Saturday, June 30, 2007

Bad critters! Bad critters!

This morning I found another dead mouse between the living room and the dining room. This time the cat killed it but didn't eat much.

After throwing it out, I noticed a fat little live mouse sitting on the mat by the deck -- the inside mat. It was really rather cute, being practically round like a ball. So I opened the door and scooped it outside.

Later I found three dead mice in our sticky traps.

All this, boys and girls, does not make Mikie a happy camper.

So I put some more traps around and will have to check them daily at least for a while.

I ask you, what good are those cats?

Friday, June 29, 2007

Life in the fast lane

After Tom sat around all day Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday waiting for the electrician to show up to connect the central air, they finally appeared Thursday morning. Just in time, too. He had to attend a zoning hearing late morning that lasted most of the day. And naturally, the temperatures dropped into the upper forties last night...

The Cattus domesticus wisconsensis decided to prove she is a hunter and brought in a mouse to devour in the middle of the night. This morning in the middle of the living room we found a mouse head, one paw and a tail. After I got home I found Cassidy stalking a garter snake in the garage. At least she didn't bring it in.

Evelyn had court this morning, so Joe stayed with her dad. That meant I was able to spend all morning getting the bills out! I have probably mentioned before that I think the Screnocks are trying to run a full time law practice with a part time staff -- I know I have mentioned it to them -- but I don't want to work for them full time, and they don't seem inclined to look for someone full time or to cover the time I am not available.

Tom went into Milwaukee with a friend for a convention tonight, so I went into Reedsburg to get something to eat. Afterwards I went to the Pamida to kill some time. Pamida is a discount place, sort of a smaller-town Wal-Mart. Tom always calls it PrangeWay because that was the name of a store that used to be there. He's the kind of person who gives directions in terms of what things looked like forty years ago. He insists on calling the service station at the Lake Delton exit a Mobil station, even though it is clearly Shell. You know, the folks in Whitehouse who tell a newcomer to go down and turn left in front of where the Mercantile used to be...

Anywho, as Rusty would say, in the Pamida I found eight -- 8! -- pink flamingos like the ones Tom has been wanting. So I got them and set them up outside like they are coming out of the woods towards the drive. It should catch his eye (and poor Greg Sacra's) when they drive in tomorrow evening. Snort!

I also saw the elks on the way home. Add that to the two does with a buck who actually had real antlers that we saw last night on the way back from Tanger Outlets, and it's been another critter-ful day.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sad connection

The local paper carried this report of a Wisconsin Dells-Texas connection that is tragic:
Dells grad arrested for brother's murder

A former Wisconsin Dells resident charged with murdering his brother is held in a Texas jail on $500,000 bond, according to police in the Dallas suburb where the suspect was arrested.

Flower Mound Police arrested Mark Honish, 44, near his home in Trophy Club, Texas on Friday after discovering the body of his 52-year-old brother, David Honish, of Denton, Texas, in a pick up truck on U.S. 377 the day before. It appeared that David Honish, also a former Wisconsin Dells resident, died from a gunshot wound to the head, according to information released from the Flower Mound Police Department.

According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, police there reported that the engine of David's truck was running when an officer found him at 11:30 p.m. on Thursday. Headlights had not been turned off and the driver's side window was down.

The newspaper serving the Dallas and Fort Worth areas, the Star-Telegram, quoted Flower Mound Police spokesman Paul Boon saying that David pulled off the road as if to meet someone and then was shot as opposed to being shot while driving.

Police found an e-mail from David Honish's brother, Mark, in the victim's truck. Upon locating the victim's brother, investigators found what appeared to be blood on the driver's door of his truck. The defendant was then arrested.

David Honish was known for his political activism. Trish Major, communications director for the Dallas Peace Center, was quoted in the Star-Telegram as saying David demonstrated against the war in Iraq and Halliburton, while at the same time supported the right to carry arms.

Wisconsin Dells Chief of Police Bret Anderson said he knew the Honish brothers who were graduates of Wisconsin Dells High School.

"They are a very nice family. It's a tragic situation," Anderson said.
Tom knows the family,although he did not know either of the brothers involved.


You may have seen an article that says that some scientists believe all domesticated cats can be traced back to a wild cat found in the Middle East and in Africa, the Felis silvestris lybica. The name bascially means wild Lybian cat. Tom noticed how much this picture of one looks like Cassidy and Sundance. Well, what Cassidy and Sundance would look like if they were lean and sleek.

Be that as it may, I ran across this amusing African story about how the wild cat came to live with human beings:
Once upon a time the cat did not live in the houses of men. She lived only in the bush or in the jungle.

One cat became friendly with a rabbit. She went everywhere with the rabbit and was astonished at the craftiness of her friend. One day an antelope fought with the rabbit and killed it with its horns. As her friend was dead the cat lived with the antelope. Then the antelope was killed by a leopard, so the cat decided to live with the leopard. A few days later they met with a lion. The lion fought the leopard and killed it. The poor cat then made friends with the lion and lived with him until one day they met an elephant herd. A huge bull fought with the lion and killed it.

The cat thought to herself, "I must make friends with an animal as large and strong as this elephant - surely nothing can defeat it!"

But her troubles were not yet over, for one day a hunter shot the elephant with a poisoned arrow and the elephant died.

Now the cat did not know what to do, for she had never seen a two-legged animal such as this. She thought hard and said to herself, "If this man can kill a huge animal like an elephant, I had better make friends with him so that I can live in safety."

She followed the hunter back to his home, and when the hunter entered his hut the cat crept up on to the verandah. She heard sounds of quarreling in the hut and saw the man in flight from a woman who was beating him with a spoon she had been using to stir porridge.

The cat said to herself, "Now I have seen the strongest of all creatures - a woman!"

Ever after this the cat has lived in the huts with the women, because it is they who are all-powerful.
What can I say?

Since we have no women living in this house, I guess the cats are all-powerful. When Helen visits, she says the cats avoid her because they think she will take them back to Minnesota. Maybe they just recognize that she used to be in charge of Tom's household and now they don't want to give that up.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Job hunters!

Although there are lots of things I like about living in Wisconsin, I have to admit that I left a much better employment situation in Chicago -- well, except that the people I worked for were getting ready to fold up their tents and disappear, of course. But looking for a job around here is not at all like looking for a job in The Big City. So even though I am okay work-wise, I still keep an eye out for opportunities that might be a better fit.

In looking through the listings today, I ran across this little gem

Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort
Job Description: Wear Mascot uniform (Monte Moose). Greet guests, especially the children as they go into restaurant and lobby area. Must be a people person, enjoy the resort/family atmosphere. Uniform is very warm, so must be able to tolerate wearing this uniform.
Okay, could you tolerate wearing that uniform even if it were cool? And cool, it is not!

But if you know anyone who is a people person who wants to be a people moose, let them know that they're hiring in Wisconsin Dells. (I guess this is one even the Eastern European kids didn't want.)

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Prayer request

My lady-boss Evelyn Screnock's father's health has taken a serious turn for the worse in the last week. It has been just over a year since she lost her mother. I would ask your prayers for her dad and for the entire family at this time.

This photo of a sculpture of a Russian beggar woman by Ernst Barlach (c. 1906) -- I saw it at the National Gallery in Washington, DC several years ago and fell in love with it -- conveys a profound sense of prayer to me. She has her empty hand outstretched, acknowledging her need but not daring to raise her face to say what she wants. Her empty hand is open to receive whatever the giver offers. In prayer, it is a humble admission that we need help, but often know not what help we need. The giving we leave to God. Our task is to receive gratefully whatever comes from the divine heart.

