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Rumilluminations (June 1 - 22, 08)
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Sun, June 01 2008 - 8:45 am

June 22, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

Where's Dante?  We need him to explore the levels of Google Hell!

I don't think I'm even there!  I must be in Google Limbo, not even worth a mention in the volumes of Hell, Heaven, or Purgatory!

Either that, or the search engines are just plain stupid.

This morning, trying to find myself (ha, ha!) I typed into Google three words from my site:  "Maybe McCain - McCaint!"  That is up-to-date politically, not indecent, and terse.  Even if someone else said exactly the same thing, I should be right up there at the top of the results, right?


They found no results - nada!  Do I exist?  Evidently not!

Well, this has happened before, but with three random (one unusual) word from a poem of mine.  This time I tried to be more deserving of attention.

I tried it again with Yahoo Messenger (my ingress to the Net, I don't know why - part of Verizon's set-up, I guess) and got -

Ta-da!  Nothing again!  At least, nothing where I should be at the top of the responses!

If I don't exist, how come they keep trying to sell me services and stuff via my e-mail?

So I tried Dogpile, a friend's favorite website and found - Ta da!  Moi!

I was the result!  The sole result!

So I am in Dogpile Heaven!  Whoopee!  I do appreciate it very much (if not, I confess, the image it evokes!  Yay! I'm the Queen of the Mountain on a pile of stinking - well.)

P.S. But wait!  Dogpile searches the search engines.  So I went ahead and entered my McCain sentence into and got nuthin'.  Only once search engine left on Dogpile's search entry page - Live Search.

So I tried that.  Success!  They are the ones that found me!

So.... I have a new favorite search engine! Live Search!  I'll report back to you about how it works for me.  And of course I'll still appreciate Dogpile!   

Meanwhile, I am in Google Limbo, I guess.

Dang!  Maybe I'll have to start writing letters to the editor!

June 21, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

I remember reading in a book years ago about a female character objecting to people who give substandard clothing to a resale shop.  Kinda, "Just because they're poor doesn't mean they don't want to wear nice things."  (An Elizabeth George book, actually.)

Well, duh.

Isn't that what "poor" means?  That you have to wear whatever you can lay your hands on to keep from literally freezing - dying from the cold?

That you have to literally tighten your belt because you are skinnier than you used to be because there is literally not as much food as there used to be because there literally is not as much money in your pockets?

It is really amusing to me.  Do people in the fat U.S. really think they are literally "poor" if they have to give up going out to eat in order to "feed" their automobiles?

Can the word "literally" be used figuratively?

Hmm.  Can it really be used any other way?

Is the word "literally" related to the word "literarily?" (I know it is!)  So the world "literally" really means "by the letter" (I'm on a roll here, I'll look it up later! - or not) which is by definition literary, which is actually not real at all!  I mean, in the concrete physical sense.

Usually when people say, "I am really starving!" in the U.S., they aren't really starving.

When they say, "I'm literally starving" they aren't even meaning to say they are "really" starving - are they?

Oh, I am so literally confused.  (er, literarily.)  Really!


June 20, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday evening as I was heading out to meet a friend for a walk, I encountered a young stranger at the other end of our block.  We exchanged greetings, still on the move, and she said to me point-blank without preamble, "Excuse me, do you have twenty dollars handy that I can borrow?"

I said, "Sorry, I'm on a walk - all I have with me are my keys and my phone!"  (True - it was a brand new jacket (on sale - 70% off!) not even a dirty kleenex in those pristine pockets, and new skirt, free along with something else I paid for.))

But after we had parted without me (or her) breaking stride, I thought, "Twenty dollars?  Twenty dollars?"

I couldn't believe my ears.  Talk about inflation!

I have experienced a good deal of pan-handling.  I even gave away twenty dollars once twenty years ago (when I didn't have a smaller bill) to someone I could tell was genuinely in distress (he described La Llorrona chasing him the night before!) but this request floored me.  It was so casual!

Sure, I have one hundred dollar bills sticking out all over me.  Just hang around long enough and one will float down and I'll never even miss it!

