Monday, December 31, 2018

Good Bye, 2018

2018 surprised me every day.

2018 drove me away from the news for the sake of my sanity, then drew me back in, obsessively.

2018 had me fearful for our democracy and then, poignantly, hopeful. (Is poignant appropriate in talking about oneself?).

2018 gave me Get Out! and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Witch Elm and Fancy Nancy, which did nothing to balance out the fact that it was safer to be deployed in Afghanistan than it was to go to school in the USofA. 

2018 saw teenagers calling B.S. and FlapJilly adding simple sums, Giblet smiling out from behind those cheeks and many more diagnoses and deaths than I'd noticed before.

Time passed and I was here to see it - by definition that makes it a good year, if I'm true to my post-perforated self.  I tried to say yes to new adventures, to thank those who brought me joy, to appreciate each day for what it had, not what it might have been. 

Gabby's mother says No yesterdays. Only tomorrows.

Happy End of 2018! 

Friday, December 28, 2018

Saying Goodbye

We painted ceramic figurines, Grandma and Mama and Granddaughter, while Grandpa watched and smiled.

We sent the Granddaughter on Secret Missions - sneaking up on her parents and kissing them on their knees and their noses.

We held the Grandson and tickled his belly and watched his 5 month old eyes take on depth and meaning.

We slept until there was movement above us, and stayed up until we couldn't keep our eyes open any more.

We watched kid tv and The Good Place and avoided MSNBC and CNN and any financial news.

We took Thomas the Wonder Dog on walks around the neighborhood, marveling at the decorations and the fact that Grandma could keep up with everyone, never needing to stop and rest her not-really-that-achy-anymore hip.

We basked in a dinner table filled with in-laws and out-laws and children of all ages and sizes.

Our hearts are full; it's a good thing that we don't have to pack them in our carry-ons.  They wouldn't fit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

The Weak Prince Who Became King

Dear Denizens,

Harold Zisla's acrylic on board spoke to me this afternoon at the South Bend Museum of Art.

Perhaps it will say something to you, too.

Your blogger who is trying to stay non-political this holiday season... and failing, it seems

The Day After

There is frost on the ground - that's as close as SIR will get to his White Christmas.

Giblet is going through his next growth leap, according to the parenting app his mother relies upon - he's too excited to sleep.

The Warriors lost to the Lakers - Big Cuter is trying to make his peace with the result.

The stock market......... - TBG is trying to forget that his retirement is in danger, trying to focus on the love and the family and, for the most part, doing a good job of it.

The in-laws joined us for dinner, followed by HQ and The Good Place.

There are piles all over the house, piles of presents and candy and science experiments and fairy gardens and winter coats - I'd help if I only knew where she wanted things to go.

FlapJilly received a pink and purple kid's camera - her Elbow Series made us laugh.  Her hair's in a french braid, she's sporting fancy new socks and a multi-colored manicure, and she's quite pleased with the total effect.

We have plans for lunch - with burgers, fried cheese curds (this is Indiana, after all), and milk shakes with extra cherries - and the art museum in the afternoon.  

So, why did I have my first ever mass shooting dream last night?  There were kids, a school, me hiding in a corner under a white blanket, a bad guy asserting his will.

I put on my sweater with the pompoms to brighten my mood.  I played Barbies.  He does not get to ruin my vacation.  No.  He does not.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Merry Merry and Happy Happy

As always, here's a tune to brighten your day.  
Think of Daddooooo crooning off-key as his children cringed in the corner.

Monday, December 24, 2018

It Doesn't Get Better Than This
Everyone is here.
Life is good.
Wishing you a wonderful week as TBG and I bask in the warmth of family.

