Going AWOL

Two things, very quickly:

1. It’s finally cooled off here. A gentle rain fell last night and into this morning. By the time I got to church, the rain had knocked some of the blossoms off the crape myrtles in the parking lot. They were clustered on the ground in soft masses of deep pink, the color magnified by the water. It was really beautiful. Of course there were a lot of blossoms left on the branches, too. I probably looked like an idiot, standing there in the parking lot by myself, smiling delightedly at those flowers like I’d never seen them before, but it was just so pretty, I had to stop and take it in for a minute.

2. I have a personal commitment that is going to keep me out of pocket and offline for the next two weeks. I expect to be back online sometime after Aug. 31. Please be aware that because this is a moderated blog, any comments you post will NOT appear online until I get back. I will not be answering e-mail or taking phone calls during this time. When I return, I expect to post something on the following topics:

Mural painting (got a cool project scheduled for early September)
Sock monkeys (I’ve got a Labor Day date with the sewing machine)
Fall gardening (hello, spinach in the cold frame and upgrades around the pond!)
Marathoning (September is when I have to get serious with the training)

In the meantime, go explore the links on the right-hand side of my blog. You should find plenty there to keep you occupied.

And a parting gift:

Hideous dress (looks like something out of It Came from the 1971 Sears Catalog), but I’d take the wardrobe if I could have the pipes to go with it.

Play nice together and go do some random acts of kindness while I’m gone. See you in September.


Sad frog story

I don’t think I’m going to drive Route 66 through rural areas at night any more until the weather cools off and the frogs and toads decide to hibernate. Last time I went to Stroud, I hit a little toad that was leaping across the road and jumped out in front of my car so fast I couldn’t stop in time. Tonight, I was coming back from the Rock Cafe and had to swerve or hit the brakes to protect at least a half-dozen toads and frogs that were bouncing across the highway. One wasn’t so lucky and decided to leap across the road at an odd angle; even after seeing the first one, slowing down, turning on my brights, and watching for cute little amphibians in my path, I didn’t see this one until it jumped out of the darkness just out of range of my headlights and directly into my bumper.

It made me so sad to know I’d killed a frog — I love them and would never deliberately harm one — but there just wasn’t anything I could do; the poor little thing actually ran into me, rather than the other way around. The only way I know of to protect these beautiful little creatures is to stay off the road when they’re most active. They’re so little and so well-camouflaged that they’re practically invisible, even during the day, but they’re usually not hopping around in the middle of the highway during the day. After dark, it’s another story … and we got a little rain this evening, which only made them more active.

I’ll have to either schedule my trips to the Rock for Saturday or Sunday afternoons, when I’ve got time to get over there and back while there’s still daylight, or take the superslab to avoid the areas where wildlife tends to hang out. It won’t be so bad when the nights start getting chilly (as they will in another six weeks or so), but right now, these busy little guys are all over the place, and I’d rather give up a few evening cruises on 66 than take a chance on hitting another one.

If you have to be out on the road after dark, drive carefully — you never know who’s going to cross your path.



I can’t post a picture, because my camera is in the other room, and if I go get it, the dogs will follow me, thus ruining the moment, but Ron and Songdog are adorable right now — Ron is sitting on the floor, and Song is on his lap, cuddling and smiling and just generally being cute.

Other than that, there’s not much going on today. It’s a little cooler than it’s been in a couple of weeks. It was a little overcast today, so we only got 5 kWh from the solar panels, but on the up side, the Bond Chicks seemed to appreciate the improved weather — they gave us two eggs this morning and four this evening, which is a record for them. The weather was decent enough that I stayed outside for a few minutes to weed the zinnias and clean up the yard while I was out there taking care of the hens.

I’m looking forward to a nice, laid-back weekend … a little reading, a little housecleaning, maybe make a couple of sock monkeys, hit a treadmill for a mile or twelve, and park myself in front of the TV for four hours to watch my DVD of Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet, which just came in yesterday.

Kate Winslet’s Ophelia makes me cry. There’s so much about that character that didn’t make any sense when I read the play, but Branagh brought out some things I’d missed, and the whole story just kind of crystallized for me.

