressed
have sung their song
and one by one crept silently to rest."

I think of our children, and I wonder who will want that box of old tools when we are gone. I wonder about which of our stories will become family memories that are retold with fond smiles. 

On the distant hills, I saw patches of red and gold, Life is so achingly beautiful sometimes, isn't it?

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

You say tomato, I say enough already.

 I processed more tomatoes today, and have a few recipes for using up the green tomatoes if they don't ripen.

I chopped up green peppers for the freezer. I love to have chopped peppers and onions in the freezer. If I'm using them in a recipe, I just grab a couple bags from the freezer, slam them on the table and then scoop out as much as I need from the onions and the peppers and then zip the bags back up and toss them back into the freezer. 

I made a cucumber salad for Tim, summer's last hurrah. I don't know how it will go with the pot of soup that I've got simmering to use up another summer squash and a zucchini. Pretty much a mishmash supper of vegetable produce. It's chilly here, in the mid sixties. 

Today I went to my friends house. She was giving me her raspberry suckers. While we were digging them,  she said, "Do you guys eat cherry tomatoes?" She led me to a tomato 'tree' for lack of a better word. The thing was 6 feet tall. Too wide to wrap your arms around. Amazing thing, loaded with cherry tomatoes.  They got the plant from their Amish neighbor. I made up my mind to save some of those seeds for next year. 

I've got the pulp fermenting right now. I'm intrigued that you can check the seeds for viability before putting them away. There's a lot that I don't know about saving seeds, but this seems pretty straight forward. 

I brought 4 quarts of cherry tomatoes home from that plant, and there are easily twice as many still on the bush. Just amazing to me. I honestly have never seen anything like that. In any case, as we picked, Mary said, "We've had so many of these that we're both just sick of them."

I have a notion that before this is all said and done, I'm going to be heartily sick of tomatoes myself. I'm not quite there yet though. 

She told me an interesting thing that I did not know. The Amish take the late season green tomatoes and wrap them individually in newspaper. Her neighbor takes them upstairs and tucks them under the bed in an unheated bedroom. When they want some fresh tomatoes during the winter, they go upstairs and grab them, bring them downstairs, unwrap them and sit them on a window sill to ripen. They can have fresh tomatoes for a good part of the winter. I'd be interested in trying that. The attic would probably be a good place to store them. 

I just have my suspicions that I'll end up with tomato mush and a ton of fruit flies. 

Monday, September 21, 2020

Buttoning up

 We spent the weekend working on the garage. The rafters are all up and we have begun sheeting it. The 3 loads of rough cut are just about gone. I have a list to drop off at the sawmill. We should be able to finish it up on this next three loads of hemlock. 

We caught that woodchuck in the havahart. Pretty late in the season to do the garden much good. We relocated him. He was a very curious critter. He scooted out of the trap but stopped maybe 15 yards away to study us as we gathered up the trap to leave. A buck watched us from the treeline. 

We ended up picking all those vegetables anyway. We had a hard frost Saturday and Sunday. We could hardly believe our eyes. 

Adds a sense of urgency to the multiple projects going on there. We have got a lot to do before winter.

I drove home and noticed the patches of red on the hillsides. It just doesn't seem possible. As for right now, I am up to my armpits in tomatoes. 

Friday, September 18, 2020

Back to School

 This was our third week of school and what started becoming increasingly apparent was that if William is interested in our studies, he engages and reads and does the work willingly. However, if it is something that he isn't interested in, he digs in his heels and gets very stubborn about doing whatever is required of him. 

No amount of talking was going to persuade him to simply knuckle down and do it, even though I tried pointing out to him that he was determining the length of his school day. 

The final straw was a 20 minute cry over writing one question. Just one: "What is something that you would ask Chief Cornplanter if you could interview him?" I was surprised that he was so uninterested in his social studies, but he's been bored by indigenous people for three weeks now.  He finally did the question, but there was a lot of drama. 

