Saturday, May 30, 2009

Forgetfulness…and that Other Stuff

Forgetfulness is not so bad.  In fact, it is actually pretty handy as a reason for not showing up somewhere or otherwise not doing whatever was expected.  Someone will ask me, “Don’t you remember that we wanted you to . . .?”  Well, the answer is usually no.  A deep sigh or a shrug of the shoulders just means that one of us is forgetful.


And then there is that hearing thing.  Sometimes people think that they have told someone something, when, in fact, they really just thought about it.  When we all become mind readers, we will probably have other problems—confusion comes to mind.  But when the person who sits in the chair across the room from us hears about half or less of what is said, well, that can cause some interesting situations.


“Why did you move the truck?”


“Didn’t you say you needed to move the truck so you could mow?”


“No, I said I will take the truck to be washed after I mow.”


Oh, life is definitely more interesting for the forgetful, the hard of hearing, and . . .what were those other things?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

And This Time I Mean It


Fang and I have this silly joke when we tell one another that we love the other, one or both of us will giggle/laugh and say, ‘And this time I mean it.’  It’s silly; but then so is trying to live with someone for a lifetime.  It takes a sense of humor and more patience than a cow has milk to live at peace with someone for a lifetime.  But every day we are reminded that the effort has been worth it.  Sharing our lives has given us more than any list of tangible benefits that some psychologist could discover and publish.  The children have been one of those most interesting benefits.


Of all the things children teach, helping us learn how to play again has got to be the best gift that they can give us—well, next to grandchildren, that is.  And truthfully, the grandchildren just make it easier to join the fun again without quite the sense of responsibility that we had when their parents were little and we were caring for them on a 24-7 basis.  Walking in the rain with a child or digging in the dirt is right up there on my scale of fun stuff.


When we first got married, it seemed as if we both had made a definite choice about our new friend.  Oh, we both had had people with whom we grew up or hung out with, but this was a REAL friend who would be there forever.  And that is how we felt about marriage that first few years.  And then we grew up a bit and learned that we had to work together to be happy and to make our lives mesh in the best ways.  His work became my concern, and my work became his concern as well.  But even when things were tight and problems seemed to come at us fast and furiously, we still had someone right there to hug and to listen to the concerns.


After nearly 41 years, Fang still teases about my cooking—and yes, about my driving as well.  And he still has no idea where the furniture will be when he wakes up in the morning because I still move the darned stuff around—and worse still, I move around his tools, his tractor, and other assorted stuff that he thinks he will find where he left it.  That situation takes patience, but the pile of tools on the kitchen table takes just a bit of patience as well.  What really amounts to patience, if truth be told, is the certainty that we will both smile at each other and know that whatever concerns one of us will always matter to the other.  This is the time when we really mean it—we really do love each other, and it’s a blessing we appreciate deeply.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Seasons Greetings!

I promise that THIS is the time of the year that we receive the best season’s greetings.  In the first place, every bird (including the duck that walked her babies across six lanes of traffic on Southwest Parkway today) has an attitude!  The doves have been giving us a hard time since yesterday when the bird feeders ran out of seeds.  So this afternoon we made a trip to Atwood’s to pick up more bird seed.  The neighbor’s cats came to sample the stale bread I threw out for the ducks, but otherwise the feast was on among the winged critters that discovered the replenished feeders.


My parents were the recipients of a few radishes picked from among the zinnias this morning.  Our flower/garden is a little bit strange, but mostly it has its shape from the flow of laundry water that took all the zinnia seeds to one end of the hill and left the radish seeds willy nilly wherever they sprouted.  Then there is the dill weed that just tantalizes me every time I touch it.  The taste is wonderful and just calls for more lettuce, tomato, or just about anything green.  The rest of the flowers in the yard are somewhat more organized.  Pots of squash and some kind of strange purple bean fill one big liquid cow feed tub.  Other tubs contain roses or mint or cucumbers.  The tubs just seemed more sensible since my time is divided between several other little jobs around this place.


