Wednesday, May 31, 2017

In The Summertime

Monday was Memorial Day, the unofficial start to summer.  If this song doesn't scream "carefree summer relaxation" I don't know what does:

The song is the biggest hit for Mungo Jerry, a British rock group. (Fun fact-their name was inspired by the poem "Mungojerrie and Rumpleteazer", from T. S. Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats, more than a decade before Andrew Lloyd Webber turned the same poem into a song in his musical Cats.)

Five years ago today: If You Don't Know Me By Now

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Walk of Trust

Before 2014 very few people outside of our metropolitan area had ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri. Then Michael Brown was shot and that changed forever.

Although since that time there have been commissions studying the issues and a Department of Justice investigation, things are not completely settled.  Robert Carlson, the Archbishop of St. Louis, had the idea to invite members of the TaizĂ© Community (an ecumenical monastic order in France) to help plan a weekend long Pilgrimage of Trust. As part of the pilgrimage they sponsored a Walk of Trust for people of all faiths and backgrounds this afternoon.  Hubby Tony and I were there.  It was an awesome experience. 

According to the event's website:
The Walk of Trust is an important display of the unity and solidarity we need to begin healing the many divisions present in our community.
The Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis, where we started, was the second stop on the walk.  Right as the church bells were ringing at 2:00 the people gathered outside started walking.  The group moved slowly but steadily around the neighborhood, picking up more walkers at the Second Presbyterian Church and the Galilee Baptist Church. It stopped at the Daughters of Charity Province Office for prayer and song, then continued on to the West Pine Mosque and the Clock Tower on the St. Louis University campus (where we stopped for more prayer and song).  Next we walked towards the school's Chaifetz Arena, where we gathered for more prayer before heading inside.

Several hundred people filtered into the arena for a prayer service.  There were short homilies by Archbishop Carlson and the Reverend Traci Blackmon, a member of the Ferguson Commission.  After more prayer, meditation, and song, the walk officially ended.

I can't think of a better way to spend an afternoon.  It was great to talk with people from all different parts of the metropolitan area, and several from other states (and even Canada!) who had come specifically for the Pilgrimage. I learned something from each and every one of them.

Five years ago today: Memorial

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Trash Can Composter

In the summer of 2011 I installed a new compost bin in the back yard. The recycled black plastic bin had a removable lid and a sliding door at the bottom to remove the finished compost.  It worked great for a while, but last year the weight of the material inside the plastic bin warped the runners and one side of the door came off and hung awkwardly.  I tried to fix it a couple of times, but didn't have any luck.  I decided that this spring it was time to start over with a new bin.

The last few weeks I've searched the websites of Amazon, some local specialty retailers, and all the hardware stores in our area looking for something that was sturdy, durable, and less than $100.  Much to my surprise, even the ones that cost close to the maximum price only got fair reviews.  I did not want to spend that kind of money to have something that wouldn't last!

Son Donald is only going to be home for one more week before he goes back to college for summer session classes  I was counting on him to help me with the manual labor of emptying the old bin and filling the new one, so time was of the essence.  This morning I had an inspiration.  Would a trash can work?  A quick Google search revealed that yes, it would indeed.

On the way home from the gym I stopped at a big box hardware store and bought the cheapest black plastic trash can they had. Using the directions for a Trash Can Composter I found on the Whole Foods blog, I measured out where I wanted to put the air holes (marking them with dabs of bright pink fingernail polish), then put a spade bit on the drill and bored out all the holes.  I also drilled a hole in the lid and attached it to the can's handle with a piece of rope so it wouldn't blow away.

Donald had emptied the old bin and had the site all ready to go when I was done.  I set the holey trash can in place and used a level to make sure it was straight, then put a landscaping brick in the bottom of the can so the critters couldn't tip it over. We used a shovel and a pitchfork to fill the new bin with partially decomposed food and garden scraps. 

The purpose of compost, of course, is to help amend garden soil, so while we were at it we also dumped several wheelbarrows full of finished compost on a perennial bed and spread it around.

