To Swap, or Not to Swap?

I had plans. Big, exciting plans. I was going to go to a seed swap and seedling sale on Saturday morning before The Boys (Chuck and Amigo) were even awake. Then the blizzard arrived. And not just any blizzard: the blizzard that broke records, records in snow-is-the-norm Wisconsin.

So I didn’t get to the seed swap and seedling sale. Honestly, it may have been cancelled. So much was closed, so many events cancelled, that I don’t even know if the park or the nature center was plowed. In fact, we were at the meat market watching a chef pick up $500 worth of meat for his restaurant when his wife called him to say the staff couldn’t get in and they were closing.

I wasn’t planning on bringing seeds to swap, if I’m honest with myself. I had been thinking about buying seedlings and nurturing them indoors through the blizzard and the early spring that might happen, maybe, someday. I don’t have many seeds, or at least not unique seeds. Or do I?

I have butternut squash, parsley, and dill, all salvaged last fall. Those are such common seeds that I wouldn’t bother to offer them up as a swap. However, when I found myself in the garage after cleaning and emptying a litter box in the middle of the storm — oh, let me start over without the drama.

Bunny’s litter box needed cleaning, so I walked through the garage to dump the waste/fertilizer on top of the snow in the backyard patch. On my way back through the garage, I grabbed a packet of seeds for sweet banana peppers. As long as I was there, I dug through the empty pots on my planting table to find milkweed. On my way to the milkweed, I realized I had saved more than I’d remembered. I searched through yarrow, chamomile, yellow beans, feverfew, baby’s breath, and (how could I forget?) walking onion bulbs!

The ending of the story is this. I didn’t go to the seed swap and seedling sale – if it even happened. But I did find more seeds that I could start right now – right now! – and nurture under my grow lights until spring really arrives.

Take that, Mother Nature.

Back aches and Legends

About five years ago, Chuck slipped on an icy sidewalk and chipped his elbow. He sent me a picture. Cute, eh?

Two weekends ago, he put his back out while doing our taxes. Yes, taxes. He had to shred a few documents, but the shredder was full, so he pulled out the tray to empty it into the recycling bin. As he did that, he must have twisted awkwardly. Ow! He managed to finish the taxes with the help of a heating pad and ibuprofen.

Two weeks later, he is struggling to clear major amounts of snow from the driveway and sidewalks. He’s not in pain anymore, but he is stiff. I worry about him re-injuring his Tax Break, er Back, while he’s handling the heavy, wet snow.

Chuck’s Tax-related Backache is already legend. The Blizzard of April 2018 may become legend on its own.

We’re here! We’re just busy!

Amigo asked me if I’d blogged about his barbershop chorus’ spring show yet, and I sheepishly admitted that I hadn’t. I didn’t realize that I hadn’t blogged in two weeks – ages, in the blogging world!

The barbershop chorus outdid themselves – again. The talents of a creative script writer, two knowledgeable and talented directors, and a big bunch of guys who love to sing – what could go wrong? Not much, really. They sang well, Amigo picked up the choreography (despite his visual impairment), and all the costumes were fun. They dressed as iconic musicians; Amigo was Garth Brooks. Jeans, a Wrangler shirt, and a black cowboy hat, and he looked the part.

The chorus sang well, the guest quartet was amazing, and hey, did I mention I sold two ads for the program? Next year, I know exactly who to contact and how far ahead to get in touch. This chorus is such an amazing group of people, I’m willing to give them all the support I can.

Meanwhile, back at the O.K. Chorale, it’s “Spring” in Wisconsin. Uh-huh. We’re in the midst of a record-breaking spring blizzard. As the wind blows outside, and we’re relaxing inside, I’m grateful for many things.

I’m grateful that Chuck’s back is feeling better. He threw it out doing taxes. Yes, taxes. Two weeks ago! He felt strong enough to snowblow the driveway, and I’m grateful for that. I shoveled some of the spots that are hard to get to with the beast of a snowblower we own, and then we sat down for a few minutes to rest.

I’m grateful that we made it to and from Best Buy without incident. I’m grateful for the sense of humor of the pickup truck driver, or at least whoever made the snowman in the truck bed. I was grateful earlier this week that we had an old microwave in the basement that pulled us through for a few days after the one in the kitchen quit.

I’m grateful to the neighborhood meat market for being open and for giving customers a 10% discount if we mentioned seeing their Facebook post. Heck, yeah, I saw the post! We stocked up on goodies and more.

I’m grateful we have firewood and a fireplace. If this heavy snow knocks out the power, we may need to venture outside and get more wood. No matter what, though, we’ll be warm.

 

Pie Day!

