Brain Candy

It was time for me to shut the lights out and go to bed, but I decided to read just one more page. Along the bottom margin I spotted this one-line snippet of trivial information. “There are 140,000 ladybugs to a gallon.”

Despite knowing that no one would hear me, I yelled into the night, “Ew! Who in the world would research information like this? Why? Who cares how many nasty, stinky ladybugs fill a gallon jug?!” Although I protested, I still found it fascinating to know.

Reading for a short while at bedtime helps me wind down from the day. Trivia books, like the big bible-sized book I had on my lap that evening are the best. They’re interesting, but discourage ‘read-gorging’ for hours on end. The last novel I had read at bedtime kept me up until two in the morning.

Sometimes trivia is so interesting I look up more facts on the topic. My house has always been a magnet for Asian beetles. I’ve wondered why. No one else in my family has as many. I researched the topic and learned that lady beetles leave trails of pheromones wherever they go to attract other lady beetles. I have an invisible vacancy sign over my bugs’ inn. Continue reading

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Death in a Jar

As I poured myself a cup of coffee, a woman I know who is a dietitian walked up to the counter. Although I knew that most professionals hate being asked for curbside advice, I just couldn’t help myself. After giving her a friendly greeting I said, “I hear that coconut oil is the new wonder food. What do you think about that?”

My acquaintance didn’t seem to mind the question, but she did seem to have a major problem with coconut products. With a grimace she exclaimed, “Coconut oil is very bad for a person’s cholesterol. I don’t think a person should even eat coconut flakes in baked goods!”

I looked concerned and nodded. After exchanging a few pleasantries, we turned and went our separate ways.

What I hadn’t told my dietitian acquaintance, was that I’d recently seen a nutritionist who recommended that I start using coconut oil for baking. Being given two such opposing instructions is unnerving. Which one is right? Continue reading

Gourmet Glorp

My brothers and I sat at their dinner table in the farmhouse’s sunny patio room. Warmed by the heated floor tiles, the sunshine and a glass of Casper’s homemade wine, our conversation flowed freely.

Billy jumped to his feet and went to the kitchen. A moment later he came back with a wedge of cheddar cheese. Dropping into his chair, he cut several slices for us to share. Savoring the creamy flavor of the cheese, then taking a sip of two-year-old plum wine, made me sigh with satisfaction.

Casper was telling funny stories about things that had happened to him while fishing with friends in Canada. The topic of foods they had brought with them somehow devolved into Mom’s attempts to feed oatmeal to Casper when he was a little boy.

He complained, “Most people call it oatmeal, but I call it vile glorp! Every time I opened my mouth, Mom would shove a spoonful of the stuff into my mouth.” To demonstrate how repulsed he felt just remembering this traumatic experience, my 78-year-old brother stuck out his tongue and gagged. Continue reading

Selective Shedding

I stood in the middle of the kitchen munching on apple slices and sipping a cup of tea. “This will have to do for my breakfast.” I told my daughter, Tammie. “I’m in a hurry because I didn’t allow enough time to get ready for my appointment.”

The sound of a cat pawing at the entry door prompted Tammie to get up from the dining room table to open the door. My sleek white and black cat Louie, slipped quickly into the room and made a bee-line toward me.

Taking one step backward, I said, “No. Louie, stay away…ach!” Although I didn’t want it to happen, Louie rubbed his entire silky body from nose to tail against my left leg. I looked down at my black slacks now half covered with white cat hair. He turned around to make a second swipe, this time against my right leg. I pushed him away.

Tammie said, “Mom, he’s just trying to tell you how much he loves you.”

“Yes, I know how much he loves me.” I snapped. “He loves me so much that he wants his scent to be all over me! My problem is that I’m leaving the house and don’t want to look like an unkempt fur-ball.” Continue reading

Cabin Fever

I opened my eyes and saw gray light filtering into the room. Pushing the blankets aside I walked to the window and lifted a curtain to peek out. My monochromic yard looked dreary. “The weatherman was wrong.” I grumbled. “The storm didn’t start at six am. Maybe he’ll also be wrong about it being icy. With any luck we’ll get nothing but snow.” I glared disdainfully at the black evergreen branches, gray tree trunks and white snow. The tracks in the snow were old and no longer interested me. I felt bored with this unchanging winter landscape.

Once a week I clean out my furnace’s ash pan. After dressing, I jogged down to the basement to shut the wood pellet burner off, the first step of the chore. Passing a window, I thought about how excited I am when I see new tracks in the snow around the house. Winter boredom, cabin fever, or whatever you want to call it, magnifies the mundane to an otherwise perfectly normal person. Continue reading

The Last Joke

Casper called out our brother’s name, “Billy!” I turned to look at him. He’d been drifting between reality and hallucinations since I sat down at his bedside half an hour earlier. His eyes looked dreamy, but his raised hands showed intent and concern.

I asked, “Casper, why do you need Billy?”

“The cows are out!” my brother responded. His dream shifted then, to field-dressing a deer. He asked for help lifting it and marveled, “This is a big animal”.

After quietly sleeping for several minutes Casper woke and once again called, “Billy!”

I leaned towards him and asked, “Are the cows out again?”

Casper shook his head and waved a hand, saying, “They’re in pieces.”

I flippantly teased, “Casper, when cows are in pieces, that’s called hamburger.” To my surprise, despite his mind being clouded by illness, my brother laughed! Remembering the great stories he liked to tell through the years showing the funny side of his life, I joined him in laughter. Casper had a funny, sweet sense of humor. He especially loved original one-liners, his own and others. Continue reading

Going to Seed

In the pine tree next to the house a small red breasted nuthatch watched for a turn at the bird feeder. On the feed tray, two chickadees pecked and scratched for the biggest seeds. Sunflower seed shells littered the dirty, half-melted snow below. I sighed and shook my head. Winter was dragging on forever.

Seeing a large flicker land on the suet cage cheered me a little. After he left, a white-breasted nuthatch took his place. Watching him made me laugh out loud. Nuthatches operate just as well upside down as upright.

Each winter I get to a point where I’m sick of snow by late January. No longer pristine, sparkling white, the snow is dirty and full of tracks. Watching fresh snow flakes drifting to the ground no longer thrills me like it did in November. February snowfalls are merely seen as a chore to shovel aside or a travel hazard.

On February 2nd the famous groundhog predicts when spring will come, but the bottom line is that no matter what he predicts, we’ll still have cold and snowy weather for at least another six weeks, or longer if you live in Wisconsin.

Restless, I walked over to a window on the backside of the house where I could see my garden hoop building. A strong hankering to see lush, green, growing plants washed over me. I watched wind sweep small, white clouds of powdery snow off the garage roof, to do a swirling dance on the snowbanks below. Continue reading