Monday, December 24, 2018

Tips for the New Recession

I'm told the United States stock market has hit the skids and we're facing a recession as bad or worse than that of 2008, an ugly one around here, with shuttered businesses and gasoline at over $4 a gallon and city people dumping their pets here and country people poaching deer and echinacea roots, and meth labs in the woods.

Times were lean but I made it through. Just today I began listing what I'd do to survive this next one:
  1. Purchases of any type are limited to one day per week: Sunday.
  2. Avoid strip-mall businesses.
  3. Prioritize health and friends. Travel, decor and trinkets when times improve.
  4. Don't date people or acquire a pet.
  5. Increase intake of beans and potatoes (which I like), but eat 3 meals daily with at least 3 ounces of protein at each.
  6. Goodwill if needing something. Discount and ethnic grocery stores only.
  7. Gorilla Glue, y'all.
  8. Handkerchiefs and the rag bag.
  9. Exercise, but not hard or long. Hard exercise increases the appetite -- savagely.
  10. Use what you've got, like that passel of pink and orange lipsticks.
  11. Library.
  12. Work harder? No. Use leverage ( = making use of what you already have to move forward). 
  13. Uber Driver if it comes to that; already called to adjust car insurance for that.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

C.S.I. = Can See It

Like several other deer around here, this one got hit by a car just before hunting season opened in November and lay dead on the road shoulder about 200 feet down the highway. This past season Franklin County, just inches to our west (I can throw a stone over the county line), had the biggest deer harvest in the state of Missouri: more than 4,000. Sorry, Bambi fans: The herd needed thinning. Worse than seeing a deer in the road shoulder is seeing half a deer.  That's to say nothing of the people in the car. Before you get all Awww about deer hunting, imagine your own car hitting a deer that rolls at 50 mph through your windshield onto you and your passengers.

Three, four, five days and I began to wonder: Who picks up the roadkill in Missouri?

Within a city's limits: Animal Control. (Hey, all of you who love to work with animals. . .)
On a county road: Missouri Department of Conservation, and don't call about anything smaller than a deer because they believe in nature taking care of its own.
On a state road: Missouri Department of Transportation.

They do it on call, but I didn't know that then. When scavenger birds picked at the carcass I looked the other way. Then I got all involved in whatnot and left town for a week. Came back and catching up on work barely left the Divine Cabin for a week to ten days. Then going for a walk I see this. Looks like a young deer (they're the most fearless and ignorant) who was broadsided.

Monday, December 17, 2018

Hometown Hamburger: Kewpee's

At Kewpee's Lunch, the burger place opened in 1939 in my hometown and one of the town's main attractions, the burgers with pickle-on-top are excellent, they make their own root beer, and please do leave room for the classic finger-sized French fries. (Who am I kidding? I eat the fries first!) One wall is glass cabinets loaded with every permutation of Kewpie dolls: plastic, rubber, ceramic, and paper dolls, and memorabilia.

I learned that Kewpies were created by the first successful female cartoonist, Rose O'Neill, born in 1874 and brought up in Nebraska and later a resident of southern Missouri -- and in between, she lived in New York selling her drawings to Ladies Home Journal, Puck and all sorts of magazines. Merchants wanted her Kewpies in their advertising; Germany manufactured the original bisque Kewpie dolls. Not liking the doll prototypes, O'Neill went to Germany, smashed the molds, and made the manufacturer do it over. O'Neill became the world's richest female illustrator -- all because she saw Kewpies in a dream: little cherubs with no meanness in them who brought sweetness and light, unlike their progenitor, Cupid, who shot arrows into incompatible hearts for sadistic fun.

Did my heart go flippity-flop over lunch? You betcha. The original owner of Kewpee's died in 1956 -- of a heart attack. So says his obituary. No surprise there. For many years, while I was growing up, Kewpee's was the only restaurant in all of downtown.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Scrapers Gonna Scrape

Winter came early, with snow on November 8, and then an actual 4 inches of snow in this area this past week. When the snow ceases, the snowplow comes. The plow is a benefit for tenants, and I am grateful because, frankly, I have tried to shovel 100 yards of snow but every time, I failed.

Once, before the snowplow, a 50-pound bag of ice-melting salt was delivered here after a blizzard, left in the middle of the lane in front of my house. I could not move the bag, or even drag it, so I slit it open and carried the salt one shovelful at a time downhill to highway's edge where the most treacherous ice forms. After I did that 20 times, the bag of salt diminished and I dragged it away from the middle of the lane so the car could get out.

The plow is so much better, and the plowman courteous enough (now that I have asked) to clear the space in front of the garage so I can back the car out, but his blade scrapes the last gravel from the non-paved lane, leaving thigh-high drifts of gravel and snow, and soupy mud as the snow melts. I call it the "Slop-o-Rama." In front of the garage it looks like this.

Friday, November 2, 2018

All About Stink

After regular laundering, the stink re-activated with wear, so I tried vinegar, then baking soda, then color-safe bleach, then vodka (that's a trick for deodorizing theater costumes), then eucalyptus-based Mirazyme, specially formulated for stinky and skunked gym and camping clothes. When the stink persisted, I threw the clothes away except for two sport tops made for mastectomy ladies and therefore rare and blanch-your-face expensive.

Online I googled "stinky clothes" and read about OxyClean Odor Blaster. Last night I dissolved scoops of OxyClean in hot water and poured that brew into cool water and stirred stinky clothes in it while chanting. Instructions mandated a seven-hour soak, followed, per instructions, with a regular wash that included OxyClean. The tops are now air-drying. I will let you know if OxyClean is the one.

Perhaps not coincidentally I remembered my yoga mat -- bright pink, unrolled on floors and carpets I know are teeming with bacteria because the one time I set my chin on my mat I broke out like a teenager -- and put the mat outside in the sun, to air and purify. Later I returned to find on my pink mat a brilliant lime-green bug doing the Balasana, or Child's Pose. Looked up the type of bug so I could tell you. It's called the stinkbug.

Some days have a theme and some don't.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Puff and Blow

I was raking while barefoot because barefoot links us with Earth energies and all that, when I saw puffballs: One fresh (beige, about 3 inches in diameter) and one blown (the brown, tattered one on top) and rejoiced because I had thought the season was over. Promptly I obtained a paring knife and bag and harvested my dinner, provided that when I sliced it lengthwise it was pure white inside. It was. Puffers (in this case, Calvatia gigantea) barely have stems at all. When dried-out and brown their heads explode volcanically, sending spores far and wide.

