Friday, October 31, 2003

#61 Body attachment and grandma attachment

I was a little surprised to see a photo of Carle Hospital and Clinic in the Wall Street Journal yesterday. I had two babies there in the 1960s. It certainly has grown. The story as reported in the usually business-friendly Wall Street sounds a bit Dickensonian. People with hospital debt are going to jail. The story isn’t at opinion but there are two stories at the News-Gazette. Apparently it is called “body attachment.” Big corporations like Sears and Ford have never used this to collect debts, but hospitals do.

* * *

Today it was reported in WSJ that Harvard University researchers found a 55% greater risk of heart disease among grandmothers who care for their grandchildren than those who don’t. 36.3% of U.S. grandparents provide intermediate or extensive care for their grandchildren. One theory about the stress is that there are other events in the lives of their adult children, such as divorce or substance abuse, that causes the parents to have to help out, thus causing a lot of stress. And those of us with no grandchildren have a 47.95% greater risk of a broken heart. (I made that up.)

#60 Halloween dangers

Today is Halloween. Last night was Beggar's Night, but because there are no children in our "NORC," no one came by for treats or tricks. Although parents are warned to watch for dangerous things in the bags, the American Society for Surgery of the Hand estimates hand doctors see about 5-10 patients with severe hand injuries from pumpkin carving each Halloween.

A NORC, by the way, is a "naturally occuring retirement community."

#59 I’m married to Mr. Neat

It takes a lot to get me to change brands. I like Tropicana, Grovestand, high pulp, with calcium orange juice. However, at Meijer’s this week I saw a new brand, Simply Orange, and none of kind I wanted. It also had a very attractive carafe. Nice, easy to hold neck, wide mouth, easy twist cap. So I put it in the grocery cart. I was hoping it had a decent taste, but I was really after that carafe.

This morning I opened the frig and reached for the orange juice only to discover my husband had finished it up. Usually he leaves an empty can or carton in the sink. But no, this time he took my carafe to the trash can! I retrieved it. And by the way, it is good orange juice.

Thursday, October 30, 2003

#58 Ginko stinko

Just got back from the Ag Library. Three ginkgo trees along the walk to the door. They are beautiful this time of year. Brilliant yellow. But boy do they stink. Sort of like vomit mixed with decaying body parts. Only the female ginkgo does this. So plant males if you want pretty trees without the odor.

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

#57 Chicago Wilderness Magazine

I suppose by this time I should never be surprised by a journal, but I am. I picked up this issue at a library sale. Says there are about 200,000 acres of protected natural lands, 143 public and private organizations managing the ecosystems of the Chicago region.

Nice review about prayer and wilderness.

The Summer 2002 issue had an article about a woman who sells seeds on e-bay and spotted someone trying to sell an exotic weed that is devastating wetlands across the midwest. After the seller became less than pleasant when e-mailed about her illegal activity, the seed lady blew the whistle to the USDA and e-bay changed its policy on the sale of plants and weeds.

#56 Why do cats love to watch people in the bathroom?

Why do cats love to watch people in the bathroom? Not just the obvious stuff, but want to hang around even when the hair dryer is running and that's got to hurt little feline ears. Want to be with you, want to touch your arm when you're applying mascara. Why, when you close the door, do they slip their little paws under it? Do dogs do that? Or do they just whine and bark and chew up the rug until you come out?

So I asked google, and found one essay about cats and bathrooms that wasn’t euphemistically referring to litter boxes. It appears to be part of a very clever, well written blog, although the writer may not call it that, called The Grub Report. The main page looks like a diner menu and is divided into a la carte, blue plate special, etc. and the prices on the right hand side reflect the date, like $9.25.03. She has a great entry called “Yeah, I’m and English major--wanna make something’ of it?" Anyone who wants to have a reason to major in English should read it.

And her recipes aren’t bad either.
#55 About that dress

The formal mentioned in blog #54 has turned up in an essay, a poem and a blog. It truly has stood the test of time. Made of heavy white textured satin. Huge red bow. Simple lines. I decided to have it dry cleaned about 45 years too late, and wrote a poem about my thoughts while getting it ready (had to remove the bow). I wrote this about a year after Mom died and was missing her. It is supposed to format in the shape of a Christmas tree, but I'm not sure how it will work in an Arial font.

an Old Christmas
Formal for Dry Cleaning

I wish I had hot coffee.
I wish I were more nimble.
I wish I had done this sooner.
I wish the light was brighter here.
I wish I hadn’t broken my fingernail.
I wish the needle eye weren’t so small.
I wish the stitches weren’t so tiny and tight.
I wish I asked why Mom knew the Charleston.
I wish the scissors were sharper and more pointy.
I wish I’d been more grateful for her time and effort.
I wish I’d done this ten years ago before my tri-focals.
I wish I remembered what we talked about during fittings.
I wish dry cleaners did formal dresses with big scarlet bows.
I wish I knew if she thought the dress would last for fifty years.
I wish I’d paid more attention when she tried to tell me about life.
I wish I knew what she thought of while she sewed the dress together.
I wish I were willing to create formals knowing I would not be dancing.

January 16

Tuesday, October 28, 2003


How to find a roommate who doesn’t speak Spanish

My first visit to the University of Illinois was to attend an ROTC dance with my high school boyfriend, who was an engineering student there. I doubt that he noticed, but I wore the same formal I had worn to the Christmas dance when we were junior and senior in high school. Neither of us knew how to dance, as I recall.

I stayed at the sorority house of a high school friend for the week-end. I think she and her housemates were the first to tell me about the dorm where I would live when I transferred to Illinois. They had lived there before pledging. My relationship with the boyfriend ended before I got to school in the fall of 1958, but I thoroughly enjoyed my years at McKinley Hall.

McKinley Hall was a conveniently located, independent (not Greek, not owned by the university) women’s dorm on Wright Street, one of the main streets through that campus on the Champaign side. It was owned by the YWCA and was named for Hannah McKinley, mother of an Illinois politician and businessman, William Brown McKinley. It was built in 1913 and counting the walk-out basement, had four floors. Our dining room was in the basement, the main floor was the offices for the Y, a lounge with comfortable furniture and a fireplace, a sun porch, and a large activity room where we had our house activities like parties and dances. The girls’ rooms were on the second and third floors.

McKinley Hall was a block from Green Street where the bookstores, restaurants, and pharmacies bustled. It was across from Altgeld Hall, which many years before had been the law school and former library and from which the chimes were rung every quarter hour. Also on the same side of the street were the offices of the Daily Illini.

Mrs. Stone, the housemother, arranged for me to have a roommate from South America when I told her on my interview I had studied Spanish. Dora was born in China and raised in Brazil, so she spoke Shanghainese, as I recall, and Portuguese. However, it was a great match and our years together provide precious memories. Today she is a successful artist in Boston and a new grandmother. I have a whole scrapbook of her Christmas cards collected over the last 40 years. I haven’t seen her since 1989, but when I do, it will be like she just walked down the hall for a few minutes.
#53 Citing your sources without misleading your readers

I've been doing some research on hyperinsulinemia, the over production of insulin in obese, non-diabetic people. Obesity is a topic that seems to appear in every magazine and newspaper. I think the media attention is building up to a demand from various anti-consumerism and pro-health fad groups to have government step in.

I came across this interesting item in a "Festschrift" printed in Obesity Research this year:

"Several reports suggest that the increase in obesity has actually been occurring for 100 years or more and may not be accelerating at all. Helmchen (4) studied data from U.S. veterans 50 to 59 years of age who were examined in 1905 and 1909 and found that the veterans were more than three times as likely to be obese than their counterparts examined 25 years earlier, an annual average increase of 4.5% in obesity rate. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys conducted from the 1970s to the 1990s showed an annual increase in obesity rates of roughly 4%. Helmchen concluded that obesity was increasing at least as rapidly at the beginning as it was at the end of the 20th century. Similar conclusions were reached by other investigators [e.g., Okasha et al. (5) ]. Environmental factors, such as industrialization, central heating, vaccinations, reductions in infectious diseases, increased availability of food, and changing attitudes, all of which may have both near-term and trans-generational (perhaps epigenetic) effects, should be considered as causes for the increase in obesity." in Douglas C. Heimburger, et al. A Festschrift for Roland L. Weinsier: Nutrition Scientist, Educator, and Clinician Obes Res 2003 11: 1246-1262.

(4)Helmchen, LA. (2001) Can Structural Change Explain the Rise in Obesity? A look at the Past 100 Years. Social Science Research Computing, University of Chicago, Chicago. Accessed September 12, 2003.

(5)Okasha, M, McCarron, P, Smith, GD, Gunnell, D. (2003) Trends in body mass index from 1948 to 1968: results from the Glasgow Alumni Cohort. Int J Obes Relat Metab Disord 27,638-640 [Medline]

The interesting thing about footnote 4 is that you can't find it. Notice, the URL is a proxy, or login from Ohio State. [None of the authors are from Ohio State.] If I'm already signed in, I can access this article, but no one else can. If you google "Helmchen structural change" you' find a pdf document, with no source except the author's name. The footnote says it was last checked on Sept. 13, 2003 for an article in the October 2003 issue of a research journal. Interesting that accessibility was checked but not scholarship.

