Tuesday, December 31, 2019

That Snowman

That snowman? It was the right one. When Mary opened it, she was so surprised that she cried.

One of the highlights of my holiday season~

2020

The old year is worn and tired.
Time now to kiss it goodbye.

The line is from an Anamchara book.


This year has gone by so very quickly. When I was a child, I remember my father saying, "Time goes so quickly." I was still young enough to be afraid of dying, and his words made me shiver. Summer vacation had just rushed by me and I was dreading the start of school. (Once again, I'd forgotten how to do long division and I was afraid to return.)

Even before that, I remember being a small child and put down for my nap. My mother used this time to watch her afternoon soap. "Like sands through an hour glass, these are the days of our lives." No kidding, I did not have to google that. I've remembered it always. I double checked myself, and the only thing missing was the 's' at the end of sands.

I was a child, an adult, a mother, and now a grandmother. Nothing profound in that. Most of us follow the same path. Lately I have been finding myself connecting to what was more than what is, and that disturbs me a little.

I had a grandfather who was a very busy man. Gardening, canning, connected to the earth and its seasons in a very intimate way. He was a quiet man who viewed life as a nothing short of miraculous, his own life a testimony to it. He was the illegitimate son of a woman who never married. He was ostracized and lived a very lonely life. His mother loved him dearly, but times were different back then. He was protective of his mother, and never expected to marry, but he found a woman who loved his gentle soul. Her family was shocked and protested vigorously, but in the end, she had her way, and they married. Pop always called her 'Ma'am', in tones that dripped with his love for her. The love was reciprocated.

After Pop retired from the brick factory, there was only his garden and his canning to keep him busy. In the winter, it slowed down even more. He read a lot. He said, "I worry about winter. When I am not busy, my mind wanders, and I worry about alzheimers. I think that's what happens: you have so little to do that your minds wanders and forgets how to come back."

And now it is winter and I find myself looking back a lot, I think of Pop's words, his rusty old voice, his earnest face. Of my father as a young man wondering where time went, and my mother watching her soap in the living room as her child lay in bed drifting slowly off to sleep pondering the somber voice talking about hourglasses.

They are gone now. The voices echo only  in my mind.

What does this mean? I don't know. Just that we are on the eve of 2020 and for the life of me, I cannot tell you how it happened so quickly.




Sunday, December 29, 2019

Marital Conversation

Tim eats cereal for breakfast. I'm not a breakfast eater. I like toast or a bagel or something with my large cup of capucchino. Tim pointed out that he was out of cereal. I hadn't noticed, since I don't eat it. To complicate the situation, he'd actually been buying his own cereal for the last few weeks because I was working a lot of overtime.

Me: "What kind of cereal do you want?"

Tim: "I used to like Life, but I think that's got too much sugar in it. I got some honey stuff. It was just too sweet. The cereal I liked had a lot of different grains, and nuts too. I think there were raisins..." 

Me: "What was the name of it?" 

Tim: "I can't remember."

Me: "See, Tim, that's a problem...."

Moment of Glory

We went up to my sister's house for supper and to exchange gifts. Her birthday is 4 days before Christmas. My brother in law's is 4 days after Christmas. We'd gotten them two jugs for the front porch of their log cabin, something that we were pretty excited about. For her birthday, I'd found a brass hook, in the shape of a fox, its bushy tail making the hook. We'd had such a fun time watching the baby foxes from the three dens on their property.

I made a baking dish of jalapeno popper dip to pop in the oven. It was wonderful stuff. Spicy and just right.

(Recipe: Two packages of cream cheese, 1 cup mayonnaise. 1 four oz. can of chiles, 4 oz. of chopped jalapenos, 1/3 cup parmesan, 1/3 cup cheddar. Mix it all together with a mixer, put it in a pyrex dish, bake at 350 for 20 minutes. Serve with tortilla chips. Easy and just the perfect amount of fire.)

My sister and I played a game of scrabble. I beat her by 24 points. We're pretty competitive and the game was hard fought. She wanted to play another game. I did not. The first game had taken a loooooooooong time. But she would not take no for an answer.

Long story short, I played a 7 letter word and got a 50 point bonus. When I picked my next batch of letters, I kept thinking that I surely should be able to do something with those. She played off my word. I used the t in her word and was able to use all my letters once again getting a triple word square AND the fifty extra points.

Never happened to me before.

Knowing when to be gracious, I said, "Yes. You were right. We did need to play another game."

She was not at all gracious in return.




Saturday, December 28, 2019

Lost.

Yesterday, I came home from work. I was hoping to talk Tim into picking up a couple pizzas and going up to our friends' house to exchange our Christmas gifts. I am dying to know for sure if the snowman I got her was actually the one she fell in love with, but could not bring herself to spend the money on.

I pulled into the driveway and he was not home. He's very excited about the new house and so I figured that he was working a little later on that project and that he'd be along later.

45 minutes later, I left the house for my appointment to get my hair cut. Still had not seen hide nor hair of Tim.

At some point, the beautician said, "So do you have any plans for the night?"

With my head down (she was cutting my hair in the back), I said, "I hope so, but I've lost my husband..." and I heard her make a little sound. When I looked up, she was clutching her chest. For a split second, I thought she was having some sort of a cardiac event.

"That's terrible! she gasped. "I'm so sorry!"

I gaped at her, but quickly figured it out. "No. I didn't lose him like that. I came home from work and he's gone someplace."

She made a few more clutching motions as she laughed.

Then she told this story: Her mother was taken to the hospital. The doctor came out and said, "I'm sorry. We lost her. " and her immediate response was something to the effect of "How can that BE? She was in no shape to go wandering off somewhere. How could you possibly lose her?"

Her whole family gaped at her.


Friday, December 27, 2019

A Must See

I am not a Catholic. I am Episcopalian. There is an old joke. Our church is Catholic lite: half the guilt but all the pomp.

That being said, I watched a Netflix program. The Two Popes. Very excellent. I recommend it, even if you're not Catholic.


Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Merry Christmas everyone.

Williamisms.

Williamism number one.

William was helping us decorate our tree. He was delighted with a red pickup truck that had a Christmas tree in the bed. As he went to hang it on the tree, he managed to drop it. It hit the hardwood floor and glass went everywhere.

William gasped, "I'm sorry! I'm sorry, Grandma!"

I was shocked at the level of his upset. I told him immediately that it was fine, that he didn't need to be worried. "Go get the broom and we'll clean this mess up. Then we can finish decorating the tree."

He went to the kitchen and returned with the broom, but his lip was quivering and he looked like he might cry.

"William," I said soothingly. "It's fine! It's not a big deal. We have lots of ornaments. We even have a
green pickup truck with a Christmas tree on it. Stop now."

He looked at me with slumped shoulders and said, "Sometimes I feel just like Charlie Brown."

I stifled my laughter and pulled him close. "Your name is William, and I feel that you worry too much."

Williamism number two:

As Christmas draws closer, William is getting increasingly excited. He's got a countdown going. His earlier excitement about buying presents for everyone has been eclipsed by his excitement at the gifts he's about to receive.

He was sprawled out the couch studying the tree with a very happy look on his face.

He turned to me and said, "I love Christmas!"

I responded that I did as well.

He said, musingly, "Doesn't the world seem like a happier place when you get presents?"

Monday, December 23, 2019

Real Life Conversations with Grandchildren

We ran into Walmart to get a couple cookie cutters. William wanted to make snowman cookies. We got that and the Hershey Kisses for the peanut butter blossoms. William caught sight of the peppermint hershey kisses. "We need to get those for Grandpa. He loves those."

I looked down at him. "Really?"

"Yep. Grandpa loves those. So do I." 

I tossed a bag into the cart. 

We picked up a couple more things and headed for the checkout. 

William urgently said, "I want a yodeling pickle! Look grandma! A yodeling pickle!" And he fixed me with that look.

"No," I said. "You surely don't need a yodeling pickle." 

"Bur, Grandma..." 

"No," I said.

Who in God's name comes up with these ideas?!!!

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Labels

It is a hard thing to live in these times, a time when what I feel is so at odds with what is happening around me.

I believe that kindness matters and that it is what we are expected to be. I believe that where there is unkindness, we are expected to bring God there.

I believe that with good fortune comes the responsibility to share that with those less fortunate than ourselves. Our own business is based around that. We have been the less fortunate. We understand the importance of this from the other side of it.

I believe that truth matters. If lies spin out around you, you have a duty to stand firm on the side of truth and to not waver. For all the wailing around me, I can tell you this: "Seek and ye shall find." The truth is not that elusive unless you wish not to look at it.

I believe that in the end, God judges us on our own behavior, therefore my own judgments should be directed at myself.

I don't believe that there is (or ever was) a war on Christmas.

I pray hard during these dark times. I go to church on Sunday. I give generously, I try to look for opportunities to extend kindness into a world that desperately needs kindness.

I find it interesting that all these things can be looked at as attributes, until you say the words "I am a Democrat." Suddenly, then, you become the other side.

