Monthly Archives: May 2011

On hailstones, tornadoes, stalled traffic, and full bladders

It’s one thing to be sitting in your house, listening to hailstones hit the roof. It’s quite another thing to be driving in a car when ping-pong sized hailstones begin smacking the  car. It’s loud. Distracting. Frightening.

While driving in the rain to my off-site office at Owens Community College on Wednesday, an object hit the windshield — I thought it was a stone. Then the rain became hail and the car was suddenly battered by increasingly large chunks of hail. Pulled into the parking lot, thinking I’d wait out the hail/rain before heading indoors.

Apparently, security had other ideas. One of them pounded on my window and yelled “I need you to get inside.” Puzzled, I pointed out the rain and hail….that didn’t seem to matter. Seems I had no choice, so I headed out into the maelstrom. Once inside, I understood his urgency. A tornado had been spotted 14 miles due west and was moving at 40 mph.

In the interior hall by my office, I joined about 25 others — most talking at once and/or reporting the radar outlook from their much-smarter-than-my phones. About this time, the headache I’d woken up with, morphed into a migraine.

Tornadoes have always scared me, dating back to the one that hit Bluffton on Palm Sunday in 1965. I was 9 years old, and slept through the entire storm. After that, whenever tornadoes  threatened, our family would head to the cellar– not to be confused with a basement. Cellars are dark, dank, often damp. Ours housed a giant freezer, the furnace, lots of home-canned goods, and an assortment of large spiders, cobwebs and bugs. But hey, it was safe.

Now, when the emergency sirens start to wail, I happily ensconce myself in our basement office. If I’m bored, I can (a) ride the stationary bike; (b) watch a movie on the nearest computer; or (c) re-read one of my ancient collection of Agatha Christie mysteries. My husband, not so easily scared, often rides out the storm on the front porch, attempting to take photos of the clouds he finds so fascinating.

Anyway…back at Owens, we sat on the floor waiting for the all clear. It was a brief respite. Five minutes later, we were being herded to another room — an interior room with no windows. This time there were about 35 people — a mix of faculty, staff, students and small children who’d accompanied mom or dad for registration. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your opinion), this was a tech lab filled with computers which — oddly — had not been knocked out by the storm. This is when things got a little dicey.

One person decided it was her job to report exactly where the rotations were located at 30-second intervals. Her reports quickly began to grate on our nerves. I tried to tune her out (no pun intended) by engaging in a discussion of musical instruments with one of the deans, who just happened to have her cello at her side. It’s interesting how being close quarters in an emergency can produce interesting conversations that otherwise wouldn’t take place. In fact, it even served to turn a simple acquaintance into more of a friendship.

When the final all-clear sounded for the second time, most of us raced for the nearest exit in the hope that we could escape before the next round. A few minutes later, as I reached the interstate, I heard the familiar wail of the emergency siren. Black clouds loomed to my left. Just as I began to relax and breathe again, both lanes of traffic came to a dead halt. Now what?

We sat. And sat. Unmoving. I considered the situation. On one hand, I had water, food and a good book to listen to. On the other hand, I’d been drinking so much tea — intended to defeat the headache — and in my haste to get out of Dodge so quickly, had bypassed the restroom. Big mistake. Big, big mistake.

Of course, about the same time, my mind – which my husband sometimes refers to as “overactive” — began to whirl. What if I saw a tornado? Where would I go? The ditches were filling with water. Would you sit in a water-filled ditch in a lightning storm? What if the road was flooded and I was stuck here all night?

All those thoughts of water only served to remind me of my overfull bladder. Just when I was considering the empty plastic food container as a portable restroom, the trucks lined up ahead of me began to move. Very slowly. After 45 minutes of sitting perfectly still, I could hear a collective silent cheer from the drivers around me. Fifteen minutes later I was home.

That bathroom never looked so good.

Baffle latest attempt to finesse squirrels

My husband is engaged in an all-out battle with the squirrels that want to feast on our bird feeders. This is, of course, a long-standing feud, and one that neither side is willing to give up on.

Over the years, he’s launched several plans, each designed to one-up the furry tailed creatures. A few years ago, for Christmas, I gave him a long-handled hook that — according to the seller — was guaranteed to out-fox the squirrels. At first, Fred was ecstatic over his new toy. He promptly stomped out into the frigid, snowy weather to attach the long hook to the side of the house, hanging the bird feeder on its end. Then, he sat back to enjoy his birds. That lasted about five minutes before squirrel number 1 made his own appearance, balancing precariously along the pole.

