Hubby’s Pumpkin Obsession

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Halloween is my husband’s favorite holiday.  It has nothing to do with ghosts and goblins, and everything to do with pumpkins.

As of last count, we have 17 pumpkins so far this year.  Luckily – this being Halloween week – I think it’s (almost) safe to say we might finish the season under 20.

What is it about pumpkins that Hubby finds so fascinating?  I mean, seriously, we spend quite a chunk of money on those orange orbs!

Whatever the fascination, shopping for pumpkins with Hubby has become more than just picking up a few at the grocery store.  It’s become a major tradition for us, and has pushed our neighbors to collect pumpkins as well.  My husband has single handedly boosted the pumpkin industry to new heights.

I go outside to get the mail and run into the neighbor lady across the street… “Uh-oh,” she says.  “I see you’ve added a sixth pumpkin to your collection.  I better get a move on, I only have four.”  She confesses to me how every night, when she drives home, she counts the number of pumpkins we have.  It gives a whole new meaning to “keeping up with the Jones’s”.  (I LOVE our neighborhood.  Entertainment central.)

Every few days Hubby comes home with a new pumpkin from one place or another.  On weekends, we go pumpkin shopping, looking for the best deals.  (When you buy in quantity, you can’t afford pricey.)

Several years ago we found a place called Bob’s.  Or maybe it’s called Dan’s.  I can never remember.  But who can blame me for forgetting the name of the place when it’s located between Frank street and Tom’s pumpkin farm?  Whatever… Bob’s is a pumpkin man’s paradise.  It’s entrance is a skinny little dirt road tucked in between tall trees.  If you’re not careful, you’ll miss it and pass right by.  (And end up at Tom’s.  Something Tom is probably happy about.)

Once you turn into Bob’s, just beyond the trees, is a wide clearing in the woods, filled to capacity with pumpkins.  HUGE pumpkins.  Bob’s pumpkins are all the same price… $6.00 each.  It doesn’t matter what size you choose, every pumpkin is $6.00, from pie size to monstrosity.  But here’s the funny thing… they’re ALL monstrosities.  There are no little pumpkins!

Plus, it’s all self-serve.  Bob is not there.  Nobody is there.  A shabby looking, beat-up wood box is set up at the far end of the clearing (surrounded by huge pumpkins, of course), with a sign that says you are on the “honor system”.  You total your number of pumpkins by 6 and feed your money into the slot on top of the box.  One glance up, and you see a number of security cameras sitting in the trees, some of them conveniently located to catch the license plates on your car.

So apparently Bob is not as trusting as his sign would leave one to believe.

Bob’s is a great place.  Hubby looks forward to our trip to Bob’s every year.  He roams around from one huge pile of pumpkins to the next, trying to decide between them.  “They’re all so beautiful!” he says.  (Obviously, orange is Hubby’s favorite color.)  Of course, we never leave with just one.  Usually we have our dog in the back seat (he needs a pumpkin outing too) so Hubby is limited to how many king-sized pumpkins he can fit in the trunk.  He thinks the dog should be able to share his seat with a pumpkin.  I put my foot down on this.  The dog is 95 pounds.  He needs the whole seat.  (I also refuse to carry a pumpkin on my lap all the way home.)

By the way – in case you’re wondering – yes, we do carve a few of them.  Our neighbor lady comes over (brings her own pumpkin) and we have a little carving party, during which Hubby reads “The Great Pumpkin” by Charles Schulz.  It’s another wacky part of our pumpkin tradition.

But mostly, all those pumpkins just adorn the outside of our house.  When they start to soften we move them under the trees or back into the compost pile, where the wild critters have come to depend upon them for winter food.  Every time the weather warms up enough for the fruits to thaw, you see squirrels sitting on top of the pumpkins, eating handfuls of orange.

yummy

Some people may think this pumpkin obsession of Hubby’s is a bit out of control.  But it doesn’t bother me.  Pumpkins make Hubby happy.  Besides, I’m hardly a stranger to obsessive behavior myself (see My Family Intervention).  The year I ordered well over 2,000 flower bulbs, Hubby helped me plant them.  He never complained and he hauls stuff around the garden for me all the time.  I figure what comes around goes around… I don’t complain about his pumpkins.

There was, however, that one year when the neighbors did (The Great Pumpkin Patch).  But given some of the crazy things our neighbors have done, I have no worries.  Like I said, I love our neighborhood.

Isn’t this what makes life so much fun?  Happy Halloween everyone!


Dad Is Watching

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Sometimes I feel like I’m surrounded by ignorant people.  Sometimes being this morning, actually.

Logically, I know it’s not true.  In truth, I don’t think I’ve ever even met an ignorant person, so how could I be surrounded by them?  We all have subjects which we’re ignorant of, but that’s not the same thing as someone who is ignorant.  Plus, our definitions of intelligence are 1) subjective, and 2) frequently prejudiced.

No, being surrounded by ignorant people is only a feeling I get, born out of frustration during those times when I don’t get the co-operation I think I should, from people whose co-operation I need.  (Usually, it has to do with things like: doctors who don’t listen to what I’m saying or who don’t treat my family members with that same courtesy, contractors who take advantage of my ignorance and do a lousy job, etc.)

