Saturday, July 17, 2021

When it’s your birthday and the plumber is repairing water pipes in the kitchen


Depression-era home: Couchwood


                Friday, July 9. At ten a. m. I slipped out into the day’s heat to deposit the brand new car-insurance card into the Taurus. I’ll clean out the glove compartment later.

                Then back to the office after having had to ask the plumber’s son to hand me a sleeve of crackers from a cupboard—the unhooked dishwasher in the doorway precluded getting them myself. But, sans coffee, I reached through the doorway to a different cupboard and pulled out a packet of instant tea that I mixed with bathroom-sink water. Ah!

                John and Kyle have been working under the sink area since a little before eight this morning. I was watering the plants outside with water that had dripped from the not-quite-shut shutoff valves under the now-sinkless space during the night. Which meant getting up every three hours to change the container.

                Yesterday, Mark, the carpenter worked in the crowded space sawing out wood that covered the ancient pipes (think1932) that had been leaking long enough, unbeknownst to me, to have rotted out the flooring underneath. Not letting any water escape from the sink faucets had been my modus operandi since November. Which meant closing off the sink drains and handwashing dishes. Not too much of a chore, and it took me back to “the old days” when mothers and grandmothers did that very thing as a matter of course. At least, I didn’t have to draw water from the well!

                Waking from a nap, I went to the roadside to retrieve the mail and the Saline Courier. On the way back, I noticed a basket holding an elegant, healthy dish garden, a gift from my Florida son. Why I hadn’t noticed it on the way out of the house is puzzling. The mail was rife with birthday cards from siblings, children and friends. I’m well loved if that’s any indication.

                Now it’s Saturday, July 10, 9 p.m. Thinking over this post-birthday day brings a smile and a full stomach of leftovers from our Baja Grill meal. My Hot Springs son/wife/daughter treated me to a gift lunch. The Baja Grill on South Street in Benton, occupies the place that used to hold the Palace Theater (before my time), then the Public Library that I DO remember. At one time, pigeon poop weakened the ceiling of the library and it all came tumbling down.

     Recently, after much back-and-forth by the city fathers about what to do with the building space, someone bought it. What is now standing is a marvel of ingenuity and creativity. You can research the place to find out more. The menu surely fits every kind of food anyone has ever eaten or thought about. I had chicken nachos, Lainee had Chipotle nachos, Lisa, a quesadilla, and Eric a Pig Sooie burrito twice as large as those I’ve seen before. We three women took home what we couldn’t eat, and I ate probably a third of what I brought home, hence the full stomach as I write.

                As a friend from childhood posted on my social media page, “They (birthdays) just keep coming around.” “Yes,” I answered, “and aren’t we glad.”



My 80th birthday: Billy and James



c 2021 PL, dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Saturday, June 12, 2021

Out in the wider world after such a long time


            Last Thursday, the small remnant of “girls” from Bryant’s class of 1954, ventured out for the first time in many months. Previously, we met at each others’ homes for breakfast, each person bringing an assigned food—casserole, fruit, bread, juice, etc. Our geographic boundaries reach from Vimy Ridge through Bryant, to Benton, Salem and Haskell—all in Saline County.

                At this time, however, we met at Denny’s, formerly Ruby Tuesday, in Bryant. I didn’t even know where it was until the one who planned it said “near Cracker Barrel.” The five of us were seated at the back of one aisle at a table long enough for comfort. We are either already 85 or very soon will be. One of us contracted cancer during our hiatus; she wore a striking blue cloche. Three of us wear hearing aids, but none use a cane or walker.

                Our breakfasts were huge, even the “55-and-older” menu. I had a 2-egg omelet, hash browns and toast. Waffles, red-skins (chopped potatoes) and crepes were others’ choices. And the coffee was STRONG. But the prices for that much food were reasonable, especially when Shirley whipped out her AARP card which the cashier used for all our tickets, giving us each a $2 rebate. The young woman said Denny’s had been in this place for a year or so.

                We agreed to meet in July at the same place. None of us looks forward to preparing our homes for an in-house visit as we did before. Not that we’re getting lazy; we get tired faster. (That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)

                Last Friday, the writers group met at one member’s home. I’m the only one who belongs to both groups. One writer lives in Beebe, one in Little Rock, and the other two of us live in the Salem north of Benton. The hostess prepares snacks for our gathering-and-catching-up time, as well as goodie bags for us to take home and use. Then, we get down to the business of critiquing each others’ previously submitted (email) pieces.

                Three of us have published books and the other has a first novel ready to end. One is writing “Memories,” one submitted the last chapter of an inspirational book, and I sent the last half of an immersion essay titled, “You CAN Go Home Again” about this Depression-era house and as much history as I could find. It will go into my in-progress memoir.

