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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.

23andMe top

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

 

 

Rhyme and reason

Busy-ness has kept The Lolly Diaries on the back burner for  a couple of weeks. I could pick back up with more from our trip to New York or the People’s Climate March itself, but instead I want to talk about rhyme and reason.

Much of what goes on in this crazy and volatile world I am helpless to understand, much less explain.

Beheadings? In the 21st century? Staggering. Heartbreakingly staggering. Religion run amok, of any persuasion, has historically caused great cruelty, but shouldn’t the world be past that by now?

The climate mess we’ve gotten ourselves into? Seems obvious we’ve passed the tipping point, but I remain hopeful we can slow down the pace of the tipping.

The reason we let it get to that point?

Greed. Ignorance, too, some of it willful, but greed over green has been the biggest problem in recent years. Living for the now with no care for the future of the earth and all its peoples doesn’t help, but neither does big money and people like the Koch brothers and their boy in Arkansas, Tom Cotton.

But we do what we can, raise a little hell about issues when we can and try to remain sane in a scary world. Everyone has to find his rhyme and reason to persevere.

Otherwise, giving up and giving in would be all too easy.

My primary R&R are my five little ones.

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The other day, out of the blue around dinner time, Jude asked quite seriously what happened to Grandpa Bill. I explained, in fairly technical detail, and his curiosity was satisfied. He was sad, but he’s also sad that he never met my real dad – which he also mentioned. Kids know more than we give them credit for many times.

We watched Mary Poppins with Jude last night. I caught myself off guard by crying during Jane and Michaels’ first song – that movie is so tied to my parents, who took Cathy and me to see it downtown 50  years ago. I played the kid’s version of the songs on the piano, and Daddy played the adult versions. He and Mother loved musicals.

Mr. Banks reminded me of Daddy, spending so much time at work and regretting it later. Sigh. Nostalgia rolled into grief makes the tears flow. We had the lights out, but the last time I teared up (there were a few), Jude did notice – “Hey, your eyes are watering,” is how he questioningly put it.

Speaking of movies, we just came in from Gone Girl. Very nicely done! I’d been waiting since reading the book sometime in 2013. I’d intended to talk some about books in this blog, but it had other ideas.

So that will have to wait. Maybe next time …

Happy together

My Comcast rant left me too worn out to mention some instances of very good customer service. I’m not that hard to please, really, and am happy together with several businesses, even if their politics are something best left unacknowledged. I’d like to mention a few that never let us down.

Monday was the day our Chevy Cruze went in for the inevitable recall repair. That’s unfortunate, but Russell Chevrolet in Sherwood never fails to please. While we (the Cruze and I) were there for the airbag recall, the service department noticed it had another recall (something about the coolant system) and made that repair, too, even though we haven’t even been notified yet.

Russell’s a family-owned business that understands customer service is the name of the game.

Sirius Satellite Radio is another company with which I’ve had very nice experiences. Not only can you talk to a human, the human you talk to will help you make the changes you want without bullying or arguing. And even find extra ways to save you money. Nice.

And they give me Tom Petty’s Buried Treasure. Enough said.

Verizon is another company that has always treated us well, whether it be their error or our ineptitude. (See above comment about politics best left unmentioned.)

iTunes has also been exceedingly cooperative in all instances when I’ve needed help, like being hacked and having bogus charges, accidentally buying an album on my iPad (for which they not only refunded the charge, but also said go ahead and keep the album), or having a book that wouldn’t load. Any time I’ve had any issue, the person I’ve talked to has also added some credit to my account for the inconvenience.

With Uverse, it’s really too soon to tell, but so far so good, despite some buffering we didn’t get with the evil one. We even got a handy little video email that explained the billing statement in great detail so we’ll have no surprises.

feudo-arancio-stemmari-sangiovese-sicilia-igt-sicily-italy-10563061Speaking of surprises, of the nice kind, we continue to be thrilled with the affordable wines from Feudo Arancio Stemmari in Sicily. The Sangiovese I found is divine. Now we have the Pinot Noir and Syrah in our wine rack and can’t wait to find the Chardonnay, which I’ve yet to locate in our area. (We also need a few more of the Sangiovese – the two bottles didn’t last long.)

