Rebuilding the U.S.

Huge to-do list ahead for the US.

Our nation’s infrastructure is over fifty years old.  It’s breaking down.

Hold onto your hat and fasten that seat belt.  A massive $3.6 trillion is needed in the next three years to upgrade our roads, bridges, etc.  Here’s how the ASCE report card sent to Congress three years ago read:

Roads and bridges: C plus   —   Mass transit  D  — Aviation  D — Wastewater  D

Solid Waste  B minus — Energy  D plus — National Parks   C minus — Rail  C plus

Levees   D   —  Ports  C

Notice that the one which received the highest score is Solid Waste.  Perhaps that is because our population has made an active effort to help in that area.  But, those of us who live in the U.S. see, but rarely notice, until the infrastructure mentioned we are using breaks down.   For example, hazardous waste, money at the Hanford cleanup site in my state of Washington has gone mostly for STUDY not cleanup.  For road improvement, just try driving through the Seattle traffic with its grid-lock.

Aviation has just been in the news with the first terrorist attack at Ft. Lauderdale, Fl.

Who’s been following up on these dire reports of the ASCE?

There are more than 36 billion dollars up for federal energy projects just waiting for approval and better regulations.  The Wall Street Journal recently reported over a dozen energy projects have been nixed in the last five years, halted by regulators or pulled by their developers.

Our nation needs repairs.  Those of us who watch Congress are aware and are expecting a fight to surface again for such a proposal as the Trans-Canada Keystone XL Pipeline, blocked by the Obama administration, and, in Canada, by people there who are up in arms.

Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau says his country needs to get their oil to the port in Houston, TX, for export.  He backs a pipeline which would expand Canada’s export capacity.  And, so is Trump.

The U.S. needs strong cheerleaders to untangle the many problems we now face as a nation.

We’re  vital, diverse, capable people.  Our history shows that as a democracy we do argue and fight a lot as we work through our problems.  That’s why we need seatbelts, isn’t it?

( Image from PhotoPin)


Wishful Gardening

Waiting. Waiting. For the first sign of spring with seed catalogs.

Acting as if it is the first crocus to sprout, a Vermont Bean Seed Catalog snuck in before Christmas, a perfect way to search for a gift for the Lazy Bee garden, one which has never produced a bean bush with any promise.

This catalog, however, seemed to have the remedy, Nature’s Aid Rhizabia Inaculant, for all types of beans and peas.  The product puts billions of live active thizobia bacteria into the soil for beans which are to grow sturdier with better quality.

The fancy name: Jacobs Cattle, also known as the Anasizi, will be planted when the soil warms up.  We came across the Anasizi beans during our tour of the Pueblo Ruins at a little farm grocery in the middle of no-where land.  They came in a ten-pound burlap sack, these little white beans with maroon splashes which turned out in a crockpot with pinto and a few black beans to make the most delicious Cowboy beans.

These beans were unearthed in an antique Pueblo pot by a Utah farmer who was plowing a new field.  They may be also called “Trout – Couch Dog, or Dalmatian.  Centuries old, they live on today.

Since the arrival of the Vermont Seed Catalog, other garden companies are sending their catalogs, one a day it seems: Farmers – Jung – Burpee – Dutch Farms – R.H. Shumway – Select Seeds.

The colorful seed catalog covers are distinctive as the presentations of seeds, plants and nourishing products offered inside.  They reach out to readers – see me – read me – relish me – try me – buy me.

The Lacy Bee garden is smaller this planting season because the upper portion was planted with wild flowers last spring.  Vegetables to be planted, only the ones Bud will eat, will be: broccoli, carrot, kale, lettuce, beans – bush or runner, eggplant, tomato, zucchini, potato.  A few herbs continue on, year to year such as oregano.  No peppers, horseradish, although there is a plant resembling horseradish, onion, peas or sweet potatoes. Cilantro can’t be grown even in a container in the green house.  The green house must be cursed.  BZ once planted rows of left over veggie there one year but the rodents drug it all underground to destroy his perfect rows of peas.

