Thursday, February 25, 2010

Better Late Than Never

I am always thrilled to discover the first flower of the season. At long last, the early flowering varieties have started to bloom. Because they come so late, the first-to-bloom are especially appreciated this year.

Dwarf crocus (also known as snow crocus), dwarf iris, and Helleborus orientalis (also known as Lenten Rose) are finally starting to bloom in my garden nearly two months behind schedule. The three Lenten Roses I bought years ago now form a large colony of more than 50 plants. Only a couple of flowers on them right now, including this one:

Snow crocus get the award for Best Flower this week. They look dainty, but these tough little guys close up at night to avoid damage from freezing temperatures.

The real show is inside. The dwarf schefflera I drag in and out every fall and spring is covered with blooms. I've neglected and outright abused this plant for years. Never seen one bloom before leading me to think they like it rough.

Amaryllis is another big favorite. Prepared and conditioned for the holidays by professionals, these giant bulbs bloom with reckless abandon the first year. Most people toss them but I like to see if I can get them to bloom again. If successful, they tend to bloom around this time of year and into March rather than at Christmas.

The delayed start to the blooming season, now that is has finally started, is not all bad. By May everything will be back on schedule. That means we'll have four months of flowers crammed into just two months. If not, you know you'll hear from...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, February 20, 2010

My Aunt Toodles

Aunt Toodles knew everyone else a lot better than anyone knew her. She was the most empathic person I've ever known. It was her gift.

Whether you were sick or upset about something, Toodles always knew exactly how you were feeling. She not only listened, but put herself in your place. Without fail she knew precisely what to do to make you feel better.

You're thinking she always knew the right thing to do because she knew me so well. Perhaps. We did share a very special bond. But it wasn't just me.

Toodles had close relationships with lots of people. At her funeral, I lost count of everyone who told me they had just lost their best friend in the world. I knew exactly how they felt, but unlike my Aunt could find no words to comfort them.

Through the eyes of the child I was when our paths first crossed, Toodles was a cross between Barney the Dinosaur and Mary Poppins. Every interaction was special, every outing an adventure. I adored her. We all did.

As soon as I could walk she took me shopping. We'd ride the bus downtown, shop, and have lunch at Woolworth's. I'd pick out dresses and tell her she'd look beautiful wearing them. She was always the most beautiful woman in the room to me.

Until she married (at age 50), Toodles lived alone. I remember an apartment on Mill Street, a little house on Hummingbird Lane, and an apartment on Royalty Court. Between work and her social life, she wasn't home much. She wasn't much of a homemaker either. Every few years a troop of cousins would descend upon her place to clean and restore order.

Before she married Alex, Toodles lived paycheck to paycheck. When I was a struggling student and college dropout, we both got paid every two weeks on opposite Fridays. We had lunch together every Friday for years. Whoever got paid that week picked up the tab and gave the other person $20.

When I lived alone and was too sick to get out of bed, Aunt Toodles would appear with bags full of groceries, over-the-counter medicines, and magazines. I never called to tell her I was sick or needed something. Didn't have to. She always just showed up. She did the same thing when I was growing up.

Eventually I moved in to the apartment on Royalty Court with her. A few months later she announced she was marrying Alex. They married on Valentine's Day. Ever after she said her life began at 50.

I miss you Toodles....

Monday, February 15, 2010

Winter-Lite for Me, Thanks

Winter has never been my favorite time of year. Early on there were times I enjoyed snow and cold weather. But my ability to even endure, much less enjoy cold weather has steadily declined with age.

The most fun I ever had in the snow was in grade school, sledding down the hill near our house. Our new neighborhood was skipped by salt trucks and plows a few times. As luck would have it, extremely hazardous roads make for great sledding. Turning on the fire hydrant at the top of the hill made for an even icier surface.

I prayed for snow days in junior high. Not only did a snow day mean staying home from school, it also allowed me to make money shoveling snow from sidewalks and driveways. An early start allowed me to finish a job or two before the sun put me out of business.

Getting a driver's license completely changed my view of snow days. Permission to drive the family car was hard enough to get on the best of days. Throw in snow and ice and the best I could hope for was a trip to an empty parking lot for an unwanted driving lesson from the most impatient man on the planet. Fun.

My dislike for cold weather intensified in college. Because the majority of students lived on campus, the University of Kentucky almost never closed. Driving in for class during and after snow storms was bad enough. After a while, the very idea of walking between classes in subzero weather with gale force winds was enough to keep me from leaving my comfy, warm bed.

Snow is a rare visitor to Athens. When it snows here everything closes. Most of the time it's gone by noon. Last year we got nearly a foot of snow and it stayed around for several days. The big snow this year was gone two days later.

I'm grateful for our southern snow. You know--the kind of snow that pops in just long enough to say hello before going away. I hope that's it for this year. Otherwise, I turn into...

The Crotchety Old Man

Thursday, February 11, 2010

My Anger Issues

People tell me I'm crotchety because I have anger issues. You're damn right. Here are just a few of the things I'm really mad about.

I'm angry about the inability of our elected officials to govern.

I'm pissed about the inability of journalists to report rather than opine.

I'm angry about partisan politics, career politicians, and too cozy relationships between politicians and corporations.

I'm totally pissed about the deliberate dissemination of deceptive, distorted and out-and-out dishonest information by anyone, but especially elected officials.

I'm dismayed by the failure of our educational system, the resulting ignorance and the negative impact on society and progress.

I'm pissed about robocalls from elected officials where I'm expected to listen while they regurgitate party talking points.

I'm mad about two wars nobody understands or wants.

I'm fed up with all the name calling and finger pointing.

I'm mad that our elected officials are more interested in winning the next election than in solving the problems our country faces.

My anger is bipartisan. It's also race and gender blind. If I was the boss I'd say fire them all.

Wait. Elected officials DO work for us, don't they? Call your elected officials. Tell them you are sick and tired of the bickering. Let them know we need people in office who play well together. Let them know we want them to find a way to work with the other side or we'll find someone who can.

And if they don't...let's throw every damn one of them out and pass laws preventing them from ever holding office again. The gridlock and attack politics isn't helping any of us and is just inexcusable.

I feel a little better. Thanks. But until something changes, I'll remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Monday, February 8, 2010

Getting to Know You

Dear Cathy B.,

Thank you so very much for leaving your thoughtful comment on my recent post! I thought about commenting after you, or perhaps sending you an e-mail message. Neither seemed appropriate. Besides, if I sent you an e-mail my readers might think I ignored your lovely note. So Cathy B., this one is for you!

I've posted because of reader comments before. The first time was in response to a comment I had to delete. The second time was just me being crotchety. This is the first time I've had the pleasure of responding to a nice comment in a post!

Your secret about blogging when you should be working is safe with me. I suspect you are not alone. On the blogs I follow, new posts are exceedingly rare on weekends. I guess most bloggers have more important things to do when they're off work.

Not me. I may check a blog or two now and then from my office computer. I have even been known to comment on a blog while at work. I'm sure I would behave differently if I enjoyed my job less or found it at all boring or monotonous. As it is, blogging is exclusively an after-hours activity for me.

Your ability to listen to and learn from those who believe differently is something I'm sure I would really like about you, too. You should know my "you know who you are" comment was directed at several of my high school classmates. Still, if the shoe fits...! All kidding aside, the world would be a better place if more people were willing to listen to different points of view.

Your blog is beautifully designed! I loved your post on biscuits, and like you have yet to meet a biscuit I didn't love--especially if it's wearing gravy! I've added you to the "blogs I follow" list and promise to keep up more regularly.

We don't go out and about much. If you see us again, be sure to say hello. Now that I know it could happen I won't be nearly so freaked out! Until then I remain...

The Crotchety Old Man

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My Favorite Holiday

Among the lesser holidays, Groundhog Day has always been my favorite. Year after year I anxiously await the verdict. Will the groundhog see his shadow? Will spring arrive early?

Whether the groundhog saw his shadow or not really didn't change anything when I lived in Kentucky. Barring divine intervention, six more weeks of winter weather is guaranteed that far north. Even so, I never gave up hope. Miracles happen.

Decades of faith in the groundhog were rewarded when I moved to Georgia. Even in January we see at least a day or two with highs in the 60s between cold spells. By the end of March frost is possible but increasingly unlikely. Six more weeks of winter is possible, but not a given.

With the cold and rainy weather we've had I was doubly invested in the outcome this year. No shadows were seen by the local beasts--Gus here in Athens and General Beauregard Lee a few counties west of here. I'm thrilled.

The state climatologist says the local groundhogs didn't take El Nino into consideration. He predicted the drought was not over back in August, too. Since then we've had an extra 12 to 15 inches of rain.

Who are you going to believe? Him? I'll put my money on the groundhog and...

The Crotchety Old Man
Follow CrotchetyMan on Twitter