                Even beginning at ten a. m. we rarely finish critiquing before one or one-thirty. Dot decided to forego lunch and drive back to Beebe. The other three went to downtown Benton to the new-to-me Baja Grill located in an old, old building that once housed the Palace Theater, then the Saline County library. I was stunned. Again, I had no idea of its existence, not having been out to eat for a long, long time.

                Again, the menu was far-ranging. I chose Baja Pork nachos. All three of us left with boxes full of what we couldn’t eat. In fact, I made two more meals from my delicious food. Again, the price was not exorbitant, even with a tip.

                The following day, Saturday, I again went into town to mail an envelope of entries to the Arizona Poetry Society’s current contest, then made a quick trip to the AT&T store to report a broken flip phone that needed to come off my account. Three days out in the real world again!!! And no masks. Wonderful.

c 2021, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA


Saturday, May 1, 2021

My turn to teach an essay: “Getting Along With Nature,” by Wendell Berry

    In the last MFA class I took online from UA Monticello, Creative Non-Fiction, each student had to "teach" one of the essays in the text, Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Non-Fiction. This is my lesson:

            I chose this essay because I own and have read Selected Poems of Wendell Berry. Also, because I must get along with nature to keep privet, sawbriars, English ivy, hackberry shoots and blackberry vines from inching, like kudzu, closer and closer to my house.

            Berry’s first thesis is that neither pure nature nor purely human estates are livable for very long; there must be a shared condition. I agree with poet Edmund Spenser that nature is a “sort of earthly lieutenant of God. . .”

            [Required discussion question for class: Describe one of your battles with nature.]

            Berry comes to see that nature and human culture—wildness and domesticity—are not opposed but are interdependent.” Do you agree? Why or why not?

            The example he gives about what happened to the bird sanctuary after the Papago Indians left shows the need for collaboration. I fight, verbally through the open window, the squirrels eating the bird seed when they seem to disdain the faux corn I attach to the maple tree. Share another example of the cross purposes of nature and humans.

            Berry’s face-to-beak experience with the hawk elicited smiles. Have you ever experienced a close-up stand-off with an animal or bird not counting your pets? I have. Twice—with a neighbor’s dog resulting in a bite each time. I finally learned NOT to go over there!

            His final paragraph describes the difference between animals with primarily physical appetites, and humans, who also have mental appetites that can be “more gross and capacious than physical ones.”

            On page 24, he refers to scale—“If the human economy is to be fitted into the natural economy in such a way that both may thrive, the human economy must be built to scale.” Can you give examples in your area where this is lacking? Mine is the packed subdivision on my north—all houses, small yards, newly-planted trees. But still . . .

            Page 25 is what I want to emphasize: “Every farm (in my case, an acre), should have . . . places where nature is given a free hand, where no human work is done. . .” I’ve decided the southwest corner is the spot that I’ll leave as is. Birds live there. Vines live there. Crape myrtles live there. Do you have a place in your grounds that could be left alone to nature?

[Text: Touchstone Anthology of Contemporary Creative Non Fiction: Work from 1970 to the Present, edited by Lex Williford & Michael Martone, Simon & Schuster, 2007.]

            With the spring rains and warmer weather after the long spell of cold and snow, trees, bushes, grasses and perennials have reacted accordingly. Except for the apparently-frozen gardenias’ brown-leafed limbs, nothing else seems to be affected. Even the loropetalum that I thought had frozen, revived. Even the hydrangeas have put on new foliage, though they may not bloom this year. Thankfully, the lows are predicted to be in the 50s and 60s at night. After that, it should be safe to take any indoor plants (except African violets?) outside for the rest of spring and until October.

            Happy gardening, and enjoy nature. After all, it has the final word, doesn’t it?

 c 2021, PL, dba lovepat press, Benton AR 72-19 USA

Sunday, February 14, 2021

It’s definitely soup and cornbread weather


When grandson Billy and I lived in Arkadelphia, and when the Daily Siftings Herald had a contest for the best soup recipe, I placed with Pantry Soup. I’ve no idea where the recipe or winning apron is, but I still make soup.

                Lately, especially since the weather turned off cold, I wanted soup. I pulled down a recipe book from Piggott United Methodist Church women, purchased from Lou Forrest when she was proprietress of the Piggott Inn many years ago. I stopped in the soup-and salad-section. And when I read through a recipe submitted by Frances Oxley called Texas Soup, I stopped and read through the ingredients. I had everything except two pounds of ground beef, a can of pinto beans, a can of hominy and a can of kidney beans.