I’m sometimes told my own judgment could be suspect in these cases.  Or, as Hubby would so aptly put it, “You just get upset when people don’t see things your way.”  (aka: too controlling).  Leave it to Hubby to tell me the truth.  (“Ha!” she answers defiantly.)  This was the case last night (and again this morning) when I expressed frustration with the “ignorant” someone who frustrated me.

There’s just enough little girl in me to wish my dad was still here.  If Dad was here, he’d know what to do.  I’ll never forget when I was in my early twenties and I made some derogatory remarks to my Dad about one of his friends…

My parents were part of a coffee clutch that met at a local restaurant.  It was a fairly large group – probably 15 or more people – and several hours every morning the members would drift in and out of the restaurant, sit at a long table, eat breakfast and chat with each other before they had to leave for their jobs.

I was a college student at the time, and sometimes ate breakfast with the clutch before I went to classes, always finding it interesting how diverse my parents friends were.

There was the beautician who owned the beauty shop next door to the restaurant.  She’d stop in around 9 a.m., order coffee and dry toast and spread local gossip she’d hear from her customers.

There was the manager of the hardware store… a disgruntled fellow who came (and went) early, since his store was clear across town and traffic could get bad.  And the high school teacher, who ran into job trouble when the school district found out he was gay (this was back when “coming out of the closet” wasn’t fashionable).

I remember one fellow who was quite handsome.  He had exquisite Greek features, attractively styled hair just barely frosted with gray, and he was always impeccably dressed.  He was the owner of a men’s clothing store, my dad bought many of his expensive office suits from that man.  Rumor had it that he had a penchant for cheating on his wife.

As for my dad, he was an executive for –  now that I look back onto it – probably one of the largest employers in the area.  A national corporation whose headquarters were in Stamford, Connecticut.

This coffee clutch was, basically, an interesting representation of the townspeople.  They ranged in age from thirties to retired, women and men alike with varied livelihoods, interests, religion, and political opinions.  I loved being a part of the clutch whenever my schedule permitted it.

One of the clutch members, however, was someone I really looked down onHis name was Al and he was a retired farmer who lived on the outskirts of town.  To fill his time he did odd jobs for friends and family.

At the time, my dad was a controller.  (No, that is not a description of his personality… it’s the title of a top managerial financial person, responsible for all the financial/accounting related activities within an organization.)  A numbers man.

When our back yard fence needed repair, or the garage door opener jammed up, Dad would try his darndest to fix these things, but mechanic’s was definitely not his forte.  His fingers worked fine on a calculator but when it came to home repair, he was all thumbs.  Instead, he came to rely on Al.

To look at Al was to look at the stereotype of the typical “backwoods” farmer.  He wore denim bib overalls, long-sleeved shirts and dirt encrusted work boots.  He drove a small, dented pickup truck.  His thinning gray hair always looked like it needed to be trimmed.  He had a missing tooth and a rough, grizzled manner.

I thought Al was the most poor, worthless, uneducated man I’d ever met.  As I said, I was college age.  (We all remember how “smart” we were at that age, right?)  I don’t remember exactly what my disparaging remark about Al was, but I do know it included the words “dumb” and “poor”.  My dad became very angry.

“Al has more money than any of us up at that restaurant,” he said.

My eyes grew wide in surprise as Dad went on to explain.  Turns out that – in exchange for fixing things around our house – Dad did Al’s taxes and helped him with his accounting.  Something I hadn’t known.  Al had no college degree, but he was a savvy, shrewd business man who, as a result, was very wealthy.

He knew what his area of expertise was and he knew how to capitalize on it.  So much for “ignorant”!

After Dad “educated” me, I was more respectful of Al.  Money talks, I suppose, but mostly it was because I saw my dad as a smart man, so if Dad thought Al was smart, then he must be, and I had judged prematurely.

So here’s the thing about dealing with “ignorant” people… do we get upset because people disrespect us?  Or do they know something we don’t?  Certainly you need co-operation (or at the very least, explanation!) when it comes to people you receive services from.  Such as doctors.  (My source of irritancy was a doctor, of course.  I should qualify here that I have a profound distrust of doctors.  My paranoia of them is probably deserving of some serious therapy.)

Well, I can’t quite let go of my frustration yet.  But I am willing to take a step back and try not to control the situation every time I step into a doctor’s office.  To admit that I could be reacting more to how I think the doctor perceives me than I am to why we went there in the first place.  After all, it’s at least a possibility he may actually know what he’s talking about (that’s cheeky, isn’t it?).

It’s practically impossible to know what someone else thinks of you, and dangerous to base your reactions on what you think those opinions might be.  I have no idea what knowledge or experience that doctor has had that, added to my own experiences, lead to our lack of communication.  What kind of a day he had or  what his emotional, spiritual, or physical state was at that moment.  What I do know is that I doubtless could’ve gotten more co-operation if I’d handled it better.  Tried a different approach, instead of just reacting from expectation.

That’s the danger of letting others define us.  That’s the danger of defining others.

