Thursday, March 22, 2018

Real Life Conversations with KO: Free Trade edition

The backstory:   I haven’t been a regular shopper at Cost Plus World Market since I lived in California more than 30 years ago (and the store was still called Cost Plus).  When one opened in my corner of New Jersey, I was very excited about it and went on opening weekend.  I texted my sister about my excitement.

Me: Cost Plus opens today.  I am v. excited.  Show mama the cheaply produced imported goods!

KO:  Enjoy them now before the trade war starts.

Oh, the comforts of the dismal science.  

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Nor’easter, Round 4

With the regularity of a Netflix series dropping a new episode every week or so, we have had 4 Nor’easter storms in the last 4 weeks.  Today’s storm had the nerve to roll in just as the Spring Equinox arrived and while we are on Spring Break.  We’ve not yet finished the clean up from Nor’easter number 3, so it’s safe to say that I am not amused.  Additionally, I have decided that it’s time for Spring clothes, a decision that Mother Nature thinks I should regret.  

JT and I enjoyed all our favorite snow day routines: late morning luxurious breakfast (crepes with bananas, strawberries, and nutella), an afternoon movie, homemade supper (and tonite he tried an adult beverage…..he’s not much of a fan, it turns out).  Shoveling is saved for tomorrow, because tonight there are books to read and movies to watch.  And tomorrow promises temperatures north of 40 degrees.  These days, we’re happy to let Mother Nature do at least some of the work for us.  Begrudgingly, we acknowledge that the snow is lovely to behold.

But at this point in March, daffodils would be a more welcome sight.  We'll know to appreciate them when they arrive.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Amaryllis Tuesday: March 20

On Sunday afternoon, as the sunlight poured in the southern window, the amaryllis flower began to open.

With each day since, a little more of the flower emerged.

It’s not quite complete, though I should have a flower in the next few days.  That’s good news because the weather forecast  for tomorrow calls for a fourth Nor-easter and another 8-12 inches of snow.  I am weary of Winter, especially today, the first day of Spring.  Time may be on my side, but it doesn’t quite feel that way in today’s chill.  The amaryllis will help me to hold on to the warm prospects coming our way.  

Monday, March 19, 2018

Hillbilly Prep

Saturday and Sunday we had two days of sunshine in a row and the entire town shot outdoors to cope with the mess in our yards.  Loads of tree branches had come down in the snowstorm 10 days prior and had lingered there while we waited for the foot of snow to melt.  

Most of the snow had melted by Saturday and the time was nigh.

There is no love lost between me and the wife half of the family to my immediate west.  They moved here from New York in 2011, replacing a neighbor whom I loved, and they’ve never matched up to the former owner.  I like the kids, I exchange pleasantries with the husband, I am charmed by their chickens, and I don’t mind their aggressive barking dog.  But the housewife with the ever-changing hair color is never friendly (and once called the town inspector on me), so I am an icy cold polite.  On Saturday, her husband was in the backyard with a gutter cleaning crew while I was collecting branches and moving tree limbs out of the yard and into the driveway.  We exchanged pleasantries over the fence and spoke about the storm and weather, as neighbors do.  We compared notes on tree damage and basement sump pumps.  Then he mentioned that the family intended to sell their house and move to Tennessee.  I mentioned that I had lived there some years ago and had always loved the place;  I wished them good luck.

Once inside my house, I shared the news with T, who knows how I feel about the wife.  We made some jokes about New Yorkers in Tennessee and then let the matter drop.  The next day, my neighbor was once again in the yard, this time lighting a fire in his fire pit in order to burn branches and dry leaves.  This is both distinctly illegal and unwise, given the close proximity of the fire to both my house and his, but there is no accounting for common sense.  As the smoke poured into my yard and he pushed leaves to the fire with his leaf blower, T and I shook our heads.

Then, with the quiet sarcasm that I love so damned much, T offered, “He’s going to make a fine hillbilly.”  

Internet, she’s mine.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

Focus on the Not Normal

It’s nearly impossible to keep pace with the insane political developments  coming out of the Trump White House.  It’s tempting to shout about all of it; all of it is horrifying.  I’ve certainly been guilty of that.  It’s tempting to throw up your hands and laugh hysterically about some of it, and I certainly have been guilty of that as well.  But I’ve come to believe that we need to separate the wheat from the chaff and focus on the Trump actions and developments that are not normal.  

For one thing, some of these developments are a real and genuine threat to our republic and our national interest.  For another, these not normal events are becoming more frequent and to the degree that we do not intervene or criticize them, we are at risk for a republic that will collapse.  

The not normal list is long and getting longer:

- The lies, even about matters on which there is clear evidence.  Not normal.

- A president refusing to release his tax returns. Not normal.

- A president treating the office as a chance to line the pockets of his business interests.  Not normal.

- Presidential family members who have neither been vetted nor received security clearance serving in vital positions, with access to secure information. Not normal.

- Foreign interference in our elections, elections which are the cornerstone of a representative democracy, and a party in control of the White House and Congress absolutely refusing to take action. Not normal.

- A president who makes broad policy pronouncements without consultation with experts or even his advisors or Cabinet members, idiots though some of them are  —— most recently, protectionist tariffs on steel and aluminum announced via an all-caps press release and a series of tweets celebrating the ease of winning a trade war.  Not normal.

- The persistent name-calling as a political tool.  Not normal.

