Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The Brain That Changes Itself

In chapter 9, Turning our Ghosts into Ancestors; Psychoanalysis as a Neuroplastic Therapy Norman Doidge M.D. in The Brain that Changes Itself attempts to explain why 'talking psychology' seems to work. The research he describes uses snails; yep, I must admit to having felt rather slow and spongy more times than I wish were true.

I am sufficiently impressed with Doidge's commentary to have invested in some brain games one of his researchers has devised to help my 'noun losing' brain from deteriorating at its usual rapid pace. I'll let you know if they make any difference in my ability to remember or recall.

However, the following passage also caught my attention because I think it may explain anxiety surrounding certain health related events occurring in the life of a young friend who had juvenile rheumatoid arthritis when he was five. One of the aspects of the disease that caused more agony than the disease itself was the frequent requirement to check the salicylate levels in his blood stream since the treatment for the disease was aspirin therapy.

I retype the passage here for your perusal.

"If [the researcher] repeated shocks in a short period, the snails became 'sensitized,' so that they developed 'learned fear' and a tendency to over react even to more benign stimuli, as do humans who develop anxiety disorders. When the snails developed 'learned fear', the presynaptic neurons released more of the chemical messenger into the synapse giving off a more powerful signal. Then [the researcher] showed that the snails could be taught to recognize a stimulus as harmless. When the snail's siphon was touched gently over and over and not followed with a shock, the synapses leading to the withdrawal reflex weakened, and the snail eventually ignored the touch. Finally the research was able to show that snails can also learn to associate two different events and that their nervous systems change in the process. When [the researcher] gave the snail a benign stimulus, followed immediately by a shock to the tail, the snail's sensory neuron soon responded to the benign stimulus as though it were dangerous, giving off very strong signals – even if not followed by the shock."

Could the early experience of the youngster who feared the needles have led to anxiety concerning health related issues later in life?

One wonders.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Ten Years!

I arrived for the first time in Australia on 27 December ten years ago. As I was just sitting on the back veranda, comfy on the teak lounge watching the birds flit from branch to branch, watching the summer breeze act like a marionette master moving the tendrils of ten story high fig wilderness, I remembered my arrival here in this historical, hysterical household to spend ten days of Christmas.

What a wonderment. This Victorian house on stilts has become my home; my haven, my mysterious castle; the place where I have learned what it means to be an ex-pat, where I have learned what it means to be married to an Aussie bloke, what it means to be a citizen of the world.

Perhaps a glass of Chandon tonight to celebrate! Only the goddess knows what life has in store for us. Certainly we do not. Certainly the adventure is worth the risk.

May your New Year's celebration be as blessed as ours.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day

Australia's Boxing Day is the second lovliest day of the year - holidays reign supreme in Oz and this one, much like Christmas Day, is designed for relaxation and family pursuits.

Good on ya, Austalia, for devoting two days in a row to the mid-summer holiday.

So as not to offend we here at Bass Street join you in allowing the day to simmer on a low flame.

Happy Christmas to all those Norte Americanos whom we love and cherish. We miss you, but not your weather. We send blasts of warmth in your directions.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Happy Christmas to all and to all a g'day!

Christmas dawned very still with blue skies surrounded by crocheted scallops of puffy whites.

I glowed; first coffee woke us both as we checked out world conditions on our individual computers; Democratic Christmas cyber-greetings were sent and we munched Christmas porridge on the back veranda. The cloud cover increased, the breeze picked up,the crows cawed, the lorikeets squeeked; we pronounced it a fine day!

May it be for you, also!!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Review - Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver

Finishing Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna, her last and most daunting novel, leaves me wondering if Kingsolver intended to employ 'magic realism.' Was she kidnapped by the genre in her attempt to organize a complex tale in which 'a highly detailed, realistic setting is invaded by something too strange to believe' as she 'matter-of-factly incorporates fantastic and mythical elements into otherwise realistic fiction?' Was she seduced by the environment in which she did her Mexican research?
http://www.themodernword.com/gabo/gabo_mr.html

After I turned the last page, disquietude reigned. Kingsolver posed many unanswered questions. As an American who lived through the years covered by the narrative although too young to take part in the national debate, I lay in bed bombarded with questions about how I might have reacted had I been an adult at that time. Would I have taken issue with my government?

I am certain this was her intent – to render the reader confused about his/her own conscience in the midst of the politics of the time, of the politics of today.

I enjoyed the read in varying degrees. Parts of the book fascinate. Kingsolver's use of magic realism mingled 'the mundane with the fantastic.' Essentially Lacuna was 'realistic but was simultaneously possessed of a strange or dreamlike quality.'
http://www.qub.ac.uk/schools/SchoolofEnglish/imperial/india/Magic.htm

It was precisely this dreamlike aspect that forced me into moments of reverie from which it was sometimes difficult to escape.

Kingsolver created a virginal protagonist. Some reviewers find him uninteresting; however, the drabness of Shepard is offset by the colour and chutzpah of the Mexican females who surround him. They provide a backdrop around which the protagonist interacts with what he perceives to be the more interesting aspects of life: food, revolution, and writing.

Last night I wandered around my thoughts and finally realized that the title The Lacuna, the gap, the tunnel, the part you don't know is not what you don't know about Harrison Shepard, the main figure in the book, but what you don't know about yourself.

Constantly, Kingsolver throws the reader back into reverie about whether each of us has a responsibility to formulate and act on a moral position. What would I have done?

This disquietude encouraged my enjoyment of Kingsolver's version of magical realism. She 'aims to seize the paradox of the union of opposites characterized by two conflicting perspectives, one based on a rational view of reality and the other on the acceptance of the supernatural as prosaic reality.'
http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html

The supernatural is subtle in the art of Kingsolver. No blatant wings on the back of an old man, but a thousand year old Aztec statue, a lost journal, the magic of words written down, surrealist art all function in this quintessential novel of the Americas to point out the 'reality of revolution, and continual political upheaval in certain parts of the world. Specifically, South America is characterized by the endless struggle for a political ideal.'
http://www.english.emory.edu/Bahri/MagicalRealism.html

I have eschewed an appreciation of that aspect of Latin American literature for many years. The only magical realism I have found satisfying is Gabriel Garcia Marquez' A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.

However, Kingsolver's circular repetition of events hovers around the protagonist, each time eliciting a stronger reaction. The story begins with a mysterious narrator who eventually is identified as the third mother figure for Shepard. Metaphorical magical howling in a strange rural setting sets the reader up for a journey into and around several labyrinths until the final circle closes within a hidden notebook describing waking in the midst of that howling. Each mother figure protects Shepard and encourages his talent.

My final commentary on the novel is that the book engaged me on my journey – a journey from very liberal (although appearing conservative) North Dakota to the far more labour oriented social scene in my current home, Brisbane, Australia. Perhaps it was my own circular travels across the Pacific that made me aware of Kingsolver's circular path through the 1930s and 40s in the Americas.

Thanks, Ms Kingsolver, you have been a grand travelling partner.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The United States and Canada

The 4 a.m. Breakthrough
Write a fragment of fiction about high school sweethearts who live in two towns close by but separated by the U.S. - Canadian border.


This one is a tad long: I tried to shorten it, but it refused my efforts! Enjoy.


The middle-aged couple sat outside the square towered clapboard church waiting for other members of the congregation to arrive. Early winter roads slowed their journey making their short drive longer than usual. Black ice covered much of the paved highway. Although most of their journey had been on dirt roads, well maintained but still slick with the moisture from the last storm, Leonard had driven precisely in their big ole Chrysler Ram minus the back bumper, which he had removed years ago. Still, they had arrived early, quite a bit early, for the Wednesday night service.

Agnes asked, ‘could we turn the motor back on? I'm kinda cold.’

‘Sure. Ya know, this church could use a coat of paint.' Here they had been married forty years ago. 'Maybe in July after spring planting,' suggested Leonard.

‘We'll have to organize a work party. Will we have to trim those trees? I've always liked the trees here in Flaxton.'

Even in winter the skeletons of huge trees lining the streets shadowed the church and kept the persistent northwesterly winds at bay.

‘Yep.’

Agnes' hands, folded in her lap, played with grey gloves; she tugged at the fingers and then pulled the palm back up towards her wrist. 'Do you remember that first December? I was sitting beside my parents when your and your folks bundled into the pews on the other side of the aisle.

'I could tell, even back then, that you drove fast,' she murmured as they sat side by side in the cab of the Canadian pickup. My sister whispered to me that you had been in on that prank with the combine over at Northgate the week before. I was pretty sure you wouldn't have done anything like that. That Wednesday night you seemed pretty serious. Do you remember your electric hair when you took off your cap?' She smiled. 'You Canadians worked up more pranks than any of the boys in Flaxton ever thought of.'

Leonard and his family had driven from their farmstead fifteen miles north and east across the Canadian border in East Northgate. They had been attending the Presbyterian church in Estevan, forty miles northwest when his father decided that in winter it would be much more comfortable to attend the Lutheran congregation in Flaxton, only ten miles south. The condition of winter roads forced many decisions otherwise unlikely forty years ago. They made the difference today as well.

This Wednesday night they had come to the service early in order attend a committee meeting to help decide how best to communicate with the folks of the other Lutheran church in town. That congregation had winnowed away to such a small number that they no longer wished to heat the church in town for weekly worship services. It would be financially wiser to combine with the Bowbells church to worship twice a week in the next town only thirteen miles away.

The differences in church philosophy between the two congregations were far greater than the differences between the Canadians and the Americans who joined together to worship here in Flaxton. The physical building may have needed paint, but the warmth that existed between like-minded worshipers inside the church was palpable. They did enjoy one another's family, one another's children, one another's lifestyle. No nonsense, no music, no dancing. They loved their God, feared his wrath, and lived lives to inspire spiritual support.