"Thy will be done."

Monday, June 25, 2007

No egrets?

Because Evelyn was busy this afternoon taking care of some things for her father, Joe needed a ride home. They live in Lime Ridge, another little intersection masquerading as a town about thirty miles west of Baraboo and Wisconsin Dells. On the way back, I passed a lot of dairy farms and saw lots of cattle. And I noticed something that had struck me the other day. I never see cattle egrets -- you know, those snowy white birds you see around cattle in Texas. When I got home, I looked it up online, and supposedly they have been seen up here in the winter. I guess I am not looking around for them in winter, or else they disappear in the snow. They are attractive birds and goodness knows Wisconsin has enough cattle for them. They are a kind of heron and are related to cranes, the latter being a big deal locally as I have mentioned.

Fun/weird cattle egret factoid: The cattle egret’s reproduction is very unusual. For egrets to have babies there must be a temporary group of one male and two females. After they mate the male stays with one of the females and the other female leaves. After the eggs are laid the female will become the mother of 2-4 babies.

Sunday, June 24, 2007


This morning while I talked with Mama and Daddy on the phone, Helen and Tom were making a great breakfast -- blueberry pancakes with fresh blueberries, bacon and sausage patties. Lucy didn't get out of bed until midmorning, so it was more brunch maybe than breakfast.

After Lucy took off for Chicago, Helen got packed up and we drove her and Buddy up to Osseo to meet Jay driving down from Minnesota. The normal meeting place is Osseo because it is conveniently halfway and it is the location of the Norske Nook, a small Norwegian bakery and restaurant that is ridiculously famous for its pies. Seriously. Tour buses turn off the interstate and drive into downtown Osseo -- not much, trust me -- so people can unload and get a piece of pie (or some to take home) at the Norske Nook. Everything is made from scratch, and they have won 13 blue ribbons in the past five years at the National Pie Championship. Fortunately, their apple, cherry, blueberry and peach pies are available in a sugar-free version, although I imagine the crusts are filled with butter. I must also tell you that the pie is the thing. The rest of the menu offerings are nothing to blog home about.

The terrain, sculpted by glaciers, is quite interesting for part of the drive. Here you see some of the bluffs near Camp Douglas outside of Tomah. An area of about 1,825 square miles was covered with water in Wisconsin's central region due to glaciation about 70,000 years ago. Water depths reached 150 feet. The bluffs are composed of sandstone mounds and were islands in the Wisconsin Glacial Lake.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Artsy and Not So Artsy

This afternoon we went to the Spring Green Arts and Crafts Fair. The Spring Green area, south and west of here, was settled by Welsh -- Yay, Wales! Y ddraig goch ddyry cychwyn!* -- English, Norwegian and German immigrants. Their early industries were dairy and produce farms, lumbering and cheese making. Newcomers included many artists and craftspeople, producing a wealth of rustic furniture, pottery, jewelry, handmade paper, and other decorative arts. It is famous for Taliesen, a Frank Lloyd Wright school and home -- an architectural landmark -- as well as the House on the Rock -- an architectural tourist attraction and nightmare. The fair is a big deal with about 200 exhibitors. Some very nice things -- a few sculptures in the $3,000 to $6,000 range. Tom spent ten bucks on a purple cow painting. He asked where I thought we should put it, and I said, "Your room." The lady who sold it to him laughed big.

From there we went on to -- wait for it, wait for it! -- the roller derby in Madison. Lucy works for a labor union in Chicago, but she was always pretty athletic. She ran track at the state level and was a Golden Gloves boxer. She participates in bicycle races and got into roller derby a couple of years ago. So she wanted everyone to go with her to a match between the Madison Dairyland Dolls and the Hotrod Honeys from Austin. What can I say? To quote the advance publicity:
This will mark the second time these two teams go skate-to-skate. Last summer, the confident Honeys invited the Dairyland Dolls to come play in Texas, and the Dolls showed all of Texas what ‘play’ really means, soundly skating away with a 52-38 victory.

That taught the Honeys a valuable lesson, and now they realize that the strong, fast ladies from the dairy state are not to be trifled with. The Honeys want to get even, but your Dairyland Dolls won’t just give it away – they’ve built a roster of some of the finest members of the Mad Rollin’ Dolls’ home teams, and they’re out to see if Texans really bleed red, white, and blue.
The results? The Dolls beat the Honeys 101 to 92. Lucy says it was a pretty bloodless battle, and only one participant was carried off with a broken arm. As I told Helen, it's a subculture -- but it's not my subculture.
*The Welsh slogan above means (approximately) "The Red Dragon Inspires", in reference to the dragon on the Welsh flag, ancient symbol of the homeland of the Dodds.


Carmelite Studies X
A Better Wine:
Essays Celebrating Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.

Edited by Kevin Culligan, O.C.D.

Ten members of the Institute of Carmelite Studies contribute to this volume honoring their Carmelite brother and colleague, Father Kieran Kavanaugh. O.C.D. on his fifty years as a Catholic priest. The ten essays and their respective authors are as follows:

  • Jesus Christ, Friend and Liberator: The Christology of St. Teresa of Avila by Daniel Chowning, O.C.D.

  • Fair is Foul and Foul is Fair: An Interpretation of Chapter Fourteen of Book One of The Dark Night of St. John of the Cross by Marc Foley, O.C.D.
  • Jerome Gratian's Constituciones del Cerro: An Example of Teresian Humor
    by Michael Dodd
  • The Holy Spirit, Mary, and Thérèse of Lisieux by Emmanuel Sullivan, O.C.D.
    Blind Hope in Divine Mercy, by Chalres Niqueux; translated by
    Salvatore Sciurba, O.C.D.
  • "Something Surprising:" Reflections on the Proclamation of St. Thérèse as "Doctor of the Universal Church" by Steven Payne, O.C.D.
  • Two Concentration Camp Carmelites: St. Edith Stein and Père Jacques Bunel by John Sullivan, O.C.D.
  • Learning How to Meditate: Fifty Years in Carmel by Kevin Culligan, O.C.D.
  • The Contemporary Influence of the Carmelite Mystical School
    by Denis Read, O.C.D.
  • Afterword: The Third Millennium: St. John of the Cross and Interreligious Dialogue in Asia by William Johnston, S.J.
  • The Bibliography of Kieran Kavanaugh, O.C.D.
    Compiled by Regis Jordan, O.C.D.

  • I have been waiting for several years for this volume to appear. I finished the translation that is included about five years ago, and the volume was supposed to come out in 2003. I have been working on an article based on this translation, but I needed to wait until the translation came out before completing it. Now I can try to get that done. Depending on the response to the translation, I may even be able to convince the publisher to issue it with some additional material as a separate little book.

    You may notice that I am the only author not listed as "O.C.D", even though I am technically still a member of the community. At the time the editor asked me how to list me, I expected to have been formally released from the Carmelites, but my superiors decided not to do that at this time.

    PS -- I shouldn't complain about how long it took to get this published. One of the other authors, Fr. Denis Read, died in 2004.

    Friday, June 22, 2007

    Another quiet day

    The air conditioning folks came this morning about the time I took off for work. The last one left around 3:00. I understand that all that remains is for the electrician to show up and hook some things up.

