Bugs and Spiders

31 Jul

We live in the south so we have bugs. I knew about that before we moved here. In addition we moved into an old house with skirting and walls that are open to the ground below. We originally had mice as well but that hasn’t been an issue since we moved the cats in. Having bugs means that we also have spiders who try to help us out by catching the flying bugs.

Now when I say we have bugs, I do need to clarify that we do not have head lice nor bed bugs. This clarification will be important to my daughter in law who returned home with extra passengers after a trip. At first we had the dreaded cockroach but the bait in discrete corners seems to have handled that problem. Before fall I will need to renew that bait just to keep things on an even keel. My mother always shuttered when she told stories about the cockroaches in the Virginia apartment building where she lived with my brother when my father was in the Navy. She truly believed they were only a sign of dirty conditions. I know that they are a sign of warmth, moisture and food. With a dog and a cat who both eat dry food and a husband who like to snack in his chair during a warm humid summer, dirt has nothing to do with it. It is just an opportunity.

That dry cat food presents an opportunity for another type of bug as well. The cat has had a self feeder. Murphy Jones like many cats likes to have his meals in private at night. He had inherited the feeder from Iggy and Segia. Iggy ate 24/7 and at 20 pounds it showed although he had broad shoulders and long legs so he carried his weight well. Segia had been an old lady when she lived here and had medical issues that caused her to lose weight. Like Murphy she really preferred to eat at night although after we had be gone she wanted us to follow her to her dish to make sure it was still full. A little shake of the container let her know we still loved her. Murphy was a baby adopted after Iggy and Segia were gone. We feed him both canned and dry food to help him recover. He was a sickly little rat but he made up for lost time. Try as he would, however, he could not empty that feeder as fast as Iggy had. The food left inside the feeding jar turned out to be the perfect place for a small moth to start their life cycle. In no time we had the nasty little creatures in all sorts of things in the kitchen as well. Almost everything in the kitchen is now in airtight containers and the cabinets have been emptied and scrubbed a number of times. Murphy’s food has been transferred to an airtight container and breakfast and dinner placed in a small bowl. He doesn’t seem to mind.

The cabinet scrubbing created a dilemma. What do I do about the spiders in all of the corners of the kitchen and almost every cabinet? They are not big spiders nor are they dangerous ones. They spin small webs to catch those moths as well as flies and mosquitoes. I consider them an asset but Harry isn’t so sure. I will admit walking into a web stretched across the doorway isn’t much fun but better that than bugs, right? For now we’ve reached a compromise. Webs above our heads and outside the cabinets can stay. Those inside cabinets must go and any spider like bees or wasps that Harry see moving must be removed by his favorite bug woman. In the mean time the campaign against the moths continues. At least I have found a need for all of those airtight containers I bought.

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Arranging Furniture

20 Jul

It is finally time to paint the living room. It has only taken me 4 years to get to this point but now is the time. I wouldn’t do it even now if it were 10 degrees cooler at night. With 99 degree days and 80 at night, we never really cool down. Working outside is uncomfortable by the time the sun is up and I can make noise without disturbing the neighbors. I tend to get light headed easily when it is hot ( I’m not an airhead by nature.) The only inside projects left are to put in a door to the patio we haven’t built and painting the living room.

A big part of the living room project is to replace a strip of drywall tape that runs across the middle of the ceiling and down one wall. The tape was buckled when we bought the house. The ceiling was also painted with a semi gloss paint so the buckles would glow with reflected light.   The old tape had also had additional layers of drywall compound added so there was a smooth 6 inch edge on each side although the ceiling has a slight texture everywhere else. I prefer to use fiber glass tape and flat ceiling paint.  The trick is to add texture without overdoing it in such a small area. I like to do the last coat as a very light one and then pat it with my hand to add just a bit of texture. It isn’t an exact match but isn’t really noticeable 10 feet up without that semi gloss glow.

Working around a living room full of furniture and a few hand sewing projects means I have had to shift the big and small pieces from side to side. Although the original arrangement worked for me, I’ve decided that this is the prefect time to reassess. I tend to collect “stuff” and liked having the two corner cabinets to close off the computer and the TV. If I rearrange, the corner cabinets will need to go and hopefully, I can reduce the volume of stuff hiding inside. The truth is, I almost never close the one for the computer. They are both beautiful pieces of furniture but are just too much. I also have my mother’s old writing desk and like my mother, I usually have it buried in paper that should be filed. Time for a major change.

