Bobbing Along

A Lifetime of Stories: collected, painted, shared.

A Few Words on Words

The morning after the 2016 Election, I sat at the airport awaiting a flight to Chicago. I was numb. I was heartbroken. And I was frightened beyond belief at the results of the previous day.

There was an eerie quiet amongst us, those passengers waiting to board. I could say that we all felt impending doom but that would be neither fair nor correct. Perhaps the quiet reflected a competing sense of relief that this most contentious of elections was finally over.

I do know that when the overhead monitor began to display Clinton’s concession speech, many stood attentively in front of the screen, each one somber. Respectful. Silent. I don’t believe for a minute that all of them were supporters of her campaign, yet even if their interest was based only on curiosity, their respect was profound.

That respect moved me to tears. If the behavior and dialogue that was espoused by our now President during the course of his campaign served as any indication, respect will certainly not be a hallmark of this new administration. Of this, I am sure.

Let me be clear on something: I am not a die-hard, vote-the-party-line person. I do have some lines-in-the-sand issues that inform my choices but I also know that sand shifts. I am open to other ideas (even if I do manage to argue my opposing points). I have occasionally been known to change my opinion (very occasionally but still…).

This election, however, was particularly difficult for me. You see, I was raised by a man whose words inflicted pain. My siblings and I have worked all our lives to heal the wounds inflicted by one bully, our father. The mental and emotional wounds will never be fully erased; scars will always remain.

I know only too well the damage that is done when words are used to control. When words are used to humiliate. When words are used to demean and diminish. And I know just how difficult it is to rise up against such words. It has taken me the better part of my lifetime to find my own voice and my abuse wasn’t on a public scale. No one recorded it. It was not displayed and discussed on the news. No one had an opportunity to stand up against it.

As a nation, we should have stood up against this bully who is now our new president.

But we did not.

For those of you who overlooked his words, please understand why I could not. Please understand why I cannot still. Please understand that words matter and for the life of me, I cannot understand why his words didn’t matter to you. To everyone.

To those of you who may feel that I am being disrespectful here, I answer this: Were my path to cross with the new president, I would behave respectfully. That is right and fair. He, however, will have to earn my respect. After all of his words, which were hurtful to so many people, I think that is also right. And also fair.

Words have consequences.

The words we use speak to our character.

Choose them wisely, Mr. President.

Choose them wisely.

 

Keeping Score

Over the Christmas holidays, Dear Dave and I decided to take the two older grandchildren on a trip to Washington, D.C.  Two nights and two days in that amazing city. A city filled with museums. And, uh, other things. And how did this adventure go, you may wonder? Well, let’s view it as a game—a competition between intent and reality, with YAY! for achieving the intent and OOPS! for screwing it up. I’m sure you can’t guess how this’ll turn out, right?

It was with great enthusiasm that the Rooster requested to see the White House “while President Obama still lived there.” Unfortunately, the tickets I sought from my duly-elected Representative never quite materialized.

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We decided not to drive into D.C. given that we are cowards that way. Instead, we parked in Baltimore and took the MARC train, a two-level commuter train that runs between Baltimore and D.C. The Peanut was particularly thrilled to ride on the top level. Even though it was dark. And, high or low, we couldn’t see a thing. Still, we were on the top deck. Also, due to planning errors, dinner was a couple of bags of Cheetos.

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It was rather late by the time we arrived at our hotel. It hadn’t helped that our cab driver got us all lost. Although it was too close to bedtime to use the pool, the kids and I went to check it out anyway. While we explored the “fitness” level, we made our way outside onto a small balcony from which we could see the gleaming dome of the Capitol Building.

The extremely well-traveled Peanut was thrilled. “This place is amazing! It’s is the most beautiful hotel I’ve ever seen!” (It was a Hampton.) And the Rooster was beside himself with joy. “WASHINGTON DC! IT’S A DREAM COME TRUE!”