Note to manufacturer: 1.) Apparently, you don’t know the definition of “guarantee”, and 2.) You don’t know Bluffton squirrels.

A few weeks ago, we were checking out at Meijer, and I noticed an odd saucer-shaped contraption in my husband’s cart. (Yes, we use two carts…that’s a completely different blog.) Seeing my raised eyebrows, he grinned and proudly announced that this was a “baffle”, yet another tool in “Fred’s-gonna-fool-the-damn-squirrels-yet” campaign. Trust me. I did not say a word. I’ve learned.

That was a few weeks ago. The baffle has been installed, and he-who-would-be-the-squirrel-king has tested it at various positions, and has sprayed the pole with something that will supposedly make it even more difficult for the little guys to climb to the end. But…and here’s the best part. The hubs has engaged the dog in his feud. Always happy to please, Ike is proving his mettle as GUARD DOG. From his vantage point on a rocker in the living room, he keeps one eye on the street for his girlfriends, the two little she-dogs that pass by regularly, and another eye on the secret garden, where the bird-feeders are positioned. At the first sign of a squirrel, he is off his chair and jumping up and down at the window, whining and barking until Fred pounds on the window, no doubt intending to cause apoplexy to  any creature in the vicinity.

Usually a few whacks on the window send the squirrel flying but once in awhile, the whining, barking and window whacking continues for a solid minute. In the meantime, I cringe, hold my breath and say a prayer of thanks to whoever created those ancient heavy windows.

Personally, I think it’s become a game of one-upmanship. A game which could, unfortunately, never end. Kind of like those Monopoly games that I played with my brothers. They went on for days until our mom finally got sick of seeing the board. I wonder….maybe she could intervene in this one? Mom?


Random thoughts, my usual fall-back blog topic, seems too, well, random. Musings sound so much more meditative, more thoughtful. Since I’ve been on a short four-day weekend “vacation”, my time to muse meditatively has been productive.

Technically, this was a “staycation”, although it was really anything but. “Staycation” would suggest “staying”, easing back onto the patio chairs, and doing nothing but reading, resting and drinking something tall and cool. In reality, these four days have been more movement-oriented, though there have been quite a few tall, cool, ones.

So technicalities aside, these are some of the musings I’ve mulled over during the past three and one-third days:

1. Massages are well worth the money spent. They’d probably be even more worthwhile if the MASSAGEE paid attention to the MASSAGER’S caution to “take it easy for the day…don’t do anything heavy duty.”  That cautionary note must have missed the part of the brain that understands and processes messages, because two hours later, my electric Mantis appeared on my patio. Freshly repaired, and bearing shiny new rotors, it begged to be tested. So I hoisted the little tiller to my herb garden and happily tilled away. My husband offered to move some flagstones for me, then stood back and grinned. Only he knows how truly excited I was to be able to use the Mantis. Just a year ago, I wasn’t in any shape to do gardening of any kind, and we weren’t sure when or if I’d get to do so again. I even pulled weeds and smiled…much to the chagrin of my massage therapist, Joy Stemen. who chided me for ignoring her.

2. Listening to Car Talk on my morning run makes me wonder what car mechanics think when someone comes in with a car problem and explains the solution as suggested by Click and Clack. There’s probably a lot of eye-rolling. Anyway, I’ve been planning my own call to Car Talk. All the callers are from big cities…never any little towns like Bluffton, Ohio. I want to be the first. And I have the perfect problem. A few months before we retrieved our 1997 Dodge Caravan from our daughter, she’d turned on the van only to find the dashboard dark. Nothing lit up. Hm…she drove to the Dodge dealer and explained the problem to the woman at the service desk. The woman grinned and accompanied her to the van, where she gave a hearty smack to the top of the dash. Bingo! On blinked the dash lights. Her comment? “Fixed that problem, eh?” This happened again a few weeks ago, so Fred whacked it once and they blinked back on. But I’m just curious enough to call the  Magliozzi’s for their take on this curiosity…if only to hear them mangle “Bluffton”.

3. Yesterday, we moved more of our daughter’s “stuff” to her new apartment. Ike, of course, went along for the ride and as soon as he stepped in the house, the cat went into hiding. We looked everywhere. High, low, under beds, in closets, behind the fridge. No Casio. Anne, however, was not giving up. After about 30 minutes of looking, she got down on the floor and found a hole about four inches in diameter, leading to a larger space in the cabinet area. Peering inside, she saw two bright eyes staring out at her. You have to understand. Casio is not a kitten. He is a more-than-full-grown cat. Huge, in fact. Almost as big as Ike.We managed to entice him out with some catnip. How can a cat squeeze his body into a hole smaller than his head?

