Thursday, April 30, 2015

Truly, truly regret

Morning musing on mold

One of my nieces, who is hoping to be able to buy a home at some point, has been paying attention to places for sale.

She reports seeing one that included in the description: Mold throughout.

We assume -- hope! -- that they meant molding like this ...

and not mold like this:


But who knows. Maybe it was an all-too-rare example of truth-in-advertising.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Deer stand

With the help of friends who use the wood for heating,Tom has been clearing dead trees in the thirty-acre woods behind and alongside the house. This has involved making some paths so they can get the wood out, and Tom has been extending the paths along the ridge to make a walking trail. I am enjoying strolling back there, increasing my step totals for the day and soothed by walking on the living earth and not on paved roads. 

He has been hard at it and I am not always up to date on where he has been working. I tend to just wander back down that way and follow the cleared spaces, expecting them to take me along the ridge at some point and back to the house.

Recently I had just gone into the woods a bit, taken the first left turn and gone only a few yards when I was startled to see this:

For those who might not know, that is a deer stand, a place for hunters to stand and get a good view while deer hunting. That particular one may not look very high, but it is located on the edge of a ridge and looks down on quite an area. Tom permits a friend to hunt on the property during deer season, but in the past the guy has put the stand up and taken it down every year when he was done. This past season Tom told him he could leave it in place. It only took me a second or two to realize what it was, but at first I thought I had wandered off our property. Our neighbor's son, who lives on the other side of our property, loves to build forts and such things and I momentarily thought I had turned myself around and wandered into Jake's territory.

As you can see, trees are just beginning to leaf out and the place is still bare. It will be beautiful once everything is green, but by then the mosquitoes will also think it is beautiful and make walking less enjoyable. I am taking advantage of the absence of pests for now. But I do have to check for ticks after every walk. Lyme disease is always a possibility. One of the realities of living in the country. Tom had to be treated for a bite from one of these ticks a couple of years back, but fortunately he did not develop the disease. Other people I know have not been so lucky.

And no, that is not a tick I found on myself but a photo I found online.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Happy health care!

About a year and a half ago, the doctor we had been seeing quite happily since moving to the Dells in 2006 decided to move on to a special field of interest. We were able to switch to another doctor in the same clinic and have been pleased with her care.

My annual physical was April 29 of last year, and this morning I called to make an appointment for a checkup. My prescriptions don't run out until early June, and my hope was to see her the last week of May. She warned me when I last saw her that the health care provider that runs the clinic was pressuring the doctors to cut the time spent with a patient from half an hour to twenty minutes in order to see more of them. You can interpret that as showing their concern that as many people as possible get to see a doctor sooner or as an effort to increase income. Whatever. She told me to be sure to let the receptionist know that I was coming for a checkup so that they would give me a longer appointment. Duly noted and done.

The receptionist informed me that my doctor's available checkup appointments were already scheduled into the middle of July, but that I could see another doctor sooner if necessary. I explained that this was just a regular checkup and July would be okay, but my prescriptions would run out before that. She assured me that they could call in refills "according to protocol" until they were able to get me in to see my doctor. So that is the arrangement.

As far as I can see, this inconvenience is not due in any way to the Affordable Care Act except perhaps because more people now have insurance and can afford to get the care they need. In which case, my inconvenience -- it is no more than that -- is the price I pay for the better health of my community at large. Totally worth it.

But I did tell Tom, who usually gets his physical in August, that he had better call now if he wants to get an appointment when he wants it. Next year, I am advised by the clinic, I need to schedule my checkup appointment at least three or four months out.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunny Sunday indeed

It has been a sunny day, temperatures pleasantly warmish (60 degrees, 15.5 C) and a slight breeze.