YAY! 2,  OOPS! 1

Naturally, when those exclamations registered in my brain, my first thought was We’d better go home right now. We have hit the highpoint and there are more than 36 hours to go. I am so fucked. As they say, however, hope springs eternal and we continued on our adventure early the next morning. They loved riding on the Metro.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 1

Then we got off and discovered that it was very cold.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 2

And it was very windy.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 3

We couldn’t easily get close enough to the South Portico of the White House for a decent look, let alone a good photograph. Not even with the rather grim and disgruntled assistance of a parked Secret Service agent who ordered me “away from the car, Lady. Lady, away from the car. Lady, BACK AWAY FROM THE CAR!” Jeez. I was only trying to ask for directions.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 4

At the museum entrances, there were huge, long lines. Obviously other grandparents had copied my idea. Also, there were security measures in place. So we had to wait. In the cold and the wind. And once inside, it was very crowded.

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 5

There was a lot of walking and a lot of waiting. Did I mention it was cold and windy?

YAY! 3,  OOPS! 6

The Rooster has long been fascinated with Abraham Lincoln. As Tour Leader, it took me a bit longer than it should have to change our course, but I did, eventually. We ditched the museums and cabbed our way to the Lincoln Memorial.

YAY! 4,  OOPS! 6

AND IT WAS AWESOME. We read the Gettysburg Address, engraved on one wall. We talked a little about the Civil War and the Battle of Gettysburg and about the Emancipation Proclamation. It was a lot to take in. Most important, I suppose, given their ages, I assured them (several times) that no, Abraham Lincoln was not really that big.

YAY! 5,  OOPS! 6

From there, we cabbed it back to the White House. I am nothing if not determined. We were going to see the White House and get a picture of it too. It was the North Portico, but it was still the White House, dammit.

YAY! 6,  OOPS! 6

Cold, tired, and a wee bit cranky, we then headed back for dinner and the much-anticipated swim in the hotel pool. The pool where a certain young person choked on some water, regurgitated some dinner, turned white as a sheet and decided to put the “sick” in homesick. A warm bath did nothing to help. Nor did the FaceTime with the parents. It was a long night.

YAY! 6,  OOPS! 7

The next morning brought bright sunshine and warmer weather, but we high-tailed it home anyway. This time, we used Amtrak but a train is a train and everyone was happy. Will we repeat this plan? Maybe. Maybe not. The jury is still out on that. When asked what they enjoyed the most about our adventures, and yes, I actually asked them that, their response was swift: the trains. All of them. But especially the double-decker. All Aboard!

YAY! 7,  OOPS! 7

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Voices

We recently attended an event: Dear Dave’s 50th high school reunion. We had primped and powdered and felt reasonably comfortable in our old skin and not-new clothes. We were a tad anxious, but otherwise ready to participate in the inevitable task of matching old yearbook photos, long-unthought-of names, and the faces which might complete a connection. That task, ultimately, was his. I tagged along as “SPOUSE”.

True, I had met some of his friends way back during our dating days. And some of them I was looking forward to seeing after so many years. I will confess, however, that as we arrived at the venue and made our way toward the doors—passing long glass walls through which we could see a throng of people—I quietly said to my dear husband,

That can’t be the reunion. Those people look far too old. Let’s check at the front desk to see where your group is meeting.

Yes. I said that. Yes, indeed. And yes, the concierge confirmed what deep down inside we both knew: those “old people”—the ones that looked JUST LIKE US—were the rest of the reunion attendees. Busted.

Honestly, we had a wonderful time. As a spouse, it was great fun to watch and listen, to observe the delight in faces when that recognition hit and to hear the glee that accompanied it. Still, I was looking for one face. That one person whom I knew would be in attendance. That one person for whom I have such fond memories.

My only photograph of her was taken when we visited her and her husband (both classmates of Dear Dave), spending the night in their tiny rented house while en route to other cities in the New England area. It was with these friends that I first drank Ouzo and Retsina and the fact that I can remember anything about that evening (There was dancing. Something with an handkerchief?) given the amounts of Greek wine that were consumed, is nothing short of a miracle. This is the person I was seeking, and yes, ’tis I tucked in the corner on the left…

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And, as a bit of a side note, the reason I have been able to locate said photo is due to my early days of creating scrapbooks which in this case has never been completed.

