May 28, 2015

3 Pieces of Wisdom

A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain t...
A portrait of the American writer Mark Twain taken by A. F. Bradley in New York, 1907. "Never pick a fight with a man that buys ink by the barrel." (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It has come to my attention that I know too much. When I spout off on something especially in front of my children I often get that eye roll thing. Most of the information I can talk about is not important or even relevant.

But in all truth, if you are a person that can adapt your knowledge, some of those old saws can come in handy. Here are three of my personal favorites:
  1. Never stand in front of a man swinging an ax. Since the days when this piece of wisdom was very important the ax has gone out of style. Not many people swing axes these day. If you are a city person you probably wonder what I am talking about. If you were to visit a store that caters to wood choppers or lumberjacks you would find that axes can come in two pieces. The handle is often not attached to the head of the tool. When an ax handle breaks, a really handy guy goes to the local hardware store and buys a new handle. The handle is attached using small pieces of wood to wedge it in place and then it is soaked in water to make the wood expand and the theory is the handle will not separate from the ax head until the time comes when the new handle breaks. HOWEVER, many time the ax head and the handle come apart as the ax is being swung over the head of the chopper and flies through the air. My advice to you would be to get out of the way BEFORE that happens. In this day and age I don't stand in the line of fire when a golf club is being swung...I have seen the heads fly off of them too. 
  2. Never learn to clean fish (or chop wood)! Once we learn to do something, we are expected to do it all the time. Sometimes we need to simply refuse to learn a skill that we would never want to do again. 
  3. Never argue with a man that buys ink by the barrel (to paraphrase Mark Twain). My husband was a school administrator for many years in small communities. While we lived in a sort of tentative peace with those around us, once in a while the newspaper would speak out of turn and either embarrass us or make us really mad. I recall a young newspaper reporter using my husbands name in connection with a bar fight in the next town. Needless to say, in our jobs that was not a good thing AND my husband was innocent...I promise. Even though the newspaper was wrong, my husband was very careful of what he said. Those people buy ink by the barrel and there is no fighting with them because you will never win.
Now newspapers have gone the way of the ax and a barrel of ink probably does nobody any good. However, even though the Internet is inkless, it is not harmless. We still need to be very careful of those the hold the power of disseminating information in their hands.
I am sure that 10 more will come to mind as soon as I post this blog. I suppose you have some worthless advice to pass on. I would love to hear it.


May 27, 2015

9 Ways to Deal With (annoying?) Cell Phone Calls or Why Don't They Answer?

English: Phone box A rare sight these days, an...
English: Phone box A rare sight these days, an old fashioned red phone box outside the Old Stores in Yarpole village. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
I have three email addresses, an iPhone with text messaging and Whatsapp. I have an iPad too. Skype is loaded and ready to go. I seldom use any of them because everyone I know is very busy. It is very difficult to get a response from anyone. Does anyone else have this problem?

It hasn't been that many years ago that we wrote a letter on a piece of paper and put it in the mail. We were willing to wait for an answer and, if the answer did not come, the other person could always claim that it had never arrive..."darned postal service messed up again," they would say. No one's feelings were hurt.

But we need a whole new list of excuses for not responding. My phone battery is dead, I didn't hear the beep and so on when the truth is the person on the other end of the phone probably did not feel like answering you. Remember, with caller ID on phones, everyone knows who is calling if the number is in their contacts list. No excuse can change that.

I think you would agree that there is probably a need for some clarification for intended use by the cell phone owner. Everyone needs to be very up front about how they are going to use that device and honest with themselves about what they are doing. Do you...
  1. Never answer the phone but leave instruction on voice mail telling people that you do not answer your phone but will respond to messages then erase the ones that annoy you?
  2. Block all those people you never intend to respond to ever no matter who they are?
  3. Make excuses that are not true when people ask you about a call or text?
  4. Give out your cell number and then blow everyone off? 
If you are doing those things, ask yourself "why" and make an effort to let your contacts know about your attitude. (I would be curious to hear how you did that in a nice way.) Or rethink your actions.

If you are the one struggling with cell phone using friends or family you might consider these suggestions:
  1. Take the hint and quit calling!
  2. If you want to communicate with them, write a letter and mail it.
  3. Always fill in the subject line when you send a text or email. Abbreviate the information so they will at least know why your are trying to contact them. If you don't hear back, so be it!
  4. Do not call family at work unless you are bleeding or in the ambulance.
I heard a man talking on his phone recently. He was telling his daughter to never call him on his cell phone. He told her he was the only one that could use the phone. Wow! This technology really has us confused it seems. 

