Thursday, October 10, 2013

Post Old Aunt Sayings

My Aunt used to say: You know how they say, "After they made him, they broke the mold?" Well, you were made with one of those broken molds.

I think it was her own invention.  

[added 7/5/2014]  

Aunt D would love being remembered and written about, but she would hate the title of this post.  It could be read it as me saying that she was old.  I will specify that she was not old when she began using the saying, it's just that she said it enough to become an old saying, of the aunt-ish variety.  Which only implies that she's old.  

She picked up a hatred of aging from her mother, my Grandma.  Grandma picked it up from her father, although it was also probably a standard tenet in her social group.  Her father used to say that a woman who would tell her age would tell anything.  I learned this from my Father who used to complain about his relatives as a regular thing.  Grandpa P died long before I was born.  When Father would talk about his sayings, his voice would tighten into a sneer.  He complained that his mother took them too seriously.

"From his lips to her heart," he would sneer.  "With no thought at all."  Of course, it didn't help at all that the sayings had been either aimed at Dad, when he was young, or used as trump cards in arguments with him.  The only other one I remember, really, is "Laugh before breakfast:  cry before supper."  I've never heard it anywhere else and I agree that it deserved to be ignored.  

Friday, September 6, 2013

Post I Need to Find the Right Pants

“I sat and stared at the page for about twenty minutes going “What is in those bushes?” before drawing the first appearance of the shadowchild.

If it wasn’t for the seat of my pants, I’d have no plot at all.”
Ursula Vernon (from the Digger webcomic)

WuseMajor said, in the comments section: 

"Given that the seat of your pants gave us Ed, the Shadowchild, and who knows what else, I obviously have been shopping for pants in all the wrong places."
My mission is clear.  I need to find out where Ursula Vernon buys her pants. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Post A Little Personal Whimsey

(You're looking for the little sign that says "This Workplace Proudly Velociraptor Free Since 2003".)

OK.  I stole the idea from someone else on the internet. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Post Getting Back to it Slowly & I Come in Peas

It's been two months since I did a real post.  I think I needed the break. 

Since the last little post was about fabric, here's another link to a fabric design.  If you don't want to open another window, it's a repeating pattern of this:

It's for a Halloween costume.  I'm going to make a dress and loose-fitting jacket with it.  There may be a pair of tasteful antennae.  I'll be a visiting space alien.  When asked about the dress, I'll say "I come in peas."

[7/5/2014]  I'm updating and making the odd correction, here and there.  I thought I'd add that the fabric pattern above did not make the final cut for the costume.  Nor did the costume get made in 2013.

But fear not!  I have persevered and developed another pattern that is more densely pea-ridden and much more garish.  It's here.   I have purchased enough of it to make the costume.  I have a pattern for sewing it up.  And I have made pea and pea pod beads to make a necklace with, for wearing with the costume.  

The pattern was cleaned up a bit and then mosaicked, before it was fabricked.

Yes, the first design looks better as a single block.  But if you try to print it as fabric, it's either so small that no one can tell that it's peas from any kind of distance, or it's large enough that it's mostly empty space.  Also when if you cut the larger version into pieces that will be sewn together, the pattern does not line up at all on the final garment.  Pattern 2 is all peas, everywhere.  It may be necessary to do some aligning before cutting, but there's no danger of losing the idea that these are PEAS.  

I still need to string the beads, sew the dress and jacket, and buy a suitable hat and, possibly, a pair of tasteful antennae.  But I'm not past deadline, yet.  Yes, I thought of the concept three years ago, but I'm not going to count the time spent just thinking about it once in awhile and collecting pea photos from time to time.  Morally, I've only missed the deadline once.  And I got pretty close.  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Post Drafting fabric

This is a first attempt at designing fabric to make a scarf for someone. 

It's brown, salmon, and pink

That's probably showing the heart at twice the size that it is on the fabric, depending on your screen size.  After being entered into the engine, the block gets repeated in a pattern that you choose.  So the fabric is brown with little salmon/pink hearts sprinkled about.  

Updating later:  Here's me flirting with trademark infringement.  I sooth myself with the thought that I've only made 50 cents from posting it, and that's probably all I'm ever going to get.  

Are you old enough to remember this one?  

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Post My Sister Threatens a Caterpillar

[Blogger refuses to let me set the font, today, or the font size (this is supposed to be small).  No matter how many times I change it, it sets different paragraphs in different fonts.  If it were an object, I'd have thrown it across the room by now.]  [7/4/14 - looks like it's taking font edits today.  We'll see when I check the actual blog page.]

My sister, S2, once threatened to bite a caterpillar in half.  This may not seem terribly important, without context, but it was a significant family event.  Let me add the context.  It may seem like I'm going back a tad far, but trust me, the background is necessary.

I'm the oldest daughter and the oldest child in my family.  That includes being the first grandchild on both sides of the family.  My sister, S1, was born two years after I was, so there wasn't that much alone time for me to resent her taking away and there wasn't that much developmental difference between us after a few years.  We mostly learned playing-related things together. 

Our younger sister, S-2, on the other hand, was five years younger than me and three years younger than S-1.  S-1 and I had developed our playing processes and friends by the time S-2 was old enough to be sent outside to play.  S-2 was always playing catch up. 