Friday, December 21, 2018

Attacking the Giant Weeds

Apparently, those gigantic, healthy leaves are invasive plants. They've been lying dormant in the soil, waiting for the amended soil and irrigation to bring them to life.
  They were nearly as tall as the kindergarten kids.
It took many hands working in concert
and then all they got were the tops of the stems.
There was much discussion about the strength of the root system, about the tap root and the smaller tendrils, but not much concern for the plants themselves.    
Destruction was so much fun.
With Grandma's trowels (a new word for us)
and after lots and lots of digging, 
more digging than any of us expected,
enough digging to share the trowels,
the roots were exposed 
and displayed with pride
We smoothed the soil over the few remaining scallion tops,
and then picked marigold blossoms and put them in our hair.
It was a lovely day in Grandma's Garden, 
even if some mallow and wild mustard had to die to make it so.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Scary Old People

 Hubs and I have cleared three houses full of stuff, the pictures were always the hardest to deal with. Eventually we decided that slides were out, pictures of people we didn't know were out and that lightened the load. 

That's Allison's comment on yesterday's post.  She didn't mention the additional conundrum G'ma and I faced, one cold February afternoon, as she reclined on her bed and I emptied the crawl space in the attic storage behind her.

Decades old corsages were easy to toss.  The portraits, not so much.  There were about a dozen of them, painted, in rotting wood frames.  

Ever practical, G'ma wondered if I knew who any of them were, because she certainly didn't.

She didn't even know if they were from her family or Daddooooo's, and this was well before her dementia robbed her of my name.  

Well, there's no one left alive to ask.  Toss 'em.

But, Mommy, they're.....

They're what?  Look at those farbissener punim.  

And they were ugly, angry faces, screwed up, not a hint of happiness or joy in any of them.  Did they know that they'd spent 5 decades in my mother's attic?  They looked eminently capable of haunting us.

Do you want them?  Don't give them to your sister, they'll just take up space in her basement.  Besides, look at them!  They're terrifying!

And so, the scary old people went out to the sidewalk, and G'ma and I found something to smile about as we removed the last vestiges of ourselves from our house.  And that's a very nice thing that the scary old people did for us, and for that I thank them..... more often than you might think.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


All Little Cuter's images live in the ether.  Some are printed on her professional grade machine, some come in books through Shutterfly, some I print out and pick up at Walgreens, but all of them are in the cloud.

Apparently, all of my pictures are there, too.  Google Photos reminds me that before I was perforated I was climbing mountains - and it does this without my having to lift a finger.  If I want to explore my children's childhoods, however, I have to go through the giant box of pictures stuffed in the back of the library closet.

It's a chore that nags at me. I have albums and embellishments and glue dots and archival pens at the ready, but the task just never seems to get done.  It wasn't making itself known until our Halloween visit to the grandkids.  FlapJilly liked sitting in between the couch and the cabinet, perusing her mother's old photo albums, pointing out the people she recognized, making up stories about them, nodding sagely over whatever was going through her head at the time.

And I though of that giant box of photos, just sitting there, waiting for her.  There are empty pages in all those old albums, and she's old enough to put them in herself.  All I have to do is collect them, then sit back and watch the fun.

So I must pull out the boxes blocking the giant box.  I must not get distracted by the items I've dislodged.  I must be ruthless in culling the wheat from the chaff; I don't need six shots of the same scene so five of those photos will go to the trash can.

It feels harsh, but I have to do it.  If I don't, my heirs will curse me as they assume the task.

The more I think about it, the more this becomes more than just a gift for my granddaughter.  It's a kindness I'm doing for my children.

I can't motivate myself to clear out the detritus from the closets for my own benefit.  Perhaps the kids will be the impetus I need.

As I leave

Tuesday, December 18, 2018


Giblet can turn over.  FlapJilly wants chapter books.  My little girl has two little ones of her own.   I am a grandmother.

On the phone last weekend, Seret and I spent all together too much time discussing the fact that we are as old as we are, and wondering how we got here.

I'm sending brownies to the children of people I knew as children themselves.  My niece wants us to meet her boyfriend. 

My high school class's 50th Reunion Committee just emailed a list of housing options.  I remember Graduation Day vividly: McDonalds between the ceremonies; shock that I'd failed the Math 12X final and still passed the course; hissing the Salutatorian (it's a long story, but she deserved the opprobrium); saying goodbye to the A-Ba kids I'd sat with for 6 years in homeroom, not realizing that, for some, 5 decades would pass before I saw them again.