Agnes and Leonard, hard working farm folks, had met in this church hall; had lived their lives since they were fifteen in the companionship of one another with the support of each other's families.

Agnes had moved to the Canadian farmstead after they were married, filed their marriage license in Saskatchewan, and eventually applied for Canadian citizenship three years later. She never considered herself Canadian nor American. She was a prairie dweller; a farmwife, one who cooked and planted, fed chickens and cattle, one who darned old work clothes, and made new from Sears catalogue materials. She drove the farm vehicles including the huge grain trucks carrying their product to the elevators at the railroad tracks either in Estevan, Bowbells, or Northgate.

These days if one or the other of them needed medical attention they sought the doctor in Estevan because Canada paid the bill. Certainly they purchased their pharmaceuticals in Canada at a much lower price than the same medicines were available in America. But, if the wait seemed too long for attention to Leonard’s back in Estevan, the two would drive to Bowbells to see Shelly, the nurse practioner for the area who would provide a referral to the North Dakota doctors. It might cost more, but the treatment was quicker.

Still, both wondered at the attitude of Americans about health. Leonard and Agnes took it for granted that their community would support their lifestyle just as their American church supported them in issues of religion. There was never a question. They both understood precisely where they stood with their God. If they took care of themselves and of their fellow church members, God would do the rest. Didn't matter if they were Canadian or American.

It was obvious that their good health and above average income came from a God who approved of their rigid doctrine of hard work. He looked after them just as they looked after themselves.

Soon after moving across the border, Agnes' support of the local hockey team moved from North Dakota to Saskatchewan. Along with Leonard she was an ardent fan willing to travel the two hours to Regina on a regular basis to support the Regina Pats as well as the local junior hockey team in Estevan.

Agnes regularly participated in the woman's curling league during the winter months. Some outsiders thought that the prairie slowed down in winter. Not so. Curling and Hockey provided lots of social and physical contact.

Other issues set both Agnes and Leonard apart from some of their American friends. The couple approved of Canada’s refusal to be part of Bush's Iraq invasion. They had no argument with Muslims. They didn’t know any.

What they did know was that their God would take care of the situation in the end. The Canadian government certainly didn’t need to intervene. They paid a higher tax bill on their Canadian harvest than they did on their American harvest, but that bothered them very little. One offset the other. Being a prairie dweller was far more important than being a Canadian or an American. What differences were there anyway?

The Americans ran scared these days, it was true, but not the Americans they met weekly in church. Those folks put their trust in God. Where else ought one to look? The fortune invested by the American government at the border crossing at Portal seemed extravagant, but from the Canadian point of view, extravagant was often the American solution to problems.

The Canadians had no intention of following suit on their side of the border, a line that didn't used to make much difference to anyone. However, after Wednesday night meetings in Flaxton, they would drive an additional twenty-five miles home because the border crossing at Northgate closed at five p.m. They would have to cross at Portal and then retrace the ten miles between border crossings on the Canadian side. They had grown used to this additional distance and usually listened to whatever hockey game was broadcast on the radio during their drive.


Like the Canadian Mounted Police, Leonard and Agnes were above reproach and fiercely loyal to the home team. Their integrity followed them through their daily lives. Actually, they didn't give it much thought. They were honest, hard working prairie folks just like their neighbors to the south.

They worked hard; they saved, they spent only what they made; they canned, and froze meat, vegetables, and fruit for winter. There was no reason to assume that someone else would take care of the family.

If only the American agribusiness giants would keep their hands out of farmers' pockets, all would be well. Family farms made this prairie luxuriant. Huge holdings of commercial giants did not exist on either side of the border between North Dakota and Saskatchewan.

Shaken from her reverie, Agnes heard the crunch of tires on the gravel street outside the church. She looked up to see Judy arrive. That beautiful blond always had a smile. She didn’t always have a positive response, but even the negative filtered in through the smile in her eyes. She was the realist. Agnes grew up in the same town as Judy. The two had been friends for a very long time. What possible difference did it make that one of them chose to live in North Dakota and the other in Saskatchewan? None. Not really.

Leonard reached forward to turn off the engine of the car; opened the drivers door to their grey four wheel drive pick-up, leaving the keys in the ignition and stepped up to the church doorway held open by Judy. Behind him walked Agnes, pulling off her gloves, untying her scarf. She deposited her warm home made beanie in her pocketbook.

‘When will the others arrive, Judy?’

‘I think Herb has the flu. Won’t be here. We can still make arrangements for Sunday. I’ll notify him of our decisions. Wes will be here in a few moments. He had some work still to do on the stuff in the basement.’

‘So, how was the drive?’

‘No problems. Roads are mostly clear. Saw some elk over by the Peterson place. Heard there was a bull moose out there last week, but we didn’t see him.’

‘Weather isn’t too bad yet. They’ll have plenty of food for a while.’

‘You ready for coffee?’

‘Yep.‘ Leonard laid his jacket on the bench behind him and tugged gently on his suspenders as he reached for the warm brown beverage. He sipped thoughtfully.

‘Some woman was looking for you guys last Monday. She came in the post office with an address that didn’t make any sense. I told her you lived on the Canadian side of the border. That seemed to satisfy her. She didn’t have to check your details if you weren’t part of the American census. Strange huh, that they have you listed as American.’

‘Well, Agnes is. Don’t think I ever want to be though,’ Leonard laughed.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Exercises - avoidance - two blogs for the price of one

Ok, I may as well confess or at the very least explain.

Transition, a two week process this time. We arrived back in Oz about a week ago. The Australian will have surgery on his right shoulder to repair a severed tendon next Wednesday. Brisbane is excessively warm, daylight hours make up about 18 of every 24. Friends are in the throes of change - change that calls for support, good listening, and availability, but change that creates a certain amount of leaky margin penetration. I can't listen without reflecting. At the same time I am NOT at liberty to share the topics of the listening nor of the reflecting.

So, rather than NOT write, I have turned to a book of writing exercises by Brian Kitely who teaches creative writing at the University of Denver. I'm rather sure that Kitely didn't mean for his exercise book to function as a release of transitional tension, but indeed it works particulary well in this role.

At the same time, I have always been and forever will be a person who refuses to follow directions - preferring to find my own. At the same time, the ambiance surrounding me right now includes two males who resolutely refuse to do life according to directions :) And, I don't want to be like them. Integrity requires that I act differently than those whom I tend to criticize. The fellow with the separated tendon is NOT one of the two.

So, with two blogs to fill - I do feel a strong affiliations with The Prairie School of the Arts and intend to resume the writing process in Flaxton when we return in June, I am alternating the publishing of my assignments between Kookaburra and Prairie School.

Furthermore, I am busily procrastinating about both. That means I am doing more than the usual number of soduku, reading Lacuna by Barbara Kingsolver on my Kindle, reading 2009 American Best Essays, playing solitaire on the computer, and generally avoiding going out into the garden to gather palm nuts that litter the soil and the flagstones.

Assuming that all that is clear and since I have done the research required for exercise 3 in The 4 a.m. Breakthrough, I will attempt to write the passage required which will be published on the Prairie School blogsite.

Happy shopping, possums..

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

The 4 a.m. Breakthrough -- exercise 2

Write five paragraphs of narrative about one individual who has decided to stop spending so much time with a gang of friends.


You'd think that by the time a woman reaches the age of 69 she would know what kind of friends to invite into her space and which ones to avoid. And yet, here I am, still angsting over whether it's ok to say, ' Really, I don't want to socialize with her. Every time I do, my feelings end up in the toilet.' I do know it is my own fault, that the issue is my very own self reacting to cultural differences, but I also know that to agree to share my work with her is tantamount to self inflicted torture. I am not going to accompany you to GOMA on Friday if Louise also agrees to join you. Regardless, the two of you will probably have a misunderstanding about the time to arrive and the spot in which to initially meet. You can be part of that mess. I'm not interested. I am unwilling to inflict upon myself that sort of attention getting behaviour again.

And just in case you believe me to be less than charitable, I do realize that it is my own penchant for timeliness that makes me unwilling to submit to the tyranny of association with the ex-Luthern-Nebraskan-Canadian-American. Urgh. My unwillingness to submit, to subdue my own personality in order to compliment hers is a major part of the conflict between us. My American self does interrupt; my voice does grow louder when I am passionate about an issue under consideration. I do expect to be the queen in any given social situation. I am unaccustomed to give way to the 'beauty' of the group. However, I am complimentary of the work of others. I do go out of my way to accommodate the needs of those with whom I socialize and I refuse to give up my position as organizer, of woman in charge in order to soothe the conflict. I would rather argue the point. She would rather stare down her lovely narrow nose at my interruptions and raise her eyebrows. Why can't she just say, 'Sandy, you have interrupted again. I do want to hear what Lizzy has to offer. Please allow her space in which to do that.' A direct request would be met with my apology and willingness to accommodate the group. The schoolmarm stare down the nose, however, incites me to riotous behaviour.


There are others of her ilk with whom I also have determined to no longer associate. I have no problem with you meeting and greeting the caustic remarkable persons whom we have gathered together in this multi-lacquered Easter basket of brightly decorated rancid eggs, but I no longer wish to belabour my nose with the rotten fragrance of their personalities. A Baptist friend whose comments manage to keep me awake for several nights in a row is another whom I intend to avoid. Her penchant for finding fault is most often tinged with a holier than thou position. 'There's no accounting for taste, is there?' is enough to throw me off my otherwise relaxed state of mind for at least two days. Her inability to see herself as a raving narcissist at the same time she accuses me of the same is simply more than I am willing to tolerate. She has never appreciated my work and she makes a point of telling me so. She could do what the rest of us do and simply avoid the subject. Even her compliments on my blog, which attracts about a thousand readers a week become left handed darkness quips in which she makes sure to plasticise any naturally positive elements. Yes, there are enough folks on the planet so that I can avoid her in my social circle also.

