Sunday, November 29, 2009

Beth's delicious fudge recipe

This is per request from Nancy and I'm glad to share it.

Most of you know, I think, that I am - basically - an absolute and utter failure (no hope whatsoever!) as a cook, so when I come across a recipe that I am able to put together and have it turn out delicious each and every time - ho, boy, that's A#1 in my book!

It's really simple. (Has to be!) I'll be making a personal comment or two along the way.

Melt together in saucepan on top of stove a 14-oz. can of sweetened condensed milk along with 18-oz. semi-sweet chocolate bits.

Have you ever dealt with sweetened condensed milk? Sticky, isn't it? Keep the burner low while the chocolate is melting, stirring every so often, while you are tending to the nuts (which come next). Make sure you have something handy to set your stirrer on between times so you don't have sticky stuff dripping everywhere.

Add a dash of salt, 1 cup chopped pecans, 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla and 1 tablespoon butter to the above.

Those pecans have to already have been chopped into bits, ok? When you start adding everything, the texture almost immediately changes. There's very little time for you to futz around with chopping nuts. In fact, it's almost more than I am able to do to get it all mixed together before it begins hardening!

Set out on waxed paper (I use a cookie sheet - perfect size!) and spread around with a spatula to even as desired. Let harden. Cut to size. Salivate. Eat.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

So, how was YOUR day?

Mine was great! Couldn't have been any better. The temperature outside was just a little chilly, but it's getting to be that time of year, right? Inside their house was a lot of warmth, and I'm not just talking about the fireplace, either.

We ate and ate and then ate some more. I took over some of Beth's delicious fudge that I had made the night before. It's probably all gone now. The last I saw of it, there were maybe a few pieces left and my granddaughter and her friend Jessica were busy grabbing one or two every time they went past the counter.

Sam - you remember Sam, don't you? - has been hibernating in my closet for a few months and I thought I should get him out, grab his clothes, and see what we could come up with in the way of a Thanksgiving outfit for him.

Well, my granddaughter thought Sam should be "Samantha" for the day, so here he/she is ... ...

with bow on head. The photo came out a little dark, but you get the idea. Anyhow, Samantha was at the center of the table while we ate. A nice touch.

As an added plus, Samantha had no fear of being beheaded, defeathered, or any of those bad things that happen to other of her fowl friends. Beth sent me several jokes related to Thanksgiving and turkeys. Thought I'd share a couple with you.

This first one has all the turkeys running around mooing ... ...

... ... and this second (my favorite) shows a woman looking all over for the turkey she is sure she brought home with her! Can you find it? :)

Many games of bananagrams and a few of charades later - I suck at charades! - I was ready to call it a day. Just a fabulous Thanksgiving. Fantabulous!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

A sixth year anniversary?

That's what my selective hearing ears thought I heard on the radio when I was driving back home from a couple of errand trips just now. Lots and lots of people out there fighting for parking spots today, doncha know. I did only what I had to and then came back home to the safety and relative calm of my private habitat.

Did I hear that right? This is the 6th year anniversary of the "invasion of Iraq", as it's now termed, and Tony Blair - among many others - is being called to be a witness before some sort of tribunal?? Is he on trial? Will "W" be on trial? Will they be charged with war crimes? With crimes against humanity?

Sometimes - oftentimes, actually! - I guess I'd prefer to be an ostrich. Just hide my head in the sand and pretend nothing is happening around me.

That's ridiculous, of course! However, the last time I was actively involved in the political scene - I must admit - was in the mid-70's. Since then, I have preferred to 'pretend it doesn't exist'. You might even say I stopped living - cocooned in my own little web of life.

This Thanksgiving has me filled with such joy, warmth and contentment. Very different from those in recent years. I am going to be with my dearest ones in just two days. My son-in-law said that they might need some help with a 'naked bird'. Well, I'm not very good with naked birds, but I'm planning to make some of Beth's delicious fudge to take out there to help contribute to the feasting.

I have been composing a list of whatall I'm going to take to Katyland. And yes, I confess I even bought them something for Christmas. Yeah, I did! I mean, who knows? They might not be around this neck of the woods next month, right? I intend to fully enjoy this holiday! Maybe we'll even get in a game of bananagrams. (?)

Today has been a little different from yesterday. My next door neighbor, who is evidently off this week, hasn't chosen to have his stereo blasting through my walls yet. Nice and quiet. zzzzzzzz

Regarding AAA? I'll just have to look at their literature more carefully the next time they send me a solicitous inquiry through the mail - which they will! - won't I? I was just speaking from feelings of bad memories in that last post, and a bunch of you caught me up on it. Good on you!

Tonight, I'll be watching the two-hour season finale of "Dancing With the Stars". It's kind of hard to believe that I haven't been glued to the television set for all of the episodes this time around, but I haven't. In fact, I'm not sure I even remember who is participating. Donny Osmond, maybe. (?) Who else? I don't know. Anyhoo, I'll be watching. It's a good show. I enjoy it.

I really don't have a whole lot more to say here, so I'll just close - in case I don't post another tomorrow - by wishing you and yours a most happy Thanksgiving with your loved ones.

Monday, November 23, 2009


I'm talking about the American Automobile Association here, the letters not to possibly be misconstrued as Alcoholics Anonymous or any other such similar-sounding names.

I was a member for years and years, and always thought highly of them. There was a branch office located not far from where I lived here in Houston, and I often went there for free maps and assistance. Wonderful, wonderful!

But then I started driving a taxi, beginning with Yellow Cab. I didn't see the need to continue my relationship with AAA because Yellow Cab could - and would! - respond to my emergency needs much quicker than AAA.

One night, however, after having a most enjoyable game of duplicate bridge with Tom Jahnke - who was one of my regular partners at the time - we came out to the parking lot only to discover that one of the rear tires on my taxi (the right, I think) was flatter than a pancake.

