Sued51's Blog

I was telling my mother (currently my best friend) about my last post on different kinds of friends. My mother said, “Well I can’t read it because I don’t have a computer.” Fair enough…I understand that and I don’t hold it against her.

I have been told by some friends: “I don’t have time to read blogs…sorry.” I also understand that and I don’t get angry; many of them work a lot of hours, and we all have our priorities and different ways of relaxing. I don’t go to some peoples’ “events” because I don’t have time or it doesn’t fit my lifestyle, but I am choosing NOT to make it a priority. It doesn’t mean I don’t care about them, but I know I am missing out on getting to know them better and sharing an experience that is part of their life. It IS a choice that I am making and I have to “man up” about that.

But acknowledging and understanding these responses as choices doesn’t stop me from thinking that because my friends and family don’t read what I write, they don’t know me as well as bloggers from across the globe who’ve never met me! What’s up with that?! Of course our blogging personas are different than our “real life” personas, but they are surely an aspect of who we are.

That got me curious…fellow bloggers…Do your friends and family read your blog?

Just for fun, fill out this quick poll and let’s see what we find out!

Argentinean Ants

I have a lot of daily chores in my new, smaller place. I’m very aware that keeping things cleaned up can transform an overstuffed look into an everything-in-its-place look. I had expected to do my dishes immediately, scoop the cat box twice a day, and constantly vacuum the high-traffic-area throw rugs, but what I didn’t expect was to be killing and cleaning up bugs twice a day.

To be honest, I’ve lived quite a few places in my lifetime and I’ve never seen these before. But perhaps that is because they are easy to miss…tiny, tiny ants like a period on a page. It is only their sheer numbers that makes them visible. I looked them up on the Internet: they are called “sugar ants” (though that is also said to be a misnomer). One article that I read said that they come out in the heat and dryness and are attracted to sugar and water.

So despite my initial panic, I am not intimidated. They don’t bite, and from what I researched, their presence is not a reflection on the host’s cleanliness (though you apparently have to be more diligent than you think). They are annoying and overwhelm you with their numbers. My problem did not seem to originate with my sink; it was the cat food.

My first reaction upon seeing them was to toss the overrun cat food dishes into the sink and run the hottest water I could, then desperately downpour on the ants with the only thing I had: multipurpose Lysol cleaner, which I then followed by wiping up the bodies with a paper towel. After getting rid of the ones I could see, I went to the store and bought Lysol spray instead. I didn’t want to use poison of any sort because of the cats (although I suppose too much cleaner is also poison). My mother suggested bay leaves so I purchased those as well (that was also mentioned on the Internet, as well as cloves). My landlady said we needed a mixture of Borax and Karo Syrup to poison them. I decided to forgo that and see how I made out with my Lysol and bay leaves.

So far, I am managing to keep them from overrunning my whole apartment, but they are not going away easily. As I was writing this, I suddenly remembered a favorite passage of mine from a Margaret Atwood book, “Lady Oracle.” The main character engages with the ants:

“The ants were into the spinach I’d bought the day before. They lived in the outside wall, spinach and meat were the only thing they’d actively hunt, everything else they’d ignore as long as you put out a saucer of sugar and water for them. I’d already done this and they’d found it, they were marching back and forth between the saucer and their nest…I poured myself another drink, then dipped my finger into the saucer and wrote my initials in sugar-water on the windowsill. I waited to see my name spelled out for me in ants: a living legend.”

At the time I read it, the only ants I had ever seen were carpenter ants, so my reader’s vision of big black ants spelling out a name like all-cap boldface type, was off-base. Now that I know what sugar ants look like, I can appreciate the subtlety of the image. I can imagine a “dotted” marquis look.

With that literary image in my head, I take wiping them out a little less seriously, but it is an uneasy truce. Give me a few days and I’m sure I’ll be stashing the Borax and Karo Syrup in my cupboard. There’s romance and then there’s reality…

{July 19, 2013}   Home is Where the Cats Are…

My cats and I are country girls, used to quiet and beautiful window views. We are trying to settle into our small new space, which is located in a much noisier and busier area (the trade-off is that it is much more convenient to everything). The heat wave is dictating that we keep our blinds closed; we’re now surrounded by blacktop on the outside, surrounded by boxes on the inside. It feels stifling in more ways than one. I make use of the empty boxes as toys for the cats.

I play the stereo a lot to diminish the “city” noises of traffic and trains and keep the girls (and me) calmer. We all react to every sound…the upstairs neighbor coming down the stairs to leave for work in the morning; the maintenance man going about his business outside; cars passing within feet of our window on the way to the parking lot. But it is cozy and clean, and I can afford it.