My dad’s not here to set me straight anymore, so I have to figure these things out without him.  But I like to think that God has appointed Dad to keep an eye on me.  To help me, by bringing to light memories from our past.  I think of my dad as more of a disciplinarian than I do God, so that thought may not be enough to always keep me from reacting first and thinking later…  but it is enough to give me pause.

After all, it’s not just a loving, forgiving God watching over me.  Dad might be watching too.


Options

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I recently read on Yahoo that cable TV was on its way out.  It’s days were numbered, being replaced with the option of buying only the channels you wanted to watch and downloading them onto your TV or computer devices.  Internet-delivery TV they call it.  It sounds complicated to a non-techie like me, but I’m all for learning about ways to cut my 3-digit cable bill.  The light at the end of the tunnel.  Definitely something to look into.

One thing I can’t wrap my mind around though, is downloading a movie and watching it on your carry devices.  Like a cell phone, or even something like an I-Pad.  I don’t really understand why the same consumers that buy big-screen TV’s for their living rooms would also watch a movie on a device that’s smaller than a child’s shoe.

But that’s the world of options.  And isn’t having options just the grandest thing ever?  In the world of options, “little” and “big” are important words.

Life is like that too, don’t you think?  We have so many options from the time we’re born to the time we die.  Big options that affect every other moment of our lives, and those options that have little impact.

Do we live life safe, in a little box?  Or take a bigger, riskier step, and put ourselves out there?  One isn’t necessarily better than the other, it depends on the situation and what you need, or what you want.  It’s those options again.

I remember when I was planning a trip for my family to go see Niagara Falls.  Hubby (who is far more well-traveled than I) had seen Niagara Falls before, and told me not to expect too much, because the Falls were “just okay”, but that if I wanted to see something really spectacular, I needed to go out west and see the Grand Canyon.  Compared to the Canyon, he said, the Falls were just mediocre.  His insistence, of course, had the opposite effect and I could muster no desire at all to see the Grand Canyon.

Then when I saw Niagara Falls, I thought What is he talking about?  These are incredible!

They were.  Unbelievably gorgeous.  And BIG!  Maybe it’s because of my low travel quotient and lack of experiences, but I was terribly impressed.  Which got me to thinking… if he thinks this is “just okay”, then what must the Grand Canyon be like?

So now we’re planning a trip out west for next year.  To see some REALLY BIG things, like the Grand Canyon.  And the redwood trees.  Plus, something I’ve dreamed about seeing for some time now.  Something that was once available for all of mankind to see, and now is seen by only a small percentage.  Something that I can remember seeing when I was little, but haven’t seen in a long time.  Something that it’s estimated eight out of every ten people born today – 80%! – will never be able to see.

A truly dark, starry night sky.

In the definition of “BIG”, NOTHING is bigger than seeing the Milky Way and thousands and thousands of stars.  Are you old enough to remember how the night sky was so immense and lit with stars, from horizon to horizon, that to gaze at it gave you vertigo, and you had to close your eyes from feeling you were falling off the earth?

Thanks to artificial lighting and population growth, there are very few places left in the United States to look up and see the Milky Way.  We are not alone in this, the rest of the world is in the same shape we are, and those places where there is still natural darkness will soon be full of light.

Luckily, this is another one of those options we’re always given.  It’s easily within our power to change back to being able to see the night sky, before the generation that remembers it is gone, and the remaining generations don’t even realize there’s anything to miss.  A gift we could give our ancestors.

And all we have to do is turn off the lights.


Light of the Moon – Theology or Science?

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Article’s about last night’s total “blood moon” lunar eclipse (where the red part of light is cast onto the moon’s surface) evoked all kinds of comments about science versus religion.  “Light”, of course, being a BIG word in both circles.   I got to wondering, how many times does the word light appear in the bible?  So I looked it up.

Using the bible and an online Christian reference*, here are the results:

Light appears 272 times.  This includes both the Old and New Testament, but does not include variations of light (Lighted, Lighting, Daylight, etc.)

To gain a comparison of its usage and importance, I looked up these other words (again, this does not include variations):

Faith appears 247 times.

Wisdom – 234 times.

Grace – 170 times.

Joy – 165 times.

Salvation – 164 times.

Believe –  143 times.

Forgive – 56 times.

Redemption – 20 times.

 

Obviously, light is an important word in biblical circles.

Some of these words (specifically: salvation and redemption) were not listed on the Christian reference site I used and I needed to combine information from various avenues.  I suspect that may be because of translation issues.

Light, however, was on every resource I viewed.  No doubt someone could dispute me on this, it was hardly exhaustive research.  Nonetheless, there is no disputing the importance of light in the bible, and given our nature of always looking for answers, is it any wonder we’re all fascinated with it?

Light was right up there, comparable or only slightly under some heavy hitting words.  Like:

Pray (313 times), Love (310 times), Covenant (292 times).

The really Big Words?  The one’s that were literally off the charts in distance from all the rest?  No surprise there:

Jesus – 983 times, (all in the New Testament).

God – 4,444 times.

Lord – 7,946 times.

