Thursday, April 30, 2015

Trees in the Yard

flowering plum; weeping cherry; Bradford pear; crabapple; lilac
lilac; redbud; Macintosh; Northern magnolia from seventy feet away
and the cheery little footnote at my feet in the corner


Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Why is that?  Uninspired, unmotivated.  Blocked.

Advice to self:  Break out; force yourself: 

So it was that I sat down to the keyboard and attempted to develop a post.  I was three sentences in when I realized that I was producing a rant.  Not good.

Do not desert* me.  I hope to be back.  Sooner rather than later, but we can only wait and see.

May goodness and love be yours in the meantime.


*Speaking of desert, or rather dessert in this case, the rhubarb is in!  I cut up a pile of it, BBBH made sauce.  We have had it on cake, on ice cream, and straight.  How blessed we are!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Colossians 1:15-17

Christ is the visible image of the invisible God.
    He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation,
16 for through him God created everything
    in the heavenly realms and on earth.
He made the things we can see
    and the things we can’t see—
such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world.
    Everything was created through him and for him.
17 He existed before anything else,
    and he holds all creation together.  (NLT)

 Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature:
 For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:
 And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (KJV)

Friday, April 24, 2015


Good butterfly killer?  No, no.  I respect nature too much.  I only want to quell the butterflies in my stomach.

I like to tell stories.  But I tell them by way of the written word.  I am not a thespian, and while I can chair a meeting and maintain a semblance of order, the thought of being "on" to entertain terrifies me.

BBBH and I are planning to attend a dinner meeting.  The chair lady of the program committee asked BBBH to read a couple of her poems, and that is all good.  But then she asked me to read a story from my blog.  Hence terror.

Selecting a story is difficult, too, for they are all my children.  Does a parent have a favorite child?  Well, Tommy Smothers had the answer to that.  I waffled between "A Mother's Day Tale," given the season of the year, and one of Uncle Jep's tales.  I settled on one of the latter since the Mother's Day tale is a bit long, and as I said, I am no actor.  Will do "Hallelujah Time on the Arkansas."

And.  And I was asked to do a reading at a meeting of a different group on Saturday.  Not one of my works, but another author.  Even scarier; and only a day in between to get ready.

Thursday, April 23, 2015


Mathematics: “A subject in which we never know what we are talking about, nor whether what we are saying is true” (Bertrand Russell)  Not that I believe Russell ever knew what he was talking about.  But perhaps that is just me.

Brushed some sticky new cobwebs from my hair and forehead as I passed through the attic door.

It seems I had driven down Woodstock, turned up Westmoreland, wheeled into the Foster-Scholz parking lot. Now I am walking past those residence halls, passing the twin Doug firs on my right.  My copy of my thesis is clutched in my left hand and the butterflies are swarming in my stomach.  At the end of the next hour, my degree will be either confirmed or denied.

My footsteps on the stone echoed throughout the near-empty old edifice as I neared the room in which I was to defend my thesis, or, as I thought of it, to be interrogated.  At the doorway of room 106, stood my thesis advisor, Dr. Dennehy.  I had taken only one class under Tom Dennehy, but he had been a rock throughout the time of my preparation for this moment.  He shook my hand and  said, "Don't forget that I am in your corner, and I know you are ready.  They are ready for us, and I will make the introductions after which the Chair will be in charge."

Dr. D said, "This is our candidate.  Be as gentle as possible."  A bit of humor in an attempt to reduce the tension.  "Doctor Hunt, I believe you know Dr. Hunt, Dr. Chrestenson, whom you also know; and this is Dr. Roberts."

My head starts to spin and black spots swirl in front of my eyes.  Dr. Roberts?  The legendary Dr. Roberts about whom stories swirl across campus like a monsoon over Formosa?  Joe Roberts had been absent from campus during my time there.  A sabbatical, a guest lectureship at Gottingen, or whichever of the circumstances speculated upon happened to be the correct one, if any of them were.

"And this is Dr. Williams.  She will be chairing this session. He is all yours, Dr. Williams."


The next hour could have been days.  Or weeks.  For all sense of time folded into one eternal enclosure of my brain in a pressure cooker, steam up!  And I am supposed to be able to think clearly enough to make a cogent summary of where I started and where I went with this thing.  I am supposed to be able to intelligently answer the questions of these mathematicians.