It is still a small town, but we’re on a busy street, and the commuter train runs close behind our building. I try not to miss where I came from; I know I must embrace change and learn to love it. I know that though at times I feel like I’m in a big city, that is not reality. It is only when I compare it with the sleepy suburb surrounded by farms where we came from; it’s all relative. Mindset is everything.

We will all get used to it, given time. We’re together…that’s what matters.

cat lying on the floor

Zoee relaxing in her new space…

PS. There is no picture of Aimee because she is still spending most of her time hiding beneath the covers in the bed…but she did that at the old place too. Tabbies don’t change their stripes!!

PPS. It’s weird that I posted this yesterday and the daily prompt for today was about what makes home for you…

{June 21, 2013}   But Where Do I Go From Here?

cat toy

The World on a Rope…

“When you get to the end of your rope. Tie a knot and hang on.”
― Franklin D. Roosevelt

I’m trying. But I feel like the world’s toy.

I’m in the midst of moving to a much, much smaller place…Alone. I’ve been doing it gradually, before work, after work, lifting everything I can by myself. Yesterday I hurt my back, I haven’t been sleeping; my rope is frayed.

I haven’t been posting much lately…I have found it difficult to find the time or the energy. But please hang in there, my readers, I’ll be back soon. Even if the rope breaks, I will roll away to somewhere interesting, I’m sure. When we let go is when we find the place we can’t otherwise find!


{June 1, 2013}   A Special Flower

Pink Lady SlippersI was out walking in my neighborhood yesterday and saw these in a neighbor’s yard.

Pink lady slipper

I did a double-take…pink lady slippers??? I hadn’t seen them since I was a child. And I remember quite well what happened then.

I was in the woods behind my house and came across this beautiful flower. Thoughtful child that I was, I picked it to bring home to my mother. On my way back I bumped into a friend who lived next door. “Look what I found! Isn’t it beautiful?” I gushed. I thought she was shocked by its beauty, but no…she said, “You aren’t supposed to pick those!”

“Why not?” I said, feeling uneasy.

“It’s illegal!”


“You are going to get in trouble!”

I thought she was teasing me, so I brought it home anyway. And my mother said it was true…they were endangered. She said she appreciated my thought, but get rid of it! I went back to the woods and laid it down next to the leaves, hoping someone would think it just broke. I was nervous for a couple of days after that,  picturing policemen at my door hauling me away. Of course, nothing happened, but I never touched them again.

Glad to see that they are still alive and well. They are the state flower of Minnesota, but can be found in the Eastern US and Canada. You can read about them here.

{February 15, 2013}   A Book Lover’s Care Guide?

Has anyone written such a thing?

The last blog about bookmarks lead me to thinking about book care. I figured bookmarks were created to keep people from folding back the corners of pages (as a tool for book care), but I had no idea of their history until I found this link. Interesting! (I should have used that link in the last blog.)

I then did a search for book care and found most of the information that came up was directed at children and was regarding library books. The exception was this humorous video created by the George Mason University library, which was directed toward college students. Wouldn’t we treat our own books at least as well as we would treat library books?

I guess not. I recently pulled some old poetry anthologies out of my bookcase, and I have a confession to make. Book lover that I am, I found dog-eared pages. Oh, the shame! The anthology was from college, I believe, so I can claim I was just young (like the young people in the video) and didn’t know better…do you buy that? The book was Contemporary American Poetry, edited by A. Poulin, Jr. (2nd edition). The cover is damaged with folds too. (I’m really dating myself here because from what I could find online, this book  is now up to the 8th edition. There was also a 4th edition in my bookshelf that could have been from graduate school.)

Poulin Poetry Anthologies

I could try to defend myself by saying that they are paperback books. Paperback books were created to be more “disposable” versions of hard cover books. They were also more “affordable” versions of hard cover books, although nowadays they are pretty expensive as well. I have saved a lot of my paperback books because it would be pricey and a lot of work to go back and replace them with hard cover versions. I made a big “book care” mistake with my paperbacks though: I had them in a bookcase that got direct sun! So I have…bleached out spines.

So..there’s two book care no-no’s: don’t dog-ear the pages (#5 on the video) and don’t keep them in the sun!

And how many of us can claim we don’t eat while we read (#4 on the video)? I love my tea and toast with a good book. Some of my books have a butter-grease thumbprint or two on a few pages. That can be a reason why some people don’t like to read library books or used books…you don’t know where the book has been! (Anyone remember the “Seinfeld” episode with George taking the book to the bathroom?)

Finally…I come to book covers. Anybody else out there old enough to remember covering your school books with paper bags or other paper book covers? The paper bag ones were wonderful to doodle all over and personalize. Book jackets were originally used to protect the covers of hard cover books and now are pretty much a marketing tool.