Now my parents, my father especially, were hermits.  Dad watched the news and read the newspaper and obsessed about how dangerous the world was.  While other children roamed the neighborhood to play, he put up a chain link fence and required us to stay inside it.  Other children could come in but we couldn't come out.  As a result, we got to know our back yard really well.

In our back yard, up against the garage, were several acacia bushes surrounded by a curving line of bricks to keep the grass out of their bed.  The bricks weren't mortared in place, they just sat on the soil and slowly sank in a little.  If you lifted one up, you'd find bugs under it.  All of us were interested in the bugs.  That includes our friends. 

Pill bugs (what my Mom called, we thought, Sell Bugs) were a favorite.  Ants aren't very interesting and earwigs are scary, but the pill bugs roll up like little armadillos and you never know how long you'll have to hold your hand still before they'll open up again and tiptoe, tickling across your palm and fingers.

Better than pill bugs were the fuzzy, black caterpillars that nibbled at the acacias.  S-1 was more interested in bugs than any of us, and especially lover the caterpillars.  She was more patient with them and would hold still or would move in slow motion while they crawled on her.  She was rapt at their undulating velvet movements.  The rest of us could catch them and play with them a little, but we'd eventually get impatient with their slowness and put them in an old peanut butter jar with holes in the lid. 

S-1 would also keep caterpillars in jars.  Sometimes multiple jars.  She was better at keeping the jars clean and the caterpillars fed.  I don't know about our friends, but I would usually let the caterpillars go after a week or so.  I would have lost interest in cleaning and feeding by then and either Mother would issue warnings about them dying or I would get nervous about it, myself, after hearing previous proclamations of doom.

S-1, on the other hand, quite often got caterpillars to make cocoons and sometimes they even hatched out.  I think they were moths, rather than butterflies. 

So S-1 was established as loving caterpillars.  S-2 was often passively left out of our play, just because she was younger and smaller and couldn't keep up.  This came together one day.  One day we were playing in the back yard.  No surprise there.  We had collected many caterpillars, where we were keeping in a red wagon.  There may have been as many as a dozen.  I think there was some vegetation in the wagon to occupy them.  But they still tended to wander off.  Together with whatever else we were doing, we would gently pick up the ones that reached the lip of the wagon.  With the wagon, we could relocate the caterpillars to wherever we wanted to play.  Well, wherever we wanted within the back and side yards.

At some point, S-2 had enough of being ignored.  She demanded that we play with her.  Unfortunately for her, that was easy to ignore.  I mean, we weren't deliberately snubbing her or anything, so it didn't seem like we were doing anything wrong.  So she picked up a caterpillar, put it halfway into her mouth, and threatened to bite it in half if we didn't play with her.

Talk about shrieks.  S-1 went  ballistic.  She couldn't grab the caterpillar or swat at S-2 without risking its goo-filled life.  After yelling more than a bit and after all of us telling S-2 to spit it out, either S-1 ran to get Mom or Mom heard the ruckus and came out.

There were enraged and tearful complaints.  S-2 didn't resist when Mom took the caterpillar away from her.  Mom told her not to do that again because it wasn't fair to the caterpillar.  She also told us to play with our sister.  Since she went right back into the house, that worked about the way you'd expect.

We spend a good amount of time sternly and/or aggrievedly telling S-2 how horrible she had been.  Since that made her the center of attention of four older kids, I don't remember that she minded that.  We eventually came to just naturally include her.  I'm assuming that it was mostly that she had just become old enough to include, with her protest being a sign that she was ready.  The threat might have had something to do with it.  Not so much because of fear of retaliation (Mom had forbidden her to do it again, after all), but due to a grudging respect for her being willing to go that far and clever enough to hit us in a weak spot. 

Bad girl, S-2.  Well done

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Post Dear Son Is Allergic To Minnesota

Dear Son and I are on a road trip that will eventually take us to the wedding of one of my nieces, or one of his cousins, depending on perspective.  Yesterday was the third day.  We discovered that he is allergic to Minnesota.  Seriously.  We crossed the state line, stopped at the first rest stop, and he threw up.

He complained that throwing up was not accompanied by feeling better, which to his mind is the purpose of throwing up.  I sympathized.  He's been feeling lurgy since then.  

Today we're visiting Beloved Son and his Dear Wife.  Eldest Offspring will fly in on Thursday and the four of us will continue the road trip to Ohio, the location of the wedding.  The day after the wedding, at the latest, we'll reverse the procedure, only with less visiting.  

It hasn't been too tough so far.  We've averaged twelve hours driving per day.  We've slept on real beds.  Dear Son has forced me to do stretches and squats every time we stop, which, thanks to my bladder, is often.  So my bones may be vibrating a bit but I'm not feeling run down.  

We passed the Spam Museum last night.  According to their website, "Referred to by some meat historians as The Guggenham, Porkopolis or M.O.M.A. (Museum Of Meat-Themed Awesomeness), the SPAM® Museum is home to the world’s most comprehensive collection of spiced pork artifacts."  I can only say that there must be a SPAM® processing plant nearby.  You can smell hot spam from the highway.  