Kudos – and speaking of customer service, the nice folks at Stemmari thanked me for mentioning the Nero D’Avola before. Cool, huh?

Mean mistreater

 

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don't think so.

$20 in one month? Just because you think you can? We don’t think so.

Oh-oh-oh Comcast. You did us wrong; you raised our rates and then held on and on and on and on and o-oh-on. 

At least you tried. But your Mean Mistreater business model doesn’t work for the Hardys anymore. Our love has died.

Actually, we never loved Comcast. We’d both long deplored Comcast’s tactic of sending bills with barely enough turn-around time to get them paid without incurring late fees (as well as the $5 “convenience” charge for paying over the phone the times we’d been out of the country when the bills came).

(Maybe it’s tilting at windmills, but in hopes of helping to keep the U.S. Post Office alive, I try to pay most of our bills by snail mail.)

But Uverse’s inability to play nicely with Macs a few years ago drove us to the corporate giant. 

At first our relationship was pretty good, but then they started raising rates – yet TV was hit and miss, often going out for no apparent reason. Not that we watched enough to justify the plan we had anyway.

Finally, I got John to call with the intention of dropping TV down to basic – or nothing except Wifi. Netflix would do. But after clawing his way through the dreaded computerized phone system, a sweet-talking “retention” agent suckered him in with promises of SPORTS! and free HBO for a year.

Oh, and they’d stop charging us $8 a month modem rental since the modem we bought, at Comcast’s recommendation, wouldn’t work with Comcast after all. Then our Internet service started going out multiple times daily, though, to give credit where it’s due, the last few months that had stopped.

But oh, you corporate devil. Our abusive relationship resumed sooner than we’d imagined, with the “free” HBO quickly turning to paid – and no one having a record of the verbal retention agreement. Then the modem charge came back. Then another “waived” charge, for the non-DVR receiver in the bedroom. 

You cheater, you.

I’d been begging John to break up with Comcast for quite some time (he might call it nagging) – they never liked to talk to me, since his name is on the account, so he had to do it. 

But he couldn’t bear the ordeal of fighting to get free and deciding to whom to turn until our most recent bill came with a $20 increase. No justification, just $20 more. 

That got the hubster to take action.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the "I'm an attorney line" in his dealings with the behemoth.

You can see the note-taking my law-school trained husband did through the Comcast divorce – though he never pulled the “I’m an attorney line” in his dealings with the behemoth.

We’d been hearing Uverse was better on the Internet front and we’d really liked the TV service, so, once he got in fighting mode, John had our installation scheduled within a day. As soon as the at&t installer left, John called Comcast.

Of course he got a computer; after talking to it long enough, he chose “5” to “remove some or all Comcast services.” Suddenly a real person answered and asked what he wanted to do. When he told her he wanted to cancel, she said she wanted to give him a “great deal.” He said no thanks, but she insisted.

He said, “Lady, Uverse just left. I want to cancel.” She said, “Oh, I can’t do that.” After making him give her the reasons he wanted to cancel, she finally gave John the number to call someone else.

The number yielded the same computer menu (after re-entering his phone and account numbers); he had to press “5” again – and finally got someone who sounded just like the woman he spoke to before. They had the same conversation, she said she was “so sorry” to hear he wanted to cancel and wanted him to list his reasons.

Finally, my soft-spoken husband told her, “STOP! I just want to cancel effective immediately.”

But, no – that wouldn’t do! She told him he’d have to take our equipment to the service center 15 miles away. She couldn’t possibly cancel our service over the phone that day! To do that, he’d have to call another number (and still deliver the damn equipment).

He declined the number and said he’d just deliver the equipment the next morning – but she couldn’t possibly tell him what time the place opened, nor was it posted online. When he tried to call the local number to find out the hours, he got – maybe you guessed it – the same computer menu.

