Archive for the ‘Rants and Raves’ Category

About Our Gout Bout

Saturday, September 29th, 2018

Infamous Gout Sufferer

“The secrets of old age” is what my mother called all those aches, pains, dribbles, rude uncontrollable noises, and I don’t know what-all.  I think gout must have been one of those “secrets” although she never said so.  Secrets are secrets, after all.

Also secret is whether or not some of those old-age annoyances are catching.  Science may tell us unequivocally “no” but sometimes you have to wonder.  Gout is the case in point in our household right now.  Nyel was diagnosed with that Henry-the-Eighth problem about a month ago.  It was his right wrist that was under attack and his entire right hand and arm-to-the-elbow were affected – red, swollen, painful to the touch and excruciating to move. He was the poster child for a man who had lost his grip – at least with regard to his dominant hand.

Can’t hurt!

Diagnosis involved careful scrutiny by our primary care guy.  And blood tests.  Treatment, which is ongoing, has involved steroids and other meds with fancy names, one of which he will probably need to take forevermore.  The cause, unlike that of King Henry, is not rich foods – we eat very little red meat, no ale or beer or other alcohol for Nyel.  For him, the cause is clear – diuretics that he must take for his heart health.  It’s a pretty straight forward cause and effect.

But, yesterday, when one of the finger joints in my left hand flared up – swollen, red, painful to the point of unbend-ability and I self-diagnosed it as gout, I couldn’t blame any meds or my diet or anything else.  It’s clear to me that gout is a contagious situation – another secret of old age that my sainted mother never shared with me.  Of course, being in the middle joint of my middle finger as it is, could pose a much larger problem.

Popeye didn’t know…

I consider myself fortunate that I am right-handed and that, should it be necessary to flip someone off, I am as yet unimpaired with regard to my digitus medius of choice.  I can only hope that I don’t have the need for a double flip-off while this gout bout lasts.  I doubt seriously if mom ever considered this particular limitation among her secrets.  But… they were secrets after all.

Out of sync, as usual…

Friday, September 28th, 2018

San Rafael High School Friends, 1952

Wow!  These past twenty-four FaceBook hours have been pretty amazing – and not in a good way.  So much anger unleashed by women I have always known to be steady and fair-minded.  So many ancient nightmares dredged up.  So many demands being made.

I, too, remember when I was in high school.  I never once attended a “house party” or tasted beer or was assaulted by a boy, never mind two at the same time.  Yet, I was reasonably popular, served on the student council, went to all the dances (held in the high school gym), “went steady” and wore my boyfriend’s letterman jacket, “parked” for a little (consensual) necking after a milkshake at King Cotton drive-in.  Our high school “culture” was a lot different than what my friends and loved ones seem to remember.  Granted, most are younger than I.  But still…

It’s hard for me to believe, much less to empathize, with Mrs. Ford.  I think her hippocampus talk threw me off.  Sounded suspiciously like babble speak to me.  It’s equally hard for me to take Judge Kavanaugh too seriously – especially when he equated tooth-brushing with church-going.  (Alike because one keeps you from getting cavities and the other keeps you from going to hell???)  Have we really reduced the national dialogue to he-said-she-said raillery?

Rambleer Baseball Team, SRHS 1951

But, mostly, I am appalled that my women friends have bought into this circus so completely.  I do not want Judge Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because I do not want our highest judicial court to be seriously skewed to the right.  Period.  But I am saddened by the depths we are sinking to ensure that the nomination of the current candidate is not confirmed.  Shame on all of us!  And, most especially, shame on the women who have worked so hard for equal rights. We seem to have made “equal behavior” part of the equation.  I can’t be the only woman (or man, for that matter) who had expected more.

What A Weenie!

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018

“Left arm, please,” said I to the pharmacist.  Twice I said it – once for the flu shot and once for the new pneumonia shot.  After all, why have two sore arms when one will do?

He did warn me that my arm would be “a bit” achier.  Nyel (who was only getting one shot) said, “Oh, we’ll fix you up with a sling.”  And we all chuckled.

So now it’s the third day and still I’m avoiding lifting my left arm or, conversely, letting it hang down by my side.  It hasn’t slowed me down much – each day I’ve made good progress trimming back the roses and pulling up the spent tiger lilies.  But I whine a little.  I truly am a weenie.  And where is that sling I was promised?

I don’t remember either the flu or the pneumonia shot producing this reaction before.  Of course, different year, improved meds, yada yada yada.  And, I’m not sure I ever before chose to get both shots in the same arm.  I can’t help wondering if one shot is worse than the other or if it’s the double whammy that’s causing me grief.

