The first bark and a new forum on the same weekend!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:18 pm by admin

Today Chester is more comfortable in the house, but he is also more confident and he is acting very aggressive towards the cat.  We have tried to introduce them safely, but he lunges at her and she hisses and runs.  He instantly overcame his fear of the stairs when he followed her up to the bedroom and then into the basement.  We have not allowed him off the leash in her presence since he came into the house.  Jack Russells, his breed, have been known to kill cats unless they are raised with them. Daniel seems to be taking this all in stride, but I am concerned that one or both of them will end up at the Vets for suturing. We’ll see.

At noon today we took the old poetry forum offline and set up the new forum with the database from the old forum. Daniel started this while I drove to the tax office to pay the annual school tax bill. I was gone longer than I had intended because I fell into a conversation with the tax collector about dogs and koi. She also has a pond. When I returned home, I distinctly heard the muffled sound of a dog’s bark. As I walked through the back door, there was Chester, “baby” in mouth, barking. Then I understood the muffled bark. Chester dropped his baby and barked his little heart out. Daniel told me that Chester watched me drive away from the back of the sofa through the living room window and remained there until I returned. His bark is less shrill than that of my previous dog, but it is a Jack Russell just the same.

After my return, Daniel and I worked on the installation of the new forum and checked each function and option as we fine tuned the operation of the software. I had anticipated this transition would take the better part of a day, but to my surprise and delight I was able to notify the forum members at 4:19 PM that the new forum was up and running. Not including Daniel and myself, all but two of the forum members logged on to check it out. So far so good, but I’m sure a few bugs will creep up over the next few days.

This has been an eventful weekend. Between the forum and the introduction of Chester, we haven’t had a moment to simply breathe. Tomorrow Daniel plans to do nothing, and I can’t fault him for that. He has worked tirelessly over the past week to test the forum software for every conceivable problem, and he has helped me to select the most useful and beneficial packets to allow the members greater freedom and more options when posting their work. I could not have created this poetry forum without his dedication and support, and I am very proud of what we have created together.



Meet Chester

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:43 pm by admin

I am happy to say that at the present time I am in the company of a new canine friend. He is approximately two years old, and he was rescued from the SPCA the day he was going to be euthanized because he had not been adopted in the time allowed.  A woman who works for a veterinarian about 45 minutes from my home started a program in conjunction with the Vet.  In brief, the vet agreed to take in dogs and cats who he and his assistant both felt deserved more time than the SPCA could give them.

The dog’s new name is Chester, and he is of the same breed as the dog I recently lost.  There are many similarities between them because of the breed, but he is a unique little guy who has yet to bark.  For the past four months, he has lived in a cage at the vets office, but they have made every effort to provide him with love, attention, and room to run and play.  His breed is one of the most intelligent there is, and as a result of this many owners who adopt them, “aren’t smart enough to have them,” as the woman at the vets office said.  I have found this to be very true after living with one for fourteen and a half years.  It is probably why he was taken to the SPCA, and is likely the reason he was returned to this vet after several failed adoption attempts.

He is shy, but not timid, and within the first three minutes of walking around the yard, he flushed his first field mouse.  He now has the run of a fenced in yard, which he was a bit intimidated by, and a house.  When he approached the koi pond, he simply waked right in, submerged, surfaced, swam to the edge, climbed out, shook himself off, and continued on his exploration of the yard as if nothing had happened.  He has kept Daniel and myself in his line of sight since we arrived home, and he makes every attempt to be in physical contact with one of us in some way, except when he falls asleep with his head resting on his “baby” – stuffed animal.  Tonight will be the hardest for all of us, as he has new sounds and smells to experience, and he is in a new environment.  He is also afraid of the stairs that lead upstairs to the bedroom.  Hopefully one of us will not be sleeping on the couch with him tonight.  His interaction with the cat was brief, as she disappeared into the basement the moment she saw him.  Thankfully his fear of the stairs prevented him from following her, that and the basement door we closed behind her.  Bringing him here is a lifelong commitment, and I have every intention of making this transition as easy as possible for him, as I do not want to see him go through another rejection.

The information I received from the Vets office we adopted him from was minimal, just the vaccination record from the SPCA. I also had asked for a several day supply of the food he had been eating so as to transition him to his new food. I forgot about that until after we had arrived home. The first thing he did when we brought him into the house was to go to my old dogs toy box. He sorted through the twenty or so toys there and selected seven. The ownership of these seven items has been permanently transferred to Chester and have been relocated to one end of the sofa where he staked a claim. Daniel and I have accepted this quite graciously in view of this period of transition we are all experiencing. He has growled a few times when I have approach him to protect his toys and I have backed away. These moments are brief and quickly forgotten when we go for walks on the leash within the fenced in yard. I am being cautious so as to prevent him from hurting himself. He is still exploring his new world, but with time he (and we) will adjust.

Wish us luck tonight.


Meet Chester





Letting go

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:33 pm by admin

Since this spring I have mourned the loss of my dog. We shared fourteen and a half years together. During that time many changes occurred in my life, but through it all she was by my side. When Daniel came into my life, she not only accepted him, but embraced him. The bond between them formed almost instantaneously and continued to grow over time. When she died, Daniel’s grief was almost unbearable. He had never had a dog before, and during the months since she passed, he has reflected on the impact she and their bond had on him.

During NaPoWriMo, April 2008, I wrote a poem each day. One of these poems is significant, because it was the last poem I wrote before I realized there was something wrong with her. This poem is probably the only one I will ever write like this.  It is not really my style, and it was written on the evening of April 10, 2008. The poem begins with a strophe written as a quote, but it was written by me. It came to me that evening as a rainstorm was winding down.  I believe it was my subconscious mind telling me to pay attention.  During the next three days my mind was quite unsettled because I began to sense a change in her, and then I knew there was something wrong.  I wrote this particular poem with her snoring quietly beside me.

I’m not quite sure I can explain this poem because it’s a complicated concept for me. The language of the “quote” is quite different from that of the poem, it is more sophisticated.  I’ve thought about this for months, and I believe it was my sub conscience’s way of reaching beyond my years of training and clinical experience, which were blinded by familiarity and denial, to look at the situation in a very basic and simplistic way.  I was intent on writing a poem that evening, and after I wrote the quote the path that the rain flowed became very clear to me.  I simply followed the raindrops movement in my mind.  The poem is about the sound of water, and there is a line in it about the “rush of life” as it relates to the sound of the placental souffle, the sound of blood as it flows through the placenta in a pregnant woman. It is only this evening that I realize this line, “rush of life,” was speaking to me about the passage of time.

For two weeks after her death, my dreams, my thoughts, and my writing all reflected our life together, my guilt about having her put down, and my grief over her loss. During this past week I began to let her go.  I’ve held my grief in, only breaking for fleeting moments, for four and a half months.  I dreamed about her last Friday night, and the next morning I opened her folder on my computer and read all her poems. The tears flowed and it took a long time to get through them all.  I decided to post the few poems that I felt were poignant yet written with at least some degree of clarity and accuracy, and did her memory justice on my poetry forum.  The response I received from the members of the forum was a cross between condolences, and candid critiques of the writing.  Each time someone commented on the thread I reread the poems and cried again.  This has been a very cathartic week for me. I have not yet responded to the comments and critiques so as to allow a little time to pass. The philosophy of the forum is to support the work of each poet in a positive way to improve the work and prepare it for publication, if that is the intent of the poet. I can tell you that all the members have been stellar in their endorsement of this philosophy and their support of my writing about her.

This past Tuesday, I told Daniel I had begun to research dog adoption. I called the shelters and rescue organizations in our area in the hopes that I would find another canine companion. Daniel and I have talked about another dog, but until I was able to let go of my grief, I have not been able to accept this. Today I spoke with Daniel on the phone during his lunch break about a dog and we decided to make an appointment for tomorrow to visit with one particular dog to determine if this will work. I’ll let you all know how it all turns out.



An Evening Chat Session with Forum Members

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:44 pm by admin

This evening the members of the poetry forum participated in a chat session to discuss a new project and the test model for the new poetry forum. We had planned to be online together for two hours, but a few of us continued to converse for an extra hour. It was really nice to get to know each other a little better, and one of the most amusing discussions was about choosing unique text colors so that everyone would be able to tell who was saying what a little easier. Even though we could not hear each other, conversing in real time was far better than sending private messages through the forum or posting messages for each other. Another interesting thing was having several conversations going on at the same time and trying to determine which conversation folks were participating in. All in all the evening went very well and we plan to continue these sessions in the future.