    Tom took Helen and Lucy to visit the International Crane Foundation this afternoon. I hung around until the air conditioning guys left and talked on the phone with a friend who moved from California to Katy, Texas last week. He will be starting at the University of Houston in the fall.

    Rusty sent me a few pictures from their trip to Cabo San Lucas and San Jose. I particularly liked this one of him with Janet. He also sent a photo he had taken outside a church showing a picture of the local natives killing the first priest to come to the area. He warned me not to wear my collar if I ever visit there.

    Oh, well. I can't really afford a vacation anyway.

    On the local news front, the Baraboo-Dells Airport Commission just approved colors for the upcoming snow removal building. The newspaper reports, "After considerable discussion, the commission chose tundra, a light gray, for the building color and polar white for the trim and roof." Considerable discussion and they came to light gray and white trim? Went out on a real fashion limb, there, guys!

    Thursday, June 21, 2007


    Well, we don't have any neighborhood violence to match the Brooklyn Branch Office's evening entertainment. In fact, not much is happening at all.

    Tom and Helen spent much of the day doing laundry, planting and puttering around while I was at work. Late this afternoon they went to see an old farm house for sale we had seen in the paper. The picture of the exterior was attractive, but apparently it wasn't much to look at inside. Tom then took off for a meeting and I popped the lasagna he had constructed into the oven for dinner. It wasn't done in the prescribed hour, so Helen suggested we unwrap all the foil and give it another half hour to brown up a bit. So it is almost time for dinner as I write.

    Their daughter Lucy was due to arrive tonight for a visit, but she called a while ago to say she will come up tomorrow morning instead. She would have had to leave Chicago after a long day at work and not get here until 11:30 or so. Better for her anyway. Tomorrow morning at 7:30 the air conditioning crew is supposed to arrive and start hammering and jammering away. I don't think it would have been fun after a long drive and short night's sleep.

    We went to Culver's last night for ice cream, having failed to get there earlier in the week. Helen had the Bananas Foster sundae, and Tom and I each had a Turtle Sundae. Nummy! But now what do we do tonight?

    As we looked around at Culver's, we noticed that people -- ourselves included -- seem to be heavier than they used to be. Do you think eating sundaes at Culver's could be part of the problem?

    See, I told you nothing much was happening.

    Tuesday, June 19, 2007

    Critters in the News

    Lest you think that I am exaggerating in my complaining about critters, the news has a story that nearby Rocky Arbor State Park is being closed down for ten days because it is being overrun by gypsy moth caterpillars. The picture is from the park -- I guess trees growing out of a rock make a rocky arbor.

    Tom and Helen came into Baraboo today to take me to lunch, and my boss, Joe, went with us. Evelyn was taking her dad to visit her mother's grave, this being the anniversary of her death last year. Her dad's health is a matter of concern now, so keep him in your prayers. We ate at the little downtown Chinese buffet. The owner is a nice guy, but he recently lost his cook and the new one is still catching on, I think.

    Today the next-to-last student got her paper to me and I graded and sent it back. The one remaining student is notorious for never finishing within the semester, so I am not surprised. He is a retired military officer who lives near Chicago but who owns a condo here in Wisconsin Dells. Last year he was offering all sorts of advice to help me find a job up here, so I appreciate his efforts anyway. He had some serious health problems this past winter, so I am sure that contributed to the delay.

    With luck, we will be going to get a turtle sundae (or something like) at Culver's later this evening. Culver's is a Sauk County-based chain of frozen custard and hamburger joints. Last year the founders rode in the Fourth of July Parade, followed by flags from every state and country where they are located. I took a picture of the flag from Texas, so I know there's at least one down there somewhere. They are famous for their "butterburger", which is a hamburger made with meat cooked in butter. This is the quintessential non-kosher food item, becuase it comes very close to violating the biblical proscription in Exodus 34:26: "Do not cook a young goat in its mother's milk.""

    Monday, June 18, 2007

    A face only a mother could love

    Here is the caricature Dave Riggs did. Tom told him it was for my mother in Texas, so that is why he gave it the title he did. (I think!)

    Vince, this is supposed to be a caricature and exaggerated, but I was also tempted to do something about that jawline... I was glad he gave me more hair than I actually have, though, so I guess it's a trade-off. Tom says he got my goofy smile down pat. You know me, always trying to hide the gaps in my teeth.

    The original is 11 x 14, and I had to reduce it on a copier in two pieces and cut and paste. This is not perfect, but you get the idea.

    Sunday, June 17, 2007

    The Lord's Day

    Since Helen called to say they wouldn't get here until about dinner time, we went over the Reedsburg for a bit more of the Butter Festival, arriving for lunch with the after-church crowd. Tom wanted to go to the Knights of Columbus BBQ chicken dinner, but the line was way long, so we ate Lion's Club burgers instead and Lutheran cream puffs. Quite tasty, though overpriced, but it's all for a good cause. Then we walked through the little Arts & Crafts Fair -- ostensibly the reason we had gone, but there was little to see. It began to pour for a while, which meant we wandered around in the Arts & Crafts pavilion longer than planned before walking along the midway -- thought about getting an airbrush tattoo, but relax, Mama, I didn't -- and finally over to watch a couple of innings of Home Talent League baseball between the Reedsburg Pirates and the Sauk Prairie Twins.

    Helen and Jay arrived with Buddy and Jenna -- Other Dog -- a large hound of some sort, very friendly and allegedly used to cats. When Sundance came wandering out of my bedroom, though, Jenna went after her like a flash and it took three adults to slow her down enough for Dancer to make it into Tom's room and under her bed. I assume she is still cowering there. Jenna goes back to Minnesota tomorrow morning, and Sundance can reappear. Buddy was grinning and wagging his tail like mad, pleased as punch that Jenna had gotten into trouble. Just like kids!

    My friend Rick called from Iowa about the time Helen and Jay arrived. It is always good to hear from him and he sounded excited about some new projects. I'm still hoping to get down to visit him sometime this summer.

    For dinner Tom had made a giant Greek salad followed by strawberry shortcake, fresh picked strawberries compliments of neighbor Peggy. These people think strawberry shortcake is made with biscuits instead of angel food cake, if you can believe that! But then northerners put sugar in their cornbread, too. What can you do with people like that?

    More lessons on living with another human being and a few animules

    You would think after thirty years of living with up to twenty-five other guys in a monastery -- old, young, smokers, nonsmokers, English-speaking and Spanish-speaking -- , I would be used to coping with the dynamics of living with someone else. After all, I went from living at home with my family to living in a dorm suite with three other guys, to living in a shared apartment to monasteries in Arkansas, Texas, Massachusetts, Wisconsin, Washington, DC, St. Louis, Mexico City, Illinois... Only for a couple of years in Chicago did I have a place all to myself. So I should have this shared living space thing down pat.

    Still, it is sometimes a challenge. Tom is a great and generous person to share living space with, but our styles are rather different. (I know I have whined about this before, but let me go on.)

    All those years in the monastery turned me into a fan of "A Place for Everything and Everything in Its Place As Soon As You are Done with It." Tom's thirty years of marriage and a house full of teenagers taught him that some things will never be found again unless they are left lying around in plain sight. I know I have told you that he threatened to build two kitchens when he designed this house: one for him to use where everything was lying around on top of counters, and one for me to show people where everything would be put neatly away.

