Saturday, January 30, 2021

The Observant Cashier

When Tim and I first met, we both worked nights. I drank a lot of Pepsi. Tim said, "I won't have soda in the house. I don't want my kids to ruin their teeth."

Fair enough.

I drank Pepsi because I was in dire need of the caffeine. There was Pepsi in my house.

After Tim and I got married, I still needed the caffeine, so we had soda in the house. Tim began to drink soda too.

About 15 years ago, I made the decision to give up carbonated beverages. Tim did not make that decision. There was still soda in the house.

All these years later, he still drinks more soda than I think he should. He's got scoliosis. He's had it since he was a child, but it was never noticed, the thinking being that scoliosis was something that happened to girls. It actually was only after we married that I made him go see a doctor about it.  The doctor was plenty amazed that he'd made it to his 40s without anyone noticing it. He's got x-rays to document it in case it gets worse, but the doctor feels that because he's worked so physically hard all of his life it is actually his musculature stabilizing the spine. So far, those muscles have prevented the spine from continuing to twist. He's very lucky because the doctor hadn't see many cases like that. 

Seems like he'd be a little more conscious about bone health, but he's not. So I lecture him about the sodas, because the Pepsi is leaching calcium from his bones. He ignores me. 

A couple days ago, he stopped off to get another case of Pepsi. 

He came into the house, bemused. "The cashier told me I drink too much Pepsi."

I said, "There's someone else that tells you that all the time." I put a thoughtful look on my face. "If only I could remember who that was...."

Now Tim has two people to ignore.


Thursday, January 28, 2021

What if?

Here's an interesting question for you all to ponder. 

How do we learn to be frugal? 

I learned from my own mother. She did not drive. We lived out in the middle of no where. My father worked long hours at the steel mill and she had four kids. She knew how to stretch the food dollar. 

The lessons of those days were invaluable to me, first when I was a young mother staying home with my own children, I had a garden. I canned and I cooked from scratch. I learned how to make the most of those food dollars. Later, when I was on my own with three children, it did not feel like a deprivation. We were living like we always had. I remember once when my youngest daughter said, astonished, "Wait! We were poor?!!"

Anyways, one thing that I remember from those days is this: There were two boys the same age as my two oldest who used to hang out at our house. I could generally count on them to be there for supper. I am the queen of soups and casseroles, so it wasn't really a problem. Just put some bread on the table with some jam, and everyone dug in. We rarely had left overs, but nobody went hungry. 

After a week, the mother of the boys called me. She told me that I did not have to feed her boys. I told her it was fine, it wasn't a problem. She said, "I don't know how you make your food stamps last until the end of the month. I can't." 

She was astounded that I did not get food stamps. "I don't know how you do it," she said once again. 

So I told her. I told her about my well used crock pot, about soups, about looking at what was on sale and planning your meals around that, and about the beauty of beans and pasta, how one chicken breast could feed a family once it was rounded out with beans or pasta and lots and lots of vegetables...

She interrupted to say, "No, no, no. I do not cook." 

How does a woman with two boys make that decision? I didn't understand that kind of thinking at all. 

But do you think that her boys grew up to be thrifty people who knew how to live within their means? 

We have a generation of kids who did not learn the lessons that I learned growing up. 

We have a food pantry at our church, and it is full of staples, most of it prepackaged and high in salt and carbohydrates, instant stuff. 

You know how these food kits are so popular nowadays? Blue Apron, Freshly, Dinnerly, etc? They send you the meal ingredients, with recipe cards, and you assemble the meals. People really like these kits. They're also pretty expensive. 

But what if we could come up with these 'kits' for our food pantry folks? There are plenty of economical crockpot meals. What if we started out with a simple minestrone soup. And I sat down with it and broke it all down. We could put together a kit for six meals costing no more than $5.00 a family. Every week we could add a soup, with its recipe card. In the summer, we could switch it over to lighter things. There are plenty of casseroles that can be done in a crockpot. 

I was unprepared for the blowback. "They won't cook." "They will not eat beans." "Too much work." "What if they don't have a crockpot?" Even a comment that I was playing 'lady of the manor' trying to teach the peasants how to make a better life for themselves. 

Now, I've heard that kind of talk coming from conservative people, about how "I work hard so millions of people on welfare don't have to" or people will go on about how they made it on their own (except most of them have had a helping hand on the way up). The assumption that every poor person is poor due to their own poor choices. Anything to point out that the poor don't deserve help. 

I don't get that. 

But I also didn't expect to hear that from people in my own crowd. 

We have a diaper ministry at our church, where people can stop in a couple times a month to pick up extra diapers in an emergency situation. 

"What if we start small?" I said. "Use those folks as a test group. Offer it to them. If someone says they don't have a crock pot, we can pull one out of the closet and give it to them. Try it out for a couple months. Encourage people to tell others, to bring them along. See what happens. I might be dead wrong. It might crash and burn. But what if it doesn't? What if we are teaching people to fish instead of giving them a fish?" 

Remember that cherry tomato my friend had? The plant grew five feet tall. Mary gave me 6 quarts of cherry tomatoes because they was heartily sick of them.  I saved the seeds. What if this summer, I sent people home with a cherry tomato plant that went nuts for them? What if they got the bug to plant small gardens of their own.

What if one thing led to another? What if we had people learning new skills? 

Yes. this idea could crash and burn.

But what if it doesn't?



Dylan

My son has tested positive for covid. 

He's taken a job working from home. My daughter-in-law is a nurse and has the vaccine. They are careful because of Iris. Even though they live in a very densely populated city, one of those areas where the numbers are high, I guess it just stopped being one of those things that I worried about. 

So I was a little shocked when I got the text. 

I texted back, asking if he had any respiratory symptoms. 

He has a cough starting and his chest hurts when he coughs. 

Eep. 

'He's married to a nurse,' I tell myself. 'She's worked with enough covid cases that she knows what to look for.' It's true. 

She's borrowing a pulse oximeter from another nurse. Covid had gone through her family before Christmas, and she had developed pneumonia, so she bought one to stay on top of her own situation. She managed her pneumonia at home. 

So Dylan's a  young fella. 

He's healthy. 

He's married to a nurse. 

He'll be fine. 

I'll be happy when these days are over. 

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

The Homeless Woman

 I want to assure people that we are 'hanging in there'. In fact, if I was going to be perfectly honest, Tim's phone call did not warrant much of a response, not emotionally. 

"It is what it is." 

The problem is not money. The first time that Tim got laid off all those years ago, he was angry. Plain and simply angry. He made up his mind that he would NEVER be dependent on a company again. We would rely on ourselves. 

We did. We have. We've been successful at that.

The issue will be, as it always is, insurance. We are at an age where being without insurance is a very scary thing. We also are at an age where getting insurance on our own is prohibitively expensive, especially for someone with cancer in her medical history. 

So...I'll probably go back to work. Since the focus is not so much financial as it is finding a job with insurance, I can be a little picky. I want to work with children. I'd like to be part of Head Start. I think it would be very rewarding. 

Tim? Well, he's in the middle of a rehab right this minute. He'll just go back to that full time when he's done where he's at. 

Of course, we don't have a time frame for this closure. My company announced their decision to close up shop at the beginning of September. They are still closing down. Siemens is a global company and they are in the middle of projects right now. I imagine that they will finish up what they are doing before they close their doors. They'll also have to move a lot of machinery from one plant to another. So whatever happens will not happen over night.

If it takes a year to shut down, Tim and I will be just shy of turning 65 which makes us eligible for Medicare, the old folks insurance which is affordable. 

In short, we'll be fine. We'll be good. 

Today, I went to work at our food pantry. 

It was a slow day. 

Much to my surprise, I saw a woman walking past the doors. She had a huge back pack with a sleeping bag and her tent.  A skinny dog. She's wearing a long skirt, carrying two very old books, leading her dog. 

