Sunday, May 24, 2015

Helloooo Summer!

It is 8:15 on Sunday. Memorial Day weekend 2015.

The neighbor, whose house I can not see because our yards were mapped by a drunk mathematician with a love of rhombussy parallelograms, has cranked up the radio. (Yes, radio. Not satellite, not iPod, not Pandora.) He has cranked up the good old fashioned radio. How do I know it is a radio? Because the DJ just shouted the call letters KSHE-95! And now what started as the end of an Allman Brother's tune has ramped up to 'Rough Boys' and The Who. And while I prefer the soundtrack of my life to be a tiny bit mellower on a Sunday morning, I can appreciate the sentiment.

We, my neighbor and I , both grew up in the 1970's when Memorial Day Weekend meant the swimming pools were open, school was over and for three glorious months we had absolutely no responsibilities. (Except for those two weeks when it was corn de-tasselling season; an activity unique to Cornfield USA. This is a time when teenagers are loaded into a truck, dropped at the entrance to a cornfield and slowly, meticulously walk the rows, pulling off the silky corn tassels to aid in hybridization leading to bigger yields. This was back when genetic engineering was spoken of in hushed tones in the back rooms of men's clubs.)

I never got to be part of the de-tasselling crowd. My Dad, knowing me all too well, informed me that the last thing I wanted to do was walk around in hot scratchy cornfields with a bunch of cute high school guys who would probably, eventually need to remove their shirts.

But, I digress.

While many things have changed, Memorial Day will forever mark the beginning of summer. (Yes, astrophysicists, I am aware that the true beginning of summer is June 21, when the stars align and Aquarius buys the world a coke.) To me, it seems that so many traditions are falling by the wayside. We no longer go on day long pilgrimages to decorate graves.

Gone are the seasonal availability of fruits and vegetables – thanks to those amazing people in Chile and New Zealand we can eat apples and strawberries all year round.Although I have to take issue with the so called 'January tomatoes'.

Television programs are now on-demand, TIVOed, and available for binge-watching. There was a time, back when we had to turn the channel by hand, that nearly everything in the summer was a re-run and we counted down the days until September and Saturday Cartoon Preview Friday happened!  I hate to admit it, but there are several new shows, which I am looking forward to, starting this SUMMER!
Simply unheard of in the days of manual genetic modification and wearing white only after the end of May.

I no longer have kids in school, or anxiously looking forward to that 'last day' and later the 'first day'. I no longer belong to a swimming pool. I now have to plan vacations around four adult work schedules. My husband grills year round and due to my inability to keep food off my person, I rarely wear white.

So I am here to say THANK YOU to my neighbor with the hearing impairment. Without you and your awesome sound system I would have nothing but a date on the calendar to mark the unofficial beginning of summer. 
This is my Summer home! Please note Robert Palm Tree to the left, who managed to survive winter in the basement and Carmen Miranda on the right who enjoyed a warm winter off my kitchen. Also - that leaning StoneHenge in the background, in my other neighbor's yard? Use to be the frame for a swing but is now a condo for tiny birds. I wonder if I should call FEMA when it finally falls over...

Now, before anyone gets all "Memorial Day is about more than YOU having a three day weekend" - I have written much more serious posts about remembrance. Please check out these links for the story of my family's Memorial Day celebrations and service. 

(and if you are super bored, check out a previous post regarding my neighborhood and music: 
Summer Sounds. But at least be sitting outside when you do so, unless you are under severe storm watch, then enjoy from the confines of your bathtub.)

Happy Memorial Day everyone!

