Friday, December 24, 2010

And To All A Good Night!

Happy Christmas Eve!    A quiet day for me because this is going to be a low-key Christmas.    Today I replaced the strike plate on my front door (after it fell off yesterday and slipped through a crack).     Now I don't have to worry about the door blowing open in the wind.

I did laundry, I fussed and straightened.   (Trying not to end up on Santa's naughty list!)

I made pignolata the way great grandma used to make it (back in Sicily she didn't add the sugar and citrus that appears in many recipes, so I don't either).    I'll put it together with the chocolate and powdered sugar in the morning.   If I made it tonight, it wouldn't last until then.
 I got my car washed and filled the tank.    I made the beignet dough and set it in the refrigerator to proof.   I did the dishes and put them away.    And then I moved as much as I could to NEXT year's To Do list!   I talked to my daughter on the phone -- her gifts finally arrived this afternoon, just in time!    A "friend" of hers, occasionally violent, wanted to talk to me to let me know he is "trying so hard to do good."    I was not harsh with him but I told him in no uncertain terms that he will have to do better.   I talked briefly to my sister, who is doing too much, wearing herself out, and showing it in her voice.    I talked to Dr. Cranky who wanted me to feel guilty that he is alone.

I watched enough television news to learn that the oldest Santa School, where people train to be "stand-in Santas" to help Santa out, is in Midland, Michigan, just a few miles from me.     The newscaster said it's not as cold there as the North Pole, but almost.  

I watched a little of "It's a Wonderful Life," but got pulled away by CSI.   I drank a toast to myself with gin and tonic, and wished that I'd bought potato chips.    And yes, I confess, I spent way too much time on Facebook!

Now it's time to snuggle into the covers of my bed and listen for Santa's reindeer bells (as they pass by my house again, lol)!     I might dream of my freezer-full of sugar plums, or their equivalent, but I am hoping for a stocking-full of healthy friends and family.   In other respects,  I already have more than I need.

I hope you all have a warm and wonderful Christmas!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seriously, Doctor? What makes you think I eat too much sugar?

Only the tip of the proverbial iceberg is visible here because there is stuff underneath and more in my kitchen -- this week I received one box of See's chocolates and three boxes of baked goods from Zingerman's.    I live alone.    You do the math.

Theoretically Speaking

Just a hypothetical question.    If you had (for instance) a child who has a drug addiction, and a mental illness (or two), and has suffered brain damage, and if (just suppose) that child told you that she is (again) asking her social worker to put her into a drug rehab program, would you tell her that you are sick of hearing about it because she has claimed a million times that she was going to get help but never follows through, and that you don't believe for one minute that she will follow through this time, and that she is just wasting your time?    

I didn't think so.

And I really, really hope that, despite what I have been told, that no one else told her that, either.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Countdown

 It has been snowing, on and off, which adds to the Christmas feeling.    Christmas music playing at all the malls and on the radio.   So of course, although I have so little to do, I have been getting into the spirit of the season by being -- FRANTIC!    I decided to save a few minutes today by using a postal machine to mail my final (I hope) packages.   Everything went well, no lines, easy-peasy -- until I tried to put the boxes into the mail chute, which was LOCKED!     I drove all over town trying to find an open chute that would accept my packages, before I finally just drove home, went on line and requested a package pickup from my front porch sometime tomorrow.    So, even though my decorations are up and my presents have long been purchased and wrapped, I finally got to have a little Holiday Hysteria.    Life is good.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Shells!

Even though it was not a great shelling trip compared to years past, I found some nice shells.  In fact, when I got them all out and spread out, I wondered why I had complained at all!   Truth is, I probably should have only picked up half a dozen, but here is what I brought home.


Some were tiny:
 Some were a little bigger (and I found a nice operculum):
 There were lots of bubble shells:
 There were whelks (including one pretty nice one):
 And venus sunrays:
 And coral:

And the stuff I found at Blind Pass -- including some cones and a bit of junonia!:
And of course I always pick up things that are orange:
And some were gifts from a Sanibel friend who has a shell collection as beautiful as her warm and generous spirit:
 Wow, that's the good thing about taking pictures!   What a wonderful shelling trip -- who knew?!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

From Cold to Colder

It seemed really cold in Florida when I woke up to 31 degrees, but when I returned to a 9 degree morning at home, Florida didn't seem so cold anymore!   It is good to be home, but it was nice to be on Sanibel.

Now that I am back on my laptop, I can download a few of my photos -- unfortunately, I STILL don't know how to get the pictures from my iPod.   I might have to break down and read the manual.

