Thursday, August 30, 2012


Yes, I'll admit it, I was scared to resume this blog. When I first started it, I plunged in headfirst, but after the break, I was nervous about returning and exposing myself. Not that I was using these posts to bare my soul, not that blogger was becoming my confessional, but because I am aware of some pretty shaky grammar.  I have a daughter and a son-in-law who can truthfully seed their resumes with the word "editor"—and we belong to a family with no hesitations about pointing out each other's shortcomings. I  plead guilty, I do it too!

I don't think I remember being aware of grammar until I started Latin, though I have a nightmarish memory of diagramming a sentence in an English class with Mrs. Doig. Because of all the writing I have had to do throughout my life, I think I can put together a decent sentence, but it is the colons and  semi-colons and quotation marks within quotation marks which throw me for a loop and I had decided not to get too concerned. (Note, I have no trouble with too. Or two, or to.) If I were younger and looking for a job, I would have no problem.

Or so I thought until I read these comments by a CEO which appeared in the Harvard Business Review:

 If you think an apostrophe was one of the 12 disciples of Jesus, you will never work for me. If you think a semicolon is a regular colon with an identity crisis, I will never hire you. If you scatter commas in to a sentence with all the discrimination of a shotgun, you might make it to the foyer before we politely escort you from the building . . .
If you want to read more, go to:

Although personally I think someone with such a self-proclaimed attention to detail should watch his URLs.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Last Celebrations of August

There's Jeff with Liz on their last anniversary.

Two more family celebrations before we move on to September. Our son-in-law Jeff marked his birthday on August 24. Since his birthday is in the baseball season and he is such a baseball fan (and a pretty good player too!), there's usually a game at Comerica Park involved. The whole family went—and four year old Lydia was ready to leave after the first innings. One of these days I am going to sit Jeff down for a series of portraits—when we are all together he usually slips away to the kitchen to do dishes or to the basement for a quick game of "clean up" and is missing from the photos. I appreciate it Jeff. Thanks for being a great son-in-law.

Today marked the second anniversary of what was, in effect, Al and Gody's third wedding. This ceremony was performed in our parish and Patrizia and Gody's sister Apauline were over from Pisa for the joyful occasion. I wrote at length about Gody on her birthday, July 6th. Love to you both today from us all.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Anyone remember?

The official season for guests is over. I mentioned a few posts back that it was "all scrunched up." Twenty three days, eighteen guests, thirteen of them ten and under. Just enough time to wash sheets and towels between visits. It was a most enjoyable time and for the most part the weather cooperated and the children (and their parents) made the most of our two parks, the splash pad and the swimming pool. Comcast did not. First there was the dog that ate the cable, then the modem gave out—fortunately that only affected the computers and we were not cut off from Dora the Explorer. Not that I sat everyone down in front of the T.V., but it comes in handy while finishing up meals or performing last minute tasks.

It got me thinking, though. I was a child of the forties. By the fifties I was reading and, as my mother said, "Always had my nose in a book." I can't remember doing anything other than reading—and that paid off.

But what was I doing in the earlier years? I have been racking my brains. All I can remember is a rectangular cart on wheels containing bricks/blocks with letters of the alphabet. It was kept along with the vacuum cleaner in the infamous "cupboard under the stairs." I remember spending time in my parents' bedroom playing "dress-up." There was not much more to dress up in than a pink printed chiffon number. Why did it never occur to me to ask my mother why she had a dress so inappropriate for her current life of cleaning widows and eking out meals from our ration books? I must have had a doll or two, but I can't recall names or faces. I do remember vividly my brother's train set which spread all over the front room floor. But of course girls wouldn't play with trains.

I suppose that even as a young child I was sent "out to play." Our street was a cul-de-sac and no-one had a car. I had a bike and spent my time playing with Janet Agombar, Alan Salter, Sylvia Bell and other children with names I can occasionally remember.

But did I have toys? Anyone my age remember what kept us amused and our minds busy?

