Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Year with a Blue Moon

Tonight is a Blue Moon. There actually are several different definitions of a blue moon, but the one that is most often used, is that a blue moon is the second full moon in a month. So, this month there was a full moon on December 2, and then again tonight on the 31st, New Year's Eve. The next time there is a full moon again in December is in 2028--wow!--nineteen years from now! The next blue moon in any month, will be August of 2012.

There is a certain mysticism around a full and a blue moon, I think. I read a quote in the newspaper from an astrologer--she said that full moons call us to release what is no longer serving our growth. I thought that was especially apropos for tonight and the end of 2009.

I have a memory of a blue moon in June one year. Dave and I were in Boulder with our friends, Warren and Jelene. It was evening and we must have gone out to eat. We were walking along the creek by the Boulder Public Library and went on the bridge to look over the water, and talked about it was a blue moon. That memory has stayed with me for probably eight or ten years.

Of course, the best place to celebrate a blue moon is in Kentucky, as per Bill Monroe.

Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
Blue moon of Kentucky, keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue
It was on one moonlight night
Stars shining bright
Whisper on high
Love said goodbye
Blue moon of Kentucky keep on shining
Shine on the one that's gone and left me blue.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

German Wine

I set up a little Christmas display on the library table in our family room and initially included a couple of bottles of wine on it. David suggested putting some "old" bottles that we received over fifteen years ago when we left Germany. So I went to the basement and searched through the wine rack to find them. I was looking for two specific bottles, and ended up finding a third with sentimental value, so they all went onto the display table.

The first two bottles, pictured above, were given to us when we left Germany by our friends, Anelie and Ernst Probst. Frau and Herr Probst were my good friends when I lived in Germany for six years, and I still speak with them on the phone a couple of times a year. I remember we went for a farewell dinner at their house, and Herr Probst went to their cellar and brought out the two bottles--they were fifteen years old at that time--and eighteen years more have passed since then. The wine, of course, is not drinkable--but they are dear to us. I recognize the towns where each was made--Alsheim and Guntersblum. Guntersblum, especially, is familiar, as there was a major wine fest there every year and David and I attended it a couple of times.

The third bottle I was surprised to find on the wine rack, and reported to David that we still had a bottle of Strubel wine. Herr Strubel was a kind man and a vintner who David got to know. We visited with him, and he showed us his vineyard, and met him one afternoon at his little summer cottage. He had plans to market his wine in the U.S., under the label, "Pink Lion," but things never worked out.

Here is a close-up of the label on the bottle. Herr Strubel passed away while we still lived in Germany, and his wife arranged for someone to write us a letter in English, letting us know. She did not speak a word of English. David still remembers stories that Herr Strubel told him about his time in the army during World War II. He was evidently pretty happy to be taken prisoner and put in a POW camp!

I think these bottles may stay out on the library table even after the Christmas decorations are put away.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Dinner

Dave and I went for the second year in a row to our friends, Lindsay and Brookie, for Christmas dinner. It was a small crew there--Sharon, Jay, Chad, and Ann joined us. We all brought dishes, but Lindsay really outdid himself with a roast and some wonderful potatoes.

After eating, we indulged in some bluegrass picking, which was fun!

Here's a few pictures of the revelers.

Here is the host and chef: Lindsay.

This is Lindsay's wife, Brookie, holding forth at the table with Sharon and Ann!

Dave was having fun!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Our Christmas Tree and Decorations

We put up a Christmas tree this year, for the first time in five years. I have really enjoyed having it up. Decorating it was the same trip back in time as always, with memories of many of the ornaments: where I got them or who gave them to me.

We actually have two trees up. Our little tree, which David says is a Charlie Brown tree, is in the front bay window, with a little village of ceramic houses under it.

Our main tree is in the family room; there are presents under it and a train around it. I love the train and have since David first ordered it some years ago.

Molly helped Dave install the train this year.

Our stockings are hung by the chimney with care. And some nutcrackers are guarding the fireplace. All is in order.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Front Row at a Train Wreck

Dave and I are friends with an older couple whose company Dave has done some contract work for over the past couple of years. They are Gregg and Virginia; they don't have children and are in their late sixties.

