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The merry, harried month of May

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Day lilies in the front yard

May was an insane month around here – insane in a good way, but no time for blogging. John and Liz took their trek to the base camp at Mt. Everest, leaving very early May 4 and returning very late May 25. Brent and I took care of the three kiddos – and, in the big news I hinted at before – got their family moved in right next door! The timing wasn’t great, but they never dreamed they’d sell their house the first showing in the first hour of the first day it was on the market. The trip had been scheduled since December, so what do you do?

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Looking from our second-floor exercise room at Liz’s and Brent’s new (but old) forever home.

We hated like hell to lose Matthew and Alyssa and Little Rose (as Luke calls her) as neighbors, but what a great turn of events! The dogs are in heaven with three of their five children next door (though they’re still working things out with Fancy, who lives with the kids).

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Miss Don’t Come Near My Kids

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Miss Walk on Me, Pull My Tail, Just Pay Attention to Me

Taking care of up to five kids at a time at 60 is very different from being a young mom, but we survived. The days I had all five kids in Liz’s van, we called it “The LollyMobile.”

An important date in May was the 12th, when Tessie turned 11. She was very pleased with her new birthday bunny, though it lost its squeak quickly from all the playing.

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Not bad for 11. And she still loves opening presents.

We had an exciting two days with baby cardinals – several fledglings were hopping around our back yard, which I noticed after seeing the parents dive-bombing the kids and dogs. I put one in a safer spot (but he/she ran under our deck to join a sibling), then herded all the kids and dogs indoors, and we went upstairs and watched the parents rescue them. Pretty cool.

The next day wasn’t so successful. A very tiny cardinal had fallen on his back in our bamboo – I saw him from the laundry room window. The parents couldn’t help him, and he’s now buried in our hydrangeas out back – Liz’s children saw him die in the little temporary nest (bowl and washcloth) we’d made him. “Make him alive again, Lolly,” Silas implored, but though he called me SuperLolly for days, that was one I couldn’t fix. Oddly, about a foot from the unfortunate little cardinal was an intact robin’s egg, so we had an impromptu lesson on how eggs and baby birds work – and a nice distraction from the funeral.

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We’ve still got the little egg. As Jude said, “Two baby birds didn’t make it today.”

Sylvia had her preK graduation recital Tuesday night and Annabelle’s was Thursday. In between, Ben took me to Dave Matthews. We had great seats.Dave.jpeg

On the 24th, my sister, three friends and I saw Purple Rain at Riverdale. The music is timeless; the movie, oh, my. People laughed out loud at the ’80s hairdos and clothes (and the acting) and gasped at the sexism but applauded the musical performances. It was a fun night in a blur of a month.

The next night, after rain delays, the trekkers made it home. John showered me with riches from Nepal, but I’ll just show you what he brought for the children. We’re not sure where in the house Mr. Tiger, as Silas has named him, will live, as he doesn’t match our decor, but he’s very popular.

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Tiger, tiger, burning bright ..

The post with no name

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John, Julia and I recently attended a fabulous upholstery workshop in the Applied Arts department at UALR, taught by the wonderful Annie Evelyn (whose assistant was my friend Morgan Hill – both had driven in from Penland, despite the snow). This is my class product, a “lab rat,” which makes a very nice mediation seat, should I ever decide to try that route. But I hope reupholstery and helping John with is fine furniture-making is in the future. I prefer doing to sitting.

People keep asking, though it’s only been a week, how life after regular employment is going – and since I’m so far behind on blogging (though I’ve been writing like mad on another front) that seems as good an excuse as any to do a feeble little post.

So far, so good, would be the answer, and perfect timing in more ways than one. Slipping into that mode has been easy. And, actually, I’m still doing a some work from home, just in casual shoes and clothes.

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In the late ’60s/early ’70s, we just called them “Converse” or “All-Stars,” but these berry Chuck Taylors, which were on sale, to boot, had my name on them. The only pair left was in my size. Perfect retirement shoes, no?

Things are gradually getting a little cleaner around this old house, though soon we’ll make a big mess when the tiling project upstairs gets in full swing, so right now it’s still a losing proposition.

Next week I think I’ll tackle closets and drawers. So many options.

One of the best aspects is having more time for the kiddos.

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What a familiar pose. Like father, like son.

Today was the SoMa Mardi Gras parade – and my duties were nil, which is a nice feeling for a change. John and I walked the girls down, enjoyed the parade as mere spectators, then met the grands for some post-parade fun.