And I did, or at least I guess I did, for after the most excruciating five minutes of banishment to the hallway, Dr.  Dennehy called me back into the room, Dr. Williams stood and extended her hand. "Congratulations, vanilla," smile beaming across her visage, "This committee finds your work meets the required standards, and your presentation here today is commendable."

The end.

Notes to the experience
1.  Thomas P. Dennehy taught the introductory course to the program.  This extremely pleasant man seemed truly to want everyone to succeed.  Unfortunately, the washout rate following his class was about fifty percent.  Not his fault. 
2.  Burrowes Hunt was known to all as "Buzz."  He wrote a textbook creatively entitled Calculus and Linear Algebra.
He had just received the galley proofs from the publisher.  He arranged to get enough copies for everyone in his class.  It was our textbook, and he got the free services of a dozen readers to help him make the final edit.  I still have my tattered paper-bound copy, and you may get one, too, if you wish.  Amazon has a dozen or so copies available.
3.  Hugh Chrestenson taught the non-Euclidean geometry course.  I did really well in that class.  Yes, that is a boast. And I have probably forgotten 97.6% of what I learned. And that is a fact.
4.  Joe Roberts was legendary on that campus and his career there ultimately spanned more than fifty years.  An oft-told story was that his doctoral dissertation required but half-page.  I suppose that might have been embellished to state that it was originally written on the back of an envelope, but then, A. Lincoln had proprietary rights to that one.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Small Town, Old Structures

 Little town ten miles up the road, site of our luncheon meeting.  The town may be small, but the church in which we met is a very large building, very nice.
And directly across the street from the sanctuary entrance is this quaint building, the original purpose of which I am unaware.  It's current purpose is to provide background, or ambience, or to serve as community eyesore, depending on your point of view.  Even the basketball hoop is disused.  I dare say a ball has not dropped through that rim in a generation.

Around the corner and a half block north is this fabulous old structure.  BBBH riding shotgun exclaimed, "Oh, that is my kind of house."  I knew this.  She is enamored of gingerbread and wrap-around porches.  The first, I claim, is a pain because maintenance (scraping, painting) is much too intensive.  The second is inefficient, roofing so much of the outdoors.
Given its lines my mind's eye pictures the magnificence of this place in its prime.

Like the old house, I am not what I once was.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Eight Day Wonder

The  Flowering Cherry Tree 2015
Top left: April 11
Top right: April 13
Bottom: April 19

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:" --Ecclesiastes 3, set to music by Pete Seeger.

The pear tree begins her display!

Monday, April 20, 2015

What Was I Thinking?

From October until a couple weeks ago I was thinking, "C'mon, Spring!  Where's the Green?"

Well, the lawn has been mowed now.  Twice.  In one week.


And knowing it would have to be done Saturday in spite of the fact that it was done the previous Monday, I went to the barn  mid-morning and started the chore of prepping the tractor.  Drained the oil, involving several trips to the garage, to the tool shelves, to... Looking for the right tools, you see.  Finally got the oil drained-- now what to do with the plastic sack full of used oil?  Then I had to go to town to get oil because I'd only half-quart on the shelf.  Installed new oil, pumped up a low tire, straightened a tie-rod.  Oh, boy!  Here we go.

No. We do not.

Go anywhere, I mean; because when I tried to start the engine, rr-klunk.  Battery charged.  rr-klunk snick, snick.

I wound up mowing the fenced enclosure with the walk behind mower, and I am not going to describe what that walking means to my aching bones.  You really do not want to know.

Had lunch, rested, went to look at new $$$$ lawn mowers.  I know, I know.  It has been thirteen years since we bought one, but what the?

So we came home and I mowed the front yard, and I am not going to describe.  Oh, wait.  I am perseverating.

So the mowing is done.  Well, except for the one-third of the lawn that is behind the barn.  To heck with it.

Is there an emoji that would represent vanilla boxing himself severely about the ears?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

What is Your Life's Sermon?

My friend Grace in Virginia, writer of Dragon's Alley, sent this to me..  Said it reminded her of me. It is a timely reminder for me.  She suggested that I might work it into a blog post, and indeed that is an excellent idea!

William Ellery Channing was an American pastor who lived in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. I knew very little about him though one cannot read at any length concerning transcendentalism without encountering his name.  So I did a bit of reading.

