Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An update on—and happy birthday to -- Kid Billy

                 On Thursday, March 19, Kid Billy a.k.a. Billy Joe Paulus, turned the ripe old age of 30. Gee-whiz, it seems like only yesterday he was 8 months old and asleep on a woman’s shoulder in a foster home somewhere in rural Clark County--on a 72-hour hold from Human Services.

                Still asleep, he was moved from one shoulder to another—mine—placed in a newly-purchased car seat, and we traveled to Benton in Saline County. We were both unaware of what our future together would bring. 

Seventy-two hours? How about thirty years? His first five years were spent in Benton on West Sevier—across the street from Our Lady of Fatima School. At only $135 a month, the tuition was worth walking him across the street to (the late) Mrs. Debra Cloud’s classroom. He loved Mrs. Debra.

In September after the beginning of first grade, I took a job in Arkadelphia. Before I could secure a house there, I drove back and forth. The Fatima teacher and principal wanted to medicate him for ADHD. I actually asked the teacher (whose son was a problems my in middle school music class) if she wanted me to take him out of school that very day. She backed off and said no, so we were good for a time.

We found the perfect house in Arkadelphia on North 15th Street with great neighbor-landlords. They had a son a little older than Billy named Jesse. And they had cats.

Sure enough, Dr. Kluck watched Billy for 10 minutes and pronounced him, yes, definitely afflicted with ADHD. He prescribed Ritalin.

But that was then and this is later.

 On the first day of March when he was 23, I watched him sing with both the Henderson Concert Choir and the Chamber Chorale. He stood stock-still for long periods. His hands held the music folder up so that his eyes could flit from score to director without obvious head movement. Focused? I’d say so!

After the concert, he introduced me to the friend who’d asked him to go in with some others and rent a house in town for next term. I wrote out his part of a down-payment (in addition to paying his on-campus apartment rent: what we do for love) on the spot.

                I still give thanks to Dr. Jim Buckner, who offered KB, from Benton High School, a band scholarship to HSU. Thanks also to the former choral director, Dr. Eaves, who accepted KB into the select choral group, and to Dr. Ryan Fox, the choral director, for being supportive friends and excellent—no, superior––choral men. KB was one of only two or three non-music majors in this group. Which made Grandmother extremely proud.

                Even today, two trumpets still lie somewhere in our residence, unused. But KB, after six years as a Reddie, who changed his major three times, and finally quit school, worked at Cracker Barrel in Arkadelphia, then in Bryant, and now in Hot Springs where he lives.

                This “fifth child” of mine is why I don’t volunteer. I think 30 years of raising a grandson, seeing him through low-salary times by paying his car payment and rent occasionally, should be considered my volunteer work.

As well as my passion. Happy birthday, Billy.       

Monday, March 9, 2020

Gifts for the senses and the mind

                Pulling an empty wagon from the burn pile last week, I discovered what I’d missed seeing
this wishy-washy, warm-cold season between winter and spring: both blue and white Johnny-Jump-Ups, or bluets.

                Returning from the mailbox one day, I noticed the irises beginning their ascent through their as-yet-unraked leaf cover. Behind them in concrete blocks that delineate the yard’s edge, spots of pink among the greens caught my eye: thrift was responding to the warmth of the past few days. Soon, pink would overtake the green. 

The jonquils and buttercups are blooming profusely, and on several days when at the mailbox, I would pick a few blossoms, twist off some japonica/ quince nearby, then, when inside, position them Into a water-filled vase. Now, when I sit at the dining table to read or eat, the fragrance assails my senses of sight and smell, and I sigh. Contented, thankful.

When I have time, I’ll purchase and plant a flat of dianthus or pansies along the south border of the old driveway in openings of long-in-place concrete blocks. 


I’d like to plant a wildflower garden in the former driveway section that’s closest to the road. This will be the third year I’ve worked toward this project. Trouble is, it’s full of moss, grasses and white-rock gravel.  Two years ago I planted  two rows of irises along the edges and around an oak stump. I’m thinking of digging up some of the daffodils that might be too thick in the north yard and replanting them in front of the irises. If I can dig out the gravel and replace it with soil. I think I can do that myself.