Maybe part of the shock was being pan-handled in my home town of Valparaiso, Indiana.  That's a first!

In some cities you can expect to have people asking you for money downtown (and you can have a pocketful of quarters in anticipation, if you want) but when I don't live next door to a church with a soup kitchen?  (In Santa Fe, New Mexico, we did.)

I have felt insulated from that here in my hometown.  Now I'm wondering.  Will people start interrupting my lawn-mowing and my gardening to ask me for hand-outs?  Must my pockets bulge with one-dollar bills to hand out to people when I venture a block from home?

Did the audacious stranger ask for twenty dollars with high hopes for five?

Oh, no, was she really a flood refugee?

Or a drug addict?

Maybe I should just take her request as a compliment.  I look like a million bucks, and twenty dollar bills grow among my wavy locks!

I look like a million bucks, and twenty dollar bills grow among my wavy locks.


June 19, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

Suspend your knowledge of the origin of words for a while and play with me.

Yesterday has a "yes" in it because we got it!  (There's no telling about tomorrow!)

Is nostalgia usually a positive thing?  It seems to me it is!  It implies a time gone by that at least a part of us yearns for.

So why don't I do it much?  Maybe because it has a "no" in it!  "Yes" it was, yesteryear, and "no" it can't come back again!  Besides, the "algia" part reminds me of algae, allergies, and Horatio Algers (whom I don't think I have ever read, I admit, but with whom I have associations of stern examples of how I should be behaving!)

Actually, algae can be kind of cool in the right context (like, say, under a microscope slide or greening up a pool of waterlilies (a horticulturalist might disagree with me there!)) but I have been seeing it on the @#$% *& vinyl siding on house and garage lately, and that means more work for me!

Nope, I think "no" to nostalgia.

But I think the real reason I don't indulge in nostalgia is that I still hope for better (or as good - that would be okay!) times to come.  Hmmm, judging from the fact that I often seem to hold on to the negative parts of my memories, maybe I will hold out for better times!

Meanwhile, I hope everyone out there is plotting out great plans for the summer, which will, in twenty years or so, be worth remembering!

I propose a toast - to tomorrow!  May it dawn better than ever!

(Hmm, I used the word "better!"  Does that mean I'm betting on it?  But I also used the word "ever."  That has "eve" in it - is forever always a series of eves?  An eternal expectation?

Well, I guess that might be all right, too!)

June 18, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

You may have noticed that in yesterday's comments I didn't even bring up the no-no of violence.  That is because I do not believe that happy, sane people are violent people.  I just don't.

If someone has received so many yesses in her life that she has to "balance" it with violence against someone to enter into "no" territory - no, I can't even entertain that notion.  It just doesn't ring true to me.

In my mind violence is the result of something gone amok.  I won't say it doesn't happen in nature, but I will say that in my opinion it happens only in nature (well, and children - they come under the heading of "wild animals!") if everyone feels that they are getting what they need.

Maybe that is why there are so many sexual rules in so many cultures.  If no one is really getting what they want sexually, that cannot be used as an excuse for violent behavior.  (In my life anyway, romance and sex and relationships (or not) with those who arouse such feelings have been my greatest temptations to violence!  Not carried out to any great degree, fortunately.  Good thing I didn't have a gun!))

Nope, as far as I am concerned, serious violence is beyond the pale.  Let's keep us firmly in the realm of lots of "nos" for relatively minor sins.  Like my friend Amy, whose Mom only had one rule - don't wear shoes without socks!  All the other societal rules were unspoken but obvious.  All her mom's kids wore shoes without socks, and everyone was happy!


June 17, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I think I've written before about the possibility of humans' basic nature being made up of binary 0,1 (0 = no, 1 = yes) impulses.  Just like computers.  (Maybe I didn't say all this in so many words, but definitely in terms of yes/no decision making.)

Now I'm thinking in terms of symmetry.  If humans are basically bipolar (and here I'm not talking "manic-depressive") are we really only comfortable if the answers "yes" and "no" are more or less equally balanced in our minds and behavior?