Does this seem extreme? Well, it may be so. However, I am unwilling to budge on the issue. I have no intention of littering my social experiences with personalities who are totally unaware of their own penchant for critical, careless, mean spirited commentary in the midst of smirking sidewise glances. They can do that to someone else – I'm no longer interested.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Lacuna

On my trusty Kindle, a birthday present from the Aussie, I am currently reading Barbara Kingsolver's Lacuna. The first two chapters are confusing and since I know what the story is supposed to be all about, misleading. I love it. I have enjoyed Kingsolver since High Tide in Tucson.

I love reading without being able to really tell where she is taking me. I know Trotsky is in these pages somewhere, but of far more significance, the young narrator has captured my curiosity, the metaphors shadow the tale, the immorality draws me back time after time.

I lay on the bed with the fan breathing at the foot, chasing away midges who are thrilled at my return to Oz – alien blood whets their appetite. I am so engaged with the story that I forget to swat, silently hoping the fan drives the interlopers away, I read on.

I am reminded that my exercise book these days, The 4 A.M. Breakthrough – unconventional writing exercises that transform your fiction by Brian Kiteley, comments that:


'Writers ask questions. The best stories and novels are full of more questions than answers . . . George Bernard Shaw occasionally apologized to his correspondents for not having had time to write a shorter letter . . . In science, feeling confused is essential to progress. An unwillingness to feel lost, in fact, can stop creativity dead in its tracks . . . I am not one for plots . . . somebody . . .remarked that the word 'plot' itself gives off a whiff of burial dirt and I find the concept of 'cause and effect' to be tediously overrated.'

And finally why is it that of the fifty American agents to whom I have submitted book proposals, only one so far has taken kindly to the fact that my co-author and I agree with Kiteley on all three points?

Perchance good writers just understand these facts while good agents are mostly looking for the same ole, same ole.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

2009 Best American Essays

Let me affirm that I love essays – prefer them to other genres. Non-fiction piques my interest. Well-written, stylistic non-fiction delights.


Even the introduction and the foreword to 2009 Best American Essays caught my attention. A short history of the American essay begins with Washington Irving, whose work few read any more. But somewhere in the back of my memory is an essay on the Pennsylvania Dutch, those who lived in New York City in particular. Irving's delightful observations of a lifestyle completely at odds with the rest of the city create an indelible memory.

As for Montaingne, who can deny his assertions that as an essayist 'I turn my gaze inward. I fix it there and keep it busy. . . I look inside. . . I have no business but with myself. . . I take stock of myself, I taste myself. Others always go elsewhere, . . .. they always go forward. . . As for me, I roll about in myself.' The ultimate narcissist, the essayist grants her/him self permission to investigate a personal view of the universe.

All blogs meet Montaingne's criteria of 'essay' to one degree or another.

The second day in the southern hemisphere dawned at 2:30 this morning with an online order for orange bathroom stink removal oil. Package arrived at 3:30 this afternoon. Pretty dammed fast, I'd say.

I did return to bed around 4:30 to awaken again at 6:30 to begin a day of careful jet lage negotiation enhanced by Richard Rodriquez's The God of the Desert.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Shower – does the drain really spin clockwise in the southern hemisphere?

Actually, she had no idea which way the drain emptied this morning. Until she sat down to jot this note, the coriolis effect of the two hemispheres was the last thought on her mind.

Instead, the angst of the previous morning infiltrated her shower meditations at 4:14 a.m. eastern Australian time – well, that's not accurate – more like Queensland time because Melbourne and Sydney both function on some kind of daylight savings during this period of the calendar – urgh. Ironically, she, who hated the thought of a clock determining the order of the day, actually demanded regularly to know the time.

One of the delights of travelling 10,000 miles or 13,000 kilometres was that she allowed her body to tell her what to do. So bedtime last night was when her eyes simply would not stay open any longer. Later she computed that to be about 7 p.m. in her corner of Oz and 4 a.m. in the prairie world from which she had travelled.

Her need for orderliness – not just any orderliness, but her own kinky manner of doing things - required that after four and a half months of being away the lamps must be returned to their rightful corners, the wall hangings re-arranged with the children at the centre of the universe.

Loaded with baggage, out of breath from climbing the back stairs, her first words upon entering the lounge and surveying the room, 'This simply will not do.'

Annie, the erstwhile and accommodating youngest child of the Australian, the one willing to change her work schedule in order to pick them up form their international flight, quickly retorted, 'It's not me. I didn't do it!'

There had been previous discussions about whether the children ought to be hanging in the middle of this old Queenslander in their larger than life photo taken when the eldest was thirteen and the youngest were ten and eleven. But the American loved the photo, loved the idea of the three children together at that time in their lives, rather liked the composition of young Australians and the natural environment where they pose together, but are oh so separate. They look directly at the camera. They are complete within themselves even then. And at the same time the relaxed state of their posture relates another tale that claims they are entirely comfortable with each other, with the sibling arrangement they have created.

She missed the metre square photo joining all the corners of the house into relationship.

Apparently the young blond who rented the space while she was establishing a new home in America – a home far too small to accommodate the Aussie trio – had felt a level of discomfort at the family photo and replaced it with a vermilion Buddha meditating beneath his banyan tree. Fine for the guest room – hardly appropriate for the centre of this house where the three young adults had come of age.

It took the weary traveller an hour to find the framed photo with its face leaning to the wall beside the bookcase in her office. Face to the wall? What message did that send? Enough!

Her American angst and promise of retribution muttered repeatedly within that first hour of arriving home gave her Aussie partner reason to invoke sarcasm, impatience and discomfort. Sigh.

All is well in the world now that the family is back on its appointed wall. Comfort levels may even return to normal since she has been able to control the environment, to recreate an atmosphere conducive to her own sense of propriety.

Just thought you might like to know what the important issues in the American's life are these days! 'Don't be messin with my wall hangings and we can, possibly, be friends.'

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Greetings from the Southern Hemisphere

6 a.m. in Kiwiland and all is well. As per usual, there is plenty of rain to greet us. Overcast skies being the default in these isles.

Our journey last night was pleasant - at least in the business class cabin. When we landed, folks were requested to remain in their seats until the paramedics had time to board and care for a person with a medical problem.

As I sit here typing, I can see the beautiful 747-400 sitting on the tamac with a paramedic van (lights flashing) parked beside. I wonder if the passenger in question has left the plane yet. The rest of us have, to be sure.

The twelve hour flight with low cabin pressure could be harrowing for an individual with any kind of heart condition - but that's just a guess.

The Aussie and I are alert, well fed, well slept, and ready for the next stage of our voyage home to Oz which commences in about two hours.

Hope your Monday is as celebratory as our Tuesday.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Travel -haitus

I’ve sent a couple of book proposals/QUERY letters to American literary agents lately on behalf of Kookaburra Serenade: Almost Parallel Tales. On the emails I sent this week, I included reference to American in Oz. Suddenly it occurred to me that I really ought to write about writing just in case one of those agents decides to check us out. Notice I use the plural, (us, we). This blog wouldn’t exist if there were no readers. Long ago I would have lost my appetite for writing to empty cyberspace.

However, these days when I am drifting off to sleep I often find myself concocting a blog entry for the next day. Readers have become an integral part of life on the prairie. I suppose that syndicated journalists feel similarly – that’s not to imply that my short and simple entries compare to the columns of daily newspapers.

Living in a tiny community (population 77) in a state with a population small enough that we have only one member in the Federal House of Representatives reminds me that any audience is better than none at all – probably the reason most of us seek publication by the traditional media.

The Burke County Tribune
, our local weekly rag, has several regular columnists, one of whom, Josh Ellis, is published only every other week. I do miss his column in the off-week. I suspect that regular readers feel the same way when they stop in here to find that I have failed to post for a particular day. Not too much hubris in that comment.

And so it seems wise to share that ‘we’ will be travelling. On Monday we fly. It is possible that there will be a week with no entries as we arrive in Oz eight days later. Long flight!

I promise that as soon as I can turn on the BIG MAC in Paddington, I will be seeking your readership once again – hopefully with scads of travel humour at the expense of the tall guy who used to carry my bags – but won’t be this trip because as you may recall from previous entires, he has the use of only one shoulder. Won’t be crying on that one!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Flexibility

Amazing how flexible we humans are.

Six weeks ago I stacked at least three layers of clothing on my body before slipping into my heavy fleece parka and nylon windbreaker, thick wool beanie, earmuffs, and gloves to go out the back door when the temperatures were in the low 40sF (7C).

This morning as I dressed to head for the post office, a quarter mile saunter across town, I zipped up my light fleece jacket over my cotton turtleneck and smiled at the sunshine warming the 36F (2C) breeze that rearranged my hair, but my ears complained not a bit. I stuck my hands and the PO box keys they were jingling in the pocket of my jacket.

I have metamorphosed into a winter crittur. Soon I will head out to continue raking and trimming the lilac hedge in front of the house where I found two heavy brown pelts deep in the leaf litter the other day.

To be in conjunction with the elements is a gift, a gift of adaptation common to all the creatures of the planet. Just takes some of us a bit longer.

While working on the lilacs, it occurred to me that this adaptation is the stuff of graceful aging, of living well into ones majority with a minimum of angst. Think of the Bristlecone Pines of the White Mountains of California, the oldest continuous life on the planet. When one aspect of the plant loses its vigour, a new limb manifests ready to carry on the business of photosynthesis, ready to carry the plant into a new century.

As I raked and pruned, I realized that the lilac does the same: an ancient part dies off after birthing new limber branches to carry on the process of adaptation.

