Friday, November 30, 2007

Mama's Minutes

This is a book I wrote a few years ago, called Mama's Minutes. It's about raising my kids. After rereading my journal one time, I wrote the poem, and then I decided I wanted to tell the whole story.

Mama's Minutes

by Marty

Mama had a diary she kept beside her bed.
I'd see her write by candlelight; she said it cleared her head.
"Whatcha doin', Mama?" I'd ask when bedtime came.
"I'm keeping minutes of my day--sometime you'll do the same."

She jotted thoughts, she noted poems, she told silly little schemes.
She wrote her goals and challenges and all her wildest dreams.
"It seems your life's so simple, Mama,
Yet you have so much to say,
Is it hard to write exciting things in your journal every day?"

"No child, though dull to you it seems, my life is rich and fine,
And when examining each minute I see sparks of rapture shine.
On stormy days, with lightening, thunder, rain and such,
I'm searching so for rainbows that I don't notice much
Of when the sunny moments come into those cloudy days,
Or when a streak of laughter brightens up the haze.

So every eve I light the lamp and with my heart I listen..."
And then she sighed and on her cheek I saw a teardrop glisten.
"I see babies with spaghetti bowls atop their little heads.
I watch boys like playful puppy-dogs
Tumbling on their beds,
Skinned kneed ballerinas, in dungarees and braids,
Suitors bearing dandelions, or luke-warm lemonades.
These are blessed minutes I might not have received
If by shallow daily living I had been deceived.
So I take note of all my blessings, and my gratitude declare.
You see, your Mama's Minutes are often times a prayer."

So here I sit at midnight, my mind with doubts a-tumble.
With plans, hopes, and frustrations,
My thoughts are in a jumble;
And I reach for the diary I keep beside my bed,
And record this Mama's Minutes--
I find it clears my head!

Writing this book took me almost a year. I imagined it on bookshelves around the country and in the homes of young mothers who needed encouragement and a light-hearted look at being a mom. I learned a lot about publishing a book, and as it turned out, it was never on too many shelves.

Then I decided it was worthwhile even just for my kids, since it was all about them. It was my viewpoint on their childhood.

I've now realized that I am the main one to benefit from my work. It helped me see my life in better perspective than I could see it as it happened. I recognized growth in myself and what my challenges and experiences had taught me. Publishers and book signings would not have changed a thing for me, so it doesn't matter that there weren't any. Writing it and later reading it continues to bring me joy. It's my story.

I blog now, and it still helps me see things as they really are, and why they are perfect that way. It helps me count my blessings, and become more aware of the blessings that come in disguise.

How does writing clear your head?

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Check Your Papers

If you didn't read yesterday's post, read it before you read this one, so you can take the book quiz.

(I've provided a little blog noise so a new reader can't accidentally glance ahead--hurry and scroll forward past the book stalls picture and don't read the answers before you've read the questions!)


Book Quiz Answers:
  1. Rebecca by Daphne DuMaurier (if you haven't ever read this, you absolutely must.)
  2. Winthrop Woman by Anya Seton (another of my favorites.)
  3. Berlin Game by Len Deighton (I love any Cold War spy novel.)
  4. Trick Question (This could be a lot of books by Danielle Steele, and others.)
  5. The Water is Wide by Pat Conroy (made into the movie Conrack. Both are good.)
  6. Christie by Catherine Marshall (very uplifting.)
  7. Inspector Lynley books by Elizabeth George (I love these, but they aren't for the squeamish-rated R)
  8. Hatchet by Gary Paulsen (a great book for kids, too.)
  9. To Kill a Mockingbird (the best.)
  10. Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow (don't go back and read what I said about it, just get it and read it. It's also a movie with Harrison Ford. Both rated R.)
Everybody leave a suggestion for a book we should read!

Book Stalls

The only way you can do all you want to do is read.

I've stalled around too long. At 58, I realize that many of the things I've imagined doing probably won't get done. Luckily I can read about them. Here are ten adventures I'll have only by reading a book. Do you recognize the book?
  1. Work as a companion to a wealthy woman in Monte and end up owning a fabulous English manor where they have servants, a boathouse and a dog named Jasper.
  2. Immigrate from England to Boston, married to the son of the governor, live on Long Island and ultimately marry my one true love.
  3. Be a spy in East Berlin.
  4. Travel from Ireland to become a maid in a wealthy New York family, and somehow inherit all their money and start a dynasty. (I think it involves having the illegitimate child of one of the sons, who later dies in a war, and then springing the child on the old grandmother when she's writing her will.)
  5. Teach school on an island in the Caribbean to poor, illiterate children.
  6. Teach school in the Appalachians Mountains to poor, illiterate children.
  7. Solve grisly murders in England with my partner (who is royalty.)
  8. Save myself by living alone in the woods when my plane crashes and everyone else is killed.
  9. Wear a ham costume and be taught to read by my father during the depression.
  10. When another lawyer in my office is killed, be suspected as the murderer, and later find out my spouse did it.
Can you guess all 10 books? Post your answers in the comments section, and leave some clues about your own favorites. Don't stall around!