I knew that I couldn't change the tire (I was driving a full-sized Chevrolet Caprice at the time) - I had a good spare in the trunk - and hoped that maybe Tom could help me.

Well no, he really couldn't, he said. I said, "That's OK. I'll call Yellow Cab. They'll come over and change it for me. It'll only cost me $35."

"No, don't do that," he said. "I'm a member of AAA. I'll call them. They'll be here quickly and it will cost us nothing!"

Sure enough, it didn't take AAA very long to arrive at the scene. However, they refused to work on my taxicab because it was a commercial vehicle. !!!!! Nowhere in their literature - even today's, I've checked - does it say that if your vehicle is a commercial one, it is excluded from their services.

And nowadays membership in that (what I call "hoity doity") illustrious organization costs upwards of $100 per year.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Scattered stuff

This will be pretty much what you've come to expect from me on a Sunday. I just got back home from playing on a Swiss team with Julian Barr and the VanDames. We were second in our bracket and I want to tell you, folks, that I had an absolute blast. Just a great time! It had been a month or so since Julian and I last played, but it was almost as tho we played together yesterday. Most pleasant!!

To add to my enjoyment, we started off the evening against Harry Selldin et al. While we were shuffling cards, the repartee came and went almost faster than our eyes could blink. Turns out that both Harry and I are avid BBO players. We exchanged user names. Watch out, opponents! :)

A downer occurred on the way home, when my "check tire pressure" light came on. Come on, guys, give me a break here, will ya? It was 10:15 pm on a Sunday night! But, I pulled over into the first well-lit area anyway to take a gander at the tires. They looked ok to me, so I kept on going.

I stopped at an Exxon all-nighter within a mile or so of my house to look at the tires again. Still looked ok. I thought, "As long as I'm here, I might as well go inside and see what kind of lighters they have." My granddaughter gave me this really pretty holder for Bic mini-lighters a few years back, but I've had just a terrible time recently trying to find refills for it. So, I've had to resort to regular lighters.

Would you believe it? They stock the mini's! Hip hip hooray!! So that was an upper. Now if the tire pressure will somehow hold within steady and reasonably-driveable range until tomorrow morning, then I can get the car over to my trusted garage guys to see what's going on with one of my tires. (I had the grease and oil changed last week and everything checked out ok.) Let's hope I caught just a little dinky nail and it's not flatter than a pancake in the morning. Wish me luck, please.

I've talked with you before about how much I'm enjoying local channel 2.2, which shows movies 24/7, haven't I? Well, if I felt so inclined - which I don't, I could now be watching "The Great Escape" for the 5th or 6th time within this past week. My goodness! I mean, it's a wonderful film, but enough already!!

However, this afternoon I was treated to a Jodie Foster film that I hadn't seen in a while ... "The Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane". It's classified as a horror film, and I couldn't disagree more. Are you familiar with this story? There's actually a pretty good summary of the plot here. Only a couple of errors, and I say 'errors' with some certainty because I just viewed the film.

She is some kind of talented actress, isn't she? I rate her on about the same level as Meryl Streep, and that's saying something for me! Over the years, I heard many stories about how her mother ran her life and directed her acting career. I'd pretty much figured out that she's a private person and really didn't know that much about her.

Not many pictures of her coming out of restaurants and such. I don't know how these actors handle it, tell you the truth, what with the paparazzi following them around and sticking cameras and microphones in their faces all the time. Wiki has a decent-sounding writeup on her. I can't vouch for the veracity of any of it, altho a lot of it sounds plausible. Here's the link, if you'd like to read it for yourselves.

Lastly for today's post, I want to inform all of you that I am going to be partaking of 'the big bird' Thursday. And at my daughter's house, no less! The invite came today. Not a total surprise. Her comings and goings have been greatly curtailed recently by back surgery. She's doing really well, but still and all, their annual trip to California on this holiday was cancelled. Perhaps they'll go over Christmas. (?)

Whatever their plans are for December, I'm heading out to Katyland Thursday and am very much looking forward to it. In fact, today - while doing some brief shopping - I picked up a couple of doggie toys for Genie, their black Lab. Won't this be fun!

Well, I think that's about all for now. I'll just go back and proof this one more time before hitting 'publish'.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Calling for help

Chuck's mom fell last Thursday and broke her hip. She lay there on the floor of her apartment for seven hours, vainly calling for help, until someone went to check on her because she wasn't at lunch.

It sounds to me as tho she lives in the type of retirement community where people care about one another. That's a really good thing. Chuck, of course, has been very concerned, as am I (and I don't even know her!).

I have been mildly bothered, especially these past few years, over the fact that I live alone and am not getting any younger. Now, Chuck's mother is 85 - 13 years my senior, but the difference in years is of no importance whatsoever here.

I heard just a horrendous story recently about a fellow bridge player - one of my regular partners from years back - who had an accident in his kitchen. I don't want to go into all of the gory details, but he lay there on the floor and bled to death before anyone discovered his body a day or two later.

I asked my daughter a while back to check on me - by phone or e-mail - at least every couple of days or so. That doesn't happen. I guess she figures that if I'm publishing on my blog that I'm ok. But what about the times - and there have been some, particularly recently - when I'm not regularly publishing?

I don't want to put all the weight on her, either. She has a busy schedule and her own immediate family to think about. I've investigated having some sort of gadgets installed inside the house, at the same time wearing something around my neck - a necklace of some sort, whereupon if I do happen to fall and can't get up I can say so and (supposedly) someone monitoring a switchboard in India (Afghanistan? Timbuktu?) will report the incident and 'come' to my rescue. Sounds expensive!

What happens if I have a fall while I'm out in the backyard? It's fenced in. No one would see me. All the critters out there - including the fire ants - would have had a good old time with my body long before anyone would discover me. I'd probably be unrecognizable. Ugh! Just the thought of such a thing sends chills up and down my spine. Btw, it's the A#1 reason I'll never have another cat. Just so you know.

