Rhonda's A 'Muse'-ing Rambles

Life and Times of a Busy Woman

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Archive for the ‘Daily Life’ Category

That’s Not My Job

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 14, 2011

Time for a little venting here. Just a little.

One of the things I really hate to hear is someone, supposedly in authority, who spews the phrase out to me that “That’s Not My Job”. Grrrr I went through this today when I tried to be a good citizen and report that somebody had dumped a dead deer in my driveway.

First of all, for many of you that don’t know me well, one of my jobs is a VOLUNTEER, not paid, Instructor & Area Chief for Texas Parks & Wildlife. Now, I guess it is conceivable that one of my neighbors thought I would appreciate this gift of a young deer carcass. NOT. It is illegal for anybody to take or use any part of an animal that was ‘harvested’, aka, make dead, by a motor vehicle. Why someone would think I would want this gift is anyone’s guess.

So I made some calls. First was to animal control because they are in charge of catching loose animals & wildlife or helping you trap and relocate varmints. THAT’S NOT MY JOB, they say. OK, who then? Well, you’re supposed to call the police so they can write up a report for your insurance. But the animal was there – no vehicle. So the police? THAT’S NOT MY JOB. So who do I call? The garbage/waste management people. You got it – THAT’s NOT MY JOB – we aren’t allowed to touch dead animals. OK, so who do I call? Let me connect you with the streets department of your local utility company – it’s THEIR job. So what do they say after I select #3 and #1 and #####…’leave a message’.
Eventually, after many calls, I did find out it was the street & highways department that is responsible – if the animal is in a street. [It was in my yard]. Well, the animal moved mysteriously a couple yards into the street and I suspect a certain person or two put a bug in somebody’s ear…and the deer is finally gone.

It shouldn’t be so complicated for a person to handle a simple little problem. I can see why so many people take the law into their own hands and just handle the problem. I don’t condone this type of action, but if I hear that phrase one more time…..

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Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

What to do when it freezes in Central Texas – make soap!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 4, 2011

Just a short post about the cold weather. We’ve been over 70 hours where temperatures haven’t reached above freezing; not a common occurence in Central Texas. First thing I noticed this AM after our first real snow this year is that I was woken up not by my dogs whining to go out – but by something pecking on my foot. What the ???

My husband, who doesn’t like to cage animals, decided our last remaining chicken [the flock being devastated by varmints] needed to be in the house. We do have a nursery cage for young or injured creatures, but he must have heard the phrase I recently heard on a commercial about ‘Free Range House Chickens’. Chatty Cathy, our Buff Orrington, became a free range house chick this morning and discovered me all snug in my blankets, so proceeded to wake me up so she could talk to me. Silly chicken follows people and dogs everywhere and doesn’t like to be alone, especially after being attacked and mauled by a racoon and a possum [who now rest in animal heaven]. Me, being the cold hearted person I am, well, I don’t feel like being a dirt floor poor farmer that sleeps with her livestock – I threw the chicken back outside. She can come back in tonight and sleep in a cage though.

But that’s not what I wanted to write about today. Lately I’ve beentalking about making soap – the old fashioned way. With the apple, oak and other hard woods that we burn in our fireplace and Bar-B-Q smoker, I now have plenty of ash to prepare a batch of lye for soap making. For today, I’ll talk mainly about the wood. I’ve been helping make soap since the early 60’s – starting when I was old enough to stir the vat for Grandma Pearl. Kerchief tied over my face and Grandma’s long thick rubber gloves on my hands and an old apron over my clothes, I dutifully, but not happily, felt the burn in my shoulders as I stir the big paddle in the kettle. Grandma was smart and good about making soap & lye, but I never knew the science behind it. The first step, of course, is to make the lye. It sounds like an easy job, even easier now since you can buy it straight from the store! It all starts with the wood. And the tools.

Wood for lye making should always be from hard wood trees, such as Oak or fruit trees – any tree that flowers and has fruit is generally a hard wood. Grandma says it is harder because the wood is more fiberous and not so wet? What the heck does that mean? Trees that are more like evergreens and bear a cone tend to be more ‘wet’ and soft. That’s not to say there aren’t soft hardwoods or harder softwoods..There actually is a science involved in this, but let’s keep it simple here. Use hard wood. Look it up on the internet if you are not sure if you have hard or soft wood. If you have mixed ashes, start over until you know your ashes are all hard wood generated. Applewood is my favorite and since I lost an apple tree last year to the drought, I have perfect wood.

