“A Father Writes”

I first encountered the write Clint Smith in his nonfiction How the Word is Passed. I reviewed that in a post I wrote in August 2021 https://elizabethslaughter.com/2021/08/04/american-ahistorical-insights/ Above Ground(2023) while not his first collection of poems, was the first I have read.

Many mothers have written honestly about childbirth and child rearing. Smith was the first poet I have read that relates his experience as a father in the same time of life. Some poems are poignant as he writes of the dangers of raising kids in a violent culture. Some are funny.

My favorite poem speaks of the praise he gets from strangers when he is out in public doing routine errands with his toddler and infant. He accurately notes that his wife gets no such kudos for the same things. He made me realize that I am still pleasantly surprised when I see young fathers carrying their babies in front packs, playing with their older children in the park, picking them up from school and listening to them as they walk by on the sidewalk together. Fathers were nearly completely uninvolved when I was growing up. I can’t think of one who would have taken a toddler to the grocery store! I am probably one of the women who comments to Smith!

The poems are straightforward and unintimidating for anyone wary of reading “modern poetry.” Refreshingly Smith doesn’t try to flaunt his poetic skill, but rather puts down experience as poems, ones that are a true pleasure to read.

“Goodbye to Gordon”

Certain singer/songwriters have accompanied from my high school years. One such, the Canadian Gordon Lightfoot, died this week. The photo above captures how his image remained in my mind’s eye. I was quite startled, looking for a picture for this post, to see how he looked recently. Of course in my mind’s eye I am still sixteen, not 75!

I have always preferred music with minimal acoustic accompaniment so that I am able to hear and absorb the words. Not great for partying, of course, but excellent for such bygone times as listening in my dorm room in a funk over a boy. Gordon sang of love gained and love lost, so he was an apt companion no matter the state of my college love life.

We bought a new car just before my eyes went wonky, so I am just getting to drive it and explore its features. This morning, as I drove to see a friend, I was able to ask the car to play Gordon Lightfoot songs. The thirty minute ride allowed me to soak in his voice and lyrics, feeling grateful that he had devoted his life to song.

Thanks Gordon.

“Back to Writing!”

After several long months of very poor vision, I have completed the treatment of my second eye and am able once again to read and write easily. My vision had been affected by the post cataract complication much more than I had realized. It had come on just in the last year, but slowly enough that it hadn’t become a real impediment until January.

I kept thinking of posts I want to write, but knew I had to be patient until both eyes were fully restored. Now they are.

Back at it tomorrow!

“A Quick Word”

I am still unable to consistently use the computer until my eyes are repaired from the condition I wrote about. I will have the second repair on May 24 and hope to return to posting after that. Right now one eye can see and one can’t so it is extremely tiring to try to read and write.

In the meantime you can enjoy our three month old puppy Zoe just back from her first “salon” visit. She loved it!

“I Can’t See Clearly Now!”

Two years ago I had cataract surgery in both eyes which produced a marked improvement in my vision, particularly driving at night. I had not seen so well in many years since cataracts develop slowly over time until they are “ripe” enough to replace with intraocular lenses. While I still needed glasses they gave me 20/20 vision. I thought done was done.

Over the last two months I began to notice difficulty driving at dusk, more glare from ongoing cars and struggles with very small print. All these problems had been solved by the surgery. So yesterday I went back to my eye doctor to find out what was going on with my eyes. I wasn’t sure what was causing this marked decrease in vision and had some anxiety about the visit.

After a thorough exam she told me I had developed posterior capsular opacification, basically a return of cloudiness caused this time not by the cataract but by the space behind the new lenses. It sounded much worse than it apparently is. Around 25% of cataract surgery patients have this occur, often after two years. I go on April 7 for an in office procedure with a laser beam to open vision in the first eye. Then I will return for the second.

I had never heard of this complication and wanted to alert any of you who note a decrease in vision after cataract surgery to head straight back to your ophthalmologist for an exam. My routine one was a month off and I am grateful I moved it up to yesterday.

“Here’s looking at you kid!”

“Laura You’re Muted”

Before the pandemic I had never heard of Zoom as a computer application. I was familiar with zooming around. (Our puppy Zoe has bouts of what we call “puppy zooms” tearing around the back yard.) Any classes or meetings I attended took place in one location with the attendees sitting around in chairs. Everyone was fully dressed. Rarely did anyone arrive late and no one walked off in the middle leaving their chair empty until they returned many minutes later. For most discussions people took their cues from listening for a gap in the conversation before they spoke. If someone was droning on and on I just had to wait him out. Zoom has changed many of these characteristics of meetings.

