Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Friday, August 18, 2017

Your emails

You Know who you Are:

I have your emails. I will put them into your wife's hands. Your life will change.

Monday, August 14, 2017

World War I

I'm sorting old family photos. I don't know who took these or the exact dates. Brief descriptions are on the back.

Inscribed "Stern Gun on Freighter" 

 Inscribed "Prisoners of War" By the uniform they're German Prisoners.

Inscribed "Aboard H. M. S. Saxonia in Halifax Harbor." The uniforms appear to be American.

Conspiring with the Baby Dragon

Under the table secrets [artist unknown]

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Because there's no better way to explain than to show

When your life breaks and there is no real cure ...

Making a seizure victim stand in place is cruel. Help them to a comfortable place, and, for God's sake, be quiet. Talking to a seizure victim does not help. Comfort does.

Quietly comforting a victim is good

Trying to talk to me in the middle of a seizure makes things worse. It's stupid. Don't do it.

One of several seizure types that afflict me. Now you know something of my life as it is every day.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

On being small and other nonsense

The other nonsense should be first, I suppose. People tend to assume way too much from what they read. Remember the post with Aunt S’s childhood photo and the comparison painting of a distant ancestor? Some who read that were surprised. At least two said they thought my “blood relation” was to Uncle B. [I removed one of those comments.]            
            In fact, both are related to me by blood. They’re cousins, though with enough ‘removes’ to make the relationship somewhat distant. Uncle B’s family connects to my German, Austrian and American bits. Aunt S connects to my Bavarian bits and to the Austrians. There is a Norwegian connection there too I think, but as those things go, the connection isn’t mine. This is not uncommon among my ancestors. I am my own first cousin six times removed. So, now, are you confused? Or is this all perfectly clear?

            Other stuff:

            Goat Boy regularly reminds me that I’m not the world’s mother. The world should be pleased I’m not. Whole populations would be grounded, spanked, frowned at and regularly sent to their rooms. Entire countries would have their privileges revoked. His last reminder was prompted by our new neighbors. They moved into the two-story Federal style house across the street and up one. [It’s painted a nauseating blue.] They have an eleven year old daughter. I see her riding her scooter up and down the street. She has no friends and doesn’t make eye contact with anyone. So, I worry. But beyond saying hello to her and her mother and being totally ignored, I have no plan. My husband says I shouldn’t have a plan. He says that we have enough worry with our five … and boys … and stuff.
            My medication causes deep body aches, so I have trouble sleeping. I wake up every two hours or so. Sometimes I just vegetate in my chair for a while so I don’t keep the pet man awake. Last night I turned on the little lamp next to my chair and read a book I’ve read before. It was written in the 1940s by a Presbyterian minister turned sociologist. In his case both professions were a joke. His source of authority is usually a literary quotation, and he attributed views and words to others they never spoke or wrote. But it is still useful, sometimes for the very nonsense it contains.  So I read it through again, taking some notes that I’ll revisit in a few days.
            My coffee mob has mostly scattered through the summer. We don’t fill up our usual coffee shop. We usually don’t get more than six or seven. Kinda sad, really. But as summer ends and people return from vacations, conferences and such, we should see more.
            I spend more time in bed than I should but don’t seem to have much choice. Everything is an effort. I managed to clean out the pantry. But my front garden needs attention. I’ll pin down one or more of my daughters and get them to pull the weeds. The gardens used to be fun, a distraction. But they aren’t now.
            Night before last I toddled off to the kitchen, heated up left over coffee and sat on the front porch watching bugs buzz the street lights. The moon is full or nearly so. As hot as it is during the day, the nights are cool. My mind wandered from place to place and time to time. Some memories make me smile.
            Most who read this blog know I’m a very small person. My husband [aka Goat Boy] is tallish, almost 15 inches taller than I am. That has its advantages, but we won’t go into that. Some of you would blush. After we were married his dad gifted us with an older but not antique Lincoln which was really nice because he was newly employed and I was pregnant and sick and mostly confined to bed. Consequently, I wasn’t working. We had little money, though things were improving financially. Goat Boy got his first raise and a bonus. Good. Even with insurance, medical bills were increasing. Not so good.
            I begged for him to get me out of the house, and, despite his better judgment, he took me to McDonalds for breakfast food. It was a nice change. We left eventually, and at the car he gave me a very nice, rather passionate kiss. Nice, right? Well I thought it was. But … An older woman, maybe in her mid sixties, confronted Goat Boy for kissing a little girl. My husband is not easily flustered, but he was then. How dare he kiss a child like that? And there was a meaningful look at my belly bump. …
            Goat Boy took a step back, then another, trying to explain. She didn’t let him - Cut him right off. I can enjoy discomfiture only so long. How old do you think I am? I asked. She looked me up and down with her steely gray eyes. Way too young to be pregnant, she said. I’m twenty, I said quietly. She was apologetic. She need not have been. It is rare for someone to confront what they see as a wrong especially in public. Oh, many make snide, stupid, trolling comments online, but few interject themselves into a real life situation. She though I was twelve or thirteen at the most.