Here are a few bits and pieces of my trip:




Of course I went shelling, and some days were better than others:


I found some wentletraps :



I ate:
 

I drank:


I met the Amazing Katie:

And I saw wild things eating wild things:

All in all, the cold didn't prevent it from being a very nice trip.    I'll try to post a picture of the shells I brought home as soon as I find out which of them survived the journey home!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Cold and wet, Florida style

My rental car said it was 31 degrees when i went to Blind Pass this morning. The water felt even colder and it was windy. But I had my heart set on finding an alphabet cone so I climbed over the railing and down the rocks. My optmism sunk a bit when I saw that several shellers were already climbing over the pile. One woman was using the kick and smash method of shelling, digging her boots into the pile and grinding away. We really need a shellers' etiquette book! I kept to the water's edge as is my wont and found the best shells of the week -- nice olives, a lovely nutmeg, an orange turban, some coral (including a piece of branch coral), 2 alphabet cones, some other cone and a piece of junonia. I wanted to keep looking but I wanted to feel my fingers and toes again even more so I went back to the condo for some coffee. Why does cold and wet feel so much better on Sanibel than it will tomorrow in Saginaw?!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Wentletraps!

Ever since I learned last year that there are wentletraps shells on Sanibel, it's been my mission to find them. Today I finally developed enough 'shell eye' to see them. Happy day! Unfortunately, I haven't figured out how to post a blog-photo from my iPod yet!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

S(NO)W!

Yesterday morning brought a fluffy covering of snow, a dark and gloomy day, and strips of black ice on the freeway.    I passed countless accidents, at least 8 cars that had gone off into the drop-offs on the side of the road, and one that was flipped entirely upside down in the middle of the road.    Today looks about the same.     It's beginning to look a lot like winter.    I am not smiling.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

World AIDS Day

Many years ago, I facilitated an AIDS support group for families, friends and partners of those infected with HIV/AIDS.    Today, on World AIDS Day, I remember my little group.

Mary was one of the earliest members of our group.    She was 86, she was tiny and absolutely beautiful, and she was every inch a lady.  She was always nicely dressed, she was sweet tempered, she had a halo of white hair and eyes as bright as stars. She was also, as little old ladies in my community tended to be, traditional, very religious and politically conservative. Mary had always been adored and protected. She was a respected member of her church, loved by all, a wonderful wife and mother, and gratefully living a privileged, picture-perfect life. Except that she had just learned two things about her youngest son, an extremely handsome man in his 40s, a successful businessman, husband and the father of Mary’s grandchild. Mary had just learned that her son was gay, and that he was rapidly dying of AIDS.


This was in the days when homophobia was open and acceptable. People were really terrified of AIDS, and having a homosexual in the family was reason enough to be condemned and shunned by neighbors and friends.  AIDS was almost universally considered more a judgment than a disease.   (People were also confused in those days about the distinction between adult homosexuality and pedophilia, and many were unaware that child molestation, whether hetero or homosexual, is a crime and a disorder, and never part of a healthy sexuality.)  People with AIDS routinely lost their jobs, their friends, and their families.  And their families, in turn, routinely lost the support of their friends, their family and their church.   So our group was the rare safe place for families who were dealing with multiple levels of pain, and the place where they were able to first admit out loud that there was homosexuality in their family, and that their child or spouse or friend had been diagnosed as HIV positive.   

Anyway, as Mary tried to wrap her mind around her new reality, she quietly and privately struggled with many things. Her son and his family had been living out of the country but they were in frequent contact, and Mary wondered what signals of her son’s suffering she had missed. She sought out what little information there was about her son’s disease, and took steps to help care for her grandchild and daughter-in-law. She did not talk to her priest, her neighbors, or her extended family, because, as was perfectly reasonable for those times, she felt certain of their reactions., certain of their rejection. 

In our little support group, Mary sat and listened for several meetings without saying a word. Finally, she approached me privately and said that she had never wondered about these things before, but now she wanted to know why people hated and feared homosexuals. What is it that they do, she wondered, that was so universally condemned as evil. And so Mary and I talked about sexuality.  More specifically, because of the circumstances in Mary's life, we talked about male homosexuality.  