Hope your weekend is full of sock monkeys, Shakespeare, and cuddly collies … or whatever it is that makes you happy.


Heat wave

It is ridiculously hot. For the umpteenth day in a row, we had triple-digit temperatures. I don’t mind it so much for my own sake, but it’s making the air conditioner work overtime, which eats up all the power our solar panels collect and then some, and we’ve had a lot of ozone alert days lately. If I had a moped, I’d ride it to work.

Speaking of environmental considerations, I’m feeling pretty good about a project I did the other night during one of my infamous creative outbursts. Using a tutorial I found on Craftster, I recycled two old T-shirts into reusable shopping bags. I used them and a canvas grocery bag from Viviano’s in St. Louis to haul my last round of groceries home from the store. I had the T-shirt bags inside the Viviano’s bag, and the bagger was a little confused when she found them. I had to explain that they were bags, not T-shirts. They held a lot of groceries, because they stretch well. I even remembered to take one of them along when we ran an errand this evening.

It’s a little thing, but it’s another easy way to reduce your carbon footprint and your petroleum use a little bit. I used to have trouble remembering to take bags with me to the store (even if I kept them in the car, I’d forget to take them into the building), but making my own helped a lot — now that I’ve invested a little time and energy in my bags, I remember to use them.


On this very night …

Kindred tastes, motives, and aspirations are necessary to the formation of a happy and permanent companionship. The beautiful in character is also the good, welding indissolubly the links of affection.
— Mary Baker Eddy

One doesn’t normally think of claymation, big rigs, and parodies of Red Sovine songs as being the stuff romantic moments are made of … but believe it or not, the Large Marge scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure figures prominently into what I consider one of the defining moments of my marriage.

I realize this sounds asinine, but bear with me.

Mrs. Eddy talks about “kindred tastes, motives, and aspirations” — what we might refer to as common ground — being “necessary to the formation of a happy and permanent companionship.” In my experience, that concept is most apparent in what I refer to as “Large Marge Moments.”

Shortly after Ron and I got married, we decided to watch Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure together. Neither of us had seen the film in years, but when Large Marge appeared on the screen, we both began spontaneously reciting the entire scene, verbatim, along with her.

Obviously we are hopeless dorks … but there was nothing dorky about the love I felt for Ron as we shared a hearty laugh at our discovery of yet another “kindred taste” (or lack thereof, as the case may be).

Large Marge Moments aren’t the starry-eyed, bells-and-whistles, forget-to-breathe-as-a-little-shiver-runs-up-your-spine moments that fill the pages of romance novels.

In fact, Large Marge Moments frequently look pretty dorky. But I think they’re absolutely critical to the success of a marriage. Romance can’t survive on infatuation alone. It has to be underpinned with genuine affection and solid friendship — qualities that often surface in uninhibited, joyful, exuberant moments full of hysterical laughter and unbridled goofiness.

Large Marge moments are the best-friend moments in which you discover each other’s weird little quirks and love each other not in spite of them, but because of them. They’re moments of sweet, easy, sometimes silly intimacy that fits as comfortably and naturally as a pair of well-worn Birkenstocks.

Cherish the Large Marge moments. They’re the ones that “[weld] indissolubly the links of affection” that will pull you safely from any “twisted, burning wreck” moments that come your way.

Yes, sir. Those are the best … moments … I ever seen.


Murky work

When I installed our pond four years ago, it was under a boxelder tree that kept the water completely shaded at all times. This is an ideal situation for a pond, as it prevents algae bloom. Unfortunately, a boxelder tree is not an ideal thing to have growing right next to the house (they’re not very sturdy trees and tend to be bad for blowing over in storms), and we knew we were planning to install solar panels on the roof, so we had the tree removed a couple of years ago.

The pond, predictably, became a haven for filamentous algae, which is nasty stuff that clogs up the filter and goops up the fountain to the point that it can’t circulate any water. In the summer, this is a semiweekly occurrence, and the only remedy for it is to unplug the pump, remove the filter (which is located in the bottom of the pond) and clean the glop out of it.