 

Much of the time, when the word light appears in the bible, it is referring to God’s light inside of us.  As in:

  • In Him was life; and the life was the light of men.
  • … arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
  • The spirit of man [is] the candle of the LORD.
  • …thy whole body also is full of light.
  • … for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb [is] the light thereof.
  • For God… hath shined in our hearts, to [give] the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.
  • Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
  • He knoweth what [is] in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with Him.

 

It’s not hard to think that perhaps light is an integral part of God’s nature, and perhaps even is One with the Holy Spirit, as well as part of our own nature and the natural laws of the universe.

For the record, the words:

Holy Spirit appears 7 times (3 times in the Old Testament and 4 times in the New Testament).

Holy Ghost appears 89 times, in the New Testament only.

 

Might it be that a quest to understand light could really just be the Holy Spirit within, driving us ever closer to understanding the nature of God?

Then again: how did we get here; do we have a purpose; where are we going… isn’t this also a quest that we’re all on?   Whether we consciously state it in those terms, doesn’t everyone ponder the Big questions in life?

And given how physically we respond to light, and that every cell in our body has light receptors (see: Clocking The Light), could it be that both scientist and theologian are just using different protocols to study the same thing?

Just saying…

 

 

Note:  Translating the biblical manuscripts is difficult.  Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic usage differs from English in grammar and structure, so there is no definitive translation.  Also, the number of times the word light (and its derivatives) appear in the bible depends on which bible version you are using.  For the sake of this article, I used the King James (KJV) version.  The KJV was translated by the combined efforts of approximately 50 scholars and all scripture quotes are in the public domain.

 

 

* Noncommercial Educational or Religious Publications

Except for Bible quotes and images,  the materials posted at The Christian Bible Reference Site may be quoted or reproduced in any form (written, visual, electronic or audio, including translations into other languages), without further permission, for noncommercial educational or religious purposes (examples: home, church, school, Sunday school, CCD, or Bible study classes.) “Noncommercial” means the publication is distributed free and contains no paid advertising.

This notice of copyright must appear adjacent to the quote or image , or in a footnote, or on the title or copyright page of the publication: “Copyright © by Cliff Leitch, The Christian Bible Reference Site, http://www.ChristianBibleReference.org. Used by permission.

(Re: usage of light in the Bible.)


Mr. Romantic

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Hubby and I just celebrated our 22nd wedding anniversary together.  We celebrated by painting the kitchen window and front door (one of those shades of white).

As of this post, it’s already been two days since our anniversary, which means I can no longer remember whether we even went out to dinner or anything.  We may have had Taco Bell.

Friends and family wished us a happy anniversary on FB, and we were tagged in one of our wedding photos which showed up online.  (That’s me in my Kelly green wedding dress.)

All in all, it was more fanfare than I usually think to give to our anniversary.

It’s not that I’m not happy with Hubby.  I am.  Very.  I think we have true love.

People tell me I’m lucky to have a husband like him and I think they’re right.  He is, after all:  handsome, friendly, kind, forgiving, and lenient.  That may seem like a strange list of attributes for the perfect husband, but personally I think that’s the right kind of man to have.  (If you had to live with me you’d probably tack on a few more of those “lenient”.)

And then there are those poppy-blue colored eyes….. sigh.  But when it comes to romance, we are complete opposites.

I can only take so much of all that mush.  Hubby, on the other hand, is over the top.

I’m glad I have a husband who remembers every anniversary, birthday, first date, etc.  I’ve heard plenty of stories from women who would give anything to have a man who brings them flowers regularly, wants to hold their hand wherever they go, tells them they’re beautiful when they’re wearing paint splattered clothes or haven’t brushed their teeth yet.  (Hubby does all of those things.)  But a little goes a long way for me.

I try to think more romantically for him.  It ain’t easy.

Like, once, we were in the bookstore and I saw him reading a book about putting more romance in your life (as if!).  A few days later I was drinking an iced tea when something caught in my throat.  I started choking, and up came a little piece of paper.

“What the hell is this?”  I said.

“Read it,” he replied.

So I did.  I don’t remember what it said, but the gist was that Hubby had frozen little love notes in the ice cube tray.  Something he’d read in that fool book.  He had that tender look of love in his eyes and expectant smile on his lips.  I think I was supposed to tell him how romantic that was.  Instead I belted out – “You could’ve killed me!” – then spent the next half hour apologizing and trying to sooth his hurt feelings.

There was the Easter season that Hubby hid a dozen long-stemmed carnations for me to find.  Instead of an Easter egg hunt, it was a flower hunt.  (Okay.  I have to confess.  I kind of liked that one.)  Still, I would’ve been just as happy with one green egg.

Luckily, I have to say, that after 22 years he’s gotten used to me.  So on our anniversary I was getting the supplies together for us to paint.  I was annoyed because he was procrastinating, wanting to spend a few minutes time going down memory lane and talking about our wedding.

“You know,” he said.  “I’m so glad we got married.  I’m totally happy with you.”

“Well, whoop-de-do,” I replied.  “Let’s get this window done.”

