Monday, August 20, 2012

The Mystery Hole

View from the laundry room window . . .
We had a rainy week-end.  In fact, we've had a wet summer.  Nice -  since we're so often experiencing drought conditions. 

Jerry called me out in the pasture this morning to look at the reappearance of what I'm starting to think of as the "mystery hole."  It's - I don't know - five or six inches diameter and about two feet deep - very likely to cause a broken leg if human or horse stepped in it.  The human would probably recover, but it would be a death sentence for a horse.  

The hole first appeared about a year ago.  At the time, Jerry had a pile of dirt somewhere on this quirky farm. (He likes to keep dirt on hand.)  He got on the tractor and filled the hole with some of this dirt.  After the dirt settled, he added more dirt.  He leveled it all off, and we watched it for a while.  The hole didn't reappear so we thought the problem was solved and didn't think much more about it. 

Now the hole is back and we have no dirt on hand.  Even if we had a pile of dirt, it would be mud after all the rain.  While I was wondering what in the world we were going to do to keep a horse from breaking a leg until we can get a load of dirt delivered, Jerry came up with a solution.  He used the tractor - I don't know what we would do without our little Kubota - to move an old iron pot and turn it upside down over the hole. 

Let's just graze around it.  That way we can sneak up on it.
Being prey animals, horses are very observant.  They notice new things right away.  As I groomed them in the barn aisle, they each in turn looked out at that pot.  Fay snorted. 

If you let a dog out in his yard, and he saw an iron pot that hadn't been there the day before, he would probably raise his leg and pee on it.  If he was concerned about it at all, he might stand a few feet away and bark at it. 

It's not moving.  Maybe it's harmless.
Horses take a different approach.  When we let them out of their stalls, they acted nonchalant - grazing near the pot.  Fay was the first to approach the pot while grazing.  Rocky and Tesoro were at the watering trough - discussing how to handle the situation, I suspect. 

Oh heck!  I don't think this is anything to worry about.
Eventually, all three of them decided it wasn't a horse-eating critter.  They checked it out by nudging and sniffing it.  Good thing it's heavy enough that they can't move it off the hole.

Actually, it's right tasty!
Rocky, being the pot-licker that he is, was the first to give it a lick.

So ---- we have a temporary fix for this problem.  But I have unanswered questions.  Why did this hole come back?  What happened to the dirt we put in it a year ago?  Will it come back again and again, no matter how many times we fill it with dirt?  Is this how sink holes start?  Oh, no!  Is it going to end up like the Bayou Corne sink hole that has caused people to evacuate their homes?  Somebody please slap me and remind me that this is a tiny hole!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Under a Buttermilk Sky

I was out in the pasture - on the tractor - early this morning to help Jerry with the routine manure-moving detail.  The temperature was bearable, and we worked under a perfect buttermilk sky.  I'm not sure what a buttermilk sky means weatherwise, but I like the atmosphere that it gives to all outdoors - and it reminds me of that old cowboy song called "Buttermilk Sky."

Bathing the horses was next on our agenda.  The fungal and/or bacterial skin infection that Tesoro developed a few weeks ago is cleared up now, but it took several baths in an iodine shampoo and regular treatment with an anti-fungal spray.  Summer is the worst season for the horses when it comes to skin problems.  They do a lot of sweating as they graze under the hot summer sun.  The salty sweat attracts all kinds of biting insects, and that makes existing skin problems worse.  The best prevention is frequent bathing and daily spraying with fly spray.

We've purchased a new washer and dryer - catapulting ourselves into the world of 21st century laundry.  These appliances are a far cry from the ones they replaced.  They're computerized and are, no doubt, smarter than I am.  I was most surprised by the washer's repertoire of sounds - falling water, pounding surf, airplane sounds (taking off and landing), and various groans and moans.  None of these sounds are loud.  In fact, these machines are remarkably quiet.  They are big - the size of small automobiles.  Ok, I'm exaggerating, but the dryer door definitely has the feel of a car door when it closes.  Will they clean the laundry better than the old appliances?  Maybe.  We'll see.  I can certainly wash and dry more clothes at a time in these big high-capacity machines.  That means I finish the laundry in about half the time - and that's a good thing!

