Hand-Written Notes for the New Year.

Although emails connect us quickly and tweets convey pithy little messages, a hand-written note that is thoughtfully composed connects us more intimately and deeply. The action of taking pen to paper during quiet moments and writing to one individual creates a contemplative environment. Choosing words carefully, stringing them together into cohesive thoughts, playing with ideas, and squeezing them onto a piece of paper through a well-worn pen communicates a deep caring for the other person.

Too often, our reliance on technology blurs the reality of our human condition. We are not wired like chips. We are wired through our senses. The instant gratification technology offers does not gratify. Rather it isolates and creates an underlying selfishness. Too much too quickly does not nurture a peaceful spirit. Enhancing the spirit through our natural wiring brings us closer to an irrational eternal reality which humanity has recognized as the Deity for eons.

This past year I lost a friend of 53 years. Margaret and I have written to each other since we were 15. She lived in England. I live in the States. We met once. A glorious 10 day vacation. Over the years, we rejoiced, consoled, and journeyed through life through hand-written notes. I will miss her greatly. I will miss the intimacy of our letters in ways I cannot yet fathom.

As the old year transitions into a new year, promises and goals are often set. This year, I hope to increase my note-writing. Personally, I know how it effects me. Hopefully it will evoke a positive response in the receiver. And maybe – just maybe another letter-writer will be born and the Spirit will be blessed.

Mitchell and the Weird Wind Demons

Once upon a time in a village in northern Illinois, dwelt a scared little dog named Mitchell. After rescue, adoption, vet care and a lot of reassurance from dog-mom, Mitchell blossomed into the confident little bad-ass he was intended to be. He discovered the joy of playing tug of war with Lamb Chop. (He now has four in various stages of disembowelment). He fell in love with the vet techs who watch over him and spoil him rotten when Dog-Mom has to travel. (They create the Mitch-suite for him complete with comfy bed, toys and a welcome mat…No exaggeration!!!) He accepted the fact that dog-walker Martha is not going to dognap him and is there to help on days when Dog-Mom has an extremely busy day. He learned that long walks in the forest preserve are fun, full of great smells and potential friend encounters. He even discovered that all human types are worth at least a sniff…but maybe not worthy of petting him. (Mitchell is very picky about what human type can rub his ears.)

Today, Mitchell realized that dog-mom needs protection from the evil wind demons that live in trees on windy days and make weird windy noises. (Sometimes the evil wind demons try to gain entrance through the chimney…then they make even weirder noises) These demons deserve to be growled, threatened, barked at and attacked because they threaten Dog-Mom who needs constant protection…

Today wind demons….Tomorrow dust mites.

Again..Dog-Mom feels so safe.


Mitchell To The Rescue

Once upon a time, a little dog named Mitchell was afraid of his own shadow, and a dog-Mom named Marianne was totally bereft from grief after having lost her beloved Moose. The two met, and Mitchell went home with Dog-Mom…but he wasn’t real crazy about the situation. .or Dog-Mom….or any other human types for that matter.  He cowered in a corner and hid in his crate.  After awhile Mitchell came to appreciate that Dog-Mom was not Satan’s spawn, came out of his crate, and decided that Dog-mom required protection. A growl and bark were needed. He discovered his image in a mirror and growled at the foreign dog that recently and unexpectedly moved into the house (too funny).. He discovered a backyard invasion of bunnies and squirrels and decided to growl and bark at them. (I’m dying to see what he thinks of the coyotes around here.) He discovered geese and threatened them. The silly birds flew away.. He saw a skunk in the back yard, and went berserk. (Fortunately Dog-Mom and Mitchell were both safely inside the house and behind a patio window while the skunk was outside in the yard.) He even discovered that growling at Dog-Mom was ok when playing tug. Today he discovered mourning doves. Guess what he’s decided to growl at now? Dog-Mom feels so safe.

Research Questions and the Ten-Year-Old Mind

As a school librarian it is my task to teach research skills to my students.  In library circles.the new nomenclature for what was once research skills is now information literacy.  Whether you call the skill by its older more familiar name – or its new appellation, it all boils down to the same thing.  Basically, what’s your question, where do you look for it – not necessarily on the internet – and how do you extract credible information from your chosen sources.  My biggest challenge is to get the idea across that all research begins with some kind of question.  For example, the question “How do you make chocolate chip cookies?” is for all intents and purposes a legitimate research question.  I like it…I like cookies.  Because kids often confuse reporting with legitimate research convincing them that off the wall questions constitute legitimate research  and is far more interesting than mere reporting, true research pursuits often need a little nudging. The goofier the example the better.  Does the light in the refrigerator turn off when the door closes?  hmmmmmm? 

