Thursday, December 31, 2009

Hello 2010!

Pizza, prosecco, chocolate fondue, noisemakers, and a rousing game of ants in your pants before midnight. The last of the Christmas cookies for breakfast, along with my Keurig coffee. Can you think of a better way to welcome in a new year?

A new year

I found this odd looking citron at the grocery store, and learned that it is called Buddha's Hand. It has a lemony odor and it is supposed to be lucky to have one in your home around the new year. I used it to make marmalade, so that the good fortune could be shared. It's funny, I don't like jellies and I especially don't like marmalade, but I am addicted to this -- I scraped out the foam from the pan to use on toast. If eating Buddha's Hand jam brings good fortune, 2010 should be a very good year.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009


An empty lamp was one of my Christmas presents. Now that I've made it my own, it is also one of my favorites.

Thursday, December 24, 2009


Another version of the Christmas story? "Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar." [Bradley Millar]

Wishing you a peaceful holiday, where nobody steps on you!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

What a wonderful finish!

Good-bye beach. Good-bye sun. Good-bye shells.

Hello cold. Hello dreary. Hello ice.

My last morning on Sanibel - the morning walk was really glorious. Not much in the way of shells, of course, because there was a wonderful very low tide, so I got to see the usual huge live whelks and tulips that live off the lighthouse beach, and the beds of live sand dollars (I always want to set up barriers to protect them. People are so careless and often step on them or pull the living shells out of the sand.)

But the coolest things: one of the ospreys caught a fish that was a few inches longer than he was, and he sat on top of a light post to scream at the would-be robbers and eat. I would have loved to see the catch itself, but he was landing on the post when I noticed him. I love the ospreys, with their amazing skill and vaguely x-rated cry.

And most amazing of all, something I've never seen and don't know what was. When I stopped for a minute to scan the horizon, a couple inches of a snapping head suddenly popped out of the sand in front of me, it looked like the first couple inches of a small snake, hinged jaws snapping as it emerged. I watched it go in and out of the sand for several minutes -- reminded me of the scene in one of the star wars movies where the sand worm lunges out (only smaller, thank goodness!) And OF COURSE I didn't have a camera! Can you tell me what it was, coastal friends?

And now, home to the cold and snow that I hate and the family that I love. Life is so full of mixed messages.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


My days on Sanibel are drawing to an end. The weather has been perfect. The trade-off is that the shelling isn't good. Today I went out at low tide, before dawn, to the mudflats. I saw someone leaving just as I arrived, with a bag full of shells. Either I didn't go to the right place, or I am ignoring shells that the other sheller wanted, or Blind Pass makes me blind, but all I collected were mosquito and no-see-em bites. I picked up a couple of gnarly oyster shells on my way back to the car, not exactly specimens but cool looking, and maybe better than going home empty handed. Still, I love my morning walks on the beach. It was warm and beautiful, the pelicans put on their usual show, and I stopped at Jerry's for a donut on my way back. It's all good.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Head over heels

It was a good news/bad news morning. The good: I had some better-than-it's-been luck shelling at Blind Pass this morning -- I think it will be fabulous shelling at low tide, but I shell by time and not by tide (sigh). Still, there were enough large shells to bruise my ankles and feet, and I even managed to catch a lace murex and a few odds and ends, nothing spectacular, but fun. The bad: I had my camera and phone zipped into my pocket when one of the big waves knocked me over and down flat. I am not happy about being camera and phone-less, but I do love the embrace of a big, warm wave!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Natural wonders

Is there anything nicer than a Sanibel Sunset?

White stuff

Things were covered with the white stuff here this morning. It was just like being in the north. I could barely see after I'd been out a while - my glasses were covered with a thin film of salt from the warm mist. It was hard for me to find my way home, because the details of the landscape were obliterated by the weather. Yeah, we suffer here, too.

And no snow days for the people here -- they were working hard. I passed one woman who was shelling with tweezers, and she was still stooped in the same spot when I passed again, an hour and a half later, carefully picking up tiny shells.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Friends, new and old

What a fun evening, I had a great time with Nancy, Barb and Tootie, and then ran into island Santa on the way "home" to the time share. While we were in the restaurant (the Island Cow), the television news said there would be 12 to 15 inches of snow at home in Saginaw . . . my poor family, but lucky, lucky me!

Dodging the storms

As winter prepares to hit Michigan, I am hiding in Florida, on Sanibel Island. It amazes me how quickly I can forget things, and it is hard for me now to remember that it was cold, and will be cold again. I am pretty sure that no one I know thinks of me as an optimist, but I see my selective memory as a form of optimism, always forgetting until it is too late, who has hurt me, whose emotions cannot be trusted, and how cold the world can be. In the interim, I walk the beach and marvel.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Still unpacking

I have been busy. I closed on my Detroit-area house 2 days ago, and I am moved into my Saginaw house, but there are still boxes everywhere, and no washer-dryer yet. I am having a hard time finding time to look at appliances, and an even harder time making a decision! I don't have any curtains yet, but my grandchildren decorated my windows as a lovely substitute. I need to get the chimney cleaned, too, so that I can have chestnuts roasting on an open fire next month, lol.

I am home (it still sounds funny to me to call this place home) most days of the week, but drive down to Detroit to volunteer in my sister's office two days a week. The nicest thing about that is that I get to have dinner with Dr. Cranky, and see my sister.

In a moment of obvious disorientation, I told my brother and sister that I'd have Thanksgiving in my new house. I hope I can find the pots and pans by then.