Since we were receiving two of the three grandkids we’d be keeping for a few days the next morning and I had to go to work, John hightailed it to the Comcast office by 8:30 –  an office that opened at 10. Home he came, and after I got home from work, he hauled it back the 15 miles to get there just in time to get us canceled.

Comcast managed to get another day’s pay out of us by refusing to cancel over the phone – typical of their in-your-face-we’re-a-corporation, dammit! model. 

Analytical John wonders how much income Comcast generates by such a model – delaying cancelation by a day or two times all the subscribers trying to quit. We’re guessing quite a bit.

When he got to the center, the woman who helped him was great, he stresses. And when he told her he hated Comcast, she told him she understood.

 

 

Bad moon rising?

The August 10 super moon, No. 2 in the series of three in a row, rises over our neighbors' house  (which is being fabulously restored to the original arts and crafts wood under the decades-old aluminum siding).

The August 10 super moon, No. 2 in the series of three in a row, rises over our neighbors’ house (which is being fabulously restored to the original arts and crafts wood under the decades-old aluminum siding).

As I shot photos of the August 10 super moon, I had no thoughts of it being a bad moon rising – still don’t, really. It was a beauty to behold, and celestial events still excite me. I was like a kid with the camera that night, and pointed the moon out to Zuzu, who politely looked and at least pretended to be interested.

But that song started playing in my head within 24 hours or so. For quite some time I’ve had that waiting feeling again, waiting for something, and I’m not sure it’s all arrived yet.

Last week was a rough one. Two great losses for the entertainment world and Ferguson, Mo., bursting into insanity after a horrible, horrible shooting. Personally, I felt like I was spinning out of control from the weight of it all.

Enough. More than enough.

I always feel guilty when someone commits suicide, especially when it’s someone I know – could I have made a difference? Could I have said something, done something?

Maybe that’s a common feeling. Maybe it’s just me. People don’t talk about it much.

But they have been talking about Robin Williams. I don’t want to exploit him or his death in any way – I just want to say that many people I’ve talked to have felt a great loss, a great weight and sadness. As well as shock.

Lauren Bacall went out in style at a glorious 89, but with her went the glamour of the golden age of Hollywood. I’ll miss her being in the world.

And Ferguson, Mo. Can’t even discuss it.

Today we learned Isis has beheaded an American journalist. I’m heartsick and so reminded of Daniel Pearl more than 12 years ago. Will we never progress out of this loop?

Saturday that would have been just about enough to sink me. But this morning I woke up feeling more like myself. I’ve been gaining strength since Sunday, when I took time out of my “too busy” schedule to go to a little party at a friend’s. My gut told me it was important to go, and I’m glad my sister went, too.

We played with essential oils – and as soon as I got a whiff of one called “Peace and Calming,” I realized what was missing from my life right now. You can’t really put an olfactory experience into words, and if you don’t immediately get it, you’ll just think I’m a loon.

That’s OK – won’t be the first time.

I’m just relieved that for now, anyway, the super moon is a super moon. “Bad Moon Rising” has faded and I’m hearing other songs. I’m not quite dancing in the moonlight, but I do feel like my mojo is returning.

Aug. supermoon1

Aug. supermoon2

Run through the jungle

Our free-range garden this year is populated more by compost uprisings than deliberate plantings. The results have been surprising.

Our free-range garden this year is populated more by compost uprisings than deliberate plantings. The results have been surprising.

Life continues to feel like a run through the jungle, never stopping, never slowing down, pushing vines and branches aside, and never knowing what lurks behind the next bamboo stand.

But Creedence Clearwater Revival’s unforgettable song pulses through my head in a more literal than metaphorical sense almost daily when I look at or enter our wild backyard garden this year. Vines are everywhere. Vines we didn’t plant.

