Weed Whacking In Winter

Those of your staring out your window at bare trees, a brown lawn and leaden sky…don’t read any further. The rest of you may carry on.

I got the bug to pull weeds today, after Small Business Saturday shopping ’til I dropped. But I wasn’t pulling just any weeds. It’s a three-foot by six-foot patch of oyster plant, an invasive species that’s still used as ornamental ground cover here, because it thrives where other plants don’t,


Wishful thinking.

but has a tendency to grow Teflon©-tough roots and take out anything living in its path. This plant is considered a pest in Australia, and I wish we felt the same about it here. You pull out one plant, and find roots for a dozen more. I worked for an hour and removed about a third of the spread, filling three large trash bags. I will owe The Husband at least another box of those. Filling them was the easy part; I will pay for my foolishness next week, when I have to drag them to the end of the driveway for pickup.

Why was I removing this plant pest, when leaving it would be easier? I planted tomatoes (twice, since heavy rain pounded my first plant into sad submission), Brussels sprouts and broccoli. They are thriving, so I figure I have another green thumb to spare.   Not sure what will go there, since it is only partial sun and backs up to the fence line. My state planting guide lists a lot of possibilities, but it always boils down to what we’re willing to eat and how we protect the crop from critters. A trip to the garden center or farmer’s market plant dude is in my future, though living off our land certainly isn’t. What we grow would not feed us for two days, never mind a whole season. Round 2 of the whack-a-weed game is tomorrow. Stay tuned.


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Filed under cooking, food, gardening

The (Em)power(ment) of tools


I prevail over the power tools.

I fixed the weed whacker yesterday. I did break it first, so I guess I deserved to figure out how to repair it.

But that’s not the point. I was determined not to come inside for dinner until I had that thing running and eating weeds again. I had to reverse that position temporarily and go to a YouTube video, however. I needed directions for fixing the thing, since none were available on the whacker or in our file. The Husband is usually good about keeping these papers, but somehow, this one never made it to its proper place among the thousands of pieces of paper we have for things we no longer own.

I found a video of an old guy showing his daughter how to fix the threading mechanism on the head. I was trying so hard to figure it out myself, I was losing time and daylight. Watch video, go outside, pick up whacker, press head tabs and off came the plastic casing. Re-thread, replace and mow down those pesky weeds along the fence line.

I understand why power tools mean so much to the (mostly) men who buy them, hang them in the garage or workshop and show the stink eye to anyone who dares touch them. It’s not really about the actual work you do with them. It’s mastering the art of having them and the ability to fix things and make life better, nicer, cleaner and more efficient. I feel the same way about the baking tools and cooking equipment in my kitchen and pantry. I don’t use much of it often, but woe to anyone daring to suggest I could donate or sell any of it. It’s not about actual use; it’s about bragging rights when you have three pasta machines, twelve professional knives (one of them custom), six cutting boards, five cooling racks and an ungodly number of baking pans and sheets. Plus a chinois, mandoline, marble tempering slab, two grinders and three food processors. That’s not overkill, that’s culinary empowerment.

I hoped to continue my power tool prowess today, but at the moment, it’s raining out there. I’ll head to the kitchen to make dinner – stir fry chicken with vegetable and rice (made in a rice cooker…what else?)

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Filed under technology, home improvement, cooking, consumer products

Hair, Hair Everywhere It’s Not Wanted

I was commiserating with a fellow swimmer this morning, discussing the ravages of old age. The aches and pains needing ice and/or heat, odd bumps, strange bruises and hurts that take longer to heal than they used to. The need for a day off from training, longer warm ups and shorter races. Mind you, I am looking at age 60 and my fellow swimmer is in his mid-seventies. So he gets the old age thing better than I do, even though he looks  good and competes like nobody’s business. And he reminded me that I was just a young ‘un with a long way to go.

I’d like to add another freak factor to this aging conundrum. It’s hair. Specifically, hair in the wrong places. My eyebrows have thinned, and I am finding those lost hairs in my nose. My face needs constant attention to main


Hair, hair out to there.

tain a baby-smooth countenance. I gave up on my arms, since waxing thinned the skin to the point of bruising when I touched a protruding shelf or open drawer. If you want to know about my legs and beyond…well, no, you really don’t. Just know that the cost of personal body maintenance exceeds the cost of keeping my car on the road.

