Monday, June 28, 2010

Sumer is Icumen In

It's an old English round, according to Wikipedia, and means "Summer has arrived," basically -- "loudly sing, cuckoo."

And summer indeed has arrived this weekend. Oh we flirted with 100 degrees a couple of weeks ago, but the temperatures quickly slid back down to the 80s and low 90s -- very uncharacteristic for these parts at this time of year. We've had a fabulous June, with warmish days and cool nights, and some occasional unusual humidity, but there's not doubt that we're into summer now.

The solstice was last Monday -- the longest day of the year, which is greeted in Scandinavian countries with long holidays, bits of greenery decorating everything, Maypoles dotting the countryside, and long, long days of sun.

It gives me some comfort to know, when it's sweltering outside and the electric meter is spinning dollars every moment, that we're on the downward slide now to winter -- the long days where it really isn't dark until 9:30 or later are slowly, minute by minute, decreasing. And in six months it will again be the shortest day of the year.

The north winds have helped things heat up, too, and one of our regional blogs explains why. Unfortunately, the north wind also dries things out and increases fire danger -- the downside to summer in these parts.

My tomatoes have little green orbs that will ripen nicely in the heat, and blossoms dot both cucumber and zucchini vines. I'm hoping aphids stay far away this year -- so far, so good.

And we're not stuck with endless days of heat for now, anyway. Temps will dip into the low 90s-high 80s mid-week, and then start climbing back to normal for the July 4th weekend. That's a nice respite and one I could live with this summer, although I'm still expecting the thermometer to get stuck somewhere in the 108-115 range for weeks on end later this summer -- retribution for the nice wet winter we were blessed with.

I'm trying to think cool meals: salads, grilled meats and fresh veggies and fruit. My sweet tooth gets fed every so often with ice cream, though, when I go out for lunch with girlfriends at the Tremont Cafe downtown. I usually have a salad, water with lemon, and a scoop of either Java Mashup or Chocolate Peanut Butter Chunk. Nothing low sugar or low fat about either. As long as I don't have that stuff in the house, I'm okay. Once in a while is not going to hurt much.

The days will pass quickly -- this much I know. Time goes more quickly with each year, and I notice a little more gray in my hair, a few new wrinkles in my skin, a hesitation in my step where there used to be none. I am grateful for each day, for the love I have in my life, for friends near and far, and for possibilities, because it's never too late for change and growth. And I try to be very intentional about gratitude, even for small things -- like watching the hummers sip their breakfast while we eat ours every day. Waking up to a cool bedroom and a snuggly cat. Enjoying the shower streams cleansing hair and body. Tasting the first cup of hot coffee made for me by my honey.

Much as I don't like hot weather, I'm grateful for the change of seasons and the abundant growth and promise of harvest that summer brings. "Lhude sing cuccu!"

Monday, June 14, 2010

Adventures in grandparenting

There is a reason why we have children when we're younger.

It's patience and stamina and a go-with-the-flow outlook, partly. And it's not really even patience: I have more nowadays than I did when my daughter was little. It's definitely stamina: I have been flat-out pooped the last few nights. And I'm afraid that I'm more gone-with-the-wind than go-with-the-flow these days: I've grown very attached to our routines and the ebb and flow of our days as they are now rather than ready to adapt to anything at a moment's notice.

We've been taking care of our grandson, who turned two June 11, for the last three days. Cute as he is, amusing and charming and full of energy and curiosity -- and remarkably well-behaved -- I will be fine watching him go out the door soon with his auntie to go to another auntie's house until his parents return tomorrow.

He's exploring his vocal ranges right now in lieu of taking a nap. He is not in distress, other than that he doesn't particularly want to be there, but the way he yodels and vocalizes tells me that he's amusing himself as much as he is registering a protest at being put down for naptime. I'll get him up in a few minutes and give him a snack before Auntie R comes to get him. (Yup -- you guessed it -- soon as she called to say she was coming, he fell asleep.)

Our kitties Cheswick and McMurphy will be greatly relieved that he is not around tonight as both have spent much of their time lurking under the bed since he's been here. Cheswick has been more interested, although he tends to stay under things that G can't reach, and G delightedly says "Kee-y! Hes-we! MEW!" (Trans: Kitty, Cheswick, MEOW) when he sees him. Mac, on the other hand, wants nothing to do with him and has hissed loudly at his approach, running into the bedroom to hide.

It's been fun, mostly. It's been exhausting, mostly. He's a really good child -- he minds pretty well, especially for independent two, and is good natured. His momma has taught him well. He's a natural-born soccer player -- he already has a great kick and even a dribble, and LOVES to play ball.

