Sunday, May 31, 2009

Robin Watch 5

According to my calculations, it has been about 14 days since Mama Robin started sitting on her nest. Based on the information I have found on the ever educational Internet, they should hatch at 13 days. Get with it Mama! We haven't got all summer to get these babies out of here. She's still sitting there . . . daydreaming.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Intelligent Homosexual

The new Tony Kuschner play, The Intelligent Homosexual . . ., is new and ever so modern - with almost graphic sexual scenes and lots of the "f" word - and is presumably still being written. Admittedly, I had reservations after reading the Graydon Royce review in the Star Tribune. He summarized it well when he said "Now the playwright can set his hands to clarifying his irresolute intentions, for Kushner has not yet discovered his own purpose in writing this play." I reached pretty much the same conclusion without having to sit through the whole thing, and I'm no theater critic - or am I?

There was a time in my life when the dramatic introspection and intensity of the family members' sexual discoveries would have entertained, or at least, interested me. As I reflect, it seems to me the most dramatic and intense dialogue hinged on the sexual interests and understandings. When I was twenty years old, I might have cared. I don't much anymore. The other premise, that daddy, Gus, the labor organizer who felt no longer useful, intended to commit suicide as soon as he could sell the family home for a lot of money, was unconvincing, at least in the first act. It also seemed to generate less real feeling in the cast than their various graphic discussions and manner of coping with their sexual identities. Maybe that's what makes it realistic - assuming it is considered to be realistic.

The theater was cold, and I was preoccupied with staying warm. I left at the first intermission. The question I asked myself was, "Do I care enough about how it will end to justify sitting in the cold theater for two more hours?" I didn't, so I didn't.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Frustration squared

Today I received my usual email notice that my QWest phone bill for my Phoenix home is due. Glancing at the amount, however, I was disturbed, since I have been "away from the phone" in Phoenix for nearly a month, and the bill was about $30 higher than the previous month's bill. Thus began one of the more frustrating search and discover experiences in my recent history.

As I receive these bills online through my CheckFree bill paying service, I first had to get "authorization" to see the bill. This involved digging through my various records to locate a complicated number known as "Your Security Code". This having been accomplished, I located the bill and began to review the details, discovering tacked on to the end of it a set of charges for $30 for something called ETSB or ESBI or something like that. These charges listed, with no date of billing, some email discount something or other and Orbit online services. For questions, they listed an 888 number, which I called.

I shall spare you the details of this first call. Suffice it to say the contact, after listening to the various automaton instructions, was a person who declared that they were some kind of clearinghouse for these calls, and she had no information nor authority to do anything about them. She claimed I needed to call the various companies making the charges - for which there were no phone numbers, of course.

After "gently" hanging up the phone, I proceeded to dial "Spirit of Service", where, after going through the various automaton instructions, I spoke with Jennifer, who explained that some government regulation or lack thereof allows other companies to put their charges on my phone bill. She kindly contacted the company's representative for the charges on the bill. This person, whose accent made her hard to understand, explained that I had enrolled in whatever these plans are, but that she would credit the charges, which I thought was just fine although I had not enrolled in any such thing.

After saying this, she began an interminable interrogation about my name, phone number, email address, number of children, years since last sexual experience (ok, I'm exaggerating here), etc. I finally said if you don't already have this information how did you put your phony charges on my bill in the first place, and sure enough, she started reading the information to me instead of the other way around. Having thus been assured that I didn't have to pay them or recite them to her, I again hung up the phone.

From there I checked my email notice from the Washington Post and found the following amazing article. I refer you to it, as somehow, in juxtaposition with my morning fun with the phone experience, I found myself laughing out loud at this one. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did. Here's the link:

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Robin Watch 4

Mama Robin has been sitting on the nest for about ten days. She appears to be daydreaming.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


The Week, May 29, 2009, Health & Science section: "Daydreaming is good for you" Although "often viewed as a sign of laziness . . . [during daydreaming] there's a lot of activity in regions of gray matter dedicated to high-level thought and complex problem-solving." The article goes on to note that the average person "spends as much as a third of his or her waking hours in reverie."

Wow! Who would have thought it? But, wait a minute. What exactly is daydreaming? I'd define it as letting my thoughts drift off to a quiet ocean beach, or lake shore where I observe cloud patterns and watch the hawk making lazy circles in the sky. But if we spend as much as a third of our waking hours in reverie, then the definition of daydreaming must be much broader than that. I'm wondering if the hours I spend doing jigsaw puzzles and playing Scrabble are in fact productive hours. Wouldn't that be great?