Me, being always curious, (nosy?) shot out the door right after her, 

Her name was Bonnie. She's from Georgia. She's been on the road for four years. She is a pilgrim. 

Well. That's interesting. 

Right away, you could see that there was a very disordered thought process. A rational person would not be heading north in the winter. I know we're expecting another cold snap and another storm front to move through, so I invited her in the church, to help herself to whatever she wanted from the food pantry. She and her dog came in, but she was uneasy. She didn't want food. All she eats is porridge. I offered her some packets of dried milk. 

No. She has repented of processed foods. 

"Well," I said, "What CAN we do for you? What do you need?"

And she replied, "I need someone to minister to me." 

I sat down and said, "Pull up a seat. Let's talk." 

She said that it had to be a man. "No offense," she said. 

I said, "None taken." 

She then said, "I need to leave. I am not comfortable." She went on to say that she had also repented of idols, and the crucifix (a large concrete celtic cross in the narthex)  had frightened her. She also said that her dog shouldn't be in church. 

"We don't mind. We have a couple of people who bring their dogs with them to service."

"They shouldn't, They should be worshipping."

Interesting. I didn't bother to explain about service dogs. 

I saw her out the door and wished her well. I made a call to EOC, talked to our priest who had been upstairs recording his noonday service. Turns out that the town is aware of her. She's been here for four days. People have been attempting to help her. The only thing she will accept is shelter for her and the dog. 

I finished up my morning feeling very, very fortunate indeed. I've got a roof over my head, a sound mind (no comments from the peanut gallery!) and no wondering about where my next meal is coming from. 

Not everyone has that and I saw that close up today.

Driving home, I looked for her but did not see her. I found myself wondering what had happened to her in her life to break her so completely. 

She's a poor soul, and I am not just talking about  her finances.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Deja Vu

 


Tim called this afternoon. Siemens is shutting down the Olean plant. 

That's where he works. 



Monday, January 25, 2021

Birthday


 

Cheerful


Tomorrow the kids will return to regular school. It's going to feel strange after all this time to have my days to myself once again. It's time though. There are a lot of kids who are failing. I'm proud to say that the two I had responsibility for were not, but that required a lot of work and keeping them organized on my part. It was frustrating. One of the teachers was constantly chiding students because they were "old enough to know how to figure out what their assignments were." She went on at great lengths about how the kids had been taught all this stuff before they began virtual learning. About how it wasn't fair that the kids expected her to figure out their mistakes, etc. 

However this self same teacher was the one who could not be bothered to load her assignments for the kids onto the calendar as the other teachers did. She sent hers out in an email. She often did not send the e-mail out in a timely manner, so the kids had to remember to go back and check multiple times for her e-mail. She also had a habit of putting wrong information in them, and then going back and changing things, and then holding the children responsible for not checking back to make sure she hadn't sent another e-mail. 

She did a lot of scolding but I felt strongly that she needed a good scolding herself. 

(Note: I did not do that scolding myself, and I'm quite proud of that fact. I cannot tell you the number of times that I wanted to say, "Mrs, C, you are old enough to figure out how to put your assignments on the calendar. I am sure that you were taught all this stuff before you made the switch to virtual learning." Or, "Mrs C, I do not think it is fair that you expect the kids to figure out your mistakes."  But I did not. They call that there 'self control.' I was pleased to discover I had some.)

Lots of kids are failing. I heard about one school district that has 80% of middle schoolers failing at least one class. I'm not sure what our numbers are. That's the sort of thing that doesn't make the paper. I know from the zoom meetings that there are a lot of kids (and parents) struggling.

Our covid numbers are declining, We are at 1,942, up from 303 cases on the first day of December. By the first day of February, we will certainly top 2000. A big jump for a rural county of 39,100 people. But our numbers have dropped off to between 10 and 20 new cases a day. The person that I worried about seems to have rounded a corner and is doing better. People are also being more sensible about wearing masks. You're always going to have the idiots who feel that they know more than any trained health care professional. Shoot. You've got trained health care professionals that think they know better than the CDC. I think you've got people who will argue to the death. It's sad that at this point, it can be taken literally.

It also feels nice to turn on the evening news without that sick feeling of foreboding.  I honestly never thought that I'd live to see the day that a president would be calling people to overturn election results, that we'd hear it with our own ears...and yet that same guy would still be idolized. 

I have an hibiscus that I found a couple years ago at an end of season sale. It was less than a dollar, and I was so impressed that I ran back and bought one for my sister too. We keep them in our windows, and those things have turned into shrubs. They bloom at random times all winter long. Right now, mine has two more buds. The flowers are short lived but wonderful in the middle of winter. 

There is a family moved into an apartment across the street. They are very nice apartments, but they are expensive. They are also tiny apartments. This family lives in a two bedroom apartment with their three small children. 

The man and the woman seem to both be very hard workers. One of the things that I see is that the man is up every morning, bright and early. We've had a real taste of winter all week, with a lot of snow. 

The owner of that building also owns two more buildings, all three of them side by side, and the man does the snow removal for all those buildings, getting the sidewalks in front of the house, shoveling two the houses, clearing the steps, sweeping the snow from the porches. I'm sure it gets him a break on that rent. 

But what tickles me is that he's never alone. A little boy, bundled up from the cold follows along with his own kid sized shovel and helps his father with the job. It is sweet to watch, and when the little boy managed to somehow swing his little shovel full of snow right into his own face, he began to cry loudly. I stood with my coffee watching as the father instantly stopped what he was doing and picked the child up. He used his teeth to pull one of his gloves off and used his bare hand to wipe the snow from a red little face. 

When the child continued to cry, the father patiently carried him back to their house and across their porch, and into their apartment patting his back as he walked.

 It's still cold, so I have another pot of soup started for supper. I am simmering chicken with mushrooms, onions, celery and carrots,  At some point there will be magic, and it will become chicken tortellini soup. A nice pot of soup is the best way to scent a house on a cold day. 

A lot of things to be cheerful about at my house. I hope it is the same at yours. 

Late edit: I just got a package from my son and daughter in law, a bit of sunshine, a tiny succulent in a sweet little pot, and a candle that smells like sunshine. What a nice day this is!

Sunday, January 24, 2021

Mockery

Tim is one of those annoying people who falls asleep as soon as his head hits the pillow. 

I'm not one of those annoying people. (Having perfected other ways to annoy, I suppose.)

I tend to lie awake for awhile, my mind flitting off in a hundred different directions. I usually call myself back to myself, and do a meditative visualization and then. very. slowly. start. to. drift. off... 

Unless Tim is snoring. 

But tonight, his snoring was quiet and not disruptive. I had. slowly. started. to....

And suddenly, he's swearing, throwing the blankets back, and leaping out of bed. 

Confused, I said, "What? What's wrong?" I hadn't even heard the phone. 

He dashed out of the bedroom, and issued another volley of impatience because the phone did not get hung up in the foyer. He headed into the living room to grab the phone (good news, he had used it last) and into the library to catch the message already recording on the machine. It was a tenant. The neighbors downstairs were having a loud party and she was about fed up with these loud parties because they were an every week occurrence. 

Tim went back to get dressed. I didn't envy the tenants. It takes a lot to get the man fired up, but the one thing that does it every time is getting dragged out of the house at o'dark thirty to take care of nonsense. We are very clear about the rules of the place, and about respecting the other tenants in the building. 

He was back in pretty short order. It hadn't been a party at all. Just two people in their apartment getting shitfaced together while listening to music that was louder than it needed to be, given the time of the night. The tenant was three sheets to the wind, but agreeable. The music was turned down. 

He walked back home. We discussed it. We've had the upstairs tenant for over 3 years now. She is dramatic and her version of events cannot always be trusted. We decided that our advice from now on would be simple. We would instruct the upstairs tenant to call the police and make a nuisance call the next time that it happens. We would let the downstairs tenant know that as well. The girl is nice and hardworking and never has had a problem with the law. She would be likely to be more conscientious about things like volumes and hours. The upstairs neighbor would be more factual in her reporting, lest she be charged for a false police report. 

