Thursday, April 30, 2009

Not a good year for lilacs

This is all I got from two bushes this year. It seems a little early for them, too. So I cut what I had and brought them in. For what short time they last, I'll have a lilac-scented home.

It's an old-fashioned flower, lilacs. You don't see them much any more. But everyone had them when I was growing up. We always cut them to make bouquets for the graves on "Decoration" day which is Memorial Day. Tulips, too. And Peonies. Does anyone grow peonies any more? And gladiolas -- glads but we called them "flags", I don't know why.

My lilac bushes are old and should probably come out. I've cut them down many times, but they always come back. I won't take them out this year. Too many other things need doing more urgently.

Now the forsythia this year, they just outdid themselves. And I didn't even take a picture.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: Female Wisdom

Everyone be sure to visit Jacqui for this week's Poetry Wednesday.

A little under the weather myself today, so here's a ditty I wrote a few days ago. This time I wanted to try the Quatrain form, inspired by some wonderful submissions from another of our participants a couple of weeks ago. I failed miserably at that form and will have to work at it. Sadly, I think I ended up with almost a limerick instead. But here it is, nonetheless - offered in a lighter vein.*

Female Wisdom

A girl knows to look before being seated

To avoid splashing down into water unheated.

Thus I note, part bemused,
When their visit is up

Both grandpa and grandson will leave the seat up.

by Becky Stauffer
April 2009

*for a 60-something grandpa and a 6-year old grandson

Traveling Lighter

At the house across the street grows a large old Ponderosa pine. My ex-husband hated that pine as he said it blocked the view of Mt. Ben Lomond perfectly framed in the window above our front door. I never minded as it didn't block the view from my other windows. And I always thought of the tree itself a worthwhile view.

Over the last couple of years parts of the tree have shown signs of its age -- branches drooping and breaking off, patches of needles turning yellow. I wondered if it was going to die.

Some new people moved into that house last year, and as often happens, changes have occurred around the house and yard. But I was curious when I saw the owner start cutting off branches from that big tree. I wondered at first if he was cutting it down slowly. But it appeared to be more of a pruning and shaping as he worked his way slowly, day by day, higher up the tree, cutting off branches here and there. The hard way. With a hand saw. And standing on a lower branch when the ladder no longer reached. I saw something interesting emerging from his work.

My friend last week noticed the tree and said, it is taking on the look of a giant bonsai plant. I looked and noticed how right he was. The branches that remain seem carefully even artfully chosen. The tree has a lighter, more graceful look. I am starting to love and appreciate its new look. Bonsai. Maybe so. My new neighbors are from Japan.

Yesterday my young granddaughter noticed and exclaimed, "What have they done to that tree!" It's becoming a bonsai, I told her. She looked at it anew and recognized it at once. I knew she would, being an accomplished artist of anime already at her tender age, and a lover of all things Japanese.

The pruning of that tree has given it new life. The wind passes more easily through, posing less threat of breaking limbs or entirely uprooting. It seems to have gained new dignity along with this airiness. And in a windstorm, something like music rushes from its widely-spaced limbs.

Traveling lighter. A wise way to approach old age for all of us. I know, I'm only 61 and it's a bit soon to talk about old age. But I am already paring things down in my own life. Giving away, selling, throwing out. I find I like the airiness of rooms with less furniture. I have less need for more 'things'. My car sits idle in my garage for days on end, more in need of a dusting than a washing.

My good friend -- we've been seeing each other for a year and a half now -- is moving away, a couple thousand miles away, when his house sells, to live out his life near his son. This paring down will leave a gap, perhaps not so much airiness as loss. But we are both accustomed to this type of loss and we already know how to do it, know we will manage. We'll each travel lighter. Maybe there will be others in our respective futures, maybe not. We each laugh and say we are getting a cat.

When my neighbor prunes his tree, he first stands back and looks at it a long time, and finally climbs up and removes that one branch that makes all the difference. In the coming months I will become accustomed to things gone from my life and I will stand back and look and see what further is needed. In the meantime, I will content myself with traveling light, letting the wind blow through, and making music that soothes my surroundings.

