Saturday, December 17, 2016

Homeless a little longer

We joke that we've been homeless for for five months. Actually we've been guests.  While we're immensely grateful,  it is hard work. 

We conform to the toddler's early rising, the big kids' Friday night sleep overs, sharing the kitchen and not grumbling about the menu choices. 

Being part of a larger, busier family empties my reserves of flexibility. It's like living in a dorm. But now I'm way too old for the free-flow. 

My perspective is decidedly selfish. I want to brew tea in my teapot. The family's Pandora radio station sounds like Muzak. I sigh to myself when all of the muffins I made yesterday are gone this morning. I'm no longer amused when somebody "borrows" the bathroom space heater. 

For months life has felt like jumping from ice floe to ice floe. We need an anchor. We long for our old routines and leisurely quiet mornings. We miss taking care of just ourselves.
The need for the structure independent living affords is great:  my chores, my way of doing them, maintaining our sanctuary.

Looming cancer treatment and whatever toll it will take on my husband make us feel it's imperative to find "home." It's urgent we create a new normal. 

Most of the future is unsure, beyond our control, rendering us helpless to make long term plans. When we move into our condo next week we hope it will be a fortress where we regain energy for the tough times ahead.

Craving routine is normal. Blogger Brianna Wiest said "The point is not what the routine consists of, but how steady and safe your subconscious mind is made through repetitive motion and expected outcomes." 

Having a few expected outcomes--finding the muffin is still there, that there's hot water for my shower, sounds good. I can't wait. 

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Sky Scrooge

Holiday travel is gearing up. The airports look pretty, but you're bound to encounter some unmerry travelers.

I'm one of them. I turn into a sky Scrooge when I am crowded.  I cope by maximizing my personal space. (Proxemics is the study of human use of space and the effects that population density has on behavior, communication, and social interaction. Wikipedia)

1)    In long lines, hang back just a smidgen from the person in front of you. I think the extra breathing room makes the line feel less frantic.Scrooge

2)    Walk instead of taking the moving sidewalks. The exercise clears your mind and speeders swerve around you.

3)    Wait at a gate without a flight, but within sight of your boarding area.

4)    Don't board when your "zone" is called. I don't understand why all fifty people in zone two jump up to be stalled in a jetway traffic jam. And more people put more germs within reach.

5)    Make sure the arm rests are in place. It sends a subtle message - this is my space, stay out.
service dog at DIA relaxes travelers

6)    Pull out anti-bacterial wipes and clean said armrests, folding tray, buttons for lights, etc. Your seat mates will silently inch away because they think you're a fanatic.

7)    I don't make unnecessary eye contact or smile at anybody. This discourages conversation.

8)    Plant your feet wide underneath the seat ahead of you. Otherwise some big guy will think his size thirteens deserve some of your size eight foot space.

9)    Wear your ear buds, even if the cord dangles unconnected.

10) Pack light. If your carry on fits under the seat, you don't have to compete in the scramble for bin space. Plus, schlepping a bulging bag is bad for your back.

It's my theory that introverts probably dislike the close quarters created during holiday travel more than extroverts. Do you get irritated by the masses when you travel? Do you jump in and make new friends? Tell me what helps you travel smoothly at high peak times.

(December 9th Wall Street Journal has an article about how shrinking airplane head space causes anxiety. It corroborates my ideas about proxemics.)

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Thankfulness eases adversity

It's been a tough year for us. While thankfulness doesn't erase the ache of adversity,  it can ease it. I'm choosing to focus on the year's blessings this week.

January: I am grateful for tutoring three razor smart first grade boys from Africa. They didn't speak a word of English but used the universal law of learning: mimic what you see. One morning Mohammed grabbed my sticky notes and a marker and made a name tag for himself.  He passed the tools so the others could make their own. When I looked puzzled he pointed at the name tag on my chest. It was my privilege to help them get a good start in their new lives, and a weekly source of fun.

February: Cold nights and starry skies.  Living in a city now, the stars are masked. I close my eyes and thank God for many nights I stepped outside our North Carolina home to  marvel at the studded vault above me. 