I should explain that this was not as unnerving for me as it might have been had I not spent my career presenting objective descriptions and analyses of legal matters, including details of criminal sexual conduct. I have been called on to describe explicit sexual allegations dozens of times, to judges and even a priest or two, so I had overcome some of the normal reticence in discussing intimate matters. And I brought those skills to bear in my conversation with Mary, who sat there looking like an angel. I told her that homosexuals are drawn by affection and attraction to people of their own sex, and  at her insistence I described, in unflinching detail,  every variety of adult gay sex I could think of.  I tried to tell her everything I knew because I didn't want her to  hear about it elsewhere, in a hostile conversation.  As always, Mary listened quietly and intently, asking questions to be sure she understood everything I was telling her.

Finally Mary looked at me with her clear blue eyes. “Are you telling me that the Church, the government and my neighbors all hate a group of people because they don’t like the  people they choose as lovers and the kind of sex they are having? Are you sure? Because that is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard.” Mary shook her head and said, “now I’ve lived to see everything.” 

In those days, there was a funeral almost every week and I led the services for many of them.   Almost half of the HIV-infected people I met were women, and two were children.   Mary's son was one of the casualties, and our group suffered repeated, unimaginable loss.  We cried rivers of tears.    Ironically, we also laughed more than most people laugh in their lifetime, as families were able to share, without censor, some of their fondest memories of their loved ones.    The new drug cocktails became available in time to save the child, a daughter, of only one of our group's members.   

Much has changed since then, but not everything.   The drug therapies have provided new hope, but HIV is still a health threat and people who are infected or affected continue to suffer from stigma, poverty and ignorance.   I recently heard on npr that 2/3 of the people who need the anti-viral drugs, worldwide, are not getting them.   We still need more research, more education and a lot more compassion.   
 


 
 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Happy

It was a lovely day.   My grandkids made birthday cards for me.    They both drew wonderful pictures, enhanced with some birthday stickers.    My grandson also let me know that I am his "best fred."    Who could ask for anything more?   This grandma gig is the best!

(Of course, when I told the kids how old I am, they also solemnly announced that I am "almost 100."    Sometimes they provide a reality check that I could do without!)

And the Winner Is . . .

I used an online random number generator to pick my prize winners and (drum roll please) the winners of this month's Giveaway are Cheryl (who will get the Philosophy "Gingerbread  Girl" bath gel) and Peanut (See's chocolates)!

I emailed both of the winners this morning for their addresses and I will mail the prizes out today or tomorrow (assuming I hear from them right away!   Peanut is a corgi so I'm not sure how long it will take him to click out his response!).    (And please please please let me know if your prize doesn't arrive within the week!   I won a lovely blog prize last year that never arrived, and I didn't want to be a bother.   But now I know, as a prize provider, that I want my winners to actually win!)

Congratulations to my winners!   Thank you all for your comments and your visits -- please check back often, there will be another giveaway before you know it!    Maybe something tropical to help get us through another cold winter?    I'll have to give that some thought!

To Me

I'm not sure I'll have a candle to blow out today, but if I find a star to wish on,  I'll wish to snorkel with the belugas,  see fairy shrimp at night, and pet a whale in baja.   I want to find sharks' teeth and another junonia seashell, and hear alligators bellow when they are mating in the spring.   I want to see part of Denali.    I want to go fly fishing with my brother, and travel with my sister.    I wouldn't mind going back to Rome.   I want my son and his wife and their children to always be happy and healthy.    I want to run around the block without gasping for breath.   I want to grin through my grandchildren's weddings,  and I'd like to be here to cry happy tears when their children are born.    I want my daughter to be safe and healthy, with shelter and food and medical care. 

P.S.   In case you wondered, I got myself the iPod touch, so that's one wish already taken care of!   Now I just have to figure out how to use it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Last Chance for Giveaway!

There's still time to leave a comment and be entered in this month's Giveaway!   Because there are over a dozen 'entries' this time, there will be 2 prizes - the first person I (randomly) draw will receive a Philosophy bath gel, and the second will receive a small box of See's chocolates!     Winners will be announced tomorrow!!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Early Christmas

Yesterday my family had our first holiday get-together.    Many good things, it was not at my house, the food was delicious, and the kids all got superhero capes.    Now they can run like the wind!   Today at home I put a turkey breast in the crock-pot -- my belated Thanksgiving indulgence.    My Christmas tree is up and lit, and the house smells like dinner.    Life is good.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thankful

