Friday, December 13, 2013

Venturing Out - Day Five of the Ice

After a week of hunkering down behind battened hatches, I ventured out to drive on the neighborhood streets yesterday.
 It was staggering to see the volume of damage to the trees along familiar trails and to find that my trees were not the only ones affected by the storm.

The biggest tree in the backyard sustained the most damage, an  Arizona ash planted back in the early 1990s when we first moved out here.

The roads were like an ice palace with frozen sculptures at every turn. Even a speed limit sign provided a visual point of interest with its ice sheath slipped down to reveal an icicle fringed skirt.

Watching ducks swim about on the icy surface of the chilly water, the small pond by the RV Park was reminiscent of a favorite story from the movie, "Fried Green Tomatoes".

It was good to get out.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Major Ice Storm Hits Dallas Area with a Vengeance

Temperatures in the Dallas Metroplex took a turn dramatically downward this week. Taken by surprise after Tuesday and Wednesday's temperatures ranged in the high seventies, Thursday night temps would bring in more than just cold weather.

Opening the back door to let the dogs out a few minutes before sunrise Friday am, I found a nasty surprise in the backyard. Our two mature trees, which usually form a balanced pair on either side of the porch, were bent over double with limbs and leaves dragging the ground. In the dim light of morning it was difficult to see the full extent of the damage.

The all-night tinkling of freezing rain Thursday evening left a major change on the neighborhood creating an icy world of crystaline sculptures of the landscape.

Limbs of trees we planted in the early nineties are snapped off as if they were tiny twigs, held in position by a thick coating of ice.

The Popcorn Tree has suffered loss of at least 4 major limbs snapped off as if by a giant hand.
The yard was like a brickyard of spikes piercing upward through the thick coating of frost. As Tony tried to walk, the frozen concoction remained stiff and unyielding. His legs and feet slipped and slid as he tried to make his way to his favorite spot.



Today, the ice remains as seen in the photos as temperatures have remained below freezing. Some of the ice melted during the day yesterday and refroze last night creating a world of black and slippery ice. Even truckers from the north were saying they'd never seen anything like these road conditions up north. We really do things BIG in Texas.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

And the Blind Shall Show Them the Way

Small miracles happen every day if only we pay enough attention to see. The other day, I was dashing out of the front door to run errands, when I noticed something very important missing from my car keys: half of the key ring with all Mom's keys was not attached to the ring.

The first thing I did was panic. I viewed a mental picture show of all the places I'd carried the keys recently.

The Post Office? Yes, I'd stood in the parking lot talking with a neighbor in the previous days, keys in hand. I could see my hands gesturing wildly as they sometimes do, while a view from the side camera catches the arc of the keys flinging out of my hand landing in the gravel lot somewhere beyond. As I sensed this was the place to find the missing keys, I drove immediately to the cement building that serves as our postal facility and discovered it was Veteran's Day and the place was closed. Next.

The recycling facility? Oh, please, not that. Don't make me crawl through that huge green dumpster, please. I'll search there only as a last resort.
The driveway? That morning I'd carried the trash out to the street and taken my house keys with me after being locked out by Tony one time, well, more than once. Tony is our Labrador and my constant companion.
Tony standing guard over Cookie
So I walked up and down the driveway a few times, which for most people is like a walk around the block in the neighborhood. After a few trips from the porch to the road I was ready to call it quits so I drove over to Moms and mentioned that I had misplaced my keys, trying not to draw attention to the fact that it was their keys I'd lost -- That would have been a no win situation.

Anyhow, as I'm carrying on with Mom about the latest whatever she says, "Oh, by the way, Louise found the keys." Louise, who's recently passed her 93rd birthday and who's lost most of her vision had found the keys which I'd searched for most of the morning. She had located them on the couch in their living room, nestled underneath the quilt where I hadn't bothered looking.

My sanity was held together on a neat ring in Louise's trembling hand where the keys to the Post Office Box, the front and rear doors, dead bolts and gate key were clipped together all safe and sound. Taking the keys in hand, I danced the dance of joy, gave her an enormous hug and one to Grandma to make it even and another round for each of them.
I waited for some deep voice to announce from the clouds..."And the blind shall show them the way...". Nothing like that happened, but a big white "X" streaked its way across the bright blue sky as I made my way back toward the world of normalcy.

Which made me think of Indiana Jones who said, "X never, ever marks the spot."

Amazing. And so is Louise.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Mixed Blessings

Last Friday when I called Mom to see if she wanted some homemade soup, she said, "No thanks, I'm making creamed beef with gravy. I was delighted that she had the energy to prepare a meal since she's been so tired lately. Whenever I call, I seem to wake her, although she denies that she was sleeping. "I'm just resting," she always tells me, "just lying here with my eyes open."

Saturday when I took them over the soup I'd promised, I noticed the vent hood of her stove had black scorch marks across the front that wouldn't come off when I tried to wipe it down with cleanser. "What happened here?" I asked.