A recipe for home-brew fertilizer (one third each of Bone meal, sugar, Epsom salts mixed a little dirt) given by the St. John’s who learned of it and sweat by it from a Martha Stewart garden workshop they attended when they lived in California, does add pep and vigor.  It’s cheap, easy.  Plants seem to like the combination.

Now it is time to put to one side the seed catalogs and to sketch the locations for the seeds.  This task is more challenging than placing accessories and furniture; may be because seeds seem to have lives of their own and desire to be planted in a soil warm enough to suit and a gardener willing to be there by their side, step by step, to get rid of weeds and to protect, as some of the gardeners will do, to place shields over their tender bodies when the sun is too hot.

It takes premium effort to be an effective gardener.  I am a WISHFUL gardener.  Last season I wished the wild flowers would grow after I followed the procedure offered by a U-Tube gardener.  They did come, perky and gave delight through the summer.  This season.  Like swallows, I hope they’ll return this season with renewed gusto.  One can only hope.  No problem with zucchinis.   They’re like poor relations, they’ll thrive no matter where or however they’re planted.  (Okay, I have a zucchini secret: BZ every year brings me five or six plantings so I don’t plant them from scratch.)

Winter season not only brings snow, as shown above at the Lazy Bee, it offers the beauty of seed catalogs.


Aunt Lelah and Re-gifting


The Case of Aunt Lelah
New ways to look at re-gifting.

The recent poll in our local weekly, The Statesman Examiner, says that 38% of people in the study believe that re-gifting is okay.

Aunt Lelah has quite the reputation in my Mother’s large family for making a practice of it.  She was petite, barely five feet tall, but reached legendary status for her talent at doing so.  “Which one is going to get a gift we gave her years ago,” I heard my Mother whisper one Christmas gathering to her sister Stella.

Aunt Lelah was married to my Mother’s brother, Fill Westland.  She couldn’t care less what anyone thought of her.  She blazed through life like a little tornado, a practical person doing what was needed to get through the Christmas season.

The Lazy Bee, where I live, is a rustic ranch in the Pacific Northwest.  Through the years it has received its share of re-gifted items.  Usually they’re hand-crafted, always large in size~, mainly made of wood or fabric,  a plaque, painting, wall-hanging, mainly representations of the Old West.  We savor them for a time.

Returning to Aunt Lelah and the things I’ve learned through her reputation: a) A re- gift is something that’s been given to someone new; b) It’s passed along to a recipient in SECRET;   c) The person who is giving a re-gifted gift may be spotted and tagged as a being one who re-gives a gift they’ve received; d) If enough investigative reporting is done, most everyone at some time has re-gifted an item.

The subject of re-gifting is rarely talked about, even around a blazing camp fire.  Libraries may have policies in place for re-gifts.  I’ve been a board member at the Cedar Falls Public Library in Iowa and the Spokane Public Library is WA. State.  The topic has been debated.

To sum up – if one looks at the re-gifting in Aunt Lelah’s case, it’s not bad.  In her case, it created memories, that have given her a legacy.  She had to wait until the perfect recipient came along to pass along a gift that she’d received.  If the person receiving her gift recalled who had first received the gift, they could either find a use of the present or make the decision to pass it along.

One final note: I believe that the best re-gift is what happens in a DIVORCE.  We pass someone along to a person who hopefully is a better fit.






The Elf on the Shelf

Is this an NEW tradition? Or, am I just now hearing about it this holiday season?

“Is he here?”  The seven-year-old boy’s eyes filled with expectation when he found his older sister.

“Mom says he might be.  You know we found him last year for the first time a few days after Thanksgiving.”  His sister, l0, was wise and knew how to find the elf.

“Remember?  He’s a tiny little guy.  He wears a floppy red hat.  The shorts he wore were so baggy I wondered how he kept them up.  His long socks were red with white stripes.

