Monday, March 19, 2018

Today . . .

. . . is Patrick’s twentieth birthday. He’s our second oldest grandchild and is seen here with our second youngest (for a day or two.)

We celebrated his birthday on Saturday, because he was home on Spring break and had to return yesterday to St. Louis (the city) and Saint Louis (the University.)
I am assuming he got back OK, although he was eleven hours late on his Detroit bound trip, thanks to a no show Greyhound. We are hoping that is good practice for travel in the Fall, when he will be enrolled at the Saint Louis campus in Madrid.

Like most college students he has re-thought his major a couple of times and has now settled on a double major in English and Philosophy. That means he makes his grandfather happy by his interest in esoteric philosophers and their theories of most things, and engages the rest of us by recommending books and authors a little more suited for our earthbound tastes. He is developing great skill as a writer—keep going, Patrick, we need more like you in the world. Happy Birthday.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Celebration in Rockville

It is Andrew’s birthday today. He reads this blog so no age will be given or hinted at. I suspect there will be no celebration for him tonight: he and Marcie spend their “spare” time running their six children to swimming, basketball, baseball and whatever else any of them have taken up recently.

This photo probably wasn’t taken at school, because the kids in the background are not wearing the neat green uniforms of St. Patricks. He teaches at the same school where five of his own children attend. Next year it will be four and so on down the line.

Hard to believe in is almost twenty-five years since he went to DC. He had a couple of great experiences while earning an M.A. at Catholic University: he got to be a proctor with the Senate Page program and then to work  at the Newman bookstore where he could indulge in reading—and sometimes buying—books.

Next year I will post some his wall building and woodworking projects, but for now I will only celebrate his work in the classroom, teaching Religion and Math with a class of Latin on the side. Happy Birthday, Andrew.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Cuneiform to Cursive and Beyond

In my last post I included a photo of Lydia’s paper on polar bears. It was jarring as I looked at it (in a good way, Diddy.) When I was nine I would have hand written the whole  thing and possibly given a rough idea of a bear's appearance with a hand-drawn blob. I was over fifty before I typed anything on a computer or figured out how to import a JPEG into my text.

I can’t remember learning to write, although I am grateful to whoever taught me that I was not forced to use my right hand. Like my mother I am naturally left-handed. She grew up in an era when being left handed was a mortal sin and I never noticed if she had been forced to make her right hand dominant in other tasks. I know I grew up with my left hand dominant for some tasks (knitting, sewing, throwing a ball) and using my right hand for other action (digging, hitting a rounders ball etc.) Once we could write in block letters, we waited for the next stage of growing up—learning cursives. I still have a few books with my name laboriously written on the fly leaf.

But then, after the 11+ and my entrance into Enfield County School, we had to give up cursives and learn “school writing.” We were destined for a life of essay after essay, tests with nary a  “multiple choice” question in sight and (no-one dreamed of computers at the time) years of wielding a pen or pencil. School writing was basically cursive, but with all the time-consuming loops and flourishes smoothed out or removed. It was not unattractive and it was certainly faster to use. I developed an unsightly, ink-stained “bunion” on the side of the middle finger of my left hand. The ink disappeared in the first decade of my post-graduate life, the bunion took a little longer to go. At the same time my handwriting reverted in part to my earlier style of cursive, incorporated a Greek epsilon or two  and became an unpleasant, messy hybrid.

Fast forward to the age of computers. I continued for many years to write letters by hand until it struck me that there were advantages to typing a letter. Mis-spellings were easier to correct, forgotten paragraphs could be inserted, unfortunate phrases or comments could disappear with no tell-tale remnants of Wite-Out. The warmth of my letter could perhaps compensate for the rigid medium. There are still a few letters which must be hand written, and I dread letters of condolence, not because I have no sentiments or sympathy to express, but because I often have to start again as my hand, and the brain that controls it, run amok across the page and nouns appear where I had intended to write verbs and so on. Even totally unintended words tend to make an appearance.

My grandchildren are products of their time. When we write birthday cards, with our sentiments lovingly expressed in our current version of cursives, we are often present as they open the cards and attempt to share our words with their family. Good grief, one would think we were writing in Linear B and they needed Michael Ventris to come along and put them out of their misery.

I should add that a couple of days ago we read an article about Georgetown University forbidding students to use lap tops for note taking, and insisting that their students use long hand to take notes in class. Misery ensued. Poor kids couldn’t even read their own writing. Enough said.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Double Digits for Lydia Jane

I have always loved my granddaughter’s name. Sounds like something out of Jane Austen. Within her family she has always been known as “Diddy.” Not sure what that sounds like.

She’s the youngest of five, which means she could be the most put-upon or spoiled.  With two older brothers and two older sisters there may be a little of both, but she is the happiest, smilingest girl you could want to meet. The spellcheck thing told me smilingest is not a word and I might want to substitute smelliest. It’s a word if I say it’s a word!

She also has a great imagination and creativity, as was shown by the cow-themed accessories she has made for today’s family birthday party.