I blame this hairy situation on genetics. If there’s one thing my family counts on, it’s good hair, though like most people, we prefer it on our heads. My family tree is covered with mostly thick, curly, dark, wavy hair, though a few straight-haired people show up on a branch now and then. We are the kind of people who keep spas, salons and dermatologists happy and wealthy as they fight and defeat our unwanted follicles.

Getting older could be much worse. I could be deceased and miss the process completely. Or disabled by pain and physical immobility, and go through it minus the joys. And speaking of joys, I need to check on my supply of shampoo and conditioner. If I’m going to have hair, it has to be clean.

An update on my quest for 50 Races In 50 States: Louisiana is completed. I am planning to run in four states next year: Colorado, New York, Maryland and Pennsylvania.


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Filed under Aging, family, health and beauty, Relationships, shampoo

Love, Peanut Butter, Bucket List

The competitive swimming list is complete. I entered and swam the 400 IM at my most recent swim meet, which means I’ve done all the events from the 25s to the mile in yards, long or short course meters, and many of them I’ve done at all three distances. I’ve done the 5K swim (my 10K attempt ended with Hurricane Irma’s arrival). That does not mean I’m done swimming, only that I need a new


Make new friends, see new places, one state at a time.


I’ve decided to start the “Old Is A Four-Letter Word” Tour. No, I’m not heading out as a Rolling Stones groupie. My goal is to race once in all 50 states. The type of race – a 5K, 10K, swim meet, bike event or triathlon – is immaterial. I have to pick one and do it once in every state. Aside from Florida, I have Massachusetts and Delaware done. Next up is Louisiana, piggybacked onto a car club event. Next year: Colorado (the Cherry Creek Sneak in mid-April looks like fun) and the Maryland/D.C. area (too many to count, but the Fort McHenry Tunnel Run is interesting). I have family in both places, so there’s my other excuse to go.

Why bother to do this? Why train, eat right and deal with travel and packing and all the details? The adult in me knows better, but the kid in me wants something more. Because keeping the body good and the brain active requires regular workouts. I’ve said this before: I don’t want to be the old rocking-chair type, waiting for Death to stop by and pick me up for that final ride to whatever is waiting after this life ends. If I’m going (and at this stage, I am more than halfway there), then I’ll meet Fate head-on, no cane, walker or wheelchair at hand. I’d rather go out on my bike, or with my running shoes tied tight, than age away slowly.

In case you’re wondering, my doctor has no idea about my new plans. I see him before the end of the year, and I’ll try to explain it to him. Not planning on asking his permission. Just planning to let him know what I’ve decided. It’s an ambitious plan for an (almost) 60-year-old. And don’t ask me how I’ll manage Alaska and Hawaii yet.  For now, I’m thinking of stocking up on peanut butter and getting a T-shirt to wear in honor of this quest. Printed on it: “I’m running through 50 states. This might take a while.”

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Filed under Aging, athletic competition, Exercise, Running, Swimming, Triathlons, vacation

A better idea for Veteran’s Day

Amidst the backlash, bombast and brouhaha that’s brewing in this country and the NFL regarding standing versus kneeling during the national anthem,  there is yet one more topic of discussion: the idea of a viewer afootvallnd attendance boycott over the upcoming Veteran’s Day weekend. The boycott organizers urge fans not to attend, watch, listen or stream games, not to purchase gear or interact with the National Football League in any way on Sunday, November 12. The boycott page has attracted some interest from a few thousand people and a lot of Likes. Then again, anything that screams “I’m a patriot!” (the American revolutionary kind, as opposed to the New England football team mascot) is going to get attention.

Is this the right kind of reaction? Is kneeling for the national anthem the right kind of reaction? Does either one accomplish a real purpose? In the sense that we can and we do have the opportunity to express our beliefs freely here, there is a purpose. In the sense that we continue all the conversations when our president prefers it to be only one-sided, shutting out any dissent or alternative discourse, the is a purpose. At some point, when attention to this situation wanes and other news relegates it to background noise, we’ll stop giving it so much press and cease caring about it more than nuclear proliferation, starvation, mass shootings and the multiple natural disasters of the last few weeks.