4. I am of the belief that one cannot have too many white shirts. My daughters used to laugh when I went shopping because they could predict I’d return with at least one white shirt. This is true. I still do this. I’m sure my therapist would have some Freudian explanation for this fixation. If I lined all my shirts up by color, there would be a gazillion white ones — each different — followed by other hues in singles. Oh, except for black. I am also of the belief that one cannot have too many black shirts. I’d say it is fortunate that the girls no longer get to examine my shopping bags, but it doesn’t matter. They come home and go straight to my closet to count the whites. And the blacks.

5. Why do some people have such nice, pleasant dreams and I have such stupid ones that wake me up at ungodly hours? I used to blame this on my mother’s side of the family, because she has equally odd dreams. But a Pannabecker cousin recently mentioned that my dream sounded like the ones she has. Guess I can’t blame it on the Suters anymore. The most recent one involved someone’s dogs having puppies in the car while my oldest brother was driving. Cute though the puppies were, they were expelling worms. Ewww…but even that one doesn’t match my all-time worst nightmare of pulling nails from my skin. In handfuls.

6. My friend and running partner, Mary, and I received the same Mother’s Day card. Mine came from my daughter, hers from her father-in-law. When I got mine, I called my daughter to thank her and ask if they came in other names. Dead silence on her part, then a big guffaw. “Mom, think about it. What other name would work in the “punchline” on the inside?. Eat, drink and be…?” This proves to me…once again….that there should be a club of Marys. We could count how many of had to smile politely as old men teased us as children, “How does your garden grow?”

I wonder if other people muse their days away like I do?

The curse of the Mother’s Day plant

Last Sunday, the rain let up just enough that I decided it was time to do some planting. Despite a hankering for a new high-rise raised bed, I’d decided instead to do mostly container gardening. Having done this successfully several years ago, and bolstered by an article posted on the Stratton Greenhouses Facebook page, I headed out to the playhouse.

Okay,technically this is no longer a playhouse, but since I like to play in the garden, we still call it that. My dad built this A-frame “cottage” about 18 years ago, intending it as a playhouse for the girls. He told me we’d be lucky if it lasted for two years, but since my dad never did anything halfway or shoddy, it still stands.

Anyway, the toys housed inside have been replaced by gardening tools and equipment, pots of all sizes, bags of potting soil, and assorted spiders and bugs. So…Sunday, I shoved aside the spiders standing guard at the door and grabbed four big clay pots and a bag of potting soil.

This was to be an early planting of succession crops (I made that up to sound like I know what I’m talking about). In one pot went mesclun (a “gourmet” blend of greens, and in another pot I planted spinach. Then because I wanted to compare the success of basil grown in a pot versus that grown in my herb garden, I plopped some basil seed in the third pot. In the fourth pot, I mixed a handful of year-old buttercrunch with spinach.

Container garden pre-squirrel attack

Despite the fact that it was likely to rain within a few hours, I dutifully sprinkled water over the four pots. In the back of mind, a niggling voice festered. “Maybe you should put screens over the pots….just in case.” Since I’m so good at ignoring little voices I took some pictures of my pots and pleased as punch, went into the house to announce the start of my 2011 garden.

The next day, I was talking to my youngest daughter on the cell phone as I walked home from work. As I approached the patio, I excitedly told her about the plantings. My happiness suddenly turned to howls as I realized one of those wretched squirrels had decided to feed on my newly planted seed.

Her response? “Mom, it’s the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Remember?”

Pot post-squirrel attack

Oh, how I remember. Long ago, when she was about six years old, she’d planted a flower in a tiny pot at school and brought it home to give me for Mother’s Day. She and her dad had hidden it in the garage, locked the door, and forbade me to enter the garage. They forgot to tell that to the furry creature hidden somewhere in the dark recesses of the garage.

The next morning, the two of them sneaked out to the garage. There was a loud scream, followed by angry cries of frustration. Somehow, they’d unknowingly locked a raccoon inside the garage and he seemed to think that flower was his breakfast.

I honestly think if the raccoon had hung around, Anne would have grabbed the nearest shovel and smacked it.

It was Anne’s version of Judith Viorst’s “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good Very Bad Day.” A Mother’s Day I’ve never forgotten.

Twenty years later, she’s obviously still hanging on to her memory of that day, but with a humorous twist. And so…there you have it…the curse of the Mother’s Day plant. Guess I’ll have to wait until after Mother’s Day to re-plant.