After a lot of web surfing, I found all dead links to "Social Science Research Computing" at the University of Chicago. It has either been disbanded, or moved to another university. Lorens Helmchen is or was a graduate student in 2001 when this paper was written.

This is a very interesting paper to read (after I found it).** So are the other projects Helmchen has worked on (like Civil War pension records and some other health related research). There is no indication on the paper's title page that it was published by any department within the University of Chicago.

Helmchen is not at fault here--Heimburger, the lead author of the Obesity Research article is, as is the editor of that journal, Barbara E. Corkey. When citing a source from the internet, I think it is still important to note that it is unpublished just as we did in the pre-net days so that the reader isn't misled into thinking it has been through peer review.

**I contacted Mr. Helmchen about the problem of his paper being in an unidentifiable series, and he immediately got that corrected--but when I first linked to the paper this information wasn't available. Citation counts are very important in promotion and tenure!
#52 A no swear zone?

I was getting my final refill of decaf at Panera’s before leaving for home. I had already finished the USAToday and the Wall Street Journal, and would have read the Columbus Dispatch, if nothing else were available. He was getting his first morning cup of coffee. So we were sort of jockeying for the right carafe and cream canister. [You receive your cup after paying, but pour your own]. He was wearing a stunning dark navy suit accessorized with a handsome expensive tie.

“Do you have a performance today?” I asked.

“Yes, a kiddie concert,” he sighed with a clear heave of disgust.

“Where is that?” I asked.

At the Palace. And it is a pain in the rear,” he grumbled.

“Why is that?”

“Parking. Just a hassle,” and he walked to his table to join the guys, a dentist, a handyman and a salesman.

Now where in this conversation, accurately recorded here, was the clue not to swear or cuss in my presence? Was it my elegant use of English with a slight Midwestern twang? My handsome $3.00 Wal-Mart slacks? My gray hair (roots)? Or maybe he recognized a fellow trombone player. Or was it just his own good manners and training?

Monday, October 27, 2003

51 Sounds vaguely familiar

I noticed this abstract (free) in the PNAS 100 (19):11163-1170 Sept. 5, 2003 (there is a charge for the on-line article). Sounds like the difference between the thinking of men and women, doesn’t it? Although as more women subscribe to male values of the work place, our differences in thinking, social relationships and preferences for the built environment are diminishing. Even so, I’m thinking if the house is burning down, we (the women) will still grab the photo albums while our husbands are moving the car to a safe distance.

Culture and point of view
Richard E. Nisbett * and Takahiko Masuda

*Department of Psychology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI 48109; and Department of Behavioral Science, Graduate School of Letters, Hokkaido University,
N 10 W 7 Kita-ku, Sapporo, Hokkaido 060-0810, Japan
Contributed by Richard E. Nisbett, July 21, 2003

East Asians and Westerners perceive the world and think about it in very different ways. Westerners are inclined to attend to some focal object, analyzing its attributes and categorizing it in an effort to find out what rules govern its behavior. Rules used include formal logic. Causal attributions tend to focus exclusively on the object and are therefore often mistaken.

East Asians are more likely to attend to a broad perceptual and conceptual field, noticing relationships and changes and grouping objects based on family resemblance rather than category membership. Causal attributions emphasize the context. Social factors are likely to be important in directing attention. East Asians live in complex social networks with prescribed role relations. Attention to context is important to effective functioning. More independent

Westerners live in less constraining social worlds and have the luxury of attending to the object and their goals with respect to it. The physical "affordances" of the environment may also influence perception. The built environments of the East are more complex and contain more objects than do those of the West. In addition, artistic products of the East emphasize the field and deemphasize individual objects, including people. Western art renders less of the field and emphasizes individual objects and people.

Saturday, October 25, 2003

#50 Today is the 13th “Make a Difference Day”

“Make A Difference Day is the most encompassing national day of helping others -- a celebration of neighbors helping neighbors. Everyone can participate. Created by USA WEEKEND Magazine, Make A Difference Day is an annual event that takes place on the fourth Saturday of every October.” This year it is Saturday, October 25, 2003. There is a lot of hoop-la and special grants. You can nominate special volunteers, if you wish.

I won’t send in their names because it would probably embarrass them, but I can tell you that my friends Mary Jo and Sue are two people who make a difference all year long. They couldn’t be more different from each other. They are on opposite ends of the introvert/extrovert scale and one was raised a Baptist, the other a Catholic. Both are now Lutherans.

I have spent hundreds of hours with Sue because for five or six years we were in a group together that met weekly. But I hardly know her because she is a very private person. I know she has lived many places including Iran, has a southern accent, an adult daughter and two grandchildren and at one time had a career. I know “about” her, but not her. God has given her the gift of service. And she is mighty in his service. If she were so inclined, she could offer seminars on how to move to a new community and immediately make yourself useful and find friends while doing it.

Mary Jo I’ve known much longer--maybe since the 70s, but have spent less time with her. As she describes herself, “I don’t know what I think until I say it.” So I know much more about her inner life, her joys and sorrows, her family, her widowhood, and the children she loves to teach in her daily life. God has given her the gift of prayer. And she is mighty pleading at the throne of God. She actually does lead a seminar--well, she wouldn’t call it that--but we gather on Saturdays to learn and pray together and to watch and marvel at how this woman teaches and reaches, and yes, preaches the Word of God.

Making a difference, one day at a time.

Friday, October 24, 2003

#49 That Depends
Peace of mind, control guard, extra barriers, tape, wrap ups, briefs, tabs, panels, color coded, containment zones, reduces leaks, and finally, superior protection strategically placed. Does Attorney General John Ashcroft know about this?

In Ohio, I think the Bureau of Motor Vehicles is allowed to sell mailing addresses along with personal information, such as birth date. How else did a “home care product” company get our address? If it wasn’t purchased from BMV, then it was from some other firm that knows we have a Golden Buckeye Card (probably a computer harvests the names and addresses and resells them when used at a store).

This brochure offered a whole thesaurus of products including Depend, Prevail, Attend, Wings, Poise, Presence, Serenity, Surety, Tranquility, ATN (all through the night), Per-Fit, Nu-Fit, and in case something slipped through the containment zone, it discreetly suggests Dignity, an odor eliminator spray.

This company specializes in discreet home delivery of incontinent supplies, “right to your door.” I had no idea that there was such a huge variety of products, in a wide assortment of sizes and styles. In fact, I’d never heard of these products until June Allyson, who danced through the movies of our teen-age years and huskily played the wives of those famous men, was hawking them on TV. If she really did have an incontinent mother, I’m sure Mom was thrilled to have it announced on national television. Maybe she was a stage mother and it was pay back time.

Thursday, October 23, 2003

#48 Growing up healthy in the 1950s
In Spanish class last night we were talking about the way they used to line us up at school for vaccinations. Then this morning I read that about 1/4 of American children do not receive their proper immunizations at the right time, and a web site is being developed to remind them. This got me thinking about growing up healthy.

When I was a child I was vaccinated for small pox, polio (when it became available) and diphtheria. I had chicken pox, measles, mumps, whooping cough, pneumonia, scarlet fever, and multiple incidents of tonsillitis until my tonsils were removed.

I played outdoors with my friends whenever weather permitted. I had no allergies. I never had a broken bone, or even a sprain. I didn’t inhale second hand smoke (after 1949 when Dad quit) or suffer any animal bites. I was never in an automobile accident, not even a fender bender. I never had an accidental poisoning, food poisoning, a bee or wasp sting, or poison ivy.

I never had an ear ache or cold sore. I didn’t have an eating disorder (we’d never heard of them until the 1960s). Some of my fillings are older than my dentist who is 50 years old, but I still have all my permanent teeth, even my wisdom teeth. I didn’t wear glasses or a hearing aid.

My parents didn’t own a television until I was in college. No one brought guns or knives to school in our little town, although we did have bullies in the 1940s and 1950s. As a teen-ager, I didn’t drink and didn’t smoke and neither did my friends. Drugs were something we thought were used only by poor people who had no future. I was never assaulted by a boy. I never knew a person who committed suicide until I was in my 30s.

Serious mishaps were missed by an inch. I almost drowned in 1948 because I didn’t know how to swim and slipped off a raft when no adults were around. I was shot in the face with a BB gun by my brother when I was 7. My horse fell on me when I was 12.

I didn’t know I had a learning disability until after I had a master’s degree. I never took the SAT, ACT or the GRE, which is good because I‘m a terrible test taker. I didn’t find out until I was 57 that my heart’s electrical system had been misfiring my entire life and that I could have had a stroke or died without warning.

If there is an angel of good health, we’ve been walking arm in arm and I hope he sticks around.

#47 Flyboys, the book

I read a review of this book in USAToday this morning. (Another review here) Was puzzled by one quote from the author. "Few realize the U.S. killed more Japanese civilians than soldiers and sailors." He should have added: "It has always been thus in war." Chapter 20 of "A War to be Won" by Williamson Murray and Allan R. Millett, states: "World War II was the most undiscriminating destroyer of peoples and resources in modern history. . . this much is known: WWII killed at least twice as many innocents as soldiers, of whom at least 21 million died. The Axis states lost more than 3 million civilians, and the Allies at least 35 million, more than 28 million of whom were Russians and Chinese."