Vent hood scorch marks
"Oh, that happened a couple of days ago," she told me.

I knew better, having been there Thursday to deliver their weekly groceries and some KFC for their dinner. I asked how they liked the chicken and whether she'd remembered to serve the cole slaw which I'd put in the refrigerator as it was too early to eat dinner. Nope. It was still in the fridge.

I returned to the issue of the scorch marks and asked her again what happened. She'd turned away from the frying pan (with it on High) while looking in the fridge. A huge fire had engulfed the ground meat while she wasn't looking. I was speechless for about two minutes while I sat and tried to think of what to say. This is my Mother, and yet I'm the one who's always lecturing. Finally I found the words.

"I'm just glad you are both okay," I told her. "Things could have been much worse," I said trying to keep the fear out of my voice.

The vent hood in the background
"Well, there are two doors to get out of," she informed me somewhat defensively. Thank the Lord that she'd reacted quickly and moved the pan into the nearby sink. Her words sent a cold shiver through me. I was proud of her quick thinking and yet . . .

With Louise in a wheelchair and Mom on a walker, it would take them too long to get out of the house if things had gotten worse; the stuff of nightmares. Just the week before, we'd had a major fire two blocks away which burned through the night. Last night, a special report on emergency preparedness in case of fire aired on the news and I thought about the Ladies across the street as I do often when I can't sleep.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Things That Go Pop In The Night

The sound of sirens in our neighborhood is never a good sound. The first thing that comes to mind is the elderly ladies who live across the street, my Mom and her ninety-three year old sister. Of course, out here, that's about a city block away. I ran immediately to the front window to see which street the ambulance would turn down, wondering how quickly I could get dressed and get over there if need be. What I saw from the front window of the house was a firetruck making its way down the main drag that separates our homes.

When I looked over in the direction of Grandma's house, my heart nearly jumped out of my throat. There were bright yellow flames that reached above the tree line between us. The night sky was lit up like a white cloud at sunset, with orange tongues of fire reaching even higher than the neighboring homes. I couldn't tell exactly how far away it was so I woke J and he drove over there to investigate. In the meantime, three more firetrucks had screamed their way past our house and turned right on the streets that lead in the direction of Mom's house.

It seemed an eternity before J returned in the truck pulling up the driveway slow as Christmas. My first thought was that he had gathered the ladies and brought them to our house and while my mind worried whether he had rescued Sugar, their cat, I saw that he was alone in the truck. Running outside to meet him at the driveway, I flooded him with inane questions that were self evident by that point.

He groggily let me know that the fire was two streets away and that he had stopped to talk to neighbors, who at that time of the morning, were still up and outside watching the volunteer fire department trying to extinguish the roaring inferno.

The morning after

All they knew was that they were playing video games when they heard a loud pop. When they went outside to look, they saw their neighbor's home engulfed in flames. They dialed 911 but the fire had already been reported and help was on the way.

This is all that remains of what was once someone's home. Perhaps the most disturbing part is seeing the dog houses in the back. Still, I remain eternally grateful that it was not at Mom's house and that they slept peacefully through the night. I whispered a prayer of thanks and went back to bed.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Back in the Neighborhood

August came and went in a flash of soaring temperatures here in Texas. Along with the hundred degree days, my on line writing came to a screeching halt for a couple of weeks during which I quietly celebrated my birthday. I intentionally avoided Facebook and other writing sites which continually tried to reminded me that I was a year older. Usually I celebrate with a trip to McKinney and my favorite dusty thrift stores but not this year. McKinney has been transformed from a sleepy square into a new haven for young upcoming newstarts.

Brian Williams shows up at dinnertime.
Brian Williams, the cat, still arrives each day at dinnertime and is now letting me get within 4 feet of him when I prepare his meal. Of course, maybe it is that dish of milk that motivates him. It is an improvement from the 15 foot zone he used to impose before scampering out of reach. He's starting to look more like the cat we named Grumpy Jack who used to be a regular fixture here when making his neighborhood rounds. He's been MIA for months, now, and presumed . . . well . . . you know.

Grumpy Jack - May be Brian's Dad

In September, my annual trek to the Florida Gulf Coast with my long-time friend Paula was a no go this year as well. During that week, J took some well-deserved days off and we took a stay-cation together doing some of our favorite things: movie marathons, a trip to Harbor Freight, Cosco and a enjoying few meals out. Mainly, we just relaxed and kept no schedule. It was wonderful. The following week J flew to New Hampshire and met with computer storage customers and business associates. Thankfully, his health has improved dramatically and he's managing the work load and pressure of the corporate world. I can't say that I miss the travel or the constant on-stage requirements of the business world.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Watermelon Easy Cubing

It just wouldn't be July without a watermelon cooling in the fridge. Of course, the fourth of July has passed and soon August will be in full swing so this seedless watermelon will probably be the last one I cut and cube this season. I've discovered a way to prepare the melon that is easy for me and makes the fruit disappear quickly. Here it is in picture form.