The writing desk will be my new computer desk. A new window seat to the side will hold the printer, scanner and extra hard drives. The book cases will all be arranged along one wall instead of wrapping on to a second one. The television will hang on the wall with shelves below to hold its remotes, Direct TV box and Kindle Fire TV box. The loveseat and two arm chairs will be arranged to see both the TV and the fireplace. The fireplace is a gas vent-less one and move over about two feet to allow for an arm chair to each side.

I’m hopeful that I’ve measured and planned correctly.  It will be sad to see the two corner cabinets go because we’ve moved them from Aberdeen to Wenatchee to Texas. Harry had picked them out and did the staining and finishing to match the woodwork in his home office space in Aberdeen. They are special but this house is just half the size of Aberdeen. Of course there is the man cave building. Maybe I can find a good corner for them there. Rearranging furniture doesn’t really mean I need to reduce my volume of stuff does it?

Lilacs and Crape Myrtle

8 Jul

I grew up loving French Lilacs. They are well shaped bushes that develop beautiful flowers with a heavenly scent. They occupied a special place in the yard of my parents house on the hill. Once they started to bloom Mother would bring branches in to have that wonderful smell fill the house. We had both traditional lavender and white varieties. The lavender was more fragrant then the white but both did the job.

My Auburn house had large lilac bushes in the front yard. They wanted to spread as lilacs do so I gave startups to a number of the neighbors. When we moved to the coast, I took some of those startups to the new house. They had not gotten into heavy blooming before we left but I’m hopeful that the new owner enjoyed them.

The house in Wenatchee was only expected to be a temporary home. That temporary turned into six years. I planted a small lilac bush but it always struggled and rarely bloomed unlike the roses. There were both white and lavender at a house up the hill from us so I knew they would have grown but they just didn’t like our yard.

Now we live in Northeast Texas were the winters are more mild and summers Wenatchee warm but not usually as dry. This year the summer has been cooler than even Seattle and much more humid. Either way, the gardening experts say you can grow some varieties of lilac but not well. Instead we have bushes that bloom later (now – early July) and although not as fragrant as lilacs look a lot like them. The Crape Myrtle DSC_0113comes in shades from white to a deep dark fuchsia. We have three such bushes. Every year they remind me of lilacs. Didn’t know that checking planted options should be part of selecting a place to retire.

 

Funerals and Weddings

4 Jul

Having had a very diverse group of friends and neighbors over the years, I have had the occasion to attend equally diverse weddings and funerals. There have been the secular where the individual officiating clearly did not know the individuals involved, the formal Roman Catholic, a variety of basic Protestant, and even a traditional Chinese wedding and a Chinese funeral. I’ve listed funerals and weddings together because they actually share some of the same things: an official, traditions, family and friends, and both laughter and tears. All are part of life experiences to be shared.

We have now lived in Texas for 4 years. We’ve spent so much time working on the house or planning trips that we’ve been wrapped up in our own lives. I keep saying we need to expand into more community activities but we really haven’t done much. We know a few people in town by sight but not as many as I’d like. Being a Southern town we’ve had lots of invitations to join them for church but we have not done that either. We also know a few neighbors and even some of their extended family. It is through the neighbors that we have attended two funerals in as many months.

Both funerals were for women who had many friends and family members in the community. Both were known for their generosity and kindness to all around them. They took the role of mother very seriously and will leave a large hole in the lives they touched. They brought both tears and laughter in a true celebration of their lives. Oddly although we knew their husbands and daughters, we had never met either of the women. Learning about them at their funerals saddened me that I had never gotten the chance to know them. We had attended not as mourners but as a sign of respect.

The two funerals were also extremely different. The first was held in a funeral home just up the street from our house. There was standing room only not long after we arrived. The service was dominated by stories from friends and relatives.  The musical selections were recorded popular songs from the last 4 decades. They had me thinking about what type of music I would want at my own funeral some day. As apposed to weddings, funerals are a fact of life for all of us but we just don’t get to enjoy them. I’m sure that family gathered to share food and stories after the service. It is just what families do.

The second funeral was at the Black Southern Baptist church a little farther up the street and over two blocks. It was raining so I decided it would be best to drive. We arrived early to a packed parking lot and even more closely packed church. It is a tiny church and the ushers were scurrying to find seats for even more people who followed us in. Almost half of the pews were reserved for family but we were placed in a row immediately behind the reserved ones. The young woman next to me asked if we were from Honey Grove. She had driven up from Ft Worth to attend with her mother who was a long time friend of the deceased. She said the the church seemed to be much smaller that she remembered from childhood.  She didn’t ask if we were family because we were two of four white faces in the entire church.