(Apologies for photo taken through today's rain-spattered windows - *sigh*.)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Internet Outage

Today I had one of those incidents you just hate to deal with – an internet and phone outage that required a service call to the phone company. You know how it is, you can’t just get to the point and tell them what’s wrong, you have to listen to their whole voice message thing and answer all their questions like “Was your internet service working in the past?” Of course, this method saves time for the employee who eventually answers your call. You have no choice but to hang on, don’t say anything rash that might put you back at the start of the queue or even get disconnected, patiently answer all the inane questions.

But my favorite part was right after the question asking whether the problem was with my phone or my internet, and I had responded phone and internet. The next message informed me that while I was waiting, did I know I could check out their web site at for troubleshooting suggestions? Yes, I wanted to answer, I know how to get to your freakin’ website – when I have INTERNET SERVICE! Calm down, Becky.

Finally, I got to talk to a human being in another country who tested my line, made me check my modem setup, and finally looked and discovered there was, indeed an outage in my area. I was instructed to try every four hours to see if service was restored, and that it could take up to 48 hours.

I work from home and I require internet service to do that. I took the day off.

(P.S. Since I am posting this, clearly my service has returned.)

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Close Encounters

How many times are we warned, don't open your door to strangers. The problem with that, of course, is that you can't always see who's at the door. Someone knocked softly on my front door a little before 9 p.m. I turned on the porch light, someone waved at me through the glass. I opened and saw a teenage boy who assured me he wasn't selling anything, but he was raising money for (what was it?) staying with his grandma who lives up on Foxhill (already the story is getting contrived). And then some complicated story about Shriner's Hospital, and books, and kids, and for 40 kids I get $1,000 and I have 39 and three-quarters.

At this point, I know this story is going nowhere, and then he hits me up for $40. I told him I was sorry but I couldn't do it, and shut the door. He shouted "Jerk!" as he went down my steps.

Now I felt a little nervous and wondered if I should call the police and report him. Just moments later a police car drove by faster than normal, the cop on his radio. I think someone else already called them. I still feel uneasy and will keep a watch around the house and yard to be sure he doesn't come back.

Was that ever a stupid move on my part to answer that door!

UPDATE: I did call the police after about a half hour. They told me that had had another report of the same person and it was not a legitimate fundraiser, and the police were looking for the person now. So I'll just sit tight and wait. Was going to watch a movie tonight, but feel too distracted now.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: True Love

Be sure to visit Creative Journey for Wednesday poetry blogfest.
I stumbled across this poem (below) by Judith Viorst who is known more perhaps for her children's books and her newspaper and magazine columns. When I looked up more information, I discovered she had also written a bit of poetry for both children and adults. So I learned something new this week.

Having managed in my own life to burn through two marriages and some number of relationships, I am yet a hopeless romantic and like to believe there is such a thing as true love. So here is my selection for our poetry Wednesday this week. I think the cartoon suits it perfectly

True Love
by Judith Viorst

It is true love because
I put on eyeliner and a concerto and make pungent observations about the great issues of the day
Even when there's no one here but him,
And because
I do not resent watching the Green Bay Packer
Even though I am philosophically opposed to football,
And because
When he is late for dinner and I know he must be either having an affair or lying dead in the middle of the street,
I always hope he's dead.

It's true love because
If he said quit drinking martinis but I kept drinking them and the next morning I couldn't get out of bed,
He wouldn't tell me he told me,
And because
He is willing to wear unironed undershorts
Out of respect for the fact that I am philosophically opposed to ironing,
And because
If his mother was drowning and I was drowning and he had to choose one of us to save,
He says he'd save me.

It's true love because
When he went to San Francisco on business while I had to stay home with the painters and the exterminator and the baby who was getting the chicken pox,
He understood why I hated him,
And because
When I said that playing the stock market was juvenile and irresponsible and then the stock I wouldn't let him buy went up twenty-six points,
I understood why he hated me,
And because
Despite cigarette cough, tooth decay, acid indigestion, dandruff, and other features of married life that tend to dampen the fires of passion,
We still feel something
We can call
True love.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Rachmaninov piano concerto No. 2

The symphony last evening was fabulous. Of course the part of the program everyone was there for was the Rachmaninov piano concerto No. 2. with its familiar haunting themes. Here's just the start. I've added links for the full concerto below. Isn't YouTube great?