Once my ashes have cooled enough to use, the best way to make lye is to have an old wood barrel with a hole cut in the bottom and a cork inserted tightly. I set this up on some cinderblocks, leaving a space large enough to put a bucket or pan underneath. Taking some clean hay or buffalo grass, I place a layer of fodder about 3 inches deep in the bottom of the barrel. Some people use other types of barrels, from metal to plastic, but they react to the lye produced, so I don’t recommend them. ooops – taht piece of advice is a little out of place, isn’t it?

OK. Hardwood ash, about a 5 gallon bucket full. Check. Wooden barrel propped up on cinder blocks. Check. Bottom lined with fodder – CLEAN fodder. Check. Pour ahses in barrel. Ahhhh….water. You want SOFT water. I can’t use the water from my house, so I use the rain water I collect in my rain barrels. I put in enough water to cover the ash. It will take nearly a day for the ash cloud to settle down. Don’t stir it! Let this mixture set for about three days with a cloth over the top [or board] so that nothing joins the mixture. After 3 days, you can take an egg or raw potato and gently drop it in. If about a quarter sized pieced is showing as the egg or potato tries to float, then your lye is done. If they don’t float, add more ash and soak an additional day until you get the desired result. When this step is complete, pull the plug at the bottom after placing a mesh screen over your bucket, and drain into your bucket. Store covered in a cool place, but it’s best used fresh.

My next piece will talk about what you with the ashes when you are done and what to add to the lye to make soap. But I can’t do that until I get some fresh hog fat this weekend and fill the freezer with meat. Just as a note, we had scraped our ashes from the grill into a metal bucket beside it. Then it rained. And the ashes sat for a week. I knocked into it and splashed some on the porch. Guess what? I now have the cleanest cement pad around the smoker! This lye batch made itself with no help from me!

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Happy New Year!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 1, 2011

Many people start the New Year out by [after trying to cure the hangover] getting together with family and friends and honoring time proven traditions of eating various types of food. In my past, the men would retire to the ‘Living Room’ to watch some game or to the garage to ooh-ahhh over some new tool or engine or project. If the weather was nice, the kids ran outside to play or perhaps would go down to the basement to start a marathon game of Monopoly.

With the turkey, goose, duck, ham or brisket in the oven, the women in the kitchen would settle in to chatter. I would often sneak in to listen if the weather was cold outside because I didn’t like having to entertain my younger cousins and I was too young to join in with the older kids. I was stuck in the middle with nobody my age. So I absorbed the kitchen lore. Two things I want to talk about from kitchen lore are Whomp ’em breads and Powdered milk.

On the Whomp ’ems – I mean the canned biscuits and such. We seldom had these available to us when we lived in the Middle East but in the late 60’s & early 70’s, these are all my mom would use. And these may be all most people really know, I’m sad to say. We called them Whomp ’ems because to open them, you would peel the outer layer of paper off, find the diagonal slit, then whomp the container on the cabinet to open. Often, you couldn’t just tap lightly, you had to give it a good hard blow – or two! Then, packagers moved on to telling people to insert a spoon in the crack to pop them open. Most modern tubes don’t require a whomp and don’t pop and spill the dough out – boring! However, one particular brand of cinnamon rolls recently gave me a great smile.

My son wanted to make some cinnamon rolls and I bought him a can of the kind you pop open and heat up instead of teaching him how to make them from scratch. He seldom, or never, saw me open one of these Whomp ’em-like containers so I instructed him how to peel the paper back and then tap the seam on the edge of the counter. When this can opened with an exceptionally loud POP [for this time period, anyway], he screeched and dropped the container on the counter like a hot potato. I just laughed and laughed and he was all indignant, ‘Why didn’t you tell me it would do that??’ I’m grinning now with the memory. And the cinnamon rolls were great. I imagine my son will use more Whomp ’ems and store bought food when he goes out on his own, but he will know how to cook and fortunately he loves almost all veggies.

