Tossing Sins and Giving Thanks

There was a wee little fish there too, but can’t be seen in this photo

This week was Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish new year (actually one of the 4 Jewish new years, but that’s a different post). Traditionally in the afternoon of the first day Jews will go down to a body of flowing water and perform the Tashlich ceremony. This is one of those fascinating customs that (most likely) grew out of superstition and pagan beliefs but became adopted and clothed in religious ceremony over time. There are many very interesting and, in my opinion, satisfying explanations for why we throw bread, why it should be running water, why there should be fish, but basically that’s all it is: we throw bread crumbs into the flowing water, symbolically casting off our sins. If only it were that easy, right?

there go my sins, floating away in the form of stale sourdough bread ๐Ÿ™‚

Our congregation typically meets at one of the 2 parks in town, at the boat dock. This year that park was trashed by Ida and was still closed to the public by Rosh Hashanah. The congregational gathering was moved to a different town, different park, different water. Tashlich does not require a minyan – a specified number of participants – so I decided to walk down to the brook to do Tashlich. The brook is about 3 blocks from my house – and DOWN the hill thankfully.

With a little bit of storm garbage for poignancy

I grew up in this town and have seen many many changes. I used to walk down to the brook with a friend and we would go exploring. We could walk for blocks along the brook – ducking through the culverts under bridges, looking at the little fish, and in general having a good youthful time. Then more and more lots got developed, people got crankier and more possessive, and not only was access to the brook getting harder (my classmate Bobby’s family built their house on OUR access way) but the people who lived along the brook got hostile and nasty about kids walking on by. In short, it is much harder these days to get down to the brook to meander. There are still a few paths and the brook is usually only a matter of inches deep, not treacherous at all.

A typical pile of refuse from Ida

My good friends live in a house next to the brook. Either they or the previous owners – also friends of ours – sued Amtrak and NJ Transit because they owned the culverts and were NOT keeping them clear. That meant a heavy rain would back up the brook and flood the houses on both sides along the brook. The lawsuit was successful and the culverts ARE kept clear. They didn’t really help this storm, however. There was so much water that it was not necessarily a matter of the brook flooding. It was the river of rainwater flowing down the hill into the low lying houses. It was the underground streams so saturated that no more water could be absorbed. It was the rain pouring through windows and floors and walls into everyone’s basements. It was 30″+ of water on the FIRST floor of their house. That means not only do you lose your rugs, your furniture, your food (the refrigerator has less than 30″ clearance) but your electrical system is gone (water pouring through your outlets). Probably your plumbing is damaged severely as well, plus your hot water, furnace, laundry.

What it looks like when you need to empty your home

After Tashlich I walked about, unburdened for the moment by sins, but carrying a load of regret for all of my neighbors whose lives were left out on the curb, soggy, sodden messes. I’m very thankful that we had almost no water in our basement. Thankful that although my friends may have lost so much of their home and belongings, they are alive and well. The brook looks so peaceful and calm today. It’s so hard to imagine the raging merciless torrents of water of last week.

End of Grant, for those who know what that means

After the Flood

The river used to stop on the far side of those trees.

Unlike all too many of our fellow New Jerseyans, we were relatively unscathed by Ida. We had several moments of worry as we listened to the report of a possible tornado heading up the road towards us, but it evaporated about 8 miles south of town. Other than that all we had was a bit of water in one area of the basement.

There used to be land where now there are tree shadows

The water in the basement was a bit surprising. After Irene in 2011, when we lost the carpeting, some furniture, and other ‘stuff’ that had been on the floor, I did some serious re-organizing down there. Anything that can be up on blocks is up on 2″ blocks. Anything that can be stored in plastic bins is stored in plastic bins. I try to be mindful of ‘flooding floor’ whenever I move anything to the basement. If it’s not waterproof, it needs to be up. The exceptions of course are all the major appliances down there: washer, dryer, refrigerator, treadmill. There are so many underground streams here that I know that I’ll never banish completely the threat of water inside.

Don’t drive through flooded streets, especially not when that road is spanning the brook.