I grew up in Munising, Michigan, a little town in the Upper Peninsula. It was one of those places where everyone knew everyone else and - in many cases - was a relative. We lived next door to Lavinia Meyland, whose sister lived right across the street.

Lavinia was living alone at the time. Her husband, Walter, of whom I was very fond - he was a fellow philatelist, had passed away some time before and their two sons were grown and gone. I was either away at college or married and living elsewhere, I don't remember.

Anyway, she fell coming down the stairs of her home and lay there for a while before she finally was able to summon up the strength (!!!) to get up and walk to the telephone, where she called for help.

As a taxicab driver, I felt safest and least alone. How could that possibly be? Well, I had immediate radio access to a living person. (Assuming I was in the cab, of course.) Think about it for a second. It's true.

Kind of a 'downer' post, huh? This is a serious issue and not one we willingly choose to face. What plans have you made 'in the event of'?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The double nickel

Yesterday was my son-in-law's 55th birthday. I tried to get myself invited over to their supper outing, but every time I suggested such a thing, either he said, "I'll connect you with my wife. She knows the plans." or she said, "We don't know what time yet, where, or anything."

There was no "Yeah, we'd love to have you join us. We'll call you later and let you know what's going on", so I gave up on the idea of joining them. I knew I had to get out there, tho. I had a special gift I wanted him to have. It wasn't the world's biggest deal, but I wanted him to get it on his birthday.

It was something that my sister gave me for my 55th (just a couple of years back, doncha know) ... a silly plywood/cardboard-type sign dealie attached to a wooden dowel that says "55mph" ... it's cute, nonsensical and absolutely perfect for the person who has everything!

Over the years, I have shared it with a few of my friends. I'd 'Indian give' it to them for just one year. Well, this year has seen its last giveaway. If he wants to save it to give to my daughter when she turns 55, that's his business I figure.

I didn't get out to their house until just after 9pm. Well, shoot! I knew that my granddaughter was in bed and was pretty sure that my daughter was, as well. She's an early go-to-bedder these days ... has been for quite a while, actually, trying to keep up with her daughter's busy schedule. However, I also knew that my son-in-law would be up. He's kind of a night owl.

I parked the car in their drive, leaving the engine running, and walked up to the porch - peeking in various windows as I went. Lights were on, but I didn't see anyone. Well, shuckeydurn anyway!

I didn't want to knock on the door or ring the bell. (They have a black Lab who gets very excited!) I looked for the little table that they've had right by the front door in the past. It wasn't there.

Well, poop! I left his card and the 55mph sign on another table further away from the front door, rang the bell and took off out of there. In retrospect, I wish I had just left those two items and then called him after I got back home. (I didn't have my cell phone with me.)

And so, my birthday gift was probably not very much appreciated. I no doubt woke up the whole household. (Haven't heard from any of them since last night, so I'm pretty sure that's the case. I'm in the proverbial doghouse.)

To be fair to them, someone from their house tried to call twice yesterday - eeh, I don't know, maybe 5:30 or so? - and left messages both times. The problem there was that I had already decided - at least two or three hours earlier - that I would be persona non grata and so was not available to answer the phone. (Still haven't checked my messages, either.)

I can be like that sometimes. If you were under the impression that all is right, pleasant and amusing in Goldenrod's world 24/7, I am sorry to inform you otherwise. I will often retreat into my own inner sanctum until I'm ready to come out again.

ANYhoo, I'm out again. Had trouble sleeping last night. Finally figured out that I was cold. Got up and turned the furnace on (first time this year). Stayed up a little bit to watch some TV with a little space heater blowing that wonderful warm stuff on my tootsies and then went back to bed. Woke up just before noon.

It's Wednesday. On Wednesday mornings I take my weekly calcium pill. It has to be taken after several hours of sleep. I had met that requirement, so took it - all the while downing water for the next hour or so like a good girl while I played some BBO with one of my regular partners, Ann-Sophie from Sweden.

I'll have to do a post for you soon about some of my experiences with Bridge Base Online and the people I've met. I know I talked about predators a while back. Will have an update on that, as well.

Just checked my messages. Both yesterday were from my son-in-law, the first one (going on 5pm) telling me they were planning on being at some sort of Mexican restaurant by about quarter till six and the second (perhaps a half hour or more later) telling me they were running late. :)

Got another call an hour or so ago from Walter Freitag, my mentee on Thursday nights (once a month), wanting to confirm our date for tomorrow evening. Will have to return that one.

Hmmph! Not much else to report, actually. Hope your day is going well!

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Looking the other way

There's a huge difference between driving a car that's a taxicab and driving that same car as a personal vehicle ... even tho it's the same car and has the exact same driver!

I own a 2005 Buick LeSabre. It's a beautiful shade of blue. I bought it a few years back when I was driving a taxicab, and it still goes everywhere I go and rests in my garage when I'm at home, altho now it's not so 'visible'.

What do I mean by that? Well, let's see if I can come up with a couple of good examples for you so you know what I'm talking about. Outside of the 'obvious', where all of the lettering, numbering, decals and stickers have been removed from both the inside and outside of the car - including the windows - and the cruise light at the top has disappeared, the first thing that comes to my mind is turn signals.

When I use them now - and I always use them, of course, doesn't everybody? - it seems to me as tho people are either in a hurry to pull out in front of me or, if I'm on the freeway, speed up so I can't get over. Those two things almost never happened when my car was a taxicab. I've tried to imagine why that might have been, and the only answers I can logically come up with are that - in the first instance, they were pretty sure I'd come right up on their behinds and treat them to a great blast of my horn if they pulled out - and in the second instance, they figured I was coming over anyway so they gave me room.

