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Remember when John Wayne said of the young girl in True Grit, “Puberty hit her hard”? That phrase keeps running through my head lately, only in this version John Wayne nods toward me and says, “Daylight Savings Time hit her hard.”

How long have we been in this forced bugle call, a few weeks? Seems like months. I drag around each day like someone just off a redeye flight, then squander that promised “extra hour” of sunlight by napping for at least that long just to make it through to bedtime. I tried this year, really tried to push this legalized enforcement of our lives out of my mind and carry on as if nothing had happened. It didn’t work. My body will not be fooled.

There is a solution, though. I just need to convince my husband to move west each year at this time and return to Florida when REAL time returns—sort of like the “snowbirds” who make their annual pilgrimages to Florida to escape cold. I can see it now, all new sun cities rippling across the landscape, only we’ll call these moon cities in homage to that shining orb we worship as it arrives each night on standard time. With strains of Stardust and Moonlight Serenade, we’ll welcome its cooling beams and starry accompaniment. The sun can’t hold a candle to that.

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Unstuck in Time

imga0001.jpgSunday we drove over seventy miles to get a burger and French fries at Angel’s Diner in Palatka. When a friend and I ate there some time ago we felt we had stepped back into the fifties. I wanted my husband to experience the burgers of our youth in a real, shiny, stainless steel diner. It was easy to spot just past the St. John’s bridge. The sign proclaiming its 1932 opening was faded and worn, as was the interior, though the basket-weave stainless shone in the sun. When I remarked on the worn condition, my husband ticked back the calendar to when we were there last. It was the Mug Race, a sailing regatta and the year was 1985 or 1986—at least twenty years! So I gave the “patina” a pass. We had our wonderful burger, real fries and onion rings, and were transported to another dimension for the first time that day.

The second came on the way home. We looked for a roadside junk shop we had passed earlier and spotting it, Jerry quickly pulled over. The rough, “wake up” edge to the pavement rattled our teeth at the same time a Harley thundered by too close and our radio inexplicably popped on. That was only the beginning of the twilight zone.

The middle-aged woman who ran the junk shop in the small Central Florida town set off my creepy meter. She greeted us by spouting her frustration with misplacing a refrigerator shelf. During our visit she spent the whole time running around looking for the illusive shelf as if it were life or death, her face reddening by the minute. Her clothing was a patchwork of layers and her hair’s red highlights framed sharp, searching eyes. She wound through the sun blanched “products” outside bobbing and leaning as if walking on a mountainside.
There was a lot of stuff outside and some things looked promising until we got up close. I had not noticed the building behind the mildewed sofas, headboards, pea green toilet and other assorted large items. The crimson faced lady invited us into the rooms in that shack — dusty, gray, packed rooms with spider webs draping here and there over the flotsam of many peoples’ daily lives, including a white, signed wedding registry. She offered us each a dirty, well-used whistle as we entered — in case we got lost. We declined. The only available light shot through openings. Doors, windows, cracks? It was too cluttered to tell. I waited for the musty, mildewy smell to fill my nostrils, but amazingly it did not happen. Nor did my nose get that dusty feel. In fact, there seemed to be an absence of scent. I followed a shaft of light, and it too lacked something — no particles danced in the light beams. Strange. But cobwebs coated “merchandise” and threatened to attach to the taller of us. I had to tell my husband to duck under the yellowed doll swinging from a frame overhead. I felt uneasy and kept bouncing outside, partly so as not find myself lost in a back room with only cracks of sunlight, wishing I had taken that whistle filled with others’ spittle. Jerry kept searching for some little thing to buy, not wanting to leave without making a purchase just to be nice. And here you must realize I married a really super guy.

