Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way
Walnut Room? This way, please.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Accessible Parking for Handicapped Watermelons

 My colleague and I had to go over to Southaven today on some research and stopped for coffee.  "Would you look at that?  An entire parking lot, and they have watermelons in one of the two spaces for ADA parking!"  Of course, I was whipping out my iPhone, and my cane, with my ADA hang tag clearly visible on the front windshield.
By the time I walked around to the front of the trailer and was taking the second photo, I noted several men, including someone wearing a tee shirt with the store logo scurrying around just inside the window, watching me.  Seconds later, out walked a man saying, "We know, we know.  We have called him to move it, but as you can see, the trailer is attached with a lock and we can't move it."  I smiled and said, "Well, good, I am glad to hear you are taking care of it.  It just amazes me how folks think handicapped parking is expendable when you need someplace to put something."  He tried to assure me that they guy "was young and did not know any better" and "we have called him to come move it."  Really, he said that.  And then he said, "Here, let me get this door for you."  Yes, he said that.


Did the guy park the trailer here while the store was closed?  No one noticed it until the second I started to take a picture?  Is that 2x4 bolted to concrete pillars that are embedded 6 feet or more in the ground?  Frankly, from my perspective as someone who has parked many a boat trailer, it just looks like the trailer prop has been lowered to rest on the 2x4, and there is nothing preventing you from calling the police, who are quite capable of removing this trailer and slapping a big 'ole impound fee.  If this "young man did not know any better" (I confess to questioning the likelihood that anyone able to drive, back a trailer and has a license is so 'young' as to not know that the big blue wheelchair and the sign that says "$200 fine" does not know this is not a place to park a watermelon trailer) does not know this, it is probably a good time to insure he knows for the future.

Sometimes, life is just tedious.  Some--perhaps many--would say it is a small thing and not worth making a fuss over.  But then, there were plenty of folks who thought that about who had the right to vote, or own property, or go to college...

Sunday, August 25, 2013

When things do or do not have a name

I took advantage of a nice day yesterday, i.e., not raining, to get some photographs for the Living New Deal project and the Preservation in Mississippi project.  It was not only a Saturday, but also, the weekend prior to classes beginning, so it was a likely time to get photographs of the remaining buildings that were built with funds from the New Deal administration--without all those people gumming up the works.  Sure enough, I saw a total of  3 people, and none of them were standing or walking in front of the buildings I was shooting.  Tomorrow, it will be swarming like a group of fire ants who just had someone step on the bed, there will be no parking, and students stepping into the street in front of moving cars without looking or use of a crosswalk...

I had not been to the grocery store since before I went to Texas, and my basket was so full that I knew it would be sticker shock at the check-out line, and I was not disappointed--my total before coupons was over $200.  In exchange for Kroger tracking all my buying habits, I get a pack of coupons a couple of times a month for the things I routinely buy anyway, and added "rewards" like $10 off a transaction greater than $100.  Every corporation, computer site, and branch of the government is tracking everything we do, anyway, but at least Kroger gives you a little something for getting to do it.

I also have given my loyalty to a new wine store--Poppa's.  After purchases total over a certain amount, you have earned 10% off, to be used then or on a later transaction.  The store is beautifully decorated, and a pleasure to patronize.  The young men who work the counter and help with selections are all extremely helpful, polite, and fun with whom to interact...and, I got a spiffy-looking red tote bag which is so much easier to carry than a paper bag.  Their management plan is to carry wines that you cannot usually get in the other stores in town, and while they do carry some of the low-end, big-fruit jammy wines that the students seem to favor, there are not many of them clogging up the aisles.  At the moment, they are also a few dollars less on the bottles than one can get elsewhere, so that is another added plus.
Last night was movie night for us, and we watched the Jackie Robinson story.  I was not yet born when Robinson began to play for the Dodgers, and not being much of a baseball fan, really had no knowledge about him or his career.  I have been around long enough, and studying racism, white privilege, and teaching long enough to have recognized that there were parts of the movie that I doubted, and that it was "whitened up" in a lot of areas to give the impression that the benevolent and well-meaning white guys were the ones responsible for integration, not Robinson, nor the Federal Government that had been moving toward that direction already.  Like much of the history of Civil Rights movements, it minimized the role of the actual people who were deeply affected by the segregation.  I think if I was black, there would have been many moments that were painful to watch in the movie, for many reasons.  In fact, there were moments when it was painful to me.  It did, however, make me curious enough to look him up, and I ran across Howard Bryant's poignant essay about taking his 8 year old son to the movie, and the ensuing conversation.  I found it beautiful, sad, truthful, inspiring--both the conversation with his son, and his assessment that it was a movie to make the dominant group feel good about themselves without any deeper thought.  I normally like Harrison Ford, but his role seemed like a caricature--I have no idea what Branch Rickey was really like, but if it was like Ford portrayed him, then I extend my apologies to Mr. Ford.  Perhaps it was just the shock of seeing him no longer looking like Han Solo that sent me reeling.


