Who? Us?

We are two disabled, oldish women who have been adventuring through life for years. We are talking about how disabilities, both visible and not, change the way we enjoy our retirement.

Monday, November 30, 2015

Donna Speaks: Observations and Aspirations


leaves race downhill
blown by chilly gusts of almost winter                      
children chasing each other                                                              
it must be recess

Canine Nirvana
lying on her back                                                                          
black to ground white blaze to sky                                    
shamelessly she splays her back legs wide                          
stretches her right leg high                                                               
her white socked paw                                                                   
ever so gently weaves back and forth                                            
big brown old soul eyes closed                                                         
a slight smile on her charcoal face                                             
ahhh, Canine Nirvana

When the evening of my life comes                                                
Be with me                                                                                      
By my side                                                                                        
to enjoy the nightfall's cool breeze                                               
and to sing with me                                                          
Life's Lullabies

Miss Althea, have a good week.                                                                                           

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Is Hate the New Normal?

I never cease to be amazed at what has happened in my lifetime. I don’t mean technology - I can barely keep up with this computer and have never learned to text. I guess I just don’t see the point to it.

I thought back when I was at Michigan State, from 1959-1963 that we could change the world, that we could rid this country of hatred and injustice. Hah, was I wrong. 

In the 50 years since I published a counter-culture newsletter, printed on mimeograph paper, pumped out on the dormitory mimeograph machine - remember those when you got blue ink all over you and had to keep turning the crank for the lighter and lighter copies to come out. 

Anyway, I decided that different rules for men and women at MSU were just wrong, so wrote about that every 2 weeks.  I also thought that classes in engineering should not be limited to just men.  That women were supposed to become either teachers, nurses, secretaries or maybe social workers, if you were lucky. I wanted to be an engineer, but my fragile 17 yo ego could not take the bullying handed out by the boys and the professor in the engineering classes, so I quit after 3 days. And I wrote about those things.  

Women had to wear skirts on campus. Remember, this was Michigan where winter temperatures could be below zero for days in a row and we had a long ways to walk from class to class, building to building. 

All of those rules changed the year after I left school. I don’t know if I had anything to do with or not, but with thousands of us feeling the same way, the school bowed to the pressure.

For years, I campaigned for social justice, for civil rights for all.  I was an activist, for sure.

And here I am 50ish years later. I see half the country liking the most racist, bigoted, stupid and hateful politicians I have ever seen.  I am thinking this country has not changed. In fact, it could be worse. I know we gays have a few more rights than we had 50 years ago. In fact lots more.  But we are still assaulted and murdered because of what we are.  

My black friends and relatives are still arrested for driving while black or shopping while black.  Black teens are being murdered by policemen who seem to enjoy it and are not prosecuted. 

Transgendered people are murdered daily and no one really cares.

And now we have bullies for politicians.  Can  you imagine anyone like Donald Trump with his narcissistic personality disorder actually being the president of this country? Or Ben Carson, who represents the most horrific of people with his ‘misremembered’ background and just hates gays, period? Or even Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio, with immigrant backgrounds themselves, but spewing hatred against people who wish the same for themselves and their families? And we won’t even mention the last Bush brother, poor thing, or the woman, Fiorina, who disgraces all women.

These folks are whipping the bigots of this country into a hating frenzy, reminiscent of Hitler. And we know where that got us.

And then a couple days ago, a white, Christian terrorist shot and murdered people at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Colorado Springs. And not one of the Republican candidates said one word about it.  

And the shooter was captured alive. Did anyone notice?  That would not have happened if he were a black teen. 

Please people, we are not this way. We don’t hate. Do we?

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Who is that Woman?

Who is that woman, anyway?

She seems to be everywhere. 

She volunteers at the homeless shelter and the library and sorts clothes to give away,

She is often at the grade school, reading to the littlest, or at the senior center talking to the ones who can’t hear very well anymore,

She understands because she doesn’t hear very well either, but she can still sing a song, 

She leaves her house every day because it can be cold in her house or in the summer really hot,

You know what she looks like because you see her gray head everywhere. She wears a dark wool skirt, a buttoned up cardigan and stout shoes, and uses a cane most of the time,

You don’t quite know her name, but you have known her since you were a youngster, You think she had a husband and maybe some kids, but they moved away or something, 

She goes through her things looking for what she can give away to the woman with a new baby she can't afford,

She remembers every holiday and gives her old clothes away and her dishes too because she really doesn’t cook anymore,

On holidays, she sits in her house alone on a rump-sprung rocker  watching TV, eating a TV dinner with a plastic fork that she washes and dries when she is done.