The finished product
Five years ago today: What A Rebel!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

NOBODY Will Be Getting That Data

Several months ago my very geriatric laptop (a Christmas present back in 2010) stopped working.  When I turned it on I could hear the computer start, but the screen remained black.  At its age I decided it wasn't worth trying to repair it. 

I rarely saved files on the laptop (preferring to network to the desktop computer in the kitchen, so everything was in one place). To the best of my recollection all that was the dead unit were a few clip arts. However, on the off chance I was wrong I didn't want to just recycle the computer as it was, and decided to remove and destroy the hard drive.

 I asked Son Donald if he knew anything about the insides of laptops. He didn't, but was happy to take on the job of researching and completing the removal project. It took him 15 minutes, and at the end of it he handed me the small rectangular hard drive.  While I was trying to figure out what the next step should be I set the hard drive on the kitchen island. After a couple of days it got buried by some papers. Today I moved those papers and saw the hard drive anew and decided it would be a good day to finish the project. 

The WikiHow article How to Destroy a Hard Drive was a fun combination of practical (how to wipe the data) and witty (shooting the drive at a firing range) information. I wanted a fast and easy approach, so I choose the article's second method, which was Hammering the Hard Drive.

I took the drive and a hammer outside to the back patio, then started pounding vigorously on the cover.  After several blows Donald, who had come out with me, decided he wanted to get involved, too.  I watched him have fun banging on the drive until the cover separated into two pieces.  He removed the magnet and gave the shiny platter a couple more whacks until it was completely shattered into small pieces. 

The final step of the project was to clean up all the tiny shards that had flown to all corners of the patio and throw them away, knowing that my information was safe. 

Five years ago today: Have Helmet Will Travel

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Waterless WC

This morning when Hubby Tony and I rolled out of bed it was sunny and almost 60 degrees...a beautiful day for outdoor activities.  He suggested a walk, but when I reminded him we hadn't been on a bike ride yet this year he quickly agreed.  After breakfast we loaded the bikes into the car and headed towards Grant's Trail. I like riding there, because as a former railroad right of way it's nice and flat.  When we reached the trailhead parking lot we got the bikes ready to ride.  But before I started I decided I needed to use the rest room.

It's been several years since we've been on that section of the trail.  My recollection was that the restroom was actually a port-a-potty, so I was pleasantly surprised to see that there was now a real building with separate Men's and Women's sides.  When I entered the single stall room the first thing I notices was the interesting-looking lavatory.  The sign on the wall told me it was a composting toilet.

According to Wikipedia, a composting toilet is a type of waterless system that uses a predominantly aerobic process to treat human excreta by composting. As befitting a waterless system this toilet had no water tank.  Instead, the seat with attached lid was placed directly on top of a large tank. A sign on the wall told me not to put bottles, cans, trash, cigarettes, cigars, or matches in the toilet, and to close the lid when I was done.

A small plastic trash can filled with wood shavings was attached to the wall next to the toilet.  There was a scoop attached to the can with a long cord.  No instructions were included, but I knew from my experience with composting that in order to keep a pile from smelling you need the right ratio of "greens" (fresh nitrogen-rich materials) and "browns" (dry or woody carbon-rich materials).  So when I was done I added a large scoop of shavings to the toilet before I closed the lid.

Five years ago today: Time To Eat! Now!!!

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

In Any Language, It's Still Dinner

Last week Son Donald finished his college semester. Over the weekend he came home with a car full of clothes, bedding, and books.

Tonight we had our traditional end of studies family celebration dinner.  Hubby Tony brought home carry out Chinese from a restaurant close to his office.  The food was good and plentiful. It wasn't until I was cleaning off the table that I noticed the slip of paper that was in the bag.  As much Chinese food as I've had over the years, it's never come with a bi-lingual receipt.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

The Wide Spectrum of Mothering

My niece posted this on her Facebook page. I thought it was powerful enough to share.
The Wide Spectrum of Mothering

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you

To those who lost a child this year–we mourn with you

To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stain–we appreciate you

To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you

To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment—we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is

To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms–we need you

To those who have warm and close relationships with your children–we celebrate with you

To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children–we sit with you

To those who lost their mothers this year–we grieve with you

To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother–we acknowledge your experience