March: What can be more glorious than the month's progression from tight red leaf buds to  Bradford pears dressed like brides, electrifying redbud blossoms, and yellow daffodils carpeting the landscape?

April: Sorrowfully we decided to sell our beloved home and move close to our family. An unexpected hospital stay confirmed the timing.

May: Off-season harvest from seven years teaching middle school. Two of my students, now married to one another, invited us to celebrate their daughter's birthday. One of the other guests was also a former student.  She enthusiastically reported that she was teaching in a preschool, and thanked me for my inspiriting example. Wonder of wonders!

June: Beach week! Even though it was cut short by my husband's medical emergency, my friends poured love out and arranged a pony express to get me home. Everyone rallied for Bill's surgery and recovery.

July: Despite reduced mobility, I  savored summer: a cool bath with the breeze blowing the curtains, fresh peas from the garden. The bright blue balls hanging from the hydrangea surprised me every time I walked by them since it had been badly damaged by frost.

August and September: Unable to do much,  the 3 year old and I squeezed into the red recliner and tilted back. There we spent many happy hours reading and laughing, reenacting Humpty Dumpty at least fifty times.

October: I can drive! I can walk!

November: Struggling with revised, negative diagnosis for my dear husband. Oh, my God, thank you for his friendship, gentleness and love during the forty three years of our marriage.

Whatever your troubles this year, pause. Recall instances of beauty, acts of kindness received, relationships enjoyed, meaningful work. Then read your list to somebody.
Gratitude shared is gratitude multiplied. 

Let me hear an amen!

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Disturbing the Autumn Peace

The last two weeks of October were as warm as any in September. The trees clenched their green and yellow hands waiting for the cold shock to signal it was time to let go until they just gave up. The breezes finally shook the leaves free and covered the lawn.

truck full of leaves
Out here in suburbia homeowners don't want to see leaves in their yards. Crews of grounds men with powerful blowers invade daily. They blast the leaves off of lawns like water cannons vanquish protestors.

The neighborhood wakes up to a sound like a hundred souped-up hair dryers at a beauty pageant. I compared the current cacaphony to last year's rural fall -- a whisper of leaves dropping, and the scritch, scratch of the rake. Today's beauty is marred by a barrage of noise, peace disturbed.

We wanted to help our host family clear their yard and bought a light weight plastic rake with wide, wide red tines. We danced  a two step around the yard. Bill scooped, I bagged. (Burning is not allowed here.)  We enjoyed the distinct autumn ritual, crunching through ankle high dry leaves. It took two of us about an hour to fill three bags, with time out for the three year old to be buried under a pile, lie on top of a pile, and bury his dinosaur then find it again. We enjoyed the sun on our backs, the rhythmic movement, the unique smell of disintegrating leaves--the quiet.

Of course the next day, there were many more on the ground. Our oldest grandson grabbed the rake to make a dive pile. Later I was confounded to see our three trophy bags limp and empty. He'd "needed" them to augment the mound they wanted to jump into.

Well, I'd had my fun, and they had theirs.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Voter Registration Breathing Down my Neck

This election has been breathing down my neck. Here I am in a new state and I had to register soon!Voter registration laws have been in the news in various states and I was guilty of disinterest--until we moved to Colorado.

I couldn't register online without a Colorado driver's license so we dropped our procrastination and went to get new driver's licenses.

I took our passports, two proofs of my address, our NC driver's license, and other miscellany.  Seemed like I had everything except my birth certificate. I hoped the fact that we'd previously had a Co DL would facilitate the process.

At the entrance we took our tickets, like an old meat market. We drew numbers 96 and 97. The waiting area was quieter than a funeral home. Five rows of pews were jammed front to back like a big foot in small shoe. The room was four pews wide. It was standing room only. The mounted TV monitors flashed customer numbers instead of hymn numbers. They were on number 40.