    His camera wasn't working, so he got batteries to put in. He keeps the batteries in a box in a drawer in a file cabinet in his office. How orderly can you get, right? But does he put them back there once he is done? No. He leaves them on the dining room table, along with the foam gasket left over from putting in the window units, the camera case, the newspaper from last Friday, the cowboy hat he wore to the parade yesterday, the Grisham novel he is reading, the pen and notepad he made the shopping list on, two or three pairs of scissors used to cut the foam...

    I go around and put it all back where it belongs, unless I figure he will be looking for it in the next hour or so. At some point I can be sure he will say, "Where are the tweezers? I need to detick the cat." The tweezers are either (a) where he last used them and set them down, or (b) in his bathroom where they belong and where I put them after he last used them and set them down on the sink.

    I heave a huuuuge sigh like the martyr that I am and go track them down. If I am smart, I will hover around so that I can snatch them up and put them right back WHERE THEY BELONG!

    He recently bought me a refrigerator magnet that says "Thou shalt not snivel" as a reminder to loosen up. He also brought back a "Don't Mess with Texas" magnet from his trip to John's graduation. So I guess we are both learning.

    The feline animules, of course, just ignore us as best they can. For them, "Everything in Its Place" means food in the dish and litter in the box. And, of course, someone to open the door when they want to go through it.

    House critters

    Tom got his camera working -- not in time for parade pictures, though -- and took this shot of Cassidy sprawled out on the deck in the heat. I'll try to get some other pictures to post later.

    Cassidy is the hunter cat, although she is portly, too. Pretty independent, she does not like to be picked up and petted, but she is always climbing up on chairs or my computer desk to be stroked. Sundance acts a bit shy, but Cassidy has the contemptuous feline look down pat. You only get that from Dancer after putting medicine in or on her.

    Helen and Jay are coming this afternoon, bringing Buddy (the dog Helen got in the divorce) and Jay's ex-wife's dog that they are dog-sitting. Buddy will stay here when Jay and the Other Dog head back to Minnesota tomorrow. Buddy is a great dog but sheds worse than the cats. I will sweep up enough hair to stuff a mattress by the time he goes home.

    Saturday, June 16, 2007

    And on the seventh day...

    I woke up about 5:30 and couldn't get back to sleep. So I got up around 6:00 and closed my windows to keep in the cool air.

    Tom came in five minutes later and opened them again. I guess my timing was off.

    I had the traditional college boy's Saturday morning breakfast -- cold leftover pizza. The full tradition would include finishing off a bottle of flat beer, but I don't do beer, of course. So I had the middle-aged man's equivalent -- somewhat cold coffee sweetened with Splenda.

    The pizza is from a little place in Baraboo called the Eagle's Nest. I'm not sure why, but the decorations run to the patriotic, along with velvet paintings of Italianesque landscapes and -- for reasons totally beyond us -- condiment racks on the wall that are shaped like elephants and look like refugees from an Indian or Pakistani place. Tom says it looks like they bought everything up at a garage sale and just put it on the walls. Good New York-style pizza, though, and HUGE. We always being home leftovers.

    Coming back last night at dusk, we saw lots of fireflies. There are more and more each evening now.

    As I write this at 6:45 a.m., it looks like a beautiful morning for the parade, although the weather report calls for thunderstorms developing later in the day.
    (Later) Well, the parade was nice, but not too exciting. Last year -- it being an election year -- there were all sorts of localish political entries, but this year no politicians and the Republicans didn't even show up to march. The Flag Ladies weren't there, either, which surprised me a lot. The predicted rain (no thunder and lightning) came earlier than forecast, arriving just as Tom's group came to the end of the parade route, which was pretty good timing. They were near the end of the parade, too, so no one got totally rained out.

    I watched it surrounded by young families with kids in the four- to ten-year-old range, a perfect age for scurrying out to get the candy and trinkets being tossed from the cars and trucks. Last year it was very hot and the big and welcome favorites were the fruit-flavored ice pops one group had. So this year lots of people were giving those out. Naturally, it was cooler and overcast, and there was not the same excitement about them. A few groups were tossing Mardi Gras-type beads and one insurance company had rather nice Frisbees. Best giveaway, in my opinion, were small blooming marigolds potted in plastic-lined butter boxes for replanting. To be honest, though, I don't even remember who was giving them out. So much for their advertising value.

    Friday, June 15, 2007

    Weather, corn, critters and parades

    It got up to 90 today, but Tom's strategy of opening the windows at night and cooling the house off, then closing everything up in the morning and keeping the shades down kept the house pleasant enough with the ceiling fans on. He spent much of the morning building a platform to put the air conditioning unit on when it is finally installed. I had thought it might be outside my end of the house, but it looks like they decided to put it at the other end where Tom's room and the guest room are. Supposedly the unit will be very quiet and not keep everyone awake.

    It has been very dry the past week or so, but Jerry's corn across the road looks good. Last year Tom's foster son, John, dropped by for a short visit in May with his daughter, Katya. Tom decided to set up a small corn patch by the house where he and Katya would plant some corn. Then when she came back later in the year, they could pick Katya's corn and eat it. Unfortunately, it rained the whole time John and Katya were here, so the planting didn't take place until later. Neither Katya nor Tom got to eat any of Katya's corn, though -- the raccoons got every ear of it.

    This year Tom planted some tomatoes in that patch, along with some odds and ends -- peppers, canna lilies and what not. I wonder it the raccoons will get all the benefit again?

    There are lots of them around. Jerry claims to have been awakened by them last summer and went out with his gun in the middle of the night to find over a dozen raiding his corn crib. I haven't seen any adults around, but I have seen two little kits beside the road. They are cute as bugs, even though they are a pest.

    Found another tick in my bathroom, this one climbing the window. The neighbors say it is a bad year for them for some reason. I don't know why the bathroom is such a place. The cats go in there all the time to get a drink, and maybe they are dropping them off. Tom has been tweezing ticks off of them and today we are reapplying the anti-tick and flea gunk. It is a greasy stinky goo that you rub into the back on their neck where the cat can't lick it off. It drives them crazy, but I don't know if it is the smell or the discomfort of the stickiness.

    Right now the Butter Festival is in full swing over in Reedsburg, which claims to be the Butter Capital of America. Tomorrow there is the Run for the Butter (10K or 2 mile options), followed by a parade downtown. Tom and his fellow Democrats will march in it, so I will go and watch. If it is very entertaining, I will report back. There will be a dozen floats with variations on "Butter Living Through High Milk Fat Content", I suppose.

    Most likely the Sauk County Living Flag ladies will be in the parade. They are a staple of most of the parades around here. It is made up of seven ladies wearing outfits that go together to make up a flag. They stand next to one another riding on a trailer, singing patriotic songs. It originated in Witwen, a tiny town -- intersection, really -- in the southern part of the county; and although hardly anyone lives there, they have a hugely popular Fourth of July parade. Thousands of people drive from all over the state to line the roadside and watch. The Flag ladies have been a tradition for over fifty years, and apparently being one of them is an honor handed down within the same families from generation to generation. Those outfits have to be hot, and being dragged around for a couple of hours under the sun while singing can't be easy. So here's to the ladies!

    Last year I got the impression that anyone who wanted to be in the Butter Festival parade could join. It looked like everyone in Sauk County who had a tractor that didn't have to be in the field that day was in it. The best part, though, was a group of cars that were supposed to be examples of fancy paint jobs. They were basically advertising a particular garage/body shop's work. Naturally, one of them blew its transmission a block before the end of the parade route and had to be pushed off the road by spectators. Not the kind of advertising you want!