 And now, on this sunny Sunday afternoon, it is time to get out of my pajamas and get to work.  Tomorrow is coming.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Who does not know this by now?

There are two things that I am about to decide you cannot fully understand if you do not experience it directly: a family member with Alzheimer's, and having a family member for whom you are caregiver, or yourself, with  a physical disability.  Access: nothing you think about until you don't have it.

I often see people parked across access ramps, or across the line into the handicapped parking space, or so close to the space that one is unable to open the door and get out with a wheelchair, crutches, walker, cane, or whatever the adaptive device might be.  I sigh.  I get angry sometimes.  It makes me want to do something I saw in a movie once: tape a note to the window that reads "I am a thoughtless person."  But, that would be thoughtless, too.  I sometimes want to tape a note that says "Are you aware that you are blocking access for a person with a disability?" on the chance that perhaps the person just does not realize the impact his or her action had.

I had those thoughts long before I myself became one of those people with a disability, because of the many times I had to try to get my niece out of a vehicle and into a wheelchair when there was not room enough to do so.  Or to have to wheel her all the way around to the back of a building in order to get in.  Or even worse, try to get her into a building without any accommodating access.

So, what person living in 2013 after more than two decades of the Americans With Disabilities Act does not know that if you park in a "No Parking" space at the end of an access ramp leading to handicapped parking that a person needing that parking space cannot get past your vehicle to either get in, or get out?  In fact, even if the very large vehicle were not blocking the very little space available to back up and turn around, it is difficult enough.  Now, let's just make it impossible.

To say it is frustrating, or annoying, are just not strong enough words to describe the experience.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

How about a little gallimaufry?

Bricolage? Salmagundi? Farrago?  Aren't you curious enough to look them up?  I will be waiting for an opportunity to sprinkle these into my conversations when I go back to work this week.  
 My niece in Texas is in the process of building a new home, and the sale on their current home fell through when the potential buyer was unexpectedly transferred.  They were, of course, counting on the sale for the cash to finish up some things on the new house.  I noticed this ad in one of Mom's catalogs, and truthfully, was laughing about it when I showed it to my sister.  It turns out that there is quite a history to this Catholic tradition as St. Joseph was considered the patron saint of family, households, working men, and expectant mothers.  Initially, it was a ritual that originated long ago.

 "It's one of the pecularities of certain traditions among the faithful," said the Rev. Kenneth Borowiak, spokesman for the Lincoln Diocese. "It certainly has no basis in Scripture. It belongs to the realm of pious traditions from the Middle Ages."
According to the U.S. Catholic Information Center in Washington, D.C., the tradition is traced back hundreds of years to Theresa of Avila, who prayed to St. Joseph when the convents needed more land and encouraged nuns to bury St. Joseph medals in the ground as a symbol of their devotion. (Lincoln Journal Star, 1992)
It has now evolved into something of a gimmick, with companies selling a kit that includes the statue, a plastic bag for burying, a prayer, and instructions, as you are supposed to bury the statue head down.  It is still a common practice in those parts of the US that have a high Catholic population and practice intercessory prayer to the saints.

My peach fried pies were such a hit on the last trip home that I whipped up another batch last week.  I sent a picture to my brother, who responded "How rude!"  I told him I would make some for him the next time he came home.  The idea originated so I did not have to turn on the oven and heat up the kitchen in my parents' un-air conditioned home.


