And Then….

I had no idea it would make my garage look “legit” but it does. Now I have a garage that doesn’t leak and a door that opens, closes, locks and will keep the weather out.

It’s not a fancy door — there are really fancy garage doors out there — it’s uninsulated, white, no garage door opener — but it’s lightweight and easy to open.

Before the installer left he said, “Do you need a rope to reach this?” He was referring to the handle to bring the garage door down to close it. I got a little miffed. I’m 5’1″ but the door is LOW. It’s true about short people. We are fierce. We have — most of us — adjusted to a tall world. It’s always aggravating and amusing when a taller person 1) realizes how short we are and 2) starts attempting to accommodate it as if our height were a disability. Strangely enough, we mostly go around every day living perfectly normal lives that often include reaching the top shelf. Just so you tall people KNOW the big challenge for me (and I imagine other short people) is not reaching things; it’s carrying things that were designed for taller people. A suitcase, for example.

Next task is cutting back the lilac hedge…

The Story of China — a “Review”

I just finished watching the PBS series and I’m left with a churning anger inside, a resentment. Ultimately it’s propaganda. The narrator — a British historian named Michael Wood — clearly loves Chinese history from a British historian’s perspective. He waxes enthusiastic for what he understands to be ancient Chinese traditions (ancestor worship for example) without ever considering how some of those old traditions actually hurt people and led to suffering over the years.

He paints in wide swaths to reach the final conclusion that now that China is capitalist, everyone is happy again.

He makes no effort to understand China at the time Chairman Mao (and others, not even his followers) wandered the countryside doing things like teaching the peasants to read. This British historian speaks only about the rural Chinese as vast numbers of people and he calls their villages “remote” — the villages are not remote at all in a world that is traveled on foot; they are only remote if you want to take a plane… They were not remote to the people who lived in them in the early and mid twentieth century and that is one reason for the incredible success of some of China’s most interesting revolutions, including Mao’s revolution at the end of WW II.

I love China so much I cannot even express it. I came home in 1983 and wondered where in the hell I had been, what in the hell had I seen. I spent the next decade figuring that out. I had been in a world so different from anything in my experience that I owed it an open mind, as open as possible, anyway. I was lucky to have been there only a few years after the end of the Cultural Revolution. I saw the damage done to what I would now call “tourist attractions” (historical sites); I heard the stories of people who had survived the persecution. I read the fiction written in China throughout the 19th and 20th century. I did everything in my power to see how the streets with which I became familiar had come to be.

I saw legless men walking on their arms, their torso supported by a block of wood hung from the shoulders by suspenders. I was dumbfounded when a man tried to sell me his child. I spent Chinese New Year in a remote, rural fishing and farming village with no plumbing, no electricity but surrounded by friends. I spent an afternoon with two old men who owned an art store in the Fragrant Hills, their dream come true, the reward from their government for their having gone on the Long March. I woke up every morning to The East is Red. I lived there in the middle of the “one child policy” — which this historian calls “misguided” but which I know pertained only to urban Chinese and was designed to prevent further population explosion and another famine like that in the late 1950s. I don’t have words, as I’ve said before.

I would never ever in a million years attempt a conclusion about the progress or regress of Chinese society based on its political ideology or power structure. That this “historian” has done that upsets me a lot. Yes, it’s better to have than to have not. It’s far better to eat than it is to starve. It’s better to have an education for your kids than not, but what Chairman Mao accomplished (and I don’t like the man, I think he was unspeakably evil, and DJT reminds me of him) was real. The Maoist years ultimately served as a bridge for all Chinese — not just urban Chinese — into the modern world. In 1950, China’s rate of literacy was only 20% — an important point this historian did not mention.

Communism has many commonalities with traditional Chinese Confucianism. No, they are not the same, but the organization of an extended Chinese family is not so different from the organization of a work unit and most Chinese villages are FAMILY villages…

I don’t even think a Chinese can write the ultimate truth about China. I know I can’t. But when it comes to history I hate it when a historian negates complexity and reduces history to the events that interest him and the line that supports his biases.

All this being said, it is a captivating series and well worth watching.