And now, on to Powdered Milk. I say that with initial caps because it is once again become a more popular alternative to expensive, fresh milk. With the urge to ‘Go Green’ and stockpile necessities, people are having to learn all over again how to make do with things that have a shelf life instead of buying fresh at their grocer or market. One of the things I often laugh at is some people’s reaction to powdered milk. When I was young and living in the Middle East we most often only had the powdered milk instead of fresh. Growing up on farms as my parents did and living near to them when we children were small, we were accustomed to fresh=from-the-cow milk and homemade butter. Switching to powder was a nasty taste to us but mom tried her best to make it palatable. Although today’s powdered dairy products are much tastier than before, there are still some tips that can make it an easier adjustment for you.

If you are just trying to stretch out your milk, many people will use a combination of 1/2 powdered milk mixture and half whole milk. Or they will only use the powdered mix with their cooking, cereal, etc. If you are going whole hog and trying to drink the stuff, you can use several variations to make a tastier mix blend. Here is my Mom’s ‘secret’ recipe for the best tasting reconstituted milk.

First, sterilize your final glass storage containers. You can do this by dipping them in boiling water or simply using the heat dry on your dishwasher. There are long detailed and scientific reasons why glass works better, but that is not the discussion today. To me, it just tastes better coming from glass. I use carraffes [quart size] and mason jars.

To make one gallon of milk, mix into a small saucepan the following:
1 can of evaporated milk, 1/4 cup sugar and 1 teaspoon real vanilla. I DO use a sugar substitute myself but this works better if you use the real thing. Warm slightly but do NOT boil – just get it warm enough for the sugar to dissolve. Set aside. In a large container or bowl, follow the directions on your box of FRESH powdered milk [not one that has sat around for twenty years] using cool, fresh water. If your tap water has flavor or smell, you may want to consider boiling it first and cooling it down. Powdered milk seems to dissolve well in cool water. Combine the two mixes you have made and chill at least 4 hours before drinking. Store in glass containers.

If you are used to drinking skim milk already, you will soon adjust to powdered plain with no additives. With this mix, you get a fatter, sweeter tasting milk that will make it easier for children and long term whole milk drinkers to adapt with. You may want to start with this mix and cut back slowly to where you are only using powdered milk.

So experiment and find the mix you like. Start by using the reconstituted mix in recipes and gradually work into having your family drink the powdered mix. You will soon find it is quick and easy to use powdered milk instead of making a run to the store every time you run short.

My wishes to you for a Happy, prosperous and healthy New Year! Oh, and restful. Take a cue from my Labrador, Ruby. Grab your best pillows and comfort items and take a nap!

Posted in Daily Life, Middle Eastern Stories | Tagged: , , , | Leave a Comment »

Pumpkins & Ponderings

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on October 28, 2010

These are a couple of pumpkins from my [late] pumpkin patch. Although not quite all the way ripe, we are picking a couple of them to use; one pie pumpkin of 13 pounds and one Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin of 17 pounds. Tonight I cleaned out the pie pumpkin and made a pie and a loaf of pumpkin bread. The pie is heavenly, and my hubby said it was possibly the best one he’s ever had. Yum! The bread will wait until the AM for tasting.

I’ve been ‘pond’ering my Koi pond lately and all of the visits from nature I’ve had. It has been a strange year following behind two terrible years of drought. I often sit on my porch and just watch the beautiful Gold & White fish swirl in the waters while the small waterfall plashes it’s noise to me. A Mockingbird loves to come sit on the rock falls and lean into the spray for his drink of water. Often, I’ll be reading a book and won’t know he’s there until the water flow is interrupted.
Other visitors are not quite so welcome to my peaceful refuge, such as the largest Tarantula I’ve ever seen, the largest Scorpion I’ve seen in Texas, and of course, my famous visitor that took up residence for a couple of months – the rattlesnake. Yes, I have pictures of them all, but I usually limit them to two pics per post, so you won’t see them this time.

