Thursday, April 29, 2021

Heartbreaker

 An Amish man appealed to my husband for aid, and the story was brought to me. A local township had walked into an Amish school in the middle of the school day, taken possession of it, and locked it up. 

It's a long drawn out story, years in the making, but winnowing it down to the bare facts, it goes like this: the township has run sewer lines. Several of these lines cross Amish property. The Amish, of course, do not tap into them. They do not have indoor plumbing. The township is insisting that the Amish pay a monthly sewage payment ($65) anyway. 

To me, it is simple. It would be like an electric company insisting on payment from the Amish because the lines pass in front of their homes. They don't. Their bills are sent out based on usage. The Amish don't use electricity, so they don't get a bill. 

Yet the township has spent lots of money fighting this, and have placed liens on Amish properties. The Yoder farm, a spread worth a couple hundred thousand dollars has been sold to a neighbor for $27,000 over unpaid sewage bills. That sale is being fought in court even now and the deed has not transferred. 

The Amish do not believe in hiring attorneys. However, if an attorney offers them his services, they will take him up on it. Unfortunately, I believe they have a lawyer who is worth just about what he is being paid. 

The appeal to the sale of the school house was not done within the time frame. Their lawyer claims that there was no notification. It's a bit tricky. Somewhere along the line, the deed to the school was attributed to The Old Amish Order. Correspondence was sent to them. A member of that order traveled from another state to tell them that this was not their concern, leading me to wonder if this was legal advice offered early on to 'protect' the building from legal action (think separation of church and state). 

When asked about contact, the lawyer had said there was no school board, that the 19 school children were educated in accordance with the teachings of the local Amish community. No names were provided, no points of contact. I'm sure the lawyer felt himself very clever. 

And so, the school was sold, for a little over $2000. 

The lawyer could have appealed it then, but did not.

The township resorted to self help, walking in and taking over the school in front of the students. 

The lawyer could have challenged that seizure in court. He did not. 

Now, three months later, he came in to try to have the deed transfer voided. 

Today, I sat in court and I listened. The case started at 9:30. The bailiff was sent to look for the lawyer and his Amish clients. The I listened to the laughter from the other side as they ridiculed the challenge to their authority. 

Finally, it began, and the lawyer's strategy seemed to be (from where I sat anyways, which was directly behind three Amish men)  a continuation of his legal machinations, his attempts to obfuscate. He had appointed a schoolboard, made up of the three Amish men sitting in court that day. He was now requesting that the sale be voided because the township had not notified the school board. 

The judge chided the lawyer. In previous cases, he had said 'x' and today he said 'y'. His story and his challenges changed not once, but over and over. The case was quickly dismissed. 

Mose looked at me after the judge made her ruling. The three men followed their lawyer into the back room. I did not follow. 

I feel bad for these people. I honestly do. The men were completely out of their league and did not appear to understand why the judge was refusing to void the sale. In effect, she was saying "It's too late." She commented that had the appeal to the sale been filed in a timely manner, they would have won their case, the seizure of the property had been illegally done, but that now, three months after the deed transfer it was too late.

If I am asked my opinion, I will give it to them as plainly as I can. They claim to be men of God, living their lives as God intended. The Order itself is not in agreement on how this sewage situation should be handled. Some believe that the monthly bill should simply be paid.

 As unfair as it seems, I lean that way myself. 

I look at it like this: I live in a democracy. I pay taxes for 'the good' of that democracy. Part of that money goes to fund military action in Afghanistan, to the tune of 100 billion dollars a year. That is obscene, in my opinion, since most of that money is handed over to a government that is not required to account for it. It simply disappears into the pockets of the leaders. We are propping up a government that shows little interest in weaning itself off the money of other governments or in assisting its people.

Now, understand, I feel very strongly about this, and I could really make a case for not paying my taxes because of it. And I could waste a lot of time arguing the case in court, trying to exhaust the funds of the other side. In the end, I would lose. My property would be seized.

If you believe as I do, you would think it pretty unfair. But I also believe that I live in a democracy, which means that I don't always get my own way. Regardless, I don't get to refuse to participate because I don't like it. 

The Amish are a group of people who live by different standards. The advice that I would give them, if asked is simple. "You cannot make a case based on your religious beliefs by using legal deceit and trickery. The two things are incompatible. This lawyer is making you look very bad." 

I don't know what they will do, but they have lost a school house. 

They are also losing considerable dignity, but that's just my opinion. 

We finally got our rain, today, and I walked home in it. pondering lawyers who believe themselves smarter than they actually are, about big township fish living grandly in their small ponds, and about the hills we choose to die on. 

Blah!

 It's been a long stretch of days that just seem to run together. I'm not sure why I have the blahs, but I do. 

Blah.

Cara called today, all full of excitement about the house hunting. That was a bright spot.

I tried a new recipe today, and that was fun too. (Although I should have tasted it before arbitrarily doubling the amount of spice.) It was some hot stuff, that's for sure. I guess you could call that excitement too.

Tonight, Tim needed to run to Lowe's to pick up some electrical stuff. He asked did I want to come along, but I didn't. I wanted to go stand on the bridge for a while. 

Tim saw a beaver come swimming out a few days back. A couple days later, we were coming back from the playground with two little boys about 7:15PM and much to their delight, we once again saw the beaver swim out from beneath the bridge. Tim observed that the two sightings were at about exactly the same time. 

Tonight, I wanted to go back and see if he showed up again. 

Tim did his running around and then walked over to the bridge too.

Once again, the beaver showed up. We missed him swimming out from under the bridge. The water was darker than usual, probably because the skies were so overcast.  I happened to scan the river and there he was, swimming to the same little spot where he stops to have a bit of supper. 

We watched him for a while. As we watched the beaver, across the bridge, the bald eagle sat in his favorite sycamore tree watching us. 

I think it is funny to know that this beaver and this eagle are creatures of habit too.  I wonder if they ever get restless and bored like me. ("You know what? I'm going to hang out in a maple tree today, just to mix it up a bit" or "I shall dine at the small island upstream this evening.")

