Friday, April 28, 2006

How's the price of gas in your town? Up to four dollars a gallon yet? It will be. Are you annoyed with politicians pointing fingers to say it is someone else's fault? How about the proposed solutions? They range from lame to stupid.

Let's get down to plain talk: We are using up a natural resource that will take millions of years to replace . At the same time, We are polluting the earth and making ourselves sick. We have many technologies to replace oil and gas. There are cars that run on waste cooking oil, cars that run on ethenol that is made from corn. We can tinker with the steam engine design. Personally, I am holding out for a hybrid that combines a rechargable battery with solar power. There is always the bicycle, or the horse. We have to get around somehow. Roller skates? Those new sneakers with wheels in the heels? We could redesign our cities so that We live near a hub that contains most resources within walking distance.

Just follow the money. Someone, some people are making a lot of money using up the world's resources while fueling our cars and ruining the environment that makes us sick. We have wars that kill people, both sides dying, just to control oil resources. Cynical me thinks that will never change. In the meantime:

The Federal Government could take away the excess profits from the big oil companies. The Federal Government could nix those obsene salaries for CEOs. Both of those monies are way out in left field and are generated on the backs of the small town blue collar worker...and the rest of us. The Federal Government could use the money from the oil companies' excess profits to offset the Federal TAXES that We pay when We buy gasoline. The Federal Government could remove Federal taxes from gasoline...still be fiscally responsible...and the price of gasoline will go down...while We save to buy a new hybrid.

By the way, did you know that Brasil is totally free from gasoline? Their vehicles run on ethenol generated within the country. That's what I heard on the radio.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

There is a builder in our town who drove the road overlooking our harbor and decided He wanted that piece of land to build his own home on. Wouldn't that view look good from his own windows? It didn't matter that the road was public and the overlook was a public view. It did not matter that building his house on the bluff and moving the road back, would prevent the public from enjoying the view. After all, He had lots of money. He petitioned the town that he would "volunteer" to move the road back, since it had a "dangerous" curve. (There were no auto accidents at that site that I was aware of.) None in the town agreed with him. More people showed up to protest at his hearing, than at any other hearing in town that I know of. To retaliate, the builder cut down a magnificent Cooper Beech tree on his property. He was saying, in effect, no one can tell me what I can do with my own property.
The people in town organized. It was by-partison. Bob was the stratigist that showed the way to win. The rich builder was defeated. The road stayed where it is, minus a beautiful beech tree. That was tree number one.
Some time later, Bob died. He was well known in town as a district chairman, as a volunteer fireman, as a school guidance counsellor. People contributed to his memorial fund that was used to purchase a new Cooper Beech tree. The Board of Education permitted the tree to be planted on school grounds. The tree was planted by the tennis courts in front of the High School where he used to work. Tree number two. During that winter, neighborhood school kids rode snowmobiles up and over the hill and over the newly planted tree. They wrenched it right out of the ground. It died.
The Board of Education assisted. They had big concrete barriers placed around the tree's replacement, but because of weather conditions, it died, too. Tree number three.
Tree four: The Board of Education has talks of developing the hill near the tennis courts. Planting another tree in the same place didn't make sense. In the future, the tree would probably be cut down. The Board agreed that the replacement tree could be planted on the bus turnaround in front of the high school. It was planted there, with enough space around it to grown into a magnificent large and beautiful tree.
That summer and the following summer, drought occurred. I carried water in watering cans in my car, splashing water around the inside of my car. The tree got watered and lived, but grew very slowly. It is the nature of beech trees to start off slowly. I did not care now long it took to grow, but the Board of Ed did.
Last fall, they removed the tree. Instead, they planted a large flowering cherry tree on the outside of the bus turnaround. I thought the purpose was supposed to be a beech tree. Instead, I bit my lip and said nothing. Maintenance retrieved the marble name plaque from the tennis court site and placed it at the foot of the flowering cherry. Tree five.
This spring, the cherry trees are blooming. I drive to see how Bob's memorial cherry tree is looking. Shock!!! Someone had attacked the tree. They tore off it's limbs. They had to work hard to do this. There was nothing left of this beautiful tree except a dead trunk standing. My reasoning is that the plaque honoring a school employee made the tree a target for an angry person. Therefore, I requested that Maintenace remove the plaque and give it to me to put into my garden.
Next call was to the City's Tree Warden. I told him my story . He agreed to plant a memorial tree in the city's newly planned memorial arboretum. It would be a Cooper Beech. There shall be no plaque to point it out, but I will know which one it is. Tree six.

