Adventures with Lisa, Frank & Daisy Dewdrop

Off The Cuff – Fall Cleaning
September 6, 2006, 10:51 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

You can view this installment, all archives, and other Calhoun information at, updated for the week today.

Fall Cleaning

All through the mountains, animals are preparing for winter. Bears are packing on weight, squirrels and chipmunks are packing away seeds and nuts, and soon the geese will begin their migration practice runs.

This time of year, I too start a scramble to get ready for winter. The difference is that animals work toward winter the whole season. I always wait until the last minute. Most people do their big “spring cleaning” in the spring. My major cleaning comes in the fall.

Sure, in spring, I like to toss out all things I got sick of looking at while shut up inside with it all winter: dirt, a lamp that broke, piles of newspapers, and anything else that may have worn out its welcome over the cold season.

Fall cleaning is different. Instead of tossing out all things that already have gotten on my nerves, I toss out and deal with things that I think are going to get on my nerves, but haven’t done so yet. Very often, this process involves completing unfinished projects: books started on a lazy summer day and not finished, bags of mulch and lawn gravel still piled in a corner of the yard, and dis-posing of all the things I threw out of the house in the spring.

Fall cleaning is more challenging that spring cleaning, because in spring, we toss items we have lost our love for. In fall, I part with pieces that I am still attached to, but feel the attachment is no longer warranted or strong. In other words, I part with it “for my own good,” and not necessarily because I really want to.

The difference between spring cleaning and fall cleaning is the difference between “I don’t want it,” and “I don’t need it.”

Spring cleaning involves hard work. Fall cleaning involves hard choices.

Do I need 17 dish towels? Do I need as many bottles of body lotion? Do I need all my notes from the college history class I took in 1989? Do I need two staplers, four measuring cups, three sets of silverware, or place settings for eight? Do I need sheets for a twin bed, which I haven’t had in my house for six years?

Do I use all of them? No. Do I want them? In varying degrees, yes. The history notes were easy to toss, the ragged towels–the same, but one stapler could break, I like different cups for different ingredients, all my silverware sets are beautiful, and some day, although it has never happened in 38 years, I may have to set a table for eight. I don’t have a table that big either, but you never know. And, flat sheets from a twin bed have a hundred different uses.

Sure, I may someday re-read those English Literature text-books, and though I haven’t worn any of the jeans piled in the corner in three years, they still fit. And shoes? Of course, I love them all–each pair that is packed away and each pair strung throughout the house. That coat in the back of the closet is nine years old, yes, but a few more years and it will be back in style.

My mother says she would like to get rid of anything that “doesn’t have a place.”

If I did that, there would be nothing left.


Backyard Visit
September 1, 2006, 4:10 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column, Our Yard & Garden

A reader told me I should give updates on topics covered in this column in previous weeks. She was especially interested in my Aqua Blue Iris, and if they bloomed. Others have commented on the ducks on the lake, the geese, heron, and other critters I see daily. Well, the Iris bloomed, not quite as rich in color as I had hoped, but they got darker the longer they were in bloom. Each morning, I take my coffee to the porch and sit and watch the lake. So, as for the rest of the back yard and garden–come sit with me on the back porch and see.

This past spring, after a few days arguing over the number of goslings (“Six,” I said. “Five,” said Frank), we realized there were actually two sets – one set of six and one of five.

Gosling number six was odd. The “runt,” I suppose, he held up the crowd every time. By the third week, both parents ran their children together, from the pond to the lake, to the mud bog puddle–the runt always lagging behind. He didn’t want to go under things (fence) or over things (pipe) and often took the extra time to go around while four parents and 10 other goslings waited.

The situation was aggravated when a snapping turtle took a chunk out of the runt’s leg. The flock of 14 began to just leave him behind. Within a few days, we saw him no more. Assumption tells us coyote or bobcat brought his end. So, there are 15 geese–the parents and children–and Crip’s mate.

