My Victory Garden

Forced to stay at home, I have reverted to my preferred life style. I had all but given up on vegetable gardening because, between defending my turf from gophers and trying to keep everything watered in 100 degree weather, well, it seemed to be a losing proposition what with being away from home five days a week.

Then along came Covid-19 putting into question the safety and reliability of our food supply. I needed no more motivation.

But…since we were discouraged from going to Home Depot or the nursery for seeds, I ordered from Seed Geeks online. Anticipated delivery: 4 – 6 weeks! Most of the things I plant should be planted early in the season (March/April) so they have a good root system by the time spring temperatures soar. So, I scrounged up some old seed packets that had been stored in the shed for a year, not exactly a cool, dry place as recommended, and planted them…all of them, a dozen squash seeds to a hill. A couple of weeks later, I was thinning, transplanting, and grieving over the intrepid little runts I had to throw on the compost pile. Cucumbers weren’t as hardy but I have one robust looking vine and none of the beans made it, or even broke the surface.

By the time the new seeds arrived I was almost ready to harvest what I’d sown six weeks ago.

One of the nectarine trees is quietly feeding the ants, earwigs, and bees but I get a bite or two from each of the fruits they profligately spoil. My neighbor and I swap nectarines and apricots…not a great combination during a toilet paper shortage. The neighbor to the south brings me eggs, grapefruits and limes. Now if I could just grow cheese and milk, I could make a proper meal.

Organic gardening has its challenges.

MiL persuaded me to take her to a nursery after hearing that it was relatively safe to mingle with the great unwashed outside. She wanted flowers and I figured I could always find room in the garden for something edible. To my delight, I found they had just received a shipment of kumquat trees/bushes.

This little tree is predicted to grow to 4 -6′ tall and equally wide.

In case you haven’t been initiated into the fan club of kumquat lovers, I must extol their virtues. First, their sweet/sour contrasting flavors make for a surprising burst of saliva when added (chopped into small pieces) to salads or breakfast cereal. Sliced into little rings, they make a glass of ice-water absolutely irresistible. And, as if flavor isn’t enough, they contain enough vitamin C to stave off scurvy year round.

The charms of vegetable gardening may not be for everyone, what with the dirt, the back-breaking labor, the constant battle against competing bugs and rodents; but when you see the transformation of a patch of bare earth into a veritable garden of Eden…~sigh~ What a victory over the ennui of isolation!

Just Shoot Me!

The last two months of my life have been consumed by moving my mother-in-law (MiL) from her 3,200 square foot home into the 1,200 square foot house we had purchased next door. We had finally finished renovating it and it proved to be the perfect way for MiL to downsize. Her decision to move happened just when the restrictions of Covid-19 were put in place, which meant that moving companies were not available. As luck would have it, the church where I work shut down too, so I had time to move her 6,254 containers filled with a lifetime accumulation of memorabilia, plant food, bank statements, and the ordinary contents of the American home.

The moving took weeks as she sorted and re-sorted the stuff she wanted to take with her and the stuff she was going to leave behind. Her aging brain grew increasingly confused as she lost track of the thread of organization and I grew more and more frustrated as she repeated stories about the origin of each item.

At one point MiL asked me what she should do with her gun. I was nonplussed to think that an 86 year-old, deaf woman would HAVE a gun!

She explained that she kept it in case a burglar broke in. So, when Mike came to pick up a load of furniture, he asked her to show it to him. She went to the freezer in the hall at the garage end of the house, where she pulled out a yogurt container which contained the combination to the safe. She then tottered down the hall to the pantry, where she got down on her knees and laboriously dialed the combination. Without too much difficulty, she found the KEY to the drawer in the display case, at the end of the hall, at the opposite end of the 3200 square foot house, which held the gun.

About this time, the visual image of the poor burglar, who had somehow managed to get her attention over the sound of the TV blaring at top volume, and was now making himself a peanut butter sandwich (no jelly, because she doesn’t like jelly, which she no doubt told him because she has never liked jelly, even as a child, and her kids never ate jelly either) while he waited for her to retrieve the gun, which, terrifyingly was LOADED, so that he could take it away from her because, it was perhaps the ONLY thing in the house that had any resale value…unless he was into selling happy crap Christmas ornaments on EBay.

