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Summoned

Independence Hall, Philadelphia

Most of us, if we are truthful, fuss and kick, complain and whine at the bother of being summoned for jury duty. It is always an inconvenience at best and never a good time. Who will pick up the kids, attend to granny, complete the paperwork at the office, drive the school bus, or tend to the patients?

I’m no different from you and chewed on my lip as I waited to see if my juror number would be called. I’d already been excused from federal jury duty once when I had cataract surgery. I could not be excused this time, a problem since Tom is scheduled to have surgery during the two week span of my required service.

Life is difficult at times, isn’t it? We have choices we make and choices that are made for us.

So, last Monday, I dressed up like a big girl and Tom drove me to the Metra station, where I bought a week’s worth of tickets. I rode on the eastward rail, into Chicago, clutching my summons and map and a tote filled with a book and a crossword puzzle, a doctor’s note excusing me on the surgical date, and a little bit of hope that I wouldn’t be selected, and, if truth be told, and ladies and gents, this was a court of law, so I must tell the truth, if truth be told, a little bit of hope that I would be selected.

I am fascinated by our judicial system and have respect for our founders and the system of justice they conceived. In this 21st century, it is complicated and confusing to laymen and women such as myself, and there is criminal and civil and circuit and federal court, grand juries, and on and on, but there I was,  summons in hand, waiting and waiting and waiting to see what my immediate future would hold.

I was selected after a process of questioning and review, along with eight other men and women. The week was not to be mine. It belonged to the large district in which I reside.

We were sworn in, a jury of nine, and heard opening arguments. It really works this way, but, make no mistake, this is real life in real time and is about the rights of our citizens and law and order, not to be confused with a television series. I sat and took notes and watched and listened along with my peers for four days as the civil trial played out and the fourth amendment rights of a citizen, a child, were played against those who are sworn to defend and protect, our law enforcement, and the question of undue force was examined. It was fascinating and intimidating, exhausting and enlightening and frustrating as well. We were instructed to speak not a word about the trial to anyone, nor watch news that related to the subject at hand or read news items or tweet, chirp, chatter or blog.

At the end of the trial,  closing arguments were heard; all eyes upon us, we jurors, citizens from all walks of life. Our instructions were laid out, a deputy escorted us to our appointed room, where our cell phones were taken, the door was locked, we selected a spokesperson for the jury, and deliberations commenced.

Let me tell you, dear reader, that this was a task that was serious. Voices were raised and feelings exposed and tallies taken of pros and cons. It was lively and deliberate (hence, deliberations) and the fact that the course of several lives was at stake weighed heavy on this juror. I am not inexperienced, nor faint of heart. I have dealt in my life with employee relations and student discipline matters involving expulsions. Each and every time I have been called upon to render tough decisions, I have tossed and turned on the evidence and weighed all the facts in my decision making. This was no different in that respect.  It is a gut-wrenching process in which I would hope that should it ever be me that each and every juror would exercise due diligence in my fate.

A verdict was reached, a unanimous decision, and the balance of justice was served. I encourage you to serve if and when you are called to uphold the law of your land, wherever your home is, should you be called.

Of course, I am sitting here hoping I am not called up for yet another week (and certainly don’t need another set of days of enduring our infamous former governor, whose trial is going on in the same building).

The Foundation of American Government by Henry Hintermeister

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Elevenish

I could only spend about an hour helping with the annual greening of the Elmhurst library this morning, so, I can’t take any credit for all the beauty that emerged like a butterfly from a cocoon, but, I can show you these lovely beauties that flitted in and landed in the children’s section. It was so gratifying to hear the excitement of the children coming in and seeing the trees the Elmhurst Garden Club were decorating. The cranes of last December returned again near the circulation desk. Members of the club have been decorating the library for more than fifty years.

I helped for a short while and then needed to leave for an earlier planned event – tea with three friends from high school!  Eloise, Janet and I met at Phyllis’ charming house where we had an elevenish, which lasted until well after three! It is so much fun to meet up with old friends who share a long ago part of your life and to be able to pick up the next thread of conversation without so much as a lost stitch. I am so grateful for all these women in my life (and a lot of good men as well).

This all just seems to be part of the wondrous way the Advent season of anticipation opens up for me. I hope you are experiencing some of these simple pleasures as well.

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Discards

I’m busy cleaning today; moving some furniture and decorative boxes holding importance, making room for the carpets (we still have carpets) to be cleaned tomorrow. A good time to purge. A pile of books, most fun reads but not so good as to warrant keeping forever, odds and ends,  papers. You know the drill. Give-away bag(s) open and ready to pass along to others. A “maybe” pile. Things to chew over for a day or so; I really don’t use that, but, maybe I will . . .