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The parade was fabulous – huge crowd of mostly non-neighborhood folks, it seemed – and great floats.

 

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One of the many SoMa Mardi Gras parade floats. Attendance was spectacular!

Tonight is a belated birthday dinner with Cathy and Paul.

And that’s it for now. Next time will be better. Or not. Time will tell.

Take it easy

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Our hardy hibiscus has been blooming away in my office upstairs. Flowers for the departed or just random beauty? Either way works for me.

We’re only 18 days into the new year, and it’s already been a heartbreaker. Glenn Frey at 67? David Bowie AND Alan Rickman at 69? Jeez, let’s take it easy, already. Talk about a heartbreak trifecta.

This old gal recently turned 60, so those ages are indecently young. When my grandmother died at 69, I had no concept of how young she was – she’d had health issues and had been a little crazy for as long as we could remember, and I was only 21. About 20 years ago, I realized she was far too young when she departed.

My decision not to take it easy, exactly, but to make a significant change in lifestyle had been made before 2015 even rolled into 2016. These recent losses (as well as my old friend and classmate Dee Edwards, two days before his 61st birthday) reinforce the decision.

As of the end of this month, I’ll be spending a lot less time – as in, none – at the office. I’ll still be working some from home, but Annabelle just turned 5, Silas will be 3 in April and just yesterday, our first grandchild (who’ll be 10 in June) was born.

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The upstairs kitchen is seeing progress again.

This can’t stand.

Plus, John and I need to finish this old house, and four hands are quicker than two. We ordered mass quantities of tile this weekend. Can’t wait to get my hands dirty again.

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If you recognize this, you’ve laid your share or have at least been around some construction. Note the spelling difference, but I like that it’s Hardie Backer. And I really like that John’s doing all the screws. (I’ve done my share and he’s way better at it.)

Then there’s that piano begging to be played. Struggling with Italian to be resumed. Climate Reality presentations to be made.

Etc., etc.

Life goes on until it doesn’t but, man, we need to keep our priorities straight.

Peace and love, y’all.

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Quartzite – aka our soon to be kitchen floor.

Sometimes it’s the little things

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Sunday, Nov. 29 was a dreary rainy day for the virtual Climate March, so we did it upstairs inside. Thanks to friends and family who joined in! Sharing/posting/tweeting about the need for meaningful action to reduce global warming doesn’t cost you a dime.

Officially, I owe a post about everyday things you can to to help the environment while saving money. I haven’t forgotten by any means, but shootings take a psychic and physical toll on me and I just can’t quite get it together.

So, instead, I’ll just share one thing and save the rest for another day. This red beauty is not our new couch – it’s our formerly nappy, 11-year-old sleeper sofa. The poor old gal’s been through five grandkids urping, lots of drinks a-spilling, three puppies hopping, many people sleeping,  aa-anndd one old dog rubbing. (Tess has used it as her personal Fulminator for years.)

Old Red was too shabby to be chic, but we love her and didn’t want her in a landfill, so the old gal got some new threads.

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This soft red burlap should hold up better than the original red chenille, and we love the paisley so much, we got an extra pillow made. 

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Nice, huh? Carol Roddy with Second Chance Upholstery did it for, well, more an album than a song, but it was a bargain. Changed the lines of the couch from straight contemporary to more of a Restoration Hardware/slipcover look, but whatever. It’s fine.

So there’s one tip: Salvage your old furniture rather than buying new. Anything you can keep out a landfill is a plus. If you must have new furniture, find a new home for your old – please don’t leave it sitting sadly on the curb.

And remember, though things are grim and hearts are broken, beauty is all around us. Let little things help where they can.

For example, when we went to get a perky little Noble fir tree (after researching at some length the pros and cons of artificial vs. dead-live), these ($3.50 each) lovelies asked to come home with me. They needed little TLC in regards to some broken leaves but they seem to like their new pots (which we already had). Aren’t they sweet?

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Violet and Sybil are named for my grandmother’s sisters. Verna Jewel (my grandmother’s namesake) has lived in the kitchen for years. These girls are upstairs in my office. 

I’ll end with one more photo from our virtual Climate March efforts. I’m very proud of my 80-year-old mother for her interest and concern.

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Love these folks to pieces. 

Deep breaths. Until next time …

Breathe deeply and carry on

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The begonia on the top left is the offspring of the one in the kitchen. The little fern next to her has one baby in the kitchen. The beauties on the seat are fairly new family members – both have purple on the back of their leaves,which made them must-haves, of course. (They also called my name ever-so politely and said they needed homes.) The little antique school desk is one Mother may or may not have used at her elementary school in Russellville, but that’s definitely from whence it came.