An hour and a half later our number was called. I handed over my stack of qualifying documents. She spread them out, entered numbers into her computer system, and  tracked down the old CO DL on their system. Then we hit a snag. The numbers of my social security number in their system were transposed. My medicare card, issued by the Social Security Administration, mind you, was not a "valid" proof of my SS number. I'd have to bring back a 1099 tax form.

Bill didn't fare any better. Even though he had a letter from the Social Security Administration with his SS# on it, they wouldn't accept it.

At least I knew where to find the 1099s. The clerk  ignored all of my hyperbole, said she'd squeeze us up to the front of the line if we could get back the same day.

I grumbled the groused the whole way home.  It didn't help that Saint Bill was chuckling and telling me to learn patience. At home we chowed down and I dug up tax forms. Too bad it was too early for a drink; it might have improved my mood.

On the second trip I shut up and let my sweet husband do all of the talking. He put on his best Hilary imitation and announced to the clerk "We're baa-ck." We were out of there half an hour later. And she said we were funny. That was generous of her.

One final stroke on the keyboard and she registered me to vote, too.

But what if you're disabled and have to get a ride to go back and forth for additional documentation?  Or you don't keep good records and have to request duplicate copies of documents? Or you don't have a passport or state ID with a photo?

I would have given up if I hadn't needed the driver's license. (And I wasn't so vehement about voting in this election.)

Maybe there are frauds out there who vote for cash, Tammany Hall style, but I doubt it. And maybe a few undocumented immigrants have tried to vote. But I'm a citizen, and I had a terrible time proving it. I'm glad the Democrats oppose many of the laws proposed to cut down on voter fraud. Colorado's requirements to get a DL are ridiculously stringent.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ordinary is reason enough to celebrate

Today's an ordinary October day. Normal weather. Routine tasks. Nothing exciting, except--ordinary is reason enough to celebrate.

During the months since my last post, illness and stress moved in like a termite invasion swarming over our lives.

Since my medical issue turned around I revel in the unremarkable.

The portable wheelchair is stashed in the garage. I don't need a stool in the shower. I can get on the floor to play with my grandson. My calendar has spaces without doctor appointments. I dare to make modest plans again.

Today I'll dance and empty the dishwasher,  hum as I load the washer,  sip coffee in the sunshine.

If you are healthy, it's a great day.

And I celebrate you, the many folks who tried their best to brighten the dark days:

The Read-a-Lattes, my book club, who brought our weekly lunch date to the house so I could join. The church friends who sent me cards, prayed, called, brought dinner, chauffeured.
The many who literally packed up our house and put the boxes in the moving van.

You showed us a hundred kindnesses. You are irreplaceable.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Teachers should wear body cameras

Teachers should wear body cameras.  At least some teachers, some of the time. 

The reasons aren't the same as for police officers, however. While law enforcement seems to moderate its violent behavior when wearing the cams, I don't worry about teacher violence in the schools I work in. 

I am concerned about teacher ineffectiveness. As teachers we have a perception of what happens during a lesson, which may not be accurate.  Close self-evaluation of a lesson could help the teacher and his mentor objectively pinpoint ineffective practices. A video strips away our illusions. The teacher-mentor team can adjust and practice new strategies. 

A video (or even audio recording) reveals which student is getting the most attention--positive or negative. I once heard myself say "Pedro, please sit down" about 15 times when I watched a video taped lesson. It forced me to consider what I wasn't doing to hold his attention. 

That same video could be used to guide a student to analyze their own patterns.

In one class I frequent I have seen the same student out of her seat, wandering aimlessly, or otherwise ignoring the lesson altogether 9 out of 10 visits. When the teacher has asked  Mom for help, the response is just to let her do what she wants. Does the mother really understand how unproductive her child is? A video recording would make the child's disengagement clear. 

Both Forbes magazine and Atlantic Monthly weighed potential dangers of the body cams. Atlantic them as drastic and intrusive. I believe the teacher body cam may just be the lifeline the child needs employed on her behalf. 

Poor teaching damages countless students each year. Likewise, poor parenting compounds student failure. I've witnessed a disturbing trend that parents don't believe their child is behaving in ways that hinder learning. Seeing their child as he is at school may be the wake-up call for parents to see their responsibility in preparing a child to learn.

