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


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.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Counting down

One of my cyber-friends, Janne, gave me the idea (and the inspiration) to make a list of things to do  (in no particular order) in the year before my birthday.    Since I will be 61 next month, I will need to list 61 things to do before I am 62.   Seriously, Janne???   I am sure I could have made a more profound list, but this one has the virtue of being done quickly, off the top of my head.    I don't move as fast as I used to, so I am giving myself a head start by beginning a month (or so) early, because 61 items amounts to a LOT of tasks!    By the time I am 62, in 2011, I will (leaving myself the option of revision and modification):
  1. Make bread at least once a month during the cold weather (I have a loaf rising right now!).
  2. Host at least 4 giveaways on my blog (watch for them!).
  3. Take my grandchildren shelling. 
  4. Clean the garage.
  5. Make business cards.  I have no excuse not to, a former co-worker gave me the card-stock for my printer.
  6. Give myself a birthday present (on at least one of the two birthdays) by doing something fun that feels a little extravagant.
  7. Go to Sanibel at least twice (this item is sort of cheating because I have two trips planned and paid for . . . but of course I am really hoping to get there at least three times!)     I have not been there since last December, and this is the longest stretch between trips that I've had in the past ten years.     Sigh.
  8. Make something to give a few people for Christmas, probably something baked.
  9. Take a Florida side trip to search for sharks' teeth. 
  10. Write more letters.
  11. Master the first few levels of skill in target shooting.   If I could afford it, I'd like to shoot at least twice a month.  Honestly, I would shoot every day if I really could afford it.   It would be cheaper if I owned a gun and didn't have to rent one, but I don't want a gun in the house, and haven't figured out any other way to make this a less expensive hobby.
  12. Make dinner for the kids at least once a week. 
  13. Make them at least one freezable dinner a month during the school year.
  14. Go fly fishing several times, enough to gain some confidence.
  15. Fish at least once with my very competent brother without humiliating myself.
  16. In that same vein, catch (and release) a decent-sized fish!
  17. Find a wentletrap.
  18. Catch up on the tedious routine medical tests I've been putting off.
  19. Arrange overnights with my grandkids more often.  They are getting big too fast.
  20. Check out the local concerts.
  21. Make soup at least once a month.
  22. Clean out my closet.  Donate what I'm not wearing.
  23. Take a vacation with my sister.
  24. Grow garlic.
  25. Make a pair of earrings.
  26. Invite someone who isn't family into my house.
  27. Learn/do something I've never done before.
  28. Make a stuffed toy (or two) for the kids to play with when they're here. Better than scrap doll!
  29. Organize the toys and stickers that I have for the little ones so that they can find things more easily and I can clean up more quickly.
  30. Unpack the boxes in the basement.  My sister has been in her new place for less than a week and she is UNPACKED!   I've been here for over a year . . .
  31. Make a map-collage on the wall in the twin guestroom.
  32. Hem at least one pair of curtains (sigh).
  33. Put up a potting table.
  34. Get realistic about finances and either build a better budget or get a job.
  35. Hang something on the living room walls.
  36. Finish the larger guest bedroom.
  37. Try an entirely new kind of food.
  38. Go somewhere I haven't been before.
  39. Attempt to make something arty.
  40. Send my daughter a little care package every month.
  41. Bake more cookies.   Kids like cookies.
  42. Paint the kitchen.
  43. Find my Rome photos and scan them into the computer.
  44. Plant something new on the side of the garage.
  45. Put up a bird feeder.
  46. Take Dr. Cranky to the Ford Estate; do it soon and be patient and gracious about it.
  47. Create a new garden plan.    This year's garden was not a failure, but I would like next year's to be thought out more carefully.
  48. Improve my diet.   I am eating way too much sugar.
  49. Increase my exercise.   I am losing way too much muscle tone and my joints are getting creaky.
  50. Buy a car.
  51. Fantasy item (what the heck):  Buy an iPad or (more likely) iPod so that I have more portable internet.
  52. Get (or give myself) a pedicure whenever I need one.   I love having pink toes.
  53. Downsize my possessions, get rid of things I am not using.
  54. Save my $5 bills for a vacation.    I rarely carry cash, and even more rarely get a $5 bill in change, so this should be doable if I don't think too much about it.
  55. Create a rough schedule for myself.    Whether or not I find work, I need more of a schedule.   I am already up every day by 6:30, dressed by 8:00, but after that things are getting a little too loose.   I've found that making every day a "free" day leads to too many wasted hours.
  56. Visit my daughter in New Orleans or bring her here for a visit.  (see what I mean about my unrealistic budget?)
  57. Clean and organize my freezer.
  58. Look into piano lessons (see "budget")
  59. Leave the house at least six days a week (see "schedule")
  60. Find more reasons to laugh.
  61. Be grateful that I am too old to die young.    Be grateful.   