Photo: Fish market in Guangzhou, 1983


Disastrous Post

I live in an alternative universe in which workmen take on jobs and then never show up. I’m about to fire the garage door guy. I wanted to fire him last night in a voice message at his work phone, but when I called it, his wife answered and I hung up. Ha ha, that should give them an interesting conversation. Not disastrous, I hope, but interesting. Anyway, I’m torn between calling him and firing him or waiting for him to call me and firing him or waiting for him to show up ( ha ha ha ) and firing him. A little voice inside says, “Don’t call. He blew it,” but that reminds me of dating…

In other disastrous news, the US has, as a “leader,” a guy who doesn’t see anything wrong with his son having met a representative of a foreign and inimical power to get the dirt on the “leader’s” campaign opposition. This is a person with absolutely no ethical center. Such a person cannot be moved or defeated in any normal way. There’s no appealing to his “better” nature. “My son is a quality person.” Well, yeah. Low quality. The “leader” is not the disaster as much as are the people who elected him and the representatives who continue to support his bizarre and nefarious agenda. OH WELL.

Disaster was averted yesterday when Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog got out of the side yard. Once out of the yard (a major highway 50 feet away) Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog dived through the self-same lilac hedge into the front yard where Mindy was lying on the front porch waiting to be let in. It could have gone so wrong, but thankfully Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog has a strong attachment to her house, her pack and person. But she no longer gets to “run” FREEEEEE in the side yard. Her person has a strong attachment to her and doesn’t want a disastrous outcome.


When I was younger, I never thought much about my appearance. I just figured I looked OK and got on with my life. I didn’t even wear lipstick until I was in my thirties, and I’ve never worn foundation. For a short time I flirted with powder, but it didn’t stick (ha ha). I liked eye shadow and mascara.

I knew I wasn’t tall, slender and statuesque but I didn’t really care, though sometimes people said to me, “You have such a pretty face!” followed by something along the lines of “It’s too bad about your figure” or “You could lose some weight.” From time to time I was a size four, a size six, a size eight, a size ten, a size twelve — partly depending on me, partly depending on the brand of clothing and the decade (sizes have changed; the current size 2 is the 1960s size 12).

I evaluated my beauty based on what I could do, mostly my ability to hike, climb hills and run on trails for long distances. When I saw photos of myself (much less common back in the day of camera and film) I was always fine with whatever it was. I could say, “That’s a bad haircut” or “Was I THAT heavy?” and really not care.

But now…

I cannot run trails. I don’t even hike well — I do OK for me, but… People think that because it’s difficult for me to hike that I don’t want to, but really standing around is more difficult on my arthritic knees than is walking. I don’t mind my awkwardness, but I’ve seen others feel compassion for me when they see me go sideways down the stairs (one leg is shorter than the other) or a steep hillside. I’ve gone from being the fastest one, the one in front, to the little lady lagging behind that everyone has to wait for.

My sense of my beauty has been radically upset. I’ve lately realized that there are things I don’t want to do because of my appearance. People compliment me on my white, white hair, but combining it with a lopsided, busty, chubby woman with a turkey wattle is — who IS that person? Added to that is the fact that I CARE and I’m ashamed of caring about something so superficial, so irrelevant, of being a person with abilities many people in this world wish they had and have never had. The knowledge of my vanity makes me feel ashamed.

I didn’t imagine that I — a person with little (I thought) personal vanity — would really, really hate going out in public in certain ways because of the way I look. I know it’s partly why I was relieved when I realized that my book signing at the bookstore in Denver was completely impractical financially. “Good,” I thought. “I don’t have to worry about what to wear because there is no way in hell I can look good.”

Looking good means looking like myself and I do not look like myself.

Recently a friend asked me, “How old are you? Seventy? Seventy two?”

“I used always to look younger than my age, but stuff started happening to me in 2005 that really aged me quickly. I’m 65.”

“Oh.” She was embarrassed, and I couldn’t say, “Don’t worry about it. It’s OK” because it isn’t OK at all. There is absolutely nothing OK about it.

It led me to think about our concept of beauty. I’m familiar with the whole women’s beauty magazine thuggery and all that. That isn’t what’s affecting me.