Seems we have a compost-seeded thicket that’s full of surprises. As in the vine that ate Manhattan – or would if turned loose. We thought at first that it was a watermelon, something we did plant that disappeared. Then we decided it must be cantaloupe, until one burst as we were waiting for it to turn tan. Nope, we have honeydew melons of all sizes on the ground, hanging over the fence, from tomato-plant cones.

We also have tomato vines snaking across the ground with green tomatoes of all sizes and varieties everywhere you look. And, for some reason, the squirrels seem to have backed off right as the grape tomatoes are coming in – and they are delicious. Better late than never, though we’d about given up hope.

Occasionally we find banana peppers and eggplant hiding under the vines. Free-range gardening has been interesting.

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Our other jungle, a bamboo stand, keeps marching across the yard and now through our brick patio. The dogs and grandkids love to play in the bamboo, and nothing else will grow there. All we can do is try our best to contain it to that area. You can see below how far it’s advancing. Excuse the mess of a yard.

Tess just happened to pose right between two baby bamboo patches. She likes to pose for photos, and the bamboo loves to grow.

Tess just happened to pose right between two baby bamboo patches. She likes to pose for photos, and the bamboo loves to grow.

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Grammy's new green makes her smile. The old green did not.

Grammy’s new green makes her smile. The old green did not.

Speaking of green things, Mother’s living room at her new home was a very dark, drab olive (with a dark gold ceiling and dark drapes), until Liz got through with it. Now it’s a lovely pale celery-ish green with a bright white ceiling, and Mother couldn’t be happier. Liz and Brent spent a day there while I babysat, then Liz did the rest of the work.

Except the touchups and cleaning of the paint-dots on the hardwoods, which were my turn.

Tuesday night as Mother and I worked on touchups and cleanup, I was on my hands and knees flicking paint flecks with my thumbnail and washing them off with Windex. Made the mistake of saying, “Ouch,” with Mother in earshot.

My shoulders are delicate since my rotator cuff surgery came partially undone – my fault and I’m banned from weight-rooms for life – so Mother ordered me to stop.

“No, I’ve got to finish this. I’ll just switch hands,” I told her. (Is it sassing if you’re 58?) She fretted but I kept going.

She, on the other hand, kept bending at the waist since she can’t squat or get on her knees (she’s still flexible as heck) to flick some flecks when she let out a loud, “Ouch!”

“What?!” I asked her. She mumbled that it was just her knee – it really hurt sometimes lately when she bends over.

“Well, you stop that,” I told her. “You can’t be getting hurt.”

“No, I’ll just do this area ….” You get the picture.

I just started laughing on my hands and knees.

“We are two stubborn women,” I told Mother.

She burst into laughter at that – and kept working.

The stubborn-off was a tie, I’d say.

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Should be interesting next April when we go to Florence and Venice for her 80th and my 60th birthdays. She picked the cities, I booked the hotels and flights. We have her doctors’ blessings to go, so via andare.

I’ve been across the Atlantic twice without my trusty traveling companion and man I love, but those trips were with groups. This will be the two old stubborn gals on an adventure.

I’m brushing up on Italian.

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ZOOM STEMMARI_NeroAvolaSpeaking of Italian, I’ve discovered a Sicilian wine worth sharing, Stemmari Nero D’Avolo. It’s in my favorites list now. Love how it tastes and that the grapes are grown with sustainable farming.

And that it’s from Sicily, the next place in Italy I want to go. I’ll let you know after we try the chardonnay and pinot noir.

I expect them to be fabulous, too.

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power-fusion One last thing in this random run though a blog post: Sometimes it’s good to go back to something you haven’t done in a while to see how your
skills/strength/balance/memory/whatever are holding up. So, with that in mind – and because I’ve missed her – I’ve pulled out my two favorite Ellen Barrett exercise DVDs again. ellenbarrettgracegusto

Still love them, still love her soothing personality – she is one of the nicest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of visiting with (literally, as in in person in my previous life as a fitness columnist, and more than once). I wrote about them 2 1/2 years ago or so, so I won’t rehash the workouts, but I will recommend them again.