My Koi pond draws other things as well, those not quite so welcome. My chickens have been attacked repeatedly and then my fish in the pond. Finally, an Oppossum came onto my porch and wasn’t going to leave. Who knew the things were so stubborn and nasty? Once he was dispatched, I thought my problems were temporarily solved, but the problems continued with missing eggs, pannicked chickens and finally, my largest, prettiest fish was killed while I was gone this weekend. Wasn’t it nice of my husband to retrieve the mangled body and put it in the freezer for when I got home? The night before last, I was sitting on the porch reading and enjoying the night air, when out of the corner of my eye I saw a shadow move by. Thinking it was one of the feral cats, I kept my eyes glued to the book until I was drawn to look up at the pond. There was a huge raccoon sticking his nose in the pond. THEN he turned, came over to my lap warmer and brushed it aside so he could sniff my fuzzy pick house shopes. I said ‘Hey!’ and he jumped up and quickly waddled away. He’ll be back, I’m sure and I’ll have to start the war of trapping & somehow removing this coon.

I work out in nature all the time, especially lately, and I expect to see nature going about it’s business out there, but for the past 3-4 months, nature has been sending some nasty pests to my resting area on the front porch of my house. Maybe if I move my spot and make it less appealing then nature will take it’s course elsewhere? Nah…..

Posted in Daily Life, My gardens | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Crime in the Suburbs

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on August 9, 2010

It’s sad when an Instructor for Personal Protection In & Out of the home – gets robbed. Today, I am the victim and it hurts. A bunch. While I was shopping at a local discount store, I was robbed. My wallet was lifted sometime between the time I paid for my soft drink to the time I got to the register to check out. I am sure it happened there in that 45 minute time slot because I HAD the wallet, and used it, in the store.

Yes, I did all the things you are supposed to do – went back and checked all the spots I had been to. Talked to clerks and managers. Nobody had ‘found it’ – in the off chance I had dropped it – nor had anybody dumped it outside the store [do you know how many trash cans, etc they have in the parking lot?] Whether the manager will check the store security videos remains to be seen.

I called the police to report this – and find they are having an extraordinary day of like crimes, theft and vandalism in discount stores. The officer was very polite, but of course he knows they won’t recover it. He went through all the steps, though, including getting my credit card number in case they find it or activity on it. I have a case number, but it’s almost worthless.

What should you do if you are such a victim? Well, first thing is make a list of all that was in the stolen bag/item. Write down when and where you last touched the item and used the things inside. Contact the store manager[s] and police. Check every spot you have been to and search under/between/behind any items you may have touched. Remember unusual events that may have happened [in this case, a young male ‘bumped me’ by accident]

Then start making calls. First off – the Credit card company[ies]. I was fortunate in that I only have ONE credit card and I contacted them within an hour of the incident happening. Damage can still be done in that amount of time as most credit cards do not require signature or ID for purchases under $25. And the secret ‘code’ for verification – is printed on the card itself. With the police report, tho’, and my quick reporting, any charges made today can be disputed and removed from the account. It will take time and effort.

Meanwhile, what more can you do? It will escalate from here for me because I have a lot of accounts that automatically draft on my card – such as my internet service. Now I will have to contact my auto draft accounts – when I get the new credit card – and sign new papers, etc to get my drafts changed.

And the worst part of the credit card deal – I file tax returns electronically; which requires me to pay a fee on line in advance. This goes to my ONE credit card [I only use it for business]. Which was stolen. And I have 4 tax returns to process tonight, which I can’t – not until I get a new card and settle with the company that recieves my payments. Now, I can just mail the returns to clients, have them sign and mail the returns to the government – then wait for their refunds. And wait. And wait. Instead of the normal approx. 10 days, it will take them weeks, maybe months to get their refunds.

If I miss a vendor, I could find myself without internet access, utilities, cell phone service, postage, on-line orders and more – delayed or denied. And what does this do to my credit while I hash out the disputes?

Let’s go on from there. Driver’s license [with a very blurry dark photo] AND Social Security card are gone too. Sure, with a little time – they are easy to replace. But now, I’m set up for a perfect shot at identity theft – they have it all!

Not to mention the cash. Although the amount is over my $500 deductible for Home Owner’s insurance, the insurance company only pays up to $500 of missing cash. How the heck did I not ever see that? So, lost money. I NEVER carry that much cash, but had just recently cashed a large check so I could dole out some money to hubby, son and my petty cash/change drawer for a class I have coming up this weekend.