Fang dared to let me drive his tractor yesterday.  I ran the top into a tree branch; I ran over a tree, but managed to back up before I ruined anything.  Then I ran the front loader into a telephone pole.  Fang swears the phone company people called and said to keep me out of the telephone poles as it was making their customers stutter!  Then I found a nice hole out between some trees and dropped one wheel off in it.  Fang just sat there and watched and shook his head.  Unbelievable!  Years ago he would have shouted at me.  Maybe all that work we did together on the tractor made a difference to him….or not.


When we finally finished all the mowing of the lots between us and the highway, the land looked so very nice.  If it were not for all the uneven ground and the danged holes, the land would be nice for playing on or just for walking.  One stone we dug out and dropped in a hole was a two foot block of concrete.  At least I didn’t run over that one!   But Ray Charles could have seen that chunk of rock!  Eventually the land will look half way decent and be level enough to mow a bit more easily.  And maybe eventually I will learn to drive the tractor with the front-end loader on it and the finishing mower on the back.  Meanwhile, we can sit outside on the porch bench and listen to the birds sing and watch the cats and squirrels run around on the mown grass.  Yeppers, this is the season for greetings in green and song.

Friday, May 22, 2009

To Be or Not to Be: Choices?

The right to die with some degree of dignity and the ability to choose one’s own timing has definitely given some people a feeling of independence.  Terminal illnesses are not just undignified and painful; they are expensive and very difficult for all members of the family involved sometimes.  My friend Jan had her husband in their home up until the last few days of his life.  She watched him, bathed him, cleaned him, and loved him while he suffered the miseries of cancer from Agent Orange.  Then in the last week of his life, she let Hospice keep him in their facility where they could administer morpheme by injections.


In at least two states people have the right to die by administering to themselves the drugs that will stop their lives quietly and quickly if they have a terminal illness and have six months or less to live—an opinion that has to be shared by at least two physicians.  The person has to ask more than once for this particular final medication—twice verbally and twice in writing over a period of time.  The main point to this particular set of rules was that the person who chose to die must do so by his or her own hand, must be consciously asking for the right, and must have sufficient medical reason to do so.


Recently a financial advisor gave someone advice that was startling to me:  One does not have to allow antibiotics to be given for pneumonia or any other infection in an elderly person who has dementia or who is otherwise non-responsive.  That idea just about shocked my socks off.  When does a family member decide that an elderly parent or other member of the family has lived long enough?  This is not the same thing as giving someone a choice of how to die.  This idea is choosing to get someone out of the way for whatever reason.  We are not gods and have no idea how to value life inside the mind of a person who can no longer communicate.


I can understand wanting to die.  We have all seen those who have become vegetables for whatever reason—wrecks from drugs to wrecks in vehicles.  I probably won’t ever jump a horse again and endanger my neck that way, but a good rear-end collision can do enough damage to totally ruin the physical aspects of real life and living.  And let’s face it: the physical definitely affects the mental outlook.  I cannot keep from wondering if one’s physical inability to live life in a somewhat normal manner might be the sole factor in producing the desire to end life.  But the main point I think we need to consider might be one of WHO should be making choices.


I have known of doctors who chose not to treat newborns with the drastic means necessary to save their lives.  Whether the reasons were the expense, the complications that the child would continue to have in life, or some other reason, the choices made by the doctors may seem quite callous to the parents.  The same can be said for some nursing homes and facilities that care for the disabled.  If they choose to ignore symptoms, people can die much more quickly than if they are monitored and treated as the need arises.


Pain is not dignified.  In fact, it makes mewling infants of some of us.  But if the pain can be alleviated or reduced to an acceptable level for the individual, why should we choose to end life?  I have seen an old woman smile in her sleep when her grandchildren were in the room.  Who is to say that happiness is not in the noises one hears in our sleep?  Give us time and we may have more smiles, more dreams.  I can still ride the wind in my dreams when my legs would no longer help me balance on the back of a horse.  Let me ride in my dreams until the horses no longer run.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Job Market

Whether or not we have heard the joke about the definition of a recession or depression, the fact remains that too many jobs have gone ‘south’ lately. South, in this case, at least, is not a direction but a fate—something like GM. No amount of government input or outlay is going to change the lack of confidence that many of us have developed concerning the American and world economy.

