Thursday, June 29, 2006

There were old relatives in my life when I was a child. My father visited them and took me and my sister along. I have no clear memories of these people. Only in later life, I have questions I would ask them, but now it is too late. Some of them had relatives that fought in the Civil War. What stories they could tell! I wish I could interview them. The muteness from their passing is my loss.
My impressions are more about their houses and the land around it. Dad and relatives were talking, letting me look around on my own.
It was a lot more quiet in those days. Those old people used manual grass mowers. In one incident, the old man used a scythe to cut down hay. The kitchen was simple. The food offered me was simple.. a glass of water or a home made donut, aka: fried dough . Aunt Jen once worked as a house keeper to a farmer. In memory I see the cow heading for the barn. I smell the farm, see chickens in an enclosed yard.
At the end of the day, they sat on the porch and rocked in the rocking chair, talking. Inside, was a wood chair by an open window. There was a full size screen on the window, hung from two outside hangers at the top. In the fall, the screen would come down and a wood storm window would replace it. The screen wasn't made of woven aluminum wire like screens today. It was made from steel mesh. The mesh had to be painted, or it would rust. Sometimes the mesh would be one color on the inside and another color on the outside. It takes patience to paint a screen. The little holes get clogged with paint. The painter would have to take a pin to clear the holes. Sometimes they didn't bother. Sometimes the screen mesh was patched with a small piece of mesh. Screens could become fascinating in their originality. ...patches, rust spots and clogged holes.
The house was quiet. Not even a radio turned on. You could hear the birds signing their territory with song. Crickets. No cars on the road. Linoleum on the floor. Tea towels turned into curtains at the kitchen window. Fruit grown on the property was canned in glass jars. In the basement, was a crock of sauerkraut, put up for use in the winter.
Dishes were washed by hand, dried and put away. Laundry was done by hand, or with a wringer washer and hung out to dry. If it was raining, the laundry was hung in the basement. There were no clothes dryers. They wore cotton, washed in real soap. Clothes smelled differently , smelled clean, smelled of fresh air. The women always wore dresses. I see them on the clothes line.
During the summer, they went to bed when the sun went down. I remember peas and beans picked from the side old dog that could shake paw with me. That was his trick. I wish I could talk to those people now, to learn about their lives. What is history to me, is a current event to them. I don't even know their names. My questions are unanswered. I miss them.

Monday, June 26, 2006

We're spread out all over the place, so seeing family means traveling. Robert, grandson number 6 graduated from high school in Syracuse NY. We're proud of Robert because He did so well in school...despite fights with his brother who messes up their shared room, despite having no real place to study, despite living in a neighborhood that encourages crime and drugs. Robert did more than OK. He was the 17th top graduate in a class of about 275 students. He has a full scholarship to R.I.T in Rochester. He got academic awards. (CHEERS!!)
The day of graduation, happy chaos erupted. The pants Robert wanted to wear under the cap and gown, had a split seam. His brother borrowed a white shirt from Dad, then promptly got the sleeves dirty. Mother's outfit, somehow shrunk from leaving the store to the graduation day. It didn't fit. Picture mad scene looking for clothes. In the end, the situation sorted itself out. No one went to the graduation naked.
At the War Memorial, picture hoards of graduates and six times that number of parents, siblings and guests...all shouting. I couldn't hear a thing during the ceremony, but if memory serves me right, no one says anything from the stage worth remembering. My memory of the preliminary ceremony consists of the people sitting near me, talking on their cell phone, people getting up and walking around, the little girl behind me playing with the seat next to me. ( kick kick ) Picture people waving to other people across the auditorium.
Finally, comes the good part. One by one, the graduates receive their diploma. I run my finger down the program, following the progression of names. It seems that the graduates have cheering sections. As their name is called, the relatives hoot and holler. Gee, We were more orderly when I graduated. All We did, was clap. Some of the graduates do a boogie dance on stage as they receive their diploma. Robert accepts his diploma and leaves the stage. I am burdened down by a camcorder and camera. So are the other members of our group. The ceremony is punctuated by the flashing of cameras. The room twinkles with flash. You couldn't help but feel excited for those who are graduating . The graduates are pronounced graduated. Hoots and cheers fill the room. Caps are thrown in the air....just like the military academy exercise. (How do they find their own cap again?)