The last time I came out for air I spotted the rusty, iron bird cage standing as tall as me. I called Jerry over and surprisingly he could see it as garden art, too. It was obviously no longer of use to a bird. The door was missing and base had rusted off, but it had curlicues and charm. How much, I asked. $50. She said it was special because her father had brought it from Africa after he sold Pan African Airlines. Okay. I told her mine was a passing impulse and I didn’t really need it, certainly not at that price. Her face now reverted to a tad more normal hue, and easing into one of the many wheelchairs, she told me not to give up so quickly, that she could bargain. She forgot about the shelf for the first time. So Jerry and I discussed numbers in Armenian. He suggested $25 and I said $20, so that’s what I offered. She countered with $50!!!!! I felt like I was in a SNL skit. I reminded her she said she would negotiate. She contended she was since her first offer was $500. Jerry and I both clearly heard $50. She said these cages were $100 in Barberville, which in no way supported her argument. I started to leave and she began bargaining again. I told Jerry I wasn’t sure where exactly where I would put it and he suggested our little back yard where I had been looking for a focal point. Now HE is a salesman. It just clicked. The birdcage was no longer an impulse, but something I had been searching for for years. We bantered and I paid her $30. It seemed a fair price to get out of that place. No sooner than the money exchange was made the lady stepped to where she had been standing when we arrived. “Here it is!” she said, waving a small shelf. The whole incident seemed like theatre and this the puzzling ending.

Did we get taken? Who knows? But our new “garden art” comes with a story, and I guess that’s worth something.

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abbescard-004.jpgThe avant-guarde Madonna and Child — a collage of feathers, faux jewels, sparkles and a rhinestone cross — grabs little Hannah’s attention. Her curiosity gives me another chance to remind my granddaughter what the Christmas celebration is all about.

“What’s this, Ahmaw?” she asks.

“Madonna and baby Jesus.”

“NO, NO,” Hannah corrects me, “I know what Madonna looks like. That’s not Madonna. That’s Mary.”

I should have seen it coming, but am blindsided by a pop singer who co-opted the name long associated with the Virgin Mary. Six-year old girls are saturated with the likes of Barbie, Bratz dolls, Britney Spears and “Madonna,” to a degree that obscures more appropriate role models. So I stand stunned, waiting for a break in Hannah’s attempt to bring her grandmother up to date. Then I quietly point out that there was another Madonna whose name the pop singer reached out and pinned right on top of her real name. I remind her that the woman people first called Madonna lived over 2,000 years ago was in fact Mary, mother of Jesus.

“So this art piece is Madonna and Child or Mary and Jesus,” I say.

Hannah gives me a look that teeters between incredulity and pity. Next I see a flicker of possibility in those wise, brown eyes and know she’ll ask Mom later and accept the truth.

While you and I can’t call ourselves Zerox, Colgate or Bayer in the marketplace, the new Madonna has branded her pilfered name for profit. Brand reputations are valuable to the companies and have legal protection, but within limits you can call yourself whatever. William Fenrick tested those limits recently in his run for sheriff of a small town in Wisconsin when he changed his name legally to Andy Griffith. He is being sued by the real Andy Griffith for breaking trademark and copyright laws. He is accused in the lawsuit of changing his name for the “sole purpose of taking advantage of Griffith’s notoriety in an attempt to gain votes” and with invading his privacy.

While Fenrick wished to bask in Griffith’s homey, honorable reputation, “Madonna’s” purpose seems to be to trash her namesake in the most outrageous manner she can conceive, most recently hanging from a crystal cross. If Andy Griffith wins his case I would think there would be a slam-dunk decision against Madonna—if the plaintiff were around. If she had chosen to desecrate a Muslim rather than Christian icon she might well call herself “Fatwa.”

MERRY CHIRSTMAS, everyone.

Mod Madonnaz are available at Nature Printz and Art (link on this page)

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Do you have any idea how many radio stations there are in Indianapolis? Oh no, I forgot to check Tennessee! Hand to the forehead moment! After wasting too much 4th quarter time, I went back to the primitive way of watching football. Bet you never thought you would hear anyone call the Internet primitive. Well, I assure you it seems that way when you are 17-17 in the 4th with 2 minutes to go and Tennessee pops on screen with 20. You’ve got 7 FOOTBALL seconds left to at least even the score. And you refresh, refresh, refresh. No change. A few minutes ago you were thinking about overtime and now you are trying to imagine a challenge—-anything! Refresh, refresh, refresh. FINAL Tennessee Titans 20, Indianapolis Colts 17. What a stupid game!

But the Colts and I will be back for the Superbowl–in living color, HDTV, with sound and that cute, yellow, first-down line.