Crip was a goose born on the farm who couldn’t fly. His wings were deformed; the tips of them pointing down into the water instead of tucking neatly at his side. I suppose his name is not politically correct, but it stuck nevertheless, and in the afternoons I would feed him croutons. Eventually, he ate from my hand.

Each year we watched him call to the other geese as they flew off for the winter; Crip flapping and flapping his wings, but getting no lift. When the lake froze over, he would disappear–only to return when an opening in the ice appeared. In his third summer, he found a mate, and twice he watched her fly off with the others in the fall as he again faced winter alone. In his fifth winter, he did not return (coyote or bobcat again). His mate still returns each summer though, and that’s her, alone, over there.

Our surprise this year was baby wood ducks. Our first spring here, I watched in shock as baby ducks simply vanished from the water. The snappers would come up from below, and in the blink of an eye, take them down. There would be no fuss, no ripples, no squawking, no feathers. The duckling was simply there–then gone. All baby ducks came to the same fate that year, and for three years since, we’ve had no ducklings.

This year, the ducks tried again, and so far, so good. They’re very skittish, and keep to the shallows. Frank and I need only to step out on the porch, and off they paddle to the far end of the lake or under the willow tree to hide. See them go? Quickly look, or you’ll miss them.

The herons had a young one this year as well, and all three strut back and forth in the shallows across the water. They never come close, and Frank often claps his hands hard and loud to spook them away. “They can eat gallons of fish in a day,” he said, as they fly, slow and smooth, to another location. Clap your hands too, and you’ll see them fly. Don’t worry, they’ll come back.

Kingfishers seem to love us this year, as we have gone from the usual two to five. I don’t know if some are youngins–they all look the same to me–but their high-pitched squawk and fishing antics are entertaining. See them there on the edge of the bank?

Yes, in the morning I first watch the show, then I take a look at the plants that grow.

The back porch flower bed has established day lilies, gladiola, columbine and comfrey. The weed I didn’t pull for two years turned out to be foxglove. I swear, they are ugly until they bloom. The new perennial I planted this spring is doing well, but now I’ve forgotten the name or what it is supposed to look like when blooming. I let the Queen Ann’s Lace grow this year, and added two tomato plants and two pepper plants. One tomato plant is doing well. The others? Well, I think there is a little too much shade.

Around the east corner of the porch is the side garden which gets all the morning sun. Potted plants on the edge of the porch include two tomato plants, and another green pepper plant, which are doing well. Among the florals in the garden below, I have added a bush bean and a short-vined pumpkin. Both are now blooming. There are columbine (in three colors), day lilies, surprise lilies, perennial aster, forsythia, two Rose of Sharon, and bee’s balm. I managed to not pull some foxglove in this garden too, but they are weak, and short.

The pride of this side garden is my balloon flower. Buds look like little hot-air balloons before they pop open with a star-shaped flower. When I bought it, and for two summers since then, it bloomed in deep purple. This year, I added horse manure to the flower bed in the spring, and now my balloons bloom only in white. Oops.

These are my morning gardens, which I check barefoot in my PJ’s with coffee in hand. There are two more flower beds out front, and a veggie garden across the field–but I take pleasure in these in the evenings when I get home from work.

So, now you have shared my morning with me, and perhaps, some other time, I will bring you home for an evening visit.

The Molasses Festival Fairy Tale
September 1, 2006, 4:05 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

The time has come for the annual Molasses Festival, and I am sure in the mood for some festivities. With rising gas prices, local flooding, Katrina’s wake in the Gulf, the mayor’s (and Arnoldsburg principal’s) resignations, methamphetamine emergencies and the closure of another murder case, I’ve had enough gloom and doom to last me for a while.

I once read a quote saying, “People don’t want the true and simple. They want fairy tales and humbug.” Well enough humbug, I’m ready for an autumn fairy tale.