Saturday, December 21, 2019

Real Scenes from a Marriage.

I pulled up in front of the new house, where Tim was leaning on his truck having an animated conversation with the neighbor.

Me: "Tim. Why did my card decline at Aldi's?!! I just got paid yesterday!"

Tim: "Yeah. There's a mistake on your new card. It's not attached to the right account. But I just put $150. on it yesterday."

Me: "And today I spent $105 on your last Christmas present and then tried to get groceries."

Tim laughed and laughed.

I did not.


Friday, December 20, 2019

Miracles

Last weekend it was snowy and blowy. We'd been processing deer meat at Tim's son's house, but we were having an issue with the grinder. We decided that it was best to grind the meat when Mike was home to oversee the use of his grinder, so we put the roaster full of unground meat in Mike's fridge, cleaned the grinder and headed out with the roasts and steaks and chops that we'd already cut and packaged.

It's such a busy time. Overtime at work, watching William while his mother and her boyfriend work overtime. We all try to schedule our overtime so that William always has a parent or grandparent with him.

In the middle of that mix, I'm trying to get Christmas shopping done. Tim is not helpful with that. He likes to wait for me to do it, which is kind of annoying sometimes, especially when I'm (as the saying goes) 'up to my elbows in alligators'. (Translation: Busy.) (Additional comment: in real life, I say 'elbows'. Hardly anyone else does.)

Anyways, I got out of work Sunday afternoon about 1-ish. I dropped off a woman who struggles with transportation and then I headed home. It was snowing pretty hard, but when I walked in the door, I asked Tim if he wanted to go to our favorite antique store to see if we could find something for my sister and brother-in-law. Since his game wasn't on until later in the evening, he said yes.

After some waffling around, we finally settled on two matching stone jugs for the front porch of their log cabin. We headed home.

It was snowing even harder.

Tim decided to call Mike to see if he was around to supervise the meat grinding. He wasn't. Tim decided to wait an hour and then head over.

In the meantime, I switched on a Netflix show, "The Irishman". It wasn't my cup of tea, as it turned out but Tim got pretty engrossed. Long story short, by 4 o'clock, he was so engrossed that he decided not to check back in to see if Mike was home. He decided to go over Monday night after Mike got off work.

I was just as glad really, because it was quite ugly outside.

I was reading The Book of Fire and Tim was watching his movie. I got up to check facebook, to see if any of the kids had messaged. Right away, I saw that there had been a car accident at the end of Mike's road, with fatalities. I gasped, "Tim, call Mike. Make sure he's okay."

It wasn't Mike, thank goodness, but it was a couple of people who worked for Tim on a house. The man and the woman were both killed when they lost control of their car and slid in front of a tanker. Three children in the back seat, one in critical condition. They were all on the way to see their six day old baby, a premie who was still in the hospital.

We sat in stunned silence. It's a shocking thing, even more shocking when it is someone you know.

I finally managed "It sounds terrible, but if that baby had not been born prematurely, she would likely have died in the accident..."

Tim looked back at me. "It happened at 4:30. If I hadn't gotten interested in that movie, I'd have been on my way to Mike's."

Miracles sometimes slip by unnoticed because they are not always the close calls...sometimes they are the things that don't happen at all.





Wednesday, December 18, 2019

Tim and I Are Different

I came home from work and noticed that the boot tray was in the bathtub, and things were slightly different in the kitchen. I absentmindedly mused that I didn't think we'd gotten enough snow to have to drain the boot tray, but hey, then I got busy doing something else, and...well...that's kind of how it goes with me. 

At some point, Tim told me that he'd gone to Grand Valley to pull down his blind before the snow hit, and that he'd stopped in to get 3 dozen eggs from my niece. "Thanks!" I said. 

Then he said, laughing,  "I was coming in the house and my mittens were slippery. I dropped a dozen. Holy cow, what a mess that was! Took me a while to get THAT cleaned up." 

I said something to the effect of "I'm sure. I'll bet you said a bad word or two when that happened." 

Long pause. He thought carefully. "No. Actually. I don't think that I did swear." Thought some more. "Nope."

Okay. 

That's how you can tell that I did not drop a dozen eggs. 

Friday, December 13, 2019

Hunting season

Busy times: crazy work schedule. Tim got his buck and a doe (but not the mama and twin fawns that have been hanging around our place, much to my relief). We've got a large bunny living under the camper, and so we're going to put up a nice place for it to stay warm.

Funny hunting story: My brother in law was out hunting with his son, who was home on leave from the military. They saw a bunch of running deer, and my nephew bellowed "HEY! STOP RIGHT THERE!" My brother in law was shocked speechless that the deer stopped and turned towards him curiously. Yep. Bill got his buck. Later conversation: 'Well that's how I always do it. They stop to see what's up."

Still laughing every time I think about it.

We'll spend tomorrow processing the meat and getting it in the freezer.

Maybe we'll have time to finish our Christmas shopping, finally.






Monday, December 9, 2019

Recognized

Tim and I went and picked up that chifferobe (thank you for the right word, Lori) yesterday. My cousin and I tried to remember how long it has been since we saw each other. Neither one of us could remember. It's been a tremendously long time. Tim never met her and we've been married for 20+ years. Before that, I lived in Michigan for 10 years. Before that....well...you get the idea. It's been a looooooooong time.

When we were setting this all up, I asked her where she lived.

Long pause. "In Mom and Dad's old house."

I had no idea she was there, right within sight of MY parents' old place.

Tim drove the big truck up and I took in the familiar sights from the passenger seat.

We blabbed for a while. We've got a lot in common. Tim said, "Look at her stove." She has an antique gas stove in her kitchen.
Now don't laugh at me, but I've actually dragged Tim along to look at stoves of this nature. I want one something awful, but the ones I find have an oven that is too small. It has to be able to hold my turkey roaster. When I saw Spring's stove, I had immediate stove envy. She has an Eriez, and it is a big thing with an oven that is just the size I need. 

As I exclaimed over that stove, she sighed and said, "I just love old stuff, and there is absolutely nothing that can go wrong with this." I said, "Yes, that's exactly what Tim said," 

We loaded that chifferobe, and she showed me the old cast iron sink she found for her kitchen. I loved it and we talked about the house we're going to build and how we've been accumulating old things for it too.

We had an awful lot in common. 

My family tree has a whole lot of broken branches. They are a hot tempered bunch, and someone was always mad at somebody. We'd go months without seeing this relative, or that. Sometimes years. Sadly it's not so different in my generation. I have never been to my parents' graves, as strange as that sounds. They are not buried on neutral land. I don't expect people to understand. I don't even try to explain it anymore. 

Driving back down off the hill, I thought it was ironic that I wanted that chifferobe as soon as I laid eyes on it. It was really a powerful nostalgic wanting, a desire to capture something that is no more, I suppose. Maybe it never was at all. It gets hard to tell sometimes. 

Last night, I was talking to my sister. 

I told her about that wiehnachtspyramide I found. I told her that I had no earthly idea why I wanted it, but as soon as I saw it....

And she said, "Oh, I LOVE those! Do you remember that Bea had one? Remember we'd get invited to their house when they were all decorated for Christmas, and there was so much to look at, the sleigh bells and the tree and the garland and the pyramid?" 

I remember those invitations. Bea and Gordie were our godparents and they decorated for every holiday, richly, lavishly. We'd never seen anything like it and it was a treat to be invited to dinner. We feasted our eyes AND our stomachs. 

I didn't recognize the pyramid, at least not consciously, but I understand now why I wanted it so very badly. 



Sunday, December 8, 2019

Weihnachtspyramide

Yesterday, while we were at the animal shelter thrift shop, I laid eyes on this:
It was an exciting find for me. I've always wanted one. William had never seen one before and was intrigued. I couldn't remember the German name for them: Weihnachtspyramide. Truth be told, I still can't. It's probably 30 inches tall. I checked the price tag. At $9.99, it was an affordable extravagance, so....

I bought it. 

At home, I moved the stuff from the glass topped steamer trunk, and set up the pyramid. The candle holders seemed untrustworthy to me, so I'd bought 6 votive candles in glass cups, removed the candle holders (they just slide off) and set the 6 candles around it at the base. 

It works a treat. William was mesmerized, getting his Leap Frog to make a video of it. Later that night, I caught Tim sitting on the couch, with his chin in his hand watching it. "I never saw anything like this before, he said. "This is cool."

The Real Santa Claus

As Christmas approaches, William begins to talk about Santa. He believes, he assures us. He heard Santa. He heard the reindeer on the roof. Etc. Etc. Etc.

Now William and I have had an ongoing discussion about the difference between imagination and lying. My explanation is that when you know that what you're saying is not true but you're trying to convince everyone around you that it IS the truth, well, you've crossed over from imagining to lying. That is a problem.

The other thing is that when you're nearly 9, talking like that at school can get you labeled as a baby, and he hates to be teased.