Is that where the idea of moderation comes from?  "Yes, you can have a piece of cake, but no not a piece that big!"?  "Yes, I can go on a walk, but no, I don't have time to go that far."

Are we really uncomfortable if the "yesses" far outweigh the "noes" (I've decided I really hate the use of the apostrophe when it doesn't mean a contraction or ownership.  Aren't those two functions enough?  Otherwise shouldn't an apostrophe be called a "miscellaneous mark" or a "whatever mark"?)

We sure know we feel uncomfortable if the noes far outweigh the yesses!

It is interesting to me that in the sixties and seventies when an overt espousal of sexual freedom was being embraced by my generation, an obsession with the acceptibility of eating habits also arose.  I have never met people more obsessed with the content of their diets than people of my generation and younger, including me.  We variously espouse no meat, no pesticides, no inorganic fertilizers no fat etc. etc. etc. 

Supposedly, people in our culture are having sex at an even earlier age these days.  Interesting to note that there is also a rise in anorexic behavior among young folk.  Yes, yes, yes to sex!  No, no, no to food!

I think you can see where I'm going here.  Maybe all the rules and restrictions around sex are there because we need all kinds of forbidden territory in our minds.  Maybe we need lots of noes! 

And we can live without sex.  I know that is hard to believe.  Maybe I should say, we can survive without sex, so maybe rules about sex are a better way to add negatives to our "no" side than food rules!

(Aack!  Don't put words into my mouth, please!  I'm not advocating noes about who we are allowed to have sex with, beyond protecting people too young to give consent!  I'm not even advocating a bunch of rules about sex!  It's just that rules about quantity and setting and appropriateness in our sexual lives might be fairer to ourselves than rules about food!  I'm just speculating here!)

(Oh, God, I think I have fallen into a sexpool of potential misunderstanding and confusion here just to raise a question about human nature.

I probably should delete all this and start over.  But that would be going too far.  I'm too lazy.  God, I need some chocolate!  But I haven't had breakfast yet!  "No" to chocolate before breakfast!

I'll have some breakfast!  Great idea!  And some coffee!  Yes! Yes!  No, it is too early to make noise grinding coffee! No to coffee now.  Yes to breakfast!  Coffee later, yes!  By the time I'm done making my very fancy complicated (and healthy!) oatmeal I'll be able to grind my coffee!  Or I'll grind it while a train is passing!

Yes! Yes!)

June 16, 2008                                        Valparaiso, IN

After I wrote the comments the other day about doggy doo-doo on the lawn, I read something in a book by Cindy Guidry that made me laugh (I'll write about her book in a few days when I've finished it (see "For Book Butterflies Witty Sticks."  Coming soon!))

She talks about her cat leaving her aesthetically pleasing apartment building and crossing a ditch to poop on a structurally identical but depressingly scruffy property next door.

Come to think of it, the dog I walk chooses where he pooses too.  And I failed to say that I'm not complaining so much about the fact of the pooping as about the owners who don't bother to clean up after their dogs!

I have taken to threading one of those long plastic bags the newspapers come in through a hole in the stop sign on the corner just in case a well-meaning owner forgot a baggie.  (The newspaper bags are better anyway because they accommodate multiple poop pick-ups!)  Once in a while one of the bags disappears.  I don't know why.  Often I grab one while I'm trying to mow the lawn and encounter a poopstacle.  (Sorry if I've ruined the word "popsicle" for you for this summer!)

Once in a while I see a puzzled someone looking at the bag and wonder if they think a high wind drove it through the post-hole!


June 15, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

President as Preacher!  No!  Offer comfort to all of your citizens, not just the ones who believe in a God.  And if you aren't offering comfort to all believers by bringing up God (because, after all, you aren't imparting new information - they've already heard of Him!  (I assume that when this particular President talks about God, It is a He!))  If you aren't offering a reminder of God to comfort, then you must be proselytizing to those who don't believe in Him!  When you are up there, acting as President, please!  Just shut up about God!  God really isn't in your job description!