The answers are here.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Tea Party

Tea parties are traditional at my house. The little girls get out the kids card table and chairs, the plastic tea set, the Fancy Nancy book, and we prepare little sandwiches and cut them into flower shapes with cookie cutters.

Doilies are placed on the plates, and the ladies dress up with jewelry, hats and purses. A vase with flowers is carried in ceremoniously as the centerpiece. The tea is apple juice, the cream is Sprite (and they always pour their own.) Afterwards, they wash the dishes by hand, with lots of bubbles, and put everything away. We're practicing for bigger things.

Katy (10) and Lauren (8) came to town for Thanksgiving and I decided it was time to go to a real tea shop for our party, and have a sleepover that night. We invited Chloe, who just turned 6 and is an official big girl. (Opa stayed home and had a root beer float party with the boys.)

The tea shop was a funky little place, with an eclectic mix of Chinese lantern light fixtures, Victorian furniture and bookshelves filled with books about weddings. It was perfect. Each girl got her own silver tea set. The teapot was filled with hot chocolate, and topped with whipped cream and chocolate sprinkles. Individual creamers with milk, and little plates with tuna sandwiches and sugar cookies came with each serving. (Strangely, we also got broccoli soup.)

"Hold your pinkies up," said Chloe. Katy declared me Duchess Oma, and they became princesses. We discussed being royalty and having servants bring us breakfast in bed every morning, and a carriage lined with fur blankets to take us to all our balls. When we left, the sidewalk was lit by the moon and sparkled with "the diamonds we must have dropped when we came in."

Later we watched Wizard of Oz, and read Fancy Nancy. I thought everyone was asleep when

I heard someone go into the bathroom. After a few minutes I went to check. All three girls were whispering excitedly--Lauren's tooth was loose, and they were examining it in my magnifying mirror.

Chloe and Katy stood in the tub, hiding their eyes behind the shower curtain (so they wouldn't see any blood) while Lauren wiggled and worked. Pretty soon she asked us all to leave.

"I need some privacy," she said.

She emerged a minute later, humming a triumphant song, bearing her tiny tooth on a washcloth like a glass slipper on a pillow.

"Maybe I have a loose tooth, too..."

Can you imagine a more perfect night?

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Overload Mode: iPhoto

What did I used to do? I mean, before I discovered technology?

I got a new, fancier camera a month ago and I've been struggling to learn all it's secrets. It has a tiny dial, and a bunch of menu selections. I have to press Mode before I do anything. It's been very frustrating, especially because the instruction manual was printed in very tiny letters and the icons were so small I couldn't even see them. I took the manual to Kinko's and enlarged every one of it's 32 pages, printed them out and spiral bound the lot. Then I spent several days studying and practicing with all my new innovations.

I've been downloading (or uploading, I don't know the difference) regularly to the computer, but I've been wanting to experiment a little more in editing, etc. and tweaking before I created some slide shows.

Today I decided to send the Thanksgiving photos off to the kids, so I sat down for what turned out to be a 12 hour editing session!!! I had experimented with all my new lighting techniques, white balance, sports settings, you name it, and now all 180 pics I've taken in the past two weeks of family get-togethers had to be dealt with. I have sat with my camera, trusty iPhoto for Dummies book, camera manual, and all the help button advice I could click on my mac desktop to master my domain.

Now, after 12 hours of editing, culling, tweaking, redoing it all several times, trying to make my music match the length, and let the photos show to greatest advantage, I have created 3 marvelous slide shows called Thanksgiving, Grand kids, Halloween.

Dee just got up (it's 1:30 am) to view them, and he got teary eyed, (maybe bleary eyes is more accurate) so I knew I'd hit the mark! They're darling, and sentimental and he and I will probably be the only ones to ever see them! I don't know how to download slideshows to send them anyway. But if you're ever kicking out over at my house, I'll sit you in the seat of honor in front of the computer and you'll see Digital Photography at it's slide show height. You'll weep with the beauty and feeling compressed into playback Mode.

My question: Is this what it's like for you when you find a new hobby? Is everybody obsessed with something? Does life just happen around you while you're immersed in your interest? Or is it just me? Do I have an addiction? Do I need counseling?

So, I'd like a philosophical discussion to start in the comment section of this blog. Is this worthwhile? Please share your wisdom. What's the point of all this in the long run?