Mr. Channing was a theologian and philosopher who was affiliated with the Unitarian Church.  He was a noted preacher and was a leading Unitarian theologian.  There are numerous interesting articles about Channing available on the web.

One tidbit I read stated that Channing was criticized in his own time for failure to affiliate with an organized anti-slavery movement. But though a famous and widely respected pastor, except for his church, Channing was not a joiner.  Much as I have done, he took the position that to commit to an organization diminished one's autonomy.  Think about it.  That is true.

So to the quote.  William Ellery Channing is in good company when he preaches that the best and truest sermons are preached by actions rather than by words.  It is said that Francis of Assisi admonished, "Preach the Gospel at all times.  Use words if necessary."

The Master himself is quoted in the seventh chapter of Matthew as saying, "Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?  Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.  A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit"  (NIV)

My own parents admonished me in this way by teaching me that "Actions speak louder than words."

Thank you, Grace.

William Ellery Channing 1780 - 1842 RIP

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Picture Game

Today is the 18th day of the month.  I played this game to help me come up with a post for today.  I went to my "Pictures" album and counted down to the eighteenth folder.  I would have chosen the fourth picture for the fourth month, but the folder contains only two pictures very similar to each other.

This picture was taken on April 14, 2009. The RV was completing its first winter in Texas since we had traded vehicles the previous July.  We were on the way home and at the end of the first day of driving, we stopped in this park in northeast Texas near Jacksonville.  We and the deer were the only occupants and they did not seem in the least concerned that we chose to intrude on their territory.

Surely missed making the journey the past two winters, but Spring has arrived in Perfect, and that is Perfect!.

Friday, April 17, 2015

An Admonition Shared Again

[This is a rerun from June 2011.  I was motivated to redact and repost it whilst visiting BBBH's facebook account.  People regularly post things that we wouldn't even tell our mothers. Especially would not tell our mothers.  Yet it is on display for the world to view.  Some of these people are near and dear to me.  They are not stupid, but one has to suspect that in many cases their judgment mill is running on fumes if at all.  I read my spouse's facebook pages?  It is only fair.  She can read my blogs if she wants.

I keep a journal, such as it is, as a private blog.  I maintain this blog site simply as a place to record thoughts, be they sensible or not. I look back at it once in a while, primarily to remind myself that it is a good idea not to share everything one thinks with everyone one knows. Or doesn't know.

It seems to me as I surf through the interwebs, as I read newspapers, and as I listen to the radio or television, that there are entirely too many people with too much to say which is unfiltered and unthought. I suspect I have been guilty of same. But I do try to confine much of the drivel that seeps through my mind to the private blog, or better yet, to the dustbin. When I choose to post something on String Too Short to Tie, it is my hope, while I know I was entertained by it, that if someone else should happen upon it, they, too, will be amused or enlightened.

So, in summary, think twice before posting once.
I do wish I could learn to apply that rule to conversations with BBBH!

This one showed up after I had put this post to bed, so I woke it up to insert this addendum.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Bursting Out All Over

Daffies in front.

 There are going to be lilacs!

 The cherry tree on Saturday.

The cherry tree on Monday.

 Epicormic sprouts from adventitious buds?  Perhaps.

 A mere dozen miles south the Northern magnolias already bloom.

As do the forsythia.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Uggy Reaches Out

Nodded in my recliner and presently I found myself in the attic ambling along an oak-shaded street, a sandstone wall surrounding a magnificent mansion on my right.  I had just passed the portal that guarded the drive to the house when I noted a pair of wing-tips dangling beside me.  I looked up, and

“Hugh!  Fancy meeting you here.”

“Do fancy that,” he said.  “And you can call me Uggy, everyone does.”

“What on earth are you doing, sitting there alone on a stone wall?”

“What? Indeed.  I have a bone to pick with someone, and I think you are that someone.  Several years ago, some writer, to mention no names, created me, fleshed me out rather nicely then set me aside whilst he went merrily on his way.”

“Sorry about that.  I did intend to pick you up and carry you along in some later adventures, but the situation never arose.  Don’t feel slighted, though.  You are not the only character I’ve abandoned here or there.  For instance, there was Marcus a while back.  I left him wheeling his Ford into a motel in some godforsaken Texas outpost.”

“I know that.  We characters should form some sort of union, working conditions being what they are.  Even better!  We should have a Character Convention!  Hire an arena and advertise Care Con far and wide.  All out-of-work characters could present ourselves to the assembled authors, make ourselves available to someone who might appreciate us.”

