Friday, June 29, 2007

I Saw That!

OK, so I was eight months pregnant. I had on a darling green mini-dress (what was I thinking???) that I had made myself. I had embroidered little flowers all over it. I was wearing nylons, held up by a garter belt (no panty hose in those days!) which slipped down and sat under my belly. I was walking home from work and I could feel it falling lower and lower.

Just then my neighbor passed me in his truck, and pulled over to offer me a ride home. I climbed up into the truck and by the time I had arranged myself in the seat, I could see that the tops of my nylons were touching my knees. I had no idea where the garter belt had positioned itself. When we arrived at my door, I had to scoot over and then climb down. I could see the bagginess below the knees. I turned to say thanks and watched his eyes take in the sight, before I rushed inside to look in the mirror.

My dress ended at mid-thigh, my garter belt was showing just below, and my nylons were in a puddle around my calves. Just think about that when you're having a bad day!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

A Bridge Over Troubled Water

Paul Simon was honored recently by the Library of Congress. I was reminded of a memorable night we spent with him. It was January, 1991, and we were attending his concert. That afternoon it was all over the news that we were about to embark on Operation Desert Storm. When we arrived at the concert venue there were TVs set up everywhere with people gathered around them waiting for news. The security guards were all listening to their radios and passing on any information they received.

We had taken our seats, but it was past time to begin. Suddenly the curtains parted and there was Paul Simon, looking a little lost. The fanfare belatedly started, but he quickly stopped the orchestra and put up his hand to stop the spontaneous applause. He announced that we were now at war, that Operation Desert Storm had begun. He then asked us to join him in a prayer. He bowed his head and said a simple, sincere prayer straight from his heart. It was such a uniting, precious moment. Then he quietly thanked us, went offstage, and the lights in the hall went down, before the concert started as usual.

The concert was unbelievable. At the end he sang "You Can Call Me Al" and it went on and on with the audience singing and dancing along. When it was over, and the applause finally died down, he said, "That was so fun. Let's do it again!" And we did the whole song again!

It was a heartwarming experience to see one of my favorite musical icons humble himself, and show such love for our country in an unrehearsed way. I'll never forget the night Paul Simon helped bridge some troubled waters.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Perks of Having an Historian for a Husband

He opens windows to the past.
(And casts light on the present.)

He likes old things...the older the better.
(As I become an old ruin, I will still be interesting.)

He says: "When I get a little money I buy books; and if any is left, I buy food and clothes." Erasmus
(We have similar financial goals.)

He's a good storyteller.
"History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it."
Winston Churchill
(I don't have to worry about my legacy.)

He's a travelin' man.
(And I get to go, too!)

Photos by Marty: York Windows, Dee at Rievaulx Abbey, Paris Book Stalls, Dee at Rievaulx, Dee at York Station

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Somebody's Grandmother

A lady commented today about my cute high heeled shoes. I told her they were perfect for church because I didn't have to walk or stand. I said, "If I wore the shoes that really feel comfortable, I'd look like somebody's grandmother." She then asked, "Do you have grandkids?" "Eighteen!" I announced proudly, as I kicked off my shoes.

P.S. I'm now expecting number 20. I'm just sayin' . . .

Thursday, June 21, 2007


Usually when a concept seems totally logical and full of common sense to me, I discover that I am thinking opposite of everyone else. I don't try to be different, or difficult. It just happens automatically.

Take traditions. I love creating traditions and remembering traditions. The thing I don't like about them is that they're so...well, you know, traditional! I hate being caught up in a great idea that is now past it's prime. I like to take a good tradition and tweak it to match the ever changing participants and lifestyles.

On Christmas Eve in the olden days my family and all my cousins and aunts and uncles went to grama's house. We had a traditional Swedish meal, including lutefisk which the older people loved to coax us kids to try. My uncle and aunt produced a program about Christmases around the world, complete with costumes and scenery, and the 23 grand kids learned songs and poems and performed with relish. It was fabulous and memorable.

And then suddenly we all grew up. Some married and produced little actresses and singers, but others produced kids that liked sports, not performances. There were new in-laws that turned on the TV during the festivities. This created embarrassed cousins who didn't know how to explain that little Jimmy was watching the game, and wasn't going to be a Wiseman this year.

