Monday, June 26, 2017

Box Canyon Dam

Box Canyon Dam

Jennifer E. Miller

On our way home from Canada, we stopped at Box Canyon Dam on the Pend Oreille River WA. We noticed signs indicating the dam, and another that read "tours available." After 9/11, touring dams practically became an extinct activity. In middle school (which was looooong before 9/11), I recall a field trip to Grand Coulee Dam. We drove across the top of the dam, then took a coal car elevator down into it. After 9/11, those activities ceased, as far as I know. Hence, we jumped at the chance to tour a dam again. 

I know, we're nerds. However, we weren't very attentive nerds because I can't remember what all the things I photographed are called, let alone what purpose they serve. I'm throwing them together here, hoping that the actual nerds of the physics sector can remind me what they are. Maybe I should put out a disclaimer: I am writing this solely from memory. Take any information in actual context at your own risk. 

We turned at the tiny wooden sign that said "tours available" onto a long driveway. We parked and walked across the gravel lot to the non-air conditioned visitor's center. It looked like an office waiting room except with dioramas and historic photos instead of seating. There was a young woman, as in teenager, who greeted us at the front desk. I asked about the tours and she explained she was the guide and could conduct one as soon as we were ready. I was pleasantly surprised to find out they were free, and we were allowed to take photos except in the control room. Based on her excitement to give a tour, I'm guessing they don't get many visitors. Off we went.

First off, we couldn't tour the spillway because it was under construction. The engineers working the dam were building a salmon ladder per new federal regulations. There was plenty of other stuff to see.

The door to the dam innards is near the red thing in the above photo. We entered a hot stuffy stairway and began our descent. The temperature dropped with each flight of stairs, and soon it was chilly.

Eventually, we entered a big room with concrete walls...and a concrete floor...and a concrete ceiling. It was made of concrete, in case my reference to it wasn't 'concrete' enough. It was a big room with big things in it. That's about as technical as I get. The guide rattled off all sorts of things about generators, pressure, and gizmos from sci-fi novels that turn water current into energy to power light bulbs.

The two blue cylinders are called the governors, which looked like giant water heaters to me. I can't recall their actual purpose, but I do recall they aren't there for political reasons. Although, they are painted blue and have a "danger" sign, so perhaps they are a bit political.

The yellow railing on the left of the photo might be one of the generators Those are the doohickeys that spin around in circles real fast and harvest the power, right?

Moving on.

As we walked from one room to the next, we passed a large board with supersized wrenches and tools hanging on it. At first I thought it was just a fun decoration, until I comment such and our guide said, "No, the guys actually use those." I snapped a photo with T standing next to them. He is six foot tall if that gives you an idea to their size.

We walked passed some historical photos hanging on the wall, and a board with all the employees' pictures, which included one of the head honcho's dog labeled "runs the show."

Next we were lead into the control room. (Remember, I wasn't allowed to take photographs there.) There wasn't much to see, except dozens of TV monitors with feeds to the security cameras. The control room operator saw us, quickly yanked his feet of his desk, and gave us a friendly greeting. He told us all about the cameras and what information they use, how many tons of water blast through the dam at full capacity blah blah blah. I got the impression it was a boring job most of the time as I doubt there are many folks prowling around this dam. Based on how excitedly he was talking about a giant concrete structure, it sealed in my theory of scarce visitors.

After the tour, I snapped a photo of the propeller statue they had out front. Our guide said it was an old one as they switched to one with four blades because it was more economical and, therefore, more efficient. I think I was supposed to remember how that tied into everything she had just showed us, but by then the propeller was simply a work of art.

That sums up our visit to Box Canyon Dam...I think. Hopefully I didn't forgot about anything...

Friday, June 16, 2017

What Is Love?

Image credit: Pixabay, ErickaWittlieb CC0 Public Domain Creative Commons Use

What Is Love?

Jennifer E. Miller

What is love? It's an age-old question, without a conclusive answer, because the word 'love' has multiple interpretations. And is it possible to see love, rather than only feel it?

Once in a while I see a little old couple walking in our neighborhood. The man is slender and tallish, wears khaki slacks with a short sleeved button down shirt, and sports a baseball cap. The woman is slightly hunched, generally wears thicker clothing pieces, like a sweater, and uses a cane. When I am out in the yard they wave and say "hello" or "isn't the weather lovely today" and other phrases generally exchanged with strangers. They sound like a completely normal elderly couple. Except, they are smiling and holding hands every time I see them.

Old couples holding hands makes me coo "ahhhh!" like in response to a photo of a kitten pawing at a dandelion. I don't always see older couples showing affection in public. Perhaps, they feel they have outgrown the need; their years in youth long passed. 

But not for this couple. By holding hands, they are holding onto their youth. Perhaps he is showing off this beautiful woman, who he once thought was out of his league. Making he is making a statement to the world that she is taken.

I could have it all wrong. They could be a widow/widower, and have recently begun a new relationship. The hand holding may be a sign of their "young love."

Whatever the case may be, it doesn't matter, I suppose. By the smiles on their faces and the joining of their hands, they must be madly in love and proud of it. Each time I notice this couple, I pause and think to myself, that is love.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Dealing With Disappointment

Dealing With Disappointment

Jennifer E. Miller

Disappointment happens to us at one time or another. Actually, I should be more honest: it happens a lot. I am certainly no exception. 

From time to time, I submit my work to various literary magazines or publications. I can count on one hand, with fingers left over, the number of pieces accepted for publication. In January, I submitted three poems to the Washington 129 anthology. It's a collection of poems, by Washington State residents, honoring the state's culture, geography, nature, and whatever else comes to mind. None of my pieces were selected.

No profession is successful without some kind of failure first, and writing is no exception. One would think I'm used to rejection by now, and, in a sense, I am. But I was really looking forward to to receiving the "Congratulations, your poems were accepted" letter. I've lived in Washington nearly my whole life, and since my poems reflected upon Washington State, Washington 129 was a logical choice to publish them in. So now where should they go? I must continue my hunt for a proper home for them. I like my poems and think they are good enough. Where is the ultimate question.

Another reason I feel so rejected is because I wonder if my work wasn't academic enough, as I don't hold a Master's or PhD in creative writing. (Most writers would state this in their bio when submitting.) Frankly, I'm not interested in those because my writing to conforms to me; noy to academia standards (and I don't want to spend an eternity paying off student loan debt). But still; I am curious if that made any difference. Isn't that how it worked in high school? If someone played only on a junior varsity sports team, they wouldn't "letter" in the sport; they just played. Someone who played varsity most likely earned a school letter to display on their jacket. Is that how it works in the writing world, too? Do they look for an author bio with extra letters after their name; BA in this, Master's in that, and PhD in creative writing? 

I suppose I'm getting ahead of myself. Maybe my stuff simply wasn't good enough. What if it actually sucked?! Perhaps my poems should stay stashed away in Word, buried among all the other would-bes and has-beens saved to the hard drive. Ugh! The cycle of triumph and disappoint is tough.

