Bella Rum

Life on the Pasture

Category: Family

Who’s Cracking Me Up, Conversation with H, Step Away from the Arugula, Etcetera

Who’s Cracking Me Up?

Wednesday night, I saw only a bit of an interview on 360º with Hillary. I was too tired to watch and kept falling asleep. The only thing I remember is Anderson Cooper mentioning the comment former President George W. Bush reportedly made after Trump’s inauguration speech: “That was some weird shit.”

There’s a man who knows how to put a fine point on it.

Conversation with H

Me ~ (as we’re driving by a place called Wayne’s Feed Store) I used to date a guy named Wayne. He told me his father was a lawyer, but I found out that he worked in a feed store. Why would he lie about that?

H ~ To impress you.

Me ~ Once upon a time, I really was worth impressing.

H ~ You still are.

That’s the part where I swooned!

Step Away from the Arugula

I’ve fallen in love with arugula. Like most everyone, I’ve eaten it many times in salads, but I didn’t appreciate its full potential because of the thousands of other mixed greens it was associating with. I recently tried Panera Bread’s Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread Sandwich. It has arugula in it and it’s delicious. Everything would have been all well and good if I’d stopped at that.

Because I couldn’t get enough arugula, I then bought one of those big plastic boxes of it at Kroger, the size that would feed a small village, and I got some flat bread (fewer calories and carbs than regular bread). I pulled out the panini maker, and started making my version of Panera’s sandwich at home. Healthy. Right? Then I moved on to making arugula salads with tomatoes and a light vinaigrette dressing. Even healthier, right?

I admit I went round the bend on this. I take blood thinners, and I knew arugula had vitamin K (K enhances clotting), but I figured I was fine. I mean it’s not as if I was eating tons of kale or spinach, which are very high in vitamin K. Yesterday, my INR (a laboratory measurement of how long it takes blood to form a clot) indicated that my blood was a little too thick. I confessed that I’d been bingeing on arugula. I felt like I was confessing to gargling with controlled substances, or eating a whole mixing bowl of brownie batter. They told me to back off the arugula, and get my INR checked again in a couple of weeks instead of the usual month.

It’s a good thing I found out before I went grocery shopping. Another big box of it would have found its way into my cart. Death by Arugula! That sounds like a great title for a book.

Etcetera

Yesterday, while Crystal was at work, we went to her house so H could assemble her new bar chairs. He did all the work while I listened to my book and tried to talk to him occasionally, but he pretty much ignored me. He doesn’t like for me to talk to him when he’s busy or concentrating. Imagine that.

Nice, huh?

The Canada geese are back. They make a pretty sight at dusk as they circle around the pasture in formation and come to earth just in time to tuck themselves in for the night. We were at Crystal’s – about a mile from here – the other night when they flew over her house on the way to our house. Cool. There’s a for sale sign on the horse farm. It’s only for six acres, but which six acres is what I’d like to know. Hope it isn’t the pasture. Nothing is forever. Don’t you hate that?

Do you think Canada geese can read?

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Irma

I talked to my sister this morning. She was sitting in her garage with the door up, and trying to catch a breeze. They’ve lost power, of course. Who knows when they will flip a switch and see light or feel cool air again? But they are fine and have sustained only minimal damage to their house: part of the roof over the lanai was damaged. They did receive 100 MPH winds so they feel very lucky on that count. Their street is under water, but it stopped at the end of their driveway. How courteous of it.

After watching my sister and brother-in-law trying to choose between evacuation and sheltering in place and finally choosing to stay in their home, I have more understanding of how difficult it is for people to make that decision. You are sometimes forced to choose between two bad choices. Determining which is the least bad is stressful and difficult. I wanted them to evacuate, and I was very concerned when they decided to stay. I’m just thankful they are okay and still in good spirits. I know their spirits will wane with the stress of each day without power, but they are remarkably sporting at the moment. I think a lot of that comes from awareness that they are more fortunate than many others. As we finished our conversation, she was going back into the house to put some of their food on ice.

Harbor Freight gives you a choice of several gifts when you make a purchase. My sister had chosen a small flashlight. When she went to bed last night, the wind was blowing, and the room was completely black because of the boards my brother-in-law had put over the windows. She put the flashlight on her nightstand. She said it was comforting. When she woke this morning, it was still going strong.