I knew that he could (and would) eventually do it, so I sat in the other room and waited out the storm. I felt increasingly sick as I waited. I remembered long struggles with his mother. She hated math, and would simply cry at the dining room table. It was difficult to remain patient with her as I tried to balance the needs of her two younger siblings. It was unproductive. It was frustrating. In the end, we were unsuccessful. We couldn't save her. That math anxiety turned into a kid who simply did not want to go to school at all.

And all these years later, I couldn't do it all over again. I simply could not run the risk of being unsuccessful with a beloved grandchild. I took a deep breath and decided that we were moving into a very unhealthy learning dynamic and that the end result could be that he began to hate school, to hate learning. 

William's school teacher had a parent conference. It was suggested that William return to physical school. 

He's never been a behavior problem in school. He would not cry in front of his peers, for fear of being labeled a baby. He wouldn't try to 'play' his teacher. I suspect that part of his problem was knowing that a lot of his friends had returned to school. He's a social kid. He missed that.

Mostly what I think is that if there is some sort of learning disability, it would be identified. Also, in school he would have text books and that's a big deal for a visual learner, which is William. 

I can go on at great length about why it was the wise and sensible choice for William to return to a physical school, but it does not stop me from feeling like I failed. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020


 "In school, you are taught a lesson and given a test. In life you are given a test that teaches you a lesson." I can't take credit for that. Tom Bodett said it. It was this morning's cryptogram. I get up early and do the cryptogram with my coffee. My goal is to get it done before William gets up. I've been meeting that goal lately. 

I'm not a teacher, but I play one in my house. I feel a great responsibility about this. If William falls behind, the blame falls squarely on me. Education is a very big deal to me. Because I am not a person with especially high self esteem, I doubt myself all the time. If I come up against a problem, I immediately assume that I'm the jackass. 

I am beginning to learn that  is not always the case. As Bob pointed out, this curriculum was put together hurriedly. One size does NOT fit all. For whatever reason, the teacher is not familiar with the modules. I'm sure she's playing catch-up just as I am. 

It's been stressful.

Today, William and I marched through his classes. PE. Math. Social Studies. Science. Language Arts. We got it all done and he had time to read his book. 

Something that I'm still struggling with is saving his assignments. I have no problem with any subject but Social Studies. I usually just print the stuff out and scan it in, but I've been able to just save the stuff from his other courses, so I tried again with social studies. I was pleased to see the file went right into his school folder where it belonged, but was horrified when I could not open it. It said the file was corrupted. I sent it off as an attachment to an e-mail with a vulgar subject line, so I don't think the file is the only thing that got corrupted. 

In any case, half a world away, Cara received that e-mail and was able to get it open and then copy and paste it and return it to me in another e-mail. She did this in an amazingly short time, which was even more humiliating, but let me say, I have learned a valuable life lesson here. Every assignment gets copied until such a time that I am sure that the file is saved properly. (Still don't know what I did). 

Today, I submitted assignments like nobody's business for math. He even took two math quizzes. He made an online post about his science project and we attached a photo. He is much relieved to see that we are done with the dreary boring discussions on Scientific Process and about to launch into Earth Science. We studied the American Indians and read about the Ghost Dance and Animism and the Sun Dance. He did an essay on that (which thank Cara he did not have to rewrite). He took a quiz for Language Arts. 

Today I had no questions for the teacher, and I am sure she was happy not to hear from me for a change. 

"In school, you are taught a lesson and given a test. In life you are given a test that teaches you a lesson." William is learning his lessons and he's taken some tests already and done well. For me, this is a test. I have learned a lesson. I'm pretty sensible. If I think that something has veered off into pure-D nonsense, I can trust my judgement. 

I celebrated that lesson with a celebratory afterschool wine cooler. You know, God is wise. I was supposed to have two students, but the other boy's mother changed her mind and decided to send him to school. These first two weeks have made me grateful that I only have one student. 

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Virtually Impossible.

 Teaching is hard.

William was given a video to watch today. How do we solve 3C + 3D = $11.60. The kids were provided a menu and told that c = cheeseburgers and to solve for D. 

The kids haven't begun division yet.  They haven't even multiplied two digit numbers. 

I showed William how to get that answer using addition and subtraction, but it was tedious and there was a lot of trial and error before he finally picked which three of the seven items on the menu were purchased.