 I borrowed my sister's car and drove up to Abilene one day to visit with my father-in-law and go to Lowe's.  Right out of Breckenridge, they were doing construction and the road was narrowed to one lane.  I like how Texas manages the lane transitions 24/7--with a temporary traffic signal.  It seems more efficient than having a flag person at each end of the lane directing traffic.
 I suppose there is always the risk that someone will be in a big hurry and decide not to wait for the green light, but I find it hard to imagine that even the most fool-hardy driver would risk a head-on collision or leaving the road to plummet into the lake just to shave a few minutes off their time.  Of course, I also find it hard to believe that drivers in Mississippi seem compelled to cross the center strip and take a curve totally in my lane also, so I may be giving folks more credit than they deserve.
That stop at Lowe's resulted in this spiffy new 10,000 BTU window unit for the kitchen.  My dad does not tolerate cool very well.  We tell him he is like Grandpa, a lizard on a hot rock in the sun.  Dad worked outside his whole life, with summer temperatures in the triple-digits and he still prefers warm to cool.  There are units in the front two rooms, and with fans the house stayed pleasant during my last visit, but this time, I walked in and broke a sweat within minutes.  My sister told Dad we needed to put an air conditioner in the kitchen as this part of the house was just too hot, and especially when we needed to cook.  He said, typically, "We don't need one."  She said, "Yes, we do."  He said okay.  My mother was a bit miffed when we told her, as she has asked, begged, pleaded for years.  I took them one for the kitchen/den several years ago and it sat in the garage, so I was not at all optimistic this time. Dad's chair sits with the back to the kitchen, so it does not really hit him directly and he has not even noticed it.  He had taken to sitting in the den with his shirt off, or at least, unsnapped, and that is something he never did in all the years of my growing up, so we were figuring he was getting a mite warm at times himself.

We spent the week putting up a tinted film on all the windows that reduced heat from the sun yet still enabled you to see through the window, along with new blinds and insulated drapes.  It dropped the temperature in the house by 10 degrees even without the air conditioner.  Cleaning out the horse trough was easier.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Search for Closure

Many years ago when I was quite young, I met someone with whom I felt a particular kinship.  He was a Vietnam Veteran, and over a cup of green tea, I sought to understand what he had done and why.  I had thought of Vietnam in terms of policy and political reasons, but perhaps not in terms of the humanity of those who were there.  He said very quietly and simply,
"I was 18 years old.  I thought it was what I was supposed to do."
He was diagnosed with terminal cancer as a very young man, possibly a result of exposure to chemicals in Vietnam, and I never saw him again.  I said to my friend that I needed closure.  She quietly and simply replied,
"Sometimes, you just don't get closure."
 It seems as if there are more of those events looming ahead in the coming years.  Sometimes, you just don't get closure.  There are losses, and although we might seek it, closure, a sense of completeness, can elude us, or at least, it does me.  It is hard at times to not attribute something to ulterior or sinister motives, and I constantly am reminding myself It is what it is, even those times I am tempted as Dad said, to believe "Sometimes, it is what is just seems like it is" which more and more, I am thinking meant we don't always know what is, we know only the illusion of what we think it is.  It is complex and cruel in a time of grief and the losses that seem to be stacking up faster than I can figure out what to do with them.

My great-grandpa came to Texas in 1908, when Grandpa was an 8-year old boy, and settled in Proffitt, Texas on the edge of a creek.  He would grow up there, along with his sister and brothers.  My dad would grow up there, with his sister and brothers, on a small plot of land next door to the home place.  For many years now, the home place has not been the home place--it was sold off long ago, though Grandpa sometimes worked for wages on it, plowing, often after having already put in a full day at the sand & gravel plant, and commuting 2 hours a day as well.  I had always thought this little plot of land where my grandparents lived and where I spent much of my life as a child and a considerable amount as an adult was what was left of the home place.

In actuality, my grandmother had bought this little piece next door to what had previously been the family land.  Family land.  I remember how bereft I felt when my maternal grandparents sold their farm and moved to town.  My dad wanted to buy it, but Papa would not sell it to him.  He said he could not consign us to the same fate he had experienced trying to scratch out a living on that old rocky hill.  Instead, he sold it to one of the locals who already owned a gazillion acres around there.

Now, there is another sense of feeling bereft because a little rocky hill is gone.  At least with Papa's, I could see it coming.  It is far different to know you are about to fall downhill than it is to have the rug pulled out from behind and you are falling without knowing why, not having seen it coming.