Remember her now?

What was her name again?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Donna Speaks: A Powerful Woman

Today my parents would have been married 71 years had mom not died 11 years ago.  We still send Dad Happy Anniversary wishes; he continues to send his five kid's birthday wishes and gifts, as well as Christmas gifts, signed "love, from mom and dad".  Mom was full of powerfully positive energy; she is very much present with all who knew her well.

Our family's Thanksgiving tradition revolved around mom.  She would start planning weeks before: going through old recipes; choosing from new recipes collected over the past year; assigning dishes for her five adult children to bring; checking to see who was coming on Wednesday to be the chopper, dicer, and stirrer.

It was always orderly chaos on Thanksgiving Day.  With at least two daughters plus mom, the music would begin.  A combination of Motown, Rock 'n Rock, and Fifties Big Band blared.  With wine glass near-by, we gyrated to the beat as we whipped the cream for the strawberries, browned the livers and gizzards with the Holy Trinity* for the cornbread dressing, and carefully stirred the gravy to avoid lumps.

"The Men" - Dad, my brother, in-laws, male relatives and friends - would be putting up and setting tables, scouring for extra chairs, talking about hunting.  Doing "stra-tea-gery" stuff.  None were allowed in the kitchen to disturbed our private female party.

The culmination came around 2pm.  We'd all sit in some form of chair at some form of table. Dad'd say some form of grace, or assign the task to one of the grandchildren.  And we'd dig into the love and good will that was the main ingredient in every dish.

After the grand meal, the grandkids would clean-up, supervised by an adult.  If the weather was good, we'd all go outside and play or watched others play volleyball or flag football, or just take a long walk around the country-side that surrounded my family home.  

As the day turned to evening,  we'd slowly dispersed after a turkey with mayo and cranberry sauce sandwich, or a small meal of everything.  If everyone wasn't gone when my Dad thought they should be, he'd disappear for a moment and return dressed in only a v-neck t-shirt and boxer shorts.  Everyone knew that that was the signal: GO HOME!  And anyone still there left.

It was idyllic.  Truly.

Then Mom died after a very successful triple by-pass eleven years ago.  Yes, the heart surgery was a success.  But the renowned heart surgeon in the best Houston hospital let a small piece of an artery get loose and within only a few hours, Mom had a major stroke when that small piece of artery got stuck in her brain.  She was totally paralyzed on her right side, was basically helpless, and could no longer speak.

Mom was gone and, even though she had made clear her wishes never to live that way, my Dad decided, with persuasion from two out of five children, to keep Mom alive as long as medical science could. That was the beginning of the end of any family solidarity - and idyllic holiday gatherings.

The disagreement between family members regarding what was best for mom ripped us apart. Three children (including me) were pained beyond words seeing our Mom kept alive day after day unable to care for herself, to talk, to eat, to sleep in her own bed.  Mom never lacked the best care, and even though we disagreed with our father's decision, we got mom home after almost seven months in this that and the other hospital.  

It took three more months, but Dad finally let go.  Or, to be more accurate, Mom came up with a medical problem that medical science could not treat: a cancerous tumor on her right ovary.

Unbelievable.  Uh huh.  My 78 year old mother still had all her equipment.  And, not wanting to continue to be alive and unable to live, she caused the cancer in order to end it all.

My Mother was a powerful woman.  And I am honored to be the only child with my Mother's blue eyes.  And her energy is still with me.

Miss Althea, you have a good week.

*In Louisiana, onions, bell pepper, celery are the Holy Trinity in cooking.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

To my American Readers

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

For my readers in other countries, I hope your day is exactly what you want it to be.  Back tomorrow with opinions, rants, observations and happenings.

Jan and Donna

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Tall Stuff in Back, Green Side Up

Just as in plumbing where you need to know two things:  Cold on the right and shit don’t flow uphill.  In landscaping, we have a saying as well: tall stuff in the back and green side up. 

You also know that I was a landscaper and designer for the last 20 years of my working life. I  will drop some photos here just to spice things up. This is not work that I have done recently, nor here in Mountain View. It's in New Orleans where the weather is much different, but maybe you will get some ideas for your own house.

After you move into your brand new house, you realize that the builder’s landscaping included 6 shrubs planted in a row at the house’s foundation and one tiny tree centered in the front yard.  So now you not only have to pick out drapes, but also figure out what to do with the rest of the yard.