When I went to check on the basement Wednesday night, and found the water, I noticed I’d gotten careless and there were non-waterproof items directly on the floor. I picked them up and checked the other parts of the basement. We have French drains in the basement AND a sump pump. After Irene we also have a generator to keep the sump pump going should the power fail. I’m not sure why we got water this time. Either the pump couldn’t keep up (we got 8 inches of rain) or there is a weak spot over there, but I won’t know until I go down there and start moving everything out of that corner. Nothing there should have any damage – all on blocks or in plastic or is waterproof itself. I’ve had 3 fans going down there since Wednesday night. I’ll need to schedule some time to do major furniture movement and disinfecting the floor.

I count myself extremely fortunate, however. My next-door neighbors had standing water in their basement. I saw they had plastic floor tiles out drying in the sun yesterday. Some of my neighbors made poor choices while driving Wednesday night. NEVER go through standing water ESPECIALLY when the water is on a bridge that spans a brook. People all over town reported flooded basements and damaged property. We were spared the tornadoes that ripped up other parts of the state. There was a sink hole at the apartments on the far side of the railroad tracks. I believe that many many years ago there was a pond there. Back in the spring I was caught in a major thunderstorm. The water pouring down that hill and across the road was intimidating. A sink hole opening up at the top of that hill does not surprise me.

Can’t get there from here

The climate is changing and I’ll need to revisit my precautions. But all in all, a few road closures, some damp items, some flooded flower pots, are minor inconveniences. My friend Honour posted about the “roar” of the fish in the river. Here I share the roar of the river itself.

Check The Size

Yes, but is it waterproof?

My husband needed a new pair of sneakers. Oh wait – using the word “sneakers” signals my decrepit old age. ๐Ÿ™‚ Let me start again. My husband needed a new pair of athletic shoes. To me that implies he was doing something athletic. He wasn’t. He wanted footwear that wasn’t sandals, wasn’t boots, wasn’t dress-wear. (/me whispers: sneakers). I made sure he knew how to access the coupons on my big shoe-store account and off he went. He says he’s very happy with the new footwear, but I have my doubts. Although it isn’t all the things it shouldn’t be, I can’t believe that (1) this is the correct fit and (2) that it will be at all comfortable for walking of standing. ๐Ÿ™‚

I Doubt The Accuracy of This Message

Personal & Confidential? Important? Why is my reaction upon seeing this skepticism, not interest? Apparently the factory warranty on my auto is about to expire!!!!! Note, however, that there is absolutely no information about my car – no model, year, color. Oh yeah – my car is 6 years old and I bought it used. ๐Ÿ™‚ You overplayed your hand just a bit, folks. ๐Ÿ™‚

Sunny Excursion

MY bag is on that table!!!

Today’s excursion was VERY sunny, in more ways than just the weather. My usual outings consist of making sandwiches and grocery shopping. When I’m very lucky, I might also get out for a massage. Alas, that’s not happened since even before I injured my rib. At the moment the very idea of someone wanting to press on my rib makes me flinch. In November and December I had a series of medical appointments -that was a bit different. Nothing serious, just trying to get the yearly check-ups accomplished once we all figured out how to interact during a pandemic. But today, today was very special!!

Books to be placed outside later (or maybe that’s also what they do in bad weather)

My sister has been telling me for weeks (months?) that our local library was back in business. You place an order with them either over the phone or via email, and they would bag up your books for you. They would contact you to set a pickup time. At the scheduled time your brown paper bag would be waiting for you in front of the building. I am a Kindle Unlimited patron and I have been getting the vast majority of my reading that way. Besides, part of the fun of the library is the browsing to see what is there that you weren’t expecting, or hadn’t known existed. Back in December I treated myself to an outing at Barnes & Noble to get some REAL books. While I do appreciate the convenience of my iPad, there is something about a tangible book, with tangible pages, that still fills a particular need. One of those books was the first in a series by one of the authors I like – Jeffery Deaver’s new “Culter Shaw” series. I REALLY wanted to read the 2nd book but I didn’t want to spend the required amount for an ebook. I turned to my local library. Sure enough, they had it available ( because this is only new to me, not to the world). I dug out my long-abandoned “books from the library” list and found 3 more available and placed my order yesterday. Today I ran over to pick up my books!! Making the book acquisition even more wonderful – I just learned that Monday is a company holiday!!! I know it’s a national holiday but only this year, due to changes in scheduling because of Covid19, is this a work holiday for me as well. *huge smile* Oh my goodness!!!! THREE WHOLE DAYS TO READ!!!!!!!!