Little Secrets

Only first and false names are used.

Deb is Crystal’s sister. Her husband died a few weeks ago. A few days ago, she received flowers from the daughter my sister gave up for adoption in 1960. That would be the bio-daughter who is the worst-kept secret in our family.

It was a gardenia, Deb’s favorite shrub/flower. She loves them. It would seem like a nice thing, and I could be persuaded that it was intended as such, but Deb would not agree. My sister (Deb and Crystal’s mother) does not want to meet her bio-daughter, so Deb asked the bio-daughter on more than one occasion not to contact her or her mother again. The bio-daughter persists.

What ever my sister’s reasons (?) for not wanting contact with her biological daughter, Deb has tried to observe her wishes. So when she received the gardenia and my sister was standing beside her and asking who sent it, it didn’t feel like a sympathetic gesture. It felt more like someone saying, “I know where you live, what’s happening in your life, and even your favorite flower.”

How she knew Deb’s favorite flower is beyond me, but I’m pretty sure it was not a coincidence that she sent a gardenia. She is heavily into the internet and research. She has contacted many of our relatives, even those I haven’t seen since I was a child. Some of them aren’t even old enough to remember what happened back then. Some of them barely knew my sister.

When she contacted my sister, she put it on the internet. I would have been more inclined to talk to her if I didn’t know that it would end up on the internet. You shouldn’t say anything to her that you don’t want to see on CNN tomorrow morning. When I googled my sister’s name, there was a ton of information on her, and it was all put there by her bio-daughter. There are photos and names and locations of many of our relatives.

I can see both perspectives here, but she shouldn’t have contacted Deb again. I know it must be difficult for her, but still. Crystal, who has never contacted her, contacted her yesterday in a personal message on FB, and asked her not to contact her sister again, explaining that the gardenia didn’t have the intended effect, and that her sister is grieving. We’ll see how it goes.

It’s interesting to me that she doesn’t contact Crystal, but can’t leave Deb alone. Crystal thinks it’s because she and Deb have a very strong resemblance. I don’t know. I think it’s because Deb is the one who is protective of her mother. She’s what some bio-children call the gatekeeper. If a bio-parent does not want contact, there’s usually one person who stands between the bio-child and access to the parent.

She found information on many of our relatives and contacted them. She contacted me by mail more than once and on Ancestry.com. I think that those of us in my sister’s generation who have memories of the time surrounding the adoption and closer ties to my sister are less likely to go against my sister’s wishes whether we agree with her choices or not.

I wish my sister would talk to her, tell her the circumstances of her birth and adoption, and give her the medical history. Refusing to talk to her has not solved anything. It puts others in the middle. It’s my sister she wants, and her bio-daughter should have access to her medical history. Why not just send it to her? I think she will eventually get it from the state, but my sister could make it easy for her.

Still. Birth mothers who agreed to a closed adoption should have a right to privacy, shouldn’t they? Remember that the closed adoption was intended to protect the adoptive parents and the baby, not the birth mother. Birth mother’s had almost no rights back then. It was not a time when they were praised for not getting an abortion. They were more often excoriated by their families, friends, and society. I think my sister still feels shame over this and doesn’t want her husband’s sisters and his adult children to know. But I don’t know anything for sure. She would never talk about it to me. She is very private.

What ever you think of this particular situation, the reality is that there is no privacy for anyone anymore. If someone wants your “private” information, they will get it, and then they can distribute it as they please. I think that’s a little more distressing for my generation, because we remember a time when privacy was the norm unless you hung your red panties on the line. Then everyone knew, that is everyone in the neighborhood, but not everyone in the entire world.

A Nice Evening

We’re trying to get back to normal. The out-of-town people have left my niece’s house, but my sister and her husband are still here. They are staying at Crystal’s house. My sister and I have had the strangest estrangement for years, neither of us ever talking about it, her trying to avoid me, and me trying to get her to see me, talk to me, etc. Picture her as the cat with the claws and me as the puppy that wants to play. I keep trying and she keeps swatting. She must think I can’t get the hint, but I do. I just won’t stop trying.

