Photos of people I don’t know #3 — children, most of whom are not looking at the camera

I know none of these children. I wonder if there were birds flying around the room or something. Only about 3 of them are actually looking at the camera. Or maybe this is the silly shot and the serious one has been lost.

A group of chkdren all looking in different directions

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Photos of people I don’t know #2 — a cat on a fence post

Photo of a cat sitting on a fence post.

Not a person, but I don’t know the cat in this photo so it counts. This was also in the bag of photos from Aunt Corrine.

Even 1915, the year this postcard photo was sent, people took photos of their cats.

The sender wrote this on the back:

From: 117 Hinsdale Pl.
Elgin, Ill.

To: Mrs. W. C. Youngs, Elgin, Ill. R.F.D #2

Dear Mrs. Youngs,

This is a rather funny picture, but I thought you might like one. It is “Nellie” if you can’t tell otherwise. How are you all? This is dandy weather.

With Best Wishes,
Irene Nelson.

 

Categories: Pets, Series | Tags: , | 3 Comments

Photos of people I don’t know — First in a series — People with Horses

My Aunt Corrine gave me a plastic bag full of old photos of my Uncle Don’s* family. I found one photo that I am sure is him but everyone else is a stranger to me. I know nothing (except what I discovered today on FamilySearch.org) about his family.

Anyway, because I cannot bear to dispose of the photos I figured I would blog about some of them.

The bag contains a number of photos of people with horses, but this is the photo with the largest number of people and horses. They seemed proud of their horses. And hats. Everyone but the woman is wearing a hat.

People with horses

*Uncle Don, you may recall, is where the odd spelling of my name came from.

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Nemesis no more

In the world of birding a nemesis bird is a bird that a birder has gone to some (often great) lengths to see but has had no luck. While I am an incidental birder at best, and probably have no right to call any bird my nemesis bird, I did go to some lengths to see a painted bunting on a number of occasions, yet when an opportunity arose to drive 45 minutes to see one a few years ago, I did not go.

The painted bunting is probably the most colorful bird the United States has to offer. I was so taken with this bird that I considered using its name as my online name but thought it might be a little too suggestive so chose cedar waxwing instead.

A number of springs ago I arranged a vacation for my family and another family to stay on Tybee Island near Savannah in Georgia so I could see a painted bunting — something the island is known for. Even though I went to the places painted buntings usually hang out a couple of times that week, I never saw one. In fact, the folks there said that they’d not seen one that year.

There was a painted bunting sighting in Annapolis a few years ago, as reported on a birding list I subscribe to. I considered trying to see the bird, but shyness won out. One Saturday I had a conversation with a woman at a rugby game whose son was on the opposing team from Andrew’s team and she mentioned that she had a painted bunting at her feeder in Annapolis (I must have had binoculars with me). It turned out it was the same bird that was mentioned on the list and she invited me to visit the next week for coffee to see the bird for myself. I said I might and we exchanged telephone numbers, but I didn’t go.

Whenever we visited Florida I’d keep the painted bunting on my mind whenever we were in a natural area. The two times I visited Mississippi I thought I might be able to catch a glimpse of one — but no luck.

We always visit Merrritt Island National Wildlife Refuge and Playalinda Beach when we visit Dean’s sister, Diane, who lives in Orlando, Florida. This year we headed to Vero Beach / wetlands first, but it began raining and we didn’t see too many birds on our brief, wet walk. I suggested we drive up to Merritt Island, have lunch, then go birding there. After lunch at Sonny’s BBQ we stopped at the Merritt Island NWR Visitor’s center. I immediately checked the log to see if a painted bunting had been seen (one had — right at the visitor’s center). I went outside and saw a man with a camera who was saying to his female companion something about how the female looked so different from the male. I knew, then, I was going to see a painted bunting. I asked him if he was talking about a painted bunting, explaining that it was my nemesis bird. He moved away from the railing so I could get a good look. There in the bushes was a blue, red, green and yellow bird. The man with the camera said, “Nemesis no more” and moved on to let me enjoy my ex-nemesis bird in solitude.

Dean took a photo for me, I took a few more, Diane even took a photo.