Last Friday, Nov. 13, 2015, obviously did not turn out the way we expected.

climate realityAs a new graduate of The Climate Reality Project’s leadership training, one of my early actions (I haven’t done a presentation yet) was holding a “24 Hours of Reality” live-streaming watch party. I’d been streaming since 11 a.m. and hadn’t heard any news all day.

Susan, who arrived early, had just left for home, and Cai, Julia, John and I were watching and waiting on others to arrive when a visibly shaken Al Gore interrupted the broadcast to cancel the event in light of what had happened and in solidarity with Paris (where the “24 Hours of Reality” event was based).

We quickly switched to regular television to find out what had happened – sickening news – and I got busy telling people on their way or who were planning to come the next morning not to come after all.

We had to cancel our party and Climate Reality had to cancel the event, but as disgusting, evil  and vile as the actions of the misguided murderous gang was, and as much as the rest of their gang hopes to frighten the rest of us, we can’t live in fear. We can’t let them win.

The same is true for climate change – the reality is frightening, but we must do what we can to change things, adapt as best we can to our new reality, and keep going. Doing nothing to make a difference is the scariest possibility.

But we’ll save that for another time. Today I want to focus on something soothing, at least for me: functional beauty in the form of houseplants. The function is cleaning the air indoors, and the beauty is obvious. Yes, they take a little love and grooming, and some of the ferns can be as messy as house pets, but love them and they’ll reward you. And love you back.

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The ficus just came back in from the back deck. Her sister, an elderly schefflera arbicola Trinnette,  has an allergy to aphids which requires her to live indoors all year. I think they’re happy to be reunited.

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The poor scraggly fern and the philodendrons live in the bathroom all year, but the feisty younger fern, who was split off from her bedraggled mother last year, just came in from the deck.

Houseplants have been a big part of my life since I turned 18, and that was a long, long time ago. They’re good for my soul and good for our lungs. They’re also a commitment – I always leave detailed instructions for their care when we travel – and I can’t help but grieve a bit when one goes belly up, as happens at times. But I can’t imagine living without them.

Speaking of travel, if you do, please don’t stop. Please don’t live in fear. That’s not living at all.

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How long (has this been going on)

So after at least a week – I've really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how it looked today. That's wet, though, which makes the grout look almost as dark as what we bought.

So after at least a week – I’ve really lost track – of chiseling, scraping and digging to free the rocks covered with a strange grout/cement-like substance, this is how our new shower floor looked today. That’s wet, though, which makes the grout look about half as dark as what we bought. What the heck did those guys mix it with?

Let me start by saying, OK, yes, these are truly first-world problems. We have a roof over our heads, water to drink, heat, food and a relatively healthy family. But still – I’ve gotten to the point where I really can’t remember how long my squatting, kneeling, scraping and chiseling in our newly remodeled shower has been going on.

It’s not finished – one more day, tomorrow, I hope, of applying sealer, and it should be done. Not the bathroom, but the reparation of the horrible mess left by a crew who didn’t have a clue.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess inout house – but they just didn't understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

The hired crew did all right on the ripping out of the old tub – though they made a horrible mess in our house – but they just didn’t understand the concept of quality work. And the river rock shower floor was beyond their comprehension.

We should have just hired out the demolition and rebuilding and done the tiling ourselves – John and I are both experienced and perfectionistic tile-layers. I actually like doing it, but we thought we’d save time by hiring it done. Hah.

John lost days of work staying home to correct and supervise. I’ve spent the last week cleaning up their mistakes. John says I shouldn’t write this and people will think I’m an insane woman, but I’ve got to share what we were left with.

Oh, and let me add that we bought very dark gray grout – but what we’re left with is a strange concrete color and consistency. We suspect the grout was mixed – for whatever reason – with cement or thinset. What the hell, dudes? I found one little place with dark gray grout. Crazy.

This is a very small example of what I've been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

This is a very small example of what I’ve been chiseling, scraping and wire-brushing off. Note the color. The gray was supposed to match the dark gray in the tile.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

A little more – this one is mostly funny, if you look at the mangled little wire brush. I had to go buy new ones yesterday.