Put on my hunter-orange cap and scoured the nearest quarter of the Divine Woods, all gold-leaf and black hieroglyph, for the same sort of prize, not finding a darned thing, and then I looked down and in the crevices of a log were whole colonies of puffers, little ones, also fresh.
These I scooped up not to eat but to propagate. All along the walk home I crumbled, threw and dropped the pieces, hoping for more puffers next fall. Not tired enough, I tried another trail and found another large puffer, not so fresh. This too I crumbled up and tossed hither and yon. May there be puffballs, a lot, next year. Tomorrow, after the hunters leave the area, hike into deeper woods to seek  more. To cook, slice them lengthwise, always making sure they're pure solid white inside, and saute in butter.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

R & R & T

I am a workaholic and realized I almost never spend whole days outdoors anymore. So out I go into the mists of October, scaring packs of deer who apparently thought this property was all theirs.

I have now re-engaged with recreation and hobbies. A two-mile walk today on an unexpectedly steep new trail I balanced with a half-hour of leisure in the zero-gravity chair with a pot of hot tea.

I'm taking Russian-language classes and barre classes. The Russian teacher lived four years in Moscow. She says, "Russia is the only country in the world where a poetry reading can fill a stadium." I plan to live on my Social Security in the lovely Silk Road city of Samarkand, Uzbekistan. They all speak Russian, and I'm glad they do, because there's no Uzbek-language classes around here.

Barre classes are ballet-inspired workouts but without the impact. I bought a package of 10 one-hour classes to deliberately invest too much to waste them. One hour in class draws only the most determined and addicted, because barre is torture and whips up those endorphins like, whoo-ee. The regulars -- there are lots! -- are all trim through the middle and have built a genuine booty. That's right, a booty worth writing home about. If I get one, I will post it. Twenty years older than most participants, I sometimes lag but never quit and after three classes am catching on.

Later I'll practice my bongos.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Judas' Ear

Rain brings for one day these delicate and translucent wood ear mushrooms, usually velvety brown, growing on thoroughly dead branches. They pop up at all times of year after a soaking. You'll find these in Chinese cuisine, but they are so light and flavorless -- really, they're jelled water -- they are not worth cooking and eating any other way, except for their 9 grams of protein per 100 grams of mushroom.

You have to, must, are required to cook them or they are not edible at all. They and the water they are cooked in are folk remedies for sore throats.

Latin name Auricularia auricula-judae tells a story: These are often called Judas's Ears, because Judas hanged himself from a tree.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Post-Season on the Black River

Camped out at the private Twin Rivers Landing on the Black River for two nights, on a writers' retreat with seven others. This area, the Arcadia Valley, is gorgeous, and will be even more so in a week or so when the foliage turns. Quite remote; 68 miles as the crow flies was more than 100 miles on the road. Perfect weather; we might as well have been indoors as out. Only two other campsites out of about 30 or so were occupied. It really is the post-season but they made an exception for us.

Mostly I either wrote in a notebook in the shade beneath a tree, supine in a zero-gravity chair; or we sat around the campfire with skewers and weenies, reading each other stories, recommending books, websites, and organizations. Saturday night I took a long walk by starlight; no moon, because the New Moon was Monday. This is sunrise on Sunday, one of the very few photos I took. The light was powder-pink.

What struck me is how I took for granted that I could take home my dew-sodden Kelty tent and tent-fly and lay them on my gravel to dry before packing them. The city dwellers had no room to do this. Draping the tent over a car parked on the street was not possible. Didn't have floor space indoors. Didn't have a back yard. Couldn't hang it from a window. That was once me, in a studio apartment. . . I camped state parks often, renting a car when I had to, because the city stifled me. . . How did I cope? I don't recall. I know only that I am blessed. On October 1, I have lived on the Divine property for 17 unbroken years.

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Speaking to Spiders

Spiders were once sea creatures, climbing onto land about 100 million years ago and teaching themselves how to hunt very efficiently by spinning webs and then sitting and waiting, and they've since mastered the art. These elegant creatures have three separate spinneret nozzles in their abdomens: one for spinning non-sticky "framing" thread for their webs; one for sticky thread that catches their prey; and one that's a safety or parachuting line.

These threads -- for their size, strong as steel -- are made of protein and water. A spider needs both protein and water to keep spinning, and when necessary will eat its own web to build up energy for a new one. The orange-red artist in my photo lives on the corner of my garage where my car's headlights every evening give a minute of light while I get out of the car and raise the garage door. The first night I saw the illuminated web, the spider fled to a dark corner. I said "Don't worry. I won't hurt you." It took me at my word and now we are partners. I provide light by night that attracts moths and things into the spider's web.

The daddy long legs spider -- always close to the house because it likes water -- a year ago fell in love with a scrub brush that I left outside, and they had something in common, but this year it has the hots for half a geode, unfortunately destined to be unrequited love, but I said nothing, figuring it should be allowed to enjoy its fantasy world. I wished it much happiness, and went indoors back into my web and my fantasy world.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Do You Know Reddy Kilowatt?

One Girl Scout field trip was to the electric utility company's Home Ec demonstration kitchen with electric stoves, which we had never seen, and we practiced cooking on them, back when they WANTED people to use up electrical energy.

The electric company 's mascot was a figure made of lighting bolts with a bulbous head, a light-bulb nose and electric-socket ears, named Reddy Kilowatt, and it gave out Reddy-themed potholders and lapel pins, and electric bills had his picture on them, but after the energy shortage of 1973-74 -- the winter that, to save energy, we walked to school in the mornings with the stars still overhead -- saw him rarely, and now Reddy Kilowatt items are collectible. My sister and bro-in-law in Wisconsin collected two nostalgic Reddy potholders for me. Flummoxed because they had no tabs to hang them, I left them in a drawer for years before realizing they contained magnets for sticking them on the fridge. I now use them frequently. Here they are assisting me, saying "Be modern, cook electrically," on the propane stove with a pan of lavender shortbread.