Still… I think this sore arm is well worth the alternative.  I had pneumonia once – or so I’ve been told.  I was two and I don’t remember, but I do know that, as long as she lived, my mother was all about me staying out of the rain and wind and wearing galoshes and scarves and waterproof coats and hats.  If I so much as went out in the storm to fetch the paper I was severely admonished, “You’ll catch your death of cold” and plied with hot tea and honey “just in case.”

Of course, my mother’s sister Sue had died of pneumonia.  It was years before I was born – back in the days when there were no immunizations.  The whole family was extra cautious in that regard.  TB was a biggee in our family, too, and the defense against that was always good nutrition and plenty of fresh air (although not during storms!)  I don’t think any of our family members ever had the flu, but as soon as the inoculations came out, we were in line, you betcha.

In fact, I grew up with great faith in modern medicine.  It hasn’t abated one bit.  Not even in my present condition do I regret those shots!  But I am still hoping for that sling…

And another tradition bites the dust…

Tuesday, September 11th, 2018

1921 Miss America Swimsuit Competition

The Miss America Pageant says they are “evolving.”  Into what isn’t clear.  In fact, according to spokesperson Gretchen Carlson, herself a Pageant winner in 1989, “We are no longer a pageant. We are a competition.”

Apparently, “pageant” has become a euphemism for “beauty contest” and that’s not okay anymore. In keeping with the current cultural trends (read: the #MeToo movement) the bathing suit portion of the contest has been eliminated and the evening gown portion has been “revamped to give participants the freedom to outwardly express their self-confidence in evening attire of their choosing while discussing how they will advance their social impact initiatives.”  Effective next year.

Okay. Whatever.  From the images I’ve seen about this year’s “competition,” the contestants are still young, still beautiful, and still not representative of any cross section of youthful American womanhood that I know of.  Nor does the website convince me that the contest is other than a beauty contest.

1955 Miss America Swimsuit Competition

Claims by the organization such as “Miss America competitors have been a fearless advocate for causes such as civil rights and HIV/AIDs awareness” and “The Miss America Competition has served as a platform to amplify women’s voices during times in our country’s history when they have been needed most” just don’t resonate with me.  When I hear “Miss America” those causes are not what I think of and, frankly, I don’t want to.

The bottom line is, why can’t girls simply aspire to be beautiful anymore?  Why is it okay to have a competition based on intellectual qualities but not on an ideal of physical beauty?  I really don’t get it.  Apparently, the decision has to do with the recent revelation of “derogatory and chauvinistic messages” by a former CEO or with last year’s controversial emails among organization leadership talking about the contestants in lewd and vulgar ways.  Does the banning bathing suit decision really solve those problems?

2018 Miss America Swimsuit Competition

And that “intellectual” side of things is lame, at best.  Last year, contestants were asked about potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, the president’s reaction to white racially motivated violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the Paris climate agreement, Confederate statues, and whether football should be banned because of concussions.  They were given 20 seconds to answer.  Since when has intellectual been synonymous with political?

Why, oh why, do the simple pleasures of life – like showing off in a bathing suit – eventually get ruined by the do-gooders of the world?  (And don’t get me started on the contest entrance ‘rules’ which have considered divorced and abortion as sins of the first order.)  It seems to me there are way too many people in this world who are willing to throw that first stone.  Yikes!

The Safety Sign Blindness Syndrome

Sunday, September 9th, 2018

My late friend Kaye Mulvey and I had an on-going discussion about driving the speed limit.  Kaye was a proponent of driving as fast as she felt was “safe” whether it exceeded posted limits or not.  She considered me a wimpy driver and once said to me in a somewhat derisive tone, “I’ll bet you slow to the suggested speeds around curves, too!”  I conceded that she was right and I think of her every time we drive to and from South Bend.

Like last night, coming home from Seattle, Nyel (a proponent of what I’ve come to call “Kaye’s Way on the Hiway”) was the one at the wheel.  I was white-knuckling and biting my tongue.  During the sixteen-mile stretch from Johnson’s Landing to our turn at Sandridge Road, we both took note of the new signs – or at least we think they are new.  Each time we approached a curve, a DO NOT PASS sign appeared.  Immediately thereafter, a PASS WITH CARE sign would show up.  Over and over and over again.  (It’s a very curvy stretch of road.)

I wish I’d have counted how many.  It actually became humorous – a grand distraction for Sydney-the-Wimp.  “Whatever happened to noticing the solid yellow lines on the highway?” Nyel asked several times.  “Would you even have time to pass between a PASS WITH CARE sign and the immediately forthcoming DO NOT PASS sign?” I wondered.  Distracting became annoying.  And I began to ask myself when those signs had gone up and if we had just not noticed them before.  Had we become sign blind?