It didn’t occur to me to take photos until I was almost finished, but I took a few yesterday and today. Granted, we had to leave for Washington and the grout and haze left all over the tile had time to really cure. And we were in such a haze over Doris’s fall and death that we didn’t pay as close attention as we should have.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix's NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It's time-consuming but doesn't require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

This is really to show that I did find a product – Aqua Mix’s NanoScrub – that would remove month-old haze (you can see where I cleaned a spot and left some haze for contrast). It’s time-consuming but doesn’t require safety googles and a mask, as the alternatives did.

After we got back, John ran the guys off – they’d done enough damage – and we proceeded to clean up after them. And, ultimately, we’ll have a fine-looking new shower, just with the wrong color grout.

Deep breath – I’m moving on.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

Silas, Pop and Tess enjoy playtime.

One thing I’m moving on to is our precious youngest grandchild, Silas, who, at the moment, is in the throes of an asthma attack and can’t get a deep breath. So sad. He’s doing much better in general with his health problems, but I’m so sorry he inherited that – it runs deep on both sides of the family, but out of the five, he’s the only grandchild with it so far.

record playerYesterday afternoon we took a break from the damned tile to keep him for a few hours and had a great time. I played him several early Beatles albums on my little retro record player that John got me for Christmas. (That’s actually an Allman Brothers album in the photo, but you can see how cute  the repro vintage record player is.)

When we listened to Magical Mystery Tour, Si especially liked “The Fool on the Hill,” and when I showed him the booklet in the album cover, he was very, very interested – kept saying, “Paul” every time we turned a page.

He also really dug the Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins covers and George’s rockabilly guitar-playing. Cutie. And I danced until my legs were tired.

Last night we and a choice between getting back to work in the shower or watching a movie and resting. Since my hamstring scar (from an old tear) was making its presence very known after the weeklong squat and scape workout – and the dancing – we decided to watch Magnolia, Paul Tomas Anderson’s 1999 masterpiece. I hadn’t seen it since it came out and John couldn’t remember if he’d ever seen it.

If you haven’t, you must. I can’t say too much – no spoilers here – except that the cast is huge and great. And, coincidentally, we ate pie while watching it; coincidentally since the length of the movie is pi, 3.14 hours.

I didn’t just know that – I found it when I looked up a verse from Exodus to make sure I was telling John something correctly, something I can’t say without ruining the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.

I’d intended to move on to more about recently watched movies and recently read books, but that will have to wait. I’m starting to wonder how long this post has been going on. Don’t want you to do the same.

So, until next time, count your blessings and take nothing for granted. The unexpected does happen.

Peace and love, y’all.

Hold on tight

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

This is the view Karen and I woke up to in New York for the climate march. Lucky us!

OK, hold on tight, folks, because this is going to jump all over the place as I play a bit of catch up and hit on some random things, too.

First, let me mention what great long-distance friends I have. When Karen and I went to New York, both Margot Harris and Melissa McNeese came into the city to have dinner with us, Margot on Saturday night (from Edison, NJ, even though she has to drive to Staten Island every day for work), and Melissa Sunday night.

Melissa came 100 miles by train from upstate. Like I said, great gals. Thank y’all so much!

New York always makes me happy, but the street-light mosaics in East Village are just so fabulous – what a cool way to delineate an area – that I have to share this. Here’s a fabulous video about Jim Power, the Mosaic Man of New York City. You should watch it. Trust me.

Street light mosaic in East Village.

Street-light mosaic in East Village.

Another view. See where it says "Village" on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

Another view. See where it says “Village” on the side? What a great way to make a neighborhood recognizable.

OK, next topic: Zuzu’s birthday!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Zuzu turns 4 Oct. 13!

Our big baby turns 4 tomorrow. The years have flown, of course, and she still acts like a goob much of the time, but you couldn’t ask for a better dog. She adores the grandchildren and lets them climb all over her, accompanies us on every move we make – no matter how many trips up and down the stairs that might entail, and does a great job of protecting (and herding) everyone she loves, as well as guarding her turf.

Sylvia and Silas call the dogs on FaceTime. It’s always pretty cute, but last night, during the sad Razorback game, when Silas yelled “Zuzu!” via my laptop. Zuzu came running, and for a second, she could really see him on the screen. Her eyes got huge and she touched her nose to the screen right as Silas leaned forward to kiss her on his mom’s laptop screen.

Priceless.

Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now.

Zuzu and Tess, who is 9 1/2 now. They’re constant companions and are the reason our floors look like that. But they are more than worth it.

What next? So many ways this could go. OK, you may remember that Cathy, Paul, John and I did the 23andMe DNA testing for our New Year’s Eve event. Now Mother’s had hers done and yesterday we mailed in her brother’s kit – my Uncle Bill and Karen’s dad. Karen drove him down, so we’ve already gotten another visit in.