There's a billboard near the exit saying that the Spam Museum is where Hawaiians go on vacation.  I've never been to Hawaii, but I've heard from those who have that you can get SPAM® burgers at McDonalds, there. I've also never been to the Spam Museum, but Roadside America has a nice writeup.  There's also a shorter and less flip (and therefore less fun) writeup at Explore Minnesota.  Google shows pages of reviews and a few YouTube videos.  Not sure I'd want to watch someone else's tour, but if you're undecided as to whether or not to visit this free attraction, you might find one useful.

I'll tell you about the truck fire later.  It wasn't our truck.  We're driving in a van.  Oh, and the word of the day is uropatagium, a word I discovered here, in a review of a childrens' book centered around a pterosaur.  You know you need one of those.  

Friday, May 10, 2013

Post Fluff Dried

[Written when we lived on M St.  Probably the first year I delivered pizzas for Professor’s Pizza.]  [[It was originally typed, with strike-outs and everything.]]

The kids washed a dead duck today.  At least I hope was dead.  It certainly was when they were finished with it.  They mentioned that it was dying, when I phoned from work, and that they were trying to warm it.  This on a day that had hit the 90s. 

“No, Kevin, it’s not cold.  This isn’t a cold day. Take my word that it’s not cold and just leave it.  I’ll look at it when I get home.”

I could tell that they were really pooling their resources and trying to find a way to help the poor, half-fledged thing.  And they had already learned something from the experience.

“Mom, I don’t know what’s wrong with the cat.  She’s just acting crazy.  I don’t know what to do.”

“What’s she doing?”

“She just keeps attacking it.”

“She’s outside?”

“No, we brought it in.”

“Oh, OK.  The cat’s fine.  That’s just the way cats are, they’re hunters.”

“Oh.  Should we shut the bedroom door, then?”

“If that’s where the duck is, yeah, that would help.”

“Hey, David!  Shut my bedroom door!”  (If she’s crazy or being bad she’s supposed to get over it or control herself.  If it’s just the way she is, well, we can think of ways around it.)

“Mom.  David says the duck's dead.”

“Just leave it where it is.  I’ll look at it when I get home.”

“He says it’s stiff.  Does that mean it’s dead for sure?”

“Yeah, it does.  Get a plastic bag and put it in the garage.  Can you do that?”

“Oh, sure.  I can do that.”  (All problems solved, now.  Kevin in charge.)  “No problem.  I’ll go do it now.”

“OK.  The next pizza’s up anyway.  I’ve got to run.  See you in a few hours.”

A few hours is more than enough time to forget a duck when you’re working two part time jobs that don’t mesh together well.  More than enough.  When I got home at 10:15 and the dinner dishes were still on the table (although the bowls that I had told Kevin to do were done) and there was an unbelievable pile of things in the bathroom with my hair dryer, of all things plugged in in Kevin’s room, I did not, at all, think of the duck.

I went into Kevin’s room where the three of them were sleeping in a sweaty one-sitter-sacked-the-next-not-yet-found mass (I’m certainly not going to tell them they have to sleep in their own beds when any fool knows there might be something looking in the windows) and I got them up.  Sort of. 

They don’t wake up well in the middle of the night.  Eric tried his hardest to pretend he couldn’t possibly wake up and therefore almost couldn’t.  Kevin got up and laid back down four times before he actually knew he was awake and that someone was talking to him.  David got up. Was told to clear the table. Wandered into his room thinking he had been told to sleep in his own bed.  Got yelled at.  Got up. Almost went back to bed.  Decided he was supposed to be doing something and started trying to pick up his pants and take the belt out of them so they could go into the laundry.

When I stuck my head in the door and frowned, he groggily yelled, “I’m doing it!  I’m doing it!”  I led him to the kitchen.  I led Eric to the bathroom.  I asked Kevin what my hair dryer was doing in his room.

“Oh.  We were using it to warm the duck.”

Now they’re back asleep and I’ve unwound and there were soggy black pinfeathers stuck all over the tub when I went in and took my shower.  And I realize that what was for me a four minute phone call was for them the whole night and a good deal else besides.

It was a test of their ingenuity / competence / resources / knowledge / independence.  It was a chance to learn and do without an adult to map it out for them (until the phone call – but that was too late anyway). 

They had been proud and excited and had worked together on it as hard as they could.  And it took up so much of their time and their thought, even after it was all over, that of course they had no time to remember other things they were supposed to do.

It must have been really something.

I can picture the collaboration, the arguing, the suggesting, the deciding.  Of course warm water, but that wasn’t working and now if we try something else, it’s wet, and that will make it cold . . .

A fluff dried dead duck.  I can picture it.  If the duck went the way of it’s recently departed brothers and sisters (who died when I was home and the kids weren’t), it was dead when they found it in the yard.  I hope so.  They said it never moved the whole time they tried to revive it.

I think I know, now why there was a suitcase in the bathroom with one of the sheets off of their bed stuffed into it.  I’m not so sure about the tape player.  Maybe that was to cheer it up.  I’m not sure I want to know. 

Monday, April 29, 2013

Post Grandma D's Old Address Book

Grandma D was the one who kept different groups of distant cousins in touch.  We sort of rode on her letter writing, which was prodigious.  In going through the boxes that Mom left behind, I found an old address book that looks like it's Grandma D's.  It's got an address sticker with my Grandfather's name and address pasted to the cover, but he wasn't the one who wrote letters or collected addresses.  So it's Grandma's book.