I was wide awake, but Tim said, "Well. I'm going back to bed." I told him that I'd be right in. I wanted to look up city ordinances. 

I slipped into bed. Tim was already snoring on his side of the bed. 

(There ought to be an ordinance about that.)

On my side of the bed I had just begun to. drift. off.... when I heard it. A polite knocking at the door. 

Coming out of the office and through the livingroom, I'd pulled the french doors closed behind me not noticing the cat was left behind. 

I got back out of bed and went into the hall. Paddy studied me placidly through the glass, waiting patiently. I opened the door and she came out with her tail held high. 

I went back to bed, and the Paddington Paw-cat trotted along behind me, hopping up at the foot of the bed. 

Once again, I fixed the blankets. I got my pillows just so. Once again, I began to put myself to sleep as my husband snored gently at my side. Before I was done, the cat was snoring from the foot of the bed as well.. 

They mock me, I tell you. 

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Tim

 J and I were trying out an old recipe that I'd come across. How did it turn out? Well.  Not so good. I now have a pretty good idea why they called it the Great Depression.  Life hack: when trying something like that, probably halve the recipe until you know if it is  edible. 

Tim was running a bit later than usual coming home from work, and I was worried a little. He travels through some pretty remote areas on his hour drive home and it has been snowing and cold. But there he was, coming through the door, pulling off his boots, setting his lunch box in its usual place, hanging his coat on the back of the kitchen chair. 

I was trying to put the kitchen back to rights. "What happened?" he wanted to know. Flour was everywhere. 

"Nothing," I said. "J helped me cook. He stirred."

"Ah," Tim said, and J smiled proudly. 

"I got you something," he said, and he set a bag on the table. 

I looked inside and it was a beautiful bouquet of flowers. 

"What are these for?" I asked. 

"No reason," he said. "I just decided to do it, and so I did."

What did I do?" I asked.

"Nothing," he said. 

I looked at him. "What did you do, then?"

"Nothing," he said. And he laughed.

"Are you sure?"  I stood there holding the flowers. They were beautiful. There were roses, a lily, carnations, some buds that have yet to open, baby's breath.

I retrieved a crystal vase from the glass curio cabinet and returned to the kitchen to arrange the flowers. 

He watched me, smiling and proud of himself. "Those really are beautiful. I've never seen a flower like this," he said, pointing to a the calla lily. 

"They are beautiful," I said, arranging them in the vase. "Thank you."

We ate dinner in the living room to watch the news, the flowers sitting on the glass topped steamer trunk we use as a corner table between the two couches. When we were done, he carried the dishes out to the kitchen as I put away the wooden tables. 

He acted completely normal for the rest of the night, but I'm keeping an eye on him. 




Friday, January 22, 2021

Houses

 Over at Sue's place, she did a post about looking up her childhood home on google maps. 

Sitting there in the dark in a quiet house, I wondered why it had never occurred to me to do that. I remembered the address of my childhood home right away and I looked it up. There it was. It was no longer the green that I remembered.  I had watched my uncle and my father pour it and I remember how amazed I was to discover the next day that you could walk on it. Later, when I saw pictures, I was only a curly headed moppet in cloth diapers and those balloon-like rubber pants. Yet I remember that amazement at the hardened cement so very clearly. 

Those big steps are gone now, replaced by a neat set of half round steps leading to the entrance way which extends forward from the house. There used to be an old hall tree there to the left of the door, with the big old hooks and the mirror, a lift up seat to hide the mittens, the gloves, the hats. I remember one time that I managed to tip it over. The narrow entrance prevented it from falling completely over. The top of the hall tree was stopped by the opposite wall. Scared me to death though. 60 years later, I walk past a hall tree in my own foyer and sometimes I remember that incident. 

The windows are changed out in the front of that house. My parents' room was at the front of the house. My sister and I slept at the back of the house. The bathroom was yellow. The kitchen walls went half way up with that strange stuff that looked like linoleum. Yellow bricks with a black trim. Flowered wallpaper in the living room. The stainless steel legs of the bathroom sink. 

I was surprised at all the memories of that house, and I took a moment to 'walk' down the street, to where my childhood friend lived. I turned around and walked the route that I used to walk to my school. All by myself. At five years old.  In 1962 parents did this without a second thought. Now I'm a grandma and I wouldn't even consider it. We walked down one street, turned left, walked two blocks, turned right, walked across a big park where there was a fountain.  It is not there now. At the end of the park, there was a busy street. We waited for the crossing guard to let us cross. 

It was fun to sit in the dark and roam around my old neighborhood, the random memories popping in at each old sight. My friend Stevie lived in this house. Roger over here. The Welch sisters were older and they had Beatles sleepovers in their garage. The neighbors had a rooster that chased us. Our back yard went all the way to the vineyards where my parents picked grapes in the summer to make extra money. My aunt Rosie once paid my sister and me 25 cents to pick some black berries for her. My sister cried because I got 2 dimes and one nickel and she only got a quarter. My mother in her seamed nylons, wearing a hat and white gloves pushing my brother in his stroller as we walked at her side.  She carried a straw purse. 

I remembered that purse. She gave it to me. It was was like a basket, with a daisies on top. It sat on a shelf in my living room the top slightly opened with a fancy lace trimmed handkerchief spilling out. I lost custody of that. The ending of that marriage was shocking and abrupt. The kids and I returned to what I thought of as home. He had a household sale selling off the things that he perceived as unimportant (like straw purses), and packed up the rest in a van. The house was sold, the boat was sold. I went back to get that truckload of things and left. I wasn't going to live there anymore and he was going to prison. 

I sat in the dark thinking back on days that were even darker and even though I shouldn't have, I did. 

I typed in another road, and once again, I was 'walking' down that road. The kids were riding ahead on their bikes. We walked every day because I was fat and he was ashamed of me. There was the doll factory, out in the middle of nowhere. It made artisan dolls, the realistic sort you see advertised in magazines these days. I recognized the neighbors' houses, remembered their names, the steep ditches, the muskrats in them. Eventually I came to that driveway. I held my breath a little as I pivoted the picture around. 

It looked just the same as it did 25 years ago. Brown, with white trim. The white door that raised up to a two car garage.

I remembered the ceramic tiled floors, the closet when you came in, the stairs to the second floor on your right, the entrance to the living room to your left, and straight down the hall to the kitchen that I had fallen in love with from the first time that I saw it. 

I sat there with all those random memories, happy ones. The Christmas tree went in this window. The rock wall we'd built in front of the house was still there. The trees were huge now. I couldn't even see the front porch, but I knew where it was. I loved that house. I honestly expected to live in it forever. I did. I was happy there, and the country was a good place to raise kids. Good schools. A nature center right down the road. Quiet roads for kids on bikes and fat moms on foot. 

23 years later, I still wonder about it sometimes. We had everything. We honestly did and yet it was not enough. He worked with professional women. They were skinnier. Educated. Making good money.

Once we were at a company party. One of those women said to me that she'd love to be a stay at home mom, but that they couldn't afford it.  I said, "We understand that for this time, we can't afford everything. It's a bit of a sacrifice, but..." and she turned from me in mid sentence and began talking to the person on her other side. 

Instantly, I knew three things:  that my husband complained about me at work to other women.  I knew the life I thought we wanted was not what he wanted.  I knew why my husband was dissatisfied. I was not enough. I was not perfect, and I could list my imperfections just as readily as he did.

After all these years, I stared at that house once again. I used the mouse to back away for one last long look, and then I shut down google maps. I left the office and padded through my dark house full of different memories. Not perfect maybe, but happy. I climbed in bed next to my snoring husband.  

All these years later, I am still not perfect. I can still list all of my imperfections. 

My husband never does.

