Thursday, February 26, 2009


I saw some robins the other day.

Now the ice-cream man is circling the neighborhood.

He is making me hungry!

Thursday, February 19, 2009


Some of you will have heard this story before, but I was reminded again by this post about helping strangers.

People say it is usually a bad idea to give cash to strangers, and I think that is often true. It is easy to be scammed and often better to point people to charities with screening procedures, or perhaps to hand out granola bars. (I'm planning to keep some in my car to offer to people with signs by the side of the road.) But I think there are exceptions...

Once, when I was still in college, a man caught up to me in a church parking lot in Silver Spring. He said he and his wife had just moved halfway across the country so he could take a new job, but their apartment wasn’t ready, unexpectedly. They didn't know a soul in the city and didn’t want to go to a homeless shelter (and, honestly, I wouldn't either…) and he asked if I could spare some money to help pay for a couple nights at a cheap hotel.

He showed me a copy of his lease and a printout of the hotel quote, and he said he could give me a check to pay me back as long as I promised not to cash it for a few weeks, until he got his first paycheck from his new job. His wife was waiting in the car.

It was the kind of thing that would have been pretty hard for me or anyone to verify, and I doubt any charity would give this man cash for a hotel room. I felt that this guy was probably telling the truth, though, so I went to an ATM and took out my last $80 or so. (My summer job would not start for a few weeks.) The man gave me a check to cover just about all of it and wrote his phone number on it.

When I called a few weeks later to see if I could cash the check, the number was dead. It was an out-of-town number, and if it had ever been in service, it had been discontinued after the move. So I cashed the check anyway, and it didn't bounce.

Wasn't it winter just yesterday?

With the weather a little warmer and the sun out again, I noticed the grass in the backyard is getting greener, and there are even little flowers in it, eeeee!

On a totally different note, it's strange to find old music again. I'd totally forgotten about some Stabbing Westward songs Joe and I used to listen to, but they came up in a conversation the other day (Joe was probably quoting random lyrics, as he does), so I looked them up. Whoa. They are hard-hitting songs, but they don't hit me the way they used to anymore.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Looking out

Joe left around 4 this morning for a quick business trip and will be back sometime after 9 tonight. It is quiet in this house. Usually I close the blinds as soon as evening comes on because I don't like the idea of people watching me as I cook dinner. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it...

But tonight I was eating late, and I had time to go upstairs to think and pray and distract myself in the meantime. (I shouldn't have been distracting myself.) It was past sunset but I didn't bother closing the blinds. The only light came from the computer screen, and that turned itself off eventually. Outside I could see the bare trees against the sky, which was gray after the snow and rain today. I don't usually look outside at night anymore...

The sky drew darker and darker. Lights shone through the blinds of the houses across the street, and people pulled up to their homes and opened doors to their dogs and well-lit living rooms. One man looked back out in my direction, and I ducked to the side, worried he could see me. Several kids ran out of another house and down the street. I wonder where they were going...

Monday, February 16, 2009

What pretty carrots

Today is Joe's birthday. I gave him a present a few weeks ago, so we are not doing much tonight. Still, I am making a better-than-usual dinner.
I didn't realize at first that I had such a special carrot, though!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The prodigal

The warm weather has come with gusty winds throughout Maryland. Yesterday was blow-things-out-of-your-hands, stop-you-in-your-tracks windy. The day before was a little better.

Still, when Joe and I came home and saw that our recycling bin was missing, we weren't sure whether to blame the wind or a careless neighbor.

Yesterday, we came home in the evening to see the bin on our front stoop. Returned!

It will soon be labeled with our address. So will our trash can and its lid.

Do YOU love any turtles?

"Do you like this card with the turtle?" I asked my grandmother yesterday as I picked the card up off of her bedside table. 
I'd sent it to her earlier in the week. She studied it for a moment. 
"It is a nice card," she finally concluded. "But who can really love a turtle?"
I guess it went over better than the owl cards. I'd sent her two or three of those before she told me she thinks owls are creepy. 

Even better was the moment my grandmother looked at the dog lying on the carpet and solemnly declared, "The dog is dead." 
"It is not dead," I told her. "It is sleeping."
"But I don't see it breathing!"
"I can. See that tuft of fur there, rising and falling?" 
She really does love the dog, and she watched it carefully for a few minutes, just to make sure it was still alive. 