The party had grown from the comfortable 1st generation to the 2nd generation which was double in size. Our little kids felt shy with their unknown second cousins. It was an ordeal, not an anticipated event. We argued about it, but I insisted that we had to go. One year we got home very late, everybody was tired and cross, and I realized it was time for the tradition to become a memory.

Plus, we had ideas for Christmas Eve. We were anxious to create our own holiday traditions to weld our little family. Bedtime needed to be observed so Christmas Day would start off with well-rested, cooperative kids, and to give us time to do our Santa magic. We had long discussions about it to bolster my courage to take a stand. I decided to prepare my mother ahead of time, so I told her in February.

Breaking the news to my mom was awful. She cried! My grama said, "I'd hoped I wouldn't live long enough to have the kids stop coming on Christmas Eve." I felt like I was stabbing my family in the back! I wondered why they couldn't understand and support our desire to follow their example in creating strong family ties.

The caught in the middle feeling haunted us. Dee and I decided many years ago that we didn't want to create that dilemma for our kids. We never want couples to argue with each other because of pressure we put on them. We often celebrate events on a different day, so there won't be a problem choosing between the families. This means that we have sometimes spent Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, Mother's Day, and other traditional family days on our own. It has given us a chance to create some new traditions (eating out on Thanksgiving, sleeping in on Christmas morning...) We want our family to know they are always welcome, but never obligated. They don't have to give us any explanations or excuses, or worry that we'll be hurt or lonely, or upset. At this point our role is to support their families in the goals they set for themselves. We had our chance to create traditions, and now it's their opportunity.

Just because something is tradition doesn't make it right all the time. Tradition is sometimes an explanation for acting without thinking. I grew up with lovely Sunday Dinners. That one got the shaft at our house. We used to go to church in the morning, and arrive home with seven tired hungry kids. I'd start mashing potatoes and making gravy while the whole gang whined and argued, waiting for food. One Sunday while I changed clothes, Dee whipped up some French Toast. It was quick and easy and a total hit. We quickly spiraled down from roast beef to grilled cheese, served on napkins instead of plates. Sundays became pleasant. We created a tradition that helped us.
My goal has been to have a tradition of making memories. I don't like to do things the same way every time, and I don't think it's logical to do everything every time, either. I don't like having things set in stone. Going out to dinner for a birthday might work well in March. If we can't afford it for the birthday in June, we'll go to the park. At Christmas time I make a list of "traditional"activities and then choose from them. Maybe this year we'll do gingerbread houses and skip sugar cookies. It's too overwhelming for me to try to cram every fun thing we've ever done into one season. It takes the joy out of it.

"Traditions are the guideposts driven deep in our subconscious minds. The most powerful ones are those we can't even describe and aren't even aware of." My extended family Christmas Eve party has become a treasured memory, but the tradition is a family who loves each other. That's the thing I want to pass on.

Illustrations by Stephen Cartwright

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Oma's Library

"It's in books that most of us learn how splendidly worth while life is." (Christopher Morley)

There have been many books that have had a great impact on me. One of the first was The Surprise Doll, a Wonder Book ("with washable cover,") that was published the year I was born. It cost 25¢ and I got it on a trip to the grocery store when I was five.

It's the story of a little girl named Mary whose father was a sea captain. Every time he went to a foreign land he brought her home a doll. The pictures showed dolls from different countries in traditional costumes. I loved them all, but especially Katrinka. She was from Holland and I decided I wanted to go there someday. I fantasized and pretended. I was inspired by a book.

The Weekly Reader book order provided me with other books I have never forgotten. I read Mama's Bank Account and The Story of Helen Keller in 3rd grade. My bedroom was downstairs by then, and I could turn on my lamp after hours, and read until I fell asleep. I remember reading Exodus in 7th grade, finishing it at 4:am, and pretending to be sick so I could stay home from school and re-read my favorite parts. I sat on our screened-in porch every night during the summer of 8th grade reading Gone With the Wind to the tune of crickets and moths humming around the light fixture.