                But—in the freezer was a quart of already-cooked white beans. That would suffice for the three cans I didn’t have. I couldn’t believe what other ingredients called for that I already had. Here’s my experience:

                In a Dutch oven, I was to place the meet and one cut, large onion to brown. Having no meat, that meant I’d have to chop the onion and brown it. I didn’t want to do that. Luckily, I’d bought a box of Lipton Onion Soup Mix but had not used it. Aha! I opened one of the two packages, poured it into the pot and added, as instructed, four cups of water. Here was both onion and water from the original recipe.

                Added to that were the beans which I’d set out to thaw overnight. I let the soup mix and beans simmer a bit before adding another odd ingredient in the recipe that I possessed: a package of Taco Flavoring! Also, in the recipe and in my pantry, a package of Ranch dressing. I added a can of diced tomatoes as per the recipe, also a can of Rotel tomatoes. Finally, lacking meat, I added a can of chili with beans. Mixed all. Simmered, checking and stirring every ten minutes, for half-an-hour.

                Results: very salty and quite hot with peppers and taco seasonings, and thin. Other canned vegetables like black-eyed peas, carrots, and corn could be added easily. It was tasty; definitely a winter soup that I enhanced with a pan of cornbread.

                The soup made a large amount that will last through the winter storm and snow predicted for this week. As will the cornbread.

                And for a sweet treat, I mixed another batch of peanut butter and vanilla frosting into fudge. In case I run out of frozen yogurt before I can drive again, I’ll have the fudge to satisfy my sweet tooth.

   c 2021, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA           




Saturday, January 16, 2021

 New Year's table a few years ago

    I spent what seemed like most of every day and evening last week gazing at my computer-cum-television, reading posts from the major news outlets—Washington Post, New York TimesPolitico, Business Insider  , MSNBC, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette—and scrolling through Facebook.

                Oh, I did manage to get most of the Christmas stuff taken down, boxed and moved back to the attic for another year. I also spent an hour most days, reading Barack Obama’s memoir. At this writing, I’ve passed the two-thirds mark of the huge volume.

                Two journals I write in daily—one on the dining room table, and one by my desk—hold completely different writings these days. At the table, where I read the local editorials, work the cryptoquote and the crossword, are these pithy New Year’s sayings:

                “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson, and “Life’s not about expecting, hoping and wishing, it’s about doing, being and becoming.” –Mike Dooley.

          “We are at once the beneficiaries and the victims of our great technology. What man makes remakes man.” –James Feiblean.


          A cryptoquote puzzle was by Origen of Alexandria (c.184 – c. 253). I looked him up. “ . . . an early Christian scholar, ascetic and theologian.” His saying was “The power of choosing good and evil is within the reach of all.”

                The journal by my computer is full of comments, arguments and opinions since the January 6 riot at the Capitol. “Trump’s great virtue as a public figure, is his literalism. . . he is honest about who he is and what he intends. There was no subterfuge from Trump. He called his shots over and over again, and then he took it.”—from Ezra Klein’s debut column for New York Times.

                Words that I once knew the meaning of, or had never heard of, or that kept reappearing in various articles I wrote down and looked up the meaning. “Ersatz” = adjective, of a product made or used as a substitute, typically an inferior one, for something else. As in “. . . ersatz cloak of larger purpose” by George Will, WaPo.

                “Pusillanimity = noun form of pusillanimous, adj = showing a lack of courage or determination; timid.” “Profiles in pusillanimity, more like.” – Nicholas Goldberg, LA Times.

                “Putsch” = a violent attempt to overthrow the government. I read this word in several articles.

                “Ghillie suit” = a type of camouflage resembling background environment such as foliage, snow or sand.” I’ve never before read of such, have you?

                The phrase, “bystanderism” as in “ . . . the disease of bystanderism.” –Virginia senator, Tim Kaine on a Facebook friend’s feed.

                And some new-to-me information: “Only 15 senators have been expelled from the chamber since 1789. Of that number, 14 were expelled for supporting the Confederacy during the Civil War.” –Sarah Polus, The Hill.

                 Finally, a short Found poem in memoriam: (first 2 lines attributed to White House spokesman, Judd Deere)

                        running toward danger/ to maintain peace’/ Officer Sicknick –PL

            Let's hope this coming week will be without violence.

   c 2021, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA             



Saturday, December 19, 2020

Merry Christmas, as merry as possible in 2020!

 Venison-based chili


                It’s Saturday morning. The tree’s not plugged in, much less decorated, although it is set in place, ready for my ministrations. The mantel has various things on it, waiting to be fleshed out in a holiday array. Four containers of Christmas stuff sit on chairs or on the floor.