The NASCAR race was rained out last night and rescheduled for this afternoon, and I expected Tom to want to watch it. But he decided we would go somewhere as planned, and we wound up in Madison for Chinese food for lunch and a trip to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. There was an exhibit I wanted to see, large installations done by Eric and Heather ChanSchatz, New York-based artists who are in the process of doing a piece based on input from visitors to the gallery. We looked around at the striking wall-sized works on display and filled out questionnaires to provide our own input. Click on the arrow to see a brief video of the installation in process.

There was also an exhibit of works from art students in Madison's public schools, from elementary through senior high. Quite a range of skills, of course, but it made for a delightful show, called appropriately "Young at Art." [Or "Young @ Art" for the ... young, I guess.]

 Afterwards we strolled down State Street a few blocks, sat on a bench in the sun and watched people go by -- lots of walkers, bikers, joggers, skateboarders, families with children, university students, musicians. I was struck by how diverse a community one gets around large universities, so unlike what perhaps most people in America experience.

Then we went in search of the Executive Mansion, home of Governor Scott Walker. Needless to say, it is imposing and in a very la-di-dah neighborhood.

Then we wended our way home, stopping in Sauk Prairie for Tom to pick up his French Roast coffee from a place that handles Starbucks past-expiration-date K-cups. He says he can't tell the difference and the price is right.

The cats were waiting impatiently, having been abandoned snack-less for hours while we played in Madison. I fed them and they decided to forgive us --- JUST THIS ONCE! Fortunately Peggy will take care of them when we head up to Madeline Island for a couple of days in the fall.

Saturday, April 25, 2015


Holy Hill on the horizon

While looking through a website to find a place in Wisconsin we might want to visit this weekend, I ran across this photograph of the hills in Erin Township with Holy Hill [Basilica of the National Shrine of Our Lady, Help of Christians] silhouetted in the background.

When I was prior at Holy Hill, some friends who lived nearby had a photograph similar to this, but the entire area was covered with dense fog.  Just the top of the hill and the church were visible standing above it all like an island in the sea.

Saturday sweeps and races

Well, the predicted rain went south of us and the NASCAR race is tonight instead of this afternoon. It is still cool and overcast, and tomorrow should be a nicer day. So we are postponing trips or whatever and spending part of the day with the ongoing cleaning. 

I finished up most of the basement -- my office, the family-room part and such. It took almost as long to get the cat hair off the upholstery as it took to sweep the floor. I dusted around Tom's computer and vacuumed the rugs in his studios but did not move things around. I dusted the leaves on the plants, washed the throw rug at the bottom or the stairs and then cleaned them.

As soon as the little robot finished mopping the basement floor, the little Asian lady beetles immediately decided it was time to come and crawl all over everything. It's that time of year.

Meanwhile Tom is doing a thorough cleaning of the living room, polishing where I had only dusted yesterday and dusting DVD cases and such stuff. 

The cats decided that their contribution would be to go sleep on uncleaned areas in order to deposit another layer of hair on the cushions. 

And for those who are wondering, the reason NASCAR drivers turn left on the track instead of facing the other way and turning right is that they have a better field of vision when turning left and that makes it safer for everyone.

Oh, and of course, "We've always done it this way."

The best reason I saw was this one: They turn left because there is a wall on the right.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday fun

Today I got back into something like the swing of things.

This morning I went to the library for my weekly volunteer work and also met with the woman I tutor for her lesson. After that I went to nearby Reedsburg to take my former bookmobile co-worker out to lunch. Tom had worked at the railroad and then in the woods back of the house and was just coming back in when I drove up about two o'clock.

I am still dragging slightly from all my travels, and I took a short nap before getting on the computer to print out some materials for my tutoring session next week and to catch up on little things. Yesterday I spent most of the morning cleaning floors with the aid of the robot, dusting and washing the glass doors onto the deck. There is no end to house work ...

Tom is settling in for a NASCAR weekend, and I will have to find something else to entertain me. I know enough about it now to carry on a relatively intelligent conversation. Or is that is an oxymoron? But I have no interest in sitting in front of the television for a few hours watching cars go around and around and around, turning left, turning left, turning left. 