Monday, April 24, 2006

In my experience, a person gives up some of their time and resources to aid the community. We are supposed to help one another. Volunteering has been part of my life since high school. Pledging for my sorority required it. The habit stuck. I volunteer all the time. My last assignment was on the Council On Aging. Our town has a beautiful senior center. It isn't officially part of the city , probably to limit liability. However, the major part of their budget comes from a grant from the city. We had a sticky situation when our director got so sick she could no longer work, not even if We accomodated her under the disability act. She simply could not do her job. This is a lovely lady who worked hard to make the center into what it is now. Her personality is all over the building and the programs. ...and she was well paid for her effort.
The personnel manual is very clear. Our director wrote it herself. The board approved it. But try to apply it. Politics became a big factor that We could not get around. No one could fire the director. All the seniors loved her, for our director was good to them. Oh, by the way, seniors vote. Elected officials backed off. I learned that each mayor in turn, treats the senior block quite gingerly. The issue got very emotional. Clear heads are hard to find when everyone is upset. Our attorney resigned. A vote was taken. Only myself and one other person would vote to apply the personnel policy. Everyone else lost backbone. The issue was never resolved. My term of office expired. I chose to not serve another term. The board deteriorated some more. The prime directive, that is to provide for our seniors, seemed to get lost. In my opinion, the staff served its own needs. ...called it "in house training". The financial director was arrested for "misappropriation of funds". He was paying himself a raise He thought he deserved.
Our beloved director, who thought the job was her right, sued the city. She had social security disability, a big pension, had a salary that made me jealous and an able bodied husband that was quite capable of working himself. This lady was covered financially. Then, she died and damn if her estate didn't win the suit. Cost the city big bucks, because the Council On Aging did not have the guts to apply the personnel policy . From this experience, I learned that I will probably always hold a minority position. Applying a clearly stated personnel policy seemed logical to me. I was mystified at the political obstruction. Other people saw it differently than I did. I made up my mind that I won't waste my time volunteering on boards or commissions unless I can be effective.
I did not think I would see Beth, Don and the boys until our family reunion in September. Nothing happens by chance. A good friend in Syracuse, e-mailed me that she fainted at work. It seems she has a tumor on the brain, hopefully it isn't cancer.....just something that has to come out. I volunteered to stay with her as she recooperates at home. She wants to go to a cousin's wedding on May 17th. One of the nice things about being retired, is that I am available at a moment's notice to come to the aid of a friend....that should be capital 'F". Judy is a member of Syracuse Friends Meeting. Some people call us Quakers. I will stay with my friend as she heals. Judy e-mails me a long list of activities she wants to do with me . The list is long for an able bodied person, let alone a person recovering from brain surgery. No one holds my friend down, not even an uninvited tumor. I hope I have enough energy to keep up with her, up to the time she leaves for Ohio for her cousin's wedding.

Judy has asked me to return to live in Syracuse. She's the third friend that asked me to return. I am humbled that at least three people like me enough to want to see more of me. The price of houses in Syracuse is lower than in Milford. I could pocket the difference after I sold my house here. (hmmmmmm)

Getting ready to drive up means calling Beth . Yes, she will dog sit Rascal. Yes, I should bring the aerobed. I make a mental list to bring the spices I put aside for her, and her letters that I am returning. It's a small effort to get some organization in the house. Melanie's letters will be given to her when she arrives in September. I have to have a meeting with Andy so he can manage the house while I am gone.

Then in June, I will be returning to Syracuse for Robert's graduation. Hurray for Robert. He is a straight A student , poor as the church mouse, so therefore has won a full scholarship to Rochester Tech. Robert has a good future ahead of him. He's a typical engineer. I asked him what he would like for a graduation present. He can't decide.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

Strange things. Most of these things happened when I was under the age of 12. I wanted a plant on my windowsill. In the middle of winter, this was not possible. I did not ask for one from my parents. My parents did not encourage asking for anything. The usual answer is "no". Instead, this was an opportunity for problem solving. A water glass became the container. An onion was the bulb, suspended over the water in the glass by toothpicks pushed into the onion. My pet onion grew. Tiny roots reached into the water. The top, once dorment, sprouted green leaves. I watched and cared for my pet onion all winter. The room became rank with onion smell. Mom threw my "pet onion" away.