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ANY GIVEN SUNDAY

I’m pathetic. Is this any way to “watch” a football game? Refresh—-refresh—-refresh The figures change if a score has been made, but getting the nuance of the game on the web becomes an art—not always a successful one. You see my Indianapolis Colts are only sporadically broadcast in Orlando, FL, so I do the best I can. We are 10-1 going into today’s game and when we get in the playoffs again this year my “viewing” will be upgraded. Last year the web displayed a football field, and tracked play. You had to imagine Manning and the others in that line driving down the field and Coach Dungy arms crossed, looking like he’s just eaten a persimmon, but still it was a little more real than what I have today. I’d right click and get particulars. It wasn’t so bad. I got used to it. I do have one more option, which I’m going to try right now. It’s the third quarter and no score yet. Perhaps I can Google the local Indianapolis radio station and hear the fourth quarter. I’ll keep you posted. Oh, score is 14-10, Colts favor right now. Too close for comfort.

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TALK TO YOUR FINGERS

“Talk to your fingers,” was Mrs. Van Der Veer’s credo. She said it with such passion it became a catch phrase outside the classroom.  But she embraced her subject like a symphony. Frieda Van Der Veer taught typing. Like a orchestra conductor she strode around the room pumping her hands, wrists straight, with fingers doing a dance on an imaginary keyboard as we tried to keep up with her rhythm. Staccato, even strokes would grow from painfully slow into allegro with practice we were assured. Sometimes I’d get ahead of myself and work my fingers into a crescendo, a crescendo of miss-hit keys, knocking 5 words per minute off my score for each one.   

Her sweetness and innocence were disarming and the few boys in class weren’t sure how to handle her.  Most of the boys took typing hoping for an easy A.  They were not serious about getting to the head of the typing pool and sometimes got bored. On one such day, Johnny thrust his arm in the air and said, “Mrs. Van Der Veer, can Mac and Joe and I go over to Buncy’s and kill weeds?” We all laughed at that. All except Mrs. Van Der Veer.

“How sweet of you, ” she said, smiling her beatific smile, “Poor old Mr. Buncy works hard keeping his store open to sell you pencils, paper and candy, but he’s too old to pull weeds.” The room became quiet and I cut my eyes to non-verbally ask Pat, in the next desk if the teacher was putting us on. Mrs. Van Der Veer toddled back to her desk and began writing.

“Well, come on!” she waved the passes in the air while the stunned boys scooted sheepishly to the front of the classroom.  I’m not sure what they did with their free time, but I would guess they did “kill weeds” over at Mr. Buncy’s. I can only hope the bitter taste turned them off tobacco for good.

But back to what Mrs. Van Der Veer did best, make typists of us. Academic competitions were coming up and the best typists would get to go out of town to measure their skills against students from all over South Texas. I hoped I had a shot at it, and worked hard in our trials. My best scores topped out at over 100 wpm, and averaged in the 90’s.  I must interject here that we were using manual typewriters, old Underwoods like the ones you see in historic displays. Several of us hit that peak. The teacher was elated. So, we went on the bus, had a glorious day, got to hobnob with top science and math students and began to feel a little inferior. But when the time came, Mrs. Van Der Veer gave us her proud smile and reminded us to “talk to our fingers” and we would do just fine. The timing bell went off and we began to attack the strange material. My fingers wouldn’t listen, they began to crecsendo, hit all the wrong notes just to be beating out a rhythm. No other fingers listened either. We came in dead last. Our speed was incredible, but with 5 wpm deducted for each mistake, we looked bad. Mrs. Van Der Veer deserved more.

 So where ever you are, Mrs. Van Der Veer, you should know that I sit here fifty-four years later talking to my fingers on a computer keyboard and the strokes are even and mostly accurate and speedy, very speedy. They are something else, too; they fly at the speed of the Internet and now people all over the world  listen when I talk to my fingers. I hope that compensates in some way for us letting you down.

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lutheremma11-6-002.jpgI should have known the world was off kilter yesterday. The day was almost mystical–or mist-ical, as it turned out. The first unexplained occurrence happened right in this house on a cool, but sunny afternoon. I passed by the guest room and there on the bed only a few feet apart were Luther and Emma, our two cats. If you don’t think that is a scene out of la la land you don’t know Luther. We rescued Emma from the shelter to be a campanion to him, but later learned Pixie Bobs don’t want a companion except for their humans, and sometimes not even them. It’s been a case of “ewwwww, she’s giving me cooties” for the entire four years we’ve had our sweet little Persian. But yesterday, there they were, not exactly cuddling, but in proximity to each other on a bed. It was downright eerie.

