Thursday, September 29, 2005


On my old blog "Abbreviated Abstractions" Mar 5, 2004, I did a series on a "Time of Miracles." But in the end I concluded that the Time of Miracles is past. Left behind when we mature and pass the age of innocence. A maturity that makes us lose the unshakable faith, confidence, wonder and ready acceptance of miracles that we have as a child.

But perhaps I have to recant my theory that the age of miracles is past. Because I really do have a story to tell that is too unbelievable to be anything short of a miracle.

On the last day of our holiday we stopped at a campsite to have a bite of lunch and let the doggies run about. We wandered about the campsite, playing with the dogs, preparing lunch, and setting out our table and chairs. We ate a leisurely lunch, then packed up and were about to continue on home. When everything was back in place, we jumped in our vehicles, started our engines, and prepared to depart. But when Son-in-Law got in his vehicle and placed his hands on the steering wheel, he suddenly came to a horrifying realization. His wedding ring was gone.
When? How? Where? He didn’t know.

And so the search began. We ripped everything out of our vehicles and went through the contents one square millimeter at a time. Nothing.

Then we stared at the ground. Thickly carpeted with leaves the same hue as the gold ring that was missing. We began shuffling the leaves with our feet. It was a large ring so I removed my shoes and socks and felt about in my bare feet hoping that I might feel the ring in this manner. Nothing. By now all of us were feeling it was as useless to search for the ring as to search for a needle in a haystack. After all, it was quite possible that the ring was lost 200 miles back at a Service Station where we had stopped for gas.

Having combed the whole area with visual inspection, Hub and YD now set about systematically brushing the leaves aside in narrow strips with their feet. A disheartened bunch we were. Son-in-Law had already decided that in the midst of such trauma he was going to remain at the campsite however many days it took to find the ring and should that fail he would remain an aimless wanderer in the area for his remaining days.

But as Hub continued to systematically sweep aside the dead leaves with his foot he came across a tiny spool of thread. Nothing more, just a tiny miniature spool of thread. We knew nothing of its origin or how it came to be there but that tiny spool of thread gave Hub a flush of unshakable faith and confidence that the ring could (and would) be found.

And within minutes of finding that spool of thread, Hub announced "I found it." My immediate reaction was anger and thorough disgust, and I think YD’s reaction was the same as mine. Sometimes Hub’s sense of humor is more than a little bit annoying. But wait, to our utter astonishment, he had found it. There it was in his hand – the missing gold band!
We were awestruck. Dumbstruck!

Hub and YD quickly hurried to a far corner of the park where Son-In-Law was searching to let him know they had found it. YD gave her Dad the biggest warmest hug and kiss she has ever given him. And Son-In-Law, who has never done, and would never consider doing any more than warmly shaking Hub’s hand, asked for permission to do the same. And he did.

No, my friends, the time of miracles is not past. As long as there is a one small thread or fleeting flush of faith, miracles will continue to happen.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


So there we were in this grand secluded resort (as described in the previous post) attempting to mix with the Hoity-Toity upper crust of society.

Now we immediately realized that as country hicks, we wouldn’t be able to blend with the rich and famous without a certain level of class clumsiness. And on our very first morning at that resort, I turned out to be the clumsiest of all. But ironically, it was my ineptness that magically transformed me into a 'bona fide' member of the Hoity-Toity clan.

It started out when I donned my oversized floor-length housecoat, constructed from two large bathtowels I bought for five dollars at a Value Village Value Conscious shop and slammed my feet into my runners. And just to help you picture it – the housecoat I had on was a brilliant turquoise with large roughly shaped black-framed squares each with simple representations of pineapples and large lily blooms of florescent yellow, orange, and lime green. The colors, though brilliant and quite beautiful, clash with shocking perversity (deviance and abnormality). But so what? All I meant to do was move no more than three or four feet from the veranda to let the doggies relieve themselves and then quickly retreat to the cabin and crawl back into bed.

But before I could clear my sleep-fogged brain and before I could even get my wits about me, Hub and Son-in-Law descended the steps in an excited and upbeat mood dressed in full hiking gear ready to do battle with one of the more challenging hiking trails.

“Come with us,” they barked in unison, “this morning we are going up the trail on the other side of the stream.”

