Sunday, January 31, 2010

Be It Ever So Humble

Friday brought ice and followed it with snow.  My granddaughter was ecstatic and ran out to play.  Having lived most of my life in the north, I didn't view it as much of an accumulation.  But from a southern child's perspective, it was a true blizzard. 

Yesterday brought more ice and the trees glistened. Very beautiful when viewed through our windows.  And that's how I like it. Safe from drivers who are inexperienced with these conditions and who exercise little common sense. Away from the cold and damp. No need to go anywhere or do anything.

Ah. There truly is no place like home.

Grandma

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Convictions - Installment #3




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 
Lucy Smith was removing brownies from the oven when she heard the excited voice.

“Gran! Gran you have to see this!”

The tiny, wrinkled black woman stood and raised a finger to her lips.

“Miss Lucy”, she corrected gently, “Your mom is home, Angel”.

“Sorry, I forgot. Rick and I discovered treasure. The box is stuck in the ground.”

“Would you like a hand getting it out?”

. . .
At Beth's resounding yes, she quickly set the brownies to cool and turned off the oven. They stopped at the tool shed for a spade, then headed towards the back of the lot where Rick impatiently waited. The corner of something red was just peeking through the dirt. Although dulled, it seemed obvious to Lucy that it was made of metal. She began to dig. Although her small size and wrinkled face suggested someone too old and frail for this activity, it became quickly obvious that she was neither. Within a minute, she had loosened enough earth to remove the box. It was indeed red metal and had a black handle and silver clasp. Beth and Rick debated over who would open it. Beth finally conceded . He flipped the clasp and raised the lid. A few screwdrivers, a wrench and some nails lay within.

“Who would bury a toolbox?”, he asked.

“It probably was lost here when the house was built. It could have gotten buried when they were working on the landscaping.”

“That was ten years ago, Gran.”

“Almost an antique”, Lucy quipped, barely suppressing a smile.

Looking at the disappointed faces, she suggested heading back to the house for some brownies. Rick was suddenly filled with excitement again.

“Could we have them in the tree-house?”

His enthusiasm tugged at her heart. His mother adored him, but her need for cleanliness and structure deprived him of many small pleasures.

“I don't see why not.”

She returned the spade and started to set the toolbox on a shelf. Rick suddenly decided he wanted it. Disgusted with the find, Beth agreed. He ran towards his yard and stored it in an identical tool shed. Hurrying back, he joined them as they headed towards the kitchen. Lucy cut the brownies and put several into a brown paper bag. She handed each child a small plastic container filled with apple juice. Reminding them to return the containers, she watched as they headed out the door and raced towards the tree house. Amanda Hollister strode in while she was cleaning up. Her face looked stressed.

“Greg called. He needs me to go and help him. Some sort of emergency situation. Can you spend the night here?”

“I'm so sorry, but I do have plans this evening. Bethany can come with me, if she can stay overnight.”

A look of distaste crossed Amanda's face. She just knew the plans were church related, but it couldn't be avoided.

“Fine”.

Lucy heard her footsteps climbing the stairs, then quickly returning. A car door slammed, the engine started, then faded into the distance. Amanda had never inquired where Beth was. Never said goodbye.

Beth was still puzzling as they sat in the tree-house eating their brownies.

“Why do you want to keep that old toolbox?”

“I got an idea. I'll make it into a real treasure box. Take out the old tools and clean it up. I'll keep it I the tool shed. It will be safe in there. Dad's the only one who ever goes in there. And just to get the barbeque tools. “

“Where are you going to get treasure?”

“I've already got a bunch of it. The shells from that day at the beach. The pesos from Cancun. That green marble. I've never seen another one like it.”

Before Beth could comment on Rick's idea of treasure, Miss Pauline's shrill voice pierced the quiet afternoon air. Gran's soft call followed shortly after.

Beth danced in excitement upon learning that she could stay overnight at the cottage. She showed no reaction to her mother's abrupt departure. When Beth was younger, Lucy had tried to make excuses for Amanda. Tried to soften the blow of her mother's indifference. Small white lies to protect the feelings of this sweet child. “Your mom had to leave quickly.” “Your mom felt bad that she didn't get to say goodbye.” “Your mom said to tell you that she loves you." Beth was only five when she calmly replied, “No she didn't.” Lucy never repeated that mistake. Her little angel should have someone to depend on. Even small deceits could shake that trust. She promised herself that she would always be honest with her.

Later in the afternoon, they headed towards Gran's cottage, using the path through the woods. The trip by road was a little over a mile, but the woodland route halved that distance. Beth was not allowed to go into the woods alone, so she treasured this opportunity. She had loved the trail since Gran had first shown it to her. As they had walked, she'd occasionally seen a chipmunk or small bird. She'd pointed them out to Gran, surprised that they weren't the only ones in the woods. Reaching a fallen log, Gran had stopped and sat.

“Sit down, Angel, and don't say a word.”

At first she was restless, wondering what they were waiting for. As their silence continued, she became increasingly aware of the life around them. The gentle rustle of branches as squirrels jumped from tree to tree, the incessant hum of the insects, the amazing repertoire of birdsong, toads scurrying under the low brush. Entranced, Beth remained silent and soon the wood life forgot their presence. Rabbits and woodchucks emerged. Three deer wandered by and stopped unaware. For long moments, they watched them. Then one sniffed the air and they bounded off. Beth could not contain her voice any longer and the show came to an end. But after that day, she considered the woods magical.

A magical trail leading to an enchanted cottage. It stood in a small clearing, surrounded by tall trees. There was a path at the front of the clearing in addition to their trail, which emerged at the back of the property. These were the only routes in and out. Although the path in front was wider, those who traveled by car had to walk the last quarter mile. It was truly secluded. Beth often imagined fairies and leprechauns peeking out at them from behind the dense foliage.

Although small, the cottage had been kept in good repair. Lucy had little money, but she was resourceful. Ten years before, growth in the nearby city of Montrayle had precipitated a housing expansion in Adamston. Small subdivisions sprang up on Beth's side of town. As houses were completed, builders abandoned partially used materials. These were placed in huge dumpsters at the street or stacked next to them. After cleaning houses each day, Gran had walked through the area pushing a cart. She sifted through the leftovers, selecting shingles, tiles, plumbing supplies, wood scraps and paint. In a year's time, she had gathered enough to renovate the interior and exterior of her home. She had blended numerous partial cans of paint to create the slate blue shade that covered the exterior. A porch extended the width of the house and held benches with comfortable cushions and hanging pots of pansies and geraniums. Brown-eyed susans, red clover, daisies and paintbrush had been gathered from fields and transplanted into plots on either side of the steps to complete the charming effect.

There were just two rooms inside, plus a small loft and a tiny bathroom. Signs of Lucy's handiwork were everywhere. Braided wool rugs warmed the rough wood floor. Plants hung from the rafters. Patchwork curtains made from scraps of old clothing, brightened the windows. A  comfortable old sofa sported a cheerful print cover and small quilted pillows. A rocking chair was pulled close to the wood burning stove that heated the cottage in the wintertime.

Beth had visited before, but never stayed overnight. She was delighted when Gran asked if she would like to sleep in the loft. She scurried up the ladder with her bag. A quilt-covered cot and a nightstand filled the width of one wall. The opposite side held a little table that served as a desk and a small closet with two shelves. A skylight filled the room with sunshine. Beth would have been content to settle on the bed with a book, but Gran called up.

“We're going to the potluck supper at the church tonight. We need to leave now, so I can help with the preparations."

Back in the main room, she saw Gran removing a large bowl of potato salad from the refrigerator. She directed Beth to carry a bag with a loaf of homemade rye bread and they headed out the door.

Want to read more?   Check back next Saturday for the next installment.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.

Grandma

Friday, January 29, 2010

Predator

Predator is loose. Seeking it's prey.
Stealthily moving from room to room.
Seeking, anticipating. Getting closer.

There! Up there! Unaware it is stalked.
Moving even slower now.
Gentle step by gentle step.

It is time.
He makes his move. Strong and graceful.
Leap and capture become one.

Big orange tabby cat.
Proudly brandishes captured Q-Tip.

Grandma

Thursday, January 28, 2010

More Than Enough

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Last week I listed things that I'd love to do more than once.
Today, things I don't like get equal air time.

One of the things I don't want to do
is eat cottage cheese.
Baked beans make two.

I really hate funerals,
they don't comfort me.
That's why on this list, they're number three.

What's earned a place as number four?
Cleaning clothes, house or dishes -
there's always more.

Laying in hospital barely alive,
is truly not fun.
But it is number five.

I'm not successful and don't get my kicks
raising money for charity.
That's number six.

I like making bread, using yeast as a leaven.
But when it won't rise,
that's number seven.

Paying the bills is number eight.
And on creditors' lists
when I am late.

Am I included with people who whine?
I'm hoping not,
'cause that's number nine.

Put foot in mouth. Yes, that's number ten.
Someday I'll keep quiet,
I'm just not sure when.

Fog, snow and ice, whether driving or driven,
Are just too much stress.
Now the count is eleven

Late for anything.
Making a scene.
I try to avoid numbers twelve and thirteen.

Think this rhyme is the worst that you've seen?
Could I have one more?
Critiques are fourteen.

Grandma


Grandma is delighted to be a participant in the Thursday Thirteen meme. You should check it out.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

You've Got My Number

Phone service has come a long way from the 8-party line. Or has it?

With a party line, I had to listen for a ring that identified whether the call was mine. It was a small interruption. But some days, the phone rang incessantly – for other people.

I've had a private line for years. Yet, after multiple interruptions one day, I realized that none of the calls were for me:

Good morning. I'm Lisa calling to ask for your support in reelecting Bob Smarmy.
 Sorry, Lisa, I've already promised to support my cat.

Good Morning. I'm Cheryl, your account executive, at Cashless Credit Cards. I'm calling today to offer you an exciting new card. You say that you're on the National Do Not Call Registry? Ma'am , that only applies to companies you don't have a business relationship with. Since you already have a credit card with us . . .
 So why do I want another one?

This call is for (pause, automated voice) Sam Brokealot. We are calling to discuss an urgent personal business matter with you. If you are not (pause, automated voice) Sam Brokealot, please hang up now . . .
I'd be glad to.

Good morning. I'm David at the The Fire Ant Foundation. I'm sure you're as concerned as I am about the threatened extinction of these delightful creatures. I want you to know that you can help. Can I count on your donation? . . .
 Of course, David. Put me down for 5 gallons of insecticide.

Good Afternoon. This is Glenda, your account executive at Cashless Credit Cards. I'm calling today to offer you an exciting new card...
What happened to Cheryl? And no, I haven't changed my mind in the last two hours.

This call is for (pause, automated voice) Jennifer Fundless. We are calling to discuss an urgent personal business matter with you. If you are not . . .
 Click.

Good Afternoon. This is Bob at Static Cable. We want to be sure that you are getting good reception on your TV. While we're talking, I'd like to tell you about some exciting new cable packages …
Yeah, that cost three times as much as my current one.

Good Evening. This is Lucifer, your account executive at Cashless Credit Cards. I'm calling today to offer you an exciting new card . . .
 Lucifer, you know where you can go...

This call is for (pause, automated voice) . . .
Click.

Hi! It's Betty. Wondered if you'd like to come over for dinner tomorrow? . . .
Click. Oops! That one really was for me.

Remember party lines? Ah, those were the good old days.

Grandma

Monday, January 25, 2010

Popping

I am participating in a new (to me) meme today. It's hosted by The Simple Woman's Daybook. Participant's complete a series of phrases. The phrases stay the same from week to week, but hopefully my answers won't.

Outside my window... the promise of spring - both the warmth and the rain.

I am thinking... about popcorn. Wish it were a more lofty thought, but popcorn is on my brain.

I am thankful for... living in the same house as my granddaughter. She is my daily dose of sunshine.

I am wearing... one of my comfy blue robes. I have several. I don't think this item is going to change much.

I am remembering... that it's my brother's birthday. I want to call him today and remind him that he is still older than I am.

I am currently reading... the grocery list.

I am going... to add more popcorn to the grocery list.

I am hoping... for more sun and less rain.

On my mind... the refrigerator. Not for any tasty treats. That thing is overdue for a cleaning.

Noticing that... I'm going to need a 2nd cup of coffee this morning.

Pondering these words... “A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”

I am hoping... these words provide motivation to start cleaning the refrigerator.

From the kitchen... popcorn, what else!
 
 
If you'd like to join in the fun, head over to The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Grandma

Sunday, January 24, 2010

If You Build It

A couple weeks ago, I was bemoaning my lack of posts over the weekend.  The next day, Calico came up with a wonderful idea, a new meme for writers of all kinds.  With this literary field in mind, Calico embraced the "If you build it, they will come" motto.  Within a couple days she had the Weekend Writers' Retreat built and ready to go.  We looked forward to the weekend with excitement.  When the retreat was opened for submissions on Friday, we kept peeking and waiting for some posts.  When ours were the only Friday posts, we reassured one another that most folks were waiting for Saturday.  Or Sunday?   Just when they would come was never specified.  Guess we'd missed that in the fine print.

Everyday life can get in the way of our hobbies and dreams.  It takes time to put a submission together.  If you've never let the general public view your writing, there's bound to be some nervousness about it's reception.  Having started to post a novel that is no where near completion, I can assure you that Grandma understands.   But I figured that I needed to start somewhere.  How about you?

Our dream is a little shaken, but still strong.  And we're hoping we'll see your post next week.



Grandma

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Convictions - Installment #2




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 
The bus left the prison behind. Trentsport dwindled to a few homes, then to woods and fields. The bus crossed the county line. Bethany gradually relaxed. Just viewing the world beyond the prison walls was a pleasure. Her enjoyment was curbed by the startling speed of the bus. Other passengers read or chatted, seemingly oblivious. It took a minute to realize that years of incarceration had left her body unaccustomed to normal travel. It produced a queasiness that caused her to regret the hearty breakfast. She struggled to adjust, but gave up when the bus turned onto the turnpike entrance. She was not ready for anything faster. She turned away from the window and let her mind wander back.
. . .
He stopped next to the big pine that marked the edge of the woods and scowled his frustration. He had meticulously searched every inch of the two vast properties. Behind tool sheds and gazebos, under the porches, beneath shrubs. Even the inside of the never occupied dog house. He momentarily wondered if she had entered the woods. It was strictly forbidden, but it wouldn't be the first time she had broken the rules. He debated the possibility. A few needles and twigs drifted down from the sprawling pine, nesting in his coppery hair. Giggles followed them. He looked up, the scowl deepening. “That's not fair, Beth. You were supposed to hide on the ground.” “No such rule”, she retorted. “Come on up.” The sulky expression faded and was replaced by puzzlement. There was at least 10 feet between the ground and the first branch. Beth grinned. “Look on the back side, Rick.” He headed around and found a series of wooden slats nailed to the trunk, creating a ladder to the first branch. He started the climb. Beyond the first branch, the tree provided a natural ladder. He negotiated several branches, arriving at the spot where Bethany sat on a small wooden platform. “How long has this been here?” “Just a few days. Don't tell anyone. Gran built it for me while our parents were away last week.” “Your parents and my dad”, he corrected. “You know my mother never goes anywhere.” “Of course, she does. I saw her at Findlan's Grocery yesterday.” As if on cue, Miss Pauline's shrill voice carried through the air. “Richard. Richard, where are you?” He turned to leave. “Back after lunch. Wait for me.” He hurried down the tree, detouring through brush before emerging on the far side of a tool shed. “Coming, Mom.”

Bethany reached into a small hollow formed by the branches and  retrieved the sack lunch and book she had left there earlier in the day. She loved the prospect of  having lunch in the trees and wished that Rick could join her. Not that it was likely. His mother stuck to a firm schedule and  a concept of the right way to do things.  Usually a very boring way, she reflected.  Any deviation was viewed with dismay.  Eating in a tree raised the possibility of insects or dirt coming in contact with the food. For Miss Pauline, that was unthinkable. Unlike Rick's mother, her own mother never came looking for her. If Beth asked her for lunch, she would make it. If she wanted to go to the movies, Amanda Hollister would take her. She couldn't remember the last time her mother had said no to a request. Or a time when she had initiated anything. Although she was only eight, Bethany had been aware of her mother's indifference for a long time. Her father's attitude made her mother's appear caring. Business trips took them away for several days each week. Sometimes longer. Her friend, Jenny, had parents who traveled frequently. They called each evening to hear about her day. Their returns were marked by generous presents and time spent together. Schedules were arranged to insure their presence for birthdays and holidays.  When Beth's parents left the house, they seemed to disappear. When they returned, her father greeted her. If Beth initiated it, he would return a perfunctory hug, then walk from the room. “So what have you been doing?” her mother always asked, as if she had memorized the question.  Bethany had learned to keep her answers short. Amanda became restless quickly.  Once when Beth's enthusiasm for a school play caused her to forget this unwritten rule, Amanda interrupted the tale at it's highpoint, saying she had to make an important phone call. She left the room and didn't return.   Never requested to hear the rest of Bethany's story. With a child's flexibility, she accepted the situation. Her parents became casual participants on the fringe of her life. Rick and Gran were the core.

That afternoon was the first of many enjoyable ones spent in the tree. Although they had other friends, this special spot remained unshared . They talked, played games, read books. Both were bright students who read at levels far exceeding their peers. Beth loved stories about animals and nature. Rick favored action and mystery. They'd stretch out on the platform side by side and hours would fly by unaware. Cocooned in the branches, sheltered from her parents' indifference and his mother's over-protectiveness, they forged a bond that would last. Until that day.

The bus hit a crack in the pavement. Beth became aware of her surroundings. She noticed with relief that her queasiness had subsided. Her body was readjusting quickly. You don't forget some things, she thought. Like riding a bike. She smiled as she remembered the day she had learned. She'd sat on the grass by the edge of  Rick's driveway,  watching as his father patiently balanced Rick on his new bike. Running along with him. Up the driveway and back down. Over and over. Each time his father tried to let go, the bike would sway and start to fall. The moment when rhythm and balance flow without thought never happened. After one topple, Rick rubbed his eyes and tried not to cry. “Why don't you let Beth try it, Dad?” “Come on, Beth”, Mr. John called, “Let's give it a try.” On the third trip down the drive, she pulled away from his guiding hands. The slight sway quickly corrected as she continued on her own. Soon she was able to start and turn without assistance. “Awesome, Beth. I've never seen anyone learn that quickly.” Beth glowed under his approval. But suddenly concerned, she glanced to the spot where Rick had sat. He was no longer sitting. A grin spread across his freckled face as he jumped up and down, filled with excitement for her success.

Without a watch, she was unsure how much time had been spent lost in memories. But when she ventured to look out again, she saw that the countryside had begun to give way to civilization. The queasiness caused by the ride was replaced by a new one. This wasn't going to be easy. Would she be able to do it? She knew that her life depended on it.


I hope you've enjoyed this week's installment.  Check back next Saturday for more.

Don't forget to head over to the Weekend Writers' Retreat to enjoy submissions from more authors.


Grandma

Friday, January 22, 2010

Perspective

When I was young, I'd wonder why
bad times would come to make me cry.
What had I done? What was the cause?
Were these the fruits of divine laws?

Now that I'm old, each day's a gift:
the good, the bad, the subtle rift.
My life flows swift towards end of time
and I am glad that they are mine.

Unfulfilled literary aspirations?.
Join us at the Weekend Writer's Retreat to share your work.
Or just stop by to appreciate others'.


Grandma

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Once Is Not Enough

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Some things are so pleasurable that they deserve to be repeated. Here are 13 things that I've done more than once or would like to do again.
  1. Watch the sunset at Lake Ontario. The sky becomes saturated with a million shades of pink as the fiery sun glides into the water. A walk along the water's edge would be a fine companion to this visual pleasure.
  2. Hear my father's laugh again. He was known for a delightful sense of humor and his laughter was strong and melodic. Some days I yearn to hear it just one more time.
  3. Sip a good cup of coffee while I sit at my computer. This morning ritual never grows old.
  4. Enjoy my daughter's childhood. It was such a joy to watch her grow. And yes, trite as it sounds, it happened all too fast.
  5. Catch a Frisbee. I was never the athletic type, but one day I was with some friends who were throwing a Frisbee in the park. It sailed towards me, too far above my head to catch. Without thinking, I flew into the air, extended my fingers and the Frisbee sank into them. It was the perfect catch. I wasn't the only one who thought so. People stopped and stared. A few even cheered. Anyone might have been proud of that catch, but for a clumsy geek girl, it was an unprecedented feat.
  6. Eat a plateful of my grandmother's waffles. She made them from scratch and unlike mine, they never ended up stuck on the waffle iron. These crisp, airy delights were topped with hand-churned butter and hot maple syrup. No, not the imitation stuff, the genuine article from my grandparents own maple trees.
  7. Feel music flowing through my fingers. I was a skilled piano player in my youth. I still remember the moments when I stopped consciously reading the notes or placing my fingers upon the keyboard. The music would just flow through me. I can still read some music and pick out a tune, but it's been a long time since I've experienced that grace
  8. Go berry picking. Not cultivated berries, but the ones that grow wild. My childhood home in New Hampshire was surrounded by blueberry and blackberry patches. The warmth of the sun and the heady scent of the berries mixed with the fragrance of the wildflowers that surrounded the patches. I could stand forever filling a bucket with them. Not to mention filling my mouth.
  9. Vacation at Hampton Beach. When Calico was a teenager, we spent a few days vacationing there. It was an impromptu vacation without a large budget. But the sun, the ocean and the sand were all that was needed. It was a magical time that we both remember fondly. We also remember taking an afternoon away from the beach to find a movie theater and watch ET. We sobbed until we were drowning, then laughed ourselves to tears because we had no tissues.
  10. Eat a white turtle ice cream cone. Once each summer, I treat myself to this decadent concoction of white chocolate ice cream, caramel and pecans that's made at Bruester's Ice Cream parlors. Since moving to Memphis, we haven't seen a Bruester's. This post prompted me to do a little research and I've found one that is only 12 miles away. Now I have another reason to be longing for warm weather.
  11. Watch American Idol. May their seasons never end!
  12. Sit on a park bench and contemplate rhododendrons in bloom. They are so beautifully fragile and the blossom is so fleeting. Surely we should declare a holiday for the short time that they are with us.
  13. Write another Thursday Thirteen. I love the memories that they evoke.

Grandma


Grandma is delighted to be a participant in the Thursday Thirteen meme. You should check it out.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Packed

I attended a private high school that was run by an order of nuns. As you might guess, religious classes were mandatory for all students. Some proved to be interesting, but when a teacher mentioned that religious scholars had once debated how many angels could dance on the head of a pin, I was just incredulous.

At fifteen, religious arguments had little place in my head. Already a budding geek, I was enthralled by my math classes. And, of course, the question of whether a certain handsome classmate would ever know that I existed. I'd like to tell you that one day he looked at me and realized what he'd been missing, but Grandma can't keep a straight face while she tells a whopper that big. He went steady with a pretty petite cheerleader and never gave a second glance to the chubby geek girl who placed 2nd in a state math contest. Well, he did notice me once. Asked if he could copy my math homework.

He might have been the reason that I developed a never-to-be-repeated interest in sports. Basketball was the big one at our school and my brother also played on the team. My parents allowed me to attend all the home games to support my brother. I made no mention of having other motives.

The school was six miles from our home and bus transportation was not available. Until my oldest sibling turned sixteen, my parents had to drive us. Many parents dread the day that their child gets a license. Mine were ecstatic. Dad purchased a blue Volkswagen beetle for us to use and my brother began driving us to school and basketball games.

When a game fell on a Friday night, we were allowed to go to a small restaurant after the game for Cokes and fries. When it was time to leave, there were always some friends who needed rides home. Those with cars would offer rides to those who needed them. We had been forbidden to give rides to anyone else. I'm sure my parents felt that dark and snowy roads were enough of a challenge without adding the distraction of a couple more teenagers. But it was a rare evening when we didn't end up transporting someone. And how were my parents to know?

One evening the folks who needed rides far outnumbered the ones with cars. We fit as many as we could into the little beetle and started towards the first home. Suddenly the car slowed and then stopped. We had no idea what was wrong. My brother and his friend, Mick, went to the nearest house and asked to use their phone. My brother knew that he'd be in trouble if he called my dad, so they called his friend's father. He arrived quickly and told my brother to have our friends come get in his car. He'd take them home and then come back and see if he could determine the problem. I wish I could have captured the look on his face as teenager after teenager emerged from that little car. He could barely fit them into his full sized wagon.

When he returned, he quickly determined that we had run out of gas. Perhaps Dad had mentioned that we had to watch the fuel gauge. Perhaps we hadn't listened. Mick's dad left and quickly returned with a can of gas. We were on our way. When our parents noted that we were a little later than usual, I mentioned that the game had been a bit late starting. We were certain that my parents would receive a call from Mick's father the next day, but nothing more was ever said about the matter.

How many angels can dance on the head of a pin?
I never got an answer and never cared.

How many teenagers can you pack into a Volkswagen Beetle? Eleven.

Trust Grandma. She knows.

Grandma

Monday, January 18, 2010

Curious #202

Here are the week's questions from Curious As A Cat. Check out this link and have fun coming up with your own answers. Here are mine for Week #202:

About how many hours a week do you spend watching TV?
It varies depending on the time of year, but 8-10 hours would be a good estimate. Watching TV is a recent interest for me. I used to go months without turning on the set. I wrote a post about this a couple of weeks ago. The full story is called Days Of The Week.

If you have a day off, do you like to sleep in or get up early?
When I worked, I got up at 4:30am and was out of the house by 5:15am. When I had a day off, I'd try to sleep in, but would be wide awake by 6am. Guess that was sleeping late for me. Since retirement, I have reverted to my natural night owl tendencies.

If you could exchange work space--not job assignments, just desk or work area--with someone at your job, with whom would you switch?
I worked for many years in a high-rise building. The outside walls were glass. Cubicles and offices on the outside walls were highly prized. The view was superb. So were the headaches caused by sun pouring through the window and reflecting off my monitor. I did get to trade locations and was thrilled to get away from those windows.

Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.

My first thought was of a winter image I created last month. Guess it was something about the color and texture. I use the term “I created” rather liberally. The pattern used in the tree was created by one of the members in my graphics group. The mask that shaped the tree by another. A third created part of the background. So what I really did was use some graphic building blocks to put it together. I also enjoy creating images in which I have made all the elements, but this type of composite is always special to me and reminds me of the friends who helped to create it.




Grandma

Sunday, January 17, 2010

What Are You Doing Next Weekend?

Yesterday, I posted the first installment of my novel, Convictions. I'd thought about writing for a long time, but it had never become a reality. How satisfying to finally take that first step.

If you've ever thought about writing - a story, a poem, a novel - here's an opportunity for you to join others with similar aspirations. Calico and I have started the Weekend Writer's Retreat. This meme will give you the opportunity to share what you have written and receive feedback from other writers.

Your writing submissions will be accepted from Friday afternoon through Sunday evening each week.  So get ready for the first round which begins next Friday, January 22nd.  Sift through your literary creations and make a choice.  Or start writing.  Now!

Grandma

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Convictions - Installment #1




New to Convictions?
Full story:  Index
Quick Story: In a Nutshell 

Bethany stepped outside and the door clicked behind her. Through hovering fog, she could barely see the outline of downtown Trentsport. She walked  to the gate and started down the narrow road. She'd been offered a ride, but today she needed to walk. She needed to do this by herself. It had been so long.

Oblivious to rain that soaked her hair and penetrated the thin jacket, she moved at a pace better suited to blue sky and sunshine. When she reached the intersection, the urge to look back became strong. It was harder than she had anticipated to say goodbye. She wanted to go, had dreamed of leaving, but fifteen years held so many memories.

. . .

Good ones, bad ones. No matter, they would always be a part of her. Unaware, her walking slowed, then halted. Memories pelted harder than the rain. A four-wheeler honked a warning at an emerging car. She jerked back to the present. Bethany squared her shoulders and turned onto the main road without looking back.

It was over three hours before the bus would depart. Not much sense sitting in a terminal for that long. On the left was a tiny plaza set back from the road. A small department store, restaurant, laundromat and dry cleaner were separated by several windows with “For Lease” signs attached. Not much need for a dry cleaner, she thought wryly, glancing down at the oversized handbag that doubled as her suitcase. Suddenly feeling the chill of her rain-soaked hair and clothes, she headed towards the department store.

Bethany shopped carefully. The money in her wallet was almost as scarce as the clothes in her handbag. She strolled through the clothing racks, enjoying the search, trying on clothes that she knew she'd never buy. The final selections were a heavy sweatshirt, jeans and a water-resistant windbreaker. The shoe aisle held some store brand sneakers, much sturdier than her thin, wet canvas ones. Nothing else was needed, but she wasn't ready to leave. Heedless of her damp state, she walked up and down the aisles. Looking, touching. Finally she paid for her purchases and headed to the restroom to change. Retrieving dry socks from the handbag, she stepped into the new sneakers and felt some of the chill drop away. Wet clothes and shoes were thrown into the emptied shopping bag. Ducking underneath a hand dryer, she removed the last traces of dampness from her short brown hair. The mirror reflected a 33 year old woman of average height and build, dressed in casual attire. It was unlikely that she would attract any attention. Bethany left the store and headed to the laundromat.

She put coins in the dryer, momentarily puzzled by the cost. She sat by the window and waited. The sky was still gray, but the fog was lifting and the rain had stopped. A young woman struggled to hold the hands of two toddlers, while pushing an umbrella stroller towards the grocery store. Two elderly gentlemen met in the parking lot, shook hands and headed to the restaurant. Good idea. When her belongings were dry once more, Bethany packed them in the handbag and headed over.

Through the large pane glass, she saw aging maroon booths and a menu painted in block letters on one wall. Half way between the breakfast and lunch crowds, it was almost empty. The elderly gentlemen were deep in conversation while enjoying a late breakfast. A couple of moms clutched their tea cups and chatted while their preschoolers sipped orange juice and colored the paper place-mats. “Sit anywhere, honey”, the lanky waitress called as Bethany entered. “I'm Angie and I'll be with you in just a second.” She choose a booth at a distance from the other customers, but with a clear view of the outside. The smell of bacon and eggs wafted temptingly through the kitchen door. An assortment of muffins, donuts and bagels called from carousels on the stool-lined counter. But when Angie returned, she just asked for coffee.

The coffee was not a disappointment. Freshly brewed and piping hot, it warmed her fingers as well as her insides. Angie assured her that refills were free. Bethany pulled a half-read paperback from the handbag. Before she could begin to read, she saw a black car turn into the lot and head towards the restaurant. As the uniformed men got out of the car, her limbs froze in an unreasonable panic. Then she grabbed her bag, threw down some money, and looked for an escape route. Seeing an exit at the back, she moved quickly towards it. Angie emerged from the kitchen and took one look at her face. She grabbed her arm and pulled her towards the ladies room. “They come every day and get coffee. Takeout. Just duck in here for a few minutes."  Soon she heard Angie's voice at the door, telling her that they had left.

When she returned to her seat, her coffee was gone. As she pulled on her jacket, Angie came back with a platter of food and a fresh cup of coffee. “The breakfast is on me. I've been there honey. You know they can't hurt you, but I understand what it's like”, she told her softly. Bethany hadn't eaten since yesterday's lunch.  Her hunger overcame her reluctance to remain. Gradually she relaxed and enjoyed eggs, steak, home-fried potatoes and buttered biscuits. When the lunch crowd began to arrive, she thanked Angie and headed for the bus station.

Only a handful of people were seated in the terminal waiting area. Bethany purchased a one-way ticket and joined them. In a few minutes, the bus arrived and luggage was loaded. She held onto her bag and chose a window seat, fervently hoping that no one would sit next to her. She breathed a sigh of relief as the bus pulled out of the lot. Relief turned to agitation as it's route took them back down the road she had walked. This time she couldn't avoid a last look. The dismal concrete buildings blended with the sky, but there was no mistaking the tall fence whose top and bottom were encased in rolled barbed wire. No way to miss the sentries in the guard towers. No avoiding the sign. Trentsport Correctional Facility for Women.

Next Installment

Grandma

Friday, January 15, 2010

Be the task

When a task is once begun, never stop til it is done.
Be the task great or small. do it well or not at all.

I was only eight years old when I took issue with this saying.  I'd heard it frequently from my mother.  She'd heard it just as often from hers.  The task was to clean my room.  I thought for a minute and replied, "Okay, I won't do it."  Of course I was in BIG trouble, although I wasn't sure why.  I felt the words offered an option and I had made a choice. The mistake was not repeated. By adulthood, the message had become firmly internalized.   

It was hard enough to take care of my home and family, attend college and hold down a full time job without bringing expectations of perfection to these tasks. Frustration forced me to reevaluate this motto. Yes, it had it's wisdom.  Doing something well brought a lot of satisfaction.   It had some flaws too. Who can do everything well?  What if there isn't enough time to complete a task? Tell the baby that it can't be fed until you've finished cleaning the kitchen? Tell the boss that you can't deal with an emergency until you've completed your two month project?

I listened to my inner eight year old and began to bring some balance to my life. Then I modified the saying:

Be the task great or small
Something is better than nothing at all.

This was a turning point in my life. The new motto permitted me to wash the dishes without cleaning the kitchen. It let me substitute some frozen dinners for home-cooked meals. It let me slouch on the sofa and read a novel instead of a text book. Best of all, it gave me permission to make errors. Who learns to play the piano perfectly after one lesson? Even natural athletes must practice to gain skill. I could dabble in a new craft, learn a new language or tackle a new home improvement project. Even when the results were less than stellar, I was free to enjoy the process.

Tomorrow I'll share a new attempt. Writing a novel. The first installment is ready and I'll share it with you. I'm really enjoying the process. Hope you'll enjoy reading it.

Grandma

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Things I'm Not Writing About

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

Sorry. I won't be able to do a Thursday Thirteen this week. Despite my best efforts, I couldn't come up with a topic. But I tried. Really I did. I can prove it. Check out all the topics that I considered and discarded:
  1. The Weather
    It's been miserably cold and damp. Why would anyone want to read about that?

  2. Water Feature #1
    I heard an interior designer say that water features add serenity to a room. This has not been my experience. So you will not be reading about the joys of having your house flood a week after you move into it.

  3. The Mess
    Who wants to hear about clutter in the office,  dying plants in the kitchen and pet fur that rivals the fruit fly's  reproductive capabilities? I've been avoiding this mess for days, weeks, months. Why focus on it now?

  4. American Idol
    If you love it, you already know  it's back.  You also know that there are far more than 13 reasons to watch it. If you don't love it, WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU?

  5. Virtual Pets
    My focus on these cute little guys is bordering on obsession. Okay, skip the bordering part. I will not feed this obsession by writing about Piggy,Clarkie and Abby. I will not tell you about all the rooms and possessions I have accumulated for them. Nor the hours I've spent clicking on strangers' virtual pets, just to earn Clarkie the honor of being our SPP club's friendliest pet.

    I certainly won't be mentioning my shameful hiding of this obsession. No mention of the piggy that I didn't send to the pound or abandon in a field. Same goes for the little companion monkey I got for it. If I did, Calico might read this post. We made a pact to reduce our virtual pets. She kept her side of the bargain. I can't let her find out that I didn't.

    Calico, if you should read this, just disregard it as the ramblings of your senile mother.

  6. Water Feature #2
    Top billing does not go to the evil dishwasher that randomly decides to overflow. As I didn't mention in #2, we've already done the flooded home thing.

  7. Dreams Of Spring
    I will not expound on the wonders of spring: the first signs of green, the warming days, budding flowers, children outside at play, the wonderful fresh smell.  Those things just emphasize the current miserable weather, which, of course, I am not discussing.

  8. Aches and Pains
    No faster way to scare folks off. But the weather that I'm not writing about certainly doesn't help the arthritis I'm not discussing..

  9. Financial Matters
    This week I will not be asking (or answering) the question, "Is it a curse or a blessing when the government thinks you're too poor to pay taxes?

  10. My Granddaughter
    Sadly, this bright, friendly, charming and gorgeous seven year old won't be featured. Eyes start to glaze when I enumerate her charms and the listener may speak of their own grandchild's finer points. Obviously, they don't comprehend that there is no comparison.

  11. Water Feature #3
    I will not discuss the frozen bursting pipe and the lack of a single shutoff in the house. I won't talk about toilets that couldn't be flushed, dishes and laundry that couldn't be washed, water on the floor or the impromptu skating rink in the back yard. If you really want to hear the sordid tale, check out last week's post from Calico.
  12. My Sense of Humor
    Surely you realize that there is none to write about.

  13. Literary Aspirations
    Got some, but you'll have to check back on Saturday for the first installment of Convictions. Grandma has challenged herself to write a novel.  It could be intriguing  It could be good for a laugh.  You won't know until you read it.


Grandma


Grandma is delighted to be a participant in the Thursday Thirteen meme. You should check it out.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!
The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!
Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Wishful Thinking

When I created this image in the heat of summer, I just know that I was thinking of a cooler day. Take me back.


Grandma

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Sweet and Sour

For some, the term may bring Chinese cuisine to mind. It takes me back to early spring at my grandparent's farm in New Hampshire.

For a week, my grandfather had been busy collecting sap from buckets that hung below taps placed in his maple trees. The sap had been filtered and deposited in a huge vat which sat on a grate over a roaring fire. When the sap had boiled down to maple syrup consistency, it was cooled and placed in containers. After reserving some for the family's use, the remainder would be sold. When the harvest had been completed for the year, it was time for the sugaring off party.

Long shallow pans were packed with snow, which was still in plentiful supply at that time of year. A portion of the sap was removed from the vat and brought into the kitchen. It was left to simmer on the stove until it reached a consistency that was much thicker than maple syrup. This boiling concoction was ladled in strips across the pans of snow. It quickly hardened and could be lifted off in strips and eaten. The maple taste was intense and extremely sweet. The best candy I have ever eaten. The table was set with plates of warm raised doughnuts and large bowls of homemade sour pickles. Not dill. Very sour. Eating one of those pickles would completely clear the sweet taste from your mouth, allowing you to indulge in more. If you hadn't sufficiently satisfied your sweet tooth, you could place one of the donuts in a small bowl and pour warm maple syrup over it. It was a sweet feast, but not one that you'd want to indulge in more than once a year.
Grandma

Monday, January 11, 2010

Curious

Here are the week's questions from Curious As A Cat. Check out this link and have fun coming up with your own answers. Here are mine for Week #201:

1) Do you know any professional athletes?
Know? If I ran into one, I wouldn't recognize who they were. The term "sports illiterate" doesn't begin to describe my ignorance in this area. I didn't know who OJ Simpson was until he went on trial.

2) What one thing frightens you the most about growing old?
Becoming invisible. I slid into old age quite rapidly, when I became seriously ill a few years ago. At my workplace, I was respected for my problem solving abilities. Colleagues frequently asked for my opinion. One day I was working in this environment. Less than 24 hours later, I was lying on an ICU bed. Health professionals stood next to it, discussing me as if I wasn't there. Questions and explanations were directed to my daughter. I had become invisible. Many people translate my physical frailties to mental ones. They may be kind, but it's obvious that they don't take me seriously.

3) Have you ever harvested fruits or vegetables?
Just today I harvested a crop of jelly beans from my Superpoke Pet garden. Oh yeah, they're not fruits or vegetables. It's been a lot of years, but when I lived in NY, I had a garden every year. Generally the crops turned out well. Corn was an exception. It grew well, but squirrels would climb the stalks and steal it, just before it was ready to be eaten.

4) Show and Tell. What comes to mind first when you see this picture? Or, tell a story if it reminds you of one.
boxes
I smell and taste citrus fruit. When I was growing up, fresh produce could become very scare in winter months. What was available, was generally of poor quality. The highlight of the winter was receiving a crate of oranges and grapefruit from relatives who wintered in Florida. My mouth is watering now. Guess I'll be having grapefruit for breakfast.

Grandma

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Restful

I still remember the never ending boredom of Sunday afternoons in my youth. Sunday was observed as a day of rest. The concept was a good one. The definition was not. No playing with friends. Sunday was a day to stay at home and rest. Bike riding, rope jumping or a swim in the pond were out. Anything that remotely resembled physical activity was considered work. Working on a craft? Did I say "working"? You know that wasn't on the restful list. Sitting quietly and reading the Sunday newspaper was OK. The part I read was the comics and that only took a few minutes. The day wore on.

On the really bad Sundays, we piled in the car and went for a long ride. I was the youngest and had to sit in the middle of the back seat with my legs perched on top of the hump in the floor. My brothers, already on the way to 6 feet, blocked any possible view through the windows. Smoke from my father's cigarettes would drift back. Sometimes it would make me sick and the ride would end. Not a great ending, but preferable to a longer ride.

Today I played games on my computer, worked on a tutorial for my graphics group and wrote this post. Now that's restful.
Grandma

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Saturday's Stories

If you've ever enjoyed reading a good book, you've probably thought about writing one. It might have been just a passing thought. Or some good ideas for a plot. Even if you've never put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), the idea of writing a novel is intriguing. While some might be happy with that substantial accomplishment, most of us want more - publish it, spend months on the best seller list. Part of the allure is probably financial, but the thought of so many people absorbed in something you wrote is pretty heady stuff too. A literary rock star.

My head is filled with snippets of plots. Lacking the motivation to take it further, it's highly unlikely that my thoughts will be translated into a novel or be published.

Or is it? In the blogging world, I never touch a piece of paper. I don't spend days or years completing a masterpiece. I just put down a couple of thoughts and hit the Publish button. Okay, no best seller yet. But I have never received a rejection letter. Everything I write is published. Hardly a rock star, but a start.

So next Saturday, you'll see me begin to use this approach to write my first novel. Or novella. Or short story... I have no idea just how far it will go. But I have some ideas for a story titled Convictions. Hope you'll come along for the ride.
Grandma

Friday, January 8, 2010

Zzzzzz

Like most children, I was never that anxious to go to bed. Having to take a nap was considered severe punishment. Rare occasions to stay up late were treasured.

The years quickly changed that attitude. Holding down a full time job, working towards my college degree and caring for home and family left me craving for opportunities to snooze. Sleep arrived seconds after I lay down. Those who had difficulty sleeping got little compassion from me. If they couldn't sleep, they should get up and do something. They'd be sure to sleep the next night.

This one has certainly come back to haunt me. A good night's sleep has become as elusive as the winning lottery ticket. Four years ago I had surgery that saved my life. It also left me with a fair amount of pain. Some nights the pain is responsible for the sleep shortage. But on many others, the reason is not as clear. The pattern varies as well. I might fall into a deep sleep only to wake up in an hour. Or I might just toss and turn for a couple of hours, becoming so uncomfortable that I give up in frustration.

I try to take the advice that I so cavalierly passed out when I was younger. I get up and try to do something. But I feel so sleepy that it's hard to focus on anything. I convince myself that I can sleep now and return to bed. I get back up. The night drags on.

Nowadays, I sleep when I can. That's just what I did today, when I finally was able to sleep around mid morning after a totally sleepless night. It was a restful sleep and I awoke with a clear head.

And started to blog . . .


Grandma

Thursday, January 7, 2010

13 Cats Who Have Owned Me

Thursday Thirteen - Grandma isn't listless anymore

There are those who raise their eyebrows when I insist that each of my cats had a distinctive personality. But it's true. Their stories are varied too. Check them out.
  1. Fuddy
    I was only 5 and loved him dearly. My parents weren't nearly as fond, due to some undesirable potty habits. He disappeared the day after he left a deposit in the middle of my parents' bed. I was an adult before it dawned on me that this wasn't a coincidence.

  2. Muffy
    This darling white long-hair had one blue eye and one green one. He was fearless around water and let me push him around our farm pond on a small wooden raft.

  3. Victoria
    My first cat as an adult. Her previous family evicted her because they feared that a cat would lay on their new baby and smother it. She had a queenly bearing and a mellow personality. Victoria contentedly shared her water and litter box with my daughter's rabbit.

  4. Uncle Fluff
    A feral cat about 8 months old. Really too old to tame, he put some severe scratches into my tenacious 12 year old's arm when she captured him. He had been hiding in a pile of bright orange leaves. Guess his mother never told him that black fur was not a great camouflage color. About 2 hours after he was brought into the house, he decided he had lucked into the good life and became one of the sweetest and wimpiest cats I've ever known.

  5. Pancake
    One of the few cats I've known that didn't look a bit pretty. She had lost one eye in an accident and had a fair amount of weight that she didn't wear at all well. (She has my deep sympathy.) Her previous owner claimed he needed a foster family, while he was in California for a month. Did you guess? He never returned. I've been trying to think of some of her redeeming qualities. I'll let you know if anything occurs.

  6. Louis
    When this orange tabby arrived at the age of 5 weeks, he was too small to climb the stairs to our bedroom. I couldn't think of letting him sit at the bottom of the stairs meowing piteously. So I would carry him upstairs at bedtime. When he was fully grown, he would race up and down the stairs as often as he pleased. Except at bedtime. When he was 5 years old, I was still carrying him up the stairs to sleep.

  7. Tica
    My daughter's childhood cat. She came from a shelter and kept the name that she had been given. She was a smart cat who had obviously been taught a number of tricks. Except for her dainty size, she resembled a Maine Coon cat. Many years later, I learned that TICA is also the name of a prominent cat association which recognizes a number of champion cat breeds, including the Maine Coon.

  8. Dubbie
    This feral kitten was born outside before spring had arrived. His mother took advantage of a rust hole in the bottom of my car to provide him with some shelter at night. One day I had to leave home earlier than usual. I never realized that he was in my car until hunger drove him out that afternoon. He was estimated to be about 2 weeks old. We cared for him and he grew to be a big 20+ pound cat. He had the most winning personality of any cat I have ever known. Everyone who met him fell in love with him.

  9. Wee Will
    Short for Wee Willie Winkie due to the permanent wink caused by the loss of an eye. A friend rescued him from a sidewalk where he had laid in the summer sun for several days after children poked his eye out with a stick. My friend's dog wouldn't permit a kitten, but she took Will to the vet and paid for all his care. How could I refuse when she asked me to take him in? The vet said he would have difficulty walking stairs due to perceptual problems from the eye loss. Guess he forgot to tell Will, who traversed them faster than any other cat.

  10. Tele
    Short for Telecommunications. Should have been short for telekinetic. She could race for prolonged periods at a truly abnormal speed. She has the distinction of being the only cat I've known who removed every ornament from the Christmas tree, but never played with a single one. She'd knock one down and move on to the next.

  11. Abby
    One of our three current cats. Abby came from a pet rescue group and had none of the attributes we had decided we wanted in our next cat. Regardless, I instantly fell in love with this dainty silver cat who loves to gently nibble on my finger tip.

  12. Lucyfur
    Left in a box on a vet's doorstep when she was just a few weeks old, this little calico nearly didn't live. We're happy that she did, especially my daughter who claims this attitude filled cat as her special pet.

  13. Clarkie
    Lucyfur's brother was my mother's favorite while she lived with us. After her death, my granddaughter adopted this big orange cat as her own special “squishy” friend. I regret to say that he shares some of Fuddy's behaviors. But he's not disappearing.
No, that's not a complete list of my cats. But sufficient for one Thursday.

Grandma


Grandma is delighted to be a participant in the Thursday Thirteen meme. You should check it out.

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others’ comments. It’s easy, and fun!

Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

View More Thursday Thirteen Participants

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

No False Advertising

i am a geek


If your eyesight is good or you're handy with your browser's zoom feature, you may have noticed that Grandma's image has "Geeky Grandma" on the bottom right corner of the PC. I certainly consider myself a geek and I'm quite proud of it. Does the rest of the world view me as one? What qualifies a person for this honor? Can you become a certified geek?

Imagine my delight to find a questionnaire to assess my geek qualifications. I played fair on it. I wanted to have my geekiness confirmed and know that I had genuinely earned this fine title. I was worried for a while, seems that role playing and science fiction films play a huge part in the assessment. I'm pretty weak in that area. What if I failed? What if I had to remove my Geeky Grandma title? I held my breath and crossed my fingers as I waited for my score. And then I read the results.

Dramatic pause . . .

I did it. Grandma is now a fully qualified geek. Not just a few geekish tendencies. I am a certified geek. In all honesty, I did not get the highest possible score. I'm not a Dysfunctional Geek or even a Geek God. Sigh. But I've got my certificate and that's enough.

Click on the certification picture above, if you're wondering if you qualify. Or want to assure yourself that you don't.
Grandma

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Three Square Meals

I was curious about the origin of this expression and did a little research. Sailors used to be fed their meals on square wooden blocks. The blocks were practical because they stacked easily when not in use and wouldn't shatter when seas got rough. Lacking modern storage methods, supplies went bad quickly and food shortages were not uncommon. Meals became nutritionally unbalanced causing scurvy and other deficiencies. When supplies didn't spoil and food was plentiful, the sailors received three square meals a day.

The healthiness of eating three square meals a day is now in question. My mother, however, was a firm believer. Breakfast was not grabbed on the run. The family sat down together at the start of our day. We headed to school with bags containing well-balanced lunches. Dinner was leisurely and it's shared conversations are one of my favorite memories. The food is not.

Mom was a skilled ICU nurse and a generous volunteer. She was not a gifted cook. Indeed, she had a total lack of imagination when it came to preparing meals. Hamburgers, boiled potatoes and a vegetable were served for at least four dinners each week. She had the butcher grind extra lean meat for the burgers to remove the unhealthy fat. Concerned that some remnant of fat had escaped notice, she cooked them until nothing was left but a hard, dry, tasteless lump. The occasional roast or pasta dish was such a welcome diversion that we scarcely noticed the lack of seasoning.

When my dad retired, he gradually took over the cooking. Surely in self defense. He tried recipes that he found in the newspaper. If he liked a dish that someone else served, he was quick to ask how it was made. He grew increasingly inventive and tried varying spices, ingredients and cooking techniques. He became an accomplished cook.

My mother was less than gracious about this transition of duties. Although she readily admitted that she didn't enjoy cooking, she couldn't accept that Dad was the better cook. Each meal had some flaw. She'd sift through a casserole and remove tiny pieces of onion or spice, claiming that they gave her indigestion. She'd analyze the ingredients and point out how unhealthy they were.

After awhile, we barely noticed. Sound heartless? Don't worry. Despite the complaints, each meal would find her heaping her plate and going back for more.

After all, a person needs three square meals a day.


Grandma

Monday, January 4, 2010

Stop Thief!

They say that confession is good for the soul. Perhaps I'll find out who they are some day. They also say that the proof is in the pudding. So I'll give it a try and occasionally confess some of my past crimes. Here's number one.