Our soloist last evening treated us to two encores, Rachmaninov Prelude in G, and an amazing rendition on a Billy Joel theme.

We started our evening with a leisurely dinner at the Naked Fish sushi restaurant, just a short walk from symphony hall. And as always, I was thrilled to find an excellent parking place right on the street. The evening was a complete success.

Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

And in my search of YouTube, I discovered a number of recordings of Rachmaninov himself performing in concert. So I'm adding a link here to him performing the lovely little Chopin Nocturne Op. 9 No. 2 , a piece that I have played for years. And in keeping with my resolutions this year to memorize piano pieces, I think this may be the next one I do. I think I like the Rubinstein recording of it better. Ok, that's quite enough links for one day.

Friday, April 17, 2009

I want to be this woman

I clicked on the link to read about a Picasso exhibit. But I found myself staring at the woman in the picture who was staring at the paintings on the wall. I sized her up. A lady of leisure, no worries about money, perusing art during the museum's slow time - while others are at work? -- in low heels and a fashionable outfit, standing on floors that reflect everything, wealth, comfort, leisure, and yes the art on the walls.

I could be completely wrong, but this is who I imagine her to be - somewhat enviously how I would like to be. Not having to be at work at 8 a.m. Not worrying about money. Just standing confidently in my place in the world, admiring beautiful things. Perhaps even creating some.

I'm sure I'm wrong. About the lady, that is. But not about my envy. I think more and more about all my friends who are already retired yet we are barely 60. They invite me all the time, come do this with us on Wednesday afternoon -- they know I work, but they somehow imagine that I don't really need to be there. Come. Have fun with us. I wish I could

My BF reminds me how lucky I am. Relatively secure, healthy, able to work and support myself without a husband to help. Give yourself a break, he says to me. You've worked hard for a long, long time, it's time to start winding down -- transitioning. I'm listening.

But here I sit in jeans, turtleneck, and tennis shoes - my uniform. Why don't I look into some fashionable outfits? And art exhibits and concerts are already liberally interspersed in my schedule. And I have a lot of vacation time saved up at work, which means every once in awhile I can use it to join my friends when there are no crowds at the museum.

And I looked again at the woman, and realized it was me - just in much nicer clothes.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: All the Time

It's Multi-blog poetry Wednesday again tomorrow over at our favorite artists spot, Jacqui's Creative Journey. Uninspired to write something original today, I'm sharing another "Old Woman" poem that I happen to love. Enjoy, and be sure to hop over and visit Jacqui for more.

All the Time
Michael Andrews

It was 93 degrees.
She wore 3 sweaters,
a sweatshirt,
some long pants,
a few dresses,
rolled down nylons,
a feather boa,
and a 47 year old mink.
She bought the mink
for consolation

the day she outlived
her last husband.

One eyelid
was in a flutter
of perpetual motion.
ran all over her face
like a map of Chicago.
She was as crazy
as a 5 oclock commuter.
Went to the Safeway
twice a week
with molding dollars,
social security checks
and food stamps
Stole Tootsie Rolls
and ate them before
she left the market.
Walked to the intersection.
Waited for the light
to turn red,
hunched low,
knees high,
lurched out in front
of oncoming traffic,
waved madly at
the skidding cars,
her wire basket
with coffee, doughnuts
and smoked oysters
bouncing right behind her,
chuckling and muttering
about insane drivers,
one eyeball rotating
in an orgasm of fear.

It was her little joke.

Once a policeman stopped her.
She kicked him in the shin,
scattered his citations
all over the street,
yelled rape
in her reed-pipe voice
and scurried home
muttering about cops.
After that the police left her alone,
but sometimes they
spoiled the fun
by stopping the traffic
at her favorite crosswalk.

Her house buzzed
with ticking clocks.
She didn't trust the electric ones.
Wound all 217 of them every day,
but never set the time.
She considered the random
firing of alarms
a form of music.
She kept the smoked oysters
for the dog in the freezer
with her third husband's appendix,
which the dog greatly desired.
But the old lady kept it
in memory of the surgeon
she married after he performed
the appendectomy in which
her third husband died
of cancer of everything.
Sometimes at night
she beat on the windows
across the airshaft
with a broom handle,
shouted obscenities and yelled
"You keep quiet in there.
You keep quiet."