When we got home, late though it was, I looked up sign blindness.  It must be some sort of phenomenon or syndrome, I thought.  And, sure enough!  There is an entire article called “Overcoming Safety Signs Blindness.”  It is written by a man named David Arnold and begins:  Having worked in the safety signs industry for more years than is good for a person, I have come across the phrase ‘Sign blindness’ on numerous occasions. In my experience it invariably tends to be used in one of two ways: Cluster Sign Blindness and Familiarity Sign Blindness.

He goes on to talk about those two problems, what surveys have found, and the suggested solutions to be considered.  I don’t think WSDOT got the memo.  Not the part on Cluster Sign Blindness, anyway.   I also see (doncha love Google!) that the signs cost $21.95 plus $5.00 shipping fee from Amazon.  Plus the cost of installation.  Times how many signs?    Our highway taxes at work.

In Defense of Disconnecting

Friday, September 7th, 2018

William Wordsworth in 1807 by Hery Eldridge

William Wordsworth was 32 when he wrote:
The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers…

These are the first two of a fourteen-line sonnet – a lament on the loss of rural living in the wake of the mass production and factory work now that the Industrial Revolution was upon the world.  Wordsworth lived in England’s Lake District and the countryside there, as everywhere, had changed very little for centuries.  Now, railroads and steamships and coal mines and entrepreneurship were upon us.  Man’s connection to the natural world was at risk.

The poem was written in 1802 and was published five years later.  Wordsworth’s correspondence during that period also reveals his concern with the imbalance between the spiritual and material, between nature and economic growth.  I don’t know if he lamented the loss of our natural world, itself, but I feel sure that had he lived two hundred years later, his poetry (considered a part of the Romantic period) would have taken a serious environmental turn, as well.

On Our Porch

I, too, often think “the world is too much with us.”  Mostly, I have that thought when I watch or listen to the news.  I’m especially lucky, in that regard.  If I unplug and turn away and simply step outside into Oysterville, that frantic outer world disappears.  Then, my world is quiet except for birdsong.  It smells of the sweet grasses in the meadow with a bit of pungent geranium fragrance from the pots on our porch.  And I count my blessings.

Pondering Pooh and Other Perplexities

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

E.H. Shepherd Illustration

We seem to have bookmarked the summer by going to matinees – “The Rider” in June and “Christopher Robin” yesterday.  I loved the first one.  The second, not so much – but I’m not sure why.

First, let me say that I am a huge A.A. Milne fan.  I love the Winnie-the-Pooh books and usually have trouble accepting any animated versions of the denizens of Hundred Acre Woods.  That was not the case with this movie.  I thought the live-action character portrayals were superb – especially Pooh.  He was precisely the Pooh of my imagination.  So was the setting, or at least the Hundred Acre Woods part –  the rickety bridge, the makeshift falling-down shelters, the hand-lettered signs of childhood.

E. H. Shepherd Illustration

The movie makers got all that just right.  It was the story I found ho-hummish.  Predictable and overstated.  Disappointing.  And the human characters – especially Christopher Robin and his daughter Maddie – a bit too old.  He should have been in his twenties; she in her single digits.  Maybe then I’d have found the happy ending more acceptable.  But… maybe not.

I left the theater feeling robbed of the bittersweet longing that the books, themselves, always give me.  It’s the same feeling I get when I hear “Puff the Magic Dragon.”  For the adult me, it’s that filled-with-wistfulness for what can’t be recaptured sensation that is the magic of Pooh and of Puff.  But the tears I shed yesterday in the movie weren’t the tears that go with nostalgia.  More the tears of disappointment.  Still… you probably have to see the film for yourself.  It may speak to you differently.

Endings and Beginnings

Sunday, September 2nd, 2018


Picnic at Beard’s Hollow, 1940s

Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve been conflicted about Labor Day Weekend – sad that it marked summer’s end and happy that school was about to begin. That was as true during my teaching years as it had been when I was a student.  By the time I retired, that ‘Labor Day Weekend Feeling’ was forever ingrained.

Besides… living here on the Peninsula simply acts as reinforcement to that transition from summer to fall.  We have always been a vacation destination.  It’s the beach, after all.  During my lifetime, I’ve watched that ‘vacation’ moniker morph into ‘tourist’ and, lately, into the ‘year-round tourist’ term.  Even so, there is still a tangible lull in the activity on the Peninsula after Labor Day.  Fewer visitors, less traffic, diminished hours for some tourist-dependent businesses, and an almost audible sigh of relief, even among those whose livelihood depends upon that influx of outsiders.

In Oysterville, Labor Day weekend marks the end of our Music Vespers for another season.  I am always a bit amazed that the twelve weekly services are over so soon.  Although there are no longer “summer homes” here that get boarded up at the end of the season, we know that some of our part-time residents won’t be here as often and the stream of visitors to the church will lessen.  Somehow, it seems a relief to have the village ‘back,’ though we’ll be looking forward to friends and visitors by the next three-day weekend.