I don't get it, this obsession with belief/non-belief.  Is believing in a father who beats you more comforting than not believing in his existence?  If God has a Plan that demands that you be sacrificed (sometimes in an awful way!) how does believing in "Him" as all-powerful (could save you if he wanted to but that would interfere with the Plan!) make you feel better about the sacrifice of your self?

I believe in a lot of the God-fearing virtues.  I believe in a certain amount of self-sacrifice (if it furthers the common good or helps society or individuals I care about.)  I believe in generally having a positive attitude towards life (it feels better - it's more fun!)

But I don't believe in inflicting more suffering upon myself than Life (God if you will) already chooses to inflict upon me.  I fail to see how self-flagellators improve the quality of our lives, whether physical or spiritual.

Thank God!

June 14, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday evening I was sitting at my computer, playing games, when I heard some loud music.  This happens once in a while - someone passes by with a loud boom-box in his car.  But this music wasn't going anywhere!

I heard a few loud voices, and reflected that the neighborhood was indeed changing.  There are a lot of younger people moving into the area, so it is not surprising if it is a little noisier.

A man's voice amplified by a microphone took over the neighborhood.  Oh, a party!  Well, it's Friday night.  Why not?  Young people want to have a good time!

Then I identified one of the songs.  A Beatles song!  Well, sure, the Beatles have enjoyed a renaissance among the young.  Finally I got up and looked out the window.  There seemed to be a gathering at -

The senior citizen's center that is now in my old grade school!

Ha, ha!  Those wild and partying old folks!  This neighborhood is definitely changing! 

June 13, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

When I was in college, everybody dressed pretty casually.  I may have taken it to an extreme, wearing my favorite sweater even though it had a large hole in the left elbow.

Nobody seemed to care.

When I went to work after college I seem not to remember having an issue with clothing.

But when I was a stay-at-home mom, I guess I got careless again.  Clothes with holes happened and money was very short.

I did not like the way I was treated in the neighborhood where I lived in Santa Fe.  I thought it was anti-Gringo because we were in the barrio.  When people called me a hippy, I figured it was my long hair.  (I never thought of myself as a hippy - they were into LSD and communes, weren't they?)

It was only when my husband and I moved into a house on the East side of town that had a back yard on a busy street, that the penny dropped.

The back yard was a mess.  There was a stump in the middle of it, and it was a very small back yard!  Determined to put a garden in, my husband dug up the stump and dug raised beds, all the time subject to hooting and catcalling from passers-by in cars.  Even from the house I could hear an occasional jeer.

One of the first things he put in was a row of shrubs - fernbushes.  They were only about a foot high when he placed them along the back sidewalk.  Then we put in a miniature peach tree and a sistine plum ornamental shrub.  Stuff started growing in the beds, and the catcalls stopped.


We lived there for seven years.  By the time the hedge was two feet tall, it was providing a psychological barrier at the very least.  Gradually our garden came to be admired by passersby (and very occasionally, plundered a little!)

Why am I revisiting these memories?  Because some passer-by walking his/her dog seems to feel free to let doggy let loose (and judging by the evidence, it is a very large dog!) on our lawn.  Not for the first time, either, but I notice that both times lately our lawn has been shaggy (to say the least!)

So am I irritated?  Yes.  But if I don't seem to care, why should anyone else?

These days, when I don't like the way I'm being treated by strangers, I look to myself!


June 12, 2008                                   Valparaiso, IN

I've been busier than usual lately.  It has been hard to feel centered.  It's been hard to feel focussed enough to write at all, let alone with any sort of clarity or purpose.

I should have known.  A month or two of feeling as if things are finally coming together in my mind and life should be a warning that things are going to change.

Maybe it is the weather.  Knowing that the lower portion of the state I live in is under flood conditions, wondering how bad it really is and how people are coping, wondering how the beautiful little town of Madison, Indiana and other towns along the Ohio River are doing, is a little distracting.

Maybe it is the Michelle/Barack fist-bump.  That little moment of team spirit and equality (and openness!) is making me go, "Yes!  That is what I want in a relationship!" Forget this couple-front parading around.  Well, the Obamas do that too, I guess.  With Michelle in $4000 dresses.