            I continued to look like a child well into my twenties. An evangelist knocked on our door when I was twenty-seven. Many from that church know me, but he didn’t. I’d never seen him before. His first words were something like: “Hi. Is your mother home?” I told him I was the mother. Sometimes it’s fun to watch grown men blush. 
            I no longer look as if I’m twelve, but I don’t look my age either. [I turn 40 in November.] I still have it! Sick or not. I was ‘carded’ [asked for my ID] last week when buying a bottle of rum. [The good, dark sippin’ kind.]
            Our wedding was in my parent’s house, the house I grew up in. [Long ago sold so they could move here.] There were about 30 guests, but a large reception afterward. [A compromise with the mothers.] I had almost no sleep the night before and no chance to nap before the wedding. I fell asleep during the reception. And herewith is one of the advantages of being short and scrawny. When it was apparent I was really ‘out,’ he picked me up as if I were a small child and carried me off to our car and then into our apartment. Nice, huh?
            There are disadvantages too. I had trouble carrying my birth children to term. They were all premature, and that was related in part to my size and to difficulty with weight. I couldn’t maintain a ‘healthy weight.’ So Elizabeth was born at 34 weeks and weighed 3 lbs 14 oz. My biggest baby was Annie who weighed just under five pounds. And she, sweet and mild child that she is, perversely broke my tailbone and ruined my urethra coming out. My butt still hurts on occasion. …
            Then there’re kitchen cupboard issues. A folding ladder works best or simply calling for Goat Boy to reach things down. And clothes … and shoes … I wear very small sizes. Probably none of the men who read this blog ever wore a ‘training bra.’ But the women who read this blog know what that is. I can still wear one. I wear a girl’s size 2 shoe. Small sizes are easier to find now than when we were married, and I can find girls’ clothing that doesn’t make me look like a preteen. But not so much when we were first married or before that. Pants? Oh, yes, let’s not forget the adventures buying or simply looking for girls size 12 – 14 that I can wear and not look silly. Finding something that fits and doesn’t look little girlish isn’t as iffy now as it once was. My weight bounces between 86 and 88 lbs drippin’ wet. When I was teaching, most of my students were taller than I am.
            Another drawback is that some people think it’s alright to touch small people. It’s not, but some think it is. It was always worse when I was pregnant. And when I was in high school there was an incident. I threatened him with six kinds of death and loss of an eye. Okay maybe not that extreme but he never tried to lift me up again.
            I like my size, even with the drawbacks. Goat Boy can give me a piggyback ride without keeling over in pain. That’s nice. And I’ve gotten used to looking tall people right in the belly button and not flinching.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Music and Stuff from O. Reader