We are a barbershop harmony family. Amigo sings, we drive him to rehearsal, and more. Part of the “more” involves supporting the local Sweet Adelines chorus, the women’s side of barbershop singing.

About a month ago, we attended the Sweetie Pie Social of the local women’s chorus. We bought our entry tickets. Amigo bought raffle tickets, 6 for $5, and I put in a bid on a triple fruit pie in the silent auction.

Then we had our own pie and listened to a wonderful show of fun barbershop music.

And then the announcements came. The winner of the triple fruit pie I’d bid on – the assistant director of Amigo’s chorus. He’s a great guy, and I can’t even be mad that he outbid me. Then they drew the winning ticket for the pie raffle. Amigo! Wow! I didn’t need that triple fruit pie after all! We were going to take home a pie anyway! Or so I thought.

Amigo, the young man who sings lead in the Fox Valleyaires barbershop chorus, the guy who bought tickets to support barbershop, male or female, won the Pie of the Month Club. He will get one homemade pie each month from a Sweet Adeline member for the next entire year.

He’d better share.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Actual conversation at the O.K. Chorale:

Amigo: Yea! It’s Fight Night tonight, starting at 7:00!

Daisy: You can watch it upstairs while I watch the Building Off Grid marathon.

Chuck: What?!? Waaaaa! I wanted to watch Star Trek!

Daisy: no words, just frowned. 

Chuck: It’s the new series, and I recorded it!

Daisy: again no words

Chuck: Oh, okay, I’ll watch it later.

Amigo: On my way upstairs! grabs iPhone and Bluetooth headphones and heads upstairs to drag a bean bag chair into our room and watch Fight Night, televised from Brazil.

Flu memories – let’s not create any new ones

Yesterday Chuck came home from work feeling ill. I was fairly certain it wasn’t influenza, but can I ever be 100% sure? Sometimes. Not always. It wasn’t so long ago that I posted this.

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

The entire family has been vaccinated. This year’s vaccine may only be 10% – 30% effective, but at least it’s something. As for Chuck, he felt much better today and went back to work. That’s a relief to all of us!

Prepping for the Flu

Influenza always scares me at least a little. I trained as a public health volunteer when Avian Flu was the big fear, and I was more than a little shocked to realize how close we were to a pandemic. Then H1N1 strain came to my fair state, and my fourth graders were really hard hit. An average day would see anywhere from eight to ten kids absent (out of a class of 26), and those kids were sick for a week or more. The flu season that year lasted four or five weeks – or was it six? Eight, even? I remember slowing down the pace of instruction almost to a standstill. My kiddos needed to rest, to get better, and not worry about missing school. When the first group made it back, the second batch went out, followed by several more. That particular influenza strain hit kids a lot harder that it hit adults. I remember needing two flu shots that year, and I don’t remember missing school myself – not for influenza, anyway.

If that hadn’t been enough to make me nervous, Amigo had a long stretch of ill health that started with influenza when he was 16. A few years ago, Chuck fell victim to a nasty strain of Influenza A that landed him in the ER, barely breathing. If you haven’t yet guessed, each and every one of us at the O.K. Chorale makes a point of getting a flu shot every year. My flu shot was delayed this year due to other problems (hey, vertigo and Prednisone, I’m talking about you), but I finally got one in December.

This kind of worry activates my prepper-style paranoia. Any time we go grocery shopping, I make my list and check it twice for any over-the-counter medicines we might need. The chicken soup section of our pantry is well-stocked, too. Tissues? Check. Juices? Check. Crackers and white soda? Check, check.

I no longer have direct face to face contact with my students, so I’m not breathing their germs  and handling their papers daily. Computer viruses are more likely (Ha! Ha!) in an online school. Chuck works in a large plant, and the people there are conscientious about hand washing and the works. They all touch the same tools, so they’re not willing to spread illness through the line. Amigo doesn’t get out much, so if he brings home a virus, it’ll be one spread through his singing buddies in the barbershop chorus.

Now that the current influenza has reached epidemic status, I’m going to take every precaution I can to avoid bringing it home. At last count, I heard the virus had bloomed and spread its, er, pollen in 49 states. Hawaii is the only state with out an influenza epidemic, and Hawaii has its own issues.

But Hawaii’s troubles are a whole post in themselves.

Concentric Circles of Grief

One morning last week, in a meeting I almost forgot to attend, my coworker was too wired to focus on our meeting agenda. She’d been out walking her dog the night before, chatting with a friend she hadn’t seen in a while. They were about a mile from home when they heard gunshots and a woman screaming.

“I’m calling 911!” She reached for her phone.

“We could call the non-emergency number.”