Thanksgiving Day is, for me, a day of memory and nostalgia, and its celebration had changed many times with the circumstances of my life.   When I was little, it was a day filled with cousins and food, with noise and play.   As I got older, it was an all-day marathon, up before dawn, wrestling with the still-frozen turkey, finding extra chairs, last minute cleaning, with a brief frantic food-fest somewhere in the middle.   After I was divorced, it was a day spent mostly alone, trying to find inexpensive projects to fill the time and ward off self pity while my young kids were away and the house was too quiet.    Today will be another day spent alone, but perfectly content.    Tomorrow and on the weekend I will see my family and eat too much,  but today, Thanksgiving Day itself, is a day when the others are busy and gone.     So I'll crank up my Christmas playlist, I'll clean and wrap and decorate, and I'll indulge in a long bubble bath.    I'll be thankful not to go outside on this dreary, chilly day, and I'll make mental lists of all the blessings in my life.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Material Girl

I have been poor, seriously poor.    Not, I'm sad to say, as poor as my daughter is, but very poor for a person who had a college degree and always had a job and didn't use drugs.    I lived in my car for a year after my father died, I faced fear and hunger and cold, and I carried the lessons of those years when I was back on firm footing.    I was frugal, I reused and did without, I knew that Things were not the answer to happiness, but that a thick pair of socks and a pot of hot soup could make all the difference.     Being dry and warm was a luxury I treasured.   As time went by I could have afforded more because I had a decent job, but I had no sense of need, and much of my money went to support my daughter and others who were less able to fend for themselves.

And now I have no job.   And, truly, I have no needs.    But it is now that suddenly, without explanation, I have decided to want and want and want.     My own self-discipline has, in the past, gotten me through these episodes of yearning.    But this time, for no reason I can see, self-discipline is out the window and my sister has convinced me that I need to take a different path because, she reminds me often, Daylight is Burning.

And so I've bought a car, even though my 1997 vehicle with 240,000 miles was still running.   And I'm planning a trip to Florida.   And I'm thinking about another trip to Alaska.    And I am obsessing over an iPod touch.    My sister says I need it,  I like the idea of not having to pack and protect my laptop when I'm going places, and I like the idea of going places while I still can.    Because of what I know, and who I am, and the income I am living on,  I am trying to do what I consider the Right Thing, and I am trying not to buy that iPod.  But today I am not trying very hard.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Seeds of growth

I have been divorced since 1988, but I saw one of my former sisters-in-law tonight, for the first time in nearly 10 years, and before that, a dozen years more.   When I first met her, she was just a girl and, in the way that girls often do, was eager to tag along with me when I married into her family.  Almost immediately after meeting her, her mother became very ill and bedridden, with a mysterious and unknown illness, diagnosed only afterward as possible multiple sclerosis, but with no great certitude.    I had quit my job when I married because we moved to a different city, and I was asked to nurse my new mother-in-law until her doctors decided that she was too sick to stay at home.    It was a hard time for me because, although I had been through a variety of violent and difficult times, those times had more numbed than matured me.   And so I found myself, only recently homeless, newly married, and nursing a stranger.    I did the best I could, I nurtured her as best I was able, I held her while she gasped for air and cleaned her when she vomited or soiled herself, and when I was overwhelmed I went to the basement after she slept, to wretch and sob with fear and self pity.   And then I'd pull myself together and greet my young sister-in-law when she came home from school.    I listened to her reports of the things in her life, good and bad, I rode with her while she was learning to drive, and I tried to be a calm presence in her life where so much was in upheaval.    The strain on the entire family was tremendous, and I learned many things about all of them during that time,  about their strengths and fears and weaknesses, and about my own.


Eventually the doctors decided that my mother-in-law had to go to the hospital, mostly, I believe, so they could force-feed  her to buy themselves some time to figure out what was wrong.    From time to time, I took my sister-in-law to visit her mom.   The visits were uncomfortable for me because my mother-in-law believed that I had refused to care for her at home and she was angry at me; she would turn her face if I came into the room and refuse to speak or acknowledge me.


One night, not long after my first anniversary, we arrived at the hospital and I told the desk aide we were there to see my mother-in-law, giving her name.    The aide told me with a gesture that she was 'over there,' and said I'd have to use the back elevator.    I had a very bad feeling but I didn't want to ask anything directly or  go where she was pointing because of the young girl I had with me.    I glanced in the indicated direction and saw a covered gurney with a toe tag sticking out from under the sheet.   I felt very afraid, afraid of everything:  I was afraid of death, afraid of making a scene, afraid of upsetting my sister-in-law, afraid of my own emotions, and afraid of the responsibility this put on my shoulders.   I told the aide that I was there with the patient's daughter, to visit, and asked if perhaps the patient's condition had changed.   The aide looked up and replied, "oh, I thought you were from the funeral home.    She's dead."