As I turned around to leave, two other very excited people were walking towards the feeder saying, “Painted bunting! It is a painted bunting!” I smiled, knowingly. at them, knowing exactly how they felt.

Categories: Birds, Travel | Tags: , , , | 15 Comments

Mr. Tumnus and me

4 black and white images of me holding Mr. Tumnus

Mr. Tumnus and me.

Back, a very long time ago, I enjoyed shopping at K-mart. Our family would drive to the K-mart either on the East side of Elgin, or another local K-mart — perhaps one in Meadowdale, if there was one there. Anyway, my memories of shopping with my parents at K-mart are all pleasant. We’d usually stop at the deli and pick up a sub-sandwich. I liked the ham they put in their sandwiches, and remember the bread being tasty. I even liked the raw onions and processed orange cheese they put in the sandwiches.

I didn’t often buy anything with my own money on these shopping trips, but remember one purchase when I was in my late teens. I remember walking along one of the main aisles — the area where they kept their seasonal specials — and stopping, mouth in an “o” shape, eyes wide, possibly making an ahhhhhhhh! sound of pure joy. I saw a display full of 16 or so inch bronze-colored ceramic fauns at the low, low price of $20. It may not have been a blue-light special, but it was something I could not live without. I picked one up, hugged it and placed it gently in our shopping cart.

“It’s Mr. Tumnus!” I announced to my family. “From Narnia. And I am buying him!”

Because my parents knew about my obsession with The Chronicles of Narnia, they did not try to talk me out of buying the statue. And I don’t know if it was then and there that my dad came up with his nickname for the statue, but I can just imagine him telling the check-out clerk that his daughter just had to have Mr. Numbnuts. (I do remember Dad calling the statue “Mr. Numbnuts” when he was helping us pack up my Elgin apartment for the move to Pittsburgh.)

Mr. Tumnus traveled with me from my parents house to my first apartment, to Pittsburgh, to two houses in Alexandria, then finally to his last home, Bethesda. He stood in the gardens of several of those homes, but  because he was not made out of weatherproof material, he eventually disintegrated into a white powder. He was too far gone by the time we moved to Bethesda to stand next to the gas lamppost in our front yard.

For years I looked for a similar, more weatherproof, version of Mr. Tumnus, but never found one I could afford or one that looked like my Mr. Tumnus. I no longer plan to replace Mr. Tumnus — that obsession has gone, but I cannot help looking for Mr. Tumnus when we visit garden stores or pass places that carry statues.

I thought I’d never see him again until I opened an old book I found at my mom’s a few years ago and found a photo booth set of photos of me and Mr. Tumnus. (Likely taken at K-mart the day I found him.) He’s over there, to your left — with a long-haired pig-tailed youngster that used to be me.

 

Categories: Memories, Obsessions, Things | Tags: , , , | 9 Comments

When I opened my eyes I couldn’t believe what I saw!

I was sitting in a moderately crowded church and realized I could not easily open my eyes. I was finally able to slightly open one eye and looked around at the rest of the attendees. Everyone appeared to be sleeping, some with their heads rolled to the side or resting on the back of the pew. Suddenly everyone opened their eyes and sat up straight as the pastor walked up the aisle to the pulpit.

During the service I deduced what happened. Each Sunday the pastor wanted quiet in the church before ascending the pulpit. The only way he could accomplish that was to drug the congregation with a quick-acting quick-recovery sleep-inducing vapor. What the vapor was, how it was introduced to the congregation and if it were dangerous were the questions still on my mind when I confronted the pastor after the service.

“I refused to be drugged in a church,” I announced to the pastor.

“You are welcome to not be drugged in a church,” replied the pastor, “but not in my church.”

I knew I needed to let others know about this, but I didn’t know how do do so without causing a riot. The first thing I needed to find out was what the drug was and how it was introduced into the air. I also knew I needed an ally.

I assumed that since the pastor was a good man, he would not want to harm anyone, but perhaps he’d not thought about unborn children and the effects of the drug on them. I approached a woman I knew was pregnant and whispered to her what I knew. She became outraged and said she’d meet me in the fellowship hall after talking to the pastor.