“I suppose you could fill a hall, all right.  Think of the characters that have been stranded somewhere along the line!  Why, even the protagonist in America’s greatest novel "lit out for the territory.".  There surely would be a market for Huckleberry Finn!”

“Now wait.  You are getting carried away.  That little.  well, he had his day.  Adventures galore, known by all.  Let him coast into his old age.*  It’s guys, gals, too, I suppose, like me who need an opportunity to have at least one interesting adventure.  Say, maybe you could pick me up here and work me into a swell tale?”  With that, Uggy hopped down from the wall and swatted the seat of his britches to remove the dust.  “Let’s get going, Doc!”

“Who do you think you are anyway, Bugs Bunny?”

*In 1983, Greg Matthews published The Further Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Teaching Then and Now

Horace Mann has been providing insurance and investment services to teachers for 70 years.  I am a customer.  I received this celebratory flyer from the company and I was immediately transported back many years.  There I stand at the front of the classroom in the old Tipton High School building, these rows of desks fastened to runners such that the custodian can sweep, move the row, sweep, oil the wooden floors.  Each  morning the rows are a few feet left or right of the position they occupied the previous day.

The slate boards, the chalk rails, the blonde maple teacher's desk all as they were when they represented the furnishings in my fiefdom.

Now if you read my scrawls on the advertisement you might mistakenly conclude that I did not like my job.  But if you have been reading String Too Short to Tie for any length of time you know that I considered my job as a teacher to be the best job in the world.  Of course, that includes my tasks as a teacher from the office as principal of a school in the last eighteen years of my career.  Anyway, the reason I am happy that someone else is now occupying the teaching position is that teaching and life itself are ever-changing.  It is not that I would not appreciate the new technologies or even new techniques, but rather it is the case that we serve during a season of service in our lives, then we pass the torch on to the young, to those with the strength, enthusiasm, and endurance to carry on with the task.

Bless you, teachers, wherever you practice your art.  I would not trade places with you.  Nor, I think, would you want to trade with me.  It's all good.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

At the Movies: Cinderella

Image result for cinderella 2015 cast

As a rule, I don't do movie reviews.  In part, this is because we do not often go to a show.  And partly it may be that my opinion may matter to no one but me.  But I record this as a memory for my elder years.  Call it journaling.

We enjoyed Lily James in her interpretation of Cinderella, the supporting cast and the special fx.  In the car, I said to BBBH, "Call me a sentimental old fool, but I liked it."

She said, "You are a sentimental old fool.  And I can't get over those gowns!"

Friday, April 10, 2015

Haberdashery 1.6

There is nothing in the well-dressed gentleman's wardrobe that says "class" more profoundly than does this set of cufflinks.  A quality item when it was new, the cachet of "antiquity" enhances the attractiveness of this choice for evening wear.

Of course, adequate time and patience must be employed, else the user may break into an unseemly sweat, spoiling the evening before it starts.

If time is short or patience has been worn thin by the vicissitudes of the day, then one of these sets might be a better choice.  Though they lack the luster of antiquity, they are attractive enough in a gaudy sort of way.  They are much more easily installed.

The truth is I no longer own a shirt with French cuffs.  The last ones I had reached the end of their presentable life and have long since been relegated to the dustbin of history.  I could not bring myself to discard the jewelry, though, and now it lies useless in a drawer.  Were it not for my dragging it out to share with you, it would soon be forgotten.

I can picture my heirs a few years down the road when they stumble upon these items.  "What the heck?" they may say.  "Did you ever?"  "What on earth is it?"

Thursday, April 9, 2015


During our evening walk, I had been thinking "A week into April and the trees are not showing green.  What's the deal, anyway?"

We turned the corner to head across the field back toward the house.  I could see our row of austrees ahead, and against the grey of the evening sky, green!
Ever so subtle, but the trees are showing green.

Soon the neighbors will drill in the corn, the beans, and life's productive season will begin!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Haberdashery 1.0

The mackinaw is a jacket of densely woven wool.  It is and has been since its creation available in many colors.  But my guess is that if you ever had one it was either red or blue plaid, most likely red. The story I heard had a seamstress contracted by a military commander to produce jackets for the men at the fort, which fort was located in the Great Lakes region and whose name I have forgotten.  Suffice it to say that it was in the Mackinac region, and hence the moniker eventually attached to the jacket.  As the tale goes, the tailor used military blankets as source for material but ran out of the standard color before the order was complete.  Hence she utilized red plaid blankets, and the most recognizable of the mackinaws has existed ever since.  Timeframe of creation: early nineteenth century.

