Foreign Cockroaches

Cockroach

I was thinking of foreign cockroaches yesterday. They came wandering into a conversation I had at lunch in a restaurant that had no cockroaches.

I suppose it may have been the spider hanging in his web strategically located ten feet above our table that reminded me of Hobart, Tasmania and the huntsman spider that terrorized my nights there. That led my memory through the electrical pathways and synapses to bring me to the cockroach in Sydney. That’s just the way my mind rolls.

 

Late night, Sydney. The lights of the city filter in through the gauzy drapes. I still hear traffic noise from the street, seven floors below.

I slip off my shoes and sit on the edge of the bed. I see movement out of the corner of my eye. There. In a small beam of light on the mink colored carpet. Something stands, and I feel its eyes staring at me. Sizing me up as a worthy adversary. As I stand up, the creature begins to sway, as though to music inaudible to me. I slowly reach for the bedside light and switch it on.

An intense chattering, followed by hissing, breaks the silence. An incredibly big cockroach stands defiantly with his reddish brown wings slightly spread and quivering. A yellow band decorates his shoulders. Without warning, he drops to all sixes and scurries under the dresser. I hear the hard shell of his wings graze the bottom of the drawer as he seeks sanctuary.

I look under the dresser, and see only darkness. From deep within, the cockroach hisses, sending shivers down my back.

The hotel provides a flashlight, stowed in the top left drawer in the kitchen. I run barefoot through the dark living room, praying I will not feel anything crunchy underfoot. Returning to the bedroom, I kneel and shine the light into his lair.

His eyes glow red in the beam, his feelers reach out to me. For a moment, I believe we have a connection. Perhaps it is possible that my Uncle Felix has returned from the dead, and is enjoying reincarnation in perpetual bliss in Australia.

Then he runs. Dodging my hand that holds the flashlight, his legs race toward my face. Dread floods over me as I imagine the creature running into my mouth and down my throat. The bed stops me with a crack on the back of my head, and I fall onto my side.

Felix, for by now I have named him, lays dazed beside me. I must have hit him with the flashlight as I was flailing around. How can this be? Word was that cockroaches are notoriously hard to kill.

I am a killer. And I have done it by my finely honed instincts alone. I kneel over the still form and assess the damages. One wing is dented, exposing a delicate gossamer wing. His eyes remain open. I look around for a tissue with which to collect and wrap his broken corpse.

When I look back, he is no longer there. I see the tip of his shell retreat under the bed.

I cannot sleep knowing he is there. I climb on the bed and jump up and down, trying to generate enough noise to scare him back out into the open. The mattress strains under my weight, loudly protesting against my use of it as a trampoline. My next line of defense is the broom tucked in the closet. Slowly I coax him out from under the bed, and once again we stand staring at each other on the carpet.

He slowly rises up on his hind legs, shakes his wings and threatens me with his chattering and hissing. The occasional rush at me is most effective.

Keeping my eye on him, I reach for my shoe, and deliver three hard slaps to the floor. With each hit, Felix The Cockroach leaps first to one side, then to the other. The third time, he dives under the bedside table. When I shine the flashlight under the table, I cannot see him, although I continue to search until the light dims and fades to nothing.

But I know he is there. And I know I have to sleep next to him for three more nights.

When Becky comes back into the room, she asks what I have been up to, but does not seem overly impressed at my description of the battle.

We sleep with my light on; I hold the dead flashlight tightly in my hand waiting. But he doesn’t return.

Saturday Morning

 

spring yardAccording to the clock on the wall, I’ve slept in. it is 8:30, and I know the animals will be anxious to be fed; Moxie will need to go outside to her yard. Even before I look out the window I know it is a rainy morning.I can hear the swishy sound of tires on wet pavement. I can feel the cool breeze as it plays with the light curtain. I can smell the dampness of the leaves.

I think I hear the sigh of the brown grass in the front lawn as it pulls the moisture down into dry roots.