Of course a story ensued about the origin of the little pistol, which was still in its original box indicating it had been purchased at Western Auto for the price of $56, a tidy sum in 1965. Every indication was that it had never been fired THANK GOD! Back in the days when Mike’s dad (FiL) had been active in the union at Kaiser, things had gotten ugly, as union affairs sometimes do; and he felt threatened enough to feel he needed a gun for protection. MiL explained that FiL was not able to purchase a gun in his own name as he had a CRIMINAL RECORD, so he bought it in her name. I tried to sound casual when I asked what his crime had been and she answered mildly, “Domestic violence.”

“Do you know how to use it?” I squeaked.

“No, but how hard can it be?”, she replied. “You just point and pull the trigger.”

~sigh~ of relief. If she didn’t know how to manually cock it, she probably couldn’t pull the trigger hard enough to cock it, and if she did, would just blow a hole in the ceiling…before the burglar put down his peanut butter sandwich and took it away from her.

An Ironic Cycling Event

I’ve written several times about a trail near my house called Mountain Home Creek Trail. Decades ago it had been the road from the valley floor to Camp Angelus, and Big Bear Lake in the San Bernardino National Forest. But it was abandoned when a new road was carved into the side of the precipitous canyon to accommodate modern vehicles. Over time, the old road succumbed to rock slides, winter rains washed out bridges, and now, most of it is little more than a singletrack trail, kept marginally passable by dedicated mountain bikers. (The trail has been unofficially named the John Elliot Trail, a nod to its most dedicated trail maintainer, a retired physics professor.)

Recently, Frontier Communications decided that the 72 1/2 residents of Camp Angelus (now called Angelus Oaks) were in need of fiber optic cable and proceeded to run a bulldozer down the trail to allow the trucks needed for cable installation to access the poles that run the length of the rugged canyon. In doing so, they smashed the manzanita, Scotch Broom, flowering yuccas, and whatever else happened to line the trail. They pushed huge rocks that had provided interest to the mountain bike trail aside, creating a monotonous road where once a trail had been. The blade filled in ruts with loose sand, removed the water bars built to divert water from the trail, and turned one of the stream crossings into a muddy quagmire. We who have been riding, hiking, and maintaining the trail were heartsick at the desecration of one of the most scenic trails in California.

Having heard of the despoliation of our trail, Sally and I decided to see for ourselves, hoping against hope that reports had been exaggerated. The ruin had been halted about two miles from the bottom of the trail by a washed-out bridge, so the first two miles were still pristine. Rounding a turn we found two of our friends standing an appropriate social distance from a third, Greg, who was lying comfortably at the side of the trail. We soon learned that he was not resting comfortably. Descending the trail, Greg, a young sixtyish man, had caught his front wheel in one of the ruts, now invisible because of being filled with loose sand, and was thrown over the bars. He was hurled onto his hip by way of knee and followed by elbow and shoulder, onto a section of remaining asphalt. It soon became evident that the damage was not minor and he would not be able to ride, or even hobble down the trail. Being about three miles from the nearest motorized vehicle access point, we realized that he would have been in a real pickle but for the fact that the trail was now navigable for a rescue vehicle.

So, while we cursed the powers that had sabotaged our trail, we couldn’t help but feel a tiny bit grateful that their wanton destruction had facilitated a rescue.

Greg suffered a fractured hip and other bruises and scrapes. He is expected to be able to walk without the aid of crutches in about a month.

Sally and I rode downhill with all due caution.

Going Feral

If pressed, or even wrinkled, I would have to admit that I had begun going feral before all this self-isolation thing made it acceptable. I think maybe when I became officially old, when I became eligible for Medicare, I felt entitled to some of the benefits of senior citizenry.

At some point I noticed that no matter how much effort I put into looking my best, the difference between the before and after just wasn’t that noticeable. I quit wearing makeup. Never having been any great beauty, and having rather enjoyed the nickname, “Butterface” because of its implication of other more favorable attributes, it didn’t take long to get comfortable with my aging face.