Impossible things are sometimes expected of taxicabs. Probably the best example I can think of here is when we have high water and flooding conditions exist in parts of the city. As a cab driver, you make it your business to quickly learn which areas are prone to flooding and therefore avoid. You can't make any money if your car is in the shop because you carelessly subjected it to high water and flooded it out.

[Well! Hmmph!! I have just concluded a several hour search that I began yesterday for a post that I thought SURE I had already done on driving while flooding conditions existed here in Houston. It's not here. Either that, or it's mis-labeled, which is certainly a possibility.]

Let me get right to the point (without going into great detail of what I thought I'd already published) and say that many times - it was my experience as a taxicab driver - people expected incredible things from my car just because it was a taxicab.

This one time in particular I was over near Sharpstown Mall on the SW side of town. (That area had been absolutely impossible to get to earlier in the day.) I'd picked up a fellow from IAH who wanted to go to a hotel in that area. I told him that I didn't think I'd be able to get him there, that the area had been heavily flooded all day. "That's OK," he said. "Just get me as close as you can. If I can see the hotel, I can walk there." What a reasonable man!

And so I told him I'd see what I could do. Well, the closer we got the more it became evident that his feet were going to get wet. We got within a couple of blocks of the place, actually, which was better than I'd thought we'd do. The last I saw of him he was walking barefoot in water up over his thighs, suitcase precariously perched on top of his head.

No sooner had I let him out of the car than this other fellow came slogging up to me, wanting me to drive him home. He lived just a few blocks 'over that way', he said as he pointed towards what appeared to be nothing but water. "Sir," I began, "that doesn't look passable to me."

"Sure, it is!" he insisted. "I tried to drive there myself just a few minutes ago, but I accidentally flooded my car out." That admission gave me a ton of confidence, doncha know! I asked, "Where's your car now?"

He pointed to this humongous van, which was sitting in what looked like at least two feet of water. It was all I could do to keep from laughing. What did he think my taxicab was, a boat?? (And no, I didn't take him.)

[It is now Tuesday, the 17th. Speaking of humongous, we have had a pretty good-sized change in the weather. I ALmost turned the heat on last night, but then decided not to. I was nice and cozy and snuggly warm under my blankets, and right now I am nice and warm wearing one of the world's most comfy robes ever ... it was given to me for Christmas last year by my family. Thank you again, wonderful family!

I had a semi-crisis recently when I couldn't find it, but then I finally did - under a pile of stuff at the foot of my bed. (I've told you before what my house looks like, haven't I? Well, it doesn't look nearly as bad now as it did a few months ago, but still! One of my sincerest wishes is that I am able to get everything sorted through and the 'junk' thrown out before I kick the bucket. Not that I'm planning to expire any time soon, but you never know, right?)

Anyhoo, I'm going to try and get back to what originally prompted the idea for this post, which was Steven's comment on my last one, to wit: "It's kind of hard to look the other way when all that's going on around you, isn't it."]

As a taxicab driver, I was at all times fully cognizant of what was going on around me - a matter of defense and self-preservation, as you might imagine - and that awareness has (most of the time) carried over to this day.

And just because I was driving a taxicab and was so keenly aware of what has happening, I was often called upon to be a witness. Thank goodness that - at least most often - the police officer on the scene would interview me first, take my statement and info verbatim and then let me go. (He/she knew that time was money to me.)

One instance that stands out vividly in my mind is when I was sitting at a stop sign at Tirrell and Allen Parkway. I was an eyewitness to a really stupid accident, where one vehicle ran into another that clearly had the right-of-way. I wouldn't have thought much about it except that the guilty party immediately exited his vehicle and began verbally assaulting the victim, who - as it turned out - spoke almost no English and seemed to be in an apologetic mode.

VERY quickly, I exited my car (after first getting on the horn with my dispatcher) and went over to the scene. I said, "Sir?" to the guilty party, "Please don't go anywhere. I have your license number. I saw the whole thing and the police are on their way." (Which, of course, was an outrageous lie. I hadn't had time to call the police yet.)

I was furious! How dare a native English-speaking (albeit American English) person try to take advantage of one more timid than he? How dare he?!? I flagged down the first police car I saw (lots of them cruise up and down Allen Parkway, thank goodness!), gave my statement and left.

I'll leave you today with a funny story ... at least, I think it's funny!

I was sitting at a red light at the corner of Wilcrest and Harwin. I was heading north. Probably on my way to Randall's again. Heard that name before, right? I was in the left lane. Had left the right lane open for any who wanted to make a right turn after first stopping at the light.

Right next to me, not making a right turn as it turned out, was a city cop. We waited for the light to turn green. It did, but neither of us was able to move because vehicles going east on Harwin were still making left turns - illegally, of course - long after their left turn signal light had turned red. It wasn't just one or two of the bad guys, either. It was a bunch!

I rolled down the passenger side window and said to the cop, "Well? Have you decided which one you're going to nail yet? I'll be your witness. Go ahead and pick one."

After his eyeballs stopped rolling around inside the back of his head, he took off and got one of those suckers. (I don't remember whether or not I was able to get through on the green light. I mean, those foulers were flagrant!)

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Indiana stop

I just cannot go another second without posting this one, folks!

Years and years ago, when I lived in Indiana, I was often slightly - sometimes more than just slightly - appalled when my dear friend, Jacky, with whom I was riding as a passenger at the time, made what I came to think of as an "Indiana stop".

Do you know what that is? It is what happens when, upon coming to a 4-way stop, you just barely tap on your brakes and then cruise right on through the intersection. She did this more times than I'd care to try and recount. And always without incident!

[She might term it a "rolling" stop, I don't know.]

Well, tonight - coming back home from Randall's and Luby's, where I got some of the world's best vegetable soup to go - I saw the alltime record-holder for rolling/Indiana stops danged near get his comeuppance (and a banged-up car in the process).