And just about a week later, I have two more milestones to look forward to -- a major birthday, and a trip to Sanibel. I hope some of my bloggie friends will be available to crawl one of the first 2 Sundays in December!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good grief

I guess I didn't actually think it would ever happen -- and now, to my shock and horror, I NEED TO PACK!!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The tipping point

House Number 1 might be/is probably sold! An appraiser is coming tomorrow to make the official judgment as to whether the house is worth the embarrassingly low price the buyers offered to pay. Then, of course, the buyers need to prove that they are as credit-worthy now as they were when they made the offer. (The proposed buyers are NOT the people who declared their intention to buy, but another young couple who viewed the house on the very same day.) Maybe I should start to pack?

I have a lot of things going on. Daughter/tax collector/broken door/rotten roofs, all still lurking. All of them would improve somewhat if I could throw money at them, but being unemployed doesn't pay very well. I need to schedule some time to panic -- as a responsible adult, I feel duty bound to worry about my lack of job, my ever-growing pile of bills, and the huge mess that is forming- and that I will have to clean up! - in both old house and new. But I just can't seem to find the energy to get upset about it all.

Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, September 25, 2009

On the sunny side of the street

The GOOD news lately is that my trip with my sister was wonderful and relaxing. And a former coworker sent me a box of popcorn balls because she remembered that I like them. Life is good when all the bad things involve only money, and the good things involve family, friends, fun and food!

Karma? I demand a recount!

It isn't over yet -- add to the list these tidbits: the previous mortgage holders and title company on house #2 assured us that the foreclosure notice was a mistake. Then their repo people busted down the door and changed the locks.

And then the electric company left me a note saying that there is something wrong with a wire leading into my house from a wire they replaced earlier this month, and that they will shut off my electricity in 10 days if I don't fix it.

Consider: I do not lie cheat or steal. I do NOT cheat on my taxes. I am not generally unkind, I try to give people the benefit of the doubt, and I do not kick puppies or small children. I am helpful and loyal, true to my girl scout upbringing. I appreciate my many blessings, I have never been greedy. Dogs and cats like me. Old people (except for my mother) have always liked me, too. I have lived a chaste life (mostly against my will, but still). I know there are many stinkers out there who have never had a string of events like I've experienced this year, and that's fine, I wish them no ill. But come on, Karma, I am not the one you are looking for!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Comedy of errors -- remind me to laugh!

To recap the previous episode fro "Gail's 2009 adventures," I committed to buy house #2 before house #1 sold, house #1 has STILL not sold, I found out that house #1 needed a new roof, I found out that house #2 needed a new roof, I had numerous sad... and frightening family experiences with a close relative in intensive care for weeks, the son of someone dear to me went to prison for smuggling cocaine in his belly (after major surgery to get it out), I lost my job, I lost st. joseph (no, he's still not back).

Yesterday I found out that I AM BEING AUDITED BY THE IRS -- apparently for things they think belong to me, but were actually part of my mother's estate. (I promise, I have never, ever lied on my taxes! Now I just have to prove it.)

Think that's all? But no!!! Today, as I get ready to leave town for a week, my son called to say that he found A FORECLOSURE NOTICE on the front door of my newly purchased house (house #2). I am definitely not in foreclosure, so this is clearly another cosmic joke. Ha. Ha.

In our next episode: will that heart-pounding-choking-fainting-feeling go away if I ply it with alcohol? If I hide under the bed? If I close my eyes? Stay tuned. Watch Gail laugh. Watch Gail laugh until she cries.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I was in such a hurry today, running from one house and tasks to another, that I left my computer cable behind . . . this means no more postin (or reading email, or playing FarmVille [sob], until the weekend of the 25th when I get back up there . . . oh how I will suffer!

Fleeting moments

My little family visit has been a roller coaster already, a reminder that things are unlikely ever to change in any permanent way. Vulnerable as a newly hatched chick, mean as a snake. What a sad and tragic combination. I leave at the end of the week for a previously planned and pre-paid trip, with a sense of guilt and relief.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

If I knew you were coming I'd have baked a cake

My daughter drove up to Michigan with her dad, and will spend almost a month here. While I was waiting, I baked a cake - something I haven't done for a long time. Wow, I'd forgotten how good a fresh baked cake can be! I used the Pioneer Woman's yogurt cake recipe because I couldn't find the one for the yogurt cake I used to make. This was truly a welcome home cake, absolutely delicious!

My daughter looks wonderful, but fragile, and delicate. She is a tiny woman and has lost some weight during her difficult recovery. But she was in good spirits, happy to be here, and filled with humor and optimism; very much the child I once knew. It is good to see her this way, after so many years of demons.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Missing Person Report

Okay, I have no explanation for this. I decided to dig up St. Joseph again and move him to a different spot in my yard, and I CAN'T FIND HIM! I buried him right next to my peony (a lovely location for an exile) and he simply is not where I (thought I) left him. It's a sad world when a plastic saint would rather leave town than do his job and help me sell my house!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Indulging myself

I (accidentally) bought myself the most fabulous present last month (I always seem to know what I'd like!) - a Flip Ultra video camera. I bought my kids the Flip Mino last year, and they say they like it, but I guess I was swayed by the yellow and white outer shell that was only available on the Ultra

These are cool little cameras. They fit in your pocket, they cost less than $200, and they are absolutely point-and-shoot. When I'm done, I plug it - with its own little automatic "flip" plug - into my Mac and the video downloads automatically. No software to install, it just happens like magic. The one advantage to the Mino is that it has a rechargeable battery that automatically recharges while it's plugged into the computer. The Ultra uses AA batteries, but the rechargeable battery pack is available as an add-on. Because the Ultra is so small (just slightly bigger than the very petite Mino), I can take it with me everywhere. I'm taking little clips of the grandkids and they've turned out pretty well, which is amazing when you consider how fast they move!