Stories are great ways to nudge kids.  So I told my story which I shall call, “How do toilets flush?”  A legitimate research question, I think.  Certainly worthy of my ten-year-old-self’s pursuit – much to my mother’s despair.  

I was often roped into helping my father with repair work around the house.  “Hold the flash light, and hand me the wrench.”  In many ways I was like the assisting nurse in an operating room.  By the time I was five, I knew the difference between a flat-head and a phillip screwdriver.  I didn’t mind.  I wanted to help.  I wanted to tighten the screws, and pull out the bent nails.  I wanted to do what I wasn’t allowed to do.  I held the flashlight.  And I watched….carefully.  Sometimes too carefully. 

Dad had to fix something in the toilet one day.  I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I was recruited and dutifully handed him the required tools and pointed the flashlight in the right direction.  He removed the lid on the toilet tank, and started fiddling around with the mechanism within. I watched, and took mental notes.  Many mental notes. 

About a week later, a research question hatched…How do toilets flush?  Curious minds want to know.   My best source of information was the trusty set of encyclopedias ensconced in the bookcase in the dining room.  So I crystalized my research question down to one keyword – toilet, retrieved the encyclopedia’s “T” volume, and located the entry.  Lo and behold…not only was there a concise history of toilets (Did you know, that Sir Thomas Crapper was credited with the invention of the flush toilet? Hence the “crapper” came into being. Recent researchers dispute this factoid…more research is needed to verify the etymology.  (I sound like a librarian, don’t I…geesh!)).  More importantly, within the article resided a detailed diagram of the inner-workings of the mysterious tank.  I hit the jackpot!  I think I read the article about ten times…flappers, ball cocks, etc., etc., etc. I knew the history! I controlled the vocabulary! I possessed a detailed diagram! I was ready to rock and roll. 

Vicarious experiences never satisfy my curiosity.  If I read about something, I want to experience it.   Time was of the essence, my mother was in the backyard hanging up the wash.  I wanted to see if what the encyclopedia said about toilets was really true.  So, I snuck up to the only bathroom in the house, locked the door, and began the experiment. 

Step one – remove the tank lid.

 Mom covered the tank and the toilet seat with these fuzzy things that were the rage in bathroom trappings, so removing the fuzzy covers was a must.  That was not as easy as one might think, because she didn’t always buy the user-friendly ones with elastic bands…Oh no…draw strings kept those little suckers in place.  

Once the tank lid was undressed, and the lid was on the bathroom floor, I started playing with the stuff inside.  Chains, and flappers, water, and ball cocks…That part was pretty easy…But it led to another question…How does the water know when to stop filling the tank so that the tank doesn’t overflow?  That wasn’t covered in the encyclopedia article.  More experimenting.  More flushing.  Did you know it takes several gallons of water to flush a toilet?  When a family is on a one-salary budget, the water bill is an important controllable expense.  Multiple flushings for childish experimentation are not appreciated. 

Laundry done, mom returns.  She hears multiple flushes. 

“What are you doing up there?”

 “Nothing!” Desperate attempts on my part to  clothe the toilet tank with the fuzzy things.

“Why are you flushing the toilet so much?”

“I have an issue!”  Working harder to get the fuzzy things back on the toilet without breaking the porcelain tank lid. Breaking out in a sweat.

“Do you need any help?”  (Moms are great, aren’t they?)

“Nope, got it covered!” Literally – the toilet tank had its fuzzy clothes back on.

“Let me in there!  Right now!”  Banging on the door.  Busted!

I was toast…she knew…. The fuzzy things weren’t on in mom-perfect fashion. No more experiments – grounded for the day. 

The good news is…I’m still here to tell the story.  The better news is that my students are beginning to understand that their questions are legitimate research questions.  The bad news is that some of my students are starting to look at those toilet tanks with gleams in their eyes…. It’s a good thing I didn’t tell them about how I eliminated my knee wart.  (Encyclopedias are great, aren’t they?) 


Jack and the Devil

Happy Halloween!! Take a look at this…I added dialog to the legend of Jack O’Lantern…Would really appreciate some comments..suggestions….helpful criticism….thanks 🙂

Marianne's Musings

A long time ago in Ireland, there lived a man named Jack.  Now thrift is a good thing.  Careful spending with a loving heart brings happiness to the spender and the saver alike. Thrift keeps the cold away on long winter nights, ensures that food is plenty even in times of hunger, and provides for to those in need.  But stinginess is another thing all together.  A stingy heart is a selfish mean heart incapable of sharing, hoarding instead of giving, and never knowing the peace of a happy home.  Jack had a stingy heart.