MY books – although it also looks as if maybe there should be fried chicken in there as well.

Baby It’s COLD Outside

Basking in a box in the morning sun

Good thing that *I* control the temperature INSIDE. ๐Ÿ™‚ I woke up this morning and my phone app and my actual thermometer both agreed: 16 F. This wasn’t a surprise – we all knew this huge drop in temperature was coming. As one of my favorite bloggers has been noting, the weather is yo-yo’ing all over the place. Last Saturday it got up to 70 F. Today our high is expected to be 30. Wooohooo! Thirty whole degrees!

This may not be as obvious in a photo, but can you tell which bed is used and which is scorned?

My mother used to have an ash tray (remember ash trays?). I didn’t understand it when I was growing up. I think my sister might have it now. I’m SURE we didn’t get rid of it when we sold the house. It shows 2 men at either end of a table. I think there are either coffee cups or old fashioned glasses or something on the table. They are both semi-reclining, with at least one of them having his feet up on an adjoining chair. I’m fairly certain at least one of them is smoking. The caption on the photo is “Next week we’ve really got to get organized.” See – THAT is adult humor. ๐Ÿ™‚ Kids are either totally organized or have no clue what being organized means. I neeeeeed that ash tray. ๐Ÿ™‚ I have so many photos I took in order to post here, but I just can’t get organized to write a coherent narrative. Perhaps you’ve noticed that lately yourself. ๐Ÿ™‚

My husband “torturing” BC with TV for cats

But writing to you makes me feel as if I’m having a social life, especially on a day when even if there WAS no pandemic I have NO intention of setting foot out the door. Brrrrr. I was supposed to have a massage, which I need badly because I have a spasmed muscle (why does WordPress not think spasmed is a word?) and only my massage therapist can help me now. She’s my only hope! But I texted her yesterday and asked to move the appointment because I am such a spoiled princess that even for my massage I am not going out there. ๐Ÿ™‚ I’m willing to bet by now my good friend Honour is rolling her eyes and shaking her head. (She lives on an island in the middle of the Bay of Fundy – they know how to do cold up there.)

Got it!!!!!

One day I may have enough inner strength and control of my temper to tell you the saga of my attempt to get an attractive heater for my deck, so we could still see friends during the winter. Last year we had NO SNOW and fewer than 5 below freezing days. We were supposed to have friends over for dinner this weekend so I had been accumulating deck heaters. Or attempting to accumulate them. One I ordered online on Nov 2. I’ve been assured as recently as yesterday that it really IS on its way to me – it’s on a boat in the Pacific. Still. Before Thanksgiving I went out and bought Mr. Heater and he has been a rock star. He may not be much on looks but he heats like the sun. We took him with us to have dinner with friends last weekend. Between their wood-burning fire pit and our Mr. Heater we were perfectly comfortable for 7 hours of fun and food (all socially-distanced).

Now you know why I needed a ladder – I can’t reach the top without one. ๐Ÿ™‚

Last week I began to lose faith that my slow boat from China would ever arrive so I bought a Pyramid heater at the grocery store. I set it up last weekend (remember last weekend? temps in the 60s?). We turned it on, saw & heard it sparking – nothing. I was fairly certain the problem had to be in the control box as there really was nothing else to that tower but structure. I didn’t know WHAT exactly although I had my suspicions because things didn’t really look aligned. I asked my brother-in-law to come help me debug it. He came yesterday, after our big snowstorm 2 days before. That meant before we could work on the tower I had to dig it out, clear my steps off the deck, and bring up both a ladder and Mr. Heater. No way we could work out there for any time without heat. ๐Ÿ™‚ As usual, my brother-in-law figured out the issue and we fixed it. I got a lesson in spark gaps. I had thought the one piece was the issue but intuition can only take you so far – knowledge is power. Anyway, I now have 2 working propane heaters AND a propane fire pit with lots of ceramic logs. I cancelled dinner anyway. Even with 3 heaters going none of us wanted to sit out in 30 degree temps.