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Reunions are among those occasions where using one’s eyes is not necessarily the best approach. Looks are very deceptive after fifty years. I know this because the image I see in the mirror each day doesn’t resemble me at all. Nope. Not one bit.

So how did I locate my friend? By sound. We were standing right next to each other. I heard her speak. That the sound of someone’s voice can transcend years and distances is amazing to me. Yet it did. And it absolutely made my evening. Let’s not wait another fifty, dear friend, ok?

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Labors of Love

Before the world went digital, we made scrapbooks. Well, I made scrapbooks. Lots of scrapbooks. Bookshelves of thick, chunky, dust-gathering scrapbooks. Like these:

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It took hours to select which photographs to include and which to ignore. It took even more time to create categories and tags to explain what needed additional explaining. It was a labor of love usually accomplished during slow summer afternoons or bitter winter evenings while refereeing squabbles (theirs), overseeing homework (theirs), and nursing headaches (mine). And it all ended by 2005 when we became a family with a digital camera.

Those scrapbooks were the objects my children curled up with on days when they felt under the weather. Or on days when the weather kept them under, stuck at home and away from friends. The scrapbooks were duly pulled off the shelves when new friends visited for the first time. They were shared when old friends came by as well. These labors of love were loved. Still are, I think, in an old-fashioned sort of way.

As for labors of love, the same can be said of this blog which, however ignored it appears to be, is just a different way to collect memories. Just another way to share the stories and tell the tales (some short, some tall). It does take time (more than most can imagine) to accomplish it to my level of satisfaction, but I love doing this, this writing. And this sharing. I can only hope that years from now my family will dust off an old computer or its equivalent and revisit this site because this is the closest I will ever come to scrapbooking again.

Anyway, now that summer has shifted into fall and winter beckons, it is time (past time, some would say) to gather those memories of the previous few months, tidy them into a this little epic post the rest of which will be filled more with images than words (you’re welcome). I do love sharing these faces…

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The Rooster, 8

 

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The Peanut, almost 5

 

The Chick-a-dee, 3

The Chick-a-dee, 3

 

Beanie, now 1

Beanie, now 1

 

The Lu-bird, 6 months

The Lu-bird, 6 months

 

More? Of course! I’m not about to leave you with just five, silly! This was the Summer of Popsicles and other Porch Snacks…

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It was the Summer of Beaches, Barbecues, and Backyard Campouts.

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And if there was one thing that defined this summer, it had to be The Great Bubble Wand Experiment. What began as a project for Camp Mombaba, became the best party game ever—possibly more fun for the ‘grown’ ups than their offspring. I must give a nod here to www.kiwicrate.com for this particular inspiration and to Son #1 for most of the bubble photos.

 

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Whenever we gather, wherever we gather, Life is just crazy good.

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Thanks for sticking around. More stories are on the way, but, for now, the studio beckons and I am heeding the call. xoxo

 

 

The Lu-bird

It must be said that having grandchildren is tantamount to winning the lottery…or finding that gold at the end of a rainbow. It is simply the most marvelous gift Life can hand you. Better than bacon. Even better than butter. Better than children too, actually, although I love my kids, I really do. I just find my grandchildren that. much. more. wonderful.

One might have thought that as deeply as I feel this—to the very core of my very core—I would have been far more diligent in announcing our latest joyful bundle. She arrived way, w-a-a-a-y back in March which makes me six months SIX MONTHS late in sharing this news with whomever might be lurking around this blog. (Hey, Jackie! Hi, Mary Lou!)

So, without further ado, here is The Lu-bird.

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And here she is again.

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And again.

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And again.

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More? You want more? Well, here you are!

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And yet another, taken right after her big brother stuffed a huge chunk of chocolate cake into her mouth. She loved it. And begged for more.