Layoffs—euphemistically called downsizing—sometimes presage a healthier business approach. At other times the layoffs are the beginning of the end—the loss of another business in town. Businesses that were already having some trouble before the bank bailouts were not all that important in the overall scheme of most cities. But some of the ‘mom and pop’ type of businesses that depend on one man or one family to provide several jobs are a different situation altogether. One tool and die company in Dallas depends on customer satisfaction, credit availability (for the customers), the availability of products (also dependent on another company’s ability to get and maintain a flow of credit, and the purchase of products at an end point—which again depends on the availability of credit for those customers.

Business interdependence is just an example of an overall system we expect to work in our nation—and in the world to an even greater extent. When GM or some bank goes bottom up, someone down the line other than the frontline employees will hurt. If our local feed store can’t get credit to buy a load of chicken feed, I can’t buy chicken feed from them at a reasonable price. If I can’t feed my chickens, we are going to have to kill the suckers and put them in the freezer. That means no eggs for breakfast—or for any other purpose. It is too simple an analogy, but all over the world it is the same principle. We buy what we can afford.

Well, most of us buy what we can afford. Then there are the banking people who bought worthless debts; the car manufacturers which produced cars no one could afford to drive; and the state governments which taxed people beyond their ability to pay. The folks at the IRS—somewhat like the government of California—may soon be sending out IOUs to those who still try to pay their income tax and have a refund coming. That is pretty sad.

I have a suggestion—or two. Let’s start some layoffs of our own. If our congressman can’t be found on Capitol Hill three days out of five, he doesn’t need to be there at all. He doesn’t need a retirement check, and he (not to be sexist—or she) doesn’t need health care that the rest of us can’t afford either. If he can’t pay his bills for those excessively expensive dinners or writes hot checks, he can have a nice warm jail cell—just like the ones we have reserved for some banking CEOs.

As for the latest illegal immigrant who brought his little pregnant queens and her eggs across the border in some kind of produce, let’s see if we can find a better approach to eradication than building fences. Unless the government declares the “rasberry ant” a protected species, we have a duty as Texans to prevent the spread of more misery into our country.

It’s amazing what a good night’s sleep can do for one’s attitude. Oh, and a recession is when your neighbor loses HIS job. A depression is when YOU lose yours.

The New Neighbors

Quite some years ago our little city of slightly over 100,000 became the site of a new maximum security prison. Not everyone was thrilled to have the prison as a new neighbor, but eventually most of the citizens accepted the fact that it WAS established and wasn’t likely to go away anytime soon. And many citizens also found a new employer with the prison system.

At this point, I must point out something I heard in a song [‘Til It Shines] by Bob Seger, who sang: “Let the inmates free the guards.” I have thought about that line several times and still wonder about possible meanings. Whatever the reason for the line in the song [assuming I understood the words correctly], the news about prisons and enforced detention has not been good lately. In Harare, Zimbabwe, the Chikurubi Prison had 327 deaths reported by the International Red Cross between November of 2008 and January of 2009. The prison has seen the deaths of 700 of its 1,300 inmates in filthy, disease and rat infested cells. Because the government has been so unstable and incapable of allowing help from international organizations, men have starved to death by the cell-full. The prison morgue may have rat-riddled bodies stacked ten high at a time.

In our country, we debate capital punishment. In Zimbabwe, well, life has little value. And in Ireland, where a young child could be taken forcibly from the parents—especially if the parent were an unwed mother—if the child got in trouble at school or in the community, the child could be put in detention “home” and be subject to horrid abuses by those who were supposed to be helping to reform the child’s behavior. Unbelievably, this abuse went on from the 30s up until the 90s.