Step 1) Cut the melon lengthwise down the middle and turn it cut side down on a cutting board

Step 2) Make horizontal cuts across the fruit from one end to the other and separate the slices

Step 3) Turn one section on its side and make a cut between the rind and the fruit to separate the rind from the good part

Step 4) Cut the block of fruit into one inch strips lengthwise and then across

Step 5) Using a flat spatula is an easy way to scoop up the cut pieces
Step 6) Place the cubes into an airtight container and continue on to the next slice. Repeat.
I like to cut up the rinds and add them to my compost bin for next year's garden soil.
Easy peasy!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Drought Hits Closer to Home

The morning's surprise when I went out at 7 am to feed Brian Williams the cat, was to find a utility truck parked fifty feet into the front yard.
For the past few days, the utility sub-contractors have begun to use our property as a staging area for their trucks as they perform telephone pole inspections on our street. We have watched their "progress" as they've inched closer and closer to the heart of our privacy.

Today's encroachment resulted in an unfortunate event: an 18 wheeler, laden with telephone poles ran over and broke the main water line that feeds into our house.

At 4:35 pm, I contacted Farmer's Electric Company (FEC) to let them know their trucks were parked along the front of our property where our water meter is located. And sure enough, within moments after two trucks drove away, the water flow in the house diminished to half its normal flow. We have NO water. That's right, supper is cancelled, forget flushing the toilet and my thirsty tomato seedlings will just have to wait as the first triple digit heat of the season courses through the Dallas Metro plex.
I immediately called the Special Utility District (SUD) to let the water supplier know. Unfortunately, their office closed at 4:00 pm. So I dialed the emergency number and reached a very courteous worker, Terry, who promised to do a drive-by and check out our pipes. And he did, within minutes of my call. Sure enough, he announced that the main water pipe was broken.

Coincidentally, on today's NBCDFW News at 5
A short while later, I received a call from the sub contracting company who apologized for the inconvenience and suggested we call a plumber. After several emergency calls to various plumbing companies, at this very moment, there is a plumber (Cowboy Plumbing) working on fixing the damage. Of the many plumbers I called, they were the only ones willing to put in the effort outside the standard 8 to 5 work day. The bad news is it is now 2:00 am and he's still out there trying to repair the pipe.
It's been a day for minor disasters, starting off with me losing Grandma's credit card when shopping for her groceries this morning. Then J broke off the key in the front door lock and later the knob broke off Grandma's washing machine.

All in all, I'm still grateful. Things could have been worse. When I finally drift into the slumber chamber and seek a little rest, I'll have much on my mind about today's events. When it rains, it pours. Or not.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Saturday's Treasure Hunt in Farmersville

Today's visit to the rustic town of Farmersville yielded more unexpected treasure. Searching for nothing in particular I came across an old time pesticide sprayer with a glass receptacle. The part that was irresistible was the name emblazoned on the barrel: Acme. With the recent return of Rhody, our roadrunner, it was something I had to have.
Visions of Wiley Coyote and the sounds of the roadrunner come to mind as I clean years of rust from the sprayer. Beep beep.
Acme Pesticide Sprayer
More treasure was found at my favorite place, Main Street Antiques, where, tucked away in a locked glass case was Elvis in G.I. Blues. The condition was pristine with every strand of his hair delightfully in place above his crisp, starched uniform.

They made a call to the owner of the LP and we settled on a 25% discount, just for the asking.

This is one of the songs from the album: "Pocket Full of Rainbows".
The condition is amazing for a treasure like this one which is sure to have seen its share of lipstick and love since the late 1960s when it was released. There were a couple of others there that hadn't fared as well including one from Elvis' Las Vegas era with the sparkling jumpsuit.

There was also a copy of his LP, Flaming Star (from the movie of the same name) that was well worn and barely recognizable.  I was pleased to see a young girl oogling the faded cover and as I stood nearby, she passed a pair of white gloves to her mother in hopes of purchasing them.

Additional treasure awaited me in the form of an Old Judge coffee can, another of my active collections. I love these old steel canisters which bring back a time of twist keys used to open them. That "swoosh" heard when the metal band released the vacuum inside always offered up a delicious fragrance of fresh coffee. A little Crisco on a paper towel refreshed the gloss on the exterior and will let me open the can to examine the inside.

But the star discovery of the day had to be the wonderful book by Robert Louis Stevenson, "Kidnapped", published in 1908. I was thrilled to find this classic in such excellent shape. Flipping through the pages it even smelled nice and the binding was intact, too. At the price of $6.00, it was simply irresistible.
Doris was at her regular post in the store and once again, asked about my Mother, offered me fresh coffee and told me about her latest investment, a new building across the street that housed a candy factory for nearly 100 years. For someone of her youthful age, 87, I have to admire her energy, strength and courage in today's economy to move forward on such a major project. She's still undecided as to what she'll do with the structure, but I feel certain it will amaze and astonish.
Main Street Antiques in Farmersville, Texas 2013