Hair removal, which has long been a cornerstone of societal standards of pulchritude, fell by the wayside for me. Why do we need to shave our armpits in the winter time when we don’t perspire much and nobody sees our arms above the elbow? Same goes for legs; I don’t EVER show my legs in public so why should I concern myself with incriminating dark hair below my knees? My husband, with his failing vision, thinks I’m beautiful with or without hair.

And speaking of keeping up the illusion that I am a blonde Dutch woman, I started going longer and longer between hair coloring, accepting the brown and enthusiastically embracing the gray. Gray IS the new blonde, you know!

Then came the widow’s friend, Covid-19. (Friend, only if you believe that once your husband is gone, only death awaits.) Woe to the woman who spent years at home because her husband didn’t want to travel and eagerly awaited his departure for greener pastures so she could take that world cruise!

Ah, but there is a silver lining. Silver hair is only one of the linings. A French braid is done up in a minute or two while the curling iron and blow dryer languish in the cabinet. Underwire bras, once so essential to lift and separate, and make us snappish by the end of the day, similarly disintegrate in the lingerie drawer. My record for going bra-less so far is six days. Floors that needed to be vacuumed on Saturday can now be done tomorrow…or sometime later. Besides, who knows when it’s Saturday? And best of all, the personnel committee that thought they couldn’t get by without me coming into the office FIVE days a week when I asked for four, now find that I can work quite nicely from home all but one day a week. Works for me!

Butterface Mountain biking in the age of Covid-19.

Doing My Part For the Cause

Most of my blog friends confess to having lost their mojo during this time of sequestration, as if their inspiration to write comes from the stimulation of interaction with others. Since my life has changed very little, I have no such excuse. I’ve just become a crotchety old lady, bereft of humor.

Like many, I’ve tackled long-procrastinated tasks, like divvying up Mum’s cremains. Each of her nieces have requested a piece of her, so it’s up to me to get a scoop of grandma shipped to them.

This is a selfie of Mum and me. I miss her every day but I’m grateful that she is not here to weather this crisis. She would have not been able to process the information she saw on Fox News (not that I can!) and she would have been in a constant turmoil.

This is her urn, a carved piece of juniper driftwood that I picked up in the San Juan Islands, several years ago. It’s cedar so it smells lovely.

Thankfully, mountain biking and hiking are still permitted in our neck of the woods, though the trails closest to parking lots are more populated than normal. Sadie and I don’t have any trouble escaping the madding crowd.

Sadie catches her breath before we begin the descent of Roller Coaster…
an E-ticket ride, for sure.

My sister Babs has been forced to take up cooking again which gives us something to commiserate about. Menu planning for “mates” who have polar opposite tastes to our own is challenging. I made this gorgeous lentil soup that included coriander seeds and cumin seeds which Mike immediately deemed too exotic for his taste. I ate it for a week and never tired of it.

Chunks of butternut squash, Rotelle tomatoes, and spinach add texture and color to a pot of yellow lentils.

The only excitement (if you can call it that) was a hike my favorite niece (MFN) Tara enticed me into doing one afternoon. She called around 3:00 to tell me she was going to hike up Morton Peak at 4:00, did I want to go? No-brainer! I loaded up my hydration pack, snapped ID on the dogs, and leapt at the chance to spend time with MFN. Morton Peak is a fire road (that’s a dirt road to those of you who live in more humid climates) that ascends about 2,000 feet to a now defunct fire lookout tower in about three miles.

Tara, 13 years my junior with long legs, scampered up the trail at a pace that had me unable to hold up my end of the conversation. Knowing that it was a short hike, I pushed the pace to keep up. At the top, Tara bemoaned the fact that we were too early to observe the sunset that promised to be spectacular in the stormy sky. In a moment of insanity, I suggested that we could descend via the single track that ended six miles below. We had two hours of daylight remaining, so we called my sister to arrange for a shuttle back to my car, and set off down the trail.