My sister-in-law seemed not to have heard and I ushered her back to the car where I sat and tried to explain this shocking news; we had never been told that her mother was ill enough to die because the doctors were convinced that her illness was large psychosomatic.   I told my then-sister-in-law that I was sorry, that her mother had passed peacefully.   After a lengthy stretch of quiet, she asked me how long it would take for her mother's soul to reach God and I answered, without hesitation, that her mother had been in God's hands every minute of her existence and that was where she was now.    I was a little surprised to hear myself, surprised to sound so calm.    But later my sister-in-law became the most religious of women, and I spent years doing bereavement work, spending time with many people who lost or were losing a loved one  and many who were dying.   It never occurred to me until this week to wonder whether our shared experience might have provided the kernel for both our futures.


We didn't talk about any of that on this visit, and it was good to see her.    I have wondered more than once what my former sister-in-law remembers from the night her mother died.   I have always hoped that she didn't hear the aide, and didn't see the gurney, and I didn't have the nerve to look into those dark corners now,  35 years later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19 - a Give Thanks virtual party

 I'm virtually attending a virtual party today, organized by The Vintage Nest, and my mission is to give thanks by telling something I'm grateful for.

I am so fortunate in so very many ways, this would be a very long entry if I listed even a fraction of my blessings.      I am grateful to have lost my job last year.  My workplace was a sort of black hole for human contact, and I could go days, even weeks, without seeing another living soul, because each of us worked in a private office with a closed door.   Chatting with coworkers was expressly disapproved. There were a couple of women who had been there for years, whom I had known since they arrived, and we had to sneak around like kindergarteners to occasionally talk in whispers.   I am sorry that none of us were able to get to know each other well enough -- in 22 years -- to be outside-of-work friends, but I am glad, glad, glad to be out of that toxic place.

 I am grateful for my family, from siblings to children to adorable grandchildren and great nieces, grateful beyond my ability to tell.   I am grateful for coffee in the morning and for wine on the occasional night.   I am grateful for the messes that remind me that the kids were here.

I am grateful for the crisp fall days, the crunch of dry leaves, my pantry full of food, my warm house, clean clothing, and my own cooking.  I am very grateful for warm fuzzy socks when the floor is cold and for bare feet with polished toes when it is not.   I am grateful for my pretty neighborhood and nice neighbors,  and for a garage in the winter.    And by golly, right now I am grateful for the heated seats and hands-free phone in my new car.

 I am grateful for the places I've been and - knock wood - the places I have yet to go.   I am grateful for the seashells in every room that remind me of countless visits to Sanibel Island, and for the mementos from trips to Alaska and Rome.

I know I should be grateful for every minute but I admit, sometimes I forget.    Even if individual moments sometimes fray me, though,  I am grateful for every day, grateful to know my own strength, grateful for the workings of my brain that always tends toward a twisted kind of optimism.   I am grateful for the troubles I have risen above, and for the belief that I will ride things through when hard times come again.    I will try, if the time comes, to be grateful for the pain that is necessarily linked to having loved.  I am grateful for the sights, sounds, smells and memories of my life.   And I am grateful in advance for every bit of future I have left.

 I am also grateful for my readers!  Don't forget, my November giveaway winner will be drawn on November 30.  The prize includes a sparkly bath gel and other goodies!   The box is packed and ready to go, as soon as YOU are the randomly chosen winner!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Baking again - Inspired by Gayle

The snickerdoodles I baked the other day for my hairdresser were so lovely, and so well received, that I decided to bake another batch.   This time they will go to my kids,  to Dr. Cranky, and to a sweet lady who helps take care of him -- always assuming that I don't eat them all.    Gayle's "Dozen a Day" blog inspired me because it seemed like such a nice thing to do for others, but I am definitely getting the biggest benefit.    It's a cold and dreary day here but the cookies are in the oven, and my house smells like a Holiday!

(For anyone who doesn't know, Gayle also hosts "The White House", another blog I read.)  

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Anniversary of a new phase of life

This is the anniversary of the day I became a grandmother.   My grandson is six years old today.    In some ways it seems like yesterday, my bag had been packed and ready in the trunk of my car for over a week, and the airline was on my speed-dial.    When I got the call, I drove from work to the Detroit airport, and flew on a frequent flier ticket to New Orleans.    After the rush to get there, I paced the halls of Baptist Memorial Hospital (which was closed after Hurricane Katrina and is now part of the Ochsner Health System).    I hated that there was nothing I could do to help.   And then finally, finally!, after a lot of courage and hard work from my daughter (in law), my son and a nurse wheeled the new center of our lives down to the nursery.    And I was there, snapping pictures as they walked.