At the end of October, Gregg had surgery for cancer of the esophagus. He first had cancer and radiation--and he really wasn't in favor of these traditional treatments--his wife and his doctors told him that he would die if he didn't have them. He then scheduled his surgery for October 30. He and Virginia told everyone that he would be in the hospital for two days, and then back home to finish recuperating. They said over and over that it was not a "serious" surgery.

I was concerned that he wasn't in shape for surgery--both physically and mentally--and I expressed my concern. But the answer was that he would die if he didn't have it.

That day, when they went in to the hospital for the operation, the surgeon met with Gregg and Virginia and they claimed later that that was the first time they were told that the surgery was serious. Gregg was actually in surgery for over ten hours, and Virginia was beside herself as the time went on.

He came out and the doctor appeared pleased. Then, Gregg was in the hospital for ten more days. He was not a good patient, demanding to go home the entire time. Sometimes the hospital staff would call Virginia in the middle of the night and insist that she talk to him and calm him down.

Finally, on the tenth day, the doctor determined that Gregg should go to a rehabilitation center for some time, and Virginia took him over there. Once there, he was in pain, and finally collapsed and they had him transported by ambulance to a different hospital than the one he was in for surgery. He went downhill fast, and was placed in intensive care, in critical condition. The nursing staff who admitted him said later that they didn't think he would survive.

On that first day, Gregg had to be put on a ventilator and subsequently was sedated. He had pneumonia and a collapsed lung. He stayed in a drug-induced coma for a month. Frequently during that time, the medical staff asked Virginia if she knew what Gregg's wishes would be in terms of his long term care. The implications always were that they wanted Virginia to consider removing him from life support. She would not consider it.

Amazingly, during that time, Virginia's elderly aunt fell and had to be admitted to the same hospital as Gregg. The aunt developed pneumonia, and went downhill and ultimately passed away.

Further, the company that Gregg and Virginia owns is in dire financial straits. There was little else that could possibly go wrong.

It was finally discovered that there was a gap from the surgery on the esophagus that allowed the food that was being pumped through tubes into Gregg's body, to then leak into his lungs. A nurse figured that out and tested it by putting green food color into his food bag. Sure enough, that green coloring ended up being pumped out of his lung. They patched that up and it helped things.

Finally, Gregg started to improve--in very small increments. As I am typing this, he is no longer sedated, but cannot really move. His muscles have been inactive for over a month. He will have to go to a rehabilitation center to help in his recovery.

Throughout this saga, Dave and I frequently said and thought that we were so glad it was not us in this situation. It has been shocking and disturbing for us to observe.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Assassination of John Lennon

On this day, 29 years ago, John Lennon was shot to death. Who would have expected such a thing to happen? I was visiting a friend in Missouri on that day and living at home after getting my master's degree from Michigan State University.

At Michigan State, I lived in a graduate dormitory, and a strange man lived there. In fact, there were a lot of strange people who lived in that dorm--it seemed to attract the isolated and the obsessive-compulsive--but I stray. The man who I remember was big and burly, and wore a trench coat year round. He had no friends, and walked around talking about John Lennon all the time. I sometimes might see him on campus--wearing his coat in the hot weather. Mostly I saw him in the television room at night, and he might bring up John Lennon to anyone in there. He was bizarre. Looking back, I believe he had Asperger's Syndrome, but at that time I had never heard of it.

Months later, when John Lennon was murdered, I believed that man from my graduate dorm had to be the culprit. I mean, it only made sense. I did some research on Mark David Chapman and he wasn't the man from my school. It still amazes me to this day. Why, if Mark David Chapman hadn't killed John Lennon, then this other guy might have.

And always, there is the question of what if? What if John Lennon had lived? What new art might he have achieved? There is no telling what he and Yoko might have done--one never knew what he was up to. It is such a great tragedy.

Blossoms of Light

Dave and I went to the Blossoms of Light on Saturday evening. We hadn't been for a few years. The is an event at the Denver Botanical Gardens, where they have outfitted a lot of the trees with wonderful lights. There is a path to follow around the grounds to view all the spectacular scenery they have created.

It was really cold and there was a line to get in, but we had dressed warmly. They didn't have the event last year, due to construction at the gardens. And for a couple of years previously, we hadn't attended because the member's night was during the week and it wasn't convenient to our schedules. But this year, members got the whole weekend to go for free, so we made it a date to go to get our Christmas spirits going.

