Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Traveling through Bible Country

Traveling across Northern New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma is generally not an inspiring experience, in spite of the many opportunities for Biblical inspiration and 24 hour evangelical preaching. There are the Spanish speaking stations, the Bible thumping stations, the Country music (using the term, music, loosely) stations and, very occasionally and for brief periods of time, the Public Radio glimpses. Five minutes maximum before static takes over that radio band. There were capsule insights into the news, including the good news that Arlen Specter has joined the majority party.

The normally rather nondescript countryside in this area of my drive was made more so by a long period of fog. As the sign for "Gray County" came into sight, I thought, "Oh, now I understand."

There is also a rather odd expectation along this part of Texas (and possibly throughout the state, but I wouldn't know that for sure) that all people want to do when they stop to "rest" is to picnic or just park. Absent the notorious use of adult diapers, the best thing you can have as you drive across this area is good bladder control. And when the one and only full "rest" stop arrived, I almost missed the only sign just before the turn off.

I had an interesting experience at a Chevron station outside of Oklahoma City. Stopped to fill the tank and found it was a pump it yourself, without the automated card reader. The reading started with a 2 cent charge on it, then filled at a total charge of $20.95. The price was also about 20 cents more than it should be, and I'd almost decided to drive on - a decision which in retrospect I should have followed.

I went inside to pay and was told I owed $20.99, as the man handed me back a penny. I wish to make it clear that I do not care that much about the few cents here and should have just walked away, but I called his attention to the discrepancy, saying, "The pump said $20.95, and it had 2 cents on it before I started," at which he reached into this till, took out a dime and pushed it on me, saying, "Here's a dime. Now get the hell out of here." I left the dime on the counter and walked away wondering, "Is this little game worth something to him, or was it just a bad day at the shop?" Next station I passed posted its gas at 20 cents less than I paid there. I'm still puzzled by it all.

So I am here in Oklahoma City relaxing with my cousin and her husband, while my circus act of Boston terriers plays havoc with their peaceful life. Tomorrow I go to Des Moines, and on Friday I'll be home. It is raining here and everything is very green and lush. I shall soon see the green, green grass of home, and by next trip, I think I shall have installed a satellite radio in the car.

Friday, April 24, 2009

The green, green grass of home

"Yes, they'll all come to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly.
It's good to touch the green, green grass of home." This refrain has been haunting me for several days, as I plan my getaway from the hot, hot sands of Phoenix. Not, of course, that I don't love Phoenix in the winter. But, it's time to go home.

Mornings here are beginning earlier and earlier, as I think my body is crying out to be back on Central Daylight time. Here we are two hours earlier, as Arizona is the only state in the U.S. that doesn't go on daylight savings' time. They have some cockamamie theory that they want early sunsets so that they can cool off in the evenings surrounded by the hot, hot sands of Arizona. What they're missing in my opinion are the cool, cool mornings and the luscious rays of rising sun which, by virtue of my early waking, I can enjoy in peace around 5:30.

I catch up on the news while covered in Boston terriers, then enjoy my fruit and yogurt with my mealtime partner, Lily, who sits on the chair opposite me, or on the window sill beside the table, watching me eat and listening to my insightful observations on the day. At home this will change, as the seat across from my breakfast table is bar stool height, too high for Lily.

Then there are the morning walks, which, should I get distracted by my Facebook reviews and daily cryptogram, my faithful Yo will remind me about in her own rude and insistent manner. Three walks, total about two miles, take about an hour. I look forward to these walks on the parkway, where the dogs can run from tree to tree, romping through the green, green grass etc.

At home I get the news of the Twins, which I miss here. I've tried, unsuccessfully, to appreciate the Diamondbacks, but, really, how can one get excited about a team named after snakes?

By next week at this time, I shall be back in green grass country and will have home well within my sights. I don't expect they'll all be out to meet me, arms reaching, smiling sweetly, but I won't need that. Home reaches out and makes me smile sweetly - and all will be well.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Class reunions

She's just a little older than I and definitely much grayer, but she looks a lot better for her age than I do. We were high school classmates. I seldom think about high school classmates. In fact I have forgotten most of them, and some of them are dead. I've only once or twice attended a class reunion, and it seems this was a long time ago.

It has been 53 years since I graduated from high school. Our last class reunion was, I think, three years ago. I didn't go. I was in town at the time, and I considered going, but had not troubled to find out what was happening or where. I made a halfhearted attempt to find some classmates, but nothing came of it. I was in an adjustment period, with my father recently deceased and my mother in assisted living in Des Moines. Our old home was pretty lonely, with many items cleared out and the rest spread out on the living room floor. I think it was a last review of stuff before the big sale to clear out the rest. Obviously, not a time when I was in a mood for partying.