It's mostly in pencil and therefor smudged and hard to read.  It was completely filled.  Addresses ran over into the front panes and the backs of the covers.  Some were written on scraps of paper and one edge glued to the top of the front cover, so that they can be flipped through. 

A note inside says that Grandpa began working in Buttonwillow (CA) July 24, 1967.  It doesn't say what he was doing, just what his temporary address was.  He was a carpenter and a welder, so he was doing some sort of construction, but I've never heard what. 

There are also interleaved pages glued in, and interleaved address stickers, too.  It makes the small book very flippy.

I recognize some of the last names as family names.  Some of the first names are ones I'm unfamiliar with.  There are friends, too, lots of friends and co-workers and friends of her children.  Some of the addresses are current, for relatives who don't move around.  So this was her last address book,

Let's calculate.  She died at midnight, December 31, 1999.  (It was five years before we had recovered enough to comment that she wasn't Y2K compatible.)  It might have been started 1967.  But she had Parkinson's and was unable to write for the last 5 to 10 years of her life.  Assuming 10 years, that's 2000 - 1967, or 33 years worth of addresses.

It's going to take me awhile to go through it and fit names and addresses into the family tree.  Yes, I'm doing one of those. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post Hell, Aggravation, and other Family Games

Dad worked swing shift most of the time I was in elementary school.  That's when we lived on Walnut Street, in the two bedroom house that my parents had built and were proud of.  My two sisters and I shared one bedroom.

Since he was usually at work while we awake on weekdays, when we played games as a family, it was usually Mom and us, which made a good foursome for board games that didn't have slots for more than four people. 

Aggravation was the first board game that became a regular thing for awhile.  It's played with marbles as tokens and is a steeplechase kind of game, like parcheesi.  We loved it.

Hell is the name of a competative, two-person game of solitaire.  The two people face each other across the table (or floor).  Each has a deck of cards.  The decks must have different patterns on the back, so that you can tell whose card is whose.  Each person sets out cards.  Each has a solitaire setup that they play alone and a center setup, on which both people play.

For the solitaire setup, there's a hell pile of twelve cards played in a stack, face down, with another card face up on top.  Then there are four cards in a line, face up, that can be played on, solitaire fashion.  That is, you can place the next lower card in sequence on any card, with suit color alternating.  A red five on a black six, for instance.

Aces can be placed in the center and they are built on in rising sequence, staying within the suit.  Two of clubs on the ace of clubs, for instance.  Again, you play on your solitaire area and both play on the center.

When a gap opens in your solitair area, you fill it from your hell pile and turn the next card there over.  You can also play directly from your hell pile to the center.  Game play stops when the first person plays the last card from their hell pile.

When game play stops, the center cards are sorted and you tally a point for each card.  If you had cards in your hell pile when play stopped, those count against your score.  The faster you play, the more likely you are to go out.  It can get intense.

Although Dad wasn't home most weekday nights (his days off were Sunday and Monday), this was a game that entered the family as something that Mom and Dad played and we watched.  Later, we'd play against each other, but Mom and Dad always played faster and harder, so watching them play Hell sticks in my mind more than playing it did.  It was fun to watch.  They stayed good humored and enjoyed themselves, but always played to win.

So Hell was the first family game and Aggravation was the second.  I'm guessing that's a function of the family budget.  My folks were always proud of their thrift, which was a good thing because when we were young, it was a very necessary thing. 

Hell can be played with two decks of cards, which are cheap and which can be used for many different games.  Aggravation was more expensive, and could only be used to play Aggravation.  And it was a family game, when it was purchased.  The adults kept it stored and decided when it would be played.

I think the next family game was Yahtzee.  As the years passed and our discretionary income increased, games were purchased that were kid's games and that we kept in our room and could play when we wanted.  The boxes for those games tended to get beat up fairly quickly.  Between the shabbiness and the fact that they were just around and available, they didn't seem as important. 

Odd how that works.  If I stopped and thought, I could probably remember a few of them.  But they were never as important as Hell and Aggravation.  And Yahtzee.  Those were family games and had to be arranged.  They were more important.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Post Dog Pictures

Kayla and Buddy in their pavillion, with the round doggy cushion inside.  We would never have set it up in front of the fireplace if we'd known that it would survive.

It's a cheapy kid's toy from Ikea.  Buddy is rough and Kayla is an inveterate chewer.  We thought it was doomed, but cute enough, for as cheap as it was, to bring home for a brief while.

Turns out the dogs love it.  Picture rueful shrug here.

They're both mutts.  Or mixed breed, if you prefer.  Kayla is my puppy.

Buddy was cuter when he was smaller.  Also softer to pet.  But he's still softer to pet than Kayla.  Buddy is the youngest son's girlfriend's dog.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post The Chicken and the Egg [philosophy]

I have long known that the supposed joke of the chicken or the egg was a shibboleth spread by Creationists.* But I didn't know that the Chicken and the Road question was so philosophical.

