Sunday, June 30, 2024

Hard Decisions



I took advantage of a cooler day to attack my workroom, the place where I've made many quilts and the place where I wrote all six Elizabeth Goodweather novels. These days I tend to be mostly downstairs, unless Josie insists we go up to what she calls her 'office.'

Drifts of dead lady bugs, wasps, and stink bugs were on the desk surfaces. Everything was dusty. So I began--removing everything and cleaning. And, thought I, time to get rid of some stuff. I mean, really, your grandmother's badly chipped and worn sugar bowl, sitting here on the windowsill, filled with paper clips, bits of string, and desiccated bugs. . . it looks like a crazy old lady lives here.

Well, yes. But that sugar bowl has history. It was probably a treasured wedding gift with its silver overlay. But by the time I knew it, it was coverless and chipped and lived in the warming oven of the stove, keeping the sugar dry. It came to the table and went back to the warming oven daily.

But that matters to no one but me. I imagine my sons and DILs shaking their heads as they toss it in the trash.

So I'll do it for them--but keep a picture for myself--maybe try to do a watercolor.

This pitcher is another survival from my grandmother's kitchen. But it's in perfect condition. Nope, not tossing this. Putting the pencils back in, after cleaning out the dead bugs.

A Rolodex. Between my cell phone and my laptop, I have all this. Still, a quick flip through--yikes, how many of these people are dead!  Office supplies. Wite-Out? C'mon. Into the garbage bag along with the rock-hard erasers. I moved on to the immediate file folders, finding much to discard. Odds and ends and ideas that never came to pass--out they go.  Outdated business cards--mine and those I collected from other authors, goodbye.

There was one perfect jewel of a memory-- a note from the Graham County, NC Sheriff's office.

It was January or February, early 2000's, back before we all had cell phones. Justin was farm-sitting near Chapel Hill and I got a sad call from him. A snowstorm was in progress, driving was unsafe, and he was out of food. 

Not sure what I could do about this, I suggested he break into the absent owners' house and scavenge. Or maybe there were some potatoes still in the ground.

He assured me he would be fine. So I waited till the next day to call him (landline.) 

No answer. I decided he was probably out digging for potatoes. 

No answer the next day. Now I began to have visions of him lying in the potato patch, felled by a tree limb that had collapsed under the weight of snow.

I began to email or call those of his Chapel Hill friends who might have heard from him. No joy. He might have fallen off the edge of the world, as far as they knew.

In a last desperate move, I called the Sheriff's office in his county. The woman who answered and to whom I told my story was kind and sympathetic. She promised to send a deputy out to make sure Justin was okay, if he was there.

Not too long after that, I got a call from Justin. Shortly after talking to me three days before, he'd braved the elements and driven to a girl friend's house where he was safe and warm and enjoying the authentic Thai food her mother prepared.

He'd been alerted to my distress by a number of his friends calling, Dude! Call your mother!

Keeping this little reminder. Maybe framing it.

Next up for the purge was the card file where I kept names and emails of fans, other authors, and assorted book people. Most had been collected in the pre-blog, pre-Facebook days when I did a newsletter called The Goodweather Report. Now most of my communication is through FB so it was time to toss this file. 

But first. a quick flip through the cards. Alas, so many folks departed. But many who are still in touch, mostly through the blog or FB.  It was nice to see so many names I remembered.

Back then, I wrote little notes on the cards if the person had told me something I wanted to remember.

Then I came to this card--in my scrawl--a copy of an email that then-me probably thought now-me would enjoy.
I am a new prospective reader who does not like sex or violence in my books. Thanks.

I wonder what I told her.


Friday, June 28, 2024

Rhinoplasty Needed

In what Claui called 'an unfortunate series of events,' Josie's beautiful rhino, crocheted by her Aunt Aileen, was the victim of two too- playful dogs. 

I don't crochet so I asked Aileen for advice. How to prevent unraveling and loss of stuffing is the first consideration. Then, how to make Rero/Rere? look better.

Aileen to the rescue! She will crochet another flower which I can affix, after taking care of the preventative measures.

Speaking of dogs, it was Otter and Domino who perpetrated this badness. Meanwhile, closer to home, my bad Jenny pulled one of two unbaked strombolis off the baking sheet I'd foolishly left on the counter while waiting for the stove to preheat. I'd gone to set the table (we had folks coming for lunch) and returned to the kitchen, thank goodness, in time to save the second one from going the same way.  Fortunately, the one stromboli was enough. 

She was not repentant.


Thursday, June 27, 2024

Reading in Hot Weather

Josie is attending day camp all this week, thanks to her other grandmother, and my schedule is suddenly quite open. The heat, hovering around 90, leaves me little inclination for much more than reading. So I plunged into the Big Bag o' Books my friend left for me and came up with Nick.

Nick is the story of the narrator of The Great Gatsby. In Gatsby, Nick is a bonds salesman, renting a small place near the wealthy and mysterious Jay Gatsby. Nick's role is mainly that of an observer and we know little of his past--Yale and from the mid-west.