We had a set of books called Books of Wonder that contained Greek myths. I sat on the heater vent in the winter and got lost in the stories of Pandora, and Icarus. I memorized long poems like Little Orphan Annie, and Casey at the Bat, some of Hiawatha, and Evangeline just because I read them so often. I loved the Little Maid books and learned about Maine and Quebec and "Old Vermont." Those books evoke memories of rainy Saturday afternoons. I could sit slumped in a chair, or under the table with a pillow and explore faraway places. I met extraordinary people, and visited different cultures and times. "My world began to expand very rapidly,...the reading habit had got me securely." (H. G. Wells)
My kids could stay up as late as they wanted if they were reading, and I would always buy them a book if they asked. It never seemed extravagant or wasteful. I wanted them to dream, imagine and be inspired. Books have always been beloved friends. I cannot imagine my life without them!

Are there books from your childhood that inspired you? Please share!

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Under New Management

It's the new job...I'm out of practice. The co-CEO's of my new business keep hours 24/7 and expect the same of the staff. One of them hollers out at 2 am and if you're not there in record time, there's quite a bit of screaming and thrashing about. The other one jumps in with her own complaints, which are so indiscernible that I just do what's indicated without discussion or hesitation.

I think it's different that they're women. We want to show that gender will make no difference in how we follow their directives. They say jump, we all say "How High?" They have special beverages presented in unique ways and we all go along with it. They change their outfits for every occasion, often coordinating in clothes that are all obviously new. I feel like a frump, and the age difference is very noticeable. They both have that young dewy look and it looks so natural. I show up with my $200 foundation dripping onto my shirt collar and realize we're on the opposite ends of the spectrum. We basically communicate in different ways. They are full of emotions, while I'm trying to read the signs, and meet their needs before they have to make a big stink about it in front of everyone.

I've been caught napping on several occasions. But then so have the CEO's. Somebody has got to explain that keeping normal hours would help tremendously. Everyone who goes in with this suggestion comes out babbling like a baby, grinning goofily, with a strange smitten, I'll do anything look. I guess we're all just suckers for a pretty face. But it's sure hard to carry on with regular life with these two calling all the shots! What do you do with bosses like this?

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Book Nook

"Every book, every volume you see here has a soul. The soul of the person who wrote it and of those who read it and lived it and dreamed with it. Every time a book changes hands, every time someone runs his eyes down its pages, its spirit grows and strengthens....

"After a while it occurred to me that between the covers of each of those books lay a boundless universe waiting to be discovered."

I am reading The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. It's about Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer's son in Barcelona, Spain during the 1950's. He discovers a book, but when he tries to find other books by the same author he discovers that someone is destroying every copy of every book the man wrote. It's a book about a book and I can't put it down.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Peanut Gallery

Back when I was hanging out with Dick and Jane and Sally, I was part of the Peanut Gallery. Every Saturday morning we ran into the TV room and watched the test pattern until Howdy Dowdy came on. (Buffalo Bob named his audience after the vaudeville audiences who sat in the cheap seats and ate peanuts, throwing the shells at the actors.) Mighty Mouse was next, followed by Huckleberry Hound and Fury. Circus Boy and Sky King were part of the lineup, too.
Were you in the Peanut Gallery? The news about Mr. Wizard has triggered my TV memory. If you can remember these shows, or answer the question, give yourself a point. (Get a point for watching any of the six shows listed above.) I'll throw in a few gimmes for my younger readers, too.
  1. The Millionaire (the one where a person received an anonymous check)
  2. I Married Joan
  3. Who was Rowdy Yates?
  4. Paladin
  5. December Bride
  6. There's Maris (Frazier), and Vera (Cheers), but who was the December Bride wife we never saw?
  7. Who stomped grapes with Ethel?
  8. The Shari Lewis Show
  9. Superman (Black and white TV version)
  10. Lassie
  11. Oh, Susanna
  12. Where did Oh, Susanna take place?
  13. What was Susanna's best friend's name?
  14. The Alfred Hitchcock Show
  15. Who was Bret Maverick's twin?
  16. What show featured Hoss?
  17. What was the sheriff's name on Rifleman?
  18. American Bandstand
  19. Queen For a Day
  20. What was the best part of The Art Linkletter Show?
  21. Beat the Clock
  22. Truth or Consequences
  23. Which show had Eddie Haskel?
  24. Which show featured Maynard?
  25. As the World Turns (live)
  26. How I Married My Wife
  27. Who was Cubby?
  28. What show was Moochie on?
  29. Who was Darla?
  30. Streets of San Francisco
  31. Perry Mason (black and white version)
  32. What instrument did Lawrence Welk play?
  33. The Hit Parade
  34. Who was Uncle Tanoose?
  35. What teenage heart-throb sang at the end of what show?
  36. Have Gun Will Travel
  37. Phil Donahue
  38. What was Donna Reed's husband?
  39. The Red Skelton Show
  40. The Dinah Shore Show
  41. Jack Paar on The Tonight Show
  42. The Flying Nun
  43. Who played twins?
  44. What show featured Clarabelle?
If you need to check an answer, they're listed below. There's a possible 50. If you got 40 or more, you can be in the Peanut Gallery!
3: Rowdy=Clint Eastwood
6: Gladys was the wife we never saw
7: Lucy stomped grapes
12: Oh, Susannah was on a ship
13: Olive was Susannah's friend
15: Bart was Bret's twin
16: Hoss was on Bonanza
17: Micah was the sheriff
20: Art Linkletter had the kids
23: Eddie Haskell was on Leave it to Beaver
24: Maynard was on Dobie Gillis
27: Cubby was a Mouseketeer
28: Moochie was on Mickey Mouse Club
29: Darla was a Little Rascal
32: Lawrence Welk played the accordion
34: Uncle Tanoose was Danny William's (aka Danny Thomas) uncle
35: Ricky Nelson sang at the end of Ozzie and Harriet
38: Donna Reed's husband was a pediatrician
43: Patty Duke played twins
44: Clarabelle was the clown on Howdy Dowdy