Add that to the chicken joke from Long Dark Teatime of the Soul*, and you have to wonder if every chicken joke is profound.**

*It was S2, my youngest sister, who brought this to my attention.  I think she was in junior high at the time.  She shared with me the actual answer to the joke, which was that the bible said that the birds of the air were created all on one day, so that meant that the chicken had come first.  I don't think she meant it as a point of personal dogma, she was just pleased to have found an authority to quote on the matter.
I thought it over and decided that, if considered from an evolutionary perspective, there would have been a theoretical moment when a non-chicken produced an egg with the final mutation that resulted in a chicken.  Or maybe it would have been too gradual to determine the divide between non-chicken and chicken.
While I was pondering that, I remembered that, again from an evolutionary perspective, eggs had been laid by creatures for millions of years before chickens evolved.  I know that's kind of a cheap shot answer, since I'm pretty sure that the joke is referring to chicken eggs, not fish or amphibian or reptile ones, but I liked the reference to authority and I liked it's symmetry with my sister's answer.
Conceivably, if everyone realized that there was a creationist answer and an evolutionary answer, one could ask the riddle and use the answer to see if the questionee was one of us or one of them.
**First Person: "We're terribly worried about Uncle Henry. He thinks he's a chicken."
Second Person: "Well, why don't you send him to the doctor?"
First Person: "Well, we would only we need the eggs."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Post English to English Translation

On an interned forum I read, regarding relatives who refuse to wear hearing aids: "She has developed an irritating habit of nodding at everything we say, pretending to have heard us when we know she hasn't."

My aunt got in this habit. This one is Father's younger sister. She also had never been in a hospital in her life. She was even born at home, about which there was an amusing family story. 
Then she had to go to the hospital in an ambulance. For awhile they didn't think she was going to make it.  Then she recovered enough to be awake.  She was nervous and just fell back on smiling and nodding when anyone she didn't know talked to her. 
The nurses and doctors thought she understood and scheduled whatever they had been talking about. Then the procedure would start and she'd be startled and terrified.
She had moved 500 miles away from her main family and was 200 miles away from me. So I basically had to go stay in her hospital room and do what my sister called English to English translation. The nurse or doctor would talk, and she would nod and they would nod, and they'd make a note on their board.  And then I'd lean over and yell straight in her ear, saying what they'd said. She'd frown and ask me to repeat and start asking questions, and very often say no, she didn't want that or it wasn't like that and they'd have to change their notes. 
I talked to the nurses and put up signs saying you had to yell and that if she couldn't repeat it back, she hadn't heard it. Eventually, she told me that she owned a set of hearing aids that she didn't like and didn't use.  They were in her dresser drawer. I brought them in and they helped a little. It was hard to turn them up high enough to work without causing a feedback squeal, so I could see why she'd avoid them if she was at home with her husband.
Having any kind of hearing aid put her ahead of her husband, who didn't have or want a set and was also wheelchair bound. He had gotten used to not dealing with anyone while she took care of him.  It appeared that they had a habit of having conversations past each other.  If they really needed to communicate, they got up close and yelled and and yelled until enough got through to satisfy them, or until they were too tired to care.
When she landed in the hospital, a good time was not had by all.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Post Stacks of Things

It's not hoarding if it's something you're going to use, and use up, and you're really just buying ahead on sale.  In fact, you can brag about it. You have stocked up.  You are set.  Other people can pay more because they didn't make the effort to buy ahead, but you're sitting pretty.

I'm not talking about things like Dad and the napkins from the restaurant.  They may have been stacked on the corner of the kitchen counter, ready to use, but he didn't buy them.  In order to stock up, there must be a purchase.  So this does not apply to Grandma L's plastic strawberry baskets, or to the napking and spork packets from Kentucky Fried Chicken that she used to collect and then mail to me. 

What counts are the Ivory Soap bars that Dad would buy ten 4-packs at a time, when the price dropped low enough.  At one point he had a whole shelf in the towel cupboard filled with them.  It was a small cupboard, but it's possible that he never had to buy soap again.

Well, a normal person wouldn't have had to.  Dad was fixated on killing germs, though, so I'm sure he went through it.  Even for him, though, it had to have been multiple year's worth of soap.

He did the same thing with toilet paper.  The cheapest brand, of course.  Or, rather, the cheapest name brand.  But that was bulky enough, and we all went through it fast enough, that even filling a shelf or more (which he did) would not free us from having to purchase it again for very long.

He also watched the price of motor oil, and always changed his own.  He had a rant about the foolishness of people paying someone else to change their oil.  It was mathematically sound.

I don't change my own oil.  I'm flush enough to pay the cost of a quickee lube oil change.  They didn't have those back then, and he probably wouldn't have trusted them if they had.  And back when I was broke, I changed my own. 

So he would wait for motor oil to be on sale and buy a flat at a time.  He also had a bucket-sized can of bearing grease and a hand pump.  He greased his own wheels and taught me how to grease mine.  As little as he used each time, if he didn't still have that bucket when he died, it was because it got lost or water damaged or something.  He sure didn't run out.

But the thing that my Mom and both Grandma's would stock up on is Fels Naptha. 

I'm not sure what the Grandma's used it for.  In our house, it was used to wash gym shoes, back when gym shoes were white canvas tennis shoes.  It was a time before Adidas or Nike, and those white cloth shoes scuffed and stained easily.

I only inherited a couple of bars from Mom.  But that's because she gave me five bars five or six years before she died.  She wasn't going through it like she used to when she had kids.

I foget how many I got when Grandma L died.  I was out of state by about two thousand miles when Grandma D died, so I was spared.  Still, it's only been a year or two since I did the big purge under the kitchen sink and either threw out or donated nine bars.  I kept one.