Plans previously made will have to be put on hold. I must admit, I am thankful for a down day. My pile of rainy day projects jeer at me from the yellow bin along the wall, and I pull out a necklace that needs repair. I print the twelve chapters of my latest project to re-read before I continue writing.

But there’s something about today that I want to savor for a bit before changing directions. Breathe it in, try it on, and luxuriate in the rain.

When I go for my walk, I will not be taking an umbrella.

Yet Another Bucket

Wysteria

“One bucket gone!” The backside of our yard has been taken over by buttercups. That side yard once held our legendary woodpile, made up of the split wood from five cedar trees and two huge firs from the front of our yard. The firs were almost one hundred years old and had been topped many years ago. It was time for them to go. So, in the first year we lived here we made the decision. The woodpile from those seven trees filled that whole section of our yard, and took us seven winters of cozy fires in our wood stove to consume. But now, only the twigs remain, and the buttercups that have grown over it all. If I squint, the yellow is beautiful but I want to plant grass this fall, and have the lawn stretch all the way to the alley.

Weeding time is my thinking time. Someone once told me that she would like to spend an hour in my brain. I can assure you, she would not. My mind is in constant turmoil over things I’ve experienced, witnessed and read. There is no escaping from it, it just goes on and on. Perhaps someday I will be able to figure out why I am the way I am, why people react the way they do, why the world is such a dangerous and violent place. No matter how much of a pacifist I am, I still find myself flung into turmoil and drama. Some mine, some not. Either way, it brings up the same amount of unwanted, overwhelming emotion.

A dispute at the gas statin. A checker having a bad day. Neighbors arguing. Police sirens. Yelling, name calling. Conflict in social media. Really? Negativity abounds.

My studio looks out over my garden and present weed removal project. I try to stay in my creative environment while the Weeds of Disharmony try to distract me. People witness to me about God’s love and His desire to save me. Perhaps they need to focus on that love themselves?

Just a thought. But now I must go pull another bucket of weeds and keep my own thoughts positive. I remember a verse I memorized in Sunday School, perhaps the only one that means anything to me now:

“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report, if there be any virtue and if there be any praise, think on these things.” –Philippians 4:8 kjv

Just a thought.

 

On a Sunny Porch

Porch

 

Spiders, webs, insects. YUK! I’ve been cleaning out a space on my front wrap-around porch, complete with chair and small round table. Moxie is not used to being out here, and is making faces and strange noises to all who pass on our busy street. I am in full sun and I know I will have to drag myself to the shade soon. But I am pretending I am on a deck on Daytona Beach and I expect a pelican to fly by any minute now. Not likely in this small town in Washington State, thirty miles north of Seattle. I know. So far, only pigeons.

Moxie and I went to a garage sale this morning. Why do other people’s stuff seem so captivating while I am trying to whittle down the tons of stuff I already own and seldom use? Just one more dish, just one more book. All stuffed into a home built in an era where collecting stuff wasn’t a priority. The old house simply doesn’t have storage space. Simplify.

I walked away from the garage sale with no purchases. The lady shouted out as I left, “We’re open for four days. New stuff everyday!” The sale, with all its tempting loaded tables is two blocks away. Maybe if I took a load of my stuff to the thrift store?

 

Peep Season

 

Studio

I’ve been watching vintage television shows the last couple of weeks. Tons of them, back to back. They feel like old friends come to visit. I’ve seen every one of them, but thanks to my memory problems, I cannot remember how they end. I can’t remember who murdered the victim, or why. And so, Becky and I enjoy each one, then scurry around, do a little housework or gardening, then back to another episode.

It is interesting how young all these characters seem this time around. I remember them as being old, way past middle age. I wonder how I could possibly have seen them this way. Actors that I remember as being gruff and scary now seem to be barely past college age. One look in the mirror tells me why.