Propane restocked.

Posted in Recipes & Cooking, Thoughts and Reflections at 11:34 pm by admin

On my way home from work today I stopped and paid to have one of our two propane tanks refilled. Next week I’ll take the other tank to be filled. The two tanks should last us through the winter. From the propane station I drove to the O & A Farms produce stand and picked up a head of Romaine lettuce, a Vidalia onion and some fresh broccoli for Daniel. It’s his favorite vegetable after lima beans and/or succotash. I stopped in at the post office to pick up the mail and then came home. Before I put the car in the garage, I attached the full tank on the grill and lit it to burn off the pieces of hamburger from yesterday. After putting away the produce, sorting the mail, making myself a cup of leftover coffee from this morning, and feeding the cat, I went out the the grill, turned off the gas and “did the dishes.” That wire brush is just the best for cleanup.

On my way back into the house, I turned on the sprinkler attached to the garden hose from the pond pump and watered a dry section of the front yard around the pond. When I returned to the house, I made a batch of cucumber salad, Mom’s recipe, and put on a fresh pot of coffee. Just as I finished, Daniel called to let me know he was on his way home from work. I sat down in front of my computer and checked in on the three poetry forums and read a large percentage of my email. By this time enough water had been drained from the pond to start a water change. We ate dinner while watching some TV. After dinner I fed the fish in the pond. We had quite a smorgasbord of leftovers along with the cucumber salad. As a matter of fact, I put so many things out for the “buffet”, that our plates were full before we were able to sample everything. That’s one great thing about having leftovers, you don’t have to cook tomorrow.

Mom’s Cucumber Salad

1 cucumber sliced paper thin – use a mandolin (no not the musical instrument)
1/4 onion sliced just as thin


3 tblsp. sour cream
2-3 tsp. sugar
1/2 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/2 tsp. lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dill – optional

Mix sugar into sour cream, add lemon juice – mix, then add the remainder of the dressing ingredients. Mix well. Add cucumber and onion and mix. Cover and refrigerate at least one hour before serving.

This dressing is also a good start for the dressing for cole slaw, but I wouldn’t add the dill.



Hamburgers on the grill.

Posted in Recipes & Cooking, Thoughts and Reflections at 10:01 pm by admin

This morning I posted a notice on my poetry forum and sent an email out to all the members about the new poetry forum model. Other than myself and Daniel, seven members visited the site and a few made a post or sent a PM. I’m going to give it a few days the then we’ll most likely begin the conversion some time over the coming Memorial Day weekend.

I’ve been craving hamburgers for the past two weeks and this morning I decided it was time. I made my “world famous” macaroni salad (I like it anyway) and hamburgers made from 2/3 93% lean ground beef and 1/3 99% lean ground Perdue chicken. I also sliced 1/4 of a Vidalia onion and washed several Romaine lettuce leaves. I usually add fresh diced onion to the mixture, but I’ve found that the burgers tend to fall apart on the grill when I cook them, even if I chill them in the frig ahead of time. Today I tried my recipe without the fresh onion.


2/3 lb. lean ground beef
1/3 lb. ground chicken
2 tblsp. Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce
1 tblsp. Italian seasoning
1 tblsp. dried minced onion
2 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. Bay seasoning
1 tsp. fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp. Texas Pete Hot Sauce
1 tsp. dried garlic powder
1 egg scrambled
1/2 c. Italian seasoned bread crumbs

Mix ingredients well and divide into 6 portions. Shape into burgers and place on wax paper on a flat baking sheet and freeze (YES FREEZE).

For dinner I cut 1/2 of a yellow zucchini into 8 wedges and grilled them on the top rack of the grill while I cooked the burgers on the lower grill. Don’t you know it, when it was time to turn the burgers, I ran out of friggin’ Propane. After a string of expletives, I removed the burgers and squash from the grill, heated up my largest frying pan and finished the squash in the pan sprayed with a little Pam. Once the squash was slightly blackened on the cut sides, I removed the wedges and cooked the burgers. While I was frying, I made up a small batch of McCormick’s Ranch Dressing to use for dipping for the squash. When everything was ready, I took out all the appropriate condiments and we had a picnic dinner while we watched some TV.

I much prefer to cook on the grill because there is literally no cleanup. When the cooking is done, I turn the grill on high and set out the food like a buffet. After 5 minutes, I go out to the grill, turn it off and scrape the cinders off the grates, dishes done. Tonight I had a greasy frying pan to wash, but it wasn’t so bad. The food was definitely worth the added effort.



Out for a test drive.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:37 pm by admin

I contacted several members of the forum today and asked them to take the new model of the poetry forum out for a test drive. From the feed back, no one was against it. My dear friend Larina, an administrator at the Poets org Poetry Forum and editor of The Externalist, recommended this forum software to me when I first discussed the prospect of starting a new poetry forum with her the end of June. I had decided on the brand of software that I am currently using because it is the same software used at the Poets org Poetry Forum, one I am very familiar with. After a month or so, I began to consider the possibility of expanding the forum and this new software has greater functionality and is more versatile and user friendly.

After dinner this evening, Daniel and I discussed the progress of the new forum test model and it seems to be working well. I’m sure there will be a few bugs to work out, but it’s not nearly as complicated on the administration end as I thought it would be. On the user end, it’s really quite easy and nice to work with. As with so many new things, there will be a learning curve involved, but the process of posting threads is almost intuitive so I don’t anticipate too much difficulty on everyone’s part. Tomorrow I’ll post an announcement on the current forum and invite the members to give it a whirl.

Once we go live, the transition process will probably take the better part of a day because we’ll have to start from scratch when we import all the data from the present forum into the new software. Unfortunately, we can’t add the changes and additions that have been made on the old forum to what we imported this past Saturday. Daniel has saved all the unique scripts he wrote and he’s been through the code so many times, he’s very familiar with what is involved. I’m fortunate in the fact that he loves to do this kind of work. I asked him over the weekend if he’d like to put the project off for a bit, but he told me he was having a great time doing it.



Changing and modifying themes and color schemes.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:50 pm by admin

Today was almost a repeat of yesterday. Daniel and I thought it might be nice to offer several different themes for the new poetry forum to the members. We went to the website where the organization that wrote the software has the downloads, and we looked at each and every one, there were over 100 of them. We selected about 15 versions or themes and installed them. Some of the themes were very simple versions that were missing quite a few of the options I was looking for, so those were ruled out immediately. It was not apparent from the organization’s website exactly how the themes would look when they were installed. After the fist elimination round, we reviewed the ones remaining and discussed the different layouts, fonts, button locations and so on. We boiled it down to two. From there, we decided it would be easiest if we chose one particular theme and customized it using particular aspects of the others. I had no idea just what I was asking Daniel to do. I don’t think he did either. As he progressed through the customization, Daniel would ask me to try each revision as he completed them. Again, before we knew it, it was dinner time. Fortunately all I had to do was reheat leftovers from yesterday.

After dinner, we continued with the customization as Daniel wrote script and I tested it. It’s now nearly midnight and we’re both seeing spots again. Tomorrow I’ll contact a few folks at the forum and ask them to take the new forum out for a test drive. So far we only have the fist test version available. The customization of the second is a bit complicated and Daniel wants to wait until all the bugs are worked out of it.



The art of writing scripts.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:07 pm by admin

I learned a lesson today in the art of writing computer scripts. Daniel and I spent almost the entire day and evening working on customizing the software for a new brand of software I’m trying out for my poetry forum. I knew this was an involved and time consuming process. What I didn’t know was just how complicated it could be. I’m sure it’s second nature to someone who does this on a regular basis, but to write line after line of code just to make one small change in a function button, or where a particular line of text will appear is truly amazing. By the end of the evening, we were both seeing spots.

