Friday, August 18, 2017

Cabin 3

Photo from Pixabay under Creative Commons License

Cabin 3
Jennifer E. Miller
Riding in the car, I felt the curve in the road before the resort entrance. The car blinker ticked, as the tires crunched over the gravel driveway, leaving behind a wispy cloud of dust. I saw row of small structures almost too small to be called houses. I guess that’s why they were called cabins.
Dad steered the car and parked in front of the main office. All three of us, my sister was the third one, climbed out and filed inside. A friendly woman with long greying hair tied in a ponytail and thick bangs greeted us. She checked something off in her registration book and handed Dad the keys. The keychain was an ugly, orange, plastic diamond that surely fit uncomfortably in his jeans pocket. But I suppose not one tenant misplaced it.
While the woman discussed the rules and things to do, my sister and I became antsy. She noticed and suggested we step out the rear door onto the porch. Skipping our way to the door, our sneakers creaked over the wood floors, worn dry by sand and dampness others had trampled in. The screen door had a rusted spring that complained as we pushed it open and stepped outside.
We stared at the glittering surface of water before us. Like floating diamonds, it shimmered in the fierce midday sun. They bobbed up and down, momentarily disappearing, so as not to melt under the rays.
I wanted to kick off my shoes, push my toes into the sand, placing one foot before the other, faster and faster, and run into the cool deep blue water that stood before me. I wanted the minnows to scatter upon my splash and the seaweed to tickle my ankles. I wanted to step over the sharp rocks, or prance across the dock and try to avoid getting a splinter. I longed to watch the sunset—as much as the surrounding mountains would allowed.
At night, I could don a sweatshirt and head to the fire pit where the hosts allowed guests to toast s’mores. I preferred my s’mores a certain way: without the graham crackers or chocolate. The smoke and heat of the campfire parched my eyes. Like fireworks, the flames crackled and seared, giving way to sparkling embers floating off into the night sky, to chase stars, the ashes clinging to my clothes. In the morning, the smell of fire and roasted marshmallows lingered.
But I was getting ahead of myself. I still stood on the porch soaking up the lake with its noise of summer enthusiasts on paddleboats or cannon balling off the dock. There was the scrape of a rowboat over the sand, safely off the water. Couples strolled along the beach hand-in-hand, sometimes with a leashed dog.
My sister groaned, and said something about the small snack store on the beach a few dozen yards down. They sold candy and ice cream. I think that’s what the resort and the lake was to her: candy and ice cream. If those diamonds glittering upon the water were edible, I’d spend all weekend plucking them off and into my mouth. They’d surely taste like crystalize sugar.
The rusted spring complained again, and Dad stepped through, announcing he was finished checking in. We skipped back through the office waving at the woman, and climbed back into the car. No need for seatbelts since it was a short jaunt to the cabin. Cabin. The word suddenly sparked a realization.
“Which cabin did we get this time?” I asked with excited anticipation.
“Cabin 3.”
My sister and I cheered and clapped.
Cabin 3 was extra special. It wasn’t the basic long log type that most were. It was narrow, meaning the rooms were such, too. And that meant two twin sized beds couldn’t fit side by side. Cabin 3 was special because it had bunk beds.
The car rolled toward Cabin 3, and my sister and I bickered over who was to get the top bunk. We were told we’d take turns since we were staying two nights here. Next, we argued over who was sleeping on top first.
The car came to a stop. The gear shifted into park and Dad pulled the keys out of the ignition. The noise of the engine, the radio, and crunching over the gravel ceased and an eerie silence lingered because I noticed Dad was quiet, too. Usually he was cheery and jovial upon arrival, but I quickly brushed aside my concern. I was excited to be here.