Saturday promises to be rainy -- promises? threatens? -- and I will have to find some indoor activity. I have been listening to Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything. Maybe I will finish that up.

I recommend the 2004 book (or the audio version that I am enjoying), but note that, since it is about the history of scientific discovery, it is already out of date in some specifics. Things like the existence of the Higgs Boson particle or Pluto's planetary status, for example. Even so, lots of information entertainingly presented. Just don't count on it for unquestioned accuracy on every point.

And another thank you to Lee for introducing me to Bill Bryson's oeuvre.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Just sayin'

Tom's older brother once told him in all seriousness that he should not even think of retiring until he had saved five million dollars.

As if!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Political thought

I generally avoid talking much about politics on this blog, but I had a thought as the campaigns get up and running for the presidential election next year.

I would like to ignore all of the candidates, but I realize I need to know something if I am going to vote. And I will vote. 

My plan, however, is to pay attention only to the positive reasons candidates (and their supporters) give for why I should vote for them. I will ignore to the best of my ability political speech and ads in which the sole content is why I should NOT vote for someone. I imagine this will mean I can switch channels 90% of the time when a political ad comes on television.

I would prefer to think that I can make my choice based on someone I want, someone whose policies I can support. When the process focuses my attention only on negatives, it discourages me. It may not bother you, but it makes me feel like my only choice is a lesser evil. How can that make me proud to vote?

I know this will be a challenge, because already so much of the talk is purely negative. But I have no  control over what they say. I do have some control over what I listen to and think about.

Book notes

I was reflecting recently that of the five books I have published, the one that sells best is Elijah and the Ravens of Carith. I don't market any of the books actively, and they are not setting any records for sales in any case. But Elijah plods along, selling a handful of copies in print and in electronic format each month. It accounts for about half of all my sales. Tom kindly says it is because it is a very good book. Perhaps. He designed the cover, basing it on traditional Orthodox iconography with a hint of western art in the raven.

At any rate, this morning's mail brought me copies of a favorable review for the book that sells most slowly, Jerome Gratian: Treatise on Melancholy. (With that title, are you surprised people aren't snapping it off the shelves?) The review appeared in the English Carmelites' Mount Carmel Magazine, published in Oxford. This is a book that is of interest to a small group of people, and Mount Carmel Magazine is exactly the sort of thing they read. So I appreciate the editor's kind words at the end of the brief review: "For all these reasons, this little work has much to offer."

Tom also designed the cover for this book, adapting an old portrait of Gratian. The editorial director of the American Carmelites' publishing house liked it so well that she asked permission to use Tom's version for a forthcoming volume of their own.

I gather that the Gratian (in Spanish, Jerónimo Gracián) book garnered this attention six years after publication because the Carmelites recently had a number of celebrations honoring the four-hundredth anniversary of his death, which occurred in 1614.  They are also working to have him beatified, the first major step along the way to canonization. Maybe this will mean a small bump in book sales!

Happy Our Day!

A quick note

Well, when I woke this morning there was a light dusting of snow on the deck. It is 32 degrees (0 C) at 9:00 a.m. as I write this. Although it will rise (perhaps) to 47 later in the day (8 C), it is supposed to dip down to 28 (-2 C) tonight.

My basic question is: At what point do my meteorological sharings become complaining and not reporting?

Also, as you may have noted, Blogger is letting me play with the design of the page again.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Safely back in Wisconsin

I made it home early this afternoon. Just north of Madison, I noticed that the temperature had dropped to 38 degrees (3.3 C) according to my car's thermometer. At about the same time, I saw that it was snowing. Well, very tiny snowflakes were falling and melting immediately on the windshield. Spurts of snow accompanied me the rest of the way home. Oh, well.

And, no, there is no accumulation, so it is not at all like the image. But even so ...  

So I unpacked my stuff, put things away, took off my t-shirt and put on a sweatshirt.  

BTW: For some reason, Blogger is not letting me change backgrounds and things at the moment. I noticed this last night and thought it would get fixed by today. Not yet, though.