In a way I feel like a little kid who has just learned that Santa Claus doesn't exist.

Oh, don't get me wrong.  It is not the fact that the United States citizenry wants royalty, although that is bad enough.  It is the fact that we have always wanted royalty;  the citizenry has always been lied to and manipulated by the ones in power and the ones who would rule; it is the fact that we are not all in this together in spite of the facade;  it is the fact that I can double- and triple-think so successfully all the time about it all.

I don't really believe in a fatherly God any more, but I still talk as if I do.

I don't really believe any more that we have a government of the people, really.  But I still talk and act as if I do.

Why vote at all if I have to be voting for a millionaire?  Why pretend at all that there is security from the weather or Mother Nature or the raw, naked "I want" of power?

Well, I guess, because most of the time our lives allow us to do it.  The sun does come up every day (so far in my life!), the tornado hits two states over, the flood is in another part of the state, "God" seems to be "willing" to allow me to do what I say I am going to do and Barack Obama, with all his human flaws and inadequacies, seems closer to possessing an inner espousal of equality (and how he must have fought internally for that within himself!) beneficial to me as a human being and us as a country than the other candidate.

Maybe that is what is bothering me.  Will the country choose the illusion of fatherly concern and confidence that the other candidate exudes over the younger, less tried Obama?

And does it really matter, if we don't involve ourselves and learn more about our local and regional politicians?

There is just too much to do.

How am I ever going to get the lawn mowed?


June 11, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

The days are so long that my readers have said, "So long!"

Or have I lost my female readers because Hillary lost me?

I hope the Democrats haven't lost them!  But women who would vote for McCain because Clinton didn't win would be cutting off their noses.  I can't believe they will do that!

There is much more difference between McCain and Obama than there is between Obama and Clinton, sex and race notwithstanding!

The turn of women will come, we have seen the promised land!

(Or I should say, you have.  My promised land is in lowliness and obscurity!  Freedom lieth not in the public eye!)

Maybe my readers got turned off by my passing reference to (and joking about tribal use of) bifurcated penises.  It seems as if I saw several cities disappear from MapLoco forever after that piece!  But don't blame the messenger!  Is it my fault that bifurcated penises exist?

(Interestingly enough, the night after I wrote my Rumillumination about uniforms I dreamt that I was at a good-looking young man's home.  We were supposed to be cooking dinner for a fairly large group of people, many of them quite young.  But I couldn't find any nourishing ingredients in his kitchen to make a dish from, and his idea of soup was a big bowl of water with a tablespoon of vinegar!  So maybe talking about bifurcated penises was a mistake.  But I was, and still am, so astounded...!)

At any rate, I will keep on writing, even if toad trillium season is over for this year.  Maybe I will have to turn into a new flower to stumble upon.  How about tiger lilies?

As long as I have a reader or two once or twice a week that beats the old days, writing my heart out and putting the pages away in a dresser drawer!

Hallooo out there!  How are yooo?

June 10, 2008                                       Valparaiso, IN

Maybe McCain - McCaint!

June 9, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

Maybe Hillary's been pilloried.  I'm inclined to think so.  But maybe the way she was trying to become President just isn't the way a woman should become the first female President.

Maybe marrying a man and (whether riding or driving) him to his Presidency isn't the ideal entree for the first woman President.

Cynics may snort.  "How else is a woman going to get the support she needs to do it?"

Well, that's a good question.  Maybe it is not possible.  Maybe even exceptionally brilliant quality will not speak loud enough to people in this country (unlike some other parts of the world!) to allow them to overcome their prejudices and elect a woman President.

But if a woman can't make it without a man breaking the path for her - if she can't become President without a Presidential spouse or a Presidential relative - then the glass ceiling is not forcing us women into a crouch.  It's way over our heads - and nowhere near cracking.

June 8, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

Let me see.  I'm trying to figure out why so many cultures are aborting their female fetuses (feti?)

Is it because women don't earn as much money as men?  They can, though, if the culture would let them.