The only bigger loss of life than civilians in war time comes from death by government design and decree (democide), as in Nazi Germany, Communist China, Soviet Union, and countries like Uganda, Rwanda, Iraq and North Korea. Megadeath site

"The general theme of James Bradley's FLYBOYS centers on nine American Navy pilots and crewmen who were shot down in action over Chichi Jima while trying to destroy the Japanese communication station that fed information to its forces throughout Asia. Eight of these men were captured [and killed]. One was rescued by a nearby submarine and eventually became President of the United States."

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

#46 Index

I have indexed my blogs to date, and if it is convenient, I’ll keep updating this as a blog entry. Food themes seem to be taking over. The only reason “family” outnumbers “food” is that I double count, and I’m usually eating with family.

Index to themes, topics, passing thoughts, and ideas

Academe, libraries #38, #29, #26, #10, #54
Art and artists #54
blogging #1, #32, #46, #56
books and journals #2, #29, #31, #47, #53, #51, #57
condo living #40, 42
culture #41, #31
economy, finances #43, #33, #13, #7, #61
faith and values #37, #31, #30, #14, #32, #46, #50, #63, #62
family #39, #36, #34, #28, #24, #21, #6, #4, #2, #55,#59
fashion #21, #55
food, recipes, eating out #42, #36, #35, #25, #11, #10, #3, #8, #56, #59
friends #21, #10, #9, #50, #54
genealogy #20, #44, #19, #24
health #39, #36, #25, #23, #48, #53, #61, #60
Illinois #44, #54, #63
Internet, Usenet, computers #37, #33, #32, #26, #62
nature #42, #31, #58, #57
observations, misc. #15, #12, #5, #49, #52, #49
Ohio #40, #20
pets #39, #27, #56
poetry #44, #22, #14, #55, #63
politics #43, #9
science #29, #16, #2
women #44, #20, #23, #63
writing #62, #19
#45 Pay it forward, you may need it

We’re in a Gospel of John class on Monday evening taught by Dave and Pam Mann. They are a terrific teaching team, and it is impossible to get bored or even stray off track. They are of the see it, say it, hear it, do it school of educators. This is particularly good for older learners (i.e. anyone over 25) because we become like children with learning disabilities as we age.

Each member of the class got a notebook with reproduced pages of John (NIV), a list of assignments, yellow flash cards for memory verses, and blue cards for “snapshot” visual cues for all the chapters, a set of color markers for high-lighting major themes like “believe,” “glory,” “Father,” “world,” etc., a list of who, what, when, where questions to be answered for each significant section of each chapter and a CD with a dramatization of John. I have found the markers helpful; my husband hates them and won’t use them. I can’t memorize; he can. So there is something for every one. I’m not an aural learner at all, but after 4 or 5 times, I start to hear things I missed.

When Dave lectures, Pam writes the important points on white poster paper and attaches it to the wall. These points are kept on the wall from week to week. When Pam lectures, Dave just watches, because I think he isn’t sure what she might say or what joke she will tell.

This week she commented on something I’d never thought about. We’ve all heard and used the expression “doubting Thomas,” because Thomas was the disciple who had to be convinced of the resurrection by touching Jesus’ hand and side (John 20:25). Pam pointed out that in 11:16 Thomas was the disciple willing to die for Jesus when there was a plot to stone him (the raising of Lazarus story).

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

#44 Susanna looked East [poem]

My newly married great-grandparents, David and Susanna of Pennsylvania, settled in Lee County, Illinois in 1855 where he had purchased acreage a few years earlier. He had abandoned a trip to the California gold fields in 1849 to choose the dark riches of the Illinois soil.

Over 115 years later, his granddaughter, my mother, restored her family farm home as a religious retreat center for the Brethren. My own family would go there in the summers of 1970-1983 for our vacations. I can almost feel the hot sun and wind while keeping an eye on my children. The view in this poem is to the west, but Susanna, whose home was a few miles from this place, turns around to look east.

+ + + +

When Susanna looked East.

Remembering the mountains back East
the Illinois pioneers rejoiced in the Lord.
Now soybean velvet rows green and black,
converge in the distance at the Daysville Road Farm.

The black earth is rich, flat and fertile
and the azure sky seems to go on forever.
We love this view with the angry clouds
roaring white on blue like waves on a distant sea.

I swat at flies that buzz around us
while toddlers cling to my knees and tug at my skirt,
and think about how brave they were then
to leave family and all that they knew to go West.

The wind whistles through the tall pine trees,
and we pause to dig our toes in the dusty lane.
Did she, holding a baby, turn East
with longing eyes, teary for loved ones left behind?
#43 Vivica A. Fox

Vivica Fox was on the Fox TV morning investment show the other day. She wanted advice--didn’t like her investment adviser. Said she was conservative.

Although my supplemental account through TIAA-CREF is performing much better than it was in 2000, the overall amount still hasn’t recovered. The gain/loss in 3d quarter 2000 was a negative $1,339.25 and the gain/loss in 3d quarter 2002 was $2,858.17. Remember, Bush wasn't in office in 2000. He inherited a faltering economy.

However, our private retirement account which is managed by an investment counselor and isn‘t invested in any mutual funds, had returned to its 2000 high after 1st quarter of this year, and in the 2nd quarter had terrific growth, exceeding its former high.

So why do the Democratic candidates keep beating the “economic recovery” drum? Since mid-2002, the Standard & Poor has risen continuously, and it had declined all of 2000! Before Bush was in office.

1.186 million new jobs were created last year. Manufacturing jobs that have been lost will probably never come back, just like agriculture years ago. But high tech investment is at record levels--above the bubble years.

I got a $15 a month tax refund from the government, and a $42 a month cost of living increase from STRS. You can rant all you want about Bush, call him crazy for that tax cut and other economic fiddling to restore the economy, but I can keep coloring my hair.
#42 Indian Summer

Can we still say “Indian Summer?” That glorious warm, blue sky breather between the first frost and the last leaf slowly dropping before the snow flies. Nothing ethnic is safe these days, but I’m not sure a new term has been invented for these lovely days.

Last night we had dinner on the deck. It’s a lovely place to eat because we are in the trees. High up. Our front door is at ground level, but the back door to the deck is one story up, sheltered by some graceful trees. It overlooks a wonderful vista of yard, ravine and creek, and this time of year we can again see our neighbors on the other side of the creek ravine who are hidden from us during the summer with thick layers of leaves.

We had chicken cordon bleu (boneless chicken breast filled with thin ham slices and Swiss cheese) and a heaping salad of field greens with tomatoes, mushrooms, olives and celery. This recipe looks similar .

My secret is to order this as a sandwich at our favorite restaurant, Old Bag of Nails. At the same time, I order a “doggie bag” which is really a box. When it arrives, it is about 7” tall and deep fried. Then I begin to carefully dismantle it. I scoop off the bun, then the tomato, onion and lettuce. I cut it in half--difficult because of its huge size--this step must be done with care--and place half in the box. Then I cut the other half into halves. Usually I can only eat 1/4 of the sandwich, so I want to be prepared to move more into the box if necessary.

The next day we enjoy our night out again, but at home, with two more normal size servings. Americans are being “biggie sized” to death (or at least poor health) by their restaurant portions, but there are sensible ways to eat out. And cheap ways to eat in.

Monday, October 20, 2003

#41 A week with TV is a week. . .?

Because I’ve been laid low with a cold, I’ve been catching up with daytime TV to pass the time. Dr. Phil is doing his own Monday reality show on weight loss. He had about 12 people living together in a mansion and agreeing to lose weight in front of America.

Today he did step 3--no fail environment, or removing temptation. One lady poured about a gallon (not exaggerating) of caramel syrup in the toilet. People were throwing out huge bags of snack foods--Doritos, pork rinds, King Dongs. One lady even had her son clean out his large “snack drawer,” stuffed with his favorite snack items. Even food scented candles had to go.

A nutritionist accompanied the participants to the supermarket to show them how to shop. Her information was so basic, it was difficult to imagine that these people hadn’t heard or read all this before. At least several appeared to be in upper income families--at least the out sized clothes they were dumping (Dr. Phil’s advice) were extremely nice and the kitchens they were purging were to die for.

His other reality show which runs on Thursday is about a family coping with the pregnancy of their 15 year old. Mother, father, daughter and younger sister are on camera. This week, the mother-to-be is going to start interviewing couples interested in adopting. Up to this point, she has been planning to keep the baby without looking into other options.

The most fun is the HGTV, home and garden channel and Discovery “makeover” shows. I learned how to spend only $2,200 redecorating my dining room to make it look almost like $72,000 model. I can spray paint old bread pans, fill with rice, poke in some candles and have a lovely Christmas center piece. Shiny metal window wells can be installed as interior valances over windows. And for only $50,000, I can make my kitchen much more efficient and workable.

Actually, the soaps look much the same. I caught Erica on “All My Children” and realized she looks about the same as when I watched her back in 1968. And was that Bo Buchanan getting married again, or just walking someone down the aisle?

I opened one eye, reached for a Kleenex and clicked forward to the International Channel. The story seemed familiar. It was awhile before I realized the soap was in Korean.