So much fun. Made my legs sore in a good way. You won’t get hurt with these if you’re older but you will get toned with them, even if you’re younger.

My balance? Still pretty good. Could use some tuning up before Italy, so I’d better go for some Power Fusion.

Più tardi.


 

Put your records on

Just a few of my old albums from the later ’60s to the ’80s, before CDs took over, have made it to the shelf so far. Hope they still all play. Nothing beats vinyl ....

Just a few of my old albums from the later ’60s to the ’80s, before CDs took over, have made it to the shelf so far. Hope they still play all right. Nothing beats vinyl ….

Focusing on the negative is easy, especially when the news is as bad as it’s been lately, but I’m usually more of the Pollyanna-bent. So when I noticed a bit ago that I hadn’t been feeling quite like myself, I knew it was time to put my records on.

Music always soothes my soul and lifts my spirits, and my regimen of listening to my music at least once a day – not counting in my car – has helped.

(Technically, these days it’s my iPod in a Bose dock, but John recently built an album-sized shelf upstairs and got many of my albums out of storage. Now I just need to get a turntable hooked up.)

I also haven’t had much time for creative outlets, other than what I do for work, or exercise, except the bare minimum, so it’s time to get the sewing machine back out, try my hand at pointillism and shake a tail feather. Without killing myself in the process.

Work/life balance has been out of balance. I’m working on that.

Jude’s spending the night tonight and tomorrow we go dig for diamonds at the Crater of Diamonds State Park – something neither Pop nor I have done. It’s the rest of his 8th birthday present. It’s good to have one-on-one time with our oldest boy.

The one thing I have had time to do lately (on the treadmill and by staying up way too late) is read, which brings me to this installment of “Lolly’s Book Report.”

predisposed Predisposed: Liberals, Conservatives and the Biology of Political Differences is a fascinating, if somewhat textbook-y read. The studies are eye-opening, and if everyone were required to read it – with an open mind – surely much hatefulness would be abated. Fear and loathing of the political “other” is defused when you learn that people are born with a predisposition to being a certain way.

For me it was a hard-to-put-down, hurry-to-finish book. John finds it very interesting, too, but not as compelling as I did. Even though some parts required a twice- or thrice-over reading, I scoop that stuff up with a spoon then lick the bowl.

I’d suggest it to anyone interested in the human mind, even if, maybe especially if, politics turns you off.

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a fabulous little mystery that I can’t say too much about without ruining it for you. Miss PIt’s a page-turner; I  read it from start to finish the day we flew to Yakima. I will say read it if you like fun, well-written stories that linger after you’ve finished and make you go “Hmmmm, I wonder ….” The eerily fascinating real photos will linger after you’ve finished and possibly appear in your dreams.

100 footThe 100-Foot Journey was my Yakima read. It’s a fairly short, lightweight book with a definite charm – and on my list of books to read before the movie comes out. I suspect it was greatly changed in the screenplay from the trailers I’ve seen. The book is based around French cooking and the graphic descriptions of animal slaughter and handling of meat gagged me at times, but the humor and humanity of other parts kept me reading.

Can’t say it’s in my top 100 books, but at this age, I don’t bother finishing a book if it isn’t good.

Last night I finished the book that’s been keeping me up too late lately – and disturbing me, greatly, at times, even though it’s about events in the 1930s. gardenKitty gave me In the Garden of the Beasts in Yakima – she’d recently finished it. I love Erik Larson’s writing style, and though Garden isn’t quite as good as The Devil in the White City, it still worked me into fury over intelligent people’s collective blindness to der fuhrer’s insanity as he rose to power. That’s some powerful writing and disturbing reading.

Disturbing – and more than a little scary, considering much of the craziness in the world and right here in the U.S. right now – but important reading. Those who don’t learn from the past and all.

madwoman After finishing it, though, I dove straight into The Madwoman in the Volvo, which John got me as a surprise after we saw author Sandra Tsing Loh on Real Time with Bill Maher recently and she made us laugh so hard.