Heading for home

Not that I am in any hurry.

Monday, April 20, 2015

On the way to Perryville, Missouri

So long, Texas!

Saturday night Tom told me that the forecast for Tuesday morning in the Dells included snow showers. I am happy to report that last night he told me the snow showers are no longer expected.

Weather! Seriously!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Getting ready to go home

I plan to leave early tomorrow morning to head back to Wisconsin, Tom and the cats. Today I am doing some last minute laundry and basic packing. I need to fuel the Equinox, lay in a few more supplies for the journey and then get a good night's sleep. Tomorrow's part of the trip will take about ten hours.

Last night we had several hours of thunder and lightning and some torrential rains. No damage and no high winds around here. My mother's house is surrounded by huge trees and she worries ("I don't worry!") about limbs or worse hitting the house. This morning I went out and picked up fallen twigs and branches. The small creek behind the house is running hard enough that you can hear the water gurgling. Usually it is barely flowing at all.

My mother spends all morning in church on Sunday (and all evening, too) and my friend Lee suggested I find a state park or museum to visit during the break in the family action. I thought the weather would be against it, but this morning was only overcast. I found a walking/biking trail in Tyler (Rose Rudman Recreational Trail) that fit the bill very well and got in a nice stroll before returning to Whitehouse to make lunch for my mother -- a chicken fajita casserole that I made up as I went along. Usually she goes to lunch on Sunday with a group of ladies from her church. She calls them the widow women, but they are not all widows. But since I am leaving tomorrow, she decided to let me cook one last time for her. The casserole turned out pretty well, even though it did not have the traditional church-cookbook-mandated can of cream of mushroom soup. I will have to try it on Tom.

We have a chance of more storms this evening but it should be reasonably calm weather for me to drive home. 

Later, 'gators.

Friday, April 17, 2015


My mother and I take a half-hour walk every day, weather permitting, along the road that runs by the high school near her house. Across from the school are large fields of grass and wildflowers. At the moment, these are mostly orange Indian paintbrushes.

There are tons of bugs and therefore lots of birds: blackbirds, crows, bluebirds, cardinals, mockingbirds. 

This evening when we took our after-dinner walk, we noticed scissor-tailed flycatchers perched on the barbed wire that stretches along the field. Under this name, it is the State Bird of Oklahoma. Around here it is also known as the Texas bird of paradise and the swallow-tail flycatcher.

The tail is striking, particularly in flight, but it is not as exotically colored as the nickname, Texas bird of paradise, might imply. Still, it is a bird I see down here and not in Wisconsin, and I am enjoying having them around.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

The travel times, they are a-changin'

When I was growing up, we lived about 135 miles from both sets of grandparents, about a three hour drive on the roads of the day. Those grandparents lived ten minutes from one another. One uncle and his family lived a mile from us. The rest of my aunts, uncles and cousins lived within fifteen miles of the grandparents. Trips to visit were frequent and easy.My parents would drive up to Whitehouse from Huntsville on Friday night after work and stay over until Sunday afternoon. 

I can remember driving my grandmother home from a visit with us and returning home myself the same day when I was in college. My best friend went with me and we had time to stop at a state park and wander around on the way home.

Today I live a 16-hour drive from my mother and about the same distance from my brother and all his family members, though they are scattered a bit themselves. One niece (Kirstin, who came to see us this past Sunday) lives  a couple of hours away from my mother, but my brother and the outliers, although in Texas, are about eight hours away by car. 

Add to that the complications introduced by weather. It is difficult for me to plan a trip from Wisconsin through the middle of the country to Texas in the winter because of potential snow and ice. Ditto that in the spring because of potential tornadoes, severe thunderstorms and hail. A Christmas trip in 2013 had to be cancelled and this trip was delayed a day because of weather. There was a two-day window in the severe weather that let me get here. Now it looks like there will be another two-day window so I can return to Wisconsin early next week, but again a day later than my original plan.