I bought the Ultra from a home shopping network, where they encouraged me to try it for 30 days with the option of returning it. I intended to do exactly that, just to see what it was like. Time slipped away, emergency trips interfered, and 30 days came and went. Now I'm glad I didn't send it back -- after all, I have certain duties as a Grandma! The kids are growing up, and so many little accomplishments are waiting to be captured as videos. And all the cool things on Sanibel that I can show them. I must try to remember what a good idea this was when my Mastercard bill comes in the mail!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I don't know what it means, to miss New Orleans

Apologies to Louis Armstrong, but I have been here way too often this year to miss it. Here is the good and bad of the Big Easy today:

Bad: school kids spitting on us from their open bus windows as we waited for a streetcar.

Good: bread pudding with whiskey sauce and swamp water at the hotel bar when I got back to my room.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Briefly touching down

I got back home at about 1:30 AM this morning. My short trip to Sanibel was nice, in a hot and sweaty kind of way. My beach-walks were nice, the water was even warmer than the air, but I didn't pick up a single shell. We had a lot of heavy rain, which added to the sauna effect. The trailer's air conditioner - which was newly installed last week -- was broken and we spent most of the weekend trying to get it fixed. When we left Sanibel for the airport, it was still not cooling the trailer, so I was glad to get into the rental car where the air really worked.

My trip tomorrow to NOLA was stripped of any anticipation by the phone call yesterday saying that my daughter was admitted to the hospital again. Instead of going down so that she and I could do some tasks to make her life easier and have some fun together, I'm being summoned to another 'Family Meeting,' where doctors won't tell me much of what is going on but will make me feel guilty as heck while they do it. All I can do is take it as it comes.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I thought I would take some time to be fully and lazily unemployed, but, as it turns out, I'm so busy that it's just a darn good thing I don't have a job.

Dr. Cranky wants to look into selling his place at Periwinkle Park. He doesn't really want to let it go, but with his failed health, he can't go down alone and it isn't worth keeping for the few days a year that he has someone to accompany him. I am going to Sanibel late this week as his driver, and return to Michigan three days later, so it will be a quick (therefore hard) trip, mostly filled with the things he needs to do. But I will be so glad to see the island, you just can't imagine.

My daughter wasn't able to get to some very important appointments this month, but her wonderful caseworker has scheduled yet another 'last chance.' I am flying down the day after I get back from Florida, and will stay there until the 2 appointments are over. Whether we get to them or not is an open question, but at least (maybe) I will feel that I've done all I could.

THEN, the day after I get back, I close on my new house in Saginaw. I will then be (1) unemployed, (2) poor as a church mouse, and (3) the owner of 2 houses, each of which needs a roof.

A couple of former coworkers have sent me emails, wondering how I fill my time and if I am bored. I tell them them that, so far, I'm finding enough to do.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Days flying by

1. Got estimates on a new roof. When I put my house up for sale last year, I was told by a roofing company that the roof was fine. Since then, it has developed an algae bloom, which I've learned is a new (climate change?) problem in my area. So I need a new roof and want to get it fixed before I sell the house. Who wants to buy a pre-existing problem, after all.

2. Put together the shop- vac I bought some time ago Putting things together is an irritation and challenge for me, but there is satisfaction in having it done. Only a few days later, finally, vacuumed the spiders from the basement, its intended use. (of course now I never want to touch it again. ick.)

3. Wrote to HR at my former job with questions about nuts and bolts - how do I cancel my long term disability policy? I need to pay my FSA medical account spending contributions in full, who handles that? How can you work for such idiots? Those sorts of things. It came back 'undeliverable.'

4. Worked on COBRA application. Thank goodness for O'Bama. It is expensive, but would have cost 3 times more under the old plan.

5. Did more paperwork on the unemployment stuff. It is almost a full-time job in itself.

6. Unburied St. Joseph, reminded him how pretty it is out here, stuck him back in the ground.

7. Wrote righteous letters to several people at former work place. Edited them until they were perfect. Deleted them.

8. Got 2 showings but no offer on my Detroit house.

9. Decided to buy the house by the grandchildren anyway.

10. Life is good.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Unemployed in Detroit

I am surprised at the mix of relief and stunned disbelief I feel. I have now been unemployed for 3 days. I had hated (no exaggeration) my job and disliked my supervisor's 'vision' for nearly 10 of my 22 1/2 years with my employer (I loved the first 13 years with a different boss, so I guess I was lucky). Ironically, I was eligible for family medical leave time, and had advised my supervisor that I was having difficulty at work, but it felt dishonest to use all my medical leave time until I really had to, so I put it off.

Whatever. I was plotting my escape, and expected to leave at the end of the year, move to another depressed working-class Michigan town where my son's family lives, buy a house and find a job there. Although my Detroit area house is not yet sold, I had chosen the new house and was approved for the loan, and was supposed to close the deal on August 26. Unemployment quashed that plan.

I have been mostly sitting and wondering at how the time flies by. I'm thinking about how many things I wish I'd done before this happened and - shame on me - instead of wishing I'd bought fewer things, wishing I'd bought more while I had the income. But I have taken a few practical steps in my few days off. I've make changes in my house listing and started some home improvement projects to (hopefully) make the sale more attractive. I've applied to begin collecting (meager) retirement benefits at the end of the year. I've applied for (even more meager) unemployment benefits which, in a worse case, scenario, would last until my retirement begins. I've advised my one de facto dependent that I can't afford to help her like I had been. And I've posted my resume and done some job seeking on line.