Once upon a time, a rural community in Central West Virginia lost public access to local school facilities. Instead of simply accepting the loss, the community took it upon themselves to finance land to provide the amenities they lost–ball courts, meeting space, reunion space, picnicking, play, and fellowship around food and recreation.

They borrowed money together–made a commitment together–putting thoughts of self aside to create a place for the community; a place for all to enjoy. Because of their self-sacrifice, willingness to work hard, and ability to put the cause above any conflict, they succeeded. Their legend lives on in an annual tradition that is still supported (and worked) by following generations who value what has been presented to them as a result.

If that isn’t a fairy tale, I swear I don’t know what is.

You see, I’m one of those people who believes a project will die (or will at least become intolerably complicated) as soon as you form a committee or board. I’ve seen (and have been part of) committees and boards which have really been some of the most torturous experiences of my life.

Typically, when a committee is formed, one of two things happens. Either egos get in the way of purpose, or you get a lot of talk and no action. Either way, committees and boards can be some of the most frustrating and abusive situations to endure.

In my mind, a board or committee which actually chooses a purpose, works consistently and cooperatively toward that purpose, follows through, finishes, and continues . . . Heck, that is a flat out miracle as far as I’m concerned.

There are exceptions. I certainly don’t want to insult any of our park boards, the Senior Citizens board, Historical Society or others who do a fine job in their volunteer positions. I think they too are miracles. Professionals. Almost martyrs at times.

But when I learned the history of the Molasses Festival (and the Ox Roast), I was amazed by the character, work ethic, sense of community, willingness to sacrifice time, courage to “think big,” and ability to cooperatively take on financial risk . . . I just don’t see much of that happening again in my lifetime.

Alas, I suppose that is a humbug frame of mind.

But fairy tales are things of the past. Nostalgic, magical golden tales of days when dreams came true, hard work paid off, and people took care of their own–and “their own” included all those who lived around them.

Fairy tales have princes and princesses, horse-drawn carriages, melodic music on stringed instruments, feasts spread across tables feeding masses, markets full of hand-made or home grown merchandise, games and competitions, and the fellowship of the shared harvest.

Gee, I guess the Molasses Festival really is a fairy tale.

You Are What You Think
September 1, 2006, 4:03 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

“What a man thinketh, that is he; this is the eternal mystery… Man becomes that of which he thinks.”

–Upanishads (c. B.C. 800)

Hindu Poetic Dialogues on Metaphysics

If our thoughts are negative, our lives become negative. If our thoughts are positive, our lives become fruitful. I’ve been thinking a lot about positives and negatives this week.

Unfortunately, negativity is contagious. It will spread through a room on the tail of a rumor in seconds flat. This happens because so many of us have a negativity habit.

The upside of it all is . . . positive outlooks can also be contagious. A smile is most often returned by a smile, and laughter can spread like a rumor. I like people who are prone to smile and laugh easily. They make me feel better about life and living, and make life brighter. They make life fun.

Michelle Yatauro, the newest member of council, makes me smile. Skeptics and hometown conservatives may wonder about her fashion style or her sense of flair, but I say that someone who dances in the street with the Heartwood performers can’t be bad. Besides, I like someone who enjoys life. Michelle smiles, and is quick to laugh. It pleases me to think that these characteristics will now be joining us on a regular basis at council meetings. In my mind, this can’t be a bad thing.

At the same time, I also reflected this week on negative minds, on those who spread their negative thoughts and prejudices around them like thick dust–making life dingy and gray. I wonder what thoughts pass through the minds of those who harass neighbors, call people names, or have only doubts and no hopes for the future. I think of those who believe God is a God of punishment, and not of love. Of those who have such heavy and cold hearts.

How sad they must be. How eaten by anger. How unfortunate that their misery is spread to others around them in their lives.

We have the power to overcome this.