My brain must do the same if I am to be vital in the next decade of my life. The part that is having difficulty finding nouns needs to be relaxed while it creates new dendrites as a result of my learning a new language, engaging in new problem solving techniques, playing new games, interacting with new cultures, finding new patterns for my life than the ones to which I have grown accustomed. Stagnation is the killer.

I am aware that the information I seek is still stored, but the access points for that information requires my self to knock on a few more doors, to come to the room where information is stored via the roof rather than through the basement where I found the elevator door previously. It takes a bit longer.

But not if I build new stairwells through which I can access the floors of the high rise of my knowledge, of my physical brain. Like the Bristlecone Pines, it is time to send out new limbs by which the photosynthesis of creating continuing knowledge can occur.

Amazing how a walk to the post office or pruning the lilacs can change one's perspective.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Biblical Marriage

Landover Baptist Church has done it again. Mrs. Betty Bowers, a better Christian than you’ll ever be, has once more satirized the Christian Right.

With just the right tone, not too proper and totally sincere, Betty uses the Old Testament to vilify those who believe that they have the responsibility to tell the rest of us how to be in relationship.

For a good giggle and a rather well researched commentary on Old Testament marriage arrangements check out this site: http://www.youtube.com/MrsBettyBowers

If you are offended, consider the topics I might have blogged about this morning – The Australian Senator who has taken Scientology to task for slavery and illegal incarceration, for instance. You can find that story on the Brisbane Courier Mail website.

Yes, this is a left-handed reference. Scientology has a reputation for lambasting its critics on line by interfering with their ability to post. I like my blog site and prefer to avoid cyber attacks

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

On Line Maps - whose directions are you following?

New York Times this morning has an article on Google and other map sites.

Damn, who's mapping India, Cambodia and Vietnam, not the spots most of us visit every day, but certainly if we were to head towards the equator, spots we would love to have mapped for us ahead of time so that our Garmin, Tom Tom, or Navigator would find the right rice or noodle shop.

Geo volunteers says the NY Times!

So, next time the nasty little man or snarky woman's voice tells you 'where to go' and is wrong, you can blame the volunteer! I know, I know, usually the machine is right; but I have been taken far afield many a time by our Tom Tom that is correct 98% of the time. Guess, I'm just naturally argumentative. If there isn't a human being around to contend with, I turn to machines. Shrug! Least ways, no one's feelings are hurt :)

I remember my uber traveller friend who returned from Lithuania with stories of hiring guides in order to travel the back country. No maps, no road signs - designed to keep foreign invaders confused. No more!

Take a look at the article by clicking on today's blog title. You may be surprised.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Trimming

Must be hungry.

My mind immediately did a click on turkey. (And all the trimmings).

Holiday spirit was the next connection (Trim the tree, the house, the front door)

Third was my fringe (Australian) that would be my 'bangs' (American). I had straight edged them after brushing the hair out of my eyes seven times too often. Had a trim at the local hair dressers in Lignite on Friday. Not precisely Tony and Guy, but you can tell the hairdo from the eyebrows now.

The real reason, I titled this entry Trimming lies in my work for the past several hours. I so want to find an American literary agent before heading back to the southern hemisphere in two weeks. In that pursuit, I spent from 7:30-1:30 today rewriting (trimming) and sending out a whole slew of new book proposals. Right now, the ration of rejections to invitations to send our manuscript on to an agent is 14/1.

Whenever a rejection comes into my snail or e mail box, I find another agent to whom I can send a new book proposal. As you might imagine after spending several days on this process, my book proposals are reaching new heights of perfection. Never perfect, tho. I suspect the process will undergo continuing change until we finally find someone who loves our work as much as we loved writing it and decides to accept the responsibility of helping us find a publisher.

Cross your fingers, send out your blasts, think good thoughts. And thanks ahead of time. As I've mentioned before, I'll let you know when success is ours. Probably you'll hear me in the middle of your dreams one night..check back here if you do. I do have that sort of connection!!

love to all..

Monday, November 16, 2009

Happy Birthday to my nephew, Ryan

Ryan is one of those very tall, very atheletic, compassionate, fire fighter blokes. He is married to one patient woman with whom he has just birthed a lovely baby girl. Ryan has a facebook page. Sometimes, I think he has this page just so that he can share photos of his lovely little girl. He obviously loves her and doesn't mind the world knowing that fact.

His birthday is this week and I thought a gift to this exceptional young man might be to send him a recent article from the Brisbane Courier Mail about how important dads are in the lives of their chidren, like he didn't already know. Still, it helps to be assured that the so-called experts agree with one's life plans.

The title of the article is Dads Give Babies Headstart. The contents which you can read by clicking on the blog title above, indicate that kids do better in school if dad has been involved in their lives from the beginning, that girls have better mental healh when they reach adulthood if they have lived with a dad who actively participated in their rearing, that all children have better language acquisition if dads are involved in their lives from day one.

What more could any child ask?

So, happy birthday, Ryan. I am jazzed about your involvement in your daughter's life!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Only in Canada? Battle of the Blades

If you can access Canadian TV, check out the Battle of the Blades finale on Monday evening.

No lie; it has been a delightful series featuring duos of Canadian hockey players and their ice dancing Olympic prize winning partners. After reading a NY Times article on the show, I was up at midnight watching youtube re-runs of the early shows. Woke the Aussie and together we grinned through five youtube renditions of the 'competition'.

Click on the title to this blog entry for the Vancouver Sun story on Monday night's show. Click here for youtube renditions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GscWDUk3otA

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AAfKR3QhHoI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ffuIEilrZY

Here's the CBC website devoted to the Battle of the Blades.

http://www.cbc.ca/battle/

Check it out. I can guarantee that this is smile inducing reality TV.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A note from Anath Gurl...an ozite with info

http://www.yothuyindi.com/index.html Gurrumul Yun... http://www.yothuyindi.com/index.html

Gurrumul Yunupingu is brother to Mandawuy Yunupingu - Singer, Songwriter from Yothu Yindi - see link above..... the fabulous Oz Band which also includes Ben Hakalitz - Drums - originally from Bougainvillea Island, Ben played with the legendary PNG band Songuma before joining Yothu Yindi in 1994. Ben was the songwriter of the East Timor song and these days plays with David Bridie['Not Drowning Waving' and 'My Friend the Chocolate Cake'] and George Telek fabulous indigenous man from PNG with marvelous native chants.

Gurrumul was also featured on a recently screened episode of 'Later... With Jools Holland' a BBC show on ABC2 here in OzLand... worth a look to see if they have a streaming version...... it was fabulous.
Publish Reject

Friday, November 13, 2009

Sting and Yunupingu

Well, Sting, the old blond Brit, did a duet in Paris last night with the young blind Australian aboriginal lad, Yunupingu.

I haven't been able to find a site with the actual duet, but have located news posts about how well received the Australian has been on his first European tour. Click on the title to this blog entry to read what the Australian papers have to say.

As soon as a site is available I will post here. In the meantime, here is an addy that will let you hear Yunupingu's music solo.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bawDFY8G-o4

Peter Garrett, Australia's environmental minister and former lead singer for Midnight Oil, had this to say about his Aussie counterpart: Yunupingu 'sings so deeply and sweetly about his connection to family and country, the effect is transcendental.' Quite a compliment, maybe enough to cause you to take five to listen to his performance.


And why did I notice? Cause, just before I left Oz to visit for four months in nordamerica, I purchased six cds of Aboriginal musicians in order to share the talent that lies south of the equator with my northern hemisphere friends.Yunupingu was one.

I do hope you enjoy..

Oh, and stay tuned for what I consider one of the most entertaining TV programs to go to air this season. Got up last night at 1 a.m. to watch it three times over on the computer - woke the Aussie up and we giggled together as we watched.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Moose Jaw birthday

Yep! We're headed for Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada tommorrow for my birthday celebration!

170 miles north and a tad west of us is a little B&B overlooking the Moose Jaw River Valley - Wakamow Heights Bed and Breakfast. Click on the blog post title for the web page. Pics on the sideboard.

We are gonna bask in the hot tub in the Terrance Room of the home of the former owner of the brick yards of Moose Jaw - now beat that for a 69th birthday :)

After a movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats, we'll stop in Hopkins (pic on sideboard) for ribs or wings and head on back to our little birthday retreat.

Catch you all upon our return to the glorious sunshine of the northern prairie.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Yea! for Health System Reform - House vote

If you feel as good about the House of Representatives vote last night as I do, you may wish to jot your local paper a letter to the editor.

What better way to offset the work of militant Republicans who want to kill legislation to make sure that American citizens are treated as well by the medical profession and by corporate medical insurance companies as their pets have been treated for the past twenty five years?

Yep, finally Americans almost have a chance of getting the same level of service as their pets for a cost that will not force them to choose between living with a limp or mortgaging their home.

Just drag your icon to the bookmark of your local paper and jot a note to the editor telling him/her of your support for this legislation.

It will do more to support positive change than the $5 the Democrats are asking us to donate. Taking the time is not for you now - It is for your children and grandchildren for the next twenty years.

Do it! Click on your bookmark for your local paper. Write!! Hit send!!

love you all, hope you really do take action.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

5% of the world's population - 25% of the world's prisoners

Did you know that the USA with five percent of the world’s population houses twenty-five per cent of the world’s prisoners? I sure didn’t.

It seems to me that the establishment of Guantanomo was a natural progression of the American government's attitude about incarceration. Why would the government hesitate to treat foreign nationals differently than it treats its own citizens?

Although I am not assuming that American citizens incarcerated in our federal, state, and county prisons are tortured in the most common use of the term, I am certain that the American philosophy about law and order is swiftly increasing the number of young people in the ‘under class’ populated by those having graduated from prison, those finding it impossible to find viable employment after leaving prison.