Activity in my Addis post office box has increased lately. I've managed to find the time to send a few letters and do a little paper crafting.  I recently sent this summery watermelon card off to California.  In the last two weeks I've received letters from Texas, England, Australia, and India - and posts cards from Indiana, California, and New Mexico.  I like hearing about the daily lives of my pen pals.  No matter the geographical and cultural differences, we have a great deal in common - children and grandchildren, as well as homes, pets, and gardens to care for.
The twins are doing well, and their sister, Ellie, is adjusting to having them at her house.  I guess she's decided it's sort of like day-care at home.  Wallace and Arabella have started school up in north Louisiana.  Arabella texted me yesterday that she has ten teachers this year!  Was that a typo?  Can she possibly have ten teachers?  I'll have to text and ask for more information.  Texting with my grandchildren!  What would my mother and grandmother think of this new technology!

My current sewing projects are burp cloths for the new twins and crocheted doll clothes.  The tiny burp cloth on the top of the stack is for Ellie and her dolls.  My mornings and evenings are spent in the barn, but the blazing mid-day is a good time to be inside - sewing or reading or writing letters.

I've joined an online book discussion group, sponsored by the Trollope Society.  It's called "Take a Trollope on Holiday." Ha! The assignment is Anthony Trollope's Phineas Phinn - one of the Palliser novels.  Trollope is one of my favorite authors, and I read The Palliser series years ago.  But a good book is always worth re-reading.
It's true that August is the middle of high summer, but - along with the heat and humidity - it always brings hints of fall.  The angle of the sun is noticeably different.  The pecan tree in the pasture is shedding leaves.  It's always the last to put out new growth in the spring, but the first to send fall leaves raining down.  This morning as I walked to the back of the barn, I saw a large flock of birds along the bayou bank.  I startled them, and they all took flight at once.  I don't know what kind of birds they were, but their lift-off was a beautiful sight.  Migrating birds - another hint of fall.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Obama and Collectivism

As everyone who is not politically comatose knows by now, President Obama recently spoke to supporters in Roanoke, Virginia, and said in his speech to them, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that . . . if you've been successful, you didn't get there on your own."

His opponents have protested and ridiculed his statements, but there is a sense in which Obama's statements contain some truth.  As John Donne said, "No man is an island."  None of us is born in isolation where we grow, mature, and succeed all alone.  We avail ourselves - to one degree or another - of the talents, wisdom, and resources of others.  

But that does not mean that our success is solely attributable to others.  If President Obama was not heralded by so many as a great intellect, I'd be tempted to say that he simply did not express himself very well - that he didn't say exactly what he meant.  Surely reason would dictate that anyone who builds a successful business deserves the lion's share of credit for that business.
But when a man who is widely purported to be intellectually astute says, "If you've got a business, you didn't build that," I suppose we must assume that he means what he says.  This statement, taken with previous statements he has made, reveal his collectivist mentality.   On several occasions he has expressed his belief in "collective salvation," the belief that spiritual salvation is achieved as a group, not as individuals - the belief that temporal success is achieved by the collective whole, not by individuals.
Some might argue that Christianity supports collectivism when it refers to believers as the "body of Christ." It's true that the New Testament honors the collective whole by calling it the "body of Christ," but an honest reader of the New Testament must acknowledge that this honoring of the whole is not at the expense of the individual.  The New Testament makes it clear that we are saved as individuals, not as a whole.  Your salvation in the spiritual sense does not depend on anyone else's salvation.  Your temporal success does not depend on the success of others.
Of all President Obama's beliefs, I find his belief in collectivism most disturbing.  I can think of nothing more dehumanizing than being lost in a sea of collectivism.  If we are not viewed as individuals - if we are considered to be only insignificant parts of a whole -  it becomes easy to rationalize any injustice to individuals by saying it's for the good of the collective whole. 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Busy Summer Days

Our semi-tropical Louisiana summer arrived while it was still spring in northern regions.  As usual, I was sick of summer before its first official day arrived.  I'm already fantasizing about crisp, fall weather.  There's nothing like fall days in the barn.