The light was red. I was stopped. The person on my right decided to just cruise right on through the intersection, intending to make a right turn, even though the person coming the other way was making a left (on a left turn only green light, I want you to know!)

There was no tap on the brakes, nothing like that, until - all of a sudden - the person 'cruising' decided he'd better stop or he would hit the legal car. (?!?) To compound matters slightly, he had a sheep right behind him, who was hellbent on following him over the cliff.

Lawdy, lawdy! You know what, folks? The very last thing you need when you've made all of the stops on your list and you're really anxious to get back home is to have to stand around and be a witness when the police finally arrive - an hour or two later.

Thank you, Lord, for all your blessings. Thank you, thank you, thank you!

Friday, November 13, 2009


How's that word grab you? Ten syllables, I think I counted, maybe eleven. Too many, that's for danged sure!

What does it mean? It means "the fear of Friday, the 13th". In doing a Google search for this word - Who in their right minds would have at their memory bank's beck and call a word like this, I want to know?!? - I discovered three different* spellings for it (LOL) and a bunch of interesting stories.

*I just arbitrarily chose one of the three. Figured I couldn't be far off.

So, what am I doing this Friday, the 13th? Not much, I'll tell you that. (So what else is new, right?)

I don't have a 'fear' of Friday, the 13th, per se, but I notice that my conscious self is always aware of when it comes around. Does it seem like it's here way too often to you, or is it just me? I guess I could take the time and do the math on this one, but I just don't feel like it. Too much of a bother.

What I really want to talk about today is the fact that next week is officially Geography Awareness Week, according to my monthly newsletter from National Geographic.

All sorts of specials will be offered on the National Geographic Channel, for those of you who have cable. (It's a cable channel, isn't it? I don't have cable.) Home-schooling mothers (and fathers) will be particularly interested in watching these with their students, I would imagine.

This year's theme is "Get Lost in Mapping", and there's a world map that you can download for free if you visit their website. All you need - according to the article I read - is paper, tape, and a world of imagination. I'm really tempted to do it, but I figure I have way too much paper gathering dust around here as it is!

However, I might change my mind and add to the clutter, anyway. A current world map would be of great interest to me. I wonder how big it is when it's all downloaded and taped together. If anyone does download it, add a comment to this post and tell us how big it is when it's all put together, will you? Just for grins.

Have a happy and safe Friday the 13th, everyone, and I'll catch all y'all later.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Seeing Alaska

One of my favorite bloggers, Chuck, has just concluded an 8-part series of posts which include videos he made and narrated about his Alaskan trip a few years back, but before you begin perusing any of those - my personal favorite is the one he did on the Kenai Peninsula, I recommend that you begin here.

This is just a wonderful post where he gives a really good overview of his "great Alaskan adventure" in 2004, traveling 10,000+ miles altogether from start to finish. Lots of photos. Lots of cross references. (He has a lot of fun cross-referencing.) Lots of detailed information.

His header really says it all ... "Adventure is not outside man, but within, for you cannot cross the sea by simply staring at the water." Chuck hasn't done much staring, and he's definitely crossed a lot of seas.

Getting back to Alaska, however, here is only one of the photos you will be treated to in this first post,

which was published on July 29th this year. It shows an aerial view of Glacier Bay National Park. Beautiful photograph!

Part 1 of Chuck's videocam series is titled "The Inside Passage -- Aboard the Alaska Ferry, Ketchikan, and Juneau", and was published in late October.

This month Chuck was really busy getting it all together and you can view selected posts or all, at your leisure. Part 2 (Nov. 1st) features "Skagway and the White Pass & Yukon RR". Part 3 - "Flightseeing Glacier Bay National Park" - followed the very next day.

Eight of these altogether, #8 publishing just this past Monday. Thank you, Chuck, for sharing with us so much of your wonderful trip. I, for one, have enjoyed seeing Alaska through your eyes.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Universal Sports,

I think (!?), is the name of a new digital channel here on local television. (You kind of have to remember that I don't have cable.)

Recently, I have been treated to previews of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC, in addition to "Grand Prix" figure skating competitions from around the world, in which both the individual and pairs skaters are vying for a spot on their country's Olympic team. Wonderful, wonderful!

Tonight, however, I will definitely forego watching the speedskating events. That's about all that's showing on that channel. I mean, folks, those suits leave absolutely NOTHING to one's imagination in re the genital department. Come on now, give me a break, will ya please?? (And people thought men's ballet tights were bad. They've got nothing on those speed skaters!)

Within the last couple of weeks, tho, I have been fortunate enough to view various recaps of Ironman Triathlons from the past few years. Up until 39.2 (this local digital channel) showed up, I had never even heard of such a competition. Had you?

Oh, man! Talk about grueling!! This competition, which takes place annually in Hawaii all in the span of one day, combines a 2.4 mile swim fb (followed by) a 112 mile bike ride fb a 26 mile 385 yard marathon ... all without a break, I want you to know. Can you believe such a thing?

Lots and lots of really interesting stories here, including one of a 76-year-old nun who was competing in her 20th Ironman* event! Incredible, just incredible!! Btw, she finished - these events are timed - with only one minute to go. Good on her, wouldn't you say?

*Wiki has a very nice writeup on the Ironman competition. If you'd like to read or learn more about it, please go here.

Meanwhile, of course, I'm sitting here on my 'you know what' doing very little. I mentored at the studio earlier today with one of my two regulars. She's coming along very nicely. What's happening your way?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Simon Says ... #2

I first introduced this word game here, on October 24th.

Just to refresh your memory banks ... ... in order to come up with the correct solution at the end, which will be an amusing word or phrase that is apropos to where you started, you must do the steps in the order presented and follow the directions exactly.

As I said in October, it is only rarely that I get these right the first time, so have a little patience with yourself. We had some fun with that first one, didn't we? (Including some hilarious answers.) Let's see how we do with #2.

