Kittie Howard

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Off to Europe!

Our two suitcases are packed (one each) as we finalize last minute stuff before our early morning departure tomorrow for D.C. and Saturday flight to Europe.

I'm not saying exactly where just yet as the Big Plan ***drum roll*** is to post from our various stops. Since my new computer breezes along, it should be a lot easier than struggling as I did with the old one. (What a mess that was, sheesh!)

And, you're right, Alex, I'm loving my iPhone! Have learned to shut the phone part off, go about my way, and catch up later. But we do have international plans for the trip. Life's good!

Hope to check back in soonest!

Happy Summer, Everyone!

Monday, June 22, 2015

"The Princess and the Pea"

The Confederate flag and a pea: What's the segue? Read on . . .

With Danish writer Hans Christian Anderson's book of fairy tales in one hand, I opened the door to the living room. This hot August afternoon I wanted to be in the quietest and coolest room in the house to re-read a fairy tale.

Of the book's many fairy tales, "The Princess and the Pea" had caused a fifth grader to do some serious thinking, but not about the story's handsome prince. I was too young for that.

No, it was this business about sleeping on 20 mattress piled high above a pea and waking up bruised and sore, what happened in the story that proved a rain-drenched maiden was a real princess, not an impostor trying to snare the prince.

Even though none of the book's fairy tales had had a princess with freckled cheeks, I dismissed that as a minor technicality. Hans Christian Anderson was from Denmark (I'd checked the map), a long way from South Louisiana, and couldn't possibly have known about Southern princesses: belles with peach-dripping voices, delicate manners, a certain frailty, and a determined focus that usually won the  day.

Being a Southern princess-in-training was another ignored technicality. To my way of thinking, a princess was a princess, thus opening the way to conduct an experiment: sleeping on a mattress with a pea between the mattress and the box springs.

After re-reading the fairy tale, to make sure I had it right, I closed the book as I stood up and moved toward the piano, where I'd hidden a pea shelled that morning behind the metronome. Seizing the moment -- it wasn't often the house was this quiet -- I slipped into my bedroom, pulled up the bedspread and top sheet, then lifted the mattress with one hand as I reached to position the pea where my back would be while I slept.

Just as I'd positioned the green pea, my mother entered the room. "What are you doing?" she asked, causing me to jump as I jerked my hand out and the mattress and bedding fell down.

"Nothing," I murmured, eyes down, following that princess training rule perfectly. "Just looking for something."

After a long pause that ended with a perfectly executed turning sweep, my mother said, "Make sure you straighten those pillows on your bed."

That done, afternoon eventually turned into evening, then bedtime. Positioning myself just as the fairy tale princess had on the fairy tale's cover page, I was almost too excited about my experiment to fall asleep, but eventually did, with my fingers laced together above the sheets.

When morning's sunlight danced on my face, I stretched, only to cry out as I grabbed my shoulder. The aches and pains worsened when I stood. Tears fell when I reached for my robe on the nearby chair.

At that point, my mother, with her built-in radar for disaster, entered the room. "What's wrong?"

Not knowing what else to do, I dissolved into tears, explaining between sobs I ached because I'd slept on a pea, not exactly a sane thing to say to anyone. But that's what I believed.

In the long morning that followed, my mother stripped the bed to soak the white sheets in Clorox to remove green pea stains prior to washing the sheets. As best that could be determined by my attorney father (who first had to determine if I knew the difference between real life and a fairy tale), during the gymnastics of placing the pea beneath the mattress, my jerked hand and the swoosh of the mattress and bedding falling into place had caused the pea to roll forward,  eventually out of the bedding and onto the floor and hide, as peas do, until I stepped on it before getting into bed.

But even worse than pea-stained sheets, the doctor had to come -- what doctors did Back Then for people who had money to pay them -- and examine my shoulder. Because I'd slept in an unnatural position all night, a muscle had frozen. He gave me a shot near the muscle to relax it. That hurt, really   hurt, almost as much as my siblings teasing me for a week. But I sucked it in. What else could I do? I had been stupid.

So what's the point of a childhood story from another era that seems like yesterday?

It's this: Just as my pea belonged in a bowl with the other peas shelled that morning, the Confederate flag belongs in a museum with other Civil War memorabilia.

Yes, my fanciful experiment provided a story to tell on the stoop, but I also disrupted a household and caused unnecessary worry and expense. When conflicted, the greater moral always gives way to the lesser moral. I was wrong. And when I got it through my head -- fully understood -- that I'd been wrong, I apologized to my parents.

It's a step in the right direction -- getting it through some people's heads -- that South Carolina's elected officials will discuss what to do about the Confederate flag's status. It's a discussion that should spread throughout the South.

More importantly, these discussions should lead to positive actions, not only to remove the flag from state buildings and state flags, but that the South's secession and subsequent actions resulted in "A Failed Experiment in Nationalism," what is written above the back steps of Confederate States of America president Jefferson Davis' home in Mississippi. And if one doesn't know what nationalism is, well, the problem deepens. And part of why, at war's end 150 years ago, General Robert E. Lee advised against flying the flag.