The trail had suffered some damage from the heavy rains. It was rutted, rocky, and badly overgrown, all of which slowed our descent. Still a couple of miles from the bottom, the shadows grew long and the light began to fade.

By the time we reached the dirt road at the end of the single track, it was all but dark and we still had a mile to go to reach the paved road where my sister waited. Coyotes began their evening chorus; we were serenaded from several directions so I leashed Sadie just to make sure she wasn’t tempted to go native. Eagerly, she preceded me down the final descent, a steep, gnarly motorcycle track, barely visible in the dark, as Tara called encouragement from below. I had to remind Sadie that her assistance on the downhill was NOT appreciated.

Then the real danger began…we, my sister, my niece and me, failed to practice good social distancing and all rode in the same car back to pick up my car, which, much to our relief had not been vandalized in the dark.

Girls Gone Mild Again

The previous trip only whetted my appetite for another Lone Pine adventure, so two weeks later I persuaded Sally and her daughter Jordan to join me in a four-day Girls Gone Mild adventure. I re-packed the trailer, replenishing my wine supply with TWO bottles this time.

The girls and I hit the road bright and early, feeling rather optimistic as the car was outfitted with new brakes and shocks and the trailer had new tires. Sally and Jordan would follow later in the day when they finished their work day. We encountered a detour, got stuck behind a slow-moving truck, and came upon an accident that required a change of course on a dirt road, but otherwise had clear sailing.

About an hour from our destination I saw a sign saying, “Fossil Falls” which piqued my interest. But being eager to find a good campsite in Lone Pine, I vowed to check it out on the return trip.

The Lone Pine Campground was technically closed for the season but there were a few first-come-first-served sites available and they were free of charge as all of the water faucets were shut off to prevent freezing. Thankfully the pit toilets were open. I selected a site and prepared to back the trailer in when the man camping in the next site walked over to greet me. He kindly offered to guide me into my spot which I gratefully accepted. I’m not exactly proficient at backing and it usually takes me a few tries to get the trailer exactly where I want it. Once I was where I wanted to be, he went back to his own site while I set up the Wanderlust.

Dusk in Lone Pine Campground

Evening falls early in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and by the time I had the trailer level, the refrigerator turned on, and my camp set up, it was growing cool. My new neighbor (Jeff), seeing that I was unaccompanied (other than the dogs) came over and invited me to join him for dinner. He was making pork loin and grilled asparagus. I paused for the briefest moment before accepting his invitation. I offered to contribute salad and wine but he assured me he had it all covered. I had time to take the girls for a short walk before dinner would be served.

Moonrise over the Alabama Hills

By the time we returned, Jeff had his picnic table set for two though I had offered to bring my own plate and flatware. Dishwashing isn’t my favorite task when camping so I didn’t expect him to provide the meal AND do the dishes but he explained that he was a sea kayaking guide by profession and was quite practiced at feeding groups from his camp stove. And sure enough, he effortlessly laid out a four course meal fit for royalty. I offered to do the dishes but he waved me off and by the time I’d gone to my trailer and slipped into something more comfortable (polar fleece pants, a down jacket, and hat), he had everything washed and stowed away in the bear box. He built a fire and offered me dessert, a pudding cup, but I declined.

By 7:30 we were in bed…he in his tent, me and my dogs in my trailer. I couldn’t help but wonder at how different things would have gone forty years ago when we would have lingered around the fire until we had finished a bottle of wine. But now even a man eight years younger than I was no temptation.

Sally and Jordy pulled in around 10:00 by which time the girls and I were ready to make a restroom run. They decided it was too much trouble to set up a tent in the dark, besides it was really COLD; so, they folded the back seat down in the SUV and slept in the car.

Sunrise on Mt. Whitney

For the next two days we explored the area around our campground, beginning with breakfast at the Alabama Hills Cafe, a favorite with the locals and tourists alike.

Jordy examines a cactus in the Alabama Hills
Sadie the Wonder Dog

We invited Jeff to join us for a dinner of spaghetti and salad which he accepted. We ate inside the trailer because the breeze was cold and the trailer was snug and almost warm.