    Helen is coming in on Sunday. I was hoping she would come earlier so she could watch the parade with me. It's probably going to be a scorcher, and we could have sat in the shade and made snotty remarks. I mean, kind and clever observations.

    At least I don't have to march in the hot sun carrying banners.

    Thursday, June 14, 2007

    Sr. Carol Ann

    I heard from my good friend Jeff Scheeler, the Franciscan priest I was in school with in St. Louis back in 1985, that our classmate in the Institute for Religious Formation, Sr. Carol Ann Sunderman died over the weekend. She was a great lady -- in more ways than one. She was over six feet tall. In the old habit, she looked like a giant! We had some great long walks and talks the year we studied together, with her towering over me, and she came to visit me once at Holy Hill.

    Carol Ann had a kidney replaced a year or so back, but she developed colon cancer. She died on her 72nd birthday.

    Say a prayer for her Franciscan sisters and her family. When we were all in St. Louis, one of her brothers invited all fifty of us over for a party at his house. It was a blast, if you can imagine fifty priests, brothers and nuns, ranging in age from 26 to 65, from twenty different countries.

    I couldn't locate a picture of her, but the portrait is of their foundress, so that is what her habit looked like. By the time I knew her, of course, they didn't dress like that anymore. She'd have a fit that I posted this!


    I went over to the library this afternoon to pick up three books I had requested through the interlibrary loan system. The library here is great, much better than one would expect from such a small town. This is largely due to the fact that the population swells so much in the summer, producing greater income from taxes and greater demand for public services. After all, the town is only a couple of thousand people, but hundreds of thousands come through here during the season.

    The library is a fairly new building, light and airy with comfortable easy chairs. The only thing it lacks -- which the library in neighboring Reedsburg provides free -- is coffee!

    The library is full of the college-age European workers, too. They can get a library card for the summer that allows them to use the computers, and thus the internet, and the library has shelves and shelves of books in Polish and Russian. They also give free English lessons and have a do-it-yourself language lab set-up in English for the visiting workers. The kids are all either extroverts to begin with -- after all, they came halfway around the world to work in the hospitality business -- or they learn on their jobs to smile and say hello to everyone. As a result, it is a very friendly atmosphere.

    So they hang out there a lot. The library is not too strict about silence, low-voiced conversations are possible, there are chairs and it is air conditioned. It is obviously a place to go to make new friends, and it looks like some serious initial flirting goes on. Nothing out of place, so far as I have ever seen. And, after all, the place closes at 8:00 while it is still full daylight outside.

    So that is the other place you see the Ukrainian girls and the Russian guys -- at church, at work, at Wal-Mart and at the library.

    Speaking of foreign workers, a local motel got busted for hiring illegals. According to the local papers:
    Motel operators in Wisconsin Dells and the Kenosha area were charged with smuggling illegal aliens into the U.S. from Guatemala to work at the motels in a federal indictment unsealed Tuesday.

    Siddhartha "Sam" Shah, 51, of Pleasant Prairie, and Jignesh "Mark" Jagaria, 36, of Wisconsin Dells, were arrested on Monday and appeared in U.S. District Court in Madison on Tuesday, where they were released pending trial.

    According to state records, Shah is the registered agent for Singapori Hospitality, which owns the Super 8 motel in Wisconsin Dells, and for Best American Hospitality Inc., which owns the Super 8 motel in Pleasant Prairie.

    Shah is charged with conspiracy to smuggle illegal aliens into the U.S. and harbor them at his motels from July 2005 to May 2007. According to the indictment, Shah paid and conspired with others to smuggle the illegal workers from Guatemala to Wisconsin, where they worked at Shah's motels.
    The guy they hired to clean rooms in the Dells had to live in a store room.

    Wednesday, June 13, 2007

    Young Buck

    Tonight after dinner I was messing around on the computer when Tom called me to look out my window. He had spied a couple of deer down by the treeline on my side of the house. One turned out to be a young buck. The least bit of noise even in the house alerts them, and they didn't hang around for long.

    I had mentioned to Tom recently that I see a lot of deer, but mostly I see does. I have seen some bucks with impressive racks tied to trucks during hunting season, but not so much among the dozens I see alongside the roads. Even this little fellow had two little stalks that made him look like an overgrown billy goat more than anything else. So maybe some of the ones I assume are does are just little bucks with stubs that are antlers-in-the-making.

    As for other critters, this morning I pulled a substantial tick out of the little hair on top of my head. Gross!

    The squirrels are scampering about under the bird feeder, but I haven't seen one on the feeder itself. Tom said he saw one, but they seem deterred -- in not stymied -- by the removal of the mid-pole staple for a foothold.

    Some of the plants in the wildflower beds Tom worked on are starting to bloom. The problem is that he can't tell if they are wildflowers or just weeds. Because, let's be honest, wildflowers are basically weeds with colors. We'll just wait and see. Helen will be here this weekend, and she may have a better eye for it.

    Warm by any other name

    It is finally warning up -- really warming up -- here in the Dells. Even though we have had a handful of days in the 80's, once the sun goes down the temperature has dropped into the 50's. So we open the windows after it cools off and let the cool air in all night. That's why I am still sleeping under quilts in mid-June. Then once the sun is up in the morning, we close the windows and let down the shades to keep the cool air in. As a result, it can be in the 80's outside, but the indoor temperature stays around 72-74. Great deal and no cost!

    But now that is changing. The lows are going to be in the 60's now and climbing. So the evening cool will be cool, but not enough to cool down the house and keep it cool. That is part of the reasoning behind Tom's decision to air condition the house. He thinks it will cost more than it will actually add to the resale value of the house. I suspect, though, that when his kids do get around to selling the place when he is Somewhere Else, air conditioning will make it sell faster, even if it doesn't get a full return on the investment. So it does add to the value in its own way.

    Not to mention making for more restful sleeping when the nights get really warm and sticky outside in a few more weeks.

    Tuesday, June 12, 2007

    Tuesdays with Michael

    (Okay, that was a pop culture reference to the book and movie, Tuesdays with Morrie)

    Things at the law office were busy this morning. Not as hectic as I had anticipated, because Joe was working on a lot of his other business stuff -- his rentals, etc. That always makes him frustrated, which Mama and Daddy would understand having been landlords. He told me once if he could devote the appropriate amount of time to handling his rental properties (offices and apartments), he would make more than he does as a lawyer, but the law work takes priority because it tends to become urgent first.

    Anyway, I survived the morning, came home and finished up Vinko's dissertation editing. Almost seventy pages, single-spaced, chunks of it in Greek and with footnotes in French, German and Italian. I think that is the first of what will be five chapters. I was able to get it off to him so that he can submit it to his teacher, so at least we are on schedule.

    In today's mail I got an invitation to Fred Hickey's ordination to the priesthood in July. Fred will be the last of the guys that I worked with in their formation to be ordained. Very nice guy and I am glad it has worked out for him. The picture is of Fred and Michael Berry, taken on the occasion of their solemn profession in 2005. Fred is the short guy. They were classmates, but Michael was ordained last year. The week before Fred's ordination I plan to be at Holy Hill to celebrate their silver jubilee of ordination with Fred Alexander and Steve Payne. Steve will be back from Kenya for a few weeks and it will be good to touch base with him.

    No new birds, no new critters, not even any new bugs to report. I guess we are sliding into the stability of summer now.