“Mom says Santa sends him to watch us and report back to him every day.  Lets go to the dining room,” she said.  Her memory of past events was sharp and she recalled that the elf had chosen that particular spot a number of times.

“He especially liked to sit upon a shelf inside the big buffet.  Or, then again, I spotted him perched upon a shelf in the kitchen above the spice jars.  Every day he might be relaxing, his skinny legs bent over a shelf of some sort.”

The kids raced to the dining room and there he was, looking down at them from the tippy top of the buffet.  And, that, according to a mom we just met in Spokane, there are many homes with a Mom who has the skills and talents to seek out a different place every day for this little guy.

The mom  relating the story of the Elf on the Shelf at her house, says the tradition has become part of the mystic of Christmas.  The story of Jesus born in a manager is the biggest event.

Be alert.  It might be that the elf visited your house to check out your behavior this Christmas , returning every day to tell Santa what you were up to.  I must have been really, really good.  My sweetie spent hours before Christmas to hand-tool a leather belt for me.  It  has a silver buckle and my name spelled out between the many roses.



I Just Learned that . . .

Joy is infectious.
In one week, here are a few helpful things I learned.

“Why can’t they wait until Martin Luther King Day,” moaned a blogger.  She points out that authors send the most queries out the first of each new year.  Publishers slush piles are the highest for at least thirty days.  Competition is the roughest so keep those New Year’s resolutions but send in your beautiful story later in the year.                                                                                      Publisher’s Marketplace

I tried this.  One hour before serving a meal, you can mash potatoes, put them in a warm crockpot and they will hold beautifully at a low setting.

Did you know that steaming a ham in water makes the moist meat?  You put it in a big pot filled with water, turn it to boiling, then let it simmer for one and a half hours, before turning OFF the stove and letting it sit for another hour and a half.

Every book at the Colville Public Library that comes into the library is cleaned with an antiseptic solution.  Said one of the volunteers, “The kids books get pretty sticky.”                                                                   Colville Public Library Volunteer

If someone asks you if you’d like to have a cup of coffee, or water, accept because your time with them will go more smoothly.  It is really “no bother” for them.  You’ve really been offered a gift.           Dave Kerpen from his book, The Art of People

In a U.S. Civil Court, you only have to prove, what is at issue is more likely than not, or have an over 51% certainly, to win.  In Criminal Court, you can’t risk sentencing someone innocent, so 99% certainty is required.  So, that explains the O.J. Simpson case.  He was found innocent in Criminal Court but guilty in Civil Court.                                                                      F.C. Budinger, Expert Witness

A witness of fact may only testify to facts.  An expert witness may present his/her opinions.  The legal side of one side or the other hires people in particular subjects: doctors, engineers,  like my husband mentioned above, or, say, scientists.  Our son, Vince Budinger, for example, a test pilot, may someday fill such a role for a plane crash.

When having a professional manicure, ask the clinician if you can have one of their Emory boards.  You’ll find that these last forever and do a better job.

If you want a logger to harvest timber on your land, you must first get a Washington State Dept. of Natural Resources Forest Practice Application.  When that paperwork is filled out and you give them a check for $100, a forester will come out to see what you’re going to do and so will the Internal Revenue Service.









New Industrial Revolution

What again!
We at the early stages of a new industrial revolution. Or, how your life is changing.

It is being called “The Internet of Things.”  Things that used to be done by humans are now being done by computers.

It’s only natural to wonder how a self-driving vehicle, car or truck, can navigate through hectic residential areas, wind along back roads and interstates before coming to parallel park.  How in the world does this happen?  If we know how, perhaps we can accept the massive industrial changes coming our way.

The company, Nvidia, for example makes artificially intelligent software that lets computers see, think and learn like humans, something being called “deep learning.”

The devices they make, Drive PX hardware, also work for robots, defense contractors, cloud applications under trademarks like Jetson, GeForce or Tesla.  Over 3,500 companies for example are working with Nvidia products.