Tea and Story time

The Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail begins at the campground in scrub brush and ascends through several climate zones in just four miles.

Owens Valley Overlook
Looking up the Whitney Portal
Crossing Meysan Creek

By the end of the day the dogs were ready for bed.

As always, it was time to head home long before we were tired of exploring. It helped that we had one more place to stop on the way home. Fossil Falls is a former river bed that once flowed through the volcanic rock at the southern end of the Owens Valley. The river has long ago changed course but the channel carved by it remains.

I found this in my drafts file and figured I might as well post it as I just received a notice from Valley of Fire that my campsite reservation for next week has been cancelled due to the threat of Covid-19.

Toilet Paper Hoarding – A National Pandemic

Several months ago, I read David Quammen’s book Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic. So, I wasn’t exactly taken by surprise when Covid-19 began making its way around the globe. What did surprise me was that toilet paper suddenly became an American obsession. Had one of the symptoms of the virus been loose bowels, it would have made some sense, but it’s a respiratory infection and, ironically, there’s been no run on facial tissue. Americans appear to have a fixation on cleanly-wiped back sides.

My concession to the panic has been to plan my grocery shopping so that I need shop only once a week, rather than three times. We eat a ton of fresh vegetables and fruits, so this is a bigger sacrifice than one might think. I usually make a trip to Costco only when I need gas which is about every three weeks. Today was the day.

My sister agreed to join me even though she didn’t need anything, and we spent our time together discussing our response to the viral threat. She said she wasn’t going to modify her routine and I pointed out that anything she brought home she brought home to her daughters and me as well. That was sobering. At any rate, our risky immersion in the Costco cauldron of humanity was averted by the fact that we couldn’t get near the place. A half mile from the parking lot, traffic was backed up in gridlock from every direction. Evidently word had gotten out that Costco had toilet paper, though they were limiting it to two packages of 24 rolls per customer.

Assuming that toilet paper production will continue into the foreseeable future, we aborted our mission and steered a course for the local paint store. Disposable neoprene gloves do seem like a reasonable response to a pandemic, so I figured that the paint store would likely have a supply even though the local CVS big box drug store was sold out. I was correct and the lonely clerk even offered me masks. In retrospect, I probably should have purchased a box.

I feel like we were living in interesting times before this pandemic and now things are getting truly fascinating. Personally, I wouldn’t look to the government to manage this for us as politicians have a conflict of interest when it comes to our well being. The best we can do is tailor our behavior to the best benefit of our family, our community and society. If contagion is inevitable, do everything in your power to forestall its spread to give our health care system time to prepare. Stay home when advised to do so. Weigh the risks of every outing; remember the slogan adopted during World War II, “Is this trip necessary?” When someone you know is stricken, take care of them at home using sensible hygiene and isolation practices. Don’t panic. And don’t hoard toilet paper. We’re all in this together and we ALL need clean bottoms.

Boating in Mentone Beach

Ever since I learned that David Sedaris spends up to 8 hours in day picking up trash along the roadside, I’ve dared to go public with my habit. I’m not as obsessive as David is but I figure that since I’m out walking my dogs anyway, I might as well carry a trash bag with me. The dogs are more than happy to stop to smell the news along the way while I clean up after people who are, let’s say, less fastidious than I am.

During the week I fill my bags and set them along the trail, and then on the weekend I ride my bike with the kiddie trailer in tow and pick them up. David either makes up stuff that makes for good stories about what he finds, or he has much more interesting neighbors than I do. My pickings are primarily beverage containers and fast-food packaging, but then there are things like an ice machine, a kid’s plastic tricycle, a spoiler from a car, a jet ski, and recently there was a boat, complete with trailer. Seriously! I’m not making this up.

This was too big for my bike trailer.