So I fell back on an old tried and true technique.

I explained to him that Santa WAS real but the magic of it is that we're all Santa, every one single one of us, and that he was old enough to be Santa too.

So he got a wallet with a fair amount of cash in it, which made his eyes bug out. The only rule was that every penny of that money needed to be spent on someone else. So he made his little list of who he had to buy for: Mom, Don, Grandpa Brian and Grandma Barb, Grandpa, Uncle Dylan, Aunt Brittani, Iris, his teacher.

Saturday morning, Grandpa went hunting. William and I headed off.

First up was getting him a hair cut.

Then we went to the local animal shelter's thrift shop. They get some very high end stuff in there. He immediately found a crystal perfumer for his mother. It really was beautiful. It was also only $1.99. He found a nurse ornament for his aunt, and a wooden airplane ornament with a propeller that spun. He found something for his other grandparents too. He checked out on his own.

He wanted to go to Ollie's next, because there was a book that he'd seen Don looking at. We found it in short order. He also noticed a book about Camaros for his Grandfather. He also wanted to buy his mother a candle and took some time finding just the right scent. He sorted through the wrapping paper until he found exactly the perfect paper. He found a new bath toy for Iris. Everyone got chocolate covered cherries. At the check out counter, when everything came to thirty something dollars, he got a little upset. "I have to give him both my twenties?" When I told him yes, he said, "but that's ALL my twenties!" and the big bearded cashier said, "Welcome to adulting, kiddo."

He got his change back and still had nearly $10 to spend. He headed to the Dollar Tree to buy a notebook for his teacher that had cats on it. She likes cats. He also bought Christmas pencils and erasers for the kids in his classroom. Clutching his packages to his chest, he stood in front of a display of Santa hats. He said, "I would like a hat to wear while I'm giving everyone their presents." I agreed that every Santa needed a Santa hat.

He had a very large handful of change left which went into the nearest red kettle. He sat in the back seat with his bags of gifts. As we headed to lunch, I'd catch a glimpse of him in his red hat in the back seat, staring off happily with a big smile on his face.

When we got home, we wrapped his mother's and Don's gifts first. He chattered away at how he would wait until the two of them were not in the room and then he'd sneak their presents under the tree. He was afraid that they'd recognize his hand writing and so I was the one who had to write on the gift tags. They were all from "Secret Santa". He had his little story about what he was going to tell them when they noticed the pile of gifts under the tree. "I heard something. It sounded like Santa, but when I rushed into the living room, no one was there, but there were presents under the tree!" We had just finished wrapping when the  phone rang to tell us that they were on their way from work.

William was in quite a tizzy then. However was he going to get them home without him seeing? I lent him my big canvas bag with the zipper. We got everything tucked inside and the zipper zipped. We scooted all the unwrapped gifts and the wrapping debris away at about the same moment that his mother and Don walked in the door.

He stood there in his little Santa hat clutching his canvas bag waiting to go. And being a talker, he said, "We didn't go Christmas shopping today. I know we said that we were going to do that, but we didn't. We changed our minds. But I found some stuff upstairs that I wanted to bring home, so grandma let me borrow her bag. But I'm just borrowing it. And don't look in here. You can't look in here, but it's not presents."

He was still chattering away as they headed down the driveway.

He must have said it a dozen times over the course of the day: "This is going to be the best Christmas ever!"

It certainly seems like it from this Grandma's perspective. 


Saturday, December 7, 2019

In a surprising development, this morning I went to work for a 9 hour shift, only to discover that we ran out of work by noon.

Not a good sign.

Anyway, I opted to leave. It's been a long week. 50 hours of it was plenty for me, thanks.

Driving home, I made up my mind to run to the grocery store and pick up some green peppers. It was a cold, wet, and windy day, and Tim was outside chasing the elusive white tail. I figured a nice pot of stuffed pepper soup would be just the thing to warm him up when he got home.

I was in the produce section when a woman said, "I have to ask you, are you Debby that wrote for the paper?"

I said that I was, and braced myself. The conversation could go either way.

She said excitedly, "I miss you, and I have to know! What has happened to Cara? I hated that I would never know what happened to Cara!" She was so excited that it made me laugh.

So I explained that Cara and Colin live in Tlibisi, Georgia now with Mack the Afghan street cat, that the cat has seen more countries than most people, his adventures in Italy, etc. She listened raptly.

In the end, she reached for my hand. She was so thrilled to hear the rest of the story.

I haven't had my column for almost a year and a half, but people still recognize me. It is touching.


Friday, December 6, 2019

Reading

I have been reading a book. It's from 1959, Mr. Bridge. I've been engrossed in it. I read in bed for a half hour or so, but this was so good, for three days, I took it to work, to read at breaks and lunch.

While we were waiting for morning meeting, a co-worker, actually someone I went to school with a hundred years ago, asked me what I was reading. I showed her. She said, "Gosh. I couldn't tell you the last time I read a book."

Me: *speechless*

She laughed. "I'm not joking. I used to try to read when I took my daughter to the pool, just to be doing something, but I just never was interested enough to read a book all the way through. I don't even try anymore."

I tried to imagine, couldn't, gave up.

"Do you read every day?"

"Yes," I said.

Quite honestly, this is my fourth book in a week and a half, although to be fair, I should say that one of them was a light-weight read (because it is easy to pick up and put down at work). One of your basic 'struggling London single mother goes to Scotland to become a nanny for a laird'.

(And yes. They got married and lived happily ever after.)

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Facts is facts.

I've always been a self conscious person. Always.

Today, I saw a woman. Probably a little younger than me, but definately a 50-something. Shorter than me, heavy. She was wearing baggy sweat pants, a hoodie, high top sneakers, and a hat that read 'Sexy'.

I found myself thinking about her as I worked. I'm not critical of her choice to dress like a teenage boy. It's a free country. She can be who she wants to be. What I couldn't stop thinking about was: 'I wonder what it would be like to NOT be self conscious.'

That woman is free in a way that I will never know.

I'm not envious, or anything. Just stating the plain fact of the matter.


Tuesday, December 3, 2019

Busy little spider

At work on Sunday, I was standing at the window on break, watching the snow. In the corner of the window, on the outside, a tiny little spider busily worked away in the cold.

I watched him fascinated. I never noticed it before. He worked away amidst the detritus of dead bugs all around him. The snow came down. The wind gusts buffeted his little web in the unprotected corner. He paid no mind.

When break was over, I returned to my place.


Sunday, December 1, 2019

The Art of the Deal.

My cousin just messaged me. The deal fell through on that little wardrobe.

Not going to lie....seems like I was meant to have that.

At least that's what I'm telling Tim.

Saturday, November 30, 2019

Work

Bob asked about the job. It's hard to tell, really, what's going on there. I know that it has been very slow, compared to other years. Sending people home this close to Christmas is unusual. Management explained it as our teams have gotten more efficient and do the work more quickly. That may be true. Others have pointed out that because Thanksgiving was so very late this year, people weren't thinking about Christmas shopping until 'Black Friday' and 'Cyber Monday'. That may be true also. There are other theories going around. I try not to think about them. I work for one of the county's biggest employers. If these jobs are lost, it will be a very big blow to a community that already struggles. The ripple effects will be felt by every business in it. 

Whatever it is that's going on, I've been trying to be very cognizant of the fact that there are people who cannot afford to live on less hours, especially right before Christmas. If there are not enough volunteers, they 'force out', which means people are told that they are leaving early. No choice. I have heard that shortened hours are really putting some people in a pinch. So when they ask, I generally try to take the time, since I'm primarily there for the benefits. 

I've gone to another building to work down there and will probably be there for the rest of the pre-Christmas season. I'm now sucked into the mandatory overtime thing. I don't like it, but, you know, it is what it is. I've always thought that being part of a company is a two way street. You should be able to depend on them but they also should be able to depend on you when they need to. 

It gets unbalanced sometimes. The first year I worked there, we were working 10 hours weekdays, 8 hours Saturday and Sunday. Mandatory. For 7 weeks. People were walking off the job, which made a hard job even harder.  I was pretty fed up with it by the end of the season. It was a very painful year on a personal level and I had no time to prepare for Christmas. I didn't even get my tree up. My house was a mess, I was barely able to keep up with dishes and laundry. 

After that, they had a focus group. I give him a lot of credit. The head of our branch of the company was there. We discussed the situation. I told him very pointedly that what the company asked of people that season was unreasonable and that if next year played out like this, I would not remain with the company. 

Another issue that was brought up was the mandatory overtime. A co-worker brought up the fact that when you are a flexible employee, trained in different department, you are caught in a trap. If you are trained in receiving and quality control, you work mandatory overtime as the product is brought in. If you are trained in pack/ship, you work overtime during the high volume shopping times: Christmas, Easter, even changing seasons when the product goes out.  When that dies down, you get sent to returns because the volume of returns peaks after a peak shipping time. She complained that she was working overtime virtually year around and that it was not working for her and her family. 