As always, it is my assumption that to find the culprit, one must only look to the money, to any lucrative increase in funding. America spends over sixty billion dollars a year on incarceration?(Ah, that’s what part of the last government bail out of Wall Street bankers who will never go to prison for their misdeeds?)

Who is benefited from such expenditures?

Those who build new prisons and those who operate the ones that already exist.

You can read the entire article in the 16 November Nation (page 8) in which ten steps to decrease incarceration rates in the USA are suggested.


Nation magazine, 16 NOVEMBER 2009

Thursday, November 05, 2009

Buffett Bets Big on Railroads’ Future

I admit it; I love Amtrak.

So, my interest in the recent acquisition of Burlington Northern Santa Fe by Warren Buffet is not about the commercial interests of transportation in the USA. My interest concerns the silly thought that if Warren can enhance the profits of one of America's largest transporters of goods, he might take on the increasingly important issue of transporting people.

Please keep in mind that I have chosen to live in a little prairie town built by the railroads just before the turn of the last century. Actually, it is more like the building of this little town was a profitable deal for the railroads. Once the line was built, the railroads, who had been given vast blocks of land along the railroad right of way by Congress, sold off those blocks for town development.

Flaxton was one of those commuities. Today, the railroad prospers in this area of the great plains - lots of oil and scads, slight understatement, of grains to transport to Chicago and other trade corridor partners. Each midnight or 3 a.m. the fellows are out on the lines putting together huge lines of rail cars before they leave our little town and move on down the line in mile or more long entourages.

Like the few other folks in town, I have grown used to and almost look forward to the early morning clashes of combining railcars. When the engines whail as they approach the main intersection in town, I smile and somehow feel included in the process of moving goods across North America - cause, you see, many of the trains coming through our town, originate in Calgary or Edmonton in Canada and are destined for Dallas or El Paso and on south to Mexico.

We may be small, population around 60 these days, but we are a hub for this activity, alive and well here on the prairie.

However, it is not the oil and grain that interest me the most. It is the rail transportation of people that concerns me. Amtrak has been robbed regularly by every federal government in power for the past twenty years and yet, because some of us love the ride, Amtrak has prevailed.

I so much want Warren's investment to prosper and hope mightily that he will eventually consider supporting another potential money maker - people moving across the nation, not in fuel guzzling airplanes that render us all more radioactive than we were before we left the ground, hasseled by security personnel at every stop, stuffed into seats where our knees knock the back of the person in front of us, shoulders bumped by the 'trolly dollies (both male and female) along too narrow aisles high in the sky.

No, I want more Americans to sit back with a good book or their laptops and enjoy the roomy, larger than the living room lounge chair seats, the wide windows and beautiful mountains or golden prairies, as well as views of small town America as they whisk on Japanese style bullet trains from point A to point B with plenty of stops along the way.

Yep, Warren, that's what I really want you to invest in!


p.s. click on the title of this blog post to go to the NEW YORK TIMES article

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Good on ya, Ms. Obama - Spread the Practice

'Emotional' Michelle Obama announces White House mentoring program for girls

By Robin Givhan

Michelle Obama has done it again! She's out there modeling ways for all of us to make a difference in our communities. A non-novel idea finally makes it to the most public arena in the land. The Congress has been involved in this same mentoring process for the past hundred years. It took a wise woman to move the idea on down the block a bit and center on the White House.

I love the bully pulpit that exists in the White House these days.

You may find this article interesting..hopefully.

Click on the title to this blog to go to the Washington Post article.

Happy whatever day it is in your corner of the universe!!

Monday, November 02, 2009

Someone from Munster Stopped by

Humm..and the next time I hope they leave a little cheese! A fav of mine.

Was just reading how to maximize my blog impact. Pictures - well..check me out just below the list of my fav web sites and blogs...The plaids actually film well and when I wear that kind of stuff at my cabin in the mountains, I am happy - happy to be there, happy to be with whomever chooses to join me there, happy to be among the bear, deer, mountain lions, swiftly swirling streams, tall pines and firs; Just plain happy..so please take note: Happy Shot!!

Not much to report - temps almost reached 50F (10C) this afternoon. I worked on the merlot trim around the back door and then came back in to send off myriad book proposal submissions.

Time to work on a few more..and soon, very soon, I will have exhausted my list and I will actually write a blog entry worth your time; a creative piece on something no onne else may think is important, but an idea that has been simmering behind my eyes for a few days.

check back!
btw..click on the title to this blog and see a yummy sauerkraut tart with munster.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Finding a Literary Agent -

First off, let me assure you that writing a full length manuscript of any sort is a major commitment to just plain old hard work.

Secondly, let me assure you that once you have spent three years producing a well written, thoughtful, entertaining piece of literature, you have only agony staring you in the face until you find an agent and finally a publisher for that story.

I know, I know! Folks really do self publish. However, the vast majority of folks who self publish spend a minimum of $5000 of their own money to have their manuscript printed and then, oh yes, and then they have to figure out a way to market the finished product without the aide of professionals. Statistics indicate that fewer than 1% of self published authors actually sell more than one hundred of their manuscripts.


The publishing business is skewed in favour of corporations! So, what's new? Who would have thought otherwise.

Since the Aussie bloke and I will be spending the next three weeks here in the sometimes overcast and always cool prairie and since it's too cold outside to continue painting the trim on the house, I have set myself a goal - find an American agent!

To that effect, I have recently submitted in hard copy or on line (depending on the requirements of various agents) over eighteen non-fiction book proposals. I have only a thousand more to go! :) Smile! - that's not an exaggeration.

Fortunately, for those of us who are struggling with this process there are several web sites currently available to lessen the struggle. Let me introduce you to WordHustler.com

If you click on the title to this blog post, you will go directly to this amazing site which has been so helpful in my attempt to reach my goal this past week. I actually love these guys and gals! For a pittance, they have my best interests at heart - unlike the publishing industry itself which is certain that I do NOT deserve to have my words in print under their label (at least so far).

I have not given up; I am simply more determined than ever to find the right agent to work with me so that together we can share with 'boomer women' the joys of love relationships after 40!



Thanks.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Two in One Day - Resigning from the Afghan War

The Washington Post 29 October 2009

U.S. official resigns over Afghan War

Foreign Service officer and former Marine captain says he no longer knows why his nation is fighting

You may wish to click on the title to this blog post and read the Karen DeYoung article from the Washington Post yourself!

Thoughts Become Things

I'm not in the habit of touting other web pages and strange philosophies, but this morning the quote below showed up in my inbox thanks to the forwarding tool on a Claremont High School teacher's computer. Thanks, B!

Sometimes the Universe who signs these quips makes outlandish, really silly claims, but this morning, I sat here shaking my head, 'Yep, he's right! This is how I see the puzzle that is my world. I chose the design, I manage to find the right venue in which to assemble the pieces, and I even decide which colour, size, and weight of pieces to include.'

So, if you find any of this interesting, click on the title to today's blog entry and you will go directly to the web page of the fellow who sends out these daily items that I often forward along to friends across the globe.

'Life, dear reader, is not what you see, but what you've projected. It's not what you've felt, but what you've decided. It's not what you've experienced, but how you've remembered it. It's not what you've forged, but what you've allowed. And it's not who's appeared, but who you've summoned.'


In the meantime, the sun crossed the horizon around 8:30 this morning, but the golden orb failed to break through the overcast; must be some form of blanket keeping us from subfreezing temps. Time to work on another set of book proposal submissions to American literary agents - I'm projecting success in the near future! :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Saga - Get over it?

9:30 in the evening and new reservations have been made; we head to Oz on 29 November.

I'm over the whole damn thing.

I have three weeks to write something worthwhile. Time to buckle down and do some serious writing - which means, I suppose, find the humour in all of this angst.

I'm reading Snow Crash on my birthday kindle - even that dark futuristic science fiction is full of black humour and some downright light stuff as well. Time to go in search of that which makes us laugh whilst in the midst of misery.

Any suggestions? My good blogger friend, POD, manages to create just that sort of blurb on a daily basis.

And Jack, the Wanderer, another fine blogger, does the same. Look for my humble attempts in future notes.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Who over reacted to soon?

Like anyone who knows me would have trouble coming up with that answer!

The Aussie visited with Dr. Ackerman at the bone clinic this morning. No rush home says the doc. Take your time. Two weeks or two months - makes no difference.

So, we have time. And depending on the insurance company decisions, we'll probably take some of that time to hook up the furnace here in the prairie house and if the weather cooperates add a little more paint..the kitchen window is not yet merlot..and if you take a look at the pics on the side bar, you'll notice that the surfeit just beyond the bay windows needs some paint, too. Trim around the basement stair's window and the back door are unfinished - primed but not merlot yet.

Relief was tangible after the tall guy came out of the drs. office.

Bass Street may have to suffer another few weeks without our occupation of the front bedroom in numero uno.

Time to jot a few emails to significant folks to let them know the haps.

Talk more laters..

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Monday morning

Sun tried really hard to break through this morning. I could feel the effort, the blasts of warmth slowly penetrating the ether even before I rose from my bed.

Still, the blanket of clouds withstood the onslaught; the morning was stagnant with cool - temps hovering near 40 (5C).

This afternoon after my stroll to the post office to mail another five or six book proposals to American agents, the sun is once again on the offensive - feels good as it streams through my bay window - a picture of which is on the sidebar today.

Weather is what life is all about here on the prairie. I suppose the weather is what it's all about in all extreme climates. In the cities where air conditioning and storm shutters abound, no one is much concerned with what weather is out there unless, of course, flooded streets and tracks make it impossible to get to the high rises and malls to work and shop. Then even in urban ares weather talk abounds.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Heavy Lifting and furnace removal

Ah, my dear friends...

First off, nope; I'm not doing the heavy lifting by myself..