After my visit this week with my old classmate, I am thinking I might attend a future reunion. Our town holds all school reunions in conjunction with their annual Creek Days event. Some towns have lakes, others have rivers, but in Odebolt, it's our creek, the Odebolt Creek. Was the town named after the creek, or the creek named after the town? No one knows. Anyway, I think they dam it up downstream to be sure there is water in it for this annual event.

My reservations about returning for one of these events is now related to my parents' deaths. For so many years I was blessed with their being there, sort of right where I'd left them and always the same, except, of course, older. Could I make it there as a stand alone Dresselhuis? Might it be a healing experience? Do I need a healing experience? Or might it just be fun to see where people I sort of knew way back then have been and how they're doing now? Or might it just be fun? I'm thinking about it.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Arizona is getting hot

It's time to go home to a place where even 42 degrees sounds good! Today it will hit 98 and the next two days 100 degrees. Next Monday I leave for Minnesota. I'm almost counting the hours. Warm in winter is nice; hot in spring is not. Green lawns in summer are nice; brown lawns and sand under very, very hot sun are not. God bless all of you who live in Arizona for welcoming me as a winter visitor. God bless all my friends in Minnesota for being there for me when I come back. I'm coming home!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Al Franken won

The court has declared Al Franken the winner after lo these many months of testimony, arguments, counts, recounts and maneuvering. It appears to me that the public is strongly urging Coleman to accept the result and allow the candidate we elected to be seated as Minnesota's second senator. A little cooperation by our governor would help too.

In this day of commenting, blogging, twittering (whatever the heck that is, and don't even try to tell me), emails and networks, everyone's opinion is out there somewhere, and nearly every one of them would like to see their opinion as "the last word' on the subject. Many of the opinions are useless and irrelevant, as they reflect only that their writers are angry, illiterate, stupid or uninformed, or all of the above. How frustrating to have to plow through these rantings to find those comments you can click "like" on. It is tempting to add my own thoughts to these litanies until I note that what I'm reading is one of 282 posts, and I realize that I would do just as well throwing dishes against the wall and keeping my priceless prose and uncommon insights to myself. Ah, but I have a blog, so I can thoughtfully, candidly and insightfully put out my own opinion where someone might read it. Or not, as they choose.

No one will be surprised that I think Coleman should quit this expensive court battle. Strange how much people dislike and distrust lawyers until they find some who will take their money and battle windmills for them, no matter how meritless the cause. But this isn't about Norm Coleman, is it? He has no political future in Minnesota anymore anyway. No, this is about delaying the seating of the duly elected Democratic senator from Minnesota as long as possible. It's all part of the politics of "no". Will we ever get used to this crap and assume it is something we should expect? I hope not. Will the electorate remember this childish behavior by the Republican party at the next election? I certainly hope so.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Non-scientific personality tests

As I was growing up, my mother, the wise one to whom I still defer for advice, told me, "Ellen, you'll never be able to get by with anything. You are a person people will remember." I knew she was probably right, but I did a lot of things that I'm glad I did get by with. They were generally speaking rather fun. Perhaps, however, this little personality test I just did on Facebook is right after all. It says, in part:

". . . you are such an honest and true individual sometimes it is easy for others to move through life as if you are invisible to them, pushing you around and hurting you in ways they would never imagine doing to [other types of people]." Maybe I was invisible when I behaved in questionable ways, because I was thought of as honest and true. It's lovely to be thought of so nicely, but I really doubt I have ever been invisible.

But, for those of you reading this who might be concerned that you have pushed me around and hurt me in unimaginable ways, let me assure you, I don't remember any of it. This memory issue - perhaps not an issue, but yet another blessing.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter Sunday

Ah! The Easter Parade. Ladies in fancy clothes and interesting hats paraded in New York every Easter. They even had their own song. Remember The Easter Parade? We'll be all in clover, when they look you over. You'll be the proudest lady in the Easter Parade. Or something like that. Maybe you don't remember that. I age myself again.

It was important to have something new for spring to wear to church on Easter morning. As a child, my parents couldn't always afford new Easter clothes. This caused my mother anxiety and increased the pressure of her constant financial worry. Many times my best outfits had been purchased at the annual P.E.O/D.A.R rummage sales. [These clubs alternated years, as I recall, though their memberships were overlapping.]

I remember the year I was allowed to wear my new outfit to school before Easter because I was to be in an all school assembly program and wanted to look my best - or rather, Mother probably wanted me to look my best. As I recall, I was just excited to have something new to wear. The hitch in the plan, however, was that I was, as usual, late to school. Riding my bicycle to school, as my brother and I always did, we were suddenly confronted with a freshly tarred street that had to be crossed, or ridden an extra block to bypass. My brother made it across just fine.