Other objections were raised. I was proud to be a part of that group, because really, sitting in a room with the big boss, I figured everyone would clam up and refuse to speak out of concern of putting a target on themselves. But everyone did. We were all very plain spoken.

Management listened too. I felt like every concern that was brought up that day was addressed over the course of the next year. Every one. That says a lot about the company itself, in my mind and makes me, personally, more amenable to helping them out when they need me.

The following peak season was much more manageable. 

Now another peak season has come after what appears to be a lean year for us. 

I am working mandatory overtime, although I pointed out that I should not have to, since one of the things that came from that meeting was that for multiple people working in multiple departments, you could only be required to work overtime in your home department and one other. I've met the requirement already and should be exempt from mandatory overtime in this department. 

That being said, I recognize that I have a responsibility to my company, and will certainly work as much overtime as I can. I am going in on Sunday, and at 5AM for the rest of the week. My hope is that they will keep their original promise and that I will be allowed to leave work at my regular time. My daughter is caught up in peak season as well, and someone needs to be free to pick up William after school. It used to be Tim, but he wants to go hunting. For the next two weeks. When I worked on Friday, I had no idea what time we were going home exactly, until five minutes before we went home, which makes it pretty hard to plan. Since William did not have school that day, it was not such a critical thing. I raised my concerns once again, though. Hopefully it will be discussed and agreed upon. I'm perfectly happy to work on the weekend, and to go in early whenever they need me to, but I cannot stay late.

It will work out how it is meant to work out. I really do feel that the next week will give us a pretty good idea of how the Christmas season will go for us. 


Friday, November 29, 2019

The Wardrobe

When I was a little girl, my bedroom set was red and white. a little twin bed with bunnies marching across the bottom. It had a matching wardrobe, something with four drawers, a mirror up above, and then to the right of it, the wardrobe, which had a full length mirror.

I got to thinking of that a couple months back. I know that the bed moved with us from NY state to PA, but I never knew what happened to that little wardrobe. It was such a sweet set.

I went on ebay, and some of the local auction sites to try to locate one, but there was nothing. Lord knows, I don't need another piece of furniture. I'm going to have an awful time downsizing 2 or 3 years from now, when we're moving into our retirement home.

The day before Thanksgiving, I saw this.

I gasped out loud when I saw who had it. My cousin.

I messaged her right away, to tell her that I would take it, but there was someone who had already messaged that she wanted it.

I was surprised at how disappointed I was. I really could have cried.

It is surely was not something that I needed, but I couldn't help picturing it painted white with red trim, and a little girl dancing in front of the mirror pretending that she was on television.

Funny how the strangest things pop into your mind, isn't it?


Thursday, November 28, 2019

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

Just finished Barbara Kingsolver's Unsheltered. I know I say this a lot, but really, the best book, I've ever read.


Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Fears.

We have been working short weeks for a while now. I try to volunteer when they ask who wants to go home. Not all the early days are voluntary, in some departments, and I've heard stories of people unable to make their rent at the end of the month.

It's certainly a departure from most years when we would be in the middle of our Christmas rush and working crazy overtime.

Yesterday, I was sent to another department, which I don't mind. At 11:30, much to my surprise, the person in charge said, "We're done for the day. Are you staying?" I said, "If I can." They sent me to the office and then everyone seemed to disappear.

Walking in to the office, I was told to go home. I blinked. "Why don't I go back to my own department?" I was told they had nothing for me.

So I left. When I got home, I opened an unemployment claim. If it's come to this, I might as well get my waiting week out of the way.

A friend was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer a few weeks ago. Metastatic breast cancer is a personal bogeyman of mine, and I was privately struggling with this. Privately, because it seems very dramatic to be thinking about your own fears when a friend is dealing with the reality of it.

I was talking to my sister about our friend, and she said, "Didn't you know?" Turns out that she got the call from her doctor who was telling her that her tumor was a grade four. Our friend was hearing 'stage four'. Her cancer is stage 2, a step down from my experience.

I cried with relief.


Saturday, November 23, 2019

Dark

William has been rather slow in getting over his fear of the dark. Our biggest problem has always been that when he's here, he walks from room to room, flipping on lights. We send him back through to turn off the lights as we explain yet again, that he needs a light on in the room that he's in. He doesn't need every light in the house on.

So tonight, he came in. His grandpa and I were curled up on our respective couches watching The Antiques Roadshow. We had the floor lamp switched on in the corner behind the glass topped steamer trunk that serves as the end table between the two couches. 

William walked over and switched off the light. 

We sat in the dark illuminated by the flickering light of the television set to see what would happen next. 

He roamed into the office and then back out. He roamed into the library, and then back out. "This is kind of neat," he said. He asked to borrow his grandfather's flashlight. He prowled around from room to room, and then much to my astonishment headed down to the basement to explore in the dark. 

Eventually he came back up. 

"I'm using my imagination," he said. "Did you know that you can have an adventure when the lights are off?" 

"Yes," I said. 

And with that, he headed off down the dark hall.

Late Edit: Last night he slept without a nightlight. Not one word about it. And no. I have absolutely no idea what has happened here. 

Brand New

My sister is a nurse and she works 4 10 hour shifts a week. She says to the rest of us: "I don't know how anyone keeps up working 5 days a week." Due to a lack of work, I've had a number of short weeks lately.

I always feel behind. We have a big house, Tim's always wanting to go camping during the summer weekends. Plus he's been going through the hoarder's house and he's been hauling his finds home. Our own home started to look cluttered. It really was bothering me.

I've been steadily working on this house, room by room, downsizing/hauling stuff away and then putting the room back to rights.

Yesterday was our bedroom. I cleaned and rearranged furniture. We have a window that is 70 inches long and 30 inches high (that now opens, thanks to the a new window there.) I needed new curtains for it. The old window let in a lot of cold air so we had a heavy curtain there. With the new window, insulation was no longer the primary concern. Our bedroom is at the back of the house on the north side and doesn't get a lot of light.  I wanted something to block anyone from the house next door seeing in but still let in any available light. We browsed in several stores and couldn't find what we needed. It's an odd sized window.

We were headed back home and as we passed by, I said, "Why don't we stop in Goodwill? Maybe there will be something there."

We looked and Tim said, "You're not going to find anything," and wandered off to look around. He found a old friend and started talking.

I continued to look and was shocked spitless to find exactly what I was looking for. In exactly the right size. It was even the perfect color. I took them over to show Tim. He was a little surprised. "Those will work," he said.

As we were walking out, he saw some blinds that piqued his curiosity. He studied them, but couldn't make out how they worked. Or even if they worked. Shopping at a thrift store is never a sure thing. For $2.99 each, he decided to take the plunge.

Once home, we went back to work on the bedroom. Much to Tim's surprise, the blinds were brand new cordless 'zebra blinds'. He never saw them before and the man does love a gadget. He got them hung on the french doors and was perfectly delighted with them. We hung the new curtains in the new window. Tim sat down with the brass lamps that I'd found for our bedroom years ago but needed some electrical work before I would trust them. Once repaired, we popped the new shades on them, and they were perfect too.

It always seemed like our bedroom was kind of cramped but with the new furniture arrangement, with the airy window treatments, the room looks wide open.

Last night, sitting in the living room watching Jeopardy with a the first fire of the season crackling away in the library, Tim looked around and said, "Doesn't it feel like we have a brand new house?"

And it did.


Friday, November 22, 2019

Putting my House In Order.

I've got another Friday off work, due to lack of work.

It's another gray and dreary day, but earlier in the week, we got the windows replaced in the house. 16 windows. We had an outside group come in to replace them because:

                          1) It was faster. A three man team got here at 10:30 AM and were done with the                                        installation by 2.

                          2) The windows come with a lifetime guarantee. Even against breakage.

                          3) That guarantee transfers with the sale of the house. The new owners will have the
                               same guarantee.

I'm still hoeing out the house, room by room. My sister is coming to stay with us when she's on call, so that was great motivation to get the second floor done. The attic stuff has migrated back to the attic  on the third floor. We've been making a lot of trips to Good will.

Today, I'll be putting the freshly washed curtains back up and setting our own bedroom (always a last priority) back to rights.




Tuesday, November 19, 2019

The Professors

I saw the post as soon as I woke up this morning. Kevin King and Steven Weeks were released by the Taliban after over 3 years in captivity.

I held my coffee cup in the dark, frozen still, tears of joy springing to my eyes immediately.

Have I met them? No, but their capture in August 2016 rocked my world in ways that I still cannot adequately explain. They were professors at the American University of Afghanistan. Their capture was a punch in the gut for me, the actual playing out of my very worst fears. They were colleagues of my youngest daughter at the university.

They were taken from a car by terrorists.

It was then that I fervently began to pray for Cara to leave Afghanistan. My opinion doesn't matter to her (and rightfully so ~ she's an adult), but I carefully followed the news there, and even prior to the kidnappings, it seemed as if the situation was devolving. Whenever I mentioned my fears to Cara, her response was always, "I'll know when it's time to go."