How about it book lovers…do you have any “rules” for taking care of your books? Any book care tips to pass on?

World's Best Cat LitterI swear my husband and I have tried at least 5 different types and brands of cat litter for our two cats; this is less a review than an attempt to share the story of our quest with the intention of helping others make their own decision. There are so many features to consider: blocking odor, cleanliness and lack of dust, ease of use, economics, and ability to dispose of the litter. Our criteria for selecting the kitty litter has continued to evolve as our cats have aged. Thank goodness are cats are easy-going and have adapted to the many litter changes we have inflicted on them.

We adopted our cats as kittens from a display in a PetSmart store. One of our cats had been there off and on for weeks because she developed red eyes from an allergy to the cat litter they were using and that affected her adoptability. She had to be sent to a foster home to allow her allergy to subside and was then brought back with instructions. We were told it was the litter dust. So our first criteria was no litter dust. They had used paper litter to alleviate her problem; because of this, we originally used “Yesterday’s News.”

In our town we have to pay for trash collection, so I was also considering ease of disposing of the litter; I was looking for something I could dump outside. I thought because the litter was paper it would disintegrate over time in the rain outdoors. This did not prove to be the case. Every time I changed the box, I dumped the litter in a pile at the edge of our yard. After a couple of years of this, my husband went to discard some branches in the same area and saw my dumping ground: “You have a Mount Poopsuvius out there! You can’t keep doing that.”  So…now what? What wouldn’t be dusty and would break down better?

We initially switched to “Feline Pine” and then to a cheaper generic pine product. The cats were fine with the change and it broke down outside, but my husband couldn’t stand the odor. I could scoop the solid waste, but not the urine. The urine made the pine break down and there was no way to scoop it out. The box had to be changed too often. When you think about it, the odor of pine does have an acidic element; it seemed to magnify the ammonia smell and make it overpowering.

Pine cat litterCrystal cat litter

One week in a pinch I tried some sort of crystal product I found at a local discount store…dusty paw prints everywhere and the smell was still there. That experiment was over quickly.

My husband went to the Internet and read the reviews for “World’s Best Cat Litter.” We initially tried the “Multi-cat” in the red and black bag. Again, the cats were fine with it. I liked that it could still be dumped outside because it was corn-based, and that both types of waste could be scooped out because it was “clumping” litter. Unfortunately, despite my best scooping efforts, my husband still complained about the smell. The odor-control element was just not there. I managed to find a small bag of the “Multi-cat Scented” in the purple and black bag, a natural product scented with lavender. I thought we had found the answer. But it was hard to find the litter in stock, even at the pet specialty stores. And the odor was STILL an issue; the lavender smell was too delicate to mask the ammonia.

At this point you might be wondering whether I only have one litter box? No, I have multiple cat boxes in the house, but both cats insist on going only in the one box. (When they were kittens they would actually go into the box at the same time, which the vet said was very strange!) So in the end, odor control became the most important criteria for us in determining which cat litter to use. We are now using “Arm and Hammer” clumping litter with odor control. If I have to put the litter in the trash, I guess that is what will have to happen. My husband found it at the local warehouse store so the savings of buying in bulk probably cancels out the price for disposal. So far, my allergic cat has not developed red eyes, and my husband no longer complains about the smell. I guess we have finally arrived at the cat litter of choice for us and our cats.

Arm & Hammer Cat litter


So cat lovers…what’s your #1 criteria when it comes to cat litter?

Poetry AnthologiesThe weekly photo challenge topic is illumination, but this post isn’t about the photos; it’s about illumination of the mind.

I recently borrowed Harold Bloom’s poetry anthology from my town’s library because someone in a poetry group recommended it. It has been a while since I have been in school, so this was a challenge for me. I love and write poetry, but nowadays I read modern American poets (most of whom are still living). The wonder and beauty of anthologies, of course, is that they expose the reader to a variety of poets and poetic styles, allowing him or her to compare them and choose new favorites — hopefully sending them off on a journey of discovery and learning. In this case, it actually sent me back to my own bookcase!

bookcaseMy office bookcase is chaos and a catch-all. It is also full of what I consider my “necessary” books: anthologies from when I was a student of literature. For the most part, I never read them straight through; I extracted different pieces for papers. Their purpose was to get a broad spectrum view of a time period or some other random criteria (women poets, American poets, etc.). As I read, “Till I End My Song,” I discovered different poems from familiar poets and poems from poets I had never read before. It also contained works by poets whose names sounded familiar to me, but just in a peripheral way; I had never sought out their work. I found a new-for-me (but dead) poet whose work I wanted to read more of: Stevie Smith.

One of her most famous poems is “Not Waving but Drowning”:

Nobody heard him, the dead man,

But still he lay moaning:

I was much further out than you thought

and not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking

and now he’s dead

It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,

They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always

(Still the dead one lay moaning)

I was much too far out all my life

and not waving but drowning.