We opened the car doors as a dust cloud floated by, disappearing as the particles dispersed. Dad popped the trunk and we grabbed our belongings; we didn’t bring much when this place had nature’s splendor to enjoy. Clutching our bags, we headed toward the entrance.
The cabin’s door paint was peeling and a few cobwebs hung in the corners. It was a regular, welcoming site; I liked how things stayed the same here. Dad dug the key out of his pocket and jiggled the lock.
The door swung open and I got a whiff of must and vintage wood paneling. There was a small kitchen and living room, where a textured plaid couch sat next to an old TV with rabbit ears. Between the two rooms was a dark hallway. I darted down it.
The room on one side had a regular sized bed. Across from it was the second room. Running my hand over the smooth wall, I found the light switch and flipped it up. A single bulb illuminated with a small ting, revealing the bunk beds.
I tossed my backpack on the top bed and scrambled up the ladder to claim my stake, much to my little sister’s dismay. Wanting to be first to sleep on top, she pitched a fit. But I wasn’t backing down. She still occasionally wet the bed; and I wasn’t sleeping in a soiled mattress. She just as easily could soil the bottom bunk, but I was not risking my single night on the top to my sister’s bladder. Her fits became tearful and she hollered at not getting her way.
Ignoring her protests, I sat up top, my head inches from the ceiling. Unzipping my bag, I dug out some photos I’d brought along; photos from previous trips to this resort. There was me with my first rainbow trout, sand castles, and even holding a washed up dead sunfish. A handful more revealed new friends we’d made at the lake, rowing a boat, or burying people underneath the sand with only their heads exposed. Over my sister’s cries, I smiled at each one. Each memory flooding through the gates of time.
After flipping through the stack of photos, I placed them next to my pillow. I noticed my sister was still wailing.
I climbed down from the bunk, faced her, and suggested we go to the beach store for candy or ice cream. She said she wanted both. Of course she did. At least the sobbing subsided for now.
Once more, we walked down the dark hallway into the front area where we found Dad opening cupboard doors, examining what supplies lay inside. He stopped and turned toward us.
“She is ready for candy and ice cream,” I told him.
My comment brought a smile to Dad’s face, but it quickly faded.
“This is the last time we will stay here,” he blurted.
Confused, I asked why.
“The resort is being sold to a developer who will tear down the cabins to build condos.”
“What’s a condo?” I asked.
“It’s a building with many places for people to live in,” Dad answered as he mindlessly turned the sink’s faucet on and off.
“You mean apartments?”
“No. fancier than apartments, but similar I suppose. Think of them like a building with a few houses insides.”
“So we will stay in a condo instead of cabins next time?”
“No. The condos are for wealthy people to buy and live in permanently.”
I didn’t like that answer.
“Well, we can come enjoy the beach,” I stated, matter-of-factly.
Dad looked glum.
“We won’t be able to do that either. It will be private property; that’s means keep out.”
I didn’t like that answer. Families enjoyed this resort throughout the summer—and year probably—why restrict use to those few who can afford condos? It didn’t seem right. The natural splendor should be available for all.
My last stay at the resort would at least be in Cabin 3. Somehow, though, the experience was different. The musty smell seemed expired rather than renewing. The ice cream and candy wasn’t as sweet. The paddleboat pedals felt stiffer, the sand rougher, and the diamonds faded. The roasted marshmallows remained delectable and, strangely, one never again tasted as good as they did from that fire pit.
Sadly, I imagined the gravel driveway paved and blocked with an iron gate. Adorned on it would be a sign that read Private Property Keep Out. I pictured the future row of buildings too large to be cabins. They’d be condos. I wonder who would get Condo 3.