Two weeks later, the university was attacked by terrorists. 13 were killed, most of them students. It was the day that I was returning home from the funeral of my grandson.

I knew the drill. She'd explained it to me. I was never to call. If they were in hiding, a ringing cell phone could alert terrorists to where they were. I was supposed to wait. If something happened, the school would contact me if she couldn't. It wasn't long before there was a comforting message on facebook.

My concerns continued to grow, but I learned to keep them to myself. Cara had enough to cope with. I lay awake many, many nights, just praying. For her, for the situation, for the missing professors, for the injured students, The whole thing made me physically ill.

Every now and again, I'd see a report on the two captive professors and I felt sick for them and for their families. They were living my very worst nightmare.

This morning, in the dark office, I read the headlines and I remembered how terrifying those days were.  I googled and read reports of their release and I cried. Their capture had been terrifying to me. My tears of relief were because they were freed.  But I'd be a liar if I didn't admit that some of those relieved tears were because my girl no longer lives in Afghanistan. 








Friday, November 15, 2019

A Day Home

Due to lack of work, I spent the day home.

Laundry. Check.

House cleaning. Check.

Pot of venison vegetable soup simmering on the stove. Check.

I did some more Christmas shopping. William so enjoyed the Harry Potter themed children's murder mystery dinner that for Christmas, we got him a Pirate Treasure Mail Order Mystery  We'll put the first package under the tree, and then act as if we're received the others, one at a time, in that day's mail. It should be exciting for him, and the reviews are great.

Being all in the holiday spirit, I even have wrapped everything that I've gotten so far.

I'm pretty much prepared for all the mandatory overtime that comes with our peak season at work. But, for today, I am home.


Wednesday, November 13, 2019

Christmas shopping

I do my Christmas shopping early. It's peak season for my company. The first year that I worked there, I was working 5 10 hour days a week, and 2 8 hour days on weekends. That year I did not get a tree up. Christmas shopping was a marathon 'get it done' completely lacking in joy. I vowed to never have another year like that.

So, I do my Christmas shopping early.

This year, the perfect gifts just seem to be jumping out at me.

The other day, I was talking to a friend on the phone. She was telling me about a snowman she saw at the local animal shelter thrift shop. She said that it was about 16 inches tall, glass. She fell in love with it as soon as she saw it, but it was $24.99.

"Mary!" I exclaimed.

But I couldn't blame her. It's been a rough year for her. Her husband was the one so badly injured when a truck lost control on an icy curve, swung into his lane and hit him head on as he was coming around that same curve in the other direction. There have been a lot of bills, the driver of the other vehicle was very under insured and that insurance didn't even cover the first week in ICU.

Danny operates heavy equipment, and his job won't take him back. His leg damage makes him a potential liability and they don't want the risk.

Lots of financial insecurity that is slowly sorting itself out, but still, I can understand why she wasn't going to pay $24.99 for a snowman.

The next day, I headed over right after work to see if I could find that snowman. Much to my horror, I walked in there to discover that the store was almost nothing BUT Christmas. Table after table after table. I died a little.

There were a LOT of snowmen mixed in there.

Resolutely, I began walking along each table, one at a time, scanning the displays when I came to this. I knew as soon as I saw him that this was what she'd seen. I picked him up and sure enough, he was $24.99.



I carefully picked him up and headed to the register. Mary and I have been friends for 50 years. I know a lot about her, but I didn't realize that I knew her tastes in snowmen too until that very moment. 

Remember the old mercury glass ornaments? This is glass and designed to look like that, but he's pretty heavy. He's also a collectible. 

I honestly haven't been so excited about a Christmas gift in a long time. I can't wait for her to unwrap it.




Sunday, November 10, 2019

Kansas

The concert was great. It wasn't really what you'd call a mega concert, being held in a gorgeous historic theater in the town of Erie, which is roughly an hour and a half from here.

We got there a half hour early and were ushered to our seats. It was a lot of fun to watch everyone coming in. Most of us were (ahem) pretty mature. Lots of bald or gray heads, wheelchairs. There was one bald head with a very large tattoo right in the middle of his forehead. I have no idea what is was. He didn't look like a dangerous sort...more like a harmless goofball sort. A bunch of people were standing there talking in the aisle not far from us, and one very overweight fellow lifted his arms high as he talked animatedly, his saggy jeans exposing a bright red thong to the crowd behind him. We watched a couple with their four kids come in and head right up front. The seats up there were $125 each, and there was no discount for children. That was $750 for that family, which I found fascinating. (They all left as soon as they heard Dust in the Wind) Mostly though, the folks filing in were plain ol' oldies, the sort of people you'd find at your high school reunion.

Tim and I were sitting comfortably in our comfortable seats, people watching, one of our favorite activities. The concert was well attended, but there were plenty of empty seats,

At the last moment, the people sitting on the other side of Tim were ushered in. I thought it was another mother/daughter duo (plenty of parents introducing their kids to the classics last night), but lo, I was wrong. The younger girl was in a very short skirt, very high heels, and a faux leopard print coat. Her seat mate was very stylishly dressed. She could barely talk, but the younger girl was pretty manic. She struck up a cheerful conversation with Tim right away at the top of her lungs.

Tim, who is very shy, looked as if bolting might be an option.

The music started, and it was great. Tim got a very pained expression on his face as the screamer screamed. Over and over and over. She was very excited about the music, she was very excited about her 'beautiful high'. Tim said that her seatmate said that she had washed her pills down with alcohol.

We figured out that this was not a mother/daughter duo when the girl began gyrating in front of the older woman who  grabbed her and stroked her.  We briefly discussed moving to some of the empty seats, but we were in the middle and couldn't figure out how to do that in the middle of the concert without disrupting everyone in the row.

"Oh, boy," Tim said a couple of times in my ear. "Oh boy."

She attracted quite a bit of attention and every time that the lights swooped over the crowd, she was up and screaming and gyrating around to the pleasure of a row of fellows behind her.

In the end, their 'highs' must have worn off simultaneously. The older woman sat slumped in her seat looking sick (which was a bit worrisome). The younger woman slouched over her phone on facebook.

The music was great. It really was, and we enjoyed it very much. We're not sorry we went.

At the end, the band thanked us and left the stage. Like a flash, leopard coat girl flung her coat on and began to complain about how hungry she was and how she wanted a hamburger. With cheese. And a tomato. She was starving. The older woman still looked as if eating something, ANYTHING, might not be a good idea. They left.

Tim stood and reached behind him for his coat. "It's not over yet," I said. Tim looked surprised. "They have not played "Wayward Son" and they won't get away with that."

The applause went on until the band did return. They said they had one more song, and that the crowd probably knew what it was.

We did.

It was worth waiting for.

At the end, they thanked us for 46 years of support and begged us not to die on them.

We all laughed.

A highlight for me was those 'aha - I remember THAT! - moments when they played some of their songs that do not get a lot of airplay, like this, a song I'd forgotten completely, but remembered just as soon as the introduction began.


We both enjoyed ourselves.






Friday, November 8, 2019

Silver lining

It's snowing.

Meh.

It was snowing when I headed out for work.

Sigh.

Leaf collection was not finished, so the roads are a mess.

Boo.

Was offered the option to leave work early since a truck did not make it in.

Yay.

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Revisited

Tim and I were watching Jeopardy. A commercial came on for the Warner Theater in Erie. Kansas is playing there Saturday night.

Tim's a pretty low key type fellow, but right away he sat straight up and said, "I want to see that." I've never seen him get excited about a concert before. It's always me. I got very excited to see Jethro Tull. I got excited to see Christopher Cross. He generally tags along because he is a good sport.

Anyhow, he was excited. I went into the office and brought up the ticket information. He said, "I don't know. Those are pretty pricey..." and he stood there undecided.

I said, "Do you want to see them?"

He said that he did.

I pointed out that we had the money.

He stood quietly staring over my shoulder at the computer screen.

I waited.

"Let's do it!" he said.

And so we are.


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

The Contractor.

Our new roofer guy just got back from Virginia. He called Tim yesterday and asked him if he's got any work for him. He lives across the street from the Wayne St house, and is hoping that Tim picks him up to help with that project. Tim said, "Well...there's this roof..." and told him about the leak discovered in the rental down the street.

The guy showed up yesterday morning to look at the roof. It's a matter of  taking out a chimney, and sealing a vent. He's also replacing the back half of the roof, just to be on the safe side. Discovering the problem has not adequately been addressed in the dead of winter makes an even BIGGER problem. Tim left it as, "Get an estimate to me when you have a minute."

The guy came back at lunchtime with an estimate. Tim wrote him a check for half the job, and told him to start when he was ready.

He'll be here today.

He was such a lucky find for us.

Saturday, November 2, 2019

The phone rang early this morning, and Tim answered it. "Good morning, sunshine!" the big voice boomed. I would have recognized it, but Tim hasn't listened to my cousin enough to know that's one of his trademark salutations.