When neither classrooms, nor students function effectively over time it is a disaster. The result is uneducated, unemployable, unmotivated, unprepared young people splashing into the labor pool without the skills to keep from drowning. 

Teacher cams may seem a drastic measure. But young lives are at stake. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Clear out the dead stuff

Spring and a for-sale sign in front of our house pull me outside to clear out the garden beds.

Trimming last year's spent stalks out of the 8 foot decorative grass, I find the new growth is taller than expected. Very carefully I clip away the old to protect the new. 

Nose to nose with the tan brittle stems I wonder if they could have prevented the healthy development of the striped thin leaves that give the plant its name--Zebra Grass. 

Likewise, is it possible that my life has dead stuff that needs to be cleared out?  Could the debris from past years choke out new ideas, new habits, new plans--the vibrant part of me? 

Here's how to tackle the job.

1. Step back and try to see where your endeavors fizzled or fell short.

2. Then move in close, and see where the old patterns of thinking actually prevent the results you want. 

For example, I realize I no longer enjoy playing my violin at church (liken it to a dead stalk.) Comparing myself to another violinist leaves me discouraged. When others don't arrive at practice on time I grouse.  My problem, not theirs. Until a paradigm shift happens, I'm happier not participating in as a musician. 

3. Keep your eye on what you want to nurture, and get rid of the obstacles as best you can.   

4. Persist. I cut each zebra stalk individually, about one hundred and fifty of them. Working over my inventory from #1 I realize some of my undertakings are efforts to "fix" other people. Boo. Hiss. Those never work. Cut those out of your life!

5. Take a look at the big picture again, like the zebra grass, healthy shoots will have a chance to flourish. 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Flying the friendly skies, uh, not-so-much

Have you flown the not-so-friendly skies lately? 
typical long lines in Denver

Vigilant Detroit TSA agents recently tipped off authorities that a pilot coming through security seemed under the influence of alcohol. The American Airlines employee was arrested, which should have made everybody feel a lot safer. 

Drunk passengers are no joke either and prohibited from boarding aircraft. Back in my Continental Airlines days a Hawaii-bound passenger was so drunk he passed out in the boarding area. Knowing what a nightmare he might cause six miles above the earth for eight hours we decided to let him sleep it off. When he awoke after departure we rebooked him and sent him off to the hotel shuttle.

I can only complain about Frontier Airlines. (Which tells you that I am as cheap as they are, or I wouldn't be flying with them.)  Agents pulled people out of line whose bags were too big and make them pay on the spot. My "personal item" just met the allowed limits. Worried, I brought my own tape to prove it. Watching what other grandmas and college kids boarded with, I quit worrying. Sling the "personal item" on your back and they don't seem so concerned. 

Frontier's shrinking tray table

The only thing still free during Frontier flights is the restroom. My husband thinks they'll be coin-operated soon. Not having a plane full of people with beverage glasses on their teeny-tiny tray tables was a good thing when we hit a pocket of turbulence. No reassuring word from the crew.

The plane pitched and dropped significantly. First time it heaved everyone gasped. Next time it got really quiet. Not even the babies cried.  I hung onto the seat in front of me and closed my eyes. The young woman behind me started to cry. A youngster further back waited until things smoothed out then her small voice carried over several rows. "That was scary." A calm adult responded that when you go to an amusement park you have to pay for that kind of ride. Well, I don't go to amusement parks because that's not my kind of fun anymore. So that makes the second free thing on Frontier--thrills. 

There was one friendly moment, however. Before take-off the young man across the aisle from us eyed the empty window seat next to me. He asked my husband if he could take it. Bill said sure and the ADD firefighter on leave for PTSD moved into it. (He gave us a quick bio as soon as he fastened his seat belt.) 

I'm the kind of flyer who pretends the person next to me is invisible. But this guy was so excited to ignore him would have been as mean as pouring water on somebody's birthday piƱata. He showed me photos of his daughter playing in the ocean and lovely photos of the sunset he could see from the window. Eventually he amused himself on his phone and I powered up my iPad. 