My second MFA online class, Poetry Workshop, has been so much more satisfying than the first class. Each week requires readings about the assigned poem, plus writing a poem. the next-to-last poem was a sonnet. In addition to reading and creating, we have to (workshop requires it) comment on each classmate’s poem. Though there are only seven in the class, the comments by some get to be a little much.

Last week (each Sunday at midnight is the deadline for getting work done), the assignment was a form of poetry so old that Psalm 118 is said to be written (in Hebrew) in that form, an abecedarian. Never heard of such! But I’d written acrostics, a similar pattern, so it wasn’t such a big deal. 

Happy remainder of March to you. 

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA


Saturday, February 29, 2020

In recognition of Leap Day, a four-year-old essay

            February 29, 2016, Leap Day, 9:39 a.m.

              I do not leap out of bed today, even though it’s been twelve hours since I hoisted—by sitting, then pushing myself up into a three-mattress (thanks to Daughter for an extra one) bed. With two sheets of yellowing foam between the top mattress and the mattress pad/cover, it’s even a higher climb/ shove/ push. But no matter, I get in bed and sleep well.

            By 10 a.m., it’s already past 50 degrees—warm enough to continue painting the old breakfast room paneling if I’m so of a mind. But I’m not. I’d rather be outside on this spring-like day. 

With coffee, cell phone, LG tablet, journal, pen and newspaper, I betake myself to the side sitting area that faces east. I must have chosen this spot instead of the usual porch swing, either because the neighbor’s dog was yipping or because the subdivision construction noise was too brutal. 

Picture it: A white molded plastic chair, Mom’s old yellow stepstool for my feet, and a side table—a metal stool-with-handles meant for an aged or disabled person to sit while showering––for a coffee mug and newspaper holder.

Behind me within touching distance is the abelia bush I planted ten years ago to replace the deep concrete-barrow Mom had planted flowers in. Eventually, the wheelbarrow had rusted further and listed till it was an eyesore. I hid it in the very back corner (southwest) under the canopy of honeysuckle, privet and the poor, poor bent-by-vines crape myrtle. An iron monger eventually took it off to the salvage yard along with other derelict pieces around the place.

Amid the abelia, japonica that somehow grew within that bee-loving plant bloomed, but those early blossoms will be gone by the time the abelia’s white trumpet-shaped flowers appear. At the foot of the bush, a clump of oxalis blooms pink and the strappy foliage of surprise lilies emerge. Those bulbs, originally from former neighbor and landlady Sally Sarah Dixon, formerly of Arkadelphia but now of Donaldson, must have been in the barrow bed and were buried in the dirt I dumped out.

Henbit carpets the early spring-like weather, while dead sprigs of Bermuda grass sprinkle the green with tan.

Above, yellow maple branches continue to swell in the balmy winter weather. They’ve seen only one snow this year, and though we know there’s likely more winter ahead, flora does what it’s programmed to do: if it’s warm and sunny, begin growing.

Here’s a poem:
 I look around this extra day and see
 the brown and withered stems and blooms of last
year’s mums. As if to nudge them from their space, 
the iris—nursery stock—demand their place
like siblings: “Mother, make him move—he’s in
my way!” A clump of daffodils shoots up,
the tulips, lilies—also nursery stock—
demand some room. New green of mums slips in
as does henbit. . . . “

Happy Leap Day, 2020.

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Friday, February 14, 2020

What’s better than a siblings/spouses’ potluck lunch?