But here’s a better idea. Ask a veteran what they think about this. If you don’t know one, go to your local VA hospital, nursing home, halfway house or senior center. Plenty of vets in these places. Plenty of televisions, too. Offer to sit with a vet on November 12, and listen to their stories and sorrows. Maybe those old soldiers and sailors, those Marines and pilots and gunners can teach you something.  Bring some snacks and a little patience. These folks are slowed by time but worthy of yours. And they just may decide that the whole boycott idea is hooey, because they earned respect and honor without anyone standing up for them before now.

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Filed under Aging, Current news, football, Holiday, National Football League, television, Veteran's Day

It’s True: I Read Playboy for the Articles

imagesHugh Hefner, the publisher of Playboy, died at age 91 on Sept. 27. Loved, reviled, admired, despised, seen as an icon of sexual liberation and a pornography promoter, few people stood in middle ground when discussing him, his empire and his life.

My dad was one of those millions who bought Playboy for something other than the words, and then hid the magazine, figuring the kids would never find it.

He was wrong. And not very good about his hiding places. I found his stash and actually did read them. The naked ladies didn’t mean much. I did not, and do not, look like them, and never associated with anyone who did. I don’t recall feeling personally slighted by the photos. I just never made any real connection to them.

What mattered were the words: the poetry, fiction, short stories and essays by the influential and still unknown. Renown writers I later studied in high school wrote for the magazine: Joseph Heller, John Updike, Norman Mailer, Kurt Vonnegut, Truman Capote, Hunter S. Thompson and Gabriel Garcia Marquez contributed to Playboy. Women’s writing appeared as well: Ursula Le Guin, Joyce Carol Oates and Germaine Greer. And there was The Interview, where the famous, the illustrious and the controversial agreed to a let-it-all-hang-out-sit-down: Jimmy Carter, Donald Trump, Miles Davis, Bette Davis, Stanley Kubrick, John Lennon and Yoko Ono, Siskel and Ebert…the Interviews comprise a time capsule of  history as no other print publication ever captured.

If I write well today, it’s because I was influenced by those early readings, and I am grateful for them. I don’t know how the history of the sexual revolution will handle Hugh Hefner, whether he will be embraced or excluded, but this is one writer happy to acknowledge his daring, at least as far as the written word is concerned.

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Filed under Careers, Current news, death, freelancing

Palm Fronds, The Poodle Tree and Banana Bread

We survived Irma. And did pretty well, thank you.

Aside from landscape damage and some fence sections down, the house is fine. The cats were listless and annoyed, likely due to temperatures inside the housimagese getting close to 90° during the 72 hours we were without power. All they wanted to do was eat and sleep, which is pretty much all they do during any normal day.

I made a bazillion trips from backyard to the driveway, dragging tree branches from the one shade-providing tree we had. Let’s just say that in canine terms, it was a big, shaggy dog before the storm. Now it looks like a poodle with a very bad haircut. About half the tree is gone (The Husband did the best surgery he could) and instead of throwing shade, it’s just throwing crumpled leaves.

One palm tree out front snapped in half, and about 10 palm fronds bent, pointy end towards the earth. The Husband expertly removed those, too.  It looks better out there, but my  Sunday afternoon shady car washing spot is history.

When the power returned, I used the bananas I bought pre-storm to make a good banana bread, and shared it with the ladies at my salon. I figured everyone could use a little sweetness at this point. And frankly, there’s nothing like turning the oven up to 350° and baking a loaf of comfort to remind you how nice it is that you can shut off the oven in an hour and the house will still be nice and cool.

Hurricane Irma was ugly in a different way than Hurricane Harvey. It’s made places ugly, unstable and downright unlivable by force of wind and some flooding, rather than wind plus the sheer magnitude of  rain. In both cases, people lost homes, cars, businesses, pets, power and boats. But most have yet to lose their sense of humor and determination to fix up, clean up, restore and revitalize what’s theirs and what belongs to their neighbors and community. Our own house is still a very, very, very fine house, to quote the Crosby, Stills and Nash song.  Keep donating to the hurricane relief efforts of your choice, and help make everyone’s house a very, very, very fine house once more.


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Filed under charity, Current news, donation, Hurricane Irma