So today I celebrate.   I celebrate the first time I saw that adorable baby boy.   I celebrate the first time his little face lighted up and he shouted, "Guh!" when I walked into a room.   [He called me "Guh!", always with the exclamation point, until he could say Grandma, and I was a little sorry when he mastered the word.]    I celebrate the times he told me I was his best friend in the whole world, and took my picture to show-and-tell at preschool to show 'something he was grateful for.'    The times he's told me that my cooking was so good that he could 'eat a hundred miles of it.'    I celebrate his smiles and his hugs and his silly games and his sweet nature.    I celebrate how my heart swells when I see the love and devotion of his daddy and mommy, and how good he (usually) is to his little sister.    I am so happy to be his grandma.    This is a very good anniversary.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Gas prices down a little, finally!

Cookie Day

Gayle, at one of the blogs I read regularly, A Dozen a Day,  experimented with a daunting project, baking a dozen cookies a day to give away.    I don't have the discipline to bake (and give away) cookies on a daily basis.  But I wanted to give a salute to Gayle's idea, so today I am taking a cookie surprise with me when I go for my hair cut.   I baked cinnamon sugar cookies, a variation of Snickerdoodles, to take to the woman who cuts my hair.   Amy is as sweet and upbeat as she can be -- she certainly deserves a little recognition and a dozen cookies!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Celebration countdown!

Don't forget, my November giveaway is happening!    The prize includes a sparkly, shimmery bath gel by Philosophy  -- the drawing will be on November 30, as we celebrate the beginning of the Holiday season, among other things.   All comment-ers will be entered and the winner will be randomly chosen.   Good luck!

Beatification

I have promised all year that I would take Dr. Cranky to one of the Ford Estates that is open to the public, because (although he had been often) I had never toured the house and he wanted me to see it.   When he was young, and working, and in charge of this and that, he attended dinners and events in the main house (which is no longer used for dinners and events), where he socialized shoulder-to-shoulder with people I have only seen on television.  He was familiar with the architecture, the art, and the period furnishings.   Showing it to me was important to him and I promised, months ago, that I would take him there this year before the snow flies.    One thing and another kept me from it, but I really wanted to keep my promise because his health is always precarious and this week the weather is usually temperate, so yesterday was the big day.    He was really looking forward to it, and he told me all about the things I would see, including a movie about Edsel Ford and what a remarkable man he was.

Things started out well enough, we had lunch in a lovely room, formerly part of the estate greenhouse.   And then we went to see the movie.   But it was not the movie that Dr. Cranky expected.  They had recently eliminated the documentary and replaced it with a 5-minute preview of the estate.    It is an understatement to say that Dr. Cranky was not happy.   And unfortunately, when he is not happy, the world around him had better plan to not be happy.    Things got loud.   There was (one-sided) shouting.   I finally escaped to the gift shop and chatted with the nervous ladies there.

Finally we moved on to the (private) tour (how surprising that no other guests went with us!), and fortunately, the docent who accompanied us was extremely knowledgeable, had a wry wit, and was very deferential.   Dr. Cranky asked a number of educated questions and, as a result, the docent showed us photos and gave us information that she said she does not usually include on the tour (photos showing the contrast between the conditions of the servants quarters with the family's, for instance).    So from that point,  all was well (more or less.   At one point we met up with a lower level employee who remarked how glad she was that they had replaced the boring documentary, and things flared up again briefly.   But mostly all was well.)  

After we finished the very interesting tour and walked a bit on the beautifully landscaped grounds, I got Dr. Cranky safely to my car and ran back inside to powder my nose and apologize to the long-suffering and very gracious manager who had handled his complaints.   As I was leaving she touched my arm and said warmly, 'you are a saint, don't let anyone ever tell you different.'   It made me laugh.

Later that evening, my phone rang, and I later retrieved a message from Dr. Cranky saying how grateful he was that I had taken him there, that he had had a wonderful time and hoped I had enjoyed it as much as he did.    I could have taken the call, but my sister made me hit 'ignore' when she saw who was calling.   Then she bought me a gin and tonic.     As I pointed out to her, clearly saintliness does not run in my family.   My sister says she's fine with that.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Easy money