“Take a look at me,” I replied. “I can’t go like this. I need to change into jeans and a sweater.”

“No, no,” was Hub’s quick reply. “You look fine. Absolutely fine.”

They were both rushing me again and before I knew it, there I was off on a hike with two doggies on leashes and dressed in bold country-hick finesse. By the time we reached the start of the trail, snow began floating down from the sky in large puffy flakes. At the same time two large tour busses pulled up and another caravan of larger-than-life posh motor homes that dumped another sixty people at the trail entrance. Busy place now. But we sauntered on through the falling snow. The weather was damp and chilly but luckily for me, my housecoat was warm and cozy.

Now I want you to believe this. I didn’t mean to act hoity-toity. I really didn’t. But before long I realized that it was more than my attire that had people looking at me with such curiosity.

Hub and Son-in-Law were both dressed in black. Walking with purpose and determined stride on either side of me. One holding a fist full of doggie bags for scooping up doggie doo, the other walking another dog – a wee little Pomeranian. The Pom looking quite striking in his new zip-up canvas runners, prancing along the trail with steps that put me in mind of a miniature Lipizzan stallion. And there was I, in the middle, with my massive black Basset-Rottweiler Hound and my all white Shih-Tzu-look-alike mongrel dog and dressed in my eye-catching housecoat. We certainly appeared as a most unlikely group. There had to be an explanation for such an odd compliance of a slovenly crone in bedroom attire, three obviously pampered dogs, and two husky and neatly dressed men. I could almost hear what passerby’s were thinking as they gawked and whispered among themselves

“Well isn’t that just Ms. Hoity-Toity? Some eccentric old bag who demands her staff to utterly make fools of themselves in order to accommodate her eccentricity, her unorthodox dress, her too-many pets, and her foolish whims. No thought for how her staff might feel or how uncomfortable her silly outfit makes the rest of us feel.”

But despite the many curious looks, backward glances, and whispered discourses, no one asked for my autograph. Perhaps they would have if I had put on a more pleasant face. But I did see quite a few digital cameras discretely pointed in my direction. Of course numerous people stopped to pet the dogs and scratch their necks, but that didn’t fool me. It was just their way of trying to achieve the distinction of having had personal interaction with someone of notoriety (moi), without making that effort appear too obvious.

So, by the way, although I had always hoped to remain anonymous to you, my dear readers, there is a crack in that façade. If you ever hap upon a postcard in a tourist resort with a fascinating photo of an older dame dressed in a long housecoat of profuse colors with two striking-looking dogs and a even more striking-looking Pom in hiking boots, framed by two mysterious-looking bodyguards, that would be me and Hub and Son-in-Law.

Anonymous no more.


And a final thought of interest only to the philosophical: You know many of us falsely surmise that the rich and famous have affected mannerisms and pompous attitudes. Perhaps this is not true at all. Perhaps it is simply our own assessment that gives them this reputation. With our own insecurity, we (meaning the common people) have built the false front or façade that blocks their world from ours. And in our envy and our efforts to mimic them, we, rather than they, become phonies. So maybe the reverse is true rather than what appears to be a collated conclusion. We are the phonies in trying to mimic them, and they are the disaffected real-deal that we purport to be. Could it be?

Next post – a bit more about this exceptional holiday.

Saturday, September 24, 2005


Hub and I just got back from a most enjoyable holiday. It didn’t actually start out that way. Initially we considered this trip with a whole lot of angst and reluctance.

Number one concern – the price of gas. Number two concern – should we be blowing money on a leisure trip when it could be a long cold winter with heating bills reaching unbelievable proportions? Number three – could we really expect to find new pleasures on roads previously traveled? Number four – could two old fogies like us keep up with the pace of youngest daughter and her hub?

But then, Middle Daughter came through with that wee bit of advice that I needed to minimize the stress of all these worries and just concentrate on a good time. "The expense doesn’t need to be a worry if you concentrate on making memories. Really special memories."

I took her advice and so did Hub. We determined to force ourselves to concentrate on doing what MD suggested – creating special memories.

To alleviate some of our distress, we determined to do what we could to economize. Hub would drive slower than he normally does. He would keep the gas feed steady. We would effect a plan to spend cautiously, move frequently and camp on side roads and ditches rather than campsites. Cook on a campfire with basic foods bought at reasonable prices. And we would stay away from tourist spots. Stay far away from them.

All pretty much a common sense approach. But you know on the second day we happened upon a most exotic resort with a campground, restaurant, and cabins buried in the mountains among falls, and streams, and canyons, and walking bridges that as far as I was concerned couldn’t be equaled no matter where you go. The cabins were so special. Pricey, but really special.

Beautifully rustic and as homey as a lighthouse in a storm. Delightfully furnished with real stone fireplaces and each with a veranda with two lovely reclining chairs. A rustic but oh-so-cozy kitchen with an old-fashioned, but stainless steel sink, colorful pottery plates and stainless steel pots and pans. Warm stained wooden floors, lots of windows looking out at stunning snow-capped mountains in every direction, two roomy bedrooms with lovely curtains, wooden bureaus, and historic paintings. A cozy living-room area with antique leather easy chairs and a special chesterfield custom-built to nestle in the spacious old-fashioned picture window. A large nostalgic old-fashioned hooked rug on the floor. High ribbed ceilings. Stained glass windows in the bathroom. And most splendid of all – an antique and deep slipper-shaped bathtub to soak in.
Gorgeous, just way too gorgeous. And a history of the place that was as exciting as the place itself. We didn’t even notice the things that were missing – no TV, no room service, no DVD, no air-conditioning, no continental breakfast.

We took a room. It was so nice. Our doggies were welcomed and acknowledged with the greatest affection by management and guests alike. We hiked, we trekked, climbed walkways deep in mountain walls, crawled through caves, and swaggered across bridges over bottomless gullies. We sat around the fireplace in the evening in the glow of parchment-shaded lamps and played crib and Texas hold-em. We took the puppies out into vast wooded areas, removed their leashes and let them wade in streams, climb on rocks, cross narrow bridges, and snoop in caves. They were beside themselves with joy. We brought in our grocery bags and cooked new potatoes, fresh zucchini, and garnished our bacon and eggs in the morning with ripe and juicy garden-grown tomatoes. We chopped wood, packed it in the woodbox and sat nestled with comfort and satisfaction around a snapping and crackling fireplace with hot freshly-perked coffee.

And then nightfall set in and we knew this was all too silly. That we were out of our element. With the famous author on one side with his Doctor-of-Psychology-wife, and the professional fast-water kayaker on the other side with his sleek sports utility vehicle and gleaming kayak. Country hicks vainly trying to mimic and live the lives of the hoity-toity. Silly, wouldn’t you say.

But when morning came, we could not give it up. So we stayed. And when the next morning came, we could not give it up, so we stayed.

Then came the bill. Time to pay the bill. But what a surprise? The cost was way less than it would have been if we had continued meandering down the road, burning gas, eating in over-priced restaurants whenever the weather was depressing, and paying the fees to see man-made sights. It was much less. And, you know, even if it hadn’t been, but it was – we would have come home feeling it was worth every penny. As it was, by thinking or should I say moving outside the box, we got the bargain of the century.

More about this special holiday coming up on the next post.

Saturday, September 17, 2005


A new game and a new Mem.

Obviously I take blogging way too seriously. I know that because of the volumes of blogs I have scrapped. I’ve got three heavy binders filled to capacity with blogs I’ve published, but if I saved all the blogs I scrapped, I would have "Scrapped Blogs"; Volumes 1 – 42 already.

And thinking about scrapping stuff, I have to marvel at how bloody long it took me to realize how valuable ‘scraps’ can be. That vegetable peelings and coffee grounds could be discarded in my garden and would add badly needed mulch to my 100% clay soil. And the years it took me to recognize that cloth scraps, though ever so tiny, if saved, can make a colorful and stunningly beautiful quilt. And the many years it took for me to realize that rain water has a magic that kicks plants up a notch, that tap water cannot duplicate. And the many years it took me to realize that the rigidity of the rule that dogs should not be fed table scraps is a bunch of malarkey. After all, I would hope that dog food is initially made from human food and if it isn’t, then I might as well be feeding my dog the can rather than the contents. And too many years to realize that olive oil is the best kind of additive to benefit dry skin. Far better than any expensive luxury product. And that cooked leftovers do not have to languish and crawl around in the back of the fridge if I just freeze excess portions immediately. And many, many more realizations. So long in coming. But enough of that soliloquy – now back to writing.