Do you have any to add?

Thursday, June 14, 2007

What Shall We Do?

The little girls were eating breakfast when I arrived. "So have you guys had a fun morning?" They described excitedly how they had watched Dora, jumped on the couch, and worn their pink jammies. Then I asked, "What did you do last night?" Lucy rolled her eyes and pointed wordlessly to the top of the refrigerator. There was Annabelle (her doll) Duckie (her duck) and Blankie (her blankie) along with several other little stuffed friends. "What happened?" Chelsea showed me her cheek, and explained sadly, in 2-yr-old, that it had been bitten, by, of all people, her sister. Lucy was nodding solemnly. "So that's why they're on the fridge."

What's a parent to do? The whole discipline thing is a huge question mark. The little old lady spanked them all soundly and sent them to bed. I thought it was in the nursery rhyme book as instruction to mothers, so I usually resorted to that. My kids turned out well in spite of it. We also tried grounding which I soon realized was just a punishment for me. Dee would march in and say "You're grounded!" while I was waving my hands wildly, motioning "NO! NO! Anything but that!"

My mother was not above corporal punishment. We used to provide each other with books to put down our pants in case my mom looked angry. She was ready to spank my brother one day and he stepped aside so that her hand hit the door and she broke her finger! My dad's MO was the lecture. My history teacher drew a little circle on the wall, and the offender had to stand with his nose in the circle. Dee used to rattle the utensil drawer to remind the kids that the wooden spoon was available.

Time Out is the modern method. The parenting books make it sound so sensible and effective, but it is very difficult to carry out. My recent Oma-ing has provided opportunities to observe the kids punishing their mom with time out. When Lucy was crying, while in time out for punching Chelsea, Chelsea brought Lucy her doll to comfort her, saying "It's OK, Luc. I'm here."

Chelsea was in time out, required only to say "I'm sorry" but she defiantly refused to do it. Soon her mom was giving her every option she could think of, ("just nod if you feel sorry") when Chelsea finally asked "Can I say sorry in Spanish?" Unfortunately nobody knew how to say it in Spanish (where's Dora?) but that was good enough! Lucy cheered when Chelsea reappeared in triumph. It had all been a great dramatic success for the kids. They had taught mom a lesson, for sure!

By the time Dee and I got to our seventh kid we had tried everything. We conceded in defeat. The white flag was flying high, and when we heard our final toddler crying, we would call downstairs to the kids, "Just give her anything she wants!"

It will probably always be a question mark. I heard once that raising kids requires a safe, sturdy playpen. When they grow up, you can climb out. Bill Cosby said, "No matter how calmly you try to referee, parenting will eventually produce bizarre behaviour. I'm not talking about the kids. Their behaviour is always normal."

So, anyway, as an experienced mother and grandmother I would say to parents of little children everywhere, "Hey, good luck with that!"