But for now we're on our summer heat survival schedule - up by 6:00 a.m., in the barn from 7:00 until 10:00 a.m.  When my head is where it should be, I pray and read the lectionary after coming in from the barn.  Then lunch (our big meal of the day) and a siesta.  The afternoon is spent in air-conditioning - doing housework, laundry, desk work, etc.  Back to the barn from 6:00 to 7:00 p.m.  Then a light supper followed by a desperate search for something to watch on TV.  I've started crocheting while I watch TV so it won't feel like a total waste of time.  But it's not easy because I have to crochet with Teche, the resident house cat, on my lap.

Our youngest daughter kick-started the summer by delivering twin baby boys.  Of course, we all knew that twins were on the way, but they weren't supposed to arrive until mid-July.  Operating on their own time table, they made their debut on June 13.  They are still in the hospital although they are healthy little tykes.  They will come home as soon as the feeding tubes can be discontinued. 


Life will change for the babies' 16 month old sister, Ellie Kay, who is used to being the one and only kid in her household.  But she's a happy little girl with a sweet disposition, so I'm sure she will adjust.  Our grandkids, Ellie's cousins, from Bossier City - 15 year old Wallace and 10 year old Arabella - just happened to be visiting when the twins were born.  They're looking forward to coming back when the twins are home from the hospital.   Arabella is especially looking forward to coming back since she hasn't seen the babies at all.  She wasn't allowed in the hospital since she's under 12 - an unhappy circumstance.  After all, she's a very grown-up 10 year old!  It's incredible to think that, in less than two years, we've gone from two grandchildren to five! 

The horses and I have joined Pat Parelli's Savvy Club online.  We're progressing through the levels of ground work.  Each horse has an online page with goals to be mastered.  When tasks are done, they are checked off on the horses' respective pages.  I'm enjoying it and I think the horses are, too.  It's good for them - having something to do besides eat.

I miss getting personal mail.  But you can't expect to get mail when you owe everybody in your correspondence world a letter or post card.  The days have been so busy, and I'm woefully behind.  I'll have to forsake my fountain pens and resort to the computer to catch up. 

I've managed to get some reading sandwiched in between everything else.  I read The Shoemaker's Wife by Adriana Trigiani.  This was my first experience with Ms. Trigiani, and I've added her to my list of favorite authors.  Her descriptive passages are pure poetry.  The Shoemaker's Wife evokes both tears and laughter.  She breathes life into her characters, and I hated to part with them when I finished the book.

The Soul of a Horse by Joe Camp, creator and director of the Benji movies, is an exceptionally good read.  Joe is a dog lover who didn't get involved with horses until he was 66 years old.  The book describes the experiences he and his wife had as new horse owners.  Mr. Camp refers to Monty Roberts throughout his book, so now I'm immersed in Monty's book, The Man Who Listens to Horses.  I have trouble putting it down.

I'll stop my ramble here since it's time to be off to the hospital to take a gander at the newest members of the family.  I hope to have some good twin photos for the next blog post.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

An Island Away - A Novel

I've just finished reading An Island Away, one of Daniel Putkowski's novels set in Aruba.   My nose is usually in a nineteenth century English novel.  I thrive on Jane Austen, Anthony Trollope, and Arnold Bennet; so An Island Away is a departure from my usual reading fare.  I must warn those of you who are usually immersed in the classics like I am - there's a fair amount of graphic description in An Island Away that you may or may not like.  It's not what I'm used to, but the moral and theological implications of the story make it worthwhile.

The novel's main character is a Columbian girl named Luz.  Youth, beauty, a devotion to family, and dire financial circumstances all combine to send Luz to Aruba to work as a prostitute in the Zone of Tolerance where prostitution is legal.  Luz's acquaintances include American business men, oil refinery workers, and native Arubans, all of whom appreciate and enjoy the carefree Aruban lifestyle.  The town where Luz lives and works is home to numerous bars and houses of prostitution. 

Luz is not without religious principles.  At one point she returns home to Columbia, gets a job at a grocery store, and attempts to live a more conventional life.  But, as a single mother, she is financially responsible for her young son.  Her mother and sister also depend on her, and before long she makes the decision to go back to Aruba where she can make more money in the Zone of Tolerance than she can make at a grocery store.  When she gets back to Aruba, she keeps enough of what she earns to pay her expenses and sends the rest back to Columbia to her mother and sister who are caring for her little son. 

