Archive for July, 2008


I meant to blog about this earlier this week. I got a new gadget.  John would have loved this — he was powerfully drawn to gadgets. (I have a basement full of them to sort out.  It is fortunate that some of them have labels or are in their packages, or I’d never know what they are.)

The new gadget is a button maker, and I got it for the artistic potential, but also to use it for political activities and neighborhood activities.  It makes 2.25 inch buttons and came from a company called Buttonmakers.net.




The button maker is the machine in the back of the photo.  I also got a punch with it that punches out the correct size circles for making a 2.25 inch button.  Below are some of the buttons from the first button-making effort.

 It is outrageously fun to make buttons, especially the one of a kind ones — it’s going to be a bore to make a zillion political ones.  I hope to set up at the block party to give kids the opportunity to design their own buttons with colored markers.  It will be a great, quick project for them.

Gardening News:

A rabbit has eaten the tops off my pole bean plants in the back yard.  The figs are getting bigger but are still totally green.  It is possible that one of my cactus plants (known as Grandma Emily’s cactus, but its a progeny, not the actual Grandma’s cactus) is going to bloom.  I cut back the common orange daylilies and fed the bed with compost and mulched it with three bags of mulch.  Several daylilies are still in bloom, including this delicious raspberry-sherbert colored one:


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This morning I returned John’s handicap card and handicap license plates to the Maryland MVA.  I got to the Quince Orchard office fairly early, so the line was only a couple dozen people long — the first line.  From the first line I got sent to the second line I kind of thought of as the “slow but special” line.  From there I got a receipt for the old plates and a ticket with number D-17 on it (bingo?)  The MVA has a system where you get a deli number and then you wait for a blinking, pinging sign to tell you what numbered clerk window you should go to.  But the blinking, pinging sign was flashing D-23 at the very moment I received D-17,   obviously a problem.  Obvious only to me, the lady with D-18 and the lady with D-19.

D-23 directed the lucky ticket holder to window 16, which was not staffed for about 5 minutes.  When the clerk showed up in window 16, I asked her about the numbering problem and, bless her heart, she emphatically told me it wasn’t her problem, that the supervisor was in window 20.   Eventually this got sorted out, but not by Window 16, bless her heart.  The final step in the process was to go to another line to queue up to turn in the handicap card.  Another deli number (385) on a different system.  4 lines total in about 45 minutes, and it only cost me $20 to have John die as far as the MVA is concerned.  (Well, no actually, I didn’t change the registration.  That’ll be more.)  I am glad to have this task done.  It was another big rock, and is now off the path.

On Sunday, Celia and Mike and I went to Brookside Gardens for the butterfly exhibit.  I took so many photos, I have not gotten through selecting the first cut, let alone editing or printing.  However, here are the first two:

This one is called a Blue Tiger – Danaus (Tirumala) limniace , but it actually looks black and white. 

Here’s a Monarch on a bouganvilia.  There were 20-25 different kinds of butterflies and moths in the exhibit, which is staged in the seasonal conservatory.  The exhibit contains mostly non-native bugs, so the conservatory has an air pressure system to hold the bugs in, plus two sets of doors and you must be inspected on your way out the door for stowaways.  The conservatory is quite humid and warm.  Last time I went with John and a big blue butterfly perched on his back for several minutes.  You have to not mind bugs landing on you, flying by you, and swirling all about.  Some of the small kids were a little unnerved.

Tomorrow I hope to have photos of a new machine I’ve gotten and some things I’ve made with it.

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4 Months

July 14t is the 4th month anniversary of John’s death.  I made it though the day.  I went to work.  We had a handbell choir rehearsal.  We had a Spirit Choir rehearsal.  I made dinner.  I paid bills.  I fed the cat.  

I planned to blog on the 14th, in his honor, in his memory.  But I paid bills instead.  I have tried to keep our affairs organized and in good order for the past four months, and I’m hoping he’s happy with what I have accomplished.  Lord knows, there’s lots more to do, but I can really only handle one or two of the hard, sad things at a time.  Tonight there was the issue of the handicapped licence plates.  I need to get them replaced by the end of the month.

This photo is from 2005, when we were visiting Mom and Dad in Grand Marais, Minnesota.  I think it was taken at Jane and Jim’s restaurant.

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It’s the gardens.  They swallow up time.  One moment I am a pretty sane and reasonable person, having a morning cup of coffee, looking at the newspaper headlines, making my to-do list.  The next minute, there I am with pruning shears, heavy gloves, trowels, shovels — planning to spend an hour on a specific garden task (pruning off the stems of the spent daylilies, for example).  And, bam!, the garden time warp hits.  Hours later, there I am, grubby, sweaty, a little battered, weeding in the back garden, planting in the rock garden, turning a compost pile…

The big bed of common daylilies in the front has bloomed and all of the oriental lilies have bloomed.

