"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Last Call...

Please lift your glass of whatever as I toast you…

To all my friends—the ones with me and the ones who arrived at that Great Finish Line in the Sky before me--please know that I love you dearly and think of you often.

May the wind blow softly as it passes your house,

May the weight of the snow never cause it to fall,

May peace and friendship fill all of your days,

And may you have the happiest New Year of all.

Love you,


Oh, and Pablo, too…

Just for fun, here are a few of my favorite pix of the year. Remember, you can click on them to enlarge to full screen. Assuming the cybergods allow, of course.

Should auld acquaintance be forgot,

Never. How could I? I keep them in my heart where they stay warm and toasty on a night that’s near zero..

and never brought to mind,

Every day I thank them for being in my life. They are a part of me as surely as my hands and feet and head are a part of me. I leave a part of myself with every person I meet, and take a part of them with me.

should auld acquaintance be forgot,

Without them, and one in particular, I would not be here writing this. I would not be writing at all.

for the sake of auld lang syne.

On these cold, cold nights in Alaska, when I stuff the woodstove with spruce and birch, and drink mugs of Mint Chocolate Truffle hot chocolate, I think back on a year filled with adventure in company of good friends.

For auld lang syne, my dear,

for auld lang syng,

we’ll take a cup of kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.

And there’s a hand my trusty, friend!

Let me help you with that. It’s the least I can do.

and give us a hand o’ thine!

I will never forget the hands extended to me as my husband fought Alzheimer’s for seven years, nor the hands that helped me stand up in the aftermath.

and we’ll take a right good-will draught,

We’re all in this together, aren’t we?

for auld lang syne.

Remember. Always, remember: “Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the number of moments that take our breath away.”--Anonymous

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Natural Mimics

Parrots are natural mimics. That's why they repeat words they hear from humans. And sometimes, they parrot those words in circumstances that are eerily appropriate.

A number of years ago I was scolding Bobby the cockatoo for throwing all his seeds out of his cage: "Bobby, you make SUCH a mess." From the cage next to Bobby, came the quiet, gravelly voice of Louis the conure, picking up on the exasperated tone in my voice: "Bad Bobby."

Along with parrots, writers also are mimics, according to a well-known writer I heard at a writers convention a couple years ago. He was asked if he read other works in his genre, which was crime/mystery fiction.

"No," he said. "Never. Writers are natural mimics, and I wouldn't want to find myself unwittingly plagiarizing another's work."

All of that came to mind last winter as I was reading a book recommended by a friend, which had been recommended to him by a mutual friend. The book was "Three Men in a Boat" by Jerome K. Jerome. Published in 1889, the writing style was filled with phrases and clauses, and (as I like to call them) a congestion of commas.

I wasn't many pages into it when the mimic in me took center stage, and I wrote an e-mail to my friend, which I shall post here because I can't think of anything else to do and mimicking is much on my mind these days. Currently I an hopelessly enamored of Markus Zusak's writing style in "The Book Thief." And, last evening the muse dropped a couple paragraphs in my head, which I dutifully pinned to a page before they escaped, and have no idea where they are headed, which pretty much forecloses anything else being written until she gives me more clues.

So, for now please enjoy my response written in the style of Jerome K. Jerome:

Dear B,

At your specific recommendation, last night I commenced the reading of Three Men in a Boat. I began with the introduction, which informed me as to Jerome K. Jerome’s biography and education, or the lack thereof.

As I recall, your statement to me was, should I read the book, I would then understand why W recommended and gave a copy of the book to you, so I have therefore been watching diligently for evidence of such. I suspect I found the first clue in the introductory biography, wherein it was stated that Mr. Jerome, early on, had set out to master the worldly vices, i.e., smoking, drinking, and girls. With some rearranging as to the preferred order of those vices, I can certainly see how this would apply to our mutual friend.

Surely, I thought, there must be more to this quest than the introduction, so I read further. Quite soon I came across the description of Uncle Podger undertaking the task of hanging a framed picture, which subsequently required the assistance of the entire family of six, as well as the charwoman, to accomplish the task, while Uncle Podger remained standing on the chair that had been fetched for him and all around him the other members of the work group scurried about following his orders.

I was no more than two paragraphs into this subject, when I felt it incumbent upon me to check the date of this writing, as I had begun to suspect Mr. Jerome may have eavesdropped on a conversation between Ken, my husband, and myself, and had, after changing a couple names, transcribed the scene in its entirety.