Planning your landscape

Start with deciding whether to hire a landscape architect or doing your own design using a landscape contractor. The architect will provide you with plans that include everything from a swimming pool to a gazebo or a circular driveway.  Often he draws the plans using the computer.  Your plans take into consideration your needs, wants and budget.  Plans drawn by a landscape architect are comprehensive and take your landscaping from start to finish.   You can get bids on those plans or even do it yourself in stages. Sometimes landscape architects do installation as well, so you may wish to have them bid on doing the work.  You will pay for the landscape architect’s plans. 

You can also use a landscape contractor who will work with that set of plans.  Both will give you a contract that outlines the scope of work and what you may be responsible for.  The contract will give you a start and completion date and a total price assuming no changes and depending on the weather.

Installing your landscape

Hardscaping is usually part of your installation.  Hardscape includes driveways, swimming pools, parking pads, fences, gates, ponds, fountains, irrigation systems and more.  If you have hardscape being installed, the job will take longer and make more of a mess. Be prepared for heavy machinery and big trucks invading your space, making noise and waking you up early in the morning.  But it will not last long and the benefits are worth the temporary disturbance.

Planting your landscape

More big trucks will arrive full of garden soil after the hardscaping is done.  That soil gives you a weed free beginning for your garden beds.  Workers will spread it into your already designed garden beds.  When the soil is in place, your plant material arrives and and is spotted. Spotting is what happens when the plants are still in their pots, but placed where they will be planted.  

Plant material will consist of trees, shrubs, flowers and vegetables.  The plant palette will be chosen for your climate.  The architect or contractor knows what grows where you live, what maintenance the plant material needs, and chooses the plants accordingly.

Maintaining your landscape

Please remember that no garden is maintenance free.  Some plants like trees or shrubs are low maintenance, but still require attention.  All need water, food and occasional pruning.  Perennial plants are favorites because they flower throughout the year. The maintenance requirements are more than shrubs or trees, but give you flowers, textures and live for years.  
Plants that require the most maintenance are annuals. They must be replaced every year, but give you a show of color that make the low replacement price worth every penny.  

You may want to consider a contract with the installer to maintain your landscape on a regular basis.  They will keep your brand new landscape healthy and gorgeous for all the years you live in your house.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Landscaping in Winter?

Ya know winter either has arrived where you live or it’s arriving soon. My last career was as a landscaper and here are a few things I picked up along the way.

I’ll add a few photos from tropical New Orleans just to make you remember summer and how short it was.

Do you look at your landscape in winter and just see ugly brown or worse yet, see a constant cover of ever greying snow?  You can make your yard much more pleasant if you do a few things when planning and installing it early on. You can also add some ‘bones’ to the garden now to make it look nice in all seasons. 

All gardens must start with ‘bones.’  These are the trees, shrubs, walkways, statuary, or benches that define the garden’s shape and stay in place year-round. Add  arbors or trellises to the other hardscape . Even in winter the vines that grew up the trellis or over the arbor add interest with the vines’ skeletons until they green up in the spring. 

Paths can give your garden interesting angles that frame the beds, now white or brown. Plant shrubs that are berry producing along the paths, so birds will visit. That adds both color and movement to the winter garden. 

Evergreen trees keep your landscape green and look wonderful with a blanket of snow. Or cut a few branches and use them in window boxes or planters. They will stay green for weeks.

The water feature can also be a focal point in winter. The fish can’t be seen and the waterfall is silent, but ornamental grasses add movement and structure to the winter landscape. If you leave a hole in the ice, birds and other wildlife will stop by for a drink.

Statuary creates focal points in the garden. Depending on your garden’s formality or casualness, the statues can be obelisks or whimsical children at play. Regardless of the statuary you choose, be sure it fits where you put it. Most of the time a formal statue does not work well with an informal one.

Add interest when the snow falls or when the entire garden turns brown as it does in the warmer zones. Add a bottle tree, a Southern garden tradition. A bottle tree consists of bottles on tree branches, either real or manufactured. The bottles are usually blue. The noise of the wind over the bottle openings are said to keep the ‘haints’ away. 

Exterior pottery can hold interesting sticks from the garden. When the snow settles on the sticks, the result is an ever-changing sculpture.