Well, the only option is to forge on in quest of the next rejection letter and hope to be surprised. 

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Oh Canada!

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Oh Canada!
Jennifer E. Miller

We made it across the Canadian Border! Remember, we obtained those Enhanced Drivers Licenses so had to put them to use. Our vacation road trip was nice with the exception of G losing her wallet and falling on her face, T developing a mysterious rash on his elbows, me getting sick, and repairing the car. Only minor inconveniences.

Our road trip started in Spokane, of course, going north past Elk, Ione, and Metaline Falls, and passing through the border inspection at Nelway. The first Canadian town was Salmo, if I remember right. There wasn't much through these small border towns, except I did swerve to miss a turtle crossing the highway near Ione, and there was an elk crossing sign in Salmo. It looked similar to a deer crossing sign but with an elk; assuming one can recognize the difference. I wonder why there wasn't a turtle crossing sign. Animal discrimination! Sorry, no photos to accompany these claims. You'll have to use your imagination.

Continuing north on Canada HWY 6 (to Nelson), we turned onto HWY 3A toward Ainsworth BC and, further north, Kaslo. With windy narrow roads, the Selkirk loop is a motorcyclist's dream. Bicyclists are fond of this route as well, but due to the extremely narrow shoulders, I wouldn't feel safe riding a bike here. Rarely did cyclists ride in tandem; mostly side-by-side. I'm not sure if this is Canada thing, but it didn't strike me as a very safe way to travel by bicycle. We are, of course, cautious of everyone on the road, but, as you know, not all drivers are mindful.

We stayed one night in Ainsworth Hot Springs and two nights in Nelson, British Columbia. After checking into Ainsworth Hot Springs Resort, we drove a little further north to Kaslo and toured the Moyie Museum. It's an old paddle steamship that is permanently shored and set up in period decor. Surprisingly, G found it really interesting and fun. Unfortunately, this is also where she discovered her wallet was missing. After moseying around the gift shop, she went back to the car to retrieve it to purchase some souvenirs and trade her US money for Canadian. We searched and searched, but the wallet was nowhere in the vehicle. We never did find it. It must've fallen out either in Ione when we stopped for a bathroom break, or at the Hot Springs Resort while getting out of the car. She had about USD $8.00 and some change. Originally, she had a twenty dollar bill and a huge handful of change, but mom was smart and encouraged her to leave the twenty and most of the change at home "in case something happens to her wallet." How did I know?

The cashier at the museum's gift shop was a friendly lady and gave her a few Canadian coins out of her own wallet. One was a special commemorative quarter celebrating Canada.

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Next to the museum was a small city beach, where we romped around and took in the beautiful scenery. The snow-capped mountain tips gave a lovely contrast to the sapphire sky and midnight blue of Kootenay Lake. Of all the mountain scenery we saw on this trip, this little spot in Kaslo was my favorite. Quiet, serene, and small town friendly.

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

That evening, back at Ainsworth, we soaked in the hot springs located on the resort's property. The main pool was body temperature (97-100 degrees). This is where most guests hung out. Next to the pool was a walk-through cave connected to hot soak tub (108 degrees) as well as a cool pool (39 degrees). I know what you're thinking: Who the heck wants to soak in 39 degree water? Well, here's the thing: when you walk the cave loop with hot water and jump back into the main body temperature pool, it feels cold. Soooooo....after exiting the hot water, take a quick half-second dip in the cool pool, and proceed to main pool; it will feel warm and cozy. Supposedly, this cycle of hot-cold-warm water is good for your anyway. I did it several times. Unfortunately, for me, the mineral bath wasn't in time; I got sick.

Main pool at Ainsworth Hot Springs.
Photo by Jennifer E. Miller
As I got into bed that night, I noticed my throat felt scratchy. I thought it was from not drinking enough water at the hot springs. I gulped down some H20 and went to bed. In the morning it was worse. No matter, I'll eat breakfast and it should go away on our way down to Nelson. This is what usually happens with allergies for me; sore throat upon awakening and it goes away throughout the day. I tried not to think about it too much. We are on vacation, after all.

Per the advice of the friendly Moyie Museum cashier, we stopped at Fletcher Falls for a short hike. It's an easy hike, but steep in most places. G gained too much momentum from running (hiking 101 error!), couldn't stop, and came to a short drop off of about four feet. Without other options, she jumped, landed on her feet, but her face came forward and her jaw met her knees. Thank goodness she didn't fall on the waterfall side of the trail! While her jaw was sore for the day or so, it wasn't anything serious. However, my sore throat decided to hang around.

Fletcher Falls
Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Also on the way to Nelson, we decided to ride the Balfour Ferry east across Kootaney Lake, as it's the longest free ferry in the world. We saw more lovely scenery and rode it west back across the lake, lest we wanted a road trip within our road trip.

We made to Nelson, checked into our hotel where I proceeded to eat the handful of Halls cough drops I had on me. I was annoyed my throat was still sore; in fact, it seemed to be getting worse. Add cough and nasal congestion to the list of ailments. The Halls didn't do much good and I quickly ran out. We found a grocer and I purchased a different brand called Fisherman's Friend. Not realizing they were anise flavored until I popped one into my mouth, I was a tad disgusted with the taste. I dealt with it because HOLY COW these things work! They are strong and richly soothing. Ditch your Halls and go buy Fisherman's Friend. There were other flavors available and I'm hoping I can find them in the USA. If not, I will head up to Canada to purchase them again (I'm serious; they work that good).

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller
After eating lunch at the Main Street Diner (located on Baker Street), the waiter gave us some sightseeing ideas and we started with the Nelson City Beach. You have to watch when a Canadian says "within walking distance." They clearly are used to walking more than Americans (what does that say about us?) because the walk was about 1.75 miles one way. I know, it really isn't that far, but when visiting a new place, one block can seem like a half mile at times. And with a sore throat doused with anise, across the parking lot feels like walking into a never ending time warp!

We saw many geese, pigeons, ducks, and even a swimming woodchuck on the walk which bordered the lake. The outdoor gym was quite popular and interesting, but I imagine it isn't usable during the winter. In the soccer fields, an athlete walked to the lake's edge, dunked his Nalgene bottle under, and drank. We didn't notice a filter of any sort within the bottle. Pretty sure he was drinking straight up lake water filled with woodchuck and goose poop. I may have thrown up a little in my mouth. Maybe this is normal in Canada; but ewwww! Several statues, or works of art, I should say, line the walkway. Speaking of which, the photos are my works of art; getting tired of typing my name on each photo.

The front statue is pointing at another statue behind it: birds roosting on a pylon

Heron's Landing by Jock Hildebrand

Shoreline with iconic Nelson Bridge

The beach is small, but what else does one need besides sand, water, and sun? It's a popular spot for kayaking, paddle boarding, and sailing. Thong bathing suits are popular for both men and women, including teenagers. Oi! There's another cultural difference.

The vibe of Nelson was overall extremely earthy/hippie. It's a town for organic foodies, wanderers, free spirits, and outdoor enthusiasts. I wouldn't say we didn't fit in, because it seemed to be an overall welcoming town. Since we fall into the more outdoorsy category, we headed slightly out of town for another hike, recommended by the waiter: Old Growth Trail.

The Old Growth Trail trailhead is a "short 11.5 km up Kokanee Glacier Road." 11.5 km is about seven miles which doesn't sound far, but it's a narrow, bumpy dirt road which took at least thirty minutes. Old Growth Trail itself was listed as an easy hike in my guidebook. While it wasn't hard, I wouldn't classify it as easy simply because young children and seniors could find it challenging, especially if unseasoned to any sort of rough or uneven terrain. There are large cedar, hemlock, and spruce trees that are hundreds of years old. I don't think we made it to the extremely large ones as the creek had washed out the trail, which is where we decided to turn back. We enjoyed the parts we were able to hike, and G didn't even hurt herself this time! Since it was Memorial Day, I snapped a photo of us in our American spirited attire with US and Canadian flags. We didn't forget the significance of this special holiday while out of the country!

American spirit in Canada.

Here's a big one growing around a boulder.

Returning to the trailhead required us to step around some man-made stairs because of water run off again. With footing on branches, we heaved ourselves up whilst gripping boulders. At the top, I happened to look in a specific spot and saw a calypso orchid! It is an endangered species in some places (or at least was at one time) because of their delicate nature and pickiness to a specific habitat. I have not found one in the wild until now. Being a bit of a flower nut, I was excited. I wished the flower was facing me for a better photo, but naturally I wasn't going to disturb it.

Photo of Calypso Orchid by Jennifer E. Miller

After T and G waited patiently for me to finish photographing this forest beauty, we returned to the trailhead and got in our car to head back down the mountain to Nelson. That's when we noticed liquid leaking from under the glove box. Sloshing and singeing could be heard, too. Great. We reached the bottom of the mountain where T pulled over to check the fluid levels which appeared normal. If something is leaking, shouldn't the dash be lighting up with alarms, bells, and whistles? That's the whole reason they make cars with bells and whistles, right?

Luckily, we arrived safely into town where we proceeded to find an automotive repair shop. Canadians don't celebrate Memorial Day so businesses are open. The first place we asked only did body work. "Try Walmart across the street or the tire place down the block."

Walmart's auto center is closed on Mondays. The tire place wouldn't take anymore mechanical work for the day. They directed us to a variety of other options. We tried the one across their parking lot simply called The Garage. It's a hole in the wall establishment next to a Crossfit Box. I walked into the tiny, yet inviting, entry area with two sitting chairs and a coffee pot sitting on a shelf recesses into the wall. There was a sliding window with a handwritten sign next to a doorbell that read "ring for service." I buzzed it and someone, presumably the owner, came to the window. I explained we were traveling and told him the issue with the leak and other noises. We were worried about the drive back home tomorrow and would it be possible to look at our car. He was very understanding and said, "Tourists first; the locals can wait." He also stated he tries to keep an empty slot open in case of emergencies such as ours anyway.

We own a Mazda which we pronounce Mahz-duh. In BC, they apparently say Mæz-duh (like the "a" sound in ma'am). I held my tongue about the accent because I didn't want to come across as a snobby tourist. Plus I wanted my car fixed. Remember my previous blog entry about regional accents? Add Mahz-duh/Mæz-duh to it!

The Garage needed about four hours to diagnose and unclogged the air conditioner hose. During part of the wait we headed back to the beach, which is when T pointed out the weird rash on his elbows. I told him to suck it up and be thankful he's not clogged like the A/C hose. He never figured out where the rash came from. Calamine lotion helped.

With the car fixed up we headed home safely the next day. Need car repair in Nelson BC? Call The Garage.

It was smooth sailing from Nelson to Spokane. Crossing the border back into the USA was stricter than entering Canada. Two border agents, not one, inspected us. One searched the car, while the other examined our IDs and asked what we were bringing back. Kids only need their birth certificate to cross the US/Canada border by car, yet the agent politely questioned her. He asked G her name, birth date, and age all which she answered lickety split. Then he asked, "Who's this guy sittin' in front of you driving?" G thought this was an odd question. She gave him a weird look, then looked at me; silently asking what to do. I told her to just answer the questions. "That's my daddy." The agent smiled and let us through. And we were home free. 

Friday, May 19, 2017

State of Liberty?

State of Liberty?

Jennifer E. Miller

There's been recent buzz about eastern Washington seceding from Washington State. The cascades would draw the border and the east side would be known as the state of Liberty.

It's been proposed before. Conservatives living east of the mountains feel underappreciated and continuously out-voted by the overpopulated urban metropolis. I suppose there is upside to it. The red politicians would cater to the conservative and rural needs of central and eastern Washington. (I could go into all sorts or political hullabaloo here but will spare that.) The biggest concern is whether Liberty could survive on tax revenues from its now scarcer population. And what would happen to all the tax money eastern Washingtonians have paid, you know, for decades? Anyways, it'd have to pass a vote. Would the unofficial voting control headquarters of western Washington actually kick us out?

Another important question is: how would fishing licenses be affected? There would probably be separate ones for Washington State and Liberty. I'm not sure how many people fish on both sides of the state since fishing techniques are vastly different, but it's something to think about. If I'm now a resident of Liberty, I would essentially need an out of state fishing license to fish in Washington; the state I used to live in. And vise versa. Hunting licenses would create the same issue.

Some outspoken proponents, yeah yeah, congresspeople from the east side, are very enthusiastic about the idea of a newly seceded state of Liberty. And their enthusiasm is catching on. In fact, I've seen various internet comments in support of it. Eastern Oregon, desperate to detach from similar red-blue-east-west contradictions, wants to join us; and north Idaho seeks division from psycho southern Idaho. I think Montana would stand its ground. Being remote, it's practically another country anyway. They probably have bigger shotguns. We'll just leave them alone.

At my writers group on Thursday night (May 18th), we briefly discussed how it was the 37th anniversary of the Mt. Saint Helens eruption. After swapping a few stories, someone mentioned the possibility of Mt. Rainier blowing; which would be even more devastating that Mt. Saint Helens. Before Mt. Rainier would blow, the heat from the volcano would first melt the snow, thus, causing massive west side flooding. There would be panic to no end as millions of people would flee the area and could only go in three directions: north, east, or west over the sound if they owned a boat. The peninsula residents would be trapped, unfortunately.

As I pondered about this notion of Mt. Rainier demolishing western Washington, I thought of something so incredibly simple it was brilliant.

"Hey! If Mt. Rainier blew its top, we'd get our state of Liberty!"

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, May 12, 2017

Clothes Dryers Point to Boats

Clothes Dryers Point to Boats

Jennifer E. Miller

I am a happy camper. My clothes dryer got repaired this week! Going a whole ten days without a dryer is much easier than going with out a wash machine (been there; done that, too), but it's still an inconvenience.

The dryer crapped out on while it was running a cycle. I happened to be walking by and zzzzzzztttttt! the drum stopped rolling. All the lights on the front were still on so I knew it wasn't a tripped circuit. After some basic troubleshooting, it wouldn't restart, which left me with no other option expect to call the repair company. The lady who answered the phone seemed to think it was a blown fuse. If she was correct, then the repairman would be able to fix it on site in one visit. She was not correct. Something melted on the circuit board and they had to special order a whole new board. Why must all these new machines have complicated electrical components anyway? Sure, they make the machines come with convenience and bells and whistles; but it's irritating that there wasn't anything mechanically wrong with the dryer. An electrical component halts the function of a clothes dryer.

Luckily, I was able to continue with laundry chores, except I had to hang dry everything. I don't use fabric softener in the wash because, in the past, it's gunked up the wash machine. Until the temporary demise of the dryer, I'd been using dryer sheets. Therefore, hang drying made our items stiff and crinkly. The towels were especially rough. T complained daily about how his towel assaulted him and his sensitive skin by raking it off layer by layer. I noticed this, too, when I took a hang-dried hand towel with me to the gym to dab off my sweat. Instead of gently wiping away perspiration, I got a deep exfoliation on my face! People noticed I appeared extra red which they chalked up to me working harder than usual, but it was the towel burning color into my epidermis. After calming our second-degree charred skin with a gallon of industrial strength aloe vera gel, I decided it was time to find another alternative: my trusty neighbors.

We have good people living around us and they allowed me to haul over a few loads. The wake of our unforeseen tragedy was a gift to them, too, because as the loads were drying they got to spend the entire time talking to me! Or was it the other way around? My point is that a perk of otherwise dealing with broken household appliances, is that it's an excuse to bother your neighbors and force them to visit with you. We caught up on family affairs or discovered more of each other's interests. After throwing in something like a fourth load next door, I noticed the owner across the street was outside working in her garden. Since I don't talk to her much, I started up a conversation, asking if she was planting pumpkins again, etc. etc.

The folks across the street, I'll call them Barb and Tony, are retired and own a boat similar to T's. Come to find out, their boat sank over the winter. Luckily it was moored (as opposed to occupants on it) when a hose burst, allowing water to enter the hull. They found it at the bottom of the icy river in the morning. I listened in disbelief and noted that their boat wasn't all that old and what a strange thing to have happen. Barb commented that T got a new boat recently, which I confirmed. I told her how this, being our third boat, is the most expensive, yet T insists it's "worth it." Furthermore, to determine the worth of this new money-sucking toy, I decided to keep track of the price per fish relative to the cost. I only tally the fish he keeps. Catch and release doesn't count; I can't eat those. I count the crappie as one fish each, but the trout/salmon/steelhead in pounds. For example: a ten pound salmonoid counts as ten fish; ten crappie count as ten fish regardless of size. I simply divide the cost of the boat by the new fish count total.

The maiden voyage yielded fish at $1571.43 each. After a summer, fall, winter, and part of this spring, the cost has now dropped to a more reasonable $358.70 per fish. My meticulous record-keeping had Barb in stitches. She said when their replacement boat finally arrived from the factory, she was going to start keeping track of Tony's fish, too.

So, you see, a busted appliance may cost a hefty dollar to fix, but it was a great excuse to annoy spend quality time with the people around us. Hmmm. Maybe I should add the cost of the appliance repair to the price of the boat. You know, make it "worth it."

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, May 5, 2017

The Iconic Geranium

The Iconic Geranium

Jennifer E. Miller

Lately, I find myself nostalgic. I'm writing a story, which has developed into book-length, about grandkids who want to help their Nonna (grandma) with the holiday cooking. I'm weaving humor, sincerity, and nostalgia into it. While the story is fictional, many of the aspects are taken from my own childhood experiences, which has allowed me to flashback and reflect. One of those reflections were summer days with some special people.

Summer days at my grandparents' house was an ordinary thing for me. As I've since found out, many kids hardly knew their grandparents, so I consider myself fortunate to have them lead large roles in my life. A day would usually start off by Grandpa picking me up from home. Pulling up in the long driveway of my grandparents' house, I was greeted by cement flower pots with the spikes plant flowing in the morning breeze. It was as though the long palm-tree like leaves waved at me. The pointed tips were known to poke skin if one wandered too close. Other flowers nestle with the spikes plant were pink petunias and indigo lobelia. 

The plant that was the most iconic at Grandma and Grandpa's house, however, was the geranium. I hated those things as a kid. Their pungent aroma made my nose turn the other direction. Grandma's geraniums were always red; a color I did not care for as a youngster. Even though there was pink, white, even purple to choose from, Grandma consistently selected red. She planted them in containers near the front door. They trailed over the edges of hanging baskets both in the front and the back patio. With the screen door open, allowing the summer air in, I'd occasionally hear water splashing onto the ground. It was Grandma watering her hanging geraniums with hose stretched above her head. 

Those stinky geraniums may be more about the familiar feeling they provide versus their ornamental value. In photos of Italy, I notice it's common to see them hanging outside front doors. I'm guessing Grandma's mother, an Italy native, planted them, too. She could have easily carried this cultural tradition here, and naturally, Grandma continued it. 

When I see or smell geraniums now, my mind transports me back to those carefree summer days at Grandma and Grandpa's. I can hear the sprinklers: click click click click click click. If I listen close enough, I can hear the sound of water droplets upon the blades of grass. The giant blue spruce tree, with its branches gently angled toward the ground, made a hiding place at the base of the trunk. Bringing toys and various other treasures, I'd climb under the branches and pretend it was a portal where I could talk to forest animals. The birds flutter and chirp their way throughout the yard. Killdeer commonly nested in the thick shrubs and I got winded many times trying to catch one of the babies that escaped. When I'd tire of the play, I went back across the damp lawn into the house. In doing so, it was necessary to pass the pungent red flowers reaching out at me, as though guiding me back home.

Here I am now, in my own home, craving a bit of my childhood that went by entirely too fast. My planters sat empty through the ridiculously long winter, so I headed off to the greenhouse for flowers. I selected spikes, red geraniums, and indigo lobelia to foster my memories. I also purchased a purple and white variegated geranium, too, which got planted, along with some lobelia, in a hanging basket. Even though my potted arrange is slightly different than Grandma's, it reminds me of that feeling in past summers. 

So there you have it. The reasoning behind the plants I chose for my yard this year. The nagging tug of my conscience saying you need to do this was strong enough to act upon. Surely, I'm not the only one who plants or decorates to carry on traditions. I'd love to hear what my readers do to maintain their traditions.

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, April 28, 2017

Things I Don't Understand; and It's "Bayg"

Things I Don't Understand; and It's "Bayg" 

Jennifer E. Miller

Everyone has pet peeves, or stuff that makes our eyes roll so far to the point they are stuck and we can't unroll them back into position. I'm no exception. 

First: The Bathroom Self Portrait.

Recently, I walked into a public restroom and, before walking to a stall, waited for a young woman standing at the sinks with her cell phone in selfie mode. She didn't even notice me at first. I stood out of the frame because I didn't want to photo bomb her. And if I'm going to be photo bombing, it's not going to be in a bathroom picture!

What is so special about a self portrait in this location? Restrooms are dirty, germy, grimey, graffiti-laden, and all-around gross places. They certainly don't make attractive backdrops. A riverbank littered with goose poop is a better alternative. One could even argue it's nature's bathroom, since bathrooms are such the "in" things with selfies nowadays.

Second: Driving Slow

Specifically on Trent Ave, east of University Road. The speed limit is 50 mph. That's fifty. Fiiiiive zeeeeeroooooo. Not 40; not 35; but 50!

I notice the majority of drivers who choose to set cruise control at snail's pace, have Idaho plates. It's such a lovely state; they should be in more of a hurry to get back. Let see the pedal to the metal Idahoans!

I do miss living in Idaho, at times. I like the rural-ness of it. When we'd travel and say "we're from Idaho," the response was usually, "Oh! Corn growers, right?" No, not Iowa. It's far-fetched to think that Americans don't know the clear difference between the two states, yet it sadly exists. The production of the film Napoleon Dynamite, I will add, helped pin Idaho on the map. Vote for Pedro! (Sorry, couldn't resist.)

That brings me to the third thing: Not Knowing the Geographic Location of All 50 States.

Wasn't this a prerequisite to pass, like, fourth grade? I distinctly recall a test with an outline of the USA and its states where students were expected to write in all the names based on shape and geographical location. I know Vermont versus New Hampshire. Washington is nowhere the other Washington. Colorado and Wyoming are difficult to determine by individual shape alone, but easily distinguishable next to their neighboring territories. North Carolina and South Carolina and North Dakota and South Dakota aren't that hard: one sits north and the other south. C'mon. If you're planning a road trip, you need to know things like "will we be crossing into Mississippi or Missouri next?" And yes, Santa knows there are two Virginias: the regular one and the westward one.

Lastly: Mispronouncing "Bag"

This has been the subject of much debate in our house. I say "bayg" with a long "a" sound. T pronounces it all wimpy-like: "bahg" with shorter "a" sound in apple. I would as soon call it a sack than a "bahg!" It's bayg! Rhymes with egg.

"Egg does not rhyme with bahg, but it rhymes with beg," he points out.

"Yes, except you are saying them wrong: Agg and bayg (both long a's)."

"No, you, for some weird reason, you pronounce bahg as bayg. And anyways, I'm talking about beg, b-e-g; one letter off from egg."

"Me, too. They are all pronounced with the same vowel sound: The long a. 'Egg, beg, bag, vague.' See? They rhyme. We were taught this in elementary school," I inform him.

He wrinkles his forehead at me. "That is most absurd thing I've ever heard. Egg and beg rhyme and sound nothing like bahg or vague."

"What's wrong with the way I say them?"

"It's not the right way."

"Well, you and everybody else know what I'm talking about; so I must be saying them right."

He drums his fingers.

"At least I don't replace r's with h's and move those r's after a's."


"I've got an idear; pahk the cah in Hahvahd Yahd. Aftawahds, we'll warsh it."

Confused he asks, "What did you just say?"

I chuckle. Then add, "You know, I like the way I say bayg and egg. It sounds like I'm saying them with authority!"

T rolls his eyes. "Can we just bayg this conversation, please?"

"Ha! You said bayg! I win."

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, April 21, 2017

Poem: "Uncle Sam"

April is poetry month. I may have already shared this poem I wrote, but here it is again.

Uncle Sam

Jennifer E. Miller

I do not like doing my taxes,
I do not like them, Uncle Sam.
I do not like them with a fox,
Rather send them six feet under in a box.
I do not like them with some mice,
The process makes me feel not very nice.
I do not like them here or there,
Perhaps I’ll quit filing them altogether.
I do not like doing my taxes,
Got that, Uncle Sam, you are?

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, April 14, 2017

License to Travel-Sorta

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller 2017

License to Travel-Sorta

Jennifer E. Miller

My drivers license requires a renewal this year, so I decided to post my experience and thoughts about documentation(s). I'll begin with the boring stuff and work my way into sarcasm with the possibility of embellishment--as always.

All sorts of new regulations when into play after 9/11. Some were quick to come about, while others slowly filtered their way in as time went on. One of the ways that have changed is government-issued identification. There are several choices now: regular drivers licence; enhanced drivers license; passport card; and passport. The uses and limitations are enough to make your head spin so I have conveniently compiled them below based on my own limited research. In other words, if you are considering one over the other, please do your homework for your own state or territory and travel needs.

Let's start with the regular drivers license. In Washington State, this will soon do nothing more than give you driving privileges. As you can see from the Department of Homeland Security's link, WA State Drivers Licenses will no longer be accepted for domestic air travel either June 6, 2017 or January 22, 2018; I can't figure out which is the correct deadline. Washington is one of those obscure states where obtaining your drivers license isn't "strict enough." From what I gather, it is not necessary to prove your American Citizenship in order to get a standard drivers license. Funny. When I applied for my learner's permit all those years ago I had to bring my birth certificate which would confirm my citizenship. As you can view in this link it there are many loop holes allowing foreigners to obtain driver's license which is out of compliance with the Dept of Homeland Security; at least that's my educated guess. Of course all this subject to change and if you are a Washington State resident, you are aware our governor is fond of suing the federal government over federally mandated regulations and laws. At some point, the extensions with expire. Be prepared.

Moving on. Washington State offers an enhanced driver's license (EDL). It serves as appropriate documentation to cross the border into Canada, Mexico, or areas of the Caribbean by land or sea only (Google Western Hemisphere Travel Initiative or WHTI). They have a microchip in them that stores the registered license number and speeds up the customs process. EDLs are also proof of American citizenship because it is necessary to supply your birth certificate, naturalization card, social security number, etc.

As far as I can tell, a passport card serves the same travel purpose as an EDL but doesn't grant driving privileges. The only countries it can be used are Canada, Mexico, Bermuda, and the Caribbean; again by land or sea travel only. Proof of American citizenship is needed to obtain one and, hence, carries proof of the card bearer's citizenship.

To fly to or from any country a traditional passport is key. It will also serve as proper ID for the TSA when traveling domestically is sufficient to cross the borders if driving or cruising as it, too, serves as proof of American citizenship. However, like the passport card, it does not include driving privileges.

So why explain all this? My standard WA State drivers license expires in about two months. I decided to opt for the enhanced one as my passport is expired. (I didn't know about the five year grace period to renew it.) I am going to need an EDL to travel domestically by air as of next year. I am unsure if I'd remember to grab my passport when simply traveling within the US. We have also talked about making a weekend trip to Canada; and a passport does take extra time than and EDL. By the way, kids under 16 only need their birth certificates to cross into Canada by land with their parents.

I will probably get a passport at some point anyway. Why? It is the most diverse piece of travel documentation available. It's accepted everywhere. And, as I recall applying for my passport previously, it is easier than obtaining an EDL?

Say what?

For a passport, I recall filling out a form, getting a photo, going to the courthouse with my birth certificate, possibly getting something notarized while there, mailing it off, and voila! the mailman delivered my passport. To obtain your Washington State EDL was a bit different, as I found out: gather current license and certified copy of my birth certificate; arrive at department of licensing five minutes prior to opening and be the 20th to 25th person waiting outside; wait for employee to unlock door; file inside to get in line number one. It's all uphill from here.

While waiting in line number one, I notice the employees behind the desks and immediately think of the movie Zootopia.

You think I'm joking, don't you?

Line number one, which is the line just to get your number cue was a fifteen minute wait. Patrons get a slip of paper and take a seat in the waiting area. When I walk up, the grouchy sloth behind the desk asks what I need today. I inform her I wish to renew and upgrade to an EDL.

"Birth certificate and drivers license please."

After I hand them to her, she clips a piece of paper to a clip board and tells me to fill it out.

"Ya don't need to call anyone for info; just fill it out to the best of your knowledge."

She hands me one last slip of paper with my cue number on it and tells me to sit down and listen for it to be called. There is a monitor screen that list the "now serving" numbers. I'll call this line number two.

I locate a seat in a rows of hard plastic chairs that are in desperate need of a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser scrubbing. The white tile floor is chipped in places and I realize it's probably the same seats and textiles decades ago when I waited to take my initial drivers test.

I notice the man seated behind me is mumbling various Tourettes curse words. Doing my best to ignore him, I begin filling out the form, which is surprisingly simple; basically the information on my birth certificate with a few extras like "have you ever had a license issued in another state or territory." I got hung up on the section asking for parents place of birth. I knew my mother's, but I could quite remember my father's. My birth certificate stated their places of birth with only the state, not the city. No matter, I thought. The grouchy lady in charge of line number one said there was no need to call anyone. I finish up and wait.

And wait.

And wait.

And watch all the people who were behind me in line number one get their numbers called before me.

My foot taps impatiently. I purse my lips. I wring my fingers.

I'm beginning to understand the source of the man's Tourette's Syndrome.

When I feel as though I'm about to burst, my magic number is finally called. Relieved, I walk to the desk and hand a new woman my clipboard of information. I take a vision test, then she clicks her computer mouse and rapid-fire types something on her keyboard. She ho-hums and finally asks me to supply my social security number. I recite it and stand there as she continues to type her way toward carpul tunnel syndrome.

Finally, she ceases, places my clipboard with my precious documents on a counter behind and says, "It's a two part process to get your enhanced driver's license. Someone will call you to conduct an interview. Have a seat."

"Again," I added.

"Hm?" she is puzzled.

"Well a two part process would mean our meeting here is the second part. I already sat down after waiting in that line." I point to grouchy lady's line which is now wrapped around the perimeter of the room.

"I don't understand. Have a seat and wait for your name to be called, please."

She buzzes the next cue number as I return to my hard plastic chair. I glance at my watch and wished I hadn't; over forty five minutes already.

To occupy my time, I people watch. I see my birth certificate being passed around from person to person at the front counter, where I just walked from. It gets set down next to someone who takes a sip coffee from his tumbler and spills it on himself. None of that better be on my documents! He rises from his seat, goes into a back room, and comes out with a paper towel to clean up his tumbler. There has got to be the equivalent of an elementary school population crammed into this place and the employees are at their workstation washing dishes.

After a fair amount of time, the man calls me by name this time. I'm finally out of line number three.

"So you're here to get an enhanced drivers license, huh?"

"That's the form I filled out," I said sarcastically.

Blank stare with a frown.

I'm convinced that in order for someone to get a job at the DOL (or DMV for that matter), a prerequisite skill is to possess zero personality skills. What do these people do in their off time? Practice their scowl? Perhaps I should have "enhanced" my arrival at this guy's counter by moon-walking my way up. Sheesh.

"Yes, sir. I'd like an enhanced drivers license, please," I said. I matched my bland tone to his, hoping this would lighten his mood. As unreal as it sounded, it worked.

"Great! I can help you with that," he says more cheerfully. I spotted a thin smile, but, it's DOL so I'm sure none of my readers will believe me.

Line number three guy puts on his reading glasses and types a few things into his computer. He certainly isn't rapid-fire typist like line number two woman. Like many men, he types using his two index fingers. I silently roll my eyes because the wait process would go much faster if he could up his words per minute from twelve and a half to forty five simply by learning to type properly.

Soon he looks down at my application and over the top of his glasses at the computer screen and grimaces.

"Hmm," he begins. "I see here, you wrote your mother's place of birth but your father's place of birth is missing."

"I am unsure of the city. It's city A, B, or C."*

Line guy number three gives me a questioning stare down.

"How come you know where your mother was born and not your father?"

"I know the region he was born in, but I have simply forgotten which city. The lady over there," I point to grouch-puss at line number one, "said I didn't need to contact anyone to get the info; just fill it out to the best of my knowledge. I can make some calls if you prefer."

"No no. This is fine, we don't need it."

Then why did you drill me about it?

Line number three guy verifies a few more things, makes sure I understand I can't fly internationally with my EDL, then has me sign a final form. He punches a hole in my old drivers license, invalidating it, and returns my documents to me.

"Have a seat. Your name will be called when its your turn to snap a photo."

Again?! I think. The phrase "have a seat" is going to put a sour taste in my mouth from now on.

Line number four means back in the chair. There are enough people in this place creating body heat that the fan kicks on. A gentle whir spins from the drop ceiling's vent.

I take a quick snooze and wake up to someone shouting my name. I leap to my feet and head up to the counter.

"Ready for your photo?" Line number four woman asks.

Rubbing my eyes awake I say, "Sure."

Line number four woman has me sign electronically, prints my temporary EDL, and says I'll get my physical license in the mail. But they are running behind and to expect at least three to four weeks. Sigh. That would create line number five. I've spend a few hours at DOL, what's a few more weeks?

When I get home I warn my husband of the ordeal to get an EDL. He assures me he has all the documentation so he run down to get his own. I sit at the table drinking some calming herbal tea as he sifts through the important papers in the safe. Next I hear, "Jen! I can't find my birth certificate!"

We are in for a trip to the Department of Health. The thought of waiting through another government agency line is too much. I slam my head on the table in defeat.

The End

*Trying not divulge too much personal info on here. I didn't actually say "city A, B, or C," but rather the actual city names. Surely my readers can understand that.

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, April 7, 2017

Spiders in the Midst

Spiders in the Midst

Jennifer E. Miller

The other day, G and I drove along the main arterial running various errands. She was jibber-jabbering as normal about the usual nonsense things. All of a sudden she stops short and gasps in horror.

"Mom! MOM! I saw a spider!"

Mom does not care for spiders and does her best to stay calm whilst continuing down the busy arterial.

"Where," I ask.

"Back here. On the seat. It was next to me!"

"Where is it now?"

"I don't know, it crawled under the seat. I can't see it anymore!!"

I nervously tap the steering wheel as I ask the most important question.

"How big was the spider?"

G holds up her fingers apart, displaying a size that would put said arachnid at requiring a Valium prescription.

I quickly think what to do or say next. Truthfully, I'm imagining a creepy crawly with sweaty fangs under my seat, ready to ambush me at any second. I feel the urgent need to tape my pant legs to my shoes but I don't carry duct tape in the car.

Meanwhile, G is becoming equally anxious and fidgets in her seat.

"Mommy! I want you stop the car now!"

I reassure her that we can safely drive to the gas station. Although, I question that statement myself as I'm preparing for eight legs to wrap around my face and pin me to my headdrest while it sucks blood from my jugular like Dracula.

Shaking the day-nightmare off, I steer the car to our destination with a pounding Tell-Tale heart. I skid the car to a stop at the first pump, slamming the brakes hard enough to give the car a good jolt. G and I click our seat belts off with a swiftness that could challenge a peregrine falcon.

"Mommy! Get me out of here!" G cries as tears stream down her cheeks.

We exit the vehicle, and I proceed to casually begin pumping gasoline into the car. I am trying to remain calm and act normal, after all.

"Mommy, I'm scared! I NOT going back in there!" G declares.

I take a deep breath.

"Okay, show me where you saw the spider."

"I told you, I NOT going back in there!" she reminds me.

"Fine. Tell me where you saw the spider."

Next to where I sit; in the middle."

She points to the other side of her booster seat.

"That's where you first saw it?"

She nods her head.

"And it crawled away?"

She nods frantically again. "Yes, under the seat."

"My seat, right?"

"No. I don't think so. I guess I don't know for sure, but I think it was the back seat."

Phew! It didn't go under my seat! I thought. My pulse begins to slow.

As the gas tank fills, I examine the scene. It's difficult to see with out a flashlight, and I don't care to get my head too close to the would-be assailant. Despite my efforts, I don't see anything.

"The spider was about this big, you said?" I touched my thumb and forefinger together in about a quarter size.

"Mmmm. No like this."

G pinches her thumb and forefinger together. Only about three millimeters separates the two.

I'm looking for a needle in a haystack. A spider that small can hide anywhere. Maybe it's a baby spider. Baby spiders have siblings--lots of them. They usually huddle together on the mother's back by the dozens.

Imagining dozens of spiders in the car, I become tense. They all have the potential to grow up to be big scary spiders. G senses my anxiety as I tap my foot as I think about what to do next. I see her eyes wide with fear. She glances at the car, shivers, and looks back at me; pleading to have another option than return to arachnid nest.

We step a safe distance away from the gas pump as I pull my cellular phone from my pocket. I tap the screen.

Confused, G asks, "What are you going, Mom?"

"Calling Dad. We need rescuing."

The line rings and a groggy T answers the phone. "Hello?"

"Yeah, come get us. It's an emergency."

I hear a thud as he tumbles out of bed.

"Are you guys ok? What happened?"

"We were under attack. Please come asap."

"Yes! I'm on my way."

Before we hang up, I inform him our location.

After a few minutes, T skids to a stop in the parking lot and leaps out. He runs over, demanding to know what happened.

"Give me your keys," I say first.

He tosses them over to me and they jingle as I catch them.

"What happened?" he repeats.

"There's a spider in the car!" G says.

His look of worry turns into annoyance.

"That's all?"

"That's all? It tried to attack us," I say.

It's his turn to try remaining calm. He inhales and exhales a few breaths.

"Why did I need to come?"

"G and I have decided we aren't riding in the vehicle with the spider. We needed the other car."

T folds his arms; displeased.

"And I'm supposed to ride with the spider?"

G puts her hands on her hips and sticks her head out a little.

"You're a policeman! Deal with it!"

At that we skip to the uninfested vehicle and drive home safely.

Meanwhile, T enters the spider-car where eight eyes are spying on him from a covert location...

(This work is a mix of fiction and non-fiction.)

Copyright 2017 by Jennifer E. Miller

Friday, March 31, 2017

Unusual, Funny, Interesting, and Wacky Things

Unusual Things
Jennifer E. Miller

This past week has been interesting. Enough so, that I have a few photos to share, and I haven't done a picture-y blog entry in a while. To reiterate, I don't post many with faces and use initials in place of names to keep some privacy, as my blog is public.  

Photo 1: Flood

Heavy rains have elevated the Spokane River's water levels, causing flooding in areas. Wanting to show the river to G, I had this grand idea of taking Upriver Drive home earlier this week. I didn't think I had time to take her to Spokane Falls and be home in time for dinner; hence the Upriver Drive idea. Well, a few hundred feet along the road and we found it barricaded off due to flooding. We stopped to get out of the car and investigate the area before taking the detour.

In the photo above, a bench sits over what was the Centennial Trail. It floats in place, surrounded by a new tributary. (Supposedly, according to the the weather reports, the water is even receding.) We watched in awe as the mighty river, beyond the shrubbery, rushed with a force like a NASCAR race.

Photo 2: More Flooding

Continuing along Upriver Drive, the road ascended above the river. We were now looking down on it, rather than at level. I stopped the car again to appreciate the new vantage point. I spotted a sign with a fish, along with a warning underneath. I believe it reads "Warning! Sewage overflows during heavy rain/snowmelt." I giggled to myself, because there is obviously heavy rain/snow melt, therefore the sewage must be on its way downriver. Many people are hanging around on the bridges overlooking Spokane Falls and enjoying the spray from the rapids and plastering news sites and social media with their aquatic delight. Little do they know the spray contains sewage! The joke's on them! I am rather happy, now, that I thought of this alternate river expedition.

Photo 3: That Moment When Your Child Draws...

This was one of G's school assignments. It mostly speaks for itself. She drew a picture of her toys (right) spewn all over the floor and her mom (me) yelling her name. She even drew me squinting as I'm "berating" her. I'm probably scolding her to put them all away. I think teachers do these assignments on purpose to secretly discover what the parents are actually like. And yet, we have no way to defend themselves against this sort of slander!  

Photo 4: The Tiniest Car

Okay okay. First off, I was stopped when I took this photo. Fine. Almost stopped. And the kiddo wasn't in the car with me. 

This is the tiniest vehicle I've ever seen. It appeared even smaller than a Smart Car. Coincidentally, it was driving behind a semi cab which gives you a sense of its inferior size. 

This thing appeared to possess the safety equivalent of an armored golf cart. All too easily can one contrive that if this car rear-ended the semi cab, it would fold up in a cartoon-style accordion. 

I tried to imagine what the interior was like. Was this car even a two-seater? If so, I'd guess the driver and passenger ride in tandem. What good is a car without a shotgun?! Even a golf cart has a shotgun. The term "back seat driver" takes on a whole new meaning here. 

Photo 5: Rainbows

Last, but not least, is the photo of the rainbows. Yes, plural. Look really close. 

With heavy rains, there must be a break in the clouds at some point. Lucky for us Mr. Sunshine pushed his way through the mob of grey clouds to show us his true colors.

That concludes my unusual/funny/interesting/wacky images for this week!

Copyright 2017 by Jennifer E. Miller

Monday, March 27, 2017

Adventures in Girl Scout Cookies Sales

Adventures in Girl Scout Cookies Sales

Jennifer E. Miller

It’s that time of year again. That wonderful time of the year that brings cheer and joy and smiling happy faces. That’s right; it’s GIRL SCOUT COOKIE SEASON! Customers are excited to receive their cookies and are giddy when a cute little Girl Scout explains all the yummy flavors. Everyone has their favorites. People everywhere love Girl Scout cookies. Personally, I enjoy the funny quirks about the customers.

One of the first customers we delivered to, were friends that live nearby. The wife placed the original order. We happened to have the cookies in the car and noticed their garage door open, so we stopped. He teased us that his wife placed the order, yet left him to foot the bill. G handed him a box of Trefoils and a box of Thin Mints and informed him of the total amount due. “What?! No Samoas!” he exclaimed. “I need a box of those, please.” (Notice the “need” part, rather than a want.) The customer was happy, and she got an extra sale.

G sold to a couple businesses, one of which was her doctor’s office. For her delivery, I thought ahead and took extra cookies; it always seems that people want more. The personnel who share the opposite side of the office quickly saw her carrying Girl Scout cookies. Like vultures, waiting to devour prey, they swarmed the cute little Girl Scout. Multiple hands reached in the box, removing the bits of flesh from the carcass—I mean the boxes of cookies form the cardboard case. Waiting in line were the scavengers, a pair of patients waiting to get their hands on the leftovers.

The next business for deliveries was another office building. She sold quite a few at this location. We sorted the boxes at the front of the office, going down each line on the order form. One by one, people gathered around. Sneaking up on us, we weren’t aware of their presence until we said their name and BAM! Like gulls, they snatched up boxes crooning “Mine! Mine! Mine!” The clamor attracted other individuals who wanted a bite from her cookie stock, too. More boxes disappeared.

Over the weekend she tried the door-to-door method. She pulled her red plastic wagon containing her cookie boxes. Every home who answered the door bought from her. One said her timing was impeccable because his wife was not there to tell him he couldn’t buy cookies. Next house the lady heard the wagon, which was rather noisy, coming up her driveway. She popped out of her front door, money in hand, exclaiming, “Are you here to sell me Girl Scout cookies?!” People can be quite enthusiastic about Girl Scout cookies.

Later, the same day, she participated in cookie booth sales. G and another Girl Scout set up a table in front of grocery store and entice customers to purchase. I noticed this last year, too, but it is painful for men to say no. The girls ask as they exited the store: “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?” The man would look at their neatly arranged table of cookie boxes and long to take one home. They would slow the cart, and one could see their legs aching, ready to buckle with sorrow, as he’d admit: “I’m sorry. My wife already purchase some. I’m not allowed to bring anymore home.” He would continue mumbling “sorry, so sorry,” as the grocery cart squeaked across the parking lot.

Other times, the girls approach customers about cookies and they would come to the table, listen to them talk about all the wonderful flavors, price per box, etc. etc. Even if the person didn’t seem too interested in the cookies, they saw the hard work the girls put in trying and would purchase a box. Little do they know; this is how it works. Unsuspecting customers buy a box of Thin Mints or Samoas, thinking I’ll just buy one box to show my support. Then they arrive home. They open the box by lifting the glued flap on the top. Sliding the tray out, they open the crinkling cellophane wrapper. After reaching in to grab the first cookie, they crunch into it. It’s a delicious cookie. A crazy delicious, tantalizing their taste buds, cookie. In a few short minutes, there are no more cookies for fingers to grab onto. A crisis ensues, causing the person to jump back into their vehicle and return to the store where the Girl Scouts are more than happy to sell him a case of their new favorite flavor.

Ahhhhh. Girl Scout cookie season!

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Paddy's Day

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

St. Paddy's Day
Jennifer E. Miller

Happy St. Paddy's Day! St. Patrick's Day is my second favorite holiday after Halloween. I don't have an exact reason. I'm not Irish; or if I am I'm unaware. Simply put, I like the "fun-ness" of this holiday: parades, leprechauns, shamrocks, and pot o' gold at rainbows' ends.

Halloween has been getting a bad rap lately because it's falsely viewed as Satanic or Pagan. While it's modern secular celebration does include gory death, underworld icons, and witchcraft, it's historical significance is a precursor to All Saint's Day on November 1st. Children dress up as someone/thing other than themselves to confuse the evil spirits and keep the Saints, and other wholesome souls, from falling prey to malevolent apparitions. The costumes don't need to be scary; a princess, crayon, or animal will do. It's too bad the origins of Halloween have become lost with society's obsession with gore and death. To me, it's never been a day to worship the devil or evil; it's a day to keep it away.

Unfortunately, I've heard people dis St. Patrick's Day, too. It's an excuse for people to get drunk. Some feel forced to wear green when they don't want to (hint: then don't!). I've even heard of people say since that this day should hold no importance if one isn't Irish. The amount of negativity floating around is depressing.

Being festive on this day is enjoyable. I don't care if I'm Italian, rather than Irish; St. Patrick's Day is fun. Green isn't my color, but one day out of the year I can wear it without worrying how it tarnishes my complexion. Shamrock decor sprouts in various nooks and crannies. The leprechaun leaves chocolate coins at our house, presumable scattered from a pot o' gold. 

The pot o' gold got me thinking why my Italian self likes the Irish-dominated St. Patrick's Day. Take a look at the flags of Ireland (left) and Italy (right).

Flag of Ireland.svg      Flag of Italy.svg
Public Domain,
The flags are strikingly similar. Three stripes containing the same order of colors, lest the ones on the far right. The red stripe of Italy is a primary color. Ireland surely liked the flag so much they needed to put their own spin on it. In order to make the orange for their flag, yellow must be added to the red. Gold is yellow-ish. Gold from a pot o' gold. This proves the likeness of Italians and Irish. There, that must be why I like St. Patrick's Day. It's Italian at heart. 

And not to be forgotten: St. Patrick himself was Italian.

Enough with the logic talk. We can all be a little Irish today. 

Copyright 2017 Jennifer E. Miller