Like everything else that has ever happened in my life, I know I will cope with, deal with, move through, and eventually heal from all that is happening with the rapidity of a shooting star.  I have resilience.  But in those few moments when it seems like you are on that hurtling mass of rock streaking across the sky, it is a hard ride.  Maybe I try to make sense of things that have no logic, they just are, and you cannot make it mean anything other than it is, and it is something which you must accept is, and let it go.  Because, after all, how can you hold on to something that is not yours anymore?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Married, with children, for 66 years

And, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, for that matter.
Mother and Daddy married in the summer of 1947.  Dad had come home from WWII where he spent time in India and China, and started seeing Mother again.  They saw each other from time to time for those two years, and that summer before she went back to college at Hardin-Simmons University, she asked, "What would you do if I did not go back to college?"

The next night, he brought an engagement ring.  They married on August 9, 1947.  A year later, they gave birth to my sister, Jane.  They spent a few years up on the plains where dad worked as a ranch foreman, and when my brother was a baby and I was a toddler, we moved back to the area they would call home for the rest of their lives--I assume they have no plans of leaving at this point.  We were in Newcastle, then Seymour, and then Graham, where they have been ever since.

It was a bittersweet trip as the last 4 since December have been.  Ever since I have gone to Alaska and heard the Aleut/Unangan saying, "It is what it is" I have really tried to be more accepting of things over which we have no control.  One night, I said, "It is what it is."  Dad responded, "And sometimes, it is just what it seems like it is."  I was not sure quite how he meant that, but I found it funny and laughed.

It began to storm Wednesday morning about 3:30 a.m., with lightening and thunder, and poured rain.  It was still raining when I went out to feed Rio and Jenny for the last time on this visit, but by then, it was a gentle, steady rain, and one that had been desperately needed.  My sister took me to the airport, and though it made for almost as long a day as driving, it was not nearly as hard.  You don't have to pay attention much when flying other than which gate you need.

I missed feeding Rio and Jenny this morning.  For the first time since Dad got Jenny, she ate out of my hand.  In a world where I feel as if I am rapidly losing control over the things that matter most to me, it seemed like a little miracle.


Sunday, August 11, 2013

How to clean out a horse trough

The horse water trough has needed cleaning for a while now. When I was here in July, my sister was not and I knew I could not do it alone, especially so soon after surgery. Feeding was hard enough. This trip, she is here though, and we have tackled the 2-person jobs we have been putting off. Tops on the list was to empty and clean the horse trough and refill it.

Friday morning I was up by 6:30 and had fed, taken care of the dog, and had everything ready to start when Sis got here. We donned our "work clothes" and picked up our brush and buckets. First up, we had to bale water from the trough until it was low enough we could tilt it on its side and dump out the remainder. It is a cast iron tub, so empty, it weighs a lot. It took the two of us, one at each end, to lift it forward and pour out the last of the water.


I held the tub while Sis scrubbed it, and then I rinsed. My first mishap was when I missed the fence tossing a bucket of water and it splashed back on us. Ever seen water from the bottom of a horse trough? Not on the list of things you hope to have happen.

Second mishap was rinsing out the tub, and my focus was on the tub and not the fact that I just soaked my sister's shoes and pants. She was starting to suspect these were not accidents by then. Now truly while the first two were, I confess to the thought of "water fight" and had the fantasy of just soaking her. I suppressed the urge-- after all, by then we were standing in a river of mud anyway. We righted the tub and put the hose in to refill.

Our next chore was to re-wire the grain bins for Rio and Jenny Belle. They bump the bins against the fence when they eat to make sure they don't miss an oat, and after a while, a wire attaching the bin to the fence can break.  While we were finishing up, Rio walked up behind Sis and watched, then sauntered over and stuck his nose in that cool, clear water. His big brown eyes looked at me, and then he dipped his head into the still running water filling the trough.  He said he was in horse heaven.


There is something so rewarding, so healing, and so joyful about the simplicity-- but significance-- of farm chores, caring for animals, and caring for our parents. We are blessed. Sometimes a thing is hard, and when one can do it without question just because it needs the doing, that is a blessing of the highest order.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Airport Scheduling in 2013

Maybe some things don't get better with technology. I left Memphis for DFW needing to change from terminal A to terminal B. Just before departure I got my update alert that I would now arrive at terminal C and my gate would be 17 instead of 13. 