If you know that no other pre-treatment is going to touch a stain on cloth, and you're willing to take a scrub brush to it, Fels-Naptha is the way to go.  If it can't get it out, nothing will. 

I have to admit that I'm really keeping the last bar for sentimental reasons.  The feel and the smell just make me feel that the cupboards are stocked for anything. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Post The Velveeta box and the Flashlight

I found another old journal entry.  it was an exercise in writing every day.  It started out with a complaint that I couldn't think of anything to write about, and it turned into writing about a little memory. 
Reading it, It feels kind of like starting a lawnmower - a couple of unproductive yanks before things start puttering along.

The thoughts hide when I'm armed with a pen. A pen's line is too sharp. It can cut ideas like a string cuts cheese.

The Velveeta (tm) weeps at the slicing.

Father mailed a flashlight in a Velveeta box, once. It was our box [my sisters and I]. We had been using it to hold crayons all our lives.

He laughed, thinking of the person at the other end opening it and seeing all the rainbow net of random marks on the inside cardboard. But it was the right size. So the flashlight went in with the letter that their batteries had leaked far too soon and ruined the flashlight and what were they going to do?

He was very happy when the new flashlight came. It was a triumph and a lesson to us.

I don't know that we did with the crayons after that. I can remember a tin - a round fruitcake tin that was hard to open and pained the fingers. Perhaps it inspired us to keep crayola boxes intact longer.

It was a better flashlight. We liked the shiny silver. And we were getting old enough to want to throw out crayon stubs.
[I emailed my sister, after finding it.]

Do you remember the box and Dad sending the flashlight away? I remember us both watching the whole thing. I suspect that using our box made us feel involved. 
[She replied]
Yes, I remember the flash light story. He was over the moon they gave him a better flash light.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Post Honorificabilitudinitatibus

You may remember from Post that my father used to tease us using the phrase "Ichabod did it."  He had another word that he would just spontaneously say when we were small, for no purpose at all that we could see.

It was a long and puzzling word and when the internet and search engines were invented, I was pretty sure that I couldn't remember enough of it to find it there.  I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Google's autocomplete was up to the job.

Honorificabilitudinitatibus.  I only remembered the first five syllables with anything like accuracy. It's an odd word to speak to small children, which would have been the point. 

Friday, March 29, 2013

Post Journal entry from 2006

This is in the 8 category because I found it while sorting my desk.  It's a journal entry that was made on a palm-sized pad of paper, then removed from the pad and stapled together.  It was possibly tucked into a journal at one point, but it is now a journal-less entry.

It reads:


The thoughts hide when I'm armed with a pen.  A pen's line is too sharp.  It can cut ideas like a string cuts cheese.

The Velveeta (tm) weeps at the slicing.

Father mailed a flashlight in a Velveeta box, once.  It was our box [my sisters and I].  We had been using it to hold crayons all our lives.

He laughed, thinking of the person at the other end opening it and seeing all the rainbow net of random marks on the inside cardboard.  But it was the right size.  So the flashlight went in with the letter that their batteries had leaked far too soon and ruined the flashlight and what were they going to do?

He was very happy when the new flashlight came.  It was a triumph and a lesson to us.

I don't know that we did with the crayons after that.  I can remember a tin - a round fruitcake tin that was hard to open and pained the fingers.  Perhaps it inspired us to keep crayola boxes intact longer.

It was a better flashlight.  We liked the shiny silver.  And we were getting old enough to want to throw out crayon stubs.
Engineers are supposed to date their notes.  So I'm getting into the habit of dating every pad as I pick it up, before I forget.
Lillibell, Ferntickle, and Daffed are a three. [This is notes on a story I was writing.]

So are Narnemvar, Satbada, and Livvy.  They represent two distinct kind of magic.  I think there needs to be another three from the middle. [In the story, one group is starting in the north and traveling south, the other is doing the opposite.]

They'll be engineers - the people who have no way to manipulate magic directly, but who need to cope with it anyway. 

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Post Another Daily Dose of Death

I really shouldn't read these things just because they keep coming into my in basket.  Even if I thought the subscription might be useful later, I could just block them rather than unsubscribing.  But I haven't done that. 

So here, from Cal-OSHA Reporter Newsdesk,*
is today's dose of . . . well, maybe it isn't mostly death today.  Let's see.
The cause of the blast in 2008 remains a mystery, but the lawsuit is finally starting. A nineteen year old who was refueling a yacht was killed when it exploded. His parents filed against the marina owner, the yacht captain, and the company that had installed the gas pumps on the dock. The yacht captain is listed as 'company owner', which could refer to the installation company.

The individuals have already settled, leaving the installation company as the only defendant. There was an OSHA fine against the marina because the fuel nozzle wasn't both automatic-closing and without a hold-open latch. Whether this contributed to the explosion is unknown. The lawsuit claims that a generator or A/C unit on the yacht had been left on during fueling, and that leaked fuel had collected under a nearby dock, releasing a pool of vapors.