But best of all was the moment, as I was leaving, when my grandmother held my hand and told me to have many children and a full life. I love her, and I know she loves me even more than she loves the dog (though only the dog is allowed to lap up the last of her sweet coffee straight from the cup).

Friday, February 6, 2009

Though I guess they didn't have toilet paper back then...

I'm prepping for my Sunday school lesson at the Latvian church. The youngest classes will be hearing about Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead, I've decided. The kids usually do a pretty good job of listening as long as I use the felt board to illustrate the story, but I'm getting a little tired of the routine. So I'm thinking this is a great opportunity to let the kids wrap each other in toilet paper.

I wonder if this is a great idea or a bad one? I guess I'll find out on Sunday...

Thursday, February 5, 2009


I've been bad with keeping this up to date, so I've been digging out some pictures and things I needed to publish some recent entries. They backdated by anywhere from a few hours to a few weeks, so I'm linking them all here.

Doing less -- on not getting distracted by good things
Ice -- on taking out the compost
Sunset -- I took a pretty picture
Delicious -- Amish market visit!
Maybe it really WAS a million -- on big flocks of birds
Evening activities -- reading Poe by candlelight
Coming home to something -- on candles in the windows

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Impromptu walk!

The setting sun was so pretty, I didn't stop at the mailbox, but kept on walking.

Brr, it's cold out. But nice. Really, really nice.

The purple house nearby looks pretty interesting when it's glowing orange.


Here is a puddle that froze in front of our house.

Sorry about the cracks. Joe and I drove over it in the car this morning!

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Young one

Sundays after Latvian school and church church, I sometimes help my great aunt negotiate the coffee table, where we load up on sandwiches and other snacks. She can get by without me, but things go easier if I move her chair and walker. Then I see her back to her apartment in the retiree home behind the church.

On the way back today, we stopped in at the church's weekly books-and-things sale so she could buy some cards. Another woman wanted to buy a vase, but all the vases were on the top top shelf, almost touching the ceiling.

"I could get it standing on a chair," said the cashier. "But I am past standing on chairs."

Other people said they, too, were not about to go climbing. I looked around the room and saw it was full of lovely ladies with gray hair. No, I couldn't imagine them standing on chairs, either.

Someone said to fetch the tallest man in church, but then someone else said he might have left.

"I can stand on chairs!" I said.

Everyone looked at me as if just noticing me and agreed. We pulled out a chair and I got up, boots and all, and took down the vase with everyone watching.

I have been realizing what it can mean to get old.

On our way out of the sale to the elevator, we passed another woman leaving the coffee table. There had been an exhibit of a Latvian artist's paintings, with many people in church contributing pieces they owned. Now that the display was over, this woman was carrying a couple paintings in her walker, and I asked her if she could manage.

She said she was fine, and I admired the painting that had struck me earlier. On the one side was a warm and misty tableau, a table full of food and family. The vision faded into the painting's darker half, where and old woman sat in a thick shawl and empty kitchen, smiling at her daydream.

"I predicted my own future when I bought this painting in the sixties," said the woman with the walker. "Dreaming of better days."

What can one say to that?

My great aunt is a wonderful woman in her eighties. She invites me over for tea and shortbread cookies, and I often take her up on it, mostly to hear her wonderful stories about her life and thoughts and family.

While I was there today, I took the shrink-wrap off a literary magazine and helped her tape up a package. I fetched the dishes and cleaned up her kitchen a bit on my way out. She gives me mail to take out, since it is so much easier for me. Last time I was there, she had a fall. Though she was not really hurt, she couldn't get up herself, so I had to fetch some men from church to help lift her. It was scary for all of us, I think.

She acts as if I give her a lot and she can give me only a little, and that is not true at all. Each visit is like reading another chapter or two of a fascinating book -- which makes sense especially if you know my great aunt is a writer, still writing to this day. But it is harder for her to write now, since just living requires so much care and time.

It is good when great-aunts have their grand-nieces around, and when grandmothers have their sons and daughters and grandchildren, and when everyone has a chance to take cookies and tea together.