On Friday morning, Crystal told her that she wanted to have a cookout on Saturday night, and that she wanted us to be there. I was hesitant at first, but Crystal said that my sister had agreed to it. So. I said I’d make some potato salad and deviled eggs because who can remain irritated while eating potato salad and deviled eggs? My other niece who lost her husband came with her two adult sons.

It was perfect weather if I’ve ever seen it. It was in the seventies and a little cloudy so the sun wasn’t baking us. H grilled the best hamburgers he’s ever cooked in his life. They were delicious. Everyone was calm and relaxed. My sister even had a glass of wine. I got to talk to my niece’s sons. I haven’t seen them in a while. I told them they had spoken beautifully about their father at the funeral. The oldest one is closing on a new house tomorrow, but he and his wife are going to stay a couple of weeks with my niece until they paint and do a few other things in their new house. That will be great for my niece, and the new house is only five miles from her. She will have them for support.

I took a gift for my sister. When Dad was in the nursing home and I drove 140 miles roundtrip every day for about four months, Dad asked my brother to buy a watch for me. It was a beautiful, expensive, gold watch. Really, if you want someone to pick something out for you, you want it to be my brother. Mr. excess guy. I think the watch/gift annoyed my sister. I know it did because she talked about it… many times. The funny thing is that I don’t wear jewelry except costume on rare occasions. I’ve never worn the watch. Not once. It was still in the original box. I never even had the links removed to fit me. I bought a new battery for it, and put it in a gift bag and took it to her. She almost cried when she opened it. I told her that she loves gold jewelry and I never wear jewelry and that she should enjoy it in good health. That right there softened her up. Crystal says I’m a suck-up. LOL

But really, I don’t care about the watch. It would only sit in the box forever. I like things like the old cuspidor H found in Dad’s basement, or the brass nameplate from the Chesapeake Bay deadrise Dad built back in the day, or my mother’s clock. That’s the stuff that gets my motor racing, and she’s not very interested in it. We’re all different. And that’s good. She doesn’t have to fight me for the jewels, and I don’t have to fight her for the junk. Believe me, there’s more junk than jewels. 🙂

Saturday night was one of the most pleasant nights I ever remember. Everyone was content; even my niece with her loss seemed calm and peaceful for the moment. At one point, she told me she didn’t think she could handle anymore love. She felt surrounded by it, and she was. We stopped by Crystal’s last night for a few minutes, and my sister told me that she had really enjoyed that evening, that it was perfect.

We’ll see how this goes, but it feels good.

Purpose

I woke at 2:00 a.m. and started thinking of Jeff. The funeral was yesterday, and I’ve never been to a more inspiring one, or one with such an eclectic group. There were people from every walk of life, every background, and every economic level and every color.

It was standing room only, and when the pastor told those who were standing they could go to the overflow room and listen and watch comfortably through the windows, no one moved. I’ve never been to such a big funeral. You would have thought a famous person had died.

I’ve never seen so many motorcycles in one place either. The photo shows only a portion of them. It was really something when they roared into the cemetery. And I’ve never seen so many black bandanas on bald heads. The attire at this funeral was t-shirts, simple button-down shirts, and jeans. A lot of bikers and working people attended. When we went to the reception, I noticed that all the coat-and-tie set lost their coats and ties before going inside to eat. At the graveside service, the pastor assured the bikers that all pastors were not sissies, and some even admired a Harley once in a while.

It’s always interesting when you learn things about a person at their funeral that you didn’t know when they were alive. There were so many testimonials to Jeff’s life. So many people felt the need to speak, and all of them were eloquent and revelatory. The pastor even read a letter from one man who did not know Jeff. He wrote about how he had seen Jeff that morning at church, and had seen him before at church, but had never met him. I think Jeff’s bad-boy appearance was a little intimidating. I used to say that he didn’t look like the kind of guy you’d want to meet in a dark alley. This guy said he saw Jeff walk over to his elderly father, take both his hands and lift them up, and exclaim how happy he was to see him. When Jeff left, he asked his father who that man was. His dad said, “A nice man who always talks to me.” Then the man heard about a member of his church dying in an accident. He went on Facebook and was shocked that it was the same man who had spoken so animatedly that morning with his dad. He said he had to write the letter so Jeff’s family would know he had been kind to his father that morning and apparently many other times.