    Wednesday, October 13, 2010

    Bunnies and bullets

    It rained much of the day, dreary, cold and wet.   I had a pitiful bunny hanging out in my back yard in the rain, first under a tree and later just sitting in the yard, something I've never seen before when it is raining.    I don't know why he didn't take cover, and hope he isn't ill.   Maybe he was trying to impress someone with the depth of his sadness, which I can remember doing (in different ways) when I was younger.    All I know for sure is that he was eating and able to move, so maybe he will recover his senses.   As I have.

    I went to the firing range again today.   I really like it!    I am consistently shooting at the "okay"  level.    I can regularly hit a nine-inch target, usually firing 50 to 64 rounds in my half-hour range time, at distances of 15, 30, and 50 feet.  

    It turns out that shooting is a dangerous sport.   Before I begin to shoot, I need to staple a paper target to a cardboard backing that I move on an automated pulley until it is as far away as I choose.     Because the cardboard is stapled so often throughout the day, the back of it is studded with little metal spikes.    The last time I went to the range, I ripped the skin on my finger on one of those staples.    I thought I noticed when it started to bleed, and thought I handled the situation.    But when I turned in my (rented) gun, I saw that it had blood all over the grip.    I was so embarrassed, I mean really.    But then someone pointed out that it would have been more embarrassing to shoot myself in the foot,  which I did not do, and that put things into perspective.    But, having learned that I can't handle staples, that may be why they gave me a new backboard for my target today.   (I forgot to take a photo while the target was still attached, but you can see from the target backing that my shots are pretty much clustered - the white dot that appears a couple inches higher is a remnant of my paper target.)   As I told one of the gun shop employees, when he asked about my progress, I think of myself as an excellent rank beginner.   With a little direction and a lot of practice, I think I can become competent.

    Tuesday, October 12, 2010


    I took an evening walk around my 'hood tonight, as I often do.    It's a pretty time of year.    But it's getting colder and a lot of the pretty is falling to the ground and blowing away already.

    Thursday, October 7, 2010

    automotive seduction

    My wonderful little car has 240,000 miles on it, the tires are reaching the end of their safe zone, and the suspension is completely shot.      Mechanics can't seem to agree on whether it is an actual safety risk or not, but they are not reassuring.      I drive a couple hundred miles a week to Detroit to see family and help out Dr. Cranky, and lately I have been regularly driving on country roads and gravel paths to fish and shoot.     There is also a bash on one rear side where a woman backed into the car in a parking lot, but that is merely cosmetic so I have ignored it.     Although it hurts my feelings and probably offends my car-pal, I have been pondering my options.   One possibility is to spend several thousand dollars on repairs.   Another is to find a decent used car.   And the third is to buy new.   The idea of a new car started to gain ground when I saw how few reassuring used cars there are in my local market, because used cars have become an increasingly hot item in this economy.   So I started to look around.

    I went into this car-fantasy-shopping with the most practical attitude. I started by comparing reviews and ratings in the variety of car magazines and websites.     I didn't car about style or color or any of the other ego-emotion-related features,  I just wanted a safe and reliable car with enough space to carry my gear.   I want something as dependable as the car I have now, and I want it to last as long.

    But then I started to go to dealerships where I could actually see and sit in the cars, and - oh weak flesh! - I was seduced by the idea of heated seats, remote starter and bluetooth.    After all, since I have to take money out of my retirement savings to buy the car anyway, and since I plan to keep it forever, the extra $3000 or $4000 to have the car I didn't dare dream about is a bargain when you pro-rate the extra cost.

    Or so the devil on my shoulder is telling me.

    Monday, October 4, 2010

    Happy Things

    I don't think of myself as an unhappy person, but I tend to be an over-thinker, always aware of what could  be better or what could go wrong.    My sister says that it is my method to agonize over a decision, make a choice, and then spend years regretting it.    Sometimes I need to re-balance my thoughts by focusing, instead, on the things in my life that are good.    The residual resentment and lack of confidence from my job loss, living on a very limited income, too much isolation, the bits and pieces of my health and body that are going awry, and the frosty mornings we've been having have served to tip the scales toward less happy thoughts.   I could make a distressingly long list of things that make me sad or frightened or angry.    But here instead is my off-the-cuff-top-of-my-head little list of happy things.

    I love the open smiles of my grandchildren, the way they light up a room, the way they shout "Grandma!" when they see me.    I love their precocious conversations and their way of looking at the world, both simple and profound.   I love seeing them together, learning to compromise, to choose respect over irritation, to trust each other, sometimes so easily and sometimes not but always learning relationship skills that many adults still lack.   I love their understanding of things; my granddaughter was playing today and told me that she is an alien, sometimes changing forms and sometimes wearing armor but not to worry, she is a "love alien" and I don't have to be afraid.   I wish I had known how to reassure people of that as I went through stages and changes in my own life.

    I love my first cup of coffee in the morning, sitting in the dark.    I like the pattern of chopping and creating meals, and I enjoy my own cooking more than that in any restaurant.   I love the kind of cooking and baking that I can do in cooler weather, fresh bread, red beans and rice, skillet cornbread.    And I nearly swoon over my baked goods.   It's embarrassing how much I like my own food.