Although Reddy looks to me now as if he suffers from terrible arthritis, I am fond of him. He was designed in the 1920s, to be consumer-friendly when farmers hemmed and hawed about buying electricity because they'd gotten along for 10,000 years without it. As I moved around the country I met people who had never heard of Reddy Kilowatt, and at times felt very alone, the way you feel when no one around you shares your archaic memories.

Then one day I had at the Divine Cabin a guest, born in Missouri in 1947. He saw my potholders and said, "Oh, Reddy Kilowatt," and I almost threw myself at his feet and begged him to marry me.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Animals Know What's Best

All animals know and go for the best part of anything: Here's a daddy long legs enthroned and lounging in the most elegant and fragrant of palaces, the crown of my basil plant, not caring if the plant is not native and scrawny because, I think, I transplanted the young plant into too big a pot, hoping for a big lush green bushy grant of basil. But I love it anyway and am glad a creature has found and appreciates it and feels safe there; there are not enough leaves on the plant for the spider to worry about the risk of becoming pesto.

A young cedar plant, being invasive, picks the choicest spot for its growth an inch in front of a healthy deciduous tree, such as an oak, with the goal of overshadowing it and appropriating all its nutrients, not caring that it's being rude and the other tree was there first; it's just nature.

I was taught to expect or take second-best and leave the absolute best for somebody else -- let them have the best bedroom, best part of the chicken, or shower first and get the hot water, etc. So glad I live where wild animals are teaching me the proper attitude, and there's no pressure to compromise.

Happy Labor Day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

The Gall

Here's my new bae Andricus quercusstrobilanus, Mom. He's a fake pine cone that is in fact a gall, the space station of a gall wasp parasitical on oak trees. Fairly rare to see them so fresh and orange; usually they're seen and photographed in the dryish brown stage. I was just lucky, I guess. It was my moment. Their months are July and August and they seem to like wet, steamy weather. Is that more than you wanted to know, Mom?

Mom, did you ever imagine that your kid (nay, the fruit of your womb) would be curious about, like, strange growths like fungi, galls and slimes? Kind of be a geek about them? Wondering what the heck this planet has in this walk-in closet called reality? Remember spanking me with a hairbrush?

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

That Is Our Choices!

Above: from the town's official newsletter
Pardon that I'm breathless, weak in the knees, I am so relieved. I fixed the dishwasher. It has taken all month. Please understand that the Divine kitchen sink -- a single sink -- is an inch too narrow to hold a nine-inch dinner plate. I'm not exaggerating. There is no space for a rack or drainboard. The dishwasher solves this. Otherwise I do dishes by washing and immediately rinsing, drying, and storing each piece before I can wash another; or do them outside.

After installing first a new latch and then a new motherboard and the dishwasher still wouldn't start, I put off and put off installing the third new part after it arrived. I couldn't face failure, nor $125 for an appliance-repairman housecall (that doesn't include labor and parts) after the $207 already spent on new parts; or a sickening $750 for a new dishwasher. Buying a used model would need a truck and friends to haul the used one in and haul the fritzed one away -- to where?

Fed up with being responsible for everything, absolutely everything, with yet more snakes wriggling out of my fireplace (!), I cried while unboxing the third new part and facing the screws and wires and pressure of high-stakes better-do-it-right -- without knowing how! Why not just call a repair place?! I almost did.

Yet if I installed the part and the machine didn't work, I'd be no worse off than I was. I gave it one last shot. It worked. The stress in my body released all at once. Shaking, I carefully placed a single dish inside, and sat next to it reading a book for two hours as it cycled, in case it flooded (flooded the new kitchen flooring and all the related, detailed wood-filler, paint and caulking?! I would die!) or exploded, etc. Works great.

I had promised myself ice cream if I repaired it. Actually, I promised myself fine pearl earrings but that money went for replacement parts. I was, and remain, too spent to go get ice cream. And so ends the month of Clean It Up, Fix It Up, Paint It Up -- the City of Pacific's motto. That is our choices!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Good Lord!

I have seen the 25-year plan for Pacific. In 25 years there will be no Pacific; it will be at the bottom of a man-made recreational lake ringed with McMansions, and somebody will make big money. Historic flooding in 2015, then worse in 2017, twice drowned half the town's housing and businesses; in 2017, the water topped the railroad tracks for the first time. The town was now floodplain and there was no two ways about it. Some residents FEMA'd and some didn't. When we're weary some developer will propose a glamorous lake in place of the sleepy little town and grease some pockets and make it so. But my mind was elsewhere when today I saw the little white country church lifted on pallets way up in the air, and thought, "Good Lord!"

I know buildings get raised and moved, a task I can't even begin to comprehend, and here I could watch it happen by hopping out of my car and telling a worker how amazed I was, and could I take a photo.

"Is the church being raised because of the flooding?" I asked, above the roar of the Bobcat. (Here, "bobcat" is both noun and verb.)

"Just like we raised the other houses around here," he said, and for the first time I looked around and saw that more than half the houses on the street, formerly ground-level bungalows, were now poised on new, high, solid concrete foundations -- ten feet high? twelve feet? More? The doors in front and back were now accessed with handsome new wooden staircases that one could tie a rowboat to. Those folks were staying put, flood or no. And my heart was glad.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Raisin Rye

Hankering for Raisin Rye bread I went from bakery to bakery inquiring. The bakers, sounding puzzled, said "Raisin rye?" "No, we never made that," as if they never heard of it. In Hermann, MO, where the German bakeries are, I again asked for raisin rye. None. Strange; I used to have it all the time (good with tuna salad, or for breakfast) -- or so it seemed. Friends hadn't heard of it. Did the world run out of it? Had I dreamt it? I googled it and it was not a dream.

I probably never bought raisin rye bread in St. Louis. It's not a German bread. Some say it has French origins but my hometown 400 miles from here is full of  Swedes and Danes, and they bake and are known for rye breads (as are the Finns) because in Scandinavia wheat won't grow but rye will. Dried grapes from warmer places on the continent came to Scandinavian port cities, and somebody put them in rye bread where they are very tasty. It's a food from my childhood. Thus my instinctual and inexplicable craving for it.