In Corpus Christi, Texas, the mentally challenged residents of one dormitory of a state operated school have been used as a “fight club” type of entertainment for some employees.

Death, degradation, dishonor. It is still true what Burns said:

Man's inhumanity to manMakes countless thousands mourn!*

Wordsworth, too, had his view: Have I not reason to lament/What man has made of man.**

One of the comments of the murdered Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya was extremely revealing about life in our up-to-date, well-informed world:

I am not an investigating magistrate but somebody who describes the life around us for those who cannot see it for themselves, because what is shown on television and written about in the overwhelming majority of newspapers is emasculated and doused with ideology. People know very little about life in other parts of their own country, and sometimes even in their own region.***

If the apathy and ignorance that Anna Politkovskaya found in Russia is even a tiny bit like that found in Ireland, America, and yes, even in my own state of Texas, then we can expect to continue to hear “the still, sad music of humanity”** Anyone still determined to sing, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” need not expect a sing-along because the new neighbors in Ireland, Zimbabwe, Dagestan, Corpus Christi, and beyond are still all too aware that we don’t have much to sing about when life and freedom is so little valued.

*Robert Burns, From Man Was Made to Mourn: A Dirge, 1785
**W. Wordsworth, Lines Written in Early Spring; Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey
***Her Own Death, Foretold, Washington Post

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Blessings and Other Green Things


God loves us, and Fang is talented mechanically.  The tractor is up and running, and the clutch is better than ever.  The lawn tractor has a new tire, and it made a pretty good imitation of a hungry goat running over the grass.   If we could have cut. then raked, wind rowed, flipped the layers in the sun and then baled it, we could have made some mighty fine hay.  As it is, the forecast is for more rain.  Let ‘er rain.


Fang has the crud that someone in this family shared with him . . .The doctor had the nerve to accuse me!  Can’t imagine why!  But the dog is still fine, and the cat hasn’t even hacked up a hairball lately.  Maybe it was the dust bunnies.


Driving from here to Henrietta and back we noticed that the entire world looks a little like that artificial grass that goes in Easter baskets—shiny green!  The trees, the grass, the weeds, and even the older weeds that are semi-dry seem to be a bit greener. Green is such a happy, soothing color.  No wonder God gave us spring.


But then, God also gave us mosquitoes.  Why Noah let those critters on the ark is a wonder to me.  Maybe they were stowaways.  But the ladybugs are also out in full force.   When we let the dog out after we returned from Henrietta, the fence post was covered with ladybugs.  Maybe we have aphids or something.  We definitely have some special roses from Gurney’s out front.  Two blue roses have bloomed so far.  They don’t have as much of a fragrance as the yellow ones, but they are so pretty and so unusual.


This has been an unusual spring in several ways.  I think all the small field birds from Archer County have found our place.  And the same can be said for some places in Henrietta.  Dr. Wolfe said that all the black birds have found his dog’s food.   Yellow finches were in the treetops outside the Dr. Parkey’s office, and some kind of red and dark bird flew over our car and flashed his redness at us.  Fang stepped out on the front porch the other day and two finches flew out of the feed sack on the front porch.  We were a little slack about filling up the feeder apparently.


The youngest son called to ask about the tractor status.  I said we were still considering getting a goat.  Then he started laughing and reminded me that we would have the dog hanging out one side of the back window of the truck—and the goat hanging out the other side window.  Guess we will stick to mowing the grass.


Thursday, May 7, 2009

Grease Monkey Central


When Fang used to come home covered in grease and dripping oil from every crevice of his clothes, I wondered if he actually wallowed in the stuff at work.  Today while I was helping him connect the four-wheel drive shaft under the tractor, I found out just what it takes to get an oil bath—one loose bolt.  We were trying to put in this greasy rod thing with six little balls on each end when a bolt suddenly spurted oil out as if it had ruptured an artery.  Fang didn’t even bother to crawl out and get out of the oil pool.  He called the bolt an interesting word and asked for the towels.  One roll of blue towels and some Viva paper towels later, he had the bolt tightened, his face wiped, his ear drained, and basically no longer had to do the back stroke to stay afloat under there.