To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood–we are better for having you in our midst

To those who have aborted children–we remember them and you on this day

To those who are single and long to be married and moth ering your own children–we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be

To those who stepparent–we walk with you on these complex paths

To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren, yet that dream is not to be–we grieve with you

To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year–we grieve and rejoice with you

To those who placed children up for adoption–we commend you for your selflessness and remember how you hold that child in your heart

And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising–we anticipate with you

This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.
By Amy Young
Five years ago today: Strawberries In Tuxedos

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Solitude and Silence

Monday morning before I woke up Hubby Tony left for a week-long work training class. It's been strange without him here, but I've been taking advantage of the strangeness.

Tony usually wakes up an hour or so before me and takes care of the cat's morning meal.  While he's gone I'm in charge (and the cats still expect to be fed at the same time), but I've figured out how to do the job and go back to sleep until the alarm goes off.  Each day I've left the house to run errands or go to the gym, but I've also taken advantage of the extra time to get some work done.  Right now I'm in the middle of a phone call project.  Each call (including preparation, the call itself, and documenting what was said) takes about an hour.  Usually one call a day is all I can fit in, but because my personal interaction obligations are minimal I've been completing two. 

Instead of stopping to fix dinner I can eat what I want, when I want to, where ever I want to. Monday night I bought a deli sandwich from the grocery store, brought it home, and ate it while I surfed the web. Tuesday I made a two-serving casserole, ate half of it while checking Facebook, and saved the rest for Wednesday.   Tonight I repeated the process with a soup and computer mahjong.

There is much less coffee being made and consumed each day.  With only one person in the house there has been minimal laundry to do and the few dirty dishes I make are easy to hand wash.  At night I get to decide what I'll watch on TV and what time I'll go to bed.  During the night I can stretch out into Tony's part of the bed (as long as I don't disturb Pepper the Cat, who always sleeps on that side).

Tony will get home tomorrow evening and things will go back to normal.   As much as I've enjoyed the 'me' time I can't wait.

Five years ago today: Wake Up Call?

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Unexpected Art

A couple of weeks ago I had my twice-yearly dental checkup and cleaning. During the x-ray process the hygienist discovered I had a small cavity in one of my teeth and scheduled an appointment to fill it. That appointment was today.

I always have the same hygienist for my cleaning appointments. His room is the first one you come upon when you go back into the office area.  Today, though, I was led to a different room by a different hygienist.  After I got settled in the chair she clipped a bib around my neck.  The procedure started with the application of a numbing gel to the area so I wouldn't feel the local anesthesia needle.

The hygienist left the room until the numbing gel was fully effective.  While I was waiting I looked around the room.  My dentist is an avid photographer who also travels extensively. The office is filled with his large prints of exotic locations and animals.Recently he's also installed large TVs in the examination rooms, which show slide shows of his work mixed in with stock dental slides. 

It wasn't until I looked straight overhead that I noticed another photo. This one, attached to the ceiling right over the chair, was of two hummingbirds at a feeder.  Looking at that print was a great diversion while the dentist was drilling away.

Five years ago today: Skip The Elevator-Take The Stairs

Monday, May 8, 2017

Lubed Lips Lamentation

Over the weekend I attended the twice-yearly state business meeting of a group I belong to. Friday afternoon I rode with some friends halfway across the state to the Lake of the Ozarks. The meeting started Saturday morning and ended (with breaks for lunch and dinner) ten hours later. On Sunday there were four more hours of business before we adjourned until the fall.

This is my seventh year attending these meetings.  The tables we sit at are cramped.  It's an inconvenience having my purse with me, so I've developed a system for carrying my essential things.  I put all the manuals and papers I need in a tote bag, which goes underneath the table at my feet.  In my front left jeans pocket I put my room key and lip balm (because I need for my lips to feel lubricated at all times). My cell phone goes in a back jeans pocket.

Saturday morning before the meeting started I ate breakfast in the hotel's restaurant, then took my purse back to the room. I checked to make sure I had my key in the pocket, then walked down to the conference room where the meeting was held. I was almost there when I realized my lips felt dry, so I reached into the pocket for the lip balm.