Sunday, October 19, 2003

#40 Let there be light

Once upon a time, about 34 years, we lived in a lovely two story colonial in a beautiful tree line suburban neighborhood. We had looked on and off at other possibilities for about 10 years, but nothing really caught our attention. Quite by accident we bought a condo here--I’d noticed the ad in the paper when another appointment fell through. We fell in love with the lot--huge trees, a creek, and magnificent view--with a unit on three floors instead of the one floor plan we were seeking.

Almost every week, we tell each other something we like about this place. My husband, being an architect, continues to find little nuances he enjoys that we missed the first year. We marvel that we haven’t missed our house where we had so many happy times and raised our family even one minute.

There was just one thing, however, we both disliked: the lack of light in a structure where you share walls with your neighbors. In our former home, we had two to three large windows in every room. Now we have windows on the north or south, one to a room, except the living room, master bedroom and family room have double size windows, and my office has the only west window.

The entry was particularly dark. Even after we painted the brown living room, orange dining room and red family room lighter, fresher colors, and removed hundreds of yards of heavy draperies, it still felt dark to us. So we purchased, rather invested in, a new front door. It has a “half light” with a glass arts and crafts design. The design gives more privacy than you might think, but allow the southwest light to stream in.

We needed all new trim inside and out, new threshold, new matching hardware for our other three exterior doors and professional installation. This is why I call it an “investment.” Definitely not cheap. But I love it. Not only is the entry area lighter, but it casts light into the living room. It directs light up the stairs to the third level, and down the stairs to the first level.

Central Ohio is cloudy or partly cloudy 293 days of the year; we need to take advantage of any sun we can get.

#39 Canine cardiology

I just bought a birthday card for my son-in-law. It's as cute as he is. I don't have grandchildren, but I do have a "grand puppy," an 18 year old Chihuahua with a bad heart, mild dementia, and almost no teeth. She is happy in her limited dog-life and my daughter is willing to pay the high drug bills to keep her alive as long as she is not suffering.

Anyway, the card has a photo of a Chihuahua sitting atop a 3 tier chocolate birthday cake, on a table with white linen and china, under a chandelier. Front text: "Birthdays are like life. Just when you think it's a piece of cake. . . " and the inside says, ". . .some little mutt sits in your frosting Happy Birthday." A lot of truth in that card.

When Tita was much younger, and not expected to live because she had a bad heart valve, I asked the heart specialist, Dr. Robert Hamlin, at the OSU veterinary college where I worked if he would take a look at her. Bob is a terrific guy who loves both animals and people, so he did that for me. After examining her on his lunch hour, he handed that quivering little taupe bundle back to my tearful daughter and said she’d have a long healthy life.

Years later when I was in the hospital after heart surgery, two of the cardiologists who stopped by on rounds told me they had worked with Dr. Hamlin, one of the finest canine cardiologists in the country. I felt a lot better about their credentials.

Saturday, October 18, 2003

#38 Shallow, callow students

"Daniel Hamermesh, a professor of economics at the University of Texas at Austin, and Amy Parker, one of his students, found that attractive professors consistently outscore their less comely colleagues by a significant margin on student evaluations of teaching. The findings, they say, raise serious questions about the use of student evaluations as a valid measure of teaching quality."

I was really surprised at this one. I don't ever remember having a good looking professor! Maybe it was my majors. And they were so old--maybe 35 or 40! Grad assistants, lab assistants, yes. But not professors.

And the men are more "objects" than the women. The study is inconclusive on whether better looking people may actually be better teachers. It also suggests the bar is set pretty low for "good looks."

Friday, October 17, 2003

#37 It isn’t Friendster, it’s Usenet

On a Usenet Forum, I questioned the motives of the husband of Terri Schiavo for wanting his wife’s feeding and hydration stopped. In two personal attacks, PJ said I was judgmental and Ing said, “I'm betting you have a VERY small circle of friends and/or acquaintances.”

Personal attacks are very common on Usenet. But this particular forum is certainly not the worst I've seen. So here is my response.

The question why didn’t he just get a divorce and let someone else take over her care, is reasonable to ask. He has a lover and a child by her. He needs to move on. Suggesting we follow the money, is reasonable, based on the husband‘s behavior since winning his $750,000 law suit. Making playground bully taunts isn’t.

Ing, you and PJ may interpret the husband’s actions as benign and loving, using all your powers of discernment, investigation and problem solving, but I don’t. You can look at the video and see a comatose woman, but I don’t see that. I’ve had some experience over a period of years with a friend in that situation, and you’ve had to euthanize a dying dog. Only in PETA does that equate.

I see a brain injured woman who will never be restored to her 1990 self, but who isn’t without value. I don’t measure people’s value by income producing ability, or what they might add to my next dinner party, or how strong they are.

Let’s look at some of the articles, knowing we can never know the whole story.

‘Smith said, however, that "as soon as the money was in the bank, Michael [who had promised the jury in the malpractice suit that he would take care of her the rest of her natural life] put a 'do not resuscitate' order on the chart, realizing back in the early 1990s he would inherit $750,000 if Terri died, and began to refuse medical treatment such as antibiotics for infections and so forth. In 1998, when Terri didn't die he filed a request with Judge Greer to be allowed to remove her feeding tube, and that’s how this whole business started." ‘Phil Brennan,

“But I do know that if I were her parent, or even someone who knew her before she plunged into darkness, I would sit there every day to fight tooth and nail against what must be astronomical odds.” Steve Otto, Tampa Tribune

“The Church has taught consistently that every human life has a value and dignity that cannot be measured by standards of productivity, competence and even physical health.” Bishop of Arlington (VA)

“Terry Wallis, 39, of Big Flat went into a coma after a car accident in 1984 and uttered his first words June 11, when his mother visited him at the Stone County Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Mountain View. His family said that before that day, Wallis showed only occasional signs of recognition by blinking his eyes or grunting.” Baxter Bulletin (AK)

Thursday, October 16, 2003

#36 A Powerful Michigan Virus

I vowed when I started a blog, I wasn’t going to give a blow by blow account of my day, especially if it was really yucky. And I won’t. But let me add here, I have a bad cold.

I talked to my sister-in-law last night who had sniffing coughing house guests from Michigan when we were visiting, week-end before last, for Brother Bob’s birthday. They also have bad colds. We agreed that Michigan viruses are very powerful.

So the problem is, nothing tastes good. Actually, nothing tastes period. So I sort of have to go by texture and memory. For lunch I had a piece of pumpkin pudding cake. Moist, soft, slightly gooey, robust, spicey and cool. For supper, I’ll have pepperoni pizza. Salty, crunchy, textured, greasy and very good memories.

Not exactly the 5 a day plan, but hopefully the cold will be gone before malnutrition sets in.
#35 Bedazzled and bewildered

“The hallmark of our times is the seemingly endless stream of new goods and services whose emergence bedazzles and bewilders us. The conventional wisdom about where these new goods come from, at least as it usually is told, is that the stork brings them.” David Warsh. He was talking about newspapers and innovation; I’m talking today about Ritz Crackers.

I needed orange juice and slipped into Kroger’s where I rarely shop anymore because of its “loyalty card” program, but that’s another blog. And as we do when we pop in for just one object, I ended up needing $21.35 worth of things, one being a box of Ritz crackers, my husband’s favorite snack item for football evenings and baseball playoffs.

Fortunately, before I tossed it in the cart, I saw the words “garlic butter” on the box of Ritz. Wow. Was I bedazzled and bewildered! I put it back and reached for another. Low sodium Ritz. Back it went. Then low fat Ritz. Then cheese Ritz. Wheat Ritz. And cracked pepper Ritz. “Where is it?” I fumed, tossing boxes on to the floor (that happened in my fantasy, but I felt like it). Finally in that plethora of crispy little baked circles of wheat flour introduced in 1934, enriched with niacin, reduced iron, thiamine, riboflavin, and folic acid, mixed with partially hydrogenated soybean oil, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, salt, leavening and malted barley flour, I found a simple red box that said, “Ritz Crackers.”

More cracker choices than California had gubernatorial candidates. Columnist George Ayoub never found his plain, old original Ritz he was so swamped by the choices.

I suggest modifying Ritz the old fashioned way--with peanut butter, or jelly, or cream cheese, or ham salad. You’ll feel more creative and accomplished when you build your own and sit down with that remote.
#34 Do plants grieve?

My mother gave the children each a plant back in the 1970s. I kept them on the kitchen window sill in their original pots for thirty years. Obviously, they didn’t look too great with their little roots all squashed like that. But they did survive. Mom died in 2000. The plants began to falter. One died. The other one I brought with us when we moved, and even bought some potting soil and moved it to better “digs.” But it died within weeks.

I bought a nice house plant for my son’s wedding reception at our home in 1999. We had about 80 people for brunch and I wanted a little natural greenery in place. I didn’t expect it to live long, but it did fine. My son and his wife are in the process of getting a divorce. Today I noticed the plant is dying.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

#33 Time in a bottle

After I deleted 35 spam from my e-mail box offering me sex products, new mortgages, on-line prescription plans, ink cartridges, and Caribbean cruises, I found a message from my secondary pension plan which said, “Wouldn’t you rather get your documents by e-mail?” Below the lovely photo of a letter inside a bottle buried in the sand were the words “Save paper, money and time.”