    I love the rare quiet moments when I can have a conversation with my son or daughter in law; and whether we get the chance to talk, or not, in the childish frenzy that often fills our time together, I just like and value everything about them.   I value their advice and ideas above all others.  I love the times I spend with my sister or brother.  I am so grateful for the times that my daughter is safe and not in pain, and for her moments of hope and optimism.  I am proud of her recurring courage against terrible odds.   I love the way that, despite it all, she can make me laugh.

    I love to feel the sun, or see the clouds, or the moon, or the stars, or, barring that, my little solar lights on the back porch.   I like the crunchy leaves.   I am savoring the last tomatoes of my summer garden.   I like watching the birds give themselves up to my bird bath; they go in timidly at first, but then totally give over to the experience, rolling and reveling in the water.

    I love learning new things, useless things, fun things.   I like having bits and pieces of things I love throughout my house, bowls of shells and childish artwork.   I am grateful that I have enough money to pay my basic living expenses.   I am happy that my car is still reliable; like me, it might not look like it did years ago, but it is going strong at 240,000 miles.

    I like being dependable, I like that there are still people who rely on me for help.    I like that I can rely on myself, too, that I am the one who will not let me down.   I like being able to wear jeans and t-shirts every day.   I like not having to take my shower early in the morning while it's still dark and the house is still cold.   I like being able to change my plans on a dime.    I love the red berries on the tree outside my front window, and sitting by my fireplace which is beautiful even if not functional.   I like tea in the afternoon and the occasional gin and tonic or glass of wine at night.

    I love being by water, and, as those times become less frequent, I cherish the memories, and will cherish future moments, even more.  I love walking at the edge of the surf, toes (and more) getting wet, shells rolling up to me like gifts from the universe.  I do not dig for shells, I enjoy the feeling that each one was freely offered and gratefully accepted.  I love the sound of the waves, I love the surprise glimpses of animals and birds I never expected to see.   But here in Michigan, I love our streams and lakes and rivers, with different sounds and different surprises.   It's all good.

    Friday, October 1, 2010

    Friday Five

    I haven't done a meme in awhile, and I have nothing to say today that is worth saying, so I'll take a page out of The White House blog, which Gayle says she took out of My Little Life's blog:

    1. Did you have a pen pal when you were little (or now)? Where were/are they from?
     Yes, I did!   I had a pen pal from India, in an area that eventually became Pakistan, named Sheila Kaul.   We exchanged letters and gifts throughout my entire childhood, until my early college years.   When we started writing, she was an orphan in a Christian orphanage, about my same age.   She had just come of age to leave the orphanage when, sadly, we lost touch after a war in that region.   I know shamefully little about the history of that part of the world, but my understanding was that it was a dangerous time for her to be Christian, and on the losing side of what was essentially a religious war.    We had written for so long that I am sure she knew my address by memory, as I did hers, so I have always believed that something happened that made it impossible for her to write.   I still have a lovely bracelet that she sent me.

    2. If you could do a different job for one day, what would it be?
    Ha.    Since I have NO job at the moment this question is loaded!   But for over 20 years, I was a research lawyer, and I was more than ready to do something else if I could have figured out what it was.    I think I would have been a better social worker than lawyer.   Most every day, someone came to my office to discuss their personal problems, and I counseled many judges and lawyers over the  years, particularly when their lives were in crisis because of terminal illness or marital discord.     They told me, and I believe, that I was a big help to them.    I also did years (and years) of volunteer work with the homeless, the bereaved, and families who were dealing with AIDS at a time when there was tremendous stigma.   That "work" gave me a lot more fulfillment than my lawyer work ever did.

    3. Do you remember your biggest fear from when you were little?
    Sure I remember, I was terrified of my parents and of hellfire.  I was taught never to do anything that I didn't want Jesus to see (which left me constipated since I did NOT want him to see me on the toilet, and lacked imagination to think of anything worse!)   My parents rarely did anything terrible, but they were extremely unpredictable, which was very scary to me.   I never knew whether I was going to be slapped or ignored.

    4. What do you think is a waste of time? Why?
    I have mixed feelings about time-wasting.   Certainly whole hours go by now that I am retired without anything to show for them.   And I spend way too much time on Facebook and blog surfing.  But I have always been a daydreamer, and a part of me thinks those unfocused hours have been the best times of my life (which, I know, raises terrible questions about the quality of my life). Of course, now that I'm not working, things are a little too unbalanced, and I need to work more on not having whole weeks slip away unnoticed.

    5. What is the oldest item you have in your closet?
    I am sure I have a couple of shirts that I had when I was married, and a tshirt that I made when my son was an infant (although I do not wear it) - so those things are over 30 years old.

    So there  you go.    I've managed to slack away another whole day; haven't left the house, haven't seen another soul.    I'm going to top it all off by watching another episode of Glee on DVD from Netflix.   Maybe tomorrow I'll manage to shake a leg!