But I don't know what city to look for jobs in, because I'm just not ready to give up the idea of the anticipated new house. I KNOW what Suze Orman would say. It's what I would say to anyone in my position. But, despite her sound uspoken advice, I am thinking about pooling all my other assets (I received an inheritance awhile back that is just sitting, prudently, in an account) and buying the house anyway, at a ridiculously low price. The way I look at it is, if I'm going to be unemployed and flat broke, doesn't it make sense to be near the grandkids instead of Detroit?

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An open letter to the Universe:

When I said I wanted an early retirement, this is not what I meant. Detroit's unemployment rate is 23% ---- plus one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009


To quote the fat cyclist's team-mate, Levi Leipheimer:

"Check out this heart-wrenching blog, he's raised over $500K for Livestrong while his wife battles cancer. Go Elden."

No kidding. Check it out. Things are getting very difficult in the Nelson household. I am a member of Team Fat Cyclist - Fighting for Susan, in the Livestrong Philadelphia challenge. Read Elden's blog and find out why.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Happy happy happy

Today is my son's birthday. My bicentennial baby. We both felt a little unsure about this world at the beginning, but from the minute he was born, he has been a constant joy to me. On top of being smart and handsome and nice, he is a good son, a good father and, I am told, a good husband. He is, plain and simple, a good person. I could not be more proud.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


Today is the anniversary of my dad's death. One of my aunts sent this to me:

"In remembrance, from Aunt Mary Jane

As I watch, and listen to, the recollections of the miraculous landing of the space craft Apollo on the moon on July 20, 1969, I recall the memory of one who contributed to that successful landing.

"Bill" was working for "SpeedRing" on Eleven Mile in Warren MI. He wasn't one to talk much about his work, but that week-end he was talking animatedly. He had seen the successful landing, of the USA spacecraft Apollo, on the moon. The entire country watched TV, apprehensively, as the craft was landing. When it touched down, and landed safely on it's spider-like legs, Bill shouted "Yes, Yes, We did it!!".

Many of us never knew the projects or work that Bill was involved in. That day in 1969, he explained that his department at SpeedRing had been developing, for NASA, a type of "stabilizer" for those spider legs in order to guarantee that the craft would not tip over. This was critical to a "safe" landing of the space craft. [I remember my dad explaining to me that it was a gyroscope, designed to stabilize the legs if one of them landed on a rock or in a dip on the surface. He was cleared by the FBI for the project, and authorized to carry a gun in the briefcase when he traveled, even on airplanes -- what a different world that was!]

The Sunday immediately following the Moon Mission, we were together at my sister's home for a one year birthday celebration for their son Matthew.

Bill died on July 23, 1969."

I watched the moon landing in Boston. I called home and talked to my mom, who said dad was excited about how well it went. I didn't talk to him because they decided it was too expensive for me to talk to both of them, long distance, and told me I could talk to him when I called back on his birthday, July 30. Of course, I never got to make that call.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hope isn't the only thing that floats

If you are ever tempted to feel stupid, think of this: at a party I went to this past weekend, a middle aged woman got drunk, walked to the edge of a swimming pool, and stepped onto a floating table. She later said that she believed she would balance herself and float into the middle of the pool. Instead, she predictably toppled over and hit her head on the paving blocks that formed the pool’s edge. Perhaps because of some divine protection of drunks and fools, she suffered a mild concussion but recovered. When I feel down on myself I have the comfort of knowing that I have never been either that drunk, or that foolish.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It's one thing to BE a grandmother, which I love, it's an entirely different thing to FEEL like a grandmother --

Some time ago I set up accounts on Twitter and Facebook so that I could view some video I'd been sent. Then I forgot about them. But this week I got an email request from someone asking if he could be my Facebook friend -- who even knew I was so exclusive?! That led me to open up my Facebook account because gosh, now there was somebody who might actually look at my page and I should really tidy it up. When I got there, I discovered to my horror that I AM MY GRANDMOTHER and soooooo in over my head that it was unsettling. I wrote several profiles, only to lose them all, and have no idea how to add things I've seen on other (younger, cooler) pages.

And I haven't even dared look back into Twitter.

As my grandma used to say, when did the world start to spin so fast?

Add this to the list of things to master in my elusive spare time.

Monday, July 13, 2009

My glass is half full

Clearly I've been cyber-window shopping a lot lately, but what I've actually been buying is groceries -- shelf stable food to send to my daughter in New Orleans. Although she is eligible for food stamps, she simply has not been able to get to the food stamp office to apply, a fact with no logical explanation, one of those hard-to-swallow pills I have finally gulped down. After trying all my best ideas - going there myself to take her to apply, offering to pay one of her friends to take her to apply, and sending transportation money - I have resigned myself to simply sending groceries.,

She has a little microwave, but nothing else, so my staples include lots of canned fruit, tuna, ramen cups, microwave soup, and other micro-meals that don't need refrigeration. A flat-rate priority mail box of food costs about $14 to mail, plus the cost of the food, and I send about 3 boxes every two weeks.

Recently my daughter in law suggested that I try Amazon -- I never realized that they had groceries! - because they have supersaver free shipping, a huge savings for me. This week I sent, through Amazon, boxes of soup, crackers, and pudding, with just the click of my mouse. A truly modern convenience!

Sunday, July 12, 2009

cyber-window shopping

I love browsing Etsy. Some of the items that intrigue me are removable vinyl clings with little graphics and quotations that you can hang on your wall inside or out, and then remove when you are tired of looking at them. Many of the quotations are familiar ("one little monkey jumping on a bed;" "live, love, laugh") but one I'd never seen before is in a little shop by magically made --- "Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over, it became a butterfly." I also love the stamped metal jewelry by klacustomcreations, especially the one that reminds me, "the tide will turn."