    The big news at The Lodge is that Tom caved and is having central air installed. When the house was planned, the builder tried to talk him into installing it, but Tom would not be convinced. He did go so far as to let everything be set up for it to be added should he change his mind. After coping with window units last summer, the noise and the bills, Tom decided to eat crow rather than go through that again. (This was after he spent most of Sunday working on wooden frames to put the window units into, though.) Yesterday he called his builder and asked him to get someone to do the work. Now we wait.

    Monday, June 11, 2007

    The Joys of Work

    Joe and Evelyn are leaving Thursday to attend the high school graduation of one of their granddaughters. So Joe decided today that he has to get all this work done before he leaves that he hasn't been doing for the past few weeks. That means he will draft like mad for a few days and I will work on the computer trying to catch up. Of course, not everything can get done before he leaves, but I will continue working Friday and Monday so most will be ready when he returns to the office next Tuesday. A hectic week in store, and he asked if I could work all day any this week before he goes.

    On the other hand, Vinko wants me to get all the work done on his dissertation so that he can send it to his supervisor before he leaves for Florida early Wednesday morning. So I told Joe I had to stay free to do that this afternoon and tomorrow, but I could work Wednesday afternoon. (Always good to pick up some extra hours and shekels!)

    So when does Vinko send me seventy pages for final review and correction? A little after 5:00 p.m. this afternoon. I have just printed it out and will begin work. I just hope it doesn't require a ton of changes, or he will never get them made in time to send out tomorrow night.

    Sunday, June 10, 2007

    Voice from the past

    Mama and Daddy will remember Noni Blalock, and Ted might. Anyway, she stays in touch a bit and recently returned from a rafting trip in the Grand Canyon. This is the email I got from her about it. It is long, but those who remember her may be interested and the rest of you might get ideas for an exciting vacation. The story starts in Austin where she now lives...

    The Rafting trip started with a 5 hour delay at the Austin Airport - bomb threat which we didn't find out about until yesterday and horrible thunderstorm - then a trip to Dallas to get a legal pilot with unfueling and refueling due to delays!! We got to Vegas at 3:30 am instead of 9 pm the night before!!! BUT we had a blast and bonded!!! We checked into the Gold Coast in Vegas and actually got to bed at 4:30 Vegas time (yep, that's 6:30 Texas time). We had 3 hours of sleeping time with wake up call from Liz to say have a great trip around 6 am. We were buffeting breakfast by 9 - and then off to the airport at 9:30. We met the Tour West person at 11 - to be transported to the North Vegas airport - weighed - yes, all of us and our luggage!! Then boarded a prop plane to fly about 30 - 45 minutes over Lake Mead and to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Bumpy ride but magnificent view!! The Bar 10 Ranch van picked us up in 2 groups and we headed up hill to the Ranch. At the ranch we had wonderful lunch followed by horse back rides, history/tour, and optional skeet shooting and nature walk. Dinner - range beef pot roast, camp potatoes, corn and BROWNIES!!! Then a hummer tour of Sunset Canyon - Wow!!
    That evening the staff put on a delightful country performance with singing, fiddling, dancing and even asking all of us to dance. The generator goes off at 10 pm and after a wonderful shower (our last time to see running warm water) we hit the sack - either bunk beds or sleeping bags under the stars!! I chose to sleep inside one more time!
    The next morning we were up with the sun around 5:30 - country breakfast - and packed to go by groups by helicopter to the river!! It took 5 trips - the Canyon was waiting for us in its full glory and so were the rafts and the Tour West crew! We were instructed in how to pack our day bags and our large blue bags with everything else - sleeping bag, pad and everything we brought in the 25 pounds allowed!! We all covered ourselves in sun screen and after being fitted for our life jackets - WE WERE OFF!!
    Oh, the pictures will never do the Canyon justice!! YOU need to be there! About 10 minutes into the trip we all learned out to get out of the raft - NOT a pretty picture - and climbed up a path to see Indian drawings on the side of the Canyon wall. It was great start and introduction to the treasures the Canyon had in store for us. We hit the small rapids about 10 minutes after setting off again and by the end of the day, we loved the rapids - they will never get old - exciting every time!! Dealing with high winds, learning to go to the bathroom along the river, putting up our own cots - just a few new skills I have now!!!
    Dinner was wonderful and we learned to wash our own dishes. I'm great with my head lantern in finding my way around in the dark and it does get dark around 8 - 8:30. We laughed and giggled and dealt with 30 - 40 mph winds that blew the sand in our eyes and all over us all night long!!
    The next morning, coffee call was at 5:15, breakfast at 6 - river toast (french toast made in Dutch oven), sausage, juice and hot chocolate! Then take down and stuff everything back in to the waterproof bags and help load the rafts.
    Day 2 on the river involved the much bigger rapids, wearing our rain gear to try to stay warm, AND a waterfall on Indian land. In order to see the waterfall - we had to scale the mountainside, ford a small stream, rappel up the cliff, climb the Indian rope ladder. AND I did it!!! Thank heavens for KEEN sandals!! Lunch was at a small beach where there was actually a set of stairs up to an OUTHOUSE!! Little pleasures!!
    In the afternoon we transitioned out of the Canyon after passing Separation Canyon into Lake Mead. We rafted until almost 6:30 when we landed, set up our cots and got ready for a wonderful STEAK dinner. The crew even made a spice cake in the Dutch oven. We were well fed! It was much cooler and we put on all the warmer clothes we brought and tucked ourselves in the sleeping bags and slept under the stars!!
    Thursday morning brought an early hot chocolate/coffee call, everyone packing up everything and dragging their stuff to the rafts and getting our things ready for the Jet Boat pick - up around 7:30. We were loaded, life jacketed, and waving goodbye for our 20 - 30 minutes FAST ride across Lake Mead to the pick up place where a bus met us for the 2 1/2 hour ride back to Vegas over Hoover Dam. Due to 9/11 restrictions we had to stuff all of our belongings in the overheads or under our seats on the bus to cross the dam - we passed inspection!
    We arrived back at the Vegas airport and took the shuttle back to the hotel where we had to identify our stored luggage as Sherry had lost the claim ticket. AND then a hot shower!!! We were and still are thrilled by running water!!
    Late lunch buffet, walk across the street to Rio to see the Masquerade show, a little shopping/no buying, dinner in the coffee shop, AND a full night sleep in a bed!! We woke up at 4:30 Vegas time this morning and were packed and down for breakfast before 7 am!!! We wake up with the sun! Our flight out of Vegas was on time and WE ARE HOME!!
    I'm unpacked and I'm washing some very dirty clothes and enjoying catching up on a few emails!!
    If you ever have a chance - RAFT the CANYON - it is the experience of a lifetime!!


    The Lodge

    Green acres is the place for me.
    Farm livin' is the life for me.
    Land spreadin' out so far and wide
    Keep Chicago, just give me that countryside.
    Lyrics to TV show, adapted
    Some years back, Tom invited a mutual friend of ours -- a Carmelite priest I have known since he was a student -- up to the farm to camp with Michaelangelo and him. Michaelangelo is another friend in Hyde Park (a doctoral student at the divinity school at the University of Chicago) who teaches at St. Rita Catholic High School -- the big football rival of the guys at Mt. Carmel High School where Jerry teaches. So they all knew one another in various church connections and in the overlapping ways that people in Hyde Park do, much like a small town in the middle of a big city.