It wasn't there.  That was a problem.

I backtracked all the way to my room, thinking the small tube could have fallen out of my pocket along the way. Nothing. And then, because I didn't have access to it, my lips needed lubrication even more.  It was all I could think about. 

I was so desperate that I thought that perhaps putting some of the beeswax hand salve I keep in the zipper pocket of the purse would moisten my lips. When I opened the pocket, guess what I discovered?  The lip balm. 

I must have applied it after breakfast and automatically put it back in the purse.  Life was good.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Floods, Crests, And A New Day

Last weekend, when Hubby Tony and I were in Dallas, our area got a little over five inches of rain.  In the past two days almost three more inches came down.  All the precipitation had to go somewhere.  All the areas that usually flood did, as did areas that normally stay dry.  The weather service called it at 500-year flood, meaning that the chance of a flood of this magnitude occurring in any year is approximately one in 500.  (The same thing happened at the end of 2015, but that's another story.)

Thanks to the Meramec River, the water topped Interstate 44 completely.  Manchester Road, an arterial street I use almost every day, became the detour. It was strange to see the road filled with huge semis, and all the extra vehicles backed traffic up badly.  Southbound Interstate 55 was also briefly closed, as well as many of the major cross streets close to the river.


Usually at the beginning of May I'm washing the winter coats and clothes and putting them away for the year.  However, the past two days I wore my lighter coat when I went out to run errands.  It was so chilly in the house that I finally broke down and turned the furnace back on. 

The rain ended last night after dinner.  This morning when my alarm went off the sun was shining and the birds were chirping. The first thing I did was turn off the furnace and open up a couple of windows.   It felt like the dawn of a new day.

Five years ago today: A Peony For Your Thoughts

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Write It Out

I was recently introduced to The Bureau of Communication  Their website says:
Every day, there are millions of thoughts that go unspoken.  To promote better understanding between the peoples of the world, the Bureau of Communication is pleased to present a selection of fill-in-the-blank stationary for everyday correspondence.  Whether you need to communicate a problem, send an invitation to an event, or simply apologize for a transgression, our easy-to-use forms will ensure that your message is clearly conveyed.
All of the Bureau's humorous forms can be filled in online and emailed or shared on Facebook.  The site's home page has links to eight different forms  (Declaration of Romantic Intent, Unsolicited Feedback, Observance of Holiday, Airing of Grievance, Formal Apology, Statement of Gratitude, Official Invitation, and Acknowledgement of Occasion).  Clicking through on one of those will take you to a second screen that has a dozen more (Apology, Forgiveness, Thank You, Invitation, Love Letters, Complaint, Feedback, Marriage, Will and Testament, Gift Giving, Bad News, and Non-Disclosure Agreement).  When you've finalized a form you can mark it with one of several stamps to make it extra-special.

Tonight I completed a Gratitude form. Filling in the blanks was a bit like doing a Mad Lib when you knew ahead of time what sentiment you wanted to express.  After the form was finished I sent it to a friend.  I don't think the email would ever take the place of a personal communication, but it's a fun and interesting addition, which might start a nice conversation.

Five years ago today: Out With The Cold

Monday, May 1, 2017

D Is For Dallas

A decade ago I rarely traveled anywhere. Now I have children scattered across the country, and much of my vacation  time revolve around visiting them.

Hubby Tony and I just returned from a weekend trip to Dallas, which is where Son Tony and his friend Ie moved last fall.  We left Friday after breakfast and got back Sunday right before bedtime.  In a little over 48 hours we fit a lot in.

We ate...fried chicken, farm-to-table food, barbecue, breakfast, and Thai.

Texas-size BBQ meat for four
We explored...the West End Historic District neighborhood around Tony and Ie's apartment, other parts of downtown, and the Uptown area where they just bought a condo.

We got our culture at the Sixth Floor Museum, dedicated to the life, times, and legacy of  President John F. Kennedy and at an event at a movie theater hosted by two of the past cast members of the Mystery Science Theater 3000 show.

All too soon it was time for Tony and Ie to take us back to the airport.  It was a great visit, and I look forward to many more.