February 21, 2009

A Refreshing Snowfall

A short time ago, I posted some pictures I had taken of my garden in the snow. The photos were taken earlier in the winter, as at the time we had just experienced a February thaw and had a couple of days in the high forties or low fifties, which melted much of the snow. What was left was pretty dingy and very unattractive, and the garden was not looking her best.

I'm happy to say that's not an issue now, as we had a good seven or eight inches of nice fluffy snow and the garden again looks fresh and clean, and reminds me of why we don't cut everything down at the end of the gardening season. We were fortunate here in The Valley as far as snowfall goes - north of the city, some areas had two feet or more fall in 24 hours.

Last night, close to 11PM, My Sweet Baboo and I were taking night shots of his garden, which encompasses about two-thirds of our yard. This morning, I was out wandering around, the snow cresting the tops of my Dad's old boots, getting some shots in the daylight, and enjoying the beauty of the freshly fallen snow.

Here's some of the keepers - enjoy!


MSB's Garden at Night

MSB's Garden 2/21/09

February 19, 2009

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today's your 80th birthday, Pops - imagine that.

It's two years now that you've been gone. Sometimes it seems like just yesterday, and sometimes it seems like a forever ago that we lost you. My problem is I never know which it is until I start thinking about you, or something reminds me of you, and then I'm in the quandary of trying to figure it out.

I'll be honest -- I don't think of you every single day. I hope that doesn't offend you. We used to talk just about every day when you were alive, and if more than a couple of days went by one of us would reach out to see 'what was wrong', in that way that fathers and daughters have. Usually it was nothing, simply a matter of time slipping away, or starting to call and getting distracted by something else. And in the beginning, right after you passed away, I used to talk to you every day, made it a point to do that. I never let myself be distracted from that. I think I thought if I acted like you were still here, you would still be here.

Now, it's not an every day thing, it's usually triggered by something. Like Christmas at the house, when we were trying to figure out what dishes to use. I'm sure you remember Mom and I doing that every year; who was there determined what place-settings we'd use. Well, this year it was Mom and Peter and me, and for some reason we couldn't count. I resorted to what I always did, which is "there are five of us" and then added in the rest... Jen, Patrick, Bert,Christopher, Ericka and Sam. And I had too many. So I tried again, more insistently, "guys, there are five of us, and then there's Jen...Patrick..." and so on. Peter looked at me and said "Susan, five of who?" and I said "Drummonds". He said quietly, "Four - there are four Drummonds". I felt pretty ridiculous at that exact moment. It wasn't that I wished you were still here -- that goes without saying. I felt ridiculous because I hadn't figured out how to count the family anymore now that you were gone. How's that for "Her Royal Dizziness?"

Obama's inauguration, on the second anniversary of your death, was another trigger, as if it being January 20th weren't enough of one. That you missed this was almost unimaginable. The teacher in you, the democrat in you, the grumpy in you and the comedian in you would have had a blast with this whole campaign. It's kind of like people who died and never saw the Red Sox win the World Series, or SU win the NCAA basketball tourney. And yes, I'm chuckling because neither of these were milestone events in your life, I know.

There are other triggers as well. A sunset, headline in the paper or something dopey on the news. And of course the Syracuse Symphony Orchestra. MSB and I heard the SSO perform Mahler's 7th the night you died - I cried quietly through much of it, knowing I'd likely never share that with you again. We were at the symphony again the other day and yep -- you guessed it -- the triangle! I smile each time I see the percussionist raise it high, and wait for the faint note or two and remember when you were concerned that the puffing noise of your oxygen thing would bother other patrons. Our deal was that you'd hold your breath during the triangle solos, so no one would miss a note. I don't think I'll ever forget that.

And of course there's so much more that I'll never forget, memories both old and new, from childhood and those more recent from my adult life. Like jicama -- I've not had jicama since the last time I put it in a salad or something I made for you when you were here for your monthly dinner. Or the brownies I made when I was a kid and put in an extra cup of liquid, and they were turned into milkshakes. And of course I still can't drink Canadian or any of the other 'browns', just like you never really wanted to drink my wine. But you did taste the $45 red at McGregors, remember? Didn't like it much or see much difference between that and the cheaper stuff, but at least you could say you tasted it!

I do miss you -- all the time, some of the time, and every now and then. I explained once that you were like a favorite piece of jewelry, one that I don't wear every day, but when I take it out of the box, it's precious and wonderful and I love wearing it. And then, it goes back into the box after a while, not forgotten, just saved for another occasion. That's you now -- sometimes you pick the occasion, sometimes I do - but you're always here, my favorite, and it comforts me knowing that.

Tonight, I just might make a box of the most chocolaty brownies I can find, play some Beethoven way too loud, and raise a glass to you, Pops - Happy Birthday!

February 15, 2009

Pet Peeve of the Day 2/15/09

Time to start a new feature for the blog - my Pet Peeve of the Day, or PPOD. Sometimes, things just strike me, and if My Sweet Baboo is to have any peace and quiet, I have to get them off my chest. Here's the first installment.