They can't do it so well, admittedly, while they are having children themselves.  If they are not born at all, though, they won't have children.  Is that the goal?

Who are the parents of these children aborting their female fetuses for?  Themselves?  Don't they want their sons (the fetuses allowed to develop!) to have mates when they grow up?  Don't they want them to have normal family lives?

Isn't there some danger of a substantial population of angrier-than-normal men, mateless and lonely?

The combination of viagra and the abortion of future females could paint a bleak future for young men of the world, reducing the number of young women available to them as mates.

Do the older men, supposedly the wise men of any culture, really think that having all those angry young men wanting to unseat them will lead to a more stable society?

And if it remains stable, at what cost?  Fewer women being virtually sold to the highest bidder?

Is the idea of reducing the number of females intended to make the few who attain adulthood more valuable?  I understand that in India dowries are very high.  Any hope that these could be defined as selling a human and made illegal?

I'm sure that in the U.S., this selective abortion is illegal.  Discrimination on the basis of sex is illegal.

But wait - fetuses don't have rights, do they?

Let me see.  I'm trying to figure out why abortion (which is a sometimes necessary but often unnecessary (ever hear of birth control?) evil) bothers me less than selective abortion.

Is it just that I'm used to the idea of abortion and realize that it is only luck that I never needed one?

I try to get thoughts about this subject clear in my mind, but then they disappear.  They get aborted!

Is this because they are female???

June 7, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

Mikita Brottman says books spoiled her.  I haven't gotten to read her book yet, but she says books spoiled her for real life.  As a child, she would not come to eat with her parents because she was too busy reading.

I want to say that books didn't spoil her, her parents did!

But in what way is she spoiled?  She has learned enough to write a book and get it published!  Sounds pretty fruitful to me!

"Spare the rod and spoil the child."  Well, that is what the Bible says, I guess, but there is every indication that beatings brutalize.

Joy Behar says that her parents loved her to pieces and thought she was great.  More I have not heard, but she sure doesn't sound spoiled - just very funny and highly successful!

The protagonist in Theodore Dreiser's book An American Tragedy (which was turned into the movie "A Place in the Sun") was not spoiled but, if anything, deprived as a child.  And look how he turned out!  (If you don't know, you might want to read it.  You don't hear much about Theodore Dreiser these days, but the above book and Sister Carrie, one of my all-time favorites, are great books!  (Sister Carrie is not a nun.))

Decades ago I heard my mother-in-law (a very nice woman) say about someone, "She's spoiled."  I wondered if it was me she was talking about.  I trust not!  I sure didn't feel spoiled!

When I was in high school my mom complained about people with wild, noisy, "spoiled" children.  "But I guess they turn out all right" she concluded.  It seems to be true.

Now I'm all for the woman in the expensive car ad who finds out someone said she was spoiled.  It gives her a nice smug sense of satisfaction and makes her smile.

Next thing we know, we'll see another ad that portrays her fabulous success in some creative area of art or commerce!  Driving a small, gas-efficient hybrid!

I want to be happy, successful, contented, and "all right!"  In a virtuous hybrid car!

Spoil me! 

June 6, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

Three cheers for "So You Think You Can Dance!"  I can't stand "American Idol", but the dance show is great!

For one, it features several different kinds of dance (hiphop, Broadway, ballroom, contemporary and more, I think) and encourages young dancers to get out of their comfort zones and learn other styles of dancing.

For two, it shows stuff I have never seen on TV before, and I like dance!  I have never before seen contemporary dance on mainstream TV (okay, shake your heads if it shows I'm ignorant!) and the quality of choreography on this show is amazing (earning at least one choreographer (Mia) an Emmy last year!)

And finally, although the audience is treated to excessive doses of emotion on the part of the dancers (hey, if it is real, what can I say?), the judges seem to immediately call the auditioners on stormy, sulky immature behavior.  It is most definitely unprofessional and not-cool to stomp around and storm out, according to them, and they say so.

This is a lesson I think young people need to learn these days to counteract the lousy modeling we see in TV dramas (Law and Order Special Victims Unit comes to mind) and the movies all too often.  Young men, it is not cool to put your fist through the wall!  It is stupid!

So You Think You Can Dance calls it like it is!

Don't like the humiliation of not-so-good dancers in the first few weeks?  Well, now the show is down to the last twenty dancers, so we can all look forward to some mostly great dancing!

June 5, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

I was admiring a particularly attractive yard a week or two ago and spotted the owner cutting dead lilacs off her bushes.  I told her I "wanted even less lawn than you have!" and told her I had admired her garden for a long time.  I asked her if she had any tips.

She told me that in the spring she would dig some space in front of the existing beds and put annuals in for the summer.  Then, in the fall, she would take that already cultivated space and put in perennials.  Pretty good system, don't you think?

She also told me that when people give you cuttings, put them somewhere close to your water source and see how they do and what conditions they are happy in.  Then, when you put them into a permanent spot, you will have a bigger show!

Last year I talked about bunnies in the garden eating my pea plants.  I have heard that you have to put fences into the ground to keep them out, and the seemingly Herculean effort this would require discouraged me.  A lot!

This spring I read a book, The Twenty-minute Gardener (see "For Book Butterflies Hives Alive!") that said the way to keep the rabbits out is to put up fencing right after planting or when the seedlings first come up.  If the rabbits don't get used to eating stuff, they won't go to extreme methods to get at it again.  This works!  The fencing (little wimpy small-holed (1/2 inch) chicken wire stuff) I have put up seems to have discouraged the rabbits.

It gives me a whole new take on Peter Rabbit, and now Farmer McGregor has become a villain again!  Those poor little bunnies wouldn't have been in his garden in the first place if he had fenced it off from the first!

Meanwhile, I failed to protect some transplanted kale thinnings and my local baby bunny seemed to like kale!  (He still turns up his nose at lettuce, stereotypes notwithstanding!) 


June 4, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

I have a very Conservative friend.  At least, I think he is.  Maybe he told me so.  I'm talking about the "very", not the ''Conservative" part.  Even I, who don't always think of people in such terms (because what do the labels really mean?  The way they talk?  The way they live their lives?  What they think they think is important? get my drift!) know most people would call this guy a Conservative.

Somehow the friendship seems to survive all our differences, probably because we talk.

One day a year or so ago I was talking about President Bush and my admittedly probably paranoid fear that when the time came he would not be willing to turn over the reins of power - that he might try to establish military law and become a dictator!

My friend admitted to having had the same fear - about President Clinton!  Talk about paranoid!  (ha, ha!)

What is really scary, I suppose, is that we even entertained those thoughts.  In my case (of course!) I think my fear was partly justified by what many of us see as the erosion of the authority of the Constitution.  ("If he can get by with this, what is to stop him from trying that?")

(My friend, of course, would say his fear of the Clintons is justified by Hilary Clinton's refusal even now to concede the nomination to Obama!)

But the fact is, there are so many checks and balances written into our constitution (far beyond the major three divisions of government we are always hearing about) that such an attempt at a complete takeover of the U.S.A. by a presiding President is unlikely.

Those constructors of the Constitution really got it right!

(I hope!  Did you know that even Ben Franklin could only hope that the Constitution would guarantee the survival of the U.S. as a republic for a long, long time?  (And already, we are wondering, has it succeeded?))  

June 3, 2008                                          Valparaiso, IN

I know that to admit this makes me sound terribly old but I remember the days before SUVs!  Never even heard of them!

I remember the days of great gas mileage, of "small is beautiful."  Small cars were smart.  Lots of people were choosing small vehicles - and bikes - "for the environment" forty years ago.  My husband and I rode off on our wedding night on bikes dragging tin cans behind them (compliments of my little sister!)

I don't know if anyone "young" (not that I'm "old", you understand!) can understand the frustration people like me have endured over the last 35 years - hoping in vain for the development of alternative fuel and energy sources on a large (oops!) scale, trying to understand the craze for big.

Did it happen when Texans took over the White House?

Now factories are closing because "big" applies more to the cost of gas than to how far a gallon can get you.  SUVs are going out out out of style as they are running out out out of gas.