In the meantime, get out your camera. Life will be different. You'll see it with new eyes.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Sick Turkey Chick

Mr. Cold sat next to me on my plane trip the other day. He was coughing and sneezing, and I watched the crystal droplets light upon my lips, nose and hands, almost like snowflakes.

I've been thinking of him constantly as I replace boxes of Kleenex throughout the house, faster than I can suck a lozenge.

I started coughing. Laryngitis set in, and not a moment too soon for my family. It's Thanksgiving, and I have count- your-blessing type speeches planned right through dinner. I have a story, a poem, and several songs in mind...

Today I was unloading groceries when I started feeling unbalanced. The room was spinning, as I dumped the sacks of potatoes onto the counter. Dee asked how I was feeling, but I couldn't hear him. Moments later I felt dizzy and we sat down to watch the news. Dee had the sound turned down very low for some reason.

Deep inside my head tonight I felt a sharp pain, which returned and settled in my ear. Within an hour it was causing a writhing, moaning sensation in me. I recognized the prelude to a breaking eardrum. I've experienced this trauma several times in my life, so it's become frighteningly familiar.

There's extreme pressure at first, which settles into a pulsing throbbing pain. It increases, with strange, squeaking noises that rumble deep inside, randomly surprising me with loud squeals that nobody else can hear. I was alone tonight in my agony, pressing a hot washcloth against my ear.

Sometimes the pain has been excruciating, taking hours to resolve. This time it was more like a tender torture and then a quick piercing, that only took a half hour of biting my cheeks and pacing the kitchen. The pain slowly subsided, while a feeling of liquid gently sloshed in the ear canal. There must be a new tiny opening deep inside letting out the infection.

Experience has taught me that I'll get better quickly now. Tomorrow I'll feel dizzy, and I know I have a few weeks of feeling lopsided, and turning the TV up a few decibels. There will be unexpected pops and creaks as the eardrum heals itself.

Thanksgiving will be practice for my stroke years: deaf, mute, and off-balance. I'll be in a quiet little world, dancing to my own beat, and laughing at what I thought I heard someone say. It ought to be lots of fun!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Historic Research, Summit County, UT

Grand kid's yard and woods, PA, Nov. '07

Last week I was gazing at this scene as I observed kids roller skating, scootering and biking. It was glorious, it was lush and as colorful as the fun family I was visiting.

I've just returned home from two separate trips. They were very different. The second week was a trip to see kids and grand kids--a chance to Make Memories. Photos, journal jottings, red-letter outings, talks in the car, and late-night chats by the burning fire, (Dancing With the Stars playing in the background)...these days will be collected and recorded, and referred to sentimentally over the years.

I understand why evacuating people rush into their homes and grab their photo albums and scrapbooks as their houses burn. These are visual reminders of precious memories.

Our other trip was into the desert mountain canyons and valleys east of Park City, Utah. We were searching for memories of a thriving town that once had over 500 residents, a school, cemetery, church, and railroad station from 1860, but totally disappeared in about 1965.

There is almost no evidence of the huge dairy and sheep ranches, and the numerous large homes on every property. The local folks made memories here: The kids used to ice skate a couple of miles to the one-room school house, and ride their horses along the train tracks the 1/2 hour it took to reach the wild, booming silver mining town of Park City. There they tied up their horses on Main Street while they visited the movie theater for a matinee. They took in homeless people, giving food, board and often work to get them on their feet. There were romances, feuds, deaths and births. But although they made memories, nobody kept them. They aren't written down anywhere. There are very few photos, no scrapbooks, letters or journals. The history is as blank as the landscape.

Once upon a time there were roads lined with brothels and bars to service the miners, and stills producing moonshine during prohibition. Outlaws had hideouts in the vicinity, and fortunes were discovered and lost on a daily basis. But who? How? The stories are no less interesting just because we haven't heard them. Some historian should go up there and gather some history!

Dee has been commissioned to find evidence of a common use road Indians, trappers, explorers, miners, and farmers used for hundreds of years. An owner has found her vast and valuable land inheritance to be landlocked, with no access to it. Her neighbors have fenced in the old common use road, and tell her it is not a public thoroughfare but part of their land. She must have that piece of road in order to develop it or sell it; otherwise it will be worthless. Dee is looking for memories of the road, the owners of the establishments, and physical evidence that it has traditionally been used as a common road.

It looks like this now. There was nothing written to give directions and no roads to where we needed to go.

It's really a piece of detective work. Dee's found geological maps, from decades long past. They list areas by property owners, and luckily some of their descendants still own pieces of the land, and have stories to tell. The 80-year-old grandson who remembers ice skating to school, (and is anxious to tell his own memories of times gone by,) recalls a girl who worked at a bar on the old road in her teens. She's alive, in a nursing home in Seattle, with a keen memory of those by-gone days. One story leads to another, and soon there are directions for short cuts through the canyons, and listings of roads used for a couple of hundred years that could settle the land owners case.