Sure, the money loss hurts a lot – but what really hurts is that I feel violated – and probably will continue to have to deal with this for weeks to come. I’ve helped a few of my clients ‘recover’ after such an incident, and hardly ever does it come out well.

Another thought here too that was tossed out to me. Our police force is somewhat reduced today because all extra officers have been called in to help with our President’s visit. Does the extraordinary day of crime happen in a lot of places where Political or Royal giants are in attendance? Are criminals capitalizing on our areas Presidential visit, knowing that police response time could be delayed? How many people have you seen speed up on the highway when they see an officer or two is busy writing citations? Yep, while the cat’s away, the mice will play. Not mice – RATS.

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , , | 5 Comments »

Go Green for Spring!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on April 4, 2010

Today is the day that many people worship their various ways in celebration of Easter and Spring. One of the many ways we like to celebrate this holiday, after we’ve attended to our morning rituals [outdoor sunrise services are especially beautiful with all the wild flowers this year] is to gather with family, have a picnic or large family dinner and hunt for Easter eggs [Spring eggs?] with the little ones.

One thing we know is that children of all ages like to hunt for the treasures in the grass, near rocks and logs – sometimes in the mailbox or dog house! It is never too early to teach our young ones about respecting our mother earth. So why not have a special hunt? While you are tending to that succulent goose or ham in the oven or the men are slaving over the grill, have someone take the younger kids on a recycle hunt. You have to plan ahead, of course, and plan for a treat at the end. Take them to the lane leading to your home, or a local roadway [not too much traffic!] or even the local riverside or park. Challenge each of them to gather up the cans and bottles they find along the way, maybe even the fast food cups. Give them a rousing story or two, point out the beautiful wild flowers – or flowering weeds – that are having a hard time poking their heads up with the cans and cups crushing them down.

When you are done, hopefully you didn’t keep them out TOO long, bring them back to the nest and trade them their trash for treats and trinkets. Maybe an Easter cupcake, some quarters, a handful of [sugar free] candy – or some fresh apple and orange slices. Make it special, and make it an annual traditions.  Oh, don’t blow off the REAL egg hunt – have that one too. Wow – how many kids get to say they had TWO Easter egg scavenger hunts in one day?!

One more thing – this is National Poetry Month. Please be sure to visit some of the sites like this one: www.riehlife.com and read some of the poems to inspire you. I was fortunate on this blessed day to have my nature piece, titled ‘The Sparrow’ featured on Riehlife today!

Posted in Dad & Family, Daily Life, Writing | Tagged: , , , , | 4 Comments »

Tax Season Hibernation

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on March 12, 2010

I apologize to my readers [all 3-4 of you] for not posting the past 4 weeks. If you know me, then you probably realize I am deeply immersed in tax season. Not only that – but those of you that know me REAL well, know I’ve also been teaching a lot of classes. Two of my busiest weekends of the year this past month I skipped my tax work and helped out with two instructor training classes. And then I got sick with  multiple respiratory infections. With the doc’s help, I got rid of most of this but still have a lingering bone weariness and slight cough. And am behind in my tax work.

All that doesn’t mean my mind isn’t still percolating though! There have been some very interesting discussions on safety and women in an online group I belong to. Safety is one of the things I do teach, whether it is personal safety or equipment safety. This I wanted to make a comment on. Many more people, especially women, are coming to me with the request for advice/training on what gun to buy and how to use it. Yes, I can do that – but boy do I most of the time advise NOT to go out and buy yourself a gun unless you are comfortable with it. And everyone in your household must be comfortable with it too; then factor in any children or visiting children. Do you have a gun safe? So no, in the rising panic, I do NOT tell people to go out and buy a gun and a few bullets.  Here is what I DO tell them. Buy two things, multiple quantities. A baseball bat [at least 3] and Wasp spray cans [at least two]. What? You heard me right. Keep one bat in your car in easy reach for the driver, another under your bed and one by the door of your house. A BIG walking stick will work too, and has the added benefit of not looking so silly when you go for a walk and useful for a klutz like me. The wasp spray? It will spray up to 20 feet away or more in a fierce jet of spray – will not only kill wasps, but blind any attacker and scare off most animals. I carry one when I go for walks and have two in my house – one in the garage and one near the front door.  Yea, yea, you can buy a can of pepper spray and keep it in your purse, your car, by your bed, by the door even. That works OK and they have the tiny little convenient ones, even ‘cute’ ones. But for me – it’s the wasp spray.  Now, I personally have a nice selection of guns at hand as well and a family of guys that also know how to use them very well, in a safe manner. But most people aren’t in my position.