When you don't have ALL of an Aussie bloke, you must make do with half an Aussie bloke - and wonderment of wonderments..half of one of these men is more than all of most!

Together we lifted the heavy stuff onto the pick-up truck bed and off again. All he couldn't do is 'throw'.

But what he can do is organize and problem solve - which means he figured out ways to use my rather limited strength to balance his enormous left handed strength to get the stuff off the ground and onto the bed of the pick-up (ute).

The furnace had been dismantled and taken up the stairs from the basement before he fell and severed the tendon in his right shoulder. It had been sitting in the side yard waiting to be removed to the town dump. (btw, the cost for putting the entire furnace in the dump was $5.)

The heaviest item was the old 'trash burning stove' that had been sitting in the basement, probably ever since the house had been moved in from the prairie about fifty years ago.

And just to make the world work even better, yesterday was one of those amazing prairie Indian Summer days with temps hovering just above 60F (10C) and sunshine with only a minimum of breeze.

I primed the rest of the house with white and then when it dried applied the second grey coat. It looks 'almost finished'..pics if the sun shines..you can't much tell in the rainy day cloud cover light, so I won't bother with pics right now.

All that is needed to finish off the outside is the red trim around the bay windows and along the facia board just below the roof. The winter can storm itself silly now, and the little prairie house will withstand!! No matter whether we are here to protect it or not.

Feels so good to have done this work - my right shoulder complains, but I just whisper that good work sometimes produces good pain - so get over it!! :)

Look beside the post - I have added some pics of the inside of our rather crowded living/sleeping/dining room with our new rocking chair right in the middle of everything.

We do need to finish off the upstairs so that the bed can be moved there!!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

53 F and Sunny! - Lovely Autumn weather

Ok, so here we are - waiting for the doctors and the insurance company to come to agreement about treatment! Urgh!!

In the meantime, yesterday we loaded and dumped three pick ups full of trash from the basement. The city dump is beginning to look a bit more like the Lind House trash dump. The old furnace was a big part of the last load we delivered. The first two were full of household bills from the 1950s and a 1928 letter from the Senate to Agnes Lind. Old boards, picture frames, rotten wood, and various other non-notables went dumpward.

Today, it will be paint time. If we can finish the base coat on the bay window section of the house, it will be winterized sufficiently to withstand whatever mother nature sends.

Tomorrow we expect cold rain - a good time to be indoors baking bread or reading my new kindle.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Turn of Events or is that Turn of the Screw!

Ok, for my own sake I need to document this disaster that may turn into a fiasco or may even finally manifest as a welcome change in plans.

I know, that was a bit all encompassing, but the facts indicate that no accident is really an accident. Usually there's a bit of intention sliding through the background of the scene, something that indicates that we all do know what is about to change our plans, even while insisting that we have absolutely no responsibility for those changes.

1. Tuesday, 13 October -The Aussie trips over the vacuum cleaner power cord and falls backward over the vacuum itself in a very small bathroom. As he hits the floor, pain rips through his right shoulder.

2. When the pain subsides, he discovers he cannot lift his right arm at the shoulder.

3. Wednesday, 14 October, we see the physician's assistant who in this corner of the prairie is the primary health care provider. Her office pushes Trinty Hospital to make a Friday appointment for an MRI.

4. Friday, 16 October, the Aussie gets his MRI, but no access to the results.

5. Tuesday, 20 October, seven days after the accident, the physican's assistant calls with the results of the MRI - two shoulder tendons implicated, one severed with 18 mm break between the rotator cuff and the end of the severed tendon.

6. Wednesday, 21 October, at the request of the the Aussie's Australian Insurance company, an appointment is made with an orthopedic surgeon in Minot for Tuesday, 27 October.

So, here we are:
- waiting for one American surgeon to tell an Australian surgeon that the severed tendon needs surgery in order to be re-attached,
- waiting to be given permission to return to Brisbane where the insurance company is willing to pay for that surgery.

Frustration reigns in the north american outback:
- with the speed at which insurance companies do NOT work,
- with their lack of regard for patients and their pain
- with their distrust of the claims of policy holders.

All that being said, both the Aussie and I are appreciative of the kindness and proficiency of the staff of the physician's assistant and those to whom we speak on the phone in Brisbane representing the Insurance company.

I guess that's it! We wait for the professionals to DO to us because in the American system we are not allowed to be part of the process; we are simply dummies on whom the professionals will/can/shall act. What kind of a new program does the Congress have in store for us..hopefully not more of the same!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Weather

An orange aura surrounded the sun this morning as it lifted above the cloud bank on the south-eastern horizon. Both the Aussie bloke and his American wife smiled at the thought of another perfect autumn day on the prairie.

Yesterday, neighbours stopped by to talk when they saw us out painting the last of the merlot trim on the street side of the house.

'Ah, the weather gods stole two weeks of this weather from us,'lamented Calvin, a retired farmer who now lives down the street. His reference, of course, was to the previous ten days of freezing rain, snow, and cloud cover, un-natural in this corner of the prairie so early in the season.

I admit that the ice covering tiny twigs and huge limbs of the trees in the front garden sparkled for an entire day before melting onto the sunroof of the Cherokee. It was a grand sight, but one we might have appreciated more in the middle of November instead of in October.

There is a sadness mixed in with our delight at 'good' weather on this Sunday. We will in all liklihood be leaving for Australia in the forthcoming week. The Aussie's accidental fall has taken a toll neither of us thought possible.

The results of Friday's MRI will be sent to the physician's assistant who is our only health contact here in this medical wilderness on Tuesday morning. Those same results will be forwarded on to the Australian travel insurance company who will be making arrangements, if there is a torn tendon involved, to medivac the tall Aussie dude to Brisbane for surgery.

We will miss the blooming daffodils and tulips I planted yesterday. But, we will return, probably in late June to actually install the furnace currently sitting in its box in the garage and we may choose to stay a long while to begin the renovations of the inside of the little prairie house we have come to love.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Power cords and Achilles

Some folks are more powerful than they have any right to be. More adept and balanced, more logical and successful in all endeavours.

Some folks are so technically proficient that many of us simply stand back 'in awe'.

Some folks (well, all folks) eventually have a comeuppance.

The rest of us stand back, suppress a tiny smile and at the same time twinge with regret.

The Greeks gave us the metaphorical model. (Hector and Achilles, for instance) Each of us in some small way follows the track right on down to the final foible.

The tall Aussie bloke tripped over a power cord yesterday.

Today, the doctor issued a referral for an MRI. Seems shoulder damage is certain.

We may be southern hemisphere bound sooner than we thought.

Please do send him all your reiki energy to heal not only the psyche, but the physical injury as well.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Memoir - My Grandmother

...........................Grandma Hook.......................

She was always an enigma to me. Bigger than life, sterner than any woman I had ever known, for me she was always a strong old woman. Her dresses had a waistline that circled under her breasts. Her skirts always hung straight. She seemed to have no ass. She always wore dark colours and fashions that made her seem even older than she probably was.

Her house was always clean, but cluttered. I loved her house more than I loved her, I suspect. There were corners, cracks, and crannies to investigate in that house.

There were books. Actually, there was only one book that I remember: The Wizard of Oz sat beside the piano in a little corner of the living room where I tucked myself into the almost dark and read words on pages that were bigger than those in any book I had ever read before. Today, that print is reserved for folks who claimed to be partially sighted, those with cataracts or some form of benign blindness – almost.

Then, I was anything but blind. I was aware of the energy in Grandma Hook’s home. It may have been intriguing, but it was not inviting. Her’s was a place where one behaved, where one remembered not to be too noisy, not to make a scene, but a place where currants grew in the back yard and chickens roamed the side yard – on the far side of the driveway, a horseshoe affair.

Grandma Hook lived on very busy Davidson Road in the partially industrialized neighborhood in Flint, Michigan – as if the whole city were not industrialized. They made Buicks there. On her street, they produced AC sparkplugs. My grandfather, an electrician, worked in that factory. He was electrocuted on the roof one night in 1936, four years before I was born.

It was shortly after his death that my mother was boarded out to her home-ec teacher in a slightly more middle class section of the city. There she learned to wash and iron sheets, to set a table properly, to cook, and to appreciate sterling silver.

Perhaps because my grandmother, who was attempting to raise eight children without a father, needed to find a table at which each could find enough food, my own mother followed the pattern. I was boarded out, too, not when I was eighteen like my mother, but when I was one. I doubt that my mom learned to do that from her home-ec teacher. She did learn, however, to fold towels in the proper manner, to hand sew a hem, and to enjoy solid teak furniture, furniture I never remember seeing in my grandmother’s home.

Yes, my Gramma, the stern faced woman with a halo of grey-black hair pinned up around her face, the woman with the bounteous black skirts and the rolled up stockings and proper shoes probably taught my mother a great deal, but I doubt if she intended to teach my mother to give up her firstborn at so early an age.

The enduring memory of Grandma Hook is of her sitting at the breakfast nook, a white wooden table on each side of which was attached a wooden bench with a seat that lifted so that there was storage space underneath, a bench that would sit at least four on each side. There she sat one afternoon when my mother and I stopped to visit. She was using a teaspoon to scoop out the soft green insides of an avocado. I had never tasted avocado. They seemed decadent at the time; they looked oily and slimy. That was the last time I saw my grandmother.

Shortly thereafter she went to hospital where she subsequently died of breast cancer – not a long illness; she gave up less than two weeks after diagnosis.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Samples of work from Prairie School of the Arts Workshop

Check out Prairie School of the Arts blog page - link to the right - for samples of the writing accomplished at the workshop last week.

Hope you enjoy. We certainly took pleasure in discussions of our writing!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Swirling Snow

Yep! Woke to swirling yellow leaves from the almost naked tree on our front lawn mixed with snow fluries. Outside my window the flakes are huge white conglomerations of cold dancing on the northwest wind, sometimes catching the still green lilac leaves, sometimes forming a damn of white along the bottom of the pane of glass on our new bay windows. (Yes, many thanks to the Aussie who installed those windows just in the nick of time!)