"Pardon?" Tim said.

The voice thundered out laughter.

It was my cousin, Tim. He's the one we gave permission to hunt on our property. After a bad car wreck, he thought his hunting days were over. He got a 7 point buck this morning and was thrilled.


"Tis the season!

 
'Tis the season


Hunting season


Our county got its first snow the day after Halloween (trick or treat!). 

Thursday, October 31, 2019

When it rains....

It's raining like crazy here. We got that roof on just in the nick of time, I'm telling you.

Tonight, setting up for the trick or treaters, a tenant called. She noticed a small leak.

Thank goodness we know a roofer....

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Books.

I was reading a book that I really enjoyed. The ending suuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuckked. Illogical and weak. The killer killed because she didn't want people to speak ill of her long dead grandmother (who people already spoke ill of, as far as I could tell from my reading.) 

Am now reading Prairie Fires as per Ed's suggestion. Engrossed. 

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Yay!

Roof is done. Hallelujah. I honestly did not think that we'd find someone before winter set in. I posted a request on facebook. A guy responded from his son's graduation from boot camp in NC, and said he'd be out to give us an estimate Tuesday morning. He showed up, gave his price, Tim hired him on the spot, and he started work the very next day.

I cannot tell you what a relief this is for both of us. Tim had done some repair work. The leaking had stopped, but he wasn't at all confident that his repairs would get us through the winter.


Sunday, October 27, 2019

The Tantrum

Tim and I did some running around after church today and it involved stopping at multiple stores. We were standing at the checkout in one of the stores and behind us stood a woman with a screaming little boy. He wanted something and his mother had told him no. He screamed and kicked and raged with all the rage that could be contained in his three year old person. His mother was very patient, reasoning with him in a gentle voice. It did no good. He began to kick and she cradled him, continuing to speak in soothing tones.

Tim looked at her and grinned. "They all do it," he said.

She said, "He's three and he wants everything he sees."

I said, "Our grandson is 8 and he STILL wants everything he sees. The difference is that he no longer throws screaming fits when he doesn't get it. This too shall pass, mama."

The little boy screamed on and on and I must say there was no mom shaming from anyone in that long line. Everyone was very patient about it. All the same, the boy soon began to choke and cough as he screamed and his mother began to look a bit stressed.

I looked at the mom. "Do you mind if I speak with him?" She said that she did not.

I bent down to eye level and said to him in a very calm voice, "You're not allowed to scream like that in here." He stopped screaming and stared at me in shock. "It's against the rules," I said. Dead silence as he stared at me with his teary eyes and snotty nose.

I stood up. His mother stared at me in astonishment. "How did you do that?" she wanted to know.

"That's easy," I said. "I'm not his mother." The child snuffled quietly at his mother's side.

Saturday, October 26, 2019

A Cat's Life

Long ago, there was a girl who left for Afghanistan. While she worked at the university there, she met a cat, Maki, a large Afghan street cat who had been picked up so many times by the Nowzad animal shelter for getting his butt kicked by other Afghan street cats that the shelter finally did not return him to the street. 

When Cara went to the shelter, Maki saw her from across a crowded room, marched square over to her and climbed up next to her. She felt that the cat had chosen her. She decided to choose him. 

When Cara and I were in New Orleans about six years ago, we stayed in an artist's home, and she had a portrait of her golden retriever painted in the manner of a religious icon. Cara thought it was hilarious.

When I came back, I contacted an artist that I know and commissioned a portrait of Mack for Cara's Christmas gift. 

                                              I'd found a portrait of the Emir of Caubal
and had Mack painted in the same manner. 
Ellen, being a gentle soul fell in love with the story of Maki, and to this day says that he is one of her top selling prints. A percentage of her Maki sales goes back to the Nowzad animal shelter.

It is a funny thing to think of Mack these days. He is actually a citizen of Great Britain now and is currently wintering in Tlibisi, Georgia...this after summering in Spain, which happened after a year in the UK with stops along the way in France and Switzerland.  He has learned to unzip tents in Italy, and sometimes the campers there left notes and gifts for them when they decamped. His picture hangs in the homes of people we will never know.

Ellen published a book, and I bought an autographed copy for each of the grandchildren, Much to my surprise, Mack was in it.

He's come a very long way from the war torn violence of Kabul's streets, hasn't he?

PS: That blue bird in the background? It represents a toy I bought him for his first Christmas, a blue bird that 'chitters' when it is batted about. I didn't realize that he still had that toy after all these years, but lo, he does and he has managed to lose it in Tlibisi. Cara says that his catnip mice and his little balls are no replacement for that silly bird. I have looked for them and cannot find replacements locally. If anyone happens to see one while they are out and about, I'd gladly pay for a couple of them (good to have a spare).

Titanic

Tim went hunting last night. Brianna, William and I went to see Titanic: the Musical.

William's never seen a full on musical before, and so I was wondering how he would do. He shocks me at how quickly he catches on to things though. When the cart slowly rolled from stage left to stage right as the shocked first class passengers stood silently watching it, William turned to me wide eyed. "Oh NO! The boat is starting to lean!" 

He was mesmerized when the house lights began to flicker and the third class passengers ran through the aisles and pounded on the exit doors frantically. He didn't quite get that until I explained that they were trying to show us what it felt like to be in the belly of the great ship as the water rushed in. 

I didn't think he was listening to the words, but he turned to me and said, "It's a 300 foot gash!" Or when Captain Smith, the Titanic's architect, Thomas Andrews and the business man Bruce Ismay got into an sing off about who was to blame for the disaster even as the ship was sinking, his little mind was busily deciding who was really to blame. 

He skipped out of there at nearly 11 PM, chattering away.

Safe to say, he liked it. 

Thursday, October 24, 2019

Book Worms

We finished up 'On The Banks of Plum Creek' and now we're reading 'By The Shores of Silver Lake'. I'd forgotten that the book gets off to a pretty sad start. At one point, Laura's grieving the loss of her dog, Jack. That chapter made me cry when I was 8. I reread those books every fall for my elementary school years, and I'm willing to bet the farm that I cried every time that I got to that chapter. 54 years later, reading it out loud to my grandson, I cried again.

That's the magic of a book, I guess. William was intrigued by this, that I would cry for a dog that's been dead probably 150 years. That's how I've always been, even from a young child. It really did make folks wonder about me.

The adult book on my bedside table is Finding Dorothy, by Elizabeth Letts. It's about Maud Baum, who was the wife of L. Frank Baum who wrote The Wizard of Oz. She's also the daughter of famous suffragette and human rights advocate, Matilda Gage.

I was captivated by the book right away, probably because I have spent much of the summer and part of the fall doing an historical play about the first Women's Rights Convention, which was held in Seneca Falls in 1848, so some of the people are familiar to me. I also lived in the Watertown/Syracuse area for quite a while, so the places that they talk about in the book are familiar to me too. I've always loved The Wizard of Oz (after I got over my childhood fears of the Wicked Witch of the West and those darned flying monkeys), so reading about the book and then MGM's adaptation and Maud's intense desire to insure that the movie retained her husband's vision is interesting.

There are so many threads of the story which weave together so perfectly, it is just an lovely, lovely read. It's been a long time since I've read a book that I simply did not want to end.

William feels the same way about the Laura Ingalls Wilder series.

Two peas in a pod, no matter how many years are between us.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Going batty

Tim was yelling his head off. "Help, help, get out here...."

A bat was circling. Honestly, I've never see a man get more upset about a bat than Tim. I can't say much, because a couple weeks ago, I was flipping out over fruit flies.

Room by room, we began to shut doors until he was circling in the bedroom. Exhausted, he landed on the curtain. I reached for him with a broom. He climbed on and held on. Tim opened the French doors in the bedroom, and I carefully carried him outside. After a bit of recuperation, he finally fluttered off.

The only way he could have gotten in was through the chimney in the library. That's never happened before.

We got a roofer. Starts tomorrow AM. That's a relief. We probably should have him put some screening over the chimney while he's up there.

The house we are buying? The power of attorney is in the daughter's name. She needed to provide the hospital with a copy of that so that they had the proof that she was empowered to make medical decisions for her mother. The hospital copied it and then gave her the copy, keeping the original. Seems easy enough to go to the hospital to get your original back. Except the hospital has gone paperless, which means that they scanned the document into the system and then shredded the original.

Unfortunately, you can only submit an original to the court house to sell the property. A copy is not acceptable.There's another way to accomplish it, but it costs $5000. Where it stands now is that we cannot buy the house until her mother passes away and the house goes to the daughter in the will.

Word to the wise, from the lawyer: "You don't EVER give up the original paperwork unless you are filing it at the Court House.

Probably, the very saddest part of this is that the daughter would see nothing from the sale of the house. It all goes to the state because her mother is in the nursing home.