Our favorite tree was a giant one, draped in bright blue lights, with probably six or eight star shapes around the tree, asynchronously. We could see it from outside the gate and knew we liked it really well. When we got up close, we noted that it wasn't a single tree, but two or three trees, with the lights wrapped to make it appear that it was one unit. After we walked through the grounds and examined all the rest of the showy lighting, we were in agreement: the blue tree was still our favorite.

We had a nice evening and really enjoyed the event. We finished things off with dinner nearby at a small restaurant that we like in the area.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Yes, I'm Married To A Redneck

Dave named this post, as he posed for the picture. He started out serious, but obviously that didn't last for long. This was the night before Thanksgiving, and we decided to drink a bottle of champagne that was in the refrigerator since our anniversary.

Despite his dramatics, it turned out very nice.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Prince of Tides

I just finished reading "The Prince of Tides" by Pat Conroy. I came across the book in the grocery store, and decided that maybe it was time I read it. It was really good--one of those stories that you can't put down. I have only read one other of Conroy's books: "Beach Music" and I don't know why I haven't read all of his books as I like the two so much.

I put the movie on my Netflix queue, but I am going to be very skeptical when I watch it. Conroy used the discussions between the main character and his sister's psychiatrist as a tool to tell the story. Hollywood made that relationship THE STORY, which was pretty stupid. The real story in the book is much more fabulous than the relationship between Tom Wingo and the psychiatrist played by Barbara Streisand--there that explains everything, doesn't it!

Sunday, November 22, 2009


We went over to the Rocky Mountain School of Musical Arts last night, to see/hear a gypsy jazz group called SacreBleu. We were surprised to find our friends, Paul and Gretchen there, and it was almost a full house. The group was quite good, composed of a violin, two guitars and an upright bass. They talked a lot about Django Reinhardt and his history, which was very interesting.

In the middle of the show, I was suddenly reminded of a Sean Penn movie called Sweet and Lowdown, where Sean played a jazz guitarist in the 1930's, who idolized Django. It was a Woody Allen movie--I'm not really a fan, but I did really like this movie. Sean was extraordinary, as he always is.

And SacreBleu was very good! It was a fun evening.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Bow Maker

I have decided that I need to start using my bass bow for some drills, to help with the strength of my fretting hand. I bought the bow from ebay a couple of years ago, and have no idea of how to use it. I decided that the first step was to have it rehaired, so I called the local music store in Boulder and they directed me to a guy who has his own little workshop in north Boulder--Eric Paulu.

He is a craftsman and makes and restores bows for stringed instruments. When I found his shop, I was fascinated that it was in a new little complex of condo-like units. He works downstairs and lives upstairs, as do all the rest of the folks who are part of the complex--there's a hair salon next door to him. His companion is a little Japanese bird dog.

Eric took care of my bow, rehaired it and worked on the camber(made it stiffer). It has black hair now, instead of dirty white--he said most bass bows have black hair. I think it looks more interesting with the black. He recommended that I get some sticky rosin, which I purchased on the way home from his shop. Now, I think I'm ready to go, just need to figure out the next steps. I'd better schedule a lesson with my teacher.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

The Station Agent

Newsweek, in their new format (which I detest), has a section titled something along the line of "Best Movies Ever." Two weeks ago, I noticed that they had listed The Station Agent, and I decided it was time to watch it. It came out in 2003, but even though it got rave reviews, I still had never got around to viewing it.

I put it in my Netflix queue and moved it to the top of the list. It was in my mailbox two days later. And when I watched it, I just loved it, this story of a dwarf who moves to a new town and into the old railroad station that he was inherited. He just really wants to be left along, but the people around him can't seem to let that happen. I sat a lot of the time with a big smile on my face as events transpired, I was so delighted with the tale. This is the type of story that is one of my favorites: a community (whether it be of 3 or 4 or 5 people of unlikely and disparate backgrounds) that comes together. It just absolutely rocked.