Like many of you (you don’t think I’m going into the abyss alone, do you?), I tend to save a lot, to collect too much, and to dream of what I will do with “it”. Also, like many of you, I am active in several outside organizations that require their own ample pile, so files and boxes of things to pass on to the next one in line are also a part of the mix.

And then there is Hazel. I call her Hazel, though I don’t know who she is. I found her in a box of someone else’s discards. She looked lonely and worn and I felt sorry for her, so, I plucked her gingerly out of the box and, for $1.50, brought her home. Then, having grown rather fond of her, I named her Hazel and proceeded to move her here to the Cutoff. As you can surely see,  poor Hazel is bent where she shouldn’t be. She likely looks so dour because of a shoulder injury right in the bend. She looks pained, doesn’t she? I sense her life was hard work and sadness and tragedy and that she was tired most of the time. She took care to be neat, though, and treasured the brooch pinned close to her neck. Was it her mother’s? A gift from a beau? Someone, somewhere, cared enough for dear Hazel to pay for her likeness to be rendered and I imagine it was placed in a frame on a wall and she watched over family for years and then, the end of the line. The old homestead was sold and a sale was had. With no family left, or those left did not care, and the picture was plucked for its frame, while Hazel, herself, made it into the box and then into the store and then into my hands and here dear Hazel has sat, gathering dust like memories in an attic.

I’m busy today, cleaning and sorting and dusting and such, but, you know, I think I will keep Hazel with me for a little while longer. I just can’t bear to discard her just yet.

A load of dirt is being delivered, right now, as I type. Dumped on the drive, Tom supervising, a new plot to be formed for spring.

Gotta go.

Oh, oh! Tom’s toast is smoking, the toaster is belching, and the fire detector just went off.

You know, I’m feeling a little like Hazel. I think I’ll keep her awhile longer.

So goes life on the Cutoff. How are you doing?

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Honeycrisp

Several years ago, while leaf-peeping in Vermont, we stopped at a roadside produce market. We had been driving the byways and country lanes of the state, which in October felt like we were dropped into a giant bowl of candy corn. With the rolling hills, picturesque valleys, and abundance of sugar maples in full color, it was a most remarkable journey. We had eaten at the New England Culinary Institute, fine inns with roaring fires and rustic ambiance, and even tried an old diner called Dot’s on a blustery evening with snow in the air. Our taste buds had been working overtime and after a full day on the road from Grafton to Brattleboro with wooden bridges everywhere and in between, we needed some lighter fare for our dinner.

A  roadside produce stand caught our attention. The outside was adorned in corn stalks and pumpkins that are typical of fall, but these pumpkins were dressed up and steering old cars, pulling old farm equipment, and leaning against the long porch, beckoning us in the most creative of ways. It was an outstanding display that we spent some time appreciating before going inside.  Tom wanted some coffee and I needed some tea. We decided to load up on some Vermont cheddar cheese and crackers and it was suggested we try a new apple called Honeycrisp. I bought a beautiful locally crafted basket, which I still have, we piled our rustic dinner in it and we headed to a picnic table and dined, al fresco, on a humble meal we talk of still.

Sometimes it is the simple pleasures that nourish us.

The cheese was exceptional. At the time, the midwest wasn’t as familiar with Vermont cheeses as it is now.  The apples, developed at the University of Minnesota and released in the early nineties, had not yet become as widely grown and distributed.

It was love at first bite.

Cross pollination of a Macoun and Honeygold brought about the Honeycrisp. It is sweet with just the right tartness and holds firm and flavorful for a long while. We now can find them here in the midwest in September.  The Honeycrisp apple for us is as much of a symbol of Autumn’s beginning as the leaves that color our neck of the woods.

There are a few Honeycrisp apples sitting now in the refrigerator. I think I will pack one in a sack with some cheese, crackers, and grapes for my lunch as my gardening friends head out for an adventure to the Shakespearean Garden at Northwestern University. Yep. That’s what I’m going to do. I wish you were here so I could share a Honeycrisp with you. See if they are in your area and pick up a few. I know there will be more when we head to the Twin Cities to see our family up there soon. After all, they were developed up in Minnesota and I read that there is an effort to grow them in New Zealand. Now wouldn’t that be grand?

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http://www.cksinfo.com/.../ piggybanks/piggy-bank.png

I had four errands to run; take my change to the bank, stop at Borders, pick up dishwasher detergent, and get some digital photos developed. It should have only taken an hour. It took three.

Kezzie’s pictures were last . While they were printing, I bought the detergent. No big deal. I needed a no big deal by then (Besides, I got to look at Kezzie in a new pose. Do you have any idea how wrinkled a photo gets when you hug it too much?)

Border’s was easy. I was returning a book purchased for a present that I decided not to use. I had a 33% off coupon and ended up getting almost $2 back. Not bad.