This fragrant home-baked loaf is probably a travesty because I added density and bite with a tablespoon of pumpernickel in with the wheat and rye flours. Recipes include shortening, molasses, cocoa, sourdough, coffee, cardamom, pecans or walnuts, fennel, orange zest, the water you plump the raisins in, grated Vitamin C, cinnamon, icing, buttermilk and starter, to name a few; such an array that raisin rye seems like an edible canvas bakers paint with their favorite flavors. Lots of bakers won't work with rye; it has no gluten so it doesn't assume the same lordly shapes of classic wheat breads.

Friday, August 24, 2018

DIYing is an Art, Like Everything Else

I lowered the Maytag's top onto an exercise mat, sliced into the dishwasher's bottom which is mere cardboard covered with foil, and used my voltage meter seeking weak electrical links. Taped it up when I found nothing wrong. Then it remained to lift the dishwasher upright. Tried and couldn't. (100 pounds? 150 pounds?) I wondered who I might call and what I should pay them, and imagined the gossip they would spread. Disheartened, I left it this way for four days.

The fifth day, after morning coffee, like Popeye on spinach I righted the dishwasher on the first try, a miracle. Then with a star-nosed screwdriver I removed the inside of its door, exposing wires both live and dead. Online forums and YouTube videos recommended a new latch, $12, as a first step toward repair. This didn't fix it, and God arranged a minor electrical shock to further humble me. Second-tier solution: a new $125 motherboard. While waiting for its delivery I dismantled and cleaned the machine's interior, down to its motor. Reassembly left me with two extra screws. I knew this was not right. Cue up the circus music, because I had installed a part upside down. Five or six days passed before I summoned the heart to undo and fix it.

A 1990s course called "How to Build a Computer" taught me it is insanely easy and no parts inside electronics are fragile, so replacing a motherboard does not scare me, plus YouTube demonstrations showed repairs on machines similar to mine. Installed the new motherboard. Now all the wires were hot. Still the dishwasher wouldn't start.

Online fix-it forums revealed arcane knowledge about secret codes for resetting dishwasher programming. Tried all of these codes. Glory be, three of the green LED lights lit up. Much heartened, I pressed the dishwasher's Start button but in vain. YouTube sages indicated a possibly malfunctioning touchpad. Paid $72 and the new touchpad is on its way.

Wouldn't it be nice if that fixed it? A new dishwasher is $750. I have learned a lot. A lot.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The High Sign

Final days of August, the dog days, are always hot, humid and unnerving -- what, summer is almost over? I lie low, work as little as possible, fix and serve summery lunches on the screened porch: here a favorite salad of shrimp, grapefruit and avocado with mustard-tanged dressing, and a glass of prosecco (sparkling dry wine, not quite champagne) to pay myself for being a good human.

Spooner's frozen custard, located up a steep driveway on a hilltop, is our local version of the famous St. Louis frozen custard called Ted Drewes'. My favorite sundae is called the "109-er" after the highway. One recent evening I went there. I am always alone. No one else is. This way I can concentrate on my ice cream. I order at the window, sit on one of the perforated metal benches and wait in the blanket-warm purple twilight until my sundae is ready and my name is called. Meantime I gaze at the green hills in the distance and up at the stars, slowly emerging like an understanding, and perhaps the moon, and listen to the passing trains. I look for the rabbit in the moon. Summer food, savoring summer -- is there anything better? Can it be late summer already? This August marks my 30th year in Missouri.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Out of Square

C'est fini.
Need I add that the Divine Cabin's kitchen floor was not only gouged and discolored but terribly out of square, its surface lumpy, with fussy millwork around its three doorways and 80-year-old baseboards seriously warped? And that it wasn't possible to move either the oven or fridge? One night my neighbor Terri and I finished laying the self-adhesive tiles on the kitchen floor -- Terri with the skills and tools from crafting, able to custom-cut the odd shapes to the millimeter. I mostly lay flat on the floor waiting to be handed the puzzle pieces and sticking them into place.

Here is the finished product. Very nice. Now I need a threshold. I bought one yesterday, and a hacksaw to cut it to the (odd, weird) 35.5 inches, and installed it, but it turned out I needed not a "bull-nosed" threshold but a square-nosed one which can be glued because beneath the floor is concrete and screws cannot be drilled into it. Besides that, there is only fine-tipped caulking to do, and then one last big, daring DIY.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

DIYing for a Clean-Looking Shower

After 7 years the shower's caulk was permanently mildewed or God knows what and it depressed even me, who has showered in below-freezing barracks, in a hoarder's bathroom, in shower stalls stained orange with bacteria, in state-park shower houses where families were gutting fish, and so on (when I had no other choice).

c'est fini
My current fix-it mania drove me to buy a claw-like caulk-removing tool and dedicated kitchen-and-bath caulk. I laid down a bunch of towels, folded myself like origami into the shower stall and with rubber-gloved hands scraped off the old caulk, and thoroughly washed the gaps now open with a 50-percent bleach solution, and let them dry for 24 hours while I stayed at a friend's house.

I returned home to apply the caulk. With my inexperience ("Why isn't any caulk coming out? Oh, I have to squeeze this trigger really, really hard, with both hands") it took three sweaty hours to apply, and as soon as it was good enough, like a guy would have done it, I left the wet towels and caulk-choked caulking gun in a heap and ran back overnight to the friend's house to allow the caulk to cure.

Turned out okay, as you can see, even if imperfect. There is no "before" picture because it was too repellent to show. I also stuck "treads" on the shower floor for safety. This plus the new tiles on the backsplash means the bathroom update is complete. The Divine Cabin has a shower only. I get baths 64 miles away in The Original Springs Hotel in Okawville, IL, the only mineral spring in this area.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Out of a Fireplace

In mid-August, quite well grown, they're leaving the nest in my fireplace to find more mice to eat than are available in a fireplace that's capped and sealed. From the inside, the snakes might work at loosening the tape for two days before emerging. Sometimes they're blacksnakes, sometimes northern prairie ringnecks (Diadophus punctatus edwardsii) such as this one. With tongs I peeled the tape from the fireplace, snake and all, and put it outside on gravel where it had a chance to work itself free. The film is one minute long.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I'm Self-Adhesive, Are You?

Feeling that I couldn't possibly make it worse I bought some self-adhesive fake tiling for the bathroom backsplash area. My spatial skills are poor so it took time to figure out how the four sheets of fake tile fit together, even though they were lettered "B," "C," "D" and "E" -- where was "A"? And the walls and fixtures are themselves crooked. I did the best job  I could. I've seen much worse in photos of pre-World-War-I Eastern Europe -- and I like the stick-on tile very much, maybe just because it's a change.