This is an autumn storm with the almost 11 o'clock sun trying diligently to break through the cloud bank. One can almost see the glowing spere hidden behind the curtain of grey, almost!

Temps outside hover around 20 - as cold as it ever was in our winter sojourn last year in the Sierras of California. But, that 20F was as cold as it got. Here in the Dakotas 20F (-6C) is just the beginning, the autumnal; here -40F (-40C) is what we can expect before we board our flight in February for a late summer journey to the southern hemisphere.

Time to prepare for installation of the travelling furnace - tear out the old to make way for the new.

Friday, October 09, 2009

Canada, Oh, Canada!

Estavan is a small oil town in Saskatchawan just across the border from my neighborhood. Emily is a stalwart Aussiette come to visit the border country. Today we headed north to treat her to Vietnamese. Just love that food. Satay today - rice paper rolls tomorrow.

Well, not really! Because some of us are NOT American citizens, but Aussie-American reisdents; we can't cross what used to be a mythological border any time we want to in order to enjoy a Canadian version of south Asian food.

We did go grocery shopping and checked out the local 'huge' hardware outlet - not as large as Menards in Minot - like any of you know what I'm 'on' about.

You see, the only large North Dakota town with warehouse hardware is Minot, 80 miles east. Estevan is only 35 miles north of us: so, if we cut off that additional 80 miles (round trip) to buy needed supplies to renovate this cute cottage, it would not only save on gasoline, but also on time and energy.

Besides, in Canada we can stop in for Vietnamese. The food in Minot is military mundane!

That reminds me - On the way to the border, we passed a missle silo replete with long black Suburban and a Hummer, flak jacketed, helmeted soldiers standing guard and two semi's parked inside the fenced perimeter! Jokes all round about just how seriously the military takes itself these days.

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Blustery and Cold

Woke this morning to what protends to be the real start of autumn here in our corner of paradise. Cold and colder! Tonight the power will be off from midnight to six a.m. so that Dakota/Montana Power Company can maintain their lines. Means our upstairs guest will have to find another way to entertain herself in the early morning hours.

Our prairie friend who summoned us here and with whom we will be in frequent contact via email and phone, fled early this morning back to Tucson where it's warmer and more sunny.

Speaking of which, the golden orb is valiently attempting to break through the cloud cover and warm this windy space in which we have chosen to spend early winter.

BTW, our furnace is happily enroute - last check into the online tracking system finds its hundred pounds of warming potential in Georgia, a few hundred miles north of Orlando where it originated.

We are assured that it will reach us next Tuesday! Hooray!! In the meantime we have a couple of small space heaters and lots of quilts to keep the cool at bay.

From my perch in the lounge room, through the newly installed double paned windows, I can see a small patch of blue moving swiftly across the skies behind the deciduous trees that have not yet lost leaves. If the 20 mph breeze would settle, it would almost be a balmy 40 degrees outside!!

Enough whinging! All is well.

Monday, October 05, 2009

45 Degrees - Time to replace the windows!

Yep! It's Sunday, bloody cold Sunday.

As I sit here typing with down booties on my feet, stocking cap on my curly head, fleece jacket zipped up, woolie scarf wrapped round my neck, rings removed and put away for safe keeping, the Aussie bloke is sawing, hacking, screwing, planing, and othewise busy removing one of the three bay windows of our 'lounge room' so that he can install a brand new, energy efficient, argon filled double paned window. In order NOT to spend a ransom to purchase these new windows, we decided to buy standard sized windows to go into a non-standard size window space.

Yeah, you understand! That means he must make the window opening about two inches larger than it already is. Takes time if you are a perfectionist; and he is!

So, he's inside-outside figuring, fidgeting, bloke-handling a whole lot of old cedar and pine while I sit here about ten feet away with a toasty space heater aimed at my ankles typing this description to you. He hums as he works. I smile, understanding that the hum means he's problem solving; his favourite preoccupation.

I ought to head out to the front of the house and finish off the six inches of brick red trim on the picture window, but I think it can wait til tomorrow - only a 20% chance of precipitation - better known as sleet in these parts.

If you are interested in the technical issues surrounding installing energy efficient windows, click on the title to this post. A web page awaits you with reams of detail.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Volunteer Sunflowers

These brilliant blooms found their way out of the ploughed and planted acres to spring forth on virgin soil. On the vacant lot beside my new little prairie house myriad blossoms delighted us in the early morning when we first arrived in Flaxton.

This year when I unpacked the cupboards I had carefully filled with the useful debris of our raccoon inhabited house last September, I found the perfect vase for some of those beauties. Off I hiked, clippers in hand, into the thistle protected bevy of yellow. After several stinging nettle bites, I exited with a bouquet to brighten the lounge room.

Like all wild things, being encapsulated in a foreign environment minus the fertile soil of North Dakota wrapped around roots, the blossoms faded, petals littered the counter top upon which the lovely vase sat. Yellow pollen scattered over the red doily, a reminder that wild things ought to be left in the wild.

One wonders if the same will happen to the Aussie and me. Are we wild things raised in an environment far different from the prairie?

Will our wit and energy survive in the cold, dark winter days on the northern prairie?

Yesterday was our first cold, rainy day this year. During a well- deserved day off, we travelled to Estevan in Canada for Vietnamese. Coincidently, in the midst of our curry, we noticed a Flaxton local arrive for his rainy day break as well. This kindly and welcoming native raises cattle and so cannot flee the cold, dark months on the prairie as do so many of his neighbours.

His warning to us about what we could expect during the first three months of winter along the Canadian border was that only eight hours of daylight darkened his mood and created irritability. He cheerfully forewarned that there were environmental ordeals with which we would have to deal.

Hopefully we will not fade and litter the counter-tops with vile moods and dark foreboding.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Survey Monkey - Wanna take a survey about memoirs?

One more publisher in Australia is considering 'Two in the Bush', the memoir Lorraine and I wrote about travelling to Australia to meet and greet a couple of Aussie blokes.

That statement means, of course, that one more publisher in Oz has decided that we write well, but that they don't think our manuscript is worth the gamble.

I am biased, of course; I think it's a pretty good read. However, we need to convince an American agent or publisher that it's worth the risk. Costs bucks to publish a book.

So, in an attempt to gather information, I have used Survey Monkey to ask a few questions about who might be apt to purchase a book like ours.

If you are willing to help me out, click below to go to the survey.

Thank you in advance for taking a few moments to answer my seven questions.

Click Here to take survey

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Blue roof - Red trim - Grey surfeit

Hump day! Actually the concept no longer has much meaning - no 9-5 job about which to complain. Only mossies after 4 p.m.

We will sleep tonight with our newly installed window open! Lovely - means we'll certainly hear the 2:30 a.m. train wail as it flashes through town. The honking Canadian geese chatter all night on Stony Run. We'll hear them, too, which is important for they will soon be V - ing south to warmer climes.

The north side of the house is painted - both coats with a startling red trim lined in by the Aussie bloke who has a much steadier hand than I. Will take pics tomorrow and include in the blog notes. The kitchen window still needs to be lined in. And then it will be perfect. Have to admit that the final five boards were painted with my right hand while my left was wildly waving mossies away - not sure just how well those chamfers are painted. Will check them in the morning.

Life is good! Both of us feel accomplished! Wise to have a project to which we can both contribute.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Rainy day - Harvest finished at midnight

Rainy morning: Rushed over to Bowbells to put advert for Harvesting Memories in the Burke County Tribune. Nothing like driving on a two lane prairie highway in the rain with massive double oil tankers coming in the opposite direction. The second it takes for their road mist to pass my windshield feels more like ten minute. Steer straight!

A rain forecast on the prarie this time of year is impetus to hard work. For us here in town, it means paint, paint, paint. Get the wall covered with the second coat before the weather arrives.

However, it is my neighbor and benefactor, Chris, for whom it means more. As he rounded the garage to see how my painting was going on Sunday morning, he proclaimed, 'Yep, worked til midnight last night. Finished the harvest at Sorenson's. The others worked another hour, but without me. I was ready to collapse. Gonna finish my laundry and spend the rest of the day watchin' football.'

'Well, Chris, You deserve a day of rest, hope your team wins,' I commented as he headed to put clothes in the dryer.'

'Doesn't matter who wins; I'm just going to relax.'

I reached back into the bucket with my 4inch paint brush and shifted to a lower spot on the chamfers to tuck paint into the grooves made by the electric sander. Weather won't get that spot, thought I. 4:30, I washed the brush, grabbed my digital and took two photos of the finished work. Not a bad day's work whispered my right shoulder, looking forward to the rain and a day of rest of its own.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Paint sandwich - prairie echinacea filling

Picture today is of a prairie sunflower. They don't look this way anymore!

To everything there is a season - and sunflowers are an everything! The fields no longer glow - acres and acres of lovely blossoms bow their heads waiting for the harvest - the guillotine combining multiple seeds into the hopper and on to grain bins awaiting the right price in Chicago.

In the meantime, autumn advances - I know that summer does not officially end in the northern hemisphere for another two days and the heat seems summery here in nordacotah. However, snow is on the psychic horizon - just waiting for the unprepared.

So, Thursday and Saturday, I painted the east outside wall of the house..pics soon when I have before and after to share. The primer is completly applied. Tomorrow is 'grey' unless it rains. Then the wicked rest - me.

Cause yesterday, I travelled to Lund's Landing on Lake Sacajawea for lunch with the prairie women. This spot seemed suburban rather than rural; I enjoyed succulent buffalo burgers and rubarb pie! My FAV!! Lemonade to make my heart sing and my palate wince - the very best!! No one makes lemonade from scratch like the Americans - no one.