Luz's mother and sister don't know that she's engaged in prostitution.  Even so, they don't approval of her.  They're ungrateful and critical.  They imagine that she is leading a charmed existence in an island paradise.  But Luz continues to sacrifice herself for them even after she brings her son to live with her in Aruba. 

The novel is populated by good timing, devil-may-care types.  But they are a likable bunch.  They care about each other and look out for each other.  Christians could learn a thing or two from them about "bearing one another's burdens."

I can't figure out why Luz didnt leave the world of prostitution behind when she had an opportunity to make a life with one of the honorable men in her life.  Although she loves her little boy, she sacrifices a relationship with him when she passes up this opportunity.  Has she become so accustomed to a life of prostitution that it's no longer distasteful to her?  Does she doubt the ability of an honorable man to forgive her past?  Does she think she's beyond redemption?  Is she confused enough to think she's done the one thing that even a loving God can't forgive?  She does a pretty good job of rationalizing her decision, but I don't think she's at peace with it.  She loves her little boy too much to be at peace with a decision that excludes him from her life.
It always happens to me when I read a good novel - I get attached to the characters and wonder what happens to them after the novel ends, as if they are real flesh and blood people whose lives continue on.  I wish Luz well because there's a great deal that I like and admire about her - her willingness to sacrifice for those she loves, her sense of justice, her ability to maneuver diplomatically in a difficult world.                                   
Of course, I suppose I can find the answers to some of these questions about Luz's future by reading Putkowski's sequel, Under a Blue Flag.   I plan to read it eventually, but I think I need a break.  I'm off to read something lighter and less thought provoking.  P. G. Wodehouse maybe.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Obama vs. The Constitution

I've lived long enough to see the Supreme Court make quite a few decisions that I didn't approve of. I've grumbled and complained, and sometimes I've wondered if the judges were off their collective rocker; but I've swallowed hard and remembered what I learned about checks and balances from Mr. Donnelly, my high school Civics teacher.

Our President has no such acceptance of Supreme Court decisions as evidenced by remarks he has made this week. The Court hasn't even made a decision about the President's health care legislation, but the President is warning the Court in advance not to oppose it. He stated that the opposition of the unelected members of the Court to a law that has been passed by the elected members of Congress would be unprecedented. This is a blatantly untrue statement. The Supreme Court is in the business of passing judgements on all kinds of legislation. That's their job.

So - why did the President of the United States of America make such an untrue remark? How do we explain such an outrageous statement by the highest elected official in the land? Here are some possible explanations, none of which are comforting.

1. Ignorance. Maybe President Obama failed high school Civics. Or maybe high school Civics isn't taught anymore. But then, wasn't Obama a professor of Constitutional law before he was President? Can a professor of Constitutional law be this ignorant of Constitutional law? This is a troubling thought, to say the least.

2. Unworthy motives. Could it be that the President is on a systematic campaign to undermine Constitutional law? Maybe he understands Constitutional law, doesn't like it, and wants to destroy it.  A sinister explanation to be sure, but one that must be considered.

3. Unrealistic sympathy. Is it that President Obama is overwhelmed by love for his fellow humans? Maybe he really believes that every human being has a right to be provided for in every way by the government. Maybe he really believes that only an evil Supreme Court would oppose the government's provision of health care. Maybe this great compassion for his fellow humans blinds him to the reality of Constitutional law. This explanation is alarming. Although it allows that President Obama has a good heart, it indicates that his head is deficient.

4. Political ambition. The president is not governing. He is campaigning. And what's the best way to get votes? Appeal to the ignorant, uneducated voters. Promise the moon to people who are too ignorant to know that you can't deliver the moon. Malign the Supreme Court to people who are too ignorant about Constitutional law to know that you're doing the Supreme Court a disservice. This explanation would indicate that the president has an ignoble character.

5. Insanity. The president is pathologically delusional. He thinks the Supreme Court justices are flower pots whose opinions are insignificant if not non-existent. This explanation is not without humor, but its humor doesn't rescue it from the terrifying thought of a mentally ill president.

6. The president is an alien. No, I'm not referring to the controversy about the president's birth certificate. I'm suggesting that he may be from Mars where Constitutional law, of course, must be quite different from Constitutional law in our region of planet Earth. 