With no more than that to adhere to, Michael Farris Smith has given Nick a rich backstory, replete with the horrors of trench warfare in WWI, the ache of lost love in Paris, and a wander through the brothels and bars of a very wild post war New Orleans.

Smith is a terrific writer who brings Nick to vivid life--but after my two previous reads (pre-Vietnam War and WWII,) I determined to study war no more and turned to the quiet sensibilities of Kazuo Ishiguro.

Not war as such, but this is the story of an artist in post war Japan. Masuji Ono made his name with popular patriotic paintings that supported Japan's imperialism. In the wake of defeat and the changing political environment, he finds himself in a delicate position, especially as he has a daughter for whom he is trying to arrange a marriage and whose parents will be, as is usual, looking into his background.

This novel reminds me a great deal of Ishiguro's The Remains of the Day despite the very different settings. There is the same preoccupation with self, with facades, and with the perceptions of others. And, of course, the same beautiful writing. A nice change from trench warfare.

And now, for something completely different.  I had not been aware of Samantha Irby until Book Bub offered her book of essays and something about the blurb convinced me to give it a shot.

I loved it! The woman is a self-deprecating, self-aware, non-filtered, raunchy observer of life. She is a Black, Bi, city-girl, comfortable with disclosing the most outrageous parts of her life. I am none of those things, as well as being of a very different generation. (Nothing outrageous to disclose, even if I wanted to.)

 But I found myself nodding and grinning and muttering, yeah, boy! time after time. 

Now to find her other books... 


Tuesday, June 25, 2024

At Last!

I planted these daylilies four years ago. Their first year, they didn't bloom but that was expected. The second year, they were inadvertently whacked down by a weedeater. The third year, they came back from the roots -- no bloom. But this year, at long last, we have blooms!

I truly didn't know what to expect. I remembered they had been rather pricey specimens whose pictures in a daylily catalogue had compelled me to add them to my collection. I've been watching the buds swell, eager to see what it was I'd chosen.

The purple centered lovely with the ruffled edges is pretty spectacular. But this deep rose double bloom is, I think, my favorite of the two. 

I'd love to get more and more and more daylilies, but the truth is, I should thin the ones I have. Not an easy task.

These days, I force myself to throw the daylily catalogues into the recycling without a glance.


Monday, June 24, 2024

A Visit from My Local Book Pusher



 For the past several years, Allegra and I have done book swaps. Great bulging shopping bags filled with books we think the other would enjoy change hands and we have lunch and talk--some about the books but more about the current state of politics and the world.

The recent haul included Absolution, which I picked up somewhat at random and was at once captivated by the setting: Vietnam, 1963, and then by the protagonist--newly wed Tricia whose attorney husband is 'on loan' to navy intelligence. This is before actual war breaks out. There are military advisors but the families of officers and civilians like Tricia's husband, live in secure compounds, enjoying a luxurious life. 

I too was a newlywed in 1963 and the mindset that Tricia has, as well as the social expectations are all so familiar. 

Tricia is swept up in the wake of Charlene, who is trying her best to 'do good.'  And underlying all of this is the question of American meddling in another country.

Charlene and Tricia are compelling characters and the descriptions of Saigon and the countryside are beautifully done. 

I found it to be compulsive reading--highly recommended!

My next choice from the bulging bag was Good Night, Irene, a novel based on the experiences of the Donut Dollies, a Red Cross corps formed to bring a touch of comfort to American GI, sometimes frighteningly near the frontlines.

Set in 1943 (another significant year for me as it's when I was born,) the novel follows Irene and Dot and a changing cast of Third Girls as they (wo)man the unwieldy Clubmobile throughout wartime France, dispensing hot coffee and donuts (fried fresh in the Clubmobile!) as well as their smiles and cheerful flirtation that are the real comforts.

Holding those smiles is hard as they encounter increasingly dangerous and heart-breaking situations. But their strong support for one another sees them through the worst of times. It's a fine testimonial to friendship, without ever getting soppy

It's a terrific war story--told from a female perspective and with a long overdue look at the heroism of women. 

The writing is beautiful, poetic and moving--when I finished to book, it was hard to return to the here and now, so caught up in the story I'd been.

Another winner and another highly recommended.


Sunday, June 23, 2024

Sunday Surprise

Arum dracunculus, aka Voodoo Lily and some other names I won't mention for fear of Auntie FB getting offended. Very hardy--I planted the first one probably twenty years ago--and pollinated by flies, drawn to its strong odor of carrion.

Every garden should have one--at a good distance from the house.


Saturday, June 22, 2024

A Hello Kitty Day

I spent the day at Meema and Grumpy's on Friday and I showed Meema the library book about Hello Kitty and her grandma and told Meema we would have a Hello Kitty Day. 

I drew pictures of Hello Kitty and her friend.

And Meema did one of Hello Kitty's grandma.

Hello Kitty ad her grandma had a picnic but it wasn't lunchtime so we watered the plants outside instead. 

I wore my Pinky Princess veil,

So did Bailey but she didn't like it.