Since the freeway bought the property from the ranchers, there are highways in place of barns, hostels, hotels, shops, etc. There's no way to see if the old trails actually hook up at the top of the canyons. Dee took a bike ride several weeks ago to explore some of this giant acreage on the ground. Last week's mission was to find evidence of the school, the graveyard, collect the stories of the old-timers, and piece it all together. Several families look to this lost city as the land of their pioneer ancestors, settling the west. They all have an interest in the story of their lost homeland.

It was fun to spot a white column sparkling under the sun, and wonder if it could be a graveyard. Our old Subie climbed the hills like a horse so we gave her her head, and she took us straight up the hill to the marker surrounded by several family graves and a little fence. There were some children ages 2, 4, 6 who had died within days of each other. And a father dead within a few weeks. The mom held things together for many years, but still died at age 45. What stories lie within that little cemetery. The highway builders fenced it off and left it in peace.

There was a foundation left of a school, We could see the steps leading up. Other foundations showed where houses and barns stood. It's fun to find these places and match them up with the stories we've heard by those still living, and the few memories recorded of those already gone, to give life to this town.

I think of gathering history like gathering autumn leaves. We are finding the brightest examples of a former glory that beautified now barren places with life and growth. The people who created something from nothing, who raised huge families filled with hard working, inventive folks, while feeding vast numbers of citizens from the food they produced; these are the unsung heroes who built our country. Did they make any less of a contribution just because we don't know about them?

I love making memories with the people I love. I hope the pictures and jottings, scrapbooks, and stories will be kept handy so they will be part of the family lore that makes us feel united, and connected. Ultimately I think it could give us security that we are part of a group that cares about us. It could give courage to stand for good things, knowing we are supported by people who will lend strength to pull us out of our mires.

Collecting history in the public domain is similar. It makes us all stand a little taller to realize good people in the past have contributed such a positive heritage for us to build on. I love thinking about the people who have been forgotten. They must feel a little like unappreciated parents who have provided sustenance and safety, and made wise decisions we don't know about, but benefit from just the same.

Who in history inspires you? Have you discovered somebody that made a contribution to your life? Are they well-known, or unsung heroes? Will you be remembered? Are you leaving a legacy? You are if you blog!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Grandparents and Grandkids

An email came from my grandson, Chase (age 8) who lives very far away. It made my day!

(In case it's too small for you to read, I made a magnified translation.)

hi, can you come for thanksgiving? ppppppppppppppp llllllllllllllllllllllllll eeeeeeeeeeeeeeee aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa sssssssssssssssssss Love, Chase.

His mom didn't even know he'd sent it. In fact, she said they were surprising their kids with an out-of-town adventure with cousins. We are hosting four of our kids and families here, so a get-together wasn't in the plan for this year. But just knowing he wants us is pure joy.

This sweet and sincere invitation reminds me of the unconditional love between grandkids and grandparents. They love us with no expectation except receiving love back. It's a pure, forgiving, tolerant, patient, accepting kind of love. They aren't trying to improve us, or change us. We're good enough. Who else loves us that way? They aren't embarrassed by us, and actually expect us to be a little eccentric, which in turn gives us confidence to just be ourselves with them. It's worth the hassle of having kids just to get the reward of grandkids.

As I've said before, I write a mission statement for everything. Three lines from the one I've written on being a Grandmother say this:

Being Grand
  1. Remind grandkids often that you love them and will always love them, no matter what.
  2. Support their parents in strengthening their marriages. The best gift a father can give his children is to love their mother. Give mom a little breathing space by taking the kids every once in a while, so she has some energy left for dad.
  3. Find out what your grand kid wants to do, and encourage him to do it. There will be plenty of people to pop his bubble, or point out the problems that will discourage him along the way. Be the eternal optimist who believes in him and his dreams.
Don Gale is a great philosopher and friend. I'm paraphrasing his good advice here:

When you get right down to it, life has a fairly simple formula.
Everyone needs a victory every day.
That's what keeps us going.
Each of us should do what we can to give others opportunities for victories.
And each of us should do what we can to minimize moments of defeat for those people we interact with.

This is applicable to anybody trying to lift the spirits of somebody else, but it's a great grandparenting rule of thumb.
The really fun part is when the grandkids start doing it back to us.

In the bathroom hearing a little tinkle, Jessica says, "Oma, I'm so proud!"

When I don't spill while pouring the milk, Chelsea says, "Good job!"

Lucy whispers the word to help me remember what I was saying, and then says, "That's great!"