And so tonight I have turned off my TV to finish up some work around the house. Folding clothes, dishes, wiping up paw prints off the kitchen floor. And I think about the spring-time. I am in the Autumn of my life, fearing the snows of winter. How does spring relate to me now?

Then I realize. It is the season of Peeps! How can one be overly sensitive about their age when Peeps are around? I’ve just finished my blue chicks, now for the pink rabbits…

Moral Dictates

I am reminded how easy it is to forget. I am reminded how we have not all had the same experience. I am reminded that we are not all from the same generation. Whenever I read posts on social media or the newspaper. Whenever I am in public. Whenever I listen to someone’s opinion.

I realize we all have our opinions on birth control. Differing views of religion, morality or need determine one’s choices. What may seem reasonable to me may not seem so to someone else. But in reality, we all must make our own choices and live with the consequences. There is something, however, that I’m not seeing discussed anywhere, and I wish to bring that to your attention.

Employers are beginning to be vocal about stating their opinions of morality on the issue of birth control. When I worked for religious organizations, I understood and accepted the fact that some things would be dictated to me regarding dress, pay and expectations of my speech and actions while on the job. Indeed, sometimes even while I was off the job, but in public. Every moment, after all, was a moment I was representing the organization or Christ Himself. A big order, but one that I strove to respect.

But it is not these employers that I address. It is the secular employer whose owners are holding their beliefs in a way that imposes those beliefs on others. Those that provide health care that does not include birth control, because that does not fit in with the owners set of values. Many people aren’t concerned about this, but I wish for you to think about this for a minute. The following is an example from my own experience in the past.

I began working straight out of high school, office work for minimum wage. I had no health insurance when I began working. This was 1970, and I was making $55 a week. At that time I was still living with my parents, so I paid them a small amount for room and board, and I was able to make ends meet if I used the bus for transportation. One of the questions they asked me when I applied was if I was married, engaged, or dating. Why would they ask this? It was a polite way to ask me if I was sexually active. They explained that they wanted to know if I ran a high risk of getting pregnant soon-they didn’t want to train me if they were going to have to let me go to have a baby. Yes. “Let me go.” The job wouldn’t wait for my return, unless I was willing to come back to work the next day. No maternity leave. They would have been more assured, I think, if I would have agreed to have the baby in the restroom during break, then return to work and place the newborn in the drawer until lunchtime.

When that office closed, I took a job (still minimum wage) at an insurance agency. Once again, I was asked the same question. This time I was engaged, and my prospective boss was relieved to be told I wasn’t planning a pregnancy anytime soon. Again, he told me that he didn’t want to hire someone who he would have to replace right away, due to childbirth.

My point is that do we really think that these employers are so enamored with the babies born during our employment with them that they will hire, hold jobs open, pay for maternity leave, provide adequate wages and provide good health care for these children once they are conceived? Didn’t seem that way in the seventies to me. They made it their business to know that I would be worthy of their training. And that meant promising no time off for pregnancy or delivery. After all, there were plenty of other young girls waiting in the employment line.

Do we know what these moral minded employers would do in these circumstances? Will they hold themselves morally responsible to hire women who are obviously pregnant or have no birth control to assure they won’t get pregnant for a few years? In a five-year space of time, how many pregnancies could an employer cover? And how many children could someone holding down a minimum wage job afford without relying on public assistance? One of my friends in grade school came from a family of twelve children. Twelve. Is our society ready to deal with another Baby Boomer generation? Do we really wish to return to a time of limited birth control? But then perhaps it will only be the poor who will be contributing to our increasing numbers.

Let us not step backward forty-five years and allow them to ask these same questions as a hiring stratagem. Let us not lose things we struggled to achieve.

This isn’t just a case of right or wrong. We must not fall into the trap of thinking that since this is a moral decision that they are looking out for our good. When it comes to morals, I want to make my own decisions.