“Gunshots? Screaming? I’m calling 911.”

The 911 officer heard her report and immediately responded, “Ma’am, I can see where you are located. You need to take shelter. Now!”

They ran to a nearby house and knocked on the door. An elderly couple let them all in – both women and the dog. My friend phoned her husband, explained the situation, and asked him to come get her, her friend, and the dog. He had a hard time getting into the neighborhood, weaving his way in between the cop cars and ambulances and even the SWAT team truck. Their 8 year old, riding along in the back seat, was visibly shook.

There was a terrible tragedy in our community that night – a murder suicide fueled by domestic violence. My friend had not seen the violence, but she heard it. She was touched by it.

Imagine a pebbles dropped in water. The woman’s family, the man’s family, and their surviving children are in the middle circle. My friend, her friend, and their families are in a close circle. They witnessed the action indirectly and felt the violence that disrupted their peaceful evening.

I’m in an outer circle. I listened to her story, held her and listened again when she found out that the couple so violently killed were friends of hers, neighbors down the road until a few months earlier when they’d bought their first house. Her children knew them, knew their children. Her tween-aged daughter had babysat for the youngest children in the family. The near-inner circles were growing now, making room for these three young people facing this unspeakable tragedy.

Once again it’s Brahms. Remember my piano teacher’s wisdom, shared when I was a teen? She never knew what to say at funerals, and she struggled to play Brahms. After her husband died, she learned that there is nothing to say that can help. All you can do it be there. And then she found she understood Brahms.

I can’t take away this grief that sudden and terrible grief my friend has suffered. The memory will stay with her and with her husband and her children forever. All I can do is be there. She is organizing a fundraiser for the surviving children. It won’t replace their awful loss – nothing could. But it gives people a way to show that they care. It gives people a chance to be there.

 

All Things Potter

You might be a Harry Potter fanatic if:

  1. You mutter Alohamora as you turn a key.
  2. You think Lumos as you flick a light switch.
  3. Your Harry Potter collection will never get swapped or donated to a Little Free Library.
  4. You get irritated when the family wants supper because you don’t want to stop reading.
  5. You’re nervous leaving the house without a wand. After all, there’s a war on!
  6. You find yourself quoting Albus Dumbledore at the strangest times. “Nitwit. Oddment. Blubber. Tweak.”
  7. You watch the movie The Patriot and wonder when Lucius Malfoy dyed his hair black.
  8. You go to cash a check and wonder why no one else notices that the goblins have the day off at the bank.
  9. You try to find 4 Privet Drive and 12 Grimmauld Place on Mapquest.
  10. The waiter looks at you strangely when you order “elf-made wine”.

It’s bitter cold outside – below zero wind chills, day after day. I might as well stay indoors, curl up in a blanket, and watch the Harry Potter marathon on FreeForm. It’s fascinating to look over  the details – the foreshadowing, the creation of this amazing parallel world, J.K. Rowling’s craft as a writer. So despite the cold, I’ll stay warm and cozy. As my idol Albus Dumbledore once said, “…now, let us step out into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

This is an encore from a summer day several years ago as Amigo and I read the final book in the series: The Deathly Hallows. It is truly fascinating to reread and rewatch the Harry Potter series. I still wonder if I’m more like Professor MacGonagall or Professor Sprout. 

Christmas Unwrapped

Hi. My name’s Daisy, and I don’t do wrapping paper. I have a problem in general with single-use items. Plastic grocery bags, plastic spoons, straws, the works. I’m constantly working at eliminating or at least minimizing the impact we have on the planet.

Back to wrapping paper. It’s single-use at its worst. I was almost excited when I saw a post from the county’s Recycling and Solid Waste’s Facebook page.

I can hear you now. “Recycling and Solid Waste? She saw something exciting on the garbage department’s Facebook page?” 

Take a look. Here’s a quote.

Avid recyclers know that wrapping paper and tissue are not accepted in our local recycling program. Local paper mills that recycle the paper we sell them ask us not to accept wrapping paper. 

Do I need to go into the reasons? Okay, I didn’t think so. This totally supports my philosophy on wrapping paper. Which is…

  • I won’t buy it. It’s a waste of money and a waste, period.
  • I will, however, reuse wrapping paper. I’m one of those people: I unwrap gifts carefully and set aside the paper for reuse.
  • I reuse gift bags multiple times.
  • That tissue? I reuse it, too. When it’s no longer in good enough shape to stuff a gift bag, I use it to cushion ornaments and decorations when we put them away.

And so it goes, my friends and family. I am a bit of a curmudgeon when it comes to wrapping paper. I love Christmas, I do. But where commercial wrapping paper is concerned, I’m the Grinch.