Actually, no. These days, important documents should probably be sent the old fashioned way--through the U.S. postal system, hand carried by my dependable mail lady, dropped through my front door mail slot, opened carefully and thoughtfully with a letter opener, and laid on the coffee table to be perused during TV commercial breaks.
#32 The best web logs (blogs)

“Who has the best blogs?” Depends on your tastes and interests. (I’d supply a link here, but some surveys have questionable advertising.) In my opinion, the really good bloggers are pros, hands down, liberal or conservative, black, white, or other, people who have always had an interest in news, information and gossip.

I like the people who take the time to check out the sources, and leave punditry to the paid print journalists and spin doctors and save us the reports about why they didn‘t get out of bed this morning. Also, I have a cuss/pejorative/swear word meter. If they write as though they need to gargle with Sno-bowl, I click past them.

Joanne Jacobs’ blog keeps me up on educational issues with good links and clever, perceptive analyses. She is a free-lance writer and former newspaper columnist. I don’t have kids in school, but know that we’re no better than our educational system.

To keep me up on happenings in the library field I subscribe to a cooperative web log developed by Blake Carver, who apparently was one of my colleagues at the Ohio State University Libraries, but I’m not sure our paths ever crossed. On the “about” page he says it was created in November 1999.

One of my favorite Christian blogs, and I appreciate the diversity of links, is Nathan Bierma at the online Books and Culture. His column is called “Content and Context.” This link is to the September 30 article--each issue is addressed separately. Ted Olsen compiles a web log on more traditional Christian topics for the on-line Christianity Today.

The Wall Street Journal Online has a “Best of the Web” written by James Taranto that is always worth looking at. Andrew Sullivan writes “The Daily Dish,” a mostly political blog. On the left side of his web page, he includes links to his regular columns in various papers.

However, your tastes may lean more toward improvisation, trendy and kooky. Then how did you get here?

Tuesday, October 14, 2003


Scripture and Trees

The Visual Arts Ministry of our church was formed during the summer of 2000, and for the first time this year we finally have a budget. It’s been a very frustrating wait. Fortunately, we have a fabulous gallery area in our Mill Run building which we call “The Upper Room” and hope to soon have our hanging system installed at our Lytham Road location. The Mill Run gallery space will soon be hosting the Central Ohio Watercolor Society (or as our publicity says, the COWS are coming).

The first choice of the Visual Arts Ministry for a purchase is a very large drawing of a tree by Linda Langhorst. There is no way to look at this piece and not see numerous Biblical passages. Although this particular piece is not on her web site, you can see others here. Linda works in graphite, charcoal and watercolor and has a background in agriculture.

There is a recently reviewed title Republic of Shade by Thomas J. Campanella, Yale University Press, 2003 which includes the following:

"In typological terms, trees in Scripture act like giant words, expressing not only the general glory of God but also more specific themes. Both trees and saints come out of the ground. Both grow on riverbanks (Ps. 1) and bring food and medicine to the world; "their fruit will be for food and their leaves for healing" (Ez. 47:12; cf. Rev. 22:2). Jotham preached "the trees once went forth to anoint a king over them," and the blind man healed began to see men as trees walking. Trees are images of humans, and they reflect our own fruitfulness, hubris, and decay.

And God manifests himself at trees—"arboreal theophanies," [James] Jordan says—like those in Eden and in front of Moses but also in the careful wood of the Tabernacle and Temple, which create grand images of God's people gathered around him. The entire Davidic line is pictured as a tree, a root, a stump, a branch (Is. 42; 6:13; 11:10) that ultimately develops into Christ, the vine, the tree of life, executed on a tree, having threatened fire to "every tree which does not bear good fruit" (Mt. 3:10). Christ Himself doesn't hesitate to urge us to read trees wisely: "Now learn this parable from the fig tree" (Mt. 24:32).

Learn from the tree? Why does that directive not show up regularly in seminary hermeneutics courses? We go to great pains to teach seminary students about exegeting Scripture and secret Foucauldian power structures, but we leave them largely clueless about exegeting nature." Douglas Jones, Reviewer
#30 Oh Good Lord!

What a stretch! What a lack of understanding!

“There is an age-old conflict between intellectual leadership and civil authority. How old, how bitter, came home to me when I came up from Jericho on the road that Jesus took, and saw the first glimpse of Jerusalem on the skyline as he saw it going to his certain death. Death, because Jesus was then the intellectual and moral leader of his people, but he was facing an establishment in which religion was simply an arm of government. And that is a crisis of choice that leaders have faced over and over again: Socrates in Athens; Jonathan Swift in Ireland, torn between pity and ambition; Mahatma Gandhi in India; and Albert Einstein, when he refused the presidency of Israel.” from “He who pays the piper,” by Don Doig, Cato Policy Analysis No. 22, March 17, 1983.

But it’s my own fault. This quote is in one of the papers I was using on federal funding of research in the previous (#29) web log entry. Mr. Doig needs to go back and reread the Gospel of John. Jesus did not institute any new intellectual or moral principles--Judaism already had (and still has) the finest. Through the six “I AM” statements, he declared he was equal with God and is God. That’s what got the folks so riled up. If you bring religion into research, at least get it right!


Public access to scientific journals

Is it just a matter of time before the public will be shut out of access to journals at a lot of public universities and colleges? The September 8 on-line issue of Scientific American has an article about this topic.

In 1995 the library where I worked was making massive moves to digital collections. It seemed that everyone but librarians (summary only; full article not available) fantasized that digital libraries would be cheaper than bricks and mortar. I think you can still sit down at most library terminals at Ohio State University and read something online without logging in a password to read a journal, but some material may be restricted. When I retired in 2000, OSUL still had a policy of retaining at least one paper copy of a title on campus (50,000 students), and sometimes it is the only paper copy in the state. The article in Scientific American points out some alternatives.

However, "we the people" pay for this research several times over--we pay the salaries of the researchers, we pay for the grants that provide the funds for the research, we build the labs and classrooms, we pay for the subscriptions, we pay for the on-line systems, or storage for print, and the salaries of the people who collect and store them; so when we walk into a state university, (after an hour long search for parking) should they be asking us for a password to read what we've already paid for?

For another viewpoint on research funding, including the hours of research time spent on the red tape of applying for federal grants check this Cato Institute site. Could Einstein have written a grant proposal?

Monday, October 13, 2003

#28 Watching all the dads go by

When I was a little girl, sometimes my father would take me along when he delivered fuel oil in northern Illinois. It probably wasn’t often, but since we didn’t do a lot together, I remember those times fondly, especially his singing as he drove the rural roads.

Fathers today seem to make it a point to spend some quality time with the kids. I see a lot of them at the bakery where I have my coffee in the morning. It is located close to three elementary schools (one public, one private and one Catholic), one middle school and one high school.

Last Friday two little guys sat down at a table next to me by the fireplace while dad stood in line to get the breakfasts. The older one said, “I’ve got the best seat.” And the little guy chimed in, not to be outdone, “I’ve got the second best.”

The teen-age fashion parade I see there is amusing. I’m sure adults thought the same of our multi-layered crinolines and white bucks in the 50s. The girls’ jeans looked like they’ve been tattooed on and the boys’ jeans look like they could get three more guys inside. The girls show their navels with shirts that look like they shrank in the wash and carrying back-packs bigger than the suitcases we took on our 16 day Amtrak trip. But last week I saw a really handsome, head turning group--a father with well groomed, nicely dressed children. The boys were in khakis with dark blue shirts and the teen-age girl wore a plaid blue and green skirt and vest. Short, but covered all the basics. I’ll bet he’s paying a hefty tuition somewhere to have his kids look that good.

Today I could overhear a father giving his son a pep talk about his team from a booth by the window. He was using some pretty big words and heavy concepts, like “challenge,” “perceive,” “encourage,” “good clean tackle,” “keep your head clear,” and “confidence.” I turned around expecting to see a brawny high school linebacker having breakfast with his dad, but it was a little skinny kid, maybe second grade, sitting on his knees so he could reach the table. He was staring out the window while dad droned on about team work, probably wondering where childhood went.
#27 Adorable puppy

Clients of my husband got here about 4 p.m. yesterday. They were about an hour late because they were traveling with a new puppy. She came into the office alone because her husband was "puppy sitting" in the car. After their meeting, I went out to the drive-way. Such a cutie pie! I want one. They had two dogs, both Bichon Frise and the 15 year old died a few weeks ago. She said the other dog was grieving more than they were, so they decided to get a puppy, same breed. He is so adorable--like a little fuzz ball decorated with dust bunnies. I asked her if the older one was jealous, but she said no, he'd become very responsible and protective.

Sunday, October 12, 2003

#26 Powerless and pointless

Joe Branin, Director of the Ohio State University Libraries, gave a PowerPoint presentation in March 2002 which includes some wonderful photographs of the library, past and present. I have no idea what he said, but the pictures are terrific. (By that I mean, I didn't hear it, I saw it on the web.) In 1913 they really knew how to provide readers, scholars and students with awesome spaces.