And please, I am on call this holiday so for Pete's Sake:


*And thank you Mad Men, for allowing Don Draper to reintroduce that awesome Coca-Cola advertisement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

A Grant Proposal

Grant Proposal:
The Ehlers 'Buffet' Hypothesis
Nuxoll Co-efficient

Comprehensive, real-time analysis seeking a direct correlation between morbid lethargy proportional to repetitive tasks and its resolution when treated with random, pleasure directed activities. A quantitative analysis of qualitative increase in subject's psychological disposition as affected by solar-heated atmospheric conditions combined with saline hydrotherapy will be measured using the following criteria:

Dietary restrictions including by not limited to crustacean consumption- Raw vs cooked.
Glucose variances in the form of distilled, oak-aged and cold processed liquids.
Semi-fowlers and full supine position as related to UV ray exposure.
Audio stimulation utilizing live vs prerecorded instrumentation of the 6-string and steel drum varieties as well as its subsequent kinetic musculo-skeletal reactions.

An increase in overall sparkling in subject's ocular region, as well as an increase in melanin resulting in unique skin patterns is expected after the conduction of the granular terrain between subject's meta-tarsals.

Travel will be provided by adjustable roofed automobile, manually propelled two-wheeled vehicles and floating wooden structure with large fabric attachments.

Pending approval, temporary research facilities will be as follows: 

Brent Burns and his story of my life: 

My friend and fellow land-locked beach bum, Angie
Jimmy Buffet
The Guy who parked a sailboat in my garage
Jimmy Cliff
The Maker of all crustaceans

Sunday, May 10, 2015

I'm stuck so...CLOWNS!!!

I have been having something of a difficult time getting ideas posted lately. I wish I had a great reason, like, I have been out of the country on a covert mission to find a calorie free chocolate which also makes your nails and hair grow faster or I have been reading all the New York Times best the blind.
But truthfully?
I haven't been up to a whole heck of a lot. There are ideas floating around in my head, but they refuse to form complete sentences, instead, preferring to present themselves as random, urgent Facebook statuses.
I have also been tormented by the fact that THEY (those bastards in Hollywood who insist on messing with perfection) have remade Poltergeist. And I hate to admit it but it looks even more terrifying than the original, if only for that SCARY ASS CLOWN!

There is absolutely no reason for calling this person, unless this is JAMES Frank-o the clown.

I have had may fair share of  Scary Ass Clown incidents around the Coast of Illinois. The above sign was the second in a long line of two signs creepily advertising clowns near my train stop. The first became the stuff of legend. Or at least a blog post, which I am repeating here, for your horror, I mean, entertainment.


See the woods behind the post? That is where they will find your body...
Could someone tell me – just when did clowns become scary? You mention 'clowns' to any adult I know and they turn pale, wring their hands and change the subject faster than a Congressman at a press conference.

I use to love clowns. The clowns I knew growing up were the happy, non-threatening variety. Red Skelton's Clem Kadiddlehopper, Captian Kangaroo's Town Clown and the grandfather clown of them all – Emmett Kelley. These clowns were loveable bums just trying to get by. They stumbled through my favorite television broadcasts trying to solve problems in their bumbling mute manor. I could relate to their clumsiness in the way that only a middle schooler who tripped over the vault horse could. I just wanted to give them a big hug.

And I guess, this is where the notion of scary began to evolve. As an adult I wonder, why would anyone in their right mind want to hug a grown man wearing all that makeup and baggy clothes? There is no doubt that these clowns smelled – most likely of 40 ounce malt liquor. It is now obvious that all three were probably members of some hobo-fueled street gang whose weapon of choice was disarming charm. Their gang sign was the pantomime for a train whistle and they most likely had tattoos of the various balloon animals they created.

I look at the clowns that my children watched growing up: Ronald McDonald and Bozo. One is trying to kill everyone with 'happy' meals full of artery clogging fat. Never mind that his organization provides housing for sick kids and their families. You scrape away all that goodie-two shoes stuff and you have a modern day Hansel and Gretel Witch luring children to his french fry play place.

And then there is Bozo. It was while watching Bozo's Circus that I began to notice the subtext, behind the makeup, the poorly masked disdain for all those screaming kids. He would call strange children down from the audience and on local cable television ask them to play with his balls in exchange for 'a surprise'. Really?