 About nine in the evening I remembered I had not covered our Monarch caterpillar from the night’s cold. As I stepped out side with a sheet the rain was falling softly. It wasn’t supposed to rain, but there it was falling softly. My husband Jerry decided we didn’t need to cover the caterpillar. “Remember,” he said, “the nurserymen spray water to protect plants from the cold.” I came back in, relieved, after taking one backward glance at the rain falling in a peculiar way, some driving on down, others floating. The scene was forgotten until the eleven o-clock news. Weather-casters were leading the show, as they had not been able to do lately with our paucity of hurricanes. SNOW! Central Florida had experienced snow flurries! It had indeed been a strange day.

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sleepygirls.jpgWe in Central Florida went to bed last night with dire warnings of a ferocious storm and lamentation from TV weather people that woe are the viewers without tornado alarms. That would be ALL of us in FL. I woke about 5:30 waiting to make a dash for the enclosed bathroom, wondering if we’d be sucked up the skylight, then stayed awake an hour or two and all we got was a pretty good rain. I’m going to do an Elvis the next time those weather people start crying wolf. Don’t mess with my sleep. I think I could show them a storm.

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 Last week I am sitting at San Antonio Municipal Airport waiting for a flight. Directly behind me, two British men, one elderly, one middle aged, carried on a conversation.

“Look at those two women,” the elder said, “Talk, talk, women love to talk. They never stop.”

“What do you suppose they talk about?”

“Men, fashion and food.”

“In that order,” added the middle-aged man. And they laughed.

To my left a woman still hugged a cell phone to her ear. I had caught fragments of her conversation, “monthly report….resume….gave her a lead, it didn’t hurt us and she seemed competent.”

To my right two women discussed the hurricane that had hit one’s Key West home and the problems with selling now that they no longer wished to live there. She was flying back only to vote and try to sell the house.”

The two men continued to talk for the hour we waited to depart. The women settled back to read reports and books. I must have missed their conversations about men, fashion and food.

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A HITCHCOCK MOMENT

If you read my blog you know I have a wildlife garden, and that includes plants attractive to butterflies. Not that I did all that digging and watering to attract a pretentious bug that gives me the willies when it flits anywhere near me. The purpose was to bring hummingbirds to the plants outside the kitchen windows—and it worked. They visit almost daily, circling the penta, porterweed, firebush and milkweed, spinning their tiny wings as they enjoy one nectar Slurpy after another.

All the gardening work was a success the minute the first hummer showed. Long before that, though, monarchs, zebras, swallowtails and other butterflies honed in on the wildflowers. I am careful to stay out of their way and none have landed on me, thankfully. I realize it is almost sacrilege to be afraid of butterflies. I do love Mom and apple pie, though. Honestly. I can only guess that cold chills prickle across my body in a butterfly’s presence because they move like bats. You could paint the most beautiful designs and colors on bats and many of us would still cover our heads and duck when they swooped by. It’s the best explanation I have.

They are a joy to watch out my window, and in their chubby, stripped caterpillar form, the monarchs stole my heart. When the count got to 21 at Christmas and milkweed leaves were almost gone, I transported some to a friend’s garden where they would survive. Many of mine lived to form stunning, bright-green cocoons, decorated with what appeared to be 24-K gold crowns. As the days went by and the cocoons became more transparent, the wings showed through. So fascinating was the process, I camped out with a camera as the moment of transformation was near and videoed the emerging monarch as it flew up over the roof. This happened several times and all were magical moments. I hoped I was making progress with my fears.

Forward to last week. My sister and I are speeding down Highway 181 in Texas and bugs are splattering on the windshield in great numbers. Suddenly my sister suspects she has left her meds back at home, so she pulls off the road into a tall stand of grass to check the trunk. Then I see them—thousands of butterflies filling the vast Texas skyline like the birds in a Hitchcock movie. They surround the hibiscus-red Mustang and one, the largest, flies in the door. I duck and yell for my sister to get back in the car and get out of there. We escape with no hitchhikers somehow. Later we heard a couple of explanations for the butterfly phenomenon. A migration to Mexico, says a cousin. Unexplained biological anomaly says a friend whose swimming pool is covered with the creatures. Me? I have a theory. Somewhere, in some pasture in the plains of Texas a depraved director is shooting a horror movie for next Halloween season.

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