Jack was so stingy he wouldn’t give a penny to a pauper on the coldest day in winter.  He was so selfish and mean that he made King Midas look benevolent.

One cool autumn day when the trees were clothed in red and orange, Jack went to the pub for a pint and some conversation. …

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Jack and the Devil

A long time ago in Ireland, there lived a man named Jack.  Now thrift is a good thing.  Careful spending with a loving heart brings happiness to the spender and the saver alike. Thrift keeps the cold away on long winter nights, ensures that food is plenty even in times of hunger, and provides for to those in need.  But stinginess is another thing all together.  A stingy heart is a selfish mean heart incapable of sharing, hoarding instead of giving, and never knowing the peace of a happy home.  Jack had a stingy heart.

Jack was so stingy he wouldn’t give a penny to a pauper on the coldest day in winter.  He was so selfish and mean that he made King Midas look benevolent.

One cool autumn day when the trees were clothed in red and orange, Jack went to the pub for a pint and some conversation.    Because none of the townspeople liked Jack, he found himself quite alone at the bar sipping his pint slowly and wondering what he would do for the rest of the day.  A stranger sidled up to him quietly.  He was a strange-looking man with strange looking eyes that seemed to glow from within with a weird green light.

“Jack, my boy, what’s new in your life today?” the stranger asked Jack.

“Not much,” answered a startled Jack.  “Who are you, and how do you know my name?”

“Word gets around as do I,” smiled the stranger slyly.  “I’ve heard of your stinginess and surely admire it.”

“Really?” Jack was beginning to suspect that the stranger was more than just a stranger and took a hard look at him in the pub’s dimness.  The stranger wore a long ragged coat that covered him up from neck to boot.  His hat was pulled down below his ears, and he seemed to smell of smoke though there were no peat fires burning in the fireplace that day.  And the wheels started churning in Jack’s stingy little brain.

“So, it seems as though you know a lot about me, yet you come from a distance by the look of you…your name then ….. it is?”

“Some call me Balor.  Some call me Puca.  Some call me Old Nick.  Tis many names I have.  What name do you think I should be called”

“Tis the Devil I shall call you today,” replied Jack who was not at all surprised about who the stranger really was.  “Well then, since we’re at the pub, and I suppose there’s something on your mind, would you join me in a pint…and we can discuss the matter…in a friendly sort of way.  I’ll treat.”

“Right you are, Jack me boy…a pint it is.  There is much we two have in common.  Greed being one, and your time to visit me…permanently.”

So the two of them stood at the bar enjoying their libations, and conversation went back and forth with easy familiarity even though Jack knew his time on earth was short..  When it was time to pay the bill, Jack reached in his pocket and pretended to be without a coin…even though his pocket was full of silver.

“Ah,” says Jack.  “It appears as though I’m a bit short of cash this day…Would you be able to help me out…and I’ll pay you back shortly.”

The devil smiled. “Well, then Jack, I’m afraid I don’t carry coin with me either.  It’s not something I need being immortal and all. For I can produce anything I want and become anything I want as long as it serves mischief.”

“Then perhaps you would consider turning yourself into a coin to pay the bill.  When the bill is paid…you can turn yourself back and the pub will be short of cash at the end of the day…That’s mischief for you if nothing else.”

“Jack, I like the way you think.  It will be a fine time in hell we’ll both have at the end of today.”  In a wink of an eye, Himself changed into a coin to pay the bill.

In another wink of an eye, Jack pocketed the devil coin, and paid the bill himself.  Now the pocket, Jack put the devil-coin in had rosary blessed by the local priest in it as well.  And the devil, being so close to a blessed object, was trapped as coin and lost his power to return to his once former self.

“Let me out, Jack!” cried the Devil.  “You play unfairly.  You play as unfairly as meself!  Tis not the way to work with me…I warn you!”

“Stop your blathering!” whispered Jack.  “Do you want the entire town to hear your squealing?  Warn me?  Tis control I have now…And, if you must know…I learned my tricks from your constant whispering in my ear.  Perhaps now I can have some peace.”

“Peace, is it?  Now you want peace?  Tis no peace you’ll get from me, Jack m’boy.  Tis not the giver of peace I am.  Tis the lord of mischief and Hell itself.  And although tis proud of the work I’ve done with you, tis not right at all for you to keep me trapped beside this blessed object for long..it’s deep regret you’ll have for tricking me this way.”

