Sunday, July 19, 2015

Learn by camping

My family camped when I was a kid. We had a fold-down camper - not one of those fancy pop-ups like we have now, with a roof and all, but basically a big ol' tent covering a trailer base and a couple of bed extensions.

You had to plan ahead for your camp outs back then. The canvas tent top was barely water-resistant, and certainly not waterproof, especially if you touched it during a rain event. To achieve waterproofing, it was necessary to paint the entire canvas with a waterproofing substance, AND give it ample time to dry before allowing rain to fall upon it. When I was about nine, my parents traded up to a new camper shortly before we were planning to go camping, and there was not time to waterproof the tent. No worries! It was July, it was Kansas, and it was hot as a pistol.

You know where this is going, right?

At two o'clock in the morning, I woke up, sweltering, to find Mom covering the bed, and me, with a plastic drop cloth. A storm had blown in out of nowhere, and she and Dad were doing the best they could to keep things dry.

This was also the first trip when I have a distinct memory of campsite shower houses. This particular spot pumped in lake water, which allowed them to have constantly running showers - cold showers. And we took those cold showers, and enjoyed them, after the initial shock. As one of my friends says, "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit."

Now, Knightstar and I have a modern pop-up camper with a roof, leakproof canvas, electric lights and refrigerator, and a gas stove. Still, when we took it out for the first time last week, we had to be prepared to be unprepared. Is it raining when you arrive? Expect to spend a lot of time sitting in the car, and dash out to do a few things whenever the  rain slacks off. No electric sites available? We travel with a battery and a small solar system. The showers cost 25 cents for every minute and a half, so open your soap dish and squeeze out some shampoo before you drop the coins in the slot.

And always, always, expect the unexpected.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Not NaNoWriMo, Not NaBloPoMo

Ah, November. Chris Baty has ruined you for me. After one NaNoWriMo, then another, and another, and another, I've come to believe that November is THE time for slightly crazy personal challenges.

I'm not alone. Go do a Goggle Image search for "November challenge" or "30 day challenge". You'll find plenty of ideas. Blog posting every day in November has been around for awhile, as has the thankfulness challenge. You can post a photo every day, or increase the number of squats you can do.

This year, for reasons I can't pin down, I felt the urge to do NaNoWriMo. Fortunately, I only took me 123 words to remember why I quit doing it a few years. ago.

Then, a Facebook conversation about "what I'm doing instead of NaNo" pointed me to the 2014 November PAD (Poem-A-Day) Chapbook Challenge. Oh, yes, I thought, this is something I can do.

There is no registration to speak of, so I e-mailed a few on-the-fence friends and announced my intentions.And after two days of poetry writing, I'm announcing it here.

I thought about adding the blog posting and/or thankfulness challenges, but let's not get carried away. I also thought about learning how to use another well-known blogging platform (rhymes with Nerd Chess), about which, ditto.

As you can see, though, I did post to my blog. I'll even throw in something I am thankful for, today and every day:

I have everything I need, and a few of the things I want.

Life is good.

Saturday, April 19, 2014


Here's another of our gifts from Israel. K, my co-worker, brought a bag full of salt crystal chunks from the Dead Sea, and invited anyone who passed through the office to take some. A day later, when most folks had already had their chance, she told me, "Take more. Take as much as you want." So I did. I even searched through the bag to find the nice pieces.

The crystals are fascinating to look at, with their jagged edges and indentations and the occasional grain of sand stowing away. (If you look carefully, you can see some sand embedded in the piece on the left.) They are also fragile. Every time I pick one up, I feel little crystals flaking off in my hand. K said they actually put a large slab of salt in the bag, but intercontinental travel took care of making it more share-able.

True confessions: My first instinct when I held this was to lick it. I mean, Salt, right? Then my second instinct quickly countered with, "You don't drink lake water, and you darn sure don't lick lake water from halfway around the world." Eventually, I did a little Googling, and found that Dead Sea salt is low in sodium and high in other minerals, making it largely not tasty. Whew! Flavor disappointment averted. Thanks, second instinct.

So the Key Points so far are, Don't put things in your mouth unless you are sure they are okay, and Google To the Rescue. On to Item 2...

I have spent years and years pestering readers and writers, trying to track down a short story I read in junior high. I think it was eighth grade, and I'm sure the story was in our lit textbook. It took place in the old West, or a frontier town, and a major plot point had to do with the difference between wood alcohol and grain alcohol. I don't want to spoil the plot too much, but suffice it to say that this story took away a lot of the allure of feel-good substances for this thirteen-year-old.

It was only today that it occurred to me that I could consult the Great and Powerful Goog for help. Frankly, I'm embarrassed that it took me this long to think of it. Anyway, I typed in "short story wood alcohol" and BAM! Wikipedia told me all about A. B. Guthrie, Jr., and just enough about his short story, Bargain. A second search for "bargain a b guthrie" hit pay dirt - a pdf document of the story, annotated and reprinted by permission of Houghton Mifflin Company.

Item 3... There is no Item 3. It's finally spring! I'm going to see how long I can wear my sandals outdoors without craving socks. Later!

Monday, March 10, 2014


One of my co-workers once lived in Israel for a couple of years. She recently made a return visit. Because she knew T was interested in Judaism and Israel, she asked me if she could bring him a little something from the trip. "Sure!" I said. "Anything at all!"

When she came back last week, she handed me a bag of goodies. There were tourist brochures and maps, a couple of coins ("Don't get too excited," she said, "because they aren't worth much."), and a few other doodads. The next day, she brought another bag full of memorabilia.

One of the gifts was this little oil lamp. I believe she said it is from Nazareth Village. It's tiny, only about three inches across. She said cheap olive oil is perfectly fine to burn in it. (T calls it the slutty oil, as opposed to the extra-virgin.) Traditionally, the first pressing of the olives is for God, the second is for cooking, and the third is for lamps.

I have olive oil, and it won't take too much to fill up this little guy. As soon as I figure out where to buy, or how to make, wicks, we're going to have us a working lamp.

When one has a lamp, of course, one must keep it trimmed and burning.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Sorry about this, chief

I found a Flickr photo and said, Share It via Blogger. Then I wrote a nice thoughtful post to go with it.

And then Flickr said, "Your credentials are invalid" and ate the post.

Grrr. You would think I would have learned to work offline, but no.

And now it is too late to start over. You get no picture, and you get no sensitive story from Ash Wednesday service.

All you have is my sputtering attempt to get something posted, thus fulfilling my "What was I thinking?" declaration to Sand that I would blog more during Lent.

And just for the record, I started this blog nine years ago today. Huzzah. It's also too late to find another picture of my brother to post for his birthday, so just go look at the one I posted then.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Fly like an eagle

As usual, we went to the Iowa Star Party over Labor Day Weekend. It was too hot, and then it was too cloudy, and then it was too rainy and windy, but after that, it was perfect. While we were at Whiterock, SOAR released several injured and rehabilitated raptors - two kestrels, two hawks, and an eagle. They took each bird on a walkabout before releasing it. They all passed maybe four feet away from where I stood. Even with just my cell phone camera, I was able to take really sharp pictures.

Brother Eagle was very well behaved, but I could see in his eyes that he was ready to get out of there.


The obvious musical bibelot at this point would be "Fly Like An Eagle", but this song is prettier and more eagle-ish, in my considered opinion. Once again, there is no video to it, so just make your own video with your imagination.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Romance in the air

Today, I got to do something I have never done before. I went to a book launch party. Author Melissa Tagg's first romantic comedy, Made To Last, debuted last weekend, and there was a big shindig in her hometown today. It was a perfect almost-autumn day, so of course I was game for a road trip.

I'm impressed by people who can put together good parties, and this one was a corker. The book centers around a home-repair TV show, and the decorations included ladders, saws, hazard tape, and other Tool Time paraphernalia. There was popcorn, and wheelbarrow full of soft drinks, and an amazing cookie buffet, courtesy of the church ladies who rallied to the call. Of course, fancy lighting always helps with the ambiance.

Melissa's book launch party

On the subject of romance, this song has been in heavy rotation on Sirius Broadway. It's catchy, and has become quite an earworm for me this week. The video ain't much, so just close your eyes and enjoy.