The reason for my suspicions were, that after encountering the necessity to work on any piece of machinery, Ken believed it propitious to take the offending machinery by surprise. This involved approaching the machine without any tools. After lifting the hood and inspecting the underlying secrets, I would be sent back to the garage for a screwdriver.

If careful application of the screwdriver did not correct the malady, I would be sent to the garage for a 13/16th open end wrench. After I returned with the 13/16th open end wrench, he then required a ratchet, quarter-inch drive, with a half-inch five point socket. I was led to surmise that there was some unwritten union prohibition against the carrying of more than one tool at a time.

As Ken ventured further into the machine’s problem, the fetching of tools became more urgent, until, finally, agitated and overcome by the imminent promise of success, he would demand to know why I could not move faster.

This scene was repeated many times for decades, until one day I suggested to him that if he needed it faster than I was capable of procuring it, then perhaps he should get it himself, whereupon he did so, moving smartly at a speed to set an example for me to follow in the future.

By this time, however, any such lesson would be lost on the both of us, and he would have to procure any and all subsequent tools by himself, as we would no longer be speaking to each other. It was at these times I noticed there apparently was no prohibition against HIM carrying more than one tool at a time.

Therefore, I have found much to amuse myself with and I am only a dozen pages into the manuscript. I would like to express my profound appreciation for your recommendation.

I remain, as ever, your friend and faithful servant.


Sunday, December 27, 2009

Christmas Mischief and Miscellany

A Friend in Need:

When a dear friend is in need of a little extra something to carry her through a rough patch, there is no hesitation.

When that friend is in that rough patch through no fault of her own, but merely by being the only living relative within a reasonable distance of a hospitalized elderly uncle, as well as the recent passing of a faithful canine companion, there is no question.

And, when that friend has had a profound impact on your life, had, in fact, saved your life, cost is not a consideration.

So I braved cold winter weather and avalanches.

When my longtime friend Carlene responded to a previous story here about my making and taking Halibut Florentine to the Moose Pass Annual Christmas Potluck. In the story I had thought frequently about mixing up a li’l ol’ whiskey sour to tide me over…but had resisted the temptation.

Their origin.

Carlene also said she’d pass on the whiskey sour, but could sure use some rum balls. No problem. A trip to Seward for vanilla wafers and corn syrup, an couple hours assembling them, packing them for mailing and a trip the next day to the post office, and express mail--delivery on holiday extra.

I could have skipped the fee for holiday delivery, because the package was delivered the next day, Christmas Eve. This is Carlene’s endorsement:

Because I Deserve It:

You know how sometimes when you’re Christmas shopping you see something that you wish someone else would give you, and you know no one would ever consider it, so after a few minutes you’ve rationalized that you should buy it yourself because you deserve it, and you really can’t live without it, and nobody loves you enough to buy it for you…and whatever other excuses you can think of?

Meet Spike:

He’s a hand puppet, but don’t tell him. He thinks he’s a real porcupine. Hey, I’ve read The Velveteen Rabbit!

Spike is here to remind us all that if we want to be held in a warm embrace (literally or metaphorically), we need to keep our quills to ourselves.

Even Better Mischief:

I found my third bit of mischief at the Daddy Scratches blog. It’s an Office Max sponsored thing called “Elf Yourself,” where you can upload pictures of yourself and others, select a dance you want to appear in, and then e-mail it to them.

Here’s the link: http://elfyourself.jibjab.com/

You’ll have to warn whoever you send it to that it will appear as Elf Yourself, or they’ll delete it as spam. Also, it takes a while to download and they might have to fuss with the controls. It’s hysterical. By all means, try the Disco Dance. The two pre-schoolers I inserted into it with their parents and Grandma loved it.

Uncontrollable Mischief:

Now we take up the matter of Mother Nature, whose mischief exceeds anything I could think of.

The week before Christmas, we went from scenes like this:

And this:

And this:

To this:

My driveway‘s an ice rink:

I don’t dare walk outside without these on my boots:

And I’ve taken to hauling firewood from the woodshed in my truck, which I park in the garage.

Oh, well, the Christmas cactus came through

...and there’s a promise of more.

Happy Holidays, everyone.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Dinner al fresco

You think preparing your Christmas dinner was fraught with fuss and flurry, work and worry?

Think again:

This bald eagle sat patiently beside a hole in the ice, hoping something to eat would appear. Chinook winds blasted him with rain and melting ice water, but he sat there unmoving at 3 p.m. Christmas afternoon. Didn't even have a football game to watch.

This is his dining room. The marshes at Portage.

Now, do you appreciate yours a little more? Well, okay, the eagle didn't have to wash the dishes afterwards, but was there even an afterwards for him?