At the entrance to the War Memorial, family waits for Robert. It seems the graduating class held some fund raisers and used the money to purchase a goody bag for each graduate. Robert has his bag. Inside with other things, was a lovely stein with the name of the high school, year of graduation...all glazed in the school colors of black and gold. Robert is beaming. I seldom see him smile like this. He sure looks happy.
Everyone has their picture taken with Robert. We take a picture of Robert and his brother with their Dad. The crowd is thinning out. To the cars. We needed two to get to the graduation site.
Next stop: The Olive Garden. One member of our group is allergic to fish, so our first choice of a seafood restaurant was scratched. Seven people take up the long table and talk and laughter are exchanged. Cameras and camcorder keep recording. I am the matriarch of the family, so I preside over my court. Robert is at the other end of the table.
We order a banquet. drinks, appetizers, salads, bread sticks, main course, and dessert. We devour it all. Not a crumb left. No one can eat another bite, either. I am out of film.
On the way home, I learn that people I know, were at the graduation. One of their family graduated with Robert. If I had known that, perhaps We could have coordinated to meet at the same restaurant. Oh well. It's too late now. The film is dropped off to be developed.
The next day, I pick up the pictures and deliver them to the house. Robert is sleeping.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Who could ever forget "what's her name?" Names of people I meet infrequently are slipping away from me. What is the name of the eccentric lady that refused to vacate her home after a hurricane flattened the area? The whole area was turned into a state park, everyone got a check from the government, but this one hold out would not move. She lived like a squatter on her old a trailer without water or electricity. I remember she had chickens...and lots of friends who admired her for her fight with the state. She lived there until she died of cancer. This lady said that the state was not paying her what she thought the property was worth. I am guessing the money was put into an account and some clerk was keeping track of it. I bet the bank charged a monthly fee for managing this account. I wonder if any money was left for her estate when she died. I never met this lady, but periodically her story would appear in our local paper. People who fight to be themselves....I admire them, no matter how different they appear to us common people.
Then, there was a young man that hung out on the green. Our "green" is a remnant of colonial common grazing ground for cows and sheep. We fight to keep it undeveloped. Anyways, a young man in military clothes with red hair, would spend his day light hours sitting on the green, reading the bible. You could see He was communicating with God, among the cars and stores. He lived in his own world. He had a backpack and his bible. He was clean. He was harmless. Then I didn't see him anymore.
We also had a delightful young lady with progeria. She lived in town her whole life. Progeria is a genetic disease that accelerates aging. Young people look old. They develop a curious bone structure and lose their hair. Meg was lovely. She was politically active for the handicapped. Her family, always her supporter, altered her house so she could reach the cupboards. Meg wrote for the local paper. She got a group going that advocated for the physically handicapped. She went out socially. She loved to dance. She testified before local government. It was a privilege to be exposed to her personality. Then she died. She knew it. The one thing she asked, and her family complied, was there was to be no autopsy. She had been poked and examined enough.
There are two elders in our town that I very much admire. One is a lady doctor who in her 90s, continued to walk to the hospital to do consultations. She called everyone by their name. I am impressed with those that can do that. The other person was a man who also called everyone by their correct name. A high school in town is named for him. I came late to town...only 25 years ago. On the second time I met him, he called me by name and mentioned something He had learned about me on our first visit. Some people really stand out.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Today was a day without appointments, so errands got top priority. The pots from plants, after the plants were planted in my garden, went back to the nursery. Unfortunately, while at the nursery, I saw more plants I wanted. It is the end of the spring planting season, so plants, a little overgrown and root bound, were on sale. I purchased all the red geraniums that were left...and a flat of marigolds. I know they will bloom all the way to frost. The perennials bloom and then become a green background. Annuals are good for filling in color. Now I have more empty pots to recycle.