Next, Grandma taught Hello Kitty to embroider.  So Meema drew my name JOSIE on a piece of cloth and showed me how to follow the line. I chose pink thread for the J and the S and the E and purple for the O and I.

Sewing is not easy and once I stuck myself with the needle. But I pretended the needle was a dolphin, leaping up out of the cloth and then diving back in.

I took a break after the first two letters but later I finished the whole name. Meema is going to make it into a pillow for me and then we'll take another picture of it. 

I have some more ideas for embroidery and Meema is going to show me how to make a flower.

Then we made a cake! It has three layers and we swirled food coloring into them. I picked out the colors and did the swirling.

That was fun!

Meema made the chocolate icing, and I licked the bowl. I also put on the sprinkles, lots of them.

And finally I got to eat a slice. Plus I took home half of the cake for Mama and Daddy.


Friday, June 21, 2024

New Neighbors

When I was Josie's age or a bit older, we lived on a block comprised of new houses and vacant lots. And houses under construction. Often, after supper my family would stroll down the block and, if a house was being built and had not yet been dried in, we felt free to wander through it, speculating on what these rooms, now just spaces defined by 2x4s, would become.
If roofing was underway, my little brother and I would collect those little tin circles that went under the nails that held down the tar paper. Treasure!

That was then. Today, and here in the country, I wouldn't dare to wander onto a building site, knowing how folks who move here value their privacy.  But I must say I'm fascinated (from a distance) by what is going on next door

They border us on the lower part of our property and we can see (and hear) big doings in the area below the main house. It adjoins one of our pastures below the pond (see hay ring above,) and crews of workers have been busy most days, all day until dark. They've cut and dug up and burned the bamboo a previous owner planted and are constructing what looks like a corral for buffalo.

Asking around hasn't revealed much. I don't know if the owners have moved in or what their plans for the property are. Mention was made of the large workshop being converted to a barn and caretaker's quarters, which sounds like they won't be full time residents.

Raising horses, perhaps?  Rodeo broncs or bulls? Or buffalo or ostriches or zebus? Time will tell. 

Meanwhile, I'm loving the look of the log wall, punctuated by old metal wagon wheels. 


Thursday, June 20, 2024

Summer Solstice

 Marking the longest day, celebrants gather round the traditional solstice bonfire in hopes of foiling evil spirits and ensuring a good harvest.

(Photo by Justin S.)

Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Meema Strikes Out


Josie's dad was always a great one for arguing, so much so that we often told him he was perfect for a legal career. Actually, one of his teachers, noticing the same talent told him the same thing-- "Justin, you'd make a good lawyer."

The reply was quick and not very polite."Mr. ___, you'd make a good truck driver." 

Yesterday, Josie was scheduled for a dental procedure in the afternoon, and I was to take her in to Asheville to meet her mother. Thinking it would be a thoughtful thing for the child to show up with clean teeth, I proposed several things.

It did not go well. Here's the series of texts I exchanged with Josie's mom:

Josie says that after her appointment, she's coming back here. Is that correct?

No. It will be dinnertime when we get home

I thought so but she was so sure

She doesn't like to be wrong

Tell me. I was trying to get her to brush her teeth with a new (adult) toothbrush, and she said she wasn't allowed to use that. Tried to get her to floss. Also the wrong kind of floss. Asked her to rinse her mouth at least and she said the dentist said sink water was bad for her teeth.

She went and got water from the kitchen (sink) and rinsed

I tried
Also we had the wrong kind of mouthwash

None of that is true LOL

I had a feeling but it's too hot to argue

I don't blame you
Often wrong but never in doubt

Monday, June 17, 2024

Forty Years


Our little south-facing shed greenhouse has been an ongoing pleasure. It's been used mainly to overwinter things like lavender, rosemary, and bay, as well as various tender potted plants.


In the early years, we attempted to grow tomatoes out of season but the results were pretty tasteless. For several years I grew Japanese cucumbers on trellises and they did quite well--till the year that something ate all the seedlings.  



Now the deep soil bed is home to a Brown Turkey fig tree that seems to like its environment very well--I had to prune it back severely last fall to keep it from global domination.

Last fall I brought in a pot of dill and, to my surprise, it did well and provided me with fresh dill weed for my scrambled eggs etc. all through the winter and spring. It's looking kinda sad now, but I have two pots of dill on the porch, waiting to come inside in the fall.

When we first began to talk about adding a greenhouse using sliding glass door panels for glazing, a friend scoffed. All the homemade greenhouses he'd seen, he advised us, tended to self-destruct after about five years.

Well, it's true the little ventilation windows are getting a bit funky. (A fall project for John in the workshop.) But the date of construction, according to the record etched in concrete inside, is 1984. Forty years! 

(Bozozo Construction was the name of John's short-lived, ad hoc construction company that was hired to remodel a restaurant into a health clinic. Bozozo was what a very young Ethan called bulldozers. And the motto of the company was We're All Bozos on This Bus (cue Firesign Theater.)