Does anyone have any ideas? Please share.


It is just a thought!

May 25, 2015

Do High Fences Make Good Neighbors?

My husband is redoing our back fence...a "good neighbor" fence of sorts is being created. We are the neighbors and the fence is good for us.

See, our backdoor neighbor is a naturalist...or something like that. He mows his yard once a year whether it needs it or not. He has the remnants of an above ground pool in the middle of his yard topped with dead branches and covered with a tarp. His son is a teen and the toys from his childhood sit strewn about the yard and his maple tree seeds itself down willy nilly. A hose that I have never seen used lays by a broken barbeque and his deck cover is going to collapse any day now.

I have to admit that he was living there when we bought this house. I just didn't see that it would bother me because there was a nice fence and I thought I could cover the lattice board we could see through at the top with planters. But, as it turned out, it was not possible to buy enough planters to conceal what was going on over there. And the neighbor does not want us to fix the fence when it falls apart!

I tried everything to overcome the look of the place. I called is our very own wetland. I tried to feel grateful because he never came in the back yard, did not have a barking dog or a screaming wife. After almost 4 years, the fence came apart for the second time. The first time it disassembled itself my husband cut down the saplings under the fence and reassembled the section that was broken. The neighbor put up a "no trespassing" sign and turned the spotlight on the back of his house so it shone in our bedroom window. It turned out he noticed when my husband cut down the sapplings under the fence. Now we have resigned ourselves to a solid wood, very high fence.

We did not approach him about helping to pay for the new fence because, well, it seemed useless. I began calling him "What a guy!" because he propped up one board to fill the new hole.

Our back deck. We spend endless hours outside in
the summer
The fence that is being restored. The lattice let us see too much
and the bottom part is coming apart.
Now my husband is fixing the fence. Oh my is as though we have been let out of prison. Our yard is looking so much better and we can go on with our life.

We learned that if you fix the fence, you cannot go on the neighbor's property. We do that sort of thing because we only want to help. You cannot choose your neighbors. We also have learned that privacy is more important that we ever realized.

Do high fences make good neighbors? I do not know. We will let you know.


May 22, 2015

Yes, I Do Buy Green Bananas!

I know people that do not want to pay taxes anymore because their children are not in school and they don't go to the park anymore or maybe don't even drive. They have ceased to care about the future and all those generations that follow them. I find myself avoiding those people because they just make me depressed. I like to think about the future and, yes, I still buy green bananas.

My Future has a very young face! Three
of my 12 grandchildren with my husband and
I in Florence, Italy.
On the other hand I know so many people that do care about what their grandchildren or great-grandchildren will become and are willing to contribute time and even money toward what they will never see. And I suppose they realize that taxes are an investment in the future too. I certainly hope so.

As for me I still buy small plants and trees so I can watch them grow. I think that schools are the foundation for the future and if we don't pay for them, the community will fail. I like change and all that it brings. I honestly live as though I will see it come to fruition...who knows what the future will bring.

So I will continue to buy green bananas and small trees.  I think our future is very bright...that is a good thing.


May 20, 2015

Aging: I'm Sorry But You're Not Doing it Right

Aging is a full time job and I can actually say I like it a lot better than I did the jobs I did as a young person. But it seems that I may not be doing it right. It seems younger people, some of them "experts", have an opinion even though they have no real experience at being old. I think the final straw for me this week was the notion put forth on Fox News that we need to have our vocal cords fixed so we sound younger. Of all things in the world it had never occurred to me that my voice did not sound just fine. I like my voice.

Then I was read a post written by Chloe Jeffreys over at Chloe of the Mountain called Another War No Woman Can Win. In the article she talked about the battles that women just cannot win. Aging has been added to the list. But then doing it wrong is nothing new to a woman like me. Here is what Cloe had to say:
Spending my entire female life watching women emotionally and socially beat the hell out of each other over...being a feminist, maintaining your hymen until your wedding night, giving away the cow for free, giving head, showing your godliness by turning your head and thinking of England, homeschooling, putting the kids in daycare, staying with him, getting a divorce–and on and on–I find myself unsurprised that ageing is the next unwinnable female competitive sport.
Well Chloe, I for one am not surprised. I have heard the discussions from women my age
over graying hair, lifts and injections, exercise and yoga. I have even read articles written by women highlighted with pictures of old people with black hairy moles. In every one of those articles I hear a hint of fear. The idea is that, if you do all the "right" things, aging will not come to you. The truth of the matter is, you cannot escape aging anymore than you can escape growing up. It is just a fact of life. Yet even people like Chloe and I are doing our best to look good as we age.

