Flooding Rivers

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The rivers most watched for flooding every time there is a mid-winter or early spring thaw are the Vermillion, so beautiful, but people build right up to the banks and are always at risk, the Black River, Killbuck Creek and our own crooked river, the Cuyahoga, which divides Cleveland into East and West sides of town.

People in Vermillion say that living in Paradise most of the year is worth the price they pay with flooding.  If one had a cabin on high grounds or in some landlocked community, where they could store their most prized possessions, photos, important documents and only filled the houses along the river with disposable furniture and things, I suppose this would work.  For me, it certainly would not.  Nice place to visit, as they say, take photos, paint pictures, but to chance losing important things is just not for me.

Last week after our few degrees below zero days, I stopped on my way home from having lunch with Doris and parked my car in the tow path parking lot and walked up the sidewalk along Rockside Road to the bridge over the Cuyahoga and took some pictures as I peered down and across the rushing brown water carrying chunks of ice as it raced to Lake Erie.

The air was still pretty cold and my fingers felt numb gripping the camera though the strap around my neck held it firmly and my other hand gripped my walking cane.  I opted for the street level view instead of crossing the small bridge from the parking lot to the train station parking lot below because from my car window I saw the snow covered trail that wound invitingly into the southern horizon as it ran parallel to the train tracks and I wanted the view from above.  Maybe next snow I’ll go for the land level view.

By the time I got the photos I wanted and walked through the melting snow covered walk back to my car with the speeding traffic whooshing past me as I walked, my toes were pretty cold too and I was thankful the car was warm and dry and I was even happier when I got safely home and into dry clothes and uploaded the pictures onto the computer.

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Entertainment Galore

Nevermore

Is it possible that a sequel to the Mary Poppins movie could be nearly as good as the original? When I saw the trailer it was clear that it was easily as good.  Many of the segments were almost based on the ones in the first film, but were still different.  For example, in the original Dick Van Dyke was a chimney sweep and there was a scene where he and his fellow sweeps danced across night time rooftops.  In the new version a similar character is a lamp lighter who turns the gas lights that preceded electric lights along city streets on at dusk and off at dawn.  They also dance as a group through the town.

One of the touches in the current film that enchanted me were the short scenes with some of my favorite actors, Meryl Streep, Angela Lansbury and of course Dick Van Dyke.

The second Fantastic Beasts was also good. For me the special effects like Newt Scamander taking a glove that appears before him and he is instantly swept into the company of the person the glove belongs to and all the characters and animals no matter how gigantic they are, need only step into his small suitcase and they descend into another realm are fun.  I enjoyed the story and the characters as well and continue to be amazed that the arch-villain, played by Johnny Depp was so well disguised that I certainly did not recognize him.

An unexpected and pleasant surprise was a movie I came into late as I was channel surfing on the television last Sunday about the Minions and how they got connected with Despicable.

Stopping at the local Good Will store to look through their accumulation of frames and just happened to see a hard backed book on a piece of furniture. The almost 800 page tome was a collection of the complete works of Edgar Allan Poe.  The book, in excellent condition, looked like it had not been used at all.  I stifled my mental “hooyah!” and carried it to the counter saying it was not with the rest of the books, was it for sale?  Yes and that would be $1.08.  Would I like to bring the total up to $2.00 with the balance over the $1.08 going to the handicapped?  Oh, yes I would do that since the book was obviously a treasure!  It was so heavy that opening the trunk of my car, I dropped it on the ground once before getting it safely into the car.  The plastic bag protected my prize in it’s fall so no harm came to it. Contentment settled in as I sat in my reading chair looking over the introduction and then skimming titles of stories I first read decades ago.

Below Zero Degrees

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Subzero weather reminds me of the four years my children and I lived in the outskirts of Chicago where it regularly dipped much more than a couple of degrees under zero. I do think it is good that the weather forecasters advise people to take the temps seriously, bundle up and don’t be out in it if you don’t have to and that many schools and businesses don’t stay open.  Oddly enough the Arctic Blast will begin to fade away within about 36 hours and then people can get back to their routines.  In a few days it is expected to be over fifty degrees Fahrenheit.  While I look forward to being able to go out and about, I have a sense of foreboding that shifts like that are not good for nature, trees and other growing things.

My sister called yesterday to be sure I was alright. She mentioned that she had just received my Christmas card (on the 29th of January).  I mailed it to her either the day before Christmas or a few days after (I was a little short of holiday spirit and didn’t even mail most of the cards I usually send) so I knew it would be a little late, but a full month?