Is this change back to sanity permanent?  Will we be careful of our gas squandering forevermore?

I don't think anyone my age could possibly believe that! 

June 2, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

This morning when I found myself doing my morning count of almonds (yes!  I usually use six) to chop for my breakfast cereal, I started wondering (not for the first time!) "am I compulsive?"  I don't think so.  If I find five in my hand, I will take another because I don't want to cheat myself.  But if there are seven, I leave the extra one in (a treat!)

But what I also found myself wondering is, does that one almond change anything in my body?  Does it make a difference?  Why did I choose the number six as the magic one?  Well, given my eating habits, I can safely say that one almond is not likely to make a difference.  I am much more worried about the amounts of dark chocolate I injest!

But is the question as silly as it sounds?  In one of the Fletch books he counsels an extemely overweight person (in a way that admittedly might not work with such an overweight person in real life) that the trick with choosing food is to use the amounts that your "machine" needs.  (Obviously an overweight person does need more than a smaller person, but not as much as he is presently eating for a gradual take-off of pounds.  Remember, overweight people not only have more fat - they have more muscle, too!)

Sure, we are not machines.  We are human.  But I wonder if even those of us of average weight aren't better off when we treat our bodies a little more like engines!  Some engines might, because of some fluke, require more oil than others.  Some cannot run as long without overheating because of some flaw or dysfunction of the radiator system.

Our bodies are way more complicated than engines!  So why not start taking a more objective view (guided by subjective experience - not to be confused with emotional "feelings"!) of food?

I don't eat the way I did when I was growing up.  My mother was more nutrition- and health- conscious than most moms, I think, but what worked (or perhaps, truth be told, was not quite ideal for this body even then) just plain doesn't work anymore.

Any change is hard at the beginning, if you feel deprived (or in the case of exercise, overworked!)  (Try being nicer to yourself in some other way to compensate, maybe!  Stop indulging in some behavior that you don't enjoy and gives you stress, for instance (like, say, doing favors for a person who doesn't appreciate them.))  And it is not healthy to make yourself miserable with too extreme or too sudden a change.  But as you get used to the new way, you will be amazed at how you might begin to like it!

I love fresh (not canned) spinach and chard and kale - especially straight out of the garden!  Amazing!  That is learned behavior, I think.  No kid says, "Yum, yum, spinach!  My favorite!"

One way to cut back is to upgrade.  If you can't give up ice cream, buy really good ice cream.  Once you get the habit of really good ice cream, you won't be tempted by the run-of-the-mill stuff you run into everywhere!  Only the best will do!  (Only - here's the trick - much less of it, because it's so expensive!  And comes in smaller containers!)

Don't get me wrong.  I don't know you.  Don't make my mom's mistake and think I'm trying to tell you what to do!  There isn't a person in the world under my control!  (Thank God - I am uncomfortable in authoritative roles!  And who am I to think that I have anything original to offer with regards to the most overworked subjects in the U.S. - diet and exercise?  Ridiculous!)

These are just ideas triggered by the seven almonds I was contemplating in my palm this morning....

June 1, 2008                                    Valparaiso, IN

In the last couple of weeks, I finally understood why we are to "never speak ill of the dead."

Sometimes you hear it spoken in a superstitious way.  "Don't say bad things about so-and-so or he might come back and haunt you!"

I remember being told that we don't say negative things about someone who has died out of respect for the deceased.  I always tried, for the most part, to obey this admonition out of respect for the elders who spoke it!  Otherwise, why is it disrespectful to tell the truth?

Now that I'm older it has occurred to me that we don't speak ill of the dead because the dead can't defend themselves.  After all, nobody worries about speaking critically (to say the least!) about serial killers and deposed despots!  They had their chance to defend themselves before they died!

Culturally, we try not to speak ill of the dead.  And, what do you know, it is out of respect for them.  But not, maybe, out of respect for their imperfect selves (for we all are vulnerable to criticism) but out of respect for the fact that they cannot defend themselves against our sometimes overly-harsh words.

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