Colin called with an idea for a blog. I hope He sets one up, as We are both struggeling with the same difficult relationship. Surely there are others in cyberland that can relate to difficult relatives. Let's see how others respond.
People leave the nicest things out for trash collection. I picked up a wagon at curbside...the type used by nurseries to help people maneuver heavy nursery stock. It was mine for the taking. I took it. ..then started painting the wagon part. A second coat goes on tomorrow, if it doesn't rain.
Also curbside was an outdoor grill with a cover. Why would someone throw it away? I was tempted, but hesitated because it might be discarded because of a dangerous connection. Never fool around with propane...hope I didn't make a mistake, but I left it there. Come to think of it, that same neighbor threw out a computer desk and chair last week. Divorce in the family? Don't know.
Tina, my tenant and next door neighbor, asked if she could dig out a daisy plant. The neighbor on the other side wanted daisies and this one was in the wrong place. It was growing over her glads. Of course We dug it up for Karen. Karen likes daisies.
So did Sgt. Bobbie Johnson. He always gave me daisies...the symbolic flower of a prisoner of war. (Poppies are symbols of veterans ) Bobbie was a POW and my hero.
My mom also gave away daisy seed packets to me and to my aunts. Now mom is gone. Her daisies still bloom, reminding my aunt of her sister. Daisies make me smile. No serious topics tonight. Just musing......

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Things occur in bunches, sometimes in threes, like sneezes. This time, what occurred are bills. I am getting tons of them this spring and summer. Maybe there is a law of balance....a natural law. Checks come in. I put them in the bank, secretly gleeful to see the rising total. The little pleasure disappears the next month. The bills come in. I got bills I never got before.
I got tax bills, utility bills, house and car maintenance bills , insurance bills, food bills, licensing bills, estimated tax bills, medical bills. They all appeared at the same time. Hey! This isn't fair. I earned that money. May I please spend some of it on myself? For frivelous reasons? Quality of life and all that? OK to buy a new pair of sneakers?
The first hint that this was going to be an expensive summer, was the arrival of carpenter bees on Melba Street. Those little bastards are eating my house. They have to go. The exterminator gets rid of them....for this season. He explains that until all of my neighbors attack carpenter bees at the same time, I can kill them at my house, but they will just come in from my neighbor's house. They'll be back every year. He hands me the bill.
The first warm day, at the Park Circle house, on the livingroom floor are little flying insects .
I catch a few in a plastic bag. The exterminator says this house has termits. This is an old house, over 90 years old. The basement joists shows that in the past, there were termits, but my husband had exterminated them long ago...I thought. Apparantly He didn't get the nest in the ground outside. This is a problem that can't be ignored. The house is treated. While We're at it, We treat the garage. ...and here's another bill.
While driving around town doing the usual daily errends, my "check engine light" comes on. I ignore it as long as I can. It doesn't go out. My Ranger truck goes into the shop. For four days I have no transportation. I am like a cigarette smoker with no cigarettes...going nuts!!! I am addicted to the freedom of driving where I want to, when I want to. The only good thing about not having my truck, is I am forced to make meals around the staples in my pantry. I am not going to ask a neighbor to drive me to the grocery store...just stubburn. My pantry supplies go down. This is an opportunity to replace them with fresh supplies...the opportunity hidden in the crisis. I get a lot of painting woodwork done, since I can't get out easily. Oh well. This was a task I had put off for a rainy day. It's raining.
Finally my mechanic calls to say He has taken a test drive. My transmission is bad...shifting way too late...causing a strain on the engine. That's why the "check engine light" came on. Transmission problems can't be ignored. I've worked with this mechanic for over 10 years and trust that He is telling me the truth. The transmission (partial) is cheaper than burning out the engine. I tell the shop to go ahead and replace what needs replacement. He does. The truck runs noticably better. ..and here's another bill.