After it finished I wondered, as I often do in these situations, what took me so long! When I told Dave about it a few days later, he decided he wanted to see it. I had already sent it back to Netflix, so I went to the queue again, put it back in, and moved it to the top. I can't wait to watch it for the second time.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Greenville Flea Market

The Greenville Flea Market in Kentucky figures prominently in the writing that I am doing for National Novel Writing Month. The flea market is located in Greenville--per the name, in Muhlenberg County. It takes place on Tuesdays, and covers acres and acres of land. People rent space inside or out, and set up to sell all kinds of things.

When I am home, I love to go there. My sister, Karen, takes off work (calls in sick to my Dad, her boss) and we load up usually with my mom, and Karen's mother-in-law, Wanda, and Karen's best friend, Bernice. It is always quite the day and we make sure to get an early start.

We go to the market first, and make sure we go down every aisle. In addition to rusted out harnesses and old coffee pots, there's usually a supply of livestock for sale--puppies and kittens which everyone ooh's and aah's over. One year my brother-in-law was with us and he bought a rooster and a chicken.

My treasure that I got there once was a Shawnee corn crock--a beautiful piece of ceramic in the shape of a corn cob. It sits in my living room and I just love it.

After we cover all the ground at the market, we go and have lunch at some local spot where we all eat too much. Then, we hit all the local antique stores. Wanda is always our guide to these, and directs us around the country roads where we find places hidden away off the beaten track.

This is always a day I look forward to when I go home to Kentucky.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009


November is NANOWRIMO month: National Novel Writing Month. Over 100,000 people all over the world will participate this year, in a quest to write 50,000 words by the end of the month. 50,000 words translates into approximately 1,667 words a day and I find that it really isn't that much to do--if you keep up with your writing throughout the month, that is.

This is the second time I have participated. There's a whole coterie of activities that have sprung up around the event and you can engage as much or as little as you want to: write with a group of others--or don't. Attend socials that are scheduled throughout the month--or don't!

I was invited to be part of a loose group of writers who keep track of their progress together. Essentially this means that I log my word count in every day on a Google shared document--along with 12 other people, only two of whom I know. You also are encouraged to log your word count in on the main NANOWRIMO web site.

So far, I have put down 14,601 words. So far, so good. I'm hoping that at the end of the month, I will have the first draft of this novel half done--and will have gotten into the habit of writing every day.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

The Trials and Tribulations of Dealing with the Phone Company

Over the years, we have had a lot of issues with our phone service--powered by Qwest!--which in our case includes the internet service, too. A few years back when I worked at home, every time it rained there was static on our phone line. There are 3 poles around our back property, one up by the house, and two at the very back, one on the north side and the other on the south side. It seemed I was always calling in for service and various technicians would come out and climb around on those poles, trying to fix the problem. Finally, right around the time I was going back to work in an office on a regular basis, they got things fixed and pretty stable for about three years. No static when it rained, or anything.

Then, over the last three months, we have had numerous problems. The internet was down all the time. Finally it was down hard and not coming back ever, it seemed. I had to go to a coffee shop to blog and check my email. A technician came out and worked on things. He got the internet service back up, at least--said there was a loose wire somewhere. But we still had a lot of issues and the problems weren't completely resolved. Suddenly the static was back on the phone line--worse than ever. It was miserable trying to talk to someone with all of that going on. And the internet service kept going up and down. I called in again. The phone company sent us a new DSL modem; they said ours was an early one that had been discontinued. I was interested in trying that out--it seemed to me as I watched the behavior of my internet connection and checked on the modem in the basement that there were two problems: the internet kept going down and the modem had trouble reconnecting (that was in addition to the static on the phone line).

Qwest sent us the new modem, and that did help a lot. I believed that the wireless connection still went down more than it should, but the modem recovered pretty nicely. It kind of masks the symptoms of a problem, really. But the static was absolutely horrendous. I called in again and listened to the same lecture I always get--if the issue is caused by our inside wiring, they will charge us $75 per hour for the technician's time. Yada, yada. In all the years of dealing with this, the issues have never been caused by our inside wiring.

Another technician came out. I couldn't be home to wait for him, but made sure he would have my cell phone number. He called me to report that he had fixed the problem. He had found two screws that were up on the pole by the house that were not screwed in at all, and they were a critical part of our dialtone. I shook my head as he told me this. The reason those screws weren't connected was because the previous guy who came out to fix things had left them that way.