I have heard this clothing item referred to as a "lumberjack shirt" since it is popular amongst those workers in the north woods.

My mackinaw was plaid in the color shown at the top of this article.  I no longer have it, nor is it likely to be replaced.  If you have one you might want to hold on to it.  If you have purchased a new one recently you have a larger clothing budget than I have.  Or you did have.

Our neighbors in the Land to the North have adopted the mackinaw such that it has virtually become a representative icon of those hardy Northlanders.

You may thank my wee-hours ruminations for this post.  If one is not asleep he has to fill the time with something.*

*On the downside of being 80, sleeplessness in the wee hours is common.  But
on the upside, I don't have to get up and go to work in the morning.  However,
on the downside, nobody cares if I get up or not.  But
on the upside, I really don't care what people think.  Yet
on the downside, no one may find my desiccated carcass for weeks, But
on the upside, I may be in heaven for weeks before the devil knows I died. 
On the downside, some may find this macabre or morbid.
On the upside, see line four above.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

I did it

croquignoles by vanilla

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Celebration of Emptiness #T

The quality of emptiness carries with it a negative connotation.  It is characteristic of something now nothing, something not there.

An empty cereal box in the morning conveys disappointment.  An empty coffee cup suggests the need for a refill.  An empty purse is devastating. The feeling of emptiness that overwhelms one when a loved one departs or even when an exciting adventure has ended further suggests that emptiness leaves much to be desired.

Yet today we celebrate emptiness.  We rejoice in the emptiness of the sepulchre in which Jesus was entombed following his death on the cross.  It is a celebration because his absence from the tomb signals the possibility for us that we might be emptied of our guilt.  For a vessel to be cleaned it is first imperative that it be emptied.  We are emptied out, our sins, our guilt.  We are emptied of self so that we might be cleansed by the Holy Spirit, made fit to abide with our Risen Savior!

Happy Emptiness!  And may you have a Happy Easter in Jesus, our Risen Lord!  

Saturday, April 4, 2015

All in Fun

Monday I wrote about new socks.  Sharkey commented that she had a hard time picturing me wearing weird or unusual socks.

I responded that in my working days, I was "known" for my exotic footwear.  I offer this exhibit.  At my retirement party, several of my staff members "mocked" me in a light-hearted manner by wearing gaudy stockings.

Did I ever mention that I had a wonderful and fun-loving staff?

Friday, April 3, 2015

Ah, Springtime!

At dusk 
we walked 
in field behind
the house
My Love
my dog, and I.

Available light
quickly fading
borderline photography
but mood is captured. 
It is great to be
outdoors again!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Interactive Post

in which you, dear Reader, supply the ending to the tale.

Business Ethics

Brooke completed her assignment, resentment welling up within, yet smile firmly fixed in place. Carrie was solo in the leather upholstered booth, thin stemmed crystal wine glass next to her plate. As Brooke handed the envelope to Carrie, she could not help but notice the lovely pink center beneath the perfectly seared crust of the New York strip swimming in its own juices on the plate.

Thank you, Dear.  There is no reply at the moment.

Clearly, Brooke had been dismissed.  She took the elevator to the sixth floor, walked to her cubicle, thoughts roiling in her mind.  She took the brown paper bag from the bottom desk drawer.  She opened the sack, found the sandwich within.  Brooke had peanut butter and jealous for lunch.

Brooke and Carrie had both been hired on the same day three years ago.  Now Carrie is supervisor of the department.  And, Brooke thinks, I am still a peon.  Worse, I have to report to her, and I have always been smarter and more capable than she is.

I could continue my work, do it to the best of my ability, and believe that everything will work out as it should in the end.  Or, I can work subtilly beneath the radar to expose the fraud for what she really is.  She'd get hers then.  Or.  The line of thought spun to an end as duty called her back to service.

Your assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to select a path for Brooke, go to the comments section and record in fifty-one words or less the denouement of the story, given the choice you have Brooke make.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

All Fools' Day

Today is the day we celebrate the entire human race.

I Cor. 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. 

And today's the day the Teddy Bears have their picnic.