Sometime fairly early this year, I started saving every $5 bill that came to me in change.    I was surprised how rarely they turned up, probably because I so rarely spend cash.   And, although sometimes it was annoying to run out of money before I expected to, it was surprising how many things I decided I really didn't need, so it was no huge sacrifice.   Last night I decided to open the piggy bank to see if I had enough for a little shopping trip to Toys R Us.   I figured I needed about $75, because I could get a $10 gift card if I spend that much and I do love those free gift cards, and if piggy had that much,  it would feel like I was spending free money AND getting money back.   Gotta love that.
It wasn't easy to empty piggy, because the rolled-up bills were lodged in her head and neck.   But it was worth the effort.  Would you believe there was $320 inside?!     Toys R Us was open last night until 10 p.m., so THIS little piggy went out and bought some toys!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Playing School

My grandchildren enjoy writing stories and signs, and they like to play school.   (They like to watch DVDs at my house once in a while, but mostly we play imagination games -- although I love the way my granddaughter asks to see a "DivaD" every so often.    I will be sorry when she starts saying it the ordinary way!)    They both know how to spell and write a few words, and they figure out the rest of them as they go.   Sometimes they ask for help, sometimes not.   Today -- not.    We played school, and, as you can plainly see,  my grandson carefully prepared the 'schedule for the day' (or, as we prefer in my neighborhood, 'scejwl fwr the dey.'  Try sounding it out, it works.)

Time to Shop


This morning's newspaper ads remind me that it's time for me to start my holiday shopping.    My plan is to be done with the gift-shopping and wrapping by December, so that I can enjoy the season without the need to visit the frantic malls and stores.   I don't buy for many people these days and half of them are children, which is the most fun kind of shopping.  After that's taken care of,  I am planning to relax and cook and bake and eat my way through the holidays, with emphasis on the "relax" part of the equation.    So, like the more famous chubby symbol of the season, I'm making my lists this morning, and checking them twice!

And since I'll be shopping anyway, it's time for another Giveaway!    The drawing will be on November 30, and I have no idea what the prize will be because I haven't gone shopping yet.    I will choose prizes that make me think of Celebration, and anyone who comments from now and midnight November 29 will be entered.   Good luck!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Ridiculously Good Fortune


What a day.    It didn't go as smoothly as it will sound here, but I bought a nifty new car and got an absolutely beautiful target pistol as an early Christmas present.     It's been a very long day,  but I am a lucky lady.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Trick or treat!

I am not a big fan of Halloween -- for me it means running back and forth to the door and (on nights like this) freezing before it's time to turn off the light.    But I love it for kids.    I have always said that I don't care how old they are, because it's just such good, clean fun.   I mean seriously, who are they hurting, even if some of them drive themSELVES to my house!   Most of the older kids don't dress up at all, although most of the girls put a flower in their hair or wear a hat and (I hope) some extra make-up.  And every few years I have some clever older boy in a white t-shirt, hair slicked back, with a pack of cigarettes rolled up in his sleeve.  But every once in awhile, some kid will go all out.   This year I had a big kid dressed as a really cool, homemade refrigerator.    Or something.

In my community, we trick-or-treat from 6 to 8.     Things were sooooooo slow in the beginning that I was giving out handsful of candy to each kid.     I ate a couple myself.   And then, just before 7 pm, cars started to line the street and the kids were coming so fast that I hardly glanced at them.    I started giving them only 2 at a time, and then started handing out only one.   By 7:03 -- no kidding -- the street was empty again.   After that, they came in dribs and drabs.   My candy-handing got capricious, some kids got one piece of candy and some got two; it sort of depended on  how cute, or polite, or cold they were.    I have no idea how many kids came to my door by the time I turned out my light a little before 8.   I do know that the first who came got a lot more candy than the last ones did!

There were some really cute kids out there tonight but,  oddly enough, the cutest of all were my grandchildren, a handsome young Batman and an adorable, even littler Bedtime Witch who knew exactly how she should be treated.

No, seriously, you don't think I rigged this contest, do you?

In the remaining categories, the first to my door was a teeny tiny Minnie Mouse.   The youngest trick-or-treater was an itty bitty little one bundled up in a stroller.     I had visits from several dogs in costumes.   There were more adults with candy-collection-bags than I've ever seen ever before - not just high school kids (although there were some of those) but flat-out adults, in their 30s and 40s.   But the oldest, my oldest trick-or-treaters ever, was a pair of women in at least their 50s, who knocked on my door and silently opened up their purses.

Crafting my time away

I was cleaning out my guest room in anticipation of my siblings' visit this weekend and came across a basket of imperfect shells and sundry "beach finds."    The kinds of shells that I was thrilled to find a dozen years ago, but that, due to flaws or "dullness,"  no longer meet my shell-collection standards.   Lucky me.

