Thursday, July 28, 2016

Weeds: a Breeding Ground for Friendship

“I could do that in thirty minutes, maybe less.”

I am a homeowner, I dislike yard work. Weirdly, I enjoy weeding ... our flower gardens.

Below is a photo of one garden, pre-weeding. It contains four large hostas and the weeds. ( You can also see the three inch half-round border I put in several years ago; that was fun while it lasted, but it certainly appears that its lasting is about over. Another story, perhaps. )

A Weedy Version of our Peace Garden

I have a tool I can use standing up, cutting weeds, raking them out and collecting them into a pile. The main reason I enjoy this activity, I think, is that I can do most of the work without bending and it provides virtually instant gratification. The picture below shows the same garden post-weeding.
Weeded Peace Garden
I was planning another day of weeding, cleaning up in front ( a few small weeds had returned and were begging for removal ) and weeding an 18 inch strip of earth next to our parking slab.

For these reasons I passed on my wife’s invitation to join her and Jane
( the friend with whom I am working on the genealogy project ) for lunch. I took care of the new weeds in front and began attacking the growth in the eighteen-inch plot. This was hard work; I used my tool as a clever, first knocking the weeds down, then thrusting the tool’s blade at the stalks as near to the ground as I could get. I then used the tool as a rake, pulling the severed weeds onto the parking slab. I planned to clear the entire strip of dirt, then collect the weeds.

Mid-job, I needed a break. With a glass of water and I sat in our screened-in porch, cooling off. Ellie and Jane came home, bringing the hamburger they promised me. I ate the burger, chatting with them about my afternoon and theirs, when, pretty soon, Jane says, “Are you planning to do the gardens, too?”

“Yes, I hoped to.”

“I could do that in thirty minutes, maybe less.”

Her garden always looks amazing. I figured she could do what she said, but wasn’t sure how to take her up on it, whether to take her up on it, exactly what to do.

“Well,” I stuttered, “ … I suppose you could. I’m not that good.” “I’d be ever grateful for your help.”

“Well, you don’t have to do that,” Ellie piped up.

“I love to work in the yard, I find it fun, relaxing,” Jane replied.

“Jane, I wouldn’t expect you to do that,” I said feebly.

“I want to.”

“Are you going to let her do that?” Ellie asked.

“Well, no … but … “ I stammered, “I’m not going to physically restrain her.”

I returned to my task on the eighteen-inch strip. Suddenly, Jane was in the garden next to the parking slab, on all fours, pulling the weeds. “I’ll just leave them on the grass to be picked up later,” she said. “Do you have a pruner,” she asked, “there are some weeds with pretty thick trunks.” I gave her the pruner I was carrying for the same reason she asked to use it.

Boy, she is a worker,” I thought. Then I noticed her new, pink court shoes on the sidewalk, pointing to the house, Jane nowhere to be found. Eventually she returned to the task, with a pair of shoes borrowed from Ellie. She was proud of her new court shoes and didn’t want to sully them in the dirt and woodchips. I understood.

She was working her way from the wooden fence bordering our neighbor’s yard to the chain link fence bordering our neighbor’s yard on the other side. There was a row of pulled weeds lying in the lawn, about two feet from the border with the garden, ready to be picked up and discarded, marking her progress.

Finished with my task, I helped her pick up her weeds and put them in a bag. 

Later, when she was leaving for home, I carried to her car a small box she was taking home. “Thank you again, for your work in the garden,” I said.

“Tomorrow I’ll bet I’ll wake to feel muscles that I didn’t even know I had. You are most welcome.”

The last time I did this, I hurt my elbow … too much use of the ratcheting clipper that I used today as well. I was afraid of waking up with pain. I didn’t. Jane didn’t either; Ellie checked.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

But... Beans?

As an adult, I've always considered myself an adventurous eater.  That is, willing to try new foods, even ones that don't immediately appeal to me.  I tried deep fried insects in Thailand.  I've even tried food from the water on multiple occasions.  And I've actually learned to like a few foods, like mushrooms and mustard, over the years.  Part of the reason for that, is that I felt like I got a bad wrap as a picky eater as a kid.  Everyone has food they like, and dislike.  So what if some of my dislikes were foods that my family eats often?

Now that I've been a vegetarian, I've been challenged to expand my diet a little more.  I haven't really cut out a large amount of ingredients, but I have cut out a lot of dishes.  For example, most soups are animal stock based.  Often times the only soup offered at a particular restaurant that is left for me is tomato.  I never like tomato soup growing up, but I've actually been working on learning to like that one for years now.  And now I kind of do.  Especially a tomato bisque, or a "hearty" tomato soup with chunks of tomato in it.

Beans are a big substitute item in dishes.  Taco Bell will substitute them for any meat for free, for example.  But beans are the one food that really makes me groan.  Beans are the one food that I have vivid memories of being forced to eat as a kid.  I hated the taste, and the texture.  I hated the way they made me gassy, which was probably mostly from all the air I swallowed trying not to taste them.

But I did learn to like lentils, which have a similar texture, years ago.  And almost immediately after giving up eating animals, I learned to like hummus.  I actually really love it now, and eat it all the time.  It goes great with crushed peppers, which have tons of flavor, and almost no calories.

The other day I had a taco from Taco Bell with black beans.  I ate the whole thing... and it wasn't awful.  Even while eating it, I could taste things I liked, and I knew the things I didn't were mostly psychological.  When I was done, I realized in all my focus on eating the beans, I had forgotten to add any sauce.  That's like the best part of food from Taco Bell.  So I think black beans are essentially in the bank for me.