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She wears the “crown” to adjust some issues with the shape of her head, a result of intra-utero squashing. Yes, that is the medical term. I had wanted to bedazzle the crown but my artistic efforts were immediately thwarted. No rhinestones. No glitter glue. No sequins. Nada. I wasn’t allowed near her until I was frisked.

Lu-bird brings our total of grandchildren to five. Five delightfully unique little wonders. I know precisely how fortunate I am. My heart is full-to-bursting with joy and gratitude.

And the other grands? They are doing just fine, thank you for asking. Since I am finally at the computer writing on this here blog, I’ll share some photos of the rest of the crew soon. Very soon. For now, however, this post is all about the Lu-Bird. We love you, Lu-bird! We truly do!!

 

 

 

 

Journal Entry: Time

Summer is nearing its end. Windows are open. Cool breezes cleanse the air. I embrace the quiet and allow myself time to think. Time to renew my focus and refresh my intentions. Time to clear my mental cobwebs and dust off my dreams.

Over the last few months there have been signs. Signs that point me in the direction of change. Signs that encourage me to cease hovering at the edge, to take that leap off the proverbial cliff.

“Everyone forgets that Icarus also flew.” writes Jack Gilbert in his poem, Failing and Flying.

I may well fail but I might fly for a bit too.

“It’s time”, the Universe tells me. “It’s time.”

If not now, when?

It’s time.

 

For Jackie and Mary Lou, my last known surviving readers…

ONCE UPON A TIME

there was a blog.

But the blogger of the blog

is a real slacker.

She is still trying to write however.

Hang in there.

xoxox

And Then There’s THIS…

…this SCREENSHOT of her FACEBOOK POST…from the daughter who frets and hides every time her dad has a camera nearby.

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Yes. Yes, she did. Knowing only too well her aversion to being photographed, well, let’s just say right here and now: this rendered me speechless!

Meanwhile, her Facebook family went bonkers so what do I know? I had planned another, p’haps more gentle, delicate, sentimental (okay, wimpy) type of announcement. A story, of course, not like I’ve actually written any of late, but a story nonetheless. Which may happen. Or not.

Yes indeedy. We have another grandchild—a granddaughter—set to arrive really, really soon. And no matter how the impending arrival is announced, we are all thrilled. More to come, promise!!

 

 

Teachable Moments

Or How Children Learn Just What They Are Ready To Understand And Not One Bit More. Thank God.

I am a firm believer in the value of “teachable moments,” those brilliant bursts of opportunity the Universe inexplicably gives us to share some wisdom with someone else. I am rarely ready for these moments which I’m pretty sure is a big reason why the Universe rations her delivery of such to me. Still, when that Universe calls, I wade right in and do my best. For better or for worse. I can’t be counted upon for a great degree of wisdom but I do try not to eff it all up.

Not terribly long ago (well, actually, a couple of years ago. I told you I was behind on stories, didn’t I?), on a steamy hot summer’s day, Dear Dave and I took the Rooster (Remember him? He’s seven now. Damn!) for an excursion on an antique train attraction in our area. This refurbished train happens to ride the same rail line that took Abraham Lincoln from Washington to Gettysburg when he was to deliver the Gettysburg Address. These rails also guided the train that carried his body to Illinois for internment after his assassination. Staking claim to this bit of history may seem a stretch to some, but here in York we kinda clutch at anything we can get. After all, we are sandwiched between Gettysburg with its glorious Civil War history and Lancaster with its gentle Amish influence. There seems to be nothing special about being that geographical middle child.

Anyway, on this particular afternoon, the Rooster just was not in the mood for anything remotely educational. It was hot. It was humid. It was August, for God’s sake. (And yes, the pool was just sitting there at home wondering where the hell we were.) In short, it was miserable. But we already had tickets! And I am nothing if not stubborn. And cheap. This particular event was billed for kids, with a docent dressed uncomfortably in Civil War-era attire (complete with a plastic flower tucked in her bodice. Really? It’s summer! Could she not have picked a daisy somewhere?) ready to talk about what life was like for children during the 1800s. (Hint: stinky and sweaty.) So what’s not to love, right?