The service was conducted by four different Reverends with four very different styles. Two were rather quiet and reserved and conducted prayers with different tempos. Next was a tiny woman who stepped up from the family pews. She reflected in depth on the deceased and her devotion to friends, family and the church. Her speech was very lively and filled with lots of praise to the Lord. She was preceded and followed by some of the most beautiful singing I have ever heard by individuals and the entire choir. It felt like stepping into Whitney Houston’s version of The Preacher’s Wife. The eulogy was given by the fourth minister who said he had only known the deceased for a short time – 6 years. He continued for almost 30 minutes of animated praise to the Lord inter spaced with the need to catch his breath and wipe his face. The only A/C unit was located in the window beside our pew in the back. Somewhere in the middle the young woman beside me gave up an “Oh My Goodness.” I asked if it was not as she remembered. “Oh no. This is straight out of a movie.” My thoughts exactly.

As the service ended, we slipped out the door as the final viewing began. We were joined by a number of others who started to collect by the parked cars. The rain had stopped so people could easily mingle and catch up with individuals they had not seen in decades. It was a long time before enough cars started to move cars from the roads blocked solid in all directions. If anyone had had a medical emergency, there would have been no way from an ambulance to get through.

Our neighborhood streets were also filled with cars. The woman and her husband lived across the street from us and her daughter. Family members were gathering as they had for Father’s Day two weeks earlier. I’m sure there would be tears, laughter and good stories shared in remembering a life well lived.

As a people watcher, I’ve found the two functions fascinating in their similarities and differences. Next time I hope we are attending a wedding. I wonder if Southern weddings has special traditions?

 

The Slow Process of Writing

3 Jul

I have blog that I follow from a woman who is trying to get her first novel accepted by a publisher. She has detailed her trauma at writing, rewriting, reviews by members of her writers group and rejections from literary agents. In between she posts her status on her blog. She sometimes posts often and then may go 4 – 6 months with nothing. Recently after a long dry spell, she explained that after a rejection, she can’t sit down to write again and switches to reading instead.

I’ve found that I also post frequently or not at all for weeks. It has nothing to do with rejections. I’m most creative in the morning but some mornings seemed to be filled with other things. We are in a warm humid summer. I often work outside until noon when I am exhausted as well as sticky and covered in either bug spray or mosquito bites. Sometimes I’m covered in both!  Afternoons are spent inside but the ideas for blog posts have long since vanished into thin air. Curling up with a book seems like a nice idea.

I have also been working on a novel that I started a few years back. After working on novels for twenty five years and never finishing them, I decided to take another approach. I signed up for an online writing class taught by James Patterson. I’m writing a romance novel for women over 50 and he writes murder mystery novels but he is a very successful writer. I have been spending part of almost everyday working on the outline for the novel or listening to the tips and tricks from the class. I have yet to be an “active” participant in the group because I have not posted any comments to date. Like any online class, some people post a lot but they haven’t really provided anything that adds to the lessons. This may be a chance to join a writers group but I’m not sure how I feel about that. With three English teachers and two published writers in my circle of friends, I probably have a good set of reviewers and supporters as needed. I’ve sent the start of my outline to one for review and she has both of her feet in the middle of my back to continue. She may hate the final book but she is giving me lots of encouragement.

So if I don’t post, feel free to ask how my class or my writing is going. Of course if we have nice weather, I may be spending extra time in the swimming pool. I’ll pretend that I’m thinking about my storyline. James Patterson says to take the time to get my outline fully laid out so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

Passwords

7 Jun

Like many people I have issues with passwords for all of my banking, email and social media accounts.  I know the rules for passwords: 1) They should never be names or birth dates of pets, spouse, self or children. 2) They should be at least 8 characters long that don’t spell any normal word. 3) They should contain mixed capitals and lower case as well as numbers and special characters if allowed. 4) They should be all be unique and 5) They should be something you can remember but never write them down. It is my own fault that I have 24 of these accounts but still remembering that many is at best taxing. Just as taxing is creating that many in the first place not to mention the need to change one on the fly when required by the website.

Right now I have a mixed assortment of about 6 different ones. I thought I was okay until this last trip. I had a couple of sites that were always logged in on my home computer. They were ones I accessed all of the time so they are not on my backup list of sites and log ins (yes I have them written down.) On the road I used my netbook which had the bookmarked websites but not the log ins.  I tried three of the most popular from my list but they were not the right selections. The websites locked me out until I could provide proof of my identity such as when did I create my gmail account – day, month and year? I know that it was a class exercise when I taught Internet Basics but I couldn’t even remember the year! This created a bit of a problem because I had emailed my back up log in list to that gmail account. I did not need to be a rocket scientist to realize that there was a high price to pay for a lack of a system.