How exciting to know that I'm using gray matter dedicated to high-level thought and complex problem-solving. Shoot, I don't think I've engaged in high-level thought for years. My thoughts, quite frankly, are trivia, and not even productive trivia. I couldn't compete in the game of Trivial Pursuit, nor do I ever have even a faint idea the answers to the baseball trivia questions that tease Bert's and Dick's minds during the Twins baseball broadcasts. No, my trivial thoughts pursue recollections of insignificant, useless events of the past connected with my daily habits and places. Of course, nothing is more trivial than that, nor more boring.

The researcher summarizes or surmises that, when you're not paying attention, for example, to the sermon in church, "your mind may be taking that time to address more important questions in your life, such as advancing your career or personal relationships." What are the theological implications of that?

But what if they're right? Maybe my boring trivial thought pursuits are more than they seem. I'll try to give that some thought, just as soon as I finish this jigsaw puzzle that I'm so close to solving. It's a picture of a sandy beach on the shore of a beautiful ocean. Really!

Monday, May 25, 2009

Ms Yo

The license plate I just saw on a Lexis, no less, reads "MIZ YOYO". So, maybe it's a more popular name than I thought.

My YoYo is a young dog (under the age of two) who, I thought, was ready to show in an agility trial. However, in the true spirit of growing children, Yo drew from her instincts and some long ago connection to a Beagle and late on Saturday afternoon put her nose to the ground to sniff out . . . Who knows? Mulberries, perhaps. She eats a lot of these on our daily walks. Perhaps she had a bead on the preceding canine performer who had completed the run. Surprised occasionally that her nasal quest put her in front of a jump, she either walked around it or took a lazy leap over it, before dropping her nose to the ground again. Her intense curiosity over this enticing smell had not abated by Sunday morning.

On Saturday, in retrospect, I should have just picked her up and ended the run before I made a complete fool of myself. I would have done so, had I not been misled by her earlier performances into believing she would suddenly look up, see me waving my arms and repeating one word commands and would smile, apologize and begin her high class performance. I could have, however, just accepted that she's young and distractable and not yet all that confident about what she is doing in an agility trial. It's the old gambler's lament - shoulda, woulda, coulda! And, believe me, working with dogs is often a gamble.

Sunday, with the wisdom of my Saturday experience firmly planted in the reachable part of my brain, I knew just what to do when Yo failed to pay any noticeable attention to me. I gently picked her up and cuddled her (well, not exactly cuddled) and left the ring, thus charitably contributing my rather substantial remaining entry fees to the Bloomington Obedience Training Club.

YoYo is not a part of my license plate and is unlikely to be displayed there or on any other sign of my life's successes for some time to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Too much like Phoenix

Wind, wind and more wind! When will it stop? As I drove home from my weekly dog training and massage session, the horizon was filled with dust. Trees are swaying and whipping around in the wind, and the dry dirt and sand is whirling in the air. And the temperature is in the 90s. Ok, so I'm back in Minnesota where we have opinions about the weather, which changes from day to day and sometimes from hour to hour. Actually, our opinions also change from day to day, but we do know how to appreciate a good weather day. All I can say is, it is too hot, dry and windy here the past couple days. Fortunately, that will change later today or tomorrow. That's one of the things that makes it Minnesota, not Arizona.

Weblog shortened is Blog

Digital life, Star Tribune May 20, 2009. Headline: "Re-rip music so songs will play on the chopper." Not long ago that headline would have made even less sense than it does now. "When you ripped songs from CDs, the default Windows Media Player setting probably was to copy them as WMA files. You can fix that by re-ripping your CDs as MP3 files." What surprises me most is that, nonsensical as it sounds or would have sounded to me a few years ago, I in fact get the essence of its meaning and envision clicking things on the computer to make music "download" onto some gizmo or other in a different format.

A friend, who claims she will not read blogs and wants nothing to do with them, does not even want to hear the word. She claims the world is divided into mammals and dinosaurs, and she is a dinosaur, minus the large teeth and weird body shape, of course.

A few years ago - or maybe it was just a few months ago - I wanted nothing to do with blogs either, but here I am. I used to dismiss them, although I read a few and was entertained. I feared I could not be clever like the others and scoffed at the idea of being a blogger. Yet, I like to write, so now a "blogger is I". Still up to taking risks, I guess.

Now there's Twitter, which I understand is a short form of messaging that many do from their telephones. I have insisted that I will not do texting and will not get into this twitter thing, but you never know.

I've learned that I can't upgrade my phone to a Blackberry device until September. Okay, so I did ask about it. Do you suppose in September I'll tiptoe another step into the 21st century? At my age perhaps I should do as much of this stuff as I can understand for as long as I can understand it. One of these days I may find that I too am a dinosaur, and when someone talks of re-ripping music, I'll envision a choir anthem being torn into bits of paper. I may then suggest anthems to rip based on the dullness of their alto line. That ripping effort could take years to complete.