Lydia’s teacher was most impressed by her essay on Polar Bears. Perhaps she will grow up to be an author. Happy Birthday, Lydia.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Great Expectations

The winter Olympics came to an end yesterday. I spent most evenings of the two week event watching the highlights on NBC. I could also have watched most of it live during the day on both an American channel and the Canadian channel (CBC) which comes to us across the Detroit River. I did spend time once watching CBC during the summer Olympics and they are nothing if not patriotic. I remember watching the Canadian team skeet shooting all day and I was afraid that during the winter event I would be forced to watch curling—though lo and behold curling certainly came into its own this winter. It was hard not to giggle as I caught sight of the American men’s curling team and remembered an article I had read early about some of the shenanigans in the Olympic village, attributed to “perfect bodies in skin tight lycra.” These guys looked like they trained on beer. However, they won the Gold Medal, and that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it?

Personally, I don’t think it is and I was disappointed that the US sports writers and TV commentators did a great disservice to their country's representatives. Even before the games began we were regaled with little vignettes of a handful of skaters and skiers who the press though would win gold. We were introduced to old home movies of their beginnings in competition and a long sob story about injuries and rehab, while we were tacitly assured that these games would be the crown of their achievements. (And note, it was mainly the marquee sports that got selected.) Once the competition got underway, a newspaper which I usually enjoy reading published a long article entitled, in a rather large font, “U.S. Is Falling Down in Medals Race.”

Rachel Bachman who wrote the article picked the team to pieces, mentioning athletes by name, though I will just use initials,  “HB, the world record holder in the 1,500 meters, finished eighth in the race here and failed to medal in the 1,000. . . Gold-medal favorite aerials skier AC didn’t make the final . . . MS, the most dominant slalom skier in the world, vomited before that race and finished fourth . . . and on and on. She then hammered home her crushing comments by quoting  a “music promoter in Watertown, Conn”, who said medal count matters because  “It’s important to show United Sates exceptionalism.” Thanks for your input Mr. music promoter. No wonder the Norwegians who seemed to relax, enjoy everything and sport fancy mustaches had such a successful games.

For me there were two events which had me on the edge of my seat. My views on the sport quotient of the halfpipe events is fodder for another post (which I won’t write.) I was, however, watching the halfpipe skiing competition. Each rider has three attempts to earn the highest score, which makes sense as most of the riders crash on at least one run. David Wise, the defending gold medalist, had problems with his ski bindings on his first two attempts which meant he had only one chance to make a phenomenal score if he wanted to earn a second gold. He calmly slid into the pipe and did a series of breathtaking tricks. I don’t understand the technical terms, but this was poetry in motion. The result—a score of 97.20 and a second gold. Grace under pressure. The second event was one I only saw by chance as it was coming to a conclusion. It was a cross country ski relay race: each country had two skiers who took it in turn to compete a circuit, up hills, around the stadium, then out into the country side again. One of the skiers, Jessie Diggins, had appeared in the pre-Olympic vignettes, coming from a tiny town in Minnesota, where the inhabitants were shown getting up at 3:00 a.m. to congregate in a small cafe to watch the race. I just caught her last two circuits and the one by her fellow American skier sandwiched in between. She was struggling up a hill, a Finn and a Swede behind her. They jockeyed for the lead, fought to pass on the inside or the outside. At one point the Swede looked like she had run out of gas, but she came to life and the three women battled neck and neck as they entered the stadium and raced to the finish line. The girl from a small Minnesota town won by inches. I bet the town rejoiced.

That’s all until the next Olympic games. I have been ordered by the doctors to exercise. It won’t be cross country skiing.

Two of my last posts have been edited because I couldn’t tell the difference between February and March. Thank you, Andrew, for pointing it out.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The Last Birthday in February

Today is Ron’s birthday. Three of the prior birthdays this month were celebrated by teenagers. Ron is a littler older, but no numbers will be mentioned.

Still sorting my iPhotos, so the last “real” photo I have of Ron shows him with his oldest son, sorting out donations at Christmas. No, Ron is not short, Patrick is 6’3” at last measurement.

I think of Ron as our Renaissance man. He plays the piano, he sings, he is a great cook and his family has not eaten a crumb of commercially made bread for many years, he writes a literary blog, and while the Detroit Free Press felt like book reviews were worthwhile, he was a book critic. He is a great husband, father, son-in-law and part of a fun loving family whom we have enjoyed knowing.

He is also a pretty fine pirate. It is hard to believe that in two years he will be the father of a college senior, a college junior and a college freshman! That’s when the grey hairs will start arriving!

Sunday, February 18, 2018

It’s Liesl's Turn

Those birthdays keep coming. Today is Liesl’s sixteenth birthday. She is our sixth oldest grandchild: we had five grandsons before Andrew and Marcie gave us a reason to think pink.

Like most girls of her age she looks different all the time—long hair, short hair, but the thing that is constant about Liesl is that she looks a lot like Marcie, and that’s a good thing. Here she is as she looked last Fall. She is a sophomore at Rockville High School, studying for AP exams and working on the schools’s literary publication. Nice to have another writer in the family. It was such fun to talk to her when she was here last summer. I admire her for deciding this year that she wanted to play basketball. She went to try outs and is now playing for the JV team. It brings back memories of her dad! So while her siblings all swim, she has chosen the path less traveled in the family. Nice going, Liesl.

Here she is with her siblings at Christ-mas. In this photo I saw her sitting on the left and actually thought it was Marcie.

Happy birthday to a granddaughter I remember so clearly sitting in a high chair with her blond curls and eating bombas (that’s blueberries to the rest of the world.)