My Arkansas siblings, summer of 2016

What is so rare as the opportunity of preparing a “pot” for a gathering of one’s siblings for a Sunday lunch?
Let’s see, now. According to Sister Hostess, I’m to bring a vegetable. But before we break the phone connection, I blurt out (I’ve been accused of being blunt; is blurting similar?) “Oh, deviled eggs!” I knew she loved deviled eggs. “But eggs aren’t a vegetable!” I said. That was OK, she assured me.
I boiled the eggs the night before. But what about a vegetable? I DO have a head of cabbage in the fridge. Brother-in-law loves cabbage, so I take down from the back hall shelf (that’s half-filled with cookbooks) Irma Rombauer’s THE JOY OF COOKING, a wedding gift from 1960. I’ll have to be careful—b-i-l will NOT touch any food to his lips that has been cooked in wine.
The old book’s back is loose, the pages are yellow, and now and then I see a notation of a date and occasion for a certain recipe.
I don’t cook much now-a-days, (except this past Christmas) but as long as I breathe, children and grandchildren, do NOT snitch that book from my domicile. You may fight over it afterwards if you wish. Draw straws, perhaps. Or maybe no one will want it, preferring to zap frozen foods in the microwave, order out or eat out. OR, as I’ve begun doing, Googling recipes.
The index of this thick book is a work of art--if details can be construed as art. Under “cabbage,” (page 957) are 27 entries. I mark the index with a paring knife lying nearby and turn to “Boiled, p. 275.
Here is Irma Rombauer’s helpful introduction: “Lemon juice is good added to sauces for the cabbage family. The old way of cooking cabbage is to cut it in sections and boil it for hours. The new way is to shred it finely and barely cook it, allowing only 7 to 8 minutes.”
Decision: whether to cut in chunks (as I’d envisioned) or shred finely, which would take as long to do as it would take to boil the chunks. I opt for the chunks.
(I look away from typing this to see what comes next in the recipe and the accursed cursor moves to the end of the last sentence. I move it back. This happens THREE times! The next time, it moves up into the body of this piece. Grrrr! If it were a child, I’d send it to its room!)
I drop the wedged cabbage into one-half inch of boiling water, cover the pot and cook it for 10 minutes “until tender but crisp.” Drain it, the recipe continues. Arrange the cabbage into a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Dress it with one stick of melted butter (1 tablespoon per cup of cabbage: I eyeball it) into which I shake some croutons (instead of bread crumbs), 3 shakes of dried parsley flakes (instead of a teaspoon of chopped), the juice from an eighth of a cut lemon and several dashes (to taste) of Greek seasoning (my addition instead of salt).
 I pour the above ingredients over the cabbage, then sprinkle a package of bleu cheese crumbles (my addition, not Irma’s) over the top.
‘Twas a hit with those who liked cabbage. The leftovers I gave to two of them, the hostess and the brother-in-law.
Other delicious foods included smoked pork, black-eyed peas, pasta salad, broccoli salad and homemade rolls from our mother’s recipe. This sibling also brought carrot cake and apple pie.
Now, I ask you, which smells up a kitchen more? Cabbage cooking/cooked or a bowl of vinegar sitting out to “take up” the aroma, ur, odor of cabbage?
I believe I’ll take the cabbage.

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press Benton AR USA

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Venison, tuna, and salmon, oh my!

                Not that I want to join a recipe site, but when I attempt something new, I like to share.  Please allow me to tell you how I used the other half of a frozen stick of HOT WITH PEPPER venison sausage, a gift from my hunter son in Hot Springs

                The first half stick I used in a vegetable soup that was so seasoned with the sausage that no salt or pepper was needed. The second half, after thawing of course, I sliced into patties and fried, ala regular sausage.

                Too hot! Too hot! Someone suggested chili. So here’s my “Venison Sausage Chili” (using what’s on hand in the pantry.)

                In a plugged-in crock pot ( wedding gift in 1960) set on “low,” pour in a 15-ounce can of tomato sauce (I don’t remember why I bought this unusual type of tomato). Add a 15-ounce can of beef chili with beans, and a 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes.

                Sprinkle liberally dried onion flakes (in lieu of an onion) and add eight patties of the sausage, cut into bite-sized pieces. If chili is too thick, add tomato juice. Cover and let “cook” or heat till suppertime.

