Hi there! Welcome to my very miscellaneous blog. Here, I write about everything from mis-used words to gardening, to bad habits in society to going places and seeing things! Enjoy my ramblings.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Once Upon a Streetcar...

Long, Long Ago...

Back in his bachelor days, probably around the 1930's, my father was a motorman on San Francisco streetcars.  The cars were run by the long-since-defunct Market Street Railway Company.  In later years, it was taken over by the City, and became, and still is the San Francisco Municipal Railway Company, or "MUNI."

However, I digress.  Back in those days, streetcars had 2 employees aboard.  The motorman operated the car, and the conductor collected fares and made change. All of this was long before my time, but my Dad was a great storyteller, and as a child, I loved hearing his stories over and over, so I still have them with me, even though Dear Ol' Dad is long gone.

The Playland at the Beach Route

On this day, Dad was driving an evening weekday run on the streetcar line that went out to Playland at the Beach.  As I recall the tale, it was a typical foggy San Francisco day, and being a weekday, there were few riders that far out.  Playland was the end of the line, and that day, Dad had a screaming headache and a bit of an upset stomach.  He decided that when he got to the end of the line, he'd run into a drugstore that was near the area, and get himself some Alka-Seltzer. 
As it happened, when he arrived, there was not as much spare time as he had bargained on, so he could not stop at the soda fountain in the drugstore to request a glass of water.  He threw the tablets in his mouth dry, and hustled back aboard the streetcar.  (In those days, they were much more strict about keeping to the schedules!)

They started out heading back toward downtown, and Dad was doing fine keeping up with swallowing the foam from the tablets with no problems.  Then he began to think, and that's where the trouble began. 
He thought, "Gee, if some drunk gets on board and starts giving me a hard time, all I'll have to do is open my mouth in a wide grin, and let all this foam show.  The drunk will see me foaming at the mouth, think I've got rabies, and jump backwards over the gate to get away."  That made him start to laugh, and the more he laughed, the harder it got to keep up with the foam, until he finally had to spit it out.
His finale to the story stated, "..and I never had another Alka-Seltzer from that day to this, that did me as much good!"

The Moth in the Scotsman's Purse

One of the conductors who worked with my Dad on the streetcar runs was an old Scotsman.  Political correctness these days frowns upon stereotypical characterizations based upon nationality or anything else.
However, back in the day, more people realized that some traits had at least a grain of truth behind the stereotypes; and they still had a sense of humor and the ability to laugh at themselves and their human foibles.

So, here was this Scotsman, well aware that Scots were "known" for pinching pennies, being frugal, and (dare I say it?), outright cheap.  At the end of the day's run, he thought he'd have some fun with the station manager, and deliberately turned in his receipts a penny short.
When the manager pointed this out, the fellow said, "Weeeeel, now, let's have a look-see, 'eeerrre," and opened his pouch right under the manager's nose, letting escape a moth he'd  caught earlier inside the streetcar. 
You see, the old legend was that Scotsmen were so cheap, and their purses opened so infrequently, that moths took up residence inside.  They both had a good laugh, the "missing" penny was turned in, and the story made the rounds of the car barn.

A Coin Collector?

One morning at the start of the run, the first passenger aboard was a sweet Little Old Lady. (The original meaning of "LOL.")  You know the type:  dressed to the nines; well-groomed, gloves (ladies wore gloves when going out in those days), and well-spoken.  The classic clich├ęd "butter-wouldn't- melt-in-her-mouth" type.  She was evidently quite well-to-do, as she paid her fare with a rather large bill.

Being the first stop of the run, the conductor did not have any bills yet for change.  Mind you, this was the era of nickel carfares, and most folks paid with some kind of coin, so there was no need to carry a wad of paper money to make change.
The conductor had no choice but to give her a lot of dimes in her change.  She took the seat right behind my dad, the motorman, and sat there counting her change, one dime at a time.  She then looked sweetly up at the conductor, and purred, "Pardon me, do you have any more dimes?"
Thinking that perhaps she was a coin collector, the conductor replied promptly, "Why yes, ma'am, I certainly do!" 
He nearly fell over from shock at the reply, "Well, stick them up your ass!"

Stupid Questions Get Stupid Answers...

Another day, a elderly woman, apparently old enough to remember life before electricity, was about to board the streetcar.  However, she was nervous about this new-fangled power, and made an inquiry of the conductor, "If I step on the tracks, will I get a shock?"
Perhaps the conductor was having a bad day, for he sarcastically retorted, "Only if you put your other foot up on the overhead wires at the same time."


This post dedicated to my father in loving memory.
© 2011 Liz Elias

OCCUPY!! Protest on Behalf of Our Pets, Too!

No More Business As Usual

Well, folks, as you may have learned from stories in the news, the corporations that manufacture our various consumer products are not always truthful about their effectiveness or safety.  We've all seen the news about contanimants ranging from bugs and fecal matter to outright poisons.  It was not so long ago that pet food made in China was full of things like melamine that caused animals to sicken and die.