His momma says he isn't a picky eater, and he probably isn't, for the kind of food she fixes, but he didn't love my salmon burgers or asparagus much, although he ate some of both; he was far more interested in the ketchup than in the chicken fingers we had at a restaurant this noon; and he licked the peanut butter and jelly off the whole wheat bread but didn't eat any of it. He likes strawberries and bananas but is only so-so with plain yogurt even sweetened a touch. His parents (much to my dismay) brought a giant-sized container of Nestle's Quick to flavor his milk, and he sure knows how to ask for 'chikit' milk, which is the only way he wanted to drink any of it. On the other hand it has been HOT, and nobody feels much like eating when it's over 100 degrees, even with air conditioning.

I found myself listening for him if I wasn't in the room, and even asleep, I had one ear cocked, just as I did when R was little -- actually, I did that until she went off to college! I'd forgotten how wearying it can be to constantly be attentive to a child. It was fun to watch him play with rubber duckies and boats in the bath, nice to snuggle with a lavender-scented toddler just before bed, read "The Little Red Caboose" and "Do Cows Eat Cake?" and listen to lullabies playing on the CD player. He didn't want to snuggle with Granddaddy, although he played ball with him for a long time and would go talk to him. He's a momma's boy though.

So it was an adventure, and I am impressed (and amazed) with my friends who regularly keep their grandchildren. I guess they're just in better shape than I am, more stamina, more patience, better food!

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Election post mortem

So the election is over, at least until the big races later this fall, and I'm glad. As a registered independent, I didn't get many campaign calls for which I'm grateful. And actually, I'm not sure just why I am registered with no party affiliation -- it sure will be a cold day in hell before I'd vote for a Rethuglican -- but maybe I just want to keep my options open.

I'm glad the ugly local election is over, although the sheriff's race was very close. I guess there were just too many people who figured their vote wouldn't matter in this election, or who hadn't followed the race or the issues, and stayed home. Clearly the challenger managed to get out his supporters! Well, we're told that periodically the good folk in this county like to sweep the house out, and apparently they started with the sheriff's department. I hope the employees will be able to put their differences and the hurtful comments to one side and move on. That would be a tough job for this Scorpio -- I may forgive, really lay it down -- but I never, ever, forget.

But it is as it is, I suppose, and life will go on, and politics will continue to be full of mud and allegations and accusations, and someone will be elected to office and will either serve well or won't. That's the party system.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If the mouth is open, be sure the brain is in gear

I know I ranted about mudslinging earlier. I know it's politics and that it happens everywhere to some extent during every election. I know it happens everywhere and that it's practically expected behavior. But I just hate it.

It seems our county sheriff's race is this year's designated down-and-dirty fight: there always seems to be one in every election that is especially bitter and nasty. Letters to the editor pop up daily, but the comments -- which can be anonymous through our paper's online forum -- have really been ugly. And the commenters seem mostly to be a handful of unhappy employees or former employees that post on every possible letter or article, interspersed with a few outsiders here and there. (If you're interested in reading the letters or articles, see here. It lists all stories and letters which have garnered comments. You can sort of figure out by title which ones relate to politics.)

It makes for entertaining reading, to be sure -- fodder for writers, perhaps, in that truth is always stranger than fiction. It also is sad to read how full of bitterness and unhappiness some of them are, how some of them seem so stuck in past events that they aren't able to move on or make changes or adapt to what is here and now. Some of the comments reveal far more about the individual's basic character than I think they had any intention of revealing, especially if you read multiple articles and letters and note who is commenting.

Realizing that there are always at least two sides to every dispute, I'm trying not to get unduly upset by what I'm reading about the morale and the disputes within the sheriff's department. And yet, I admit that I'm now a little wary of these men who are our county's law enforcement officers and their anger, their bitterness, and what they've revealed about their character through their words. That's not comforting when you want to regard law enforcement as a safe haven if you need help in a bad situation. That doesn't bode well for the operation of the department regardless of who wins this election: there seems to be such animosity and bitterness that either candidate will have a huge task just to re-unite the department.

Politics in general has for years reminded me of a clique of young teenaged girls who can turn on a friend in a matter of minutes: best friends forever in the morning, sworn enemies in the afternoon.

Words can damage a person every bit as much as fists can. Physical injuries often heal more quickly than emotional ones. Once said, you can't un-say a threat or a falsehood or an insult or a character assassination. And that goes for both sides here, although generally it seems to be the unhappy camp who is getting very personal about naming names, involving employees' family members, and hurling snarling insults that have nothing to do with either candidate.

It's also easy to get caught up in the mob mentality of an online forum, to throw out your own name and say things about others you'd likely not do in most face-to-face encounters, and to allow others to whip up your own emotion and anger through their comments.

But words you say have consequences, sometimes bitter and long-lasting and un-doable consequences. To all who comment: choose your words carefully. If you're tempted to write something scathing and insulting and angry, don't hit 'submit' immediately: write it down, let it simmer for at least a few hours, and then reconsider. If it's something you would say face-to-face, then go ahead. But realize what your words may reap and accept the responsibility for your actions.

I'm good with words. I can be sarcastic and caustic and quick-witted. But I've learned from opening my mouth without having my brain in gear that I need to think twice before I speak, and that most of the time, silence is the better course.