John said he thought it would be funny and that I’d enjoy it. He was right. It is and I am.

 

Whole lotta shakin’ going on

Today’s 90-degree heat coupled with weeks of accompanying Dad to two stinky restoration projects made this evening the perfect time for the first doggy bath of the season. Both big girls had a whole lot of shakin’ going on before, during and after their dates with The Furminator and the water hose.

The first step of the process was repairing the doggy door so I could insert the panel to prevent: A. Zuzu from running inside to hide and B. Tess scaring Zuzu to death by grabbing her collar to “help” us bathe her. They’d so warped the frame by crashing into the hard panel the few times we’d shut them in that it took some tweaking with a hammer to get it working again.

Furminating requires all-hands-0n-dog, so we couldn’t get pictures, but the piles of white undercoat were impressive.

The  process was to Furminate Tess while Zuzu watched, bathe Tess while Zuzu hid, let Tess shake then rub her with a beach towel – she likes that – then trick Tess into going in the laundry room (while blocking the younger one who desperately tried to get inside) so we could repeat the process with Zu.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty sassy during the process.

Tess was frisky and playful post-Furminating, though she was pretty vocal and sassy during the process.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was stuck inside.

Zuzu, on the other hand, was shaking and nervous while awaiting her turn but angelic during the procedure, since big bad Tess was trapped in the house.

Tess promptly crashed into the hard panel trying to get back out, then commenced to complaining greatly about the indignity of being stuck inside.

Tess is pretty good when it comes to bathing, though she can’t help but shake and drench us from time to time. And unlike her sister, she understands that she needs to shake, and shake a lot. after a bath before going in the house.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn't love them but tolerates pretty well now that she's 9.

Tess is an old pro at baths. Doesn’t love them but tolerates them pretty well now that she’s 9.

Zuzu, shockingly, was an angel for the whole process – comparatively speaking. Knowing Tess wasn’t watching ready to pounce did the trick. What she doesn’t understand is the part about shaking the water off – until she gets in the kitchen that is.

The floors needed mopping anyway. The cabinets, not so much, but hey …

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Zuzu even assumed the German Shepherd show stance during her bath. What a good girl!

Both dogs love bodies of water – we can’t keep them out of even a large puddle – and Zuzu never shakes after soaking. She seems to like to drip-dry. Black hair in the heat, you know.

Anyway, now the dogs are clean and we stink. Mission accomplished, old folks intact.

That’s a bigger achievement than young folks can imagine.

And, look - Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control - plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she's so big most people assume she's a male. But she's just a big old rowdy girl.

And, look – Zuzu has a waistline. Months of portion control – plus maturing into her 3-year-old figure – have paid off. Her coat is so thick and she’s so big most people assume she’s a male. But she’s just a big old rowdy girl.

Open-ended life

Human instinct tends to be to want to control things; we like to know where things are going and how they will end. But The Avett Brothers have got it right: It’s easier on the spirit to live an open-ended life and accept where that life takes us.

Easier on the spirit but often hard to do. Try too hard to control things  and you’ll strike out. Or burn out.

I’m battling that will to control at the moment. As usual, music soothes my soul and lets me relax enough to gain perspective.

John’s mother, far away in Yakima, Washington, has just been placed in hospice care. My instinct is to jump on a jet and get up there. Instead, we’re going sooner than we’d planned (which was August, for John’s class reunion), but not right now. Unless an emergency calls us.

I don’t like that. Makes me uncomfortable and is not how I do things. But, much to my continual surprise, I’m reminded once again that Laura is not the queen of everything or responsible for everything.

Deep breath. Ohhmmm.

No matter what, there’s an Elsa (from Frozen) dress to be made before i can go anywhere – Sylvia turns 3 on June 14, and that’s her request. I’ve also decided to make tulle capelets for the other little girls at the party. What the heck.