This is how it went. Daniel and I discussed the overall layout of the first page, then I made suggestions, or more accurately requests on how I would want it to appear. Daniel would research the code, and then rewrite the code to make the page look like I envisioned it. When he was finished, I’d try it out, that is after he tried it out. While he was writing code lines, I’d go in and experiment with the different default settings to see how the function of each page and parameter worked. The hours ticked by and before I knew it it was dinner time. Fortunately everything I made was cooked in one large frying pan and two sauce pans. We had braised pork cutlets, fried zucchini, and rice – two kinds. Daniel likes the white Basmati rice, I like the wild brown version. Whenever I took a break, because I had to walk away from the computer screen, I’d go into the kitchen and cook something. When dinner time rolled around I just had to reheat it.

At 10:00 I petered out and Daniel was right behind me. We watched a little TV while I wrote this entry, and now we’re heading for bed.

Good night everyone.



Car back and running fine, and an introduction to Koi-koi.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:50 pm by admin

After I picked Daniel up at work, we drove to the Nissan dealer this afternoon to get up his car. While he took the car for a test drive, I sat in the parking lot going through the sales flyers for the two grocery stores we shop in, then I drove the mile to one of the stores and picked up a few things. He called me to say the car was working fine as he headed back to the dealer to thank the mechanic for staying late last night to fix it, then he headed home. When he got home, he vacuumed the car’s interior. The grocery shopping took forty-five minutes, and after I arrived home, I made dinner and started a water change in the pond. We finished up the last of the Southwest Ranch Chicken Salad. While I was reheating the chicken I sautéed some fresh zucchini. The kitchen smelled wonderful at the time.

After I served Daniel his dinner, I went out to the pond to feed the fish. There is one young koi in the pond who is Daniel’s pet. Daniel had raised this koi in his 30 gal. aquarium over the winter. A month or so ago, we put him into the pond because he had outgrown the aquarium. We’ve been concerned about him, because he won’t feed from the surface. The food Daniel had been feeding him consisted of sinking algae discs and shrimp pellets. His food ran out last week, and I had to drive to the store to pick up some more. It’s been a challenge to ensure he gets enough to eat because the larger koi have learned that there’s better tasting stuff on the bottom in the shallow end where I’ve been feeding him. I would throw the floating food out into the deep end and while the other koi were feeding, I’d drop his sinking pellets into one spot in the shallow end. It took the other koi just two days to figure this out, and they’d hang around the shallow end waiting for the food. Finally they’d rush over to the deep end before all the food was gone and I’d have about fifteen seconds to drop the sinking pellets in. Koi-koi, as we’ve come to call him, would have just enough time to get a mouthful of pellets before one of the larger koi returned and scoffed up the remaining pellets.

Well today was a joyous one. No sooner did I throw the floating pellets into the deep end, than Koi-koi was right there in the midst of the feeding frenzy, actually racing the larger fish to the floating pellets. Now I know he won’t starve. I actually laughed when he pushed one of the large koi, about four times larger, out of his way while he sucked up a pellet. The larger koi seemed quite indignant about the whole thing.

For desert we had Key Lime bars I had baked the other day, the we watched a movie, “The Bucket List” with Morgan Freeman, Jack Nicholson, and Sean Hayes. What a great movie. It’s one of the few I could watch again several times.

Sleep well everyone.



Car troubles – there’s a mouse in the engine!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:01 pm by admin

Last evening I followed Daniel to the local Nissan dealer in my car. He was dropping his car off for state inspection and wanted them to check a progressive hesitation on acceleration he’s noticed for several months. This morning, it took less than fifteen minutes to drive him to work. Just after 11:00 I received an email from him with the subject line reading “Rodent Problems”. I thought it was a joke of some kind. As it turns out, his problem was with mice. They had made a nest in the air intake filling the air filter with nesting material, seeds and poop, and they had chewed the coil wires. The wires had to be spliced and shrink-wrapped, and the air filter was simply cleaned. He has just 9,000 miles on the car, and it’s only two years old. The mechanic told Daniel over the phone he sees this quite often.

I assumed when Daniel wrote about rodents, he never stated mice, that it was probably squirrels. Over the years, I’ve seen squirrels come out of the grill of various cars I’ve owned. I picked Daniel up from work and we drove to the dealer. After Daniel paid the bill, I popped the hood and there all over the engine were mouse droppings. As we were pulling out from the dealer, I had to wait for traffic to clear and Daniel made it through the intersection before the light turned red. I had to wait for the next green light, and just as I crossed the intersection my cell phone rang. It was Daniel, his car had died at the next intersection a mile down the road. He coasted down the road and turned off onto a side street. I told him to immediately call the dealer and tell them to send a tow truck.

I found him parked about four feet from the curb so I pushed his car as he steered it to the curb. About ten minutes later, the mechanic who worked on his car drove up in his own car. He connected a computer to the car and found that the electronic throttle wasn’t registering. He guessed that perhaps a few seeds or nesting material had been scattered when he cleaned the filter, and then sucked into the throttle which caused the engine to stall. He was able to get the car running and he drove it back to the dealer. I drove Daniel home. Sometime after 9:00 this evening, the mechanic called and told Daniel he had a new throttle assembly in stock and replaced it at no charge.

Tomorrow I’ll take Daniel to work and then we’ll drive to the dealer in the afternoon to pick it up.



Missing my dog.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:44 pm by admin

Today a member of my poetry forum posted a thread that is intended to be a joint venture of sorts. The idea is to have the members of the forum contribute to, or carry on a poem that he started. It’s an intentionally silly poem, but it uses words usually associated with dogs. I joined the thread with a comment drawing attention to a Tanka, a Japanese style of poetry and how his efforts paralleled the construction of the Tanka. A Tanka begins with a Haiku written by one poet, then the poem is picked up by another poet who continues the poem with two more lines. Typically there is a pivot or change of direction in the poem when the two additional lines are added.

I found it a difficult thread to read because it brings home the loss of my dear canine companion who was with me for nearly fourteen and a half years. We had to put her down on April 16 of this year after she began to have seizures in the middle of the night. This last event was the culmination of a progressive lameness that advanced to paralysis, then blindness, and disorientation over the course of two weeks. The seizure lasted five minutes, during which she was unable to breathe. She had been treated for cancer twice before, the last time six months prior to her death. I was convinced the cancer had spread to her brain. I actively grieved for her for a few weeks, writing poem after poem about her life and her loss. Some of the poems were really bad, but they served as an outlet for my grief, rather than the overwhelming sobbing grief I had felt and expressed in the past when other of my friends had died. Today there is simply an emptiness both in my heart and in our home. It is a dull ache, a void of sorts, that I have never felt with the loss of any of my prior canine companions. It may also be that this was the first time I did not have another dog present in the house to help me through my grief.

Just yesterday I was working in the yard near her grave, and I noticed how much the dirt mound had settled. It’s almost unnoticeable. I haven’t touched it since that day, but I have gone there from time to time to visit her. There are still moments when I open the front door and expect her to be at my heels, scurrying around my legs to beat me out the door and race along the fence when the mailman drives up the street, or the trash men come on their collection rounds.

This evening this member posted a comment inviting me to participate in the thread. I posted a reply, which I subsequently deleted immediately, and instead sent him the text as a private message, explaining that I was unable to participate in the spirit of the poem.

This event serves as a reminder, just how deeply entrenched in my life she had become and how much I still miss her these four months later.



Southwest Ranch Chicken Salad with Grilled Zucchini, Cornbread & Tomato Salad side.

Posted in Recipes & Cooking, Thoughts and Reflections at 8:40 pm by admin

Well this is a first, I’m posting twice in one day, but this recipe came out so well I wanted to share it. This afternoon I experimented with a few ingredients. Daniel asked for a “salad meal” and it’s been a while since I made one, so here goes. We’ll have three nights worth of dinners from it.


6 – boneless skinless chicken thighs or breasts, fat trimmed
1 – head romaine lettuce, washed & cut into 1 inch slices widthwise
1 – large yellow zucchini, cut lengthwise into 8 wedges

Tomato Mozzarella Salad:

4 c. – tomatoes, diced
1 – red bell pepper, diced
1/2 – red onion, chopped
1 – cucumber, diced
1/2 c. diced mozzarella cheese
1 tblsp. Italian seasoning
2 tblsp. – fresh chopped basil
1/4 c. tblsp. – balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. tblsp. – olive oil

Mix ingredients and allow to chill for two hours.