I dread PowerPoint presentations. Taking a class in how to do it, which I did in 2000, is even worse. The presentations are deadly to sit through, and even worse to read in the handouts which are copies of what is putting you to sleep on the screen. But how awful to try to plow your way through them on-line! You have no idea what the speaker said.

Give me an animated speaker, a good hand-out to follow, and maybe some clever cartoons or photos on the screen, if you just have to have something techie in the room.

Wired magazine recently agreed with me in “PowerPoint is evil” in the September, 2003 article. “The practical conclusions are clear. PowerPoint is a competent slide manager and projector. But rather than supplementing a presentation, it has become a substitute for it. Such misuse ignores the most important rule of speaking: Respect your audience.”
#25 What’s for lunch?

I discovered The National Cancer Institute’s calculator when I was doing some online research on leading lifestyle diseases (they are CHD, Lung cancer, stroke, COPD, diabetes, and colon cancer). We the people have almost complete control* over four out of the six contributors to these diseases: smoking, drinking, bad eating habits, and lack of exercise. We can’t always control high blood pressure and high cholesterol which are the other two contributors.

The NCI site encourages us to eat five fruits and vegetables a day, which really isn’t very many, especially if we count French fries and corn chips (although I think they don’t want me to cheat that way). Here’s what it told me about my score:

“Congratulations! You're doing a great job, both being active and eating 5 A Day. Upon reaching a goal, the next step is to stick with it. As you may know, the experts recommend eating at least 5 A Day every day, and at least 30 minutes or more of moderate intensity physical activity at least five days a week. People who eat 5 A Day and do 30 minutes of physical activity say they look better, feel better, and have more energy. Keep in mind that "5" and "30" are minimums — most of us would benefit from closer to nine servings and more than 30 minutes of moderate physical activity a day.”

Now to calculate, you are to enter a wild guess average based on the last six months. I had to fudge a bit on the exercise, but it was accurate as of six months ago. The Parks and Recreation Department of Columbus has had to close its walking program at the nearby Bill McDonald complex due to budget cuts. It has a great floor and there was never an excuse like weather or roaming dogs NOT to walk. Now I walk outside, on asphalt if I can find it to protect my shin bones, or I ride the exercycle in my office (really boring).

I really doubt that I’m getting 30 minutes a day anymore. Fortunately, I happen to like fruits and vegetables, much more than exercise. For breakfast, I ate a pear and had a glass of orange juice this morning, and some Ritz crackers with cheddar cheese spread. And then there’s that little disclaimer that NCI really wants me to have 9 servings.

*I have a friend who has COPD not from lifestyle, but childhood illness.

Saturday, October 11, 2003

#23 Women! Are we losing our memories or our minds?

During Spanish class I mentioned that not only was I having difficulty memorizing phrases in Spanish, but that I could no longer memorize anything in English. After class another student told me she was certainly glad to know she wasn’t the only one having that problem. Since menopause, she said, she had been losing her memory.

I mentioned to her that I read a recent study (couldn’t remember where or when) that concluded menopause and memory loss were not related. “Pfffft.” she said. “Men our age aren’t having this problem. Every woman I’ve talked with complains about memory loss.”

I found the study which was published in the September 2003 journal, Neurology. The full text article by Meyer et al. requires a login, however, there is a full text patient page on the web Menopause and brain function

The author of the patient page raises some interesting questions in his conclusion: “This study looked at a wide range of women over six years and did not find worse brain abilities in women during or after menopause. This finding does not fit with what women have reported about memory loss after menopause. It also does not fit with what we know about estrogen’s role in the brain.”

“What does this study mean when we consider these other things we know about menopause? It may be that the brain does not need the hormones as much as we think. Maybe the tests used in study did not measure the brain function that depends on the lost hormones. It may be that the women got better scores on the tests because they practiced taking them. Perhaps their brains were not working as well, but they learned how to take the tests better. More research is needed to answer these and other questions about the effects of menopause on the brain.”

My own opinion is that as we age we don’t learn as quickly or effortlessly, and some of us are mistaking the fact that we need more repetitions and more time to learn and to retain new information than we used to for memory problems. The younger our co-workers are, the more we notice it. Take a look at these tips on hanging on to the brain function you still have.

Last night I watched the Smothers Brothers on the Life with Bonnie show murdering the Spanish language, and I understood almost every word. I was so thrilled.
#22 The anniversary

I'm at an age where many of my friends have lost a spouse. Some a number of years ago. Like the happy anniversaries of birthdays and weddings, there are sad anniversaries too. The ones that give you pause when you remember and to which you don't call attention. This poem is about that, but it could be the anniversary of any loss.

I read this poem at the poetry "open mic" at our library this October.

“The Anniversary"
August 10, 2003

The first year is the hardest.
In your mind you're wearing black;
you still hear his voice
see his smile
feel his touch and
pick up the phone
to share and then
you remember.

The second year is harder yet.
You've shed the arm band;
now you don't hear his voice
or see his smile
or smell his clothes and
there's only black holes
where once you had
your memories.

The third year is just a blur.
Mourning is officially over;
you fill up the calendar pages
make new friends
buy tickets for a cruise and
stand here surprised
when he's not home
to share it all.

The fourth year is a wake up call.
Everyone else has moved on;
you decide instead of nothing
you'd rather have the pain
and sleepless nights
and wonder why they said
Time would be your friend
#21 High School letter sweaters

My friend Nancy is amazed that I was able to have a “vintage clothes closet” in our former home of 34 years. No attic. No basement. And the cleanest garage in town in which both vehicles were parked.

Among my vintage clothes is my high school letter sweater. It is a wool, deep red cardigan with tiny moth holes, and no block-letter black “M,” which was probably removed if I wore the sweater in college.

We also still have my husband’s high school letter sweater--a deep hunter green V-neck with a bold white block “T” sewn on the front. The difference being, he was actually an athlete (cross-country) and I was in the pep club. And his high school was larger than my home town.

In the early 80’s it was popular at our daughter’s school for the girls to wear their father’s clothing--blazers, top coats and sweaters. It wasn’t the grunge or the baggy look, but I don’t recall what that fad was called.

One day she wore her dad’s letter sweater to school. She was (and still is) very striking, with a “build” as we used to say. So you can imagine what the boys said about that letter “T” on her chest.

She got a little flustered, and couldn’t remember the name of the high school (Arsenal Technical High School), so she assured the young men that it stood for “Arsenical High.”

It killed them, I’m sure.

Friday, October 10, 2003

#20 Rachel and Nancy and the Civil War (see #19)

If Rachel and Nancy met at a quilting circle or a hymn sing after the Civil War, would they have sensed a bond? Perhaps. Rachel’s great grandson Howard, born 8 years after she died, married in 1934 Nancy’s grand daughter Olive, born 10 years after she died. Nothing else ties them together, not ethnic heritage or language, not geography or politics, not education or social status.

Nancy, born in 1833 and 12 years older than Rachel, was a 7th generation American, a descendant of Swiss Mennonites and German Lutherans living near Dayton, Ohio. Rachel, probably born in 1845, was perhaps 3rd or 4th generation and living near Dandridge, Tennessee. The census of 1870 shows that her father was born in Virginia, about 1795. The Scots-Irish ancestors of the families in her area of east Tennessee had come to America before the Revolutionary War.

We could stretch credulity a bit and say they had religion in common. Both were members of the protestant group Church of the Brethren, known as the "Dunkers" or German Baptist Brethren in the 19th century. Nancy’s father and grandfather had been River Brethren, a group related to the Mennonites. As a youngster, Rachel was perhaps under the care of whatever preacher came through the mountains of east Tennessee in the 1840s baptizing and marrying. It is possible her son William married into the Brethren and brought her into the church with him.

Rachel had only one child, a son, born in 1862. Nancy had nine children, five girls and four boys born between 1853 and 1876. Rachel had at least two brothers, and Nancy had eleven siblings. In 2003, Ada, grand daughter of Rachel, and Muriel, grand daughter of Nancy, are living in the same town and attending the same church.

So if I had Nancy and Rachel in the same room and could ask them anything, I think I’d ask about the war that divided them, north and south, blue and gray, brother and brother, cousin and neighbor. Just 20 years old when the war was over, Rachel lived not far from Knoxville, an important supply route for the Confederacy. East Tennessee was strongly Unionist, although Tennessee was part of the Confederacy. The Army of Ohio actually occupied little Dandridge where Rachel lived. So I’m guessing that even in her little community there were divisions of loyalty and young men lost for both causes.

Living on a farm near Dayton, Nancy a young mother of 5 at the end of the war, would have been fairly insulated from the battles. First, her family was probably pacifist, and second, battles recorded within Ohio were in the southern counties near the Ohio river border with Kentucky and Indiana. However, Ohio did send many regiments of cavalry, artillery and infantry, and these young men may have been friends and neighbors.

And so I would want to know how did they get their news--was it from returning soldiers passing through, asking for food for the trip home? From refugees fleeing other areas of their states? Was it from a newspaper or magazine which the expanding rail routes were bringing to the farmers? Was it from letters sent to neighbors from sons on the front lines? Did they even know how to read? Did they search the lists of wounded and dead? Were commodities scarce? Were there enough men around to plant and harvest the crops? Did they think it was someone else’s fight as neither family had ever owned slaves? Did they wish they could vote and boot President Lincoln out of office? Was there resentment toward the free blacks in the area? Who were they holding in their prayers? And when the war was finally over, were their lives forever changed?