Women fall into several categories. There are those that disdain the effect that the sun, dry air or even too much alcohol or coffee can have on your body. They plow through life letting what is just
be. In fact, the woman that do that are very happy in their skin I think. If I took every mirror
out of my house I could live like that without any problem.

Then there are those that begin angsting about wrinkles and sagging skin very early in their life. Cosmetic manufacturers love them a lot. I have no idea if it makes a difference. The only women I see that still have perfect skin are the ones that never go out in the sun, use tons of face cream to plump up cells and never change their expressions.

Then there are women like me that loved a natural look for most of their lives. I enjoyed the sun and being outdoors. My skin was wonderful and I would often comment that it did not one whit of good to get sick because I always looked just sympathy for me. I always colored my hair because I wanted a change once in a while. I too disdained the make-up counters and anti-aging creams. Then one day my daughter took me for a makeover for my birthday. The rest is history and now it is almost 20 years later. I still love my make-up, my dressing table and the time I spend each day pampering myself. I make no apologies for that.

However, I do not color my hair anymore. In fact, I embrace my white hair and all that it implies.

So, I am sure that Chloe would agree. Really, no one is doing it wrong. We all need to do what we think helps us feel good about ourselves. What is right for me is just that. You do it your way and we will both be happy. But above all, we need to face the realities about aging and find a way to be content with what we are gifted.


May 19, 2015

Retirement: On Being Normal

I often wonder if there is any such thing as "normal". Is there actually someone in this world that gets up, does what is average, sleep the average number of hours and spend the average time driving, eating, with their children. Who are those people and where do they live?

I for one watch movies like About Schmidt see myself in so many of the situation pictured I find the characters not only average but boring. Am I like that? Maybe. I could even see myself doing what he did when his car quit working...abandon it and just drive that awful RV everywhere. In fact, it looked so average that I didn't even notice what he was doing until a long way into the movie.

Three weeks ago in Munich...
We traveled during the month of April in Europe and returned to Arizona where we battled jet lag as we packed to return home to Oregon. Average had become a life living out of a suitcase, showering in other people's showers and walking endless miles on a wounded knee. I was out of my shampoo and didn't have any dental floss. The hotel lotions was not good and finding gluten free food was a "new" normal was not what it had been. But I was happy and loved every bit of it. At the time it didn't seem out of the ordinary.

Now we are back in Oregon. We are sleeping in a king sized bed, using real drawers and hangers and I have my own shampoo, shower, dental floss and so much more. I would say that it is normal but then there is our family that is remodeling their kitchen and sharing ours, their teen daughter with her new boyfriend in tow and a Marine Corp grandson that is engaged cooking his fiance a birthday carrot cake in our kitchen early Sunday morning. Our neighbor is asleep on his back lounge in his underwear (he is 84 and not well) and another neighbor has a son-in-law staying with her that smokes while sitting on the tailgate of his pickup pretty much all day. Oh and did I mention that my son-in-law barbeques sitting down?

I have so forgotten what normal you have any ideas?
back to my old normal!

May 17, 2015

Bill Clinton and FDR...a simple matter of privacy?

Franklin D. Roosevelt at The White House - NAR...
Franklin D. Roosevelt at The White House - NARA - 197216 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Clinton family arrives at the White House ...
The Clinton family arrives at the White House on Marine One, 1993. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
It was so interesting that the post I wrote a couple of days ago about the Roosevelt book had commenters linking FDR with Bill Clinton. I was surprised.

While I think the two men did have a lot in common it was the era in which they served that made the them different. Those of us that could only feel sad that Clinton was so twisted wanted the Roosevelt era back with all of those private moments hidden from our eyes. The political climate in FDR's time has remained pretty much the same as the years go by. The big difference is that the press shielded our presidents all those years ago. Now, nothing is sacred.

I would say that I find people that were fans back when Clinton was president seem to focus on his great accomplishments and turn a blind eye to the sordid part of his presidency. I personally still think his political policies were remarkable.