An elderly man with a long, white beard hobbled to the front. With difficulty, he made his way up the one or two steps to the lectern. He told us that he was homeless. He said that Jeff would pick him up every morning and take him to breakfast, and he gave him a job. He said that Jeff’s life was about purpose. He said he loved Jeff because he helped him, but didn’t pity him.

A former convict talked about how Jeff would pick him up at the jail and take him to work every morning. He said that when he was released, Jeff gave him a permanent job, and then he told how Jeff kicked him out into the world a few years later, telling him that it was time for him to start his own business, that he could do it now. When his business faltered at one point, Jeff told him that was how business was. You have lows and highs. Jeff’s construction business had faltered after the 2008 crash. This man said he loved him and his whole family for what they’d done for him.

An elegantly dressed, older woman talked about Jeff as her “carpenter” and how sweet he was to her, saying how much she would miss him.

Another conservatively dressed man who attended the same church talked about how Jeff was, ” by far, the coolest member” of their church. He talked about how he came to church on his Harley and how he rocked the bald-head look and the though-guy look, but he also said that Jeff gave him a man-hug (air in between and vigorous patting on the back) every time he saw him. He  talked about how excited Jeff got when he told him about a school that was being built in Columbia. Jeff told him that this kind of project was right up his alley. He said Jeff came back the next day and gave him $1000 dollars, and now the school has electricity. A thousand dollars was a lot for Jeff. They were not wealthy. They were not poor. They worked hard and lived within their means.

I was so impressed with how many people Jeff helped in his short life. His hand extended around the world to people who would never know this hammer-swinging, bald-headed, tattooed, muscle-bound man. I was even more impressed with how much he was loved. I’ve never seen so many weeping men. One speech after another revealed his kindness, awareness and mercy. We live in such a loud world now. It was reassuring to be reminded that in some quarters, the quiet, unheralded work for our fellow-man continues, and that you cannot judge who is doing this work by their appearance.

Note: Those motorcycle riders gave a bag of money to my niece because they heard that Jeff did not have life insurance.

Can it be?

Time is fleeting. Betcha never heard that one. It’s August! Can that be true? The second half of August? Where did the summer of 2017 go? I can see you’re scratching your head and wondering the same thing.

We’re still busy doing little, finishing-type things at Crystal’s house: hanging a few more pictures, hanging curtains and new blinds, installing new towel racks and toilet paper holders, etc. It’s been a lot of fun. H wants to do a couple of things in her yard: take down a trashy crabapple tree, dig out two overgrown and irreparably misshapen shrubs that are inhibiting two perfectly good shrubs from doing their best. She did not ask him to do this, and honestly, it probably wouldn’t have occurred to her. She doesn’t know that much about gardening, but H can’t ignore it.

She hung her bird feeders, and finds herself in an ongoing battle with the squirrels. She’s like H in this way. He has a couple of squirrel-proof feeders, but he always seems to keep one that isn’t. I suspect it’s because he secretly relishes the ongoing battle of wits with the rodents. He’s still coming up with new tactics or devising some gadget or method that he thinks will defeat them. He doesn’t seem to realize that he has a life that includes all sorts of pursuits, demands and interests, but the squirrels have only one thing to think about all day and night: how to outwit that crazy guy who keeps running out of the house, clapping his hands and screaming.

We ate at Crystal’s the other night. H grilled burgers, and we ate on the deck. I finally stayed home yesterday and cleaned my house. Believe me, it needed it. Today I’m doing laundry and dusting and fertilizing my potted plants and flowers.

Out back on the patio, it feels like the beginning of the beginning of fall. I can smell it. I need to settle down with a book back there. The mornings are sweet. The birds sing their hearts out, and there’s plenty of shade. These late August days go quickly. Before you know it, it will be fall.

Seize the day.