 I might try being friendly again. Somebody has to be. 

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Easter: Mixed Messages

An elderly couple in my neighborhood decorated the front of their home in mixed messages. They decked out a bush in plastic eggs the colors of girly Easter dresses. Then threw in the Duke pennant.

The eggs reminded me of a statue of Artemis  a second century goddess. Note that her chest is covered in what look like  grotesque eggs. 

My brain fired a synapse, a connection,  between the plastic eggs, our crazy Easter egg fad and Artemis. All are symbols of new life and part of Iranian celebrations of the spring equinox. It's interesting how Christianity reached into the existing cultures to make connections with people around their important observances-- the winter solstice (Christmas), and All Hallows Eve (eve of All Saints Day, Nov.1) which probably came from a Celtic festival. 

I wonder if it was an early version of being "relevant." It seems to me that the pagan influences have more derailed Christianity than made it compelling. There's no way that kids chasing around after plastic eggs point me to the central issue of Easter--Christ's death and resurrection. 

I choose to separate the secular from the sacred as much as possible. I quit giving our girls Easter baskets (which they still lament) and made a lamb cake instead. It never really looked like a lamb and ended up being more of a bad joke. 

This year I borrowed a Central American tradition of cascarones (hollowed eggs colored  filled with confetti) for the kids to enjoy in their before-Easter celebration. They can enjoy then twice. First in the making and second smashing them on their cousins' heads.  Thus the silliness won't completely overshadow the sacred.

Tonight, I am grateful that our church has decided to recognize Christ's suffering and crucifixion in a Maundy Thursday service.  The kids will chase eggs on Saturday. Then we'll come together on Sunday to remind ourselves what's really worth celebrating. 

Happy Easter! He is risen! 

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Anger, Part 2

... continued from March 10...

The next day I tried not to look across the street while I gardened. I hoped the dog would stay home.  At the sound of a truck coming up my driveway I looked up. It was my neighbor. 

My shoulders sagged. My chin dropped while I expelled a big sigh. I really didn't want to pick up where we'd let off. And I was quite defensive. 

He climbed out of the truck and handed me a bag. "I replaced your husband's gloves. I hope they're the right size."

"Well, thank you."

"I want to apologize for the way I talked to you last night. I feel real bad about it. Nobody deserves to be treated that way." He went on to explain that it's been a bad night. They'd had sad family news. 

"Thank you for the apology. In fact, it's an answer to my prayer. I really appreciate your coming over." I reached out and offered my hand. I felt myself get teary.

We shook firmly. "Thank you for forgiving me. " He was a little teary too. 

We then went on to resolve our difference of opinion. 

When he climbed in the cab and left, I considered that we were much better neighbors than we'd been before. 

I'll keep praying for him because I've found that anger has to be controlled or it becomes a habit of mind. An irritable person can find plenty to dislike about other fallible people. 

In this case I believe God did change the neighbor's heart. It encouraged me to see his humility and desire to make peace. 

Anger clings onto offenses. Conversely, peace opens our hearts and minds to release them. May we all be more willing to let go.  

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Anger is a hungry emotion

Anger is a hungry emotion. It feeds on irritations, feasts on frustration, gnaws on bitterness. 

 The truth is evident when I call a neighbor to discuss a minor but irritating problem I have with his dog. What should be a one-issue conversation turns into a list of complaints. He doesn't like my city attitude. He corrects me for saying up the street instead of down the road. In his mind, my tipsy mailbox is an affront to the neighborhood. "And tell your Mexicans to quit turning around in my driveway."

My Mexicans? 

Calm responses and apologies that he's upset get me nowhere. We don't come to an agreement on the issue. The call ends before "good-bye."

Dismayed and shaken, I resort to my familial frame of reference for this kind of conflict.

I spent my childhood stepping carefully lest I trigger one of my father's land mines. 

I learned that anger only needs a small flashpoint.  But once the bomb exploded poison gas filled our home and hung heavy over us for hours.