In my own case, I actually had personal experiences that revealed how people really felt about him. Here are two examples, one liberal and one conservative:

When my son married in Jamaica 9 (or was it ten) years ago, the Jamaican minister that performed the ceremony told about being invited to the White House and having the experience of actually meeting that great "mon". He was a very simple man and his suit was frayed while coming apart at the seams. He was NOT a great statesman but just a Jamaican pleading his country's cause. His face simply lit up when he told about the meeting and what was said. He saw a compassionate side of Clinton that we did not.

On the other hand, my husband and I mingled with a very conservative group of people from Nebraska at a football game almost twenty years ago. They were very nice welcoming people until they discovered we were from Oregon and were honest to god full blown liberals. When they mentioned Clinton, it was in the context that we probably supported him because of where we were from. It took me aback to think that a whole state would be lumped into one political group. But, yes, I did support him and grieved his damaged morality out loud. The lady sitting next to me actually scooted away from me and closer to her husband. I was, in her eyes, spoiled goods! I don't think she was ever a supporter of Clinton so her opinions was clouded even before she found out he was a rogue.

Both of these reactions were almost visceral. And, even today I find that I react in much the same way when his name is spoken. Hopefully, history will get it right and put everything in perspective. But then, maybe it won't. It is apparent that we are a nation of moral "laws" and once a misstep is revealed there is no going back. And in our past Presidents case, we will know more now than we ever have whether we want to or not!

It is just a thought!


May 15, 2015

BEST Book Yet: No Ordinary TIme by Doris Kearns Goodwin

No Ordinary Time
I have been in the process of reading some very thought provoking books lately. My latest conquest was the book about the WWII years in the White House called No Ordinary Time: Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt: The Home Front in World War II. The book by Doris Kearns Goodwin took me almost day by day through one of the most difficult periods our country has ever had to endure...and I loved every page of it.

I grew up in that era. When I was a high school student in the mid 50's things were not always as they appeared in the history books. Even at that age I was a lover of books and what I read then is not at all what was really going on.

For example, because of what I read I believed that we had done the right thing for the right people. But at Kearns knee I learned that while we tried to resolve the Jewish issue after the war, it was our own government and its employees that resolved to withhold help when we knew it was badly needed because of anti-semitism. The Nazis took this as permission to carry out some horrible deeds. I felt as angry the day I read that as I would have if I had know at the time.

The actors on that stage were not who I thought they were. The Roosevelts put on a very good show but....

Eleanor Roosevelt has alway been a hero of mine. She seemed almost motherly and perfect in so many ways. That was the way history had painted her. But the real Eleanor emerged on the pages of the book as flawed, frightened, obsessed, a nagging wife and, in the end, brilliant. Even though the Roosevelts did not share a married life, they did share in the responsibilities of the presidency. She was his most trusted eyes on the nation and advisor in that theater.

FDR was an amazing man that led the charge against Hitler while collecting stamps, drinking cocktails everyday and watching movies. His brainchild, the Lend-Lease Program, was born of chaos in a country that did not want to go to war. He did what was necessary by running an end around play with the Republican congress.

He promised that our young men would never be drafted into national service and did exactly that very thing. Because of his kind of leadership, he convince the people that he had no choice. And he probably didn't.

As for rationing, I had to laugh when I discovered that the reason gas was initially rationed was not because we didn't have gas. It was because we didn't have rubber. No gas, less driving, less need for new tires! Genius I thought!

When I was in school we were not told that he was a crippled man suffering the results of polio. In fact, I don't think my parents were entirely aware of the fact when I was young. His leadership style was so laid back and he could live with so much turmoil around him it is amazing what he accomplished. Somehow he knew that the best path would emerge out of all the noise around him.

He was a man with a soft heart, could not fire anyone and remained in love with a woman not his wife until his death. You will find him to be a "momma's boy" and untrustworthy, not unlike politicians of today. Yet, he did what seemed impossible because he made the American people believe that they could do just that. I was awestruck.

Of course this is a ***** book and winner of the Pulitzer Prize. It was a very entertaining read and well worth my time. Even though you may think it might be dry and boring, it was anything but. I will never see that era in the same way ever again. But then it is all good...I needed a good dose of reality. There was nothing in that war that was romantic and the thought that kept crossing my mind was that, given even the smallest change in the way it played out, history could have been very, very different.

Check it out, buy it or borrow it. You will not regret it.


May 12, 2015

Photography: It said so on the bathroom wall.....!

