Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Backyard Trees

A pussy willow tree was among the trees and shrubs that we had planted in our back yard some 23 years ago, when we first moved to this house. Because of its placement at one corner of the yard and the overgrowth of some of the other plants, it's not an easy tree to view from within the yard. We have to go outside the boundary of trees and shrubs and view it from our neighbor's side.

Today, as I walked around the yard, observing the spring buds and flowers, I stepped through the wall of shrubs to see how the pussy willow was faring. Here are a few photos.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's the little things...

If you've hung around here long at all, you know that I don't cook much. So it might surprise you to learn that my new favorite thing is a skillet. It's a tiny little thing...about four and a half inches across. And it's just the ticket for making an egg sandwich. The finished egg fits perfectly on a sandwich thin. Add a little ketchup and a slice of cheese and...voila! An easy, delicious, and nutritious little meal.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Anita is my cousin-in-law, married to Cousin Bill, who was featured in my last post. I was drawn to her from the start because of our shared love of Arabian horses. And of Cousin Bill, of course.

I became aware early on that Anita was artistic, although it would be years before I realized the full extent of her talent. In fact, I doubt that I realize that full extent even today.

The above sketch is a self-portrait of Anita as a little girl, with her pony, Patsy. Seeing that sketch on the wall of their living room provided my first insight into Anita's artistic talent.

Anita taught high school art for 30 years, retiring in 1998, to become a full-time bronze sculptor.

Following are a few of the table sculptures she has created:

First Ride

Just A Little Squirt


The Leonberger

Soon, Anita began to receive commissions to do life-size sculptures of historical figures, children, and pets. Following is a sampling of some of those.

William Bruce, founder of Eaton, Ohio

Playing Hooky

Fish on the end of Playing Hooky's line



As someone who doesn't have an artistic bone in her body, I have great admiration for those folks who are gifted in the arts, in any form. Anita is certainly one of them, and I take pride in her talent, even though I had nothing to do with it.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Cousins and Friends

Because my dad was raised by his maternal grandparents, his "siblings" were his aunts and uncles, mostly quite a bit older than he. The two aunts closest to him in age never had children, so he had no brothers or sisters to provide cousins for me and my brother, Phil. My dad's dad had brothers; but, because Dad lived with his deceased mother's parents, he was never close with his father's side of the family.

My mother had two brothers. Her older brother had two sons, but they lived almost 600 miles away; and we saw them infrequently. Her younger brother always lived only an hour or two from us and had three boys and a girl. We were blessed to live close enough to these cousins to see them often.

Cousin Bill was about six months younger than Phil, and Cousin Steve was just a month older than I. The closeness in our ages and the frequency of our association, built close cousin relationships between us. With Bill and Phil, the relationship went beyond the role of cousins and grew to deep friendship.

Cousin Bill in the arms of his parents.

Cousin Bill

Cousin Bill on the left, Phil on the right

Cousin Steve on the left, Cousin Bill on the right

As Bill and Phil grew up, the strength of their friendship continued to grow. They both married young, and their children were spaced much like we cousins had been. Bill's Jeff came first, with Phil's Beckie following just four months later.

Bill recently sent me the following photos, from January of 1964.

Phil with Bill's 1963 BMW Motorcycle

Jeff and Beckie, continuing the cousin tradition

Cousin Bill trying to turn Jeff and Beckie into Kissing Cousins

Unfortunately, Bill's and Phil's relationship came to an end when Phil died in an auto accident at the age of 25. Bill's own brother, Steve, was to die in similar fashion not quite eight years later. The loss of our brothers drew Bill and me closer, and he continues to be a special guy in my life. We don't see each other often, but we keep in touch through e-mail.

Extended families are important. If you have cousins, I hope you treasure them. They're the next best thing to siblings. And sometimes they're friends.

Friday, March 09, 2012

Removing All Doubt

Yesterday, because of recent solar flares and coronal mass ejections being hurled toward earth, northern tier states were advised to be on the lookout for Northern Lights displays. Now, Indiana does get to see Northern Lights from time to time, but they are rarely the dramatic displays that are visible in more northerly regions. And Northern Lights rank right up there among Doug's and my favorite things.

So we made a spur-of-the-moment decision to go a little further north, to improve our chances of seeing a good display. We were somewhat limited on distance because I had a late-morning doctor appointment that prevented us from getting an early start. So we chose a town about a four-hour drive from where we live.

When I returned home from my doctor appointment, we went online to find lodging at our destination. The plan was to stay two nights, giving us a second chance to view the Lights in case the first night didn't pan out. We booked a cabin, rationalizing that a cabin would be a more comfortable place than a motel to spend the second day while waiting for night to fall and another opportunity to watch for the Lights.

We still had packing to do, which we manage to make challenging even for a two-night stay. After all, there are our own pillows to take because who can sleep well without their own pillows? And Doug has a CPAP machine which has to be packed, along with the mask, tubing, and distilled water for the humidifier tank. Then, of course, going north in the winter requires some emergency supplies like peanut butter, jelly, and bread for when we can't find a restaurant. We never like to be too far from food.

This might be a good time to mention the reason for my doctor appointment. I have been experiencing some pretty severe discomfort in my right knee for some time now.  It would come and go for awhile, but then it moved in and stayed for a couple of weeks, getting pretty bad by last weekend. Of course, when I went to the doctor yesterday, the knee was doing quite well. He listened to my description of the onset and progress of the condition; then he poked and prodded the area a bit. He felt that a short regimen of Prednisone would reduce the inflammation and probably take care of things.

However, as we were packing for our trip after my appointment, the knee was becoming increasingly painful and swollen. I told myself that it was because of all the activity surrounding the packing and that it would get better once we got on the road. I'm not always truthful with myself.

So, by the time we finished our preparations and hit the road, it was about 3:30 PM. We stopped a little over an hour later for supper. As soon as we got out of the car to go into the restaurant, Doug began hiccuping. I should probably mention that he's been battling hiccups for three weeks. They come for a few days; then they go for a few days. But he's pretty miserable during the few days they stay.

As I limped into the restaurant, followed by a hiccuping husband, it did occur to me that maybe we should just turn around and go back home. But we decided to push on.

We arrived at our destination at about 9:00 PM. There was a lot of snow and ice on the ground, although we could tell that a significant amount had already melted. The temperature was in the mid-twenties, and the sky was partly cloudy. The conditions were less than ideal for viewing the Northern Lights. But we could always hope for better conditions the next night.

We found the office and got checked in, then went to look at our cabin. The doorknob was so loose that it almost came off in our hands as we inserted the key and tried to turn it. Inside, we found a large room that combined a living room and kitchen. There were two bedrooms, each with a full-size bed, neither of which looked very inviting. The cabin was cold, with the only heat source being a small gas fireplace which faced away from the bedrooms and would never be able to heat them adequately. Our hearts sank when we saw it. We looked at each other and agreed that we needed to ask for our money back, which the owners graciously granted.

So then we found ourselves out in the cold night with no Plan B. Doug suggested that we retrace our route southward about forty miles, to where the skies had been clearer and where we might find other lodging. As we drove along, with Doug hiccuping and me rubbing my aching knee, I looked at him and said, "You know, we could be home by 2 AM."

He agreed, and we headed for home.

We stopped at a truck stop about an hour away from home for gasoline and to use the restrooms. It was about 12:30 AM. A guy in the truck stop noticed my limp and struck up a conversation with me. He asked where we were headed. I told him, and he commented that we didn't have far to go. Then he asked me where we were coming from. How could I explain that we'd left home nine hours ago and were just an hour away? He's probably still scratching his head over that.

So, if you have ever wondered whether we might be a bit on the crazy side...this should remove all doubt.

Thursday, March 01, 2012


This is our no-longer-sunken living room, now with the old carpet reinstalled and the furniture moved back into place. It looks inviting and innocent, doesn't it? Well, let me tell you...looks can be deceiving.

After filling in the sunken living room with seven inches of cement, we had to wait three weeks for the cement to be sufficiently dried to permit the carpet and furniture to be put back. We spent two of those weeks on a trip to Florida, to get away from the disorderly house.

The second day after our return home, the carpet layers came to reinstall the carpet. Within an hour of their departure after finishing the job, I went sprawling onto the newly laid carpet, having forgotten that the seven-inch step down into the living room was no longer there.

Later that evening, I was in the computer room when I heard the sound of rapid and heavy footsteps on the wooden floor of the entryway, accompanied by an astonished catching of breath, as Doug struggled to keep his feet under him, having forgotten that he didn't have to step up the seven inches to exit the living room.

As the days went by, we became practiced at talking ourselves through each entering and leaving of the room; and, although there were some close calls, there were no more falls.

Then, tonight, Doug was in the computer room with me when the hour rolled around for one of his favorite television programs. He dashed for the living room, to turn on the set before he missed something important on the program. From the computer room, I heard it...splat...the sound of a body skidding across the carpet in a belly flop.

From the computer room, I called out, "Did you fall?"

From the floor of the living room came the answer, "I'm not telling."

We're getting too old for this.

Update October 16, 2015...My niece, Beckie, found this Minions cartoon, and I couldn't resist adding it to this post:

See the source image

Thanks to Hilary at The Smitten Image for including this post as a Post of the Week.

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