I checked the board on arrival, Gate 17, terminal B-- good to go. I got on the train and exited for gate 17, go down the escalator, find the gate directory...and that the gate has now been move to gate 20... Which required going back up the escalator I just came down, and getting back on the train I just got off going back the direction from which I had just come. 

I was hobbling along when the disability cart stopped to see if I needed help. (thank you DFW for recognizing the importance of having them travel throughout the airport searching for need, unlike Atlanta airport who will provide the service only if reserved per-flight, and might not show up and cause you to miss your flight.)

I was cheerily dropped 12 gates down the terminal, and by the time I came out of the restroom, they had moved the gate again. Fortunately, it was only to the gate next door. I had signed up for gate change alerts and still had none...until after I boarded the plane. I'm thinking they might want to reconsider the whole gate scheduling gig, or upgrade the timeline on notification. But from start to finish, I give them a 9 out of 10--what's a little indecision on where to park a plane?

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Saturday Blues

Ever have one of those days? First it was the ice maker. I could not seem to get around to calling a repair person so for months, I have been buying ice and dumping it in the ice bin. Yesterday, it was the dryer--right after I washed a heavy quilt. Ever try to line dry in a humid, cloudy Mississippi summer? Me neither.  You know what 50 cents buys these days? Allegedly 7 minutes of drying. I have now spent $4.00 trying to dry this quilt. I have 50 cents left and no more ones. I may be sleeping under a damp quilt tonight.

Oh, and next dryer repair date? August 15th.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Road Trip in the Rain

My car was due for service...well, overdue, actually, so since I had finally concluded with classes, grades, and end of month/end of year reports, I scheduled for yesterday.  "Service" means a trip to Memphis.  Now, when I have time, I am always up for a road trip and Memphis tops my list of local places to go--any place I can get in an hour is a short trip to me.
Off I went in the rain, toting my laptop and a notebook to occupy myself during the 1 1/2 hours it takes for the service.  First time, I got a loaner car and went shopping and to lunch, but then I discovered their comfy customer lounge...with complimentary coffee, tea, water, soft drinks, doughnuts, complementary Wi-Fi, desks, comfy chairs...and an hour and a half uninterrupted.

It rained all the way to Memphis, alternately pouring and doing just enough that no setting on the wipers worked, of course.  I finished another report and submitted it, completed some research on the New Deal Administration, took on the job as chair of the state ethics committee, and had 4 conversations with my boss and by then, my car was finished, and the rain had stopped so it did not mess up my new wash job that is part of the service.  (That came later when I had to drive through construction just before my house, and the blowing dirt settled all over my shiny car.)

I had planned to drive the 30 minutes across town to Buster's, who carries a decent (for this part of the US) selection of South African wines, including a few I enjoy.  I had not had time the last two trips to get over there, and wanted the Fairview Pinotage, a wonderful smoky, intense version of the wine unique to South Africa.  All I had been thinking about was buying several bottles of that pinotage.  Empty.  Wine shelf for South Africa--no Pinotage.  I just stood there looking, dismay on my face, staring.  Like if I keep looking, suddenly I will see the bottles appear.  Nope, did not.  I sauntered on down the aisle to see if anything else looked interesting.  After all, this trip was an hour tacked onto my day, when I still had to go back to work.  I had suddenly remembered I had to run an audit software scan on my work computer...by the end of the day yesterday.  You can bet if I drove all the way over here, I will buy something!

I located a couple of chardonnays to try, and headed back up the aisle to see if the pinotage had miraculously materialized.  Not yet, but I found a red blend from a South Africa winery that is new to me, but from a wine area I know fairly well.  One chardonnay passes the test so far.  I love it when I can spot a winner all on my own--it's just such a secret little thrill, and I have come up with three now within the last month.
Back across town and a quick stop at the Fresh Market for some long-leaf tea, spices, pasta, and breads.  I needed a bottle of water for the trip home and while perusing the options, spied the coconut water.  Okay, I'll try that.  Here's what I have to say about coconut water: bleechk!  Won't need to make that mistake again.  Apparently, while I can blind pick a decent wine, I don't know squat about water, at least when mixed with coconuts.