I wonder if it's the same for my neighbor.  I feel sorry for him and his family. 

Pity aside, I'm still upset. My self-soothing techniques don't help me fall asleep. I remember the morning's children sermon at church, ironically, about loving your neighbor. I don't feeling any love.

The Bible text commands me to pray for my enemy. I can do that. Each time the internal recorder replays a bit of the interchange, I counter it with a prayer. God, let the man across the road be at peace with me. Eventually I drift off.

How do you handle anger aimed at you?  What do you do to calm yourself? 

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Robins for Breakfast

Dozens of robins settled in for breakfast this week. Early in the morning they scuttled around the yard looking for worms wriggling to the soil surface. 

Not for the first time, I wished for a good camera and the expertise to use it. This just doesn't convey their numbers.  They mostly hopped along the ground, occasionally flying low a few feet to where the pickin's looked better. 

Curious about the behavior, I learned that robins cluster like this as they move north. They migrate in stages, prompted to move on by the air and ground temperatures. 

Thus I can use their appearance in the early spring as an indication of warming soil, similar to how forsythia blooms when the ground temperature is about 55 degrees. Forsythia bushes are like a garden alarm. Once you see the yellow flowers, it's time to do some other garden chores.

Now I know to watch for the robins, then the forsythia, then the crabgrass.
It can't be long now, so get ready! 

What are your favorite signs of spring? 

Friday, February 26, 2016

Goin' to Barcelona in My Mind

The only cure for my February slump is a trip, so I'm going' to Barcelona in my mind.

By this time of winter I slide into a malaise.  It's like all five senses are muted. Music sounds like muzak, all the colors have faded to dull brown, wool sweaters have begun to scratch, everything smells stale, and all food tastes bland. 

Faster than the Concorde my memory can take me back to October in sunny Spain.

Our first dinner was in a narrow, modern tapas bar named Mas Q Menos. The walls were paneled with blond wood.  At the front entry a ceiling to floor display of red and white wines filled the wooden Xs. The manager said the bottles weren't really wine because it would make theft too tempting. He added he didn't actually know what was inside them, but he hoped it was something mildly poisonous.

I enjoyed of one their smooth, fruity white wines named Afortunado (lucky, fortunate.) My online search shows that it is inexpensive, and readily available in, desafortunadamenteEngland. Drat. Can't even uncork a bottle and pretend I'm there.
Maybe they tweeted each other. They barely spoke. 

Just as one tapa leads to another, my recollection of delicious meals leads me to the Velodrome restaurant. It was in a century old building with a pressed tin ceiling and wide plank wooden floors. 

pretty tiled rest room

On Friday night every table was full--inside, outside on the sidewalk under little white lights, and in the second floor loft. Folks crowded the long dark wooden bar. Facing the door we watched groups of people enter and greet each other with the Spanish two-cheek  kiss. 

A dapper gentleman, who appeared to be eighty something shuffled in.  He wore a tweed jacket over a ruffled shirt, shoes polished and trousers pleated. 

He wandered past the bar crowd to the large, green felt-covered pool table under the loft. With my back to him I could still picture what was going on. The balls rattled in the rack. The cue whacked a ball, it trundled across the table, and he hit it again. Then it thudded to the floor and rolled slowly, creating the dull sound of wood upon wood. With a quiet word one of the young waiters went to find it for him. I don't think the pool "shark" could bend over that far, and he probably couldn't see very well either. 

tempura asparagus
I think a lingering meal of little bites, listening to muted chatter I can't understand, would be just the ticket to cure the doldrums.

What's your favorite get-away?  

Friday, February 19, 2016

Are Your Friendships Fading or Flourishing?

Celebrating Valentine's Day on Sunday I dined with my husband and sent $5.00 bills origamied into hearts to the grandkids. 

Now I wish I'd celebrated my close friendships, too. 

During my school age years, our family made four state to state moves. My elementary school friends are dim memories. Those from high school are only photos in the yearbook. And I only have email addresses for two college buddies. 