Yesterday I rode the Airdyne along the route of the Tour de France. It’s my favorite of the videos I got to ‘ride’ the ‘bike’ with. It’s beautiful and it’s mostly uphill. It is not an illusion of a bike ride; it’s a video, but it’s still a pleasant video and with music pouring into my head from my iPod it’s an activity that approaches fun, but it does not approach a sport. As I rode yesterday I thought about what it means — to me — to be beautiful. To me it means to look like someone who could hike/run 12 miles on a mountain trail on a beautiful day. It’s me + motion through nature, it’s the sense that always gave me of being part of that. Beauty is not completely superficial after all and it turns out I am not exempt from vanity. 😦

So, young’uns, whatever it is that makes you feel like you, that makes you feel beautiful, cherish it. It could happen that someday you — like me — will have to confront the loss or diminution of that part of your identity and you — like me — might be surprised how much it matters to you. And even I, right now, writing all this, know that — in my case — it could get, will get, worse and it’s my job to carpe the diem that is in front of me right now. ❤




This Is a Real Miracle

When I had my first real garden, back in 1988, I planted vegetables and raspberries and cantaloup. I planted red cabbage and Swiss chard and zucchini. One of the most amazing moments was seeing a REAL and PERFECT head of red cabbage come out of the ground. It was one of the most beautiful things I’d ever seen. All of it was great, even when the chard took over. The cantaloups were delicious, the zucchini grew like mad — the raspberries? To go out to the garden in the morning and pick a handful of raspberries seemed like a dream event.

The next year I got dogs. Truffle picked the berries before I got there. I didn’t plant veggies, I let the perennials take over the garden, I was teaching more. The vegetable garden was a one shot deal.

So I have a small vegetable garden again, as everyone who reads my blog knows. This afternoon I was tending to it. We’ve had rain for the past few days — not today — and I wanted to see what was going on.

There were small tragedies. Little caterpillars from white butterflies have been at the chard and have tried the basil. Bad caterpillars. I shook the chard and watched the caterpillars fall and said, “Sorry, guys, but you’ve forced me to do this” and went to the garage and got my bag of diatomaceous earth and began to coat the leaves. A couple of zucchini had attempted zucchini life before their parents were sufficiently above the edge of the raised bed and were stunted, growing into the ground. Poor wee things. Some leaves were tired and yellow. Snip. The basil is blooming. Snip.

And I found a giant zucchini hiding under giant leaves. It’s beautiful, perfectly formed and not past edible and it hit me again how miraculous it is that a seed, dirt, water and light make food. Three nearly microscopic tomato seeds and I have 3 foot tall plants with tomatoes set on. Eight flat seeds 1/2 inch long and I have squash. Ten tiny seeds that look like brains and I have chard. Three specks of black, smaller than a ground of pepper, and I have basil.

Earth is just amazing.

P.S. I wrote this post last evening but it’s what I would write for the prompt today. 🙂

Dusty T. Dog Speaks Out on Dog Food

I haven’t written a blog post before because I’m a dog, and the whole idea is silly since I don’t have disposable thumbs. What? OPPOSABLE thumbs, and I can’t see in two dimensions and, as my human says the whole process is fraught with problems so lets go take a walk. But it’s important that everyone know what my sisters and I find edible. What? It’s NOT important? My human says it’s not important.

When it comes to things to EAT it’s important to note that Mindy T. Dog, my sister, especially finds poop edible. I, personally, do not and neither does my “little” sister, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog though, what Bear? I know you tried it when you were a puppy, I was about to tell everyone that. No, they won’t think you are a poop eater. For the record, Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog no longer eats poop.

Some of the food our human eats is very edible. Especially apples. All of us love apples and tomatoes, peas, zucchini, raspberries, watermelon, cantaloup and carrots. When Mindy T. Dog was on the slenderizing program, she never got a proper cookie, only carrots. Many humans think dogs are carnivores but we’ll eat pretty much anything we find edible. That can include cardboard and junk-mail. Some dogs will eat anything, but I know that leads to the V-E-T where I don’t want to go so I only eat what my human gives me.