We've got plenty to keep us busy and we don't mind waiting to get the house.  It is far more difficult for them. They've got their own affairs to keep in order, plus now they're responsible for the utilities and the maintenance on another house.


Sunday, October 20, 2019

Tamagotchi

When my kids were younger, they had tamagotchis. It was a fad. They all had their virtual pet to take care of. Like all fads, they wound up in a drawer in their bedrooms after a few months.

It was like a blast of deja vu when William started talking about tamagotchis. He wanted one. He wanted one very badly.

Now, I can't remember what I paid for the ones my kids had but much to my surprise, these days, they can be bought for less than $2 on line. Free shipping. Bad news? They shipped from China.

We ordered one and were told it would be here by December 11th. William was initially upset by this but took a deep breath and decided he'd lived this long without one...he'd be fine for another couple of months.

William and Brianna stopped in last night to get something and I had two packages on my doorstep, a largish one, and another tiny one that had Chinese characters on it. William examined it and just knew that it was his tamagotchi. He had a chance to talk to his aunt Cara and he told her about this package. He wanted very much to open it. Cara explained about the mail laws. He countered with 'Grandma wouldn't care!' Cara explained that opening mail that didn't have your name on it was a federal crime.

In the end, William decided not to risk it. I wasn't home and so he'd wait until I gave it to him.

I gave him his tamagotchi this morning. He had trouble with it. I showed him the battery tab. When we pulled it out, it began working, but I couldn't get it programmed. It was not for lack of trying, either.  I also did not have a whole lot of time to mess with it. We were at church.

I had nursery duty and spent a delightful hour playing with a friend's grandson.

After church, William came up to me with the instructions in one hand, his virtual pet in the other. My heart sank a little. I was going to have to sit down and figure this out. I had a sinking feeling that the thing was broken.

But no. "I got it working, Grandma. I read the directions. They've got 168 different animals to pick from. I got a panda. His name is Lee...."

Seriously. Are kids today BORN knowing how to operate electronics?


Home Improvement?

Tim has taken a break from the Wayne St house and done some 'buttoning up' on our own house before winter sets in. One long over due project was to replace the basement windows. They were old and some of them needed to be propped shut. In one instance, in the night, we had a stray cat enter the house twice through one of those windows. Paddy had a hissy fit. It is a very rude way to wake up in the middle of the night.

So Tim got at and replaced the basement windows in August. He used a combination of glass block windows and casement windows so that we still had ventilation to the basement if we needed it. I cannot believe how bright the basement is with those glass block windows. It seems to magnify the light and there are no more dark and gloomy corners. 

We were busy doing other things - insulation on our house, putting a new kitchen into a rental down the street, and a multitude of other small projects in our life - long story short: I began to notice fruit flies in my kitchen. 

It's not like this has never happened in my life before. I began to look for some forgotten vegetable. Usually, it's a potato that's dropped out of the bag and under the Hoosier cabinet or some damn thing like that. But nothing.

And the problem seemed to be getting worse. 

The garbage went out nightly. I was pouring a tea kettle of boiling water down all the drains each and every night. 

Still fruit flies. 

I set out my trusty fruit fly trap. A jar partially filled with apple cider vinegar, with a drop of dish soap added, a piece of plastic cling wrap sealed over top of it, with some small tooth pick holes. The flies are attracted to the vinegar, crawl inside but cannot fly out. 

It didn't help. 


That is when the great hoe out began. I went through all my kitchen cupboards and cleaned them all out. I got rid of a bunch of clutter. I scrubbed and cleaned, moved appliances, looked under appliances, cleaned under appliances...

End result? The kitchen was immaculate, but I still had fruit flies. A lot of fruit flies. And they began to migrate to other rooms.

I don't like to spray, especially in a kitchen, but I finally reached that point. It was a relief when the population dwindled...and for a couple days, I wasn't troubled by fruit flies, but then...once again...they began to stage a comeback.

I know that it sounds babyish but if there's something I cannot abide, it is bugs in the house, and I began to tell Tim that I thought we should call in the exterminators. Tim is a do it yourself kind of guy and this expense rubbed against the grain for him. It began to get testy between us. Amazing how such tiny things could cause such a big uproar, but they surely did.

I was carrying the laundry to the basement when I noticed some fruit flies in the stairwell and I began to wonder. 

"Tim," I asked, do you think it is possible that the fruit flies are coming from the basement?"

He considered this. "It's possible," he decided. Our house is 100 years old almost to the year. The washer and dryer are in the basement, and the washer drains into a big metal funnel about 18 inches square in the floor that feeds the water into the sewer. Fruit flies will breed in drains, which we both already knew. That's why we were pouring boiling water down the drains in the kitchen and bathrooms. 

Tim wondered why, after living in this house for 10 years, we would be just now having problems. We pondered this and I said, "It's probably because you put in the new windows in the basement. Before, when they hatched, they went to the nearest light source, which was the old windows and harmlessly escaped outside. They can't do that now." 

We looked at each other and felt like we were on the right track. 

So we got some hot shot bombs and bombed the basement. One in the coal room, and 3 more in the remaining corners of the basement. We screened the funnel leading to the drain. Every day, I spray a good dose of fly spray on the screening. 

I am happy to say that our problem is solved. Finally. 

This is the first time that a home improvement has made my life miserable. 


Saturday, October 19, 2019

Pumpkin

We met our friends for dinner a couple Fridays ago. One of Danny's hobbies is growing giant pumpkins, and William is generally a recipient of one of those behemoths. They take two people to maneuver, hollowing them out is a major production (especially if you are a little boy) and a grandpa is generally required to use his sawsall to cut the face out.

The year before last, I got the idea to save some seeds to plant our own giant pumpkins, but alas. Due to the fact that I did not allow them to dry out enough, they molded in the pill bottle we were storing them in, and would not grow. Last October, a bit wiser, I left them to dry for a much longer period of time before storing them.

We planted them this spring and the vines threatened to take over the whole end of the garden. They spread the entire width of it. While there were some blossoms, we really didn't see any pumpkins. I thought it would be another disappointment for William.

Except, late in the season, in amongst all the huge green leaves, we saw the start of a pumpkin. August is pretty late for a pumpkin to start. We weren't expecting much, but still, William would get a pumpkin out of the deal and so we were happy for him. He was plenty happy for himself.

Except....this thing began to grow. Since we only go up there on the weekends, it was a bit shocking to see that it seemed to double in size each and every time we went up there. I mean, pumpkins grow, but this was phenomenal growth. 

Anyhow, we met up with Danny and Mary for dinner a couple weeks ago and Mary said, suddenly, "Oh, we wanted to let William know that there probably won't be any pumpkin for him this year. The deer got into ours. That's never happened before. They smashed them with their hooves and they ate them up."

Tim and I laughed out loud as we told them that William wouldn't need a giant pumpkin this year. He'd grown his own from the seeds of the pumpkin they'd gifted him last year. 

They were delighted, and tomorrow, we are wrestling that bad boy into the back of the truck and bringing him home. We'll make one stop, however. We'll circle around the long way home and make a stop in Sugar Grove so that Farmer William can show his pumpkin to Farmer Danny.

Friday, October 18, 2019

Right on Cue

I am in a play, and it happens Saturday. I'll be glad to see it done. It's a lot of busy-ness at a time when I did not have the time to be busy. One last rehearsal tonight, and then we do the play and we are done.

I've been running with a wickedly sore throat all week. This morning I woke up with a headache and fever.

Yeesh.


Wednesday, October 16, 2019

Contractor

Ay yi yi.

We called a roofer who had worked for us before. Whenever someone asked us for the name of a reliable roofer, we gave them Brian's name and phone number.

This time around, we needed a new roof on our house. We called him last spring. He came out and gave us an estimate. We agreed to it, and told him to go ahead.

We didn't see him in June. When Tim called, he said that due to the rainy weather, he'd taken another job, but assured him that as soon as it was finished, he'd do our roof.

During the summer, I prodded Tim a couple times to call Brian, but he didn't. The man had worked for us before. He had done a good job every time. Tim had every confidence that he'd make good on his promises.

Tim contacted him again last month, and was assured that he was going to 'get out to our place'.

We're getting new windows put in, we've done a lot of insulation. Last night, I said to Tim, "You really need to call him and try to pin him down to a time frame."

Tim called him.

The guy said that he wasn't going to be able to get to it.

Sure would have made life a lot easier if he'd have said that over the summer.


Sunday, October 13, 2019

Party time

I'm having such a wonderful weekend. I have both grandkids in the same room and could not be happier.

Family party today!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

In the Dark

Dylan and Brittani are currently headed home with Iris and the dogs. We haven't told William because the plan is that tomorrow, after school, Dylan will be waiting for him instead of his mother or one of us. They are going to spirit him away for a couple of nights. Dylan and he will have a man's day out, and Brittani, Brianna, and I will have a girl's day. Supper together and then we're all going to meet up for a family party on the 25th. So far is looks like about 30 people are coming.