I can call up the emotions I felt that day without any effort at all.  It doesn't seem possible that fifty years have passed since I cried in anticipation of missing my boyfriend.  I haven't seen him since Thanksgiving that November; thinking about it still leaves a hole in the middle of my chest.

Little Cuter and I talked about creating an annual Christmas adventure for FlapJilly and me.  Nannie would have loved taking her littlest granddaughter out on the town; I'm determined to have that memory with mine.  It has to be something that will age well; Barnes and Noble followed by frozen yogurt comes to mind.
And perhaps, someday, fifty years from now, the four year old will create an adventure with a four year old grandkid of her own.

It seems that I'm making a milestone.

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Home Stretch

Although Little Cuter and I shared a moment of Oh, dear, I haven't bought enough for them pre-Christmas panic, we were able to report that we'd resisted the temptation to shop.  She was waiting for one cousin to replace his not available in your size request; I was finished.  Or so I declared.

As always, there are more brownies to bake. 
There are thank you notes to write.  The dining room table still resembles Santa's Workshop on Dec. 26th, although it is hidden behind the 60% off plastic floral stems from Michael's.   I've given up on poinsettias, without much of a struggle.

My landscape looks more like Bethlehem, anyhow.  Trying to turn the desert into a Bavarian forest has not worked out for me.  I now eschew the too-tall-for-me-to-decorate-without-a-ladder fir tree entirely, choosing smaller,

table-top models 
Somewhere in the garage is a box of more ornaments.  Right now, I'm satisfied with these.  I can conjure up an image of Nannie's Santa dirigible, of our Hawaiian sand filled globe, of the silver bells I never polish before I put them away...... and the images are enough.  Decorating is much easier since I accepted the fact that whatever I put out I also had to put away.  I'm down to two big boxes of stuff, and that works fine for us.

The us is important.  It's my holiday by adoption, it's TBG's by birth.  I want to be certain that I touch all his tender spots; Grandpaw's sleigh bells hang from the back door.  Abadee and Abadooo,
 our first ever ornaments, one for each of our cars, live on the fireplace surround.

There are pillows and stuffed, musical, Santas on the furniture, and some trinkets on the mantle and the end table, but mostly, this year, I'm decorating in my mind rather than in my house.

I'm in the home stretch; I'm trying to enjoy every moment.

Friday, December 14, 2018

Good Friends

It is exactly as I imagined it to be. 

She's wrapped up in the cashmere blanket, wearing one polar fleece and leaning on another, only her face exposed.  "Do you want another blanket?  An herbal hot pack?  A hot toddy?"  

No, she said she was fine and I knew that she meant it because we've been friends long enough to know, and to ask for what we need.

He put pink packeted sweetener in his ice tea and I wondered where he found it.  "I lived here for a week," he smiled back at me.  So later, when he wasn't thrilled with the blue cheese dressing, he claimed that he hadn't been offered anything else.

"No, you do not get to know where I store my saccharine and yet be unable to open the refrigerator to search for salad dressing.  It's the same thing,"  I told him, and he agreed, because he's been in my kitchens since 1974.

Besides, they are living here, albeit part-time.  They're around on a random Thursday night for burgers and football on a come anytime you're ready basis.  Their house is a convenient way-station in mid-town; I have a key.

And they have one to our house, too.  If you know anything about TBG, you understand the magnitude of that statement.  His home is his castle, and he protects it vigilantly.  Yet he was enthusiastic about sharing access with them, because you never know........

But I do know that it is wonderful to have them here, just as I imagined it in 2006 when we moved here, expecting them to follow, with the Golden Gopher and his bride not far behind.  Two-thirds of us have established a beachhead; we're just waiting for the others for things to be absolutely perfect.

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Big Kids and Home Grown Produce - A Snippet

The fourth and fifth graders were in the garden when three high school girls strolled by. 

We offered them some scallions (we have lots of scallions) by waving them, enticingly, over the garden wall.  The big girls giggled and demurred..

We laughed at their timidity.  We chomped on leaves-of-something-we-planted as we wondered why they weren't as brave as we were.  They were powerless to refuse us: they shared a giant scallion

And then we let them in on the secret: they had bad breath!

