Floral delights

August 30, 2011

One of the beautiful characteristics of Western North Carolina is the cool moist climate of its mountains. At 4200 feet, it is the temperate rainforest of the South, where the mountain weather is especially well suited  to growing flowers. Floral gardens are everywhere including lining some of the most scenic highways in America.

There is also an “English Garden” 50 feet from my back door that surprises me every summer with its beauty. As there are very few annoying bugs at this altitude,  the delights of the garden can be enjoyed anytime of the day or evening.

This year, I had an abundance of black-eyed susans in my “English Garden.” These delightfully fun flowers apparently came out of nowhere to spend the summer on Choctaw Lane. Wonderful volunteers that just flourished on their own.


The English Garden… a peaceful place to rest and think.



August 29, 2011

At what point in time did we become a people drowning in hyperbole?

Why is it that things, everything has to be exaggerated or presented in the superlative?

It is especially annoying to hear politicians exaggerate their own position and allege that should their opponent’s position be adopted, then all hell will break loose and devastation will be unleashed upon the land. We have become a race of catastrophization believers.  This all-or-nothing environment is not only tiresome but dangerous. It causes the people and the country to make bad decisions and  cognitive fantasies to become tragic realities.

Take for example the recent overblown reporting and dire warnings of Hurricane Irene. Don’t get me wrong, as a “victim” of about a half a dozen hurricanes, including hurricane Charley which tore up my orange grove with better than 160 mph winds, I have the greatest respect for these powerful natural events. I also believe that we need to do whatever we can to assist those affected by the storm to get back to normal as soon as possible.

What I find tiresome is the weather people and now politicians using the storm pulpit to enhance their position and feather their own nests. First, they tell you that this storm will be a monster category 3 or 4 and if it does not produce the end of the world, it will come damn close.

Then when it actually becomes a minimum cat 1 , rather than get realistic about their forecast, they get defensive and they admonish the public not to take their warnings lightly because something very bad might still happen.

These people seem so gleeful to report disasters which keep viewers watching their channel and advertisers paying to line their pockets. However, this crying wolf culture will no doubt cause some people to ignore a true danger in the future with some bad consequences.

Not everything or every event needs to be a “record.”  Not every natural occurrence is the biggest, baddest, meanest disaster to hit the planet since it was formed. TV ratings and political poll numbers are not the center of the universe.

Sometimes a storm is just a storm.


August 27, 2011

I think the first coffee I ever had  was given to me by my father when I was about 7 years old. If people did that nowadays, they would probably be arrested for child abuse. But, back in the day it was an ordinary, accepted part of introducing youngsters to life’s experiences. I guess it is a good thing my father did not give me a cigarette.

As  I recall it was during a sunday breakfast. The coffee was served in a little china cup and had milk and sugar as accompaniments. It tasted funny, but I enjoyed dipping my toast in it. Ha.

I kind of laid off the coffee after that until I was about 15 and working in a restaurant. Everybody was drinking coffee there, so, I figured it was part of the requirement to “advance” within the company.  However, at the time, I decided I was going to drink my coffee black, because all that fussiness with the milk and sugar started to annoy me. Besides, I did not like the taste of milk and sugar in my mind was more properly positioned on the donuts it was my job to make.

Through the years, I have had countless thousands of cups of coffee in dozens of countries around the world. One of my favorites is the strong coffee served in Germany and Belgium. But I can’t deny I enjoyed pounding down a couple of espressi alongside hurried Roman bond traders during my time in Italy. Either because of the kinetic atmosphere or the caffeine, the jolt was terrific. Nowadays, I enjoy an espresso on a chilly fall or winter afternoon and have my own machine to do its work.

For regular everyday drinking, I have two or three different makers, but sometimes enjoy a cup of joe when I am out and about just for the joy of it. There are a number of great places for that pastime including of course the corporate coffee monster, Starbucks which Aimee introduced to me years ago. She would get some kind of foamy latte concoction, while I prefer just a regular black coffee. Order it that way in a Starbucks and they look at your funny. But,  not at little  Mountain Fresh in Highlands, especially when you get one of their fresh made blueberry muffins. Oh yes.

One of the best cups of coffee I have had in a long time  was served to me in a most unlikely place. It occurred when I was in the hospital, about 4 am one morning. I was talking to my night nurse, when I mentioned I sure would like a cup of coffee. She said she would be right back and returned with a freshly brewed cup of her own private blend. I don’t know if it was because it was totally unexpected in the hospital setting, but that was just the best coffee ever. I savored every drop.

Just thinking about that coffee now makes me want to brew a pot.

Geez, I wish I had a donut!

Remedial training

August 25, 2011

Every once in a while, I  perform a public service by giving  remedial reminders regarding certain rules of the road to some drivers who  the Department of Motor Vehicles apparently in its haste to collect fees,  failed to properly test before granting licenses.

First, This is s stop sign.

It means STOP.  It does not mean roll through the intersection at your preferred slower speed while making an appointment on your cell phone with your hairdresser for a “highlight”  touch up.


This one is a yield sign.

It means you yield or give way to cars coming from another direction.

It does not mean speed up so you get to the intersection before the other cars as you are late for work and want to stop at Starbucks for a foamy, triple creme non fat latte.


RIGHT-OF-WAY rule. This is a tricky one, I know, but with a little common sense, I am confident you will get it.


At an intersection without STOP or YIELD signs (uncontrolled intersection), slow   down and prepare to stop. Yield to vehicles already in the intersection or   entering it in front of you. Always yield to the car that arrived first. If you and another driver reach the intersection at the same time, yield to the car on your right.

ALWAYS yield to pedestrians,  especially to women pushing baby buggies or old men walking with canes.


Finally, for the driver of the black, brand new Jeep SUV going westbound on Manchester road yesterday. I guess you finally saw the big, yellow Ameren utility truck servicing a power line  WITH a workman in the overhead bucket. You know the one. Remember,  you had to slam on your new brakes to avoid knocking the poor man out of the sky.

Hey Moron, hang up and drive!

The big salad

August 23, 2011

There is a Seinfeld episode in which a big salad becomes a big deal between George and Elaine. The other night we had a big salad and it was a big deal, just because it was so fun to make and eat. It was refreshing and light with a slight mexican flavor.

One of the ingredients is jicama. I might have had jicama in the past, but I certainly don’t remember. It has a nice, sweet, clean crunchy taste that is the perfect foil with the buttery avocado and black beans. Fire roasted corn,  red bell pepper and luscious tomatoes round out the salad base. Then the honey lime dressing adds a little kick.


The Big Chopped Salad

Black beans, I prefer cooked dried beans to the canned variety
2 chopped seeded tomatoes
1 cup peeled, chopped jicama
1 cup fresh roasted corn kernels
a ripe avocado, diced
1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Honey-Lime Dressing
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp honey
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh cilantro
1 garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 tsp chopped jalapeño pepper

Assemble ingredients and sprinkle on dressing.

Mercury in Retrograde

August 22, 2011

It started out as just an ordinary day. A thunderstorm woke me at 5 am.

I got up and made some coffee, sat down at my computer to check my emails and read how bad the stock market would be that day.

Not quite bright eyed and bushy tailed, I began to see (or imagine) things  hopping all over my computer screen. Messages kept blasting at me that I should update and upgrade my browser for a better internet experience, or else!

My first reaction was to blow these messages off, I was happy with my experiences the way they were. But no,  the little buggers were persistent. It was beginning to be what Kristy calls  **Mercury in retrograde; when everything goes a little strange, astray or awry.

Not willing to deal with that sort of chaos,  in my weakened state, I gave in and told the evil thing to update me to the max.

I really, really hate it when you tell the computer to do something and it gives you no sign it is actually paying attention to you. It reminds me of when I had teenagers and they gave me the same response. I much prefer to have a little bar moving along on the screen and a flashing “working” sign, then at least I know something is happening.

After about a half an hour of this stuff, the computer said it was done, and congratulated me on being successful. But, it warned,  I had to restart my computer to make all the changes take effect.

However, when I did restart,  my “favorites” bar seemed to disappear and it took me another half hour to find out they put it in an obscure little corner where I would never have looked.

Computer geeks can be devious.

About that time, I also tried to load an “app” on the iPad only to have the apple of my eye strain say it could not or would not do it. So, I had to trundle off to the Apple store in the mall for some help. Oh, did I tell you I hate the mall?  I have only been there a couple of times and that was under duress.

Arriving at the Apple store, I noticed it was the only store in the mall that was packed with customers. It was like they were giving the stuff away. I thought to myself, ” oh, I will never get someone to assist me.”  Then however, I caught the eye of a young woman who asked if I needed help. I explained my problem and Abby went about instructing me what I could do to fix it. Apparently, I had not downloaded and updated and I was out of sync and a half a dozen other very bad problems.

Reminding me of my 3rd grade teacher, Miss Cantrell, she explained it to me SLOWLY while writing it down on a card. Then with the encouragement of a young mother sending her first-born off to school,  she dispatched me on my way.

Later, at home I pulled out the card and began following Abby’s instructions. In a few minutes I was downloading, updating and syncing like a fifteen year old. Why didn’t they just put an Abby type card in with these computers when the sell them?

In about 40 minutes and with very few cuss words I was fully synchronized and updated so my “applications” were working as intended.

I am thinking about getting a Tee Shirt that says,

“Mercury in retro geek”


**Mercury in RetrogradeA phenomenon in astronomy when planets appear to travel backwards due to their different rotation speeds. Similar to when a car you are passing appears to be going backwards.

Ok, It has been two weeks now since my heartfelt adventure and my stay in the hospital. The ride back to St. Louis from the beautiful mountains of North Carolina was long, but not unpleasant. Under doctor’s orders not to drive, I was free to look out the window and comment on the passing tableau while Tom and Donna did the driving.

The doctor also ordered me not to lift anything heavier than ten pounds, which came in handy when it was time to unload the car. I am thinking of getting a tee-shirt that says,         

” I can’t pick up anything heavier than 10 lbs

–Doctor’s Orders.”

Once back in town, I set up an appointment with Dr. Zorro to go over my entire episode. I arrived mid morning for my appointment. For the next two hours, my friend and physician went over with me the hospital report, lab results, the physiology of the human heart and how mine was a little different now. He explained these things in such detail that I was able to understand clearly what all this heart healthy living business actually does.

We went over my medicines and he prescribed diet and lifestyle goals for me  to shoot for.

Finally, Dr. Zorro wrote a letter of introduction to a respected cardiologist for follow-up.

So now, I have a new and better appreciation for how things work in the human body and the true wonders that our scientists and doctors can work to make things better for all of us. I also understand that even though you might have acceptable, even good lab blood test numbers, they could always be better.

I am now a living,  breathing part of this process, where in the past I viewed heart healthy as just a casual occurrence to be observed–like watching TV.

Now it is real and a part of me and I intend to follow this adventure as far as I can.