“Well, then,” said Jack.  “Perhaps we can strike a bargain and then I’ll let you out.”

“A bargain?  What kind of a bargain?” asked the eternal trickster darkly.

“Since it’s peace I want, and my soul you’re after…I want one year.  I’ll let you out for one year of peace and one year more on earth.  No more whispering.  No more opportunities for mischief.  None of it.  At the end of the year, I’ll come with you without a whimper provided I don’t die before the year is up.  ”

“Done!” exclaimed the Devil.  As Jack flipped the devil-coin out of his pocket, it disappeared into thin air.

A year went by quickly.  The seasons changed, and again Jack who had not yet died found himself confronted by the Advisory of all advisories.

“Well, Jack, your time is up.  You had your peaceful year.  You had one more year on earth.  Now your soul belongs to me.  Come.  I’ve a special place for you down below,” said Himself darkly.

“Sure, and you are right,” sighed Jack wistfully as he looked round the colorful autumn fields, and the apples were hanging heavy on the trees waiting for harvest.  “But before we go, would you grant me one more wish?  I promise I won’t ask you to change yourself into a coin…or anything else for that matter.”

“ One more wish?  What is it with you and your wishes? But I am curious…What is it?”

“Looking at the apples on that tree, I’ve a taste for one.  It would be a great pleasure to have one last taste of my favorite fruit.  Would it be asking too much, your lordship…Could you climb that tree and pick the juiciest apple on it so that I might have one last taste before we travel to your domain?”

“One last apple?  One last taste?  Is that all?  Sure, and I can find you a good taste.”  And up the devil went.  Climbing the tree branch by branch searching for the best pick on the tree.  While the Devil climbed, wily Jack pulled out his pocket knife and carved a cross on the base of the tree, trapping the devil once again with a holy symbol this time.

“Jack, you sneak!  What have you done to me now?  You know I can’t pass the holy cross without permission?  I’m trapped up here!  Let me down this minute!” screamed the Devil who was by this time totally frustrated.

“Sneaky, I am?  Well, if that’s a fact, I had the greatest teacher in yourself – the Great Deceiver of all.  Perhaps I will let you down…in time.  Perhaps I won’t.”

“Perhaps you won’t?  In time?  Are you bargaining with me again?  Don’t deal with the Devil, boyo.  I always win with the tricksters in the end…And you might be a trickster now, but sooner or later your tricks will catch up with you!”

“Do you think that?  Hmmm….well it’s time you need up there to have another think…I think.”  And Jack sat down under the apple tree and began crunching on an apple he’d picked himself.

“Fine! Enough with you!  What’s your price?  What’s the bargain?  I need to get on with my dark work.”

“I’ll let you down,” said Jack easily, “If you leave me alone for the next ten years.  At the end of the ten years, if I’m not yet dead, I’ll go with you without a whimper – and with no bargains or tricks either.”


“Done!” And Jack freed the Devil once more.

Ten years came and ten years went.  Jack was an old man.  And on the eve of the last night before the ten years were over, Jack died.

Now, the dead travel to the pearly gates for judgement first.  And Jack, being dead now, was no different than the rest.  St. Peter saw him coming, and refused to open the gates for him.

“Jack, we’ve been watching you for a long time, and you’re not the kind of unsavory creature we want up here.  Be gone!  It’s the devil who owns you now!”

With that, Jack tumbled down to Hell and presented himself to the Devil.  This time, the shoe was on the other hoof…so to speak.

“Well, Jack,” said the Devil.  “Heaven rejected you and now you’re finally mine…and in my territory!”

“Tis true,” said Jack.  “You have me now.  It’s to the darkest reaches you’ll be sending me no doubt for all my shenanigans and greed.”


“But surely, you remember our agreement, Jack!  I cannot claim your soul after all.  You died before your ten years were up.  If nothing else, I live up to my bargains.  You don’t belong to me…Be off with you?”

“But where am I to go for all eternity?” cried Jack now realizing he’d been trapped by his own tricks.

“Tis not my problem,” retorted the Devil.  “Tis yours.  I suppose you’ll wander around the earth like the rest of the lost souls.  Outside.  In the cold.  With nothing to comfort you.  Be gone!  Get out of my sight”

But Jack, being still the trickster struck one more bargain.  “Surely you have a little pity on one of your greatest admirers.  Surely, you must admire the fact that I’ve lived my life by your example?”