I then noticed my son, who was responsible for ringing the tower bell before the service, and asked him what he knew about the vapor. He admitted that he was instructed to push a button just before the bell began to toll. He also told me the name of the drug that was released into the sanctuary when the button was pushed. I wrote it down, planning on Googling it later.

I then began talking to other people in the fellowship hall — many of whom were not in the sanctuary. It seemed many people knew about the drugging and opted, since the pastor was otherwise a good man, just to stay out of the sanctuary on Sunday mornings.

I still needed to know where the vapor entered the sanctuary, so went back into the sanctuary just before a second service was about to begin. That is when I noticed the brass decorations on either end of the pews — what I’d always thought to be speakers. I got close to one and heard a hissing sound. Holding my breath I ran up the aisle to escape being drugged for a second time that morning, of course I couldn’t run very fast and my lungs were bursting. I escaped just in time.

I never saw the pregnant woman again, but talked more to some of the women in the fellowship hall.

Then I woke up.

Categories: Dreams | Tags: , | 6 Comments

To Indigo Bunting on the occasion of her birthday

in 2006 I discovered a group of people who wrote snippets about other people they knew using the number of words they’d been on Earth. I thought it sounded like fun and began my own 365 blog. The very first person to comment on my work went by the nickname “Indigo Bunting”. For those of you who are not familiar with common bird names, an indigo bunting is a beautiful blue bird (often mistaken for a bluebird).

Indigo Bunting said there were a couple of reasons she was interested in my posts. One was that she’d lived in my hometown in the 1980s. Another was that she knew two other women who spelled their name the same way I did. A third was that she once lived in a town a couple towns over from where I know live. I was in awe of her way with words and immediately began reading her 365 from the beginning. The way she shaped her sentences and phrases taught me a thing or two about short-writing.

Eventually many of the core group of the original 365 group started new blogs and we followed each other to those. Indigo Bunting is slightly less prolific on her own blog than she is in commenting on other people’s blog posts. I don’t know how she does it — nearly every time I read someone’s blog post, Indigo has already been there and written the perfect comment.

Her blog is so well written — usually humorous, sometimes heartbreaking, always highly readable.

Not only is Indigo a remarkable writer, she is also a birder, an editor, a skater (ice and roller), a fly fisher person, and expert on fly fishing, a lover of roller derby and she can still turn cartwheels like a kid.

Happy Birthday Indigo Bunting! Best wishes for the coming year. Live long and write lots of blog posts.

 

Categories: Birds, Blogging, Events, People | Tags: , | 7 Comments

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast for an icy afternoon

I finally made my rounds of the folks whose blogs I read and saw a couple of posts about food. Apparently Mali suggested we post a favorite recipe or two and IB did just that. I have some recipes here and there, but I’ll post my favorite pot roast recipe here. It is not a foodie kinda meal, but it is warming on a day full of snow and ice like today. What I like best about this meal is that you make it early and leave it in the oven for 3 to 5 hours.

I don’t know how I first found out about the Pioneer Woman, but I’d already cooked many of her meals, bought her cookbook and seen her at a distance at the National Book Festival when I caught her on television making a pot roast. I don’t watch morning television, but I happened to be watching it the day she was on one of the morning network shows. She has since gotten her own television program — that I have yet to see.

I follow the directions exactly — except I use a cast iron Dutch oven to cook it in.

Pioneer Woman’s Perfect Pot Roast Recipe

Ingredients

1 whole (4 To 5 Pounds) Chuck Roast
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 whole Onions
6 whole Carrots (Up To 8 Carrots)
Salt To Taste
Pepper To Taste
1 cup Red Wine (optional, You Can Use Beef Broth Instead)
2 cups To 3 Cups Beef Stock
3 sprigs Fresh Thyme, or more to taste
3 sprigs Fresh Rosemary, or more to taste

Preparation Instructions

First and foremost, choose a nicely marbled piece of meat. This will enhance the flavor of your pot roast like nothing else. Generously salt and pepper your chuck roast.

Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Then add 2 to 3 tablespoons of olive oil (or you can do a butter/olive oil split).