Thursday, January 21, 2021

Dreams

 We have ordered some plans for the retirement house. They aren't exactly what we're looking for (and we knew that)  but it is fun to pore over them and discuss the changes. 

We decided to have the back door come into the laundry room instead of the kitchen. That way guests can have a place to hang their coats and take off their boots. There will be a bathroom there for quick use, nice for days when everyone is outdoors. 

"I really don't want a separate dining room. It is wasted space, a mostly unused room..."

"If we had an eat-in kitchen...a long narrow island with the butcher block at the end of it, a place where people can pull up a stool and visit while the meal is cooked. 

"We could have the kitchen open to the livingroom..."

"Folding tables and chairs could be extended into the livingroom from the kitchen, if we had a lot of company..."

The second floor will have the two guest rooms. 

"If we back those bedrooms up and make them smaller, it would leave the front of the house open for that cathedral ceiling in the living room that you wanted so badly, " I say. "And I think we really need a bathroom there. It is nice for guests to have their own bathroom, especially if they've brought kids along..." 

We both want a screened in porch facing west, a place to watch sunsets while visiting with the neighbors. Friendly games of scrabble. A place to watch the deer drink from the little pond in the cool of the evening. The little wood stove cheerful for chilly nights. When winter comes, we will simply put up the storm windows, cover the furniture until spring, and then come into the house shutting the door behind us for the winter. 

We also want a covered porch on the front, open, like a greeting.

On and on we plan, spinning our dreams like gold, two middle-aged people in the middle of a pandemic, planning for the days when masks are worn once a year by trick or treaters, where a cough does not give you pause to think, a time when once again, people come and go, babies are cuddled, and hugs are exchanged...and nobody gives it a second thought. 

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Grandma Loses Her Shit

Today, after a long stretch of keeping little boys' attention on what they needed their attention to be on, we were winding down to a close. William was playing Kahoot with his classmates during science class. It is a jeopardy type game that is particularly well suited to virtual learning. The kids ring in on their computers, and the competition helps the information stick in William's mind. 

Feeling like it was safe to leave him, I headed out to help J finish up his math worksheet. 

I heard a video playing from the office about the sun, and earth's rotation around the sun. That's a danger sign since William tends to zone out during videos unless he knows someone is watching him. 

J and I were nearly finished so I gave him some time to play a math game and I headed into the office. 

A voice kept yelling, "Unmute, William, Unmute. William, do you hear me? WILLIAM!" 

William was goofing and making faces at the camera. 

"Stop it. Do not unmute. You focus on that video!"

And the argument began. He had to unmute, he insisted. 

"You do not!" I told him, "Where's your teacher?"  I asked. "The rules are you stay muted and watch the video. You unmute if you have a question."

William continued to insist that he had to unmute because all the kids were. The voice in the background kept yelling his name. Another child had a group of small kids running and screaming in the background. 

"How can you even hear the video?" 

He admitted he couldn't. 

At that point the teacher popped in. 

"What's the rule about muting", I asked, without waiting to be recognized. "You can't even hear the video! We've got someone yelling at him repeatedly to unmute." 

"Who's doing THAT?" the teacher demanded. The class was silent. "William! Who's doing that?"

William refused to 'give up' his friend. I realized I had put him in a bad spot, and butted out, ashamed of myself. 

The video started back up again, and so did William's friend.  Gavin was horsing around and calling to William once again. He began talking in funny voices. William began making faces. "Stop it!" I said to William very sharply. "You've got work to do, and unless you're intending on staying after school, you need to buckle down and get it done." 

William continued on with the lesson, but it just got to the point when he was trying to answer the questions, the noise was too much. 

I said, firmly, "Mute that sound right now!" 

"Grandma!" he said, "Gavin and I are supposed to be working together!" 

I snapped, "Well, Gavin does NOT appear to be interested in working. You turn off his sound, and do those questions, and then you take your quiz. I am totally not kidding here." 

Realizing that he'd pushed his grandmother just about far enough, he did that. He focused on the questions and got a solid 80% on his test. 

His friend was still making faces when I said, "Okay, now you are done. Shut down your laptop. Your mother is waiting."

William is going to be absent on Thursday, so his mother sent a quick e-mail to the teacher from our computer. 

When his teacher answered in her polite little way, I sent a reply to thank her. I also said, "I also feel as if I have to apologize for breaking in to your class this afternoon. It is challenging to keep William focused, and it's even harder by the end of the day. Science class was especially difficult today."

I haven't heard back, but I'm pretty sure that real teachers don't lose their shit. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Cara

 

She is many things: A new wife, married not even six months, newly arrived in the place that she will (for now) belong, a new employee in a job that she never expected to be considered for, but got anyway...

...but 31 years ago, she was new to this world. She was new to me. At 4:15 AM I was holding her for the first time and marveling in her perfect newness. 

She is beloved: By her husband, by the students she left behind in other jobs, by her darn Afghan street cat who has seen more countries than most people. 

Across the great pond, I think of her on her birthday. Our plan was to go to Georgia or Romania to spend her 30th birthday with her. She talked us into waiting until later in the spring, when the weather was not so dicey. 

I will always regret missing that opportunity. We could not have predicted the pandemic. 

Another birthday clicks by and we are apart. Make no mistake, I am happy at her happiness in her new life, Still, I hope she thinks her old one a little. I marveled at her perfection when I held her the first time. 31 years later, I marvel still. 

Monday, January 18, 2021

Growing

 Remember the three poinsettias I bought for 25 cents apiece after Christmas? I always wanted a pink one, but the one remaining pink one looked as if it were on its last legs. I picked out a happier looking white one and a burgundy color that I'm not sure that I've ever seen before. On a whim, I grabbed the pink one too. 

75 cents. 

Woman goes wild.

Whoot.

Anyways, I brought the plants home and put them in a put them in a large dishpan and carefully kept them watered (and dutifully swept up the dropped leaves. As expected the pink one had no leaves at all in very short order. (The other two, surprisingly, still have most of their leaves.) 

After 3 weeks, today, I went around the house doing my weekly watering. I was so happy to see that the four stalks of that pink poinsettia are showing signs of new growth!  

It's the small stuff, isn't it? 

Encouraged, I spent some time reading about making them color for next Christmas, and carefully wrote down the instructions for myself. Surely next Christmas will be far different from the Christmas we've just celebrated. I thought happy thoughts as I worked. 

I also fell down another google rabbit hole. Amaryllis bulbs. I read about people who have saved their amaryllis bulbs for years. One person had one she got from her own mother. It's bloomed every year for 75 years. That's pretty cool too. These 'disposable' plants do not have to be disposable at all. I wonder how I got to be 63 years old and didn't know this little factoid. I'm wrote down the instructions on saving that, as well. 

I'm trying an experiment this year. At the retirement property, there is an old shallow well. I would never dream of drinking the water, but I've decided that this year that I'm going to build over it. A tin roofed building with a wooden floor, the well in the middle  It will be enclosed wood from the floor to about 4 1/2 feet  and then from that point up it will be screened for ventilation, with a tin roof. I'm going to use that damp to try to grow shiitake mushrooms and oyster mushrooms, using plug spawn for the shiitake, but loose spawn for the oysters which I plan to grow from a raised bed of sorts in the center of the building, the shiitake logs placed against the walls. 

I'm really excited about this. 

In just a month, I can start my seedlings. I'm excited about that too. 

Nothing makes you so hopeful as planning the garden for next year.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Wait and See

 Woke up in the night with body aches, headache, sore throat and burning nose.

Ignored it, went back to sleep. 

Strange, strange dreams.

Woke up this morning with body aches, headache, sore throat and burning nose. 

Short answer: I don't know. 

I can say for sure that I haven't been anywhere since last Saturday. 


Friday, January 15, 2021

The Bane of My Existence

 I was having a chat with an acquaintance on my phone via IM last night. 

I confessed something, and then humorously followed it up with "Don't rat me out, sistah!" 