Walking around the house I feel like all my hinges are rusty. When the landline phone in the kitchen began ringing, I launched myself out of my comfortable reading chair in the master bedroom heading toward the phone in that flutter of hope to hear a familiar voice as the answering machine waited for a message, to find it was just another scammer or robo call.

After trying to get through all afternoon yesterday to the University of Iowa registration line for the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, I got through today.  It turns out they were closed yesterday because they were in the deep freeze.  Today it went up in Iowa City to minus 25 degrees, so they were back up and running.  After finishing the registration I called the Iowa House and reserved a room, so that is a relief.

Having finally finished reading Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country, I found there was a post script 30 page Appendix.  As this book is about Mr. Bryson’s travels and his always humorous experiences and perspectives, it is not a basic page-turner, so I was thinking of skipping the long addition but considering how very funny he is and knowing that I would be deprived of some gems of wisdom I would regret not finding elsewhere, I have soldiered on and still have ten pages to go.

One down, two to go

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With three days left in January and the winter holidays behind us I find myself both glad that at least the first of the brutal weather months is finished and a bit aghast at how quickly the sand is slipping down the glass of time.

The company I work for a few hours a week kindly gave me one of their de-commissioned (wiped clean) computers when the one I have been using at home for about ten years began to get progressively more sluggish to the point where it was useless. It took some time to get the newer smaller pc up and running and still more time to find all the assorted tools I normally work with.  One of the issues  I will have to sort out is that the new machine does not read any of the documents I had moved from the old computer onto a small external hard drive.  I have backed the material up on a larger external hard drive as well, so I am not immediately worried that anything is lost, just a lack of communication for now.  Oddly enough all the photos do show up and a few documents so old I’d forgotten I had them, but did get a kick out of looking through some of them last evening.

Uploading photos from my small Sony camera was painfully slow and since I did not sit in front of the machine while it did the process, each time I came back the system went to sleep and the uploading stopped and when I set it all to resume it had gone on to the next photo and left about four of the most desired pictures only about a third uploaded (say on one, two people in the picture were unfinished below the chin level) and when the whole group were supposedly uploaded, the program would not re-load any picture – the response to my request for import again was that no new pictures were found!

Sometimes technology can be less than helpful. I really laughed when on the news I saw that a type of fluffy feathered parrot ordered six months to a full year of fresh fruit and groceries for his household via Alexa. There is some kind of poetic justice in that.

Another news item that tickled my funny bone was the story about a man who was helping his children build an oversized snowman and to give it some stability, they packed the snow up and around a good sized tree stump. When some killjoy determined to spoil their fun by driving her car into the snowman, she was quite surprised when the joke was on her and the damage done to her car from driving into the tree stump snowman should be a lesson she’ll long remember.

a hundred years ago…

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The wind is whistling and being very blustery, as if to thumb its nose at us and wind up the year on its own terms as a force to be reckoned with.  I drove to St. Monica’s to meet Diane there for the evening vigil Mass and the rain was beating down so the windshield wipers were up at the second speed so I could see reasonably well.

Getting out of the car and opening the umbrella I keep in the front seat, I knew I’d be wet by the time I got up the stairs and into the Church.  I propped the umbrella in the corner of the kneeler where it quickly formed a small puddle.

When we exited the same way Diane called out that we should talk before Saturday and wished me luck going to get groceries which was next on my agenda.  Yesterday was sunny and I had been out to Penny’s in Parmatown in search of a flannel nightgown, which I did not find.  By the time I also stopped at Giant Eagle in search of fruit cake, once a national joke, now a rare commodity – a lady in the bakery there suggested I check with the dollar store, which I did to no avail.  By that time I was too tired to go for groceries, so even though the weather was flat out awful, I had to pick up a prescription anyway, so may as well get the foodstuffs as well.

Once I hauled everything into the kitchen I saw that there was a phone message.  After draping my wet side up jacket onto the chair by the phone I listened to my sister’s voice and the phone began ringing.  It was my cousin Theresa with a thick case of laryngitis wishing me a happy New Year.  I sat down onto the wet jacket and we talked for twenty or thirty minutes after which time the slacks I was wearing had to be hung up to dry.

I returned my sister’s call and we exchanged wishes for good health and happiness ahead.

Happily I found a Christmas card and enclosed letter from my pen friend, Albert.  They are fine and sending greetings from Berlin where their daughter and her family live, so I was relieved to know that is why the card was not here a week earlier as usual.

The wind is still howling as I enjoy another of the Godiva chocolates from the box Colleen (boss) gave me for Christmas and thinking about the year we are stepping into I cannot help but think of my parents, both born in 1919, soon to be one hundred years ago.