1 c – ranch dressing
1 tblsp. – Italian seasoning
1 tsp. – fresh minced rosemary
1 tsp. – dried parsley
1/2 – 1 tsp. – cayenne pepper, depending on your “hot” preference
1/4 tsp. – tabasco sauce, may be omitted if you prefer the mild side
2 tblsp. – cider vinegar
1 tblsp. – lemon juice

Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl, add chicken and allow to marinate one hour.


Spray your largest deep sided frying pan or a wide base stock pot with Pam Cooking Spray. Heat under medium flame. Add zucchini wedges and brown on cut sides then remove from pan. Cut wedges in half lengthwise. Remove pan from heat and reapply a coating of Pam. Reheat pan and add chicken pieces from marinade with whatever marinade sticks to them. Cook chicken apx. 4 min. each side, but be certain the juices run clear. Add remaining marinade and bring rapidly to boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Remove chicken pieces and cut each into 1 inch strips.

Arrange a serving of romaine lettuce on dinner plates. Place chicken strips from 1 piece on bed of lettuce. Place 4 zucchini half length wedges along side the chicken. Spoon 1/2 c. tomato salad on the other side of the chicken and some of the liquid over the chicken strips. Spoon cooked marinade over chicken. Serve with a wedge of cornbread. The cornbread recipe comes from the Indian Head Stone Ground Yellow Corn Meal bag.

This recipe, which was created on the spot with the ingredients I had on hand, came out exceptionally well. Please try it an let me know what you think.

Oh, and BTW, our internet is working above the “well within normal parameters” of yesterday.



Gun toting Granny holds punk at bay!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 2:48 pm by admin

This is one of the best stories I’ve read about this year. Seems a punk 17 year old broke into an elderly woman’s home this past Sunday afternoon. What the punk didn’t know is that Granny aka Leda Smith was packing! She had just returned from church when she found her door broken. She determined someone was in the house and went to get her handgun from her bedroom. She found the hiding intruder and held him at gunpoint while she made him call 911. She then had him lie face down on the floor while she reported the B&E to the dispatcher who stayed on the phone with her until the police arrived. Way to to Leda!

Follow-up to yesterday: This afternoon the Comcast Technician arrived and found two problems, a corroded ground connection outside, and a bad splitter. He replaced the ground and gave us a new tripler splitter. We’re back in business!



Comcast Internet trouble and a patient (fictitious) labeled a drug seeker.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:57 pm by admin

This afternoon my internet went out, I mean completely out. Since Comcast changed our IP address about two weeks ago, which happens from time to time, it’s been acting flaky.

While we were visiting Daniel’s parents, he told me, “Oh, we have a new IP address.” When we got home that Saturday evening, I experienced very slow web page loading intermittently. I checked the IP address and found it was listing us as Patterson, N.J., a far cry from Pennsylvania.

Last Thursday, the internet would go out for a moment, then come back on. I’d have to tell my browser to stop loading the page, then tell it to reload the web page, and then I could go on my merry way (That’s clicking on the browser – reload/stop loading – button). Thursday evening Daniel checked our internet connection signal strength and found it was down to -16 dB, that’s minus 16. Friday morning I called Comcast to report the problem and the man on the other end of the phone said he could identify no problems and that everything was operating “well within normal parameters”, but he did schedule a service call for tomorrow August 19.

Daniel and Comcast tell me that the IP address has no bearing on the connection, but I just don’t know. This comes from a technodult though. You can explain to me how the internet and computers work and why something isn’t causing a particular problem ’til you’re blue in the face, but if I am experiencing a problem with functionality, and I know it’s not me screwing up, and it’s not my computer, then THERE IS SOMETHING WRONG.

When I called Comcast this afternoon, I was eventually connected with a woman in the internet division. Over the the phone she told me she was going to try to do something with the modem. When she came back on the phone, she said there was no signal going from the pole to the house (she did try this three times), there was nothing more she could do, and we’d have to wait until the service call for tomorrow. An hour later the internet was back up.

Segue: It’s quite simple really, you have to keep looking. It’s not unlike a patient who comes to the ER with complaints of pain in the right lower abdominal quadrant. You examine the patient and observe a scar where the patient had an appendectomy three years ago. So you know “IT CAN’T BE THE APPENDIX”. Unconsciously you rule the appendix and anything associated with it, because IT doesn’t exist any more. You do all kinds of tests and find nothing. Weeks go by as the patient regularly returns with the same complaints. Eventually, no-one believes the patient even though they repeatedly complain of pain and require narcotics for pain control. After several months, the patient is labeled a “drug seeker” and begins to be denied medication. They turn to the street and purchase whatever they can get their hands on, supplementing this with alcohol to suppress the pain.

Two years later the patient is rushed to the ER in shock, no blood pressure, rapid heart rate, rigid abdomen, white blood cell count through the roof, and a fever of 105 degrees Fahrenheit. An emergency CT scan shows a massive peritonitis (abdominal infection), and they are rushed to the OR. During surgery, what does the surgeon find? She finds extensive abdominal scarring and adhesions; a massive abscess, which is drained; and an old sponge from five years ago that was left in the patients abdomen when they had their appendectomy. The surgeon makes an under the breath comment to the effect of “I can’t believe this patient survived five years of recurrent peritonitis and no-one picked it up.” The patient requires resection of segments of necrotic (dead) bowel from the peritonitis; a colostomy; and then repeat surgery a year later to reverse the colostomy. Over the course of the next twenty years the patient undergoes repeated exploratory laparotomies for lysis of recurrent adhesions due to the massive infection that started this chain of events and the healing process that takes place after each subsequent surgery (wherever you’re cut inside, things grow back together, and not necessarily where they should grow together). Perhaps in the year 2100 we’ll have nano probes (like on Star Trek) that will eliminate this.

So to segue back: This evening when Daniel came home, he told me the signal was now -20 dB. We’ll see what the Comcast technician finds tomorrow.



Writer’s rut.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:46 pm by admin

For the past several weeks I haven’t written any original poetry. My only writing has consisted of this blog, the occasional email, and critiques of other writers poems. Even the critiquing has tapered off, as I haven’t offered a single critique during the past four days. This seems to happen to writers and poets from time to time, but it leaves me unsettled. I can’t help but wonder whether the NaPoWriMo thread on the Poets org forum during National Poetry Month this past April significantly tapped my writing well. This may simply be a cop out. Still, I am at a loss for the reason.

Try as I may, I struggle to come up with ideas for poems. Those that have come to me are not my typical fair, or they fizzle out within the writing of the first few lines. My poetry forum has been keeping me quite busy, as has life in general, so these may be contributing factors. There are so many stimuli available from nature, but it seems I’ve written about them all before. I may have to seek inspiration from other sources.

I finished cleaning up the limbs from the tree pruning yesterday. In 24 hours, the leaves on the styrax Japonica limbs had dried to the point of brittle, and seed pots were opening. This morning I hauled away the limbs that were left beside the driveway yesterday. When I drove up the driveway to go to the market this afternoon, I could hear the seeds crunching beneath the tries. This evening after I made dinner, I cleared away the limbs around the pond before I ate. I knew that once I sat down to dinner, I wouldn’t get back up to do any type of manual labor.

I’m pleased with what Daniel and I accomplished this weekend, but the trimming and pruning has certainly changed the landscape of the front yard. We’ve lost a good deal of our privacy screen, something that bothered Daniel yesterday. I did not realize just how much vegetation I was cutting away while I was “in the heat of the moment”, and when I finished it was quite obvious just how much I had removed. I’m still taking several doses of aspirin and acetaminophen a day to try to keep the aches and pains at bay.



A bit of yard work!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:55 pm by admin

What started out as a little project turned into a major undertaking. Daniel kindly replaced our large rural route mailbox with a new one today. I found the size I was looking for, you can put a medium size package in it, on Amazon for $32.98 with free shipping. The same size mailbox used to go for $19.95 ten years ago. Last summer we went shopping for a new one at both Home Depot and Lowe’s, but neither carried the style I wanted. The cheapest one they had that was the size I wanted sold for $80.00, so I nixed that purchase. Well this morning, the screws that held the old mailbox to the wood platform were rusted and Daniel ended up injuring his hand. He got a large blood blister on his palm from being pinched between the steel and wood. He washed his hands then popped the blister because it was continuing to bleed beneath the skin and as it enlarged it began to put pressure on a nerve. I was getting ready to go out to weed around the mailbox post and along the front bank when he came in with his injury. By the time I collected the garden tools and wheelbarrow I was going to use, Daniel had finished the installation and had started to weed.