I didn't understand the relevance and e-mailed the teacher. 

After asking the location of the video, she looked at it (apparently for the first time) and told me to ignore it, that it was unnecessarily complicated and was not what the kids were working on. 

The district pleaded with people not to use charter schools because it would take moneys from the district schools. I'm starting to believe that this is not going to be a sensible or well thought out program, and that the school district will spend a lot more time trying to defend the program than to problem solve. 

Their explanation that they are challenging all levels of skill does not wash, esp. when the teacher acknowledged that most kids could not solve that problem given the skill set that they currently have. 

My suggestion: When the material is irrelevant or beyond the comprehension of the kids, the teacher should announce that the virtual teachers ignore that section of the program. 

'They will do it for me,' they said. I am sure it is not just for 'me'. Others folks are having the same struggle, I am sure.

Monday, September 7, 2020

Lightning Strikes Twice

This is the beginning of a garage. Well. Actually it is an equipment shed, a place to put the tractors. It will have a second floor for storage of tools and things that go with the tractor. You'll notice that it is pretty large for two tractors. Fortunately Tim found a bulldozer he wants pretty badly. There's no point in having a half empty equipment shed, I guess. Tim's pretty practical about things like that. 

We've been hauling rough cut hemlock for 3 days. Finally, Saturday, we were able to start building. We intended to make good use of this long weekend. 

We did not get the three days we'd been hoping for. 

This morning we woke up and it was raining. The wind was gusty and the thunder thundered and the lightning flashed. After checking the weather multiple times, we gave up. It wasn't going to clear off. So we ate lunch and then headed back home. I had some tomatoes to do, and some peppers to chop. Tim wanted to make sure the furnace was ready to go at the latest rental. It is supposed to get cold here next week. 

I left first, in my car. As I got closer to home, I could see once again, that we'd had some pretty serious storm damage. Trees down all over the place. My normal route was blocked, and I could see a huge tree down across the road, within sight where the man was killed by another falling tree last week. Next door there was another tree down. Blessedly it had fallen neatly between a garage and a house. A friend had a huge tree come down from a bank. It missed her home by four feet. Once again, power was out in many places, and people were being told that it could be 24 hours before power could be restored to everyone. 

We were lucky. Our trees were fine. One half hour away, we were not even aware that we were getting a repeat of last weeks violent storm. 

Crazy weather. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Sorcerer's Stone

 A long time ago there was a little girl who got very into Harry Potter. She read the first book when it came out. She would have been in 2nd, perhaps 3rd grade. There was a huge backlash about the book. People were outraged about the fact that children were being taught to be witches. Her Sunday School teacher actually told her class that anyone who read Harry Potter was going to hell. I was surprised at how angry Tim was about that. He had grown up in a church that preached hellfire and damnation, and he refused to be part of a church that would frighten a kid by telling her she was going to hell. We left the church over it.

Given all the controversy, I thought it was a good idea for me to read the book. I skimmed through it, found nothing objectionable about it at all. I thought that the reading material was above Cara's reading level. It was a classic good against evil...and in the end, that good triumphed over evil. As far as the magic, well, I found it no more objectionable than the Narnia tales or the Wizard of Oz. It was a story. 

So Cara read the first book, and was well and truly hooked. She and her friend waited for the second book. It was so hyped that the book store ( those days our mall had a book store) had a midnight opening to distribute the book. I drove Cara and her friend Sarah to the book store, and they bought their books and then sat up all night to read them. 

They were just as thrilled by The Chamber of Secrets as they were with The Sorcerer's Stone. 

Every new book release was very exciting. Sarah would come and spend the night. The girls graduated to costumes. Cara had a collection of Harry Potter shirts, and Harry Potter figurines They had Harry Potter parties. 

Then the movies started to come out. They were always midnight viewings. I went with them. I don't ever think that I actually stayed awake for one. Sarah and Cara found this hilarious, and when the lights came up, they'd wake me up and I'd drive us all home. 

As the books were released, it was interesting to note that Harry was growing up just as the girls did. By the time the final book and the last couple movies were released, Cara was driving Sarah and the rest of the gang down off the hill to the theater to watch Harry and his gang defeat the powers of darkness. 