Cut two onions in half and cut 6 to 8 carrots into 2-inch slices (you can peel them, but you don’t have to). When the oil in the pot is very hot (but not smoking), add in the halved onions, browning them on one side and then the other. Remove the onions to a plate.
Throw the carrots into the same very hot pan and toss them around a bit until slightly browned, about a minute or so.

If needed, add a bit more olive oil to the very hot pan. Place the meat in the pan and sear it for about a minute on all sides until it is nice and brown all over. Remove the roast to a plate.

With the burner still on high, use either red wine or beef broth (about 1 cup) to deglaze the pan, scraping the bottom with a whisk to get all of that wonderful flavor up.
When the bottom of the pan is sufficiently deglazed, place the roast back into the pan and add enough beef stock to cover the meat halfway (about 2 to 3 cups). Add in the onion and the carrots, as well as 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary and about 3 sprigs of fresh thyme.

Put the lid on, then roast in a 275F oven for 3 hours (for a 3-pound roast). For a 4 to 5-pound roast, plan on 4 hours.

I serve this with mashed potatoes, but noodles would be good too. Tonight I am adding a turnip to the mashed potatoes just because I have one that needs to be used.

The original recipe is here with photos and detailed directions. You can also print a PDF of it here.

Categories: Food | Tags: , , | 4 Comments

Remembering George Brett

When I was in graduate school at the George Washington University I joined an online group called Brainstorms (which has nothing to do with GWU). Because there were a fair number of Brainstorms members from the DC area, we decided, in 1999, to have a get together.  Dean and I hired a babysitter and drove to Adam’s house in Falls Church. There were probably 6 or 7 Brainstorms members there and a few spouses. A few things I remember from that night:

  • Chicken sausages could taste really good
  • Falls Church is cool at night
  • George Brett was a great listener
  • Lemony Snickett books could save my kids
Meeting George

George is on the right (photo borrowed from Glen — who is on the far left). This is the night I met George.

On our walk around Falls Church, George asked me about my degree program and what I wanted to do with my upcoming degree in educational technology leadership. I told him that I really wanted to help create online learning environments that involved virtual chatrooms — online spaces where students could interact with subject matter experts. For instance, if someone were learning about Shakespeare, they’d “talk” to an avatar that looked like “the Bard” in an environment that simulated England of the late 16th and early 17th centuries. George didn’t laugh at my dream. He thought it was a great idea and offered ideas.

George, Rupert, GeoDuckie and the POTUS

George, Rupert, GeoDuckie and the POTUS

I saw George a number of times after that, at various Brainstorms functions. The last time I saw George was in 2009 at our Inaugural Ball (where he wore a kilt and his signature bow tie). We interacted online a lot, though. First on Brainstorms, then on Facebook. Several years ago when I asked for suggestions for places to go for a romantic weekend, George emailed me and invited us to stay at his lovely cabin in Wintergreen, VA. We had a wonderful time.

Once, on Facebook, I asked my FB friends to recommend pillows. Shortly after I pressed “enter” the phone rang. It was George telling me that he and Sally were on their way back from Bed, Bath and Beyond where he found the perfect pillows — Laura Ashley. He knew they were perfect because he tried them out, right on the floor of Bed, Bath and Beyond.

The last time I spoke to George, he and Sally were celebrating their wedding anniversary in Florida. He called me, asking if it was me who needed a job reference or something. Typical George — he didn’t want to leave it until he returned to Virginia and took time out of his anniversary vacation to ask. I’d not asked him, but was grateful that he was calling to make sure. I assume he went through his address book until he found the right person.

George died earlier this month — in fact, the same day Sandy died. His memorial service will take place in about three hours. I’ll be headed back to Falls Church — not to meet George or visit with him in his apartment, but to say farewell to him. To be in a church where people from many areas of his life will be gathered to say goodbye to a remarkable man.

George was a thoughtful, kind, gentle man. In all the time I knew him — online and off — he never, to my knowledge, uttered (or wrote) an unkind word about anyone. He left us far too soon. The world is a better place because he was in it, but his passing has left a void in the lives of everyone that knew him.

