Barbershop Competition – The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

The Good? That’s easy. Two or three hotels filled with men who love to sing barbershop harmony! Everywhere we went, we saw or heard guys singing. We were in the right place at the right time to hear a singing telegram of sorts for a birthday. The quartet sang well, the recipient was so surprised she cried, and barbershop harmony sounded great in the large atrium lobby. Later on, we were making arrangements for a to-go order  when we heard another quartet singing “Let me call you sweetheart” to the restaurant hostess.

To follow in the “Good” category were the many short but wonderful conversations we had with other barbershoppers. (Get used to it, spell check. In my world, that is a real word.) It was hi, which group are you with, did you sing already today, how did it go, have you been singing long, and more. Barbershoppers are a friendly group.

But then, the bad. We had one bad experience that put all three of us in near-anxiety mode. We ordered from a pizza-type restaurant, getting assurance that the food would be ready to eat soon, and we’d be on our way to hear one of our quartets. Our order wasn’t ready, we were getting tense as we watched the clock, so we decided to ask for it to go and eat later, after seeing the quartet perform. Amigo and I hit the pavement (the Skywalk) and headed for the auditorium while Chuck changed our order and complained heavily to the manager. To make a long story short, we all made it to the performance, but not without some stress on the way. We informed the rest of the chorus of our experience so they wouldn’t be stuck in a similar tough spot.

How about a little more “good”? We decided to make the long weekend a family vacation of sorts. We didn’t rush to get to Rochester, relaxed in our hotel room when Amigo wasn’t singing or watching other groups sing, and there was a Starbucks down the road. Er, hallway. I’m a morning person, where Chuck’s second shift work puts him firmly in night owl mode most of the time. When I woke up Friday morning, I showered, dressed, and strode down the hall to get coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I spent a while relaxing (there’s that word again) and reading the morning paper.

Oh, well, the ugly. We forgot swimsuits. That was okay, though, because we really didn’t have time to swim in the hotel pool. What else – oh, yeah, the Chinese restaurant was never open when we wanted it. That’s not too bad, though, because there were so many other options. Ugly? Amigo’s tux pants are too short. But he stands in the third row, so that’s not serious, either. We can get that fixed later. Maybe there weren’t any truly ugly moments.

As for more good, the chorus placed 4th out of 18 groups. They sang very well, and even went home with the award for Most Improved.

Ah, barbershoppers. They’re a great bunch of guys. So spell check, get used to it. Barbershoppers is a real word.

I’m Back!

My laptop is in the shop again. I’ve been contemplating buying a tablet or a 2 in 1. To make a long story short,I did it. I am getting to know my new device, and you, readers, can expect more posts from the O.K. Chorale soon! But first, I’m off to take Amigo to the courthouse to sing God Bless America and thr Armed Forces Medley for Veteran’s Day.

Caveman Politics

I saw this term in a comment on Facebook, and it stuck in my head. “Caveman politics” term was a commentary on a bill that would forbid University of Wisconsin employees from performing or assisting with abortions. You read it right, readers: people who do their work in the hallowed halls of government are trying to legislate training and practicing medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School and its associated clinics.

Perhaps I should call it Paleolithic Politics – it has a nice ring to it, with a bit of alliteration.How many of us actually know what the status of women was like in the Paleo- or Neolithic eras? I can look it up in my history texts, but what I really want to know is this: why does our state legislature want to take their ideological swing so far to the right that it tells the University of Wisconsin Medical School what it can and cannot teach?

Would you like to know more? It’s scary.

 

Apple Cider and More

Once again, we were too busy making apple cider to take any pictures and document the process. The end result is delicious. In fact, even though it’s almost November, I might keep my eye on the orchards that advertise windfalls and “not quite perfect” apples. They would still make delicious cider.

Coming up soon: Amigo and his barbershop chorus are warming up for their next level of competition. Take it from me, folks, these guys are sounding good. I’ve helped out a little here and there by assisting with sectionals (when the guys split up to learn their own parts), donating my homemade goods as raffle prizes, and mainly by getting Amigo to rehearsals. I’m looking forward to hearing the chorus sing next weekend!

It’s All School Field Trip Day on Tuesday. I was ready to go to a planetarium and earth science museum. I chickened out. Seriously, sort of, in a way, because I feared settling into the planetarium and having the world start spinning around me again. It might be a meaningless fear, but I just didn’t feel up to chancing it. Since there were plenty of teachers signed up to go, I passed on the Person-In-Charge paperwork to another teacher and put myself on a different trip. I’ll be going on a hayride, picking up a pumpkin and maybe some apples (woot! more cider!) and having a relaxing and fun lunch afterwards with a few teacher friends.

To summarize, it’s been a busy weekend and it’ll be a busy week, too. And if anyone asks me “How d’you like them apples?” I’ll say “As cider, of course.”

Where I’ve Been

Oh, readers, friends, and family – It’s been a rough few weeks. Call it vertigo, BPPV, labyrinthitis, inner ear version of kidney stone, sea legs on land, crystals out of alignment, or whatever you wish, but I’ve spent the past few weeks so dizzy and lightheaded that walking was difficult.

I saw three doctors: the one in the ER, my primary care doctor, and another primary care doctor in the same clinic. They did blood work, an EKG, an MRI, and basic stroke protocol. Oh, they probably did more, but I don’t need to burden you with the works.

Highlights? Let’s see. The radiology tech asked if I was sure I had a stent in my brain. I replied by telling him which artery. He was satisfied then. The three docs ruled out stroke, tumor, or meningitis. I lost a coworker to meningitis – was it really ten years ago? Oh, my – but anyway, I was relieved when the stiff neck went away and I didn’t need a lumbar puncture. Shudder.

Saturday and Sunday (a weekend, for better or worse luck) were the worst ever. I spent most of the weekend reclining on the couch watching a Harry Potter marathon on Freeform. The dizziness and lightheaded feeling were as bad as they’ve ever been. Chuck found me clutching my head and asked “Does your head hurt?” Hurt? It was throbbing so badly that I wanted an ice pack. Or two. Or three. Or seven. I could only read for short periods of time without getting a headache. That, of course, made me worry about…let’s not go into all the worries I’ve had. The list is almost as long as – well, it’s long. Quite long.

When I woke up Monday morning I sat still for a moment – my new routine, to let my brain adjust to being upright. The floor didn’t tilt, and the room didn’t spin. I sat still for a moment longer, wondering if the cycle would begin again. It didn’t.

I brought my cane to school with me, just in case I needed the balance and support, but I didn’t use it.

I came home and celebrated with popcorn from my favorite local fast food drive-through. Evening symptoms included a mild headache, so I took things easy. I rested on the couch and watched television with Amigo.

There you have it, folks, the recent past in a nutshell. I still have a physical therapy appointment on the calendar; if I don’t need it, I will cancel. At this point, I’m still monitoring the craziness, er, dizziness and hoping maybe it’s done.

Maybe my crystals have realigned themselves. I hope they don’t go traveling again; I really don’t want to develop my sea legs again.

To-do List and Climate Change

In a typical year, putting the garden to bed for the winter has been a pretty straightforward task. Harvest the last of the vegetables, dump any containers into the garden to enhance the soil, spread compost, sit back and enjoy the late autumn rains. Oh, I forgot leaves. Rake leaves into the garden or compost bins.

The past few years have been different. Snow has come later – December, even after Christmas two years ago. The last frost, the one that finally kills off the annuals and freezes the allergens, has been later each year, too. Sometimes I’ve looked outside and wondered if I might still have fresh tomatoes if I hadn’t put the garden to bed already.

This year, I’m still cleaning up the tomato plants. It wasn’t a good year for tomatoes, anyway. But I put in a second planting of lettuces and another batch of peas. I’ve been able to cut several batches of lettuce in September, and the peas are growing well – now, in October. Green beans have been prolific, too. Every time I pick beans, I notice more blossoms that will be more beans if temperatures stay warm.

Herbs are doing well in their containers on the deck. I plan to bring them inside as the frost nears and see if they can adjust to growing indoors. My grow lights might help.

I have a few volunteer tomato plants, too. They turned up in a random part of the garden where I have never grown tomatoes. I tossed the smallest of those into the compost and transplanted the bigger ones into containers. I have no idea how they’ll do, but I might bring them inside, too.

I have no idea when the final killing frost will happen this autumn. I don’t know if this is the new normal of climate change, this late fall and delayed winter. Whatever the weather, we’ll weather the weather, whether we like it or not.

Zucchini Bread with add-ins – edited

Edited? Indeed. The first time I posted this recipe, I left out two pieces: the amount of baking powder and the baking temperature. Luckily, I acknowledged my source, so I was able to go back to that source and fill in the blanks. Somehow, I still messed up. The breads turned out very dry. Zucchini bread? Dry? Yes, indeed. Rather embarrassing. But here’s the actual complete recipe. Follow it properly, and you’ll like the results. I recommend cherries or chocolate chips as add-ins.

 

Zucchini Bread with add-ins (cherries this time)

2 cups grated zucchini

1 1/2 cups sugar

3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted

3 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Optional add-ins:

3/4 cup chopped walnuts

1 cup fresh cherries, pitted and chopped

1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Combine sugar and butter in large mixing bowl. Beat together, adding eggs one at a time. Mix in vanilla.

In a medium bowl, sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Add this mixture gradually to the liquid mixture, alternating with grated zucchini. Fold in walnuts and cherries or other add-ins.

Bake in loaf pan or three small loaf pans at 350 for 50-60 minutes. Remove from pan and cool on wire rack before slicing.

First World Problems, indeed.

It’s a bummer of a day when all of these happen.

I was talking to myself, and my self replied, “That’s a stupid question.”

I pulled up a batch of volunteer tomato plants because they came up in the area in which I want to plant tomatoes next year. I told myself, “It’s October!” in order not to feel guilty for failing to transplant them.

I’m still dizzy, cause unknown, and yesterday’s ER visit had limited success. Limited in that I mean the testing ruled out stroke or brain tumor, but didn’t find the cause of the dizziness. Stiff neck improved with medication, so that ruled out another angle that might have meant some really painful and icky testing. I’m relieved, at least, for crossing those possibilities off the list.

On the good side, I’m still able to laugh. I heard a Miami Dolphins coach talk about building a quality team, and then I saw Jay Cutler at starting quarterback. How could I not laugh?

But then I remembered that Jay Cutler has a job, and Colin Kaepernik doesn’t. That, my friends, is sad. It’s a First World Problem, indeed, but that doesn’t excuse the implicit racism in the situation.

This dizziness makes it hard to pick tomatoes and water plants. I use one tomato support for balance while I pick tomatoes with the other hand. But then I don’t have a hand to hold the container for the tomatoes. Tough life for a gardener, indeed.

Watering plants involves too much bending and turning for my dizzy head. It’s a bummer because the remaining tomatoes need water, the beans are still growing and need water, and the rain barrels are all relatively full.

Speaking of rain barrels, we have three. I filled out the application for a one-time credit on our water bill, and we received a note from the Powers That Be that they needed more information. They included an aerial shot of our house and asked us to indicate where the rain barrels were and how the barrels fit into the storm water flow. The picture was outdated, so Chuck put in a few updates (like the new garage and the second garden plot and the updated landscaping) and indicated all the necessary information. None of that information was mentioned on the application for the rain barrel credit in the first place.

And there you have it, readers. I’m grateful for MRI technology, and I hope my insurance considers the testing necessary. The ER doctor did. In the meantime, I’ll quietly recover, hopefully, from whatever illness inspired this post full of rants.

 

Bye Bye, Sadie.

There she is, “masquerading” as a slipper. Or maybe she thought the slippers were imitating her.

Sadie, La Petite’s bunny, “hiding”

But try to get her to do something cute? Pretend to be an Easter bunny, perhaps?

“Oh, fine. I’ll get in the basket. But I won’t pose!”
Sadie was at least 13 years old. In rabbit years, I’m pretty sure she was Betty White. We joked about her “immortality” because she seemed to recover from every illness, despite her age and physical weakness.
She came to us as a Pet Saver animal on the noon newscast. Chuck saw her and said, “Let me see this bunny.” The little bunny won him over right away. When he brought her home and took her out of the carrier, she grunted like a little piglet. At that, we were pretty darn sure she was ours. Peanut, our other little bunny, was a champion grunter. Indeed, they became fast friends almost immediately.
But even our feisty grunting bunny could only last so long. She took a fall, a bad one, and could no longer get up. La Petite realized it was time, time to let Sadie go without suffering.
We’ll miss our little sweetie. She enriched our lives for a long, long time. She’ll stay in our hearts forever.
Sadie and Peanut, together

Well, we all meant well.

She posted two words on Facebook: Not Today. It had a purple background with gradient stripes of various widths.

She’d had some rough times recently. In the past year, a sibling had died, she’d gone through a divorce, she’d moved to a totally new city.

So we replied. Are you okay? How can we help? What’s wrong? Love you; hugs; xoxo.

To which she responded: “Facebook just asked if I wanted to update my status.” Haha!

Oh, well, at least she knows we care.