There may be other explanations, but the six I've listed have given me a headache. I need a nap.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Rocky's Journal - Springtime in the Barn

Friday, Mar. 23, 2012

There's nothing like a cool, misty spring morning in the barn - especially when Judy (the groom) comes in and gives you the spa treatment.  We got a thorough brushing, and a lot of our old winter hair rolled off.  There was a great big pile of hair from Tesoro, the boss hoss, and smaller piles from me and Fay.  It's not hard to tell who the hairy beast is around here.

These pictures were taken right after our grooming.  As much as I hate to admit it, Tesoro's picture doesn't do him justice.  He's really better looking than this.  The problem is that he hates the camera so it's hard to get a good picture of him.  I guess maybe the paparazzi followed him around in his youth - although I can't imagine why.  Fay is her cute, red-headed self.  And there's me - the sorrel with the flaxen mane.  I may be at the bottom of the pecking order, but I think it's easy to see who got the looks in this herd.

Me - Rocky
Judy always lets us eat hay out of the aisle rack while she brushes us.  When she turned us out in the pasture this morning, we were expecting hay to be in the outside racks.  After all, Jerry (hay and feed manager) always has hay out there for us when he turns us out on the days we don't get a grooming.  But today the darn hay racks were empty!

We hung around the door to the hay stall, thinking surely some hay was going to make its way out to the racks.  But no.  Judy came out with a shovel and push broom and started cleaning the dirt and debris (nice word for poop) off the concrete wash pad.

The three of us gathered 'round and watched.  My head followed the broom, back and forth, while I listened to Judy talk about how we had been eating hay in the barn all morning, and we weren't going to get any more until after lunch.  She suggested that we do what horses do - graze.  She pointed out that hay counts money while grass is free.  Hmm.  I didn't know that.

After a while, Tesoro laid himself down on the ground and pouted.  Fay stood with her head down, ears back, and that disgusted look she gets on her face.  Me?  I'm a pragmatist.  I ambled off to munch on green grass.  Let 'em pout.  All the more grass for me!

Wednesday, Mar. 28, 2012

Dr. Chapman, the vet, and her two assistants came today to give us our yearly shots.  I don't like shots, but I handle getting a shot better than I used to.  Sometimes you just have to make up your mind to be a grown-up. 

The Yearly Exam
They did the usual prodding and poking that goes with a medical exam.   Of course, being poked by three pretty girls is not bad - better than being poked by some burly old men.

The good news was that we didn't have to have our teeth floated this year.  That's when your teeth have grown kind of pointy, and they have to file them down.  Boy! Do I hate all that!   They usually have to give me and Fay a tranquilizer when they float our teeth.  I don't much like the tranquilizer either.  It makes me feel drunk for an hour or so.  Tesoro shows off sometimes by letting them do his teeth without a tranquilizer. 

Well, this keeping a journal is all well and good, but I've got grazing to do. 

Saturday, March 17, 2012

In Donaldsonville with the Camera Club

Jerry and I got up early this morning so we could meet the other members of the Westside Camera Club to set off on the field trip to Donaldsonville that we planned at the last meeting.

We met four other camera club members at 9:00. Our first stop was Palo Alto Plantation on the outskirts of Donaldsonville. There's no large mansion like Nottaway or Houmas House here, but there's an oak-lined road that deserves something spectacular at the end of it. The beautiful old oaks arch and meet over the road.  The main house is a pleasant looking home; but since it's a private residence, we didn't wander around the grounds, being content to take a few pictures from the main road.

Along the oak-lined avenue, which turns off the main road, there are the ruined remains of cabins and farm equipment on either side. It's a quiet place. We were there for about an hour with not more than a half dozen cars passing on the road. As I snapped photos of the cabins, I wouldn't have been surprised to see a ghost or two. If only these ruins could talk . . .

Next we headed to the old part of Donaldsonville, but our first stop was the new park along the river. There's a brick sidewalk, park benches, and old fashioned street lights atop the levee - the prime location for watching the river traffic go by.