I cut down several dozen saplings up to ten feet tall, wild blackberry bushes nearly as tall, and two eight foot orange blossom bushes that had no business growing in a bed of vinca. The orange blossoms came from seeds from the large bush next to our front lamppost about twenty feet away. We took a break and I took two aspirin and an acetaminophen tablet preemptively, knowing that when I was finished I’d be darn sore. While we were on our break, I remembered a wild grape bush that was growing into the privacy hedge along the street and I wanted to get it out of there before I ran out of steam. The grape had caused the hedge to begin to lean over towards the street. By the time I had finished, I had cut down the grape and trimmed the hedge which had grown to twenty feet tall in some spots. I haven’t trimmed that hedge in nearly two years. The hedge is still eight feet tall now. While I was at it, I trimmed back the orange blossom by the front lamppost and several branches off the Redbud tree that grows just inside the fence around the pond near the lamppost. While I was trimming, Daniel hauled the cuttings to the back of our property. After another half hour, Daniel took a break, as he was done in, so I stopped as well at his strong encouragement. I haven’t done a lot of yard work in the past two years, and I was definitely feeling it.

After I rested for a good fifteen minutes, I finished hauling the cuttings to the back yard, then I started to trim the styrax japonica (Japanese snowbell tree) because it was growing over Daniel’s herb garden and the plants have been struggling for sunlight. While I was up in the tree, I slipped and skidded down a limb, tearing a very nice brush burn up the back of my thigh, right up to my butt. I finished the trimming that needed to be done, but no more. By this time I was so tired and sore and bleeding, I left the branches where they fell and went inside to take a shower. I’ll clean them up tomorrow. All in all, we made at least twenty trips to the back yard with cuttings.

Dinner tonight consisted of leftovers from last night along with some Spaetzle I added to the remaining green beans and carrots that I again cooled in olive oil but no garlic. I cook my Spaetzle as directed on the bag, then I make a rue of two tblsp. butter and five crumbled Ritz crackers and add the Spaetzle to brown it. After dinner we watched “Miss Potter” on TV. It’s one of Daniel’s favorites.



The sculptor’s apprentice

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:50 pm by admin

I wanted to make Daniel something special for dinner tonight. He’s had a rough week at work, and I knew he would be tired when he came home. I had planned on steak on the grill, but we’ve been grilling for the past three weeks. Instead, I pulled out two pounds of sirloin beef tips and a pork shoulder steak from the freezer to defrost them. While the meat was thawing, I cut up three more of his father’s garden tomatoes and about a half pound of the yellow Chinese tomatoes he gave us, one quarter of a red onion, and two tablespoons of fresh basil from Mom. I added some Italian seasoning and mixed them with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then I placed this in the frig.

When the meat was thawed enough to separate, I used a pair of kitchen poultry shears and trimmed the meat then cut it into bite size pieces. I place one tblsp. of bacon fat in a sauce pan and browned the meat in the pan. To this I added one cup of sauerbraten gravy I had stored in the freezer and a tablespoon of brown gravy mix. I let the meat simmer in its juices and the gravy for three hours. I’m calling this goulash. While the meat was simmering, I washed the remaining young green beans from Daniel’s father and cut a carrot into julienne strips the same size as the beans. I placed these in a tub of cold water and stored them in the frig. Then I mixed up a batch of cornbread that I made with half the recipe I use for scratch and half a bag of cornbread mix. I thought this might just give me the consistency I’ve been looking for, not too gritty, and not too sweet. I baked this in the toaster oven on the front porch. At 5:15, I removed half the beans and carrots from the water and placed them on a towel to dry off a bit, and I poured a tblsp. of olive oil in a smaller sauce pan to cook them.

Now you may be wondering what the title of this post is all about. At 5:30 I went out to the pond to start a water change when I found Mr. Frog perched beneath a white cement statuette of a frog that sits atop a flat rock over the spillway between the pond and settling chamber. I know this frog, and he knows me. He did not jump into the water even though I stood less than a foot from him. I returned to the house to get my camera, realizing that a photo opportunity like this would probably never present itself again. When I returned, I proceeded to take multiple photographs of the frog and statuette using the portrait and macro settings. My camera was no more than eight inches from him. As I was taking the photos, Daniel called to say he was on his way home. I’ve posted one of the photos below. I’m calling it “The sculptor’s apprentice”. When Daniel arrived home, he nearly collapsed in his La-z-boy so I held off starting dinner. I cooked the vegetables in the olive oil and a little garlic powder and served this with the goulash, cornbread and tomato salad.

I was right about the cornbread, it was perfect. Oh and the meat was so tender it melted in our mouths. When I went out to check the pond at around 9:00, well after dark, Mr. Frog was still sitting in the same spot I had left him nearly three and a half hours earlier. So starts our weekend.



Can you ever have too many fresh garden tomatoes?

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:59 pm by admin

I’ve been inspecting the tomatoes given to us by Daniel’s father this past Saturday every morning this week. Any that have shown the slightest spot or bruise I’ve used to make tomato salads of one kind of another. From mozzarella to cucumbers to just herbs, every day we have eaten tomatoes mixed with other ingredients in a olive oil balsamic vinegar dressing. Admittedly, I’ve sampled a few slices as I cut them up into bite size pieces, they’re just so good. So far neither of us has gotten tired of eating them, and I hope to put some up before the fall so we can continue to enjoy them through the cold winter months. Personally I find them a blessing, as I’ve longed for the taste of garden tomatoes ever since the day our own plants revealed their first flowers. This past Tuesday I made a green salad and on Wednesday, I used the tomatoes with their dressing on my green salad. Ahhh, there’s just nothing like it.

Today I harvested three of our own tomatoes and added them to the bounty. None of the three had been disturbed or assaulted by the tomato thieves. They are pure, perfect globes of sunshine infused goodness. Our sole bell pepper plant has two green peppers that could be harvested now, but I’m waiting for them to develop at least several red veins running through them before I pick them. This is when they’ll begin to become sweet. The basil we were rooting since last winter in a glass in the kitchen window has taken quite well to the pot I planted it in. It has developed it’s first flowers since I allowed one stalk to continue to grow and moved it into full sun. I’ve also harvested rosemary and sage from the planter Daniel bought for me back in the early spring.

Summer has finally come around.



ER crap

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:18 pm by admin

Unless you are employed in the field of health care, you don’t have a clue as to what goes on on my side of the bed. If you work in non-nursing direct patient care and interact with patents in the ER, you have an inkling of what goes on. If you have a family member who is an ER nurse, or physician, or physician assistant, or aide/tech, you might have a slight inkling of what we do. No, don’t think you can watch E.R. the television show, I think the season ends early in 2009, and have a feel for ER nursing. ONLY if you are an ER nurse do you know the crap, literally and figuratively, we are confronted with every day.

From C. diff (Clostridium Difficile) diarrhea to MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) in trach tubes (tracheostomy), decubitus ulcers so big I could put my head into them fulminating with staph (staphylococcus) infections to necrotic (black dead tissue) foot ulcers, blocked PEG (percutaneous endoscopic gastrostomy) feeding tubes with or without staph infections to foley catheters draining what looks like pineapple juice from UTI’s (urinary tract infections) caused by E. coli. (Escherichia coli) the bacteria in feces, we are confronted with a multitude of horrors every hour of every day of every year, and we meet these challenges with a mixture of revulsion, compassion, aggressive nursing care, encouragement, kind words and tender caresses on foreheads, arms and backs, all the while trying not to gag or vomit around our masks, as we sweat our asses off enshrouded in isolation gowns and gloves because we stand under high intensity lights that overtax the cooling capabilities of the air-conditioning system. Then we remove the outer isolation garments, wash and dry our hands and move on the the two millimeter splinter in the finger next door.




Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:12 pm by admin

It’s amazing how quickly weeds return to a completely rototilled garden. Daniel planted his vine plant garden, pumpkin and several kinds of squash, just over three weeks ago. The weeds are taller than the vine plants, but then the deer haven’t eaten any of the weeds. The day after the plants produced their first leaves, the deer sauntered through the garden and nibbled off the tops of just about every other seedling. I discovered this after I watered the garden from the pond when I noticed the stubs of the plants still with their cotyledon intact but no leaves. Several of them had just enough of the epicotyl intact to continue the germination process and a new shoot emerged to continue the maturation several days later. Hopefully the vines will begin to mature and spread throughout the garden, shading the ground and overtaking the weeds.