This week is the week to count blessings. I'll be hanging out with many of my nearest and dearest, most valuable blessings. The past several days I was literally engulfed by little darlings jumping on my bed to wake me up, cuddling to the point of squishing me through every story, chatting about school, horseback riding lessons, personal design touches made on new furniture...there's nobody I'd rather have for friends than my grandkids. There isn't a generation gap. We're all accepted, and expected to be continually growing and learning, and teaching each other.

If you don't have any little ones of your own, there are plenty of kids that could use an extra grandparent. My own kids have neighbors who have made them doll furniture, brought jars of bubbles and come to play for an hour or so, lent Disney DVD's, invited the kids to sit with them in church, brought little baked goodies, or taught them to rake the leaves. The kids have plenty of love to go around and once you get a little, you'll want some more.

My Uncle Don was widowed in his 80's and lived many more years. He became a volunteer at a nearby elementary school, reading to the kids a few times a week. Other days he went to the children's hospital and rocked the sick babies and toddlers when parents weren't able to be there. He was a stooped, wrinkled old man when he started, but he had a spring in his step and the eyes and countenance of an angel those final years when he was a volunteer grandpa.

With 18 little grands, (the oldest one ten, going down to six months,) I feel that I'm overwhelmed by the sheer goodness of little kids. I want to wallow in it, splash and immerse myself in it as often as possible. It gives perspective to the world we live in. I remember what it's all about. I'm reminded to be less serious, more light-hearted, to laugh more, smile at strangers, and look for the wonder in every-day life.

If you run into a few kids at your Thanksgiving celebrations, make friends with one or two of them if there's an opportunity. Even for just that day you'll find delight in things they say, and the encounter will lift your spirits and make you a kinder person for a little while.

Kids are absolutely Grand!

Thursday, November 15, 2007


Jake giggles hysterically. His mom tells him not to be so silly. More giggling follows. Mom again suggests he settle down.

Jake: Hee-hee-hee...having an evil laugh--that's what life is all about!

Emmie is discussing her book.

Emmie: Do you know why Junie B. thinks she can get what she wants? Because she just always tells people she wants it. That's what I do.

Jake tells me he likes basketball. I say I do, too.

Jake: I don't think so. You're pretty old. The only things for you to do are read stories, take naps and drive.

Emmie finishes off her mom's Diet Coke regularly. When I took her to Wendy's and she wanted another drink, I told her she could have mine.

Emmie, suspiciously: What's in it?
Oma: Coke.
Emmie: Not Diet Coke?
Oma: Just regular coke.
Emmie: I'm not allowed.

Later, she was discussing choosing the right with her mom.

Emmie: When people do evil (they seem to like the word evil) do they have to get baptized again?
Mom: Sometimes.
Emmie, proudly: When Oma wanted me to drink her special drink, I said "No."

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Are You Sleeping?

Sam and Luke are three-year-old twins. I was tending during that peaceful time of day known as "naps." They share a bedroom with two cribs, where Sam takes his nap. Luke sleeps in a port-a-crib (where he has created a giant hole in the side netting, for easy escape.) It's in his brother Jake's room, since in the daytime the boys sleep better when separated. They had listened to stories, heard lullabies and were tucked in for the afternoon. I innocently went to lay down myself.

Sam is being potty trained and hadn't had to go earlier when I reminded him. I heard him in the bathroom and rushed in to help. Stripped from the waist down, he climbed on and proceeded to squirt right between the two seats. I hustled him off and cleaned things up. Luke had appeared to watch the action. Soon the floor was clean and they were back in their respective beds.

I heard some singing and talking, and I relaxed, thinking they were lulling themselves to sleep. When it had been quiet for a few minutes, I went to listen at the doors. I didn't have to get too close to Sam's door to realize I had hurried him off the toilet too quick. There was a distinct aroma. It was too gross to salvage the Spiderman underwear. Everything was disposed of, and I put him in the tub. Of course Luke reappeared, and had to get in, too. What the heck. At least baths were now taken care of.

With the room aired out, the boys fresh and sweet, we tried again. They were snuggled in with their blankies and books as I closed the doors.

The happy sounds of puzzles and blocks let me know they weren't sleeping, but it was too late in the afternoon for me to want them to fall asleep, anyway. Bedtime was fast approaching and we didn't want to miss that! So I let them play a few minutes, while I finally got my cat nap.

The crash jolted me upright a minute after I dosed off. Luke and I arrived at Sam's door simultaneously. Sam was looking sheepish as we peeked in and saw that he had removed the whole side of one of the cribs. It was laying on the floor where it had fallen, breaking the nightlight in the process. Luke said, "Did you do that to my bed?" Sam nodded. "Thanks, Sammy!" Luke said admiringly.

"Let's go outside," I said. "I think naps are over."