            It has been folk festival time again. For the third year running Mrs O and I, along with other family members, camped in tents and listened to a wide range of music that comes under the vague umbrella of folk. The Cambridge Folk Festival is still the largest folk festival event in Britain, and has been going for 52 years now.        
            We motored 240 miles from South Wales to Cambridge. That may not seem much of a distance to people in a huge country like America, but when the route includes the London orbital road (M25) - dubbed Britain’s largest car park - it was tiring.
            We reached our budget hotel and looked forward to a hot meal at the sole neighboring outlet. I won’t name it, but Brits may guess when I say it serves up convenience food and tends to be staffed by 16 year olds with pimples. Two glasses of red after unpacking, we ambled across to the diner, to be met with the sign “Closed due to technical problems.” And the nearest alternative eatery? Several miles away. Hmm. And after two glasses of red... Our main meal that day consisted of a warmed up pastie from the gas station and a cereal bar! I chirpily suggested that this might contribute to a pixie blog post. Mrs O was not amused!
            The family helped put up the tents. Correction, they did all the work putting up the tents, while we ferried a U-Haul Van’s equivalent of bits and pieces back and forth from the car park. Mrs O likes to be prepared. And then, it was two main stages, one main club tent and several smaller venues all vying for attention spread over the site.
            Life is normally so busy with real life, real hobbies, real family, real work, real home, real research, real phone calls from people with real problems - it was just nice to sit in a field, even in the rain, and let the music - good, bad and indifferent - wash over me. It was nice to be able to read every word of my newspaper, The Times. I enjoy my Times. I love the British humor, even if it doesn’t always translate for an American readership. I enjoy the letters page. A po-faced leading article from experts pontificated that drinking alcohol four days a week could help stave off diabetes. A letter commented - “I decided to err on the side of caution - and make that seven...” I don’t do politics, but I like my paper. Politically The Times is right of center but then has a brilliant cartoonist who is left of center. But they do give “the other side” the right of reply. It is not something you normally get in British tabloids like the Mirror (left wing) and Mail (right wing). Most folkies’ paper of choice is the Guardian, which has excellent music coverage, and used to have so many printing errors, we still affectionately call it the Graudian. In true festival style as I finished a section of newspaper it got passed along the row for total strangers to read.
            So what was the music like? The line-up compared with those of past years was a little disappointing overall. Several folk legends from both Britain and America should perhaps have stayed home. But I enjoyed Loudon Wainwright III at his laconic best. Getting the audience to join in a chorus, he said “You’ve all gotta join in on this. If you don’t our next song will be Kumbaya... Your fate is in your hands...” There was a very good all girl group called the She Shanties, which sort of tells you about their material. And I enjoyed an interview with British folk luminary Shirley Collins who appeared at the very first Cambridge Folk Festival 52 years ago. I actually disagree profoundly with her on two points about folk music, but that’s another subject. There was also an over-abundance of world music. World music explores the heritage of different ethnic groups, who are rightly proud of their culture. I have the greatest of respect for those who preserve their culture in this way. However, I don’t necessarily want to have to listen to them in one hour chunks. We probably enjoyed ourselves most of all in the various club tents. We saw Amy Goddard do two sets - featuring her song Remembering Aberfan which won the Fatea Music Magazine award as best song of 2016 and a new song about prisoners of conscience. Apart from a live stint on local radio, this was the premiere of the song.
            As always, the whole atmosphere was friendly and family oriented. Almost the same as some of the religious conventions I have attended in this respect, except that you don’t tend to see multi-colored top hats at the latter. There were esoteric foods, and weird clothes; kaftan tents for earth mothers of various shapes and sizes are still popular. There were musical instruments including one made entirely from a biscuit tin and broom handle, which I attempted to play - I kid you not. Mrs O put me playing it on Instagram, but fortunately her account has a very limited audience. There was even a tattoo parlor, although hopefully this was just the wash-off henna variety. I didn’t investigate, but just remember that a horse tattooed on your left breast when you are 20 will look like a giraffe when you are 50...
            It was interesting and sort of mildly therapeutic having no internet for several days. Mrs O had basic email access on her phone, but the tiny keyboard and my fat fingers would give an impersonation of Dyslexia Rules - K.O... So, virtuously, I resisted. I regressed to those far off days when I used to write in long hand, and could still decipher my stenography. But I caught up with a vengeance as soon as we got back to civilization.
            And of course, in true folk festival spirit, we attempted to sing folk music in its broadest sense ourselves. Singing is actually very therapeutic - for the singer if not the listener. Something akin in my life in times past was long distance cycling, and road training for marathon running. They gave you a feeling of peace and well-being, and if the thought of those activities fills you with horror, then the chemistry is obviously not going to work that way for you.
            I used to sing at parties a million years ago - generally rock’n’roll with P on the guitar, or more likely piano. We would attend sedate, earnest social gatherings and I would suddenly lurch into my Gene Vincent impersonation, using a broom handle as a stand mike. I cringe a bit at the thought now, but hey - I was young once. There is apparently a tape still around somewhere of me massacring Vincent’s Baby Blue (as featured in his 1958 B movie Hot Rod Gang aka Fury Unleashed) and I am still  waiting for an attempt at blackmail over it.
            Anyhow, back to “folk” singing. I was “vigorous encouraged” to attend a folk club a few years ago to hear someone sing, and they had this sing around session, where anybody could stand up, or sit down, or fall over, and do a turn. Although, wearing another hat, I have addressed large audiences without a problem this was fraught with nerves and a wobbly voice. It was only when I heard some of the others that it gave me confidence. In fact, I sort of became brazen. As the saying goes, I’ve suffered for my music. Now it’s your turn.
            At Cambridge I sang on four occasions, including in a club tent called The Den where I yodelled Wimoweh at around one o’clock in the morning. But as a fellow “performer” told the audience - “the more you drink, the better I sound...” And, seriously, I did the Roy Bailey social bit with Go to Work on Monday One More Time - all two chords of it - and everyone joined in the chorus. That really is the secret - people at these venues love joining in, because even if you are rubbish they remember that THEY were great...
            So, as we draw this post to a close, we have to revisit the one burning question - CAN OCCASIONAL SING? Here is where the vagaries of the English language rise to the occasion. Answer - of course he can. He’s allowed to sing. He’s not forbidden, even if the action is unwise. You try and stop him. But if your question meant can Occasional hold a note or does he have a voice like bath water escaping..? The jury may still be out on that one.
            So I guess I’d better end with an anecdote I know I’ve told before. But hey - old people repeat themselves, repeat themselves, themselves, selves...
     A few years ago I made an official visit as a minister to a sizeable city congregation for a special week of “activity.”  I strode purposefully into the meeting hall with smart suit, official briefcase, and orthodontist smile, to be greeted by someone I have known for rather a long time.
            In magna voce he pointed a finger - “I HEARD YOU ON YOUTUBE...”
            There was a sudden hush as all eyes turned and followed his finger.
            “THE PICTURES WERE GOOD...”