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Final Frontier

My life post-university can be divided into three parts. From 1966 to 1982 I was a "stay at home mother". My working life lasted from 1982 to 2000 and the last twelve years can be described as my life in retirement.

Much can be written about each individual segment—and I am sure that one way or another bits and pieces will pop up in this blog. Recently I found myself thinking about the transition from one life to the next. In 1982 I certainly had enough on my plate: number five was about to enter school, the other four were working their way through elementary, middle and high school. Our lives were full of homework, sports teams, choirs—all the things which were part of family life. It had become increasingly clear that sending all the children to university was going to be a an expensive proposition. Since this was back in the days before the University had areas like "Human Resources" and my husband had a buddy who could fill positions willy nilly, I found myself bringing home a paycheck in my new role as Graduate secretary in the Psychology department. No-one seemed to notice I couldn't type. That was, however, an exciting transition. Women were roaring, and the idea of using my mind and getting out into the world was appealing. I had the requisite blouse with a bow tie—and of course I walked right into the difficult role of a working mother, which women are still struggling with.

I was very fortunate, because my husband was often able to be home to cover emergencies, though for much of that period he was departmental chair, which means he had emergencies of his own. I will never forget the time I was due to leave for a conference on Friday and realized in the middle of the week I needed a decent pair of black shoes and did not have a single minute free when the shops were open. He bravely walked into Hudsons and brought home two pairs of black pumps. I moved into a more suitable position and things chugged along until we decided it was time for me to join him in retirement.

With a few weeks to go until my last day of work, I was all set to finish a handbook for my successor, but I found myself falling over in the snow outside the doctor's office, carted to the hospital and attached to an IV and diagnosed with pneumonia. I returned to work for an odd day or two, but the world never got the handbook, the system changed and everyone got along just fine. I transitioned into retirement and never looked back.

A short while ago I returned for the farewell party of a dear friend who had put in over 40 years. It was just wonderful to see so many old familiar faces and that's when I started looking back to those transitions—and realized I have just one left. I hope I greet the final frontier with the eagerness of those earlier changes. But without the blouse with its floppy bow.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Apple Armageddon

My daughter is one of those efficient, multi-tasking working mothers with a scrunched up calendar I wrote about in my last post, so it was no surprise to discover that she was arranging a date in late September or early October for apple picking. For close to forty years we have gone to pick bushel baskets of apples in the Fall, originally in Canada with our old friends Andy and Sally and in more recent years with our own family. Problems with Homeland Security and passports have meant that of late our visits have been confined to apple orchards on this side of the border. Food has always been involved—picnic lunches in the orchard and once upon a time dinner at Mother's Pizza in Windsor. If I had done what I should have done with my photos, I could have done a photo progression, but these, taken two or three years ago, give you an idea.

Sitting on the tractor that circles the orchard, stopping at the various kinds of apples.

Plastic bags these days, not bushel baskets.

Additional fun—jumping over bales of hay.

September 25th, that day seemed to meet our needs, be convenient for every one and work perfectly to allow us to celebrate two eleventh birthdays for grandsons, but when my daughter checked the orchard's website, look what she found:

This is unlike any other season we have had in our U-Pick history. Due to early warm weather this spring and subsequent freezing temperatures, there are no apples growing on our trees for you to pick. This is a multi-state problem, so apples are quite scarce this season.
Despite this, we should be able to obtain enough apples so that we can have apple cider available for your enjoyment.
The Cider Mill will still be open with what we are predicting to be a “Bumper Crop” of our delicious donuts, along with our other usual items.

That's a long way to go for cider and donuts. Look at all the apple laden trees in the photos from earlier years. I know it is a minor inconvenience when you look at all the other results of Global Warming—if indeed that's what this is—but the inconvenience is for us, not for the farmers who make their living growing fruit. Let's hope I can send you better photos next year.