“One more bargain?  Hmph…you have no bargaining power here, Jack.  But I am interested in thoughts.  Tell me…what do you have in mind?”

“Lost souls wander in the dark and cold…I’d like a bit of light to help me find my way.  A bit of hellish fire would help.”

“Hellish fire? Why, Jack, you never cease to amaze me.  What you are going to do with hellish fire will be interesting to watch.  Done”

The Devil picked up a piece of burning coal, handed it to the lost soul, and booted him out into the dark of night.

Jack landed in a field of turnips, and pulled the biggest one out of the ground. Because the fires of hell burn hotter than any peat fire known to man, he quickly hollowed it out, carved his face on it as well, and plunged the coal into the hollowed-out turnip.  Now for the rest of eternity Jack O’Lantern roams the earth with his hellish lantern lighting his way and warning us all that bargaining with evil is no bargain at all.

Happy Halloween!



Up, Up and Away


I never knew I had phobias.  Pretty much not afraid of things.  During Christmas, I discovered I had a major phobia thanks to a very creative, thoughtful gift which eventually scared the hell out of me.

Our family has decided that experiential gifts are the best.  We’re all nearing retirement, or are already there.  No little ones creeping downstairs in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve to discover what Santa left under the tree.  So as aging adults, we mutually decided that bonding experiences or consumable shared presents are the best.  For example, for about 20 years, my brother lived in the Deep South.  While there, he delved into local cuisine, and thoroughly enjoyed the experience.  But he really missed the good-old Chicago hot-dog, Italian beef, pizza experience that can only be enjoyed here.  Every time he visited, we would make a pilgrimage to Portillo’s so that he could chow down his favorite street food.  When he decided to move to Arizona in 2015, he’d already sold his home in Louisiana, everything was packed, and he was very clear about the no-stuff concept in gift-giving.  Not a problem.  Portillo’s ships. So guess what we had for Christmas Eve?  Guess who was totally delighted when we returned from Mass that evening?

Anyway, this year he and my sister-in-law came up with a truly inventive gift that took thought, care, and delight.  One that all of us could experience, share, bond over, and remember for the rest of our lives.  A hot-air balloon ride over the desert!!!  Cool! 

We departed the house at 6:00 AM to rendezvous with the Hot Air Balloon people at 7:00 A.M. Jammed into a small SUV, our chauffer traversed the scorpion-filled, snake-laden desert and deposited our intrepid group at Ground Zero. That’s when my fear set in.

Hot air balloons are big.  Small jet engines create the hot-air that fills the balloons.  The engines are noisy, but the open flames that they create are just plain scary.  Our guide told us that they generate 15,000 BTUs – more than enough power for a family reunion picnic.  As I watched the inflating balloon, I imagined what Joan of Arc must have felt when she was escorted to the stake.

After successful balloon inflation, it was time for our group of 12 out-of-shape adults to haul our rear-ends over the edge of the gondola and get set for take-off.  The gondola stands about five feet high.  There are footholds build into its side so that the fit and agile can step up into it, swing their legs over the edge and ease on down the road.  I am no longer agile and fit, and I am short.  I managed to get my right foot in the lower foothold, and my left foot in the higher foothold.  I was unable to hoist the rest of my aging, less than agile carcass over the edge of the basket.  My brother endeavored to help by ever so gently pushing me up by my rear end over the basket.  Needless to say, I was soon ensconced inside the basket.  Up, Up and Away.

I did not realize how really terrified I was of heights until the balloon took off.  Picture this.  We’re in a wicker basket 3,000 feet in the air, cruising over hostile terrain that is loaded with plants and animals that want to hurt you, and jet engines are blowing 15,000 BTUs of flame directly above your head into a balloon made of silk.  My knuckles turned white as I clung to the edge of the gondola.  I did not look down.

Everyone around me was snapping pictures, and marveling at the mountain and desert scenes below.  I stood stony-faced wondering where the parachutes were, and cringed every time the jet-heated air launched us higher into the stratosphere. 

About half way through our adventure, the balloonist had us face him as he guided us through a safety drill in case there was a rough landing.  I was already freaking out; now I was totally freaked out.  He informed us that if the wind kicked up, there was a good chance that the gondola would tip over on its side and we would probably have to crawl out of the basket.  In this event, we were to face him; stand shoulder to shoulder; crouch down and wait for more instructions.  I was ready to crouch down then and there…and stay crouched down.