- It’s one thing to disagree with the free press but Trump is actively working to create distrust of the press.  Fake news, alternative facts… it what you will.   This behavior is a threat to the republic.  Not normal.

- On the same note, Trump’s persistent efforts to discredit American institutions without any facts to support his claims of bias or ineptitude….the Courts, the FBI, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  Not normal.

Democrats understand the threats this president has created but they cannot stop Trump on their own.  The future of the republic demands leadership against Trump from a few principled Republicans.  Working together, Democrats and Republicans can place our nation back on firm footing.  But the clock is ticking and though I am typically a political optimist, I fear we are close to the point of permanent and lasting damage to our republic.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Real Life Conversations with JT: Good Thing I am Amused edition

The backstory:  JT has embraced the Spring of his Senior year with a vengeance and is increasingly annoyed when there is schoolwork to be done, as if this is a gravely unreasonable expectation.  He announced an assignment in his European History course and then asked for my help with the project for the time period he and his partner had selected.  Naturally, all of this exchange occurred by text message.

JT:  Time period for Euro project is 1850-1894.  Age of Nationalism and Realism and Age of Progress.  I’ll e-mail you the instructions.

Me:  Great time period.  I look forward to the details.

A few hours passed during which I received and read the assignment, dealt with my son's suggestion that I wouldn't be able to help (note: I majored in History in college and have taught it for more than 20 years) and then I had an idea.

Me:  I think you should do a project on the unification of Italy and Germany.

JT:  Took the words right out of my mouth.

Careful readers know this is exactly the kind of sass I deserve.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Beware the Ides of Sassafras

Last weekend, we turned our clocks forward and, in my mind, that should signal the start of Spring.  I long for the ease of warmer days.  Uncharacteristically, I’m not even looking to be unreasonable here; I’ll settle for temps in the 50s and a little sunshine.  All told, I’ve reached the point in March where I am over Winter.  As is so often the case, however, Winter isn’t quite over us.  I carry on in the chill, increasingly resentful of the need to wrestle with Winter coats, gloves, and scarves.  And don’t get me started on dealing with Winter tights… You’ve served your purpose, Winter, and I appreciate all that you do.  But it is time for you to go.

The time change and consequent sunlight that lasts into the early evening has been a nice tonic for my Winter malaise, though I still feel like Mother Nature is involved in a scheme to test my patience.  My Spring Break begins this Friday, and though temperatures aren’t expected to rise above 40 degrees and there is snow in the forecast for the first week of break, I am thinking of declaring the start of Spring and dressing accordingly.  If I can’t have the actual beauty of the season, I can at least pretend. 

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Amaryllis Tuesday: March 13

On Friday afternoon, we’ll start Spring Break.  JT has been counting down the days and I’ll admit that I am also looking forward to a few unscheduled weeks.  In the back of my mind, I believe that Spring Break will bring Spring temperatures, though the forecast is not at all cooperative with this desire.  There may be snow on the ground but the amaryllis is looking prepared to oblige my daydreams of Spring blooms.

Some morning soon I will come downstairs to a flower.  

That’s happy!

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Witch Hazel

There was a snowstorm this week, a rather major event that brought us more than a foot of snow.  School was cancelled, which JT celebrated as if he’d never be expected to return to class.

I enjoyed sleeping in and our cozy days but it is March and I am ready for Spring.  While we shoveled ourselves out from the storm, I couldn’t help but think about the previous Sunday  That day was sunny and T and I set out for a walk to leave some nuts and peanut butter pine cones for the wildlife along the D & R Canal.  Here and there, when we looked closely, we saw tiny signs of a green Spring.  Most of the blooms will take several more weeks to arrive so the witch hazel in bloom was particularly lovely.

Clocks spring forward tonight; each day brings a little more sunlight.  I’m looking forward to Spring and as I wait for the snow to melt and reveal blooms, I will admire the witch hazel and the promise it brings.  

Thursday, March 08, 2018

Snow Days

On the heels of JT and I declaring our own "snow day" last Friday, Mother Nature revealed a certain amount of envy.  A few days later, she sent a Nor’easter that buried New Jersey in snow and bought us two days off from school, yesterday and today.  The day of the expected storm dawned cold, but not frigid, with a temperature just above freezing.  For the the first half of the day, there were cloudy skies and a light rain, but little signs of the massive storm being forecast.   Just when I began to give up the forecast as a bust, the light rain converted to giant, wet, snowflakes.  

Soon after, accumulation began.  By the time the snow had ended, we had more than a foot of heavy, deep, wet snow.  Just after 4pm on the day of the storm, JT and I headed outside to clear a path to the driveway.  We shoveled out to the road but the snow fell as fast as we could shovel and all around us we could hear the cracking noise of tree branches falling.  In our backyard, Old Man tree lost branches.  As darkness descended and the storm would down, the frightening sounds of the branches cracking began to fade, replaced by the noise of plows making their way through town, pushing the snow to the edge of the road (and packing in everyone's driveways).  We got the call we'd be off from school for a second day and I was grateful. 

Thursday dawned sunny, clouds blew past in the morning and melting continued apace, with temps in the 40s.  JT and I went outside to shovel out our cars and move the broken tree limbs to the driveway.  The snow was heavy and it took us about an hour working together to clear the sidewalks and driveway.  By the time we were done, the roads had dried.

This is the second year in a row we've had a March snow of the deep and heavy variety. Our shovels are pretty worn out and we'll need new ones for next year.  It's also clear that I will need a heavy-duty snow blower to replace this kid.