Their technology is computerizing more and more and they do it through an intertwined network of objects imbedded with sensors, analytics software and electronics.  There are billions of devices in use, and, they talk to each other, analyze, collect and exchange data.

I know from personal experience that computers, tablets, smartphones are changing my life.  The second wave of Internet development is here.  The first allowed people like me to  connect with other people like you and businesses.  The second, the  Internet of Things lets machines talk to other machines.

Apparently the Silicon Valley in California, the area around San Jose and Palo Alto, is where many cars are self-driving.  The talk to other cars, weather stations, the Dept. of Transportation, stop lights.

There are Internet-enabled thermostats (not us – only use wood burning stoves), light bulbs,  refrigerators, baby monitors, windows and toasters that observe our behavior.  There’s a toilet that opens, closes, deodorizes, plays music via a mobile app.  A humorist like my neighbor, Gretchen, would love this one because she features such wacky things in her bathroom.

This revolution already knows where I am and sends information to apps like Google Map and Waze.  It checks me in at an airport or grocery story.  I’ll be seeing even more dramatic changes in energy, manufacturing, health care, food, banking, places that will have “things” doing work – sophisticated machines connected to one another.

Robots are now in use at Siemens, Harley Davidson, GE and Cisco.  They use interconnected devices to run their plants, increasing productivity 34% with cost savings to each plant.  Health Care, for example at the University of California, San Francisco, has a robotics-controlled pharmacy which has dispensed over 350,000 prescriptions without error.

A vegetarian fast-food restaurant, Eatsa, has a touch-screen to order.  The meal slides into a cubby that lights up with your name in minutes.  In retail, products are tagged so they can be tracked for almost perfect inventory accuracy.

Some day I hope that I will have a freezer that can inventory and tell me exactly where that package of frozen peas is hiding.

Being Affectionate


At the top of a man’s list of his basic needs, flashing away like a bright bulb on top a Christmas tree, is his need for sexual fulfilment.  For a  woman, however, her needs for affection must be met before she can give herself permission.  The priorities of a man are different from those of a woman.

The atmosphere between them, no matter how long they’ve been a couple, says “I like you.  I really do love you and I know you love me.  Sex, according to William F. Harley, Jr. is a “special occasion,”  which follows the prelude of affection.

In his l986 book, His Needs, Her Needs, Harley says sex is most passionate when built on a relationship of mutual caring and the skills the couple has met for their very different needs.  Almost all men he reports need tips for being affectionate.

Women like physical closeness: hugging, hand-holding, sitting near each other, notes, cards, gifts, being taken out to dinner, car door being opened for them, efforts on his part to join her on expeditions like shopping.

Habits of the affection man may include: a hug and kiss every night, a kiss before leaving for the day, flowers as a surprise, occasionally a sentimental (not humorous_ card) for special days like Mother’s Day or Valentine’s, spending a little time upon coming home and sharing what’s happened to each of them.

Why is a fiction writer, like me, sharing what essentially could be looked at as a book review about just one chunk of a man and woman’s basic needs?

A woman needs: l) Affection – regularly and often 2) Conversation  3) Honesty and openness  4) financial support  5) Family commitment.

A man needs: l) Sexual fulfilment – his natural feelings of arousal  2)Recreational companion ship  3) an attractive spouse/partner  4) Domestic support  5) Admiration.

No matter what is happening in their lives, affection is not impractical or unnecessary because it achieves a one-spirit unity between a couple.  Most men become aroused easily.  They think women do, too.  However, women have to make a conscious decision to have sex.  For a woman, it is more mental than physical, especially easiest and the most passionate when a path of affection is part of the equation.

Or, as my Mother said at age 90 when we quizzed her about why she hadn’t accepted his proposal of marriage, “I don’t know if he can perform.”

Harley believes even relationships torpedoed by an affair can be towed into dry dock, repaired and refitted to sail further than a previous times if only the man and the woman are willing to meet each others needs.