He laughed and we got down to work.  Later, when we were sitting at the table surveying our handiwork, my earlier response seemed funny to me too and I thought about writing this post.

I knew Hubby never signed on to our computer.  I don’t think he knows how.  He doesn’t read my blog.  He doesn’t have a FB account.  He doesn’t text.  Computers aren’t really a big part of his life.  As far as his days are concerned, what happens online isn’t part of the real world.

Still, our family and friends ARE online.  They can see what I write about him.  I wondered if I was being fair to him, or doing something he’d rather I didn’t do.  If that was the case, I’d respect his wishes.  So I asked him.

“Now that I write that blog I find I put a lot of our conversations into my posts,” I said.  “You’ve become one of my favorite subject matters.”

“Uh-huh.”  He stood to go into the other room.

“How do you feel about that?” I asked.

“Whoop-de-do,” he answered, as he disappeared from view.

Ah… true love.


Who Is The Kumquat Thief?

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The bitter cold and weak light of an Illinois winter make growing a kumquat tree outdoors an impossibility.  Indoors, it’s not easy either.  Especially if there’s a thief in your house.

If you’ve ever tasted a kumquat, you’d know why I grew one.

I fell in love with the fruit when I traveled to Florida one year, and a relative of mine picked one off the kumquat tree he had growing in his yard.  He handed it to me and instructed “eat the whole fruit, skin and all.”

It was instant love at first bite.  Unfortunately, despite the wonderful sweet/sour taste of the fresh fruit, there’s not a lot of kumquat shipping going on.

I don’t get it.  You can buy Florida oranges, Texas grapefruit, Costa Rican pineapples, Honduran bananas, kiwis from New Zealand, and Mexican avocados.  But try and find kumquats at your local grocer.  It’s a rare day in January when you’ll find one.

So it came about that one year I bought a kumquat tree from a nursery that assured me the citrus was hardier than most and could be grown successfully indoors in my zone 5 habitat.

For three years I nursed that tree.  It wasn’t easy.

Our summer takes too long to get hot, and turns cold too quickly.  Normally flowering in spring, forming fruit in summer, and ripening in early winter… my kumquat barely had time to set flower outdoors before it was time for me to carry it back inside.

All those websites and catalogs that tell you it’s easy to grow kumquats inside in the frozen north are either 1) unintentionally ignorant, or 2) flat out lying so you’ll buy a tree from them.

Kumquats need heat for the fruit to ripen.  Try getting heat next to a sunny window when it’s 10 degrees below zero outside.  Speaking of that sunny window… kumquats need light.  Warm, bright light.  My winter light shining in a full sun window is still too weak.

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Not to be daunted, I re-arranged my office, the brightest room in my house.  I turned the whole room into a mini-greenhouse and set the kumquat as close to the window as possible, catching what little sun rays it could.

I adorned my office with artificial light.

I researched the plants native habitat and fruit production schedules and set the plant lights on a timer, designed to imitate the amount of light required for optimum fruit production.

To protect it from the cold near the window, I enclosed the whole shelving unit in plastic sheeting.  Of course, dry heat from a furnace comes nowhere near the humidity needs of tropical fruit, so I had to set up a humidifier within my tiny office as well.  And, what the heck, I added a bunch of my other house plants to the locale, which not only helped them, but also created additional humidity for my kumquat.

You couldn’t come into the room without skirting the equipment and plants.  As my office faces the street, the lights from my windows lit up the whole block.  My neighbors commented that they didn’t need to turn on their porch lights anymore.  The light leaked into their homes in the evenings.  Did it lower their electric bill?  I wonder.

I had a trick-or-treater ask why I had a bright “jungle” on the side of my house and I suspect we were the subject of many Halloween stories… at least by the parents.

I’m not even going to begin to tell you how much this all cost.

Finally, after several years of this insane behavior, I found – to my delight – that my kumquat held twelve little orange globes.  I was thrilled.  A dozen kumquats isn’t much (they are a bit larger in size than a grape).  Those twelve kumquats would’ve been just one or two snacks, actually.  But did I care?  No!  I was one happy gardener.

Patiently, I waited for the fruits to ripen.  Every few days I would check on them, smacking my lips in anticipation.

Then one day, I noticed something funny.  Something had changed.  I counted the fruits, and two of them were missing.

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“Two of my kumquats are missing,” I said to Hubby.  “Did you eat them?”  There was an accusatory tone in my voice.

Hubby denied responsibility.  I could only assume that I had counted wrong.  After that, though, I kept closer watch.  The next week passed and all seemed fine.  I began to relax again.

Then, inexplicably, another one disappeared.

I confronted Hubby.  “There are only nine kumquats on my tree,” I said.  I didn’t need to say more, my combative stance and expression said it all.

Alarm lit up his face.  He lifted his palms, facing me, signaling me to stop, and swore up and down that he had nothing to do with it.  I had no proof and it seemed out of character for him to steal my fruits, but I couldn’t see how else it had happened.  Sylvester, our dog, didn’t like going into the office because of the crowded set-up and humidifier.  Plus, he’s a dog…  kumquats (especially unripe ones) are kind of sour.  He liked to have a bite of banana whenever we did, but he was really a meat and potatoes sort of a guy.