I could never be a mechanic; it would simply be too expensive to keep all the parts clean and neat—not to mention the wasted oil that would flow from any bolts that actually needed more than hand tight to keep them bolted.  Perhaps I will stick to cooking and cleaning and maybe doing a bit outside in the flowerbeds.  As it is, my neck is burned from sitting out in the sun on the side of the tractor while I handed things to the real mechanic.  Fang put some salve on my neck when I realized it was burned.  He rubbed on it as if it were part of the tractor, so now I have two kinds of burn.  I feel for the grass underneath the tractor….


A dozen doves have entertained us lately while they ate all the bird seed they could possibly pack away.   They don’t sing; they just make noises that can eventually become monotonous.  The red-winged blackbirds have them beat any day for joyful noises.  But while we were out working on the tractor, I finally found a flock of cedar waxwings in the top of the big elm.  They apparently thought that we were pretty entertaining because they spent about three hours talking about us to one another.  That had to be what they were doing because there was not a sign of any food exchanges up there over the rooftop.  It makes me wonder what birds think about some of the silly things that they see us do.  The purple finches, of course, don’t care what we do just as long as we keep filling up the feeder.


We will undoubtedly pray over—or under--the tractor again tomorrow, but if everything keeps going together well, we will have it up and running no later than Saturday.  Maybe we won’t have to lease any goats for the back yard after all.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Crud


If a bullfrog could be bilious, the crud that has infected my lungs could have given an entire pond worth of bullfrogs the foghorn voices needed for mating season.  Why a respiratory infection can manage to lower my voice by several octaves is beyond me.   But answering the telephone obviously proves the point.  Even my parents thought that they were speaking with my husband rather than to me!  T’aint fair, McGee!


Spending three or four days curled up with tissue, antihistamine, antibiotics, the generic for Musinex, hot tea, and Southern Comfort has not improved either my disposition or my desire for food.  One result has been that Fang sincerely would appreciate a ‘real’ meal prepared by his lovely wife.  Unfortunately, his lovely wife has stepped out and left this old hacking hag in her place.  The morning meal might or might not be placed upon the daily altar for burnt offerings.  And subsequent sustenance is a hit or miss situation depending upon the degree of headache, the angle of phlegm, and the amount of oxygen reaching the parched brain of the chief cook and bottle (non) washer.


Now normally bellyaching should be reserved for the private confidences of one’s dog, cat, or even one’s mate—depending on how much patience the mate retains after a prolonged bout of bitching—er, bellyaching.  But national pride and priorities demand a reckoning with the latest round of those affected by flu, funk, flack, and flippancy.  No one other than a fellow sufferer could appreciate the sore muscles from coughing up one’s guts, the throbbing of the facial features, or the glazed eyes from attempting to see out of squinted lids while gasping for yet another breath of air.  But please do not allow any other person to compare the miniscule problems that person might have with mine.  NO one has this much difficulty with what some consider to be a normal hazard of health.  Nothing is normal about being ill to me!


Disgusting as it may be to not have regular employment, an inopportune by product of being ill AND unemployed is the inability to call in sick.  How righteous one can be when sick and employed!  Not exposing others to an unnamed but obviously potent illness shows graphically proportionate compassion for others.  Put a tack on the wall, someone, because you have not been exposed to THIS brand of whatever it is that afflicts my person!  But the question remains:  WHERE did this come from?  Did I not wash my hands at the hospital when visiting the sick mother-in-law?  Did I not use a wipe to clean my hands after visiting Wally World?  Was it the restaurant or the fast food place that contaminated my healthy outlook?


Eventually this bout of illness will be a distant memory.  Meanwhile the suitcases are being packed and the maps folded to begin the journey.  Enough of this crud already!