They've all grown up now, those kids. One's a doctor. Sarah is a teacher. There's a nurse. One works with animals at a city zoo. Cara's gone all over the world on her degrees, and now she is a wife. Not a witch or warlock among them.

Last week we were sorting through some things and we discovered a stash of Harry Potter t-shirts. William was very excited by them. I happened to be talking with Cara on the phone and she immediately said that William could have them.

23 years ago, I read the first Harry Potter book and to be honest I remember very little about it. I didn't read the others...just sort of skimmed through to make sure there was nothing that needed discussing. Now my grandson and I are reading that first book together. He's just as enthralled as she was all those years ago. It makes me smile to watch him hearing it all for the first time. 

Perhaps there's a spell...I don't know, but just seems like some sort of magic that makes years fly by in the blink of an eye. Some trick that makes something old seem new again. Some kind of sorcery that transports you from the couch in a comfortable living room to an old torch lit castle. 

Saturday, September 5, 2020

Old dog, Old tricks.

 We've had quite a bit of difficulty with the groundhog doing damage in the garden. We set a hav-a-hart trap, but we managed to trap a raccoon who, by virtue of his clever little hands and opposable thumbs, managed to dismantle the trap and free himself. And then did quite a bit of damage to the corn on his way out. 

I bought a larger, even sturdier trap. It's been there a week, and nothing.

We have dropped off a load of rough cut two days running. and the trap has been empty. Tim got up there with the last load today and called to let me know that we caught something. 

I used to livetrap and relocate skunks out of the housing areas when I was in military. 

Pretty sure I can do this. 


Late edit: when I arrived at the camp, I stopped by the garden and approached the trap with an old blanket in front of me and covered up the trap. Tim and his truck were gone. I couldn't reach him on the cell. I headed over to my sister's.

"Wanna have an adventure?" I asked. "We're going to need your truck, though. 

She eyeballed me skeptically as I explained. "Listen," I said. "Have I ever led you astray?"

"Yes," she said. I cut her off. Details can get terribly boring.

We went off in the truck. She called to let her husband know what we were up to and to let him know we'd be back directly.

Upon hearing 'skunk' in the same sentence as 'your truck', he unleashed a volley of no's. I never pegged him as such an excitable fellow before.

On the way back to our place, my sister assured me several times that "this is all on you" and 'i'm not helping.' She was a bit more excitable than usual, herself.

I picked up the blanket covered trap, set it in the back of their truck. We drove to an old well road. I pulled down the trap and carried it down the road a bit. I opened it and gently turned him out. He took off at a quick waddle. I picked the trap and blanket and turned back to my sister.

She said, "I must admit. I am impressed."

On the way back to the house, just for giggles, she called Dave to tell him things had not gone exactly as planned but that we'd get to work on his truck as soon as we got showers.

School Daze

The first week of school is done. 

The school gave us a laptop due to the difficulty we had with the PE module. It has the things downloaded on it that we need to be downloaded. Should be easier, but privately I worried because now I was not only learning the system, I was learning it on a new computer as well. 

This morning we got up. 

Logging into the computer was an issue. I was using William's user name and password to sign into the computer, but it was invalid. Contacting the office, they gave me the log in for the computer. 


Then I had to set it up to our wi-fi. 


And then all this stuff started popping up for me to make a microsoft account. I didn't not want to link it to my computer. Not sure how I bypassed it, but I did, so we'll call that a success.

(Sure hope I don't have to do it again.)

Once into the PE module, I couldn't click on the files I needed to open no matter how hard I tried. 

Hauled William and his laptop into the district office. They have a covid scanner that takes your temperature. I was normal. William was too short to test. I set our stuff down, pulled a chair forward and told him to stand on it. 

He scrambled up and got on his knees. He was too short still. 

I said, "William, you're going to have to stand up." He tried to lean further forward.

I said, "William, you're going to have to stand up. Your forehead needs to be right there." He said, in a shocked voice, "Grandma! This is school district furniture!" 