The Donaldsonville Museum in the old business district was closed, and that was unfortunate because there are lots of cool vintage items in the display windows. The more experienced photographers in our group got some good photos through the windows.  I'm not so good at through-the-glass photography so you can see my shadow in this photo as well as the reflection of the building behind me.

We drove down the street to Ascension Catholic Church, built in 1876, where we got lots of good exterior photos. Judging from the cars in the parking lot, a service was going on inside. Interior photos will have to wait for some future outing.

We ate lunch at a restaurant and bar on Railroad Avenue called The Capitol. The food was good, and the atmosphere made me think of the early twentieth century.  The Capitol could have been an upscale speakeasy during Prohibition if it's location was more out-of-the-way. I imagine it got its name from the fact that Donaldsonville used to be the state capital.   I guess I was too busy eating to think about taking pictures in the restaurant, but the unusual faucet in the elegant ladies' room deserves at least one photo.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

A Gray Saturday

Jerry says it rained last night.  I slept through it and woke up to a gray, cloudy day.

I spent yesterday afternoon scrubbing the stovetop.  A sparkling clean stovetop is a wonderful thing.   The down side is that I'm reluctant to cook and mess it up.  But a clean stovetop does nothing to relieve hunger pains, so chicken is simmering in the red pot. 

The final dish will be chicken and dumplings - a new recipe I'm trying.  My grandmother's chicken and dumplings were wonderful.  I remember watching her roll out the dough to make strip dumplings in her cozy West Virginia kitchen.  I wish I had her recipe, but I don't.  The recipe I'm using calls for canned biscuits that are rolled thin and cut in strips.  I hope they will be at least almost as good as Mema's.  We'll see.

I have a new kitchen faucet, installed by my handy husband.  It's a beautiful thing, and I'm sort of glad the old one wore out - although the price tag on new faucets is staggering.  (It's been a while since we bought a kitchen faucet.)  The brushed stainless finish on the new faucet doesn't seem to show water spots.  And I was really pleased to find that I have much better control over the water flow than I did with the old faucet.

I just discovered the online magazine, The New Noblewoman at  The editor, Amanda Millay, offers lots of interesting articles that instruct and inspire on various subjects from how to get out of a car gracefully to how to brew the perfect cup of tea.  There's a recommended book section.  There are tips about beauty, fashion, and home decorating - all traditional and classic.  It's the Jane Austen lifestyle brought up to date.  I've frequented The Art of Manliness online magazine at  for quite a while and have often wished there was a female counterpart.  Thanks to Amanda Millay, there is!

My letter rack is full of letters and post cards that need to be answered, and a chilly gray day is the perfect time.  But right now I'm off to check on the chicken and try my hand at dumplings.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Amid the Tombs

There's something serene and peaceful about strolling through a cemetery.  That's what I did this morning along with several other members of the local camera club.  It didn't take me long to snap ninety pictures -  oh, the beauty of digital photography! 

As I took photos of interesting markers and monuments, I couldn't help contrasting old cemeteries like St. John (Plaquemine, Louisiana) with the new modern cemeteries.  

 In old cemeteries, you or your family could choose a unique marker that seemed appropriate for the very unique you.  Your financial condition would have determined whether your marker was modest or elaborate; but either way, you had the option of having a unique marker.

In modern cemeteries there is no option for uniqueness.  All markers are flat plaques at ground level.  They all look alike.  Instead of having your uniqueness honored, you become indistinguishable in a sea of departed humanity. 

There's something cozy about an old cemetery.   Even if none of the names on the markers are familiar to me, I feel like I'm visiting real individuals.  But the coziness is lost in the collectivism of a modern cemetery. 

Oh well, there's no point in lamenting modern cemeteries.  We'll all end up in one unless you're fortunate enough to have a family plot with empty space in an old cemetery.  But sometimes there's no denying that old ways are best.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Time Traveling

Some people live where their ancestral roots are deep, where they know everybody, and everybody knows them.  Others come from nomadic families, destined to live where they have no roots - destined to be outlanders.  Webster defines outlander as "someone from a different region or culture."  I have always been an outlander.  When I was an infant, my parents left southern West Virginia - where they had ancestral roots - and moved to the Florida panhandle.