So enchanting was the stick-on that I decided I would do self-adhesive tiles on the kitchen floor. There is no way I could make it worse.

I watched every YouTube about laying down self-adhesive flooring, and measured, and bought 50 tiles (you buy extra in case you mess up a few) and the right kind of grout and a putty knife for the gouges and ragged edges that currently expose the concrete floor just beneath. With the floor prepared and cleaned it is perfectly okay to lay down new self-adhesive flooring on top of it. Yes, that bruised and cracked stuff is my old kitchen floor. It's not dirty; it's as clean as I can make it. Even my amateur DIY can't possibly make it look worse and there is a chance it might look better.

I chose this gray-green flooring (68 cents per tile) because it's called "Basil" and will show neither white dirt nor black. I haven't laid it down yet. Am still mapping and visualizing the work the floor will need. I can't move the fridge and stove until I find a magic lamp and a genie comes out who will move them for me, so the whole kitchen can't be self-adhesive floored until then.

You might wonder why no one is helping. Or maybe you aren't wondering. It's because I'm self-adhesive. And nobody else I know would think this is fun.

Monday, August 6, 2018

It's White-Trash Repair Month

I truly loved July but felt something sad around its edges until I realized it was my beloved house, The Divine Cabin.

After 17 years without interior paint or new carpets or a working fireplace or insulation in the winter, it is, frankly, shabby. Squirrels occupied my screened porch after ripping holes in now-fragile screens worn by decades of weather -- ragged holes too extensive for normal patching. They chewed some of the wooden frames to bits. I couldn't enjoy my porch because squirrels ran around on it, destroying it, and I didn't see what I could do.

The dishwasher fritzed. The essential housekeeping tool, it saves hours of trying to wash and rinse dishes and pots in a sink the size of a salad bowl. When I could't revive it with fervent prayer and fasting, I had to unload it and do dishes in the yard. Fortunately it is summertime. Last time I phoned for dishwasher repair help, in 2014, I was jeered. "Aw, just run a couple cups of C.L.R. through it," drawled the Maytag Repair Man who is supposed to be so lonely. I called again and he made other addle-pated excuses for not coming. I figured he was on drugs. Finally I repaired it myself. This time I knew I would have to repair it again, and the problem is electrical. About which I know nothing except the red wire goes in the red slot.

Some corners and edges never get clean. They should be stripped of paint and refinished. I tried that with a cupboard door and the bathroom door. It took days and I sanded by hand because the garage has no electricity. The paint layers were a history going all the way back to lead paint and I couldn't help but breathe dust and chemicals.

The kitchen floor is the saddest case. It records all the bootheels and gouges laid into it by my husband, who died in 2009. The stained grout in the shower stall is also sad. Call the landlord? I did. They no longer bother with cosmetic improvements. If it's livable, they're not changing it. They also told me, this year for the very first time, I should be cleaning my own gutters and throwing broken tree limbs off the roof. I have never once been on the roof.

I had already bought, dumped and raked 1000 pounds of rock to make my own path through grass I couldn't find a cutter for. Not normally a DIY sort of person I finally had to tell myself, once again, the old refrain: "Ain't nobody gonna do it for you." And didn't I move here to be self-reliant?

In the coming days I will show you how I did something the hell about it, one item at a time. Today: the porch screen. There's a closeup of some of the ripped screen and frame damage, and also my solution. I patched the holes as well as I could and bolted hardware cloth in place. It looks nowhere near as horrid as I imagined. Measuring, cutting, fitting, finding wood screws and those ring things that go around the wood screws, gluing back as much wood as was salvageable, took an entire day, from cool 7 a.m. to hot 3 p.m. But now I can enjoy the porch.

Monday, July 9, 2018

One Meal a Day

I was priding myself on eating only one meal per day because it made life simple. It was frugal. It was nutritious, I made sure: vegetables and protein, some grains, fat, and fruit. Most importantly, it saved time and effort. I wasn't dieting; I needed that time in order to work more. Fewer dishes, less waste and less time spent cleaning up: One meal a day seemed ideal.

Then I realized a half-hour walk or a 40-minute yoga video or a 50-minute "senior" class at the rec center, or any exercise whatever, depleted me so I had to lie down soon after coming home, ears ringing and so exhausted I felt poisoned. Even thinking was an effort. At times two days passed before I summoned enough energy to do my job, or gussy up and go places. I sat instead of standing whenever I could. Craftily, I enrolled in an evening exercise class so I could go to bed soon afterward. I let myself sleep an hour longer. This helped a little.

The meal was at midday or a bit later. Clever me, making soup that'd last three days, and no-cook sandwiches or salad, and maybe yogurt and berries or chia-seed pudding. More than enough for someone who sits and writes all day. And coffee. A banana for a snack, or the white of a boiled egg, or 1.5 oz. of tuna on a Ry-Krisp (dangerously close to a meal). Pasta on Fridays only. Meanwhile I'm gulping vitamins and Tylenol, looking puzzled at perfect blood-test results, reading up on rare diseases (chronic fatigue? thyroid? cardiac? worse?), feeling weak, and reading message boards. What could be wrong with me?

Why could people much older than myself exercise daily while two sessions a week left me, like, paralyzed? Was this my metabolism? Genetics? Father Time telling me to "let myself go"?

As it turns out, you can't live and work and exercise without sufficient fuel. Exercise uses and then depletes glycogen (energy) stores. I had almost none stored because of chronic under-eating. When athletes deplete their glycogen they call it "hitting the wall," and it's like pulling the plug from an electrical appliance, you are that fatigued that suddenly. I was used to saying "I'm not that hungry" (true), "I hate dishes," and "I don't want to take the time." Needless to say I was not my cheery self, either. Yes, under-eating is a thing. Without glycogen your body eats your muscle tissue, and curves go flat, and whatever held you up fails to do so.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

These Rocks Speak Dust

This is what 1000 pounds  or $130 worth of gravel looks like after I made a path to the road. The planned task is not complete but a spare $130 it will bring it closer to finishing.