But just as a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, I say to South Carolina's legislature, "Tear down that Confederate flag. It's oppressive. It fosters hatred. It's about race. And you know it."

"We are one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." We are the United States of America.

My condolences to the families and friends of those massacred in Charleston.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

"Kermit" Takes a Hop

"Kermit," the tree frog named after the famed Muppet, decided to remain on our back porch and feast upon the insects that neared his perch, the light fixture we'd had installed on the side wall. Although the rosemary, basil, mint, and citronella plants mosquitoes hate had kept the tormentors at bay, Kermit not only decimated those who'd managed to get through the defenses but had added flies and other morsels to his dining pleasure.

Life was good!

Mr. H., whom mosquitoes love, could sit outside in peace, no longer bitten or buzzed by the little drones. As such, many a delightful evening passed as glorious sunsets crowned sun-drenched days.

The evening respite also calmed hectic days filled with gardening in the morning, before temperatures soared, and household projects in the afternoon. Although the interior looked fresh and no longer reflected the mess the renters had made, projects remained.

After completing a kitchen project, I poured a glass of iced tea and headed for the porch, only to stop dead in my tracks.

A black snake had slithered up the far wall and waited, within inches of snacking on Kermit.

As I raced though the kitchen, I plopped the glass of tea on the counter, then slammed the garage door open for the broom, raced back to the porch, opened the door near the light fixture, stepped back and banged the wall with the broom.

In the nano second before the snake lunged, Kermit hopped through the opening, onto the hall floor.

Not sure if the snake had a poisonous colorful marking on its head, I banged the door frame with the long broom, shut the door and stepped back as the snake coiled around the light fixture.

I then called 911. No false bravado here. I don't like snakes!

The patrolman who came uncoiled the snake with a long, somewhat curved metal prong. He said it was a non-poisonous Garter snake and repositioned the reptile in the thicket at the very far side of the house, as removed from Kermit as possible.

In an established, tree-filled, sometimes wooded, residential area that hugged water on one side and wrapped two 18-hole golf courses on the other side, everyone had a snake story, now including Kermit.

Problem was, I couldn't find Kermit to congratulate him on his daring escape. After placing bowls of water in strategic locations, I decided to close off that part of the house and wait until evening, hoping his nocturnal instincts would kick in.

When Mr. H. called from the Chapel Hill area that afternoon, I didn't tell him about the little frog who'd charmed his way into our hearts. Actually, there wasn't time. Well, okay, there was. I thought it wiser to focus on the positive. Kermit would be found.

And there really was much to talk about. Mr. H.'s nephew had graduated, with honors in Economics, from the University of North Carolina, had turned down a job in Durham for a job in Nashville and had been accepted into Vanderbilt's evening program for a combined M.B.A. (Masters of Business Administration) and J. D. (law) degree.

That evening, much to my delight, Kermit returned. When I neared the sink in the bathroom, I saw a green blob by the faucet. But excitement quickly turned to worry. Kermit had shriveled up, a tiny shadow of his former self.

After covering him with a hand towel (he was too weak to jump), I carried him outside, to the wall opposite where the snake had been. To my relief, he clung to the wall. He also tolerated a few fingertip splashes of water from the bowl of water on the floor before hopping further up the wall.

By morning, Kermit had regained some of his weight and snoozed behind the MiracleGro box in the corner, behind the chair where I always sat.

He refused to venture beyond this wall until after I'd scrubbed down where the snake had been.

No doubt about it, Kermit was a Phi Beta Froga.

But, as Mr. H.'s nephew had transitioned from one phase of life, prepared as possible for the next, so had Kermit.

He left the porch about a week later.

Kermit turned out to be Clementine after all.

When Mr. H. returned from Chapel Hill, he saw another, much smaller frog next to "Kermit" on the porch's pillar. Since we now realized the male frog was smaller, we knew what was coming.

That evening we avoided the porch so Kermit and Clementine could have a peaceful honeymoon.

By morning, Kermit was gone. For a few days Clementine hugged the wall, near a dark goo covering a mass of eggs, then disappeared.

Several days later, the dark mass flattened. Whether tadpoles had dropped into the bowl of water below and survived remains one of those questions Mother Nature will answer later, hopefully when another Kermit appears and the glorious cycle of life renews itself.

* * * * *
Computer updates: I now have a new Apple laptop, loaded with goodies, all discounted nicely as it's last year's model. Apparently the only real difference between last year and this year is that this year's pad doesn't click. Never mind. The WiFi mouse eliminates the need for a port. But I'm seriously careful about the computer's re-charge port. I fried the mouse port on the old computer by yanking it out too hard.

So far, I'm loving my new Apple. It's much lighter, does more stuff and is easier for a computer dinosaur like me to operate. That said, getting to this point was a technological hole that took time and money to get out of.

Another new toy is my first iPhone. But the jury's still out on this one. People really do expect immediate replies to texts. Sheesh! I think one has to be careful technology doesn't turn into a mental heroin.