The garden is rarely green and colorful in the winter, but it can be made so very interesting by using your imagination and spots of movement and color.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Donna Speaks. Terrorism isn't New

In June of 1985, my parents came to visit us in Berlin, Germany, where my ex husband was stationed at the Tempelhof AFB.  Mom and Dad had to change planes in Frankfurt before reaching their final destination.  The airport in Frankfurt had been bombed two days before their arrival.  The Arab Revolutionary Organization claimed credit. Needless to say, my parents arrived in Europe very shaken and asking if they had to go through Frankfurt to go home. (Yes.)

Before my parents came, they had asked us to look into cruises.  The Achille Lauro looked great.  My parents declined.  The Achille Lauro was hijacked in October 1985 by four men representing the Palestine Liberation Front. The hijacking was eventually foiled, but not before the hijackers killed 69 year old Leon Klinghofer, a wheel chair bound Jewish-American.

We enjoyed a month of travel with my parents.  We spend a week in the Netherlands, staying in a small North Sea shore town, we traveled to Amsterdam and Delft.  We drove through Belgium back to Germany and stayed in a castle on the Rhine.  From Frankfurt we took a high speed train to The City of Lights, Paris.  The Folies Bergere was evening entertainment, and the next day, during site-seeing, my ex's pocket was picked. Before our return to Berlin, we enjoyed a view of the Alps and great German food in a small Bavarian town.

My parents were more than happy when they got back home to the good ole US of A.      

The next year, in April, our family was returning from a spring vacation in Amsterdam.  As we arrived at the Frankfurt train station to catch the American train to Berlin, we were unnerved by the significant increase in security.  Soon we learned the reason: the bombing the day before of a Berlin disco frequented by American service men.  There were 230 injured, 40 were Americans.  The bomb killed four Americans.  The bombing was carried out by Gaddafi's secret service.

My children returned to schools surrounded by soldiers armed with automatic weapons.  School busses were lead by and followed by machine gun mounted jeeps. Their schools received several bomb threats soon thereafter.  

Not long after this April bombing, my ex and I were awakened early one morning by the sound of gunfire - close.  My ex, a Marine veteran of Viet Nam and then an Air Force sergeant, knew about guns.  "Automatic," he said.  "Like M-16s... somewhere behind the high school."  We could see the high school, across the street from our fourth floor apartment, through our bedroom window.

The next morning, first thing at work, I grabbed the police blotter.  The night before, the US Army tank headquarters, located a stone's throw from the back of the high school, was attacked by un-named terrorists, but the Red Army Faction was suspected. This information was never released to the public.

I feared for my children's safety.  I wanted to gathered up my three boys and fly home to safety. No one should grow up in that kind of world.  But, upon request, we were denied permission.

Three months before the end of my ex's tour - August 1987 - as soon as my three boys finished school, we were on a plane HOME.  

But not before one last taste of terrorism.  The 1980's had more than its share of hijackings: 25 in all. As we sat in our seats, dying for take-off, the pilot announced, "Sorry, folks, but take-off will be delayed by at least 30 minutes.  We've found some unidentified luggage that needs to be matched to one of our passengers." I thought, "Ahhh shit!"

Everything turned out OK, but the late take-off, made us miss our New York connection to New Orleans where my parents were waiting to take us home to Alexandria.  

When we finally made it, three days late, I literally kissed the safe Louisiana ground.

And then there was Oklahoma,  9/11.  And now, ISIS.

Truth be told, ain't no place 100% safe.  Truth be told, since ISIS/DAESH came into our consciousness, they have killed thousands of human beings.  Four of these were American.  

Between 2003 and 2013, Americans killed 346,681 other Americans with guns. In the same 10 years, 312 Americans were killed by terrorists' attacks.  

Terrorists and terrorism produces gut-wrenching fear.  However, we perhaps need fear our American neighbors more.

Miss Althea, you have a good week.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Women as Property

We think we, as women are empowered now. After all, one is running for president now and we have a couple on the Supreme Court. Too little too late, I know, but at least we are a bit more than property. And we have been just that in my lifetime.

In 1969, I was just out of school and had settled in New Orleans.  I was working and needed a car.  I already knew what car I wanted - a Volkswagen bug.  It was under $2,000 and easily affordable.  I couldn’t pay cash for it, so needed financing.  That shouldn’t be a problem, said my 28 yo still naive self as I took myself to a dealer near me.

I picked out the car I wanted and started negotiations. It took awhile - that part has not changed, but we finally settled on a price and I was sent off to see the finance guy. That has not changed either. And it was always a man. Don’t know if that is still the case, but bet it is.

We got all the papers filled out. I had the keys in my hand. The car was being prepped.

Then the finance man said, “Just have your husband come by and sign this loan agreement and the car will be yours.”  

Huh?!  My what? Who?  That was my reply to the finance guy.  He once again said that my husband had to sign. Or, he said, it could be my father.  

If you know me, you know I was more than furious by that time. I calmly, or maybe not so calmly told him that no husband would be arriving to sign anything. EVER.  And my dad was in Michigan and even if he were available, he would not sign it either.

I started to walk away, still turning the air blue.  The salesman couldn’t figure out what to do. He was already counting his commission and I know had never run into a non submissive woman.  A self supporting, credit worthy, working female who never planned on anyone supporting her, let alone signing for a loan.

He ran after me and said he would work something out.  I don’t know what he did. I signed the loan agreement and drove off with the car. Maybe he cosigned it. If I knew he did, I would have defaulted on the loan and let the bastard be stuck with it.

It wasn’t until 1979 that this law was changed. Until then men/husbands could buy or sell property without his wife’t permission. “Hi honey, I sold your house.” How would you like to hear that? That means men could sell their wive’s property without their knowledge. 

Just think, I would not have been allowed to buy a car until 1979 in Louisiana.

But I did, and more than one. Motorcycles too. Bought houses as well. Maybe the law was in name only.  

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Life Around Here

I guess you could call our lives unexciting.  I don’t, but bet most of you would. We live in the woods, not off the grid, but working on it.

For both of us being retired, we sure stay more than a little busy. We have an immense vegetable garden that we harvest enough veggies from to keep us through the following spring when we plant again. We are therefore only a couple of months without fresh/frozen vegetables. 

Don’t let anyone tell you that getting vegetables from a garden is cheaper than buying them. It isn’t. But having fresh veggies is priceless. Right?

My day starts early.  Usually by 6:30am this blog is posted and published.  Twitter keeps me busy for about an hour and then breakfast. In the summer, I am out in the garden for a couple of hours.

Now and during the winter, I am mulching, doing flower garden chores and trying to keep up with errands and day to day living that are more difficult when mobility is a problem.  

Hell, changing a lightbulb in a ceiling fan is a difficult job, takes both of us, requires getting a ladder in the house, getting up on it and then working above my head. That’s hard work. After that, my legs are shot for the day, but at least there is light to see the computer screen.

During the day, like now, a post for tomorrow’s blog gets written. I usually write a post 5 days a week and Donna writes 2.  One of these days we are going to give ourselves the weekends off. 

Oh, Donna Skypes with clients a few days every week. That takes time and is hard work.

We have the travel trailer for sale. That means getting everything spiffy in there and fixing what we didn’t even know what  broken. That takes much energy.

The bird feeders need filling, the dogs need feeding. It’s deer season, so they are confined by their invisible fence to 4.5 of our 6.5 acres.  They don’t seem to mind too much.

One of them, the blonde/red haired sorta lab mix was enjoying a nap on my bed the other day. That means changing sheets. Oh and laundry.
That reminds me, I need to get the laundry out of the dryer and fold clothes. Now.

And you wonder how two retired people ever found time to work.

So do I.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Donna Speaks: And the Answer is....

 And the Answer Is!

Who wins when a cotton mouth water moccasin swallows a catfish?                                                   
It is a "no win" situation. The catfish has sharp, bony protrusions on both sides of his head that spear the snake.  The catfish cannot get out of the snake's mouth, and the snake cannot make the catfish go further down.  I know this 'cause I saw it happen.

Why is the acorn the name of the oak tree nut when other nuts have the same name as the tree? 
I haven't really ever found the answer.  Jan admits to the same.  What "experts" say is that the name of the oak tree's fruit, the acorn, is derived from a Gothic word, "akran" meaning "the fruit of the closed hand".  They blame Chaucer for first calling  the fruit "achornes", which was, by degrees bastardized to "acorn".  To mean that explains nothing.

Was a man or a woman responsible for invention of the bra?  

The actual "inventor" is not known, but women had more to do with its design and development than men.  How could we do this to ourselves?!

Is it "cat-ee corner" or "kitty-corner"?                         
It is actually cater-corner.  Go figure.  But no one really uses that.  Katty (or caddy) is as common as kitty.

Do you plug it in or plug it up?                                     

Well, if it's a cord, you plug it in.  If it's a hole, you plug it up. I grew up plugging up the lamp cord, etc.  Every time I use plug-up in this context, Jan growls and says, "It's plug-in?"  Hmmmm... Am I being a bit passive-aggressive?  

How do you spell that red sauce in which you dip your french fries? 

Evidently, the answer to this question could be the cause of another civil war in the good ole USA. Ketchup is the "preferred" spelling; the one used by most of the red sauce makers.  But there are parts of the USA where folks insist that the only correct spelling is "catsup".

In what do Germans dip their fries?

Those Germans!  In the early days of our time in Berlin, Germany, we realized there were almost as many MacDonald's in Germany as in the US - a life saver for parents of three boys in a brand new culture.  What we couldn't figure out was why German folks looked at us strangely when we asked for ketchup with our fries.  Germans squirted white stuff all over their fries.  And the fact that potato in German is kartofel, and kartofel was not on the MacDonald's menu further confused our simple minds.  We soon discovered that if you wanted "french fries", you looked for "pomme frites", when is French!  And if you didn't want strange looks you asked for "mayo":  pomme frites mit mayo.   The white stuff was mayo!  Yep, good old mayonnaise, an English word.  So the Germans combined the french word for potatoes - pomme, the German word for with - mit, and the English word for that white stuff - mayo to come up with french fries with mayo. We'd take their mayo and then we'd sneak and grab some ketchup...

How did golf get its name?                                         

I think the world knows that the Scots invented golf and play it all the time.  Jan and I confirmed that when we were in Edinburg in mid-November (freezing cold and very windy) and the Scots were on the St. Andrew's green hitting the ball.

A form of the game has been around since the 1400's.  Soon after the Scots decided that hitting a pebble around a course of holes with a stick was a grand idea, they also decided that only Scotsmen could play.  No Women Allowed.  As the men of the country stated: Gentlemen Only - Ladies Forbidden = GOLF.  

What is the only animal that cannot jump?               

Elephants are wonderful animals but they cannot jump.

What was the original color of coca-cola?                   

GREEN.  Yuck!  Green coca-cola.

After what city is Winnie the Pooh named?             

After Winnipeg, Manitoba in Canada.

What is the only food that doesn't spoil?                     

Honey, honey. If you keep it long enough, it will develop crystals. But it is still good.  Just warm it up and the crystals will disappear.  And, if you really want honey, buy local.  Some of the honey in stores are mixed with other syrups.  And honey is better for you than sugar because honey takes more of your body's energy to break down. And, depending on what your local bees eat, honey has addition helpful minerals.

What is the only planet that rotates clockwise?            

Venus, of course.  I guess that's why the Goddess of Love can knock us all for a loop at times.  Then there's the Uranus.  This planet doesn't really rotate clockwise, it's just a tad this side of rotating on its side around our sun: neither counterclockwise or clockwise.

After whom are Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie named?

After no one in particular, according to people who knew Jim Henson and other people responsible for Bert and Ernie's name.  Not true is the rumor that the characters were named after two cab drivers from the classic Christmas tale, It's a Wonderful Life.

What is the only animal that can breathe through its butt?                                                                     
The Turtle.  The Fitzroy Turtle from Australia to be exact.  Other animals try to "fake it", but Mr or Mrs Fitz Roy are the only ones who actually do it.

What is the strongest muscle in a human's body?   

Many people say it is our tongue!  And that's in both men and women.  No differentiation is made for lesbians or people of the Pentecostal faith. And certain exercises (not to be discussed) can strengthen  your tongue.  OK. Strongest - NOT TRUE; exercises - TRUE.  This is kinda like the "Bert and Ernie" myth.  Lotsa people believe and spread this untruth.  Muscle strength is measured in many different ways and it depends on what kind of muscle, where it is, etc.  The tongue will become the strongest muscle the day someone can do a tongue push up, i.e., both arms behind your back, using only the tongue to push up your torso.

No one got all the answers but there were some really good tries.  Keep them cards and letters coming.

And, Miss Althea, have a great weekend.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Fightball: Dying of Suck

I have been reading Kris Wehrmeister’s blog, “Pretty All True”  about parenting her two daughters, for several years now and had no idea what to expect when her book ‘Fightball: Dying of Suck’ was published. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy and have not stopped laughing and I admit, occasionally snorting during and after reading it. 

Caution: Do not read this book if you are drinking any  beverage because it may come snorting out your nose and inflict much pain upon you.  

After Wehrmeister’s first book, “Hope Lies in Less”, where her spaces meant more than her words and her love of words and poetry made us think and feel what she was saying, this last book, Fightball: Dying of Suck cuts 180 ยบ across genres, showing her talent with writing and her daily dealings with two precocious teen daughters.   She earned her chops with Hope Lies in Less and if there was ever a doubt, it is now erased with Fightball: Dying of Suck.

Get ready to learn to parent Maj and Kallan who are self-proclaimed experts and never hesitates in sharing their insights with their mother.  Rock and roll with Kris who tries to be the real boss in the family, but is fighting a losing battle to her tween daughters.

Wehrmeister’s command of words is close to unbelievable. And her daughters show signs of surpassing their mother.  I worry about her daughters’ teachers as they grow up and older. They will be a challenge to any teacher they encounter. And I feel for hubby, Mark, daily surrounded by all that brilliance. 

I recommend this book to people who savor fine words woven together into a piece that kicks ass. 

Be ready to roar. Warn the neighbors because they may hear you. Or suggest the neighbors buy a copy as well and you can roar in unison.

Jenny Lawson, best-selling author of “Furiously Happy” and “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened, watch out. Kris is coming. 

Links to keep handy:

Pretty all true blog’s home-page: http://www.prettyalltrue.com/

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Contest: Free Book Tomorrow

Check this space tomorrow. I will be giving a book away. A great book. Details tomorrow.

Don't Slam That Door

Remember when you were a kid. For me, it was in the 40's.  I know that most of you don't even realize the 40's existed, let alone lived through them, so I consider it my duty to give you insights into being a kid during the 'good old days.'

First of all, TV arrived in our little town on Lake Michigan about 1948.  The first one was in an appliance/furniture store window downtown.  The crowds standing outside would have drawn the police today. Maybe then too, but all they would have wanted was to see that miracle of moving pictures on a tiny screen.  

When my parents got one, we would turn on the TV, let it warm up for 5 or 10 minutes and then watch a test pattern for hours.  Soon we could watch real programs. Howdy Doody was a favorite of mine. And then it was out the door to play outside.

We played outside after school and on weekends. Didn't make any difference what season it was.  The difference was we wore shoes, socks, and boots in the winter. Probably a jacket too.  When our mothers got sick and tired of us, we were thrown outside and the door to play. We found neighborhood kids and played games that we made up. Or games that our grandparents taught us, games they probably learned from their grandparents in the Netherlands. 

One thing remained constant through our growing up years and even beyond. In the summer, the outside door had a screen on it. And that screen door had hinges on one side and a heavy spring on the other, so it would spring closed if you let go of the handle quickly.

And it never worked. Screen doors were made for slamming.

For some reason, no child on earth, up to and including today's can close a door without just letting it slam.  So we all heard, "Don't. Slam. That. Door!" each and every time we used it.  To protect the screen doors from an early demise, protectors were sold. The were usually metal and had some sort of decoration on them. I have no idea what they cost, but probably lots less than the ones in antique stores today where I found this one:

I look at it and can still hear my mother hollering at us to Stop. Slamming. That. Door.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Grammar Police

C'mon people.  Please start learning and using good grammar and spelling. We can't understand what you want to say when you use loose instead of lose.  Or their instead of there or they're.  Learn the difference between hear and here.  And fergawd's sake, no more apostrophe esses on the ends of words unless it's a contraction. See: It's. Contraction for it is.  Easy, right?  Well, do it then.

Teachers, are you teaching grammar?  Do any of you teach your students about hour and our, affect and effect?  Do you know the difference?

Is it because I write for a living that I object to your bad grammar and spelling? I don't think so. I think it's (see, a contraction again.) because I love to read and therefore, want to understand what you are writing and I simply cannot do it when I see your instead of you're.  It distracts from what you are saying and makes us look at all your mistakes instead of reading what you have to say.  It also makes us think you really don't know what you are talking about because you don't know how to tell us what you are talking about.

Do you just not care? If you don't care, stop writing.  If you didn't learn, start now. 

Read. That's a good way to learn good grammar.

Stop foisting your bad words on us if you want us to stop laughing at you. Or simply not understand what you are trying to say. Stop writing in code unless the rest of the world uses the same code you do.

Breathe, breath:  Please learn the difference between these words.  One is a verb and the other a noun. You breathe.  You take a breath.  Now might be a good time to do that.

Clothes, cloths:  You wear clothes.  Chances are you uses cloths as rags with which to clean the bathroom.  You do that, don't you?

Lightning, lightening:  Lightning strikes during a storm and engenders thunder.  Lightening is what happens when you lose weight.  Or when the sun comes up. The sky lightens.  

And for heaven's sake, alot is not a word. Nor is alright.  If you must, say a lot if you mean many.  All right is two words, not one.  I don't care who uses it improperly. It's still wrong.

I don't care who you are, do not use one letter for an entire word. U is not a word. 4 is not for, nor is it four.  This is not some new English you are speaking.  It is an uneducated, unlearned, impossible to understand code you are trying to use to communicate. And you are failing.

I often think I am reading English written by someone for whom it is a second language, sort of like the customer service people at the cable company.

So if you don't work in customer service, write your native language properly. 

And so says the curmudgeon. 

Monday, November 16, 2015

Donna Speaks: Hard Questions

Who wins when a cottonmouth water moccasin swallows a catfish?

Why is the acorn the name of the oak tree nut when other nuts have the same name as the tree?

Was a man or a woman responsible for the invention of the bra?

Is it "cat-ee corner" or "kitty-corner"?

Do you plug it in or plug it up?

How do you spell that red sauce in which you dip your french fries?

In what do Germans dip their fries?

How did golf get its name?

What is the only animal that cannot jump?

What was the original color of coca-cola?

After what city is Winnie the Pooh named?

What is the only food that doesn't spoil?

What is the only planet that rotates clockwise?

After whom are Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie named?

What is the only animal that can breathe through its butt?

What is the strongest muscle in a human's body?


Post your answers in the blog's comment section. Read Friday's Blog to see how smart you are.

Miss Althea, have a great week.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Changing Language

I have been a writer for over fifty years, so yes, I am old. I know our English language is ever changing and I have watched words come and go throughout my lifetime.  Most changes in language start with teens and some stick around. Most don't. 

In the '40's, women were dames and their legs were gams.  If the dame wanted a person to leave her alone, she told him to scram. 

In the 50's, we were more subdued.  We went ape when we were angry.  A woman  became a baby.  And babies became ankle biters.  But we started being cool. We spelled it cool, not kewl, and did not clip off the word. It is one of the words that started being cool in the 60's and is still with us. 

Along came the 60's and again the teens started changing our language. The ever present, but now exploding counterculture brought wonderful new words with it. Most were an attempt by teens to have a language their parents did not understand. And they succeeded. 

Money became bread, women became chicks and men were cats.  We told a dude, who was a geek or pantywaist then, to bug off because we wanted to crash. And we were groovy flower children who were buzzed on pot.

Come the '70's, we started digging things and living in cribs.  We got in your face and spoke of the man. That has endured. You know was attached to the end of nearly every sentence. Sadly that has also endured. A cute girl became a bunny. And cool became chill. 

We said, "Good night, John-boy" as we kept on truckin'.  Awesome arrived as something that was totally cool and good became bad and now it is sick.  The language was changing and we were toking.

In the 80's, words and meanings that were coined in the 70's became part of everyone's vocabulary.  Awesome got even better. Bad did too. A cute guy became a boy toy.  Airheads did lunch and still do. Hacker became permanent as did homeboy. Rap became what it is and has stayed with us. We were accepting slang and different meanings as proper English.  We still schmooze, cocoon, pencil people in, veg out as couch potatoes. 

Some words have changed completely. We no longer have problems, we have issues.  No one has problems. That word has disappeared. Too bad it didn’t take our problems with it when it disappeared.  Used to be issues were newspapers and magazines. Now issues are problems - don't know what newspapers and magazines are except going out of print and into cyberspace.  

We have started using literally and virtually interchangeable. In fact, we use literally when we really mean virtually. Is virtually going to go the way of problems? 

The 90's brought us too much info, talk to the hand, and whassup. We also started verbing nouns.  It started with impact.  Time was impact was a fine noun.  If something made us think, it had an impact on us. If a car hit another car, car one made an impact on car two.  

Then something happened. The word impact was verbed.  In an accident, car two was impacted by car one. Impact, a perfectly good noun was turned into a not so good verb.  Impact seems to have impacted verb floodgates and we have not looked back. 

A trend became trending and remains with us today.  Systems are now erroring, management is greenlighting projects.  Verbing is becoming normal.  And someday, if you work for a company long enough, you will be gold-watched.