Most of the time we eat dry dog food. This is good for us because it keeps our teeth strong. I’m 11 years old now and I still have all my own teeth. Mindy has hers, too, but they’re pretty ground down from chewing on rocks back in the sad days of her early life. Once in a while our human gives us tuna fish with our kibble. Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog gets wet food with her kibble every day because she’s a giant breed dog and some long story about that I don’t understand.

We also get a cookie in the evening and rawhide after breakfast. Our human gives us special treats, too. My special treat is the coffee and cream left in my human’s cup in the morning. Mindy gets a bit of banana and a strawberry every morning and Polar Bear Yeti T. Dog is the only one who gets wet food. The treats our human gives us are for each of us individually which makes them very special.

That’s the story on dogs and food as I know it.

Your friend,

Dusty T. Dog

Save or Savor?

“I arise in the morning torn between the desire to save the world and to savor it. It makes it hard to plan the day.” E. B. White

When I read that statement by E. B. White back in the late 1980s it hit home. I read it where it was originally written, copied into a journal and there it sat. But it also stayed in my mind describing my own dilemma during my teaching years.

Where did E. B. White say this? I have no idea. I looked this morning and found the phrase mis-quoted and paraphrased on all the various quote sites online, but not a shred of place or time. I found it as the “Interpret the meaning of this quote and explain how it applies to your own life” essay test question. I found it rewritten on another essay test so that the students wouldn’t have to know the meaning of “savor” and would read “enjoy” instead, and would understand “save the world” as “improve the world” and I grimaced. It’s not the same, “improve” is not “save.” For that matter, to savor something is not quite the same as enjoying it. It’s deeper.

Oh well. Words have meaning — and sound — but I’m not saving the world anymore, I’m savoring it. 🙂

Just Another Bottle of Soda Pop, After All

I thought “moxie” was Yiddish for brave and daring. That shows what I know, but a little research shows where it came from, and it’s a truly fascinating story.

Moxie is a brand of carbonated beverage that was among the first mass-produced soft drinks in the United States. It continues to be regionally popular today. It is produced by the Moxie Beverage Company of Bedford, New Hampshire, which (through several levels of wholly owned subsidiaries) is part of the Kirin Holdings Company of Tokyo, Japan. As a result of widespread brand advertising, the brand name has become the word “moxie” in the English language, meaning “courage, daring, or spirit”.

You can read all about it hereIt’s worth taking the time.

Moxie originated as a patent medicine called “Moxie Nerve Food”,[2] which was created around 1876 by Dr. Augustin Thompson in Lowell, Massachusetts.[4] Thompson claimed that it contained an extract from a rare, unnamed South American plant, which is now known to be gentian root.[5] Moxie, he claimed, was especially effective against “paralysis, softening of the brain, nervousness, and insomnia“.[2]

Thompson claimed that he named the beverage after a Lieutenant Moxie,[2] a purported friend of his, who he claimed had discovered the plant and used it as a panacea, and the company he created continued to promulgate legendary stories about the word’s origin. It likely derives from an Abenaki word that means “dark water” and which is found in lake and river names in Maine, where Thompson was born and raised.[6]

Where did I get that idea? I think from the movies. It seems to be a word characters placed in New York say. Out west we say, “Spunk.”

Silk Dress

Hong Kong is the place for tailor made clothes. I know because I did that. I got a pretty camel hair suit made just for me. My ex got a three piece suit of Scottish tweed. Best of all was Frances, my ex-mother-in-law, then 70 years old. She got a silk dress. It was beautiful silk she’d picked it out from a bolt in the tailor’s shop that, itself, was everything you want a Chinese tailor’s shop to be — a hole in the wall on a busy Tsim Sat Tsui street.

When our clothes were ready (two days later) we all went down to get them. The suits were great, but Frances’ dress was the best of all. She tried it on in the shop to be sure the length was right. When she came out of the dressing room to show us — and the tailor — she spun around like Cinderella ready for the ball. The print was a soft design of flowers in lapis, cornflower and pink.

I never needed the suit because a year after returning from China, the ex and I moved to San Diego. Everyone there thought my clothes were funny and, anyway, who needs a camel hair suit in San Diego? It’s absurd… My ex didn’t need his suit, either.

But Frances wore her silk dress often.