Childhood summers were spent at the the cottage in a colony of cottages south of Buffalo New York. I spent most of the summer in my bathing suit, in the water. Besides swimming, there was exploring. The shale beach was filled with all kinds of rocks, all shapes, colors and sizes. One of the rocks lay in a pool of water. The water brought the colors of the rock to life. It was marbled with pink , with many colors. It was beautiful. The rock, probably granet, was too beautiful to leave there. I picked up the rock, about five pounds of it, and brought it up from the beach to the back door of the cottage. I bonded to that rock. I delighted in looking at it. I loved the angles, the colors, the heft of it, the feel of it's cool surface. When summer was over, We returned to the city. I brought my rock with me. It stayed with me for years, always in the way, sometimes holding the door open. My parents moved. The rock moved with us. Time passes and I am older. The rock is now in the basement. I am married. Richard and I have an apartment of our own. Visiting my parents, I noted that the rock was no longer there. I miss my rock.

Sister and I were very young...perhaps ages 4 and 6? Dad had some business to attend to that required a trip in the car. Did We want to come along? For a ride in the car? Of course We did. The ride wasn't very long....just a few blocks. Dad got out of the car and told us to wait, to not leave the car. We did not. We obeyed our father. It was great to sit in the car and watch people come and go. I saw two men go into a store. They were meticulously dressed. Their shoes were polished. Even their fingernails were polished. They were slim and wearing well tailored clothes. I got an impression of corruption, of evil coming from the two men. This impression did not come from the expression on their faces. They looked like they were engrossed in business. I was very freightened...did not understand this at all. Young children have a concept of evil as ugly. Think of the wicked witch with warts on her nose and hair a freight. How could these men be bad? Then, for the first time in my young life, my guardian angel spoke to me in my head. She said that these men can not hurt you. Thinking back, I am guessing they were involved in the rackets or in the mob. My guardian angle has spoke to me many times since then. There is always comfort and reassuance in her words.

Once children were old enough for chores, they got chores. It was unthinkable that a parent should mow the lawn, shovel the snow, do the dishes with children in the family, very capable of performing those chores. All the kids in my school had chores to do. I remember a school recital...upper classmen on the stage. They were in the 8th grade...I was somewhere in the earlier grades. Those eighth grade girls all had red hands. That was because they all did the family dishes by hand, using an alkaline soap that was harsh on hands. I did dishes, too. We had a cast iron enamel sink with a drainboard on either end. I washed a cup. It slipped from my hands and fell to the drainboard. I watched it hit the drainboard and roll around. Lucky for me it did not break. The unusual thing was it did not make a sound. The experience was like watching a movie with the sound turned off. I experience surprise...then another surprise...a second later, I hear the sound of the cup hitting the drainboard and rolling around. The sound was delayed from the motion. Had the sound somehow got mis-directed in the wiring in my head? Then re-directed?

It was another perfect summer afternoon. This time, We are at our city house. There is joy in my heart. Carefree and singing in my head. Like all children, I skip on the sidewalk and skip to the curb. For a few seconds, I stay suspended in the air. Has gravity been suspended? Does joy counteract gravity? I had forgotten this strange experience, until my daughter, Beth, reported that the same thing happened to her as she skipped down the hall to our house. She stayed up a few seconds too.

Another endless summer...a bike ride. I am riding at the curb , enjoying riding my bike. I am not watching where I am going. I get a feeling of worry from my guardian angel. ...but very faint. I am not paying attention. Suddenly a pair of warm, female hands materializes over my hands on the bike handlebars. I feel the handlebars yanked to the left, into the road. My hands did not turn the handlebars. They were turned by the hands over my hands...the hands of my guardian angel. To say I was surprised is a classic understatement. It was a struggle to maintain the bike, to avoid taking a spill. After I regained composure, I looked to where I was headed. I was pedaling right into the back of a parked car. At bike seat height, I probably would have been propelled over the handlebars into the rear window, breaking the glass and having a very serious accident. I had an impression that I could have become paralyzed. What does this imply about a life plan that would not happen? My guardian angel was on duty and probably saved my life...or saved me to accomplish my life plan.