After a while
they sealed up the windows.
It was getting harder
all the time
to get someone's

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Piano gets delivered to Jenn

I delivered the bench at noon and the piano was already there. Brought along all of Jenn's old music books from home.

Jenn plays.
Jenn turns the page.
Jenn plays some more.
Zach takes a turn with Chopsticks.
Mom leaves, Jenn still playing. Bye, Mom, thanks!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Poetry Wednesday: A poem for April

Here's a little poem for all of us who are experiencing the many whims of April.

Always Marry An April Girl

Praise the spells and bless the charms,
I found April in my arms.
April golden, April cloudy,
Gracious, cruel, tender, rowdy,
April soft in flowered languor,
April cold with sudden anger,
Ever changing, ever true –
I love, April, I love you.

- Ogden Nash

Getting the most out of your trash pickup

I hate putting out a nearly empty trash can for pickup. Especially when I constantly have yard clippings or other things I'm trying to toss out. Up until a couple of years ago, we had a wonderful summer trash pickup service where you could put anything including a couch or a water heater out on the curb once a month and the city would pick it up and haul it away. I never had problems disposing of my yard clippings in those days. But since that was discontinued, I make sure I take advantage of every single regular pickup.

I may have gone a little too far this week, and I may get a warning from the city.

You see, our large cans are picked up by a truck with a robot arm. No human hands need touch our cans. The rules are simple. The lid on the can must be able to close when you put out the trash. Mine did not quite close this week.

With the can less than half full, and looking around for something to add, I saw those large limbs I'd been cutting (yes, the same ones associated with the black eye incident). No time (and too lazy) to cut them up smaller, I dragged them to the can and stuck them in the best I could. The lid didn't even halfway close. No faking it, I was in complete violation.

When the truck came by, I stood and watched, though I really didn't want to. It took a good six or eight extra shakes of the robot arm, putting down the can once and then trying again before all those large limbs would finally leave the can. But they did, thankfully.

I'm so pleased at having gotten rid of those limbs (well there are a few still remaining). And the guy didn't get out of the truck and come lecture me at the door. I guess I can handle a scolding from the city.

I'll try to be a good citizen and cut the limbs into small sizes the next time.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Spackle and other beauty secrets you can learn on QVC

Before I canceled my Dish TV, I surfed the channels, looking to see if there was anything I would really, really miss once it was gone. I found myself actually watching QVC -- more than once. I don't know why, I guess it just fascinated me the things they offered to sell, the patronizing sales techniques they employed, and the endless people who seemed most willing to buy and buy and buy.

Like jewelry -- really overpriced jewelry, from what it looked like. "Hurry, just 800 of these left and you won't see it here again until Fall. And on the phone we have Dorothy, what did you buy today, Dorothy?" (Dorothy sounds verrrry sleepy, why is she talking so slowly?). "Ah'm getting the triple faux silver faux ruby and faux diamond bracelet. Ah got it last year, and Ah loved it so much, Ah bought another one fer mah daughter." "Oh, Dorothy, you smart woman, taking advantage of our three easy payments of just $75. You are one of the lucky ones to jump right on it. Thanks, so much for calling, dear."

That might sound like an exaggeration. If you think so, I know for sure you've never watched QVC.

Little did I know when watching a makeup show another day, I would learn something I could really use. It seemed the majority of the products were some kind of "spackle" -- foundation spackle, lip spackle, eye spackle. Who thinks of these names? An exotic woman was applying layer after layer of foundation on a lovely young woman -- more like plastering than spackle in my opinion, but I'm no expert. Of course, when they showed the before picture, the girl already had a perfect complexion. When they brought out the bronzer, the girl squealed with joy. I found it impossible to look away.

I should not have laughed. When I gave myself a black eye a couple of weeks ago, I remembered the spackle idea. Well surely that technique would work with my ordinary department store foundation. I know how to spackle. I've patched up holes in the wall before painting. This can't be hard. I tried it to moderate success. Now two and a half weeks later, I'm still spackling, with just a small bruise remaining.

So I learned, that there was nothing I would miss all that much on Dish TV. I learned to think spackle when applying foundation. And I've now learned that a black eye lasts about three weeks.