Saturday, July 31, 2010

Epic Battle Results in Parakeet Win

After a fierce struggle, 
the battling budgie pinned the giant. 
She was heard to remark later, 
"he was a tough competitor, 
but the sonic chirp in his ear 
finished him off."

Friday, July 30, 2010

Unvraveling the Mystery

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part IV
(To Review, Part I)
(To Review, Part II)
(To Review, Part III)

Scrutinizing the photo of the man in baggy pants for clues, the researcher knew she’d have to put it aside for now until she could talk with someone more familiar with the time frame in which the photo was made. She returned to the index. Ah! Emajean Mahoney was also on page 52! She had overlooked the second entry earlier when she got distracted by the photo of the man she found.

Turning to page 52, she had to gingerly pull the pages apart. Obviously the annual had been damp at some point and with the glossy paper, some sticking had occurred. When she finally got the page open she gazed upon a photo of Emajean Mahoney.  It was a standard graduation photo with cap and gown. The woman portrayed had the look that many sitting for graduation photos bear – a desire to just get it over with. Still, some of the personality showed through. She sat leaning forward, not slumped, but perhaps trying to hurry the photographer along. 

The researcher took a quick look at the rest of the page. Of the twelve photos, seven were women. Six of those said “Registered Nurse” and one said “Bachelor of Philosophy.” Of the five men, there were two Certificates in Medicine, two Doctors of Jurisprudence, and one Bachelor of Arts.
The researcher smacked her forehead. I was in such a hurry to get to the bottom of these mystery photos, I didn’t even look at the year! She flipped to the front page of the book and there it was. The Loyolan, 1933. She sat back and thought for a minute.Wow! All those women with higher educations! Now, how best to proceed?

Looking at the photo page again, she saw that the clues to Emajean Mahoney’s heirs were plain in the annotation.
Her name was followed by
Entered from Jackson High School.
Jackson, Michigan

Okay, two prongs of attack. The name and the location. I can start with a location search here at home, but for the name, I need access to   She started gathering everything up to get ready to go to the library. She loved having her tax dollars  work for her providing access to the database.  She had had it at home for a while, but it was expensive.  Unlike other databases though, ancestry was only available at the library itself.  She picked up the Loyolan to take with her and a cascade of photos fell out. Most were the kind that everyone takes at graduation – friends together posing, graduate poses with family member . . . but one was almost a bookmark, and captured the researcher’s attention immediately.

What a beautiful baby! she thought.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Letting Go . . . Temporarily

It is the chance of a lifetime. Our daughter is studying French as part of her high school curriculum. We have native French speaking friends that live in (gulp) Vancouver, BC. They would LOVE to have her for a couple of weeks. They used to teach her horseback riding from when she was about 6 to about 13 when they moved away.  They've promised to speak ONLY French to her, and to let her muck out as many stalls as she wants.

There's still enough summer and still enough money in the "flee before the mountainside falls on your head" fund for her to go out there for 10 days or so . . .without me. If I'm there, people will speak English.


What do you think I should do?

Monday, July 26, 2010

Microfiction Monday

Susan at Stony River provides the illustration and the challenge.  Use the illustration as inspiration for a story. The story must be 140 characters or fewer, which includes all spaces and punctuation. Post yours, then meet back up by linking it with Susan's, and visit other players. Simple. Fat free. Harmless.

Horrors! I never meant for them to fly around like that! The box said the cereal was invigorating, not mania inducing! When will it stop?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Back in Time

I went down to Radford, VA on Friday to be in place to pick up the daughter from Governor's School on Saturday a.m.  Since I was ahead of schedule, when I got to Lexington I took the exit for a tour down memory lane.

I went to  law school there many years ago. Much about the place has changed, especially around the universities (which explains all the begging alumni letters they send). But as I took the road out of town to the west to visit my old home, I was struck by the timeless beauty of the mountains.

The house I lived in back then was the former kitchen of the main house. The main house was built in 1789 in what was then, quite the wilderness. The huge tree that ran its length, known as the "summer beam" was visible in the basement where I did laundry. It was probably 300 years old when it was felled to build the house -- so it was a sapling when Columbus first encountered this new world!

As I said, my apartment was the smaller outbuilding. It was really cold in winter, and really steamy in summer, but it was all mine. And the view was amazing. House Mountain in all its glory . . .