MSB and I were watching the Not Bad, Considering... Nightly News with Brian Williams on Friday. Generally, of the Big Three I find him the easiest to watch - I haven't quite figured out Katie Couric yet and Charlie Gibson...well, c'mon, his name is Charlie for heaven's sake. Doesn't sound very 'anchorish', does it? Walter. Peter. Chet. Harry. David. Tom. Charlie? But I digress.

Anyway -- the opening story on the news was of the terrible commuter plane crash that occurred in the Buffalo area. During a sidebar story on the victims of the crash, Brian talks about "the calm of a winter night in upstate New York" (hear the reference around 14 seconds in on this clip) - and that's my PPOD.

No matter what the story, or who's doing the talking, there's this upstate/downstate dividing line, that somehow if you're at all north of say White Plains, or you're not within a stone's throw of New York City, you're in this whole other place called upstate. I'm not even sure where our 'Mason-Dixon line' -- but we have one, that much I know.

Sadly we have to deal with this all the time on the political front, as we watch our elected officials aligning themselves with the upstate group or the downstate gang, trying to legislate around those fake divisions, or generally just complaining about the fact that they exist. Recently, our Accidental Governor David Paterson had an 'upstate trade mission' and pretty much failed to invite anyone outside of Albany - so apparently he doesn't know where the line is, either. (Sean Kirst of the Syracuse Post-Standard has a great article on this). I think it's more painful to have to deal with it on the national news, as that perpetuates the divide outside New York state, where people truly may not know better.

Seriously, do we really think that Buffalo, Ithaca, Tupper Lake, Binghamton and Amsterdam are all in that same nebulous place called Upstate New York? Intuitively, at least if you're not from downstate or New York City - you know that New York state has many natural regional separations and affiliations, that describe us a whole lot better than up and down do.

Whining is not the answer, I realize that. What we need is chest-thumping of a different kind. And guess what? We already have different regional designations that describe us. I'm not saying they're perfect, but what the heck - someone's already figured out, and is using, regional names to describe and market the Empire State.

Our challenge ? To see if we can get them adopted by folks outside the I Love NY agency. I'm sending a note to Brian Williams. It may not work, but who knows, maybe next time he'll think twice before he throws us all into one bucket. And maybe we can get a few more people to Love NY in the process. Are you with me?


February 8, 2009

Garden Sunday in The Valley

Today was 'Garden Sunday' for me, my annual exercise in front of the computer with my stack of garden catalogs, websites to visit and the new year's spreadsheet for tracking vendor, plant name, color, shipped size, mature size, sun requirements, bloom time, special features, and the all important price column.

This is actually the second phase of my gardening 'process'. The first step for me is spending weeknights in January wrapped up with comforters and cats, a mug of decaf close by, thumbing through the catalogs that seem to arrive almost daily. I bend page corners, or slap post-it notes on things that catch my eye, not really paying any attention to whether the plants will grow in our area or not - it's just a free-for-all, a smorgasbord, and I pretend that anything and everything is possible.

From that point, I end up where I was today, building my spreadsheet of zone-appropriate plants. The last step comes later this week. Sometime before the weekend, I'll have compared this year's spreadsheet to those of the past few years, comparing notes and trying not to purchase things I've already got growing, or ones that failed me in the past. My final list will be done and I'll get my orders placed.

In a few short weeks, I'll see the fruits of last fall's labor, where for the second year in a row I planted about 500 bulbs (don't ask). With any luck at all, most of them will come up and we'll have an explosion of daffodils, tulips, and who knows what else greeting us. The tender new perennials will begin arriving about then, and I'll be able to work them in among the bulbs and the existing perennials and then reap the rewards until late fall and on into winter. At least, that's the plan. I'll keep you posted on how it all works out.

Today, my garden didn't look that great. The snow's no longer fresh; actually it's pretty dirty and has started to melt. Overall it's pretty grey outside. Fortunately, I did get some pictures earlier in the winter, and they're here for your viewing pleasure.


February 7, 2009

Cats of Character

When My Sweet Baboo and I first got together, we joined not only our stuff and our lives, but also our cats and their lives. At that time I had two, Jeckyll and Hyde, and he had five: Belleek, Molly, Bradley, Mom Kitty, and Michael T. Don't get nervous - it's a big house, and we had four litter boxes. Of the original family, the only one we still have is Michael T.

Michael (aka MT or Mikey) is a very big boy, a gray and white longhair, and the only one we have who's an indoor/outdoor cat. MSB insists that Mikey is "not full grow'd yet", even though he'll be thirteen this year and pretty much beyond any major growth spurt. He patrols the yard (and frankly the neighbors’ yards too) regularly, and we've been told by our mailman that MT is in fact an attack cat - apparently he can be a little vigorous in defense of his territory and has chased the mailman across the yard. As a kitten, he was called Zoey by his original owners, our former next-door neighbors. His first trip to the vet was an enlightening one, to say the least!

He’s not quite as fond of winter as he used to be, but loves to make us get up and let him out several times a night, even if he's only outside long enough to feel the wind in his whiskers and come right back in. He’s not very interested in birds, fortunately, as we have several feeders and birdhouses in the garden. A couple of nights ago, he brought a bat into the house – which MSB was able to get away from everyone and put back outside while it was still in one piece.

Next in line we have Galway Bay and Fenway Park- a brother and sister pair that our vet says bear a striking family resemblance. I'm not sure if she thinks that because they always go to the vet together, in the same carrier, or if they really do look alike to the trained eye. In reality, they look nothing alike. Galway's our 'black Irish' boy, a tuxedo cat, and Fenway -- well, put it this way. When she was little, the girl we adopted her from called her 'Messy Face', which I never thought was nice, but was true. She's a gray, white, and tan calico, but that's doesn't really do her justice. Galway's favorite place to be is on the back porch, sitting on the open step ladder looking at the birds. Fen - her favorite place is my right shoulder, with her head and front legs hanging down my back, purring up a storm. We had the names picked out before we found the cats, and I think we found the perfect pair. They'll turn four in May.

The last of the brood is StellaBella Valentine, an admittedly huge name for a tiny kitten we adopted when she was six weeks old to the day - and yes, her middle name is in honor of her birthday, February 14th. Stella's goal in life seems to be making as much noise as possible, announcing her presence every time she enters a room with a loud and long meow as if to say "here I am, did you miss me?" She'll continue meowing until she's acknowledged, which sometimes we'll put off until we can't stand it anymore, laughing all the while at her persistence. Her other noteworthy talent, if that’s what it’s called, is staring – intently staring – at things only she can see. We call this ‘lookiting’, after the Peanuts cartoon where Charlie Brown’s little sister was jumping rope or something and trying to get his attention by saying “Lookit, Charlie Brown, lookit, Charlie Brown” over and over until he finally yelled, “I’m lookiting!” That’s our StellaBella – she’s always lookiting at something.

Different in every way, they're each great kids and life would be very boring without them. Enjoy their photos!


Cats of Character

February 1, 2009

She's Drooling Normally

Sadly, I didn't make up the title to today's post. It's actually lifted from a high-profile murder trial going on here in Syracuse, generally referred to as "The Anti-Freeze Murder Case." No, Auntie Freeze has not been murdered, she's probably at the bingo hall. The defendant is actually a woman named Stacey Castor, but c'mon, it's much more fun for the local media to tag cases like this with a sensational name, maybe throw in some theme music, and add in dramatic standups outside the courthouse and a few somber updates at the newsdesk throughout the day.

What makes this one a little more interesting is the outrageous performance of our District Attorney, William Fitzpatrick, someone I think has got more than a bit of a superiority complex, is pretty overbearing and thinks he can mete out justice as he sees fit. There's a long history of his pronouncements about who gets tried and 'who's suffered enough already' and doesn't have to face charges.

As MSB and I were heading to the car after the symphony last night, I stopped on the sidewalk and said "listen, you can still hear the sounds of Fitzpatrick making an ass of himself in front of the cameras!" Here's a snippet of the DA's cross-examination. The thought of his screaming echoing in the building for days on end made us snicker, and I think a few people behind us joined in.

I think what Fitz was trying to do was a hard-hitting cross-examination of a person that just about everyone thinks is guilty of two murders (she's only on trial for one of them), forging a will, and the attempted murder and framing of her own daughter. No one's laughing at that, or making light of that. What does strike us as sadly comical is a DA shouting questions at the defendant "until he's hoarse," according to one news account.

People have the right to see the inner workings of the justice system - I don't dispute that. After all, most of us will never see the inside of a courtroom unless we're called to jury duty. For the majority, what we think we know about our criminal justice system we learned from Law and Order, The Practice, LA Law, Matlock (remember that seersucker suit Andy Griffith always wore in court?) or the old Perry Mason shows. But when there are cameras in the courtroom, are we really getting a true picture of the justice system, or are we also getting some really bad acting?

Who can ever forget the OJ Simpson trial, and the lead-ups to it: Who sits where, and what camera angles will be used, and what will everyone wear? Oh dear lord, Marcia Clark changed her hair! And speaking of hair, no one will ever forget Kato Kaelin's blond mop. Had there not been TVs in the courtroom, we might have been spared all of that nonsense. And 'Keeping up with the Kardashians' as well, but that's another story.

Here's another good illustration of Fitz -- listen for the Lou Gehrig reference. I guess this must be his equivalent of Johnnie Cochran's 'if it doesn't fit, you must acquit'.

The case, and cameras in the courtroom, should be about getting justice for the families who have been irreparably harmed. It shouldn't be about grandstanding, screaming and mocking questions from the DA. I'd like to think that even Fitzpatrick would remember that.