My interest was more immediate than an Internet or Library search: I went straight to my bookcase and …VOILA! Several of my anthologies contained poems by her. This was step one: after reading those I could decide if I wanted to turn to my library for a deeper look (the answer was “Yes,” BTW). I love being able to do that.

As an editor and reader I have always been in love with books. The day is yet to come when I will turn to a Kindle or a Nook, but I have changed my book buying and retention habits in recent years. I no longer keep novels unless they are first edition or signed, or I absolutely love the book. (Wuthering Heights will always have a place on my bookshelf!) I consider poetry books or short story anthologies necessary books; they can always be revisited at different times and bring different illuminations to a hungry mind.

The final piece to the food puzzle for me was learning to appreciate the extra dimension that the right beverage adds to the meal.

When I crossed the momentous bridge in America that is the legal drinking age, I drank cheap American draft beer even though I hated it. When I went out to a club, I would splurge on a Kahlua Sombrero or — horrors — a Sloe Gin Fizz (the thought of it now makes me sick), but that was only to loosen up and have fun. It was almost a necessary evil; I hated alcoholic beverages because I drank the cheap stuff.

I was never crazy about soda even when I was very young, so my usual beverage with a meal was water or milk. Although sparkling water is my go-to beverage now (and I find it helps my digestion), I like to have a craft beer every once in a while, or a special wine when it adds an extra dimension to the meal; the most common example would be a special beer with mexican food or red wine with Italian food. There’s nothing worse than the wrong red wine with an Italian meal that makes the tomato sauce taste acidic!

When I first started drinking red wine, I started with less tannic varieties like Merlot or Pinot Noir. My husband and I pretty much drank Merlot with everything back in the 90’s when it was the IT wine; I rarely touched white wine. As years went by, we have tried other varieties. Right now I love the Italian table wines like Montepulciano and Sangiovese with our pasta meals. And the summertime means I’m finally enjoying Rose and white table wine. I’m working at a wine distributor so I am branching out more and more and loving it! I still have to ask our resident wine expert at work for suggestions when my husband is making a special meal, but I’m learning. The right wine with the right food is truly something to savor.

For Father’s Day I worked on a photo collage of my father. Since he died, I think about him almost every day. My mother and I talk about how she meets people at the pharmacy, bank, and senior center who say they still miss him. He was a light in many people’s average days.

My father drew cartoons his whole life; he carried more than a few in his pocket that he could whip out at any time and show people. He never had them published; he was too busy taking care of his family and living life. At the wake, we displayed a notebook full of them and people lined up to look at them. Since he’s been gone we have found countless poems written on scraps of paper and the backs of envelopes; they were never published. The last few years of his life, he tried writing down his stories; he said he was working on his memoirs. He never finished them.

One of my biggest fears has always been that I would repeat his life, that I would be filled with regret for not doing what I wanted to do and not fulfill my potential. He had his moments — his poems reveal it — when he felt regret and disappointment. Yet my father did a lot during his 84 years. He saved several people’s lives by being at the right place at the right time and not hesitating to act: a neighbor who cut his leg with a chainsaw; an older man who slipped underwater at the gym pool. At his funeral I talked about how he cared for a neighbor’s dog that got hit by a car, and how I remembered his feeding a baby bird with an eye dropper that had fallen out of its nest. Stray animals always seemed to end up at our door; if they didn’t find a home with us, my father would find them a home somewhere else.

He made a lot of people laugh; he was adored by his family. What I have been thinking a lot about lately is that he lived an extraordinary ordinary life. I ponder how many people’s lives the “average” person touches during their lifetime? I wonder how many lives my father touched in his lifetime as an “average” man? How many meaningful interactions does a “lifetime” include? There are so many factors. Some people choose professions that are inherently influential: teachers, nurses, or ministers. My father was an office worker for most of his life, and yet, wherever he went he made friends. He interacted with bank tellers, cashiers, and waitresses; he made their day with his jokes, warmth, and friendliness.

I’m over halfway through my life and I haven’t saved any; I don’t think I have it in me (I’m not rational under pressure). I’ll never live up to him in that way. Although I am family-oriented, I don’t have my own family. I do know I have touched some lives because people have told me (some complete strangers that I did something for without thinking about it, others were acquaintances that I wrote poems for). I’m at an evaluating time in my life: old dreams have died and new dreams seem elusive.

Though I sometimes feel I have more of my father’s faults than his attributes, I now recognize it is worthwhile to aspire to be him and not dread it. We can’t all be movie stars, writers, or teachers, but we can all aspire to live an extraordinary ordinary life.

et cetera
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