Categories: Death, Memories, People | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Walking with Sandy

Since the beginning of 2015 six people I knew died (well, one died in late December, but I heard about it in January.

Harold, my sister-in-law’s father died first. He was in his nineties and had declined a lot over the past year, but he was going strong a few years ago. I’ll save more about him for another, longer tribute.

Audrey was next. She was the mother of another sister-in-law (married to the twin of the sister-in-law who lost her father a few days before). Audrey was also in her nineties (or late eighties) and was ready to go. She was always kind and we talked at my husband’s family gatherings.

Around the same time I learned that Georgainne, a woman with whom I taught when I first moved to Alexandria, had died around Christmas. She was also in her eighties — which shocked me because she always seemed so young. We used to have long talks after school about everything under the sun — and once we went to see Cats together.

Nearer the end of the month Jack died. He was Marcia’s father and larger-than-life to me when I was a kid. I was a little afraid of him until I was at least in my thirties. Here’s what I said about him in a post about vacationing in Wisconsin:

Jack, Marcia’s dad, was a man-of-all-trades if there ever was one. He could build you a house, lay your carpet and build your furniture without consulting a book or expert. He also knew how to organize a group of people to help build that house. Some would say he was bossy. He’d say he was efficient. Either way, he got the job done with the help of his friends.

In February George died after a battle with cancer. I met George online in 1998. I met him in person the following year and several times thereafter. He belonged to an online group that I also belonged to. While I have a lot to say about George, the most prominent thing that I think about when I think about him (who will also get a separate blog post tribute) is the fact that in all the years that I knew him I never heard (or read) him say any a nasty thing about anyone. Not once. He was the kindest, most gentle man I’ve known.

About 40 minutes after George died, Sandy died. I knew Sandy from my kids elementary school. My son and her son were friends for a few years and Sandy and I served on the PTA together, but I’d not seen her at least since Andrew was in high school. She was always active and sweet and good to everyone. She made everyone feel better about being alive, I think. It occurred to me, when I discovered that she was in hospice (she’d actually died the afternoon of the evening I found out she was ill), that I’d undoubtedly thought about her many times a day since she was PTA president and I was on the PTA board or managing the school email list.

You see, Sandy’s husband is a journalist and she once confided in me that after her husband read something I’d sent in my capacity as email list manager he remarked on my proper use of a hyphen. So anytime I hyphenate a word I think of what Sandy’s husband said and I’d smile. I even remember exactly where she told me this — in the parking lot of the school.

Monday night, when I heard that Sandy had died, I found the journal of her illness on the CaringBridge site. When I awoke at 3:00 am, unable to sleep I opened the journal in my tablet, having bookmarked it before I went to bed. I read about her diagnoses with an aggressive form of liver cancer and how she fought it, first with surgery then chemo-therapy then radioembolization. I read how, despite the pain she walked, at least around the block, most days. I read her post to her readers when she made the decision to stop treatment and enter hospice. I read about her death a few weeks later.

The rest of that night (I never went back to sleep) and the next day and the next sleepless night I kept going over one thing that I’d read in the journal. That she would try to walk at least around the block each day. I know her block and it is a very big block. I was hugely ashamed of myself because I am fine and willingly stay in the house, sometimes for days. I never walk around the block, although one of my promises to myself was to take walks during the day.

Last night, I made a decision. I was going to work on everything that makes me angry at myself — my diet — my lifestyle — my procrastination — my lack of exercise — the list goes on. I’ve become nearly a recluse since — well for a while. Maybe learning about my mom was part of it — but that fact about Sandy walking around the very large block was like a “thanks I needed that” slap in the face.

I finally fell asleep last night — somewhere around 3 am. I dreamed I was in a crowded room of friends of Sandy. Then Sandy entered the room wearing a beautiful blue flowered dress and walked up to me and gave me a hug and I told her about her husband’s hyphen comment and what it meant to me and what her kindness meant to me.

This morning I woke up more awake and happier than I’d waken up in months. I kept saying, “I’m happy! I’m really happy.”

I did take that walk today — just around the block today, and you know what — I felt like Sandy was there with me.

Categories: Death, Life | Tags: , , , , , | 7 Comments