Wore a breathing mask when I poured this last 360 lbs. Hosed the rocks to keep the dust down. Still inhaled some gravel dust, but less than before, and this time was further educated when I saw the coating of gravel dust over the car. The whole car, back to front, a thin even coating. I understood the nature of this dust now. These rocks speak dust. And feeling gritty all over meant I should shower it off right away and wash the clothes.

This project hallowed this June that slipped away so quickly, and will recall this hallowed month whenever I look at it.

Friday, June 29, 2018


June thunderstorms with clouds like slate rolling pins and booming noise shook up our area three times this past week. First time, electricity was off for six hours. Second time, a heavy tree branch fell and broke my rain gauge. We were lucky that the eye of each storm just missed us and did nothing but dump needed rain for a while, I'm guessing about an inch each time, not enough to flood. The third storm was last evening. Gully-washer. Toad-strangler. Perfectly seasonable. After poking at us just to let us know who is boss, the storm turned deeply serious as it chugged eastward. Photo was taken facing east, and you can see the dark clouds at the bottom while our area was filling with eerie yellow-orange light.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

360 Pounds Later, With No Lipstick

I forgot when buying 12 more 30-pound bags of Viagra stone this morning -- loading them onto the orange Home Depot cart myself -- that I'd woken with the dryest throat and realized only then I had, yesterday, while restoring the Divine gravel apron, inhaled invisible gravel dust, and only after I'd lifted, dumped and combed 12 more bags of the apron-to be did I recall that I ought to be wearing a breathing mask.

Yet I had fun sailing out early this morning until I realized I forgot lipstick. When no men offered to help me load and push the cart, in itself hefty, with 360 pounds of stone on it, I remembered that without lipstick and with short hair, wearing shorts and tee (but the tee was bright pink!) I am, in the eyes of the people out here, probably a man-hating feminist bulldagger who'd sneer at their offer of help. Well, f---, then I'd do it alone, and I pushed it as far as the checkout. I asked there for help loading the car and a teenager materialized,and said "Ma'am"; he filled the Honda's trunk and I stuck a wad of cash into his Home Depot apron pocket.

Was it the lack of lipstick or -- and I so regret this, want to weep -- that on my way in, in the parking lot a woman much older than I was slowly pushing a shopping cart holding among other things a huge bag of potting soil, but I did not stop and say "Can I help you get that into your car? I know I would need help." Now I'm crying. How wrong of me. Karma.

Wearing my neoprene lower-back belt, I bravely unloaded at home and made visible progress, but now, coughing and hawking and with pounding in my head, decided this was plenty for today, and thunder and changing winds made decision final. Here's a photo. Note how far I've come and how far I have yet to go to restore the apron.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

I Travel for Gravel

240 pounds later
The gravel apron in front of the Divine Cabin over the years has been scraped and washed away and grass grows there now hiding ticks and chiggers that bite me, and for four years we have asked the landlord for fresh gravel, because the road needs some too, but it never came. In despair I phoned the gravel mine and they'd deliver a cubic yard for $215, $75 of that delivery charge, and dump-truck the gravel in a pile as tall as I and I'd have to hire someone with a spreader or spend years spreading it shovelful by shovelful, alone.

So every summer more bugs bit me and I didn't even have to go into the woods but simply step outside. Mowing helped, but now I haven't a mower and have asked the landlord to supply one as the lease requires. They don't want to. Phoning mowing professionals got me estimates I felt ashamed I could not pay.

It occurred to me, in my misery, to buy and spread my own gravel and choke off the grass, solving at once the chigger and the mowing and the apron problem, and went to Home Depot, a 30-mile round trip, because they would load my car for me, and bought 8 bags of 30 lbs. each for a total of $31. I thought it was named "Viagra stone" (a dirty mind is a perennial resource). Said nothing of this to the teenager dragging the 240-lb. cart out to my car and loading it, as I could not. As an employee he may not take a tip. But I said, "You're not taking it; I'm giving it," and dropped money in his apron pocket.
Doesn't it look like Viagra stone?

With my own labor I could buy five more such loads before hitting $215. Hefting each bag I dropped them at strategic intervals on the apron, slit the bags, dumped and raked a while and was pleased as heck with my result but there was much more apron to cover.

Now I had big plans. About to return to Home Depot to reload I thought to try the nearby Walmart. An elderly employee said to go to the checkout if I wanted their bags of gravel, but the garden area checkout, at 8 p.m., was closed, and the young employee said he did not work in this section and could not cashier, so I just went home.

I thought it would amuse me to shop at every gravel-selling retail around here and score them on how well I was served. My work on the apron is satisfying as a long-lasting solution to a frustrating, expensive problem.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Problem We Do Not Have

Used to live exactly one block from here, for four years, and before that two blocks from here, for six years, for a total of ten, among many poor folks trying to make a dollar. The rapper Nelly grew up on my street while I lived there. Look, rent was $255 a month and my income was $500 a month and stayed that way for two years, and my landlord (owned both buildings) never ever raised my rent from the starting rent because he wanted to keep a tenant whose checks did not bounce.

I laugh sometimes at life in those close-set apartment buildings. Cats sang in chorus in the back alley and woke us all, and tenants on the second and third floors raised their windows, screamed swearwords, and pelted the cats with shoes. Summer barbecues smoked on every fire escape and the party hosts gave away their ages by the music they were blasting. Once a crew removed my fire escape (I guess to replace it) while I was at work and it was the only way to enter my apartment because I had police-locked and chained the other door. The workers still there put a ladder up to the second story and told me to climb it. I was wearing a skirt but also pettipants, and blessed myself for wearing pettipants and being fit. I was in my late 30s then.

I got very good at -- right in this spot in this photo -- darting at top speed through an alley in order to cut five minutes from my walk home. Then I moved to the Divine Property. These days the old neighborhood has been upscaled and landscaped and at night the alley is floodlit. They've even put benches along that walkway to make it seem parklike, and plants in planters to make it pretty. But apparently people want plants badly enough to steal them. I now live where there are plants galore and we worry they'll be eaten by deer.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Anti-Squirrel Strategy #4,381

The squirrel-proof seed feeder is suspended on a wire between two trees quite a distance apart, but squirrels have learned to leap from one tree or the other onto the feeder's roof so that seed mix flies from the "squirrel-proof" feeder, hits the ground, and is eaten not by birds but by horrid little rodents. I have tried many ways to combat this. "Grease the top." "Put mousetrap sticky-paper on top." "Put baffles." (Baffles made of wire, paper, etc. were all ineffective; I've been at this now for 17 years. They don't crawl over the wire. They fly from the tree directly to the feeder.) "Put a nice deep tub (like a trash can) full of water underneath." "Shoot them." (I wish!). Today while picking up branches broken by the storm, I had this camouflage-type idea. I am hoping that it seems to the squirrels impossible to gauge a perfect landing on the feeder's roof. And that if they try, a whole bunch of sticks will rain down on them.