Tim and I walked back home to the sound of far off thunder. We were hoping for rain but we've just had a bit of drizzle, nothing measurable. We need the precipitation badly. It has been a very dry spring. The thunder storm is the first one of the year, and it was a pleasant thing to sit in the house watching the sky go darker and more ominous, listening to the thunder rumbling. 

The rain still hasn't come but the thunder rumbles on, and in the dark house, I watch hopefully for lightning. 



Wednesday, April 28, 2021

The Kingdom of Boredom.

Spring certainly seems to be here at last. The past few days I've been able to go outside without a jacket. Yesterday was even in the 80s. Today it looks like rain, and that is welcome too. It has been awfully dry as far as spring goes. 

We were given some flagstone that someone ripped up, wanting a different look to the front of his house. He asked Tim if we wanted it. Some questions need not to be asked twice. It will be used for a walk way to the greenhouse and edging to the gardens on two sides of it, which will provide a safety zone around the building. 

I treated myself to two geraniums for the porch of this house. I've never been successful saving them over the winter, despite many attempts to do just that. This year, I'll try again. 

Cara and Colin are house hunting for their first house and it is quite an interesting thing, the difference between the houses here and the houses in UK. 

Ours seem to pride themselves on being big and sprawling with open concept. I am not a fan of this. Our house is old and would be the absolute opposite of open concept, with each room having doors to shut it off from the adjacent rooms, french doors galore. It is practical for cold weather to be able to shut the door to the rooms you are not using, directing the heat to the areas that you are using. It is also a good time for baking. The heat gets used twice...once to cook and the second to warm the kitchen. Another thing is bathrooms. We have two here, but it is not uncommon to see new builds with double that. I've always wondered why one needs so many bathrooms, but it is the thing here. If you want to add value to a home quickly, add a bathroom. Laundry rooms are also not a 'thing' over there, not that I've noticed anyway. 

The houses that Cara and Colin are looking at are very practical 4 bedrooms. You all muddle along with one bathroom. Your kitchens are smaller yet nothing is missing. The laundry facilities seem to be in the kitchen. Very practical as far as plumbing goes. 

Just interesting to look at the difference between real estate here and real estate there. I am excited to see what they end up with. 

So that is about it, really. It has been quiet. The only excitement really is that Tim's gotten quite embroiled in "Breaking Bad", on the suggestion of my son. We're on episode 16. Only 42 more to go. 

Off to clean the bathroom, but I'm fairly certain that's not of interest to any of you. 

Monday, April 26, 2021

A Peek at Leeks For Northsider

 


I've never had cultivated leeks before. These are smaller than the cultivated, but I am pretty sure that they are more pungent. (10 of them flavor 2 blocks of cream cheese. Add a tablespoon of horseradish, spread on a cracker).  These are a spring forage (April/May) and these were dug in a glade in the woods where there were literally thousands of them, as far as the eye could see. 

Leeks

It was really chilly and windy enough that we did not feel much like dragging everything out to finish off the greenhouse yesterday. The skies looked as if they were just waiting for the power tools to be brought out before they opened on us. 

Tim looked at me and I looked at him and decided that we had a bit of hitch in our giddy-up. 

My sister texted and invited us across the road to supper. It was spur of the moment, and we decided to take her up on it. This was their 39th wedding anniversary weekend.

It was a country supper, mashed potatoes, hamburger gravy, and sauteed green beans from their garden, and it was just fun to sit and visit. I'm not sure who came up with the idea, but we went out and dug leeks. It was a nice hike through their woods, and a chance to notice all the tiny little spring flowers. We stopped to examine Dave's hunting shed, which had a tree fall on it. It will need some repairs over the summer. "Another thing on the to-do list," my sister said. 

The glade was just a sea of leeks, enough leeks to feed the county, probably, and we only needed a bucket. You could see where the deer had been nibbling away too. 

The four of us walk through the woods talking easily. Their big old dogs limp on ahead of us.  I'm picking my way carefully through the wet spring areas, around treefalls, and over little freshets. One misstep and I will twist my knee again.  I will be limping just like the dogs. While none of us are really 'old dogs' yet, we are all grandparents, and we are all on the brink of our retirement.

There's no point to this, really. Just the re-realization that time is passing. 

Saturday, April 24, 2021

What I've Been Up To

 

We spent the day working on the greenhouse today. We did a change of plans. We had originally planned to use old storm windows for two sides, but once we got to looking at the situation, I just had the most horrible thought. 

"Tim, we've got some pretty active grandchildren. I just suddenly am very afraid that one of them will run up against the side of it and get some gruesome injury." 

Normally, when I stay stuff like that, Tim tells me that I am ridiculous. But he looked at me, and I looked at him. We studied the building. I was headed out on a trip to see Dylan and Brittani and Iris, but while I was gone, Tim dug up another window he'd bought at Lowe's on clearance a long while back. He also bought another sheet of polycarbonate. The idea of it must have scared the mess out of him as well. 

It was a nice day, and we worked steadily. Towards 3PM, the temperature dropped sharply, and the wind began to pick up. We were so close to being done, but we knew that rain was coming, so we packed it in. We are hoping to be able to get back up there tomorrow afternoon to enclose the peaks. Then we are done. 

I had such a nice visit with my kids and little Iris. Last time I went, my big fear was that she wouldn't remember me. This time, I didn't worry about that part of things at all. I knew that she would remember me. She was delighted to see me. We sat companionably on opposite sides of my dish of yogurt. 

She dipped her spoon in and popped it in her mouth. "It is so nice to eat our breakfast together."

I said, "It IS nice. I love it." 

Probably 3 or 4 times during my stay, she just stopped to give me a spontaneous hug around my knees. 

When you go to Dylan and Brittani's, you eat well. Dylan smoked a chicken. Brittani made a delicious soup from the left overs. We made homemade fettuccini for shrimp scampi. We played cards after Iris went to bed, and we talked. 

It satisfied my heart. 

We planned the next visit. I will head down in June so that they can have a date night for their anniversary. Iris is already excited for her date night with grandma. 

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Birthday

 


Wednesday was Tim's birthday. Another one clicked off. It's not one of those momentous ones, but it does come with a question. 