Those are good reminders for me these days, when life seems too often to be spinning out of control.

Thursday, July 9, 2009


I read this line in a love poem yesterday, by Pablo Neruda, and wondered why I had never seen it before. This is an image that will stay with me.

"I want to do to you what spring does to the cherry trees."

Friday, July 3, 2009

States of mind

Since the digital conversion, I have no television and now that my DVD player has broken, I'm forced to find amusement wherever it surfaces.The other day I saw this idea on Little Black Scrap Cat and the White House; the idea is to put an 'X' next to every state you've visited, and an 'O' by states where you've lived.

I don't think so but I'd love to see the coast!
Alaska ---X- and I want to go back. The bits I saw were amazing. Words can't describe how beautiful it is, or how many amazing things there are to see. I especially want to see more tidal pools, where the anemones, sea stars and jellies are enormous and the water is clear as glass. (and I am NOT saying a word about the governor resigning! it's too pretty a place to connect with politics.)
Arizona --XXX- My family traveled the western states a few times when I was a child. I would appreciate it more now -- especially in a car with air conditioning, which we didn't have back then! I was terrified of the Grand Canyon -- there were no fences or railings, and the depth of it was dizzying
Arkansas - not that I remember. Would I remember?
California - XXX- I've been to LA, San Francisco, and Crescent City (the most northern city and the only one on the mainland that was once wiped out by a tidal wave)
Colorado -XX- I've been to Boulder a couple times, it is a homey place but I'm not sure I would have ever outgrown college if I stayed there too long
Connecticut - I would love to go to Connecticut, it's on my list. When I was an undergrad, we had a guy from Connecticut and, whenever he tried to call home collect, the operator would say, "and what state is that in?"
Delaware - Nope. Might as well add it to my Connecticut list since they're both so tiny!
District of Columbia -XXX- My family went to DC when I was in high school, my first flight! It is awfully impressive. I've been twice since. It is an amazing place, even aside from the amazing museums.
Florida -XXXXXX XXX (lost count)- Oh Sanibel! I've been a few other places, but Sanibel is where my heart is.
Georgia -X -Drove through a few times. Stopped for pecans once, and once at a diner.
Hawaii - As if. The formerly Hawaiian Farmer Files is as close as I'll probably ever get!
Idaho - I've been to Yellowstone National Park a few times, and it dips into 3 states, but I'm not sure anymore how much of the Idaho part we saw. What I DO remember is how many wild animals there were in those days. We saw 96 bears in 3 days on one trip, and 3 grizzleys tore up our neighbors camp site. Hundreds of bison and elk and other critters.
Illinois -X- Chicago, of course
Indiana -X- Drove through
Iowa -X-Drove through
Kansas -X-Drove through as a kid, don't remember a thing
Kentucky -X- I've been to the Caves and coveted the horse farms
Louisiana -XXXXXX- Oh yeah, been there and then some, and sure to go back - stayed for over two months, but I wouldn't call it 'living' there.
Maine -X-Bar Harbour whale watching trip with my sister and (then) teen-aged daughter
Maryland - not yet
Massachusetts -XOXX- I lived there for a few months right before my father died, and went back a couple times.
Michigan -XO- Lived here my entire life, although I didn't mean to. From childhood, it was my plan to travel and live a variety of places. Now that my grandchildren are here, it has a greater hold on me, though.
Minnesota -X- drove through. When I was little, my mother would pack a bag when she was frustrated with us kids, announce that she was going to Minnesota, and walk out the door until the little ones (me for a long time) were hysterical enough to convince her to stay. I was shocked when I learned YEARS later that there really was such a place!
Mississippi - nope
Missouri - Drove through as a kid, don't remember a thing (does that count?). Might have been asleep!
Montana -X- awed by the wide open spaces and by Glacier National Park. My sister and I threw snowballs in July on one of the mountain passes
Nebraska -X- drove through, mostly slept through, as a kid
Nevada -X- saw Las Vegas as as 12 year old. My sister and I had to stand on the sidewalk while our parents went into a casino because we weren't allowed inside. It was 100 degrees in the shad, but that sidewalk was about 70 degrees because of the blasting air conditioning through the open door. And there was a slot machine in the ladies room at the gas station.
New Hampshire - no
New Jersey - no
New Mexico -X- we 'discovered' some cave dwellings - they are a museum now, but were just out in the open back then. My sister and I climbed up into one of the caves and were able to see the sooted walls and markings. It seemed to me a very holy place.
New York -X- I visited my daughter there a few times, and went once with Dr. Cranky. There's a whole lot more there that I haven't seen.
North Carolina - no
North Dakota -X- my family drove through during a drought, where 4-year old children had never seen more than a dishpan of water and where the road was so hot my mom got 4 flat tires all at once.
Ohio -XXX- drove through several times, and I spent an entire day in the airforce museum in Dayton.
Oklahoma -X-Drove through as a kid, don't remember a thing.
Oregon -X-Drove the beautiful coastline, found my first sand dollars, saw my first tidal pools, spent a night in a motel right on the ocean in Yachats. Absolutely gorgeous.
Pennsylvania -X- Drove through. Nearly fell asleep many times on the legendary Pennsylvania turnpike.
Rhode Island - Another place I need to get to. So much history in those little states.
South Carolina - no
South Dakota -X- Mount Rushmore, Lewis & Clark park, the Badlands - heard wolves howling at night and saw a million prairie dogs. My (then little) sister insisted on wearing flip flops and stepped on a cactus. She still hasn't gotten over it.
Tennessee -X- drove through
Texas -X- There were frogs in the motel swimming pool in Amarillo. Chlorine does not agree with them, and the motel was not good about cleaning them out. Ugh.
Utah - X - drove through a bit of it
Vermont -X-
Virginia -X- Ah yes, one of the loves of my life lived there and I spent time at his family home.
Washington -X-
West Virginia -X-
Wisconsin -
Wyoming -X- Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, amazing places that I still vividly recall even though I was a child when I was there. The stars were amazing and we saw a million critters.