The rental house in Orange is up for sale. My accountant anticipates that I will be paying capital gains from the sale. This house is not my primary residence. I have no capital gains exemption on this house. He increases my estimated quarterly tax payments. Hey! I haven't got the money from the sale of the house. The house isn't sold. Where shall I get the money to pay this increase of estimated taxes? From my savings, of course. (sigh)
Then there is the property insurance bills I forgot come in every year, and the emmissions testing program that recently was re-started, the truck plates, my license renewal. You get the idea.
The water company sends me an estimated water bill for the empty house in Orange that is up for sale. They estimated my water use very high. No one is in the house. There is no water use. I pay just the base rate. The water company comes for the jugular. They want me to prove my water use. I countered that I already did the meter last time and reported that the house is empty. A particularly nasty "no service" service representative gives me a hard time. She says I have to report that the house is empty every month. I counter that I will report when there is a change in this circumstance. We have a stand off on the telephone. Finally, she says she will send a meter reader to the house . I bite my tongue , trying to keep from telling her what I am thinking. A few weeks later, I get a corrected bill....for forty eight cents. I must have flushed.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The TV program, Wife Swap, was on last night. It's one of my favorite programs. The two wives seemed to represent two women who were important in my life when I was growing up. One wife was a working wife, just like my mother was.
The other wife lived a housewife's life...a throwback to the 1950's....Beaver Cleaver's mother, June Cleaver. The woman that I knew who lived like that was my mother-in-law. She stayed home to raise her children. She cooked and baked. She cleaned the house. Dinner was on the table when her husband came home. How I wished I lived in that household. Family was important to her. She was interested in her children's activities. Every school report was interesting. She made sure that there was candy in the cupboard, coloring books and crayons for when her grandchildren visited. We had cookouts in the backyard. Ordinary family activities were the foundation for healthy growing children. This family was the salt of the earth.
On the other hand, there was my mother. She had her career. She did not care about her house or about cooking for her family. She cared about making money. There is a way of assigning chores to family members that make them a contributing part of the family team. Then there is the way that my mother did it. She turned her daughters into servents. As pre-adolescents, my sister and I were responsible for cooking and cleaning. When other children were out playing, We had to clean the house and do the laundry. We were young. We did not know about cooking. We did not know about nutrition. We opened cans or peeled potatoes...anything to get something on the table. Mom ruled through terrorism. She screamed. She hit. She threatened. She didn't care.
The working wife on TV worked 18 hour shifts. That is too much. The stay at home mom filed her husband's nails for him. That is too much.
My mother-in-law, who sacrificed herself for her family , god bless her, found herself abandoned when her family left home. Children grow up and establish their own households. She was left alone. She had no skills nor interests behond a few crafts. She did not drive. She had few friends. She was left with a terrible dilemma...lonliness.
My mother had a different end. With no one cleaning her house for her, it became a pig sty. She had mice and insects, spills and odd smells in the house. There was no order to her environment. Pots, left on the stove unattended, caught on fire. She didn't seem to care. All the money she had accumulated...and it's existance was thrown in the face of her adult children...all that money just became a goal for one daughter to get it all. The money became a divisive factor that distroyed the sister's relationships.
When I had my children, I pondered how to solve the dilemma of being born female. I did not want to be as vulnerable as my mother-in-law. On the other hand, remembering my childhood, I did not want to give my own children a repeat of my experiences growing up with a distant parent.
What I did, was work part time when my children were little. I worked the same schedule as the schools. When school was out, I was home with my children. When they were in school, I was at work. I didn't make much money, but I thought I had solved the work / stay at home problem. I had a lot less money that my mother, but I had a lot more friends and social stimulation than my mother-in-law. I used my money to buy experiences for my children. They got ice skating lessons, summer camp, art lessons, music lessons. We bought good furniture and took a few vacations as a family. It was a busy life, quite a juggling act.
Still, there is no escape. One day I woke up and realized that I had worked for over 20 years and had never thought of my own retirement. I had no pension, no savings, no health insurance. Other women who had worked full time, had accumulated all those benefits. At least in middle age, with my daughters grown, I could begin a full time career. So I did. It's tough being female. It would have been a lot easier if I had a supportive husband. He was front of the TV set.