1. Print the words A KING'S ROBES, omitting the spaces and apostrophe.
2. Delete the central letter.
3. Double the fourth consonant. (When directions like these are given, always assume that they mean starting from the left.)
4. Double the last vowel.
5. Insert a W in the fourth position.
6. Switch the second vowel from the left with the second vowel from the right.
7. Delete the last consonant.
8. Move one R to the left end of the row.
9. Delete the fourth letter from the right.
10. Delete the second consonant from the left.
11. Repeat step 7.
12. Move the last consonant to the right end of the row.
13. Switch the first and last vowels.
14. Switch the fourth and sixth letters.
15. Switch the third and seventh letters.

What did you end up with? If you had REIGN WEAR, I hereby proclaim you an official member* of the Simon Says Solver Club. If you had some sort of gobbledygook? Sorry, you'll have to go back to the beginning and try again. Just go a little slower.

*Tammy, Emily, Katie, Kayla and Bug are already charter members. Do we have any more takers?

Btw, I want everyone to know that "the pig" has been found - this'll be the one especially for Jacky - and will be included in a Simon Says on down the road. It's a little more difficult. I'm trying to present these in order of difficulty, but what's difficult for me might not be for you and vice versa, right?

Meanwhile, happy word puzzle solving, and I'll talk atcha later!

The Gesundheit! Institute

I just finished watching "Patch Adams", the 1998 movie starring Robin Williams as Hunter "Patch" Adams, the controversial humanitarian who was very nearly denied his PhD in medicine due in part, according to the movie version of his story, to being "excessively happy".

The official review of this film, as it appears in my TV Guide, includes the word "cloying". Say that word slowly. Let it rattle around in your mouth for a while. Move it around with your tongue. Doesn't it almost make you want to spit it out? Nasty, disgusting stuff. The reviewer didn't think much of the movie, obviously, even though "an over-the-top Robin Williams" (the reviewer's phrase) did his very best to make Dr. Adams' story believable and palatable.

I could hardly disagree more. I am not the world's biggest Robin Williams fan, but he was the perfect choice to portray Patch, a firm believer in holistic medicine and healing through laughter. Through his portrayal, I came to know Patch Adams as a deeply compassionate man who wanted to improve patients' quality of life.

Here is what the real Patch Adams looks like, by the way ... ...

Is that one of the world's more colorful mustaches, or what??

The trailer at the end of the film described how Patch had provided free medical care to more than 12,000 patients, and went on to tell how plans were in the works to build a 40-bed facility on land that had been purchased in West Virginia.

I was a little distressed to learn a few moments ago, in doing research for this post, that the monies needed to build such a facility still have not been procured. That makes me sad.

If you would like to read more about Patch Adams' personal philosophy and the Gesundheit! Institute, go here. He even has his own blog site.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Trying not to get sick

Why do they keep hospitals so cold?

You know what the prep nurse told us all in pre-op? That the operating room temp is kept at 52 degrees. (I'm talking Fahrenheit here.) It's a state law, she said. ??!!?? My daughter questioned her on that statement, and she repeated it.

Well, it wasn't that much warmer ANYwhere in the hospital. Even though I had brought a wool wrap and was wearing wool socks inside my fur-lined moccasins, I was not warm enough. (I hardly ever am, but this really went beyond the pale!)

But then, to top it all off, I spent most of the night Wednesday in here at the computer playing bridge. (I wanted to be up and at 'em when my son-in-law arrived to pick me up.) Every time I lay down to try and get some sleep, my mind would insistently remind me after about an hour or so that I had no alarm set (in the car), so I would get up and play some more bridge online for a while.

The rest of that day - Thursday - was spent trying to take naps whenever I felt tired (which was most of the time), but I think I must still have been in too much of a state of continued anxiety - even though it appeared that all was going along very well, for my body to relax that much.

Yesterday, now, was a completely different story. I spent most of the day sniveling, blowing my nose and frequently napping. It had finally caught up with me! Not only that, but I could hardly walk.

Even though the hospital was quite small (by today's standards), the amount of walking it took to get from where I was to anywhere else was significant, particularly for one who - basically - does little more than sit around on her behind all day.

Much better today. Got a really good night's sleep. Thank you, Lord. No big aches anywhere and constant sniveling has almost completely disappeared. I'll keep a close watch on it today, but I think I'm over the hump.

Did you know that there are a few people running around out there with surgical masks on? For the H1N1 virus, doncha know. I read about it a lot on other blogs, particularly the eastern Ontario ones, but I'm really not anticipating much (if any) of an outbreak here.

All for now. Have a couple of other posts I'd like to do today. Let's see how awake I am after the next one!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Back surgery (update)

I got back home perhaps half an hour ago. Didn't intend to be away from the house this long, but - in my haste to get inside the hospital where my daughter would shortly be undergoing surgery - I parked in a restricted zone and got towed. "Oh, no!" you cry. "Oh, yes," I embarrassingly admit.

So anyway, my son-in-law will be picking me up again tomorrow morning and taking me over to where I can retrieve my car ($191 for the privilege). Then, he will head back over to the hospital where my daughter, hopefully, will almost have finished her breakfast - having left just enough for him to scarf up in an instant - and be ready to go back home out to Katy, only this time she might be able to actually sit up in his vehicle instead of having to lie down while traveling in it.

She's doing well. No, she's not been up and walking around yet. That first big adventure will be later this evening when she has to get up to go to the bathroom. (Her IV apparatus and pole will have to go with her, so she'll have a nurse's assistance.) But, she's moving all of her toes and everything seems to be OK in that department, which is wonderfully welcome news.

She didn't go into surgery until 2:30. My son-in-law and I were with her for about 45 minutes beforehand, reassuring, talking, telling jokes and laughing, holding hands ... you know, all that kind of stuff that goes on when people who really care about each other are nervous. It was an anxious time.