It's been working for the past 45 minutes! But you know what? If they don't get the seed they eat the suet. If there's no suet they drop onto my roof and, hanging upside down, suck nectar from the dangling hummingbird feeders. Eight ounces of nectar doesn't last the day.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Hummingbirds Can Drown

Out of electrical power for six hours as a huge gigantic terrific thunderstorm seized the world  Thursday night about 6 p.m., turning the sky as dark as 9 p.m., ripping down tree limbs and pouring rain, with nothing else to do I watched as a hummingbird clung, its bill raised and vertical the whole time, to the feeder for half an hour as the feeder swung in the pummeling wind. It did not sip. It did not flinch.

The bird's endurance was so remarkable I even took video that included the thunder, lightning, and slashing rain (and accidentally deleted the video) but fortunately also took still photographs as best I could. Even when drenched and ragged, the hummingbird clung, face to the sky as if in defiance, and only near the end of the half-hour did it waver a little before buzzing away. Hummingbirds come from hurricane country so they know how to adapt their flight patterns but this was the first time I saw this happening: It faced upward so its nostrils wouldn't fill with rainwater and drown it.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Janitor of Eden

After two weeks away, the first thing to do is empty the mousetraps. Very fortunately there was only one mouse cadaver, fresh thank God, because had it been two weeks old it'd be stuck to the floor. I'd left May 20, just when there's so much to do to ensure a good summer here. Like:
  • repair the porch screen. My sworn enemies, the squirrels, chewed through it and gnawed the plastic gasket from the metal step-can I store those delicious sunflower seeds in -- but failed to get to the seeds. Nyah, nyah.
  • buy basil and dill plants and soil for repotting into the pots they'll occupy all summer, pots carried into full sun every morning and sheltered next to the house at nightfall, because otherwise the squirrels overturn and uproot them out of pure spite.
  • clean and refill hummingbird feeders. I almost didn't want to leave for two weeks because the empty feeders would disappoint the hummingbirds, but I'm hoping my extra-sweet nectar recipe will persuade them to return and trust me; I don't intend to leave them again.
  • retrieve the seed feeder from the underbrush where raccoons had dragged and left it; soap and rinse it, dry it in the sun. Acquire a poison-ivy hickey on my left leg.
  • greet new young turtles and rabbits who have no idea I live here too.
  • witness a high-speed chase: Miss Turkey in hot pursuit of a hefty blacksnake sidewinding itself across the grass at top speed and beneath the propane tank, thus winning that round.
  • pull and dry the spring onions before they form heads.
  • refill those clever little outdoor mouse-poison dispensers with green-turquoise blocks of mouse poison. They work; they've cut the indoor mouse war by 75 percent.
  • approach the bluebird box to clean it. Yes, one must clean one's bluebird box. I didn't want to. Last time I looked, the nest held three baby chickadees and a baby bluebird. This is unusual. I feared finding the nest holding one or more dead. With gloved hands I unhooked the box and pulled out the nest. It was empty. Everyone had fledged! I was overjoyed.
  • inspect the forest floor where the summer mushrooms grow. Despite an inch of rain, found nothing. It's still quite early in the season. On the way, saw butterflies enjoying the blossoming milkweed.
  • check blackberry brambles for incipient blackberries, due in about three weeks. There are indeed little blackberry bullets. Last year's drought meant we had no crop. This year I hope for better.
  • buy at the fruit and vegetable stand every sort of fresh tasty thing: beets, apples, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, kale, berries, mushrooms, red onion, bananas, peppers, grapefruit, romaine -- to refill the fridge and to purify myself after two weeks away. And oh, yes, buy a bottle of wine, a rose, but I won't admit to that.
  • clean the picnic table; apply a tablecloth.
All this activity was joyful. Give me a new computer stand and I'm in Eden! I'm so glad to be home, among the plants and creatures.

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Little Bodies of the Pears

Uncared-for, unpruned pear tree in the yard that by all odds should not be thriving is doing fine, thanks, and for a few days in June I get to see its pears, growing butt-side upward, or twinned, shapely but always bite-sized, and just as they blush yellow and need one more day to look edible I wake up to find every one of them gone. As if I had dreamed them! Not a core left beneath the tree -- not a clue as to which species ate all the pears, or when. So this year after admiring them I took some pictures and then picked a few, that I might prove I did not dream them, because by all rights, on top of a cliff with one inch of soil and six inches of clay on top of sandstone, a pear tree should not be growing here. But it doesn't care if it should or not.

Neither should prickly pears, as in prickly-pear cactus, be growing a mere 15 feet away in a tiny, stony south-facing, two-foot-square micro-climate next to the pumphouse, but so it is, and when it's time it has those spiny crimson pears with little puckers growing whisker-like thorns. Given the right micro-climate, like hot sandstone, cactus in the Ozarks isn't unusual.

Yet two kinds of pears -- almost within arms' length of each other? That proves they're divine. Surely I live on the border of the imaginary and the real. On top of that, I can never forget what a man said to me one day, "Pears are sexy."

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Every Storm is Different

It's May; spring storms are many, but I've learned from my up-close-and-personal point of view about how very differently nature cooks up each storm, no two alike. This one started overhead, with cumuli. Others approach from a distance, gray as a dull knife blade, on the western horizon. That usually means a storm lasting one day. Blue-gray means a thunderstorm, much more intense. South-western horizon, the very dark gray looks bad on radar but often peters out before it gets to foothill country. North-western horizon, cold, spattering rain. Greenish-gray, very serious conditions are approaching; unplug electronics, batten hatches. A storm coming into this part of Missouri from the east is very unnatural, usually the backlash of a Gulf or southern hurricane, and the wild animals get frantic.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

The Blocked Bridge on the LaBarque

Bridge over Doc Sargent Road
I've seen Roman aqueducts; they're very cool and they still work. This one on LaBarque Creek is more basic. I enjoy sidling down the sandy creek banks and hunting the fascinating fossils near this bridge on Doc Sargent Road. This area was once the shore of the great inland ocean, so the fossils are of marine plants. Imagine a time when plants, only plants, ruled the Earth! Was there love? Oh, there had to be! The rocks pictured below are from my latest hunt. Fortunately, fossils on rocks almost always lie fossil-side-up, making hunting a little simpler.

