Musings and Amusings

Posts tagged ‘family’

All’s Well That Ends Well

imageMeet Quinn (mannequin), Raqi’s new BFF – at least until next-door buddy Em gets home from visiting her grandparents on the other side of the Continental Divide.

Despite my reservations, our sewing sessions went remarkably smoothly without me cracking open the gin bottle. My wingman, Hub, came through like a champ using his superior eyesight and abstract thinking to figure out the bobbin-loading diagrams, maneuver his fingers in the very tiny space to thread the machine needle, and leaving both of us looking like savvy sewers in Raqi’s eyes.

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Coincidentally, I found this paragraph in a book shortly after our sewing project was completed:

Until fairly recently, needle skills were considered an important part of a girl’s education. Girls learned a variety of stitches and embellishments that they would need later as the seamstresses of their families.”

Map Art Lab by Jill K. Berry & Linden McNeilly

No wonder our Mothers and Home Ec teachers put so much pressure on us to become qualified seamstresses. It was considered a life skill for females. And no wonder it created lingering anxiety for those of us who couldn’t measure up!

Thankfully, I had no expectations of Raqi’s mastery nor did she. She didn’t even want to open a pattern; she simply wanted to maneuver pieces of fabric around the mannequin in a semblance of a top and skirt; click the machine dial to sew a variety of fancy stitches for about 15 minutes; glue on some Velcro fasteners and call it a fashion success. One she can’t wait to show Em.

On that high note, I reflect on other unanticipated, pleasurable surprises of 2014:

Number 1 on that list – YOU. A year of you, me and us – gleaning words of wisdom, snippets of inspiration, and validation of our shared humanity through your writings, photos and illustrations. Chuckling, commiserating, comforting each other along the way.

Blogging relationships are every bit as complex, delicate and rewarding as in-person interactions. They are at once uniquely public and intensely personal.

When I assess my 2014, I find it has been one of my happiest, most contented years, and I attribute much of that positive feeling to how my daily world has changed because of blogging. My own writing gives me challenging satisfaction, but it is the warmth and sense of belonging with all of you that is the greater reward.

Other small joys of 2014…

527Golfing with Dad. Only in Michigan would a round of golf with cart cost $20, and include a historic-brick-home clubhouse, a red barn cart storage, a course cultivated from cow pastures and hayfields, and baby turtles newly hatched in the sand trap marching their way to the nearby pond.

 

Every Praise sung by Hezekiah Walker. Of the multitude of crap that flows through my Facebook page, this one stuck. I want to sing it, dance it, pray for some progress in healing our racial divides.

My traditionally favorite Christmas movie – Love Actually. Many of my alltime Brit favorites – Hugh Grant, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson – just pure ‘love, actually’ with a whole bunch of laughs and dance wiggles thrown in.

Two other excellent movies: Chef and 100-Foot Journey

imageBooks I read and 5-starred – a sampling; by no means a complete list:

Waging Heavy Peace by Neil Young
Loved It!! It reads like a stream-of-consciousness blog taking me back through several iterations of Neil’s musical career and my own life chapters influenced by his music. At the same time, it’s very much a ‘future vision’ outlook on environmental and music projects Neil is determined to bring to fruition.

Light in the Ruins by Chris Bohjalian
Chris is one of my top five all-time novelists (with his Idyll Banter essay book an equally compelling read). I am constantly amazed to scan his list of works and note the variety of locales, topics and characters he imagines into being.

Set in Tuscany during and a decade after WWII, this novel is a lush family saga with historic significance and intrigue, complete with Chris’s uncanny ability to fully develop his female characters. Having toured Tuscany with a guide who was steeped in WWII history of that region, I felt I was transported right back to those verdant hills and ancient villas.

Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander, M.D.
I am loved and cherished. I have nothing to fear.
I don’t know about ‘proof’, but I liked finding a book that mirrors my long-held beliefs.

My Promised Land by Ari Shavit
Flummoxed as ever by centuries of unresolved Middle East conflicts, I chose this one based on several reviews by noted Middle East experts. I started reading this a couple days ago.

How to Climb the Eiffel Tower by Elizabeth Hein
I met Elizabeth, who blogs at http://www.elizabethhein.com during the 2014 A to Z Challenge, and her novel was published this year. Click the link to read a synopsis of the book. Based on the quality and organizational skills Elizabeth exhibits on her blog, I expected a well-written novel, and it is. Elizabeth maintains a good pace; has created realistic, complex characters, and she excels at writing dialogue. I especially enjoyed her rounding out Lara’s character by including substantial work-related scenes and relationships, which added context to the other parts of Lara’s life.

Well there you have it – 2014 in a nutshell. Throw in a slew of good bike rides, a few rounds of decent golf and repeated handfuls of chocolate – even using New Math, that adds up to a well-rounded, highly satisfying year.

I’d be remiss not to mention how much I love my constant companion and dearest friend, Hub. He makes every day special just because he’s part of it.

imageSee y’all in 2015 !

Santa, Pack a Seamstress. PLEASE!

In the ‘What Was I Thinking’ category, I bought Raqi this child-size mannequin

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and these It’s So Easy (even an idiot can do it) Simplicity patterns

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and filled a sewing basket with shiny pins, assorted needles, pink pin cushion, measuring tape, colorful ribbon, spools of colorful thread, my button collection, black snaps and Velcro strips.

Raqi has been designing and hand sewing rudimentary clothes for her dolls, and she asked for fabric and a mannequin for Christmas to make herself some clothes. Her Mom told me she bought Raqi a ‘beginner’ sewing machine, so I jumped on Ebay to look for a mannequin.

As I was dressing up the mannequin in a scarf and skirt to put under the Christmas tree, lightning struck.

I CAN’T SEW.

I HATE SEWING!

Who is going to help Raqi thread the sewing machine, translate those mind-numbing pattern illustrations, measure and cut the fabric, sew in a straight line?

All my childhood trauma of my complete and utter failure as a seamstress came flooding over me. Mom made all our clothes and fully expected my sister and me to follow in her footsteps. She tried to teach me, cajole me. She even threatened to disown me from the realms of Home Ec majors who’d paved the way in my family.

I can’t make head, fingers nor foot-pedal sense of bobbins, nap, salvage, pinking shears. I can’t even fold the patterns up once they’ve been unfolded, not even with those permanent fold lines seared in that tissue-like paper.

Panicked, I emailed Parker: “Can YOU sew?”

Her response: “No, I thought you could.”

Running through my non-existent list of Plan B’s, I thought of Charisse, Raqi’s next-door-neighbor-Super-Mom who French-braids hair; makes daily meals for six from scratch; paints Halloween faces with the skill of a makeup artist.

I emailed Parker: “What about Charisse? Does she sew? If not, can she learn overnight?”

Parker’s response: “Charisse is out of town. You better bring gin.”

Merry Christmas to all my dear friends, readers, fellow bloggers and your families. May your Christmas celebration be as blessed and loving as I know mine will.

O Holy Night.

Words Don’t Flow But Spirit Shines

Ten lords a leaping; six geese a laying…

One Sammy tangling…

Christmas Tangle

 

If you’re tired of tangles, I understand!  That seems to be where my Santa spirit resides these days, and I enjoy the calming effect more than trying to harness words that elude my grasp. Plenty of time to crack the writing whip in the new year!

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Doesn’t Add Up!

Hub and I sat down last night to help Sparks (5th grade) with his homework.

You know where I’m going with this, right?

Sparks gave us an hour lesson in New Math, during which my thinking cap was knocked so askew I had to lie down for an hour. In New Math, that adds up to 1½ hours of no one learning any New Math.

We recovered by having some pie.

einstein

Apparently 98% of our population in any given year doesn’t grasp how to add, subtract or multiply numbers by columns. Neither do we know how to divide numbers using this cool Boomer doodle pattern:

division1

That’s the only reason I like long division – that rockin’ doodle pattern!

Don’t worry, there are doodle patterns in New Math; just not that obsolete Boomer pattern.

In New Math, the doodle pattern is 100% addition.

That’s right. Subtraction, multiplication and division are each distilled down to addition. Specifically addition of tens. See how this problem starts out as subtraction but quickly morphs into addition?

subtraction1

In addition, Plus Also, horizontal processing has replaced vertical calculations.

For instance this kind of problem:

 addition2

Now looks like …

new math

The gist is 72 and 39 are broken down into tens and reconfigured into completely new numbers spread out across that doodle-y horizontal line. The new numbers are then … … ok, I have no idea how to proceed, but I’m 97% certain there’s a subsequent calculation requiring an additional doodle.

new math doodle

Is anyone seeing a pattern here?

Call me doodle-brained, but New Math looks like it’s taking us down a slippery slope to a nation of … well … doodlers, not mathematicians!

Nevertheless, I’m encouraging Sparks to stick with New Math. I’m counting on him to calculate answers to some mathematical problems that have long plagued my musing mind:

  1. How is it that my nieces and nephews are approaching age 40 when I’m barely one face-wrinkle past 39 myself?
  2. How is it that my youngest brother, who I invariably describe as age 22, is actually – when I doodle it out – 57?
  3. Why can audiologists fine tune Hub’s hearing aids with eight different programs so he can HEAR, but not a single calibration will entice him to LISTEN?
  4. How can we successfully land a space explorer on a comet after traveling a cumulative four billion miles, but my cable provider cannot accurately sync my ‘automatic recording option’ with the actual start time of my shows?
  5. How can we bask in 70 degree sunshine at 10am; shiver in 29 degree snow flurries at 10:30am; and shovel two feet of snow in single digit temperatures 24 hours later? What is a Polar Vortex anyway? It sounds like something out of the Hunger Games (which I pray is not New World repercussions from the New Math Doodling curriculum).

When I was an auditor, I had a client who developed his own catch-all math response to my intrusive audit inquisition – probing for the truth about sales, inventory, expenses and profit.

Me: “Hey Sam, I’m looking at your inventory records stating the number of new and used cars you have on the lot, but my actual count is … well, it’s just not adding up.”

Sam (grabbing inventory sheet and his eraser): “What number would you like it to be?”

Sam didn’t need New Math OR a doodle to calculate that!

 

Source of graphics and photos: Google Images

 

‘Up at the Legion’

Today, November 10, 2014 we celebrate the United States Marine Corps’ 239th birthday.

Tomorrow is Veterans’ Day when the United States honors all who have served in the US Armed Forces.

Below is a photo of my grandmother who bore twelve children, eleven of whom lived to adulthood and some of whom she watched with her steadfast fortitude and optimism as they left town on their way to distant battlefields.

Grandma and Marine Recruiter

Grandma and Marine Recruiter

 

During World War II, four sons enlisted in the Marines and were deployed to the Pacific Islands while one daughter enlisted and was stationed as a Marine recruiter in Chicago. Grandma also had two sons-in-law deployed in the Marines and Air Force, and a younger son who later joined the Marines.

Aunt Dot, Dad, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Art, Uncle Pep, Uncle Walt

Aunt Dot, Dad, Uncle Chuck, Uncle Art, Uncle Pep, Uncle Walt

 

During her sons’ deployments, Grandma – along with so many other women on the homefront – worked at Clark Equipment Co., a manufacturing plant that assisted in military support by transitioning its manufacturing lines to produce heavy duty lift trucks and towing tractors for overseas missions.

As a tribute to the Marine Corps birthday and Veterans’ Day, I’d like to honor Uncle Pep and a veterans’ organization – the American Legion – because they were an integral part of my childhood.

Small town life in the 1950s centered around school, church and a few civic organizations. For my family, that organization was the American Legion.

At the time, I couldn’t have told you much, if anything, about the American Legion’s purpose. All I knew was if we had a family Christmas party, summer family reunion, town Halloween party or just about any other local festivity, it would take place ‘up at the Legion.’

That was a phrase heard often in our house and those of my many cousins. The Legion – a nondescript one-story blond brick building with a large social hall, roomy kitchen with a pass-thru window and serving counter, and two single stall bathrooms – was located on the way out of town on our steepest, longest hill.

For me as a child, both the hill and the Legion loomed large. Hence ‘up at the Legion’ was said with reverence not only because the Hall itself held such allure, but because of its ‘majestic’ setting.

I don’t think there was ever a time I was ‘up at the Legion’ and didn’t see Uncle Pep. I thought he owned the Legion. Or at least lived there.

Uncle Pep

Uncle Pep

 

Uncle Pep always seemed to be surrounded by my Dad, Uncles and other men – talking, playing cards, giving each other grief.

His nickname fit him perfectly; Uncle Pep was exactly that – full of energy, enthusiasm and a twinkle in his eye. No matter the event, he was always in the thick of it – setting up tables and chairs; cooking up something on the stove; washing pots and pans; doling out the decks of cards – all the while making sure everyone else had what they needed and felt welcome.

Because we held so many family functions ‘up at the Legion’, I thought of the place as simply ‘our’ gathering place, not making the connection to the Legion’s true purpose.

Sure, Uncle Pep, Dad and other men wore those odd-looking hats. And every Memorial Day and 4th of July, we – the adults in their military uniforms and kids in Boy and Girl Scout uniforms – met ‘up at the Legion’ to begin the parade that marched through town to the cemetery. Afterwards, we reconvened ‘up at the Legion’ for crowded picnics and games that lasted well into the night.