Monday, August 13, 2012

All Scrunched Up

I'm used to it. Anyone who has had children in three different schools, or some in college or some in church or community activities knows that in May and December a calendar is a girl's best friend. Now I am attempting to use this blog to chronicle my life for my out-of-town family (and for me), August is a month with scrunched-up dates I have to keep track of and I just realized that although I did send a card with a nice crisp bill to my granddaughter, we forgot to phone her yesterday as we always do. Sorry, Jo-Jo.

My last entry mentioned our television tragedy just as the Olympics started and my first set of guests arrived. The good part was that the cable got fixed, but I failed to take any photos of our activities. It was hot, so mostly the children swam. Naturally we ate and I also took them over to Canada, nervously recalling the time we did that when they only had one child. Jack was six months and the Border Patrol seemed to think we were engaged in baby smuggling. They pulled us over, took us into their building, but eventually let us go.  This photo was taken during my son Andrew's visit. The activities were pretty much the same and I did take a couple of photos. Here we are watching a movie in the yard.  The kids love it and Ernie makes popcorn and doles out candy. It got dark pretty soon after this photo was taken.

On the 4th we celebrated the tenth birthday of Alex in Virginia. He will be among our next set of visitors. Yes. I got the sheets washed! He will have to get back home to start practice for his travel soccer team (See what I mean, there's stuff going on even during vacations.) 

Andrew and Marcie left on the 6th, Ernie's birthday. We had celebrated with a picnic the day before. Here he is holding his youngest grandchild. If you have been following her incredible life in Veronica's Journey, you will be impressed to learn that she is taking her first steps and we were able to watch her.

What was next? That was our wedding anniversary on the 10th. I have written before about the conflict the photographer had between us and the Hereford cows—well, this was Iowa and the county fair. Sad that the celebrant, Ernie's brother, died a couple of years ago and the best man, the philosopher Dr. Charles Visgak, on the right, died a long, long time ago.

That brings us to the third birthday of Josephine Mary, seen here happily eating her cereal. She looks like butter wouldn't melt in her mouth, but I think she has learned more from her three older brothers than from the sedate oldest sister in the family. She is beautiful and a delight to have around.

So now a brief hiatus. Next group arrives on Thursday. The temperature is much cooler and let's hope it stays that way.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

The Dog Ate my Homework

Everyone is familiar with that old chestnut. Unfortunately, I re-wrote it—The Dog ate the Olympic Games. And we don't even have a dog.

I  had been looking forward to the Olympics and to seeing the wonderful background  shots of England. We watched the opening ceremonies on Friday—  a little odd, but I am not writing as a media critic. We were expecting house guests on Sunday, so I was busy making preparations. I noticed my computer had lost touch with the server, but thought it was just a temporary deal—you know, un-plug everything, count to thirty and plug everything back in, so I wasn't concerned. I stole half an hour in between preparations to watch TV and with all respect to water polo and to Montenegro, the game between the USA and Montenegro wasn't at the top of my must-see list. Suddenly we lost the picture. There was an error message, and the somewhat misleading promise to be back soon.

Cousins and second cousins arrived to greet our guests, there was dinner and talk and noise . . . but no television picture. When the kids were in bed I called Comcast, who, using their big brother equipment told me I was the only person in the neighborhood who was a big black blob, and the technician could be with me on Tuesday. I asked what would make me the only person without access to water polo, and they suggested that perhaps something had nibbled my cable. We had previously had trouble with squirrels destroying a cable and a particularly nasty black squirrel had made a meal out of a basket hanging on the fence, so he was my # 1 suspect. But when the technician hauled up the cable which passed under my fence, across a few inches of my neighbor's yard and up the pole, there it was—an area of gnawed and mangled orange cable. These are new neighbors behind me and I recalled having a dog growl at me one day when I was weeding back there. Problem solved and my guests were able to spend their last evening watching the highlights of the games.

Since the canine had destroyed my internet access, I was unable to acknowledge my daughter's birthday, although we celebrated it (with more dinner and talk and noise.) So happy birthday, Kate, and thanks for all the work you and your family do to make life easier for us.