Guess what.  The wind kicked up, and we crouched down.  Fortunately, the basket did not tip over, nor did we need to crawl out.  However, we still had to get out of the basket which was not an easy task. When there are twelve adults jammed shoulder to shoulder in the bottom of an oversized Easter basket, movement is restricted.  I would have appreciated a crow bar at that stage of the game because I literally could not move.  With much help from my brother, sister-in-law and well-meaning fellow voyagers, I toppled over the side of the basket and landed on the ground without falling on my head. 

After deplaning, our balloonist mentioned that the desert was dangerous – kind of knew that already – and we should not venture very far.  Stepping on the various rocks the wrong way could result in broken ankles.  Great!  Scorpions, snakes, unfriendly plants, and rocks that will land you in the hospital.  This is not a friendly eco-system.

I really think that Mike and Val are the sweetest people on earth.  And I really appreciated their creativity, thoughtfulness, and delight in planning this Christmas experience.  We laughed.  We bonded. We were family. Mike and Val took awesome pictures.  And I will never get into another hot-air balloon again.

balloon balloon balloon






To Do Technology Or Not To Do Technology…That Is The Question

I am really having a tough time deciding about the level of technology I allow to invade TNN.  I rely on a certain amount of it, but I  limit the amount so that the encroaching digital world does not overrun my life – and turn me into some kind of sy-fi human puppet battery zombie thing. 

Smart phones, for example.  I don’t own one, and I don’t want one.  I refuse to be absorbed by the Borg.  Because I am forced to have a communication device for emergency purposes, I have a Tracphone for my car. It serves the purpose, and all I need to do is purchase minutes every so often.  I seldom use it.  Frankly, I don’t even know what my Tracphone number is. 

Cell phones in general irritate the hell out of me.  People walk around glued to their electronic communication devices checking the veracity of every statement made during a conversation, texting during dinner, checking Facebook accounts during religious services. God knows what else.  I am particularly frustrated when guests walk into a home and immediately whip out their phones to converse with boo-foo land.  Aren’t the hosts and other guests worth a tiny bit of attention?  Or worse yet, I hate it when people get hit by cars because tweeting that bff something is more important than looking both ways before stepping off a curb.  Here’s a hint, when you visit me…check your phone at the door and do not take it out until you leave. No telephone call is that important when you are visiting.   No piece of information is that compelling that it needs to be verified at the dinner table. Let’s try and carry on intelligent conversations without constantly checking electronic devices to verify our sanity and intelligence.

Don’t get me wrong, digital information is revolutionary.  It has its place.  Our lives are forever changed because of the Internet.  But let’s understand that electronic devices are merely tools, and  – bottom line – I do need a few electronic tools for TNN. I need my Tracphone, and I  want Internet services so that I can access Facebook, email, my financial software, and Netflix . But I really don’t want more than that.  There are too many other things to do…like read books, write, gaze at stars, walk the dog, and talk to neighbors.  Human things. We remember what human looks like…right?

The funny thing about my love-hate affair with technology is that when personal computers first came on the market, I was all over it.  I can program in BASIC and COBOL. I’ve taken tech classes, created spreadsheets that Ace Hardware Corporation might still be using, and even worked as a programmer for a while.  You would think I would be ok with all this.  Obviously, I’m not. 

I guess I’m old.  I’ve lived without this particular tool for a long time, and I just don’t want to be bothered with it.  If you need to contact me, leave a message…I’ll get back to you.  We are both worth the wait.

My Evil Twin and the 7 Circles of Hell

I think I’ve read Dante’s Inferno one too many times. Or, perhaps it was the Bugs Bunny cartoons that crystalized my understanding behind the saying, “Let the punishment fit the crime”.  That rabbit really understood the subtleties of irony. When we studied Dante during high school, some of my fellow students came up with some really appropriate “punishments” for evildoers everywhere.  One punishment that really sticks in my mind was designed for those fun-loving TP folks who frolic around neighborhoods in the middle of the night when most people are sleeping  and throw toilet paper over trees, bushes, lawn gnomes, gutters and whatever else strikes their deranged fancy.  Wouldn’t it be fitting that those same toilet-paper fiends find themselves in some underworld cavern draped in TP during a rainstorm?  For eternity?

I had some elementary teachers who really understood Dante.  They could have added a few chapters. Spitball criminals, for example, were doomed to fill entire wastebaskets with spitballs before going home.  Since the offenders had to use their own notebook paper, not only did they have to waste precious after-school free time creating unused spitballs, they also had to explain to their parents what happened to all the notebook paper – a precious commodity – they had at the beginning of the week.  Paper airplane pilots and origami experts suffered similar fates.  