After that, I became obsessed with counting the kumquats every day.  Every so often another one would mysteriously disappear, so I began to watch the office door like a hawk, but I never caught anyone doing the deed.

Then, one day, I caught him.

He thought I wouldn’t see him, engrossed as I was in my book.  He passed the outskirts of the hall silently, moving covertly and sticking close to the wall, hanging his head low so I wouldn’t notice him out of the corner of my eye.

He slipped into the office and disappeared from view.

I popped up from my chair and ran to the office, just in time to catch him with a kumquat on his treacherous lips.

“Wait!” I cried.  His eyes grew wide and he ran past me and took off for the other side of the house, where I found him hiding behind the bed.

I was shocked.

But as much as I loved my kumquat tree, I love my dog more.  And how could I blame him?  Kumquats are the most glorious fruit, and I suspect he knew he’d never get any offered to him.  So I forgave Sylvester his trespasses.

That night, when Hubby came home, I told him what had happened.  Of course he took Sylvester’s side, as I knew (and Sylvester knew) that he would.

Sylvester watched as I set up a barricade to the office, protecting the remaining five kumquats.  When they finally ripened, I gave Hubby two and I ate the remaining three.

Sylvester watched us eat them, longing shining from his big, brown eyes.  I almost relented and gave him one, but then I didn’t.  Hubby gave one of his to Sylvester, and the kumquat story has come to epitomize some of the craziness I sometimes go through for plants.  We talk about it with humor.

Oh, the tree?  Despite all the artificial light, summer wasn’t enough to repair the damage caused by yet another winter indoors – It died the following year.  The neighbors were thrilled – no doubt Sylvester was disappointed.


People Fall for NYTimes’ Fake Hacking Story of 1.2B Stolen Passwords

If you don’t want to read all this post, at least scroll down and read the last two paragraphs. Unbelievable!

Engineering Evil

Friday, 08 August 2014

On August 5th, the NY Times published a story titled “Russian Hackers Amass Over a Billion Internet Passwords ” which was, in fact, a “Native Advertising” venture between this once respected newspaper and a relatively new computer company identified as Hold Security founded last year in Wisconsin by Alex Holden.

“Native Advertising”, is an online advertising method in which the advertiser attempts to gain attention by providing content in the context of the user’s experience. Native ad formats match both the form and function of the user experience in which they are placed.

The word “native” is used to refer to the formatting of the advertising materials to make them appear more consistent with other media in the recipient’s universe. In other words, paid advertisement is presented as “news”, even though it isn’t.

The New York Times began their “Native Advertising” program this past January, when…

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Now Hear This: Drink Up!

I knew there was a reason I loved coffee!  A new report has come to light!  According to an August 7, 2014 report in Clinicalnews.org, caffeine intake is associated with a lower incidence of tinnitus.  (Say what?)  According to this article, “Researchers observe that women with a higher intake of caffeine had a lower incidence of unexplained ear ringing.”

If you know me personally, then you know this is pretty funny coming from me.  But I’m not laughing (as I turn up the volume on my hearing aids to hear the good news).  Uh-uh.  Coffee is serious business.

coffee

Not only is coffee good for your ears, but apparently it’s good for the rest of what ails you too:

“A study tracking the health and coffee consumption of more than 400,000 older adults for 13 years, and published earlier this year in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that coffee drinkers reduced their risk of dying from heart disease, lung disease, pneumonia, stroke, diabetes, infections, and even injuries and accidents.  (High blood caffeine levels in older adults linked to avoidance of Alzheimer’s disease,  8/5/14, Clinicalnews.org.)

Somebody call my doctor, quick!  He apparently is misinformed into believing that caffeine raises your blood pressure.  Silly man.

The above referenced Alzheimer’s study took place in Tampa, Fl, 6/4/12, (what better place to do it?), a collaboration between researchers from the University of South Florida and the University of Miami.  They found that higher caffeine levels in the blood were associated with avoidance of, and perhaps protection from, developing Alzheimer’s disease.  “Moreover, coffee appeared to be the major or only source of caffeine for these individuals”.

So, what exactly do they mean by “higher blood caffeine levels?”  Well, that’s a good question.

According to the news article:  “These intriguing results suggest that older adults with mild memory impairment who drink moderate levels of coffee — about 3 cups a day — will not convert to Alzheimer’s disease — or at least will experience a substantial delay before converting to Alzheimer’s,” said study lead author Dr. Chuanhai Cao, a neuroscientist at the USF College of Pharmacy (http://health.usf.edu/nocms/pharmacy/) and the USF Health Byrd Alzheimer’s Institute (http://health.usf.edu/nocms/byrd/).

But then later in the article:  “No one with MCI* who later developed Alzheimer’s had initial blood caffeine levels above a critical level of 1200 ng/ml – equivalent to drinking several cups of coffee a few hours before the blood sample was drawn. In contrast, many with stable MCI had blood caffeine levels higher than this critical level.”  (*mild cognitive impairment)

Hmmm… so several cups of coffee is below the critical level?  Then, does “several cups” mean 2 cups?  Because it would have to, wouldn’t it, in order to jive with the statement that 3 cups a day will protect you from the disease?  “… In contrast, many with stable MCI had blood caffeine levels higher than this critical level.”