Stupid autocorrect changed the 'R' to an 'E'. 

It took forever for her to reply. I wondered why. I checked my phone and nearly had a heart attack. I typed in "It should be RAT. Don't RAT me out."

She's still hysterical this morning.

I would give nearly anything to be able to disable autocorrect.


PS Thank you everyone for the nice comments yesterday. They were very encouraging. Unfortunately, my technology skillz caused me to accidently delete it. 

Monday, January 11, 2021

Meet and Greet

Hey, everyone, meet Bob. (Disclaimer: I am not a photographer) 

Bob hangs in the library. You don't get a real idea of his size, because he's not shown with anything to compare him to...like the loveseat beneath him. His neck is probably 3 feet high from top to bottom. His head is full of concrete, so he's a a big fellow and a heavy one too. You'll just have to take my word for it.

Now, Bob is Tim's fault. I mean, I know I'm the one that agreed to take him, but it was because he always guesses what he's getting for his birthday. And so when Pete, a fellow I worked with said, "Say...you wouldn't want a buffalo head, would you?" the very first thing that struck me was "By golly, Tim will NEVER guess what he's getting for his birthday this year." And so I said yes. 

Turned out that Pete had been hauling Bob around for years waiting for his chance to hang him on the wall. After many years of marriage, he finally decided that when his wife said no all those years ago, (and many more times in the intervening years) she meant it. He gave up and began looking for a home for Bob. 

Long story short, I had no idea how large it was. (The neck at the base is about 3 feet from top to bottom.) In the old days, taxidermists filled the heads of the mount with concrete, so Bob is pretty hefty. But Tim did not guess what I got him for his birthday that year. He was also tickled pink with it. He drove it all over creation to show people what he had in the back of his truck. 

That is how we came to have a buffalo in the library, and we love Bob. We decorate him at Christmas. 

He's totally out of scale with the dainty white sofas in the room. If you sit on the love seat, he looms over you in what might be construed as a menacing way if you are a person who has a nervous disposition. He doesn't go with anything at all in the room, really, but he is a buffalo with a story and God help me, I cannot resist something that comes with a story.

The story is: Pete's father got the thing from an estate sale of an extremely well to do railroad person. 

Now back when the transcontinental railroad was built, buffalo hunters would kill scores of buffalo from the moving trains. There was a demand for the hides, but the meat was left to rot. Later, they would come back to collect all the bones that they could find and put them on trains headed east where they were made into fertilizer. The buffalo (scientifically a bison, but generally referred to as the 'American Buffalo') was hunted to the very brink of extinction.  

Buffalo skulls, circa1870s. 

Of course, this extinction also led to mass starvation of the plains Indians, who relied on the buffalo meat to feed their people. 

But Bob did not wind up as a coat for someone. His bones (well, at least his skull) did not wind up being made into fertilizer. There was another kind of hunter. Rich men would take train excursions out onto the prairies and they would shoot buffalo from luxurious and well appointed train cars, drinking good liquor and smoking nice cigars. Bob is a trophy from one of those trips, according to the story. 

The things that back up this story is the mount itself: The concrete filled head, the wood that the head is mounted on attests to its age. That was the way that taxidermy was done in those days. It was also extremely expensive, which made it exclusive to only the very wealthy. The fact that Bob was bought off the wall of an estate owned by a wealthy railroad man. While there's no way to verify that story 100%, we know that Bob is an American buffalo, and a very old fellow, with at least 140 birthdays behind him.

Bob is going on a field trip today. William will show him to his classmates, and we will talk about a clash of cultures and the misery that resulted from it. The mass killing of the buffalo was seen by the US government as a way to control pesky Indian populations naturally. 

Our little 5 minute presentation will end up with some local artifacts found right here in our own area. The grinding stone that my sister found while moving dirt. The hide scraper I found. Arrowheads. The fact that you can go to a field in Irvine where the Indians summered and find the dirt still littered with the knapping of years and years of making flint arrowheads and tools as the Iroquois summered together at the place where the Brokenstraw creek and the Allegheny River meet. 

We are lucky to live in an area where you can find history while planting your tomatoes. It's sad that most kids have no idea. Bob aims to teach them. 

Oh look! I found a picture of Pete, aka 'he who cannot hang buffalo at his house'.

(Note to Bob: You probably need to make sure your wife is on board with your 'inheritance'. Pete and his wife are a very happy couple. I think probably the only thing they ever disagreed seriously on was that darn buffalo. )



Saturday, January 9, 2021

For Northsider Dave

 Northsider Dave (*waving wildly* "Hi Dave!") wants to know more about the Amish. What I know would not be all that much really. 

They are a closed group, but we've gotten to know Levi, who owns a gas powered sawmill. He gets large piles of logs dropped off at his property and he makes them into 'rough cut' lumber. He's done a lot of work for us, as we were building our garage, and he has been a real blessing to us this year. 

Levi and his wife have eight children. I guess the oldest is maybe 12. The youngest is a baby who has a pretty serious genetic abnormality. He matter of factly told us what it is, but I matter of factly have forgotten. She is pulled about the property in a wooden wagon by her older sister. The boys all work with their father in the sawmill and they are a quiet bunch of kids. I once commented, "We've got a grandson that we need to bring here. Maybe your boys can teach him to be still!" Levi laughed, and said in his German accent, "They're quiet because you're here. After you leave, they will not be that quiet!" 

When we come around, they help load the truck. Tim and I help, but let me tell you something, Tim and I can carry 3 12 foot long 1 x 8s, Tim on one end, me on the other. Then you have Levi, a smallish, wiry fellow in his leather apron, who grabs four of them at a time and slides them on the truck alone like nobody's business. The kids lift and carry as well, quietly and wide eyed. I told them they make us all look bad. Levi laughed. His children looked very solemn. 

One time a pile of boards fell over on against a little bare legged child, and I immediately gasped, "Oh hon!" and stooped to make sure he was okay. He skittered back from me without a word. The Amish men who helped my sister and brother in law build their log cabin had a young teen working with him. That boy was trying to do the work of a man, and he was struggling. I said, "Don't try to carry that alone," and grabbed the other end. Tim pulled me aside, and said, "Don't do that! You are shaming him in front of the other guys." My sister, a nurse, talks about the time that a child came to the emergency room with a very gruesome gash on her arm that required stitches. She was quiet and wide eyed at all the commotion around her, but at one point, her chin began to quiver and her eyes filled with tears. Her father, holding her on his lap, whispered something to her in German. The tone did not sound stern. My sister said that the little girl immediately turned her face into her dad's chest and when she turned back there was not one sign of tears or fear. 

So there is a great deal to be respected about them. I bought a lot of produce from them this summer, mainly sweet corn, from their garden stands. The produce is quality stuff. The farm I used this summer had the largest green peppers I've ever seen in my life, probably 5-6 inches in diameter (13-15 cm). I was so amazed by these that I did dry some seeds, proof them, and put them away for my own garden next year. 

You cannot lump them all together and say that "Amish are this" or "Amish are that". They are as different from each other as night and day. Amish have a very bad reputation for the abuse of their animals. They run puppy mills. They see these animals as commodities, or something that to be used, like a tool. If the tool is no good, you discard it. 

Is that reputation deserved? In some cases, yes. 

But I can tell you that Levi and his family have an old well fed dog who pads around the sawmill just as quietly as the wide eyed children. He stands at Levi's side while he talks, and Levi bends down to rub his ears as he talks. The dog has never been inside the house and Levi is a little amazed at people who allow that. His dog sleeps on the closed in porch. He is never chained. Levi said, proudly, "I trained him myself. He knows when I have the gun, that he is not allowed to go with me." They also have a puppy. The puppy is chained, but I watched one of the older boys bringing a bucket of milk from the barn. He stopped to talk to the puppy and to give him a bowl of the milk he was carrying. I have never seen their horses, but I can tell you that they are kind people. I would expect that their horses were as well cared for as their dogs and chickens. 

That is in direct contrast to some of the animals you see tied to a Walmart light pole in the middle of the hot asphalt on a hot summer day. They look miserable and thirsty and the flies buzz around them. Their boney hips make you want to cry. You see some whose dogs cower when they come near. We do not do business with those Amish.

My husband bought tin to side a garage once. The tin was cut crookedly. The man refused to make it right, and sent his kids out to say that he wasn't home each time Tim came to talk to him. He still is in business to this day. 

My friends bought tin from an Amish fellow (a different one). Their neighbors (Amish) were putting on a front porch for them and directed them to the man that they needed to buy it from. 

Danny and Mary went where they were instructed. The fellow gave them the prices of his material. He explained to them that they could go on the internet to a site and figure out exactly what they would need. Danny and Mary said, "We don't have a computer." The man looked at them in astonishment. "You don't have a COMPUTER??!!!" He stood for a second (and I swear to you that this is the truth), he went upstairs and came back down a short while later with a computer printout. 

That is an interesting thing about them. Some construction Amish are quite handy with power tools. They may have quite a store of them carefully hidden away. Some just borrow yours. Some Amish have cell phones that they don't talk about. When I pulled mine out, the children gathered around to see the picture of the buck that Tim was so hopeful about (someone else got it first though). Levi would not touch the phone, and neither would his kids but they were all interested to see. 

Another friend had a Amish fellow staying with him for quite a while. The story was that the man worked for him. Probably some truth to that, but also the man was unhappily married. My friend said that you could hear often his wife screaming at him clear up at his house. 

One time, my friend asked, "Why aren't you allowed to have a phone anyway, or a tractor, or..." and the man said, completely deadpan, "Because I'm Amish, and Amish can't be happy. It's against the rules." Everyone laughed. He went on. "I'd have a truck if I was allowed, a shiny red one. I'd have a cell phone. And if they ever allowed an Amish man to have a divorce, I'd have one of those too."

As funny as it was, that was a very sad thing. The man had children. He was trapped. To leave the Amish would be to be shunned. He would never be able to speak to his children again. Another friend had an 18 year old boy who worked with him. The boy had made the decision to leave the sect. He lived with John and his wife as he was adapting to the world of the 'English' (which is what they call anyone who is not Amish). I was working for the county at the time. John and the boy pulled up and chatted for awhile as I loaded my truck up. I made some side comment to the boy, and he said, "That sounds like something my mudder would say." His voice was full of such longing that I just wanted to hug him. He saw his family out and about,  but a shunning means that they don't look at him, they don't speak to him, they don't speak about him. It is as if he is dead. 

So, I guess what I will tell you, Dave, is that they are as different from each other as any other group of people are. Some are good. Some are not good. Some men will stand around drinking whiskey and smoking and telling dirty jokes (not in front of women of course). My uncle was much surprised by that. Of course, he drank whiskey, smoked, and told his own share of dirty jokes. 

There are others who would never behave in such a way.

They don't believe in buttons, but they use safety pins.

It would be rude to photograph them.

They believe cars to be sinful, but will ride in them. 

They believe phones to be sinful but will use yours. 

When my friends were having a front porch put on their house, work stopped every day at a certain time. The men brought their lunch boxes in and sat in front of the television to watch Gunsmoke for an hour. 

Their children work with them almost as soon as they can walk. 

There are strict sects and other sects are not so strict. I am not sure how they reconcile the differences. But we know that Levi is a good man and a good father. We know that his wife makes good raisin filled cookies, and was pleased to be asked for the recipe. We know that the kids love chocolate and make sure to have some when we go. They are as good people as you'll ever want to meet. 

Friday, January 8, 2021

School Teacher

 Tim drove up to our sawyer Levi's -place yesterday to pick up more batten boards for the garage. It surprised him to be greeted by name. 

A gaggle of kids from the Amish school ran up and down the hill with their sleds as the two of them compared deer hunting sagas. Levi wanted to know if we'd started on the greenhouse. Tim admitted that between the garage and two trees down on the old house and putting together his hunting shanty along with hunting season too, well...there had not been enough time to get that done. 

Levi laughed. "Well, we always got plenty of boards for something like that!" 

Tim headed home with his truckload of batten boards. He is going to run them to the retirement property today. Then he's going to drive the dump truck to pick up another load of bank gravel to dump on the floor of the garage. 

He'll have the day to himself. I can handle the morning school today. William has a math test, so I will not have to teach him anything new. If he keeps his wits about him, he'll do fine. If he dissembles and gets emotional, he'll flunk it. I've talked to him firmly about it, and we went to bed early last night to make sure he's well rested. 

While William is having his math test, I'll be free to help J with his language arts. He has a speech issue so phonics is a struggle for him. Something that works very well for him is incorporating physical activity into it. I write his reading words on index cards and he distributes them randomly on the floor. I call out words and he jumps from one card to the next, and then spells the word out loud. We do that for 10 minutes every morning and it's a relief to see that the words are retained in that little noggin.

I got a little sick when Tim announced he was being called back to work on Monday after his two month layoff, because quite honestly, I did not know how I was going to accomplish the necessary one-on-one time with both of boys, but I explained the situation to the teacher.  I suggested a few tweaks to  William's morning schedule, and his teacher made some accommodations, and between us, we've got something figured out that will hopefully work out. 

Much relieved, I said, "I'll be glad when they are back in school..." 

The teacher, a single mother herself said, "I don't know. I have enjoyed the time with my kids and this has relieved a LOT of stress at MY house."

Her house and my house are two different houses, that's for certain. 

Bob the bison will be going to school on Tuesday. In his 140 or so years of hanging around, this is a new thing for him.  

He will be the subject of a virtual field trip to discuss the clash of cultures between the Indian and the white man during the rush to build the first transcontinental railroad and the devastating impact on the plains Indians. William will be giving the talk as he stands on a small ladder beside Bob to give the kids an idea of the size of a buffalo. 

Late edit: William got a 93. 33 on his math test. We're both pretty tickled. I actually feel like I could cry. 

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Emotional

 One of the things that William deals with is a lack of confidence. When faced with a new thing, his initial response seems to be "I can't do this" and it devolves to an emotional muddle. Nothing can be resolved until he settles himself down. I cannot tell you the number of times I have said to him, "Getting emotional doesn't help you."

Yesterday afternoon, as the end of the school day ticked ever closer, I walked between the two rooms. Tim returned to house and said, "The capitol is being attacked."

Up until that moment, the day had been winding down rather uneventfully. J is ahead in his math assignments, and had finished his work. He was happily playing a school sanctioned math game for his last half hour. William had finished his science. His assignments were all a continuation of climate and weather, but for whatever reason, his teacher worked with them on electrical circuits. Much to my surprise, William understands electrical circuits like nobody's business. In a competitive, Jeopardy style match up, the kids all rang in with their answers to various questions and electrical diagrams. William came second in his class and got 100% on his test. 

So William had extra time to read (A Wild Robot: think the creation story but with a robot named Roz). J was playing his math game. Tim turned on the television. We both watched the scenes play out in front of our eyes. Sedition. Treason, Rebellion, Incitement. Anarchy. Traitor. These all seemed like words from another time, but here they were, happening before our very eyes in real time.

There were people in my community celebrating this on social media. There were posts about how they knew that this would happen if Biden won the election, that Biden was destroying this country before he even got into office. Another showed pictures of the crowd and claimed that it was BLM doing the violence despite the sea of overwhelmingly Caucasion faces. 

Off in her own time zone, Cara IMed me. "Not going to lie. This is bad." 

I responded, "I figured that one out by myself." 

She asked me what would happen. I answered that my view was that the majority of the people would simply disappear as the hours passed, the ones that remained would be the dangerous ones, the radicals. I planned for a long night with every chance of violence. 

I knew that it needed to be written about, but last night, I could just manage a short post to note that the day had made me sick. Just sick. I can't write anything sensible when I'm emotional, no more than William can do his math when he is emotional. 

I am glad to say that it began to die down quickly.  For all the rallying, for all the calls to "be strong, not weak", the revolution ended as curfew neared. The building was cleared. The electoral vote counting began once again at 8 PM, and within a few hours, Joe Biden was officially the president elect. Of the 13 senators determined to contest and challenge the much contested and challenged results, only seven remained, and those seven were castigated not only by democrats, but by the members of their own party. 

This morning, Trump vowed an orderly transition of power, laughable in light of what had already gone down. Even as these people occupied the capitol, he was calling them patriots, and claiming that the election had been stolen from them. 

Now it's done. i feel like they must have after that long ago morning at Fort McHenry, after a sleepless night, to see "proof through the night, that our flag was still there". 

What will happen next? 

For the moment, there seems to be a truce. Will it last? I hope so. I will do my part. 

Sick

 The events of the last 8 hours make me sick. I honestly never thought that I would see anarchy unfold before my very eyes. 

This is indefensible. 

The thing that makes me sickest of all are the people in my own circle that applauded the chaos.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Professional

Teachers have a rough row to hoe. These zoom classes have made that crystal clear to me. 

One of William's classmates is a very outspoken little girl. She's very bossy. (Politically correct version: She has leadership skills.) She loves to tell people what to do, and she's a very superior little being. 

The teacher said, "Does anyone have any questions?" 

"Mrs. M------------?" 

And the patient answer came: "Yes, Addison." 

And the question: "Are you married?"

The teacher looked startled. "Why?" she asked.

"Because your name has a Mrs. in front of it, and if you're not married, that is a big lie."

I was horrified. My response would have been that it wasn't her business. 

The little snip offered up, "Everyone is talking about it." 

Mrs. M----------- hesitated but said, "No. I am not married," and went on to the next question from the next child in a very business-like fashion. 

"That was a stupid question," William commented. 

"Yes. It was also rude and not really Addison's business."

Teaching. 

Not for sissies. 


Tuesday, January 5, 2021

Back to School

 School is back in session. 

Over the holiday, much to his initial consternation, to earn time on his tablet, William had to do a page of math work. 10 problems, each page. Division, multiplication and fractions. They weren't hard problems, to my way of thinking, but they would keep the new concepts fresh in his mind. To him, they were an outrage, "because it was vacation!"

My response was, "Well, if you don't want tablet time, that's fine too."

He left with his folder of worksheets under his arm, and he was more than a little perturbed at his grandma. 

Not for the first time. 

Won't be the last time, I imagine. 

Yesterday, both boys sat down with their devices. One at his desk in the living room, the other at a card table in the office. Grandpa works with the younger the morning for the first couple hours, doing his sight words, and his spelling words. J. reads the story they're working on for the week, and then if there is time, Grandpa reads Jase a story. By then it is time for Jase's first class. In the office, I shut the door and William and I tend to math. His first zoom class begins right away, and then we spend an hour doing the math. 

Math is done in small groups. William's is the first group. The other two groups meet for 20 minutes each during the next hour while William and his group are doing their homework. There are 7 or so kids in his group. The teacher started class by asking them to take our their whiteboards. She gave them a division problem. 

I held my breath. 

William wrote the problem down, slowly and carefully, erasing numbers when they weren't perfectly drawn. I know a delay tactic when I see it. I held my breath. I held my tongue. Eventually William had nothing left to do but to begin solving the problem. He started, with agonizing slowness. 

The teacher said, "Let's see how far everyone is." 

William held up his board with the problem neatly written.

"Keep working," the teacher said. "I'll give everyone a couple more minutes." 

William began to make anxious noises. 

"Stop it," I said. "Just put the board down and get to work. Drama doesn't solve math problems."

He put the board down, picked up his dry erase marker and started work. 

When the teacher for the second time, "Let's see where everyone is at," William held up his completed problem. 

The teacher said, "Good William, It looks like you've got it. The rest of you, let's do the problem together."

William looked a little amazed. 

The teacher worked at her own white board, one step at a time. "Okay," she said, "what is the first thing that we do?" 

William raised his hand, and when the teacher called on him, he answered the question. 

"That's right!" she said, and followed William's direction. 

William quietly watched his class learning division again. Grandma? She looked like she was sitting quietly in her office chair. Inside, there was a ridiculous amount of cheering and jumping up and down. There were even a couple cartwheels. 

He did his math homework, and he took the quiz afterwards, and there was still time left over before his next zoom class.

I said, "I'm glad that you worked on those math problems every day. It's a lot easier to keep the things that you've learned fresh in your mind than to learn them, forget them, and have to learn them all over again."

"I guess," said, William. 


Monday, January 4, 2021

New Year

 It's 2021.

Usually New Years is greeted by plans and goals and expectations. 

Not this year. 

We cannot plan anything until we see how this covid stuff is going to play out, and it's hard to reach goals without that ability to plan. Without my goals, the expectations are...what?...a wisp of smoke? 

I can only make peace with the reality of where I'm at, right now, and that makes a very strange beginning to a new year. 

Late edit: this sounds all very morose. It just will always seem strange to me that when it came to making a resolution for the new year, the one I came up with is 'I will be content in the moment.' Seems strange to me that resolutions are always seen as a future plan, but this year, I can only look at the present. 

I do expect 2021 to be a more stable year than 2020 was. 

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Fuming

 I have been dragging lately. I wake up with a minor headache in the morning and a sore throat. I've been needing my coffee more than usual. I start the day with aspirin. There is no fever. I can taste my coffee (and smell it brewing) just fine. 

Each morning, I find myself thinking, "What if that Christmas eve dash around town as we hunted down a ham has cost me more than money? What if I'm managed to pick up covid?" 

But the symptoms go away. The sore throat disappears as I am drinking my coffee. The aspirin takes care of the niggledy little headache.  By the time I'm out of a hot shower, the body aches are gone. The rest of the day proceeds normally. 

Our house is 100 years old and was designed like this: The old coal boiler still is in the basement. It heated water for some very ornate radiators. This heat could be controlled. You could focus the heat to the rooms that you were using. Every room has doors so that it can be closed off from the rest of the house. 

Unfortunately, the house was a repo, and had been improperly winterized. We lost every last one of those gorgeous radiators. The water had frozen inside them and they had burst. It broke Tim's heart. Tim installed a forced air system, but it left 'cold spots' in the house. 

The second floor has a gas stove up there, a big vented one. We turn that on if someone will be visiting. The house is your basic 'four square' (four rooms and a bath downstairs), four bedroom and a bath upstairs, The upstairs has a large hall that runs length wise of the house. You access four bedrooms and a bath from that. Between two of the bedrooms there is a small sitting room that has the door to the third floor, where there are two rooms and two attics which run the length of the house.  The third floor is unheated. We can keep that door closed, and open the doors to the bedrooms. The heat circulates freely through the second floor. The big stove is thermostatically controlled. 

Downstairs was a bit more difficult. The down stairs has a large foyer that runs widthwise through the middle of the house. Even a simple thing like going outside and coming inside let drafts in. We began using small ventless heaters in each room that we could turn on and turn off as needed during the coldest weather to warm the rooms that we were using. It was not ideal. They made a lot of moisture. Although I couldn't smell the fumes, I was waking up day after day with awful headaches and a sore throat. Since migraines and sinus used to be quite a struggle for me, we didn't connect them to the little heaters right away. Tim began figure it out when the headaches went away in the summer. The following winter, Tim installed a fireplace insert and removed two of the vented heaters. There was such an improvement that we quit using the other two. We replaced all the old windows with energy efficient new windows. 