When I say severe weather, I am not talking just rain. Today there are severe thunderstorms in the Texas panhandle, including golf-ball-sized hail in Amarillo (where my nephew lives) and possible tornadoes in Perryton where everyone in the family used to live.

As a kid, I thought those three-hour drives to Whitehouse and back were endless. Today they sound pretty relaxed.

Flying is possible but not at all convenient. I won't bore you with the details, but let me assure you that it is a mess.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

The Yellow Rose of Texas

These photos are of the rose bush in my mother's front yard. She mentioned that it was not in full bloom yet, and you will have to use your imagination to get an idea of how it can look when it is. It is certainly covered with buds.

That last picture of the roses in the rain shows what the weather has been like most of the time I have been here. Today we had some lovely weather, however, which made our trip to Tyler with my aunt for lunch and a bit of shopping quite enjoyable.

"She's the sweetest little rosebud that Texas ever knew.
Her eyes are bright as diamonds, they sparkle like the dew.
Gimme talk about your Clementine and sing of Rosalie,
But the Yellow Rose of Texas is the only girl for me."

~ George Don

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Fun with words

This evening my mother and I were watching television and saw an ad for a jewelry store. It was aimed at getting guys to buy engagement rings and ran something along the lines of "Wave a magic wand in front of her " -- photo of engagement ring -- "and she turns from your girlfriend into your fiance."

Okay, besides the obvious bad joke about magic wands, the ad confused the spelling of the word for a woman who is engaged to be married (fiancée) with the word for a man who is engaged to be married (fiancé). So the ad essentially says "she turns from your girlfriend into your boyfriend-who-is-going-to-marry-you."

This confusion is such a common mistake that one could easily contend it is a distinction without a difference in American English usage today. The sort of thing only a word-nut would even notice.

But that's just who I am.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Cross it off

Well, it was quite a day and I won't bore you with all the brutal details, but ...

I was able to find some adhesive in my father's shop and get the wallpaper tacked back up. It turns out that that particular piece has been hanging there since my parents moved in fifteen years ago. Why it wound up on the to-do list at this late date, I have no idea. But it is fixed, at least temporarily. And it took very little time and effort. So much for being voted Most Likely.

Solving the computer problem took more time and was more frustrating, but we got it fixed in the end by going back ONE MORE TIME and checking all the plugs and getting things firmly in place. And now my mother has her computer and email back! She spent time this afternoon skimming through, looking at photos of great-grandchildren and deleting lots of stuff. Her inbox is now perfectly clean and ready to receive. This is a huge deal and one that I am happy to say was accomplished without having to buy anything or pay anyone. All it cost was a couple of phone calls and a few futile visits to shops where they didn't have what I wanted and that it turned out we didn't need.

The exploded light bulb fix went quickly, safely and smoothly and now all is well there. No shocks, no falls, no blood, no bruises.

I also did some shopping around for a lawnmower, but was unable to find one my mother wanted at a price she was willing to pay. She has someone who mows the lawn for her, but she wants to be able to do some trimming when he gets behind on his work. The lawn was mowed Friday and because of the heat (it is 80 degrees -- 26.7 C) and rain, it is already starting to look a bit ragged. Rain is predicted off and on for much of the week, so it should be a shaggy mess by the time her guy gets back to it.

Still on the agenda: visit the senior center in the morning and then wait for the HVAC guy to come in the afternoon for routine servicing of the air conditioning system; take my mother and aunt out for lunch and then to Lowe's for lawn care stuff; take my mother shopping for clothes. And then it will be time to start folding up my tent and returning to the north country.

Did I mention it is 80 degrees? And 70% humidity.

Honey do

After an enjoyable visit with Kirstin, Brandon, Jackson and Winston yesterday, today I turn my attention to my mother's list of tasks for me to accomplish (if possible) this week.