An initial investigation found no criminal wrongdoing.
It is also not criminal wrongdoing to warp numbers and report them with a straight face, but Media Matters is pointing fingers at Robert Bradley Jr. of the Institute for Energy Research (fossil fuel industry funded) for going beyond cherry-picking when he claimed in a Forbes column that the wind industry has a higher safety risk for workers than the fossil fuel industry, coal mining included.
Ohio plant fined for not following asbestos regulations while removing boiler components. No injuries involved.
Nevada company fined after an employee died during training, falling from a utility tower. Well, the fine has been proposed. It could be contested or appealed.
OSHA investigation in Texas after four were hit by collapsing scaffolding. One was caught under it. The four are listed as 'recovering' but it sounds like only the trapped worker was significantly injured.
OSHA cites NY medical office for using old-style needles and not providing sufficient training or protective gear to employees
It's a truism that a worker is most at risk in the first days on a new job. After the death of a temp worker at a bottling plant, OSHA issued a public warning that workplace hazard training must take place before a worker starts a job, and that this applies to temp workers, too.
NJ Construction worker dies after fall from roof of house. Investigation pending.

That's four deaths in seven articles (second article removed from consideration). Or a 57% death rate. Yup.  These articles are still dangerous to a person's good mood.

*not an official CalOSHA newsletter

Monday, March 25, 2013

Post Updating Post Numbers

I really did intend for the post numbers to be of some use.  I also intended to keep them straight.  The keeping-straight thing was definitely not achieved.  I have therefore spent a few hours creating a spreadsheet with all of the post numbers and notes of what's in each post.

What's in the 5 category has shifted to references to things I've read or watched.  A 9 category has been created for stories about my children, especially stories from when they were young. 

I also went through my compilation document and changed the font color to red everywhere that I said I'd write about something later.  I may actually do that at some point, now that I can keep track of what I've mentioned previously.

Got a few things done this weekend, but, of course, not nearly as much as I wanted done.  The bills and other financial things are the only things I'm feeling guilty about, though.  And the day isn't done.  I might get to them tonight.  It's possible.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Post Dear Son's Dream

Dear Son’s Dream

[As told to his Mother, long ago.]

We were playing in the front yard of our house only it was a different house.  It was black and it was across the street from a factory.

The factory made big donuts that rolled after us.  They were big, big, up to my forehead.  They rolled across the street at us.  Brother and Brother climbed a tree to get away and they wanted me to climb up, too, but I stayed down.

And every time a donut came rolling up I grabbed it and put it in a bag.  And I bagged donuts and bagged donuts while Brother and Brother stayed up in the tree.

They were scared, but I bagged them all.  They were even too scared to come down after the donuts stopped coming so I had to eat them all by myself.

The factory made little round waffles, too, but they didn’t roll because their waffle-bumps stopped them.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Post Dear Son and the Tomatoes

Dear Son has been dying to find something to give to the neighbors.  These are the South Neighbors we’re talking about:  the ones that let the kids pet the puppies and hold the pheasant chicks – the ones who have occasionally been so negligent as to bake too many cookies or buy too many watermelons.

Dear Son has been dying to give them something, anything.  He’s had the tomatoes staked out (so to speak) as “something to give the neighbors” ever since he found out that those bushes would grow tomatoes.

Well, the tomatoes finally got ripe – three big ones and two “little, tiny, cute ones.”  It took him three tries before he caught them at home and he came back from that last, successful, trip just glowing.

He came up to and hugged himself to me and said, “Wasn’t that good?”  So I bent over and hugged him back and he whispered, eyes beaming, “You know what?  I told them a lie!

“What lie?”

“I told them we had lots of tomatoes and we couldn’t eat them all.  Wasn’t that good?”

He was just so proud that he had the social niceties of giving-to-neighbors down.  Not only was he the one who thought of giving something back, he knew how to do it properly, too.

So I said, “Oh, that sure is good,” and hugged him harder.  It was the first time I’ve ever hugged a five-year-old for telling a lie.  It might be the last time, too.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Post Turning Blue

It’s Clean the Room time, and I am sitting on the freshly laundered sheets of Firstborn’s freshly made bed, drinking ginger ale from an oversized beer mug and supervising the operation.  Firstborn is four and a half.  From the looks of things I imagine I’ll be Acting Supervisor of Firstborn’s room until he reaches puberty.

Clean the Room is one of those things that he could do by himself, and would do willingly, if only there weren’t so many decisions and distractions involved.  I mean, it’s hard to know what to pick up first and even harder not to play with it once you’ve decided what should be first and you actually have it in your hands.

And why struggle against such obstacles when, with just a little lagging and a little mumbling, Mother will come solve all those problems and add a little mutual interaction.

It’s the interaction that’s the clincher.  When I was young, several people kept telling me, very profoundly, that “a child would rather be beaten than ignored.”  And while I’ve never done so far as to actually test that hypothesis, I can tell you from experience that small boys glow like soft pink lightbulbs whenever they can successfully drag attention out of Mother that Mother hadn’t planned to give.  It’s a bonus – a little power surge with a dose of half-concealed elation thrown in.

Clean the Room is almost a tradition, now.  Periodically, I get tired of saying “I told you an hour ago to clean this room.  That doesn’t mean play, that means clean.”  Only to hear, “I did clean it,” without any difference apparent in the room.  I kick, shove, or throw every offending article in the room into a pile and sit on the edge of the bed.  While Firstborn fitfully sorts through it all, I sound an occasional “pick up”, “keep going”, “clean – don’t play”, or “more it” in varying degrees of gruffness.

With these words to prod him along, Firstborn sorts what goes in his toy box from what goes in his bookshelf from what goes in the dirty clothes from what goes in the trash.  He is now about three quarters of the way done and starting to ask questions in hopes of starting a conversation so he can stop, or at least slow down for awhile.

I meet all of his opening gambits with curt answers and the words “keep cleaning.”

Then he asks, “Where are we going tomorrow?”

I growl, “To the library – keep cleaning.”

Firstborn perks up.  Smiling all over his face, he asks, “Are you going to get a book that tells how to turn blue?”

That did it.  I’m laughing now.  He knows he has me.  The conversation has started.  Darn his grinning little hide.

I thought he had forgotten that turning blue nonsense.  I certainly had.

You see, yesterday while I was playing with him, I told him that I could turn blue.  He told me I couldn’t, but his voice and eyes had been unsure.  You never could tell with parents.  Maybe I could.

I said that, yes, I could, and asked if he’d like to see me do it. While he sat, round eyed, I sat really still, to set the stage.  I took a deep breath.  Then I squeezed down hard on it, contorting my face and squeezing my eyes shut.  I held it as long as I could.  Then I let out the breath in a loud rush and said, “There!”

By then he knew it was a game and twinkling, he told me that I hadn’t turned blue.  I expressed disbelief.  Was he sure?  Yes, he was sure. 

I checked in the mirror.  Sure enough.  No blue.  Maybe I’d better try again?  Giggles.

I tried twice more, harder each time, and having failed both times, I conceded that I must have forgotten how.  I said I’d have to read up on it.  Then we’d gone on with whatever we had been doing and it hadn’t been mentioned since.

Well.  He remembered it.  And now we’re laughing about it all over again.  He’s still young enough that it amazes me when he makes a smooth connection to something he’s remembered.  Especially when he makes a connection that I haven’t made.

So I’m laughing and proud at the same time.  I remember that I love this kid.  The conversation he has started bounces back and forth between us as he smiles, pleased the he was able to sneak it in past me. 

The pile fades slowly until it’s gone.  It would have faded faster if a conversation hadn’t been added to slow it, but what the heck.  He needs the attention.  I’m the one who needed a clean room.
- - -

Now he’s asleep and I’m remembering again that I love this kid.  And remembering that I gave him a little piece of nonsense that he had thought was precious enough to save.  And remembering that he won’t be four much longer.

Next time I start Clean the Room Time, I think I’ll bring us both a glass of ginger ale. 

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Post Like vs Care

While consoling Beloved Son one night, we got to talking and I learned something.  Beloved Son was sad because he was having a visit to Grandma sprung on him because I couldn’t find another evening sitter to cover the hours of my second part-time job. 

He was sad because he and his brothers are enrolled in our city’s Rainbow Summer park program (to cover the part time day job) and they really love it.  Going to Grandma’s is nice, but Rainbow Summer has lots of kids in it and that’s better.

As I cuddled him and rocked him and talked to him, I told him that I was glad that he cared about the people he was with every day. He was glad that I knew that  that was important and said that there were even some people who cared about him. 

Rainbow Summer, which was held at every park in the city, ended last week and we are now in Rainbow Summer Extension, which is held only at our park.  The extension is a bridge between Summer and the School Year that was added for parents who use the program for sitting rather than to give their kids something to do (although the paperwork for the program says explicitly that it is not a day care program).

We’re only three days into the extension and the cross-town collection of kids don’t really know each other, yet.  Beloved Son is pleased that some of these new people care about him.

We talk about how nice it is to be cared about.  I was thinking that he felt well liked.  But he went on to talk about people who would play caroms with him even though they kept telling him rules he already knew and about a time that he had told on a boy who had peeked at him in the bathroom stall and the Yard Duty had made the peeker sit on a chair. 

I thought that he was digressing, using the talk about caring to lead into talking about other important events.  Then he said, “And there’s a girl there, and she was a big girl, and once she was carrying three big sticks, hockey sticks, by me, and she dropped one and she turned around and said “Are you all right? Did it hit you?”, and she didn’t like me!”

Whoa!  There was a difference between liking someone and caring about them and Beloved Son knew what the difference was.  And he thought caring was more important! 

Caring was the reason he didn’t want to leave.  The people who would let him play even though they thought he was too young to know the rules did it because they could see that he wanted to play and because his wanting mattered.

The Yard Duty who put the other boy on time out did it because he could see that Beloved Son was upset and because his feelings mattered.

The girl who asked if he was all right even though she didn’t like him did it because she could see that he might have been hurt and because his safety mattered.

It’s one thing to enjoy someone’s company, to like them.  It’s another thing entirely to notice someone’s needs and to act for their welfare.  It’s another thing entirely to care.  And Beloved Son prefers caring.  Beloved Son is glad that I’m glad that he cares.  Not too shabby for a seven year old. 

So we cuddled and rocked and talked and, finally, he fell asleep.  It’s still tow days ‘til the plane leaves.  Maybe a few more calls squeezed in here and there will turn up a permanent sitter and he won’t have to go.  Or maybe they won’t and he’ll have to say goodbye to some new people that he cares about and visit Grandma and Grandpa and the cat and geese and chickens.

Either way, it will be fine.  Either way, he’ll be with people who care.  And he’ll be himself, which is finer.