This week I have “attended” two Zoom classes. The first was a gathering from my church as one of our friars gave the third of four talks on interpretations of the Cross. Half of the attendees had their video cameras on so we could see their faces and their names. Half just showed up without video with such titles as “Ray’s IPad.” (Maybe some people were in their pajamas or just feeling antisocial.) Many of our parish don’t drive at night, so this evening session allowed more older attendees than might have occurred on site at the church. For most of the sessions we were all “muted” by a moderator who called on anyone who wanted to ask a question with the instruction to “unmute yourself” and speak.

The second was a series of talks and discussions on T.S. Eliot’s poems The Four Quartets. Sponsored by a Canadian journal, this was taught by a professor from Texas with attendees from around the world from Ottawa to Sydney. While I might have been able to attend the first class at church in person, the second was an opportunity entirely enabled by Zoom. In this instance after the lecture the moderator broke us up into eight person discussion groups. A great trick. The eight of us were unmuted and we had to figure out when to talk and when to listen.

As for the title of this post, the comment I hear most often coming from my husband’s office where all work is on Zoom is “_____you’re muted.” And I have come to know what that means in Zoom talk. It means you are talking but no one can hear you.

I am curious about the experiences any of you have had with Zoom. Have you found it adds or takes away from pre-pandemic ways of meeting?

“The Great Disrupter”

A certain amnesia creeps in around puppies, rather like the amnesia that sneaks up before the birth pains of the second labor. Oh yeah. Been here before. How could I have forgotten? Why on earth did I do this again?

So this little perhaps five pound puppy has decided that she is to be the center of our life. Our previous dogs have always been Australian Shepherds. They are raised to be basically one person dogs with an outside jobs(herding sheep)to keep them occupied. Not big on cuddling, rather aloof with new people, and pretty content to be alone for a while chewing on something(preferably something disposable!)

Zoe, on the contrary, is a very social dog. She loves everyone she meets. But she regards every person as one more opportunity to get petted, rubbed and spoken to. She loves cuddling even though her idea of cuddling includes much ear nipping. She hates being alone and runs after whoever makes the mistake of moving from one room to another. Needless to say the song “Me and My Shadow” constantly runs through our minds as she pursues us around the house.

She has gradually accepted that the crate is a safe place to spend the night and sleeps about four to five hours at a stretch. Otherwise, however, she balks at going there if it is light out. She is too little to be in the back yard by herself since we are frequented by fox, raccoons and a large hawk in a nearby tree.

Despite nicknaming her the “great disrupter,” she is a joy and I can no longer imagine life without her. But as we each get used to life with the other we are coming to know a very different kind of dog. It’s requiring some major adjustments!

“And Puppy Makes Three”

I have been away from my blog for a few days as we traveled to pick up and then bring home the new addition to our home. Named Zoe, our cocker spaniel/poodle mix is eight weeks old, weighs just over four pounds and is getting acclimated to her new surroundings.

We have never owned a small dog, nor one that is so social, so we are especially careful where we step. “Under foot” seems to be a description tailor made for her. She doesn’t like being alone, whether in the living room or in her crate at night. She has imprinted on us and dutifully trails one or the other of us around the house. She is adapting to life without six siblings to play with at any moment. As you can see in the above clip, she is making good use of toys instead.

I hope to return to reading and responding soon. In the meantime, much love all from us and from Zoe.

“Speaking of Euphemisms”

After finding that in such far flung places as South Africa and the Midwest everyone calls that piece of chicken a “thigh,” I wondered if this was just an idiosyncrasy of my family. I followed Charlie’s advice and looked on line for any explanation.

Oddly, the only place I found the name “second joint” for the thigh was in a discussion from the state of Texas. No one in my family ever came from Texas, but the writing struck a chord. Apparently, in a bow to modesty, thighs were called “second joints” and breasts were called “white meat.” Both of those were how my mother referred to the pieces. I had, in fact, never heard her call the parts pictured above chicken breasts.

While my mother would never have been reluctant to say either “thigh” or “breast” about chicken pieces, I imagine she learned her usage from her mother. Grannie was very proper. Once when I was 11 we were playing Scrabble. I formed the word “nit” from letters. She was appalled, wanting to know both how I knew that word and why I hadn’t formed “tin.” She was further horrified to learn that my upper middle class school had dealt with a lice infestation and we all learned the word “nit.”

Sadly, apart from butchering instructions, I found no other mention of the phrase “second joint.” I guess the “thighs have it.” (Couldn’t resist.)

“A Slight Detour”

I was standing in the kitchen dividing a “value pack” of fresh chicken into smaller freezer bags. So many people are eating chicken wings lately that the drumstick and this piece are suddenly very affordable in large packages.

As I was making the labels for the bags I printed “thighs,” the name on the package. But I suddenly remembered that for all of my childhood, whether from chicken or turkey, these were never called “thighs.” We always knew them as “second joints.”

I am very curious about what my readers around the world call said piece. Even if you are a vegetarian, what name have you heard to describe it?

This word nerd thanks you.