Mom called me last evening to invite me to lunch today with my brother. He returns to New York on Thursday morning, and I am working tomorrow. We spent a nice few hours talking about his visit and the chores he accomplished while visiting with Mom. Seems a contractor she hired to rebuild a basement window failed to re-insulate the window, and my brother had to mix up some cement to repoint the foundation stones. He also used expanding foam insulation to seal the window.



Extended Birthday.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:22 pm by admin

When I visited with Mom and my sister yesterday, Mom offered me a chicken cutlet sandwich. She had simmered the cutlets in Italian salad dressing on the stove. The sandwich; made with sourdough bread, spicy brown mustard, and cooper sharp cheese; was incredibly good. Today, I couldn’t decide what to make Daniel for lunches this week, then I remembered the chicken cutlets. He’s been taking chicken for lunch almost every day for the past two weeks, but I know how much he likes BBQ. When I talked to him on the phone during his lunch break, I mentioned doing chicken with BBQ sauce and he, wanted that. BBQ is a mess to cook on the grill so this afternoon I partially defrosted four breasts, then cut each into four thin slices. Once they were completely thawed, I preheated the grill and cooked them over a low flame. When they were a nice golden brown with grill marks, I brought them in and put them in a tupperware container alternating the meat with layers of Sweet Baby Ray’s Honey Barbecue Sauce. This is the only BBQ sauce I use. I’ve tried many other brands, but Ray’s is the best.

Daniel called as he was leaving work, so I started his dinner of leftover chili and rice in the microwave and then hopped in the shower. He arrived home just as I was finishing and we ate dinner while we watched some TV. After cleaning up, we left for Mom’s and Daniel’s birthday cake. There’s a photo of it at the bottom of this post.

My brother greeted us on the back porch and I went inside to the kitchen where Mom was finishing up washing dinner dishes. Daniel and my brother talked on the porch while I made a pot of coffee and sneaked a peek at the cake. My sister wasn’t feeling well and was asleep upstairs. Mom had wrapped the cake up in foil and plastic wrap and tied it with a ribbon and card. She carried the cake out to the porch and presented it to Daniel. I know he was touched by her gesture. After he read his card and opened the cake, I took several photos of it. Mom brought out the silver serving set and we sat on the porch talking, telling jokes and eating cake, Daniel and I had several “small” pieces, while we finished off the pot of coffee over the next hour and a half. Before we left I went upstairs to check on my sister and I found her still sleeping soundly, so I didn’t wake her. By the time we left it was dark outside. When we arrived home the cat gave us “What For!”, that’s Pennsylvanian for a scolding for leaving her alone. Right now I’m watching the Olympics on TV while Daniel is practicing with his neural impulse actuator.

Birthday Peach Cake


A gift of bounty.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:56 pm by admin

A gift of bounty.

It’s amazing to me just how much produce we brought home yesterday. These gifts from Daniel’s father will last through the week, with one lasting into the fall – read on. I began to add up what the cost would be to purchase these vegetables in the supermarket.

$3.38 2 lb. Italian Bell Peppers
$2.98 2 lb. Green Beans
$13.41 9 lb. Red Tomatoes
$6.98 2 lb. Yellow Tomatoes
$10.47 3 lb. Yellow Chinese Cherry Tomatoes
$4.98 2 lb. Broccoli
$17.94 12 weeks Celery*

$60.14 Total **

*Because the celery is a live plant and should last through the end of October, I can cut a fresh stalk or two whenever I need it. The plant fills a 5 gallon flower pot. I figure I’d buy 6 heads of celery over the next twelve weeks, most of which would go bad before I could use a head in two weeks. I’m going to try to bring the plant in over the winter to keep it alive. I have no idea what the life expectancy of a celery plant should be, but who knows my pale green thumb may just be enough to save it. We’ve had great luck with the Monstera Deliciosa aka “Breadfruit” plant, and I managed to keep 3 of the 4 Lemon Verbena shrubs alive over this past winter. Daniel bought them the spring of 2007, and I wintered them in front of a large window that gets 4 hours of direct sunlight a day.

** Over a weeks worth of groceries for the two of us.

We could have brought home so much more produce, but I would have felt guilty if any of it had gone bad before we were able to use it up. As it is, I think I may be making tomato sauce or soup by the end of the week.

Early this afternoon I drove to Mom’s to visit. My brother is back down visiting from New York. He had fallen asleep while watching the Olympics on TV in Mom’s bedroom, and he remained asleep during the hour and a half I was there. I went up to say good-bye in the hopes that he was awake, but he was still asleep. Unfortunately, a floor board creaked as I closed the bedroom door, and I woke him up. I said hello and good-bye and then went back downstairs. Mom offered me some fresh basil from her garden, which I accepted gratefully. I had planned to pick up some fresh basil to make tomato-mozzarella salad along with a gallon of milk on the drive home, so I only had to pick up milk. I was also going to buy some fresh chicken to grill today, but with the weather forecast, I decided against it. I wasn’t about to stand in the rain grilling.

Just after I arrived home, it started to pour outside. It had been raining intermittently all morning, but this was a deluge. I had under filled the pond during my morning maintenance with the expectation that it would be topped off from the predicted rain, but this topped it off and then some. There was a river running down the side yard.

I made the tomato-mozzarella salad and added Mom’s basil along with some olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Then I made a green salad with half of the head of romaine lettuce I bought last week, the last of the head of cabbage, a cucumber one of Daniel’s coworkers gave him, red onion, and a carrot. I cut up sharp cheddar sticks from a brick I had in the frig to go with either the salad or chili that I took out to defrost. You may remember the chili from two weeks ago. While I was making the salads, I cooked a cup of mixed brown and white rice to go with the chili. I got the brown rice to cooking, and after 25 minutes I added the white for another 20 minutes. I added a half tsp. of McCormick’s Chicken Base to the water to give the rice a little extra flavor. It actually looked quite nice with the tan and white grains mixed together.

By the time I finished cooking and chopping, it was 5:30. We ate dinner around 6:00. I ate the last of the leftover italian sausage with fried onions and bell pepper, and potato salad from last week. We watched some of the Olympics on TV, then we finished watching “Rainman” with Dustin Hoffman and Tom Cruise. We had started to watch this last Thursday night as a free movie on Comcast. While the movie ran I did another water change on the pond. This evening, the pond water is almost back to clear. I’ve been fighting the algae bloom for two weeks, but the past three days have been cool and partially cloudy. This has helped tremendously to control the algae, and I had cut back the fish feedings to every 36 hours to lower the available fertilizer.

Around 9:00 this evening Mom called to talk to Daniel. Seems she’s baked him a birthday cake, so Daniel and I are going to drive there tomorrow evening after we eat dinner at home to, as she said, “sing him ‘Happy Birthday’ and dance around a little.” It’s a peach cake made with her recipe for “Apfelkuchen”, German Apple Cake. Daniel was very happy after her phone call. He’s never tasted this cake, so he’s in for quite a treat. I’ll try to take a photo of it before we cut it and I’ll post it in tomorrow’s blog entry.

At 11:00 Daniel turned in for the night and I stayed up to read and write. I’m turning in right after I post this.

Good night everyone, sleep tight.



Happy Birthday Daniel!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:33 pm by admin

Today is Daniel’s birthday, if you can’t tell by the title of this post. We were still visiting his parents today. My day began at 4:15, long before the sun rose or the rooster down the street started his crowing. The katydids were certainly making a racket. The noise they make at home is nothing compared to the cacophony their southern cousins made. It was their “song” along with the unfamiliar bed that made my sleep fitful. The house was quite warm so the window was left open. I had a choice, listen to the insects or sweat, I chose insects.

After I paid my respects to the porcelain god, I walked down the hall to the kitchen for some coffee. I always leave a cup in the pot before I go to bed, because I’m not awake enough to pour water or scoop grounds first thing in the morning. On my way, I was quiet as a mouse, or so I thought. Trouble is, I was quiet as a suburban mouse. Those country mice must really be quiet, because I woke Daniel’s father. He must have noticed movement or the pitter patter of suburban feet. Fortunately he wasn’t carrying his shotgun, which he keeps behind the bedroom door. He looked at the clock on the stove, said something about another hour, and went back to bed. I opened the back door very slowly in an attempt to not make any noise, but it squeaked and squawked, so did the screen door. I made it out onto the deck without waking anyone else, are far as I know.

I was immediately inundated with the songs of thousands of katydids while being surrounded by 56 degrees of wonderful damp air. I say songs because the chirping was in stereo. As I stood facing the back of the property, the sound started far off to my right several properties away, then moved to the center, and finished far off to the left. I was right in the middle of the choir. This cycle repeated every twenty seconds or so. Every now and then two bullfrogs would chime in from the ponds that sit on their ten acres in the far back yard. It’s a good five minute walk from the house to the ponds. Several times a minute an owl would hoot, and it continued this for several minutes before it fell silent. I looked to the sky to see if I could see the Perseid meteor shower, but I didn’t notice a one. It was amazing to see that many stars in the sky. The last time I remember that many stars at night was when I was a kid at YMCA camp when I was twelve. I didn’t turn on the outside light, so there was just a glow from the night light in the kitchen. It was so dark, I could hardly make out the mountains about ten miles away.

After I was good and cold, and comfortable at last, I went back into the house and made a fresh pot of coffee, then returned on my computer to read some poetry. When I went back to the kitchen to get a fresh cup, I was greeted by Daniel’s father who was making his breakfast. The two of us sat at the dining room table and talked about his garden for a good hour before Daniel’s mother joined us. Daniel came into the kitchen at around 9:00.

At 10:00 I accompanied Daniel’s father to his garden where we proceeded to water the vegetable plants. Before we were finished, I noticed movement in the tomatoes. I hollered to Daniel’s father that there was an animal in the garden, and as the words were leaving my mouth, I recognized it as a rat. I was told to go get the shotgun, so I returned to the house and asked for it. Daniel’s mother wasn’t all too happy about this, but I told her what he wanted. She tried to give me the rifle, but I said he want’s the shotgun. I returned with the shotgun and a handful of shells. By this time the rat was nowhere to be found. We continued to water when there was movement again. I ran and grabbed the shotgun and shells, and as I handed him the gun I told him to be sure and not shoot me. The critter was a meadow vole. Before I could blink, Daniel’s father had the shotgun loaded and got off a round from the hip right into the tomato patch. I just about fell over laughing. I had never seen tomatoes jump like that before. Before he could reload, the little critter made it through the fence and disappeared into the tall grass. Daniel’s father wasn’t all to happy about missing it. We finished watering and returned to the house at 11:00. It was time to open birthday presents. Daniel received a card, a Notre Dame shirt (his Alma Mater), and a book. I then took my shower and we went out for Daniel’s birthday lunch to a local restaurant. Daniel ordered a New York strip steak and Daniel’s parents and I had chef’s salads with blue cheese dressing.

When we returned to the house, I began to gather up my things to pack for the trip home. Before I knew it, I was sound asleep on the bed catching up on what I had lost the night before. At 4:15 Daniel woke me and told me it was time to leave. During the next 45 minutes, we packed the car and said our good-byes, while Daniel’s father made several trips too and from the garden bringing us a half a trunk of fresh produce, including an entire celery plant, roots and all. I took two photos of Daniel with his parents, and then Daniel took two of me with them. We pulled out of his parents driveway at 5:00 in the evening and arrived home at 7:30.

As soon as we arrived home, I started a water change on the pond, made a pot of coffee, and put away the produce. Daniel fed the cat and unloaded the car. After I drained the pond water and started the refilling, I unpacked and did a load of laundry. By 8:15 we were sitting down in the living room. At around 9:00 Daniel was hungry so he made himself a box of rice pilaf with a chicken breast and I ate the sandwich I had packed for lunch on the way to his parents. It was a long two days, but Daniel accomplished quite a bit in the way of bringing his parents up to speed with electronics, and we had a really nice visit. On the way home, Daniel mentioned returning for another visit as a writing retreat. It’s very relaxing there, and there’s plenty of nature to inspire poetry. I look forward to our return.



A trip home

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:41 pm by admin

My day began at 6:34 AM. I know that because when I opened my eyes, the alarm clock read 6:34 AM. I had planned to rise at 7:00 but we went to sleep early last night. The plan was to leave by 9:00, and I wanted to do a pond water change before we left. Needless to say, I had too much to do before we left, making the morning coffee, packing lunches for the trip, packing clothes, coffee and the essential accompaniments, computer and accessories, poetry books, snacks, water for coffee at Daniel’s parents, feeding the fish, cleaning the pond filter, and a dozen or so other things. We pulled out of the driveway at 9:30.

The trip took about 2 hours 45 minutes. On the way I read two chapters of the book “Asian Figures” I received as a gift from my friend Christine, some of the pages I read aloud to Daniel. It helped to pass the time, but it’s not the best traveling book. you have to contemplate some of the figures (like haiku), and that was a bit of a distraction for Daniel while he drove, so I switched to a book of short stories. We arrived just before his parents left for mass. Within twenty minutes of our arrival, Daniel got started disassembling his mother’s old computer to remove the hard drive, setting up the new computer, and transferring the data from the old to new hard drive. When his parents arrived home from mass, he had finished. Then he spent about an hour going over the new computer with his mother, showing her all the bells and whistles. He tried to duplicate the old computer as much as possible, but there were a few things in addition to the new 17 inch flat screen monitor and mouse. The old 15 inch CRT weighed a ton. His mother has been without a computer for a month and when he downloaded her email, there were 53 waiting for her, many were marked “urgent prayer requests”. She belongs to a chain prayer group and this is something she takes very seriously. All in all, there were 14 MB of email, many with photos.

While Daniel was going over the computer with his mother, I went for a tour of his father’s garden. It’s amazing how much he’s packed into his garden, 100 feet in length. Several varieties of squash, corn, many varieties of tomatoes and peppers, eggplant, okra, kohlrabi, chinese cabbage, several lettuces, swiss chard, celery, and dill grows everywhere. This is just one small part of his “garden” there’s also rows and rows (100 feet long) of blackberries, peaches, pears, apples, on and on I could go. I picked a handful of Chinese yellow cherry tomatoes. When my hands couldn’t hold any more, I made a basket with my shirt and filled that with them. When we returned to the house, I washed the tomatoes and put them in a bowl. We joined Daniel and his mother sat at the dining room table, and over the next 45 minutes, we ate the whole bowl. The tomatoes were as sweet as candy. Daniel then installed the new digital TV converter for his parents in the living room. When he finished it was dinner time, so we went to an All-You-Can-Eat Asian Buffet. I should have stopped at my third plate, but I made it through four, plus desserts of chocolate pudding, tapioca pudding and chocolate chip ice-cream. When we returned home, none of us cold move.

The Olympics started today, so while Daniel and his parents sat down to watch the beginning of the program, I tried to hook up my laptop to his mother’s cable. I couldn’t get it to work so I asked Daniel to try, but he also couldn’t get it to work either. I had to call Apple Technical Support and they talked me through it. I had forgotten to restart the cable modem at a certain point in the connection process. After that it was smooth sailing. After an hour I joined Daniel in front of the TV in the living room. His parents had gone to bed, and we watched some of the Olympics opening ceremony program together. At 10:00 I couldn’t keep my eyes closed and I turned in. Daniel stayed up ’til midnight to watch the torch being lit.

More about our visit tomorrow.



Neural Impulse Actuator

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:30 pm by admin

Today Daniel’s birthday present arrived, a neural impulse actuator. It’s a gadget that you think your way around your computer. In other words, you direct the activity with your mind, not keyboard and mouse or any other peripheral. Daniel was very excited at the prospect of owning one of these gadgets, as it’s on the cutting edge of technology. This particular gadget is manufactured by a company called OCZ Technology, developed by a group from Great Britain who also have their own forum. I asked Daniel to order the item because I was afraid if I ordered it for him as his birthday present, I would make a mistake. After he placed the order he told me it may be backordered. He was given no indication whether it was in stock or not. Apparently these gizmo’s are selling like hot cakes. He read the blog and researched this product for several days before deciding on it. I’m glad it arrived in time.