As I pick up trash, I wonder about what kind of person tosses his/her trash along the road. Jaime, the security guard at the complex at the end of the road tells me they’re just normal people. He sees them drive to the end of the road and shove their household furnishings off the back of the truck, or pull down their pants and squat to pee (or worse), or climb into the back seat for a quick tryst, or simply park and consume a six-pack and listen to the radio. This leads me to speculate on what their home life must be like if it’s preferable to do these things at the end of my street. I can conjure up whole back stories of these common folks and how they came to litter my hiking trail.

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Another activity that goes on in the dark of night, or at least when I’m not there, is spinning a vehicle in circles. Evidence indicates that the gist of the game is that one circle an object, here it’s a derelict tire, churning up gravel and dirt, at a high rate of speed. I can’t really appreciate the allure of putting unnecessary wear and tear on a vehicle, but my great-nephew explained that “burning” is great fun. He explained that he had purchased five extra wheels just to put spare tires on them so that when one set was burned out, they could be instantly replaced with another set. The look on my face when he explained this to me must have conveyed my utter lack of comprehension because he quickly returned to working on his car.

I’ve made it my job to keep Opal Avenue trash free from the highway to the Santa Ana River, which is about 1 1/2 miles. It doesn’t sound like much but it’s proving to be a Sisyphean task, much like painting the San Francisco Bay bridge. Before I get to the end of the road, the part I’ve cleaned is a mess again. Whatever happened to the ditty, “Please, please don’t be a litter bug…cuz every litter bit hurts”?

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Survey Says…

The questions below are copied from muriopsis’ latest post which was from smlret’s “My Blog – Just another site” who took it from lifelessons, who copied them from another blogger. She suggested a simple cut and paste to a new post, adjusting answers to each question, and adding a link to the comments in her post A Different Perspective . I’m not normally fond of these “questionnaires,” but I’m playing along and would love to read your answers!

1. Do you like mustard? “Do you have any Grey Poop on?”
2. Choice of carbonated drink? Like Muri, I don’t drink carbonated beverages but back in the day it would have been Coke or Pepsi,especially with Mexican food!
3. Do you own a gun? Nope. I rely on my ever-ready, vegetarian-induced, eye-watering supply of flatulence…and my winning personality. I also have a Kunming Wolfdog who looks rather formidable and a Border Collie who is.

4. Whiskey, Tequilla, Rum or Vodka? Yo prefieroTequila! The more I drink, the more I become convinced that I speak Spanish.
5. Hot dogs or Cheeseburgers? No thank you.
6. Favorite Type Of Food? Whatever you’re cooking.
7. Do you believe in ghosts? Only long enough to enjoy a good movie. Truly, Madly, Deeply is my favorite ghost story.

8. What do you drink in the mornings? Cafe con leche, cafe au lait, coffee rich and aromatic with whole milk…or oat milk if I’m being good.
9. Can you do a 100 Pushups? Is there a time limit? Say a week?
10. Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall?? Yes! Spring, fall, winter!!! Summer not so much.
11. Favorite hobby? Well, that’s a no brainer. Mountain biking followed by lunch.
12. Tattoos? Do scars count?
13. Do you wear glasses? Yes, protective glasses, gloves, helmet, and knee and elbow guards.
14. Phobias? Nope.
15. Nickname? MFN calls me Jud to my face; heaven knows what they call me when I’m not around.
16. Three drinks you drink? Water, coffee, Milk, wine.
17. Biggest Downfall? I never learned to curse effectively. (I stole this from Muri)
18. Rain or Snow? Oh, it’s so hard to choose…
19. Piercings? I got my ears pierced at 16. I developed a metal allergy at 40. Currently my ears have closed so the current answer is no. (again, Muri’s answer)
21. Kids? Only the four-legged varieties and my husband.
22. Favorite color? Depends on the season but spring should always be green.
23. Favorite age? 40 – 50.
24. Can you whistle? Far better than I can sing, but that’s not saying much.
25. Where were you born? Holland, MI
26. Brothers or Sisters? 1 older sister. I’ve never outgrown idolizing her.
28. Surgeries? One, unless you count Lasic, then it’s three and oral would make it four.
29. Shower or Bath? Showering outside is an unparalleled pleasure but a languorous soak has its pleasures after a hard ride.
30. Like gambling? Depends on the risk/benefit ratio. If the risk is falling down the side of a steep hill, it’s worth the risk; if the risk is falling into a concrete channel, it’s only worth it if there’s an impressionable audience. Half the fun of mountain biking is taking acceptable risks.