I already got the television in her bedroom working. The problem was not the television but the remote. And at some point she, or the woman who cleans for her, had unplugged the television. So that one was easily resolved. I am happy about that because it is an old boxy set that weighs a ton and sits atop a dresser. Last time I was here I maneuvered the former set off that dresser and out to the street and got the present one up there. I was not looking forward to wrestling this one down and out. At least any new ones will be much more maneuverable flat screens.

And I changed a light bulb in the hall. The changing part was easy. Getting the globe securely back in place took a bit more effort, but all is now done in that regard.

Today's main task is getting her computer back in operation. My brother and Tom, both tech types, assure me it should be a simple matter of replacing the battery. I managed to remove the battery without too much frustration and will head into town looking for a replacement. My brother set up the computer for her a few years ago, and I am trying to avoid her having to cope with Windows 8. But if necessary, we will get her a new one. The one she has is a Nickelodeon edition Dell Inspiron Mini. I gather that it was designed to be child-proof and has the trademark green slime look associated with Nickelodeon. My brother thought it would be sufficient for her email needs, but it is somewhat lacking. Except in the green slime department, where it excels.

Then we will move on to things like getting the remains of an exploded light bulb out of the ceiling fan/light fixture over her bed, repairing drooping wall paper in the small bathroom (Voted Most Likely to Be a Disaster) and shopping. 

There will be more visiting and such along the way, of course. Tomorrow I am booked to make an appearance at the Senior Center. One of the gentleman there likes my books, and I can't disappoint a fan by being a no-show.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Family visit

This afternoon my mother and I enjoyed meeting her newest great-grandson and my newest great-nephew: Winston Paul Duren Schubert. Here are my mother, my niece Kirstin holding two-month-old Winston, and Jackson, her five-year old son.

Meanwhile proud dad Brandon was taking better photos with his phone that I was getting with my camera.

They drove down from the Dallas area and arrived a bit after noon for lunch. We sat around and talked while Jackson played with his Hot Wheels and Winston charmed us all. Just as they were packing up to head home about 4:30, we got a burst of rain. Naturally. Brandon said he thinks they got rained on the last time they came down, too.

We had a great time nonetheless.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Thundery Thursday

We did not have the terrible weather that many spots in the Midwest got today, but we had plenty of rain, thunder and lightning. There was little wind, however, and so no damage around here. At least none I am aware of as of this writing. Right now things are calm, but we expect more heavy storms later. The weather is supposed to calm down by the time I take off tomorrow morning.

I have spent the day finishing my packing and getting the car ready. People sometimes ask me if I don't find it boring to travel by myself. This Jeffersonian quote is one response.

Others might prefer this approach:

 I would like to think I am doing this, too.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Post-election check-in

Tom and I and the other workers survived the election unscathed. We had been told to expect a turnout of 20% and I think we would have easily made that, except a severe thunderstorm with hail came through an hour and a half before the polls closed and we only had one voter brave the storm to show up. As it was, we got 19.5%. A total of 231 people voted, but there were nine separate versions of the ballot and eight poll list books to juggle and keep track of. Somehow it all worked out and we got home shortly after nine. When we have national elections, I have been there as late as eleven before all is signed and sealed -- literally.

We had rain for much of the night after the storm arrived, and we certainly needed the moisture. Things are already greener, even though it is still chilly out. No rain in today's forecast, but we expect severe weather again tomorrow. Tom is taking advantage of the lull to transplant day lilies. I will devote today and tomorrow mainly to travel prep so that I can hit the road on Friday. 

The funny story about working at the polls has to do with the process for ordering our lunch. We pay for this ourselves, and one of the town workers picks it up and brings it in. I won't go into details but just let me say that it took about an hour and fifteen minutes for seven adults to make up their minds about what to order from a fast food place with a fairly limited menu. This happens every time. The only change has been that we start talking about it earlier in the day so as to be able to eat lunch before two o'clock in the afternoon. Tom and I have decided next time to pack our own lunch in a cooler and skip the drama. Then we can just watch it from the sidelines.

Now I have to get to work.