                By suppertime, with only a taste, the heat tingled my tongue too much. Something else had to be added. Aha! Research said potatoes and dairy would lessen the heat. Luckily, I had a can of potatoes and a can of corn in the pantry. I dumped veggies and liquid into the mix, plus an unused packet of au gratin sauce.

                Now, it’s more of a soup than chili and it’s still hot, but with a cold drink at hand and cheddar cheese chunks added, it is manageable. And it’s lasted quite a while. Alas, I have one more stick of the hot sausage, but I found that Becky likes hot venison sausage. She’s already come by for it.

                Keeping to the subject of meat, I’ve lately read and studied Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to a Large Tuna in a Market” as part of a poetry workshop. Neruda is Chile’s most famous poet. I own his Book of Questions and may order his book of odes. Odes are praises to something or someone and when he saw a lone fish among the vegetables, it struck him oddly enough to write a poem about it. I envisioned a roundish, squatty fish, but no, it was a bullet tuna, long, narrow and dark. And dead. Then appearing as a clue in a crossword puzzle, a 3-letter “bluefin.” The answer? “Ahi” pronounced “ah-hee.”

                My aging cat, Greye, suddenly last fall, refused to eat the dry food he’s eaten all his longish life. One day, he brought the bottom half of a rabbit to the door apparently wanting to bring it inside. NO WAY! I threw the poor animal’s remains as far as I could. From that day to this, Greye will not eat dry food. Whether his mouth and gums were sore from eating the front half of a rabbit, I’ll never know and he’ll never tell, but I decided to try canned food. After several different fish combination cans, he’s settled on Friskies Salmon Dinner. Nothing else.

                Shall I write an ode to canned salmon?

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Friday, January 10, 2020

Cajun potato salad for a Louisiana-type meal

Sis Carolyn and Pat in Cajun country, but no photo of potato salad

                Recently I was part of a group invited to a potluck luncheon in which the host announced the main dishes would be gumbo and po’boys. When the hostess mentioned other possibilities for us to bring, the first thing she said was “potato salad.” I immediately volunteered. Not because I knew that potato salad along with rice, was sometimes dropped into the gumbo. No, I call myself a good potato salad maker, and I love to eat it.
                I’d eaten gumbo twice in my life—once in Louisiana and once when friends brought over a meal. On the appointed day, the group found—by scent–– the sausage and chicken in a roux with rice and the potato salad next to the gumbo.
                By the end of the meal, only a cup or so of potato salad remained. I asked the hostess, a Louisiana “girl,” if she would take it. She readily agreed. “I love it,” she said. Only one other woman commented that she liked it. Men don’t think to say such, do they?
                Here’s how I made it: Since it was a Cajun-type meal, I Googled (Bing-ed on my computer) “Cajun Potato Salad” and copied off the recipe that I thought I could manage. It is by HeatherFeather at’style’potato-salad-202238. But, as usual, I adapted it to what I had on hand.
                “8 small potatoes, peeled and cut into fourths, boiled and still warm.” My adaptation: I prepared two packages of instant, Idahoan-brand mashed potatoes. I’ve discovered these are as good as Schwan’s, which, until I “divorced” them, were a freezer staple.
                “6 large hard-boiled eggs, still warm.” Why still warm, I wondered, since the event was the next day and not the next hour. My adaptation: I already had four boiled eggs; I boiled four more.
                “3 large dill pickles, chopped.” I’d bought a quart of kosher whole dills for a Thanksgiving relish tray, but I didn’t need them. Perfect! These were not large; I had no way of telling how many would equal three large ones, so I estimated.
                “3 tablespoons yellow mustard (or more).” I measured the amount called for, but with only a little bit left, I emptied the container.
                “1/4 cup canola oil.” I used what I had on hand.
                “1/4 to ½ cup mayonnaise (or more).” I didn’t measure; I rarely measure.
                “salt to taste; pepper to taste.” No need for this; potatoes are seasoned already.
                Here’s where the Cajun part came in: After peeling the eggs, cut in half, take out the yolks, chop the whites up and add with the pickles, to the potatoes. Done. “Mash the egg yolks, add oil, mustard and mayo and mix till smooth. Pour this mixture over the potato mixture and toss to coat. Chill well before serving.” Done. I refrigerated it in the mixing bowl covered with a plate until time to leave. Then I would transfer it to a large Fostoria crystal bowl.
                I’ll probably use this recipe-with-adaptations if and when I make potato salad again. 