And then, Sharon, a chiropracter of many talents took us to her childhood home to bask on the top of a plateau of non plowed prairie where teepee rings clearly marked the homes of indigenous peoples of some former time.

A spiritual connection shimmered between the ever present wind winnowing the grass and sage seedlets and the drumming of planetary variety provided by Anne, a friend of Sharon's from Williston who collects drums from around the globe.

We six walked among the aimlessly sprinkled dry cow pies and marveled at the valley below, the green tree filled, stream fed lowlands where the White Valley River wends its way through the canyon on its way to the Missouri.

And then, on the way home, Sharon shared her sister Donna - an artist of considerable talents - not only does she gather eggs from her hens which she gives away to strangers, but she creates booklets of humourous praise as a birthday gift to her hubby.

Prairie life! These are moments I treasure.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Two blogs for the price of one

Can you believe it - two blogs, I've taken on the responsibility for two.

The teacher has left the classroom, but the tendency to share new information and clues about how to 'write' more regularly is still a major part of my psyche. I note, however, that adults really hate to be told what to do. I know, I know..neither do their children or grand children.

I just stopped in to check out the real life feedjit portion of this blog. So far, almost 5000 folks have at one time or another chosen to read a portion of what I go on about. Makes my heart sing.

I would have told you that although I may be a prima dona, I'm not interested in being in the spotlight - blinding, simply blinding. However, here I am bragging about the fact that a few folks have chosen to read these few words; some folks come back repeatedly - I guess I have Upland in mind, although there are an awful lot of Brisbanites stopping in these days..thank you very much for taking a moment to listen to my rant about renovation.

Today is a rest day. Yesterday I applied the primer to my scraped west wall. Carpel tunnel - NO, not quite, but my right wrist and shoulder blade know they have had a workout.

Any of you who have painted raw wood know the struggle involved when the paint keeps seeping into the grain. However, even though it is a white wall of chamfers now, it is quite ready for the lovely grey to follow tomorrow.

Today is a teepee ring day down on the Missouri River - yes, time for some R&R. The Aussie has driven into Minot to pick up some new sanding discs for the tip tops of the house. The women of the prairie will pick me up before noon for a wonderful journey into the indigenous history of this lovely place. I'll share about that journey on the morrow.

Here's wishes for a delightful week end for each of you from the prosperous prairie.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Prairie School of the Arts: First workshop

Remember earlier, I mentioned that the Prairie School of the Arts idea was underway.

Now, it's more than underway. It exists!!

Check out this blog spot to see our first flyer. Workshop will be 3 October. Hooray; I think we already have four or five folks interested.

http://prairieschoolofthearts.blogspot.com/

Be well..btw, I did my final scraping this morning when I received an email telling me that DAS BOOK had been turned down yet again by a publisher. Good review though and constructive criticism. Back to the drawing board, I hope..and we'll try again, I hope. Have to talk to my fellow author about all of this..ya know..

In the meantime, have to keep my hand in the community, not just in the paint can..so hope to bring folks together to WRITE...

love you all..

Monday, September 14, 2009

Fog; Not a weather condition

The deep white stuff outside my window must be a figment of my imagination. There's a breeze. I always thought that fog and still air went together. Go figure.

Couldn't sleep last night. Was up from midnight til 2 a.m. Slept badly after that as well. Too much chocolate, methinks. But, my aching right shoulder may have had some responsibility.

Went looking for ibprophin to mitigate the discomfort. Found my computer and snood instead. Two hours later, I clicked the off button and snuggled into the back of my Aussie bloke who was cozy warm and sound asleep. Finally, I drifted off as well.

8 o'clock rising this morning to that furry white stuff that camouflages Stony Run and quiets the Canadian honking geese wading in the shallow waters.

The bloke was up and offered coffee! What a wonderment he is! Back downstairs lifting the house quarter inch by quarter inch. It might have been an easier job if accomplished prior to the arrival of washer/dryer, refrigerator, and stove to the kitchen add on.

When the wet air disipates, scraping continues. I paint tomrorow. Hooray..pics to follow

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Raising the House: easier than raising the children ;)

Here I sit working on the flyer for our Harvesting the Memories workshop on writing the memoir when suddenly the floor beneath me shivers, then shudders.

The Aussie is downstairs playing with his tinker-toy - a house jack that lifts 20 ton.

Yikes!

He tells me he raises each section of the house by 1/4 inch, is that 1 centimeter? then moves on to another section, raises it the same distance, goes on to a third section and then back to the first to raise another 1/4 inch. Eventually that whole section of the house is raised 4 inches!! double yikes!

What happens to the plumbing and the wiring? Hopefully, it handles the change cause otherwise we are outta luck for a few days while repairs are made.

The main 30' x 20' section of the house seems to be even on its foundation. The kitchen, an add on, however, has slipped deeper into the earth and needs to be raised 4 inches.

Spills on the stove head right for the north-west corner of the appliance as does the water spilled out of the sink.

I know you were just dying to know all of this...speaking of BORING - a topic heading last night that deeply offended the locals. Sigh! We do love our home turf, we humans. Only the born here locals are allowed to be critical.

Which reminds me that I reconnected with the Cubans who moved to Flaxton from Miami at the same time that G and I relocated from Australia. They were having a garage sale today - selling an old but small round dining room table, one of which was absent here in our home! We traded - my $130 for their table and four chairs - made in Malaysia in 1997.

The world really is one huge community. We southern hemisphere Asian-Australians are now in possession of a product made close to home, a deed made possible by a famly who emigrated from Cuba to Miami in 1985 and then on to Flaxton.

Maeia and I will have tea one day next week - hopefully, to celebrate our sense of being in a new community! After all, we need to support one another in the acclimatizataion.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Boring! Well, maybe except for the mosquitoes

Windows had not arrived in Minot!

We stayed overnight, bought $400+ worth of stuff we needed; potato peeler, toilet brush, brekkie cereal bowls, (forgot the clothes hangers), a vice, a 20 ton hydrolic jack to lift the back of the house a couple of inches; you know, all the stuff any decent householder needs to survive in the wilderness!

And because I was exhausted afer all that shopping, we stayed the night at a Comfort Inn - non-smoking room away from the indoor pool smells. When a motel says it has non-smoking rooms, I expect that the rooms ought never have been smoked! Silly me!!

Who doesn't know that the damn fragrance is stronger than any for whichI have paid fifty dollars? The walls reeked!

We headed off to see Brad Pitt in Inglorious Basterds! Since have read several reviews - all mixed - must be a Tarantino! I loved the first thirty minutes and the last twenty. The rest of the film could have mostly been left on the cutting room floor!! But I have a prejudice against lack of focus in any film on which I spend money or time.

Home again, home again jiggidy jig! Mosquitoes are rife tonight. We've run off to write blogs inside!!

No T.V. ONly the quiet chatter of computer keyboards and the humming. :)

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

And it was the morning after the first night!

Yes!
Resounding positives.
Coal trains thundered at least once during the night - echoing blasts just twice
6:30 and 48 degrees F - Second train sounded the morning alarm.

I was already up, checking my email, listening to the Canadian Honkers! Happy geese arriving in Stony Run, the pond next to our back garden, signaling the rising sun, deep red on the eastern horizon.

7:30, bed is made, coffee drunk; time to pack up for the 90 mile drive to Minot to pick up our new windows!

So, what's with the pics of some silly ole house in nordacotah

I have had several folks ask for pics of the process of renovating this little house for which we paid a very small price in order to have a base in nordamerika when we leave the southern hemisphere to travel in the great not so white north.

The pics are my attempt to chronical this process. More to come on future dates.

Tonight will be our first overnight in the house. We have cordoned off the upstairs; too much raccoon fragrance still up there. Much work to do with the space between upstairs floor boards and downstairs ceiling filled with insulation used for nesting purposes by the wild critturs for the past few years.

We cleaned it up - sparkling, but still smelly. Probably we will work on that process next year when we put in the cathedral windows facing the summer's northern lights.

G just completed the frame for our queen size bed which is located in the south end of the living room opposite the new fouton couch on the north wall of the same room. He also created a shower where there was not one - so that we can bask in the 'rain'. Neither of us is a tub 'sitter'

So, tonight is the first of many in which we celebrate our prairie life. The local cafe and the local bank may have closed, but in all ways this property is open for business - thinking seriously of opening an espresso shop out on Highway 5 at the doors to Flaxton. No dearth of plans in this corner of the universe.

Hope the same is true for all of you..


Farewell from a rainy sky which stretches forever in this world.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Furniture arrived today!

I am so comfy as I write today! At 4:45 this afternoon, a new couch (fouton fold out with elk, leaves, canoes, and bear stanchly parading across the fabric) arrived. Here I sit on the plushy 12 inch thick fouton in 'couch mode'. Glorious, just glorious! A new lamp table that is really an old trunk sits beside me. The amazing Aussie bloke crawled under the house about 15 minutes ago to do the wiring/plumbing for our washer/dryer tandem. It almost feels like home! (where he spends most of his time in his shop under the house - only not in a crawl space.)

Spent the day scraping old paint off the west wall of the house. Ugh! My shoulders and biceps complain and the wall looks awful- devoid of white chipping paint - the grey cedar boards cry out for primer - soon, very soon! I have only two more walls to complete at the 9 foot level...then the scaffolding arrives so that I can do the higher aspects. Scrape, scrape, scrape!

The first killing frost arrives on the prairie most often by 20 September, so we have a bit of a rush on this painting. Paint doesn't like to dry when it is really cold outside.

Of course of greater importance is the furnace, which has not yet begun it's revitalization. Soon, very soon!

And yes, I'll take a photo or five and post very soon! Just found the cord that translates pics from my camera into pics on my mac..