I got back onto the interstate and headed further south, marveling at how beautiful and green things looked around Roanoke. Just as I went through the pass, the sky turned dark and all heck broke loose with pounding rain, turning visibility to about 10 feet. It didn't last long but it was INTENSE! It demonstrated with clarity why everything in that stretch looked green!

By the time I got to Radford, the car was completely dry and the landscape looked parched. Funny how those mountains make the clouds yield rain on one side only!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Mystery Continues

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part III

Several days passed before the researcher could return to the mystery of the photo and book. During that time some part of her brain that was not required for her day job was pondering the next step. The idea of tracking down every person in the annual was onerous, and probably fruitless. The annual was from the Class of 1933. Figuring an average age of 22 for graduates, any survivors were around 99 years old -- not likely to be a productive use of her time and energy. Maybe the note held more clues than were obvious...

That evening, after a wonderfully satisfying dinner of Thai food from the new restaurant she'd read about in the paper, the researcher was motivated to tackle the mystery once more. Before she did though, she went to the basement to retrieve a light table. This was when she was glad of her pack rat tendencies. You never knew when something would come in handy.

She set out all of the materials, plugged in the light table, and slipped on her gloves. Using tweezers to lay the typed note on the table, she mentally crossed her fingers as she flipped on the light. It was a white light, shining through the old parchment. There! She could see faint indentations of letters from the original typewriter. Flipping the off switch for the light table, she turned to the scanner. Its light was far brighter and might reveal more.

She placed the scrap on the scanner and waited for it to go through its warmup. When it signaled ready, she pressed the button. She only wanted to give the item one pass, as the intense light was very hard on old ink.

When the image flashed up on the computer monitor, she felt her stomach tickling with an adrenalin boost. She could just make out the name.

Mahoney! The researcher had to quell her excitement as she turned to the index of the old volume. Under "M" there were TWO Mahoneys listed: Eugene and Emajean.

She sat back and thought for a minute. It has to be Emajean. No one would send an invitation to a man with the address "Maw".  And, this was a nursing program, so perhaps the blessed duties referred to later in the note means her nursing duties.

Emajean was listed as appearing on page 123. The researcher turned to that page and sat back in disbelief. The page was missing! But firmly tucked into the place where the page would have attached was another photo. Far from providing answers or clues, this one was full of its own questions.

The researcher put everything away and went to bed.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

FREE Games?

There are so many computer games out there now, that to sort through them, we use the downloads through Yahoo to try them out. Some of the games are sponsored, meaning that if you're willing to sit through the ads periodically, you can play them as long as you'd like -- as opposed to the downloads that give you one hour to try the game out, but are ad-free.  OR, you can purchase the game (usually $19.99) and skip ads that way.

Most of the ads are harmless.  I can sit through a swiffer ad, or charmin, or even go get a cup of coffee or toss the darks into the dryer while they run the ad.

BUT, today; there was an ad for Victoria's Secret. Now, I like pretty underthings as much as the next girl, but if my 13 year old son had been playing this download, there is no question in my mind that he would have been very uncomfortable about it. I call it an ad, but a beautiful young girl, playing with her panties provocatively while lying on a bed  is soft p*rn.  There's nothing about this ad that sells underwear to ME! Obviously the goal is to arouse men . . . to do what?  Buy panties?

What kind of game was it?  A game that involved blowing up things on different levels.  IDEALLY suited for young boys.

I guess this might be what I'm missing because we don't watch TV -- is this is what passes for permitted advertising on TV now?

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

New Camera!

Pardon me while I is so nice to have a live in beauty queen for a subject...

Monday, July 19, 2010

First Century Church

Scripture tells us that in the First Century church, people loved one another radically. They shared whatever they had, and they took care of each other as if they were a family. When one part of the body was not functioning well, the entire body responded to care for the sufferer. Widows and orphans were cared for, as were the elderly.

In our church is a man and wife who came from a country that is an avowed Islamist republic. I don't know why they came here, but once they did, they found Jesus. They found love in His churches, and they responded to that Love. Although they can not go back to visit their family because they would be arrested and possibly killed (as infidels now), they say their family here is what matters...their church family.

He is a contractor and does all kinds of work -- power washing, painting, staining, fixing, tiling, reinstalling, etc. His worth ethic can be described as "indefatigable."  But he won't give anyone in the church a bill for the work he is doing. He says, "we are family, and I know that my family will take care of me if I have a need."