Monday, November 12, 2007

SuperOma: A Grandmother Fraud

There's a myth going around that I'm some kind of Super Oma. I would be extremely flattered if I hadn't started it myself. A few years ago I wrote a storybook for my grandkids using them as characters in all sorts of dangerous adventures. SuperOma always saved the day. I fashioned a SuperOma costume, and had Dee take pictures of me going into my phone booth as Marty Kent (a mild-mannered reporter for a great metropolitan newspaper) and coming out as SuperOma, flying off to fight for truth, justice and the American way.

Outside the storybook, I'm not a Super Oma at all. I don't bake cookies, I don't bring dinner, I don't do windows, and I don't make quilts. It's all a hoax. I basically tell stories, read stories or watch while the kids act out stories. I like to take the part of the person who doesn't do much. I'm the invalid grandmother in Little Red Riding Hood and the sickly patient in Nurse Nancy. I even played the "teacher in the wheelchair" in a game of School.

But I LOVE being a TravelinOma. That's the one who gets to visit their world, bring paper dolls or experiments, lay on their beds at night whispering secrets and singing lullabies, listen as they tell me about horseback riding, ballet, or ow-ies. Impromptu piano and dance recitals happen while I am their adoring audience. I watch Parent Trap, Survivor Man, Cars and Dora regularly. I love to sit and watch somersaults in the family room, or tricks on the trampoline while I philosophize with their parents, discussing everything from child raising theories to why people watch The Office. I'd rather talk to my kids and grandkids than anything else I can think of. It energizes me to see them in the homes they've created for themselves. And it validates the work of 32 years of active mothering we endured together. It is pure joy to be an observer of their busy lives.

That's why I'm so excited to get an SOS that I'm needed. Gabi, who signed herself The Original Desperate Housewife called the other day to report that her husband would be gone for a week, her kids will be out of school, and one of her four kids might have Lyme disease. I found my cape and tights and I'm flying off tomorrow.

What are some things you do as a grandmother, wish your kids' grandmother would do, or memories you have of your own grandma?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bad Hair Day

I've felt like this at the beauty salon. One time while we were living in England I went for a haircut. My hair has always been short, but it had grown out a little in the back. I looked like the Brady Bunch mom. Anyway, Simon was cutting my hair, and he had a very posh English accent and seemed with it. He asked me if I wanted my fringe cut off. I answered with a hesitant "Yes" as he nodded encouragement. He cut my bangs to the quick!!! How was I supposed to know that fringe=bangs in British?

On a trip to Southern California back in the '70's, I impulsively went into a salon on the beach. Women were sitting in just their skimpy bras getting their hair done! I was a little freaked out, and said I'd keep my top on, thank you. When the guy laid me back to get my hair washed there was a collage of Playboy centerfolds on the ceiling. My eyes looked a lot bigger after that haircut.

A guy who's an M+M reader just sent in this question:

Dear M+M,
Natasha has been my hairdresser for more than 15 years. I love the way she does my hair. I am always generous with my tip. The problem is, she can't handle money. Natasha tells me all her money woes (the bank troubles, the creditors, how she can't meet her payroll...) I go to get a haircut and a shave, and just relax. My wife thinks she's hinting for me to bail her out. My son says I should be like a bartender and just listen. What's the best way out of this situation?

From, Hairy Guy

M(arty) Replies:
Dear Hairy,
A hairstylist divorce is one of the trickiest of breakups. What if you can't find anyone else who understands your cowlicks? But I think you've got irreconcilable differences here. If you were telling her your problems, she might have to put up with it because she needs (obviously) your money. You, on the other hand, are getting scalped. Give her a nice Christmas tip in December, and relax in somebody else's shampoo bowl in January.

m(arta) writes:
Dear guy (in need of a haircut,)
Take a good long look in the mirror. If you love your haircut, love the gentle massage, love her products, and the location of the salon then keep her and drown out her voice by bringing in a good paperback novel. A good hairstylist is difficult to come by. If, after looking in the mirror, you decide you're ready for a change, go ahead and snip the drama out of your life!

I'd advise caution when dealing with women holding scissors and razors. Years ago Pete (son, age 3) had a bad breakup with his stylist (daughter, age 5.) He came upstairs without bangs, and missing an eyebrow.

Do you have any hair-raising experiences to share?

Friday, November 9, 2007

What's the Story?

While running errands today I saw:
  1. A car with three dog passengers, all in car seats.
  2. A heavy young woman in spandex, pushing a double stroller packed with two kids and groceries, accompanied by two huge dogs on leashes. She crossed the street and then started a very speedy pace, I might add.
  3. A grandpa-aged man riding in a battery (I guess) powered wheelchair. It had a little cart on the back carrying two tanks of oxygen, and he had an oxygen tube in his nose. He was also pushing a stroller with a toddler in it!
  4. A man at a stoplight ahead of me, whose wife (or close friend) was cutting the hair in his ears. At the next stoplight she cut the hair in his nose.
Somebody should put these people in a book. I'd love to know their stories.