The bank, well, that was another story. I have a basket that I toss loose change in. Pennies, quarters, whatever falls on the bottom of my purse, gets quickly slipped into my coat pockets, or fills my wallet.

The bank has a coin counting machine, free to bank patrons. The gals at the bank know me and always greet me. As I got out of my car, a man in a suit got out of his. He got to the door before me. It was locked. He wasn’t happy. I told him to ring the doorbell. This branch, in an affluent suburb, was recently robbed. They keep it locked. The bell was rung and the door was opened by an official looking employee in a vested suit. One suit looked at the other suit, then looked at me – Jemima Puddle-Duck. I don’t suppose either suit has encountered many women in yellow rain slickers and flapping sandals waddling in with a Longaberger basket filled with loose change. I glanced at the machine.

Jemima Puddle-Duck and a "suit" off to do some banking. Beatrix Potter

Out of Order!

The bank suit directed me to the next closest branch, which wasn’t far but took me out of my way. Out I waddled, my container getting heavier by the minute, change sloshing around, intent on getting to the next installment.

This facility is on the corner of a road less traveled. It in a residential area of large lots, big houses and lots of trees. Landscapers were mowing the lawn and trimming the bushes. I parked my car and passed a large garage door, strange for a bank, and rounded the corner past a woman employing an ATM. I waddled into the lobby, saw three women in line, one teller, and the coin counting machine.

In went my coins, on went the counter, tick, tick, ticking as it kept a computerized tally of all the money it was digesting. Bam! It stopped. Overfed? A bell started chiming, a screen started flashing, and heads started turning. The teller looked over, but couldn’t find whatever she needed for patron number 1. Number 2 and 3 were alternately checking their watches and looking over at me, my empty basket, yellow rain slicker and the annoying bell. After about 10 minutes, the bank cleared out.

My first moment of discomfort was when the bell went off and I realized there were five women alone in a bank in a somewhat remote area. My second moment of discomfort was when the women left and there was just the frazzled teller and me alone in a bank.

I now know how to open a change counter. I know that there are lots of bags underneath filled with coins. The bags are heavy. I know this because the teller, on bended knees, finally figured out which one was filled (the last bag, of course). She pulled it out just as another teller finally appeared. They both had trouble carrying it. It was bigger than a sack of potatoes. I would guess there was at least $500 in the one bag. There was no security guard visible.

The coin sorting machine once again started tick, tick, ticking, my receipt emerged, I gathered my crisp bills and left, holding my empty basket with trembling hands, realizing that if someone was wicked or desperate or daring, there was a perfect storm of larceny to be had at this little branch of a very big chain of banks.

I was relieved as I drove down our little road, errands finally done. I drove past the pond, now overflowing from the rains. There, waddling around, much like my earlier self, was the mother mallard, her mate – and eight little ducklings, out for an afternoon swim.

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Signage

Hum? Enjoy your visit along the river, or in the toilet?

Just goes to show that anything in life can be made to be more pleasant.

Just a few observances when wandering off the cutoff.

I wonder if I’ll see anything interesting as I wend my way back home today.

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The writing on the wall

From Google.

Pen and ink, gliding along a pure page of white, cool to the touch. I wonder at the pains it took to compose a letter, a diary entry, a book in the not-so-distant past. I think of our founders in Philadelphia, their pens scratching parchment to give us our freedom and then I wonder at the new kind of freedom these some hundreds years later where we barely eke out our thoughts and touch a keyboard and there they are for all the world to eternally see.

I wonder, as so many of you do, what the keyboard and IPhone and its ilk will mean to the personal signature. I like my signature. My name on a line in my very own style and script, set to rise to the beat of the pen in my hand. Sometimes bold, sometimes shaky, always my own imprint. Have you ever signed a consent for your own emergency surgery just minutes before being wheeled to the operating room?  Pain, fear, uncertainty – and your very own John Hancock? I looked at mine once, in those timely moments before being anesthetized, and it was there, apprehensive and frail and tentative, but, it was mine, definitely mine and it carried the coding of years and years of Palmer perfect penmanship.

What will signatures look like as time goes by? How will our children’s children be defined?  Children have a way of marking their character long before adults recognize it, but I do wonder how will they make their mark?

Image from Google.

. . .  and what brought this about?  My Mrs. Thurston post and conversations about learning to connect the letters together, aka handwriting, penmanship, cursive, that childhood rite-of-passage that so many of us of a certain age can  remember.

From Google.

I loved forming o’s and the drill that followed connecting them rhythmically across the page and especially loved the mmmmmmm’s and nnnnnnnnnn’s and those special Palmer r’s, with the little crook atop and long sweep down to hang perhaps an s upon.

The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.

No idea of what I’m talking about? Try writing the letters above and string them together and see what happens. A word? A sentence? A signature?

Really want to have some fun? Try using pen and ink, but don’t blame me for ruining your manicure.

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