We’re going to keep that vow of holding the family together for another generation.

Anyway, I’m still a neophyte, but the past few days I’ve spent quite a bit of time with it. Can’t talk intelligently yet, but a 9th-chromosome long-section match relative from outside Chicago found me and has been coaching me a bit. My darling Doug, my cousin on Daddy’s side has been tested through another company, so I shared Sue’s info with Doug and Doug’s with Sue, and they have a match, too, but on a different chromosome.

I’ll come back to this when I know more what I’m talking about (if I ever do – complicated business), but here are good examples photographically of the kinds of things you can learn.

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Italian! Who knew? That's one of the mysteries to solve.

Italian! Who knew? That’s one of the mysteries to solve.

Cathy and I are 56.2 percent identical, slightly higher than average for siblings. That probably doesn’t surprise people who know us. And at 2.3 percent, I’m slightly below the average Neanderthal DNA for European 23andMe members. Don’t ask me what that means, though. Still learning and way behind the curve.

Another topic: The ELO song this post’s title refers to says “hold on tight to you dreams.” One of my lifelong ones – or at least since early childhood – is coming true right now.

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

My under-restoration 1940 Baldwin baby grand piano!

John surprised me for my birthday by getting me an antique baby grand piano, a 1940 Baldwin that he’s restoring, with the help of our friend and master piano restorer Jim McGehee. It’s currently in pieces and the keys have to be shipped off to be covered in plastic – even if ivory were still an option, I’d want plastic. Poor elephants.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they're making.

John looks pretty tickled about the progress they’re making.

Now I’ll just have to re-learn how to play. My hope is to be able to teach my grandkids enough to see if they’re really interested in taking lessons. If only Lavinia Montgomery, my beloved piano teacher, were still alive…

Speaking (sort of) of my multi-talented husband and his ever-increasing skills, John’s just gotten the second-floor bathroom floor done (with heating coils under the marble tile!) and we finally have a door!

Bathroom floor ...

Bathroom floor …

... and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

… and bathroom door. Door frame trim in progress.

OK, one more catch-up topic for the day: Books.

MysteriesI took Michael Chabon’s The Mysteries of Pittsburgh to New York. His first book, Mysteries was actually his master’s thesis. The beauty of his writing made me want to cry at times. It’s a short little book and reminded me in some respects of The Great Gatsby.

I bought it a while back because I’ve loved the other Chabon books I’ve read. Had no idea of its background. Or that it’s dedicated “To Lollie.” It was the perfect length for a quick trip – finished it as the plane was landing in Little Rock.

I highly recommend it.

Once home, it was back to Jon Krakauer’s Where Men Win Glory. Glory I’d gotten the book shortly after John and I saw Pat Tillman’s widow and brother-in-law (if memory serves) at The Clinton School, then couldn’t bear to read it. John read it immediately and I kept waiting. And waiting.

I knew how it ended, but it was still a tough read. Excellently written, but so infuriating – what a waste the Iraq War was. And here we are, all these years later, and the same issues in the book are still issues today. And getting worse daily.

Can’t remember if I mentioned reading Krakauer’s Three Cups of Deceit recently. That’s more like a pamphlet. I knew that JK is one of the best journalistic-style non-fiction writers around, but now I know that you don’t want to lie to him or piss him off. He will eviscerate you with words if you deserve it.

If you need some help understanding what’s going on in the Middle East or can’t remember how we lost sight of Bin Laden for so long and got distracted by destroying Iraq, read Where Men Win Glory.

WTFOne more book I must mention, though I’m not quite finished: Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, a first novel by David Shafer. That’s the military phonetic alphabet for WTF? It’s one of my birthday books from John and has been keeping me up way too late. It’s very, very much in the same vein as Dave Eggers’ The Circle, only much better.

I’ll let you know my final verdict, but so far it’s funny-ish and intriguing enough with interesting characters – and I hope to hell the story is as far-fetched as it seems.

Our blind faith in technology is scary if you take the blinders off. If Eggers and Shafer know something we don’t, we’re in for a future of which I don’t want to be part.

Guess that will do for this scattershot post. Oh, one last photo of something that makes me very happy, Japanese persimmons just like the ones my grandfather used to grow. Fresh (and unripe) from the Bernice Garden Farmers Market this morning, grown by my friend Robert Lashley at Willow Springs Market Garden.

Yum.

Japanese persimmons