    Jerry kept talking in advance about their trip to The Lodge. The Carmelite community he belongs to -- not the same one I belonged to -- had a number of places they called "camp", places they could escape to for a weekend or for vacation -- meaning a house on the shore of Lake Michigan or a lodge in the mountains in Colorado or a place like Niagara-on-the-Lake in Ontario. Roughing it meant you might not have all the cable networks you were used to or that you had to cook your own meals.

    He was a little stunned to discover that when Tom and Michaelangelo went camping, that meant sleeping in tents on the ground with no running water or electricity anywhere around. We still joke about The Lodge and threaten to get a sign for when Jerry visits that says, "Welcome to The Lodge."

    At least we are not sleeping on the ground in tents, and there are wonderful things about living in the country -- like the meadow flowers (I stole that picture from Tom) around the edge of the yard.

    But there are other things in the country that I had forgotten about. In particular today I mean bugs.

    When I got my pajamas out of the closet last night, a spider fell out of them and I stepped on it. This morning there were two more in the bathroom. Helen is coming to visit for a week, and Jay is bringing her down next Sunday along with Buddy the Dog. Today when I did laundry, I took the linens from the guest room to wash and make the bed up fresh. Under the quilts and on top of the sheets was a cricket. I grabbed it and tossed it out the back door.

    At least, I think I got it out the back door.

    And when I went to make the bed up, there was a spider on one of the pillows.

    Oh, well. Helen was born in Texas. She should be able to cope.

    PS -- Don't get me started on the gophers, but then they aren't bugs anyway.

    Saturday, June 9, 2007

    The kindness of strangers

    Today we spent in Milwaukee visiting Bob Mitchell. Last time we were there, Tom volunteered to build Bob a headboard for his bed so that Bob would have something to lean up against. Tom built the pieces for it at the house and we brought them down with us today.

    First we went to eat at an Indian restaurant (yay!) and then went to the festival down by Lake Michigan. Tom had arranged for Bob's brother Jim to come help put the headboard together when we got back. Near Bob's house, I noticed a plastic pink flamingo for sale. While Tom was trying to track down Jim to work on the bed, I walked a couple of blocks to the place I had seen and bought the pink flamingo.

    Buying it was a trip in itself. First, the young woman who waited on me seemed amazed that I would buy such a thing. When I told her we were actually looking for two dozen and asked if she had more, the boss looked at me as if I had lost it. "We had two, but someone bought the other one." Then she asked, "If we had two dozen in the basement, wouldn't that make you wonder about us?" We all laughed uncertainly.

    Then the woman waiting on me took my twenty (the thing cost five bucks) and asked if I had change since they were running low. She didn't want smaller bills, just the silver for the tax. So I gave her two quarters and told her to keep the change, but she gave me some coins back and closed the register.

    "Don't I get more than this?" I asked.

    She got very apologetic and flustered. She didn't know how to open the register if she wasn't ringing up a sale.

    "I'm sorry," she explained. "I am just helping out."

    "Do you really think so?" I asked.

    Fortunately I was smiling, so she smiled back. The boss opened the register and I got my fifteen bucks.

    It should have ended there, but I was also supposed to pick up three Cokes at the local coffee shop. So here I am, walking down Brady Street with a pink flamingo under my arm, no shopping bag, and it gets a little attention. Outside the coffee shop a man and woman were sitting at a table watching me approach. He said, "I'm glad to see you taking your flamingo for a walk. Most people don't think to do it."

    Inside, the girl at the counter smiled and said, "I like your flamingo."

    "Well, who wouldn't?" I asked. She gave me the Cokes and a bag and I headed back to Bob's, attracting looks and snickers along the way.

    Thje moral of the story?

    If you want to strike up a friendly conversation with strangers, walk down the street with a pink flamingo under your arm. It helps to look nonchalant, like you do this every day.

    Friday, June 8, 2007


    Tom went to a Democratic Party meeting last night in Baraboo and wound up with his picture on the front page of the local paper. He's the third from the left. This picture was taken from the online edition of the paper -- the photo in the print edition is very blurred.

    I don't know if the flamingos are keeping the squirrels away or not, but they sure do attract hummingbirds. Maybe when the flowers actually begin to bloom out back, the hummingbirds will be used to checking it out and may find something. Last night I was sitting on the front porch (an exaggeration -- the front entry would be closer to it)
    while we had very strong winds. The trees were whipping around, but the hummingbirds were as calm as could be hovering by their feeder. They had softball-sized hail north of here, but we had not a drop of rain. More importantly, we did not lose power. That map shows the weather alert we were under for most of the evening -- right in the middle of that red blob!

    I finished editing the material Vinko sent for his dissertation. He said he will send more tomorrow. This second part went much faster than the first. I hope that means I am getting better, not that I am getting more careless.

    Other people sometimes comment on something here, and you can see those comments by clicking on the word "comments" at the bottom of the post. If it says "0 comments", there are none, but if it says "2 comments" or some such thing, there should be that many comments. A window will open with the comments that have been posted.

    I hear that some of you might want to comment, but don't know how do that here. Click on the "comments" at the bottom of the post and that will open a screen where you can comment. (All the comments go through me for approval before they show up online, but that is just to keep spammers out. Anything from family will be posted.) If you want to comment on the blog and don't have an account that lets you do so by clicking on the "comments" line at the bottom of the post or can't figure out how to do it that way, just send it to me by email and I will post it for you.

    Wednesday, June 6, 2007

    Friends and health

    My friend Chris who recently underwent seventeen-hour abdominal surgery for cancer was about to go home from the hospital in Washington yesterday when he began to experience pain. Eventually they decided he had pneumonia and needs to stay in the hospital another week. We are grateful it happened when and where it did, instead of with him and Linda in at airplane at 30,000 feet on the way back to Chicago. Please keep him in your prayers.

    Today I ran into another friend who has cancer. Jeffrey is a fairly young man -- he's a grandfather, but everyone under fifty seems young to me these days -- and spent years in California as a very successful "masseur to the stars". He is a Ho-Chunk and came back to this area to be near his family when his illness got worse. Some weeks back he began to lose sight in his left eye, and he underwent an implant. Two weeks ago he said he didn't think it was going to help, but today he told me he can see out of that eye, although everything is blurry. Because this affects his driving, it has had a negative impact on him financially because most of his business out here is either in Madison (about an hour's drive) or LaCrosse (close to two hours). He hit a deer last week when it ran across the road from the left. He wasn't hurt, but the car sustained a couple of thousand dollars in damages. The deer didn't fare too well, either. Anyway, I gave him a ride to Wal-Mart to have his glasses fixed and then gave him a ride home.

    Sr. Genevieve -- the Carmelite nun in Rhode Island who is from Buford, Georgia -- wrote to say her brother Frank is very near death. He is quite elderly and this is not unexpected, but I know she would appreciate your prayers, too. She and the other nuns in Barrington have prayed so hard for the Dodds over the years, and they continue to do so.

    Vinko sent me another 34 pages of dissertation to edit, and I expect more Saturday. He wants me to get it all done and back to him for revision so he can send it to his supervisor next Wednesday. We'll see. I expect to spend about four hours on this section, judging from how long it took to do the first part. And I don't know how long the stuff that is coming on Saturday will be. I hope to finish what I have already received by Friday night, because I had planned to go with Tom to visit Bob Mitchell in Milwaukee on Saturday.

    The squirrel is back with a friend, but they don't seem to have found a way to get to the bird feeder. For now at least they are just scarfing up what the birds scatter onto the ground.