Sadly, these mega-corporations care only about their own "bottom line," and have little or no concern for the health and safety of their customers.  We are seeing the backlash now.  It began with protests about the banking fiasco, but there are plenty of other things to be upset about. 
Many of the protesters are out there against all sorts of these other issues--which is why the nay-sayers try to assert that it is a "non-protest" becuase there is no single focus.  They are wrong.  There is a single focus--it is the status quo!  Everything has gone wrong in this country, and folks are fed up and "mad as hell" with being squelched, cheated, poisoned, fleeced and deprived by the elitist 1%.

We Love Our Pets

One of the things I wish to point out has to do with products for our pets. We Americans love our pets, both large and small, considering them as members of our families, and in many ways, they are exactly that.

According to an August 2007 article in Business Week , American pet owners shelled out a collective $41 billion on their animal companions.  To be sure, some of those expenses are for unnecessary luxury items, marketed more to the owner than the animals--including clothing, 'gourmet' food and fancily upholstered beds.  Right.  Cats and dogs would just as soon sleep on the floor, or in the humans' beds!

Big Bad Flea Medications

Now of course, more necessary expenditures come in the form of vaccinations, health checkups and keeping our companions free of nasty critters such as fleas and ticks.

This is where a new problem comes in.  In fairly recent years, it has been shown that many of the ingredients in commercially produced preparations for killing these pests are also causing great harm to our pets.

Specifically, the topically-applied drops, all from well-known and "trusted" names in the industry.  However, more and more pets have been harmed by these medications, and in serious ways.  Some have suffered severe neurological damage; others have died.

There is a movement afoot to ban these dangerous chemical products, just as DDT was banned over 30 years ago.  For a more in-depth look at the problem, simply follow this link, which opens in a new window.

Please feel free to pass this link along, or link to this blog post to help spread the word on how to keep our beloved pets safe and healthy.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Keeping Kitty and Wildlife Safe

As most of my readers know, I am an avid spokesperson for animal welfare  and humane treatment.
To this end, I tirelessly promote and campaign for the concept of keeping one's pet cats  exclusively indoors for their own safety.  An indoor cat can live up to 3 or 4 times as long as one who is allowed to go outdoors.  How much do you love your kitty?  Would you like the companionship of your furry friend for up to 15 years, or only for 4 to 6? 
Cats allowed outside can suffer any number of unkind fates, ranging from infections stemming from wounds received in fights, being hit by cars, disease, and yes, predation from larger animals including dogs and birds of prey.

Not only is the cat at risk;  so is the local wildlife.  Outdoor cats can be responsible for the decimation on native species such as birds, lizards and mice.  While no one has any particular love for mice, especially when they get into our homes, they nonetheless have their place in the ecosystem.

Today, I came across a video by the National Geographic Society which underscores both points with graphic clarity.  It is an important educational movie, and I warn you, parts of it are quite disturbing. However, I urge you to watch it to the end, and share it around.  Allow time:  it does run just about an hour, but it contains vitally important information.

Watch more free documentaries

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Moral Imperative

There is a well-known adage, "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it."
This is so very true, and in many ways it would seem that humans in fact, do not learn from their own history. Rather, they prefer to bury and ignore uncomfortable images from the past and go merrily about their own lives with no sense of responsibility regarding their own roles in perpetrating new injustices and horrors.
Another time-worn saying bears repeating here to support that claim: "If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem." Some, of course are more part of the problem than others, being actual instigators. Next in line are those who jump on board, repeating the rants of the instigators without educating themselves first. No less guilty are those who stand by in full-blown apathy and denial, allowing whatever wrongs to occur, regardless of the fact that in their heart, they know the touted information to be false.
It bears mentioning that the reason we have so many trite and time-worn sayings is that they have a basis in truth. "The hen that cackles is the one that laid the egg," fits here in many instances. Many times, the person starting a campaign of hatred has something of the same nature to hide, and so to deflect attention from their own transgressions, they rant and rave and point fingers at others.
Back in March of 2010, I watched the first episode of the then-new NBC show, "Who Do You Think You Are?" It followed seven celebrities as they traced their ancestry to discover new things connecting them to past history. The premier featured Sarah Jessica Parker. Her maternal line traced back to New England, and specifically to the area of Salem with its infamous witch hunts and trials.
As my own family line is heavily rooted in New England, this was of great interest to me. Sarah discovered that one of her ancestors had the misfortune of being one of the accused in this travesty of justice. Luckily in her case, however, the complaint had been registered in the month following the abolition of the special (kangaroo!) court created expressly for the finding and condemning of so-called witches. All remaining incarcerated persons were then freed.
It got me to thinking, however: I searched for the history of the trials, and found a very good website having full history, explanations, court records, and so forth. Click here for the link to the specific article which inspired this post.
The thing that struck me with great force was the final sentence in the article:
"The witches disappeared, but witch-hunting in America did not. Each generation must learn the lessons of history or risk repeating its mistakes. Salem should warn us to think hard about how to best safeguard and improve our system of justice."
This is so, so true, and I have said so myself many times. When will we learn America? When will we stop with these 'holier-than-thou' persecutions of innocent people just trying to live thier lives in peace? When will we learn? It appears we have not yet learned!
I am, thererore, obliged to point out that there have been many, many parallels in our so-called "modern, enlightened" times. To wit:

  • the mistreatment, segregation and persecution of blacks until the "official" halt following the 1960's activism (not that the predjudice has ever ended!)
  • the McCarthy-era maddness of witch-hunting in the name of anti-communist activity
  • the current unfounded hysteria and predjudice against the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bi-Sexual, Transgender) community
  • the "stranger-danger" paranoia that accuses, persecutes and ruins the lives of many innocent people on charges of child molestation that never happened...
....the list goes sadly on.