Two Days After Christmas

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The post office always announces the date when all mail must be sent if it is to arrive on time for Christmas.  When I look at the dozen or so Christmas cards I received and had yet to put mine into the general mix, I wonder exactly why there is such a deadline, when there actually seems to be less mail.

During the first few years I lived in California I used to mail out two hundred to two hundred fifty Christmas cards and received almost that many in turn.  As a small child in the late 1940s and early 1950s I remember that the post office delivered mail twice a day and even on Sundays to accommodate all the holiday cards being sent – and postage was two or three cents for a first class letter.  With the postage going up to fifty cents for a single first class letter in January of 2019, for the cost of three stamps today, you can buy a whole box of cards at our local drug store.  No wonder so few Christmas cards are crossing the country any more.

My two overseas cards I actually got out on time to arrive for Christmas.  One goes to the widow of my father’s cousin, George, in Bratislava, Slovakia.  She is good enough to try to keep in touch and I hear from her at Christmas and Easter.  The other one I send every year is to my German pen friend, Albert, with whom I have been writing since I was seventeen and just out of high school.  Over the years Albert and I have exchanged letters and cards, he married Lydia and they have a daughter, Brigit, who in turn married and has 2 little sons.  We have exchanged stories about our families, vacations and the normal route of friends conversing.  This year however, there has been no card from Albert and I cannot help but wonder if there will be future news about him or his wife.    Silence may be the sound of grief.

My daughter sent me a small painting with a custom made frame and I can hardly wait to get it hung in the living room.  It has the general look of New Mexico with a small UFO parked in the upper left side and a beautiful red poinsettia in the lower front part.  There does not seem to be a title anywhere on it so I have been thinking I will call it Roswell in December.

A Sunny Sunday

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A cheerful note to any day is when the sun is shining like it is right now.  This past Sunday was one of a rare all day, filled with sunlight.  When I was finally organized to go out the door, I had a small bottle of chocolate milk (the store was out of the medium size), a little green furry bear donned with antlers and the dictionary my Aunt Esther gave me when I was a teenager.

The drive was easy since the roads were dry and clear as I headed unannounced to my cousin Tom’s home.  He happened to be outside and guided me into a parking position so I could head straight down the drive in a forward position when I was ready to leave.  Then he helped me over the snow and ice in the rest of the drive and into the house.

Indoors my Aunt Bernie was just sitting down to a bowl of the cauliflower soup Tom had made.  I didn’t refuse when Tom offered me a bowl.  Soup is always welcome, especially when it is cold outside.  Bernie said she felt chilled.  Amanda appeared from somewhere in the large house and with a little smile put the milk into the fridge and then sat to examine the little bear to add to her collection.  Bernie asked me to hand her something, in Slovak, and I explained to Amanda that Bernie and I grew up in bilingual homes but the second language when we were children was Slovak.

Then it was time to talk about the dictionary.  I mentioned that this particular book came down to me in the family and that looking up a word in a book provides so much more information than the digital counterpart online.  Each definition indicates what part of speech the word is, then offers the preferred meaning followed by assorted second, third or more options and usually gives the language the word is derived from, Fr for French, Latin, Greek and so on.

I then talked about Bill Bryson and his funny writing but also about his book, english, the mother tongue and how it got that way, in which he said that our American English has about twenty thousand more vocabulary words than the whole French language.  Of course it is because it was built by adding to the English, French, Latin base, words from all the languages of the immigrants who came to this country and we incorporated words from their languages that we previously did not have a word for, which also keeps our version of English changing, making it a living language.

I told her that when I just finished high school and bought a couple of Thomas Hardy books, (this was the time when paperback books were introduced to the public, as before that all books were hard back and very expensive), The Return of the Native and The Mayor of Casterbridge, I found that on any one page there were at least six or more words I never heard of.  I went through each page underlining each of those words, looking them up and jotting the meanings into the book.   So, I suggested that each time she found a word she did not know, she should look it up and write it and the meaning down into a little notebook.   Looking it up and just closing the book would not etch the word into the memory.  Then I said she should use the words she has learned but Bernie suggested that no one would know what she was talking about. (a result of the dumbing down of America movement).  I said her school friends were smart and either would know or find out what the words meant.  Sometimes it is possible to understand words by the way they are used, or if one knows the root word.

Tom asked if I would like to join them for dinner and he heated up a pan of stuffed cabbage rolls, asparagus and garlic bread.  Who could say no to that?

Sunlight long gone for the day I said my thanks and bid all well and Tom escorted me back to my car, I headed back home.