Tim reads up on these things, and was taken with the Rinnai heaters. The more he read about them, they more convinced he was that they were our solution.  These new heaters do not use a pilot light. They are also thermostatically controlled. They don't come on until the temperature drops enough that the thermostat triggers the stove to ignite. The old ones were lit and burned constantly. The new ones have greatly reduced the fumes and moisture problems of the old stoves. 

So we have two new stoves downstairs, and they work very well. No moisture on the windows. No fiddling with settings, turning it up because we're cold, turning it down because we're hot. We also don't have to worry about curious kids getting burnt. We set the temperature and forget about them. Tim is pleased to note that the big furnace in the basement does not run so often. He has noticed a reduction in our heating bill. 

But...I have begun to wake up with a minor headache and a sore throat. 

I can deal with this. It's not a big deal. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn't even give it a second thought, if we weren't in the middle of a pandemic.

But we are in the middle of a pandemic. 

I do think about it.  

It's probably not, but what if?

I will be so glad when these days are over and I don't have to think twice about these things. 

Late edit: I am not fuming, not at all. It seems to be the stoves. It's a minor thing though. It simply is what it is. It was a feeble attempt at humor.

I was just venting. 

Bahahhahahhahahahaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Saturday, January 2, 2021

Mystery

 A long time ago, between 25-30 years ago, I had a friend. She was a hilarious friend, the kind of friend that you always want to have in your back pocket in case of hard times. She was just that funny. There never was a day she couldn't make better. 

Her name was Patty. She's gone now, all these years later. 

I haven't had cause to think of her for a long time, but today, a blog post triggered a memory of her. 

She told the most wonderful stories of growing up in the south, of living life on military bases. She was an officer's daughter. Her mother was the sister of General George S Patton, and she was named Patty in honor of her beloved uncle. It was not Patricia. Her name was simply Patty.

The stories that I enjoyed the most were the ones she told about being a young woman, about cotillions, grand parties that were fun, but their main purpose was for officer's daughters of marriageable ages to meet suitable young men. She talked about the etiquette involved at such affairs. She talked about the gorgeous dresses they wore and the layers of crinoline that went under them to make those dresses pouf out. They fell below the knee, and they wore little white gloves and carefully styled hair. They sipped alcoholic punch, never, ever getting drunk, but there was a lot of giggling. As strange as it sounded all those years later, young ladies could dance all night long. The parties were chaperoned, and no girl would ever leave the premises. These parties would last until the wee hours of the morning, and no parent ever worried about their daughters. 

Her very funniest cotillion story was a follows, and she never, ever told the story without describing her mortification. 

Back in the days of tea length gowns and petticoats worn in layers, when a young lady used the ladies room, it was quite a production. The first thing is that the young lady was always escorted to the facilities by her date, There was actually a waiting area where the young men could visit and smoke together while they waited on their dates. 

Patty also described how difficult using the facilities actually was. One  couldn't just walk into a stall and shut the door and pull her skirts up. Those poufy slips underneath were just too bulky. So what a girl would do is arrange herself out side the by raising her skirts in the back and then beginning to work her undergarments down as she was backing in through the bathroom door. It sounds as if those undergarments were a bit more complicated in those days as well.

The bathrooms were always crowded with young women working through the same process, and on this particular night, after two punches Patty was more giggly than usual. In the commotion of the bathroom, in the midst of all giggling, rustling crinoline and feminine maneuvering, Patty managed to get a bit disoriented. 

She backed her fanny to the door and pushed in only to feel a blast of cool air on her bottom. She accidently had missed the stall door and had begun pushing into the waiting area. She realized her mistake immediately and there was some shrieking from all the girls. Patty cried, but so did several others. No one wanted to be the first one out of the bathroom, because they were afraid their date would think that he (and every other man there) had caught a glimpse of  HER bottom. 

It was several minutes of high feminine drama in the ladies room. Patty was certain that her ass would be recognized and that she would be the scandal of the entire military post. Everyone else was afraid that when the rumors took root, their rear ends would be contemplated as well. It took them all several minutes to sort out how to best handle it. In the end, a dozen or so girls made the decision that the best thing to do was walk out one right after another, a show of red faced solidarity. 

The end of the story was anticlimactic. The young men offered their arms to their embarrassed dates, and they returned to the ball, and as far as Patty ever knew, the story never got out although the girls were in an agony for days after the event. 

Funny how reading a post post can trigger a memory, and all these years later, I thought of Patty, my elderly friend from so long ago. So many funny memories of such a popular wonderful friend. I wondered when she actually passed, if she was still in Midland Michigan when she died. 

Life has changed a lot since I knew her so I googled her beloved uncle, George S. Patton, and found his sister, Anne Wilson Patton (nickname: Nita), 

I googled the names of her children. She had two of them. 

Peter and David Patton. 

Boys.

Isn't it the strangest thing?? 

Friday, January 1, 2021

Gas Mask

The day after Christmas, Tim headed upstairs to put his hunting things away for the year. William accompanied him. There are always some fascinating things up in grandpa's hunting room. 

He came downstairs with a gas mask. 

How? 

Why? 

What the HELL??!!

It was made in Czechoslovakia and it was still sealed in plastic, and came with a handy carrying case. 

I looked at Tim in astonishment. 

"I don't know, he said. "I am pretty sure that I saw something I wanted at a yard sale, but it was with a basket of stuff I didn't want and this was one of those things."

William babbled on and on.  Since grandpa wasn't using that gas mask, and just said he hadn't wanted it, could HE have it? 

Inexplicably, Grandpa said no. It was brand new with all the accessories. He didn't want it opened up. He was pretty sure that it might be worth something some day. (When we're gassed, I suppose).

William was very disappointed because it turns out that HE has always wanted a gas mask of his own.

What the hell??!!

Why?

He wanted one something desperate. I finally said, "William your playroom is a disaster!" You've got so much stuff in there that you can't find what you want to play with. You've got tons of stuff that you don't even play with at all. You can't take your hover board home because you haven't got any room for it. You've got new toys that need to be put away but you have no room. So no. If you want stuff, you need to make some decisions and get that room hoed out. 

William's mother came to take him home, and he was still talking about gas masks and how badly he has always wanted one. 

As usual, once William has gone off on a tangent, he holds to it. We watched him New Year's Eve so that his mother and Don could have a night to themselves. When she dropped him off, his mother said, "He's really getting rid of old toys in his playroom!" One of the moms was coming over to go through the things to see if there were toys her kids would want, but after that, everything was going to an area where people set the things that they don't want so that others can help themselves to those things. 

After she left, William talked non-stop about gas masks. "Did you know that once upon a time, we had a Cold War and everyone wore gas masks?"

Me: "No. They didn't."

William: 'Yes. I saw the pictures. Everyone wore gas masks, even children."

Me: "William, they did not. I grew up during the Cold War. It was just two governments fighting with words and making threats against other countries. People were afraid. Some more than others. "

William (hopefully): 'Well, maybe they were so afraid, they had gas masks put away, just in case...'

Me: "I am sure that there were a few people who did, but that is because they were afraid of what might happen. Most people didn't though. Some people had bomb shelters. Some folks just over reacted a bit. Kind of like you do, sometimes. We just hid under our desks at school.'

William: *amazed look* Just like that!, we were off on a different tangent. 

We have a kid's desk in a corner of the living room that the youngest boy uses for school and I thought perhaps William would be distracted enough to make siren sounds and climb under the desk for a few hours. 

No such luck. 

He spent the night here, we saw the New Year in, smooches all around, and off to bed we went. He was off and running bright and early this morning. He wanted to continue work on his playroom. 

He went out the door chattering. "I'll draw you a picture of the gas mask we ordered. It's a kid's size mask..." and his voice faded away as they headed for the car.

The child rearing experts will tell you that every child can be motivated. You have to discover what it is that he values and use that to negotiate. 

But...a GAS MASK?

Music to our Ears.

 Well, the concert was good fun. It was not nearly as loud as the last event we went to, which was a bit of a relief to my poor ears. Tim en...