I was feeling pretty happy until the fellow on the phone told me that he needed to do two things--he needed to trim the trees in the back next to the other two poles. I was horrified at the thought of this. I don't care much about the trees on the south side--they are weedy Siberian elms, but the two on the north side are pear trees that we planted ten years ago and that bear a lot of fruit. We like those trees a lot.

So I said no, that he couldn't trim those trees without me being there. He went from my friendly neighborhood lifesaver to a spoilt child who was told he couldn't have his way. He started carrying on about all the times that he needed to trim trees and the homeowners wouldn't let him. This guy must have wanted to work for the forest service or something. I let him go on for a while and then told him that we would trim the trees ourselves. Those two poles where he wanted to trim the trees were all the way on the other side of the yard (1 acre) from where he fixed our problem. He then suggested that we ask for some wire and dig it in the ground across the back and remove our wiring from the pole. Hmmm. The phone company would supply the wire and we would supply the labor. What a deal. I said we would consider it, but we won't. If there was ever a problem, the phone company would be quick to say that we put the wire in the ground and were responsible for any issues. Why would we ever put ourselves in that position?

Anyway, no more static on the phone line, thank goodness. I can now have a conversation in peace--until next time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Snow on the Pumpkins

I bought some really cool pumpkins for Halloween this year. They looked so cute on the porch for a week. Here's how they look today, though. Poor things. I suspect that they'll be pretty soggy for trick-or-treat night--and into the compost bin the next morning.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October Snow

Yep, it's snowing here, coming down like crazy. I had to go out with a broom and brush the snow off a lot of our trees--this is normally a task I have to do in the spring, not the fall. The weather reports are saying that this snow will go on for all of today and tomorrow. Whoa. It's only October. Looks like I'll have to go out with my broom again in a couple of hours.

That mountain of snow is my big crabapple tree, that is bent down to the ground.

Here is my helper.

Paperwhite Season

I love to grow paperwhites in the winter. Dave calls them stinky-whites, because of their aromatic smell. They are a way to have a flower bloom in the off-season. This year I got a few really big bulbs from the West End Gardener in Boulder and put one in a little McCoy-like planter and a couple in a large glass container. I love the look and can hardly wait for them to bloom. I should have some good ones for the table on Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Cabbage Into Sauerkraut

Dave is making sauerkraut. He did this a couple of years ago and when it was done, we had a German party.

He went out to the garden and harvested some beautiful cabbages that I grew.

Then he got busy working under the able supervision of Molly.

It was finally ready to ferment. He covered it up and put a plate down over it, with a stone on top (wrapped in plastic) and shoved it over in a dark corner of the kitchen counter. After a week, the smell was too much to be ignored. When I mentioned that it was becoming rather aromatic, he denied that it could be the cabbage. Nonetheless, he moved the pot to the basement--and lo! and behold--the smell went away. Whew. The smell hung around in the basement for only a day or so and then dissipated. So now, we wait. And no, his finger isn't in the chopped cabbage--he wouldn't be able to play banjo if that was the case.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Foggy Walk

I got up one day this week and when I went out to get the paper, I was struck by a scent and a feeling that I rarely experience here. Moisture was redolent in the air, taking me immediately to the south. A heavy fog hung over the trees, obscuring the neighbors, and I took a deep breath to smell and feel humidity that is almost never here, but always present in the southern states. As the morning progressed and the fog hung on, Molly was eager to accompany me on a walk to enjoy it while it lasted. By the time we finished our walk about three hours after I first walked out to get the newspaper, the fog and humidity had dissipated.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Ham Radio Operators

Currently, Warren Kennison is playing with us in Steel Pennies while Rob Clark travels the world. And in this configuration we are all ham radio operators: Warren, Dave, Terry and myself. Pretty unusual, I'd say! That might be a good name for a band, but Steel Pennies is better!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Carpet of Leaves

The cold weather we are having has ripped many of the leaves off of our trees. This ash tree outside of our sunroom window has a beautiful carpet of leaves underneath. This morning I read that biologists are saving seeds from all types of ash trees because a pest called the ash borer is killing all the trees and there is no known cure for it. So troubling, like the chestnut trees and the American elm.