So, even though it's only October, I decided to make a seashell Christmas tree.    This was my first effort at crafting with shells, and my first time wielding a glue gun.   My kitchen table was covered with globs and threads of glue, and my fingerprints are probably burned away, but I got the hang of it.   

Finally, inspired by Chris at Things Created by Me,   I spray-painted it silver and added pearl decorations.   Not exactly an heirloom, but it was fun to make and I think it will (briefly) amuse my grandchildren.   Besides (blush), I kind of like it!
But I know it's too early to enjoy it, even though the local stores are already filled with Christmas merchandise!    Trick-or-treaters will be visiting tonight.    So my little tree is packed away in the basement now, patiently waiting the appropriate season, carrying happy reminders of times on Sanibel.  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Say what?


I saw these "peanut pumpkins" today at my local meat market.    I've never heard of such a thing, have you?     Apparently they have nothing to do with peanuts, but are simply a very "wart-y" type of edible winter squash, widely grown in France and called the Galeux d'Eysines there, whatever the heck that means.   I suspect that a creative pumpkin carver could make a heck of a jack-o-lantern from these things!  I am curious about them but  I didn't buy one today because I already have a kitchen-full of squash and pumpkin to use up.    If I ever use up what I have, I'd like to try one if they're still available.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Not living up to my image


My granddaughter was playing with some little Playmobil dolls yesterday, in her dollhouse.   She handed me one doll and said, "this is the grandma."   Okay, I thought, that's me.    My ears perked up because one likes to know the word on the street, after all.    Then she handed me a second doll and said, "This is her husband.   He is a hunter.   He's a very nice man and the  children really like him."      Ya know, I would do anything in my power to make these kids happy.   But I've been single since 1987 and no hunters have been knocking at my door,  so this little idea might be out of reach.

[Oh yes, and a note to my granddaughter's fantasy man:   I do not approve of killing for sport.   So you'd better plan on eating whatever the heck it is that you're hunting!]

[And one more thing:  if you plan on turning up, you'd better hurry.   Daylight's burning!]

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Happy birthday, Ruth!

My "baby" is 31 today.    How the years fly by.    She and I are both hoping that this year will be better for her than the last few have been.    We had a nice pre-birthday visit last month, but today we are miles apart and she has only my birthday box as my proxy.   I hope that other people in her life will make it a special day for her!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Autumn-colored hair


When I was young, my hair was the color of certain kinds of red maples this time of year.   It stood out.   Church ladies whispered that it must be dyed because it was so vivid, and every boy who wrote in my senior yearbook remarked about my hair.    I thought the church ladies were euphemistically criticizing my looks in general, and I thought the boys were just being kind.    In those days, anything that set me apart was cause for alarm and only increased my shyness and pushed me further inward.    Now that my hair is more the color of dried leaves than the October Glory it used to be, I think back and wish I had appreciated my hair and learned to blossom a little.    So when I see an insecure kid I want to get in her face and tell her to embrace her differences, that she is beautiful and not to be afraid to shine.    The crunch of dry brown leaves comes soon enough.

Flattery - not


I received this unexpected little "a lawyer helps" pin in the mail yesterday.     It made me laugh.  It would have been a huge overstatement to say that I "helped" as a lawyer,  although I may deserve credit for going to great lengths, and earning the small salary to prove it, to avoid being an "unhelpful lawyer."    But when I finally read the letter that came with the pin I had to laugh even harder -- apparently the state bar finally figured out that I am 60 now, and this pin is a symbol of my Old-ness.    They have got to be kidding.

Hmmm, or maybe they just sent it to everyone in the bar.    I see, on second glance, that (in addition to the explanation of my 'master' status) there is also a brochure on pro bono work.   Sometimes I am just too sensitive!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sleepover

My grandchildren spent the night last night.     I should have taken more photos but, by the time the house was quiet, I was too tired to remember!   We played our usual "bad guy" games (in which I am always Bad), we made pizza, we watched Care Bears and Sid the Science Kid, made pumpkin face decorations -- in other words, we did a lot of noise and nothing, and the time went by so fast that it was time for sleeping bags and glow sticks before we knew it.
 And if bedtime came fast morning came even quicker!     Brushing teeth and breakfast were not the favorite things on the to-do list, but decorating sugar cookies was a big hit.   
 And, naturally, more Bad Guy games, where I tried to catch and eat the Good Guys and they used a pretend laser that takes away my appetite.  When the kids went home the house seemed more quiet than usual, with nothing but a few sugar sprinkles left behind.