Have you seen any interesting characters lately?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Dear M+M: Blogging Advice

Move over Dear Abby! Step aside Heloise! I've always wanted to have an advice column and finally somebody has asked me for advice! I'm discerning, discreet, experienced, practical...and stumped. I got an email asking for guidance in choosing a blog site host. Although I know lots of answers, and have untapped wisdom on a variety of subjects, how to set up a blog isn't one of them.

So I hopped over to my daughter at mwrites, who has expertise on computers, website design (as well as arts and crafts, entertaining, and all things twee) for a second opinion. She was in the middle of responding to one of her readers, and she needed my opinion! We realized we had the whole synergy thing going (two people working together in partnership are more effective than two people working on the same project, separately.) We've decided to put our heads together a few times a month, and instead of getting an m or an M, you'll get a whole bunch of M+Ms! Of course, your responses might be better than ours, so please feel free to join in with comments.

The first example is this:

Dear M+M,
I want to have a blog, but I've been told I shouldn't use Blogger. My friend says it's better to host your own site than to use the template type set-up. I'm not a computer whiz, but I don't want to start out on Blogger if I'm going to end up changing sites. What do you suggest?
From, Bloggy in Distress

M(arty) Replies:
When I started my blog a year ago, I didn't know a thing. Blogger was perfect for me-it walked me through the whole set-up without a hitch. I've been able to personalize my site with photos, colors, sidebar quotes, etc., but anyone who looks at blogs would recognize it as a Blogger template. That doesn't bother me and I'm not interested in learning to do HTML or anything, so I'm staying right here. I've asked Marta for her expert opinion.

First off, go for it and start a blog! Blogger is a great tool for anyone with little or a lot of experience. It you want to learn more about design, you could try out wordpress or typepad blogs. These forums are perfect for those programming wannabes who are motivated to create a unique blog. Many bloggers change websites from time to time. It can be a smooth transition (just make sure you alert your readers.) Don't feel locked in if you're ready for a blog spot change. For help, search Google to add pow to your website. There are plenty of tutorials out there. Be sure you realize that blogging can be a time commitment, so plan accordingly. Happy Blogging!

If you have a question for us, email with M+M as your subject. We'll respond quickly, (and keep your name out of it.)

Watch for future editions of M+M!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


CAUTIONS: DO NOT DRIVE, OPERATE MACHINERY, OR DO ANYTHING ELSE THAT COULD BE DANGEROUS... Blogging. You might wake up and find out you wrote an ode to Mentholatum. Much has been done artistically "under the influence." The Beatles recorded Hey Jude, Aaron Sorkin produced the best episodes of West Wing. I wrote about salve. This should be reason enough for me to avoid drugs.

The irony is that I had so many comments! Are you guys all on medication, too?

They're Coming to Take It Away!

Since I was ten years old I have had a jar of Mentholatum next to my bed. I rub some in my nose every night; I don't even remember why. I just need I won't get stuffy, I guess. Besides, it's an aromatic comfort smell.

In the newspaper today I read that Vaseline, Vick's Vapo-Rub and Mentholatum should never be placed inside your nose because it can cause some rare kind of pneumonia if you inhale it into your lungs. (You know, I can actually feel it clogging up my lobes and latching onto my bronchi's as I type! I'd just never noticed it before.)

I guess I'm at risk of dying. I've been so irresponsible! First it was gnawing on my #2 lead pencil, and now this! I belong in a home for the unfit.

But now what? Do I stop using it just because I read the article? What if I hadn't read the article? I'd be happily mentholating right now, breathing free and clear. And besides, I've been at risk of dying ever since I was born. It's just grease, people! It's not like I'm an alcoholic or a heroin addict. Come on! Let me have an aroma fix!

What do you do when you find out that your life style may kill you? Do you gratefully change your ways as you comply with the FDA, FEMA and the seat belt law, or do you say, "Eat, drink and mentholate, for tomorrow we may die, and I want to breathe in life to the fullest!"

I've come to a decision: I'M GOING FOR IT!! I lived through the honey on the pacifier scare, I made it through the poisonous Tylenol episode, I slept on my stomach and escaped crib death, I sometimes lied and swam before my 1/2 hour was up. It seems I'm lucky at these turns in scientific discoveries.

If you're a little wiser than I, and have chucked all the Chinese toys, asbestos and Vicks throughout your house, you're welcome to drop over to my house about 10 pm and sit close enough to get a whiff. Just relax into it. You don't have to get all stuffy about it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Being Green: Self Esteem

I'm a little like Kermit. I sometimes wish I was different; you know: tall, lithe, sensuous. I'd like an angelic voice, high cheekbones, narrow feet, and long fingers. It can be depressing to start listing all the things I'm not, and boring to list all the things I am. Have you ever felt this way?

Today I listened to a lovely woman run herself down. Pretty soon I was believing her about herself, and she didn't seem so lovely anymore. I could actually see what she meant! She was monotonous and uninteresting, and her smile seemed fake. There was nothing positive or compelling about her. Everything from her flawless skin to her big brown eyes, seemed dull. She wore her insecurities like big diamond earrings--you couldn't miss them. She appeared to be proud of them, as if they labeled her as humble or modest.

It's not conceited for a person to like herself! Kermit's song has lots wisdom to it. Here are the lyrics (by Joe Rapposo) with the word green changed to me.

It's Not Easy Being Me

It's not that easy bein' me;
Having to spend each day the color of the leaves.
When I think it could be nicer being red, or yellow or gold-
or something much more colorful like that.

It's not easy bein' me.
It seems I blend in with so many other ordinary things.
And people tend to pass me over 'cause I'm not standing out like flashy sparkles
in the water-or stars in the sky.

But I'm the color of Spring.
And I can be cool and friendly-like.
And I can be big like an ocean, or important like a mountain, or tall like a tree.

When I am all there is to be
It could make me wonder why, but why wonder why? Wonder,
I am me, and it'll do fine, I'm beautiful!
And I think it's what I want to be.

Oh, Kermie! Is he cute or what? No wonder Miss Piggy loved him. Come to think of it, she became famous because she flaunted herself. It inspires me to embrace my inner green.

Blog Birthday

Blogging in TravelinOma's Library

"Find something to do that you think about all the time, that you enjoy so much that when you don't have to think about it, that's what you think about."
Henry Eyring

A year ago I became a blogger. After one year, 223 posts, 24,530 readers (OK, I know lots of you are the same ten people signing in over and over again) I'm reflecting on how much I've learned.

Some Reasons to Blog. Blogging:
  1. Develops writing skills.
  2. Provides an incredible way to keep in touch with extended family and friends.
  3. Relaxes me to know I don't have to remember who I've told.
  4. Becomes a journal, an autobiography, a letter and a phone call all in one.
  5. Lets me communicate with all 34 members of my immediate family almost daily.
  6. Gives me instant access to many of them (McKay, Chase, Katy, Gabi, Stie, Miggs, Amy, Anna, Marta, and all their friends!)
Personal Insights about Blogging:
  1. I deem my blog successful because I love it.
  2. When I write about things I'm interested in, it's worth my time even if I'm my only reader.
  3. I like learning new techniques as I go.
  4. When I have to check my stats before I brush my teeth, I've lost my focus.
  5. Readers drift away when I don't post regularly.
  6. I am motivated by other blogs.
  7. I feel validated by comments.
  8. Commenting on my comments and on other blogs has sometimes become burdensome.
  9. I have to remember this is a hobby, not a requirement.
  10. Every day events are more fun when I'm collecting them for my blog.
New Computer Skills. Blogging has taught me to:
  1. Cut and paste
  2. Crop and edit
  3. File photos
  4. Work with a template
  5. Create folders
  6. Reduce and enlarge
  7. Use HTML
  8. Collect clip art
  9. Scan
  10. Speak blog
Great people who weren't part of my life before:
  1. Judy
  2. Kris
  3. Ronni
  4. Joy
  5. Kay
  6. Gretchen
  7. Celia Fae
  8. Bev
  9. Matty
  10. Suzz
  11. And all their links
Dear People I Know Much Better Now:
  1. Kelly
  2. Kerry
  3. Sarah
  4. Whit
  5. Polly
  6. Jo
  7. Sher
  8. And the people they care about
Old and New Interests Kindled by Random Blogs:
  1. Creative Writing
  2. Poetry
  3. Children's Books
  4. Everyday life in the 20th Century
  5. American History
  6. Illustrations and Illustrators
  7. The Art of the Book
  8. Quotations
  9. Words
  10. Cultures
  11. Politics
  12. Current Events
  13. Crafts
  14. Entertaining
  15. Decorating
How has blogging made a difference to you? What have you learned? What new interests have you discovered? And who should we visit? (All the people I mentioned are listed in my sidebar.)

It's been a great year. Here's wishing TravelinOma's Library many more!

Thursday, November 1, 2007


iPhoto is attacking me! Halloween may be over, but I've been organizing the pictures into an online parade for the grandkids. I'm starting to see double, my screen seems to move around, making me seasick, and my mouse hand is squeaking for relief. Does your computer ever get to you?