I can see that too many of my Xs barely count as 'being there,' and lots more are older than dirt. I need to get out more! Daylight's burning.

P.S Snowbird, the answer is a NERVOUS WRECK! Hahahahah.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

I found this gift from a coworker on my desk when I came in at 6:30 this morning. Okay, all you Laffy Taffy fans: what's at the bottom of the ocean and shakes?

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Some whine with that?

Weekend plans:
1. Dinner with sister
2. Play with grandchildren
3. Make gooey treats
4. Watch this week's Netlix selection, Benjamin Button
5. Relax

Actual weekend:
1. Dinner canceled
2. Grandchildren canceled
3. Lady backed into my car in market parking lot and left a big dent (her SUV was, of course, undamaged)
4. DVD player broke
6. got TWO email memos from boss asking me to revisit reports that he is not happy with

So it hasn't been my best day ever. But St. Joseph is still comfortably resting, upside down and facing the street, happy as a pig in . . . well, apparently happy enough that he isn't working too hard this weekend to sell my house!

Time to have a gin and tonic and break into a chorus of 'the sun will come out tomorrow,' since today has not been a spot of cosmic brightness! (good thing I'm not a complainer, sort of) Except for nothing going exactly right, it was a really beautiful day!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Sealing the Deal?

After being reminded in a friend's blog about the tradition of burying St. Joseph (upside down and facing the street) when one is trying to sell a home, I finally - over a year into my real estate attempt - bought a St. Joe statute and planted him. The next day, a rather sincere and even excessive offering had been deposited right on top of the burial spot by some local animal, perhaps a cat that was impressed by the newly softened earth. (I buried St. Joseph by my beautiful pink Peony plant, but the animal offering was not Peeony inspired.)

(Photo withheld for your viewing comfort.)

I am not sure what kind of omen this is, but am hoping that the good saint is now grateful to me for his upside down posture (think about it, Joe, it could have been worse!) and will act quickly on my behalf.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Feeling Human

It is never really summer until my toes come out of hiding. It amazes me sometimes, how little it takes to make me happy. A bottle of nail polish is a good start!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tick tock

I know someone who has had a lot of bad things happen, beaten up, raped, abandoned, homeless. But she lived through it and, although she is sometimes a little inflexible and holds herself back from many things, I think, for the most part, and from what I can see, that she is strong and compassionate.

I know someone else who has had a lot of bad things happen, beaten up, raped, abandoned, homeless. She was broken into a zillion pieces and, like humpty dumpty, was never put back together again. She is compassionate for the most part, but she is unbearably fragile.

What I know is that it is a very hard life for many people, and that some of them come through crisis better than others. What I don't know is, what makes the difference?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Note to self

A friend and coworker told me that she'd rather not hear about the family stuff I've been dealing with, because it makes her feel helpless and she knows there isn't anything she can do. I was amused by her comment because, really, if there were something to be done, I would simply do it rather than indulge myself in talking about it. I hope I will always remember that it is when I feel most helpless in the face of someone's problems, that I do the most good by listening.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Home is where the heart is

I am back home, near Detroit. In case you wonder how thrilled I am to be here, you might check out Peter Greenberg's new book, "Don't Go There," which includes the helpful information that Detroit is a dirty city with lots of crime. That about sums it up. Unless you are looking for really good pizza, apparently. (Buddy's, number 15 on the list, is one of my favorites.)

I already dread my next trip south. But it was so good to drive a couple of hours north to see my grandkids.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

I've spent a bit of time lately at the former St. Vincent's Infant Asylum in New Orleans. There aren't many infants here these days; the old orphanage has been converted to a guesthouse, with hostel, hotel, and rental rooms. Here I learned about Margaret Haughery, the "bread woman" of New Orleans. There is a statue of her down the road, labeled only "margaret," supposedly because she was so well known, and said to be the only statute to a bread maker. She was born in Ireland in the early 1800s, came here as a child, was orphaned at a young age, and then grew up only to lose her husband and child to yellow fever. Instead of sitting and whining about her fate, she worked where she could and eventually owned her own very popular bakery, where she gave freely to the poor and refused to distinguish between them on the basis of class or religion. Along with a nun from the Sisters of Charity, she built and set up several orphanges, including St. Vincent's, to house the many children who were given up by their parents or orphaned by frequent epidemics in that swampy area. This humble, illiterate woman, who died in 1882, gave over $600,000 to the poor in her lifetime.

But many of the people who live in and near St. Vincent's today are in need of just as much help as were the people in Margaret's day.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Where is the musak?

My life is still on hold, and I'm back in New Orleans for another indefinite trip. I am being told things labeled as "good news," but the best of it sounds grim to me. I'm still on my unscheduled blog vacation, but there are things to see here and maybe I'll amuse myself by posting the occasional picture.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Time off for improvement

This is the first time I've been on the computer in nearly 3 weeks. I've spent that time with other helpless people in a New Orleans TICU waiting room, and I have a million stories to tell when I am ready. The world is full of tragedy and courage and I was honored, if not delighted, to witness some of it. In the meantime, I'll be taking time off to deal with the complexities of life rather than write about them.

Friday, March 20, 2009


I finally had some success making English Muffins (I certainly do impress myself), and the ducks and crocuses are back in Lillian's yard -- hard to believe, but it's beginning to look like spring, sort of. That's the good news.

But here's the bad news. I read today in an associated press article by Audrey McAvoy that nearly ALL of the native birds in Hawaii are in danger of extinction, and then read in the New York Times that 1/3 of all birds in this country are endangered. Loss of habitat - we build, we burn, we spoil - and predators are a great deal of the problem -- feral sheep are blamed in Hawaii (which sounds like a very bad premise for one of those old B&W horror flicks) and house cats are the big problem in my area. There are birds everywhere now, more sparrows and less variety than there used to be, but still. It is hard for me to believe that my grandkids could actually grow up into a world without mute swans and a whole bunch of birds I've never seen and never heard of, but if we don't start to believe it, I'm afraid it could become a reality sooner rather than later.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Self (aargh) photos

I've been tagged by Little Black Scrap Cat, and, according to her, "the "rules" of this Tag are as follows: I must take a self portrait of me, of course, and post it on my blog. Not just any old portrait, but a right here, right now, as I am portrait. No leaving the room to make myself beautimous, no primping or changing clothes. Nothing. Just right here, right now."

So I apologize for the photo, but I checked the computer right after I got out of the shower! Besides, beautimous is waaay out of my league!

According to that pesky Cat, I am supposed to pass the tag along. I only know a few bloggers, and I think they are either already tagged or have already told me to forget it! Nonetheless, team player that I am, I tag Snowbird because I admire her (nice way to show it, huh?) and Sham-Lama-Mama because I like the way she thinks. Even if what she's thinking right now isn't fit to print.

Monday, March 2, 2009

A rare night to myself, and it is bitter cold outside. And I have things on my mind that call for comfort food. You know what that means -- turn on the oven! Tonight I baked a loaf of sandwich bread and some skillet cornbread. I am not a total kitchen lunatic -- I cook in one-person batches - just enough for me and lunch the next day - but baking is hard to do on a small scale. It's nuts to bake so much since I live alone, but I have plenty of people who kindly accept my care packages.

I wanted to complain about how cold it is here, and how I am suffering from this long winter, but then I read Cathy's post at Keeping it Real at 66 Degrees North Latitude -- check out their latest blizzard, and feel free to tell me to stop whining. If I ever woke up to snow deep enough to cover the windows of my house, I would not be a happy camper.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Wishful thinking

Daffodils at Trader Joe's -- spring must be around the corner!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Where's that dang dawn?

This was a long awaited and potentially momentous weekend, or so I heard from Shama-lama-mama, because of the dawning of the Age of Aquarius . . . heck, I've been waiting for that for years, so I was ready. So far, I'm sorry to say, my post-dawn life has not been filled with harmony and understanding, sympathy and trust abounding. No mystic crystal revelations to report so far. Another false alarm - guess I'll pack away my army jacket and tie dyes. Peace, dudes.

Friday, February 6, 2009

I always check out the people who comment on my blog, and so I recently read Kellsa's blog and learned something that I found funny, sad and frightening, all rolled into one: PETA tried to run a "veggie love" ad on Superbowl Sunday but it was rejected by the network, which found the ad too erotic (oh those veggies!). Sick puppy that I am, I thought it was pretty funny. But be warned if you watch it - it is followed on the website by a far more serious, graphic display of where our food comes from and why one might not want to eat meat.

And, controversial as PETA is, it has a point. Even if you are a confirmed meat eater, you would be disturbed by the brutal treatment of the animals that provide our food. It is the reason that some hunters prefer to hunt their own food. They know the animals they eat have at least had the chance to live like they should before they die. Which is, the argument goes, as much as any of us can ask for.

So here's my environmental rant. Besides the cruelty that is involved in factory farming, producing grain fed meat is inefficient. Animals are fed corn because it is the cheapest and fastest way to make them fat for our dinner plates. The huge quantities of grain used to feed the animals that are slaughtered for our eating enjoyment could feed us instead with far less harm to the environment. More than 40% of the world's grain production is fed to livestock - and what that boils down to is that people are starving in other countries so that I can have a steak. According to Professor David Pimentel, from Cornell University's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, as reported by Cornell's Science Daily, "If all the grain currently fed to livestock in the United States were consumed directly by people, the number of people who could be fed would be nearly 800 million."

Meat requires more fossil fuel to raise, too. It's estimated that it takes 284 gallons of oil, much of it in the form of chemical fertilizer, to raise a single steer. Isn't that outrageous! Professor Pimentel explains that "chicken meat production consumes energy in a 4:1 ratio to protein output; beef cattle production requires an energy input to protein output ratio of 54:1. Lamb meat production is nearly as inefficient at 50:1, according to the ecologist's analysis of U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Other ratios range from 13:1 for turkey meat and 14:1 for milk protein to 17:1 for pork and 26:1 for eggs."

And the amount of fresh water that goes into our meat production is staggering. It takes 600,000 gallons of water to grow 200 bushels of corn - which is not enough to make much meat. In fact, a 1000 pound steer gets that way by eating 8 to 14 pounds of sileage (mostly plant fiber) or 8.4 pounds of grain for every pound it weighs, and a whole lot of that 1000 pound steer includes the parts that we don't use for food.

And it gets worse -- even if we can afford to pay the significant cost of grass fed beef, they are slaughtered in the same, unspeakable conditions as feed lot cattle. On top of that, wild animal lovers, in supporting grass fed beef, we are also supporting the federal Wildlife Service in killing 1.5 million wild animals a year so that ranchers can pasture their cattle on public land.

And oh yeah, there's also the manure . . .

I have a sign on my bulletin board at work that says, "What are you pretending not to know?" One of the things I am still pretending is that I don't know where my food comes from. The fact is - even though I ate a big, penitential plateful of kale for dinner when I started to think about this post, I had chicken fajitas tonight. -- I am the queen of denial when it comes to my appetite.

But take heart - like so much that is wrong with the world, we can make a genuine difference with small sacrifices. The Buddah said, or is said to have said, that there are only two mistakes one can make along the road to truth; not going all the way, and not starting. I read on the web that if we all just gave up one meat meal a week, it would have the same effect on greenhouse gas as if we all drove hybrids That small change does not address many of the problems of meat production, but would be a start.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Not only the road has ruts

I am still baking, my daughter called for (more) money, and it is still cold. So far, this 'new' year hasn't brought much that's new!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The pattern of my life

English muffins, ciabatta, focaccia, soft pretzels, croissants . . . and snow.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

More whine with that?

After a lovely visit with my northern family (where I was snowed in overnight), I drove home on very slick roads. Almost every half-mile there was a car freshly spun off into the snowy oblivion, lights on and engines running. The drive was a little tense and it was good to get finally home --

But when I arrived, I couldn't get into my driveway -- it took 40 minutes just to shovel an entry and enough of a spot for my car to pull in. At least a billion (if not zillion) inches of snow, I'm certain. Sure, I know that it snows in Michigan, and that I have become sissified by my aching back and creeping age, so I had the foresight to hire a snow guy -- who knew that he would be in jail on a child support warrant during every major snow storm so far this winter?

A gypsy in new orleans told me that I don't rely on anyone for anything, in contrast to my daughter, for instance, who sends frequent "mommy help" messages (and like the pavlov dog that I am, of course I generally respond). I always thought I was pretty self sufficient, it's true, so it doesn't happen often, but today in the driveway I would have been glad to have someone like me to send an s.o.s message to. But I do realize that this is a minor problem, and that after a sore back and a little self pity, I will be fine again.

Some very self sufficient people - not pretend ones like me - are having real problems this winter, not sorry little inconveniences like mine. In Alaska, where temperatures which are generally very cold, have been unusually and horribly cold, native people who live in small fishing villages are suffering this winter, forced to ration food so that they can have enough heat to survive. A number of Alaska bloggers have been trying to bring attention to their plight, which is so far being effectively ignored by their state government, and to raise funds for food and heating oil.

That's the kind of news that generally slaps some sense into me. So I'll toughen up and shovel a path for my functional car on my suburban driveway leading to my 2 1/2 car garage next to my warm and food-filled home . . . but I can't promise to stop whining about it. And I think I might be on the verge of figuring out why I never moved to Alaska, despite its incredible beauty. The village folk who survive on so little, and who work so hard for that survival, have my deepest respect. I think that this will be a sad and diminished world if we can't provide the occasional helping hand so that their traditional ways can continue.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Rare and terrible weather

It is 11 degrees below zero in Detroit this morning. That is the actual temperature, not the wind chill. I know it is sissy weather compared to what they get in Alaska (where they are also having an extreme winter), but it is not the normal pattern here in the midwest. There has been snow and freezing weather in New Orleans. The sky is falling.

I do not know if all of our weather changes are man-made, but I am certain that we have not helped the matter with our pollution and lack of care.

We are expecting a lot from the new administration's environmental policy. I hope we are not disappointed.

Monday, January 12, 2009

We have a Winner!

Yes, Snowbird (and Jennifer!), my sister and I had brunch at the famous Court of Two Sisters in New Orleans. My sister announced to everyone who spoke to us that we were eating at the Court of Two Sisters because we were two sisters. As is typical of the two of us, my sister ate only the roast turkey, roast beef, and mashed potatoes. I had sworn I would try the boiled crawfish but there were none - the cab driver who brought us from the airport said they are not always in season. So I tried the shrimp (do all gulf shrimp have such thin shells and are they always served with all their little legs still on? -- but the remoulade served with them was fabulous), the sweet potato and andouille sausage, the crawfish louise, the crawfish and spinach pasta, and the duck a la' orange. As is also typical, my sister and I both had bananas foster and ice cream with praline caramel sauce, but only I tried the whiskey bread pudding.

I really had a good time. My sister and my daughter bring out the silliness in one another, and we did some very silly things as a result. But it was a lot of fun. There is no place quite like New Orleans, and that is just as true after the storm as it was before.

So congratulations Snowbird, you are my winner! If you will email me your box number, I'll send out your tacky New Orleans souvenir!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Contest Clue #3 - you can get this, really!

C'mon bloggy friends, this is not that hard. As Snowbird correctly guessed in my last post, I just got back from the Big Easy, New Orleans, NOLA. It is the place where my son and his wife lived early in their marriage, where my grandson was born, and where my daughter lives today.

I only have one sister. She and I ate outdoors at a place in New Orleans, in the French Quarter, that was (as my sister kept telling them) named for sisters like us --

Last call -- can anyone guess the name of the place where we ate? I have a NOLA souvenier just waiting to be sent to the first person who can name that restaurant!

Contest Clue #2 - where did my sister and I eat?

As Jennifer commented on yesterday's post, it's important to know what city we were in. I had a really good time, even though I had not really expected to have a good time -- other than the visit with my daughter -- because we stayed in the ultimate party section of a famous party town. And, as long as you don't stray from this quarter, the city seems to be well recovered.