Little Silas has been diagnosed with severe allergies (milk is the worst, along with eggs and peanuts), and the next step is a scope and esophageal biopsy on the tiny fellow. By waiting to go to Washington, I can be here for that – but we’ll probably have to miss Jude’s 8th birthday party.

Tough choice, but as my wise mother said, “He’ll have other birthdays.” Doris’s time is limited.

Speaking of Mother, she’s digging her little house (mostly the view) and meeting more and more neighbors. We’ve gotten it pretty much together – much of my free time has been there getting art hung and other things how she wants them.

We cooked out on her deck Memorial Day and it was lovely. My stepsister Lisa was there – we’re so glad she’s staying part of the family.

Lisa and Mother chat. I made Mother a White Russian – she highly approved.

Lisa and Mother chat.

My vegan cupcakes met everyone’s approval. Maybe I’ll post the recipe later. Vanilla with salted caramel frosting. vegan cupcakes

Silas definitely approved.

Baby sis is looking good – having Mother situated and safe has been a big relief, and that fab yard (and deck drinks) had everyone feeling relaxed.

Baby sis is looking good – having Mother situated and safe has been a big relief, and that fab yard (and deck drinks) had everyone feeling relaxed.

One last thing – you may have noticed the blog looks different. I re-upped for another year, but the old template had to go. Time marches on and things change.

We’ll see where the next year takes us.

Modern love

Cathy, Paul, John and I finally watched Her last weekend – for me a disturbing look at what passes for modern love in the fairly near future.

The movie is excellently crafted and acted. I loved the slightly odd men’s clothing – well, the quiet detail to show a difference, at least; the high-waisted men’s pants were rather hideous but the small button-down collars were just different enough to add to the futuristic feel.

But I found it depressing and sad overall, just as I do the concept of “singularity,” which John and our friend Rich find exciting and fascinating. Just as I did the 2001 movie, A.I. (which I rather despised, despite watching it more than once because it’s creepily, car-wreckish-can’t-look-away).

TLotHAnd a little scary, as I found the Inger Stevens’ episode of The Twilight Zone, “The Lateness of the Hour,” in which she discovered she was a robot. Gave me the creeps as a little girl – and probably nightmares.

The grandkids are all so technologically savvy – they seem to have been born knowing how to work a computer. Silas at 13 months is adept at FaceTime calling.

But I take heart in their appreciation of quiet time and the power of imaginative play and story-telling. Had Sylvia and I not spent a considerable chunk of time Saturday afternoon sitting on the floor quietly playing with a 1977, no frills Fisher Price doll house I bought recently, watching Her that night might have made me feel even ickier.

Humanity prevails, at least for now, and modern love, at least when it comes to grandkids, seems relatively unchanged.

The human touch is still strong in other ways. Sunday I popped into work for a moment (at Esse Purse Museum), and Morgan had gotten me a present and written a sweet note. What a nice surprise! And what a perfect gift.

I’m the queen of sticky notes, and she said when she saw this, she knew I had to have it.

Isn't this cute? Morgan said it had my name on it – and resembled the Anya Sushko bag in our store that I hope to own someday. Thoughtful girl, that Morgan Hill.

Isn’t this cute? Morgan said it had my name on it – and resembled the Anya Sushko bag in our store that I hope to own someday. Thoughtful girl, that Morgan Hill.

Yesterday, my coworker and South Main Vintage Market partner Sandy Griffith brought me a surprise gift, too!

Sandy made me this memory/photo album for mementos from our anniversary trip this year.

Sandy made me this memory/photo album for mementos from our anniversary trip this year. Beautiful, oui?

I’m a lucky gal to be surrounded by great folks at a fun job.

John and I also got a beautiful – in more ways than physical – gift this week, too. For years, John’s mother sent us an amaryllis at Christmas. Now she’s not really aware of holidays, but her gifts continue to make us feel her love.

Two bulbs from two Christmases long ago decided to bloom in tandem this week, reminding us that though life fades away, love goes on.

Two bulbs from two different Christmases long ago decided to bloom in tandem this week, reminding us that though life fades away, love goes on.