Smokin’ Hot!

Although the shortening days sadden me, the hint of nip in the air is a reminder that the ducks and geese will be moving through soon and hunting season is just around the corner.  Not that Nyel hunts anymore and not that I ever did.  But I love to hear that “pop! pop! pop!” out on the bay – a reminder of my childhood and of the continuing rhythms of our lives.  I’m even looking forward to first storm of the season (but maybe not until November).  It seems a long time since we’ve hunkered down by the fire.

Meanwhile, though, bring on tomorrow’s barbecues!  And Happy Labor Day!

Wow! I swear I heard her eyelashes flutter!

Friday, August 31st, 2018

Nate McQuarrie, mid-bite

Periodically, Don and Laura McQuarrie blow through town and, when they do, they gather a group of us together for dinner at the Bridgewater Bistro across the river.  Last night they had their handsome son Nate with them – an almost clone of Don (especially his voice!) – who we hadn’t seen since he was knee high to the proverbial grasshopper.

I thought the highlight of the evening was going to be the discussion with Nate about carnivorous plants.  Apparently, that area of botany has been a passion of his since he was in third grade and, on this leave from his naval duties, he and his folks were not only visiting his twin sister, Emily, but… they went to the Darlingtonia State Park.  According to its website. “Darlingtonia State Natural Site is the only Oregon state park property dedicated to the protection of a single plant species.  Concurrently, the plants it protects are the only carnivorous flora in the system.” Who knew?  The McQuarries, of course!

There were lots of other high-spirited discussions among us, but I really thought that Nate and the carnivorous plants would be the highlight of the evening until…  Just after ordering dessert, I excused myself for a visit to the ‘ladies’ and had one of those you-had-to-be-there encounters.  At first, I had the place to myself, but by the time I exited the stall, two women had entered. One had disappeared into the vacant stall and the other woman – 40ish, blond, well-dressed – was waiting for her by the sink.

As I approached to wash my hands, she smiled and said in a very provocative tone, “And what are you doing for the next twenty-five minutes?”  Say what?

“I’m having dessert,” I replied.

“And what would that be?” she asked.  I wasn’t looking in her direction, busy as I was with soap and water, but I swear I could hear her eyelashes fluttering at me.

Darlingtonia State Park

“Silk pie,” I said, reaching toward the towel dispenser and hoping she’d move out of the way of my dripping hands.

“And what is the recipe for silk pie?” she asked.  I’m telling you, she made it sound totally suggestive.  I mean, really?

“I haven’t a clue,” I said.  “You’d have to look at the menu.”

I left feeling annoyed, amused, and amazed in equal parts.  I think that being hit on in the ladies’ room is a first for me.  Weird, but…  pretty good at my tender age, eh?

About “George by George!”

Wednesday, August 29th, 2018

My cousin Ruth’s book is out!  I am so pleased for her and proud, too.  She did what so many of us “threaten” to do – documented a branch of her family by writing and publishing a hard-cover book, complete with reproductions of documents, photographs, and letters by and about her beloved grandfather, George Maloney.  But it wasn’t just a two-and-a-half year project.  Her documentation is rounded out by information gathered on her trips to the UK over the course of a lifetime and by her contuing contacts with family members there.

Ruth retired several years ago from her long-time job with Farmers Insurance and has devoted a huge portion of her time to this project ever since.  I think it’s a “limited edition” with enough copies printed for family members and perhaps a few more.  She was her own publisher but she did hire an editor to assist with the final putting-together part.

Ruth Espy Maloney is my second cousin on the Espy side.  Her father and my mother were grandchildren of R.H. Espy.  George Maloney was Ruth’s mother’s father – the “grampa” on the other side of her family.  She grew up right next door to him and can credit many of her interests, skills, and character traits directly to him.  I know this because I had the pleasure of reading the book about Grampa George earlier this year and the privilege of writing a foreword for the book.  And I’ve known Ruth all her life.

Shortly before Grampa George died at age 86, he began writing the story of his life.  He called it “George by George” and when Ruth completed her book based on that autobiographical material, she thought it was a most fitting title.  It evokes a long-ago time – the time when my own grandfathers and their friends used the expression, “By George!” to underscore or emphasize a thought or an idea.  “A mild expletive” the dictionary says, that can be traced back to the 16th century, “comparable to words like golly and gosh.”

I don’t know about the “expletive” part – but I do know that Ruth has set the bar high for the rest of us family members who have the idea that we’d like to write about a relative or forebear.  Ruth, you did a great job, by George!