Goofy me gets attached to innanimate objects. Remember the rock? Same for my teething ring, my yellow duck that went into the bath, my walker that I walked / tumbled down the stairs in....dolls...all sorts of things I loved with a passion. I also got attached to a tree in our front yard. It was a sticky aspen. I don't think garden designers would recommend this tree, as it had some bad habits, such as dropping sticky bits. It also had a smell. I think I was still in diapers, wandering around the front yard. There was the tree. It was as if a primal memory awoke. I understood this tree as my natural environment...memory as a primate. As an adult, I went back to the colony of cottages. The tree was still there. So was my feelings for it.

My passion for gardening started with our first home. I had a back yard with nothing in it. Across the street, my neighbors were great gardeners. I picked Mary's brains for gardening tips. She gave me some apple seedlings to plant. Two were planted into the side yard. How many years would it take for the seedings to bear apples? I was their caretaker..pruned and sprayed for about 8 years. They grew magnificently. I loved my apple trees. The apples they produced were genetic throwbacks. They were not the fine crossbred apples we buy in the store. Didn't care. They were my apple trees. One was shaped like a delicious apple. the other tree bore apples similar to Cortlands. I picked apples, ate apples, made applesauce, froze applesauce. I had a bonanza in two apple trees. The fragrance of ripe apples in the fall is exciting. In the spring, I climbed up one of my trees, like a kid, enjoying being surrounded by apple blossoms. What a delight! Sun through apple blossoms! Then, an impression: the tree was aware of me because of the weight I put on it's branches. It knew that I cared for it and protected it. That was the first miracle. The second one was, it told the second tree who I was. The third miracle was the spirit of the second tree, playfully jumped at me in recognition. I was humbled that two trees said hello.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

A day of progress followed by a day of frustration. Stephen told me that Office Max is going out of business. He bought a computer desk for very little. It's a real sale! I am tired of using a sheet of plywood on top of saw horses and calling it a desk. A fast trip to Office Max and I, too, have a computer desk loaded onto my truck. At home, Andy helps me unload the desk, take the makeshift desk apart and put the computer on the new desk. There is a lot of mess made...plants on the floor, dust bunnies appear in corners, piles of paper and CDs are all over the living room. Andy is trying hard to not laugh as I figure out how to get the CPU on the desk without unplugging all those wires. I get it all put together, except I have an extra wire that I don't know where it is supposed to go. I think it is part of the printer, as the computer works fine. I'll let this connection sit until Stephen comes over and figures it out. Where are the computer nerds in my family when I need them? (They'll be here at the reunion)
The second trip of the day is to the mall. Jame cuts my hair. I badly needed a cut. She is a lovely lady from Korea, trying hard to master English. We communicate in short cut language. the result is a very good haircut. I tip her generously. She loves to see me come in. I enjoy our visit, talking about our families, how well her children are doing. Her husband is a contractor. She cannot think of the word, "contractor", substituting instead that He is a carpenter. As she describes what He does, I realize she means "contractor". She is charming as she struggles with English.
At the other end of the mall is the Sears store. The Sunday paper said they had a sale on Craftmen tool chests. I have tools from Richard, from Bob, from his father and grandfather. I have tools of my own. They need a place....and everything in their place. A Craftsman tool chest, two tier, on wheels is loaded onto the back of my truck. Driving home is easy, Getting the darn thing out and into the basement is another thing. This is a two man job. Andy and Stephen can move this for me. I call Stephen. Sure, Gramma. I bring Stephen over. The two brothers move the boxes into the basement and set up the tool chest. The bottom drawer needs to come out in order to attach the wheels. I did not know the drawer needed to come out, but Stephen did. He has a similar tool chest at work. The chests are assembled, packing thrown out and it is now dinner time. To say "thank you", I invite my two grandsons to dinner. Stephen and Andy want Chinese. There is an excellent restaurant near where Stephen lives. I had never been there, but it was excellent. I ate a fisherman's bowl of lobster, giant scallops and shrimp with vegetables. It was delicious!
Three blessings came on one day: a new computer table, the Craftsman tool chests and the discovery of a new and excellent restaurant.
What I did not know was I would pay for this the next day. My accountant called. My income tax is ready to sign, and by the way, I had a huge capital gains and I owe a lot to the IRS. Additionally, He increased my quarterly estimated payments. I owe my soul to the tax man.
Then in the mail is a dividend check. No problem. To the bank to make a deposit. The teller is the mayor's wife and a friend of mine. Exchange of hellos. Just a minute. She disappears and has a conversation with the bank manager, holding my check. What in the world could be the matter? I have been depositing a similar check for once a month for a long while. It isn't a big check, either.
Teller comes back and tells me I have to open a new account to deposit this check, as it is from a trust. The new account has to be in the name of the trust. Furthermore, she wants to copy my trust papers to open the account. This time, I know the bank is wrong.
I have an excellent financial advisor who helped me set up this trust. I am the trustee of the trust. The papers that set up the trust are not public documents. I think the bank is wrong. Could a bank ever be wrong? Back home , with endorsed check in hand, I call the mutual fund issueing the check. They verify that all they required to put the mutual fund into the trust, was the title page showing the date that the trust was formed and the signature page. They agree to write a letter to me stating this. Ah ha! The bank is wrong. But do they have a policy, anyways, that requires me to bring my entire document? Second call to my accountant. He explains that the check is FROM the trust, not TO the trust. To take money from a trust and put it back in a trust makes no sense. I probably do not have to open a special savings account for my trust checks. I have to explain this to the bank in the morning to the bank.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