32. Broken bones? None to date…despite the risks taken.
33. How many tv’s in your house? 1 but I don’t know how to operate it.
34. Worst pain in your life? I don’t dare divulge it here because it sounds too trivial.
35. Do you like to dance? Yes, I WOULD like to but others would watch and laugh…or cry.

36. Are your parents still alive? Both died in 2019. They were 95.
37. Do you like to go camping? I’m a fair weather camper. I like good weather and a comfortable bed in a secluded campsite, with a canopy of a million stars and only coyotes barking.

Please join in! These are fun to do and fun to read and remind me of when I used to blog on xanga. All you have to do is copy (CTRL+c), paste (CTRL+v), and change the answers to reflect your experiences!

Is it Okay To…

In this era of instant and seemingly perpetual communication, many people of my generation have questions about the propriety of actions that were formerly impossible. For you youngsters, “propriety” is an archaic term for socially acceptable or polite, neither of which seems very important in high society or low these days. I mean seriously, when a Supreme Court Justice has to admonish the highest elected officials in the land to behave civilly, clearly the lines of decent behavior have been blurred.

So, I’m dedicating this post to the rules of cell phone civility. Some of these could be considered rules while others are simply guidelines determined by the situation. For instance, is it ever appropriate to defecate in the bushes of the First Christian Reformed Church yard? The obvious answer would be a resounding “NO”. However, as the famous Emily Post once said, “What is necessary, is correct.” Sometimes nature’s calls are inopportune and a three-mile walk home with a drawer full can hardly be considered an option.

On to the burning questions that plague us on a more routine basis. Is it okay to use the toilet while speaking on the phone? If you’re talking with a member of your family who, without hesitation, barges in to brush his teeth, it’s a no brainer. It does get a little more complicated when the person on the other end is a stranger or your boss, especially when your boss is a Reverend as mine is! Generally speaking, I would suggest that you postpone your ablutions until there’s no risk of questionable sounds being broadcast. However, if the entity at the other end of the line has kept you on hold for such a long time that ANY normal person would be expected to have to relieve herself, the unfortunate customer service rep is probably inured to the sounds of “plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh what a relief it is”. Again you youngsters may not remember that was the ill-considered slogan of Alka-Seltzer back in the day.

Okay, enough of the scatological etiquette. I think there has been sufficient discussion of where and when texting or speaking on the phone is proper; and those who continue to jeopardize their own lives and yours, neglect their relationships, and give unconscionable amounts of their precious time to their devices, are unconcerned with good manners.

So, consider this: Is it appropriate to bore your victims, err I mean charm your friends, with images of your grandkids, dogs, trip to the buffet on the cruise you took to nowhere (yes, there are cruises that make no pretense of taking you to a destination, the buffet table IS the destination) and your weekly Fitbit report? Again, it’s situational but in general you should share no more than what used to fit inside a wallet, or about six. Now IF your audience shows genuine interest (superficial interest is common but genuine not so much) and pleads to see more, you might ask to see some of their collection before happily scrolling through your entire Google Photos account searching for that really cute shot of your cat playing bocci ball with a gopher.

On that same note, selfies present a quagmire of potential faux pas. It may come as a surprise to some of you that it is now a common practice for men to send photos of their genitalia to women with whom they disagree. I think I can safely say that it is NEVER polite to send an image of a penis in its relaxed state to ANYONE! Men, if you are intending to intimidate a woman, there is nothing less intimidating than your limp weenie. Having once been a young, adventuresome woman, I can conceive of a situation where you might think your member, in an interested state, would be welcome, but do remember the life span (far longer than your carnal interest in the recipient) of an image and its portability.

There are plenty of wonderful uses for cell phones but all of them come with the simple constraint that they not impinge on the senses of others. I forget who said, “Your freedom ends where another’s space begins,” or something to that effect.