You can’t believe how much more relaxed and empowered you can feel with a can of wasp spray at your side. And the bat? Buy yourself a “T” and a few hard balls – take it outside and slug a few from time to time – gives you the feel of the bat and a little good exercise. You may even have a dog or child that would be willing to ‘fetch’ the balls back for you – or you’ll get some more exercise. Once in awhile, just to see what it is like, take a pumpkin or small melon and put it on a stump and smack it with your bat. You will see how much damage that can really do. Your kids, your spouse, your neighbors and others may think you are really weird, but just think of the fun you will have!

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

President’s Day 2010

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 15, 2010

How did you celebrate the day? Did you hang a flag? Did you burn an efigy [like Guy Fawkes day]? Or did you just treat it like any other ‘free’ holiday and bemoan the fact that the kiddies were home one extra day and complaining about being bored?

I try to have a flag somewhere on the significant days. In the summer scout and other camps, we generally raise and lower the flag EVERY day. My mouse pad is a flag. I may not like whichever president is serving at the time – every President, Dem or Rep – was criticized and second guessed throughout and after their terms. What I DO respect, is the office of the President and what it represents. This office represents freedom. Let’s not disrespect our freedom by complaining about our elected head – use your words to praise what is good and change what is not.

OK, no more political bandstanding. I HATE discussing politics. When it comes up in a discussion, I try to change the conversation or at least make non-commital remarks. Not so many of my family. They have ONE belief and that belief is the correct one – unfortunately – it often pits father against son, brother against sister, even husband against wife.  I have one belief too – everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but you also are entitled to not try to shove it down the throat of someone with a different opinion.

Shutting up now….

Posted in Daily Life | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on February 15, 2010

Just wanting to wish all my family and friends a wonderful Valentine’s Day. How did you celebrate this day? Mine was very low-key – so low, in fact, I spent most of it reclining on the couch snacking on cough drops, cold pills and medicinal teas. Oh, yes – I did get a really funny card and a surprise box of dark chocolate truffles from my hubby. How sweet! We go more for funny in our house than romance and gushy stuff – so my son was surprised with a funny T-shirt [chocolate colored], a homemade card, some sugar-free candy and all wrapped up in a little girl’s ‘my pretty pets’ poster. Got a chuckle out of his response. Hubby got a handwritten card from me and a box of cookies that he likes and we don’t – so he knows he gets them all to himself.

What Valentine’s Day means to me is that we are celebrating St. Valentine – the patron saint I believe of little birds and animals. I eagerly get out my hummingbird feeders as the first ones generally appear this month, while close at hand I lay our Audubon bird book so we can identify the birds as they visit throughout the year. It’s generally on or about this day that wildlife starts bursting forth with new babies. Soon, we’ll hear the squeaks of baby birds wanting to be fed, see multitudes of baby deer, bunnies, coyote pups, birds and of course, our reptile ‘friends’. With baited [bated?] breath we wait to see what nature is going to spring on us – after two years of severe heat and drought followed by the coldest, wettest winter we’ve had so far, it will be interesting to see how the plants and animals spring back. Hmm….maybe I am using the word ‘spring’ too much – but it’s ever on my mind.

A week ago at this time I was just getting home and unpacking from a weekend conference of women writers; aptly called Stories of the Heart [V].  I’ll write more on this later this week but I want everyone [female] to mark their calendars now for the year 2012 when the next conference will be presented. The skills you learn here, the boost to your inner muse and the euphoria of sharing with hundreds of women cannot be perfectly described. You will come away changed, I know I did and it was definitely for the better.