The handmade ribbon is so pretty

I plan to spend the day baking. This makes me happy. Unfortunately it also makes me gain weight. I’m planning to share with neighbors. Another thing that makes me happy is to get unexpected presents. I looked out the window and saw a package on my deck this morning. A little package. I figured it was something my husband ordered. Nope, it was for me (yes I took 3 steps out the door to grab it). It was from a co-worker. There is also a very long annoying story about the word “co-worker” but all I’ll say now is that corporate politics and policies are blocking me from being on the team (hers) I wish to be on. That team and I, however, are all acting as if I am indeed officially on that team. ๐Ÿ™‚ Yeah, you really don’t want to mess with me at this moment. I opened the box and it was SO PRETTY and there were so many goodies inside. Maybe I can trade some of the goodies to my sister in exchange for the ash tray???? Spiced rum? Vanilla cinnamon Bailey’s?

Where to begin?????

Yes, Ahuva, There ARE Hummingbirds

If you’ve been reading my posts for awhile (18 months or so), you know that I had no recollection of ever seeing a humming bird until I took a trip to Phoenix in 2019. My husband and neighbors had assured me that there WERE hummingbirds in NJ, but I couldn’t even picture what they looked like, much less bring up memory of having seen one. Finally last fall I actually SAW a hummingbird among my canna lilies but failed to capture the moment in a photo. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

This year has been extremely disappointing as far as seeing butterflies. I have a garden full of pollinator- and butterfly- friendly plants, and I’ve had fewer than 10 sightings of butterflies. Lots and lots of bee-type insects, and moths, and some scary looking wasp-type things, but very few butterflies. I was thrilled to see a goldfinch feasting on my flowers a few weeks back.

Then a few weeks ago I saw a hummingbird! It was enjoying my firecracker plant (cuphea ignea). Note to self: plant more firecracker plants next year! I was sitting on the front steps and a movement caught my eye. It moved so quickly. Thank goodness my phone camera compensates for my shaky hands and for my inability to focus well. ๐Ÿ™‚ I snapped frame after frame. I got as close as I could, loving every moment of watching the bird. I know these photos are not great, but I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Wings faster than a camera lens

Return of “Headlines I’d Rather Not See”

The world is a crazy, crazy place these days. I expect to see many headlines and articles that will annoy me, confuse me, and, on very rare occasions, delight me. It’s definitely time to share the headlines that caused me to blink when I saw them.

Poisonous furry caterpillars that look like wigs are popping up in Virgina

You really, really, REALLY need to click on that link and see the photo. I’m not much into caterpillars but this one is cute. It is, however, one of the MOST poisonous caterpillars in the US. You’ll especially like the sub headline: ‘The caterpillars can fall from trees and lodge in people’s clothes”. That’s right – in your clothes, in your hair, with all of its venomous spines, which stick in you. But as long as you keep your scotch tape handy you should be fine. “The Florida Poison Information Center (FPIC) recommends treating puss caterpillar stings by placing scotch tape over the sting, then peeling it off to remove the spines.” There are more interesting facts about these caterpillars, which turn into the even more venomous Southern Flannel Moth. *grin* From Texas to NJ, Beware the Furry Puss Caterpillar! (Yes, even in Arkansas.)

‘Zombie cicadas’ under the influence of a mind controlling fungus have returned to West Virginia

Or as my friend commented on twitter: This is 2020. Why NOT zombie cicadas? If you are curious about how the fungus spores ” eat away at the cicada’s genitals, butt, and abdomen”, read on. After that tasty treat, they are replaced with fungal spores used to transmit the fungus to other cicadas. Do be sure to check out this article. Don’t miss the exciting part where it explains “The parasitic fungus even manipulates male cicadas into flicking their wings to imitate the females’ mating invitation so they can also infect unsuspecting male cicadas to rapidly transmit the disease.”
You’ve been warned. Aren’t you glad you are not a cicada?

Tools of Terrorโ€™? New Face Masks Thrown into Fire Pit at Mission Bay Park

Time to give equal time to the west coast. I’m sorry if you agree with the people quoted in this article. I’m not going to have that particular discussion with you. The headline, however, is what made me blink. Also the photo with the article. There is no question that the author (Ken Stone of the Times of San Diego) had fun writing this article. It begins with “As if casting out demons, dozens of people tossed pricey KN95 face masks into a fire pit Friday in Mission Bay Park.” That is catchy, you have to admit. He continues: The coverings were depicted as โ€œtools of terrorโ€ being used to โ€œturn neighbor against neighbor.โ€ They were a โ€œprecursor to adult mandatory vaccinationโ€ and โ€œgetting everybody angry.โ€ Right. I especially like the “getting everybody angry”. People aren’t angry already?