In high school, (I attended an all-girls institution run by some really kick-ass nuns) we were not allowed to “rat” our hair.  Rats or backcombing is essential to achieve hair-do height.  Cheap hairspray, highly-ratted hair, and voila -indestructible helmet-tower hair.  The sisters, bless their hearts, traveled through the hallways carrying metal-fine-tooth combs in their pockets.  Girls whose hair resembled Marie Antoinette’s were pulled over for a public restyle.  Restyles were humiliatingly excruciating.  In really bad cases, Marie was sent to the showers.   OK… public humiliation, partial nun-scalping, a really bad all-day wet-look bad hair day, and week-end time in high-school jail.  Those sisters knew what torture looked like. 

I hate to admit it, but I have to say that my childhood Dante-experience has had a profound influence on my approach to working with people. I tolerate a lot of stupidity in silence.  Forbearance is the better part of valor.  I prefer keeping my mouth shut to arguing pointlessly with the seriously deranged. At the same time, if suffering injustice…I can wait a long time before striking back…Vengeance is best served cold.  Recently, my evil twin surfaced.  Forbearance flew right out the window, and vengeance was best served cold. (hee – hee – hee!)

Common property in townhouse communities are a blessing and a curse.  The wide-open backyard provides ample space for parties, gardening, a place to get to know your neighbors….well.  It also denies a sense of privacy.  There are no fences between overly-close patios. Fences, at times make good neighbors.

 One of my neighbors would put Martha Stewart to shame.  Her taste is impeccable.  Her back-yard-strip-of-dirt  landscaping is impeccable.  Her home décor resembles something out of Good Housekeeping.  (One year she actually organized all of us do decorate our doorways the same way for Christmas…Wreaths, lights, door hangings…the works.) My taste runs toward the more mundane.  My home is cluttered, my strip of dirt is weed-laden, my furniture is largely from resale stores, and a lot of my Christmas ornaments are straight out of a dollar store. My outside light display consists of a rope light around a door frame.  It works – for me.


For the most part, we get along just fine.  We collect each other’s mail, and water each other’s gardens while on vacation.  We wheel each other’s garbage cans in on Wednesday after work.  We share tools, gossip, and all the other trappings of good neighbors.  We do not share the same taste in gardening choices.  Karen’s taste is floral, feminine, and high maintenance.  My taste runs along the idea that we live in an area that supports prairie flowers – so go with the prairie flowers. They don’t require much watering, and thrive on benign neglect like the dickens.  They also look “weedy”.  Since our mutual strips of dirt butt up against each other, it is impossible to escape the taste-chasm that exists between us. I’ve got a lot of perennials, marigolds, and prairie flowers out there.  Low maintenance – works for me.  Karen has gardenias, hibiscus, petunias, and other things that require a lot of watering, weeding and pampering.  It’s pretty, it’s delicate, and it’s Karen. The problem started with my choice in floral choices for the shared front-dirt area.     

Karen wanted camellias. Camellias don’t like northern Illinois.  I wanted…you guessed it…Prairie Flowers!  I managed to talk her out of camellias, and we started talking about roses.  Karen didn’t want roses because we don’t get a lot of sun which means the roses wouldn’t bloom.  Personally I think she didn’t want a couple of rose bushes because at the time they were a little pricey because as soon as the price came down roses were suddenly ok.  Karen didn’t want hardy prairie flowers.  Karen didn’t want a lot of things.  We finally agreed to lilies, and I had a bunch in the back.  Frankly, I think lilies are kind of weedy, and they don’t flower for the entire summer…like roses and prairie flowers.  And lilies don’t solve a height problem.  Whatever was decided on needed to be taller than the bushes that create a barrier in the front of our mutual dirt.  Anyway, the lilies were planted, and the dirt remained…or so Karen thinks.

Prairie flowers abound in our HOA…I wonder why…Prairie flowers produce and abundance of seeds every year.  I walk Peanut at least one mile every day.  I wonder what will grow in our mutual front bunch of dirt this spring….hee-hee-hee.




Waiting For Gorilla Glue to Dry..

 I love Gorilla Glue.  Really – I love it.  Once it’s cured – It’s cured.  And whatever is sticking to it, is not going to move anytime soon.  I use it a lot.  I use it a lot because there are many times I do not have the knowledge, skill, know-how or tools to solve a problem.  Case-in-point Tir naNog’s porch door.