Meanwhile, I bury myself in tax work as I try to catch up to the busy tax season that started out slow and somehow overtook me when I wasn’t looking. This sinus infection is also fuddling my brain cells and I’m losing track of days. If I lose my voice, I am in big trouble as I am teaching another outdoors Instructor course next weekend. Which hat am I wearing today? One of my ‘students’ in the weekend class said, “You Better be well by Sunday, or else!” What’s he gonna do – shoot me? Well…..

Posted in Daily Life, My gardens, Writing | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Cold & Flu season

Posted by Range Officer Rhonda on January 28, 2010

As I sit here at my desk, coughing, sneezing, wheezing, a light bulb flashed on. You see, all these years I used to think my mom suffered from some kind of OCD [obsessive compulsive disorder] – but was some of it mainly good sense?

I never questioned her methods when I was a child, but one of the things I remember intensely when we lived in the Middle East is how my mom treated our food from the local markets, stores and Souk. When she would go to the store, she would often wear a pair of gloves and use her gloved hands to select items from the shelf. Then, when we got home, there would be a couple of routines she would follow.

First, with the fresh veggies, she would boil some water, add a small amount of bleach to it, then rinse all the vegetables and fruits, first in the bleach water, then in some clean boiled water. I understood that one and often helped her with the chore since people had mentioned there were a lot of dirt and germs on the fresh produce. OK, I bought into that and still to this day at least use my tap water to rinse all my produce.

Next was the boxed and bagged goods that had grain products. We would shake out all the cereal to make sure there were not any weevils and we would sift the flour through a fine strainer and remove any ‘dark’ splotches that often WERE weevils and such. With this, mom always mentioned that there always were bugs in the grains and sometimes they hadn’t hatched yet when they were packaged. Again, to this day, I have a tendency to sift through my flour products to remove that extra ‘protein’. Not much like that happens anymore [finding the little buggers], but still, once  in a while, I will find them.

Now, the last one, the idea that struck me today. Mom always wiped the boxes, cans and bottles before she put them on the shelf or in the ‘fridge. This is what I mistook as an OCD type behavior. Maybe I was wrong? To get back to my current snuffling: While I can probably blame some of it on the ever-changing weather in Texas and the current allergy season, what if my cold like symptoms came from the store? Yesterday, while going down the Soda aisle, a gentleman that was stocking up a very popular soft drink starting with the letter ‘D’, I noticed the man sneeze [hard to miss that huge honking blow!] Immediately, I decided I was not about to put that snot sprinkled product in MY cart – nor the products to either side. fortunately, the one I wanted was way down at the other end and I had no problem putting it in my basket and getting to a sneeze free zone. I thought nothing more of it – until just a few moments ago. Who are the people who handle the boxes and cans and all other products they stock on the shelves at your local supermarket? There are people packaging the products at bakeries, factories & canning facilities. Then people who move them around the warehouse or stack them on the trucks. Then unload the trucks at the store followed by placing them on the shelves. Some people walk around and pick up a can or box, read the label and put it back. Kids are sneaking things into their parents carts and mom or dad will surreptitiously sneak it back on the shelf. They are people just like you and I and THEY GET GERMS. And sneeze, and rub their noses, and possibly, don’t wash their hands after using the bathroom [oh, don’t go there!] So they may sneeze, put up some great cereal boxes. Then cough over the display of cans they are arranging. Or let a dribble nosed toddler carry something around until it gets tired of it, then place it back on a shelf for some unwary clerk to take back to the shelves.

My mom wasn’t OCD, but with the way germs are spreading, perhaps I should be! Maybe that soda delivery guy got one little germ on my twelve pack of sodas and I brought it home. Now, I am not suddenly going to become obsessed with this, but maybe I will be a little more cautious and careful. Already I am thinking of the hotel I will be staying in next week with people from all over the country attending a writer’s convention. Should I take my can of cleaning product and some hand sanitizer? Wear a mask when I enter a room full of people? Yea, the mask probably wouldn’t match my socks, so I’ll skip that accessory. But it can’t hurt to be a little more careful with the everyday items we bring into our homes. I am not a domestic goddess – far from it in fact, so these extra little steps are going to require some work, but I definitely will put some thought into it, and you should as well.

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