Friday, November 28, 2008

Advice for the Family Holidays--thursday thougths #15

(Tabor really wanted to decorate the tree with her lovely gold and red globes and red glitter birds from last year...but the traditional 'safe' ornaments were the necessity of the day. Someday, Tabor will get a grown-up tree.)

If you are looking forward to having the family visit and you have become accustomed to the retirement lifestyle for some time I have some helpful ideas for you:

1. Once you are retired you become blase about having time to yourself and having quiet afternoons and having more than 3 minutes to complete a task and more than 1 minute to complete a thought. You must accept the fact that this is a ridiculous and abnormal lifestyle in the real world.

2. I have a more normal scenario. Start the water in the microwave for a well-deserved cup of tea and the second you finish pressing the last button, run to the other end of the kitchen to catch the toddler before she falls into the plants by the far window, and as you navigate this route, trip over the dog's water bowl (which you forgot was there because you don't have a dog), and finally, as you try to prevent yourself from doing the splits, grab the tablecloth so that the bowls of salsa can topple to the floor just missing the little dog who is anticipating another "food fall" of the day.

3. Another typical event: If you roast a 20 pound turkey and hubby volunteers to cut everything up at the end of the meal so that you can have slices for freezing, sandwiches, etc., and if you notice that it seems to be taking him more than an hour to complete this task, you need to interrupt the activity immediately. If you don't, fatigue is going to win over and he is going to carve with one hand and push the platter across the counter with the other resulting in a free fall of your tall containers of olive oil and canola oil on the very same counter and as they crash to the floor...well you know the rest, just read #2.

4. If you notice a strange expression on a small dog's face or a small child's face this means you need to provide access to the outside for the dog and access to the guest bathroom for the toddler ASAP.

5. You will become something of a scatological expert over the visit as parents will inquire about the ease of delivery, consistency, and color of the toddler's product. The pet owner just wants to know if the dog did both #1 and #2 when he/she got outside.

6. Breakfast works for the old folks, the younger ones do not get up until 11:00 as there was probably 9 hours of football well into the evening of the day before. If, like me, you are not crazy about football, do not expect this time to catch up on your are toddler watching. Toddler watching involves very little sitting time, you will burn off all the calories from any substantial meals recently eaten.

7. You will notice that educational toys are used very differently based on the gender of the child. The three and a half year old male will bang and bang on the buttons frequently while totally ignoring the directions given by the talking toy while he tries to make as much noise as possible. The 14-month-old female will hit the button for the cat when the machine says 'cat' and then giggle. (You will agree that this gender relationship to following directions and being goal-oriented continues in later life.)

8. Remember the board games that you used to play with the older kids over the holidays? Well, you can still do that if you are still awake with a functioning brain after the toddlers are finally asleep at 9:00 P.M. No one at our house had reached that goal.

9. If you decided to make a family activity of decorating the Christmas tree while all the loved ones are around, as I in a moment of insanity decided to do, be prepared for more undecorating than decorating.

10. And finally, accept the fact that not everyone will be happy at the end of the day.

Post Script: While it may sound like I did most of the work (and perhaps I did) I loved the entire exhausting weekend and each moment will be my treasured memory in years to come.

Post Post Script: Stock up on paper towels, napkins, toilet paper and will need a LOT!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Keeping Busy

Yesterday I made stuffing, washed and dried the turkey, made strawberry apple pie, printed out the thankfulness memory cards, cooked a chile dinner for everyone at night, kept toddlers away from fireplace, redecorated the house,

took pictures of family jumping in the leaves outside and cleaned-up kitchen and watched The Kite Runner and then to bed.

Today thus far, made cinnamon rolls for breakfast while I let everyone sleep in late, turkey was stuffed and is now in oven, daughter made a green bean casserole, made sweet potato casserole, I set table, washed the toddlers clothes, tended the fire (AGAIN), adults kept kids entertained and safe.

Now waiting for son and his gal to get here along with a pumpkin dessert (Yum!). Hubby has a breather while the kids have driven off to a nearby playground and he is mowing (!) the front yard so that it looks nice for the holiday.

I have no idea what they were doing yesterday in this photo below....

I am so thankful that, thus far, everything is on schedule and no one has killed anyone! HAPPY THANKSGIVING to all who read my blog!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Shop Until You Drop

I had to drive my husband to the airport and also was asked to babysit the two grandchildren over the weekend. This left me 1.5 free days in between to myself to spend in the 'magic mall.' The 'magic mall' has one of those tremendously large consumption arenas where you can walk for almost a mile before getting to each store and can spend as much money as you want on stuff, things, junk and treasures which will eventually fill a landfill across the ocean.

I only go to the mall when I absolutely have to shop for something, and since my retirement, that is maybe once every three or four months. The holidays are fast approaching and as somethings abhor a vacuum, I abhor volumes of people rummaging through piles of crap looking for that one good bargain. Thus this time before Thanksgiving and "Black Friday" as it is know in the U.S.---the shoppers best sales day---I decided to enter the arena and purchase a few items and browse for some ideas.

If you have never been in a major city mall, the decadence of variety and the stupidity of junk will amaze you. You can buy any tiny crystal thing to spend your life dusting, any exotic lacy boulder holder to truly reveal your age or recent surgery, any latest facial cream to pretend that you do not have wrinkles, any number of fuzzy wuzzies to keep your feet and hands warm long before the first snowfall, any number of electronic devices that vibrate (not that kind!), beep, blink and talk to you, and any number of ball gowns, if perhaps, you are attending one or more of the Presidential Balls. There was an entire store devoted to ties, another devoted to cell phones and a third walk-in store that sold only pictures...really ugly those of Elvis singing. In addition there are pretzel palaces and coffee corners to satiate your hunger and thirst needs forever. Interestingly enough, there are very few clothing stores for anyone over the age of 25.

It is not unusual to forget where you entered the mall and where you parked at the end of the day---I now write this location down when I leave my car.

Some new things that I noticed were an abundance of very helpful sales people. I had one woman offer to give me a free make-up session OR a free facial at least three times while in one store. She accosted me in the sweater section, the shoe section and the men's pajama section---this last a little unnerving. Another 18-year-old male offered me a paper cup of face cream as I passed his kiosk. I clearly do not have a memorable face, or on the other hand, perhaps I really need some help with my face!

This mall is in a rich area of the city and had quite a few shoppers who did not appear to be affected by this recession or the pouring rain. BUT the prices were being slashed almost everywhere. Some stores had 20% to 30% off on everything in the store while others had racks with 50% to 75% off on items. It is sort of sad that in this time of my life when I don't need anything and want even less, there are so many bargains. Such is life.

I did manage to get a few gifts purchased, downed a latte and croissant, and did some people watching which is a favorite sport AND found my car at the end of the day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Life Story #21---The Wedding and the Honeymoon and the Horror of It All

A long time ago (38 years) in a land far, far away (Hawaii) a young prince of a man and a young princess of a woman met and fell in love. The prince and princess were from poorer kingdoms but the paradise of the land in which they found themselves made everything seem possible. When they could remove their noses from thick textbooks, they spent mornings on the white sand beaches, afternoons hiking in the flower-filled rain forests and evenings eating ice cream cones at the edge of posh hotel patios. The world was a magical place in those days before the mortgage witch and the health demons had found them. They had known each other only three months, but knew they were soul mates for the rest of their lives. Throwing caution to the ocean breezes, as only the young can do, they made plans to marry.

Their marriage ceremony was held in a small local church and the wedding guests, none from their bloodlines unfortunately, ranged in age from the late 70's down to 10 years of age. This was certainly a good omen. The ceremony was smooth except for the slight loss of voice on the part of the Prince when he had to say "I do" which he managed to squeak out eventually. The Princess was slightly dismayed, but told herself it was just nervousness.

The celebration, held in a nearby hotel lanai at the edge of the ocean, went on late into the evening filled with fresh seafood and fresh fruits. One hundred flower leis, that had been made by hand by the determined couple, filled the air with a tropical fragrance that could not be described. You may ask how can a poor couple afford 100 leis? (Cemeteries in Hawaii are filled with plumaria trees.) You may also ask how can a poor couple store 100 leis until their wedding day? (The University of Hawaii has a walk-in refrigerator in the biology department!)

Late in the evening, the celebration finally came to an end and the couple retreated to a nearby motel to sleep a few hours before their early morning flight to the Big Island for a rustic (camping) honeymoon.

The prince had made reservations at the rustic but charming Pohakuloa cabins in Mauna Kea State Park and after renting a chariot at the airport they made plans to stop in the small village for food to take to the cabin.

This chariot was a luxurious Volkswagen Bug...the premium choice of transportation among the young of that generation. It did not have air-conditioning as very few chariots did on those days, but the moderate climate of the Big Island was very comfortable. With the windows open and the little "wing" window (this design did not survive the 70's) pushed out to bring air directly inside to the driver, the happy couple were off quite speedily.

The drive was pleasantly uneventful for the first 20 minutes or so. Then, as happens in real life, without warning everything changed. The prince violently started pumping the brakes, placed both hands over his face, jerked violently forward and backward, and cried out as if in agony. The princess froze in confusion and dismay as the car bumped dangerously to the side of the road and then came to a complete stop. In the immediate silence except for the cries of the prince, the thought crossed her mind that she had known this prince only three months. What had she been thinking? What did she really know about him? What did she know about his bloodline? Was he having some seizure? Did he have some family illness that she had not known?

Eventually a semi-calm returned to the prince and with water-filled eyes he turned to the princess and said, "I have been bit by something!" The left side of his upper lip was red with a small pin mark, and after some discussion, the couple determined that a bee had hit the "wing" window and had been impaled on his face.

Then the discussion turned to allergies, the tenderness of the lip tissue and the dangers of that. The Prince did not think he was allergic to bee stings, but he was beginning to feel strange and weak. There were no royal physicians for miles but they determined that a military encampment was not far ahead, and perhaps, they could persuade a medic to take a look at the damages. They reached a nurse who checked all vital signs, gave the Prince a shot, and also wrote a prescription for some allergy medicine.

The royal couple hurried to the nearby store with curatives and purchased the potent brew. The prince took a hearty dose and immediately fell asleep in the back of the chariot. The responsibility for navigating through the forests to the small cabin then fell on the delicate but not timid shoulders of the princess. She held back her tears and concerns as she made her way up the side of the volcano to the primitive--hardly palatial--honeymoon cabin.
Upon finally reaching their destination, the royal couple unpacked their food and minuscule belongings and entered the rustic cabin. Two sleeping bags were placed on the floor and both collapsed into the reality of marriage. The princess tried to gently kiss the prince good night, but even that proved too painful an exercise. As the prince drifted into a deep sleep, the princess counted both her tears and the ants crossing in a line on the floor toward her sleeping bag.

(The rest of the honeymoon ?...Well, that is another long story for another day.)

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Blog Roll #4

Since commenters have been so generous to visit this blog I must add some new names to my blog roll. (This is Blog Roll #4 and will go to the list that resides at the bottom in the right hand column--once again thanks to Old Hoss who started this honor listing idea.)

Four new bloggers to read. I have more to add, but can only manage a little at a time.

First there is Grammie—Awaiting Buddha. The name for this blog came while she was waiting for that first grandchild. She is a potter (something I always thought I would take up....someday!) She started her blog for the same reasons the I did...that many of us chart our life experiences as we enter this last stage in our lives.

Brenda---Plus Brenda is one of those fascinating citizens of the Commonwealth having lived many parts of the world and now in Australia. She acts in and writes melodramas. I never knew anyone who did that. How she found me I do not know, but I am most flattered! Of course grandchildren and the shortness of some of her entries encourages me to visit more often.

Bad Aunt---Present Simple A New Zealander teaching in Japan...always rewarding reading such life adventures on a blog. She has been blogging a long time, since 2004. I have not had a chance to read many of these older entries. Since she teaches English to Asians, she probably has something in common with my recent house guest Mary Lee.

Whoops, forgot to add Darlene at her "Hodgepodge" in Arizona. She is 83 and one of those bloggers who reassures me that life does go on and it is rich and full. She is smart and sassy and reading her blog makes me feel good and even sometimes brings a tear to my eyes. Please stop by and say hello.

Welcome dear bloggers to my little blogroll!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Too Much of a Good Thing--Again

(Photo above I took from the deck yesterday evening as the sun was setting across the river and my weary body was screaming for rest. Click on photo to see the details of the last of our fall beauty.)

I have taken dozens and dozens of pictures in the yard this fall as the season peaks. The variety of tree species complimented by the diverse fall colors have been most obvious this fall, and the peak beauty has been more exciting than I have noticed in the past.

Since all good things must come to an end, the prior night's wet winds brought millions of leaves to carpet everywhere. The weather yesterday was in the 70's and we knew we had to get the leaves off of the the driveway and the lawn before the coming front that would bring more leaves and more rain. We had to use our non-environmental leaf blower because the new lawn was still too wet and soft to walk on and rake and the gravel driveway does not lend itself to raking.

I created large snake-like drifts of leaves in places down the long winding driveway and these we captured and put into a metal garbage can. They were broken down with the weed eater into a wonderful rich nutrition that was added to the newly created raised garden beds that now await the birth of spring. Hubby is so excited about this humus rich black gold that we have created that he cannot walk down the driveway without stopping to enjoy the results of his many days of labor.

Since the ticks are dormant we can wade into the 'jungle' and clear the non-indigenous wild rose that strangles everything in its way climbing high into 30 foot trees. Even though I covered my body in loose clothing and wore jeans, the tiny tenacious thorns at the ends of the branches would fly over my head and bite me in the butt, pull off my cap, and tangle my hair as I pulled them away into the open areas. I also fought with the green briar (such a lovely name for such a nasty plant). I now look as though I had fought with a wild cat---so glad I do not care about that stuff.

The day before, we had created a large and very warm brush fire with all the downed limbs and weeds we had cleared. Yesterday flew by too fast for us to start on that project once again, but now the holly, dogwood, linden trees and other plants are free to breathe once again and we have space to put in our plastic net deer fence around the perimeter. The deer have mowed the mums and trimmed my pyracantha hedge and the low growth of the new hybrid dogwood. While I spray deer repellent it has become a careful dance between them and us as their fall food cache diminishes.

I awoke this morning to another carpet of leaves almost as dense as the one we cleared yesterday! Some times I think mother nature is too rich for me.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Thursday Thoughts #15

1. It is odd that newspapers trumped by technology are once again front and center and in demand and some issues are selling for over $100 on the Internet due to this election.

2. I was talking with hubby about the successful cloning of the frozen mouse and how creepy it was to think they could possibly clone a mastadon. Hubby (ever the scientist) thought that sounded 'cool' no pun intended. I responded with my concern about some virus for which we have no immunity that might come along with that frozen mastadon tissue. His face fell and he said, "Yeah, there are always hitchhikers in biology."

3. I am seeing more roadkill (deer) these days. Hubby explained it was probably due to mating season. "The hormones rise and the deer get crazy, unlike male humans whose hormones are always up and therefore, they are always a little crazy."

4. I got tired of spreading the composted soil that hubby was dumping in each of the raised beds with the wheelbarrow. Wiping the sweat from my forehead, I complained and hubby (who has a Ph.D.) said he was the one that got to pile higher and deeper and since I had only a Masters...I had to do the spreading.

5. While I was in the nearby larger town last week for my mammogram (OUCH!) I saw a sign above the door as I entered that said Medical Arts Building. My immediate thought was that I wanted the Medical Science building not some artsy-fartsy place.

6. Hubby was reading our latest retirement financial report and sighing audibly. I glanced over his shoulder and looked briefly at the bar graph and the line graph at the top of the report. Since nothing was above the baseline on the bar graph I immediately said he was holding the report upside down. He glared at me and said NO...he was right!

7. I cannot keep thinking that Condolezza Rice would be a good Secretary of State for Obama...but with Kerry in the running and being owed for all those emails I kept getting from him during this campaign, it will never happen.

8. I thought it odd that McCain drove away all by himself out of the garage at the hotel in Arizona the following morning. Where was his wife?

9. I learned this month that it takes almost a year for birds**t to wash away by weather from the roof shingles...just a little trivia for your information.

10. Speaking of birds**t, the cardinal is back and hanging out on the inside edge of the lantana pot. He was eating the bugs, pooping into the pot and then tapping at the bottom of the deck window at his image. Now I know why my lantana is so healthy.

Hang in there, Colleen, I will try to make it to thirteen... some Thursday...but don't hold me to a theme ;-)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Morning After

The lines at the voting booth yesterday morning were somewhat long but it only took me 30 minutes waiting time before I did my duty as a citizen. Everyone in line was calm and friendly and the polling staff were super friendly...almost as if anticipating frustrated citizens.

I came home and spent the better part of the day watching the election coverage while doing laundry, small cleaning and nursing hubby through a cold he caught from his precious granddaughter.

As the rainy day progressed and the tension built I tried to keep my mind on busy activities. I channel surfed through a dozen news channels to make sure I didn't miss anything. In the P.M. I ran outside and took some pictures of the fall which has peaked in my yard but was drawn to the TV each time I came back inside. I knew and told my husband that we were not going to get any resolution on this until at least 11:00 P.M. and so we prepared for a long evening.

Late in the evening after dinner, as the network I was watching ran the final vote of Virginia across the screen; we turned to each other and high-fived each other realizing that at last our hope for this country to get back on track was now very possible.

I was so impressed by John McCain's speech and wondered why he had let the party base transform him into that very erratic and angry man that we had seen over the months. Yes, he was talking about losing to my candidate, but the real man came through and I realized the election could have changed on a dime if he had been his true self.

Then we watched the faces of all the people in times square as Obama made his dignified and statesman-like speech. No bragging, grinning or fist pumping. He knows the huge challenges that lie ahead and that is why I voted for him. He knows that this is about turning the Democracy around as the world watches--and the international newspaper headline this morning confirm my view. I had tears in my eyes and was so elated that it took quite a while to fall asleep after watching the happy black and white families on the podium wave to the citizens.

Now this morning I realize that wasn't just a romantic dream and feel so honest once again.

Monday, November 03, 2008


Tomorrow, as early as I can muster, I will go to my polling place to vote. I am "dreading" the possible rainy weather and the possible long lines since I did not decide to vote by absentee ballot. If I had lived in this small town for longer, perhaps I would see this as an opportunity to visit with townfolk that I had not seen in a long time. It would be an opportunity to catch up on the activities of children and grandchildren. If I had volunteered, as I was asked a few weeks ago, to work at the polling place, I would be so busy that I would not have time to dread a long line. Instead I would be dreading the long day! But I passed this effort this time and actually hope to volunteer in some way in the coming years.

In all honesty I am not totally dreading the voting lines or the slowness of process. I am excited as I always have been every time I voted over the years. I am romantic and passionate about my country and the beauty of this process whereby we select those who will lead us. Sure, sometimes my candidate doesn't get in and once or twice we even get a duffus who hasn't a clue about the constitution and the significance of the job ( like the last two presidential elections). I only missed one vote since I turned 18 and that was when I was living overseas and failed to get an absentee ballot on time. Early years that I have gone to cast my vote I took my small children with me so that they could see this important process. I talked to them about how powerful it was and when they grew up, they all could be a participant in this process.

I disagree with Sara Palin and honestly believe that every single person in line with me tomorrow will be pro-American. Every person will be from the "Real" part of the States in America. And I am proud to stand with them no matter how they vote. And if you have not already voted or are not going to vote better have a d**n good reason!