Nancy and Rachel, two women bound together by their futures.

#19 The writing assignment

Julian Anderson has written a novel (Empire under glass. Boston: Faber and Faber, 1996) about an octogenarian who escapes from a retirement home. While Julian is shopping her second novel and raising her family, she leads a class in writing family memoirs and personal recollections at our public library for a group, middle aged and older, who are escaping into their past.

This week she asked us to write our names at the bottom of a page with all the places we had lived. Then above that, our parents and all the towns where they had lived; above that where our grandparents had lived; and finally, if we knew, where our great grandparents had lived.

Although I’ve lived in the same community since I was 28, I was able to list eight, possibly nine if our summer home counts. Three for each of my parents, and two or three for the grandparents, and one or two for the great grandparents. There is actually an old post card on the internet of the rural area where my father and grandparents lived.

“What or where do you call home?” she asked. We learned that once parents are gone, most of us stopped referring to that community as “home.” One woman was multi-lingual and said her sense of “home” was tied into her first language, German, although she had never lived there and didn’t visit Germany until her adulthood. A number in the group remembered that their parents or grandparents refused to speak their native language in front of the children.

Our assignment: select one of the names on our list and write down eight or ten questions we’d like to know about her or him. So I’ve selected Nancy from Ohio and Rachel from Tennessee, a great grandmother and a great great grandmother, and that will be my next blog.

#17 Don’t you believe it--two totally unrelated thoughts

Someone, actually millions, thought it was a good movie; not me. I was not fooled. Waste of money, and I saw it on the 50 cent night at the second run theater. Renee Zellweger has put on 56 lbs to reprise her Bridget Jones’ Diary role. I gave the first one an F and no stars. Worst movie I ever saw. Boring, pointless. Insipid, snooze alert. She wasn’t even fat.

It’s going to take more than this to throw my spiritual identity into crisis mode. “The discovery of just a single bacterium somewhere beyond Earth would force us to rethink how we fit into the cosmic scheme of things, throwing us into a spiritual identity crisis as dramatic as the one brought about by Copernicus.” Atlantic Monthly, Sept. 2003 p. 112.

#16 Seventies flash back

Several weeks ago I subscribed to Today I was reading its newsletter The Alchemist about nano-technology in an article about smart and intelligent textiles (I guess the two don‘t necessarily go together.) The word “nano” had a familiar ring to it, and into my mind popped Mork and Mindy, the old Robin Williams/Pam Dauber show. Didn’t Mork say, “Nano nano?” Is that the source of the word I wondered. It took a few minutes to find exactly what I wanted in Google, but here is the explanation on ABC Classic FM Word of the day about Mork and nano.

“The word is recorded 20 years earlier, in 1947. “Nano” comes from nanos – the Greek word for “dwarf” (as in the old the pop song “We Don’t Want No Nanos People Round Here”). Nano is now prefixed to the names of units to form the names of units that 109 smaller – that is, a one thousand-millionth part of them. Thus a nanometre is a one thousand-millionth part of a metre.”

#15 I brake for dummies

While driving home from the coffee shop this morning at 7:30, I saw a man (?) on the corner by the pedestrian walk waving at the passing cars.

“What is he doing?” I wondered.
“Is it one of the downtown homeless people who got on the wrong bus?”
“Does he need help?”
“Is he a hitch hiker?”
“I’d better slow down and gawk.”

Although in the far lane where five roads and all sorts of turn lanes come together, I slowed down through the green light to look. I figure I backed up traffic all the way down to Lane Avenue (about 1.5 miles). But then, I had a lot of help.

It was the “crash dummy” pretending to be a human.

Thursday, October 09, 2003

#14 On a theme from Habbakuk*

I like to write poetry, and it comes and goes in spurts. Spring and Summer 2003 was a good time for poetry, but haven't written any since September 17. In my database most of them are illustrated, either with my own art or clip art. For this one, you'll have to use your imagination--a watercolor of my sister sitting in a field petting a calf. Also, I usually arrange the lines to please my eye, and I can't do that here--at least in the edit form it looks fine, but when posted and published the formatting is lost.

Though the fig tree does not bud
and the 401K does not bloom
And there are no grapes on the vine
and I store food in a basement room,

Though the olive crop fails
and the internet goes blank
And the fields produce no food
and there’s no money in the bank,

Though there are no sheep in the pen
except the ones I count to sleep
And no cattle in the stalls
and war news makes me weep,

Yet I will rejoice in the Lord
I will be joyful in God my Savior.

* Habakkuk 3:17-18

Wednesday, October 08, 2003

#12 Who’s lying?

Yesterday’s Columbus Dispatch ran an article “The truth about lying,” which stated adults may lie from 13 times a week to 25 times a day. The side bar chart listed the “Pants on Fire” signs like throat clearing, increased stammering, qualifiers, vague content, losing train of thought, and the following declaratives, “did not” “could not” and “however.”

That’s dumb (clearing my throat) I couldn’t, um, possibly, er, say, er, speak, er, point out, anything, ever, without um doing, um thinking, supposing, all or most of that.

The biggest lie I’ve seen recently is the one on the sealed package of sliced, cooked, roast beef: “To open, tear along dotted line.” After you get the strip off, you need to call the emergency squad to bring the Jaws of Life so you can make your sandwich. And that’s no lie.
#11 Key lime bars

Yesterday I received a call to supply two dozen cookies for a reception after a funeral at our church. No problem, I‘d be happy to do it, I told the woman. And I promised to have them there by 10 a.m. today.

But I had a lunch date yesterday, then attended a lecture. So by the time I started the project it was about 7 p.m. As I browsed the cupboards to make sure I had all the ingredients, I noticed it: the boxed mix of key lime bars.

When we were in Florida in February, I ate a piece of key lime pie every single day. Some were good, some wonderful and some so-so. They came in a wide variety of colors from blah to yellow to pale green. By the end of the week, I was an expert. None had as good a pie crust as I make, but that is to be expected. Certain sacrifices must be made in the pursuit of research.

When we got home I must have been in key lime withdrawal and bought this mix and forgot it was between the cornmeal and popcorn. I followed the directions, at least most of them, but it has not turned out well. Even letting it “set” and then refrigerating it overnight has not made those sticky sweet things release their hold on the pan. A few minutes at room temperature in the church fellowship hall and they’ll be a mess.

So it is off to Meijer’s to buy some bakery cookies of uniform taste and size. Sorry, Jerry, I didn’t know you, but you deserved better. And what will I do with an entire pan of key lime bars?

Tuesday, October 07, 2003

#10 The lunch date

I’m planning to have lunch with a friend today. We worked together, I want to say, about 25 years ago. A quarter of a century. That used to sound like a really long time. Probably go to Cap City Diner, not too far from her office on the OSU campus.

Back in those days when phones weren’t something you strapped to your waist or which distracted you from your driving, she and I went to lunch one spring day. We returned to a disaster--there was broken glass all over the sidewalk and our telephone was in the side yard. Our boss had thrown it through the large window in her office. Then she dragged it back into the office and threw it through a second window.

If there is a second chapter to this story, I’ve forgotten it. Quarter of a century, you know. But I don’t think her contract was renewed. We’ll talk about old times. Maybe even about lunches we have known.

Monday, October 06, 2003

#7 Chicken Little

Household income figures at OMB Watch provide a snapshot break down of American households by fifths.

Bottom Quintile: Income Range: $0 - 17,970; Share of Total Income: 3.5%
Second Quintile: Income Range: $17,970 - $33,314; Share of Total Income: 8.7%
Middle Quintile: Income Range: $33,314 - $53,000; Share of Total Income: 14.6%
Fourth Quintile: Income Range: $53,000 - $83,500; Share of Total Income: 23.0%
Top Quintile: Income Range: $83,500 and up; Share of Total Income: 50.2%

This particular household has been in all of them. Many people hit at least four over a lifetime. As more Boomers retire, they'll be hop-scotching quintiles downward, and there will be much hand wringing in the media causing alarm among the senior citizen Boomers as that middle and second quintile begin to swell.

Boomers have done very well, many better than their parents. As they inherit their Depression era parents' hard earned estates, their actual income may be going down. But remember, income isn't wealth. You can have a very low income but own a mortgage-free house, two or three cars, a nice portfolio, beautiful art work, lovely clothes, jewelry, etc.--and draw social security. (Not me; I’m not eligible because of my teacher’s pension.)

We'll be hearing lots of squawks as these numbers change, but it will from the chicken littles who think the sky is falling.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

#6 A perfect October day.

The sky is an October color--a blue you see in Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio this time of year, bordered in my side and lower vision with brilliant hues and just enough green left over from the wet summer to make a lump in my throat. But the lump is already there. Today is his birthday and I'm probably the only person who remembers.

As we drive past small towns and corn fields on a familiar route, I say to my husband, "Stanley would be 42 today." It takes a few seconds for him to pull up a memory of that plump, blonde toddler and reconstruct him as an adult old enough to be a grandfather.

"I wonder what he would look like," he says. I can't see his eyes behind his sun glasses.