Friday, June 02, 2006

This from the New Haven Register, the Opinion page, May 31, 2006.
Molly Ivens Forum Column:
A Houston jury convicted both Ken Lay and Jeff Skillings ........ Many a thoughtful analyst has given us to understand that Lay and Skilling are guilty of arrogance and hubris. Actually, they were convicted of fraud - massive, overwhelming and monstrous fraud. They also stole money and looted pension funds. They rigged energy markets and almost drove California, seventh - largest economy in the world, into bankruptcy.
All along the way, this monstrous fraud was connected to government. Enron bought the politicians who bent the rules that let them steal, con and gyp. Lay and Skilling talked state after state into following the California model and deregulating electricity. Happy summer, everyone.
And then, of course, there was the thumbing-the-nose thievery, the offshore partnerships tricked out with the clever names so insiders would know how slick they were.
As the late Rep. Wright Patman Sr. observed: "Many ofour wealthiest and post powerful citizens are very greedy. This fact has many times been demonstrated."
The interesting thing about Lay and Skilling is they weren't trying to evade the rules, they were rigging the rules. the fix was in --much of it law passed by former Sen. Phil Gramm of Texas, whose wife, Wendy, served on the Board of Enron.
Where does that sense of entitlement come from? What makes a Key Lay think he can call the governor of Texas and ask him to soften up Gov. Tom Ridge of Pennsylvania on electricity deregulation? Not that being governor of Texas has ever been an office of much majesty, but a corporate robber wouldn't think of doing that if it were Brian Schweitzer of Montananor Bill Richardson of New Mexico.
The extent to which not just state legislatures but Congress are now run by large corporate special interests is beyond mere recognition as fact. The takeover is complete. Newt Gingrich and Tom DeLay put in place a system in which it's not a question of letting the head of the camel into the tent -- the camels run the place.
It has all happened quite quickly -- in less than 20 years. Laws were changed and regulations repealed until an Enron can set sail without responsibility, supervision or accountability. The business pages are fond of trumpeting the merits of "transparency" and "accountability," but you will notice when ever there is a chance to roll back any New Deal restraints, the corporations go for broke trying to get rid of them entirely.
I'm not attempting to make this a partison deal -- only 73 percent of Enron's political donations went to Republicans. But I'll be damned if Enron's No. 1 show pony politician, George W. Bush, should be allowed to walk away from this. Lay gave $139,500 to Bush over the years. He chipped in $100,000 to the Bush Cheney Inaugural Fund in 2000 and $10,000 to the Bush - Recount Fund.
Plus, Enron's PAC gave Bush $113,800 for his '94 and '98 political races and another $312,500 from its executives, Bush got 14 free rides on Enron's corporate jets during the 2000 campaign, including at least two during the recount. Until January 2004, Enron was a Bush's top contributor.
And what did it get for its money? Lay was on Bush's short list to be energy secretary. He not only almost certainly served on Cheney's energy task force, there is every indication that the task force's energy plan, the one we have been on for five years, is in fact the Enron plan. Lay used Bush as an errand boy, calling the governor of Texas and having him phone Ridge of Pennsylvania to vouch for what swell energy deregulations bills Enron was sponsoring in states all over the nation.
It seems to me we all understand this is a systemic problem.
We need to reform the political system, or we'll lose the democracy. I don't think it's all that hard. It doesn't take rocket science.
We've done it before successfully at the presidential level and tried it several places at the state level. Public campaign financing isn't perfect and can doubtlessly be improved upon as we go. let us being.
My response to this editorial OK, Molly. I agree with you. I half agree that public campaign financing will restore some of the balance in government. That is to say, to represent the people , not corporate special interest. But, how, Molly, can we accomplish this? How do We achieve our goal ? How do We get our representatives to sponsor this bill and get it passed? the people now in office, are financed by , surprise, corporate special interest. There are a lot of ways to make our government more efficient and responsive. A flat tax is a way. Cutting salaries and benefits of office holders is another. Let's put some limits on a run away system.