What do you take pictures of when you travel? I mean, I do like pictures of the Arno in Florence and the Rhine River in Frankfurt and the Isar River in Munich but I can only take so many of those and I am done. Besides, I know that some really professional photographer has one for sale online. 

So what interests me is not so much the tourist picture but that quirky thing catches my eye. I don't always have my camera but my iPhone is wonderful so I use it. 

For example, the graffiti I notices in a bathroom stall in Florence made me think that we are all so connected in someway. If I see that girl I will tell her that the graffiti writer liked her shoes. 

When we travel I try to take one picture per day (at least) of a bicycle. I think they are beautiful and everyone in the world, accept Americans, ride bicycles everywhere. In fact, in Munich people seemed to ride them and then abandon them on the sidewalks when winter came. Sad, flat tired, lost bicycles lined the street next to the Isar River.

I do love beautiful cars but this one painted with a graphite paint was simply stunning. The very small tennis shoe made me wonder if such a lovely car belongs to someone with a small boy. Oh, and parking on the sidewalk seemed to be okay. I don't think that practice only applied to the beautiful cars.

When we were in Munich, we visited the Deutsch Museum. The huge gathering of all things mechanical was simply amazing. While my husband studied the explanations for how things worked, I was drawn to the beauty of the displays. This is a close up of a crosscut of a car engine.
This is not a vacation picture but a gift for Mother's Day. However, it does describe how my husband and I make decisions when we travel. I don't generally say, "I'm not bossy, I just have better ideas." What I do say is "We could do that or......!" My husband laughs, sometimes.
Have a wonderful day!


May 7, 2015

Travel Oregon Highway 66 Back to the 70's

Here in Southern Oregon there is a subset of our culture that invites a closer look. In the days when hippies wandered the woods living secluded lives that only required a garden and a few marijuana plants, a revolution began. The interesting thing is it has never really ended. Some of the people that live in this part of our country still are living the dream. Even though Marijuana will be legal here in Oregon soon and use of the drug or even growing it has lost it's rebellious connotation, the feeling is still all about freedom and rebellion in the Siskiyou Mountain forest.

We stayed in a lodge in the Siskiyou Mt. near Ashland Oregon called Green Spring Inn and Cabins on our trip home from Arizona. Our cute room fit the description of a boutique hotel room. The old lodge has been refitted with very good beds and wonderful amenities. But it was as I sat with my husband in the restaurant that I had that know the one where you wonder where you are and what decade is it.

Even though the place is remote, the restaurant filled with people. A group of younger people straggled in looking like something out of the tie-dyed hippie era. Dreadlocks, army fatigues, combat boots paired with a skirt on the girl and denim or flannel shirts on the guys screamed look at me. One man looked twitchy and the others just were there. The four of them eventually gathered at a table in the back room. As far as I could see they had a pitcher of water and a cup of coffee.

The diners, most of them our age, didn't even look up.

Behind me an older woman sat with two younger "boys".  The boys had turned down the beer because they "worked for the sheriff" and were underage. The treesome left after a short conversation about "cooking", making an extra $50,000 a year and marijuana. A whole gallon pitcher of beer was left behind on the table. What a waste. I was so surprised as the whole evening played out that I could not even figure out what had really happened. Did I dream all of that stuff? And if I didn't, wasn't there someone that made sure these people were okay? Seriously, it was almost otherworldly.

Yet, we were served very good food reminiscent of an upscale restaurant in Portland. The place looked like something out of a picture book featuring small town cafes. One of the hotel's claims to fame is a flock of friendly chickens that inhabit the grounds. There is a reservoir close by and trails lead away from the room into the woods.

And the people...where did they come from. Honestly, it was not easy getting there and yet the place was full to the gunnels. In fact, the lodge is located just a short distance from the Pacific Crest Trail that runs from British Columbia south to heaven knows where. It was the summit of the mountains on this road. I think they were sold out that evening.

I just had a sense of being lost in another world. But then that is the way southern Oregon is. It truly is a separate world all unto itself. If you want to take a very interesting "road trip" try Highway 66 between Ashland and Medford. Stay at the Green Spring Inn and Cabins and above all have dinner on Friday at their restaurant. I don't think you will be disappointed.


Featured Post

HOW TO BE A SNOW BIRD...answers and lists!

I published this article 4 years ago but most of it is still relevant. I hope it is helpful. I love being a snow bird. But I wish someone h...