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Look Alikes

There's a little bit of movie star in all of us! Kay at Kays Thinking Cap told her readers about Stars In You, a site that shows which famous person is trying hard to look like you. Check it out!
Do you think we could pass as Richard Dreyfuss and Judi Dench?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Searching for Happiness?

This is an awesome blog by Gretchen called The Happiness Project. Everytime I check it I want to shout it out. If you're looking for tips for a happy life, click on this. Read back several posts and you won't be disappointed!

Looking Back on Blogging

Looking back helps me see how far I've come. In November 2006, when I started blogging, I hardly knew what it was, and I assumed I wasn't invited. (See all my posts on blogging.) My post on blogging etiquette posed some questions and my blogging friend Kris ( answered them all with great insight and common sense. Apparently many bloggers are making this all up as they go along and it was fun to get their responses. This is info that any serious or new blogger will enjoy reading, and then combined with growing experience will allow anyone to join the club and make a difference.

Joining the club just means establishing a blog. Blogger walks you right through the process, and there you are minutes later, published at last. Finding blogs to read is easy. First go to Google Blog Search, look up some topics you'd find interesting. Click on those blogs, explore them, and those they list on the side of their own blogs, called blog rolls. When one rings your bell, visit and leave a comment. Invite them to visit and read your blog. Do this a few times, visiting, commenting, making blog friends and you'll soon have a blog roll yourself. Blog surf occasionally and you'll make connections with blogs and their owners that you'll enjoy.

That brings us to some reading you'll like as you get serious in your blogging world and start realizing this fabulous, lasting and influential new technology that you are actually helping to invent. Visit one of my favorite blogs, Time Goes By, and read her great ideas about the blogosphere. She links some other articles by Jay Rosen on Pressthink, and

I'm quoting Ronni Bennett:
You may think that's just a little blog you're publishing, something about your town, or a book you read or the Grand kids. But it is much more that that. So long as there are millions of users keeping watch over media, government, corporations and others who would seek to influence us, they become more accountable, and
liberty is furthered and democracy is strengthened.
This quote is even more touching when coupled with these words from Jay Rosen, and the critic A. J. Liebling:
"Freedom of the press belongs to those who have one." Well, freedom of the press still belongs to those who own one, and blogging means practically anyone can own one. That is the Number One reason why blogs matter.

With blogging, an awkward term, we designate a fairly beautiful thing: the extension to many more people of a free press franchise, the right to publish your thoughts to the world.

This makes my new hobby of blogging even more meaningful to me. I'm not looking back. I'm blasting off for the Blogosphere, here in my home office, after midnight, with my beloved Mac Mini, dressed in my jammies, knowing I truly
can help save the world and contribute to world peace! My voice shall be heard!!

Saturday, June 9, 2007

I Feel Dumb

I got a comment on my Up in Arms post that made me read it through again. It sounds like I'm a spoiled brat. This is the reason you shouldn't let it all hang out on the World Wide Web. You may look dumb, and everybody sees!

Just Hang Out This Weekend

Friday, June 8, 2007

Up In Arms!

I'm fighting mad all because I met a lady in the elevator today who casually said, "You are so lucky you don't work." Why do people assume that if you don't get paid, you don't work? This is a comment that has bugged me forever!!

When I was a stay-at-home mom I worked my tail off, as every mother does. I was lucky that I had the choice of 2 paychecks or 1, but we chose to go without some things so I could do other things. I was continually asked to take other people's kids here or there, provide childcare, or get a child off to kindergarten because I didn't work. The insinuation was that I was probably bored out of my mind (if I had one) and I'd love to do all the extras for their kids, because they were busy with important, paycheck worthy enterprises.

I was happy to help out from time to time, but I was working, too. I was doing a summer school (for my own kids,) I was planning activities (for my own kids,) I was tutoring (my own kids.) When you don't get paid for it, somehow society sees it as less valuable. It seemed presumptuous of me to compare my stay-at-home activities to actually working. When other people organize activities for kids, tutor, or plan educational field trips, and get paid for it, it's called a job. They are working. Why, because it was for my own kids, was it somehow, "not working?"

Even now, because I don't work, I receive suggestions of things I could do for others who do. "I work, so I'm wondering if you could run my mother to the doctor." "You know, she works, and someone needs to take her car to be inspected." "Since you don't work, could you tend my kids while I work?" No acknowledgement that I may be working on something that is occupying my time, and is important to me.

Every day I am a writer, an on-call day-care provider, a bookkeeper and an editor. I don't get paid for any of these ventures, and I don't have a boss who has bestowed the titles on me. Can I say I am a designer? Or do I just "play around on the computer?" I often take the phone off the hook when I have something I'm working on. When I explained this to a woman who was trying to get hold of me, she said, "I've been searching all over for you and the whole time you were just sitting there paying bills?" Would she say that if I'd been doing the same thing, but being paid for it? Then I would be at working and she would expect me to be unavailable. Ironically, she was calling to ask if I'd be able to do some research for her, as a favor (since I don't work.)

We've traveled a lot. We've been "over the pond" (as a friend used to say) 25 different times to England and Europe, plus we've lived there. There's a lot we don't know, but there's a lot we do know from experience and study, and we know how to find the rest and who to trust for suggestions. We've never used a travel agent so we have learned how to research places, hotels, scenic drives, train schedules, etc., on our own. It's a natural expertise to have developed. Consequently, I have helped many people plan trips to places we're familiar with, and I love it when I'm asked.

A friend of mine was planning a trip to England, and I spent hours pouring over maps and books, and put together an itinerary for her, including hotel suggestions, restauants, addresses, phone numbers, emails, maps and more. It was fun and I got excited about the trip, as I always do. When she was thanking me, she said, "You know, you're good at this. You could do it." I responded, "I do do it!" She went on, "I mean, you could do it for real: you could get paid." (Dee suggested I send her a bill and have her as my first client.) Why doesn't it count because I do it for free? If you enjoy your work, isn't it still work?

It has always made me mad that a person is judged and valued by the amount of money they make. I know I'm ranting! I just want my work to be as valuable as work that is paid to be done. I don't want to have a job and a boss or a paycheck. I just want my work to be accepted as real WORK! I have to simmer down. After all, it was just an idle comment in the elevator. I don't think I need armed guards. I need to take a l-o-n-g, s-l-o-w deep breath. It wasn't personal...I know I shouldn't be so sensitive. I'll work on it.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

A Mountain Out of a Molehill

Remember this guy? He's The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill and Came Down a Mountain.
A certain village was very proud to have a mountain. When the cartographers came to measure for a map, it wasn't high enough to qualify, and was in danger of being demoted to hill status. The villagers were intent on having their landmark, so they hauled dirt all the way to the top until it became a legitimate mountain.

I am like that. I love to take a little hill and make it a mountain.

This weekend I thought I would make a little busy basket with a few easy, "no-helping" type activities that my daughter could have on hand for her little girls while she's feeding the twins. I went to the dollar store and bought some birthday hats and blowers, some nesting measuring cups, some large macaroni and shoe laces and a package of ziploc bags. I planned a few little kits, and thought I ought to have an Oma Basket with a bunch of pre-made crafts that I could pull out at a moment's notice. My molehill was getting bigger.

I stopped in at Barnes and Noble and walked out with 3 books on activities for pre-schoolers, to add to the collection I already have at home. By the time I drove past another Barnes and Noble I had decided to put together "Summer Kits" for the other grand kids. Who can pass a Barnes and Noble? After purchasing a few more books with grade school age ideas, I ate lunch in the little cafe and went through the books, marking the suggestions that appealed to me. When I left, I had a shopping list of more stuff I needed, and I headed straight to Michael's Crafts. An hour later I hauled out several bags of materials and a bunch more ideas, stopped at the store for more ziplocs, and arrived home with my mountain.

Organization is my thing. I usually figure out a very cool system while I am in a disastrous mess of disorganization. This is how I would do it next time:
  1. Make a list of activities with materials listed for each one.
  2. Make copies of list for each family, and then cut up copies for each packet.
  3. Spread out materials in categories on floor. (Pom poms, clothespins, glue sticks, etc.)
  4. With master list, collect enough materials for each specific craft per kid, and put them in a ziploc.
  5. Put a family's individual ziplocs in a bigger one, along with a snippet of paper with instructions. (For instance: 4 sandwich ziplocs, each with a handful of various sized macaroni and a long shoelace. Put all 4 in a larger bag with a note: "String a necklace.")
  6. Toss family ziplocs in labeled sack to keep them all straight for each group.
    (Girl things, boy things, 2 year old things, 9 year old things...)
After 2 8-hour days of creating a mountain out of a molehill, I have 4 fully stocked Summer Grab Bags (to be sent a few packets at a time throughout the summer) 1 Busy Basket for my new mom, and 1 Oma Basket, all piled high with things to keep kids creatively occupied for a few minutes, at least.
I have to note that I am NOT a craft person. I don't like scissors, glue, paints or messes, so I'm giving all that kind of stuff to the kids for their own households. For my Oma basket I made paper dolls and clothes from felt, toothbrushes and toothpaste with a tiny treasure box of dirty coins to shine, little flashlights and a paper tablecloth to color and hide under, stickers and 3x5 cards to make memory games, a button collection (sort, match, count, hide, play Button Button, spin on a thread, lose or swallow), string for Cat's Cradle, ABC magnets and a cookie sheet, plus a list to remind me of stories, finger plays and games that don't require anything (I Spy, Hokey Pokey, Going on a Bear Hunt, etc.)

I love to create this kind of thing. I picture the kids getting the mail, full of anticipation and warm feelings. Happiness and cooperation prevail in their homes because of my package. World peace evolves. I know the reality will be "Why did Oma send us all these Froot Loop crumbs?" "Is this a glue stick that melted?" "I don't know why there aren't any pink ones! Stop crying and play with the other 700 beads." I do hope the grand kids have fun and think of me, but the real reward was that I had fun while I was thinking of them. A mountain of fun!

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Story Telling

My kids always used to ask me to tell them a story. Just about the time I'd perfected my story telling repertoire they stopped asking. And soon after that they started interrupting with "You told us that, mom." And then the eye rolling started and they informed me they could tell my stories in 25 words or less, with just a word or two for a clue.

So I started telling my stories to strangers in the check out line at the pharmacy, and just after their eyes rolled, they glazed over. (They must have been pretty sick.) My kids finally directed me towards blog land where I can tell my stories to my heart's content and I don't even feel it when I'm clicked off. Dave Letterman was introduced last night as "A man who is his own imaginary friend." that a definition of my blog???

ANYWAY!! There's a wonderful storytelling place where people actually ASK for my stories! Then they are sent on to fabulously brilliant readers who appreciate them. I write my stories at 2:am so even my eyes are rolling and glazed over, but the people there don't make fun (to my face) and they can't even begin to tell my stories in 25-words-or-less. (I love these people...)

If you want to be one of the sought after storytellers, look at the rules to see if you qualify (when you click over to read my story today.)

Check out Ronni's Elder Story Telling Place for my newest published work! Thanks Ronni!
Send in your own. It's easy. Just read the instructions. (That glazed over look you get in the pharmacy line might not be because they're glaucoma patients.)

Monday, June 4, 2007

I Am So Dead!

Being a full-time Oma a few days a week has zapped my midnight energy! I'm hitting the sack early tonight to catch up, and I'll be back with words of wisdom tomorrow.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Pride and Prejudice

The Gay Pride Parade just took place outside my window and I have to say I'm a little prejudiced.

Not against gays as people. I can't tell them apart from other people. I know some same-sex roommates who are not gay, and some married couples where one of them is. I know some guys who seem light in the loafers who are heavy hitters, and some women who could grow mustaches but have 7 kids (me, for one.) It's just not a topic of discussion in my social encounters. When I have found out someone I know is gay, I have wondered about the difficulties that must present, but it hasn't affected my feelings and interaction with that person. And, for the record, I would be put off by anyone who made their sexual activities the center of their conversations with me. I really don't care what takes place in people's bedrooms or wherever.

I'm prejudiced against the gay movement that takes exorbitant pride in how they do it. OK, so many of us have done it, but we don't have a parade about it. I'm all for the 1st amendment, and anyone can express themselves in their own way, but that means I can, too. If this parade had been about how gay people contribute in their jobs, are good citizens, make a positive difference in the community (all of which I believe), and that they should not be hated or discriminated against by general society because of their sex lives, (which I also believe) that would be parade material.

That wasn't what this parade was about. Let me tell you just some of what I saw going down the street in front of my house on this Sunday morning.

  1. A float (I will be using this term loosely, since they were mostly the back of trucks) advertising the Farmers Market. There were giant balloon type vegetables. Guys clad only in speedos were holding the cucumbers just below their waists and strutting around with gyrating motions, to loud provocative music. Come on, is this a source of pride? Half the population has...cucumbers.
  2. A float called Fort Dicks, decorated with camouflage and netting, featuring guys wearing just speedos, army hats and boots, using fake guns in the same cucumber fashion.
  3. A float celebrating cross dressing with various fashions worn in outlandish ways. (Think Kramer wearing the technicolor dream coat, arriving at the pink Cadillac with his walking stick and giant fedora.)
  4. A group of same-sex parents pushing strollers, with signs on the strollers saying Two mommies are better than one or There are no abusive men in our home! A couple of dad couples also had kids, but they weren't abusing women with their signs. Thankfully these dads and moms were fully clothed.
  5. A group of women oiled up in bikini tops and grass skirts and called Slippery Slopes, advertising their burlesque club.
Most of the other parade participants were just walking with banners or flags, and you couldn't tell if they were gay or straight. Those are the people that can have pride. Not that they are hiding in the closet, or not telling, but that they weren't flaunting sexual preference as if it makes them uniquely qualified for discrimination.

I'm not gay and I don't pretend to understand that lifestyle. I do fall into a few categories where I am a minority, that make me different and stir up unjustified prejudice. I have written some letters to the editor, and whined and complained to others about the unfairness of being judged or discriminated against, and I don't like it. But it seems to me that if people demonstrate the ways they contribute to society, regardless of their lifestyle, and take pride in the good that only they can do, there will be much less prejudice.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Reading the Will, aka Leave Us a Little Something

When my mom died, my dad cancelled his insurance policy. They had recently moved into a new house, with a mortgage, so I wasn't expecting much of an inheritance. After Dad died, the grand kids all started talking about the jewels and gold coins he had hidden. Apparently he had told them about a secret safe where he kept all his money. It was pretty far-fetched but they were insistent, and, hey, it's the kind of thing you want to believe.

The day after the funeral, all four kids and many of the 22 grand kids were at the house deciding how we would proceed with selling the property and dividing up the furniture, etc. Some of the boys started searching for the safe. Eventually they found it. It was the base of an end table, covered by a tablecloth, in their bedroom. It had a combination lock, and weighed a ton. Somehow they got it downstairs and into the back of a truck, and the next day a locksmith unlocked it. My brother called us all together that night, not wanting to open it without everyone being present.

It was about 10:30 pm by the time the family arrived, and there was an air of excitement. At one time my dad had had a lot of money. Maybe he had managed to stash something away for us, and we were just moments away from being fabulously wealthy. The safe was opened and we found a lot of stock certificates that were now worthless. There were a few loose pearls, and opals, some documents, and then we found the money! There were glittering gold and silver coins mounted in little cardboard folders. They were coin collections....the kind they sell on TV infomercials late at night for $32 with the promise that they are worth triple that. $96. By that time we were all laughing so hard! It was typical of dad to weave these tales, and typical of us to hope they were true.

The laughter and love was the real inheritance. When the house sold we all got a nice sized check, and we all have bits and pieces of furniture, china, and silverware that remind us of our parents. I do feel fabulously wealthy with what they left me, though: faith and hope, great memories of a happy childhood, sisters and a brother and the goodness of their example.

Dee recently gave a presentation about compiling a life history. It made us think of all the different ways people can leave something behind. An obvious and traditional way is a journal, or autobiography, but there are so many other forms.

Today my friend Sher posted pictures of a couple of her beautiful quilts. I have china mugs made by my grandma and a cup and saucer made by Dee's mom. His brother is an artist and we have some of his paintings, and my mom left recipes that we treasure because they are handwritten. My kids are photographers, scrapbookers, gardeners, builders and artists. Dee has made shadow boxes of mementos, with the story of why they are important mounted on the back. I've created a CD with the songs our family used to sing together, and my niece compiled the lyrics to these songs and made us all a songbook. These are just a few ways a legacy can be created, and a history told. I'd love to hear other suggestions from you.

When our descendants gather for the reading of the will, there probably won't even be $96 to divvy up. (Actually our goal is to break even.) But I hope we'll be leaving a little something that's worth while and that tells our posterity the story of what we were all about. In large part, it will be them!