I don’t know; these statements appearing conflicting to me.  But I’m betting that whatever the “above critical level” is, I’ve got it covered.

This is the problem with news articles.  This one is the journalists attempt to compile summaries of more than one study and cram as many references as possible into it in order to make it accurate and professional.  Or at least appear accurate and professional.  Not this journalists fault, I’m doing the same thing with this post.  But the process does sometimes unintentionally drift into unclear territory.

(As a side note, I have to wonder if anyone’s ever done a study on the link between Alzheimer’s, increased caffeine consumption and Florida’s vehicular crash statistics.)

Nevertheless, the message coming across is consistent.  If you want to head off Alzheimer’s, drink more coffee:

“Moderate daily consumption of caffeinated coffee appears to be the best dietary option for long-term protection against Alzheimer’s memory loss,” Dr. Arendash said. “Coffee is inexpensive, readily available, easily gets into the brain, and has few side-effects for most of us. Moreover, our studies show that caffeine and coffee appear to directly attack the Alzheimer’s disease process.”

And since the study also points out that neurodegenerative diseases (like Alzheimer’s) actually start one or two decades before the symptoms become apparent, the sooner you start drinking that coffee the better.

Hey… I don’t need a light bulb over my head to do that!  I heard that message a long time ago.


Decisions, Decisions…

Many years ago I went to see a hypnotist to quit smoking.  Afterward, an acquaintance commented to me that she’d heard some people were more pre-disposed to suggestions, making them easy subjects for hypnosis.  She herself did not trust hypnotists and would never entertain thoughts of seeing one.  She wasn’t cutting me down, rather she was expressing her own fears about the subject, afraid that that being hypnotized was the same as giving away free reign over her thoughts.

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Actually, contrary to what you see in the movies, hypnosis doesn’t take away your free will or change your morals.  There’s no flashing light or swinging crystal.  You aren’t unconscious; nor are you a gullible, submissive person.  If you wouldn’t normally stand up and take off your clothes in front of someone – just because they suggest it – then you wouldn’t do it under hypnotic suggestion either.

Likewise, if you resist being hypnotized, then you won’t be!  Simple as that.  It’s just a totally relaxed state where you decide to let yourself be open to the suggestion being made.

According to Dr. Ray from Penn State, “… good hypnotic subjects are active problem solvers”.  (Reference: Penn State U website, “Does Hypnosis Work”)  I don’t know about that, I just know that in my case I really, really wanted it to work.

I’d developed asthmatic problems as a result of smoking.  Many attempts to stop on my own had proved unsuccessful.  So I joined a stop-smoking class offered through my place of employment.  The class met for 10 weeks, designed to gradually reduce our number of smokes per day.  I was pinning my hopes on that class.

By the end of the program, the entire group graduated smoke free, but I quit smoking at the very first session.

You see, the very first meeting held a surprise: after initially getting acquainted, the instructor introduced a hypnotist and announced we were going to start the program with a hypnosis session.  It was the only time we were hypnotized during the entire 10 weeks.  Everyone else in class followed the weekly program and quit smoking gradually, but that first day – right after we came “out of hypnosis” – I stood up and threw my cigarettes in the garbage.

Everyone was surprised, including the instructor.  But once I’d learned we were going to experience hypnosis, I made a conscious decision, before we “went under”.

I had decided hypnosis was going to work for me.  It was a decision that drastically changed my health.

So just how do we make these decisions that determine the quality of our lives?  Do our feelings make our decisions for us, or do we consciously decide?

Letting your feelings tell you what path to take is not the same thing as using your feelings to decide your path.  When I decided to let hypnosis work for me, I used my feelings to make that decision.  I desired to quit smoking.  I was terrified of the asthmatic attacks I’d suffered and seriously afraid I couldn’t quit on own.  I was actively seeking help.

But it was a definite decision.  Not a reaction.  I remember consciously thinking I was going to allow myself to be hypnotized and it was going to work.  Come hell or high water.

Three months after the class ended, we had a class reunion to see how we were doing.  With the exception of myself, every one of my classmates had returned to smoking.  Yet, many years later, I am still smoke free.

Oh, that I could solve all my problems so completely!  But in truth, I am painfully aware that many of the things I’ve done (and continue to do) are purely emotional, gut reactions.  Decisions that my feelings make for me, not something that I consciously decide to do.

Sometimes that turns out well, but often it just throws me off kilter.  Or at the very least, just keeps me in my “comfort zone”, even if that zone is actually uncomfortable for me, it’s less stressful than facing what I don’t know.

What I can say is that most of the best things I’ve done in my life have been the result of decisions consciously made, not reactions.  Like quitting smoking, deciding to stay married (see How Walter Matthau Saved My Marriage), or changing jobs.

My best decision?  Choosing to become a Christian: Light Gets In Your Eyes.