Then she went into surgery and I went outside to have half a cancer stick. That's when I discovered my car had been towed. I had left my cell phone in the car (Of course!), so my son-in-law got on his to find out all the poop on where it had been taken, etc. and blah. Oh, my!

While he was doing that, I found my way to the cafeteria. Their offerings included shrimp scampi, which I ordered. I thought, "What's done is done, Goldenrod. Besides, you're hungry, so let's eat." I found a table and ate while playing some solitaire. (It had been years since I'd played solitaire. I can't believe I remembered how!)

And that's where he found me a few minutes later. After giving me the info about my towed car, he asked what I was eating. When I told him, he said, "Hmm!" And then he went to get the same thing. It wasn't bad. It was while we were still there in the cafeteria - I wasn't finished eating yet, but he was! - that his pager thingee went off.

Someone wanted to see us. We were a little nervous about the quickness of the page. After all, it hadn't been 45 minutes yet! What might have gone wrong? We quickly packed up "our" (mostly "my") stuff and went to the second floor, where Dr. Kushwaha was waiting.

He appeared calm, which was immediately reassuring. His first words were, "The surgery is over. Everything went as expected. We removed the .. ... .... and she'll be in recovery shortly." He answered a couple of questions that each of us had, and then gave us an important piece of information that we hadn't known before.

All three of us ... my daughter, my son-in-law and myself ... had heard, over and over again that day, how important it was that she restrict her physical activity for 'x' amount of time after the surgery. We all thought that it was to prevent any more extrusions from the damaged disc.

That's partly it, of course, but the surgeon told both my son-in-law and myself - we were standing there together - that the disc would, if given the uninfringed-upon space and time it needed, repair and seal itself. That sounded almost miraculous to me. I repeated this to my daughter, in my son-in-law's hearing, and he confirmed what I said. My daughter cried out in joy when she heard that. "There could be no better incentive," she said, "to do exactly what the doctor orders."

I had only a couple of bad moments today when, shortly after going into post-op to see my daughter, I thought I was going to pass out. I had to sit down quickly, a couple of different times. Very strange. This happened only once before that I can recall, in 1986, but that's a whole other story for another day.

When we first went in to see her in post-op, she looked exhausted to me ... absolutely exhausted! She was crying. She'd been so afraid she wouldn't wake up. The stress she must have been under the past couple or so weeks cannot really be understood or even imagined by you or me, I dare say.

She kept telling me how glad she was that I was there. I was glad to be there, but I know (for sure!) that I didn't add anything to the mix, except - perhaps - a mother's unequivocal love for her daughter, which she's always had.

I just finished sending her an e-mail. She has her laptop with her. I don't expect her to respond. I hope that she's in neverneversleepytimeland. I'd call my son-in-law, but my phone is in my towed car. Oh, the frustration of it all!

I'll know more tomorrow morning, of course, after he picks me up. Meanwhile, keep your fingers crossed that things are progressing as smoothly as anticipated, and I thank you all - once again - for your positive thoughts and supportive comments.

[9:05pm ... PS ... heard back from my daughter via e-mail ... she was still awake ... said she's "fixin' to" (that's a Texas expression) take another 'walk' and then go to sleep.]

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Back surgery

Not something one wants to contemplate, but when there is constant shooting pain up and down one's left leg 24/7, it's almost as tho that conclusion is inevitable. No, it's not for me. It's for my daughter, and it's coming up tomorrow afternoon at 1pm.

I first heard about this last weekend, when my daughter left a voice message telling me she had something important to talk to me about. It sounded serious, so I got back to her as quickly as I could.

She really didn't have much information to share with me at that point. In fact, I had many more questions than she had answers. She was due to see Dr. Kushwaha at 9:30 this morning. Dr. Kushwaha is the chief spinal surgeon at Methodist Hospital, and a partner of the orthopedic surgeon in whom my daughter has great confidence. (He is the one who recently handled her broken foot so adeptly.)

I just got off of the phone with my son-in-law and took a bunch of notes. I hope I'm relaying everything correctly. Here's the situation ... ... it seems that the lowest disc on her spine erupted - the 'when' or 'cause' are both unknown, exactly - extruding unwanted material that is pressing against a nerve and causing all of the pain.

None of her leg motor functions have been affected, nor should they be by the upcoming surgery. "Where this disc is located," the surgeon said, "no motor nerves are still attached to the spine." In other words, the frightful word "paralyzed" seems to have no place in this conversation.

Still and all, however, it is my daughter and she will be undergoing back surgery. And so, as her mother, to say that I am concerned would be no exaggeration. I'll be at the hospital tomorrow with my son-in-law. One can only hope that I will conduct myself with more decorum than I did the last time I was in a hospital, waiting for her to come out of surgery.

This would have been about 45 years ago. She'd had a terrible bout with the mumps and developed abscesses on both sides, one of which 'popped' and drained itself in the middle of the night, but the other just kept on getting bigger and bigger. It scared the bejaysus out of me! It didn't seem to be painful, but was disfiguring as all get out.

This one would have to be surgically removed. My husband and I were concerned about a lingering and very noticeable scar. The surgeon assured us that any scar would fade and almost completely disappear over the years. (And that reminds me. I'll just have to look at her neck tomorrow when I see her, won't I? We never did order any plastic surgery for her years later.)

Anyway, while she was undergoing that surgery, I paced up and down the hospital halls like a mad woman, bawling my eyes out. Remembering how I acted, I am thoroughly ashamed of myself. I mean, there were children in surgery at that very moment whose lives were at stake, and there I was bawling over an abscess. But, it is what it is, and it was what it was.

Tomorrow's surgery is described as 'non-invasive' ... a 1" incision will be made and the extruded material from the ruptured disc cleaned out* ... a 45-minute procedure, the surgeon said, and she should be up and walking around by 3pm. That last just flabbergasts me! Would that it be so.

Because the procedure is scheduled for the afternoon, they'll keep her overnight for observation. Normal-sounding kind of stuff. *The MRI showed that disc's appearance to be flat. Hopefully, that means that all material that could have been extruded has been, and no plans are in the works as of this writing to remove the disc itself.

[Had a little break there. She called me. Had just woken up from a very long nap. She was exhausted after their almost four-hour visit with the spinal surgeon this morning. Well, not all of it was with the surgeon. Blood tests were ordered and an EKG was administered, as well. All in preparation for tomorrow's surgery.]

Will fill all of you in when I know more. Meanwhile, please say a prayer to help guide the surgeon's hand.

Recollections ...

... particularly personal ones, such as emotions - how one was feeling at the time, for example, or what one was thinking - can be terribly subjective. And, as a result, inaccurate.

Our memories are colored by the passage of time, by changes in our outlook and perspective, by what's important to us now, by how our definitions have been altered by our experiences, by how we feel or what's happening with or around us at the moment of recollection, by all sorts of different things - some of which we are perhaps unaware.

I don't think I fully realized that until just a few moments ago. I was reading Bug's latest post, where she is beginning a series about her time in Zambia a little more than twenty years ago.

Ten years after she returned, she put together two large scrapbooks - trying to re-create her experiences there - and then wrote a poem in which there is a line that perfectly describes what I was trying to say in the second paragraph of this post ... "remembered as in a dream edited by time reconstructed to suit myself" ... beautifully-expressed, Bug, and so true.

Since January of 2008, when I first began blogging, I have published over 600 posts, nearly half of which are labeled "About me", "Memories", or "Personal thoughts/comments". There is some overlapping, of course, but there is a lot of "me" in my blog.

I haven't been this prolific since the early and mid 80's, when I was going through such an emotional upheaval. I spent many hours writing it all down while it was happening - some in poetry form, but most in prose. It's here. I've saved it. It's pretty raw. Very emotional. I don't like to go back through it. Too painful, for the most part.

Some of the poetry I have shared with you on my blog, that which I wanted you to read. There might be more later. We'll see. Depends on how I feel about it. To describe myself throughout the great majority of my life as an "unrealistic romantic" would be pretty much dead on, I think.

However, there are a number of humorous poems that I have yet to share - ones that have nothing whatever to do with romance. I promise that I will include those in posts further on down the line.

I will be very interested in following Bug's continuing story of her time in Zambia. She went there initially as a part of her church's outreach program that included sending recent college graduates to fill temporary support positions in the foreign mission field, and was in Zambia for approximately 18 months.

I'm sure she has many wonderful stories to share with us, and I'm looking forward to reading every one of them.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday morning

Well, it's just after 9:30 am now. I've been up for perhaps an hour. I wrote "Bending wire" sometime in the wee hours, just before trying to stay up to watch The Red Shoes, a 1948 ballet film starring Moira Shearer. I couldn't do it. I had to hit the pillow just after her performance in the new ballet, less than halway through the story.

The film goes on to a very tragic ending. Perhaps it will be re-shown later this week - it was playing on our 24/7 local movie channel - and I'll get a chance to watch it in its entirety. I've only seen this movie once before. It has to have been at least fifty years since then, perhaps more. I remembered the glorious photography, the beautiful dancing and - of course, Moira Shearer.

Wiki has a nice writeup about the making of this film which you can read about here, if you're curious and would like to learn more about the story.

I'm all caught up now with my favorite blogs, and I want to give a special shoutout to Steve Davis, our blogger friend from Alberta, Canada. (Not to be confused with Steven, who lives in southeastern Ontario.)

Steve recently got published for the second time outside of the world of philately, this one in an e-zine called Reflective Dog. His current work is a creative nonfiction piece about a bystander who witnesses JFK's assassination.

In his short work, Steve tries to recapture the emotion - the excitement leading up to and then the shock of the actual event. You can read it here, if you'd like.

This past March, Steve could barely contain his excitement as he wrote about his first feature article being chosen for publication in a mainline magazine, Saltscapes.

I had to grit my teeth yet once again, tho, in researching for this post, when I read where he wrote, "The title of the article and it's description is, ... " The bold emphasis is mine. Boy, is that ever a common error! Even among published writers, it would appear. I guess that's what editors are for, huh?

(On June 28th of last year, I published a fairly lengthy dissertation entitled "Its" vs. "It's". That one really sticks in my craw. Two of my blogger friends, who later told me how much they appreciated the lesson and now they completely understood the difference, are STILL making the same error! ? Just shut up, Goldenrod, mind your own business and get on with your post, OK?)

This morning I took some time to go back through a few of Steve's previous posts. I was looking for those where he was chronicling some of his struggles to be a published writer. I found one where he talks about making a resolution to write at least a page a day and another, where he offers quotes from other writers that he's found inspirational when his own resolve seems to falter.

Congratulations, Steve, on your most recent success story. May you have many many more!

Bending wire

Terry Border has a neat blogsite. Check it out for yourself. It's light-hearted and fun.

He recently published a book called Bent Objects: The Secret Life of Everyday Things. Then last Saturday (a week ago), on his site, he told about an idea he'd had for how people could order a copy directly from him. He'll autograph it and even make doodles on it if you wish. He says he doesn't draw, he doodles.

I first came upon his name as a direct result of reading one of Whalechaser's posts. I've been doing a bit of catching up lately. She had the following trailer for his book on her site ... ...

It intrigued me so much that I thought I'd find out a bit more about this man and share that information with you.

Well! Come to find out that he's got all sorts of ideas for promoting his income-producing hobby, including greeting cards that will be carried by Target stores. Says he's seen a couple in stores already.

For a delightful few minutes, spend some time on Terry's site. I think you'll find yourself smiling, perhaps even chuckling a time or two.