So the house has been bursting with plans and keeping William in the dark is no small task.

I checked facebook last night before bed. William had IMed his aunt Cara. We never expected a response, but lo, she was up. Another message popped up. Brittani had sent a picture of Iris happily sitting in a suitcase.

I clicked off it right away, but William was all over that. "What was Iris doing? Where are they going?" Thinking quickly, I said, "I think they are spending the weekend on the boat."

William said, wistfully, "I wish I could go."

Wednesday, October 9, 2019

Fall

We had our first frost out of town last 5 days ago, and just like that, the leaves have begun to show their colors on the mountain sides. A couple days ago, I studied them. The sky was heavily clouded and those clouds threw their shadows carelessly across those mountains. The contrast of light and dark and green and gold was beautiful.

Fall is here.







Tuesday, October 8, 2019

A Solitary Life

It turned out that one of the fellows in the apartment next door died. I went to school with him long ago. We exchanged pleasantries when we saw each other. He was a gentle soul, a musician.

He died in his little apartment and no one knew.

There are a lot of solitary souls in this world. Dave was one of them.

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Mystery

William was beside himself with excitement. At the Dinner Theater with Nearly Headless Nick, he solved the mystery, the only person there to do it. He was shouting into the phone in his excitement.

Meanwhile, next door, the police were swarming all over the place. They stayed for hours. I happened to be walking to the computer when they lifted a body down the steps.

*blink*

Friday, October 4, 2019

Finally got the payment for the tires. It took three e-mails and a phone call before  it finally happened. Dealing with large anonymous companies is never as easy as you think it is going to be. The man showed up with cash. Which I find suspicious. Anyone else?

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Hogwarts

Our little town is having an Alohomora Festival. A street is going to be set up a la Harry Potter, with venders and activities for kids. Costumed characters from the series will be walking up and down the street interacting with the kids. The Audubon will be doing a show with owls. There's music. A scavenger hunt. Food.

It's pretty exciting.

The capper of the event is a Murder Mystery Dinner for kids. Headless Nick, one of the Hogwart haunters, will take the children back to 1493. Food true to the time will be served. While the kids are eating, the mystery will play out before them thanks to the local actors. Who beheaded Headless Nick, and why?

This had caught William's imagination something fierce. He's seen the first two movies and has become captivated. (This pleases his aunties and his mother very much. They are all fans.) I made up my mind to buy tickets to the event, but when I went on line, much to my shock, they were sold out. I could have gotten a ticket for William, but if I couldn't get an adult ticket, it was not going to do him much good. He's too young to go alone.

I put myself on a waiting list, and said nothing. This morning, I was able to buy both an adult and child ticket. I cannot wait to see the look on his face.

PS. Tim was asked to buy a house, and after discussion, agreed to do so. Deja vu.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Travels

Cara and Colin are wintering in Tbilsk, Georgia. Cara's 30th birthday is coming up in January, and at work it suddenly occurred to me that I cannot remember the last birthday we celebrated with her. It's got to be at least 7 years. Probably longer. That was bothering me quite a bit, and suddenly I wanted nothing more than to spend her birthday with her.

So....since Mohammed shows no sign of coming to the mountain, the mountain is headed for Mohammed. Cara was gratifyingly happy to hear this news.

Initially, she thought we should meet in London and go to Cyprus. I was more inclined towards Spain, something that we could hop in a car and drive to. But then when she realized that Tim was coming, she remembered that he hates beaches....so for now, the plan is Romania. It's one of her favorite countries and there is plenty to see and do. It will be cold, but not as cold as Pennsylvania.

I reminded her that she comes from hardy stock.



Scammed

I consider myself pretty savvy. Not an expert, but I am careful on line. Today I got scammed. With my debit card. On a website that appeared to be a government website, but was, in fact, NOT a government website.

Long story short: it was not a pleasant afternoon, but it is evidently all taken care of. The bank will dispute the charges, and we will get our money back.

Felt like an idiot.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Happy ending

When I drive down the brick street that intersects my brick street, at the stop sign, on the opposite side of the intersection was a big neon sign. LOST: ORANGE CAT NAMED RUSTY. NO MARKINGS. REWARD. Beneath that was a phone number.

Since that house is about 4 houses away from mine, on the opposite side of the street, I did keep an eye out for that cat. I checked our garage to make sure he hadn't got himself shut up there. I looked for him every time that I drove home from work. Every time that I saw that bright neon pink sign, I said a little prayer for that orange cat with no markings. As the owner of an orange cat with plenty of markings, I knew how badly they must feel about their cat.

Monday, coming home from work there at the intersection was another neon pink sign: WE HAVE THE BEST NEIGHBORS! RUSTY IS HOME! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR CALLS OF CONCERN.

Made me smile.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blue

I got some of those tank tablets that you drop in the toilet tank. Usually, if I'm using them, I buy the bleach ones. I never really thought much about it when I grabbed the blue ones.

Later that day, I heard the toilet flush. It flushed again. It flushed again. "William," I called, are you having trouble in there?"

"No matter how many times I flush the toilet, the water is still blue!" he shouted back.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Little Boy

I ran into the Dollar General Store to pick up some cat food and a card. One the way back to the cat food, a little fellow stood holding a stick horse, one with a plush head and reins. It whinnied when you squeezed its ear.

He was enthralled with it. His mother stood in front of him with a shopping cart filled with staples: toilet paper, soap. some basic food items. She was telling him to put it back. He stood there clutching it to him, telling her firmly, "No." He reminded me of Iris right away. She's such an independent little gal. But this fellow was a couple of years older than Iris, about the same age that her brother would have been.

I got that familiar little clutch in my heart that I get when I think of Keegan.

His mother stood firm. "No. You can't have that. Maybe next time."

I listened to the little drama playing out as I got Paddy the next cat food she would hate. When I came out of the aisle, Mother and son were headed down another aisle and the stubborn little guy was debating the issue the best he could with his limited vocabulary.

On the spur of the moment, I picked up the stick horse, and took it up front to check out. I said to the cashier that a little boy with a cartoon t-shirt was headed up with his mother. He would not be happy when he got there, but he would be very happy when the cashier gave him the stick horse.

At that moment, mother and son came around the corner heading to the counter. "That little guy right there," I said as I grabbed my little bag and headed out the door.

I walked to my car and sat there for a minute or two. I just wanted to see the look on his face.

It was worth the wait.

I put the car in gear and headed home.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Messes

One of the biggest problems with heavy duty cleaning/clearing out is that as I move from one room to the next, I get irritated when clutter begins to encroach on my newly cleaned rooms.

I go to bed early because I get up at o'dark-thirty. William and Tim follow along later. I know that it is ridiculous but William had his blocks and action figures strewn across the living room one morning. I'd asked Tim to have him put his things away before he went to bed. There was also a glass and a plate on the coffee table.

It irked me. It also made me feel stupid to be irked by it. I gathered up the dishes and took them to the kitchen. I noticed that Tim had a pile of his things by the door. I suppose they were a reminder to him not to forget them when he headed out the following morning.

But, despite my best uncaffeinated efforts, I was irked. Even after I had my coffee, I was still a little irritated. That night, after work, I took a deep breath and I said to Tim, "Listen, I'm really working hard on the house when I get off work. I know that I'm being stupid about it, but it would make me feel a lot better if you would have William pick up before he goes to bed. And if you could run the dirty dishes out to the sink. Or if you could maybe just take the things you need straight out to the truck instead of piling them at the door."

He listened in a non-committal way.

He's been doing a little better and I've been working steadily. The library was a big job and I'm putting it back together now.

Tim spent a lot of time doing some rewiring on the first and second floors and once that job was completed he decided to blow in some insulation. Our office was actually the old front porch of the house and in desperate need of extra insulation. Tim got the insulation in the front the house on his own, and when I got home from work, I got supper in the oven.

 He needed help to do the attic/crawl space above the office, so while I was getting supper in the oven, he loaded the machine up with insulation. He fed the hose in through the front window. He climbed into the crawl space holding the hose and sealed it up. By then I was standing at the front window, and my job was to turn the machine on and watch through the window to make sure that the insulation wasn't blowing down into the office.

It wasn't.

I stood at the machine, pushing the insulation down. It didn't seem to be using very much insulation, but I stood there, pushing the insulation down. Next thing I know, Tim comes bursting out of the house. Nothing was coming into the attic but air. He was hot and cranky and said, "You need to push the insulation down!"

I said, "I am! It doesn't seem to be doing anything, though."

Tim shut the machine off, and looked down. "The hopper is empty!"

I said, "Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I was pushing the insulation down. I can't see down into the hopper. You have the thing so full I can't see where the moving parts are..."

You get the picture.

Tim figured out that he needed to open the chute a bit more. Mollified, he pushed the insulation down and turned the machine back on. I heard a clunk from inside the house and headed for the window to see what it was.

You guessed it. The hose fell from the attic and insulation was blowing all over the office.

On the up side, the insulation was shooting out well.