(You knew I was coming around to the “God part” sooner or later… right?  I can’t help it.  “I yam who I yam.”)

popeye-yam-spin1

I’m one person, and we all have different strengths and ways of choosing the paths we take.  I’d love to hear from others and hear how they’ve made the decisions in their life, what has determined the paths they’ve chosen.

So what about you?  How do you make your decisions?

One of the most amazing things I’ve learned about blogging is how international it is.  My feedback stats tell me how many readers my blog gets every day, and it never ceases to amaze me when I see the myriad countries from which my readers hail.  We all truly are an international community.

So, please, feel free to comment and share.  Bring to light your brightest and darkest decisions with us.  Anonymously if you prefer.  It may look like no one cares, but actually, we’re listening.


Not In My Backyard

For years we’ve all heard that one of the biggest future issues will be fighting over water.  Water, the experts tell us, will be in short supply.

When I first read that, I remember thinking how awful it will be for people if they don’t have enough water.  But of course you never think it will be you in that situation.  You think of places like Africa.  Until suddenly, you’re in a meeting room with over 1,000 other angry people, fighting over your water rights.

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I recall a conversation I had with someone regarding how they felt about unwanted real estate ventures coming to their community.  Such as low income housing, factories, strip malls and bars.  These kinds of ventures always create uproar from residents that worry about things like property values, light and noise pollution, traffic increases or increased crime.

My conversational pal grew up someplace different than I did.  He had seen terrible poverty before (although he didn’t personally experience it), and his impression was that the low income housing being considered in his community didn’t really qualify as poor.

He’s right, of course.  Poor is defined differently by different people, and their fear levels are accordingly different, depending upon what they’ve experienced in their lifetime.  It’s difficult to object to housing that you don’t see as markedly different from the community at large.

In referring to the people that opposed the development, he said, “I’m not one of those kind of people”.  I took his meaning to be that he wasn’t a snob, or greedy, or someone who looked down on those less fortunate.

Well, he’s not a snob.  I’ve known him quite a while, and I’ve never know him to be anything but compassionate and caring for others welfare.  And I have to say, I agree with him.  In theory.

In practice it’s another story.

We humans fight over who gets to live next door because we are scared of losing our safety.  We’re trying to protect ourselves.  Or, in the case of the angry meeting I referred to in the beginning of this post, because we don’t want a power plant to come into our neighborhood and draw 2,000 gallons of water a minute from our already endangered water supply.

Protection comes in many forms.  It’s not just physical protection: like for your kids from the bully at school, or from break-in’s, crime, and gangs.  There’s the protection we need for our health as well.  Protection of basic supplies (like water).  And like it or not, we also need financial protection in this life.

Fear of losing your financial security isn’t greed.  It stems from our instincts of survival.  Lose the property value in your home and maybe you can’t afford to move when you need to.  If you’re young enough, you could take a loss on the house and maybe recoup down the road, although it will still be tough on you and your family.  But what if you’re almost ready to retire and plan on moving when you do?  Or a family crisis necessitates a move?  Then, suddenly, you’re stuck with a house that no one wants, next to a power plant.

House payments are not like paying rent… you can’t just break your lease and move on.  Renege on your mortgage and it will affect your ability to buy (or even rent) someplace else.  It severely impacts your life.

The problem with making blanket statements against the “not in my backyard” mentality is that it places a moral value on an issue that rarely has any relation to the assumed morality.  People oppose things like power plants and low-income housing, not because they are snobs, but because they are afraid.  Maybe they have good reason to be afraid, and maybe they don’t.  But it’s fear that’s driving them, not greed.

What wouldn’t you do to protect your family from perceived harm, real or imagined?

Every level of income feels the same way.  The family living in that low-income housing is just as concerned about who (or what) moves in next door as the wealthy man is.  Especially if they’ve pulled themselves up by their bootstraps.  No one wants to lose financial ground.  Everyone wants to feel safe.

My pal, and many like him, could afford the high moral road… the housing/power plant/bar wasn’t being built in his backyard.  It wasn’t even being built across the street, or behind the yard behind his back neighbor.  The more streets there are between where you live and the proposed building site, the more moral you can afford to become.

But what if it was?  If the proposed site was right across the street from his kids school playground, or the traffic and pollution would necessitate his keeping his windows closed, or the realtor can’t find people willing to even look at his house now – I wonder – would he stick to his morals?

Given the choice between protecting his family or keeping his morals, I suspect he’d put his morals on the shelf.

In a perfect world, we’d all be safe.  The wolf would live with the lamb (Isaiah 11:6), there would be no hunger or thirst, and we’d all live peacefully together.  But we don’t live in that world yet.  The world we live in is over-crowded, with limited resources.  That’s our reality.

Instead of pointing fingers, I think we would be better served to remember that, in the end, our morals are only useful to us when we ourselves are prepared to live with their consequences, not just impose them on others.

In our over populated world, these conflicts of space and resources are unavoidable.  Power plants have to be sited somewhere; people of all income levels have to live someplace.  Someone’s going to win and someone’s going to lose.

These are issues that we can’t avoid, so let’s at least try to be kinder with each other, and leave the moral judgements to God.