So when it comes to writing, what was I thinking? More writing has gone in the garbage than I have ever saved. And when one has a good reason for discarding something, that’s okay. Anything that stinks, shows signs of decay, putrefaction, crumbling, or toxicity needs to be scrapped. But when one doesn’t have a good reason for scrapping a thing, that is a disgrace.

I wish now I had initially set up two Blog Sites. One for "Scrapped Blogs" and one for those that passed serious scrutiny. Thinking about others’ blogs, I note many have their writings artfully catalogued and sorted. There is Health, Personal, Family, Political, etc. but I’ve yet to find a category labeled "The Rubbish Bin" or "Scrapped" that I can actually root through and read. I think such a category would be fascinating. Like searching for treasures in an old haunted house or panning for gold in a fast flowing river.

And this thought leads to another digression. Another seemingly totally irrelevant thought. Are you keeping up?

And that thought is this. Sober we are what we want others to perceive us to be. But when inebriated, we become what we truly are. In fact, many psychologists say that the thoughts expressed by a highly inebriated person expose their deepest and truest feelings. So similarly, perhaps when one is writing disconnected thoughts, without a plan, without a theme, without caution of political correctness, without a perceived audience, that is where the true soul of that individual is exposed. And to clarify for any who hold their own suspicions about what I’ve been drinking, one doesn’t have to be inebriated to write in the disconnected way that I am writing at this very moment.

All that aside, I do other reasons, besides chaos and confusion, for scrapping what I scrap. And if I treat those reasons as a ‘Mem Game’, this is what I would have to say about the writings that I scrap:

1. Words cannot aptly define these thoughts.
2. These are words that might offend someone.
3. Too much about "me".
4. I want approval and this isn’t going to work.
5. If I can’t write any better than that, I should quit.
6. Oh Whoa – I’m back to sermonizing. That will never do.

But today I’m no longer going to make blogging such a serious business. I’m going to lighten up. I’m going to stop value-assessing everything. And I’m going to publish scraps. In fact, what you are reading right now is a bit of recycled stuff from the ‘Scrap Bin’. Can’t help wondering if you’re entertained or downright miffed.

Either way, this blog has a purpose; it has a challenge. The challenge is I want you to play the Scrapped-Blog Mems Game or else publish something you’ve pulled from the Rubbish Bin. Of course, you’re also welcome to comment on any of the other digressions in this blog as well.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I love pets but they can become a nuisance. I love plants but they can become a nuisance. I love kids but they can become a nuisance. I love Hub and he can become a nuisance. But most of all, I love words but they can become a nuisance as well.

I can sit down at my computer with a passionate thought, and a voice that can’t be silenced, and a plot as organized as train cars following an engine down a straight and narrow track. I can have a story with a deeply embedded moral content and a lighter side for entertainment. Everything there. Everything set to go.

And then out of the blue, here comes this word. It jumps into my head and rattles around. It has no denotation or connotation that could possible make it usable in my exposé. But still it demands to be a part of my prose. It runs interference like a quarterback in a football game. It jingles and jangles in my head until I get a skull cramp. It is a nuisance and so distracting that, with my failing memory, I panic for fear I will lose my original train of thought and often I do. And then all I have left to work with is the interfering ‘word’.

This morning was that kind of morning. The word that came into my head, rattling its three ugly syllables like tinny cowbells on a galloping herd of bovines was ‘insipid’.

‘Insipid!’ For crying out loud, I don’t even have a clue what that stupid word means. Normally I would look it up. That’s what I normally do. But no more. I look up these stupid words that continually run interference and find after that exercise, I go back to my computer to write and find my mind devoid of any worthwhile content. Everything in my carefully plotted and twice reviewed writing plan trashed. Ultimately, all I have now is an empty head that has nothing in it except some dumb word bouncing around like an errant pinball in a pinball machine.

So although this is a forced entry. Although this blither has nothing to do with my originally planned exposé, I have written it. And to clear the annoying jangle in my head, at the risk of committing a grave grammatical error, at the risk of using the wrong word for the wrong reason, I am forced to use that bloody word to write this bloody ‘insipid’ blog.

But this crap isn’t going to happen again. This morning, after I don’t know how many years without it, Hub is finally installing a one-click dictionary on my laptop. That’s one way to get those nuisance words in line so I can get back to some serious and thought-provoking blogging.


Indeed! Pfft!

Sunday, September 11, 2005


I saw a flick on CNN today about insurance claims in the areas affected by Katrina. At one residence, an Insurance Adjuster was doing a laborious assessment. Her job? To separate wind damage from water damage. Important because this particular insurance policy covered wind damage but not water damage.

So she was trying to explain to the client and define for the client what was and what was NOT eligible for compensation. Now obviously such a task was pretty much an arbitrary exercise. And the client, notwithstanding, no doubt felt forced to accept whatever arbitrary decisions the adjuster made. Who could argue, and how could one argue? The one thing the client felt they could make a case for was the car that was parked under a breezeway and out of the rain. The storm has smashed the car and moved it a considerable distance away. Because it was parked in a sheltered area, surely one could say that loss was due to wind damage. But I expect even that was debatable.

I had to shake my head in dismay. What kind of thinking? The flooding was caused by hurricane winds. Without these powerful winds, there would have been no flood. So how does one separate the two?

That is about as nonsensical as saying that if a wind came up and toppled a large tree on my garage – the damage was due to the tree rather than the wind. It really amounts to the age old question - 'What came first, the chicken or the egg?'

Never took a course in Critical Thinking but maybe I need to cause I just don’t get it. Do you?

Saturday, September 10, 2005


You know I can’t help but think there’s something abnormally wrong with me when other people can get enviable satisfaction from something that I fail to understand. It makes me anxious. Today I am anxious and the reason for my anxiety is I fail to understand the rewards of ‘ambiance’.

Now what annoys me and God knows there should be a law against it is having to pay for something I can’t pocket. Something I can’t identify or even rationalize. For lack of a better word to describe it, let’s just call it ‘ambiance’. And just in case you don’t know what I am talking about, here are some examples:

Heading the list is Restaurant ambiance. Now when it comes to really good and excellent food, I don’t mind paying the price if the establishment is clean and when I’m done eating I’m so stuffed I practically have to crawl on my hands and knees to the car. But ambiance? It’s nothing more than a purported feeling. But if it exists, even if it’s not on the menu, it’s included in the bill. As extra charges blended into the price of the food. Extra charges for that special feeling that is supposed to come with the addition of plush carpets, fresh fleurs on the table, soft music, dim lighting, and exotic décor. But the only feeling I have is that the bill is unreasonable. To be totally fair, don’t you think ambiance should be detailed on the bill, rather than blended in with the cost of the meal?

But that’s not all. Then there is the cost of ambiance that comes on my telephone bills and gas bills. Don’t be fooled. That line about ‘recovery charges’ or ‘unspecified charges’ is some kind of blended add-on that definitely parallels the same kind of thinking as restaurant ambiance charges.

Ambiance is also the thing that makes costs differ though one product is an exact duplicate of another. The avocado dishwasher costs more than the white one. The red car costs more than the black one. White bath towels cost more than green ones. The hotel room with the same bed, same quilts, same size of room, costs more because of the paintings on the wall or the indirect lighting. And if one really cares about ‘ambiance’, if one is really looking for ‘ambiance’, there is ambiance home lighting, dinnerware, candles and accessories, plumbing, bedding, and even skin care products, just to name a few.

Now I really need a fully-detailed and articulate manual about ‘ambiance’ so I can understand it. I do understand that ambiance is supposed to give one an unexpected, pleasurable and somewhat climactic emotional rush. Like an orgasm, I guess. But despite all the extra money I find myself dishing out on ambiance, I’ve never yet reached a climax.

Maybe I just don’t fully understand the term. So I looked it up. Ambiance is not as good as it gets. This is the most common definition I found for 'ambiance'.

The special atmosphere or mood created by a particular environment: "The noir ambience is dominated by low-key lighting . . . and deep shadows, creating feelings of disorientation, loneliness and entrapment" (UCLA Film/TV Archive).

I should be surprised, but really I’m not. I guess that is what I was feeling all along. But the definition fails to mention the most obvious part – […and a feeling of economic loss].

P.S. I was going to contact Dr. Phil this morning to get help with my emotional state and my limited understanding of ambiance. After all, Dr. Phil knows everything.

But I looked out my window and saw golden leaves on the maple tree, cast into silk by the sun. A handsome dog sitting on the corner by the gatepost guarding his territory with a watchful eye. The beauty of the backdrop of a golden field freshly swathed across the road. A stunningly beautiful blue jay checking the feeder for treats. The gazing-ball in my flower bed winking at me with one brilliant shaft of light. I sipped my fresh-brewed coffee and stepped outside. Suddenly I got an emotional rush. A rush that I think is what most cultured people interpret as ‘ambiance’.

Nice, very nice.

Friday, September 09, 2005


Now that the kids are back in school I thought I would resurrect a post that I wrote a couple years ago. It has a devious plot but one that might be helpful for parents dealing with unhappy kids. This is my story.

Youngest Daughter did very well in school from Grades 1 – 4. But come Grade 5, all that changed. That year, almost immediately, YD decided she hated her teacher and furthermore that her teacher hated her. And because of this belief, she was deliberately as disruptive in class as she could be. Even when home, she whined constantly about her 'dumb' teacher and the misery of school. Some days she was so reluctant to board the bus that Hub and I thought we were going to have a Grade 5 dropout.

So when I it was time for parent-teacher interviews, Hub and I discussed the problem. When offspring are unhappy, mothers become way too tense. Aware of this, Hub felt obliged to take over. "Don't worry about it, Mom," he said, I'll look after it." So I stayed home and Hub went alone to the parent-teacher interviews.

Now Miss Educate was more than a little anxious to give Hub her opinion.

"Your daughter, Mr. Smith, is a problem," she said. "She is uncooperative and disruptive, difficult to deal with, and unwilling to apply herself to her studies. In fact I had to move her desk to an isolated location against that side wall because of the disruption she was causing for other students."

Hub listened quietly, then commented. "Miss Educate, I find it very difficult to absorb what you're saying. YD talks about you so much. She talks about how smart you are. How well you know your stuff. To hear her tell it, you are an exceptional teacher. So I really have a hard time understanding what is going on here."

This was the huge myth that Hub spun for YD's teacher.Later that evening when Hub came home, YD ran quickly to him. "What happened? What did my teacher say?"

With that Hub smiled broadly and began spinning another huge myth.

"Miss Educate said you are so funny, and always smiling. She said you are really smart too. She said that your big smile really makes her happy when she is feeling low."

Hub now looked serious. "But she also said, she doesn't know why you don't like her. Especially because she is so fond of you!"

Lies. Lies. All of it lies. But guess what, YD went back to school and immediately things changed. First day back YD's desk was back in the line-up with her other classmates. YD now completed all her schoolwork (and homework), and even did extra reading to be sure she knew everything there was to know about her assignments. She aced every subject and now demanded that I purchase gifts for Miss Educate on her Birthday. At Christmas she compelled me to make Miss Educate a cozy pair of knit slippers as well.

Now although YD finished school quite a few year's ago, she still remembers with unprecedented fondness her favorite teacher, Miss Educate. So obviously, I am in favor of teaching honesty, but I am keenly aware that sometimes righteous lies have a place as well.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Like so many others across the globe, I question the badly flawed tactical approach to the monumental task of saving lives in the Gulf region. But I cannot criticize. There are too many facts I do not know. And the massive destruction is beyond my comprehension.

But I can criticize the emotional support, or lack thereof. And my one observation is this. If I were in twelve feet of water, hanging on to a roof with desperation, fighting to survive, and I heard that initial speech from the Guardian of my safety about "working hard", and "rebuilding", I would feel nothing more than a greater sense of isolation and hopelessness. ‘Don’t talk to me about working hard. Don’t talk to me about rebuilding. Get me out of here first!’

Re-building, re-construction of a thing requires all of its basic components. In order to be and do what it was meant to be and do, it must have all the basic parts. And in the Gulf Region the basic component of the area was the special heart, pulse, and character of the people living there. Without them, only a sad and empty representation can be rebuilt that has no more meaning to anyone than a smudge on a page. Even with my limited comprehension, I fully understand that buildings can be reconstructed, but lives cannot be restored.