"Probably just like you. Your baby pictures look so similar, except your hair was more red."

"Maybe he'd be bald by now--mine really started going after 45," he recalled.

I have little memory of what he actually looked like. I've browsed the photo album so many times that all I see when I try to recall his face are black and white and fading color snapshots and a color portrait taken at the department store in Champaign, Illinois. I do remember the way he looked when they placed him on my abdomen in the delivery room with that "what's happening" expression and the way he looked in that little casket in a new blue suit. No photos at the beginning and the end to blur history.

"We wouldn't have the kids now," he says, mentioning they'd be stopping by later to see the DVD of our trip west.

We are quiet. The harvest ready fields roll by and I think again of my favorite Old Testament verse, "Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten. . ." Joel 2:25

Saturday, October 04, 2003

#3 How to make a tasty, flaky pie crust

I saw an article in the food section of the paper for “Crustless Pumpkin Pie." It uses Splenda and egg whites instead of eggs and sugar, so it should be low carb. But who would do that to a pie? The crust is the best part. At least of my pies.

I know, you're just like my friend Nancy. She thinks she can’t make a good pie crust. Have faith. I switched to oil for my crusts a few years back, then later changed to peanut oil for some reason, I think it was cholesterol. Anyway, here’s what you do:

Put 2/3 cup of oil and 1/3 cup of water in your favorite bowl
Add 2 cups of flour (I like unbleached)
Sprinkle over the top about 1 teaspoon of salt

Mix it with a fork, but not too much. Gently shape until you have a soft, greasy ball . What we are striving for here is delicate, light, flaky. If you are upset or feeling angry, don’t mix pie dough. Make bread instead. It “needs” you. ; }

Then take half of your greasy ball and plop it on top of a piece of plastic wrap spread out on the counter top, a few inches larger than your pie plate or tin. Lay another piece of plastic wrap on top of the dough. Press the dough down a little and roll it into a circle with a rolling pin, or if you don’t have one because you hate to make pies, just smush and shape it with your hand until you have a circle larger than the pie tin. Now, peel off the top piece of plastic wrap, slip your hand under the other one, and flip the dough onto the pie plate. It will stick to the wrap. If some of it falls off around the edges, no problem (unless it‘s on the floor). Paste it back together. No one ever sees the bottom crust, right? Then fill the crust with whatever you're making, and repeat the smushing and rolling with the second ball, but flip carefully when placing it on top of the filling. Flute or press the edges with a fork to seal the two crusts. Poke some holes in the top to let the steam out. I usually make a nice fat “B” but your initial will work too.

Most fruit pie filling is 5 or 6 peeled ripe whatevers, plus 3/4 cup of sugar or Splenda, and 1/4 cup of flour mixed into the fruit. Maybe a dab of butter and cinnamon on top of the fruit. Then smear a little milk over the top crust (makes it brown nicely). Bake in a preheated oven at 425 for 15 minutes and reduce to 375 for 30 minutes. If you’re doing pumpkin or something with eggs in it, please read some directions from a cook-book for heaven’s sake, and don’t rely on someone writing blogs on the internet.
#5 Time is money

At the next table in the coffee shop was a woman who was visiting from out of town. She needed to vent about her 88 year old mother a very high maintenance woman a retired teacher who raised five children healthy enough to live alone but rather needy because she was so spoiled by her husband who died in 1995 a pastor who was just the neatest guy in the world and she missed him so. You get the idea. My old $19.95 Timex, having witnessed way too many discussions and debates about just how much you should tell complete strangers, just threw up its hands and quit.

So Tuesday I went out to buy a new battery. The K-Mart was out of the one I needed. So I just stopped to browse, and there was a nice looking one in silver and gold (colors), dainty and feminine, for only $14.95 Mentally I subtracted the $3.29 for a new battery, which really brought the price down!

Of course, I know you would never do this, but I made a quick judgment about the clerk who was helping me--a large, tired-looking, middle-aged woman wearing an oversize t-shirt and snug slacks. Wrong of course, as first judgments usually are. She made excellent suggestions about the purchase and readily admitted if she didn’t know the answer to my questions.

Turns out she was from South Carolina and had lived here about a year. Her husband was transferred and is required to stay with his company because he has some patents. She misses swimming in her pool and scuba diving (we‘ve had a horribly rainy summer).

Plans to retire in Florida, she told me. Why not South Carolina, I innocently asked. She told me she's bought two condos, one in Bradenton and one in something Beach just south of there. “Any for rent this winter,” I asked hopefully, since I really like Bradenton. “Nope. Same renters for the past 15 years,” she told me. "They've been nice enough to buy them for me," she added.

This lady knew a lot about time, money and customer service.

#4 Grandma and her Cubs

Grandma loved her Cubs. Originally the Chicago White Stockings (1876-1889) then the Chicago Colts (1890-1897), then the Chicago Orphans, they became the modern day Chicago Cubs in 1902. As the playoffs progress there is hope in Mudville tonight. I understand there is a popular t-shirt stating: “Every team has a bad century. “ And my Grandma was loyal through most of that century.

With all the talk about the Cubs, I couldn‘t help but think of her. I don’t know when she began listening to the games on radio. My grandparents lived on a farm and were poor, but were “early adapters” of technology and owned both a radio and an automobile even in the early 1920s. (A young man from nearby Dixon, Illinois named Ronald Reagan, was a baseball sportscaster.)

Grandma never missed an opportunity to put her arm around and listen to one of her little ones and there were many of us. I don’t remember a time when there weren’t other people visiting--children, grandchildren, cousins, siblings, nieces or nephews. But I knew that if I walked into her house in the 1950s and she was sitting by the tall console radio with her head bent a certain way, I’d better not say much because there was a Cubs game on.

The ticket director says he’ll have fewer than 4,000 seats left per game, because the MLB snaps up tickets for sponsors leaving the ordinary fan scrambling for seats. So I’m glad Grandma finally might be able to see her Cubs win the championship. She was blind her entire adult life on earth, but now has perfect vision and the best seat in the house in heaven.

Friday, October 03, 2003


For a long time I’ve had a love affair with journals, maybe since my grandmother gave me my very own subscription to Jack and Jill when I was 6 or 7 years old. I am always surprised at the variety and vitality of serials. I collect premier issue and vol.1 no.1 of journals. So from time to time, I’ll share magazine musings and serials serendipity on this blog.

The cover on the August 2003 “Biocycle, Journal of Composting and Organics Recycling” took my breath away. You probably can’t see the detail unless you enlarge the photo, but up close, it looks like a banquet table or a produce section of a grocery store was dumped in a field and a bulldozer is about to cover it up.

Identifiable in the foreground, all in whole form, are watermelons, potatoes, carrots, a coconut, lettuce, cabbage, cucumbers, pineapple, apples, peppers, celery, turnips, bagels and endive. All I could think of when I saw it was the photos I’ve seen of urban third world children scavenging the city dumps. It represents 2.25 tons of food a day from the dining halls and on-campus hotels at Penn State University. One day. One university. Five hundred tons in 2001-2002.

I read through the article and learned that “preconsumer food residuals” and “post consumer napkins” are moved to a composting site along with agricultural residues, manure, and yard waste and trimmings. A student group on campus got this going in 1997 out of concern for food products going to landfills, a pilot program was established in 1998, and as of June 2003 it is a model for other large institutions. The compost is used for the 900 acre landscaping needs, but other benefits include less water and electricity needed to dispose of the food, and reduced noise (from disposals) for food service employees. I’m glad the food is not going to landfills, or being flushed through the sewers, or being burned in incinerators. I’m glad some of it is reusable compost and I hope other universities have similar plans. But I keep remembering those hungry kids.

Thursday, October 02, 2003


Most of my writing has been sent via e-mail to friends and family in attachments, which increasingly no one is eager to open. I don't blame them. Last week I was receiving about 50 worm infested e-mails a day, about half with attachments.

So I'm thinking, if I had a blog home, I could just ask the good folks from Montana, Florida, Virginia, Illinois, Nebraska, Georgia, California, Washington and Michigan to check out my blog for the latest details on what I'm thinking or writing. I've put out a compilation of my poetry and essays, "Let me collect my thoughts," and this will be an extension of that. Web Logs are perfect for people like me who like to write but don't want to publish.

This past summer I created "Poetry Post" and tacked my poems on a utility pole in front of our Lake Erie summer home. People looking for yard sale information stopped to look and clearly were disappointed. One person did ask for a copy of the one about enduring February next to the lake. It convinced her even more that she needs to go to Arizona this winter. The power of poetry. Some of my verse appears inside notes cards of my original paintings which are sold at a sweet little gift shop in Lakeside, OH.

When the web was young and the rules more relaxed, I had a personal web page at Ohio State with several essays about life, and a complete recipe book as well as information about the literature of veterinary medicine. (Obviously, this would no longer be allowed.) It was a great learning experience--html codes and FTP and all that--all of which is now outdated, wasting precious space in my memory.

While employed, my rambling e-mails went around the world in various professional list-servs--I was a hit in South Africa and Thailand. When I announced my retirement in 2000, the biggest surprise was not the well-wishers, but the people I'd never heard from or knew who said they'd miss my e-mails.

So, I'm back in business.