Yet this was the first time I actually  saw how one of the bridge's two ducts was clogged near to its "ceiling" with sand. Now I fully understand why in 2015 and 2017 the LaBarque, usually not much more than a stream, rose so quickly and forcefully over its banks and the adjacent road.

Seeing new and huge deposits of sand choking the creek, after those floods, did bother me, but it seems that Nature took care of them. This, though, I can't see a solution to.

Sunday, May 20, 2018

Bluebird in the Chickadee's Nest

On 28 April 2018 I photographed an anomaly in the bluebird box: One bluebird egg, and the others, much smaller, white with copper spots. Bluebirds had built the nest -- I watched them. But after one egg (usually they lay five) the bluebirds split the scene or were evicted and a black-capped chickadee took over. I confirmed it was a chickadee when I saw the mom flee the box as I approached, and bluebirds don't have downy white feathers to line their nests with.

I check the bluebird box about every three weeks to make sure all is healthy and clean. (I've found snakes in there, bees, a bat, etc.) I thought, surely the chickadee mother would ignore the bluebird egg or starve the bluebird baby, or peck it to death,  if it survived. But on 19 May I opened the box again, thinking I'd surely find at least one dead baby bird, and maybe all of them, considering. I found a nest full of life.

Here's the egg photo, what it looked like three weeks ago. We might have lost some baby chickadees, but gained a bluebird:

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Must . . . Quit . . .Exercising

I find in the past two years I don't recover from workouts as I once did, and believing I was just lazy and "exercise is energizing" I stepped it up to six workouts a week, becoming, cumulatively, so achy and exhausted I lived on Tylenols and coffee, lost any ambition and couldn't think straight. I cut workouts back to two per week, tried to sleep more. Still enough tiredness and pain to fog my brain, with even the gentlest exertions! "Eat more protein," they said, so I did. No change. All relevant tests turn up negative. There is naught to do but quit, at least until I've recovered.

This happened before; I thought it was mental stress only. It took two months of full-time lying on the carpet to recover. Then I returned to exercising. Again, depletion. Last summer was without exercise except for targeted physical therapy. I got slenderer! My energy returned -- I even felt creative! Then I began exercising again: within a few months, crippling depletion.

Is it possible that after 40 years there is an end to exercise -- for me? I've been working out and belonging to gyms since I was 24: weights, hiking, treadmill, ballet, biking (okay, only 50 miles max), raking, pruning, running (time was when the bones could take it), yoga, Pilates, aerobics, tae kwon do, spinning, the works. Didn't hate it at all! Would love to go back to ballet barre and yoga classes! Others 20 years older than myself exercise for six classes per week and feel fine.

Friday, May 18, 2018

Jailed Lizard

This lizard, God knows how, ended up trapped between the layers of screen on the porch door's lower half, layers reinforced over time as dogs and squirrels clawed the screen and tore it, inspiring the stapling on of new and stronger barriers. And for several days the lizard hung there, unmoving. It was there so long I thought it must have died with nothing to eat and no water. But in case it needed water, I did trickle some water over the lizard. It stayed as it was.

Surely it is dead, I said to myself, and resigned myself to watching its body dehydrate whenever I sat on the porch.

Then one day -- a full week later -- it had changed position. Could it still be alive?

Consider the lizard, equipped for dry and difficult conditions. It stands to reason that of course it was still alive! But it had no way out.

I pried off a patch of screen about an inch square and attempted to prod the lizard toward it. It reacted, but wouldn't go.

I bet, I said to myself, if I leave it alone it will find its way out after serving eight days in prison. And so it was, the same day.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Rural Missouri Handbag Restoration

My leather tote purses, so tailored and trim, after two years' use were stretched and flabby, although otherwise they were like new, and stretched-out leather can't be fixed. One can buy "purse shapers" of clear acrylic for $32 a pop, but only for high-end bags; mine, from Dooney & Burke, are mid-range. They are not very stylish but respectable and can withstand hours on gravelly car mats and fast-food-joint floors, and serve as foot-rests in planes and pillows in buses and look none the worse for wear.

One might try to firm up flaccid purses by measuring them and then lining their interiors with custom-cut cardboard, foamboard, or plastic, and I tried all those this morning before surrendering the purses to eBay to sell at a tremendous loss, sorry because they were favorites just right for me -- that's why I had two, identical except for color -- both still completely functional, but lumpy, limp and bad for business. In the garage I looked around for other possibilities and saw -- clean, empty egg cartons. Light and durable.

I save as many cartons as I can for a local chicken farmer. They measure 12", the same as the purse. What if I. . .? Oh no, Divine, that is crazy. Egg cartons to restore your purses' shapeliness! Whoever heard of that? How Midwestern can you get!? What if someone saw them?

Oh, heck, I said, and pushed the egg carton sidewise down into the boneless purse, and instantly the purse filled out, stood erect on its four metal feet, and looked practically new. I can't believe this, I said; I don't have to chuck those purses. Instead of looking like flabby depressing torsos, they will look businesslike and smart -- and I fixed them free, with egg cartons? Not even duct tape? Points for creativity!

There's a little less space in the purses, but it's no problem. Little vitamin packs, safety pins, earrings, postage stamps, coins and so on fit in the egg dimples -- right in the carton!
Problem solved for exactly $0.00.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Hello, I'm Visiting

The first few days of the month of May sometimes bring this special guest to my feeder. I first saw, this morning, Mrs. Oriole, who is mouse-brown where her mate, pictured here -- and about to fly away and follow her --  is Cadillac black. They don't live here. They are just passing through (to Baltimore?), bringing startled awe and pleasure wherever they go. I'm amazed I got a snap good enough to share. What gorgeous works of art birds are. They fly, too!