I considered using the same basic nonword words but using a different number for each site starting with 1 for the 1st site arranged in alphabetical order. It was instantly obvious that system would fail because I have problems remembering either all 24 sites and then getting the alphabet in the correct order. I am sure to miss one of either which would make a mess of the system.

At least I don’t use “password” or “qwerty” which seem to be very popular. When I taught at Wenatchee Valley College, all student passwords were their birth date and faculty passwords would be reset to the term and year. I often wondered how many reused that same combination?

A friend says she uses one password for all financial sites and another for email sites. That sounds like a manageable system. I took the time to organize my backup document with all of the sites in groups of financial, email, social media and video.  I’ve needed to expand the list twice because I forgot to add WordPress and YouTube video. I can see where logging in with a Facebook account could simplify the process although with three different Facebook accounts and access to a fourth, it would still be challenging. There are also the log ins for the Kindle Fire, netbook and laptop but I think I have all of them the same. I should probably add the same log in and password to my smart phone but I have enough issues just answering it if it ever rings without trying to log in first.

Now that I have assembled my list, I could start and the top and log in to change every site to the new system. Maybe I should wait a day or two to see if I really have all of them. I’ll need to take the time to go through the old Rolex on my desk to check for everything!

 

Long Road Trip Observations

30 May

We saw 12 states and 6,000 miles in 28 days. For us that is a new record. We’ve gone that far before but have never been on the road for more than 3 weeks. This trip had more 4 day stops to visit friends and family so the time went very quickly. I was able to keep things organized and fairly clean for the whole trip which also helped. A 19 foot van with 2 adults, a medium large dog and one cat with litter box is a little cramped although I prefer to say “cozy”. We actually drove for a total of 15 days. It seemed to be a great balance of travel and rest for all four of us.

I kept a travel log of mileage, gas, camping and overall expenses. About half way through the trip, I realized I should have made note of the state rest areas. Each state was a little bit different in the quality of the rest area and the distance between them. In the past I had enjoyed the welcome center that was usually the first rest area inside a state on the major interstates. Both Arizona and California had closed those welcome centers. The next rest area for both states had billboard kiosks for general state information. Other states offered the same thing but only Kansas offered free state maps at the kiosks. Closing the welcome centers has probably been a cost saving options as is not giving away state maps. Some states had the state map in a glass case but those were often degraded or seriously lacking in information. Our atlas pages often showed more detail especially rest area. States like Idaho were converting old rest areas to parking areas often with a pit toilet and a new rest area farther down the road. Removing rest area marks from the state highway map would make that easier but still confusing. Wyoming often has 100 – 120 miles between rest areas. They do have wide spot in the road parking areas in between but a real rest area with full services at 40 – 50 miles would have been nice.  The quality of toilet paper as well as hot water and soap also varied a great deal from state to state. Wyoming had some of the oldest facilities but also some of the nicest although they may have seemed nice because I needed them after a 100 miles on the road!

We also had a variety of state parks and RV parks. All appeared in our Good SAM club RV park directory but the descriptions didn’t always tell a full story. One tree does not mean “some shaded spaces” and “gravel pull throughs” doesn’t describe a large gravel parking lot with power and water posts. The nicest RV park and great bargain was Butterfield RV Resort in Bensen, AZ. We qualified for summer rates because 95% of the snow birds had already gone home. The pool and pool table were both wonderful. Deer Park RV in Buffalo, WY offered the least for the highest price. It was a place to park for the night but I’d never select it again. Even the shower was cramped and tight with only warm not hot water.

The worst state park was Pieffer State Park in Big Sur, CA. It was in a redwood forest but was on the expensive side with no hook ups and paying extra for a shower. We passed three other state parks on our way north. The first looked great with camping on one side of Highway 1 and beach access on the other side. We passed it too early in the day to stop. The next ones had no beach access and were full.  I was just happy to have a spot in Pieffer.

Game Farm Wilderness Park in Auburn, WA is a small city park on the edge of town and was exactly as I remembered it. It offered hook ups but no showers or warm water in the rest room. Fred, the dog loved the grass and Murphy, the cat enjoyed the quiet setting. Confluence State Park in Wenatchee, WA cost less for both camping and showers than did CA and offered full services, large treed spaces and extensive walking and bike paths with views and access to the Columbia River. It makes a great place to RV camp. It is not a natural habitat park but grass can be a nice addition.

We were not able to camp at Cherry Creek State Park outside of Denver because it was full as were most of the RV parks in the area. We were able to spend the night with friends but the pets would prefer that we camp. They demand a lot of attention when they can’t sleep with us. If we return to Denver, I know where the overnight stay WalMart is located on the east edge of the city. We’ve talked about but never actually stayed in a WalMart parking lot. We might just need to add it to our itinerary for our next big adventure.