Needless to say, within five minutes of his arrival home from work, he asked if he could open his gift. How could I say no. In less than ten minutes he had the software loaded in his computer, the device strapped to his cranium, and he spent the remainder of the evening developing a whopper of a headache as he tried to master the thing. He’s so excited about the potential of this technology.

Tomorrow we leave for his parent’s home for a visit.



What I thought was a Breadfruit isn’t really a Breadfruit…

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:43 pm by admin

It’s a Monstera Deliciosa and Monstera Deliciosa, also called the Mexican Breadfruit or Swiss Cheese Plant. Here I was so excited to tell you about our Breadfruit tree. Turns out it’s a philodendron, and the fruit takes a year to ripen.

Two years ago, Daniel and I went grocery shopping at the local Whole Foods store. He was looking for Breadfruit. I’d never seen a Breadfruit before, but I’d heard the name mentioned. He selected a fruit that looked like an ear of corn to me, covered with hexagons. I took his word for it, because the sign said “Breadfruit”, and the price was around $4.00. I commented it must be an exceptional piece of fruit. He assured me it was.

The fruit took days to ripen, almost a week. Each day he pealed off a little of the outer “husk” which revealed a pale yellow, almost white fruit made of kernels that looked like, you guessed it, corn. He relished this fruit, and it lasted about a week because it ripened in sections. It seemed to be a lot of work for so little each day but he was happy so I was happy. I did try it and it tasted like a cross between pineapple and banana.

Well to make a long story longer, Daniel planted a few of the kernels in a flower pot. Don-cha-know-it, one of the kernels sprouted. We’ve been babying this plant since that day, and it now has five leaves, each leaf larger than the one that developed before it. The most recent leaf emerged very quickly this past weekend. We’ve had the plant on the porch since Daniel repotted it this spring, and within a week it just took off. I’ve been expecting a tree, but it looks more like a vine that is very similar to a Pothos without the variegation. At the rate it’s growing, I hope to still be alive when it finally decides to bear fruit.

I discovered the true identity of the plant just after I began to write this blog entry. I performed several web searches for information on whether a Breadfruit grows like a tree or vine. After thirty minutes I couldn’t find any Breadfruit that looked like the one Daniel bought so I tried “banana looking fruit”. Within five minutes, I had my answer. Daniel’s asleep right now. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say about this.



Tomato thief identified!

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 10:20 pm by admin

Well it happened again. Our first “real” tomato, a “big boy”, about 5 inches in diameter. I’ve been watching it change from the first hints of yellow to a beautiful vibrant red for over a week. This afternoon I was on the phone with Daniel during his lunch break, and I walked out to the herb garden to describe the tomato to him. I had finished watering the herb garden earlier in the day and noticed the tomato was ready to pick, but again thought I’d wait until later in the afternoon when I made a salad for dinner. I should have picked it then. A friggin’ squirrel!!!, there in the garden, munching on the tomato. I couldn’t believe my eyes, but then I remembered.

About ten years ago we went through a terrible drought in Pennsylvania with water rationing. Even with our own well, the government imposed the rationing here. It was very tough on the pond and tougher on the vegetable garden. Every drop of pond waste water went to the garden. The grass was brown and brittle. I don’t think I cut the grass for two straight months that summer.

One day as I drove down the driveway after arriving home from work, I noticed a commotion in the garden. I couldn’t imagine what it was. After I parked the car, I walked down to the garden to find three squirrels stealing green tomatoes. Two of the squirrels dropped their spoils and ran for the trees, but the last wouldn’t let go of his tomato as he tired to climb through the wire fence around the garden, put there as a deterrent to the deer population. The fence openings were 2 x 3 inches and the squirrel couldn’t get the tomato through the fence. Try as it did to force the tomato through no luck, and it even bloodied its snout in the process. Then the squirrel started to run around the fence about a foot off the ground, round and round as if it were on a treadmill going sideways. Every half lap it would try to push through the fence with tomato in tow, but to no avail. It was one of the funniest things I had ever seen. Finally on the last lap, I started to chase it. With my yelling and waving my arms it finally dropped the tomato and escaped. The dumb animal never thought to climb over the top of the fence. I entered the garden through the gate and picked up the dozen or so tomatoes that were laying on the ground with teeth marks in them. They were no good to me and I felt pity for the squirrels, so I threw the ruined tomatoes under the tree the three thieves had escaped to. I think that was a mistake. They learned the taste of tomatoes, and today was evidence of that.

Damn squirrels.



The poetry of potato salad.

Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:57 am by admin

Making a good bowl of potato salad is not unlike writing a good poem. The selection of ingredients are important to both. When selecting the potato there are many varieties, russet, white, red, and yukon gold to name just a few, are like selecting the right words. Do I peel them or leave the skins on? Do I expose the meaning immediately, or conceal it in a thin layer that must be savored for all its flavor. Are they in big pieces or small, bumpy or smooth, old or new?

For the basic ingredients of potatoes and words they have to feel right, but they must be given the opportunity to sit a spell and be spelled right. How do I want to dress them, plain with mayo, salt and pepper, monorhyme, strophes and periods; or do I add the extras; celery and commas, onion and Ottava rima, hard boiled or Haiku – scrambled or Spondee? Do I use eggs and Enclosed Rhyme at all? A little mustard with your Meter might be nice, or sliced pickles of poetic diction, but do I want a sweet sestina or the dill of dactyls? Paprika you say, well why not some prose, if for nothing else, color is pleasing to the eye. Capers in couplets? Why not. Crumbled bacon is always nice as is a comedic ballad.

Finally there’s the presentation. Enjambment and enjoyment, how does it taste? Do you savor their flavor on the tongue as you chew, or do you swallow them greedily intent to get your fill? Are they deserving of study to appreciate the subtle complexities in the flavor of the words?

It’s up to you.




Posted in Thoughts and Reflections at 11:23 pm by admin

I was reminded of two things from kindergarten today. On my first day of school, each child was sent home with a list of things we would need for the coming school year. This was before half day kindergarten became popular. I don’t know if they do this any more in view of preschool. Two of the things on the list were one of my father’s old shirts, and it did specify “father”, and the other was a 3 x 4 foot mat (rug). The shirt was for “art” class and the rug was for nap time. I remember the shirt, it was mostly pale blue plaid with thin red and green stripes, and where the blue and red intersected it was pale purple. By the time the school year ended, the back of the shirt looked nothing like it did the day I brought it in. This is because we wore the shirts backwards. It came down to my shoes, that’s how small I was, and each week it earned many new splatters or wipe marks of finger paint. It never occurred to me to bring it home for laundering, and I don’t remember ever seeing it after I gave it to my mom with my final report card.

The second item was used each day after lunch. Each of us had our assigned spots in the center of the classroom floor. Our desks were aligned in a large U facing the teacher. The center of the room served many purposes from the weekly placement of our easels to show-and-tell, and from putting on plays to marching in line or musical chairs on rainy days in lieu of outside recess. After lunch, we would go to our cupboards to take out our mats, then carry them to out assigned spots and unroll them. Funny, we didn’t have pillows. We quickly learned that if we wouldn’t fall asleep we were to remain silent. Our teacher would begin to read us a story, and as the minutes ticked by the sound her voice would soften. I don’t ever remember hearing the end of any of those stories. The next thing we knew, she tinkled the little wake up bell that sat on her desk. This sat next to the larger bell she used to settle us down when the din in the room reached a predetermined level that only she knew. We never noticed the difference. We were given a few minutes to wake-up, then we would roll up our mats and return them to our cupboards.

I thought of these two things because today I took my first nap in nearly a year. The late nights finally caught up with me today. For some reason I woke this morning at 04:50 and couldn’t go back to sleep. I had turned in a little after midnight. As I lie there this afternoon, my mind began to wander and I thought of those early days. Funny how so many years can go by and then all of a sudden a buried memory will surface. Napping reminded me of that mat on the floor which in turn reminded me of my assigned place, also for art. As I write this entry this evening another memory returns. The last time I saw one of my earliest creative efforts was many years ago when my mother was going through her bottom dresser drawer. Among the many treasures was a brightly colored smeared mess on a carefully folded piece of aged brown paper. In the top right corner was my name, written in handwriting I didn’t recognize. Mom told me it was mine.


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