I have trimmed them back and removed dilapidated foliage.  The ferns are growing strong, the strawflowers are opening — the one below will be pink, but looks pretty strange in bud:

It is close to 4 months since John died.  I’ve experienced more of the “magical thinking” lately.  Looking at the back yard, the thought strikes me that John will really like this when he sees it.  Or when I hear some bit of new office gossip, I have the fleeting thought that John will find that tidbit quite interesting.  He was my best friend, and we talked all the time.  I especially miss that.


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Dear John,

I don’t know why, but today (the 3rd – yesterday, actually) was a hard day. I cried a lot. I’m crying now.  Good thing it was slow at work, or I have been caught crying at my desk. Some days are like this. Why today?  Maybe because it is a three day weekend.  Were you here, a three day weekend would be something to look forward to.  Oh, I’ll keep busy, yes;  I’ll see friends, yes.  I have a lot of plans — keeping busy, that’s my coping strategy.  So, why was yesterday a weepy day — it wasn’t a 14th of the month, it wasn’t our anniversary or your birthday (or mine for that matter).  Maybe it is because this is the July 4th weekend.  We didn’t have really major holiday traditions, but we would have grilled steak.  And how you loved fireworks — it breaks my heart that you are not here to enjoy them this year. 

I cried on the drive home, and then at home, too.  So I decided to start a labor-intensive project, which was to take down the old shed, the Rubbermaid disaster that we bought at Sam’s Club and that I put together alone because you were hurting too much. It was a real female dog of a shed, but we could afford it and it “worked” just well enough.  We’d agreed I would take that shed down last summer, but we (I) got too busy, and it got too hot. 

Well, honey, it’s down.  Ding, dong, the shed is gone.  The pieces are stacked and ready to take to the curb (next Friday).  I swept up the shed platform, swept behind the air conditioner, and swept behind the storage cans.  It got really dark so I plugged in the lights on the fig tree.  Guess what, honey, they still work — but they need to be taken off and re-installed.  The fig has gotten so much bigger, they are almost cutting into the trunk.  By 9PM it was too dark to work, and I was soaking with sweat.  But I stopped crying for a while anyway.

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When out-of-state guests visited in Minnesota, we always took them out to see the animals — deer (easy), chipmunks (too easy), bear (at the dump, of course), moose (big challenge there!)  What can I say;  I am a woodsie.  Here in Maryland, there’s not much native wildlife left until you get up into the Cumberland area, and not much there, either.  My parents and my sister, living in the Denver area, are within a short drive of wildlife.  Actually, since Sis is on the edge of Denver settlement, she’s got foxes in her back yard often, and so do Mom and Dad.

One afternoon with a couple of hours on our hands, brother Gary, sister-in-law Cindy, and Maryland friends Mike and Celia and I went out for a drive up Bear Creek Road.  This road goes past the Red Rock park area and into the foothills and mountains, following Bear Creek.  There’s parkland along the south side of the road with hiking trails and streams for fly fishing.  Distances are hard to guage when you are driving on a curved road and stopping frequently to walk around and take pictures, but about 45 minutes into our ride we came upon a pretty lake with a wetland and raised walking path.  We pulled off at a parking spot, looked up the hillside and spotted several mother elk with their babies.  They were far enough up the hill and in the brush and trees to make photos difficult, but here is a fairly clear one.

If you look closely, you can see extra legs under the mom.  We gaped at them like a proper bunch of out-of-towner city folk, and were quite proud of ourselves for finding elk without the assistance of any local guides.  The lake we stopped at is small (by MN standards) but what a lovely view with mountains all around it.  This photo is from the nature walk over the wetland area.  We saw many birds including redwing black birds, whose song I have missed in Maryland; Canadian geese (with goslings), who must live nearly everywhere (including the local Brookside Garden); a brown wood duck; a cormorant;  and mallards.

After exploring the lake we took a side road through a meadow and up a hill.  We found a young velvet-horned buck elk and an “elder” — the Big Guy — with a magnificent velvet-covered rack.  Were we excited?  You bet!

Continuing up the hill we reached a rocky outcrop.  If the day had been less hazy, we might have been able to see Denver.  It was good light for taking a photo of my fellow explorers.

We left the rocks and went straight home for dinner, which was eaten on the patio in sunset.  Here is a picture of the resident bunny — it is not injured, it’s just stretched out, relaxed.  Sometimes it suns in the front yard under a bush with all 4 feet splayed out.  This is a confident rabbit.  (Not sure whether this is the Mom rabbit or the Dad rabbit, but the kid rabbits live under the back porch of the next door neighbor.)

One more “fauna” shot — I love this little duck creamer and made a bouquet of tiny pink flowers for it.  My sister says these pink flowers are weeds.  We looked in the wild flower books and think they could be pink saxifrage.  More research needed, but they are quite nice for weeds, IMO.


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