Part of an earlier Jacksonville mission team at UMCOR in Cajun country checking school bags

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

The book world is full of compendiums

                And yet a writers’ group to which I USED to belong refused to critique MINE. After that-- to prove a point to myself-- I searched for book collections of trivia, sayings, quizzes, quotations, etc. And I found many such volumes.

One year, in Eureka Springs at Echo, a thrift store, I found two assemblages, “The Most Brilliant Thoughts of All Time (in Two Lines or Less)” edited by John M. Shanahan, and “The 2548 Best Things Anybody Ever Said,” selected and compiled by Robert Byrne. Both are more than an inch thick.

Let’s see how far down the alphabet we get with a sampling of Shanahan’s collection of brilliant thoughts.

A – Adversity introduces a man to himself. –Anonymous.

B—Better make a weak man your enemy than your friend. –Josh Billings [Henry Wheeler Shaw}, 1818-1885.

C –Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody may be looking. –Henry Louis Mencken, 1880-1956.

D –Distrust all those who love you extremely upon a very slight acquaintance and without any visible reason. –Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield, 1694-1773.

E—Everybody wants to be somebody: Nobody wants to grow. –Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1749-1834.

F –Fortune does not change men; it unmasks them.—Suzanne Necker, 1739-1794.

G—Good families are generally worse than any others.—Anthony Hope [Anthony Hope Hawkins], 1863-1933.

H—He who is most creative conceals his sources the best.—Anonymous.

I – If you don’t bring Paris with you, you won’t find it there.—John M. Shanahan, 1939- ––.

J –Jesters do oft prove prophets. – William Shakespeare, 1564-1616.

K –Knowledge can be communicated but not wisdom. – Herman Hesse, 1877-1962.

L –Love of fame is the last thing even learned men can bear to be parted from. –Cornelius Tacitus, c.56-120.

M – Men are not hanged for stealing horses, but that horses may not be stolen. – George Savile, Marquess de Halifax, 1633-1695.

N—Nobody forgets where he buried the hatchet. –Frank McKinney “Kin” Hubbard, 1868-1930.

O – One can always be kind to people about whom one cares nothing. –Oscar Wilde, 1854-1900.

P –People hate those who make them feel their own inferiority.—Lord Philip Dormer Stanhope Chesterfield, 1694-1773.

Q—Quarrels would not last long if the fault were only on one side.—Francois, Duc de La Rochefoucauld, 1613-1680.

R—Rudeness is the weak man’s imitation of strength. – Eric Hoffer, 1902-1983.

S—Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.—Henry David Thoreau, 1817-1862.

T—That all men are equal is a proposition to which, at ordinary times, no sane individual has ever given his assent. –Aldous Leonard Huxley, 1894-1963.

U—Upper Classes are a nation’s past; the middle class is its future.—Ayn Rand, 1905-1982.

V—Vows begin when hope dies.—Leonardo da Vinci, 1452-1519.

W—Wit makes its own welcome and levels all distinctions. –Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1803-1882.

X—Experience is not what happens to a man. It is what a man does with what happens to him.—Aldous Huxley (see T above).

Y—You cannot have power for good without having power for evil too. Even mother’s milk nourishes murderers as well as heroes.—George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950.

Z—Zest for living is an antidote to dying.—Pat Laster, after searching in vain for a Z word, 1936-––.

 By the way, my compendium was published in 2019 by Cahaba Press: A COMPENDIUM OF JOURNAL JOTTINGS: A Sourcebook for Writers. It's available in softback and e-book at Amazon.

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA