Gypsy's Travels

Saturday, December 29, 2007

“PhotoHunt: Messy”

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Precious Moments

We left St. Louis this morning, much later than planned of course. Nevertheless, we reached our goal of arriving in Carthage, Missouri, to visit the Precious Moments Chapel. I have been there several times, so I volunteered to keep Junior and let the others enjoy the visit more leisurely.

I am not a collector and only a distant admirer of the Precious Moments collectibles, but the chapel is touching with its paintings and references to children gone from this life all too soon. I cannot imagine the deep grief of a parent who loses a child in its youth.

While Junior munched on an apple, we walked around the small statues in the park outside the main complex. We later walked around a portion of the park inside, and shared a rather incredible sunset. Check out inside photos on ABW's blog.

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Friday, December 28, 2007

The Carriage Ride

Thursday evening, 27 December 2007, was a fairytale trip. Ten members of our family climbed into a white, horse-drawn carriage for a ride through the "Winter Wonderland" light display in Tillis Park, St Louis, Missouri. The girls sang Christmas carols as we clip-clopped throughout the park, exclaiming at all the displays of lighting wizardry laid out before us. We had bundled up in all the warm clothes we had brought, snuggled together under the blankets provided in the carriage, and still shivered beneath it all. The cars gave the right of way to the persistent draft horse pulling our carriage. We were thankful we were not in the bumper to bumper traffic inching through the park.

Photos were difficult because the carriage ride was somewhat jostling for cameras using low lights, but I got this image of one of my favorite displays, a wreath over the bridge. There was another really cool display of a fisherman in a boat landing a big fish. The lake, and river flowing into it, were combinations of blue and white "moving" lights that gave the beautiful effect of a flowing river.

The only improvement we could have made on the evening would have been a nice snowfall. Nevertheless, we rallied in the cold and returned to our digs to share popcorn, hot chocolate, and tales of our carriage ride.

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The Magic House

The Magic House is an actual, renovated, 5500 square foot, 1901 Victorian mansion in St. Louis, Missouri. It was formerly owned by the Edwards family, of A.G. Edwards investment fame. A Children's Museum, it is a not-for-profit organization. It is one of the nicest children's museums I have seen, and very child-friendly. Not just child-friendly in "yes, you can touch." It is child-friendly in "yes, you can touch and not expect things to fall apart when you do."

The museum claims to have 400,000 visitors annually and I do think almost all of them were there today. We stood in line on the porch for about 20 minutes, waiting for entry. The museum opened at 12:30 and we arrived at 2:00. Only 50 people were admitted every 15 minutes. Even though crowded, the house reverberated with the joyous sounds of children and discovery.

There were 5 children and 4 adults in our group. Since one child was a carry-on, the 4 adults split up to be one-on-one with the other four children. Each child was allowed to run and explore his / her own interests at his/her own pace. It worked well, but the adults were exhausted when the children were still scurrying about.

The four floors of the Magic House are dedicated to the wonders of science, art, and music. An Electrostatic Generator stands your hair on end with millions of volts of harmless static electricity. "Recollections," an interactive video exhibit, allows movements to be transformed into works of art. The "Shadow Wall" freezes your shadow on a phosphorescent green wall so you can step back and see it. Balls in Motion, a Magnet Room, Air Power, Fitness exploration, the Sound Room, and the Observation Station, are a few of the opportunites we explored.

No doubt about it, St. Louis wins the children's museum competition....hands down!

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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Turtle Playground

Nestled in between the freeway and rows of vintage brick homes lies Turtle Playground, on the south side of Forest Park in St. Louis, Missouri.

Three giant turtles, four small ones, and a cache of hatching turtle eggs were designed by St. Louis artist, Robert Cassilly. They were cast in amazing detail from concrete and named after members of the founding benefactor's family.

Two serpents silently await their opportunities at one end of the small park. One surrounds the hatching eggs, while the other attempts to take a bite out of the Hwy 40 overpass.

Meanwhile, visitors can take a seat on the serpents' backs for a minute's rest or assist a small child to walk the length of their backs.

Just a short walk away, adjacent to Turtle Playground, is an area with playground equipment and open space for running and letting off steam. A variety of trees promises bright spring growth and cool summer shade, but this time of year we enjoy the winter leaves.

Having missed what must have been a spectacular show of autumn color, we elect to play in the brown leaves that cover the ground. It somehow frees the inner child in all of us to pick up as many leaves as we can hold, toss them into the air, and watch them twirl as they fall to the ground once again. We stomp and run and delight in the crunch of dried leaves, knowing they will return to the earth to replenish life.

Autumn is my favorite time of year, especially in an area that provides true seasonal changes.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christmas Eve 2007

Christmas Eve is one of my favorite times. The air of expectancy, everything done that can be done, and time for quiet reflection on the reason for it all in the first place. I love the midnight Christmas Eve service that ends with the hushed singing of Silent Night while leaving the sanctuary by candlelight. I am not Catholic, but this Christmas I was visiting DD#3 in Saint Louis, Missouri, and determined to attend the Midnight service at the Cathedral Basilica St. Louis.

I had visited the Cathedral previously. It is very impressive. Almost the entire surface of the interior is covered in small mosaic tile. There is so much gold, that the place glistens at all hours of the day and night. The grandeur is offset by small boxes in the entryway requesting alms for the poor. They were conspicuously absent Christmas Eve.

The church was packed when we arrived right at 11 p.m. for the carols preceding the service. It had not taken long to get there, except for the time spent waiting outside the wrong church. Not even Nellie the Navigator can get it right if I don't input the proper data. We found seats together about 1/3 of the way from the back of the church and settled in. Our seats, it turned out, were in just the right place. When an impressive procession started down the aisle, then stopped to speak to the church at large, we were in just the right position to see the group up-close. This is the same church that Pope John visited while our daughter was attending graduate school in the area. No Pope was present this night, but there were archbishops, rectors, altar boys, seminary students, and young priests. I only saw two nuns and they were scurrying on the sidelines, on passage ways off the main area. There were only men of the church on the main aisle. I missed our open and affirming church that welcomes the work of women and incorporated them into every area of the church.

After stopping to review the history for the congregation, the procession continued to the altar area. The fragrance of incense was heavy in the air, leaving a haze in the sanctuary that almost obscured the mosaic tiles. An unseen choir, housed in the loft above us, spread joy by their music. I make no pretense of understanding the Catholic religion, I just let the beauty of ceremony and music wash over me and leave healing in its wake. God is present everywhere.

We did slip out before communion since we are not invited to partake of communion in the Catholic Church. Indeed, people seemed to move in and out of the sanctuary freely. We stepped back into the cold, crisp air of the weary world, and headed home....ready for Christmas Day.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

...and the band played on.....

Photo of the GHS band playing in front of our house.
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Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Second Remarkable Event

I had planned to attend my other writing group session today, but life got in the way (see previous post). The facilitator, JW, and her DH encouraged me to stop by anyway. I did, and was treated to a most remarkable experience.

My friend KH has been my mentor for teaching memoir writing, an enjoyable task we have shared for the last five years. I subbed in one of her classes this past fall and shared a story I had written about my great grandmother as an example of a technique. JW's husband was in that class.

Although he says he doesn't know note "A" from "Z," her DH is a musician and writer. I was completely surprised when he began singing a song he had written based on the events in my story. "Mother Crocheting Memories" took some poetic license, but maintained the gist of the story. It was a rather surreal experience to hear my words included in a song. What he didn't know, was that my mother has spent most of her life creating with crochet. Sorry I can't share the song right now. It is possible he will publish it and I don't want to invade that territory. I'll let you know if / when it becomes available.

I just wonder what sort of influences we have on others that we never learn about.

The First Remarkable Event

The week before Christmas is always busy and this one is no exception. But there were two rather remarkable / memorable occurrences.

I have a new car that "talks" to me all the time. Normally, I would avoid anything this extravagant, but it is loaded with safety features and I have been very pleased with it. Even save money on gas and insurance over the old one.

A couple of weeks ago, my new car told me the tire pressure was too low. The tires looked fine to my naked eye. I chalked it up to extreme changes in temperature, but I had DS look at it anyway when he came. One tire was slightly low, he filled it, and it ran well. Yesterday, I made a round trip to Houston & back, about 360 miles. On the way home the red tire pressure signal came on. Again, everything looked fine and I made it home without any problem.

Since I am planning a long trip over the holidays and I was in the vicinity, I took the car into the dealer. They said they would take a quick look at it. The service department girl came back a few minutes later and showed me what the problem was. A screw, about 1/4 inch in diameter and 1 1/2 inches long, had been embedded in my tire causing a slow leak! I could have been stuck out in the middle of nowhere or, even worse, had a blowout.

The methods of patching tires has evolved considerably. They pulled the screw out, injected a rubbery substance that filled the hole, trimmed it off, and were finished. The tire heats in use and the injected substance is incorporated into the tire, so there is no patch weakness.

The whole effort was less than 15 minutes, then they washed the car for me, and sent me on my way. For this they charged me......$00.00! I know I will pay big bucks for check-ups, but I can't complain when I get this kind of service. Oh, and while I waited I had a soft drink and bag of fresh popcorn. Nice touch when I had not had any lunch. No doubt about it, I am a happy camper.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Take Two

DD#1 was busy making hamburgers for her boys. They only like ketchup and pickles on their hamburgers, so she buys Stackers pickles - large pickles sliced lengthwise. Two Stackers are just enough to cover the hamburger. When the boys asked how many pickles they could have, she automatically answered "two" without looking.
Whoops! They weren't stackers, but the boys did only take the two they were allowed.
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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Memory Box - "Hee Haw Overalls"

Some of the papers in the Memory Box have very few words, but they are well-chosen and conjure up a myriad of memories. This morning I drew out a paper with just these three words - "Hee Haw Overalls" - and laughed until I cried. Hopefully, I can find a photo somewhere.

We were on a very tight budget when the children were growing up. I was very diligent about using coupons and shopping the sales. Fortunately, or maybe unfortunately, the children were too young to protest a lot of my choices. The Hee Haw overalls were a real bargain! I didn't really like them at first, they were too far out for my taste, but the price was very right. The style was right off the farm - bib overalls gussied up for city folk. They were made of a serviceable denim with a cream-colored background for the country style designs printed on them. II could have chosen blue-denim, but it wasn't available in the right size. The designs were in brighter, more noticeable colors - chickens, flowers, and Hee Haw printed all over. In fact, the whole effect was "Here I am!" For years now, we have only had to mention "Hee Haw Overalls" and everyone dissolves in laughter. The name doesn't help.

In spite of later jokes and protestations, the children loved to wear those overalls. I say children because, of course, everything was passed down from one to another. Actually, I think these were new for DD#2 and only passed to DD#3. They wore them everywhere. When the knees finally wore out and / or the girls grew so tall the overalls became "highwaters," I did what any normal mom on a budget does - I cut them off and made shorts out of them. Since the girls seemed to grow long legs before the rest of their bodies caught up, the Hee Haw shorts got a few extra months wear. Now, I wonder where I put those photos.......

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Sharing a Memory

Finally, I processed the last memory from the Memory Box enough to be able to draw another one. I did that today while DD#2 was here.

I remember when you taught my Brownie troop. There was a little girl named E-- that went to my school and was the daughter of a single mother. You arranged for her to come home with me on the day of the meeting on the bus. You also got her a uniform and covered her snack when it was her turn. You made sure she was included in everything. I wonder what happened to her, but I know you had an effect on her.

Yes, I remember E--- very well. I loved Girl Scouting and what it did for the girls and the adults who were involved in it. I also realize our Council was very special in the way it did things and what it accomplished. Girl Scouting will always hold a very special place in my heart. One year the theme was "Find the Gift in Every Child." I took that to heart and really tried to find that gift. It was hard sometimes.

E--- was one of my challenges. She seemed to live on a different plane and moved through life in a fog. At the same time, she was cheery, enthusiastic, and willing to try everything. She came by this honestly, as her mother seemed to have the same traits. When the mom told me E--- couldn't come to our meetings because she had no transportation, I arranged for her to ride the bus to my home on those days. The first time E--- was supposed to bring snacks for the troop, she "forgot." She insisted on calling her mom who brought the snack over after work. Somewhere along the way there was a communication gap. Instead of snack for 20 girls, her mom brought a small package of chips and a soda for E--- alone. Fortunately, I had snacks in my kitchen that I could pull out. Afterward, it was just less stressful for me to provide something than ask E---. When we were planning to go on a field trip and needed a permission slip, I sent the papers home with the girls to bring back the next meeting with a parental signature. Since E--- never returned hers, I would just meet her mom at the car when she picked her daughter up, have her sign the slip right then, and give her a copy of the details. I am still not convinced the mother knew what her daughter was doing or when.

Yes, I too wonder what happened to E---. All those who work with kids say they feel the time was worth it, if they can just touch one life. I will probably never know whether or not E---was touched. I like to believe she was. Now, even more important to me, I know my child was touched when she saw what was happening.

Thank you for the insight....and the memory.....

Friday, December 14, 2007

Prison Time

I just got back from jail. I have been several times before and in several different facilities, but this was my first time in this one. There were major differences between previous visits and my presence today.

Previously, my visits were monitored by armed guards and detectives, who chatted amicably among themselves but were constantly aware of every movement made by anyone. They stood watch carefully while I collected blood and / or hair samples, or documented body markings / bruises / trauma. Every one of the people I saw protested that they were innocent of any wrong doing.

Today, I visited the jail, with a small group, as part of a ministry from my Bible study class. "Christmas packets" had been assembled form approved items donated by several groups. Each inmate received exactly the same things in her packet - a pair of tube socks, a package of peanut butter crackers, a small candy cane, a set of hotel-type toiletries, and a blank card in a stamped envelope. One of the women dressed as Santa Claus and did a lot of "Ho-ho- hoing."

We visited two different "pods," which were nearly identical in construction. One very large room Divided by a small brick wall into a sleeping side and a sitting side. A guard sat in a raised area, with a divider in front, doing paperwork. The sitting side of the room had tables and benches. The sleeping side had steel bunks built into the walls. Some of the beds were neatly made and their articles stashed carefully at the end. Others looked as if they might never have been made. In one of the pods, almost everyone was in bed when we arrived, about an hour after lunch. There was a T.V. in each pod, but none was turned on. Another low wall separated the toilets from other areas. Our presence did not stop anyone from using the facilities. There was NO privacy.

Our group handed out a donated religious magazine, an apple, and a prepared packet to each of the inmates. We could only distribute "approved" items and everything had to be equal.There were a lot of tears. Just the sight of Santa brought tears. We passed out hugs and good wishes with the goodies, and prayed with those who requested it. I asked the deputy who was shepherding us, about the recidivism rate. She told me that most of the women have been in 5-6 times. She believes they mean well and try to stay on the right path, but when they return to the same dysfunctional situation, they fall back into their old ways.

The things that surprised me:

  • Several mentioned how good we smelled and I don't think any of us was wearing perfume.
  • They were so happy and excited to receive the small gifts we gave them.
  • "Look, real soap and shampoo, not jail stuff!"
  • "I heard about the socks and I have been waiting!"
  • Almost everyone put on the socks and ate their treats right away.
  • How young most of them were.
  • How many tears were quietly shed, as they brushed them away and tried to hide them.

I am fully aware these women are reaping the fruit of their bad decisions and we reached them at a very vulnerable time in their lives, but I hope things will improve for them and they have a chance at happiness.

Matthew 25:42-45

I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.'
"They also will answer, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?'
"He will reply, 'I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.'


The serviceman came to check my heater today. I made the appointment weeks ago. It took a long time because I really wanted this particular guy. He has been coming for several years and always answers my questions and does a lot of teaching about my heating / ac unit. He tells it like it is, so I trust his judgement.

As he was preparing the final papers for my signature today, I asked him if he drank beer. He hem-hawed around, shuffled his feet, and looked at the floor. Oh, I thought, perhaps that was not nice. He might be Baptist or something and not want to admit he drinks. Then he kinda' grinned and said "maybe." I still didn't catch on, I admit to a certain naivete in some areas of life. He shuffled some more and I suddenly realized what he must be thinking. I have never watched "Desperate Housewives," but he was probably thinking I could be one.

I quickly grabbed the bottle of specialty beer I had as a Christmas offering for him and wished him a very Merry Christmas. I don't know who was more relieved.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Monday, December 10, 2007

"Oh What a Beautiful Morning....."

It is hard to believe Christmas is right around the corner. We will soon be 8 years into the new Millennium. Remember when we were worried the world might come to a screeching halt at midnight on the last day of 1999? Would computers stop? Would all the things dependent on computers just quit? People were stocking food and preparing for an unspecified period of isolation as the world waited to see what the morning of the year 2000 would bring. When I was young, I thought about the advent of the year 2000, but I did not think I would be able to live long enough to see it. I simply could not imagine being THAT old. Of course, it doesn't seem so old now.

The old adage - "If you don't like the weather, just wait a minute and it will change" - is especially true in Central Texas this time of year. Yesterday it was 80*F outside, today, at this writing, it is 37*F . When we walked this morning, there was a heavy fog which almost felt like sleet falling and the wind chill was 31*. Yesterday, the gold, pink, purple, and orange colors of the morning horizon heralded the new day as we finished our walk and headed home. The trees were dark silhouettes, and our resident herd of wild deer grazed in the landscaped gardens. We tolerate the deer, having invaded their home, and they retaliate by munching on our shrubs and having babies in our gardens.

I can look out my front door and see the tree across the street clothed in its Fall finery. We don't always have a autumnal show of color and mine is the only house on the street that does not have a tree in the front yard, so I particularly enjoy this one. It is a glorious yellow right now. With the cooperation of the weather, it might reveal some other colors. Soon, the deciduous trees in the greenbelt behind my house, will lose their leaves. They won't change slowly and with dignity like the one across the street. They will just change from green to brown and drop their leaves in a huff of wind. The bare trees have their own beauty against the morning and night skies and they leave behind a treasure only seen when the leaves are gone. Amongst the dark bark and green cedars of the greenbelt area, the possum haw will reveal its red berries which glisten like jewels with dew or ice in the mornings and provide food for the resident and wintering birds until spring.

“This is the day the LORD has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.” Psalm 118:24

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Writers Beware

DD#2, aka ABW, had a strange request in her blog comments yesterday. Don't bother to look for it, it has been deleted. There is a web site which I choose not to advertise, but include here the gist of the request.

The info printed below is directly off the website and has not been altered / corrected in any way.

The goal of [info deleted] is to collect stories, doodles and journal entries of military families & spouses.This will give military families a voice, while helping them to stay anonymous. Why would a military spouse or family member want to stay anonymous? You ask...Although, living in America - many military families feel as if they have no one to talk to in fear that they may face repercussion from their service member or the military on different subjects.Share feelings on how you really feel about living the life of a military spouse, the job your spouse has in the military, your FRG or whatever else it is you would like to talk about.You may send photos, snippets, doodles, short stories or anything you feel help you express your feelings as a military spouse.Your information will be kept confidential. In sending your information, this does not mean that your information will be used in our book.

In sending information to us, you are giving us permission to publish your story, doodles etc... with-out compensation of any kind. You are giving us permission to use your original work to publish in our book.We are not here to slam our military or our government. We are here to give you a voice on issues where in other circumstances you would feel unable to do so.

The whole idea is strange and, possibly, subversive. I have contributed to similarly constructed books, but never under such secrecy. I was always given a small compensation, such as a book, or a book, or a book, or the proceeds were to be donated to a worthy cause. The cause was delineated in advance which gave me the opportunity to write & submit or not. This person stipulates "no compensation will be given" but does not say where the money goes. No problem unless s/he ends up on a talk show and / or the book becomes a best-seller.

She doesn't just want to hear the bad, you can send some good stories as well, but it will be edited and who knows what stories will be included. Of course, all this is all anonymous - the story writers, the "author" of the book, and, presumably, the people in the stories. Why not just write a fiction book based on your experiences / gripes / hearsay?

I hope that you will look over any offers such as these that come to you. Chances are that this proposed book is a whim and the author is just a naive, star-struck writer with $$ signs in her eyes or an axe to grind. Still, you can't overlook the other possibilities - maybe Cindy Sheehan is phishing in new territory, maybe a terrorist cell is infiltrating the military through the spouses, maybe there is an attempt to stir up unrest before the elections. Far fetched? So were the events of 911. If Ms. Anonymous wants people to write a book for her, she should show herself!

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Memory Box

I don't really need to celebrate any more birthdays. If I had my way, they would just pass by and be another day. I have to admit, this was a good day.

DD#2 can not keep a secret and she has been chomping at the bit to let me know what she was bringing over today. After I saw it, I understood why. DDs #2&3 put together a Memory Box. It is a pretty little, teal-blue box with a lid, and it is just chock full of memories. Each memory is written on a slip of paper, folded, and placed in the box. I have been instructed to open just 1-2 each week. This sounded difficult at first, but when I opened the first one, a dozen memories came flooding in. I want to savor those memories and the feelings they evoke, so I won't open the slips of paper all at once, I will wait until each one settles a bit.

The first one, extracted randomly, said:
"I remember when you and Dad went out for some business dinner and you wore the maroon dress with the pearl buttons and left in the yellow car."

While I don't recall the specific occasion, I do remember that dress. It was one of my favorites. I also remember the yellow Datsun, but for the life of me, I can't remember why we bought a yellow one. We must have gotten a good deal on it. We didn't leave the children and go out very often, so t shouldn't surprise me that they would remember this rare occasion. We would pay the older children to baby-sit the younger ones, and pay the younger ones a paltry sum to "baby-sit themselves." All were subject to losing their "pay" if there were any unsavory circumstances. If there were, we never knew it.

The few times we had a babysitter when they were very young, I was worried they might cry when we left. Before we went out the door, I would give each of them a marshmallow, something they did not ordinarily get to eat. I told them they could eat it as soon as the car was out of sight. I have memories of them clutching their marshmallows tightly in their little hands , noses pressed to the window, and bright eyes watching gleefully as we got into the car and drove away. They never cried.

Friday, December 7, 2007

A Lesson in Dignity

In his post on "Keeping warm by hibachi," Abraham Lincoln describes the way some Japanese people recycled cigarettes shortly after the war's end. It reminded me of an occurrence while we were living in Okinawa.

My mother and I were shopping for fabric (see I come by it honestly!) in one of the small shops "in town." When we were there, "town" consisted of some tin-roofed shanties set up just outside the gates of Kadena AFB. They seemed to specialize in various things and I loved to wander through them. As my mother bargained with the shop keeper, I watched. Another customer entered the store while extracting a cigarette from her purse. The cigarette fell to the ground. She carefully picked it up, placed it on a stack of nearby stones, and announced to no one in general, "I am sure the shop owner will throw this away for me."

The shop keeper was silent, but the look in his eyes still haunts me. I believe he was hurt and offended by the woman's condescension. His cultural training would never have allowed him to say anything to her......a foreign woman....victorious from a war only 10 years ago.....publicly offering him a dirty cigarette.....but I wonder what he would like to have said. I wonder what he would say if he knew how much the episode has affected me over all these years. I wonder and I wonder.....

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Snail Steals Show

DD#2, Em, a neighbor child, and I, went to the dress rehearsal of "A Year with Frog and Toad" tonight. The little theater in Killeen, Vive Les Arts Community Theatre, offers the final dress rehearsal free to military families, so we take advantage of it as often as possible. Tonight's performance was quite good and certainly fast moving. I loved the birds' costumes. The cast was well prepared and enthusiastic, so we had a nice evening.

Probably the most memorable acting was by the snail. He didn't have the largest part, but did such a good job of the part he had, that he stole the show. The main attraction was his "walk," emphasized by his costume. He had knee pants, long socks, and a shirt. A small bedroll attached to his back by suspenders, and a cap with protruding antennae completed the costume. His walk was intriguing - a repetitive clockwork movement of his legs as if in slow motion, while his arms moved in rapid circles. All the kids were attempting to emulate his walk as they left the theater. I heard one child remark that it was the "Snail Walk Symptom."

I wonder if the "Snail Walk" could overtake the "Freddy."

A hit on Broadway, A Year With Frog and Toad was nominated for 3 Tony
Awards® - including Best Musical. Now, for the first time, an all-new production
will tour across North America. Arnold Lobel's beloved characters hop from the
page to the stage in Robert and Willie Reale's musical A Year With Frog and
Toad. Developed by Mr. Lobel's daughter, Adrianne Lobel, the stage musical
remains true to the spirit of the original stories as it follows two great
friends, the cheerful and popular Frog and the rather grumpy Toad through four
fun-filled seasons. Waking from hibernation in the spring, they proceed to plant
gardens, swim, rake leaves and go sledding, learning life lessons along the way,
including a most important one about friendship and rejoicing in the attributes
that make each of us different and special.

When the moon hits your eye....."

The world's first moonbeam collector stands in the desert some 15 miles west of Tucson, Arizona. It consists of a large frame sunk into a 45-foot-deep crater, on private land a few miles from the Kitt Peak National Observatory. This sparse desert area is known for its dark skies. The device is five stories tall, weighs 25 tons, and is covered with 84 mirrored panels set on a hydraulic mount that, supposedly, can focus the light of the moon with "the precision of a Swiss watch." There is no charge to use the facility, although the owners defray some of the operating costs by, suggested, $10.00 donations. This "Interstellar Light Collector," has, so far, cost the private owners, Richard and Monica Chapin, $2 million.

Since people who are "allergic to sunlight" can go out in the moonlight, I have to assume moonbeams do not have UV rays. Thus, the "moonbeams" are just reflected sunlight without harmful ultra-violet rays. Does this give "moonbeams" any special qualities? Well, there is the magic of the moon on romance. Did the astronauts feel any difference from concentrated "moonbeams," or did their spacesuits filter everything? I would be curious to know what effect enhanced "moonbeams" would have on me. Would I spend $10.00 to find out? I am not that curious. I can stand and contemplate under a beautiful full moon for less. Hmmmm, I wonder when the next full moon occurs.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Raising Women

When things start adding up, they are begging for blogging!

Many moons ago I loaned a new, unread book to a friend. The Women's West by Susan H. Armitage and Elizabeth Jameson was purchased on one of our Triumph trips. I always wonder how the pioneers made it to their destinations without the conveniences we enjoy now. Driving and riding in a vintage Triumph makes me wonder even more. Wondering, I seek answers by reading and exploring.

My friend recently returned my book and sent along with it a 1935 non-fiction book called "Old Jules" by Mari Sandoz. It is the story of her pioneer father and the settlement of the upper Niobrara country in western Nebraska. It does NOT read like Laura Ingalls Wilder's "Little House on the Prairie" books. Sandoz is an excellent writer, but she is also brutally honest. The result is a realistic picture of what life was really like for many of our pioneers, maybe not all of them, but far more than it is pleasant to consider. Fortunately, I read "Old Jules" first. Surprisingly, it was referenced in "The Women's West."

I had just finished "Old Jules" and had started "The Women's West" when I read "Word Quilts'" blog about "Are You a Zero?" These three sources were united as if by an industrial magnet. These stories of women from three different centuries, point out how little progress has been made in this patriarchal society's acceptance and treatment of women. I don't agree with all the Women's Lib hoopla. I won't vote or not vote for Hilary Clinton just because she is a woman. When I married, the men in my husband's office informed him that they "didn't allow their wives to work." When I did work outside the home, there were times when I was faced with being a "Zero." I believe our children's generation is finally getting the message. I know my daughters certainly speak up for themselves and my son is sensitive to women's issues, behind his macho front. A young man on the Dr. Phil Show was upset because his wife did not get a job nor keep the house clean enough for him.
"She has been living off me for five years!" he announced to the world.
Never mind that this 24 year-old woman had borne 3-4 children in those five years, and was bringing them up in their home.

There is still much to be done for women and, hopefully, it will not take another century.We don't have to burn our bras and we don't have to march in the streets. There are ways to increase our effectiveness with dignity and integrity. I have thought of some. I wonder how many you can contribute.

  • Stand your ground until you are heard.
  • When you see a colleague being taken advantage of, quietly gather behind her as a show of silent support. This works in many situations. Sarge and DD#2 quietly started a gathering behind a man who was debating an anti-war protester on the street in D.C. No one else needed to say anything; their presence was enough.
  • Teach our young women to speak up for themselves. Start at home by listening to what they have to say and validating their right to say it.
  • Teach our young men to respect women's voices as readily as they do men's.
  • Vote! Vote! Vote!
  • Educate yourself and impress the importance of education on your children. Not just formal education, but life's lessons as well.
  • Teach children early in life to accept the responsibility / consequences of their actions.
  • Love your spouse and children and treat them with dignity.
  • Women, perhaps of necessity, are amazingly able to multi-task. Use it to your advantage, but don't let it keep you from delegating.

I did not start out to preach. Guess I got carried away. There are many more ideas, I am sure. You probably have a few to add. I have always felt as if I missed out on a part of life because I was not a pioneer, but I am truly glad I was not married to Old Jules. The old West doesn't sound too enticing for women either. I wonder what I might have been like back then.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Monday, December 3, 2007

A Flurry of Activity

November is Birthday Month. In my extended family there are 16 birthdays, two of them are my children's, and one is a grandchild's. December is only slightly better. Add Thanksgiving, Christmas, and anniversaries into the mix and we have a very active two months.

We celebrated DD#3's birthday at my home since she was in town for a visit. All seven grandchildren and 5 adults made for a chaotic celebration around the table. DD#3 was a good sport about it, even when her birthday cake was decorated in "fall colors," aka the orange left from Halloween, on a chocolate cake. I made small cakes for each of the grandchildren to decorate themselves.

We make it a point to get all the cousins together as much as possible when they are in town at the same time. Family bonding is difficult in this day and age when families no longer live down the street from each other, or even in the same town. My four children were born on 3 different continents. The grandchildren were born in 4 different states and one foreign country. Times have changed from the days our ancestors lived and died in the same town, sometimes even the same house. There are distinct advantages to both ways of life.

Most of us will be together for Christmas again this year. We plan to make memories to hold on to in the future.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

"The Girl With the Watering Can"

The Girl With the Watering Can is a book I bought at the thrift store several months ago. It was an impulse buy. I did not think the children would find it interesting, then I decided they might look at the pictures in it - several nice ones by the old masters. Since the book only cost 25 cents, I thought it might be worth a try. Never did I believe it would have the long-lasting impact that it has.

The title of the book is also the title of a painting by Renoir. Abs, age 6, took a real shine to the book, poring over the story and pictures. She was the one who suggested we visit the National Museum of Art while we were planning atrip to D.C. Check out ABW's post.

This past Saturday, we were returning from DS's big BD bash in Houston and visiting thrift shops on the way home. Sarge's "find" made Abs' eyes widen surprise and pleasure - a framed gallery poster of "The Girl With the Watering Can"! The purchased picture made the trip home in the back of the car.

Abs called this morning and relayed the morning's news with so much excitement that it took several tries before I could decipher her message.

"The girl with the watering can was still in her picture and had not ruined any of the other pictures in the house!"

Now, if this statement means nothing to you, you must read the book. It is a rather charming story and points out a surprise object in one of the later paintings..

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007


We have almost finished the turkey leftovers. Turkey enchiladas last night and turkey soup tonight. I have improved my soup making skills over the last few years. There is still a little turkey meat left and I will aim for turkey pot-pie in the next day or so. Every year about this time, I wish I had bought the hen instead of the tom.

Last year my neighbor's children came down for Thanksgiving and decorated her house the next day for Christmas. I told my children this was the new standard, so 3 DDs and Sarge (DH of DD#2) took on the challenge and did the heavy work. It really looks nice. I just have to do the details in the house and I am done. The grandchildren helped decorate the tree. I am so thankful for help from my children!

It has been a delight watching all seven grandchildren interact over the past few days. Sure, there have been a few rough spots, but that is to be expected from children who have come together from all over the world. The main objective is to foster a sense of extended family and let them get to know each other. The 2 ten year olds are working on being "teenagers," the 2 six year olds are still learning to be "big kids", and the youngest three are trying to keep up with the rest. It has been a beehive of activity around here. I love it!

Friday, November 23, 2007

Two Places at the Table

I was driving DD#3 to my home from the airport when we passed a scene on Parmer Lane and 130. Several floral displays and 2 small empty chairs gave us an idea of someones sorrow, but it was Alberta Phillips' column in the "Austin American Statesman" that filled in the story.

Briefly, Mary Taylor had placed the empty chairs at the site of her DH's and DD's fatal accident as symbols of the two chairs that would be empty at her table on Thanksgiving Day. Mary's husband had picked their daughter up from college and was headed home on Thanksgiving Day last year. Their Subaru was, reportedly, hit by David Clifton Finch who was driving a Dodge pick-up truck. Finch had run a red light and, according to reports, did not slow down before he hit the car. Finch was not charged and did not receive a ticket for the incident in spite of the fact he killed two people. There was no sobriety test. People who drive drunk argue their drinking is the cause. I wonder what people who are sober blame?

One of the things I learned as a trauma nurse is that there are NO "accidents," there are only "preventable occurrences." This was clearly an occurrence that would have been prevented if someone had not run a red light.

'Finch, whose recklessness took two lives, never was forced to surrender his license, never was charged with a crime. Now it looks like he will walk — without even a ticket.
Finch got a new truck.
Mary got a $40,000 funeral bill. Finch sits down to dinner with his family in the evenings (his wife and toddlers were in the truck ) when he crashed). Mary stares at empty chairs. Finch eats turkey, dressing and pie. Mary swallows pills. '

We have all run a red light. We have all had close calls as red lights have been disregarded. I believe I will always think of Mary Taylor and her family when I am faced with a light that is changing. I also think of David Finch and the burden of guilt he must carry for the rest of his life. I can't think of anyone whose life is not worth another couple of minutes spent waiting.

Turkey Talk

I am replete - full of turkey dressing and all the trimmings, plus pumpkin and pecan pie. We will come close to repeating the scene on Christmas Day and then be so tired of it that we won't think of having any turkey and dressing for a whole year.

DS made an interesting observation on this holiday's menu - "Your generation is the last to know how to cook the turkey and dressing as we have known it."

That is hard to imagine , but as I look around and watch the ads in the paper, it does seem plausible. Popular images show a large, well-browned turkey resting on a platter, but how many people actually present such a picture at the table? Our home has not carved a turkey at the table since I realized the children were finished eating before the carver had lifted his first fork of food. Now, someone carves ahead of time, we pass the slices, and everyone eats together.

My manner of cooking a turkey has changed rather drastically over the years. In early times, I stuffed the turkey with the cornbread dressing and roasted it in an open pan, covered with foil for the first few hours. The turkey was usually dry and the dressing rich with all the fat and drippings. Roasting the bird in a brown paper bag from the grocery store provided a moister result. Over the years, my methods changed as I learned about the health hazards of fat and brown paper bags. Now I roast the turkey in an oven bag, pour the resulting de-fatted juices over my dressing and roast the dressing separately. The meat is moist, the dressing is flavorful, the fat is drastically reduced. No one complains.

There are still plenty of turkeys available to cook whole, but there are an increasing number of options. The big birds can be bought already roasted, smoked, or fried Cajun style. You can buy the leg, breast, side, half, or almost any of your favorite parts of the the bird individually. If you feel inclined to make your own gravy, you can purchase the hearts, gizzards, livers, and necks as well. Somehow, I get the impression that homemade giblet gravy is vanishing along with the home cooked turkey and I wonder how many other people make good cornbread to use for stuffing. No sugar in the cornbread, thank you.

Today's consumers don't even have to cook. Entire dinners can be catered or just purchased from the local grocery store. This back-fired on me one year. I knew I would be working a 12-hour shift and not able to get a proper meal on the table in a timely manner. I thought I would be ahead by ordering the "ready-to-eat" meal from our local grocery store. I figured DH and the older children could have it on the table when I got home. I arranged everything, all DH had to do was pick it up that day and set it out. Unfortunately, the grocery's idea of "ready-to-eat" and mine did not agree. The meal was frozen, required thawing, and cooking.

Perhaps DS is right. We who have cooked the turkeys for our feasts are a waning breed. The current generation, however, is providing new and interesting ideas such as brining the turkey before cooking, and one of these days I will try the Turducken. Turducken? It is a stuffed, boned chicken, inside a stuffed, boned duck, inside a stuffed, boned turkey. All the stuffings are different and the whole is roasted together. Sounds good, but I think it will have to be eaten on another occasion. I just love our traditions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Remembering Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving!!

The year has rolled around much too fast, but this is one of my favorite holidays. My turkey will be roasting early in the morning, my pumpkin and pecan pies are ready, potato & pea-corn salads are waiting in the fridge, and the dressing is ready to finalize and cook. There are a few other small things to take care of but I will do those early in the morning before I go to the airport to pick up DD#3 and her 2 munchkins. By Friday, I will be happily surrounded by all my children and grandchildren. I couldn't be more thankful.

Thanksgiving Day has taken many twists and turns over the years in our home. The very first one after DH and I were married, was in a small one-bedroom apartment in Bakersfield, California. We had been married almost four months. DH's brother and wife visited from Santa Barbara and I prepared a Thanksgiving feast just as my mother had for many years. The main difference was that she cooked for nine or more hungry people and I was only cooking for four. My 20-pound turkey and large pan of dressing lasted forever! When I boiled the bones for soup, DH put his foot down and refused to eat it. "Turkey Carcass Soup" became one of those family jokes that rears its amusing head when we all gather.

Another memorable Thanksgiving was the first one we celebrated in Australia where Thanksgiving is not a National Holiday, even when you work for an American company. I planned and prepared the usual feast and invited another American couple to share. Since our DHs had to work until 5:00 p.m., we had supper at 7:00. It would not have seemed like Thanksgiving without turkey and all the trimmings and it would have seemed positively unamerican not to have celebrated at all. However, I learned that feasting is a daytime activity and we never again had such a large meal that late at night.

Each Thanksgiving has left its mark and presented opportunities to learn more of life's lessons. One year I insisted I did not want to cook for just the two of us so we went to Lawry's Restaurant in Los Angeles. It never seemd like Thanksgiving that year. One year, I made a bread and chestnut stuffing for the turkey instead of the usual cornbread dressing. Our tastebuds were not satisfied that year. The memorable tale of the "Pumkin Pie Caper" will come at a later date.

When we celebrated with an extended family gathering, we learned as well. The first year I fixed a huge spread for my sister, five brothers, spouses, children, and our parents, we wives fed the children and watched over them while the husbands ate dinner. After the children were put down for napping, we wives turned to fix our plates but there was almost nothing left for us to eat. The next year, we fed the children and let our husbands watch them while we ate. It was such a wonderful time! We enjoyed ourselves so much that the husbands had to request a turn at the table.

Thanksgiving has always been a time for thankfulness, family, feasting, and renewing our family ties. The men played touch football while the women did the dishes, then everyone relaxed in front of the televised football games. We knew they would be occupied until time for turkey sandwiches and pie later in the afternoon. As we all aged, football became a sedentary activity for the men and my sister and I had established a routine of Scrabble playing. Activities varied over the years as we have aged, but one thing has remained the same. It is still a time of giving thanks, feasting, family, and fun. May your Thanksgiving Day be filled with everything good.

Wordless Wednesday - Before the Rain

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See more photos @ Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

A Corny Lesson

Abs made it through the first day in her new class. I was relieved but am very aware that she can be returned to the previous group if she doesn't conform to the standards. This is, of course, in spite of the fact that she has been placed based, partially, on her creativity. We want you to be creative while conforming?

Referring to the story of Abs and the table being called a desk, I am reminded of her sister, Em's, episode in preschool. Em was about 3 years old and her conversation with the little boy sitting beside her at the lunch table went something like this:
Boy: "This is corn."
Em: "No, it's green beans."."
Boy: "No, it is corn."
Em: "Nope. Green beans."
Boy: "IT IS CORN!"
Em: "Nope. It's green beans."
Boy: Now crying and getting increasingly upset, "IT IS CORN! IT IS CORN!"
Em: Quietly, with a smile, "Okay, it is corn."

Em learned the power of words early. The little boy knew he was right and wasn't swayed by rejection of the obvious. Both were good lessons.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Love and Reality

I am not a fan of reality shows. Having said that, I admit to enjoying "The Amazing Race" and even have aspirations to participate. I never watch "Survivor" because it has too many gross things. I occasionally do watch "The Bachelor," vicariously enjoying the romance while marveling at the disregard of women for their integrity.

This season's bachelor, Brad, was an absolute dream. He was nice looking, successful, had all the right words, seemed very romantic, and professed a commitment to making good decisions. If anyone was aware of a major red flag, they chose to ignore it. Brad confessed to having been in at least two "long-term" relationships. Now he was searching for the ideal woman, a soul mate. Are you reading loud and clear? This man avoids a commitment! His decision tonight was no revelation; the signs were there all along.

He gave some other warnings that were ignored. He runs four bars and admittedly works late most nights. Hey, he's good looking. Do you really think the ladies don't hit on him? A relationship would have to be very secure to hold up under that pressure.

What about the women who appear on these shows? Do they truly expect to find true love in just a few weeks? They are all beautiful, talented, successful, sexy women. Why are they in tears after being sent home? Why were they there in the first place?

"I feel like this was my last chance at real love," one sobbed.

It is almost a requirement that each one "fall in love" with the one bachelor. They often verbally attack the other women, and scramble to be one of the ones who spends a "romantic night" with him. Never mind that he is hugging and kissing everyone equally and, apparently, sleeping with them indiscriminately. He doesn't have to profess "love," although he must maintain an affectionate appearance to all, but he wants to know that the women "love" him.

I happened on a similar show called "The Girls Meet the Cowboy", or something like that. Four city girls spent a weekend at a ranch in hopes of being the "one" chosen by the 23 year-old cowboy. Her prize- "A romantic week with him in the Bahamas."

This is mindless escapism. That is not a bad thing, but I silently grieve for women who feel they must bargain their integrity when they have so much to offer. Of course, I grew up in the dark ages and "things are different now."

In all the various aspects of our lives, we all have a price. I have yet to find out what mine is. I wonder if you know what yours is.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Learning Life's Lessons

I post this with DD#2's permission.....

My darling 6 year old Abs who loves everyone and is the most caring and giving person I have ever met, now has an "assault" record at school. This is the child who saves one of her two cookies for her sister who might not get one. She asks for an extra piece of candy to share with her sister who is not there. She draws pictures on cards in church and hurries to give them, along with a hug, to the most unlikely people - the ones who seem to her to have a problem or sit alone. If something doesn't quite work out, she swallows her disappointment and says that's okay, we'll do it / see it / hear it some other time. Unfortunately, her exposure to the real world is beginning to change her.

The "assault" was actually Abs' biting another first-grade child. The other child insisted the table was a desk and Abs couldn't convince her otherwise and in frustration bit the other child to make her point. I received the news as I picked Abs up from school. The sentence was one day in In School Suspension (ISS). The same teacher who related the incident, also told me Abs has just been placed in the "Gifted Child" program. How incongruous.

Abs was quite excited to be going to a new class (ISS). Her sister and I tried to explain that it was not an honor or a "lark," but we couldn't dampen her enthusiasm. I asked her if any of her friends went to ISS.
"Only one," she told me.
"What does she go for?" I asked.
"She cries all the time," Abs answered.

The "assault" happened yesterday and Abs duly spent today in ISS.
"How did it go?" I asked her.
"It was great," she answered. "I got a lot of help with my math and there were only four people in there."
"Do you want to go again?" I questioned.
"NO way!" she said.
Well, maybe it had the desired effect. It just seems a little extreme that if she ever has another transgression that someone can look back and say "Well look here, she bit someone in the first grade."

Of course, I grew up in a home where getting in trouble in school was not the worst thing that could happen to you. Depending on the transgression, the punishment you received at home could be far worse. The teacher was almost always in the right, and was certainly presumed so until proven otherwise. So it was with my children, and so with theirs. That is why Abs is sleeping in her own bed tonight instead of camping with friends. We can only hope that tough lessons learned early in life will lead to responsible decisions.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Bath Time

Things are going along "swimmingly."

Em is very much the young lady, with a few relapses. But she is a great helper.

Jr. is learning to wipe his chin (from drooling) and his nose (from allergies). He likes to be right by my side. When his mom calls, he is all smiles and waves even though he doesn't say anything to her.

Abs is, well, Abs is Abs. She stays up until about 10 p.m. every night in spite of everything I try. She is up early in the morning, still singing, playing, and reading. She manages to get ready at the last minute when I threaten to take her to school in her pajamas. NOTE: I had threatened to leave her home but she informed me that was illegal.

Homework is a challenge. She is bored with math and tries to trick me into giving her the answer. Actually, I think her boredom is with the numbers on paper. She does just fine with word problems. She doesn't have the patience to listen to explanations; she wants immediate gratification. I got out a small container of pull tabs the kids are saving for GS, and showed Abs how to line up the proper number plus / minus the other number and figure out the answer. She loved the idea! Unfortunately, she spent more time lining all the tabs up in a certain way than she did working problems with them. PLUS, she wanted to go back and recheck all the ones she had finished over my assurance they were definitely correct.

Abs LOVES her bath and will play for as long as I allow it. I keep hoping she will be so relaxed she will fall right asleep. I left her in an extra long time last night, playing happily with her dinosaurs, the water running slightly to keep it warm. I spent some extra time with Jr. and Em while Abs was occupied.
"Abs are you o.k.?" I called several times from the next room.
"Yes," she called back each time.
"What are you doing?"
"Playing," she answered happily.
"It's time to get out," I announced a little later.
I guess I trust too much and waited too long. When I went in to enforce her exit, I stepped in a huge puddle of water. The water in the tub was about 1" below the top and the "puddle" covered the entire bathroom. Abs looked up at me with her big, blue, innocent eyes and waited. Fortunately, the flood was contained in the bathroom thanks to an extra thick bath mat and quick action with some bath towels. Dear little Abs, anything to add excitement to the day even when the day is almost over.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

It's In The Bag

The plan was to spend the weekend at my home so I had the girls pack their own bags for the trip over. They only had to put in a couple changes of clothes, pajamas, and something for church. This was surely something 6 & 10 year olds could handle. Since I didn't want any surprises, I told them I would check their bags before we left.

Em, the 10 year old, did pretty well. She had everything she needed except a pair of pajamas, but she has been doing this for awhile. Abs, the 6 year old, did her usual off-the-wall extravaganza. I could barely lift her suitcase it was so heavy. I opened one zippered compartment and found her pajamas. We were off to a good start. Then I noticed a purple box stuffed in the middle of the nightclothes.
"What is this?" I asked.
"That's my money," she answered.
"Why do you need money?"
"I just never know when I might want to buy something," she said.
I assured her we would not be going anywhere to shop and she could leave that box at home.

I opened the largest zippered compartment. It was filled to the brim with stuffed animals.
"What are all these for?" I asked.
"I have to have all those so I can fall asleep." she answered with great seriousness.
I told her she could choose ONE animal. She chose a giraffe, the largest of the lot.

Another zippered compartment held , not one, not two, not three, but EIGHT bathing suits!
"What are these for?" I asked, barely suppressing my laughter.
"I might want to go swimming," she said.
"We don't have a pool," I said.
"Maybe we could play in the sprinkler?" she asked hopefully.
"It's winter," I reminded her. None of the swimsuits made the cut.

"Don't you have any clothes for the weekend?" I asked.
She directed me to a small side compartment that was stuffed with shorts and shirts. At least she would have something to wear, even if it was wrinkled.

Abs comes by her packing traits honestly. Her mother, my DD#2, had been packing her own bags for camp since she was quite young. As a newlywed, traveling with her DH to his new deployment in Germany, she had one carry-on bag which she kept close to her at all times. When she went to the Loo, she entrusted it to me and told me not to set it down anywhere. I began to really wonder what she was guarding so closely.
"What does a new bride carry with her on a trip like this?" I asked.
"What would you think?" she asked in return.
"Nightgown, make-up, a change of clothes? Nothing that would require such close observation," I answered.
"No, none of that," she said. "I have the important things. Things I might need and would not want to lose."
Now my interest was really piqued. What was she carrying?
She opened the small case and revealed her treasures - her pillow and wedding photos. I guess the ads are right.....for everything else, there is Master Card.

Saturday Soccer, Stegosaurus, and Sleep

We muddled through Saturday.

"The soccer field is a long way off so we need to leave early. We don't want to be late!" Em is getting my number and following in her mom's footsteps.

We leave at 8:45 a.m., with a map, bound for a 9:10 warm-up, the first game is at 9:30 and we get to sit through 2 of them. Thank goodness the coaches are striving to teach the children sportsmanship and love of the game and not focusing on winning.

The trip to the soccer field is a mini-adventure. I have the map which I am religiously following.
"I can guide you, Grandma. I know the way. We don't need the map. You just turn here." Em wants to be my navigator, but I have strong memories of my walk home from her school.
"See, it is right over there. Just turn here."
"But there is no through street," I protest.
"Well, we can walk," Em responds.
I elect to follow the map.

After securing a parking place, I load everything up - Jr. in the stroller, the girls and their gear, my purse, a book I plan to read while waiting (HA!), diaper bag with Jr's needs, and a folding chair for me. We are 20 minutes early.

I stake out an area on the soccer field sidelines, facing away from the sun. Apparently, it is a favored place for everyone. The coach requests that the orange team please sit on the opposite side of the field so the team knows they are there. This is my first experience at a youth soccer game, although I have had TONS of experience at endless swim meets. I am thinking this is better because it is shorter and because I don't have to worry that Jr.will fall in the water and drown.

The area resembles an ant mound that has been disturbed as the kids rush around in utter excitement. Bright colored jerseys identify the different teams and the girls are roaming around, visiting their friends. Jr. and I watch from our selected spot on the sidelines - he in the stroller, I in my chair. I pat myself on the back for not having to sit on a hard bench for 2, or more, hours. After Jr. processes the information that some of the people are running free, I have to let him out or listen to the caterwauling from the stroller. I let him him out and we run around the unmarked, open areas. Whoops....water there, run the other way. practice area, run the other direction. Stopping at all interesting sticks, stones, and bugs, we make our way around the field. Suddenly Jr. has had enough and heads for the soccer field. Now that he has discovered it, there's no stopping him. Back in the stroller he goes and everyone within earshot is subjected to his caterwauling. To their credit, none of the parents bat an eyelash. They have probably been through this before.

Everyone gets to play in these games. Ab's team plays first. Her foot never connects with the ball, but she runs back and forth at top speed. When it is her turn to be the goalie, she digs up weeds and makes a hole in the dirt. After her game, she gathers her snack and brings it over to share with her sister and brother. That's Abs, she shares everything. She also is carrying a large brown thing in a plastic baggie.
"What is that?" I ask.
"It is a fossil," she answers, munching on fingertip size cookie bits.
I look it over carefully but I don't see anything out of the ordinary.
"It just looks like a rock to me," I challenge her.
"That's what the coach said too, but it really is a fossil. I have studied them and I know a Stegosaurus plate when I see one!" Who am I to argue with her?

Em's game is fairly eventful as 3 players are hurt. One is hit on the hand by the ball, another is kicked on the leg, and I don't know what happened to the third player. They all survive. Em manages to block a kick and kick the ball 3 times. She threw the ball in from the sideline directly to a group of green-shirted players gathered to her left. She wears a red shirt.

After the games, we rush back to the house, have lunch, clean up our morning mess, pack clothes for the weekend, and head to my house. They are supposed to play with a neighbor's visiting grandchildren but we arrive too late. Taking time for Jr. to run and exercise, we play outside for a couple of hours. Then I gather them in the kitchen, fix supper, give baths, and ready them for bed. They don't give me any argument when I put them to bed and allow them to read for a few minutes.
"How many minutes?" Abs asks.
I look at my watch for the first time in hours.
"We'll see," I answer.
I can't believe I have put them to bed at 6 p.m.!

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Babysitting - Day One

Well, it is true, ABW has left me in charge of all 3 children for 12 days while she and DH go to Hawaii. We have made it through the first 2 days with everyone at least somewhat intact. I raised four children fairly successfully, but am really rusty on 24 hour care. Jr. kept me up most of the night last night so I am hoping for a better experience tonight.

It sounded fairly easy. ABW made a flow chart and had a bulletin board full of notes, directions, instructions, phone numbers, and maps. She began calling about 3 hours after her departure from home and has called 4 times from Hawaii. of course, one time was to tell us she had come face to face with a giant sea turtle.

Everything went well until morning #1. I put Jr. in the stroller and we walked the girls to school. Actually, they walked me to their school. I had a map but it seemed a simple route, so I did not take the map with me. The girls knew a short cut - through the neighbors' yards. I tried to explain that we don't do things like that, but had to run to keep up with them and by then we were on a path.
"See," they said, "it is simple."
We wandered in and around and finally reached the school which seemed much closer on paper. Everything went well until I started home alone - well, just Jr., enjoying his ride in the stroller, and me.

You must understand that I have almost no sense of direction. Fortunately, I have a GPS system in my car now, but I was walking. On a military facility, all the houses look alike and this one was no exception. I walked and turned and walked some more. I swallowed my pride and cut between two houses that might have been the ones on our route to school. They were not the same houses and the stroller ended up with dew-soaked wheels covered with grass clippings for my effort. Some things looked familiar but most of them didn't. I asked a young woman who was walking in the opposite direction if she knew where {my street] was. She, of course, had never heard of it. Jr. was beginning to get hungry as we rounded a curve and ended up on an exercise track that I had never seen before. I had not taken my cell phone since it was supposed to be a 10 minute walk. Besides, I didn't know anyone to call. Even if I had known someone, I would have been too embarrassed to make the call.

I had been walking about one hour and was beginning to get my bearings when suddenly, the girls' school appeared on the route again. I again attempted to follow the first morning's route in reverse, paying very close attention to my surroundings this time. I looked past the houses to the streets trying to find the cars in front of my destination. Ahhhhh, success! After spotting my car, I took off between houses with none of my former compunctions of trespassing. I was only intent on reaching home.

The rest of the day was fairly uneventful except that my extended morning walk had made me run late. I was supposed to attend a Veteran's Day Ceremony at the school with the girls. I saw a long line of parents at the school door so I joined them and waited about 15 minutes with very little progress toward the table ahead of us. Finally, I turned to the man behind me and asked why everyone was standing in line. He told me they were waiting to get their IDs back. Whoops! I left the line and headed for the playground. A stroller is a fast ticket into many areas. I missed the ceremony but Em said she was too far away to see it anyway. She sat with us while Jr. and I disposed of a hastily assembled picnic lunch.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

A Hooker, A Stripper, and Some Flashers

Sun City Texas (SCT) is a "retirement community." This term probably conjures up images of doddering old fuddy-duddies being taken for walks by their caretakers. I can assure you, that is not the scene here, although I did have a rather surreal experience one day. Visiting the Community Center, I passed a sitting area where a giant TV was quietly broadcasting the news, the library where shelves of books awaited on an honor check-out system, a bulletin board advertising myriad available activities, the billiard room with tables silently waiting to be racked, and waiting in the hallway, a little red wagon full of boccie balls. Sometimes it does feel like a giant day-care center.

Residents take advantage of every opportunity for education, excitement, and adventure. Many people come to SCT only in the winter when their beloved northern homes are inundated with snow and the streets are slick with ice. Some leave only in the summer when our weather hovers in the triple digits. They refuse to be impressed with the old adage "it is a dry heat."
Others of us just muddle through it all, laughing at ourselves and the world around us.

My neighbor, T, is one such fun-loving soul.
"I am a hooker!" she announced proudly one day.
"Sometimes I even strip!" she added with a laugh and sidelong glance at me.
I try not to be shocked at anything she says or does. She is always full of one surprise or another. I relish her stories of fleeing Germany when she was a young child. Sure enough, my patience is rewarded when she explains that she hooks rugs and sometimes cuts her own strips of wool using a special "stripping machine."
"It is much more fun to try and shock people," she admits.

M is one of our four morning walkers. She has just moved here from the big, bad city of Las Vegas, Nevada, and feels a little uncomfortable when we walk before daylight. Yes, there is some traffic here, but SCT is in a small town and, really, a small town unto itself. We don't worry but M does. Thus she bought small flashers for each one of us. They are battery operated, approximately 2" round, and clip onto our clothing. There are 3 red ones and 1 green one. Every morning the four of us walk down the street, out-of-sync flashers announcing our presence to the world of morning traffic. Christmas will be here soon and we will fit right in.

A hooker, a stripper, and some flashers - there is never a dull moment in SCT. Just ask the resident who passes us every morning...jogging....uphill.....wearing a backpack containing tennis rackets......

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Wordless Wednesday -"Stick Bug" in Butterfly House, Collodi, Italy

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Having My Say

I have been deprived of Internet service for one week! I am ready to go now!!!

Read ABW's post to understand why I am ranting and raving today.

I voted yesterday but we weren't given "I Voted" stickers at my precinct so I couldn't advertise. We have just one precinct at our ballot box. I stood in line for 10 minutes, after I picked up my ballot I waited for a booth for an additional 5 minutes (some people obviously had not studied the issues before they arrived), and was the 772nd person to vote when I cast my ballot at 2:45 p.m. Apparently, there is some discussion in this county about splitting this precinct because there is high voter turnout and everyone pretty much thinks alike. That is interpreted as "bloc voting." [A VOTING BLOC is a group of members with a common interest who tend to vote alike on an issue - C-SPAN Congressional Glossary].

My Grandmother never voted. Her husband, my grandfather, didn't believe that women should be allowed to vote and she was a woman of the old ways and followed what her husband said. I always think of her when I cast my ballot. I also think of the hundreds of women who fought for the right to vote. They distributed pamphlets, marched in demonstrations, spoke to groups, defied public opinion and spouses before they hurried home to have supper on the table and children ready to meet their fathers returning from work. Finally, in 1920, just 87 years ago, women were "given" the vote.

What has happened in the last 87 years? We have fought, and are still fighting, for equality, but as soon as we win the rights we seek, we settle in to complacency. Yes, we retain the right to make choices in our lives, but voting is the way we retain some control over our rights. All our rights come with responsibility. When I hear someone in Texas complaining about the results of all the Propositions we just passed, my first question to them will be "Did you vote?"

In 1868, the ratification of the Fourteenth Amendment proved an affront to the women's movement, as it defined "citizenship" and "voters" as "male", and raised the question as to whether women were considered citizens of the United States at all.

In the early nineteenth century,
women were considered second-class citizens whose existence was limited to the interior life of the home and care of the children. Women were considered sub-sets of their husbands, and after marriage they did not have the right to own property, maintain their wages, or sign a contract, much less vote. It was expected that women be obedient wives, never to hold a thought or opinion independent of their husbands. It was considered improper for women to travel alone or to speak in public.

With the belief that intense physical or intellectual activity would be injurious to the delicate female biology and reproductive system, women were taught to refrain from pursuing any serious education. Silently perched in their birdcages, women were considered merely objects of beauty, and were looked upon as intellectually and physically inferior to men. This belief in women's inferiority to men was further reinforced by organized religion which preached strict and well-defined sex roles.

On 26 August 1920, a constitutional ammendment was adopted when Tennessee ratified it, granting full woman suffrage in all states of the United States. In 2004, women in Saudi Arabia were allowed to vote. I wonder how long will they consider it a privilege.


Election Results – The results from the November 6 election were that all sixteen Texas constitutional amendments were approved. Williamson County voters approved fourteen of the amendments; voting against (a) issuing $1 billion in bonds for a myriad of state facility construction projects and (b) issuing $3 billion in bonds for cancer prevention and research.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Demise of Halloween

“Trick or Treat! Trick or Treat!”

We knocked on doors and exclaimed loudly as we made the rounds of the neighbors’ houses. My mother insisted we dress in “Halloween” costumes; no fairy princesses or knights in shining armor left our house. One year she made me a witch’s costume and I was so pleased with her ideas that I later copied them for my children. She sewed a simple black loose fitting dress, made a black witch’s hat from poster board, and added hair of Spanish moss gathered from outdoors. She blackened a couple of my teeth with crayon, made my face as ghoulish as possible with make-up from her dresser and I carried a thick, knobby stick from some unfortunate tree. Mother had other creative ideas for costumes, but the witch with moss hair was my favorite. Of course, after the first time, we learned to put the moss in a hot oven for a short time to kill the resident critters.

When we shouted “Trick or treat!” we really meant it. Fortunately, everyone gave us treats so we did not often have to think of tricks. Store bought candy was coming into fashion, but we preferred the home made goodies that most people handed out – cookies, popcorn balls, caramel apples, and very infrequently, coins.
“Stick your hand in and take as many as you can hold in one dip,” invited the occupants of one home holding out a bowl of pennies. Small hands can’t hold much, but the dream of a fortune was there.

I only recall one grouchy soul who refused to give us treats. On top of his refusal, he announced that we had better watch out.
“I am a policeman!” he announced in a loud, intimidating voice.
Policeman or not, we didn’t feel he should be allowed to get away with his refusal. After all we were supposed to” trick” if he didn’t “treat.” It took us a while to decide the offender’s fate. We didn’t want to be destructive and get into trouble and we certainly didn’t want to go running down the street with a policeman chasing us. After much discussion, I was chosen to sneak quietly over to the water spigot on the side of his house. I turned it on just enough to have a steady stream of water, but not hard enough to draw his attention. There were no known repercussions to our prank. We just hoped he had a flooded yard the next day.

Halloween was not celebrated in the countries where we lived as my own children were growing up. In Peru, All Saints Day was celebrated more as a night of revelry before a day of religious fervor on the first day of November. In Australia, Halloween was not mentioned, but they celebrated Guy Fawkes Day around the same time. By the time we moved back to the U.S., Halloween seemed to be facing its demise. Homeowners turned on their porch lights if they wanted to hand out treats and the “trick” part of the phrase was all but forgotten. My children had a sample of running door-to-door collecting treats until the Pixy Stix incident.

In Pasadena, Texas, the year after we arrived in Houston, Ronald Clark O’Bryan gave several children Pixy Stix laced with cyanide. Two of them were his own children whom O’Bryan planned to kill for the insurance money. Other children were given the laced candy to throw investigators off the track. His son died and O’Bryan was executed by lethal injection 10 years later. Halloween was never the same after that. Most children stopped going door-to-door and the ones who continued the tradition were advised to only eat commercially produced, and wrapped, treats. Hospital Emergency rooms offered to X-ray the bags of loot. For several years, needles, pins, razor blades, and other dangerous items were found in the treats by X-ray. Concerned parents banned trick or treating, turned their porch lights off and started hosting neighborhood parties.

We lived in a sparsely populated area with about 15 homes, only half of those with children, so the neighborhood planned progressive parties. Our children moved as a group from house to house with a different activity and treat bags at each house. A pinata, active games, and bobbing for apples, kept the children busy until they arrived at our house. We had a bonfire and a bubbling “cauldron” with refreshments to top off the evening.

Halloween has lost its fervor, it seems. Some children are allowed to beg for treats, but the idea of tricks seems to have disappeared. Halloween as we knew it, a fun holiday with good memories for children, has given up the ghost.