It is time for each and every citizen to stand up and accept their responsibility to insure a peaceful and harmonious society. The madness has gone on far too long.

No more witch-hunts!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Major Political Hoax is Making the Rounds

 For today's post, I am straying from my usual format of writing fully from my own thoughts, and instead have copied and pasted here an e-mail I received.  I am not posting this e-mail to advocate its content, rather the opposite.  I am posting it as a warning of a hoax that is currently making the rounds, and in which I got caught up myself.  Please forward the link to this blog instead of the e-mail you may recieve!

When my senses returned, I re-e-mailed everyone to whom I had forwarded this bit of mischief, and apologized.  I implore you, if you receive this e-mail, ignore it, delete it, do not forward it around!  It is a hoax, and political mischief.

Below follows the full text of this e-mail, which has undergone variations over the years, the salient points of by whom the purported honoree is to be honored, change to fit the times.
 (I have not included the last line, which is the supposed signature of a military man who supposedly wrote the thing and who was there.  He did not write the piece, and has already suffered much from having his name so mis-used.)

I suspect this current round is intended to discredit President Obama with a clear ulterior political motive.  While I am not a great fan of "the pres," I am nonetheless repulsed by this sort of underhanded dirty pool.  It is a prime example of propaganda in use, and how it spreads.

The full truth can be found at this link: 


The e-mail text in full:
"Never Forgive A Traitor

"For those of you too young to remember, Hanoi Jane is a bad person and did some terrible things during the Vietnam war. Things that can not be forgiven!!!!. .
"and now OBAMA wants to honor her......!!!!
"In Memory of LT. C.Thomsen Wieland who spent 100 days at the Hanoi Hilton

"This is for all the kids born in the 70's and after who do not remember, and didn't have to bear the burden that our fathers, mothers and older brothers and sisters had to bear..
"Jane Fonda is being honored as one of the '100 Women of the Century.'
Unfortunately, many have forgotten and still countless others have never known how Ms. Fonda betrayed not only the idea of our country, but specific men who served and sacrificed during Vietnam .
"The first part of this is from an F-4E pilot. The pilot's name is Jerry Driscoll, a River Rat.
"In 1968, the former Commandant of the USAF Survival School was a POW in Ho Lo Prison the ' Hanoi Hilton.'
"Dragged from a stinking cesspit of a cell, cleaned, fed, and dressed in clean PJ's, he was ordered to describe for a visiting American 'Peace Activist' the 'lenient and humane treatment' he'd received.
"He spat at Ms.Fonda, was clubbed, and was dragged away. During the subsequent beating, he fell forward on to the camp Commandant 's feet, which sent that officer berserk.
"In 1978, the Air Force Colonel still suffered from double vision (which permanently ended his flying career) from the Commandant's frenzied application of a wooden baton.
"From 1963-65, Col. Larry Carrigan was in the 47FW/DO (F-4E's). He spent 6 years in the 'Hanoi Hilton',,, the first three of which his family only knew he was 'missing in action'.His wife lived on faith that he was still alive.His group, too, got the cleaned-up, fed and clothed routine in preparation for a 'peace delegation' visit.
"They, however, had time and devised a plan to get word to the world that they were alive and still survived. Each man secreted a tiny piece of paper, with his Social Security Number on it , in the palm of his hand.
"When paraded before Ms. Fonda and a cameraman, she walked the line, shaking each man's hand and asking little encouraging snippets like: 'Aren't you sorry you bombed babies?' and 'Are you grateful for the humane treatment from your benevolent captors?' Believing this HAD to be an act, they each palmed her their sliver of paper.
"She took them all without missing a beat.. At the end of the line and once the camera stopped rolling, to the shocked disbelief of the POWs, she turned to the officer in charge and handed him all the little pieces of paper..
"Three men died from the subsequent beatings. Colonel Carrigan was almost number four but he survived, which is the only reason we know of her actions that day.
"I was a civilian economic development advisor in Vietnam , and was captured by the North Vietnamese communists in South Vietnam in 1968, and held prisoner for over 5 years.
"I spent 27 months in solitary confinement; one year in a cage in Cambodia ; and one year in a 'black box' in Hanoi My North Vietnamese captors deliberately poisoned and murdered a female missionary, a nurse in a leprosarium in Ban me Thuot , South Vietnam , whom I buried in the jungle near the Cambodian border. At one time, I weighed only about 90 lbs. (My normal weight is 170 lbs)
"We were Jane Fonda's 'war criminals....'
"When Jane Fonda was in Hanoi , I was asked by the camp communist political officer if I would be willing to meet with her..

"I said yes, for I wanted to tell her about the real treatment we POWs received... and how different it was from the treatment purported by the North Vietnamese, and parroted by her as 'humane and lenient.'

"Because of this, I spent three days on a rocky floor on my knees, with my arms outstretched with a large steel weights placed on my hands, and beaten with a bamboo cane.
"I had the opportunity to meet with Jane Fonda soon after I was released. I asked her if she would be willing to debate me on TV. She never did answer me.