But I didn’t realize the haven that Hall provided for the men and women who came home from WWII struggling to fit back into ‘normal’ lives; learning how to move past the flashbacks and nightmares that could be shared only with those who’d marched through the same hell.

If you’ve seen the HBO series The Pacific, you know some of what these men endured. Guam, Saipan, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Peleliu – places etched deeply in their souls because of the young friends and comrades they lost in battle, not to mention their own gruesome actions on missions of unspeakable horror. Dad and my Uncles were fortunate to all come home from the war, but no one comes home without wounds and lasting scars.

The American Legion (http://legion.org) was chartered by Congress in 1919 after World War I to focus on serving veterans, servicemembers and communities. In my small town, the Legion served us well. It continues to do so in numerous communities across our nation.

Uncle Pep passed away a couple years ago, having lived a fully engaged life until age 90. For four of those years, he was an active duty Marine. For approximately 65 years, he was a veteran and proud, active member of the American Legion.

You military veterans and your families have my highest praise, my deepest gratitude  and my steadfast support.

Semper Fi

Autumnal Interference

I want to write. I should write.

Days like this get in the way …

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Siren calls I can’t ignore. Swept away by sunshine’s grace.

It’s the Thought That Counts

My doorbell rang a week before my birthday, intruding on my comfy silence.

* cringe *

Isn’t that always an introvert’s involuntary reaction?

Fortunately it was the UPS guy in his behemoth brown truck already turning the corner at the end of the block, racing his way to the next doorbell on the next porch.

I picked up the package addressed to Hub; walked down the hall to where he was sitting on the couch; and playfully asked, “Is this my birthday present?”

It is,” came from behind the newspaper.

What is it?” I teased.

It’s the replacement toilet seat for the one that got cracked.”

 

toilet seat

 

Two facts about our marriage:
1. We like humor.
2. We don’t buy each other ‘have to’ gifts.

What are ‘have to’ gifts?

The birthday, anniversary, Valentine’s Day conventions that dictate you show your love with gifts on these days. I’m not judging those who celebrate with flowers, candy, and jewelry because they are meaningful expressions of love for many couples.

Just not for us.

I much prefer spontaneous, unexpected gifts on non-event days, although traditional gift-giving days have created some gold nuggets in our family lore.

When I was four – back when we had thriving main streets with a movie theater, a soda shop, and hardware, clothing, pharmacy and ‘Five and Dime’ stores within a 3-block stretch – Mom gave each of us a quarter and let my older sister and me walk to the ‘Five and Dime’ to buy birthday presents for Dad.

I bought him this postcard:

orangutans

And a receipt book:

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2014 Version

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The postcard has travelled back and forth between Dad and me as a ‘laugh’ for 60 years, sometimes appearing in family photos or other unlikely locations.

Although I didn’t understand his job at the time, Dad was an accountant and I became an accountant and finance professional myself. I still like to look at receipt books and ledger paper in the office supply store.

Like the toilet seat Hub gifted me, Mom received tokens of Dad’s love through the years including a rototiller, a riding lawn mower and a washing machine.

Yup. Hub and I are carrying on the family tradition of ‘It’s the Thought That Counts’ gifts.

My grandkids have gifted me rocks, dried seeds and countless crafts. The usual – but nevertheless cherished – stuff, all of which is crammed onto a three-shelf display stand in my kitchen to get pawed over each time they visit.

Solidifying family memories of who, when, where.

My favorite gift from Sparks was when he asked me to participate in his ‘Now & Then’ school project – interviewing an older family member to compare my youth to his. Of his six grandparents, he chose me; and the time we spent discussing the interview questions and compiling this book are a gift I treasure.

 

Now & Then

 

Raqi has shown her love for Hub and me through many spontaneous gestures. When she was three years old and we were saying our goodbyes at their front door, “Wait!” she suddenly cried and scurried into the kitchen.

She hustled back with two single-serving peach paks from her snack cupboard.

“Here, Mima, Papa. For YOU!”

Shortly after, Hub and I were moving to our current home. Raqi had decorated a blue (now-faded) frog at daycare and gave it to me one night at their house.

image

 

As we were leaving, she held out her hands, “Mima, give me the frog.”

Why?”

“Wait till big truck. I bring it.”

Raqi had no experience with moving nor had any of us talked to her about the moving process. She brought the frog on her first visit to our new home and carefully placed it on the top shelf of the display rack.

Some people have an angel watching over them. I have Raqi’s frog.

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