I wrote this memoir of a local resort that did indeed change to condo living. It meant yet another public access to the water was stripped away. This practice is all too common in the region. Public use is brushed aside in favor of money and greed. Nature should be for everyone to enjoy and make memories.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

The Modern Family

The Modern Family

Jennifer E. Miller

While most families include a mother, father, and a couple kids, there's always that one family who stands out from the rest. The one with a herd of children who makes you think, "Wow! Look at all those kids. They have their wings full."

Wait. What?

I present the modern family. It's a quail flock who have hung around our yard this summer. There's a mom, dad, and seven chicks. Sometimes, they waddle right up to our living room window, where we have a feeder, and cleanup after the finches. Other times they hide under the trees or flowers.

It's usually the same routine when they arrive. Dad stands watch upon a fence post or perched on our roof, keeping a diligent eye out for predators. There's one little chick who insists on being close to dad. After he's eaten, he flies and lands next to dad where they snuggle until the rest of the crew is finished.

When the whole family is ready, they line up on the fence. Dad first, followed by the chicks, and finally mom. Their little feet pump along, as though on a balance beam. If I listen closely, I hear low clucks from the parents, along with soft cheeps from the chicks.

Gah! Enough with descriptions. Here are the photos. Enjoy and I dare you not to coo as you look at them.

They have eaten and are tip-toeing their way over the balance beam.

Examining the area for predators.

Waiting for the cue to follow the leader.

Sibling love!

A few of the chicks wanted to take a dip in the neighbor's pool.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

Explaining Patriotism

Explaining Patriotism

Jennifer E. Miller

For the past two weeks, we've had an exchange student, Miko (not her real name) staying with us. She if from Japan, and it's interesting to learn about another culture. What's especially fun is answering her questions about America because it allows me to get a glimpse of what foreigners notice here. 

One of the things Miko pointed out was the amount of American flags she saw. They can be found hanging off houses, towering in front of businesses, even flapping atop vehicles. She asked why we do this because, in Japan, only schools and government/military buildings wave the Japanese flag. Miko was confused when I answered,  "It's because we are patriotic." Then, I tried explaining patriotism. It's harder than you may think. Flag bearing is, evidently, not a universal way to show love towards your country. 

Our student thought flags are for military purposes. That is true, but I described how non-military citizens are proud to be Americans. The American flag is not just for government purposes, it's for everybody because we are a country founded by the people, for the people. We proudly display our country's flag to honor our heritage and show our citizen unity.

The concept of showing the flag would, seemingly, make perfect sense to most Americans. Culturally speaking, it's difficult to translate. It also made me think about appreciating being an American. In countries where it is not widely accepted to display a flag at your home, does it mean that country has more control over its citizens instead of the other way around? As American citizens we do have a lot of control. We vote on many topics and elect many different kinds of positions. As voters we work for our government, in a sense. Our government doesn't just control us. The USA is truly a free country with minimal boundaries. 

Hanging the flag outside my own home shows I am patriotic. It means I'm proud to instill the values that make this homeland the greatest on Earth. Proud to be an American. 

Miko's question also sparked my curiosity regarding what other US citizens think patriotism means. How would you answer her question? I'm interested to know. 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

People Watching

People Watching

Jennifer E. Miller

A gym is a place teeming with all sorts of people. There’s gym rats, those trying to lose weight, even some that attend for some form of rehab. Many people simply go to maintain a healthy lifestyle. Which an array of gym-goer types, people watching is an intriguing aspect in this setting.

The Cheerful Instructor

The group fitness classes are held in, what the gym calls, the studio. It’s a separate room, presumably, so that the instructor’s microphone stays isolated to one area. The windows of the studio are right next to the treadmills. The layout is important later in the story.

The class instructor greets newcomers with enthusiasm. He/she explains the class which may include a combination of cardio and weights, followed by core work and mild stretching on a yoga mat. The instructor sugar coats the upcoming workout as a fun-filled hour sure to be the highlight of your day.

Do not be fooled.

In the hour that follows are exercises specifically designed for self-destruction. The instructor delivers the workout in such a way, that the exerciser quickly determines their lungs’ incapacity level. The instructions are gentle at first, then turn to demands of “move faster!” and “jump higher!” followed by an encouraging “you can do it!” Stupidly, the exerciser listens to said encouragement, and ups their personal intensity level only to discover their oxygen levels have completely depleted. I think this is known as exhaustion.

By the time the class reaches the so-called mild stretching section, I wrap myself up, burrito style, in my yoga mat and nap away the remaining torture session.

The cheerful instructor cannot be trusted. Ever.

Extreme Vanity

In reference to the self-destruction class above, let it be known it is a sweat inducer. Not just a few beads clinging to my skin, but rivers of salt water weaving down my body cascading into a pool at my feet. In fact, I have to borrow the bucket and mop from the cleaning person afterwards. As I look around at the other participants, I notice many are, like myself, toweling off, fanning themselves, or gulping down a gallon of water. Then there are the few, namely women, who aren’t sweaty; like at all. I know they’ve been present for the entire hour so what gives?

Looking closer, I notice these women also have thick application of makeup, complete with eyelash extensions which remains flawless. Not only that, their hair is perfectly coiffed and shimmery as though they just stepped off the salon chair and were sprinkled with pixie dust. I, on the other hand, am a panting bulldog who finally emerged from the Sahara Desert. How are these women able to maintain their vanity in a physically demanding environment?

Even after several weeks, I find this baffling. During one class, I lessen my self-destruction intensity level, due to an injury flair up. This allows me to focus on the participants in question and zero-in on what the heck was going on here. I finally figure it out: vanity over effort. Women sacrifice effort in order to look like a fashion magazine model. Personally, I don’t see the health benefit of moving around if you aren’t going to suffer like the rest of us. Here’s a hint to finding a better balance: doll yourself up after you actually work out.

To each their own, but vanity maintenance is not something I strive for at the gym. My hair is pulled back, no makeup, and I’m lucky if I showered within the last fifty hours. Usually my clothes match. At least I have that going for me.

Lacking Self Awareness

On the contrary, there’s the gym-goer who lacks self-awareness. The exerciser in question wears traditional grey sweatpants with a drawstring waist and elastic cuffs, and a long-sleeve compression shirt. On his head is a do-rag. Over his hands are what appear to be weightlifting gloves. All this sounds fairly normal, eh? Now add a black Starcraft t-shirt over the compression shirt and hiking shoes rather than tennis shoes. To complete the ensemble, the do-rag has a bright blue penguin cartoon character on it.

I study the person of interest as he approaches the treadmill. (As you recall from the intro, the treadmills are located next to the studio windows, directly in my view.) Stepping onto it, he stretches overhead and to the side; stuff most people do. Next, he turns his body ninety degrees, away from the window, spread his feet in a straddle position, and folds in half. This would be a normal stretch, except the man with no self-awareness pushes his buttocks against the studio glass. It flattens like a pancake. That’s when I notice the biggest faux pas of all. Strapped to the back of his waistband is a DiscMan with modern earbuds plugged into it. Not only that, he has a special DiscMan-compatible pouch to keep it in. Whoever has a working DiscMan from the 90s please stand up, I thought to myself.

After a few bounces in the straddle stretch, self-unaware man stands up to begin his run. I now feel sorry for the cleaning person because there is a splotch of butt sweat left behind on the window. 

Lost for words, I laugh. I pointed out this eclectic gym-goer to a friend, who exclaims, “Wow! He just popped out of a time machine!” That sums up my observation, except I couldn’t pinpoint which era he had been ejected from. A part of me was dying to know what he was listening to on that DiscMan so I could narrow it down. Maybe his music choice was as bad as his fashion sense and the time machine refused to transport him back.

People watching is a sure-fire way to be entertained. Whether it’s observing over-enthusiasm, modeling sensations, time travelers, or anything else, it's guaranteed in virtually any public setting. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Forever Goodbyes To Daisy

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller Dec 2016

Forever Goodbyes To Daisy
Jennifer E. Miller

Certainly, something I would choose to avoid in life are forever goodbyes. This year seems to be riddled in grief. Uncle Art in March, Grandma in May, and now our little Daisy. I'm beyond heartbroken to lose my furry kindred spirit.

Daisy came to us in April 2002. We lived in Moscow with our first cat, Pumper. T's sister, who studied at WSU's Veterinary Program, informed us of a five month old kitten with a busted leg who needed a home with TLC. The staff didn't exactly know what happened to Daisy, but it was suspected she was hit by a car. A good samaritan brought her to WSU. With her front leg shattered, and no owner to pay for medical costs, the school was originally going to put her down. A staff members swayed the powers-that-be, and use the prospective surgeries as a teaching experience for students. Daisy ended up with several reconstructive surgeries, and had a skeletal fixator attached to her leg. This means there were four pins sticking out of her leg bone and were held in place by the skeletal fixator which ran parallel to her leg, but perpendicular to the pins. The fixator was a plastic tube with cement inside; hence how it stuck to the pins.

A limping, yet adorable, black and white kitten greeted us as T and I entered the room. I picked her up and she snuggled in my arms for forty-five minutes. She had a thunderous purr and periodically, she would turn to look at me and nuzzle my chin. Good grief! How could I say no?! Daisy had already chosen me. There was a few days wait for WSU to run a few more tests to ensure Daisy was fit to go home with us. We had to sign papers promising to bring her back at the appropriated dates for check ups and, ultimately, pin removal.

I was excited to bring her home, although I can't say the same for Pumper, our other cat. Learning to tolerate one another took patience. Eventually they came to terms when they realized neither was going anywhere.

Daisy like to hide. Or try to hide, I should say. She would walk behind the TV stand but her fixator would scrape against the wall and give away her position. Until that thing was removed, her attempts at being stealthy were thwarted.

We moved from the apartment to a house the following year, and adopted our dog, Boonie. Daisy and Boonie became instant buddies. When Boonie would lay down on the floor, Daisy would strut over, announced by her loud purr, and nuzzle his muzzle. Being a good dog, Boonie took her snuggles without shame.

Daisy never fared well in vehicles. When T and I moved back to Spokane, Daisy puked on the car ride up. I stopped at a gas station in Rockford WA to grab napkins and clean up the mess.

A funny quirk about Daisy was that she only liked to sit on our laps when we wore denim. If I wore fleece lounge pants, per se, she would sit next to me on the couch with a grouchy look. "You are wearing fuzzy pants instead of jeans. My day is ruined." At least, judging by her glare, that's what I imagined she was thinking.

Sporting her denim craze. Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Daisy enjoyed a variety of "human" things. She pawed at our plates for a chuck of our chicken, turkey, or fish. With her pitiful green eyes, it was hard not to let a piece "accidentally" drop in front of her. At Christmas she liked resting on the plush tree skirt. She also relished bird watching. Those quail were her favorite; as they are mine.

As our final pet, she live through Pumper's passing, then Boonie, and even the betta, Blueberry Jewel. I think a piece of her heart was left empty after losing each one; just like ours were. Although being the queen of the household was nonetheless enjoyable, she missed their company.

It's never easy to watch our pets begin to do downhill. Daisy's suffered from kidney failure for a couple years. I started feeding her specialized kidney diet food, then added medication, followed by fluid administration every few days. Despite her weight loss, which is a common feline kidney complications, she was doing pretty well. I thought she had at least a couple months left. Over the weekend, she struggled to walk, hold her head up, or find her litter box. I could feel the end was nearing.

Like a freight train barreling down the rails, its echo bouncing off the terrain, it's sometimes impossible to tell how close the locomotive is until its whistles blows right in front of you. That's what watching animals get older is like. You know death is coming, but exactly when is an agonizing torturous guessing game. When pets are too weak to continue on their track, the owner must make the difficult decision to say the ultimate goodbye.

Bawling my eyes out, I held her in my arms and told her I loved her. And all too soon, she was gone.

I'd like to believe Daisy is up there, where ever pets go, chasing Pumper and nuzzling Boonie. Meanwhile, admittedly, I shed tears everyday over her. There's no longer a fuzzball sleeping on my chest at night. Or a snuggle bug on my lap protesting my fabric choice. No loud purr in my ear or whiskers tickling my nose. One less mouth to feed isn't unburdening; it's an empty feeling.

Someday, I'm sure, I'll be with her again. For now the heartache is raw and deep. All of us are sure gonna miss little Daisy.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Garden Friends

Garden Friends
Jennifer E. Miller

In my front yard is a lavender shrub. It's purple, of course, and fragrant, and attracts various animals.  If I'm lucky, I'll see a hummingbird in the evening as it hovers over the plant and sips nectar with its straw-like beak. I like watching the honey bees buzz and zip from bloom to bloom, busily working away. They generally don't bother me even when I'm up close to get a better look. The other day, however, I noticed some garden bugs that usually aren't there.

Grasshoppers perched on the lavender's stems. There were four in all. Two were bright green and two were striped. Of course, grasshoppers are not an unusual insect to see in summertime, but I don't see them hanging out on my lavender plant. I wondered if there was a nest underneath. (Do grasshoppers even live in nests?) Fetching my camera from inside I snapped away, practicing my photography skills. 

In the photo at the top, Mr. Grasshopper is moving his antennae as though he is feeling the soft flower petals. It also appears he is giving the bloom a hug. I wasn't exactly sure what any of the grasshoppers were doing on the plant, but maybe they find places to kick back and relax, too. Below is another angle. I used a wide aperture so that is why his hind legs look out of focus.

As I finished the photo shoot, I noticed a bee I'd never seen before. Taking a closer look, I noticed it may not be a bee at all. It looked like a bee meets mosquito meets moth. Possibly even meets hummingbird with that long "snout" to suck nectar. Do you know what it is? I observed it for a long time, intrigued. There were no other insects like it near by; it operated solo. 

It's easy to get caught up in the hubbub of summer enjoying the sunshine and lazy days. Remember to appreciate all of earth's interesting creatures by giving them a few minutes of attention. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Shake Rattle and Roll

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller

Earthquake Excitement

Jennifer E. Miller

There was a little excitement Wednesday night. Not exactly good excitement. Spokane had an earthquake.

Oh my gosh! That's so cool!

No, no it's not! I got the crap scared outta me.

About 11:30 pm Wednesday, July 5, 2017, I switched of my bedside lamp and snuggled under the covers. (T was working.) Usually, the cat makes her way up on the bed after a few minutes and I was anticipating her arrival. I felt something at my feet, which I assumed was my four legged fur baby. Then it felt bigger and stronger. Did kitty fall down? She is geriatric, after all. I called her name only to have the bed roll and shake vigorously. Okay, even young felines aren't capable of this kind of force. I sat up and look around. There was nothing.

My bed glided forward and back, rocking, rolling, and shaking. Remember when hotel beds had vibrating massage, and you inserted a coin in the metal box, and instead of relaxation it felt like a rickety roller coaster? The corners bounced unevenly and the apparatus grumbled and your neighbor would shout "Shut that damn thing off! I'm tryin' to sleep!"

Yes, of course I remember those.

That's pretty much what I was feeling. Except, perhaps, I was the one shouting, "How do I shut whatever-the-heck-this-is off?"

Next, the blinds rattled. My windows are not flush with the wall, but rather are three-inches recessed, making a little a cubby where the blinds sit. Except, tonight they were dancing in their cubby banging against the sides, rattling, as though a gust blew through the open window. The problem: my window was closed tight.

I admit, the rattling blinds rattled me. I immediately thought ghost. G hadn't woken up; was this isolated to just my room? What apparition had I pissed off? And how exactly did I anger it?

After what I estimated to be about twenty seconds, the rock n roll wave stopped as suddenly as it started. At that moment, it dawned on me that all the ruckus may have been an earthquake. I quickly called Todd.

After quickly describing what just happened I said, "I think we may have had an earthquake."

I heard him roll his eyes on the other end of the phone. "We don't have earthquakes here." There was a short pause and with concern he said, "Oh no! Someone probably hit the house with their car!"

Before I could say, "No, that didn't happen. There would've been a single jolt and a bang of seismic proportions," I heard his tires skid, engine rev, and figured he was already on his way.

He arrived home to investigate the damage from the imaginary car versus house accident. What do ya know; he found nothing.

To make me feel better, he checked the house inside and out. There was no evidence of any ghost so I decided it must've been an earthquake. I've never experienced one, but common sense told me I had a rock solid case. T was still skeptical.

"You really didn't feel any tremors?" I asked him.

"No, I did not feel the earth move under my feet. But if an earthquake really did happen, I was on the opposite end of town and driving. Perhaps I wasn't in the correct place to feel the pulse."

He couldn't provide a reason to what cause the earth-shattering movement I encountered. We said our good-byes and he was back to patrol. A few minutes after he left, T called stating that the PD just got word of a 5.8 magnitude quake out of Lincoln MT.


I was right after all!

Now, mind you, earthquakes are uncommon in this region. Therefore, 5.8 is pretty darned big. (Obviously, it wasn't that strong by the time the tremors reached Spokane.) It raises the question of why? I've heard it's a fluke thing. I've heard it's from the fracking in North Dakota. I've heard it's a precursor to a Yellowstone mega volcanic eruption, which experts quickly revert back to the fluke theory. Which leaves me without an answer. The Inland NW is no San Andreas, so whose fault is this?

Gee, I'm not sure.

Me, neither. But I'm sure not going to twist and shout for another episode of shake, rattle, and rolling!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Stairway to Heaven: A Tribute to Grandma

Photo by Jennifer E. Miller 2017

Stairway to Heaven: A Tribute to Grandma

Jennifer E. Miller

Time flies like a magic carpet. As though in a dream, it glides through the sky until it's yanked out from underneath; and the rider falls to their end. Grim, but true; life is short. At least that's what all the elderly people say. Grandma's magic carpet was yank away on May 22, 2017.

At nearly 94 years old, she lived through milestones of events, like anyone else: weddings, funerals, babies, grandbabies, great-grandbabies. A world war, nuclear threats, cable TV, and Nintendo (and you'd best believe Grandma knew what that was. Perhaps even engaged with it.) She lost her husband, and persevered on with life--I mean her magic carpet ride. The funny thing is, as all these countless events unfolded, time was slipping away. A new grandbaby is wonderful news, but also a sign of life edging closer to its expiration. Of course, we don't necessarily see it that way at the time; we simply enjoy the gifts granted to us.

The day Grandma left us was a beautiful day. I told her the sky was bright blue and the sun warmed the air to a temperature above my preference. The songbirds chirped insistently and the quail plotted, once again, to snatch strawberries from my garden. And speaking of gardens, the potato plants began sprouting, and I am looking forward to green beans again this year. Do you remember, Grandma, those summers spent on your patio snapping green beans? My irises were blooming yellow, violet, mauve, red, and white. (Ironic. When these flowers bloom, it's my reminder to clip them and head to the cemetery where I placed them on other ancestors' graves.) I held Grandma's hand and mindlessly chattered about all these things. I could've chosen any other topic, but I chose the simple things that God created for us. The things she showed me how to enjoy in life; to enrich my own magic carpet ride. 

That afternoon, I let go of her warm hand, left her side, and soon she was gone.

Strangely, I believe I was aware when it happened. I arrived home, my mind drained, and I lay down in bed to take a nap. At some point I woke to my cat tapping my mouth with her paw. She doesn't do that to me. In a moment my phone rang with the news. More irony: I was asleep in my own bed, when Grandma left Earth from hers. Call it whatever you want. Call me a loony skeptic fit to be a guest on those freakish early morning radio shows about ghosts and aliens. Things happen for a reason. There are no coincidences in life. Later, I realized I forgot to include Grandma's birthday when I made the 2017 calendars. Was this a subconscious knowledge she wouldn't make it until then? Or a "coincidence?" Perhaps delayed intuition is a good term.

Grieving is different for everyone. The following day, my family went to the lake. Fresh air is good for you; Grandma knew that, too. She walked her yard and noticed things like a newly sprouted plant or bird's nest. I find myself like her in this aspect. When it was time to leave the lake, I gazed up at the sky and noticed an odd streaky cloud. It appeared to ascend from a hilltop and stretch itself upward. It looked like a stairway in the sky. A stairway to Heaven. I snapped a photo with my cellular phone and as I looked at the screen to make sure I got the image, I noticed something else. At the top of the "stairway" was a face. A second later, the clouds had floated on, erasing their previous formation. 

The face was Grandma's, of course. She checked on us one last time before stepping through into the next life. Perhaps her magic carpet transformed into that stairway to Heaven. Maybe even lining the steps for her. The departed don't get red carpet treatment on their way to Heaven; they receive magic carpet treatment.

We will all take over your magic carpet from here.

Love you forever, Grandma. 

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