"These first-hand experiences do not exemplify someone who should be honored as part of '100 Years of Great Women.' Lest we forget....'100 Years of Great Women' should never include a traitor whose hands are covered with the blood of so many patriots.
"There are few things I have strong visceral reactions to, but Hanoi Jane's participation in blatant treason, is one of them. Please take the time to forward to as many people as you possibly can.. It will eventually end up on her computer and she needs to know that we will never forget."
I implore you, please, do not forward this piece of e-mail trash.  Jane Fonda did, in fact, do many hurtful and hateful things, for which she should indeed suffer the consequences, and in no way should she be honored.  Sadly, however, it is too late for that--the text of the e-mail has twisted that fact, as well.  Rather than decrying the situation, as you will learn in the Snopes.com link, it was actually Barbara Walters who did the honoring!!  It is a 'fait accomplit' of long-standing!

Instead of forwarding the e-mail, please forward the link to this blog!!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Once Upon A Camping Trip, Part Two: Fun With Girl Scouts

The camping adventures continued through the years.  When my girls were in grammar school and junior high, I had them in Girl Scouts.  That provides for a number of off-the-wall camping experiences, you may be sure.  Three guesses who got to be the troop leader..(the first two don't count)...Right!  At one point, I had two troops--a Brownie troop and a Junior troop!  Oh, such fun.  Welll.....there were times....

One camping adventure with the scouts involved a springtime trip, and the weather was still, as the TV weather reporters say, "unsettled."  On the packing list for the girls to bring was very clear advice  that it would likely rain that weekend, and to be sure to have "a rain poncho, a warm jacket and either rain boots or a change of shoes."

Most of them managed to show up properly equipped, but I had to wonder about 2 of the parents.  Did they even know what rain gear was??  Or, did the parent ever even see the packing list?  One girl packed a light windbreaker jacket as her 'warm jacket,' and the other had an umbrella.  Seriously??  An umbrella out camping is a hindrance and can be a hazard as well.   Neither girl had any footwear but the sneakers they were wearing, but at that point, it was time to leave, (Friday, after school),  and too late to do anything about it.

Not only did it rain, it down-poured! Makeshift ponchos were made by cutting head holes and arm holes in leaf-size trash bags.  Not much could be done about wet shoes...those two girls were quite miserably cold and damp for the duration.  I bet they learned something, though!  And that is a big part of the whole point of Scouting!

The assistant leader and I were both very experienced campers, and had our own gear in order, our tents 'trenched,' and rain flies installed.  We had a foil tent over the propane stove, and proceeded with the Saturday pancake breakfast. The girls lined up, and as you might guess, there were one or two.. (not saying which two...) who failed to listen to the advice to, "Hold your plates upside down while you are in line."  Again, most everyone else did as told, and the assistant was serving up the pancakes as fast as they came off the turn, and did not notice that 'someone' had water in her plate.  Ooops.. Oh, well.  Soggy pancakes are what you get when you don't 'get' the instructions!

It was on this same trip that a maker of tents had called our local association chair, to inquire if we'd like to use some of their tents, free of charge, to test and provide feedback.  The timing was perfect, so we agreed.  Each leader had one of the tents.
The tent designer had one good idea, but it was fatally flawed:  the screen window privacy flaps were on the inside instead of the outside--that was the good idea part.  Unfortunately, they zipped down from the top, and rolled up at the bottom where they were sewn to the body of the tent.  This made a superb catch-basin for rainwater, and when in the morning, the girls opened the flap, they got a cold shower of water on them and down into their sleeping bags! 
You've heard no alarm clock quite like the screaming of a dozen girls in a neighboring tent!  Two or three of them got the cold shower; why all of them needed to scream I never did figure out.

Besides that, despite instructions to the contrary, the kids managed to be traipsing in and out of the tents all day long...tracking in mud galore!

The weekend was a washout.  After arriving at camp Friday afternoon, waking up to rain on Saturday morning, and on and off rain all day Saturday, it was pretty miserable all around.  By lunchtime on Saturday, there were so many wet and muddy sleeping bags (trampled and sat on with wet clothes from girls disobeying the order not to be in and out of the tents..)..that a meeting of leaders was held, and we called the trip and went home Saturday afternoon instead of staying over till Sunday.
Prepared and dug in as I was, I was peeved.  My girls & I could have stuck it out and managed to stay.

Upon arriving home, the the tents were so trashed with mud that I had to bring them to my mom's house, set them up in the yard and hose them off inside and out!  Then, I hung them upside-down to dry in her garage, ours not being tall enough.


On another trip, I seriously had to wonder about some of the adults.  Again, we had sent home a detailed packing list with all the usual camping accouterments:  2 changes of clothing, extra socks; mess kit and dunk bag; sleeping bag; ground cloth; etc.  The cooking gear was communal, and the responsibility of the leaders.
Would you believe, we had a parent call and ask, "What's a sleeping bag?" My assistant and I were stunned!  How could anyone not know what a sleeping bag is?  Even if you've never gone camping, how can you miss seeing the displays as you are shopping in such all-purpose stores as Target or Wal-Mart??!!  I'm afraid that story made the rounds of the entire association's complement of leaders!


Then, there was the problem with parents in general not being able to distinguish between a sleeping bag and a slumber bag!  The former is for camping, the latter is for indoor-only slumber parties.
Sleeping bags are temperature rated, based upon the type and amount of insulating filling.  Those rated to 30 degrees are suitable for most all trips.  Zero-degree bags are for camping in cold climates, or where snow is expected.
Slumber bags, on the other hand, are little more than fleecy blankets with a zipper, and not nearly warm enough for sleeping outdoors.  Nonetheless, every year without fail, in spite of being advised otherwise, some kid would show up for camp with her slumber bag in tow...and she was usually very cold all night.  The best we could do for such unfortunate children was to scrounge an extra blanket to put under the thing, and place her in the middle of the other sleepers rather than on an outside edge.  Hopefully, the child went home and clearly explained the difference to her parents!


When you are out camping, things are different than they are at home in your kitchen.  You don't step over to your sink and turn on the tap for hot and cold running water.  At camp, the water faucet is most likely a hundred feet or so from your campsite.  It provides cold water only.  If there is a restroom with plumbing, it probably also has only cold water. 

Still, dishes must be washed, and hot water is needed.  It is not hard to figure out what needs to be done.  So, imagine our speechless surprise when one of another unit's parent-volunteer "assistant leaders" sauntered over to our unit to inquire, "Where did you get your hot water?"

Whaaaaaattt????? You're joking, right?  Was our initial reaction.  While none of us spoke this aloud, you'd better believe we were thinking it!  We simply could not believe that this adult woman, mother of children, had to be told that you simply put the water in a pot and heat it on your camp stove.  Wow!  She would be one who would not be a survivor in a disaster!


To be fair, I must tell a tale on one of my own kids.  Growing up camping as she did, she should have known better, but she has always been known for her own brand of logic, being especially creative when she was young.  (She's still very creative--just in a different way.)
Well, on this one trip, for some reason, she had decided she was too hot inside her tent, and dragged her sleeping bag outside to sleep under the stars.  Unfortunately, this campground was in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California, an area known for its cool summers.  While the daytime temperatures at camp were pleasant enough to allow for a swimming pool, the fog would roll in from the coast at night.
Poor kiddo had placed her sleeping bag right underneath the drip line of a tree, and woke up soaking wet in the a.m.  We had to take the thing down by the pool and hang it on the cyclone fence all day to dry, as that was the only part of camp with all-day sun.
(This was the same child who, on another, non-camping, trip, pulled blankets onto the floor of a motel room, "because the mattress was too hard."  HUH??!!  That kind of logic was hers in spades!)


Perhaps I should write a book...more to come... ;-)

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Once Upon A Camping Trip

Once upon several camping trips, actually!

There's a funny truth about going camping:  something strange, funny, odd, or irritating is bound to happen.  In retrospect however,even the irritations become laughable.  Sometimes your memories are not your own--if you were very young, you recall only the funny stories told--often at your expense.

My father was a very experienced camper, having been camping on his own and with friends and relatives from his early teens.  That was way back before mass paranoia set in--somewhere between oh, around 1910 and 1920, when his own age range would have been between 13 and 23.  Besides, he and his camping/hiking companions were boys! That made all the difference, back then.  In another post, I'll share some of the hilarious stories he used to tell of those escapades.

With such an experienced camper for a father, and a mother who also enjoyed camping, it was inevitable that I'd grow up learning how to camp.  My earliest memory of camping involves a trip to a primitive campsite at a California Forest Service campground called Bear Valley.  It was one that my dad remembered from his youth.  (Whether or not this is in the same "Bear Valley" area as the now-popular ski area, I cannot say.)

The California Forest Service campgrounds were quite nice, for primitives. They did supply a picnic table and a nice cooking area. Instead of an open fire pit on the ground, there were well-constructed stone stoves with cast iron cook tops. These were built up to about waist height, and the wood went underneath the cook top. In this type of cooking, there is no reliable temperature control such as we have on our modern stoves, so you had better keep a close eye on your cooking, stirring often and/or moving the pot to hotter or cooler spots on the surface.

I was perhaps 5, maybe 6 years old at the time.  I remember such things as my dad having built a very special "stool"--with a hole in the middle.  That's right.  I did say it was primitive camping.  We had to go off a bit from the water source, and away from our picnic table area and dig our own privy.  Dad rigged up a privacy shelter, and a shovel was left inside.  While an "eeewww" topic for many these days, to a 5-year-old, this was novel, new, different, and high adventure!

For washing up, there was a spring with continually flowing water, but we could not see the actual source, as it had been routed through a pipe, from whence it continued on into a catch basin and on its way.  It was located within sight of our camp spot, but to the legs of a 5-year-old, it seemed like a long walk away.  I remember going with my mom to wash up, washcloth and towel in hand.  The water was icy cold. I think I only remember this because of a photo my dad took of me and another little girl of about my age whose family was camping near us.  We were both engrossed in watching the water.   For cooking and cleaning up the dishes, water had to be carted back to camp by the bucketful, and heated on the stove top.

I have no recollection of entertainment.  I'm sure my mother had things to amuse me, as I would have been too young to go on any hikes.  I know we had a campfire, and my dad sent me out a short way to collect tinder.  He pointed out dried-out "cow pies," and said that they made excellent tinder.  Not realizing what these actually were, I eagerly went out in search, and found several.  Running back into camp, I proudly proclaimed, "I found a bunch of limbers for the fire!"  I never did live down that misunderstanding of the word!

We continued to enjoy camping almost every year during my childhood, and I loved it all.  One year, I was about 12, and old enough to qualify to go on a horseback ride.  So, we rented horses and set off down a trail.  My dad had grown up in the era of horse-drawn vehicles, and had also worked as a fire lookout where the spotter's tower was an all-day horse and mule pack-in trip, so he was familiar with and comfortable around horses.
As we rode down the trail, I was having trouble with one stirrup:  I could not keep my foot in it.  Finally, I called out to my dad, asking if he could fix my stirrup.  He wheeled his horse around and came back to me.  His instant reaction was, "What stirrup?!"  The wrangler at the rental agency had not fastened it properly at the adjusted height, and it had fallen off.  We then had to backtrack down the trail until we found the place where it had dropped off.
That was the end of the horseback ride, as once the rental nags discovered they were headed back to the barn, nothing was going to turn them outbound again.  Probably our hour was almost up by then anyway.  Those horses could tell time!

More years down the road, and we were camping at our favorite spot,  Lassen Volcanic National Park in Northern California.  This particular trip was rather a comedy of errors.  All sorts of goofy things happened, and I documented them all with silly cartoons.
The first was the tent collapsing on top of my dad as he was setting it up.  It was a design with spring-loaded tension poles in the roof, connected to a short center post, and on the outside walls to rigid poles.  It was a clear-floor-space design, with no poles in the middle.  Except...one pole had to support the center while the rest were assembled into position.  Then, the center post was pushed up to its locking notch, and the temporary center pole was switched out to its final placement on the final sidewall.

Unfortunately, when Dear Ol' Dad shoved the center post upwards, it did not click into the latched position, and when he took out the supporting pole, the whole tent came down on top of him, with the end of the center post conking him square on top of the head.  Luckily, it was a blunt end, and his baseball cap provided a small cushion.  How do you show the  genuine concern you are feeling while laughing yourself silly?

That year, I seemed to have developed a problem with failing to look behind me while tossing things over my shoulder.  Poor ol' Dad was my victim when he passed behind my just as I finished brushing my teeth, discarding the remainder of my cup of water--yep--over my shoulder.  He caught half a cup of icy water right in the back of the neck and down his shirt it rolled.  He cringed, muttered something, but then we all laughed.  There is no point in allowing the small stuff to get to you out camping. You're there to have fun--make everything fun--including mishaps.

The particular campsite we had found on that trip did not have good shade over the picnic table, so my father had used some spare tent poles and an extra piece of canvas tarpaulin to rig a sunshade above the table.  I was my own next victim.  As I finished washing up dishes in the plastic dishpan we used, I decided  to toss the water out into the bushes behind me (yep--you guessed it), over my shoulder.  As I lifted and launched, I forgot to take into account such things of a scientific nature as clearance and trajectory.  The water went up alright, but its upward trajectory was intercepted by the underside of the tarp, and it never gained any outward direction.  The entire tub of water hit the tarp, and it all came cascading right back down on top of me in an unscheduled shower!  I was told that the expression on my face was priceless.

You know what?  I'm going to save the rest of these memories for another post.  I'm having such fun with the recollections, but I've decided there are actually enough of these stories to be worthy of another post--of bees and marshmallows and flirts, oh my!
 Meanwhile, if you're intrigued by these tales, you can check out my Hub Pages article on how to try camping for the first time.

Until then--happy camping!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Global Marketplace, My Foot!!

I am sick and tired of hearing about the “Global Marketplace.” We do not have a global market. We have a one-way out-flow of cash and jobs.

A global market would indicate free and equal trade between all vendors. Think of a bazaar or craft fair. There are numerous vendors each peddling wares in their own stalls. As often as not, however, those vendors find time to browse the other stalls, and frequently make purchases from other vendors.

That is not the case with the USA. We have exported a great many jobs to the extreme detriment of our economy, and we import merchandise of all types from vendors around the world. We sell our products to virtually no other country. It is a one-way street. We are like a vendor at a fair whose booth everyone bypasses without a second glance.

Let me re-state that with slightly different wording:  we offer wares for sale that were not made here by our workers, while simultaneously taking away their jobs, depriving them of an income with which to buy the products. This causes people to over-burden their credit cards in an attempt to buy what they want, even though they can no longer afford the goods. Eventually, this leads to people defaulting on their debts, and this has a ricochet effect, as more and more people find themselves in such straits.

The credit-holders want their money, but the workers no longer have funds with which to pay the debt, so the lending institution incurs the additional expense of hiring a collection agency, whose efforts are equally futile. If enough people default on their debts, it eventually puts the stability of the lender at risk, and if they fold, there go untold more hundreds of jobs. It is a vicious circle.

People are becoming unemployed at ever-increasing rates, and staying unemployed longer. In fact, they are staying unemployed for so long that they fall off the unemployment rolls as no longer elibible for benefits.  This plays nicely into the hands of the political spin-doctors who can proudly point to the "shrinking unemployment," and "improvement of the economy," as they do not count as unemployed those whose benefits have expired! All too often, if these people do find another job, it is a part-time, low-paying job, and the salary is not enough on which to survive.

We see the results daily in the news, but no one is paying attention. The cost of everything is escalating, the demand for public assistance is growing, more jobs are being lost, food banks are running short of supplies year-round, not just at the holidays, and the number of goods manufactured here continues to shrink.

Pray tell, how does anyone in good conscience define the current economy as a ‘Global Marketplace?’ It is anything but. It is nothing but self-serving, short-sighted greed sponsored by giant corporations whose CEO’s earn obscenely inflated salaries and perks, and who have the attitude of, “I’ve got mine—to hell with everyone else!”

It is well past time for a revolt against these revolting practices that are destroying our country. If this is not stopped, we will find that the “Good old U.S. of A” will have been the fastest rise and fall of a superpower in the history of the world.


Thursday, February 3, 2011

Confessions Of A Haphazard Cook

It's the ultimate irony.  Most of us like to eat; indeed, we must eat to sustain life.  Eating involves cooking and other forms of food preparation.  Many, many people find this process to be anything from relaxing to exhilarating.

Unfortunately, I'm not one of those kitchen-happy folks..  I find cooking ranges from boring to exhausting.  If  I can open a box and start eating with no preparation, I'm good.  Cereal?  Eaten dry like chips.  Hot breakfast?  Toast or Pop Tarts.  Yeah, I know--about as unhealthy as it gets.  I have an incurable sweet-tooth; what can I say? 

I should be a "fatty-fatty two-by-four..."  but I'm not.  Well, I could stand to drop a few pounds, but not bad.  How do I keep relatively slim?  My budget, that's how!  I don't have extra money to indulge my unhealthy sweet tooth.  If it's not in the house, I can't eat it.

I love Danish pastry, puff pastries, and all of that.  Sure, I could make my own, but I get tired just reading the recipes; sounds too much like hard work!  I get enough hard work trying to make a living, and dealing with day-to-day misfortunes, such as broken-down washing machines.  (But that's another article!)

I prefer to 'graze.'  Lunch may consist of a dozen Ritz crackers with cut-to-fit slices of cheese.  Or maybe stick pretzels dipped in peanut butter.  There's always a sandwich, but I like peanut butter, and made into a sandwich, I'm inclined to add extra calories I don't need.  The bread must be buttered.  Why?  Lubrication for the peanut butter!  It just doesn't slide down very well on dry bread.

The next irony is my beautiful gourmet-cook-friendly kitchen.  I love my kitchen.  We remodeled a few years back.  Now, you may ask, why does a person who dislikes cooking as much as I need a gourmet kitchen?  Well, quite simply, because it is an efficient kitchen, and gets me in and out quickly without fighting the arrangement or struggling with a too-small sink.

Cooking things that involve layering this, chopping that, sauteeing 3 ingredients, setting aside, flouring something else... bah!  A person could starve before such a meal were ready to serve.

I have a screaming-good recipe for vegetarian enchiladas.  When I make it, I get rave reviews, and there are never any left.  I only make them about once a year.  It's one of those recipes..chopping sauteeing, pre-prepping, and by the time the dish is ready to serve, every pot and pan in the house is dirty, the stove and island are a mess of splatters, and the sink is full of all the stuff that didn't fit in the first load in the dishwasher.

I have a modified pair of horse blinders I wear while eating the enchiladas, so I can enjoy them without glimpsing the mess awaiting clean-up.  For the most part, however, if the urge for enchiladas strikes, I hit the frozen food aisle.  So much faster, and someone else got to do the KP.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Then and Now--That Was Then; This Is Now

Sometimes you get a smack in the rear from life.  The trigger can be most anything.  In my case, I have inherited my mother's "flatsurfacitis" gene. People with this affliction are subject to suddenly finding there is no room to eat on the table, piled as it is with assorted stacks of "very important papers." All flat surfaces are fair game, be it a table, kitchen counter or dresser.

These papers range in size from torn corners of napkins to post-it-notes to full size sheets of binder paper and anything in between.  The stacks may also include books or magazines not put away, (after all, I don't want to forget to actually read them). This "must have" information runs the gamut from phone numbers to old bills and recipes.  We flatsurfacitis sufferers don't want to lose any of it, so it's been carefully saved.

Eventually, the piles may migrate to other surfaces.  The ironing board is a favorite. Portable as it is, the unsightly mess can simply be shuffled about to various out-of-the-way spots around the house. (But at least the table is now clear.)  After all, who irons anymore anyway?  "Ironing"  is an obscene word in my house.  

Company's coming?  Put it in the bedroom.  Need to change the bedding and vacuum the carpet?  No problem.  Stick the thing into the office.  Ooops--that was a mistake--need to use the office.  Oh, well, put it in the guest room; no one ever comes to visit overnight anyway.  Uh-oh--can't sleep?  Disturbing hubby?  Need the guest room! 

Oh, great!  The thing is wedged against the door, and I can barely squeeze inside.  How on earth did that happen?  Make note to self:  must dig in (tomorrow!) and start sorting out this crud. And so tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow...and many tomorrows later, I've arrived at to-day--as in to-do to-day!  No more putting it off.  Something must be done, for I can barely squeeze into the "guest" room; it's become more storage locker than anything else.