Driving home from work a while back I noticed a sign stapled to a telephone pole. In dripping blood red text it advertised Clowns...and more!! WHAT! From the shaky penmanship the sign looked to be the work of some demented mental patient who recently absconded from his cushy padded cell.I have no doubt that the poor mom who answered that ad thinking she was adding a touch of whimsy to her three-year-old's birthday would wind up buried in the woods beyond the post. Thinking it was just me, I mentioned the sign to a number of people and the reaction was the same: shocked speechlessness followed by talk of happy places and hiding under their beds.

As an adult, the clown, just seems to be the embodiment of all we teach our children to beware of. Grown adults masking their true selves behind makeup dressed in intentionally deceptive big shoes; they are obviously up to no good. Stephen King used a clown as the consummate image of evil in the book "It". John Wayne Gacy painted picture upon picture of clowns...and we all know how well he turned out. Yet we insist on inviting clowns to birthday parties and allow them to fill the gaps between floats in parades. They stroll the pavement at fairs with their squeaky balloon animals and offer 'whiffs' from their squirty lapel pin flowers. In fact, at a recent event I saw an entire busload of 'Clowns for Jesus'. I am pretty sure Our Lord would not have the following He has now if He wandered the roads of Jerusalem in face paint and asked lepers to 'honk my nose' for salvation.

And think about it. The word 'clown' is never used in a flattering manner. You have 'clown' pants and 'class clown' . If a woman wears too much make-up she looks like a 'clown'. Face it- when was the last time you called someone a 'clown' and meant it in a complimentary manner?

As a child, I had no idea of the scary crap waiting for me in the big wide world. But now, after years spent working in hospital emergency departments and surgical venues, years spent raising children while married to a member of law enforcement, very few things truly scare me. But I must admit, outside of Sock Monkeys, clowns are number one.

I have no doubt that those practicing the art of Clowning will take exception to my thoughts. And that is fine. Just pack yourselves into that tiny little car that miraculously seats seventy-five and keep on driving. With any luck you'll do us all a favor and run over a pack of Sock Monkeys on your way back to where ever it is that you keep those giant shoes.
DO NOT open that door...
(first posted 03.23.2011 The Clowns! sign disappeared as mysteriously as it had appeared. I had nothing to do with it. Really. And the Frank-O sign? I am not asking. ANYONE.)

(My apologies to the person/people who posted those signs...oh, who am I kidding. Clowns are just plain scary. If you are crazy enough to post your phone number on a sign advertising clowns you are asking for trouble.)

I am hoping to be back and functioning on a weekly basis soon. Thanks for sticking with me and please come back to the Coast!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Happy Nurses Week 2015!

It is once again National Nurses Week!
Observation begins on May 6th and ends on Florence Nightingale's birthday, May 12th.

In that spirit, this post is dedicated to all those nurses out there. I have worked with so many amazing people over the years. We are all so different yet so much alike.

This is my wish for you..

May you get 'the GOOD' assignment.
May all your pages be answered promptly.
May all your computers work and when they don't may ALL handwriting be legible.
May your lunch break be uninterrupted. With the hot food-hot and the cold food-cold.
And may you have a chair.
May all your supplies be readily available.
May your narc count be correct.
May your plantar fasciatis mysteriously disappear.
May there be no 'unusual' odors and no 'interesting' fluids.
and no unidentifiable stains on your clothes.
May you have low re-admission rates and high satisfaction scores.
May you get an occasional 'please'.

And even though you say it isn't necessary, may you also get an occasional ThankYou. 
Because even though Nursing has been voted the most ethical profession, we all know we're big liars!

Happy Nurses' Week!
My Mom and me. Mom is not a 'professional' nurse, but I hear a lot of her wisdom spewing from my mouth most days. And, while I don't usually wear a flower at work, wouldn't that be AWESOME!
If you want to read more from some of my previous nursing week posts please click on the It's a Living tab at the top of this page!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Kids These Days...

As I have said before, what's the point of having a blog if you can't use it for good... and by 'good' I mean promotion of good causes, especially when they are being championed by family.

Today's nepotism is brought to you by The Transcaucasian Trail and two industrious, adventurous former Peace Corp volunteers - Jeff Haack and Paul Stephens. Since their time in the Peace Corp they have been working in GPS mapping. Their plan is to establish a hiking trail from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea.
Okay. I 'borrowed' this pic from the fundraising page. Please don't hate me. I am using it for good.

 In their words: "it (the trail) will increase sustainable tourism and bring economic activity to remote areas, it will raise the profile of the protected areas in the region and help ensure their continued conservation, and it will promote the connections between communities, ecosystems, and people, in a place where there is too much focus on the things that divide." And really, who doesn't want to help promote a more sustainable world in which division is only a math term.

Please take the time to check out their Facebook Page: The Transcaucasian Trail 
And if you can help please check out their fundraising site: The Transcaucasian Trail
You can also find them on Twitter (@transcaucasiant) and Instagram (@transcaucasiantrail).
again, totally 'borrowed' from the page but seriously - beautiful!
Of course, I have a vested interest here - Jeff is my nephew, world traveler and peach aficionado extraordinaire. He is also sporting my husbands crampons. Which are not feminine hygiene products for seriously cranky women but equipment used to climb ice. They have been taking up space in our basement for years and I DO NOT see my husband using them EVER AGAIN. (Except when he does the trail with Jeff, once it is opened.)
Stay Safe Guys and Keep up the Good Work!!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fah-harm Living is the Life for Me...for about a day...and a half...

It is official. I have an addiction.

Every spring I get the undeniable desire to plant a garden.

I grew up on a farm.

My parents grew a garden the size of a city block.

My Dad worked in the farm supply business. I spent many afternoons surrounded by the heady aroma of potash and anhydrous.

No wonder meth is so addictive.

I am pretty sure this is the root of my problem.

Ever since we moved into our house, nearly 30 years ago, I have had some sort of garden. There have always been herbs in the tiered beds beside the house. One year we dug up 2/3rds of the back yard and planted all the vegetables. Problem is vegetables require sun. Our back yard is all shade.

The only truly sunny patch is the strip of yard between our house and the neighbor's. One year we hand dug a garden there with moderate success. But the following year, with the prospect of re-digging the area...well, let me tell you, if meth-heads had to cultivate a 10x10 patch of yard, now covered in violets and creeping charlie, they would think twice about cooking.

This year, thanks to Dad-the enabler, we decided to try the newest fad in gardening – the RAISED GARDEN BED!

(Of course, this is not really anything new. Raised beds have been around forever. In fact, Martha Stewart herself has a number of them. We have just been too cheap to bother. Because hand digging a YARD is so much easier.)

Just look at the dirt. You could almost bury a body without breaking a sweat.

I did a little research and settled on a 4x8 bed, which according to Rob is much easier to construct as the boards needed are actually 8feet long, thus requiring a minimum amount of math to cut. Plus this size bed, according to various container gardening sites, allows me to plant enough vegetables to feed a family of 4 plus most of the Duggars for a year.

It only cost us approximately $45 for the lumbar that should be 'lumber' (it seems I have been working the back surgery recovery a little too much!) and weed retardant under-cloth. But no worries, I can spend that much on vegetable in a month. 
Of course, filling the frame is it's own project. You can fill it with plain old dirt but seriously? I live in the land of clay. Digging clay is similar to stabbing a shovel into a bucket of concrete. I have watched a fair share of Martha Stewart and her gardens are never difficult to dig. In fact, with one delicate gloved hand she dips her trowel into the rich black dirt and in the next two minute segment has planted an entire row of heirloom butternut squash. So...we bought fancy dirt with fertilizer. And topsoil. And peat moss. I could bury Martha Stewart in the bed with my bare hands that soil is so light and fluffy. (But I won't. I love Martha. Please don't put me on a list.)

The dirt was another $80. So, that's another two months of veggies. I break even this summer and next year I will actually be MAKING money off this bad boy.

Of course, this does not take into account the money I will spend on seeds for the 47 varieties of vegetables I plan to plant.

Or the plants I buy when I get too antsy waiting for the seeds to sprout.

But, think about all those fresh vegetables, warm off the vine and straight to my table...Take THAT you locavores.

The raised bed only took about an hour to construct. (It took three hours to purchase. At Lowes. On the nicest Saturday in April thus far.) And with all the extra time, and a little left over dirt, I did the prep work on the herb beds. And weeded the shade garden. 
Imagine this filled with flowering plants, ferns, hostas...

The shade garden is my white whale. I have been in this house forever and finally, FINALLY, have the super shady side of our yard almost looking like a lovely, shaded fairy-friendly landscape. Except for the grass. Which does not grow in shade. Unless it is in the GARDEN part of the yard. Then grass grows like crazy. Just like those damn violets.

There has been much research done on plant's ability to communicate with one another. I am here to tell you, this ability exists. And those conniving little violet bastards are experts at telling each other where to sprout because the nice lady sometimes lets one of their adorable brethren bloom in the shade garden. 
Sometimes in my sleep, I can hear them laughing...
It only took another three hours but I got them all.


Which is the reason I am writing this sitting on the couch with my feet up, in my pajamas, floating on a fine cloud of ibuprofen, tylenol and a small rum drink.

Which adds another $30 to the price of the garden.

Which translates to 6 organic, heirloom, single source zucchini.

So anyway you look at it, I win!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Happy Spring!

March 21...Spring.
Just as that fickle groundhog said, but honestly, who amongst us believed him. That Spring would be here in six weeks.
And here on the Coast of Illinois, Spring arrived with a gentle breeze and 70 degree temps. (Sorry East Coast. But maybe you shouldn't have pissed off the Groundhog. I recommend a steady bribery diet of berries and weekly rubdowns for next year's groundhog. Personally, I let ours live under our deck so I feel I have an in.)

Twenty-nine years ago I was learning to ski in Switzerland with my husband of one year and his best friend. It never occurred to me, as I listened to a Swiss man who spoke no English singing Billy Joel tunes at the hotel piano bar, that I would one fine spring day be hoisting the main sail to glide across a silent lake.
Life is funny that way.

No more daydreaming over Islands and Cruising World magazines.
It is time to take the sailboat out. 

Being about one thousand miles from an actual island and limited by a stupid two day weekend, we decided on Rend Lake, a 90 minute drive, as it is a little larger and less busy than either of the closer lakes. It only took us three access roads to find the one lake access open on the first day of Spring. Which was good as it forced us to try a new boat launch and we discovered a nice picnic area for possible future get-togethers.
Setting up a sailboat in the land of powerboats and fishermen is always interesting. People watch in awe as we hoist the wooden mast. They sigh in disappointment when we don't drop it on top of the car. We were warned numerous times not to fall in the lake as it was still frozen just two weeks ago. I'm not sure what they thought we were going to be doing out there. Do I look like an America's Cup racer? Or someone who wants to freeze to death on the first day of spring in the middle of Southern Illinois?
(The average person can survive maybe ten minutes in 40 degree water. I looked it up. No thank you.)

I haven't been sailing since my November lessons so I was pretty excited to practice the skills I learned. Thankfully, there was no puking. But we did give rudderless steering a go. Not because we lost the rudder. But because we could! And it worked! Holding the rudder steady and letting the jib luft will actually turn the boat. Even in our 3-6knot East by South by Northeast gusting out of the West winds.

We had the lake nearly to ourselves. A couple of displaced bass boats raced past us heading to the bass boat party at the north end by the bridge but otherwise we were alone. With the waterfowl.

Herds of waterfowl.
And they were not happy with our slow and steady appearance. At one point a flock of over 200 birds took flight in front of us. It was amazing. What started as one flapping bird became two then twelve then one hundred. The sound was that of a small helicopter. I tried several times to catch the sight on camera.Listen closely, you can just barely hear the flapping.

At the end of the day we were slightly wind-burned, a little chilly and completely refreshed. I was reminded again of how lovely it is to fly silently over the water while interacting with the weather and the boat.

Happy Spring Everyone!