This makes all of us very uncomfortable!  We are so conditioned to evaluating a job, estimating its worth, and then paying a fair price for it, we are stymied by this serene confidence he radiates as he shows his love for his family by serving.

Sometimes it is a bit unnerving. But as we bask in this man's absolute faith in the Lord's provision, we are blessed beyond measure. Yes, it is a blessing to have some work done around here. But the greater blessing is in understanding what those who had experienced Jesus's presence understood. We are all together, or we are not the Body. We must love. Completely. Wow...

Microfiction Monday

Susan, at Stony River, hosts this delightful BRIEF meme. She gives us the illustration, we furnish the 140 characters or fewer. The sum includes all punctuation and spaces. So join the fun!

This week's photo:

My story:

Alice wondered what the hell had been in that biscuit tin.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


If you get National Geographic, you'll have already seen these.  We LOVE it when the new one comes because the address label always has five interesting questions.  And despite the adults in our house having lived a LOT longer, and in a lot more places, the kids beat us sometimes with their answers!  Of course, we tell them that's because there are so many MORE countries now . . . and nope, they don't buy that either!

So here are the questions.  You can answer in the comments.  Or not.  Feel free to quiz your family at dinner tonight!  NO FAIR GOOGLING! (however giggling is authorized)

1. One can visit the Tiger's Nest Buddhist monastery in which landlocked Asian country known as the "kingdom in the clouds?"  Bhutan

2.  Victoria Falls, located along the Zambezi River, is shared by Zambia and what neighboring country? Zimbabwe

3.  Name the only overseas department of France in South America. French Guiana

4.  The taka is the unit of currency for what country that was formerly known as East Pakistan? Bangladesh

5.  What country in the Americas is second to the United States in meat production?  (This one surprised ALL of us). Brazil

ANSWERS IN RED.  Each of the people in our family at home got 2 right -- but not the same 2!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Last Swim Meet

Our son swims on a local team each summer. Since he doesn't want to swim year-round, he's never one of the faster ones, but he participates and has fun, so it's all good. He leaves for Scout camp tomorrow so today was his last swim meet of the season. It was a nail biter!  We left still not knowing, for sure, whether we'd won. If so, our team would remain undefeated. We were ahead by only 8 points at the end of breaststroke . . . yikes!

This has been a great season.  Our team was in the basement of the league for many years. But because it wasn't 'in demand' like the top teams, we slowly but surely built up a team that is even in numbers and abilities in every age and gender category.  The top team was so competitive that slower swimmers felt unwelcome, so they didn't come back the next year. Now that formerly 'top' team (most of their swimmers compete year round at very high levels) is very uneven.  And next week our team will swim against that top team -- the other undefeated team -- the team everyone loves to hate.

The way points work in a meet is that you have three categories of swimmers: A, B, and C.  You get points for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place in each category.  If your team has scared off all your "B" and "C" swimmers, then when you are up against a team that has plenty of B's and C's to field, they get 1, 2, and 3 in those categories. So you can have the faster swimmers in the state on your team, but if you don't also have slower swimmers, you can lose the meet.

The sad thing is that the top team has such a reputation for mean spirited competition, i.e. pushing out slower swimmers, and recruiting fast swimmers from outside the league to swim with them rather than welcoming anyone new -- that they've taught their swimmers some really unpleasant behaviors. This is a neighborhood level league.  For them, it isn't about the kids having fun and honing an important skill any longer, it's about whether their kid is the one that will get the swimming scholarship.  It feeds right into the "my kids the most special" syndrome that our family tries desperately not to get caught up in.  We're not always successful, I might add. But if our team becomes one of those 'centers of arrogance', we won't stick around.  Why?

Because at the other end of the spectrum is my son, who swims like someone has invited him to a party, and he's supposed to just enjoy his turn in the water.  I guess I'd rather have that attitude than the arrogance of the other. But EIGHT POINTS? Could you just show a LITTLE bit of urgency, son?

Ha ha...Great season!

Late breaking news -- we received word that our team lost the meet: 557 to 542.  It was a great meet though - totally positive attitudes from everyone there! And it does take a little pressure off next week. 

Friday, July 16, 2010

Gift Card Dilemma

What do you get the person who either has everything HE wants, or won't specify anything HE would like to have? The 2010 answer is "a gift card." But if HE won't specify a merchant, it is difficult to decide.

To solve this dilemma, someone gave HIM a VISA gift card for Christmas. The gift card went where all gift cards go -- to a pile that sometimes gets sorted through, but mostly gets ignored. When I moved something in our guest room yesterday I dicovered it.  With an expiration date of 5/10.  Yep. Expired in May.

I went on-line to see if there was a process by which I could extend its life.  In doing so, I discovered that the $50 gift card was now worth only $41.00!  For each month HE has held onto it, it has been charged a service fee of $1.50!

Now my SON has the same problem with gift cards. When we did the cleaning of the Aegean Stables recently, I found at least 7 of them, mostly for book companies (I know, can you believe that?).  We verified the balance on all of them, and are in the process of using them. NONE of them charge a service fee each month. Some of them are from Christmas 2008!

So, my advice is DO NOT GIVE VISA GIFT CARDS. And if you're getting something for MY husband, do not get a gift card at all.

I will give the company kudos that they're going to replace the card sans replacement fee...but no adding back the $1.50 per month.  Sheesh.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Library Mystery, Part II

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part II

The researcher groaned as she sat at the table to examine the book and photo more fully. She had worked many times on old books in poor condition. In the beginning, finding a loose photo had been a personal challenge. Her pulse would pick up, her interest piqued. But so many "special" books down the line, and she had become jaded.

She slipped on a pair of cotton gloves and picked the photo up. The young girl was about nine or ten years old. Dressed in simple white, she was surrounded by flowers and holding a big bouquet. A special occasion of some sort, guessed the researcher. The girl had on long socks encased in Mary-Jane type shoes - very much a school girl look. Yet, she wore a flapper-style headband which contributed to the winsome nature of the photo and dated it to the Roaring Twenties. The researcher couldn't tell whether the headband held a feather or other flapper-type decoration. Flipping on a strong light, she began to move past the obvious details to study the more subtle cues.

In the back was a structure of some sort, probably a house with the outline of the photo. The girl's eyes were quite shadowed, perhaps by illness or perhaps by the light angle of the photo. There was a long piece of wood on the ground behind her, but the researcher could not discern any reason for it.

The girl's arms and legs showed her to be thin, but not sickly thin. The researcher decided the light angle accounted for the shadowed eyes. She chuckled as she honed in on the girl's expression. She had seen that expression on her own children's eyes when they were being forced to pose for a photo. At least today's digital cameras were very forgiving of movement! This photo had been taken when any movement became a blur on the print.

Yawning, the researcher looked up at the clock. "Oh my!" she thought. "I've spent over an hour and discovered nothing!" Nonetheless, she switched off the bright life and resolved to return to the photo soon. This was for fun, for a volunteering position. Her paid job demanded more of her time and energy than she often could give, so the little girl would have to wait.

The researcher put the photo in a protecting sleeve, and set it down. "Just for a minute," she told herself, and picked up the book the photo had come from. It fell open to a page in the index, where she found another clue. A note, typed on tissue-thin paper, yellowed with age, said:

Dear "Maw":
You are cordially invited to a 
Hard Times party on
June 15th at

Prize for the funniest costume.

Come as soon as you can be relieved of 
your blessed duties and stay as long as they
 can spare you.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


We have one child who loves shrimp and one who doesn't like to be in the room when it's on the table. The latter child is still away at Governor's School, so we're chowing down! I asked my husband to pick up some shrimp for me to stir fry with my famous garlic sauce. However, when I took the bag out yesterday to prepare, I saw that he had purchased previously cooked shrimp.  SCREECH OF BRAKES!  CHANGE OF PLANS.

No problem. I simply thawed them and rinsed them and made this yummy chili dipping sauce. Despite it's name and ingredients, it wasn't too spicy for kids. I love that it used normal ingredients - nothing fancy to buy. Try it!

1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup white vinegar
1 Tbsp garlic, chopped
1/2 tsp. kosher salt

Simmer 1/2 cup sugar, water, vinegar, garlic and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat.

When sugar is dissolved, reduce heat to medium low and simmer until the consistency of maple syrup, about 10 minutes.

Remove from heat, stir in pepper flakes to taste. (I did about 1/8 tsp)

Remind family members that double dipping is NOT allowed.  Serve.

Because this is so sugary, it's also very sticky, so be sure to wipe everything up completely or the ants will come marching in for breakfast the next morning...

Monday, July 12, 2010

Teaching Entitlement

I just ran our Friends of the Library table at our local festival on Saturday and Sunday. The weather started off miserable when we were setting up on Saturday morning (pouring rain!) but by the time the crowds showed at noon, it was perfect all day.

At our table we had lots of library info, lots of info re: how to get involved volunteering with our Friends group, and some candy. We also had a number of Friends LOGO items to sell. So many of the other booths had "free" stuff that people showed up at our table expecting that the LOGO items were free too!  The items had prices, there were signs for the prices, but people still tried to take off with them! For the occasional person who asked, "can I have a T-shirt?" we would tell them it was a fundraiser for the library and they'd say okay, and not purchase.

So, I was thinking about what this teaches kids. If every booth at a festival gives you free Made in China junk that will pile up under your bed until your house explodes, should you exercise any self-control at all and say "no thank you?" There was no cost to attend the festival. There was live music at three locations, and three headliner events, including an acrobatic circus. All free. Food was very inexpensive as were children's rides. Children AND adults were acting like it was Halloween! No wonder people expect the government to give them everything - we're teaching them if they just show up and breathe they are rewarded!

I had to laugh rather than cry. Next to our booth was the local delegate to our legislature. He gave us a whole bunch of pens with his name on them for us to use for people signing up to volunteer. By the time we closed on Sunday evening all but 5 had been swiped. During the day he and his folks were standing out in front of his booth offering "free" maps of the state. At one point when it was quiet I said, "you know, those maps aren't free."  He looked at me and said, "yes they are." I said, "No, I already paid for them with my taxes. Why don't you say, 'get some of your tax money back' when you offer them?"  He laughed, a bit uncertainly I thought.

Now how many of those people are going to go home and throw a lot of the stuff from the festival away in the first month of having it?  The landfills will groan even more. One of my volunteers said, "we should have something better to give away than candy!" I told her I don't want to contribute to the greed or the landfills. I don't think she got my point.

On the other hand, we got LOTS of kids to sign up for the summer reading program, and gave lots of newcomers to our town a Welcome brochure designed by yours truly that invites them to get involved with a meaningful venture - increasing literacy!  Woot!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

A New Mystery

Some of you know that I am the blogger for our local library Friends group. I'm also the 'researcher' for odd things that pop up in the donation bin. We've got a doozy this time, so I'm turning it into an ongoing story. I thought you all might enjoy it too.

Wherefore Art Thou, Emajean?
A Friends of the Library Mystery
Part 1

She didn't mean to disappear. But it was never her intention in life to stand out from the crowd - to draw any attention to herself in any way either. So in disappearing, she became noticeable. Had she been around, this whole matter would never have ripened into a quest. But sometimes events spin beyond our control and we simply hang on for the ride.

Somewhere in between the Introduction and the Index of Persons Contained Therein, she had vanished.Well, her name was still there, but the page to which it referred had been ripped out -- severed from the book, along with any clues as to who she might have been or where she might be found.

The book passed through many hands over the years. No one ever examined it closely. No one mused upon the missing page trying to connect it with the woman they knew. One by one the people of that generation vanished, lost to time and war and life and death. Members of the family kept the volume, first for sentimental reminders of an earlier age. For subsequent generations it became an "heirloom."  Some advocated holding on to it for financial gain. But one day, even that value had faded in the face of how dirty and old it had become. When the time came to move to a smaller place, the old tome ended up in the "donation" pile.

Although the local library's donation standards would normally have precluded accepting this book, sharp eyes noticed that underneath the grime and water damage there was a gem of a mystery to be unraveled. Plucked from the pile destined for the County recycling program, the book moved to a new shelf in life. This shelf was marked "research later."

And after another while had gone by, the researcher finally opened the book and discovered a loose photo.

Friday, July 2, 2010


Robert Byrd has left the building.  Finally!  Politicians who serve more of their adult lives ON the public payroll than off it should never have been allowed to stay that long. Supporters argue that they were reelected by the people of their districts and to have term limits would take away their supporters' voting rights.

I'm sure it has nothing to do with campaign and seniority rules that heavily favor incumbents in terms of money and recognition.  Oh, and who writes those rules?  Yep...them in power.

Ironically, when Byrd was elected the first time, and through the first twenty years or so of his time on the public dime, he would not have crossed the street to talk to a man the color of our current president, much less shake his hand. I guess the positive spin is that it means there is hope for all of us, if we live long enough, to reconsider the stupid things we do and say when we're very young and very ambitious.