Robin Watch 3

Mama robin continues to diligently sit on her nest, except for a few minutes last evening when I thought it would be nice to have my G&T on the patio. She kept watching me from the fence in between forays towards the nest, as if to say, "Please leave." So, I left. Someone today suggested I should have stayed. It is after all, my patio, not hers. But, my belief in freedom of choice does not negate my deep respect for the right to life.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Robin Watch 2

For several days one or another of the robin pair have visited the nest outside my window, but they didn't stay. Today, they have stayed and, in my amateurish observations, mama appears to be sitting a little higher in the nest. Perhaps she has laid her eggs and will be around incubating them. I shall keep watch and report.

Summer in the city

Today is the day, according to the advance warning bulletins, that my street and sewer line destruction and reconstruction is to begin. We have been notified and told to get our cars off the street. For the past few weeks, we have been subjected to the roar and clamber of machinery and incessant beeping on the next street over, where the road has been dug up and now, temporarily, filled over the frames for our new sewer pipes and such. These are worthy projects, as, I'm told, the present sewer lines are well overdue for replacement. One cannot overemphasize the importance of timely replacement of sewer lines, not to mention that the streets have been in horrible shape for many years as well.

As if in a preliminary show of strength, a couple of giant machines with forks on the front lumbered up and down the street in front of my house about 7:15 this morning in preparation for the big event, then disappeared. As of 11:10, they have not returned. Perhaps they were intending to scoop up any leftover cars parked on the street which on Friday was posted no parking and has, by this morning, finally been cleared of these pesky obstacles to progress.

Other than a big truck with word "vac something" on the side racing down the street a couple of times, the street is eerily quiet. I wait. With some trepidation I resolve to be patient and understanding during this upcoming time of trial. I shall then look forward to quiet evenings after work hours, when the frequent hum of lawn mowers will be relatively less intrusive to my tranquility - maybe.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Robin Watch

My herd of wild Bostons may have scared them off, even though I reassured papa robin that I would keep his kiddies safe. He did, as I mentioned, look skeptical. I saw no sign of them yesterday, and was about to post a sad commentary on my unfitness as a bird sanctuary, but then caught a cameo appearance of mama bird today. I'm guessing that she hasn't laid her eggs yet and maybe she's keeping this option open. This is creating very mixed feelings for me. I'd love to nurture nature and have baby robins here, but it is a minor nuisance to have to look out for them and be sure they are kept safe and relatively undisturbed. My Bostons can and do create quite a ruckus on occasion.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Summer garden phase 1

Tomorrow my new tree arrives, but today I headed out, in spite of the cold wind and my sense that fall is already here, and bought a few new perennials to replace those that didn't make it through the winter. I shall confess here that I don't know as much about gardening as, say, my parents did. Probably not as much as most anybody, but I have managed to produce blooming lilies. Actually, that's not true either. The blooming lilies were given to me by my father some years ago. They seem to thrive no matter what I do.

Yesterday I cleaned the pond and started the waterfall. That's a lot of work, but is worth it. I'm sure my robins are delighted to have the fresh water near by as they carry out their hatching rituals.

As I was perusing the various offerings at the local nursery, I read that the begonias which, having been pushed a little, are already blooming beautifully were labeled "Habit: Mounding". Hesitating, I asked myself if I really wanted plants "mounding" around in my back yard. Still, they do look quite pretty there at the moment. I shall watch their behavior very, very closely.

They're back

Two years ago, while waiting for my new puppies to arrive, I enjoyed watching the progress of a pair of robins who had made a nest under the floor of my upstairs balcony. After they and their progeny had flown the nest, I took it down and was glad not to see them there last summer. This year, they're back.

When I returned home on May 1st, I specifically checked and was pleased to see nothing in the way of a nest. Yesterday, however, I glanced up and, what do you know, the nest is back, and mother is snuggled down with that familiar sense of purpose. So, we're in the hatching business here again. The previous robin nesting produced two . . . (broods?) (They're not called litters are they?) That is to say, they hatched one batch, got them off and flying, and next thing I see, they're at it again, sitting on the nest, I mean. Proliferating and sending off two nest fulls into the world.

They have no idea how much less safe my yard is for them this year. I have two of the pups that were incubating two years ago, and these two are real devils. I chatted briefly with Mr. Robin yesterday and promised I'd protect his offspring. He seemed to understand as he cocked his head and looked at me - skeptically? I shall have to watch closely to protect the little creatures when they hatch and are about to fly. It should be an interesting summer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Maple Tree is gone

It had not been doing well for the past two or three years, and last year I studied it often trying to get up the energy to cut down some of the dead branches. I never did, and this year the number of dead branches had more than doubled. It was time to say goodbye.