As you might imagine, this is not my favorite job, largely because I get very nervous about sticking my hand into murky water and rummaging around on the bottom of the pond for something I can’t even see. Ron says there’s nothing down there that would hurt me, but I can’t shake the sense that my fingers — which I kind of like — are more likely to remain attached to my body if I don’t go sticking them into the bottom of a mucked-up pond in a region populated by alligator snapping turtles. (Our pond is too small to make a good home for an adult alligator snapper, but the babies — which have tempers just as nasty as their grownup counterparts — are another matter entirely.)

Still, it’s not fair to ask Ron to do something I’m afraid to do, so I solved the whole problem this afternoon by performing an 80 percent water change on the pond, which gave me visible access to the handle on top of the filter box and got rid of some of the algae in the process.

It was hot, nasty work, but I was rewarded with the charming company of a little toad while I worked. Poor little thing couldn’t get out of the pond after I drained the water (the algae had rendered the sides too slippery for climbing), so it just hung out around the water lily and battled the current created by the spray from the hose while I refilled the pond. It was beyond cute.

I think Lazarus liked the hose, because he kept swimming right under it. I probably ought to feed him some of his floating pellets tonight, because I’m sure the water change removed a lot of the debris and stuff that he eats. He kept coming up to the top and grabbing pieces of grass that were floating around. I had no idea goldfish ate grass, but apparently Laz does.

Anyway, I’m glad to have that job done. When I finished, I pulled a bunch of weeds around the pond (although there are plenty more to go) and moved some of the flagstone. I’m hoping I can talk Ron into getting out the hoe and finishing that job tomorrow so I can put down mulch cloth around the pond, replace the flagstone, and start figuring out what to plant around there. I should have used mulch cloth when I installed the pond, but I didn’t, and it’s gotten terribly overgrown.

I think next year, I might put up an arbor over the pond and grow a wisteria vine over it for shade.


10 miles

The devotion of thought to an honest achievement makes the achievement impossible.–Mary Baker Eddy

That’s more like it. My last couple of runs have been seriously uninspiring, but this one was much better: 10 miles on the treadmill at the gym, with a back issue of the Christian Science Journal (one of those magazines I keep saying I need to catch up reading) covering the display. Despite a few technical glitches with the treadmill (I accidentally reset it a couple of times during the run), I was able to get my run in and felt really good about it. My legs threatened to cramp up as soon as I stopped, but I dismissed that claim with the Scientific Statement of Being (“There is no life, truth, intelligence, nor substance in matter. …”) and Mrs. Eddy’s assertion that “muscles are not self-acting,” and that icky impending-charley-horse-from-hell feeling went away by the time I got home.

I’m now relaxing on the couch with a wine glass full of Gatorade (yes, as a matter of fact, I do think it’s perfectly acceptable for a teetotaler to use stemware) and my new laptop (review forthcoming after I’ve had time to play with it more) and contemplating the merits of frozen pizza versus yet another omelet for dinner. Life is good….


Box score:
Miles today: 10
Total miles: 48.8



This garden spider has built an elaborate web (two of them, actually) between a pair of shrubs in our front yard.

Isn’t it beautiful? The sun was behind it when I took the picture, and its body looked translucent in the light. I didn’t know garden spiders looked like that. Usually when I see them, they’re down low, with the light shining on top of them instead of through them. I like the zipper pattern they make in their webs. I’m not sure why they do it, but I like the way it looks. You can tell what kind of spider built the web even if the spider itself is hiding out somewhere else.

I’m not totally comfortable with spiders, but I’ve kind of made my peace with them the last few years, and this particular species is really good to have around, because it eats a lot of destructive insects. From what I can tell, garden spiders are not particularly shy, but they’re not particularly aggressive, either. This one must be a female, because it’s really big. I’ve never seen one with quite this color pattern before. Maybe it’s a different variety or something.

We had one on a pepper plant last summer. I just paid attention to where it was so I wouldn’t disturb it or mess up its web too much while I was harvesting peppers, and we got along fine. I had to leave a few fruits on the plant to keep from damaging the web, but I thought that was a small price to pay to have a little eight-legged exterminator protecting the rest of the crop from bug damage.