Tying Up Loose Ends: Picture Hanging, Blinds and Mailbox Instalations

Yesterday was a very productive day. Crystal wanted to hang her pictures, she needed blinds on the back door (single woman living alone), and she needed a new mailbox. We made a trip to Home Depot for the blinds and mailbox. H could have fixed the existing mailbox, but the previous owners’ name was on it. The letters were actually raised and painted white so they were obvious. I’m not sure where they found a mailbox like that. The wife loved monograms. She was also smitten with decals. There were initials everywhere, and inspirational sayings in their kids’ rooms. I think Crystal will keep the one that’s over the closet door in the room where her granddaughter will sleep when she visits. We peeled off the rest of them. Easy-peasy.

H installed the blinds and mailbox. Crystal told me to do what ever I wanted with the pictures, but I made her look at everything before we hung anything. It all turned out well. I did a grouping over the couch that I think she really loved. It makes a big impact when you enter the front door.

I was so exhausted last night that I couldn’t have told you my name. I tried to listen to some news, but I couldn’t process the latest Trumpian shenanigans. I couldn’t focus. It doesn’t matter. There will only be more of the same tomorrow and the next day, and the next … The more it changes, the more it stays the same.

We are going to take our time this morning. We’ll go over later to finish hanging the pictures. H will pile all the boxes that are on her deck into the back of his truck, and take them to the dump. I need to throw in a load of laundry before we go, and water my plants. My house is beginning to miss me, but all the hard work at Crystal’s is finished. Only the fun stuff is left, and my own messes have promised not to go anywhere.

We’ve all had a blast doing this. It was a labor of love. She told us the other night how happy it made her to just sit on her deck with us, just hang out and talk. This move is a good thing for all of us.

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A Packet of Seeds and an Update on the Move


I haven’t been home in so long (except to sleep) that the zinnias that Lilou (my youngest grand) cut and put in a vase for me died. They drank until all the water in the vase was gone and then dropped dead. Shows them for not rationing their water.
The Grand Trio planted the seeds in May and were kind of impressed with what happened to them. So was I. H broke the soil for them and they threw them in. We promptly forgot about them because they’re on the side of the house, and we’re never over there. One day we walked out the garage door, and this is what we saw. That’s a big wow for a few cents. They work their hearts out for you.
If you know nothing about gardening, are too lazy to tend to your garden, don’t have the time to be bothered, I recommend roughing up some dirt and throwing in some zinnia seeds, and leave them alone. Better yet, get some kids to throw them in the soil. If you wish, you can water occasionally. Butterflies, bumblebees and other little, buzzy-type insects love them.

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My niece is in her new house. The move is finished, she bought a new mattress to go with her new bedroom set and it was left off the manifest and was not delivered. So she can’t sleep in her new house. Hopefully she will get that straightened out today. She loves the house and so do I (which is important, right?). She’s working today. I want to go over and hang pictures (picture-hanging is my thing), but I guess she should be there. Ya think? After all, it is her house.

I can see that I’m going to have to restrain myself on these decorating decisions. She tells me to do whatever I want, but I would never. However, I don’t like the way I put some of her stuff in her kitchen cabinets. I told H that I might go back today and do a little tweaking. He said, “Good grief, you’re like that weird, anal retentive guy in Sleeping With the Enemy, the one who straightened all the cans in Julia Roberts’ cabinets… before he tried to kill her. You may as well just gaslight her. You could go over every day and move things around while she’s at work.” “What’s with the sarcasm, buddy? I have really good taste.” I think he’s going to take my key away. 😦

She called and asked us to come over again last night. We ordered Chinese and ate on her new table and chairs on the deck. Before the big move yesterday, we moved a few things Tuesday, and my other niece – Crystal’s sister – came over. It was nice to just sit and talk and laugh with them. I don’t know when I’ve laughed so much. There’s nothing like telling family stories – even the horror stories – with family. The tales are so much funnier when the people listening know the history. I haven’t seen them together since Dad’s funeral. I cannot believe it’s been four years since Dad died.

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Closing Day, Spinach Dip Recipe, Cell Phone Cleaning Solution Recipe

Yesterday was a good day. My niece Crystal closed on her house (3 minutes from my house, YAY!!!), which, YES, calls for three exclamation points. I’m so happy about this.