Off we went, with our slightly sullen grandson. Frankly, it was so miserably hot that none of us were really paying attention to anything other than desperately catching a breeze. The docent’s voice spoke softly in the background, drowned out by the sounds of the steam engine. Not particularly engaged by her presentation, we sat fanning ourselves as the train chugged along its route, thinking about that pool waiting in the backyard.

And then, somehow, the name Abraham Lincoln reached our ears. The Rooster’s head whipped up. Eyes wide, he looked at me, and announced, “I heared about Abraham Lincoln in school, Mommom!”

Before I had a chance to reply, he asked, “Mommom, why did that bad man shoot President Lincoln?”

My thoughts at that moment? Not gracious. Not gracious at all. More along the lines of Thanks a heap, Universe. I am just too damn hot to deal with this right now.” And since the ride was nearly done, I decided to stall, telling the Rooster that we would talk all about it when we got to the (air-conditioned, thank the Lord) car.

My brain began an immediate scramble. How does one explain the Civil War to a not-quite-five-year-old? How does one begin to discuss slavery? And race? And brutality and injustice? How far does one go in explaining a very complicated and ugly part of our history? Well, one just wades on in, one does. So, I began to wade. Knee deep.

I told him that a long, long time ago, there were good farmers and there were bad farmers (and this is where any organization of farmers will hunt me down. Sorry. I told y’all I am neither wise nor gracious.) And the bad farmers had slaves which meant men and women and children were forced to work long hours without any pay, without any choice, without the chances everyone else had for education and freedom. The Rooster understood that the man that shot Lincoln was on the side of the bad farmers who were angry that Abraham Lincoln gave all the slaves their freedom. He got the gist of the message without my having to go into the uglier details that plague this country still. Those points will come later and he’ll be ready for them. But my sense was, No. Not now. Not all of it. Not yet.

After a couple of weeks had elapsed, I got a call from The Rooster.

“Mommom. I have a question.”

“Sure. What is it?”

“Mommom. The farmers with no sleeves, were the farmers with no sleeves mad that the bad man shooted Abraham Lincoln?”

Sleeves? No sleeves? Sleeve-less? Wife-beaters? Whaaaat? Suddenly I understood though I had to suppress my giggles as I corrected him.

Slaves, Rooster. Not sleeves.”

It’s all a matter of readiness. And vocabulary. Sleeves, slaves. He was still working to grasp the concept. He was still interested in learning more. His curiosity is endless. I answered his question, wondering all the while what he might ask next. And when.

Weeks went by. The Rooster and I were coming home from another excursion, this time to a Science Museum. If you think I am out of my league with history, you cannot imagine how bad I am at explaining science.

“Mommom.”

“Yes, Rooster?”

“Mommom. How big was the box?”

“The box? What box?”

“The box that carried Abraham Lincoln’s body on that train. How big was it?”

That’s it, Universe. Don’t do this to me again. I am so done!

The Fabulous Fuchsia reFurbished Vacuum Cleaning Machine

Am I really writing about, gasp, a vacuum? As in a vacuum CLEANER?

Yes.

Yes, I am.

Here it is, in all its bright pink-and-purple majesty.

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This, I have informed Dear Dave, is not, repeat, NOT my birthday present, although it is October and gifts are gladly accepted at any time. No, this is not a birthday present even though Dear Dave is the one who spotted the gaudy-yet-cheap online special. For my birthday, I have told him, there is an iPhone 6s out there, somewhere, with my name on it.

However,

The Fabulous Fuchsia reFurbished Vacuum Cleaning Machine arrived today where it was promptly assembled and used. Ugly? Yes. Efficient? Oh, hell, yes! After thirty-five years with my old vacuum, all I can say about it is this: What the hell took me so long???

I love this thing! Yes, in all its gaudy glory, I love it.

Still…that iPhone is out there…waiting…for me…