Once I married and settled in one place I tried to hang onto every friendship like a leech. Undoubtedly I misread clues and tried to stay tethered past the time I should have cut the line.  Oh, I must have been so annoying.  

Eventually I understood that friendships fade and I've learned to read the signals. When a gal pal can't find time for even an occasional social event, I think twice before making contact again.  I only keep people on my Christmas card list for a couple of years before I eliminate the ones who don't reciprocate. When my maybe-friend only sends forwarded emails, I figure I'm not worth her time. 

Electronics have not helped foster healthy friendships. Facebook helps me know where you are and what you're doing, but doesn't really invite me in. Twitter's like eating one bite of pie and calling it dessert.  I feel like a piece of furniture when I'm talking to someone who answers their phone and drops me like a hot potato.

My time for making and fostering rich friendships is much shorter than it was twenty years ago. Maybe that's why I am so reluctant to admit kinship has withered on the vine.

So I'm that much more thankful for good friendships. They flourish because we're mutually mindful. I only miss my monthly dinner out with the book club if I'm infectious or feverish. We have a standing date for Wednesday lunch. And occasionally I even drop in on one.

I don't hear from far flung soul sisters frequently, but I know if Judy from Oregon comes within a hundred miles, she'll try to to rendezvous. And we'll pick up where we left off two years ago. 

You can't make or keep a friend without investing time, and both blessings are more and more precious as each day goes by.  

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Thomas Edison and the $100.00 socks

Popular wisdom tells us that trying, failing, and trying again eventually lead to success. 

I've tried and failed plenty, but each failure sent me looking for something easier to master. Therefore I've had more failure than success.

Take knitting, for instance. Mother introduced me to knitting when I was 8. Like most beginners, my first dishrag square was so tight you couldn't get the needle in to make a new stitch. It was more like a hot pad. Good thing my little sister took the needles out and I had to start over. 

My first sweater had arms that hung to my knees.  I redid them and took a twenty year break.

When I took up the needles and yarn again I decided to go small--socks. I reasoned they would be a portable project through graduate school and faculty meetings, easy to carry on an airplane.

I signed up for "Fun Footwear, Part I."  It cost $40.00 plus about $20.00 in yarn. I bought a lot of colors because I imagined them as Christmas gifts. 

I didn't quite get the hang of it.  In fact, I flunked. My sizing, what knitters call gauge, was off. The first sock was way too big. And turning tube to create the heel was tricky. Mine was full of holes that weren't supposed to be there.

Still it was a nice change of pace from lesson planning and grading assignments.

I repeated "Fun" Part I for another $40.00. My sock progressed all the way to the ribbing at the top this time, but gaped where they were supposed to be snug. They were lumpy inside and out.

I laughed about my $100.00 socks and always thought someday I'd get it right. But unlike Edison, I gave up and sock-making gave way to something less challenging. Maybe that was when I tried to teach myself French.

Today I found the *overpriced , oversized, socks. After snapping this photo I tossed them in the trash.

I'm glad Edison didn't give up and figured out how to deliver electricity to factories and homes. Otherwise I would be wearing those handmade socks.

Do you have a failure to success story to share? 

*$151.32 in today's currency

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Settled in like Hens on a Nest

In our sixties we've settled into evenings at home like hens on our nests.  We go to movie matinees. Unlike most of America, we rarely eat out, and prefer late lunches and summer trips into the wine country. Our twisty roads at night seem scarier than they used to.

So it was a big deal for us to have a date night on a Saturday night. And it reminded us of why we think living here is wonderful.

We had tickets to hear a favorite Bluegrass band, Balsam Range, play at the old Earle Theater in downtown Mt. Airy, NC. We were in the tenth row, close enough to see their faces! If we still lived in Colorado we'd have to brave huge crowds to hear them play.  

The only crowding in Mt. Airy that night was at the local restaurants.  Where did all those folks come from? We must have one of the highest restaurant per capita ratios in the country, I swannee. 

After our early supper, we ran over to the hardware giant. In and out in a flash (because everybody was still supping) the Girl Scouts from Troop 02743 had a table and cookies! Back in my day, the troops only had three digit numbers. These cuties stamped their feet in the chilly weather and tempted customers as we left the store. I was gleeful that I had cash in my wallet for a change. Love those Thin Mints. 

Once we got to the theater we needed to use the facilities. But those are always crowded at the Earle .We dashed out and down the block to the heated public restrooms on Main Street. What a great idea. Mt. Airy has a fair amount of tourists so they'd planned for them.  Like the parking. The public lot half a block away is free, and we could be on the road without a traffic jam.

The town still had the snow flake lights hanging on posts, and the holidays didn't seem long gone. 

We crept home safely and substantially below the speed limit. This is a great place for us older-than-we-used-to-be folks to live and enjoy life. We'll have to do it again, real soon.

How much enticement do you need to move out of your routine? 

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Not Complaining

Compared to New Yorkers I have nothing to complain about. I've been snowed in for five days, but at least our snow will melt by February and my roof didn't collapse.

We're still well stocked, could get by without milk for a couple more days.

And it's been very productive because I roped Bill into some chores he prefers to excuse his way out of.

All of the spilled flour, spices, and crumbs are cleaned out of the kitchen drawers--all twenty of 'em. 

Upstairs, we pawed through the dressers and winnowed out socks with stretched tops, summer shorts two sizes too big (him) or one size too small (me.) And we wrestled over his flimsy washed to death, torn up T-shirts until I got them into the trash bag. 

I saved the job we both hate most for today. We went freezer diving. 

The problem is that my small chest freezer needs compartments! We'd started with bags to separate the fruit from the vegetables as we preserved last year's harvest. But digging around for the beets you can't see but you KNOW are in there really messes with the system. 

I put on my stretch knit gloves and we formed a two man relay from the freezer to the counter. Bill kept grumbling that we never should have bought a freezer. Three years ago he groused that we should buy one! 

It wasn't so bad. We sorted and repacked, taking mental inventory as we went. 

I made a slushy with left-over lemon popsicles. I'll eat scallops tonight.

He was happy that we found two last bags of beets and greens. I'm happy that we have plenty of fruit to last until the May strawberries come in.  I have more tomatoes, tomato-based broth, and salsa than I can use up before the end of next summer. 

It helped me plan the garden.  I'll tell my friend to grow more beets. I'll plant fewer tomatoes. 

Why aren't you complaining? Be the first to comment below (just click on the no comment link, it will take you to the comment box.) 

Thursday, January 21, 2016

This Little Piggy Has a Paradigm Shift

My grandson pointed his bare foot at me and demanded "This Little Piggy."

So I reached out and took his smooth little heel in my left hand, and wiggled his big toe between my fingers. I began the rhyme but ran out of rhyme before I ran out of toes. He has six on each foot!

count the toes

So we started over and improvised. "This little piggy went to market. This little piggy stayed home. This little piggy ate peanut butter and jelly..." and I asked him for suggestions.

Each time through we changed favorite foods. "This little piggy went to market...stayed home...ate ice cream, ate yogurt, ate..."

"Cookie!" he added.

"This little piggy ate cookies. This little piggy cried 'Wee,wee,wee' all the way home."

I wonder why had I never changed the chant before?  None of my grandkids could relate to roast beef. 

Bo and I enjoyed it much more this way.

While in the Colorado mountains we saw a herd of deer. They nibbled the bushes just a few feet away from us, although on the other side of the window. "Look, Bo!" we urged. He looked, but he was speechless.

There were so many, we were all riveted.  As they wandered around the house we traipsed from window to window. they sprang straight up into the air, and tussled antler to antler.

After several minutes Bo surprised us with a unique thought.  "Where's Santa?"

None of us had wondered that!

One friend shared that after a tragic death of a young woman in the family, the grandchildren said they bet the girl's father was glad she was with him in heaven for Christmas.

I think that's one important thing children do for us--give us a new lens that transforms what's familiar.

So if you don't have grandkids, or they live far away, or they're all grown up, or think they are, go find a young child to shake up your routine thoughts.

Will you share one of your grandchild's mind benders?