After we showed them how to capitalize on their new super power, they ran off with their faces close to one another, laughing Hello! How Happy I am!, huffing their scallion breath all over the place.

We looked on with amusement, content that we had taught the Big Kids a thing or two.

Grandma's Garden is a powerful place.

Wednesday, December 12, 2018

A Snapshot of America

Amster and I hosted the Nearly Annual Hannukah Party on Sunday night.  With Perfect Patty manning the frying latkes,

 I was free to meet and greet, to play dreidle, and to watch the lights.
I looked around the room and smiled at the diverse circle my Iowa born friend has accumulated. There were Jews from Arizona, and one from Argentina, and several others from the East Coast. They were the sprinkles on top of the agnostics and the practicing and non-practicing Christians of all stripes - there weren't many of them, but they made their presence known, and I was grateful for them.   After all, the dreidle is not self-explanatory.

There was the quintessential American side dish - green bean and Campbell's mushroom soup casserole, topped with tiny fried onions - next to the turkey and the latkes and the home made applesauce.  There were jelly donuts and bakery cookies and Amster's Rice Krispy treats which flew off the table as fast as the latkes.

I really shouldn't, but....... seemed to be the theme around the buffet table.  That made me smile.

It got dark and we gathered around the homemade play dough menorahs and the giant menorah I brought from home.   The big kids couldn't be bothered, but Mr. 13 couldn't resist my entreaties.

Surrounded by Amster's Christmas decor,  I told the story.  It's a good story, with elephants and battles and magic and faith and science, and, like all good stories, it starts with Once upon a time......

We chanted the prayers that have been chanted for generations, and sang the songs our parents taught us.  There were full bellies and warm hearts, celebrating and sharing and questioning and thinking and it was just an absolutely wonderful night.

And no, I don't know why it took 8 days to make the oil.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Words From a New American

My friend, Josepha, gave this speech at her Naturalization Ceremony.  
Mom is Lady Jane; Aunt Suzi is me.
We are family.

Congratulations to everyone!!

I thank God for everything He did for all of us here, for my family.

I thank the people of the United States who welcomed my family into safety,  hope and freedom of America.

Especially I thank my Mom!!
Mom – thank you for - Your empathy Your love Your patience with me
Your support in different waysMay God bless you. I love you.

Thank you, Aunt Suzi for all your support in rebuilding my family’s lives.

Thank you, Amy, for accepting my friendship.

I thank you all staff at International Rescue Committee who welcomed my family at airport. When I came here, I knew nobody. They helped my family to start a new life in a new country.

I am very happy today.

I lost -
My country My family
My friends

Today I have -
A country I have a family I have friends

(Cue applause and tears)

Monday, December 10, 2018

Becoming an American

If I had a Bucket List, attending a Naturalization Ceremony would be on it.  On Friday, I got my wish. 
Lady Jane and I sat on a bench right in front, escorted there by a lovely court officer whose chief objective seemed to be making sure that everyone was comfortable.  She took that responsibility very seriously.  There was no fussing, except for a few little ones making their presence known.  There was only excitement and smiles and lots of love from the changing faces of America.

They came from Congo, Bhutan, Nigeria, Denmark, Rwanda, China, South Korea, Mexico, Iraq, Burundi, Columbia, Germany, Indonesia, Jordan, Kenya, Togo, and Vietnam.  52 applicants who met the requirements of  good moral character, residency, and attachment to the Constitution of the United States, who passed background checks and a written test, who studied and waited and finally found themselves in the Federal Courthouse, surrounded by friends and family and Federal Marshals, ready to stand, representing your country for the last time,.   

The judge asked them to raise your right hand, and bid their country of origin good bye. 

I declare on oath, that I absolutely and entirely give up and renounce all allegiance .....that's a statement right there.  They are no longer German or Nigerian or Vietnamese.  They are all Americans. 

It was a moment, denizens.  A hopeful, pregnant pause before they began their new lives.  It was an honor to share it.

They ran a video of iconic American images, to help us get back to business.  We stood again and sang the Star Spangled Banner, recited the Pledge of Allegiance (led by a new citizen), and heard a speech from a Daughter of the American Revolution.  She applauded the newbies for having studied hard and sacrificed.  She offered congratulations and recognized  your accomplishment and ended with  President Kennedy's Ask not admonition. Then, she said what was in all our hearts: We welcome you, and are proud to have you.