As the Mortar Crumbles

I wrote this a few months ago, when our chimney was rebuilt and renovated.

So today, what has been standing for around ninety years must come down. Last year it was the willow tree, this year the chimney. The cost is about the same. At least the steady ‘chip, chip, chip’ of the chisel isn’t as loud as the chainsaws, but the debris, when it falls, is just as nerve wracking.

Our Victorian house has a steep roof, so the chimney has been one of the tallest in town. And will be again, when it is rebuilt tomorrow or the next day.

The men, all of them craftsmen, take the process for granted. One of them was very reassuring. “Piece of cake.” They’ve done dozens of chimney rebuilds. One was right down the street.

The chimney, over the years has taken a decided lean toward the house. They have been telling me for years, “One good wind…” I occupy my time and allow myself one trip outside to take pictures every hour.

Was it a rainy day like today when the chimney was built? Originally, in 1905 this house had no fireplace. What is now the living room were two bedrooms in the beginning. The original owner died in the house in 1922. It was after that the next owner combined those two smaller rooms into the long living room we have now. The fireplace is centered on the north side. Right where the dividing wall used to be. We see the smaller blocks of wood in the fir flooring that replaced the wall studs, forever reminding us that the wall is gone. We pull the rug back to show guests the scar that tells the stories of the past. Interesting how many changes have been made in 110 years.

But the house quivers as the bricks are carefully pulled out and the crumbly mortar falls. The old bricks will be cleaned and reused. Only small changes will be made in the rebuild. Nice and straight, ready for wind, rain, and the crows that may gather.

Fear not, house.

Merry Holidays, Happy Christmas!

santa60

Usually one to enjoy Christmas Eve in my jammies, curled up with a book in front of the fire with Becky, Moxie, and Pepe nearby. But last evening, we braved the cold, drove off to an area of town where we had never been, and went to a Christmas pageant. I didn’t know what to expect, but I came back with new hope for this holiday we call Christmas.

It began with a small orchestra playing Christmas favorites. The church was huge, and lit only in candlelight. The large choir was quite impressive, filled with talented voices. I could tell this was going to be a memorable Christmas Eve.

The words and tunes of the carols were familiar. The church was filled almost to capacity, so I was comfortable singing. My voice, turned warbely over the years, does not sound like my own. I prefer now, to listen to others. I reserve, of course, the right to sing loudly to the music on my car stereo when I am alone. But for the most part, I remain tuneless. I must admit that I sang ‘Silent Night’ as loudly as I dared. There is something about that song. To sing loudly about a silent night seems wrong somehow. Perhaps that’s why I have to do it.

But the pageant is what stole my imagination, and has fired my thoughts today. It was about Santa. Santa? At a church Christmas Eve Service? What? What does Santa have to do with it?

Indeed. But that is how the play began. Santa wandered through scenes of Christmas shoppers. Pushing, shoving, frantically searching for the right/the cheapest/the most popular gifts. Santa looked for the very thing I have been looking for—the essence of the Holiday. Then he meets Saint Nicholas, and watches as St Nick gives to those in need, cheers those who are sad, gives hope to those whose hearts are breaking. Together, they approach and kneel at the manger to worship Jesus.

We light our candles, and sing the last carol. We have many ways to celebrate the Holiday season. The month of December holds Holy days for many faiths. Christmas is but one, and within that day, there are many rituals and traditions that one may follow. But my hope for the Season, is that love may bind us all. Perhaps that is the essence I seek.

Happy Holidays.

Ugly Christmas Sweater Competition

 

UglySweater

We have been invited to an Ugly Christmas Sweater party next weekend. I am at a disadvantage. My mother taught me to believe that every Christmas sweater was beautiful. This leads me to believe that I have been a constant source of amusement and ridicule for my friends.

Still, this does not prepare me for the task at hand. Creating two ugly Christmas sweaters for us to wear boggles my mind. What to do?