In a recent behavioral study, scientists discovered that if they spent ten minutes talking to people about old age, sickness, and poor health, the people would leave the discussion walking slower, with poor posture and tender footing. If, however, they talked to people about flowers and sunshine and sunlight and life, the people were more tolerant waiting in line, dealing with difficult situations, and just dealt with life with a more pleasant outlook.

Why do we allow the words and behaviors of negative people affect us physically? Why would we tolerate the negative thoughts of others which literally make us physically ill, less productive, and more susceptible to emotional burdens?

At the same time, are your words and actions breeding physical sickness in others? Do conversations with you make people feel light or heavy? If you are constantly negative, doubting, being dramatic, sharing the supposed downfalls of others–how do you feel knowing you are literally making people sick? If there is an epidemic in this nation, it is an epidemic of negativity.

Why do we let the doubts of others keep us from happiness, health and success–as individuals or as a community? Why let our own doubts lead us to failure again and again? Why do we allow this?

Do not allow it. All it takes is a little faith in your heart in the goodness of life and living. Do not allow the negative words and behaviors overcome your feelings of light. A small light can eliminate darkness. It can happen. All it takes to balance a negative speaker is a positive one. All it takes to keep a negative thought from affecting you is a positive thought.

We are what we think. Upanishads said it in 800 B.C., and bright scientists say so now. It is a scientific fact.

Not all news is good news, but there’s no need to let bad news lead us astray. Don’t allow the negatives of life force you to focus on burdens and blockades.

We may not always be able to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but don’t let anyone tell you it’s not there.

Spiders & Pigeons
September 1, 2006, 4:02 pm
Filed under: My Weekly Column

The view from my office windows is not the greatest. One set of windows faces the wall on the backside of the bank, and the others face the windows of the apartments above Classic Creations.

This does not mean, however, that I am not exposed to the sights of nature.

Every morning when I arrive at the office, I have to tear down a spider web that hangs across the door. Every day, I tear down the web, and every morning it has been rebuilt. This spider (or combination of spiders), whom I have named George, and I have gone through this each warm season for three years. He never gives up.

Recently, a new development has arisen at the back windows. The problem began when my radio reception went kaput. The reception was never that good, so I never gave it much thought . . . until the antenna wire began flicking back and forth past the window.

“What the . . .?”

At first, I feared the wire had been caught in the central air unit, but the yanking was not consistent or strong, and curiosity got the best of me. I cleared off the table by the window, opened the glass and stuck my head out.

At the other end of the wire, about nine feet away, was a pigeon trying to pull the wire into her nesting area.

“That’s not good,” I thought, and pulled the wire back, winding it up and hanging it on the window where it exits the building.

The next day, she had it unraveled, and was yanking on it again. She tugs on it, gets it to the nest, and when she lets go, it falls back to the roof again. She flies down to grab it, and tries again.

It has been three days now, and she has not given up.

Tear down a beaver dam, and they will simply begin building again. Dismantle a bird’s nest or wasp’s nest, and they begin all over.

Ever encounter a bird that sees its reflection in your window? He will beat himself to death trying to beat himself (thinking it is another bird) to death.

I find it interesting that animals are not daunted by failure. I guess humans are the only ones who have the option to quit, give in, move on–most likely because it is our emotions that lead us to these decisions.

For animals, it is a matter of survival to try and try the same thing again. For humans, it is a choice. We can choose to keep doing things the same way, and we can choose to change our approach, our methods, our means. We can choose to try again, and we can choose to give up. We have the ability to adapt.

The thing that makes us human is our ability to learn from failure. That is what makes us an intelligent species.

I hope that none of Grantsville’s council members gives up. I hope that our mayor and recorder have the tenacity of George the spider. But, the time has also come to stop making the same mistakes that have been made in the past. Hiring practices, parking tickets, radar regulations–all these processes have established procedures and rules which must be followed.

Let’s just follow them, shall we?

If we don’t learn from past failures, we’re nothing more than a silly pigeon, tugging on a wire that won’t go. And sooner or later, someone’s going to yank on the other end.