If It Only Had An Ocean

view from my chaise lounge at the hotel pool

Like many people these days, I have been feeling frustrated living during a pandemic. I will say straight out (making every gesture and speaking every saying that averts the ‘evil eye’) that I really have no reason to complain. My husband and I both work from home and have been fully employed. My parents, may they rest in peace, are no longer here and I don’t have to worry about them. I have no children of school age so I don’t have to make the crucial decision of whether or not to let them attend classes in person. I live in NJ where we fought the virus and brought it under control. Well, we did, but now apparently many New Jerseyans are feeling mask fatigue and have stopped doing all the things that protected us all for so long. But I miss my son. I haven’t seen him since the very beginning of February. No trip back home for Passover in the spring, no trip for me to him in the spring or to spend Rosh Hashanah with him. Arizona brought its infection rate waaaaaaay down and I decided it was time to take action.

Ready for takeoff!

I booked myself a trip to Phoenix. I got a round-trip first class ticket for a ridiculously low price, using all of my accumulated airline points. I booked myself into a hotel only 15 minutes from my son’s house. The rates were VERY low for the room – on the executive floor, with a walk-out balcony, and access to the concierge lounge. I’d stayed at this Chandler Hilton before and enjoyed it. The people there are lovely – helpful and cheerful! I even had a reasonable car rental. I decided to go for an entire week, and spend some days on vacation but other days working from the hotel. I thought I was taking this trip to reset MY spirits, but as departure day got closer I realized that my son was also in true need of a complete and utter break from his life.

Somewhere between NJ and AZ

He’s been in his house since mid-April, working from home, hanging out with his housemates. Other than trips to the grocery store once a week, he really had no place to go. For many months Arizona was not enforcing mask usage, and the infection rates were soaring. His friends were sheltering and he didn’t want to risk infection. By mid-July Arizona had followed the example set by the northeastern states and had shut-down all indoor activities. His work, while interesting, had become pressure-filled with deadlines and changes and other elements that can make employment truly seem like “work”. I’d imagined we’d hang out at the hotel, around the pool, but when I got there I learned that the hike he’d planned was up in Sedona. So twist my arm. *grin* We’ll go to Sedona.

First look from the hotel balcony

The trip was wonderful. I began describing it as the two of us clearing our cache. Those of you who understand browser terminology will understand that. We cleared out all the stale information cluttering our brains, and started fresh. Flagstaff and Sedona rate their own posts, but you can see the view from the hotel, and the ridiculously expensive self-indulgent car I rented. They were wonderfully nice and helpful at the Budget car rental at Sky Harbor in Phoenix. When I booked I was told no convertible was available, but when I asked at the desk, they managed to find me one and work a deal. ๐Ÿ™‚ We put over 600 miles on that little beauty.

The “A Butte” in the middle of Tempe

It was a very indulgent, relaxing, enjoyable week. We started slowly – cruising about Tempe on Saturday to find nearby spots that could refresh and renew (check out Tempe Town Lake and Beach). Downtown Tempe showed the effect of ASU doing classes remotely. Many closed restaurants and stores. There were still many students around, however, and music and food. (And of course the Tempe Butte, backdrop to Sun Devil Stadium games, is always there.) All restaurants followed the mask and social distancing protocols that have become the norm. Friday night (my arrival) we found outdoor seating at The Keg in Chandler, an excellent steakhouse. Saturday night we ate outdoors at Four Peaks Brewery, a favorite spot. Sunday was spent hanging out at the pool for a few hours reading. We were so relaxed from the heat and the water and reading that dinner was just a little bit of takeout (well, really delivery – the hotel no longer has a restaurant and bar and has worked out a delivery service with a nearby restaurant).

And we had fun, fun, fun!

We both feel refreshed and renewed. I LOVE Arizona. I would move there tomorrow if it only had an ocean. But I am too much a Jersey girl to move too far from the Atlantic Ocean. As much as I am lost in the splendor of the desert, ultimately it is the ocean that brings me complete serenity. Ah, to have them both. Since I can’t, I’ll keep heading out to Arizona to soak in that sun.

The mustang appears when you unlock the car. ๐Ÿ™‚