The summer plans are all messed up. I remember when my daughters were little, I made no plans...just worked day to day. Ginny, my good friend and neighbor, used to plan her summers so well, she knew what she was doing from week to week. I was amazed she was so organized.
This summer We are having a wedding in the family. My Australian daughter, Ian's mom, is coming up for the celebration. My Syracuse NY daughter is coming too. We're having a family reunion. This is a good time for a family photograph. There are few times We're all together. Via e-mail, family members coordinate our master schedule. We talk of hiring a photographer and caterer. Or, should We use our own camera and a timer and cook for ourselves? Where shall everyone sleep? I purchase several more air mattresses. It seems to be coming together.
Then it falls apart. Melanie and Dan can't come until September. Donnie and Robert will be in school by then. Can Anthony get time off from work? How shall He get here without a ride?
With so many people's schedule to coordinate, it is getting complicated. We make progress anyways. Ian and Sabrina change their plans so they can be in Connecticut in September. Don and Beth change their vacation days so they can come down for 5 days. It is not the two weeks I was hoping for, but it is time enough for a celebration and photographs. We can get Donnie here and back again before school starts. Perhaps We can use photoshop to put Robert in the family photograph if He can't get here. He will be a freshman in college and of course, wants to be in his dorm when the other guys get there. We're working on it.
The weather has finally turned warm enough to work outside. The sun is on my face and shoulders. No bugs have appeared. It is time to dig in the garden. I've been gardening inside for some time now. My african violets are blooming their little heads off. My amarylis bulb has three stalks with four blooms on each stalk. Each bloom is as large as a luncheon plate. I revel in their color.
I forced narcissis, planted blueberry plants in pots, and a red day lily that Bob gave me. The lilies and plants will go outside once ther is no danger of frost in our area...the middle of May.
Now it is time to remove the vinca that once was a perfect solution under the burning bush and under the lilacs. The burning bush has been cut down because it became invasive. Its roots were into space reserved for flowering plants. Last fall, I hired a man to remove it. He cut down the main truck, keeping all the wood for himself (for his fireplace). He was supposed to dig out the stump and remove the vinca. Instead, He walked off the job. I thought I knew this man, my neighbor. He had been cutting my lawn for several seasons. I paid him promptly. He never disappointed me. When He presented his bill at dusk, I paid him, thinking He would be back in the morning to finish the job. I could trust him, right? I never saw him again. I pick my battles. This time, I let the issue go.
Now it is spring and the stump and vinca are still there. I can at least tackle the vinca. I had removed vinca from the area now my vegetable garden. I can repeat the task.
In the garage, now my garden shed, for the first time this season, out comes the spading fork, the narrow shovel, hand tools, the cart. Digging . Digging. Digging. Not much progress with vinca. The roots hold on firmly to crossing roots from the lilac. I spy daffodils sprouting through the vinca. They must be dug first and moved to a safe area, or I will distroy them while removing vinca. Carefully, each bulb is rooted out, put in a holding pan and transplanted to the west of the lilacs.
Back to the vinca. A combination of cutting lilac roots, using the spading fork to loosen a clump , and rooting around with hand tools, I get an area about 3 feet by 3 feet cleared of vinca. That represents less than 20 % of the total needed to clear this area.
My hands, back and forearms are cramping up. When I stand up, I move like a 90 year old. The sun is setting, so it is time to stop...and time to set a goal of getting in better shape...after spending the winter without a regular exercise program.
I think I will call another landscaper to finish the job. My excuse is that I don't own a stump puller.