We made yearly trips to West Virginia to visit relatives.  We always got a warm welcome from our relatives and enjoyed visiting with them.  But even there, where my parents were natives, I was an outlander.  I shared blood with these relatives, but I lived too far away from them to share the experience of daily life.  I was growing up in another world - a world of beaches and palm trees that contrasted sharply to the mountains of West Virginia.  To add to my sense of isolation, I was an only child so there were no brothers or sisters to share my outlander status.

I was an outlander in the Florida fishing village where I spent my childhood.  Most people who lived there fell into one of two categories.  They were either descendants of the original settlers of the county or they were in the Air Force, stationed at the nearby base.  I enjoyed neither the comraderie of the Air Force kids or the full acceptance of the settlers' children. 
I am an outlander here in southeastern Louisiana where my husband's roots run deep.  Cajuns are friendly people, but they hold blood and roots in high regard.  When you meet a Cajun for the first time, he's likely to ask who your parents are.  Sometimes you get the feeling that you're set on the sidelines when you say your parents are from another state.  If nothing else betrays my outlander status, my speech will.  I've lived here for 45 years, but often - as soon as I open my mouth - someone will say, "You're not from here, are you?"

I suppose life is easier for an outlander if he lives in a big city.  After all, cities are where outlanders collect.  There are so many outlanders from so many different places that outlander status is the norm.  But in small towns, the natives congregate and talk about their roots and their blood connections, and it's easy for an outlander to feel like a fifth wheel.

After a lifetime of being an outlander, it's no wonder that I was drawn to Diana Gabaldon's book, Outlander.  It's a time-traveling adventure.  I can relate to it because being a lifetime outlander is a little like time-traveling.  Not quite - but almost. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Errands in the Rain

La Madeleine's in the Rain
I like rainy days if the rain is misty and light and it's not too cold.  I especially like rain in Baton Rouge - or any city, for that matter.  Traffic lights and all the other lights that are common to a city are reflected in infinite ways.

My first stop was Team Honda to have the oil changed in my van.  I didn't arrive until 10:30 and expected to find the waiting room full - instead, I had it all to myself for most of my wait.  Maybe a rainy day is the perfect time to have your car serviced.  Just before I left, a young mother came in with a cute little toddler.  The mother and I chatted, and I told her that we will have new twin grandbabies in July.  She said that she is a twin, and her husband is a twin!  Needless to say, they wouldn't have been surprised if their little girl had been twins.   These days I see or hear about twins more often than usual - or so it seems.  I guess I just zero in on anything having to do with twins now that I know little twin rascals are headed our way.

I ate lunch at La Madeleine's - a Chicken Caesar Salad and a mini Lemon Tart.  I don't like eating alone in a restaurant.  I used to avoid it by getting my lunch at some fast food drive-thru and eating in the car.  But it's hard to do that and stay within my daily allotment of Weight Watcher's points.  I guess being twenty pounds lighter than I was is worth feeling lonely in a restaurant.  It wasn't too bad.  Watching rain drops roll down the window panes is mesmerizing.

All the experts - spouting endless statistics - say that our economy is sluggish, retail profits are down, and unemplyment is up.  It seems logical that this would mean an increase in the quality of customer service at retail establishments.  Not necessarily.  At Babies R Us there were zero cash registers in operation.  I had to wait while a manager got on the PA system and begged someone to please come and open a register.  When I was ready to check out at Walgreen's, the cashier near the front door told me her computer was down, and I would have to check out in the photo department or the pharmacy.  I went to the photo department and found it deserted, so I walked to the back of the store and paid in the pharmacy.

When I got out to my van, I realized that I didn't have my keys.  I checked my purse and all my pockets.  No, no keys.  I looked in the car, expecting to see them in the ignition.  No, not there either.  What in the world had I done with my keys?  I hurried back inside and retraced my steps.  Fortunately, my keys were on the pharmacy counter, right where I left them.

I stopped at the Addis post office on the way home and found my box full of good stuff - the local Riverside Reader that Jerry likes so much, letters from Singapore and Hawaii, and two post cards from Pennsylvania.  Good mail brightens any day!

Monday, January 30, 2012

After Christmas Winter Blues

Winter - Bah!
I have the winter blues - in southern Louisiana.  It wouldn't do for me to live farther north.  I'm not alone in my blue mood.  The horses get the blues every January, too.  They spend their time lying down or standing still with a bored expession on their equine faces.