    Tuesday, June 5, 2007

    Ferns, shortcake and HDTV

    It being a beautiful, cool evening, we took a walk down Berry Road after dinner to look at some ferns. Tom is thinking about moving some in the fall, and we must have seen four or five different species. One is almost as big as a shrub and one is a light yellow-green in color.

    When we passed Peggy and Rich's house, Ivy --their toy poodle Tom occasionally dogsits -- came running out to greet us. Rich came for Ivy and invited us in for dessert. So we had shortcake, ice cream and a freshly made strawberry sauce while watching a gorgeous Planet Earth program on fresh water on their 42-inch plasma high definition TV. I could tell by the questions Tom was asking that he may now turn his new-toy search in that direction..

    The picture was amazingly clear. Tom used to tease me about the size of the television the Carmelites gave me when I moved into my little apartment in Chicago. It has a 26-inch screen and was way oversized for my little studio. In the high-ceilinged living room in this house, it fit in better. But after watching a 42-inch one, there is no comparison. I think it is just a matter of time.

    Monday, June 4, 2007

    All creatures great and small

    All things bright and beautiful,
    All creatures great and small,
    All things wise and wonderful:
    The Lord God made them all.

    Each little flower that opens,
    Each little bird that sings,
    He made their glowing colors,
    He made their tiny wings.

    Cecil F. Alexander, Hymns for Little Children, 1848
    This morning my breakfast coffee-time viewing gave me a doe wandering around in the back -- this time without a fawn at her heels, and a squirrel scaling the bird feeder.

    When Peggy and Rich gave us the birdfeeder for Christmas, part of Tom's grumbling had to do with how to make it squirrel-proof and cat-proof. He got one that I guess would be optimistically described as squirrel-resistant. He placed it atop a tall four-by-four that he then covered with a piece of drainpipe, or some such thing. Until this morning, it seemed to be working. It certainly has kept the cats away from the main feeder and the hanging finch feeder Tom put on the shepherd's crook he had fastened alongside the main pole. But an energetic squirrel discovered this morning that the bolts Tom had used to fasten the crook to the pole were adequate footholds for him to make it up and grab onto the feeder, although he did tend to slip and slide around trying to hang on. Tom was muttering about shooting it when I took off for the office.

    Along the way I saw turkeys, but nothing much more exotic than that.

    When I got back, Tom had removed the center fastener that held the shepherd's crook. He is playing a waiting game now to see what happens next. I also notice that the flamingos, which were down away from the house last night, have congregated near the bird feeder. Whether they are there as ornaments or as a squirrel deterrent, I don't know.

    Further reports as events warrant...

    Sunday, June 3, 2007

    Books and stuff

    Tom and I went into Madison today and hit bookstores etc. I bought three mysteries at Half-Price Books and he got a stack of things. Then we found a display stand for a piece of sedimentary rock that he found down by the Wisconsin River. (He insists on calling it igneous, which is totally wrong and done only to annoy me.) It is very colorful and looks like it could have been sliced from the Utah sandstone in the picture.

    Then he bought nine (count them, 9) pink flamingos to put out in the yard and in various places that he hopes will annoy Peggy. I am not the only target of his strange idea of humor.

    We ate Chinese at a place we hadn't tried -- the Flaming Wok -- and decided it is our new lunch place when we are in Madison. Tom actually likes a Japanese place in the food court at the East Towne Mall, but it is such a chaotic place that he thinks no matter what you think you are ordering, what you get is purely arbitrary. Even though he is satisfied with whatever it is he winds up eating, I guess the uncertainty is too stressful. My favorite Chinese place is still the little take-out joint in Hyde Park, Wok-n-Roll. Bad pun for a name, but the lunch special was ample and cheap and the General Tso's chicken was great. (And just about the worst thing health-wise to eat at a Chinese restaurant.)

    We came back to the Dells by a side road up through Portage instead of the interstate. The town motto is "Where the North Begins", which means, if you are going in the other direction, I suppose it is also "Where the South Begins." Pretty improbable to me. Portage gets its name from being the portage spot to link the Fox and Wisconsin Rivers, and I guess the 17th-century French fur traders said it was the way into the north by the river. Hence, where the north begins.

    Saturday, June 2, 2007

    Not the critter

    I thought I'd dress up my critter du jour report by telling you I saw an elk on the way into Reedsburg today for lunch, but although I slowed down by the Nanchas Elk Ranch, I didn't see any. (Click on their name to go to their website and hear an elk!) I have seen elk there occasionally, but not today.

    Many days I see llamas -- fairly commonly raised in Wisconsin now -- and even this emu at one of the nearby petting zoos I drive by. Wisconsin Dells used to be a spot of natural beauty with lots of low-key, low-tech family fun spots -- stocked fishing ponds, petting zoos, deer parks. Now all that is at risk of disappearing under enormous waterparks, the world's largest wave pool and so on.

    When I was at Holy Hill, we had a Living Nativity every year in December, and one neighbor came as a shepherd and provided sheep, goats and a llama. Not sure any llamas were there in Bethlehem, but how can you turn down a llama? Better yet, we had a neighbor who had a camel, Freddie, who was always the hit of the event with the Wise Men standing there looking nervous. You don't expect to be holding a camel standing in the snow, so who knew what he might do?

    Rainy Days and Saturdays

    Looks like it will rain all day today and Tom is at a meeting in Beloit, halfway to Chicago. I swept and mopped the floor, vacuumed the rugs, made my bed, went shopping (unsuccessfully) for a planned meal of chicken flautas, searched online without any luck for a replacement ballast for the light in the ceiling fan fixture in the living room and let the cats in and out and in and out and in and out.

    If this keeps up I will be forced to sit down and write a story for my Penultimate, Wisconsin collection. Which begins thusly:
    Penultimate, Wisconsin
    Pop. 631

    There are 631 stories in Penultimate, Wisconsin – give or take – and this is some of ‘em.

    The first thing you’re going to want to know is, “How did Penultimate, Wisconsin gets its name?”

    Now that may not be the first thing you want to know, but I’m telling and you’re listening, so deal with it.

    How Penultimate, Wisconsin Got Its Name

    According to the local story, there used to be a cheese shop where County Road ZZ ended at Highway 53 what runs alongside the Big Muddy. They was a big sign, “Last Chance for Wisconsin Cheese in Wisconsin”, which was an exaggeration if not a downright lie, lest you was planning to plunge into the river right there and swim across to Minnesober. Whatever the facts of the case may be, in the spring of 1923 a high wind tore through and knocked the sign about, and the only thing left hanging after the wind finished blowing was the two words: “Last” and “Wisconsin”. So the locals, such as they was in 1923, jokingly called the scattered houses along that stretch Last, Wisconsin. Which, after its fashion, it was cause’n of t’other side of the river being Minnesober and all.

    Well, that scattering of houses never did amount to much, even in a state that prides isself on having a bunch of communities listed as “Unincorporated” on they road signs. Last, Wisconsin, you might even say, didn’t last.

    Howsomever, another batch of houses did eventually reach that level of unincorporation necessary to merit one of them road signs. And some smart elleck down by Madison decided that it oughter be called Penultimate, because it was next to Last. And Penultimate it became and Penultimate it remains.

    And that’s either the God’s honest truth or close enough to pass in the dark.

    A friend who writes mentioned last night that he just completed volume seven of his projected eight-volume fantasy epic based on the Grail legends. Volume seven alone is 793 manuscript pages. I think he needs to find an Over-Writers Anonymous group.

    And I need to sit down and write something...