Answer: yes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Justice

 I got home today from my visit with my son, daughter-in-law, and grand daughter. I pulled in about 3PM and did a quick tidy up of the house and dropped on the couch. When Tim got home, we ordered a pizza. 

The evening news had just begun when it was interrupted by a news break. There was a verdict in the Derek Chauvin case. 

In my heart, I felt the decision was going to be the right decision. The evidence and the testimony seemed pretty cut and dried to me. It just seemed auspicious that the decision had been reached in fairly short order. 

George Clooney said it best. 'If Derek Chauvin is so sure that drugs killed George Floyd, he should volunteer to go down on the floor and let someone kneel on his neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds to see if he can survive it.' Sounds fair enough to me. 

Tim came in with the pizza and stopped to stare at the television. I told him what was going on. He sat down and we waited for the verdict right along with the rest of America. Finally it came.

We watched Derek Chauvin's eyes above his mask as the verdicts were read. His own neck was on the line today, and his stare was no different than that day when George Floyd's neck was on the line.

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. 

I cried. I know that I was not the only person in the world who did. Tim watched closely as he ate his pizza and he said, "Good!" (He's a man of few words.)

I don't think Chauvin will receive the 75 year maximum sentence that everyone is talking about, but with a minimum sentence of 12.5 years for each of the murder charges and 4 for the manslaughter charge, we can be assured that he will not get a slap on the wrist. 

Say what you will, have whatever opinions you want, but I will remind you of one thing: Derek Chauvin was convicted in large part by the testimony of other police officers who testified for the prosecution. They thought his actions were inappropriate. 

So did I.


Friday, April 16, 2021

Things that make me go huh.

One of the (admittedly few) benefits of facebook is that you can instantly put up posts for things that you wish to get rid of. I've put furniture out to the curb, children's things, once even a washer and dryer. I put a short post up on facebook. "Free", list the items, and provide a few condition details and give the address. I did that last week with two barstools that a tenant had left behind. I described them, posted the ad. Within five minutes, a car was pulling up for them. He gave a friendly toot before pulling away. I took the ad down as soon as they were gone. 

I also keep track of what's being posted. Sometimes you run across someone with needs and you can point them in the right direction. 

So, I was made a mental note when I saw this listed: 


 

The comments section was probably the funniest thing that I've ever read. The first commenter wanted to know if the stove was gas or electric. Someone else found that funny (and obvious). The original poster replied that it wasn't listed in the description. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Lucky Me!

 I happened to check facebook today and a new post came up on a neighborhood sale site. I couldn't believe my eyes. 

Just the right size for my little Iris!

I quickly messaged the seller with no real hope. Someone always gets to these deals before I do. 

Except no one did! 

It is now laundered and packed away with the little sundresses and tutus and the glittery glamorous necklace I found for her dress up box. There are other things I have picked up since my last visit, most of them small things that made me think of her when I saw them. 

This is one of the activities for my visit. We're going to paint seven stones and assemble a flower in her mother's front garden. 

Can't wait to get there. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Memories

Something that is difficult for me is the fact that I am so far away from little Iris. I am blessed enough to be a part of William's life on a regular basis, but with Iris, I don't get to see her so often. The pandemic has made things even worse. I have seen her once this year, three, maybe four times last year. 

I find myself wondering sometimes what memories my grandchildren will have of me. I have always been a part of William's life. He has plenty of fond memories to stack up against the home schooling days. :) Iris, though? It will be different. I am not a part of her day to day life. 

The last time that I was there, I introduced her to a new type of yogurt. She'd always been very fussy about what she liked and didn't like, and unfortunately she was very much attached to a very expensive brand. Then there was grandma showing up with her Greek honey yogurt, sprinkling it with granola for breakfast. 

Iris watched this and was very interested. 

I pushed my bowl over. "Do you want to try it?" and she nodded and dipped her spoon in. And just like that, Iris discovered a new thing that she liked. 

I am preparing to head down for another visit. Same routine. I gas up here, go directly there without stopping, and once there, I stay put. Since Dylan works at home, and Brittani has her covid vaccine, we feel pretty comfortable about it. 

I like to have new things to do with Iris, so I asked if they thought she'd be interested in making yogurt. The simple scientifics of it might be interesting for her. Her mama thought maybe she'd like to see how it all works. 

She also commented on how adamant that Iris was about her yogurt. She wants 'grandma yogurt' so granola is now a staple in their house. She eats her bowl of yogurt and granola every day just like grandma. Brittani commented, "She's very excited that you're coming back!" 

Across the state, I read those words and it was a great big happy in my heart. I'm not a day to day fixture in her life, but Iris has her memories anyway. 


Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Miss W

 We have an acquaintance, a very tiny, very elderly woman in her 90s who actually lives across the street from one of our rentals. She was always very interested in the renovation work we were doing, and she loved William, having followed his exploits in the newspaper for some years. 

Tim has been mowing her tiny lawn for her for a couple of summers now. She stored her lawnmower in the basement of her house, and at the age of 90, was finding it just too difficult to wrestle it up the stairs. 

We try to look out for her. Just by happenstance, we happened to discover that in the early days of the pandemic, she was afraid to leave her house. She didn't have a mask. We were horrified to think of her afraid to leave her house for groceries or anything else. I know a friend who makes them and gives them away (shout out to Mary who, after a year, has made over 5000 masks). I messaged Mary, and God love her, she had two masks on my doorstep within 24 hours. I dropped them off in Miss W's mailbox, but we knew we needed to keep a close eye on her doing the isolation. 

Anyway, Miss W lives in her neat as a pin little house, with a carpeted porch that gets swept daily. She's a feisty thing and a woman of strong opinions and this can turn people off. It doesn't bother us. 

She likes to talk, and I think she is a very lonely soul. I do have to tell you that sometimes when she calls, I just can't bring myself to answer it because once I do, it is hard to get off the line with her. Why just last week, she called at what would be Tim's break time. I happened to to be on my way to the bathroom, and grabbed the phone in passing without checking the ID. I assumed it was Tim and you know what they say about people who assume.