The house is in a quiet, well-maintained community. It’s as cute as can be. Everything went smoothly with this sale. No big surprises. The sellers were reasonable and so was Crystal. Win/Win

She has a rent-back agreement with the sellers. They are building a house, and will rent Crystal’s house for the next month, but her realtor made arrangements for us to go to the house after closing. We had a small, short celebration: photos of Crystal holding a SOLD sign on the front steps, more photos of her putting the key in the door, a toast to happiness in her new house, and another look-see at the house. It was fun.

Do you remember that ubiquitous Knorr vegetable soup spinach dip that was at every party during the 80s? Or was it 90s? I made that and took some fruit and cheese and some sparkling wine. They liked the spinach dip, but neither of them had ever tried it. I guess it’s gone out of style?

The recipe is still on the soup packet, but I tend to print copies of back-of-the-box or packet recipes that I like. They stop them sometimes. I follow the recipe, but I cut the sliced water chestnuts into little strips. I’m big on texture, and I love the texture when they’re cut into strips. Warning: You can’t stop eating this once you start.

Knorr Spinach Dip

Yields 4 cups

Ingredients

1 10-oz Box Frozen Chopped Spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
1 16-oz Container Sour Cream
1 cup Hellman’s Mayonaise
1 Package Knorr Vegetable Recipe Mix (dry in packet)
1 8-oz Can Sliced Water Chestnuts, cut into strips
2 Green Onions, chopped

Directions

Thaw spinach in microwave. When cooled, squeeze as much liquid as possible out of the spinach. Add all remaining ingredients to spinach, and combine thoroughly. Chill at least 2 hours to allow the soup to reconstitute before serving. Serve with crackers.

Following: Info that will make you feel better about public toilets, but worse about your cell phone.


How often do you clean your cell phone? That thing is loaded with nasty bacteria, but you already know that. I’m curious. Do you have a UV phone sanitizer or do you wipe it off with a solution of water and 70% isopropyl alcohol once a week, or some other method? Or are you like me and don’t think about it much?  Inquiring minds want to know.Recipe for Cell Phone Cleaning Solution

* Bottled water
* 70% isopropyl alcohol
* 1 mini spray bottle
* 1 microfiber or lint-free cloth

Fill a spray bottle halfway with distilled water. Fill the other half of the bottle with 70% isopropyl alcohol. Screw the cap back on, and shake the bottle to mix the solution. Once a week (not every day), LIGHTLY spray the solution on a microfiber or lint-free cloth, and clean your phone. Source: BuzzFeed

So, how do you clean your phone and how often? Fess up.

Oh, I forgot to mention that H has a horrible black eye from his MOHS surgery, but he says it doesn’t hurt.

The Kids and Update on H’s Mohs Surgery

Let me take care of some leftover business first. I forgot that I’d even taken a photo of the Mediterranean Baked Chicken recipe that I wrote about in the last post. This is what it looks like. I also forgot to mention that I substituted halved chicken breasts for chicken thighs. I don’t think I could make it as a food blogger. 😦 It’s a good thing I don’t mind sharing my business. I wouldn’t have anything to write about.

Anyway…

My “adult” kids are in New Orleans, my son and his wife. The grands are at their other grandmother’s house. My DIL texted me a photo of my son standing on a bus. She said that he gave up his seat. I guess this has become a family thing. His father never sits when a lady is standing, so neither does my son. He ran into a bit of a problem when he was working in NYC. When on the subway, he would always offer his seat to any lady who got on after all the seats were taken, but he said they sometimes looked a little skeptical. 🙂 I guess it’s a Southern thing, or maybe an old-school thing, or maybe it’s just a NYC thing.

We’re reading Lisa Gardner. Have your read her? We’re on the Tessa Leoni series. Really good.

H had his Mohs surgery on Thursday. The doctor got everything on the first try, and made a nice and clean closure. He has to get another basal cell removed on Wednesday. His doctor is fantastic.  His face has been carved up so much, but you can’t tell. Impressive. It takes about three hours because after the doctor removes the offending tissue but before she closes, you wait while she checks the removed tissue to make sure it’s clean around the edges. If it’s clean on the first try, she closes and you go home. If it’s not, she takes some more tissue, and you wait some more while she checks it again. It’s a long process.

It’s hot and humid today. You feel sticky as soon as you step out the door. It’s as if someone gave the Weather Gods a calendar, and said, “Look, it’s July.”

June was beautiful. I miss you, June.