Mind you, I don't hoard all manner of junk until my whole house is full.  I'm not one of those people who collect so much crap that they can barely navigate through tiny pathways between all their "collections."  Not by a long shot.  I have books,  family memorabilia from the current generation, and heirlooms.  Oh, and my important papers.  

I don't shop at flea markets, raid dumpsters or go midnight shopping on trash day.  It's just that it's a bit too much to fit into what might be considered proper storage and display areas. I'm a family history buff, so many of my important papers are tidbits waiting to be entered into my genealogy program, or scrap-booked.

Some of my 'stuff' is clothing that is, what's the new catch-phrase?  "Gently worn."  I'm quite sure it will fit again--one of these days.  So there it sits. Ah, here's another pair of pants--full of paint stains. Well, I'm sure one day there will be another painting project, and I wouldn't want to ruin another pair of pants, so I'd better save these.  My original old Nintendo game is in there.  One of these days...real soon...(as soon as I can figure out all the cables and what goes where)...I'm going to hook it up to the TV next to hubby's X-Box, so I can play my old games I enjoyed.

No matter.  While sorting, I eventually get sidetracked.  I come by that honestly, as well.  After all, I grew up in a household facetiously nicknamed "Sidetrack Manor."  But I digress.  Today's smack in the rear came in the form of an old ledger accounting book that fell from a closet shelf and conked me on the noggin.  It was one of the many such books my mother used over the years to keep track of household finances.

Hubby and I sat down to read it.  Wow.  This was one I had saved for just such comparisons.  The rest, I tossed when we sold Mom's house.  The book covers the period from 2 years before I was born; 1946, through 1954 when I was 6 years old. Comparing what things cost back then to what we pay now was nothing short of shocking.  Keep in mind that our current home is only slightly larger in square footage than the house where I grew up. Our house is fully insulated with a new, efficient furnace. I grew up in a house with a humongous and not-so-efficient furnace and the building was totally uninsulated.

Here's a sampling of monthly costs:

Item or Service

Gas and Electric
Mortgage Payment (2011 adjusted to actual amount)

This bit of  sticker shock made me feel old, for it reminded me that I can recall bread being sold for twenty-five-cents a loaf, and a quart of milk the same.  A nickel candy bar was actually a nickel, and a dime bought a week's supply of bubble gum. (Oh--just remembered--I am old!)

It also reminded me of why I save such antiques:  it is possible fodder for an angry letter to The Powers That Be . I'll write that letter...someday.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Ghosties and Ghoulies and Things That Go Bump In The Night

We have a spirit in our home.  A real-live ghost.  Well, not that a ghost is alive, but let's just say an actual presence.  And anyway--who's to say what the ultimate definition of "alive" is?  We are alive in our physical bodies, which when they wear out, and die, shed our energy, and release it into the universe.  Energy cannot be destroyed..who's to say that's not a form of life?

As a sensitive (one who is able to feel, or sense the presence of spirits and their energy) , my husband has been able to pick up that it is a little girl between about 8 and 12 years of age.

He has felt her often, and 3 times she's passed right through him.  He describes that as "an awful feeling."  Sort of all electric-tingly, and almost as if you can feel your innards being pulled upon--not painful, just unpleasant.  It's an experience I've not had.  The last time it happened, he yelled at her, "Don't do that!!"  Perhaps her feelings were hurt: all activity ceased for nearly a year.

She is mischeivous, though, and likes to hide things every now and then.  The most blatant episode was a perforated vegetable serving spoon.  It lives in the silverware drawer, in a section with the rest of the serving utensils, and right on top, as it is used most often.

On the day in question, I reached to get it, and it was not there.  I looked again, figuring it had migrated to the bottom of the pile.  Nope.  I searched among the few items in the sink.  No spoon.  I looked in the dishwasher--it was empty.  Next, I searched all the other drawers in the kitchen, thinking that if my husband had put away dishes, it might have gotten into the wrong spot.  Likewise if my daughters had been visiting.  No such luck.

Back to the original drawer I went, and this time, I removed the drawer, dumped the contents fully right down to naked empty drawer, and put everything back one item at a time.  No veggie spoon!  I looked elsewhere around the house, ready to (unrealistically) blame one of the cats for thinking it was a toy, and hiding it in some nook or cranny.  Nope! The cats didn't have it.  I gave up, figuring at last that it must have accidentally ended up in the trash and was simply gone.

Fast-forward about 3 months, and I opened the silverware drawer to set the table, and lo and behold, there was the stupid vegetable spoon, right on top, where it had always belonged and been in the past!!  Right where it had not been upon my initial search or in turning the house upside down!

Debunking checklist for this event: 
  • My husand and I are the only living human inhabitants of this house 
  • Although we have 4 cats, who can get into mischief, they are unable to open drawers and make off with silverware 
  • It was not during any holiday, so neither of my daughters had been here helping put things away, nor had other guests
  • This type of happening cannot be explained by drafts or 'settling of the house'  
Where the items go that they cannot be seen, is a matter far beyond the scope of this post.  At the moment, I am missing an antique doll.....

I've written 2 other articles in far more detail concerning the paranormal, and how to figure out whether you have a spirit in your home or not.  They can be found here: