Thursday, November 29, 2018

Back to Work

I'll be headed back to work on Monday. The doctor seemed surprised that I was ready to go back, but it's time. My knee is still giving me some problems, but I understand that it might be that way for a while. I got another shot of cortisone for it as it continues to heal.

The doctor and his wife and I got into a discussion about turkeys and swapped a few yarns. Mine: In Michigan we had a neighbor who 'owned' a half feral cat named Buzzard. He was not a very nice cat, but he was a character and you had to respect that about him. Our adjoining properties backed up to the woods, and one day I watched Buzzard coming through the underbrush between the woods and our yards. He was low to the ground as if he was stalking something, but instead of looking intently ahead, he kept stopping, throwing a look over his shoulder and then continuing is low slow move to the safety of his hidey hole behind the neighbor's woodpile. It piqued my attention. Soon a group of about 8 turkeys came out of the brush right behind Buzzard, single file. Every time that Buzzard stopped, the turkeys stopped too, all in a row, their heads bobbing up and down and to the right and the left to see what that cat was doing. When he finally got close to his hidey hole, he broke into a dead sprint, and disappeared behind the woodpile. The turkeys stood still, with their heads bobbing in confusion until they presumably were distracted by something else and wondered off. Turkeys are not bright birds.) We all got a laugh.

It was a very nice three weeks though. I got caught up on things, and I have done more reading than I've been able to do in such a long time. I read Vera Brittain's 'Testament of Youth' and enjoyed it. I read Michael Ondaajte's 'Warlight' and loved it so much that I'm nearly done with The English Patient (best book I've ever read). I got 'Coming Through Slaughter' but lost the heart for that. I think Ondaajte may be my current favorite author. Last month it was Barbara Kingsolver. I read 'Flight Behavior'. I've read all of her books. 'Plainsong' by Kent Haruf. That's a lot of reading in three weeks, and it was luxurious beyond belief, to simply have time to wallow in books and to not feel guilty about it.

Tim's buck. Probably the most bizarre hunting story I've ever heard. Not sure if I'm allowed to tell it. Just asked Tim. His answer was no. I hope that untold stories do not keep you up at night.

People want to sign an agreement to buy on the house Tim just finished.

Thanksgiving was great.

Because I was laid up. I did a great deal of Christmas shopping on line. I got some unbelievable deals. I got a year's gift subscription for a weekly magazine that costs $4.99 at the checkout. Subscription price was $35 for 54 magazines. I ordered things from UK sites for Colin and Cara, including a special evening for the two of them. (When you are the mother of a minimalist, you have to figure out how to give gifts that won't clutter up their nomadic lifestyle - they tentatively plan to go back to Italy this summer.)  I had a $104. check out total that I saved $60 on and got free shipping to boot. I bought Iris Blueberries for Sal, my favorite book when I was a little girl, one I read to all the kids (shockingly none of them remember this). I had so much fun having the time to browse, I had the chance to get very excited about Christmas.

Tomorrow I'll go to my friend. Her husband was involved in a horrible head on crash and injured very badly. Can you imagine rushing to a hospital and waiting, waiting, waiting...and then when you were finally allowed in to see him, the staff insisted that you be in a wheelchair because he looked that bad? But he was coherent and still making jokes.  I cried to hear that good news.

I plan to get my tree up this weekend, because Monday, I go back to work.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

I was putting my pyrex measuring cup in the cupboard when it happened. I dropped it, it hit the counter and exploded, as only pyrex can do. Glass everywhere. 

Tim wandered into the kitchen to find out what happened. I told him. He wandered back out again. 

I swept up the small bits, picked up the big bits, used a wet paper towel to pick up any small slivers from the counter and then from the floor.

That homely little pyrex measuring cup. 

I've had it most of my life. 

Alexandria, VA as a single parent. Gaithersburg, MD and Baltimore MD, increasing the family. Midland MI trying to make something work that I'd have been better off to abandon quickly. Back to Pennsylvania, a single parent again. And then, unbelievably, married again. And then the kids began to leave. I'm still a mom, but it is different now. I'm a grandma now. 

And all through those years, at least 40 of them, I've been grabbing that two cup pyrex measuring cup from my cupboard multiple times a week. 

On Friday, I broke it, and as I cleaned it up, I found myself getting a little misty about times gone by, of meals, and family, and the work of it all. 


I'm a sap. 

Friday, November 23, 2018

Compromise? Capitulation? Dunno.

A couple months ago, William showed me a toy that he wanted desperately. They were odd looking creatures, but cartoons have changed since I was a kid, and some of the creatures ARE odd looking. I let him chatter on about it, and gave him opportunities to earn money towards that toy.

Every time we went to Walmart, he wanted to looks at those toys again. He didn't have enough money saved, but who knows? Maybe they were on sale. (They weren't.)

And he told me that you could watch you-tube videos of these toys. I watched parts of a couple, and they seemed pretty innocuous. He's in second grade now, and he's pretty good at typing stuff into the computer. I wander in and out while he's on the computer, but I guess that I wasn't as focused as I could have been. 

Anyways, he tends to get pretty focused on his interests, and Five Nights at Freddie's was no exception. He went on and on. It was when he came to me with one of his Lego creations that I began to have concerns. He'd built his own scooping room. 

"What's a scooping room?" I asked. He started trying to explain that it was a room that where robots were built. I'm not sure why triggered my suspicions, but I did some checking into Five Nights at Freddy's, something that, admittedly, I should have done before letting him get that involved.

His mother and his grandparents tried to put the brakes on, but it was late for that. He was upset because he wasn't allowed to get the toy he so desperately wanted. He was no longer able to watch the little videos on you-tube. He was pretty upset.

He knows that there's no point in arguing but that knowledge did not stop him from wistfully talking about the fact that kids play this game on the bus on their phones (he does not have a cell phone) or some other handheld devices. A boy in his class felt sorry for him and offered to make a trade for one of the figures. (The trade involved money.)

He was told no.

He was playing with his aunt Cara's teddy bear. We noticed that he was fond of that particular bear. He came to me and commented that he'd like to make a top hat. Grandma, being a bit out of the loop showed him how to use poster board to make the barrel of the hat. We cut out a large circle to attach the barrel to. He used a super large sign marker to color the hat black. We taped it together, and he was excited. He colored two pink circles and asked me to cut them out. I did. He made a star and colored it yellow. He was getting more excited by the minute.

I gave him some strapping tape and he disappeared. When he returned, he had morphed gentle Marshmallow the Bear into Freddy Fazbear

The boy gets points for creativity.

His mother was pretty upset. Grandma felt like she'd ruined the boy for life, but understands that we can't go backwards at this point. He knows about the game. He's seen the game at school. There's a lot of marketing for this game. I don't know why it is being directed at kids.

There are lego sets. There are toys. Videos. Children's Halloween costumes. These introductions are a lot less scary than the game, but in my mind, they are a segueway into something very unhealthy. Grabbing people and dragging them into a scooping room to have their guts scooped out so that these animatronics can wear their skins and fool people just does not sound like wholesome entertainment to the adults that are calling the shots in William's life.

Much to his chagrin.

William went with us to Dylan and Brittani's to meet his cousin. Dylan has a Nintendo. He showed William how to play Super Mario, and William was thrilled. He began to say, "I wish I had a Nintendo game..." and looking at Dylan with big brown eyes. Dylan, being a new dad, does not have the proper skills needed to deal with this kind of manipulation. He said, "You know, William, I don't play this game and I was thinking...." before Grandpa and Grandma cut him off.

William is 7. He won't be 8 until February. There has been plenty of evidence of the effects of video games on the brain of young children. So...we really don't want him to get hooked on video games ADHD is in his genetic make up, and we remain watchful for signs of that.

Ay yi yi.

After some discussion, the decision was made. Today he got an inexpensive handheld Pac-Man game. Our hope was that it would satisfy his video hunger in an acceptable way. The rule is that he gets to play it for 1/2 hour. He earns that time by putting his toys away. Or eating without complaining. (Okay, it's a powerful, powerful bribe).

It was also presented as a way to work up to a Nintendo a year or so from now by proving his maturity: He does the work involved to get his game, and when his half hour is up, he puts the game away with no arguing or complaining.

So far, it seems to be effective.


I've been off work for a few days, and it's been a wonderful time. I made bread three times in the past week, which has always been wonderfully soul satisfyng to me for reasons that I will probably never fully comprehend.

I rediscovered precious time. Imagine getting everything done that you needed to get done...and still have time to sit down with a book. Or to watch a movie. Or to study the firelight reflecting across a gleaming hardwood floor. Or to write a letter.

I'm able to write to Cara now. I have an address for her, and I'm grateful for that. No letters have actually reached her yet, but 3 of them are in transit, a fourth one in progress.

I was working on one the other day and the house was silent save for the ticking of my old clocks. I love my old clocks. No matter what foolishness man is up to, those clocks keep on marking time.

I wrote steadily on my letter to far away Cara.

I heard a train whistle from across town.

Suddenly it occurred to me that I was perfectly poised between the then and now and the here and there. One blessed moment of perfection.

Outside, the snow fell silently.

Thursday, November 22, 2018


This is our Iris, Unbelievably, she is 3 months old now. She's begun to chuckle, and to 'talk'. She's active and the picture above is unusual. Know why? She's so lively that usually there's a blur where a hand might be, or a foot might be. Iris is one of the things that I'm grateful for on this day of gratitude.

I'm also grateful for Cara. She and Colin are no longer in Afghanistan. I'm awfully grateful for that. If I posted a picture of the two of them, she'd probably never forgive me, so I won't. 

Tim's son Mike got a bear. While this is not something I can personally get all excited about, it seems to have thrilled everyone else, so I'm grateful to see this much happy. This is Tim and William. They are definately two of my blessings. 

I'm happy that we have a house on the market. It will be a blessing if it sells. 

The drug dealer on Madison has been caught. Another blessing. 

We got robbed. Not a blessing, but Tim had the serial numbers, and the stuff has been found. In the drug dealer's house on Madison. So that's a blessing too. 

We've got Thanksgiving for 8 (maybe 9) at our house on Thursday, and I am grateful for each person at that table. We'll go to my sister's for Thanksgiving on Saturday. Two Thanksgivings in one week...definately a blessing. 

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. May your blessings be many!

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

The Opioid Crisis Hits Home

Life gets in the way, sometimes, doesn't it? I used to blog regularly a hundred years ago. Now the poor old neglected blog limps along.

It's life getting in the way. It is because there is so much of my life that could not be told, because so much of my life (ours, Tim's, mine) revolved (and still does) around one little boy, our grandson, much beloved.

I'm so glad that the opioid crisis has been receiving increasing attention because that is what we are dealing with and that addiction has caused so much anguish that I cannot tell you.

William's father grapples with addiction. Since William's parents are divorced, it seems as if that should have ended the problem right there, or least our involvement with his issues.

It didn't. Because William's father had unsupervised partial custody.

We discovered, as grandparents, we don't have any say so. William's mother, our daughter, made regular reports, but nothing became of them.

By the time that William's father went to prison (on four felony charges, stemming from two separate cases), we were relieved. So relieved. Not because we are awful human beings who celebrate all the bad things that befall this awful man but because, for the first time in years, we did not have to hand off a little boy to a man that we suspected (but could not prove) was abusing prescription drugs again.

William is nearly 8 now, and hasn't seen his father in a couple years.

Not sorry about that.

I remember the day that I got the call from school that his father hadn't come to pick him up. I was still working nights, and I jumped out of bed, threw on clothes and hurried to the school. There was William, sitting in the principal's office, quiet and composed. The very first words out of his mouth: "I hope that the police did not put my daddy in jail."

We had no idea this was coming, but William's father had prepared him.

He had explained to William that 'he hadn't burnt down Grandma's house (other grandma, not me), but that the police hated him and were trying to blame him'. He assured William that he had not done such an awful thing. He knew who did though. He explained that another bad man hated daddy and set the house afire, walking out, shutting the door on William's beloved dog and a couple cats.

I held William's hand on the way across the parking lot. It was left to his mother and us to explain that the police were not the bad guys.

It was left to us to gently point out, again and again, that the bad guy that supposedly started this fire was already in jail and had been for a long time, and would not be getting out any time soon. (Attempted murder occupies a man's time for a while.) William had terrors of this man coming to where he was and setting his mother's house on fire. He had those terrors for months.

As his father's cases unfolded, it was left to us to explain that it was not a corrupt system that took his daddy from him, that there was a camera from a nearby rail yard that showed his daddy walking into the house, and then walking out again carefully locking up behind him. It showed the smoke shortly afterwards. The house then burst into flames.

The tape totally belied our ex-son-in-law's alibi, that he had been gone that whole day, and could prove it.

He ultimately pled guilty. To multiple charges. In both cases.

It was left to us to explain that without emotion. Just the facts. Because William needed to know that his father was not a victim of an unjust system, but a victim of himself and his own poor choices. He needed to know that the police do not simply pick people that they don't like and put them in jail. William listened quietly and then looked at us all and said, "Daddy LIED to me?"

Yes. He did, and we are sorrier about that than words can say.

William doesn't talk about his father much two years down the road. He is afraid of the dark and people who might set his house on fire though. He's pretty matter of fact about things. A couple of times that Tim has been mistaken for his father, William corrects them. "This is my grandpa. My dad went to prison. He burned down a house." People gape, unsure what to say next. His mother and I fret about how to explain that Jesus and the world don't need to know every last detail of his life. His grandfather says that he thinks we should just let him deal with it, that he is processing it in a practical way.

He is safe and beloved, and his mother works hard to support them. His grandfather and I live nearby and we never say no. We take William whenever his mother's work schedule requires care. We pick him up from school. We take him to school. His mother, his grandfather, and I all jump through hoops to make sure that William is always cared for by family and he moves easily between our two houses.

But there are those quiet moments that just kill me.

We were driving home from the grocery store with a car full of groceries. As we sat at the light across from the jail where his father had been housed until he was sent to the penitentiary, a quiet little voice from the back seat said, "He wasn't such a bad old dad."

It's a pivotal moment. The real trick is allowing William to feel what he feels without burdening him with all of our negative opinions. He's a little boy. He loves his daddy. In his own unhealthy way, his father loves him too.

I answered carefully, "Do you miss him a lot?"

And the voice came back. "Sometimes. But sometimes I was hungry, and I couldn't wake him up. I'd try and try. But he wouldn't wake up. I don't miss that. I cried in my bed because I was hungry."

The light changed. I made my turn and drove on. How do you answer that? The knowledge that your beloved grandson was hungry, that he was within a mile of your home crying himself to sleep?

Hate is wrong, but I discovered that I can hate, Hate with a white hot rage, and that hate can be quantified. I hate that man every bit as much as I love that little boy. In that moment, I was sick with rage. Physically sick. Even as I write this, it makes me angry all over again.

The opioid crisis.

In my house, it is not an abstract. When I listen to the reports, there is a face, the face of a little boy. In listening to the reports, I learn that he is not alone, that there are (unbelievably!) scores of children with the same experiences.

There are a lot of grandparents who are raising their grandchildren. While his mother remains the central figure in his life, we are heavily invested in both their lives. 'It takes a village,' they say, and this is true.

I have not been blogging a lot in these past couple years because so much has been unbloggable.

No more.

I'd like to hear from others who struggle with this.

Because William's daddy is out of prison now. He is in a halfway house. He hasn't talked or written to William for weeks and weeks now. But it will begin again. He's going to want his boy back.

It will begin again.

Monday, November 19, 2018

Sleeping in the Bathtub.

William generally spends the nights on Friday nights, a tradition that he loves.

He has a bedroom upstairs, but he's afraid to sleep up there by himself and our bedroom is on the first floor, so we have a cot which is set up for him across the room from the foot of our bed.

We had quite a storm this week and it has been cold. An ongoing argument for Tim and I is that I want the electric blanket on. He does not think we need it. (He's wrong, but we compromise and we don't use the electric blanket. In exchange, I wear socks to bed and he keeps his mouth shut about it.)

Anyhow, we were all preparing for bed. After a night of cozily watching the fire in the new woodstove insert for the fireplace, Tim commented that if we installed a grate between the library and the front hall, we could bring some of that heat into our bedroom.

I said, "You're not starting any projects in this house that you are not prepared to devote all your time to finish." (He's just now finishing up a house that we have begun to show, and I know that house is his first priority.)

He laughed and threatened to get his chainsaw and William chimed in from his little cot, "Oh, no you DON'T, grandpa."

I suggested (for the 100th time) that we get out the electric blanket. He claimed we didn't need it. William perked right up. If we weren't going to use that electric blanket, could he? We told him the blanket was way too big for his little bed, and he began to tell us how terribly cold he got at night. (We have never heard this complaint before. He sleeps between flannel sheets, a fleece blanket, and a comforter.) But he went on at great length. He went on for so long that I simply grabbed the heating pad I'd been using after some knee repair, and put it on his bed. I tucked him in, along with his four stuffed cats, and his Calvin and Hobbes, and he read his book while I read my book (Testament of Youth by Vera Brittain).

Soon he was asleep, and Tim was asleep and so I put my book on the bedside table and turned off my reading light.

Checking on William by the glow of his night light, I saw that a purring Paddy Cat was curled around him, and his very large Calvin and Hobbes treasury was taking up a lot of space, along with the four stuffed cats that he always sleeps with.

I laughed to myself and got out of bed to do some rearranging. I put his book on his table, and moved him towards the middle of his bed and tucked him in once again. By the glow of his night light, he stirred, briefly opened his eyes and drowsily said, "Grandma, I love this. I feel like I'm sleeping in the bathtub."

And he slept until 8 AM.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Old Dog

I had, for years, a happy red tea kettle with a black, stay cool handle. It whistled to let me know when the water had reached a boil. After years, the whistler broke.

I replaced it with another red tea kettle. This one had a metal handle and a metal tea kettle. Me, being me, thought, "There's nothing on this to break. It'll last me for the rest of my life."

Now, I don't use a tea kettle on a daily basis. I use it even less now that I've had a terrible bout with kidney stones and am limiting my caffeine intake. So when I used this tea kettle for the first time, when it whistled, I made the grand mistake of absentmindedly grabbing it without a pot holder. Calling myself all sorts of names, I ran my hand under cold water. 

Long story short, I lived. And I lived so that I could burn my hand a couple more times while absentmindedly grabbing a whistling tea kettle from the stove. 

What can I say? 

This weekend, I was waiting for a call from Cara. I decided to make myself a hot cup and put the kettle on for a caffeine free beverage. I am proud to report that when the kettle whistled, I grabbed a pot holder before I grabbed the kettle from the stove. 

You CAN teach an old dog new tricks.

I'm  so proud.