It was quintessentially American , and it only got better.  There were speeches.  The judge encouraged everyone to come up - new citizens as well as the family and friends who were crowding the benches.  He wanted to hear the stories: Come on; you're all invited to come up and speak. And please, take pictures.  You'll want to remember this day!

And so they did:
I wouldn't be where I am today if not for......
Thank you, my family, for encouraging me and pushing me to complete this.
I thank her mom and dad for raising a wonderful woman, my wife.
She started the application before she got sick and now her husband stands alone.
I'll speak in my language so my Dad can understand.
Just wanted to say, Mom, welcome to America!
Met him at the airport, we've been through ups and downs, had fun at the grocery store, and here he is, the most stylish man in the room.
Thank you, America, for how accepting and how loving you are.
Good bless America and God bless you all!

As if that weren't enough, the judge went on:  No other country does this. Thank you for selecting America. We as Americans thank you for choosing us. Thank you all for coming to America. Thank you for making this flag your own. I am truly honored and humbled. You have demonstrated that we are a country of immigrants, collected from many backgrounds, to become one America. Hold onto your beliefs and traditions.  You have opportunity and responsibilities. Two are the most important.  You have the right to vote. Register and vote. It's your voice.  And serve on a jury. Meaningfully participate in the system, because the system needs you.

He told  me, when I took this picture later on, that this is his favorite day of the year. 
It was warm and inclusive and wonderful.

There was a short video wherein President Trump proved he could read a short paragraph.  He ad-libbed Very very special, but otherwise was non-offensive.  Quickly, we went on.  To the accompaniment of Lee Greenwood's Proud to be an American, there were more faces and photos of America on the video screen.  

The certificates were handed out, by an official who did not mangle a single name, and whose colleague managed to shake hands and smile and pose for photos with every new citizen.
Lady Jane and I hugged our newest citizen through tears of joy and wonder.   
52 people turned their backs on their homelands and adopted our country as their own on Friday. Goodbye, Rwanda!  Hello, America!!  

It was very special.

Friday, December 7, 2018

The Problem Is.....

We don't know what is growing in Grandma's Garden.

Grandma had a plan for the raised beds.  It involved tacks and string and measurements using a yardstick.  It involved thoughtful consideration of the space, and the creation of lines of a certain depth, varying according to the seeds' requirements.

What happened was 40 or 50 kindergarten scholars, anxious to be given a seed to plant.  We did manage to cover one part of the lesson - the holes were to be as deep as their first pinkie knuckle.

Of course, that required that we define where the knuckle existed on their finger, determine that it didn't matter if it was the right or the left hand, and discuss the consequences of overcrowding if too many seeds went into one hole.

The seeds were very, very small, and so were the gardeners.  They couldn't wait.  They had to plant.  And they had to plant right away.  And there were so many of them and only one me.

It went marginally better as the older kids cycled through, but there was never any real sense of organization.  There was joy and excitement and delight and accomplishment and pride and dirty hands and knees, and that was more important to me at the time.

At the time.

Now, 2 months later, we have easily identifiable scallions to chew upon as we ponder the unfathomable.  The signs we created on the few rows I managed to label have been moved so many times that they are useless.  We all remember carrots and lettuce and lots and lots of beets, but there may be others.

The plant identification app on Grandma's phone wasn't much help.  We tasted them, Grandma assuring the kids that greens are super foods.  We didn't know what we were eating, so no one could claim not to like it.  Small bites, fresh from the garden, even if they were bitter and unusual, were tastes we had grown ourselves.  If only we knew what they were.

I've decided to crowd source the answer.  Do any of these look familiar to any of you? 

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Painting in Grandma's Garden

Foam brushes and cups of water were the ingredients.
The girls wondered what to do, but I was giving no instruction beyond "Paint."
And so they painted. 

The top of the wall was a target once the kindergarten kids left. 

The fence got its fair share of attention, too.

It was a lovely day in Grandma's Garden.