Mother was not happy - actually she was very, very unhappy, I recall, as she helped me scrub off the tar with kerosene. I can't say that I was too cheerful either. I don't remember what I wore for Easter Sunday that year, but it definitely was not the tar soaked skirt and blouse I had hoped to wear.

Whatever happened to the Easter Parade anyway? Should we consider reinstituting it? It might help get us spending again and boost our economic recovery. I'd be safe now, as I am seldom late and I never ride my bike to anything anymore.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


A haircut costing $55 is way out of line! I'm thinking it had better last more than twice as long as the ones I get at home, as it really doesn't look that much different. The warning signs were obvious when I opened the door. I should have taken them seriously. It was a place with trendy, modern looking furnishings, but not a tool of the trade in sight. Old fashioned beauty parlors could be so messy, with bottles, sprays, combs, hair dryers, scissors, etc. lying about. The place was also empty of customers, although there was a meeting going on where a few young, hip and trendy looking people sat around looking bored and shuffling through some papers. As the pretty little girl (Hey! She was young, pretty and short) was tenderly snipping a few hairs at a time and much time was passing as she did so, I knew I was in for sticker shock when I checked out. She did giggle some at my attempted witticisms, but not enough to justify $55. And she agreed that I am not as gray as her mother, who is 40. I was glad she didn't compare me to her grandmother. I tried to convince myself that this was some kind of pampering, and that I should enjoy it. It didn't work.

I do look better than I did before the haircut, but I'll also look better after the next haircut I'll get, which will cost about $24 back in Minneapolis and take half the time. Next winter I'll have to find a cheaper hair cutter, or, perhaps, just let it grow.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

I'm no gray haired lady

My hair is only gray in pictures, never in my mirror. I don't know why that is, but I can clearly see some highlights of gray when I look in the mirror, but never a whole head of gray hair.

I do, however, wear the colors lavender and rose, though usually not in the same shirt. One day some years ago I approached the checkout counter at Daytons (you can see how long ago that must have been) with two blouses in these colors. A gray haired older woman was standing there and commented, "Oh those are such good colors with our gray hair." "Our gray hair"? I chuckled as I drove home. This was either a defining moment or an effect of the store lighting. I never did look quite the same under department store lighting.

I suspect the reason I look so gray in photos also has to do with the lighting. Take a picture in the bright sunlight, and the gray hair shines so brightly that it simply overpowers the other, more abundant, shades of color in my hair.

You may suggest that I could just color out the gray with a rinse. You see the ads all the time for men to color their gray, and if men can do it, surely we can too. Unfortunately, that would lead me into another difficult spot. I am, as of this writing, still putting off a haircut that I have needed since early to mid March. It is now April. How much worse might I look if I were coloring my hair and put it off for weeks at a time? It doesn't bear thinking about, really.

I've decided the best solution to this problem is for my friends to simply accept that I am not gray, except for a few enhancing hightlights mixed with my normal hair, and for me to try to stay out of the sunlight - at least when there is a camera around.

Friday, April 3, 2009

My Orange Tree

Vegetation in the valley, as this part of Arizona is known, is somewhat a mystery to me. Of course, there are the various species of cactus, which are an interesting study. Some people I know (actually one person) just love cacti. I'm trying to get past the aggressive look of most of them - that is, they are all armed with tiny spears, sharper than tacks, and some of them, I'm told even attack animals and people. I do understand that these are adaptions of the plants for survival - to ward off predators who might steal their water and weaken them in the process.

The valley also sports an interesting variety of coniferous and deciduous trees. Where my dogs will snarf down mulberries from the post Dutch Elm plantings in Minnesota, here I'm having to ask them to spit out the olives that cover the ground up at the park. Among the trees in my neighborhood are citrus fruit trees, including lemon, grapefruit and orange trees.

I met the orange tree in my back yard during my visit here in June last year (temperatures hovering around 110). It had been sadly neglected while my house had been vacant and in these temperatures, without water, the poor thing was looking pretty sad. We could determine by careful inspection that it was a fruit tree, but what kind of fruit tree was not immediately apparent.

With a little attention my orange tree has borne fruit, not a huge crop compared to the trees around it that have been well cared for, but a respectable production. As I was once given a beautiful orange off a tree in California and had found at first taste that it was sour and unpleasant, I was cautious about my own oranges. To my great delight, they are sweet and juicy and make a wonderful mix for a shot or two of vodka.

I have now picked the last of the oranges on my tree, and have eaten most of them - technically, I have drunk most of them. And I have come to treasure my orange tree. We have fertilized it and arrangements have been made for it to be watered regularly, even when I'm not here. It is not just that these lovely orange fruits are decorative in the landscape, it is that they are free, sort of. And healthy! As a lifelong northerner, I'm delighted with the idea that I can pick fruit right off my own tree and enjoy it at cocktail hour. Some might even find it nice for breakfast.