As for pinto and regurgitated, I mean refried, beans.  That's gonna take some time.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Learning to Love my Glasses

Back in the third grade I was asked to explain my poor grades at a parent teacher conference.  I honestly answered that that by the end of the day, the chalk board was too cloudy to see clearly.  That ended that.  I was promptly brought into the eye doctor, and given an ugly pair of old man glasses.  It took about two weeks for the "responsible people" to forget.  The kids never did of course.  I went back to being half blind as soon as I had a chance.

It wasn't so bad really.  I could get pretty far by squinting in a pinch.  Otherwise, what do you really need to see that's more than 25 feet away?  I learned to identify people by the cadence of their walk, and body language.  It still comes in handy.

Eventually my mother agreed to buy me contacts.  Partially to get me to wear them, and partially because my glasses were always falling apart because someone never took care of them.  Might have been me.  The contacts were the monthly ones, which were a hassle.  By the end of the month they were quite irradiating, but they worked.

When I struck out on my own, I reluctantly went back to glasses.  I was too poor and lazy to keep that up.  And I had become addicted to my super vision.  I actually see better than 20/20 with them on.  What surprised me was that I learned to like them.  I started finding fashionable frames that fit me.  Nowadays my Oakley's are a part of who I am.  But should they be?  Have I become complacent yet again?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Been Busy

“So how old are you, now?”

I have missed two weeks of posting and I have a darn good excuse: been busy.

As noted previously, it’s been a difficult year so far for my wife and me. A good friend died in late January; Ellie’s sister-in-law died suddenly in early January.

Ellie’s brother, Jim, the new widower, is battling severe dementia. After realizing his move to California to be near his sister and her family was bad for him, they returned him here. He is living in a local memory-care facility, and will never go home again. His two daughters, who live here, and that sister in California are tasked with liquidating the estate, as though, but only as though, he had died.

To make a long story short, Jim’s California sister and her husband, the same couple that stayed with us for Jim’s wife’s funeral in January, came to help ready the house for sale and perform some administrative work. We offered to both put them up and loan them one of our cars during their stay. That stay turned into two weeks and it just ended.

Although we put them up, in no way did we have to put up with them. They are fun, easy to have around, independent, and make no demands and virtually no requests as guests. Nonetheless, their time here coincides with the time that I have failed to post, and it is not a coincidence that it coincides. I have been busy supporting the activity.

We took Terry and Betty to see Jim. We celebrated Father’s Day together. Contrary to expectations, they found the house was not close to ready for the estate sale, to be run by the family, scheduled for three days hence. They asked us to make the thirty-mile trip to help evaluate the situation. We agreed that making the house ready in time would need either a miracle or professional help. Fortunately, on this very short notice, the family found a professional who did get it ready and conducted the sale as scheduled. Ellie and I made the trip to the more frequently than anticipated. We rented a truck and hauled home a high-end recumbent exercise bike that inadvertently was left out of the sale. We discussed where the bike would go, and spent time getting the room ready for it. We spent some leisure time with Betty and Terry; we spent time with Jim’s daughters, including a meal with one of them and her family in a belated birthday celebration ( “So how old are you, now?” ); we had a mini-family reunion at our house, eating pizza, drinking beer, and playing dice ( a new game for us and it was great fun ). We generally stayed up late with Betty and Terry, philosophizing to unwind and digest the events of the day/week/period.

Also, early in their stay, Ellie took a tumble on our back deck, necessitating a trip to Urgent Care. Her left arm ( her predominant side ) wound up in a sling. Fortunately, she didn’t break anything but she was unable to use her left arm for much and sleeping was uneven in the extreme.

By the time Betty and Terry left for California, all of us were exhausted, needing time to regroup and re energize. I am nearly both, and here’s a post.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Convergence 2016

Convergence 2016 has come and gone.  I had a lot of fun, and having a room in the hotel did add to that.  It was nice being able to change clothes whenever, and store things.  There was no dramatic weather, and no transportation issues.  I only left the hotel to cross the street and get some food, or check out the other hotel.

I figure I'll give you the good, the bad, and the ugly, starting with the ugly.  My face had healed to a point where it no longer looks like I was in a car accident on the way in.  Now I'm just a guy with a fresh scar.  I chose not to cover my nose with a bandage.  People could see the scars, but no one commented.  It was definitely noticeable though, and surely a factor while chatting up the pretty girls.  It is what it is, and the worst is behind me at this point.  The next time I put myself out there there will have been months for the silicone pads to hopefully reduce the scars.

As for the good,

I feel like I know a lot more of my fellow RMN officers, which is nice.  Working on the Artemis also got me the "uber" volunteer status without giving up my whole convention.  And my uniform actually fit this year; meaning I could zip it up without looking like a fool.  It was actually a great option to throw on anytime, and appropriate to anywhere I was going at the convention.

As an uber volunteer, there is even more "free" food.  This is my first year there as a vegetarian, and there were a lot of vegetarian options.  That's good, because the two restaurants near the convention had very few vegetarian options.  Not to say I didn't take them up on the options they have.

As for the bad,

The creator of Gargoyles was back, and it was great to hear from him.  That was one of the shows that endeared itself to me as a teenager.  But that was really the only standout panel for me.  Most of the panels were setup and run by the PC loonies.  They taught me how Gamer Gate is really to oppress women, and that as a white male I'm responsible for policing the other white men on the internet.

It was the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, and this sci-fi/fantasy convention only had one panel on Star Trek, and that was about how they handled racism.  There were three about a new cartoon for younger children called Steve Universe, because that is so "consent culture" and queer friendly.  This year their numbers were down, and I do think this is a huge factor.  I'm not saying I don't respect other people's choices, I'm just saying I'd like my sci-fi convention to be about sci-fi.

I did have a lot of fun, and I will be back.  I'd be back even if I never went to another panel.  There are so many other fun things to do there, like the gaming floor, movies, and events.  I do think I'd like to spend less money next year by sharing a hotel room.