A side benefit of the economic downturn is that when you need something done, it is possible to get it done right away. Monday the estimator came and gave me a bid and Tuesday the crew arrived and took down the tree, removed the stump, and, while in the neighborhood, trimmed the crab tree in the front. For several hours their chain saw and stump chopper drowned out the incessant beep, beep, beep of the road crew working in the next block. Today, the beeping is back, and my back yard feels naked.

I thought the dogs might miss the tree. I have no idea why I thought it would make any difference to them. Obviously, I was anthropomorphizing again. (Wow, that's a long word) They have a great time digging in the loose dirt and wood chips, and eating I don't know what in the process.

Today I shall look for a new tree for the back yard. Probably a flowering crab that will not grow as large as a maple, but will provide some shade, some color and some sense of adornment for my bleak and barren yard. Perhaps I should also plant more flowers. Life ends and life is renewed and changed, but where it has ended, there is a big, empty space.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Mother's Day

The Star Tribune featured mothers' remembrances today, including one mother who memorialized her child's butt cheeks in green ink for her baby book. So very glad am I that my mother did not do such a thing for me, although having been the one to go through all her letters and papers, I'd have had the final word as I shredded it, as I certainly would have done. Sentiment has its limits.

My mother saved letters. Actually, she saved everything, but that's another story. She stored things in our home of 54 years, setting them away in the basement, the attic, various closets and the storage spaces under the eaves around the attic, not to mention the garage, carriage house and shed. She saved what appeared to be pretty much all of my father's love letters to her over a period of the six or seven years he was in law school and was courting her, the only woman he could ever love. He fell in love with her when she was his high school English teacher and was never seriously interested in anyone else. Mother's oldest brother, it seems, had also saved every personal letter he ever received, and mother had conscientiously saved these too, although she probably never read any of them.

Mother also saved my letters, from the time of my leaving home for college until about ten years ago or so. I haven't started to look over these letters, as they are, I'm pretty sure, mundane and dull. I have now looked through all of my father's love letters and reviewed my Uncle Harry's stuff to glean information about my mother's life before me. Mother didn't dwell in the past, as she was always more interested in the future - where she might travel and what adventures she might have.

Mother died a year ago January and this month is the fifth anniversary of my father's death. Most of the letters she saved are now shredded, as she requested when she allowed me to read them, saying, "They're awfully mushy, you know," and they were, sometimes tediously so. I spent time this winter writing down my memories of her life based on this information and on our many, many long talks together. My best friend all my life, Mother remains a big part of my daily thoughts and prayers. I believe she and my father watch over me still.

Re-adapting to Minnesota

Home a week and still getting back into the Minnesota groove. I am not used to weather being a significant topic of conversation. In Phoenix the reports consist of daily predictions of sunshine, with occasional clouds, and temperatures measured against whether they are a few degrees above or below average. But really, what difference does it make if the temperature is 82 degrees rather than the "normal" 76 degrees? It hardly warrants paying a meteorologist to rush side to side pointing things out on his electronic maps to obtain this information.

Here, as I check out at the grocery store, the clerk asks, "Isn't the weather beautiful?" And notes that she plans to step outside awhile to enjoy the weather in the upper 60's with light cloud cover. I'm out of the habit of thinking of the weather, so I am slow in responding. Of course, 68 degrees is beautiful in May here in Minnesota.

I keep also finding that I see things that seem to have changed slightly, such as a corner by the church that looks more bare than last time I saw it, or a home up the street that seems to be missing a tree. Yet, try as I might, I don't remember what it looked like before, just that it seems different. Priding myself, as I always have, in noticing details, I was caught off guard at the home of friends when they pointed out that they had painted the family room. I mumbled a little, as I hated to admit that I hadn't noticed - not even noticed a difference. It must be because I was just so glad to see and visit with them that I failed to take in the surroundings.

In Phoenix, as I mentioned before in this space, I learned that I did not need to rush through breakfast to tackle a day full of projects, errands and events. This has created a calmer me. Here, however, there is danger of falling back into old habits, as I have many more projects, needs, activities and events to address. I'm learning to procrastinate, or, shall we say, space things out in a more orderly order.

So here's to staying calm and enjoying the variations in weather that make a 68 degree day with light clouds and slight breeze so special. Here's to being a Minnesotan again.

Friday, May 1, 2009


The grass is green and the trees are hinting at it. My flowering crab tree will be bursting into beautiful pink blooms in about a week.

Leaving Oklahoma, into Kansas, Missouri and finally, Iowa, I was never without Public Radio. Eventually grew a little tired of hearing about the "flu", and whatever else was bandied about with the tireless energy we always find on public radio. Not until Minnesota, though, could I find classical music, which is the only kind I can stand to listen to for more than 60 seconds.

High point of the drive in Missouri was the sign advertising "Toot, Toot", a family restaurant. Now, really!

Spring is springing, the sun has riz' - I wonder where my ??? is? Spring cleanup is high on the list of priorities.