TNN’s screened in porch has two outside doors.  One has a dead-bolt.  The other has nothing.  Which means, anyone at any time can gain access to the screened-in porch and perhaps TNN itself – if the broom-stick in the sliding door’s bottom channel doesn’t hold.  If it weren’t for the fact that Woodsmoke is a private campground with guards at the entrance, I would be a lot nervous about the door lock situation.  Even with the entrance guard, I’m still a lot nervous about the fact that I can’t completely lock myself in at night.  Or at least create a barrier that will provide some kind discouragement to would-be squatters.  Peanut’s discourage button is always on…but he’s only eight pounds. Consequently, the last winterization chore was attaching some sort of door lock. I decided on a barrel-bolt lock.

Now anyone would think that a barrel-bolt lock would be an easy install on a door.  Screw the bolt on one side.  Screw in the striker plate on the other side.  No brainer…right?  Not so much.

The door in question is not flush with the door frame.  Someone already attached a piece of hard wood to the door frame to make the door handle work flush with the frame. A simple lock installation was not going to be easy-breezy. Engineering was needed, and I am not an engineer.

As my brother the engineer has said many times, plan the work…then work the plan.  So I planned.  There were many hurdles in the plan to be hurdled.

The first hurdle to be hurdled was finding a piece of wood that matched the wood already used on the door for the handle.  No problemo. A long remnant of the original stick was in the shed.  Hard wood, same dimensions…perfect!.

I sawed off a piece of the stick that would be attached to the door frame, and serve as the receiver of the bolt.  Sawing a piece of wood was easy.  Attaching it to the door frame – not so easy.  The electric drill I have is a battery-operated affair that does not have the torque needed for heavy-duty drilling.  It works.  But it doesn’t work efficiently.  I’m also really nervous about drilling into metal.  Wood is more forgiving than metal.  The door handle piece of wood was screwed in, but it was also sealed with silicone.  I had the silicone, but I couldn’t manage the gun part of the silicone tube.  So… Gorilla Glue and a clamp made a reasonable substitute.  It took about 4 hours for the glue to cure sufficiently so that I could start Step two – which should have been Step one – Drill a hole in the wood for the bolt to slide into.  Drilling a hole in a piece of wood that is stuck to a door frame is not easy.  I don’t recommend it.  Oh-well.  After much swearing, a hole was drilled. (OH – by the way – I have a colorful vocabulary when frustrated.  It is best to give me a wide berth when I’ve reached a certain level of frustration.)

Hurdle number two (or three if you count the hole-drilling step) – rig the barrel- bolt so that it is also flush with the door frame and the newly drilled piece of wood.  I’d purchased a stick at Home Depot before leaving.  It was the correct depth, but only 1/2 the width needed.  I cut two pieces of wood from the stick, applied Gorilla Glue and a clamp, and waited  – another four hours..

Once stuck together, the newly created piece of wood was ready for the bolt part of the barrel lock.  I tried the provided screws.  They were too long for the job, and cracked the wood.  Gorilla Glue to the rescue again. Lining up the bolt with the drilled hole that was already attached to the door frame and gluing and clamping it in place is not easy. So with the help of a magic marker, a clamp and some handy-dandy Gorilla glue, the bolt part was secured to the glued-together wood fragments four hours later. (Do you see a four-hour pattern here?)

Finally – time to get the bolt and wood scrap attached to the door.  More glue.  This time the clamps weren’t much help because the attached bolt did not provide enough space for the clamp to grip properly.  And the bolt’s weight continued to drag the piece of wood with the attached bolt down toward the porch floor.  Enter in Marianne’s other favorite adhesive solution to everything – duct tape. 

Duct tape gets a bad rap from the Martha Stewarts of the world.  It’s ugly, there are other less visible solutions that blend with the décor of whatever.  Hey – duct tape has its place.  It’s durable. It’s water-proof.  It’s sticky.  It holds big stuff together. It even comes in designer colors now.  I like it.

Anyway, where a regular C – clamp didn’t work…duct tape did.  The tape held my jerry-rigged barrel-bolt-glued-to-the-pieces-of-wood thingie to the door while the Gorilla Glue cured for another four hours. 

Once cured, stuck, and firmly in place, I finally felt comfortable applying the screws to the door.  I drilled pilot holes, through the wood, into the door and completed the job!

Voila!  After at least 36 hours of frustration, a higher level of security was achieved! 

Oh – I forgot to mention – the painting step.  Not to worry.  Before I started gluing, clamping, taping and screwing pieces of wood to doors, and barrel bolts to piece of wood, I did have the foresight to paint everything the correct shade of white.  Plan the work, and work the plan! 🙂