I said, in an angry voice, "Will you just stand up on the chair so that this machine can take your temperature, and we can go into the office and figure out this computer and get back home and start school," and he snapped back, "Fiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiinnne!" 

We finally got into the office and the woman showed us a teeny little icon on the right side of the screen bottom. 'View as slideshow'. I apologized and we headed home with that laptop. 

Once home, William logged in and we opened the PE stuff. He had  choices for warm ups: Superhero, Yoga, Dance, etc. He picked super hero. He watched the screen from the kitchen table. 

I was ladling out processed tomatoes. I said, "Just do the exercises along with the video." 

He wanted to do something else. 

I said, "No. Just do the warm up you picked. Next time you can choose something else."

He said, "I'm going to...." with his hand reaching out.

I said, "Don't, William...." 

And suddenly there were two voices coming out of the computer, two warmups going on at the same time. I said, "Shut one of them off."

He said, "I don't know how." 

I set down my ladle and came around the table. I was studying the screen and it went black.

William said, "The battery is dead."

He put his laptop on the charger, and then I came back to my old computer. We did math, which he did well on. I even learned how to save and submit work without scanning it directly to his teacher. Social studies. We broke for lunch and for Harry Potter. Science. 

He was complaining before science was done but we got through it. 

When his mother picked him up after work, she said, "Does the laptop help?" I said that I didn't know yet, because the battery had died during a glitch..." and William said decisively, "The problem is I know technology and Grandma doesn't." 

I made up my mind to work with the laptop, get myself acquainted with it, roam around on the virtual learning site. After I got my kitchen put back to rights, I went in to sit down with the laptop. Young Mr. Computer Expert had plugged the computer into the charger. The box was not plugged into the wall. 

Won't you all pray for us? This school year is going to be a challenge. 

Friday, September 4, 2020

In Which I am the Ass

 We have had an extremely low covid number for this county. Privately, I have always thought it was due to the low number of tests that we actually perform. It can and will be debated and debated hotly. I live in a red county which means that a great deal of people think this crisis will go away after election. They see it as a hoax. 

Even at our own hospital, you've got personnel telling others that doctors are listing covid, but it is not covid at all. It is all part of a conspiracy to get extra money for the hospital. There's always someone who "knows somebody who works at the hospital" who said that there actually have been no covid cases in our county. They are always a little amazed when I say that "the someone that they know"  ought to be fired for lying to the public during a public health crisis. 

In my opinion, we are a poor county, and there are people who use medical care for the big stuff only. You have a cold or the sniffles, you take something OTC and you treat your symptoms at home. Even in these days. Especially if you're of the mind that this is all one giant hoax.

In any case, school has started Tuesday and our cases have jumped 25% in the three days. 

In my mind, this 'jump' is explained by the fact that if you have a fever, you don't get into the schools until you have a note from the doctor to state you're covid negative. More testing, more cases. 

We should probably quit testing. Our numbers would be much better if we simply quit testing. 

In any case, this has hit home. I have a niece who doesn't have a car. She lives near me, over the state line. I try to be helpful to her, driving up to take her grocery shopping once a week. 

I was supposed to help her move into her new home. Since her old home was in pretty poor repair, she was excited to move to her new modern and remodeled home. I was very happy for her too and volunteered a truck and a dolly and one moderately useful aunty. (The uncle had a garage to build.)

The weekend that I was supposed to help her she called to say that her brother had tested positive. 

I haven't seen my nephew for probably 4 or 5 years. He and his wife had come into town for a family gathering. My niece's daughter was headed back to college. The five of them: my niece, her daughter, my sister, and my nephew and his wife spent a nice afternoon together. 

Later in the week, my nephew tested positive for covid. He is quarantined. His wife is awaiting the results of her test. They both work at a plant that has (at this point) a 6.1% positive rate. My niece and my sister were tested and awaiting results. Her daughter is at college. 

The move was postponed, which made perfect sense to me. My understanding of these things is that once you know that you've come in physical contact with someone who has it, you need to quarantine for two weeks. 

Except that two days later, she called me to tell me that she had tested negative and that the move was back on. 

A little gobsmacked and on my way out the door, I said that I'd call her back. 

I tossed this about in my mind for the rest of the day, the fact that she wasn't quarantining when she spent the day with someone who tested positive and was displaying symptoms. (He thought he had allergies). Even if her test had come back negative, she could begin showing symptoms (and test positive) at any point during that two week time frame.  

Was my hesitation an over-reaction? It's just that I would hate to read about myself in the local paper: 'Local Woman Brings Covid to County'. The article would go on to read: 'Woman had misgivings, but ignored them. With a background in epidemiological reporting, she should have certainly known better. And then people would show up in front of my house with torches and pitchforks and....

(When I'm mulling something over in bed, my mind tends to go immediately to worst case scenarios.)

The next morning, I called the health department, explained the situation, explained my concerns. The answer came back, just as I expected it would. My niece should be quarantining. She should not be going to work every day. Her daughter's school should be notified that she had been physically exposed. I should not cross the state line to help her move. 

When I got back to my niece, I explained why I would be unable to help her move. Her reply was short. She didn't have time to talk. 

I hate for people to think that I am an ass. 

But I am sure they do.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Life's Funny Like That

 Our newest tenant, Deb, is quite an outdoors woman. She is in love with her little house and she has been busy turning it into her home. She has two close friends, one of whom I know from our church, and the other is a friend who has just moved back to the area after a divorce. When we were putting the house together in all that rush, the three of them were quick to pitch in and help where ever they could.

One friend has her own small house up river. Diane's house also has a sweet covered porch and the three of them used to congregate at that house to watch the river roll by and visit together as they watched the nature around them. Now they have two porches to choose from and visit back and forth. It is sweet.

Two days ago, Deb said, "Paula wanted me to tell you that if you ever have a place open on the water, she would love to rent from you." We said that we'd certainly let her know if anything came up, but privately we didn't hold out much hope.  The river tenants tend to stay right where they are. They are wonderful long-term tenants and we are blessed by them.

Tonight a young couple who have been renting from us for the past 2 or 3 years now said that they needed to talk to us. We've been worried about them. The covid thing has really affected the wife's job. When they showed up, they announced that they were buying a house. They were so happy and excited and we were very happy and excited for them too. Such a big moment in their lifetime. 

After Tim made sure they were having a home inspection, and sent them off with a carload of advice, we turned to each other in the foyer and commented how sweet it was to be a part of their good news. 

I returned to the kitchen to continue a game of scrabble with my sister. We were using our phones for dictionaries. Deb popped into my mind, and so I texted her to tell her "guess what..." and told her where the house was (exactly one block to the number from her own little house) and yes, it had a private deck overlooking the river. 

Many emojis and exclamation marks later, Paula was anxious to talk to us about the place. 

Life's funny like that, isn't it? 

The three of them will have three places to congregate in the evening and watch that river roll by. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2020

First Day of School

 I am not what you call a whiz in technology. Everything is a challenge for me. I can usually puzzle it out, in time, but I ask a lot of questions.

Today was William's first day of school and for multiple reasons, it was decided that he would do his learning in a virtual classroom. Since his mother cannot afford internet at their house, he uses my wi-fi and my computer.

The first thing that made me nervous is that they didn't actually put the site up until this morning, the very first day of school. That did not give un-techy me a chance to familiarize myself with any of it. They offered a video, but that is not how I learn. I learn by doing it. My questions come when I run into a snag. Watching someone navigate and talk doesn't do a thing for me. I have no questions, because they know what they're doing. They make it look easy and I assume that it IS easy.

It NEVER is. 

This morning, we got up and the modules were there. We ate breakfast in front of the computer. William was excited to open his science module. There was an introduction to virtual learning. There was a "About Me Quiz" so that the teacher and student would get to know each other. We went on to the next class: Math. They had the exact same introduction to virtual learning. There was another "About Me Quiz". With the same questions as before. Language arts: The exact same introduction to virtual learning, the exact same "About Me Quiz". After struggling with the technology, (it makes a difference when you are at the side of the computer while your 'student' is in front of the screen), when we got to the questions, I showed William a new computer skill. Copying and pasting. We typed "These questions were answered for the science module." (Remember, in 4th grade, he has one instructor, not a different teacher for each subject). We did the same for the rest of the modules. William received an e-mail back from his teacher which said, "I know that you answered them for science, but you need to answer these questions for each module." 

E-mail shoots back from William's grandmother to the effect of 'Why? If you were in a classroom at the beginning of the year, you would introduce yourself, give the classroom rules, what is expected of the kids, etc. You would hand out a piece of paper with the quiz on it and say, "Let's get to know each other." The kids would fill out the papers and hand them in and you would say, "Wonderful. Let's take out our math books." When they went on to science, you would not hand that same paper out to them and said, "Let's get to know each other," and have them fill it out again. And  again for Social Studies. One more time for Health. And again with the same questions for Language Arts.' To require something of the virtual students that wouldn't make sense in a classroom is not logical. 

No response from the teacher. 

It's just silly. 

I had to speak to administration about the fact that I am unable to open the files for his PE class. I also could not download something called 'Audacity' but it turns out that he didn't need that. I wasted all that time to figure it out. I finished off the conversation with, "I don't want to sound like one of those difficult people, but there is something that I really am annoyed by." And I told her about the 7 separate (but identical) "About Me Quiz". She said immediately, "He doesn't need to do all of those. Just have him do one. That's all. He only has one teacher." I was a little gobsmacked. 

I hope to sweet Jesus this is not how the whole school year is going to be.

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Funny Hair

 A couple years ago, I began to go to an 'up-scale' hair salon. Up to that point, I'd been using a beautician at a local chain salon, and I was always pleased with her. Then she had to go and have a baby. After a few bad (and one REALLY bad) experiences with another sweet girl at the same place, I gave up and began going to the new place. It was more expensive, but the beautician did a nice job, took her time, and made sure that I was pleased when I left. 

Then came covid and nobody was getting their hair cut. My hair grew long and I needed barrettes to keep it out of my face. Tim liked it. I didn't. When I finally was able to get back in for a hair cut, I explained that Tim liked it longer and perhaps she could leave some of the length, but asked her if it was possible to trim it up a little so that it could be styled and did not hang in my face all the time. 

"Sure," she said, and she went to work, and when I left, it looked okay. 

But later, standing in front of my own bathroom mirror, I could not do a thing with it. I could not tell you exactly what was wrong, but it just wasn't right. No matter what I did, what product or tool I used, it just didn't look nice, and I simply assumed it was my own lack of skill. I've never had the time to be preoccupied with details like my hair. 

I made up my mind. I was just going to quit worrying about that hair. I was done with it. I'd just let it grow and pin it back from my face. I made up my mind that I was not (and never would be) a stylish woman, and the best thing that I could do was to make peace with that little factoid about myself.

When my six week appointment for a hair cut came up, I just canceled it and bought myself yet another package of hair clips

Except that then, a virtual fund raiser had come up for the United Way, and contrary to what my children might think of my humor, when they were brainstorming local talent, an acquaintance said, "You know, I've got a friend who's pretty funny...." (And before you say one word, he meant funny ha-ha not funny strange.) 

I received an e-mail asking me if I'd be willing to lend a comic hand. I said yes. 

And then I began to fret about my comic hair. 

Which is how I came to be sitting on my sister's front porch in the fading light as she cut my hair. She looked at it. "This is really sad," she said. "I don't understand what she was going for here. On this side she's got it deeply layered. On the other side it has no layers at all." She studied it. She said. "I'll do the best I can, but it can't really be helped. You'll just have to wait for these layers to grow out." And she combed and cut, and then it was done. 

Today, Tim and I had a place we needed to be. I got dressed to go, and I did my hair without any real hope. I was surprised to see that it looked nice. 

I had no idea that my sister had so many hidden talents, and this one is a biggy. It changes the dynamics of our relationship. I surely do not want to aggravate the woman who wields her scissors on my hair. I may have to start letting her win more often when we play Scrabble. 

Going, going, gone

 We finished the ceiling today. We have probably 1/2 of the drywall on the walls. We were able to take my sister and brother-in-law's dr...