First, we found the sweaters. Quite literally. On a walk, Becky and I found two sweaters in a box marked ‘FREE’ about a block away from home. Check. We now have two sweaters ready for embellishment. Next, we scoured the craft store, buying odds and ends of Christmas buttons and decorations along with felt in bright colors. Many years ago I sent out Christmas cards creatively made of fabric and felt. I kept three for myself because I thought they were so cute. A Santa, a reindeer, and a snowman. These will be the centerpieces, the theme of each sweater, appliqued on the backs. Glitter glue, pompoms, feathers, and garland will fill the blank spaces, and contribute to the general festive look to complete the masterpieces.

But what if I miss the mark of ugly completely? What if I overshoot and the sweaters are beautiful? How would I know? I can’t even tell the difference between navy blue, purple and brown It’s my taste that is in question here, and my eye for fashion.

This project astounds me in its complexity. I’m not sure I’m up for the task. Perhaps I should seek guidance on the Internet? Perhaps I am overthinking the whole thing? It seems wrong somehow to not spend tons of money on this project. But my supplies, as quirky as they are, fill my kitchen table. They are curious, I am sure, what I will do with them. “Come play!”

 

Pooper Scooper Malfunction

 

Mox

I sat down to write my post about an hour ago. I had the outline neatly in mind, I had typed three words. Moxie, my Chow-Chow/Newfie, came and held her nose to my elbow. She does this to get my attention, or to share the moment with me. Her soulful brown eyes looked up into mine. I knew what she wanted. Her morning walk.

We usually go out at nine most mornings, even in the rain. Usually, we both look forward to it. But for the last three months, my knee has given me a lot of pain, and I have to walk so slow that she sometimes loses patience with me. When I get back, especially in this cold, it means sitting in front of the fire with my knee elevated with a heating pad wrapped around my knee. Pepe finds this suited to his needs and lays on top of the heating pad. Within thirty minutes, we are all ready to face the day.

But today I wanted to get this post done. I’m trying to set new and better habits. But Moxie reminded me that the old habits are still in place and shouldn’t be changed. We got all the necessary things together. Coat, phone, leash, pooper scooper bags, shoes. We opened the door and stepped onto the porch in time for the mail carrier.

This is always dicey. I never know for sure exactly how Moxie will greet them. We have had a steady change of carriers over the last couple of years, and Mox doesn’t always recognize the person behind the bag. It makes for interesting confrontations. With her, she judges the person by what they say. If they coo over how beautiful she is, how fluffy, how sweet, the person lives. If they mention the word, ‘fat,’ not so much. Today was great. Much was said about her beautiful fur, her shiny eyes, her great smile. We will receive our mail again tomorrow.

With my knee, I find a walk of twenty-five paces adequate. It is on the twenty-sixth step that my kneecap begins to feel as though it is beginning its journey around to the back of my knee. Going downhill is exceptionally challenging. We were halfway up the hill when she made her first poop deposit, and I stopped to clean up. Beautiful blue bags, so convenient. Further up the block, she stopped for another go. I bent over with a new blue bag and begin to collect. I didn’t notice the piece that rolled onto the sidewalk. Ugh.

When I stepped back, I discovered I had stepped in it, and had brought the whole problem onto the sidewalk. Another blue bag. I used it to gather the mess, and scrape up what I could from the concrete. I didn’t notice that I had worn a hole in the beautiful blue bag until I tied it closed. Another blue bag to hold the broken blue bag. I didn’t notice that I had gotten it all over my hand, until I pulled my hand out of the pocket of my coat. I found a wet patch of grass, and wiped my shoe and my hand as best I could. Now it was all over the leash. And the inside of my pocket.

We made two more stops, then headed home. Coat and leash are in the laundry. Hands scrubbed and disinfected. Moxie praised for being such a good dog.

I sit in front of my computer wondering what I had been so excited to write about. The heating pad is in the microwave, the chair and cat await.