My first career job was as a computer operator in a manufacturing plant. The shift began at 5pm and ended around 3am. While the factory ran 24/7, the office was a 9 to 5 operation. Shortly after arriving at work, I found myself alone for the rest of my shift.

I didn't own a car yet. The winter weather was pretty brutal. I bundled up to walk the half-mile to work, but it was harder to take my baby daughter out in that cold. My dad came to the rescue by loaning his car to me on Fridays. Errands, grocery shopping, doctor visits – if they didn't get done one Friday, they'd wait until the next.

One Wednesday afternoon, I made an unpleasant discovery. The toilet paper holder was empty and there was none available to refill it. Other things might wait until Friday, TP wasn't one of them. As I walked to work, I searched for a solution to my predicament. In the evil recesses of my mind, a plot began to form. The ladies room had TP dispensers with giant rolls. When a roll was nearly empty, the cleaning crew would replace it and set the partial roll on top of the dispenser. The unwritten rule was to use the partial roll before starting on the new one. With this in mind, I headed to the ladies room after I was sure that everyone had left the office. I was in luck. A roll sufficient to meet my needs sat on top of one dispenser. I gleefully snatched it up, hurried back to the computer room and hid that partial roll in my oversized handbag.

Guilt for my petty thievery? Not that I was aware of. Just relief at finding a solution to my dilemma.

A couple years later, I started applying for computer programming jobs. One prospective employer had a questionnaire to determine the applicant's suitability for the position. I zipped through several questions, then halted. Have you ever taken anything from your place of employment? With startling speed that roll of TP leaped from some remote spot in my brain and landed directly on top of the questionnaire. “Are you going to tell?”, it inquired. “Are you crazy, Mr. TP? No is the only correct answer to this question. I don't know where you came from, but go back there now.” I heard him mutter "a liar as well as a thief" as he reluctantly retreated.

Over the years I answered that question several times. Each time I wrote “No”, Mr. TP would scream in protest. I just ignored him and eventually his voice weakened. Until my husband applied for a job that required a lie detector test. After completing the test, he entertained me with some of the questions. Have you ever committed an undiscovered crime? Ever taken anything from an employer? I had never liked the idea of working for an employer who began our relationship with enough distrust to require a lie detector test. Now I realized that I couldn't. It's easy to write “No”. How would I hide my crime from the lie detector?

No, my face never made the FBI's Most Wanted poster. My employer never expressed a hint of curiosity about the remains of that TP roll. Get serious. But if I had ever guessed how often Mr. TP would come back to taunt me, I would have found another solution.

Such is the remorse of a TP felon.

Grandma

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Days Of The Week

During a three week hospitalization, I was visited numerous time by a health professional who was obviously there to evaluate my mental competency. What's your name? Where are you? Why are you here? What day of the week is it? I loved the day of the week question. There was a large daily calendar on the wall of my ICU room. The walls were pretty bare and it was hard to miss. If I had forgotten, I just looked up at the wall.

Nowadays, I fear I might not answer that question as easily. While I think I'm fairly sharp, my current life has little to anchor me to dates. When I worked, the days of the week were rarely muddled. Let me assure you that I never went to work on the weekend because I thought it was a Thursday. My granddaughter's school days provided that same anchor once I was no longer working. Things got a little muddled in the summer, but a new school year would get me back on track. This year, she is home schooled. It's proven to be an excellent choice, but left me searching for a new anchor.

I think I've found it in television. That's funny, because I never watched a lot of TV. When I was young and the rest of the family gathered around the set to watch evening shows, I would wander off and read a book. In 1991, an ice storm left me without power for over two weeks. About 3 months later, I received a notice from the cable company. They were offering a credit for the time that I had been without cable service. I just had to tell them how long that was. I didn't know. The TV hadn't been turned on since the power was restored.

Over the last few years, my interest has increased. When I was physically incapable of doing much else, TV proved to be a welcome diversion. My daughter introduced me to some shows that she enjoyed. Gradually, I acquired quite a viewing repertoire. Talent competitions are favorites. Medical shows are up there too, but I want them with a large dose of romance and humor. My daughter dubs this “hot doctors acting badly”. The list is growing. Rapidly.

Some might ask if this is a healthy thing. Of course it is. No longer do I wonder what day of the week it is. If Desperate Housewives is on, it must be Sunday. Ooh, gotta run . . .
Grandma

Saturday, January 2, 2010

The Wallpaper Theory

Stick with me for a minute It takes a bit to get to the wallpaper theory. Although I'm prone to meandering, I really am headed somewhere with this.

I began this blog a couple weeks ago. Of course, I had given it a lot of thought, done some research and created a web design. No one just gets up one morning and decides to write a blog. Right?

Let's restart with some honesty. A couple weeks ago I got up one morning and decided to start a blog. I hadn't planned on it. I didn't know much about doing it. I had no idea what I would write about. And I certainly didn't have a page designed. Had I mentioned that I'm also prone to impulsiveness?

I chose a template and wrote my first post. Since we were in the midst of the holiday season, I decided to customize just a bit and added a festive holly background. My daughter pitched in and provide a few graphics. At the end of the first day, I thought it was looking pretty good.

Alas the holiday season has ended. I've spent most of the last two days trying to come up with a new look for my blog. It's had it's moments. Creating a background and header was fairly easy. Getting the background and header to look good together was not. I persisted and came up with the page you see today. I've still got to add a few small graphics, but I'm almost done. I'm just not sure if I like the results.

Wallpaper Theory? Oh, yeah.

My first house was 100 years old and wallpaper was still popular. There were 14 rooms and I wallpapered most of them. Enthusiasm reigned as I purchased the paper. Struggling with the irregularities produced by 100 years of settling, dampened that enthusiasm. Errors that wasted paper and threatened a shortage would kill the remains of my excitement. While I forced myself to finish the job, I always hated the results. Friends and family would praise my work. I'd see nothing but irregularities and errors. I would be tempted to restart with new paper, but just couldn't face doing it again.

So a couple of weeks would pass. Strangely, the wallpaper began to look better. In a few months, I would be quite pleased with the results. I just needed a bit of time to get a more realistic perspective.

If wallpaper improved over time, what about other things? When I felt unsure about the results of a project, I'd remember the Wallpaper Theory and resist the impulse to immediately redo. It worked more times than not.

So that's what I'm doing with this design. Applying the wallpaper theory. Seeing if it works over time.

What do you think? I'd love to hear any comments or suggestions.

Grandma

Friday, January 1, 2010

Auld Aquaintance

Got a call from an old friend last night. We hadn't talked in quite a while. It was good to hear her voice, although it was choked with tears. "I feel so alone."

She wasn't alone. She and three of her children make their home with her parents. Thirty other family members had joined them to celebrate. But I knew just what she meant. Most of us have experienced that feeling of being disconnected from those around us. An old friend is a good panacea. Someone who knows us. Someone who brings back memories of togetherness. Someone who has seen our best and worst. And still loves us. We talked for a while and the panacea worked it's magic. Soon she was ready to join her family for the midnight festivities.

Why is Auld Acquaintance sung at New Year's? Nostalgia for the past? Closure before moving on? These had always been my thoughts. But perhaps we're summoning the troops. Gathering the security of old friends around us. Mustering the courage to face the new and unknown. Whatever the reason, it's a time when the longing for old friends is strong.

May the coming year hold only the best for you. And may it's end find you surrounded by Auld Acquaintance.


Grandma