                While son and I were in the attic yesterday, I cleaned out all the drawers of an old bureau from Mom’s era: veneer fronts that had peeled off in many places, the hardware on one drawer missing, so I decided since Eric was here to help, to get rid of the drawers leaving the shell for tall storage items. Today, a wood-worker friend Stanley came by in the light rain and took them away. While he was here, he metal-detected.

    In the top drawer of the chest was a blue shoebox of old tree decorations from who-knows-when. But the box looked sturdy. “aerology/ by AEROSOLES. “ Curiosity got the better of me, even with the time passing minute by minute.

                From what the internet had available, I discovered that this company began in 1987 and one of their products was a comfort shoe for women. I’m presuming now, that one of Mom’s children either bought her a pair--and that accounts for the box—but it doesn’t give any clues about where the tiny ball and bell-shaped ornaments came from. One other ornament was a foil-covered ball attached with a chenille stick. Another was a small metal cookie cutter also with a chenille hanger. Could these have been from our tree in 1942 when we moved into this house? Could these be from Grandma Flossie’s (Mom’s mom), hence the first Mrs. Severn’s collection? We’ll likely never know, so it would be a fine topic for a piece of creative non-fiction, or a poem.


            But I digress.

            Yesterday, I concocted a Dutch-oven-full of venison-based chili, and a recipe of fudge using only a jar of peanut butter and a container of vanilla frosting. The instructions didn’t say the cook needed the brawn of a lumberjack to mix those two foods into a fudge. But, with the help of a wooden utensil, I did it. After it cooled in the fridge, as per recipe, I had to taste. More fluffy than other fudges, but good. (How could it not be good?) With overnight chilling, it was even better today.

Perhaps before the day's over, I'll decorate the tree and the mantel. Or perhaps tomorrow. It'll get done in time for sure.

                Merry Christmas! 

c 2020, PL dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Looking ahead then looking back


Beautyberries close up

 Now that the election is over—if it IS over and decided—we can get on with our political angst (on both sides) and set about to straighten out our part of the country—if it needs it. We can concentrate on how to navigate the upcoming holidays.

Our family Thanksgiving plans, like many others I presume, are cancelled. 

But, to sort of make up for that, I am involved in two other fun activities. One is our monthly writing group meeting next Wednesday, meaning that BFF Dot is overnighting at Couchwood so we can both attend. 


The other is a new event: hosting the local poets meeting. Our regular gathering place, the main fire station, is closed for the year. For the past two months, the group has met at a pavilion at Tyndall Park. But plans are that mid-November temps will preclude meeting there again. So I volunteered. That gives me the opportunity to decorate the front part of the house with all the fall-motif collections I’ve amassed over the years.

Let me finish out goings-on at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs that I began last week. On another day, either Saturday or Sunday, we stopped at La Familia for lunch. Again, we were masked and seated ourselves at a booth near a wall.

Lunch boxes—many, many lunch boxes--decorated an upper shelf as far as we could see. Patrons sometimes stopped by close to us to gape at them. I don’t remember ever carrying a lunch box to school, but I remember Dad’s black one, about as large as our mailbox, with a tall thermos inside. I’m drawing a blank about what Lydia ordered but I had a taco salad.

The weather during the week until late Thursday was raw—cold, windy, raining, or rainy. We stayed in and wrote. Monday night was communal dinner in the Main House. Though there were two other writers around, they’d chosen to eat in their rooms. Greens/veggie salads, pureed  soups—one night, carrot and tomato, another night, served in what I call a cereal bowl, squash, and coconut. Those two items were enough for entire meal, but, no, we had a plate of chicken, roasted broccoli and carrots, and mashed potatoes. We ate most of that meal at the table.

Another noon, we drove out of town toward Rogers to Rowdy Beavers. It was raining, but I didn’t hear any rowdiness and saw no beavers scurrying around. LOL


Wednesday night, we ate salmon, roasted veggies, and rice. (Jana alternated between potatoes and rice.) Another night was a pork chop, potatoes, and roasted cauliflower. On our last night, Thursday, for dessert, Lydia had store-bought wafers and I had two severed fingers, complete with slivered-almond fingernails and red food coloring blood. They were made from a sugar cookie recipe—in honor of Halloween.

 Lydia finished her long-in-progress novel and I worked steadily toward the Creative-Non-Fiction assignments looming before the term ends in December.

The drive home on Friday merited a gas-stop again at Marshall, then a side trip to Leslie where my youngest brother—he of the Arkansas River flood a couple of Mays ago—lives after leaving Mayflower. He is in possession of an orchard, raised vegetable beds, and a two-story house with a basement.


He also has animal neighbors: 30 feral pigs, bobcats and even a bear or two have been spotted by neighbors. Ooh!

c 2020, by PL, dba lovepat press, Benton AR USA