Long story short, it's not a big deal to speak with my husband while peeing, but I was mortified to do that within earshot of anyone else. I tried desperately to cut the conversation short, and my spirits would raise when I heard her say, "Well, okay then..." only to have it followed up with "Say, I meant to ask..." You will be pleased to know that I did not wet my pants, but I. Thought. I. Was. Going. To. Die.

I always feel a little guilty at cutting the poor dear short, because she really is an amazing woman. She was raised in a home with an alcoholic father and a very sick mother (crippling arthritis that gradually left her bedbound and so contracted she could not even feed herself). Her father left as soon as our friend graduated high school, and that was that. She went to work at a local company and worked there for the rest of her life, rushing home to care for her mother on her lunch hour, and raising her younger siblings. She sent them to college, too, and simply assumed the increasing responsibilities of caring for her failing mother. 

After her mother died, she simply remained in the little house they had always lived in, and she worked the rest of her life at the local company. She never married. It is not a sad story, not the way she tells it. It was simply doing what needed to be done. Now 90, she has one sister left. 

She's had to be very thrifty all her life, and she watches every penny. Something that became increasingly worrisome to her was her carpeted steps. After years, they had worn through on the edges where the riser meets the tread, and she was afraid that someone would trip on them and sue her, although, as she said, the only one who actually used her front porch was the mailman. I imagine also that it had something to do with her little house. She is very houseproud, as people of her generation tended to be. She didn't like the look of those frayed steps. 

She asked Tim if he would help her with that project. Tim always says yes. He'd hate to think of someone taking advantage of her, and sad to say, there are a lot of people who prey on the elderly. 

The job had an indefinite time frame that became (of necessity) definite when our friend took it upon herself to go into her attic where she'd stashed the left over carpeting from when she had her porch covered 15 or more years ago. She grabbed the roll and began pulling it out of the attic and then down the stairs, scooting on her butt and pulling it along. She'd gotten it all the way down to the first floor and could not lift it, so there is sat, blocking her stairway. "It's okay, though!" she cheerfully said, "I have a bathroom on the first floor!"

We were horrified, but there was absolutely no sense to tell her that she oughtn't be doing that. She does what she pleases. 

On one of the beautiful days last week, when Tim came home early because they were out of work, we went over to Miss. W's house and tore that old carpet off, and scraped the old glue, and pulled the old staples.

While we worked, Miss W regaled us with the stories of what it was like to grow up in this town 80 years ago, back in the day when children left school to come home for lunch if they wanted. Nobody thought anything at all of her walking down Pennsylvania Ave and across the Glade Bridge to visit an aunt (a distance of over a mile). She talked about the games they played and the teachers she had, the bread that they baked for Easter that was in the shape of a basket, because that's what Polish people do, and about the wooden Easter basket that she had, with little metal rosettes that was used for the Easter table. She still had that, and would never get rid of it. It was her mother's and had belonged to her mother...

Her voice trailed off. Standing at the bottom of the steps, I looked up at her standing on her porch. "Nobody will want this stuff when I'm gone. I've been getting rid of it. My mother had an old bowl she used for bread. It was huge, a crockery thing, with blue and pink rings around it. I held on to it for years. I don't know why. It doesn't match with my kitchen. I put it out in the recycle. I put it out on top. I hoped that someone would see it and want it. 

I recognized the color scheme, and wondered if it was McCoy, something that was popular back in the 20s/30s and I was horrified. "Miss W, you do NOT want to be throwing stuff like that in your recycle. Bowls like that are very collectible. It is worth money!"

She looked surprised. "Really?" 

"Yes," I answered. "I would have grabbed that bowl out of your recycling." 

She considered this. "I had a sugar bowl and creamer set, it was a strange color of green..." 

I said, "Was it jadeite?"

"What's jadeite?" she asked. 

I said, "Miss W. The best advice that I can give you is that you shouldn't throw one more thing away until you run it by an appraiser." 

She considered this. 

We finished up her steps and left the trimming on the side for the next day. I told her about my cherry tomato plants and offered to bring her one. 

When we left, we argued about money, as usual. Gas has gone up and her monthly gas budget had gone up by $20. She was very vocal about blaming Mr. Biden, since he's shut down a lot of gas lines since he took office. We didn't bother trying to explain that it wasn't true. She's talking about the Keystone Pipeline which already exists, and the 'building' they spoke of was rerouting an already operational pipeline. The jobs touted would have been temporary jobs that ended when reconstruction was complete. But the pipeline is and remains functioning. She also ranted about the poor children being abused in the detention camps. We listened without comment. She explained that she sets her alarm for one am to get up and listen to a Catholic newscast that she feels gives her the truth. 

She was pleased with her steps and asked about the price. We charged a nominal fee, enough to outrage her because she felt as if we were giving her a special deal (we were) and we allowed her to dicker the price up, and then gave half of it back. It's a tradition at this point, but she's a woman who supported her family from her teen years making 40 cents an hour. She's spent a lifetime looking out for everyone else, and we like to tell her that it is her turn...we're looking out for her. 



Monday, April 12, 2021

Muscle Man

 Tim and I got our first covid shots. We got up early and drove about 45 minutes to a nearby high school (did you know they serve cappuccino and espresso in high schools now?) 

The place did not open up until 9, but there was a line when we got there at 8:45. It was okay though. After a good soaking rain over night, everything was so green. Buds had popped open. It just seemed like everything was blooming. I felt like Dorothy stepping out of her house into Oz for the first time. The people in line were friendly and talkative and everyone there was getting their first shot, and glad for it. So the wait was fun. 

Once inside, the line moved very quickly through registration and we herded out of the cafeteria and to the gymnasium. I stopped at the door and said to the fellow there, "There are no dodgeballs in there, right?" Turns out I was not the only person traumatized in gym class because it got a good laugh. 

We went inside and took our seat on a bleacher. They were setting up an area for people to sit the required 10 minutes after receiving the shots. People were coming out of the shot area and having a seat almost as quickly as the poor woman could get the chairs out. At one point, she dropped one and it made a huge clatter echoing around the gym. Tim and I craned our necks, sure that someone had a reaction and fallen out of a chair. From the immediate silence, I knew that we were not the only ones with that thought. Down the bleacher from me, a woman said, "I'm outta here..." and laughed nervously. 

They had several stations set up and the shots went quick as a wink. In no time, I was sitting in the waiting area. Tim had been in front of me. He was no where to be seen. I looked around several times, thinking I missed him, but he wasn't there. When my ten minutes were up, he still wasn't out there. I began to worry. 

There is a secret about Tim that we discovered back in the cancer days. Needles make him light headed. I decided not to leave the gym until I knew what happened to my husband.  I waited about five more minutes and then I was much relieved to see him striding jauntily across the gymnasium.

"What took so long? Did something happen? Are you okay?"

And his eyes crinkled above his mask. He said, "The doctor took one look at my arm and decided it was so muscular, they needed to use a longer needle." He laughed pretty hard at that. 

He's pleased as punch about this, and has been strutting around in a very studly way ever since, flexing and posing. I will never hear the end of this.

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Keeping Busy

 The day started early. It was mentored youth fishing. William came and spent the night so that he could get up and go fishing with Grandpa. I made pancakes for their breakfast while William cooked the eggs. Then they were off. It was a successful day. William caught 3 rainbow trout and was very excited. The quote of the day: "Fishing is a lot more fun when you catch fish." (William)

After he went back home, we drove down to work on the greenhouse today. Tim called down the measurements and I cut the purlins and handed them up. We installed the plate glass window at the back and the sliding doors on the front. One we were sure the building wasn't going anywhere, we put the roof on.

The clouds started moving in, and the wind began to pick up a little, which made the roofing panels a bit trickier. I was handing a panel (4 x 5) up to Tim when a gust of wind caught it like a kite. I hung on tight and followed it a few feet across the yard. 



Taking shape. 

I'll be hitting the road here in a couple days, so we got the heaviest part of the job done because Tim is excited to finish it up next week. One change that we are considering is to buy another polycarbonate panel for the north and south sides. We are worried about the storm windows and and grandchildren. We don't need any gruesome injury. 

We had to take a run into nearby Titusville to pick up some screws. I was trying to do damage control on an inadvertent offense. (Once again, I'm really sorry, YP, it was truly not intentional.)

We were passing a gas station and the smell of gas fumes was very strong. 
 Tim said, "Jees. They must have had a spill."

I looked up from my apology. "Smells like it." 

About the same moment we noticed police flashing lights up ahead. "I wonder if there has been an accident? Maybe that's where the gas smell is coming from. You think they'd have the fire department."  

Turned out it was not an accident at all. 

"Hmm." I said. "I can still smell gas." And Tim said, "So can I."

We drove along, and I said, "Gees. You don't suppose that's us, do you?" 

Tim said, "I don't think so."

Long story short: it was. 

The good news is that it is the line and not the gas tank itself. 

Bad news? Tim's got another thing added to his to-do list. 





Saturday, April 10, 2021

YP, you probably want to skip this one.

I've committed myself to a 4 year theology course, and I am in my first year now. This year's theme is 'Theosis' and this particular segment is 'Justice'. 

I won't bore you by going into the details of it, but as a first year student, my focus is the Old Testament. I do my study and bring it into the same discussion as the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th year students whose focus is altogether different.  Our discussions are interesting, coming as they do from all directions. I think in the end, these differences are supposed to flow coherently into the discussion of current situations. 

Initially, I felt that I would have nothing to add to the discussion, being that I am a first year (and unfortunately, the ONLY first year) but I have found the group welcoming, More than once, they've been pleased with something that I've brought up, saying that fresh eyes alert them to things that they had missed, so, as the weeks pass, I've gotten more comfortable with speaking up. 

One of the things that I've grown increasingly more uncomfortable with is the old testament. I've come to believe that all those rules, all those laws, the stories that were told, the destruction, the inhumanity, all of was designed to control a people. 

The Pentatuch was written by people in a position of power. A surprising number of stories have their roots in epic poems about Gilgamesh and Enkidu, stories that would have been familiar to the people hearing them all those thousands of years ago. The old stories were incorporated in the new framework. In my mind, there were people claiming that God spoke to them, and they were wielding those words like a holy club to maintain their hold on their power and position. For someone who has spent her life not looking really closely at this, my thinking actually scares me sometimes. I am entering into some personally uncharted territory here. 

I don't want to get into it because I know that it is controversial. There are people who believe the Bible is to be taken literally. I don't believe you can. The more of the old testament I study, the more questions that I have. Some people see this as a dangerous direction, and tell me so. They want to argue about it, and some of them feel as if they have to save my soul, which is tedious, because I know they are doing it out of genuine concern. I certainly don't want to be rude to people who, at the root of it, love me.  I have learned to not talk about it. In the end, I will either find my faith strengthened, or I will find it dashed on the rocks. I don't know, but I do believe that the truth is always worth looking for. 

In any case, the discussion at our last class was lively as usual, and I listened. We were examining 'justice' from a Biblical perspective, and we applied those thoughts to what is unfolding in the world around us. 

Finally, the facilitator got to me and my old testament readings. My thoughts did not fit with the direction of the discussion (they never do, it seems) because my readings had been about Ezra and Nehemiah, two scribes sent out by the two different Persian rulers to collect the laws of Judah, a conquered country. The long and the short of it is that these two scribes seemed to wield a lot of power. 

One of the things that they determined to be ungodly was that the men of Judah had married foreign women and had children with them. These women were divorced and sent off with their children to the lands that they came from, a shocking thing to me. In a patriarchal time, these women (and by extension, their now 'bastard' children) would have had no power, no rights, no protection, no home, nothing

The ramifications of these decrees made me sick to ponder, and after days of this, once again, I reached the conclusion that I always seem to reach. Ezra and Nehemiah both claimed to be instructed by God, and once again, I found myself doubting it. Where ever you see horror and inhumanity and cruelty, I believe that this is not the work of God. It is the work of men. Godless ones at that. 

There it was. My turn to speak on the reading that I had done, on the conclusions that I had reached in a week when the discussion was justice. I explained my thinking, which really wasn't anything that I hadn't already said.  A fourth year student said, "So you don't believe this was God speaking?" 

"No," I answered calmly, and explained my thinking. 

And there was silence as people listened in a considering way, but my questioner was obviously affronted, which is out of place for the group. We are supposed to listen. Disagree if we feel we have something to bring to the table that would cast the thing in a new light, but it is supposed to be a thoughtful and respectful process. We never say that anyone is wrong. 

But this woman felt strongly I was wrong. She began to cite the reasons that God would have given such a commandment. I expounded a bit more on why I felt sure that He did not. 

She snapped, "Why do you keep talking about the men? Maybe the women were the ones that wanted the foreigners driven out! Who's to say that the women didn't put that bug in their husbands' ears?" 

And getting irritated myself, I snapped right back, "Because it was a patriarchal society! They were the ones that made the rules, and judged the rules, and enforced the rules! And just what does this have to do with the topic being discussed?" 

There in the middle of a discussion about justice, she snapped angrily, "God wanted a pure race!" 

I was dumbfounded. Gobsmacked. My brain was filled with outraged words. I never thought that I would hear Adolf Hitler's words ascribed to God. As the words tumbled from my brain, my mouth was trying to stop me from uttering them. I knew that in the end, my mouth would lose that battle. I knew that I was about to speak some very unfortunate words that were inappropriate to the setting, and could never, ever be taken back, once spoken.

I left the meeting. 

I clicked off the computer, gathered my books and put them away. I stormed to my kitchen in a fine temper and cleaned it to within an inch of its life. Tim was no doubt startled by the shouting from the office, but after 23 years, he has seen this temper at times and  he knows to let me be, that I will talk when I'm ready. 

It is now two days later. 

Once I got that temper under control, I see several things plainly. The first is that the woman is a very stubborn woman, given to think that she has all the answers. I am a very stubborn woman who believes that if anyone thinks they have all the answers, they don't. 

She has some very obvious biases and they have shown up in other conversations with other members too. It's not personal. 

I think that our facilitator is perhaps inexperienced. Maybe just too nice.   She not only overlooks the abrasiveness, but she also defers to the woman frequently, because, in short, she knows her Bible. I'd hate to play against her in a game of Bible Trivia. 

Three of the other group members have reached out to me in these days. They've been dealing with this behavior for years, and they've been awfully concerned that I would simply leave the group in a huff. Last night, one of them called after a long day with her dying father. I knew that she was exhausted and I felt terrible that this tempest in a teapot was even a blip on her radar. She wanted to know what I was going to do. 

"I'm still reaching a decision on it, really. I mean, if I leave it won't be because I'm pissed though," I assured her. She was a little surprised at that. "Well, it's true. I have blurted some incredibly stupid stuff in my life. I would hate to think that people held it against me forever." Knowing that little factoid about myself makes it easier to be generous to others likewise afflicted. 

I also explained some background: that her words were such a powerful trigger to me because I was raised in a very racist home and had lost a lot of time and relationship with my parents. There were words and thoughts that I did not want my children exposed to, and my parents felt strongly that they were in their own house and if my father chose to speak about niggers and Jews, he had every right to do so. Furthermore, if I didn't like it, I was welcome to take my ass and my kids home. Really, it got to the point where my father would say his ugly things with a sidelong glance at me to see how I was going to react. He was enjoying himself. 

The simple fact of it is that the words that were spoken in that theology course were guaranteed to raise my hackles. It would not have mattered where I was or who said the words. It was engrained in me to speak up and to walk out. 

I have no idea why I feel so strongly about this, but I do. I can't NOT speak up. 

My friend considered this, but was curious about why I would consider leaving the group if I weren't angry and disgusted. 

I don't know, really. Sometimes, maybe I think that I'm not a good fit for something. It happens a lot in my life. I'm not sure why that is, but I know that this is an important group, and I do not want to be a stumbling block to it. The thing that keeps me undecided though is simple. The study is very good very challenging, and I'm curious what I will be when I am done with it. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

The Greenhouse









Tim called as I was getting ready to leave for the food pantry. He wanted to know if I was free to work on the greenhouse with him. There was nothing going on at work, and he didn't feel like just scrounging around for things to keep him busy for the rest of the day, when he had plenty to keep him busy at home. 

So...

We spent the afternoon at the retirement property. We cut and put up the roof rafters on the greenhouse. It was 77 degrees (25 celcius)  here today, and it was so wonderful. We put in four hours on those rafters. Nothing left but the purlins, which we will put on Saturday. Then we will put on the polycarbonate roof panels. 

Ignore the platform on the side. That was a last minute design change. That needs to be pulled and put on the front of the building where the sliding doors will go in that installed frame. In the back of the building, we have a very large and heavy piece of tempered glass to install in the frame for it, which is leaned up against that tree in the back. There will be a small window above that which can open and allow for ventilation to control heat and moisture. On the sides, there will be some repurposed storm windows. 

We should be done this weekend and we are both pretty excited about it. (Yes Northsider, we'll take pictures!)

Almost all the materials have been repurposed from previous renovations on at least 3 different houses. The floor is a deck left behind by the previous property owner. We pulled it into place and leveled it.  The roof was a lucky bit of serendipity. Tim was at a yard sale and found a stack of five panels, brand new, still in their protective sheeting marked $20 for all of it. 

We framed using our 2 x 4's from Levi, He charges $2.65 for an 8 footer. His 1 x 8s for the sheeting are $3.35 for an 8 footer. We also had had some lumber left over from the garage build. 

Tim did splurge and buy a vertical window for opposite the sliding doors. Both the windows and the doors have screens for cross ventilation and temperature control if necessary. That window was $49. Add to that the nails, screws, the breathable medical tape to close off the greenhouse panels, and probably some other incidentals that I have forgotten, we're looking at a total expenditure of no more than $150 for an 8 x 8 greenhouse. 

And that's how we do it at my house.

Thursday, April 8, 2021

George Floyd


The trial of Derek Chauvin unfolds before our very eyes. It needs to. We all need to see. George Floyd lay on the ground in handcuffs pleading to breathe in front of witnesses.  He had been subdued, and posed no threat. There was no point to escalate the restraint beyond the handcuffs. A nine year old girl witnessed Derek Chauvin put more weight on George Floyd's neck. The question was asked, 'How do you know that he was putting more weight on his neck?' The child's answer came. She had watched him lift up his other knee from the ground and put his full weight on that one knee resting on George Floyd's neck. Those simple words spoken in a childish voice told me everything that I needed to know about the situation. 

In my neck of the woods (see what I did there...it was not for comedic effect), people are screaming about 'blue lives matter' and 'we support the police'. Even some police cars have flags on featuring the thin blue line. They need to take a deep breath. 


I don't believe that it is 'either/or', as in you're either 'for 'em' or 'agin 'em', .How about 'and/also', as in "I support the police, and I believe that there are also police officers out there who dishonor the badge that they wear. "

I don't understand the whole 'brother' thing. To justify bad behavior makes you party to the behavior. It pleased me to hear the top homicide detective  say that Chauvin's behavior was ' totally unnecessary' and that it violated departmental policy. The Chief of Police testified that it was 'absolutely in violation of the department's use of force policy'. A training officer testified that the maneuver did not comply with police training. 

One bad officer makes the job more dangerous for everyone else. 

Derek Chauvin had 18 official complaints of excessive force in a 19 year career. 

He is the epitome of a 'bad cop'. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Drifting

 William and I went down to feed the ducks at The Point, the place where the Conewango Creek and the Allegheny River converge. On that relatively lonely place, there are a few benches and a pavilion for picnicking.

William was anxious to see if the goose that eats from his hand was there, so he danced on along ahead. Following him, I remembered that this is where they found the bike of the missing man back in February. It gave me a little shiver. 

There was another woman there with her grandson. They were feeding ducks too. She called William over. It seemed like she wanted the boys to play together. Isaac was a talker and so was his grandma. She was tearing hunks of bread up and popping them in her mouth. "Want some? The outside is hard, but the inside is soft." She extended the bread. 

I was a little shocked. "No, we've just had lunch. Thank you though." 

She sighed. "Yeah. I shouldn't be eating it either. I like your hair. Who cuts it?" 

Okay. Now I hadn't done one thing with my hair. It was windblown and thin and every which way, so I realized that she was wanting to talk, about anything, to anybody. Just talk. I remembered the woman who stopped to talk to John over at Going Gently and a lot of his commenters all had the same thing to say: in these days of covid, some people just hunger for a human connection. I knew this woman was one. I recognized it, because I'm one too. 

"My sister does," I said. 

"My hair needs cut so badly. I need a color." She shook her head in frustration. 

"Yeah. I just stopped coloring mine when this all started. I was a little surprised that there was all this gray under there. I expected to see some but..."

She laughed. 

We chatted a bit while we watched the boys finding mussels in the water. The ducks bickered between themselves. 

"Well, William, we'd better get headed home. Your mom will be coming home from work soon," and William scampered up the bank, wiping his hands on his jeans. We said goodbye to the woman and Isaac and we walked back to the car together.  She seemed like a nice enough soul despite my initial reservations. I was glad that I took the time to chat. I guess all of us are a bit adrift in this strange days. 

When I got home, I had a press release waiting for me, 

There was a positive identification of a body that had drifted 20 miles downriver from us.  It was  the man missing since February. I closed my eyes. After two months, his family finally, finally, had their answer. As painful as it had to be, at least they now know. 

I forwarded the information along to the editor, who had it up as breaking news within the quarter hour. 

Monday, April 5, 2021

I Used To Be Perfect

One of the things that I've noticed is that things have changed between my grandson William and me. I'm guessing that it is due to the homeschooling. 

When you're the grandma, your job is to be positive and affirming and everything is great, and you don't really have to worry about the big stuff because that's someone else's responsibility. 

When you're the teacher, you still have to be positive and affirming, but it is also your job to make them toe the line, to pay attention, check their school work. In William's case, because of the ADD, it required additional effort. He was used to sliding in a classroom situation. His teacher commented that she felt that before, he'd been skating by without a lot of effort because he's very intelligent. However, this year, math was a little harder. He was learning new concepts and she could see that he was falling behind. 

However, he had me, and we spent a lot of time on the math. I made sure that he understood the lesson. 

He wasn't exactly overwhelmed with gratitude. 

My response was my typical practical response: "William, learning isn't optional. This is what you need to know. You can do it. You just don't want to, and there's a big difference."

What made this worse was that his house has one car. Don works night shift. His mother works day shift. That means that there wasn't time for Don to get home and get William dropped off in time for school to start and for his mother to get to work on time. This meant not only did he have to deal with Atilla his Grandmum, but he'd go home when his mom got off work for a few hours and then be brought back to spend the night so that he could log in to school on time. 

By the end of the week, he was practically running out of the house, so glad was he to get away from me. 

He's back in school now. He's also started on the very lowest dose of ritalin. His teachers have both noticed a marked improvement in his focus, and he's once again showing an enthusiasm for school. 

What hasn't come back is his adoration of his grandma. 

Our relationship has changed. I don't really know how to explain it. When he comes here, he's more likely to involve himself in some independent activity. He's not so interested in baking with me. He is not interested in being read to anymore. We don't have long conversations about science anymore. He's anxious to go home and play with his friends. He's 10 now, and it's just...different. 

He has two days off for spring break this week. He needed a new pair of earbuds and I needed to pick up some MiracleGro and some breathable medical tape for the polycarbonate panels on the greenhouse. He walked along quietly at my side. 

"Could we find some sort of activity? Something to do? I get bored at your house."

Ouch. It didn't used to be that way. 

He likes to draw, so I suggested a sketchbook. I could see he was angling for Legos though. I reminded him that he hadn't completed the Lego set he got for Christmas. 

Grandma, the practical. He sighed. 

"I guess a sketchbook would be okay," he said without a lot of enthusiasm. We looked them over and he picked on out. I was a little surprised to see a tin of 4 charcoal pencils and two charcoal crayons. It was being clearanced out for $2.00. I took them off the hook and showed him. He was interested in something for the first time that day. 

You know, I miss the little boy who was always chattering about something, always had a question, always interested. I missed the kid who thought his grandmother knew just about anything. 

He walked along beside the cart, reading the back of his pencil tin. 

And then...over the intercom, Thomas Rhett sang: 

"And hey, babies, crawling on the carpet,
No, you won't be that little for long
One day, you'll move away, but you're still gonna stay
This innocent after you're gone.

'Cause no matter how much time goes by
And no matter how much we grow up
For worse or for better, from now 'til forever
I'll always remember you young..."

Now I am a sap of the highest order, and so right there in the middle of Walmart, I was embarrassed to death find myself getting teary eyed. I did a furtive eye wipe, and William looked up from his reading. "What's the matter with you?" 

"Nothing," I said, and I got my MiracleGro off the shelf and put it in the cart. 

I know my grandkids will grow up, just like my kids did. But man, I miss being perfect. 

It's All Small Stuff

 The call came this morning: Tim and I will receive our first covid shot on April 21st. A momentous day. It is also Tim's birthday. We will receive our second shot on May 25th. So, that was good news. (Late Edit: actually, we are getting the first dose this Sunday. It seems like everything is opening up for all age groups all at once. I canceled the first appointment, and we will drive to nearby Corry. Tim will not have to miss work.)

The library is going to reopen. It's been months since we could walk in there and borrow a book. That just feels like something to celebrate.

Although we have yet to catch a glimpse of him, Get-Along the feral cat looks to have survived the winter. We are seeing small signs that he is about. We try to make his life as easy as he will tolerate. He is truly a wild animal and will not approach or allow himself to be approached. He is obviously a smart creature, knowing how to avoid foxes and coyotes and the semi trucks that rumble by on the highway. He is also an excellent mouser, and we are glad to have him around the property. 

New calves at my sister's house. 

The next 10 days are all supposed to have daytime temperatures between 61 and 69 degrees. That's 16 and 20 degrees for you celcius folks. 

The greenhouse is framed. The next step will be installing the windows and the polycarbonate roof panels. That will probably be next weekend.

It was a nice Easter day. 

Friday, April 2, 2021

Good Friday

Today, we loaded up the old storm windows on top of the stack of lumber we got from Levi earlier, and hauled the stuff up to the retirement property in our trusty dump truck. We unloaded the windows and set them carefully to the side. We unloaded the wood and stacked that neatly on the other side of the building. 

Then we drove down to the old house to pull the old sliding glass doors from where we'd carefully put them away last summer, and hauled them to the site of our project. We measured the plate glass window, and we got it set in our mind how the greenhouse will be built. The wind was blowing hard and it was cold, so very cold. After only ninety minutes, my face was windburnt. 

We decided to return the next day when the weather was not so miserable. That's the nice thing about three day weekends. We've got meal deliveries in the morning but the route we were assigned is fairly local, so we'll be able to finish up and head straight down to get to work on that greenhouse.

I made some soup from a can of tomatoes and chiles. I dumped the diced tomatoes/chiles into a pan, used the can to add an equal amount of chicken broth and a tablespoon of butter and let it heat up. I added just a dash of chili power, and some cream. Tim was in the mood for a grilled cheese sandwich. He could not stop raving about that soup. "Don't ever buy tomato soup again. This was perfect." 

We also got a call from the hospital. They wanted to know if I'd gotten my covid shot. "No," I explained. "We're not old enough. We're both only 63." Both Tim and I were surprised to hear that they would be scheduling a time for us within the next two weeks. I gave her my cell. I sure do not want to miss that call. 

Tim ran out to Lowes to get some screws for the greenhouse. When he returned, much to my surprise, he had a little window to pop in under the eaves of the greenhouse. He'd seen it on clearance Between the sliding glass doors and that little window in the opposite wall, we'll have enough ventilation to be able to control the heat in there a little. I honestly think that he's as excited about 'my' greenhouse as I am. 

We were about to go to bed, when I remembered. I looked at the clock and we had 14 minutes. I reminded Tim and he was game, so out the door we sneaked, in the cold, in our pajamas and we watched the sky in the WNW. Right on schedule, we saw it: the International Space Station. We stood in the dark staring upward, a bit amazed that you could actually see the wings of the thing. "This is cool," Tim said quietly. Standing beside him, I said, "Yes. It is. I'm glad we didn't miss it." (if you are interested to see it, here's a link for you to look up when it will pass over where you live: https://www.space.com/34650-track-astronauts-space-new-interactive-map.html 

We came back into the house and put our frozen selves into a cozy bed and talked in the dark, planning plans and dreaming our little dreams greenhouses and gardens and berry plots and...

...before long, Tim was asleep. I planned plans in my head for a while longer, and unable to sleep, I came out to write them all down. 

Good Friday was a good Friday.

Happy Easter

 Yesterday was so snowy and windy that I could not bring myself to even post about it. I kept busy inside and kept the fire stoked. We had a meeting last night, and the higher up the hill we went, the windier and snowier it got. We sat in an old barn for an hour and the wind howled against the side of the building. By the time we got home, I thought I'd never be warm again. 

It is in the 20s this morning with a dusting of snow, but the wind has died. It is supposed to get up to 39 today. 

Tim has the day off. Our plan is to go up and work on the greenhouse build. 

Tomorrow will be a warmer day, in the fifties, but we will be delivering Easter dinners for the shut ins, meals that they can pull out and heat in the microwave on Easter Sunday. Once home, I'll prepare my contributions to Easter dinner (tossed salad, broccoli salad, and a pan of macaroni and cheese for the kids). The last thing on the agenda is slipping over to hide Easter eggs for Tim's grandsons to find in the morning. I've got 4 dozen of them stuffed and ready to go.

Easter Sunday will be a family celebration at my sister's house, with a big Easter egg hunt for the kids. My sister puts a lot of time into this. She saves the eggs from year to year and adds to her stash. She's got over 200 eggs at this point, and still wonders if that is enough. It is expected to be 61 degrees, and the kids will have a great time running around outside. 

We'll pass the phone and everyone will get a chance to chat with Cara and Colin. 

I can't imagine that I'll be posting, but everyone have a good Easter!

Laughs

 It was a day of getting ready to go, getting everything packed up. We are headed east to see Iris' ballet recital.  I picked up some la...