It's not the cold that depresses me.  We have very little really cold weather.  It's the gray, sunless days.  It's the brown, barren cane fields.  It's the lack of tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.

We took our little artificial Christmas tree down this morning.  That's always a depressing chore.  The little tree's white lights add some cheer to the long winter evenings.  I'm always reluctant to pack it away; but if your Christmas tree is still up in February, people begin to think you're a little too eccentric.  The garlands and red bows that are here and there around the house will be packed away today, too.  But the Wise Men are staying on the mantle until Mardi Gras.  I can't let go of everything at once.

My December experiment - praying the Liturgy of the Hours six times a day - was not a total success, but I wouldn't call it a failure either.  I managed pretty well for about three weeks, averaging three or four of the canonical hours a day.  It was a good exercise in discipline.  Maybe I'll give it a try every December.  Nowadays I'm back to my usual pattern of morning and evening prayer and informal chats with God while I go about my work.  This is a good pattern for my modern-day lifestyle.  But I'm still enchanted by life in a monastery where the world stops every three hours to pray.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Pens, Printers, and Postal Mail

It's a good mail day - a letter and two post cards from Downunder, a letter from England, and one from New Mexico.  I'm looking forward to answering them with my new Pilot Vanishing Point fountain pen - a Christmas gift from Jerry.

The Vanishing Point is a cool pen.  It has a retractable nib.  The nib is put into using position by clicking a spring-operated thingy.  Click again, and the nib disappears into the barrel - so there's no cap to screw on and off.  When the nib is inside the barrel, it is sealed so that the ink doesn't dry up and clog the nib.  It looks a little odd when you're writing with it because the clip is on the nib end where you hold the pen.  It's designed to be held with the clip between your thumb and forefinger.  I thought this might be awkward, but it's really comfortable.  As a bonus, it keeps me from twisting the pen around in my hand - something I'm prone to do.

I saw a neurologist last week and had nerve conduction studies done to try to find out why my right thumb shakes when it's bent, making it impossible for me to write with my right hand.  The good news is that I don't have Parkinson's or any progressive nerve disease.  The bad news is that I have an "essential tremor."  Essential tremors are often inherited, and I suspect that this is why my father's right hand was too shaky to write in his later years.  It's a task related tremor - the trembling only happens when the thumb is bent and poised to do something. Unfortunately, there's no surgery that will fix this kind of tremor.  The doctor said there are drugs that might "quieten it down," but I don't want to add to my collection of prescription drugs. 

I've decided the bad news is not so bad.  I've been writing with my left hand for five years.  I'll continue that practice and be grateful that my left hand doesn't have a tremor.  I'm also grateful that my right hand is useful for everything else besides writing - playing the piano and doing all the ordinary daily things.  And I'll remember to be grateful for all the modern technology that makes electronic note-taking so easy.

My Microsoft Publisher lessons on are ongoing.  I took a break from these lessons in December and have had to do some of them over again to refresh my memory.  I was proud yesterday when I was able to design a business card all by myself - without refering to the tutorial.  But printing them out was an ordeal.  My printer tells me it's out of paper when it's not.  I don't know if it's lost its little mind or if it just lies.  Either way, it's a pain.  I think printers are the bane of modern technological life.  Of course, Jerry says my printer is about ten years old.  Is that possible?!  I guess it is, but I'll swear it seems like we just bought the thing!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Where Was I?

The new year beckons like a clean sheet of paper.  It inspires you to plan, set goals, and make resolutions.  There's something exciting about a new year - a new beginning. 

But the new year also inspires me to ask the question:  Where was I?  Before all the holiday planning, shopping, wrapping, and cooking started, where was I?  What was I doing?  What did I leave undone?  I feel compelled to evaluate the past year - gather up loose ends -  decide which of last year's endeavors should be continued and which ones should be abandoned.

I've decided to continue the following:
  • Fifteen minutes a day of decluttering
  • Learning to use Microsoft Publisher
  • Continue membership in Weight Watchers online
  • Spend 20 minutes a day on the exercise bike
  • Make regular blog posts
Maybe later this week I'll get around to the new year's resolutions.