Wednesday, October 31, 2012

October is Rich in Birthdays

Today is Halloween and the last day of October. We have celebrated four birthdays this month. First it was Danny. Danny was eleven on October 1. Perhaps the bow tie will give you a clue: Danny is the Renaissance man, a writer, musician and film maker. Note of caution—comb your hair before approaching Danny because you may land up in his movie. His next appearance on stage will be with the Grosse Pointe Theatre in "Seussical the Musical."

Daniel's cousins Theodore and Linus have birthdays four days apart later in the month. Here they are on the first day of school with their younger brother Sebastian thrown in for good measure. I think they all look a little apprehensive and a little stiffer than their usual rambunctious selves. Theodore was nine and Linus seven. They are all great swimmers and Theodore is a backstroker.

Last but not least is our oldest grandchild, Emmanuel, who reached the
un-believable age of fifteen. Here he is earlier in the year with his grandpa. Manny is a freshman in high school with a great talent for soccer. Such a change from the chubby little guy we first met in Pisa so long ago.

It is such a joy to see them grow and develop their talents. Love you all!

Tuesday, October 30, 2012


Whoever names storms seemed to want to celebrate my family this year. First there was Alberto, then Beryl and later Ernesto. My son-in-law's mother is called Sandy.

There is nothing I can write about this last storm. I have a son in Maryland and one in Virginia and the last thing I did before I went to bed last night was send them an e-mail and tell them to be careful and to keep in touch. This morning I heard from Andrew in Rockville, Maryland, that they had been without power all night, but it had been restored by morning. They have had such dismal experiences with their power company—rather inaptly called Pepco—that they bought a generator which helps during their frequent outages. Al posted data about the rainfall in his rain gauge (5 inches when he woke up) and put up photos of a road disguised as a river, but they both escaped the worst of Sandy's violence.

We had watched the news reports last night as the east coast prepared for the worst. On occasions like this the news agencies make use of the local reporters affiliated with their network. We enjoyed the anxious and rather garrulous young woman, hoping perhaps for a future shot at the big time, who told us that there was a great deal of damage when a car fell on a tree, but watching the reports tonight, it was hard to find any humor.

We are several hundred miles away from the areas where the storm came aground, but last night the sound of blowing rain and blustery winds kept me awake. It has calmed down now. How easily life returns to normal for us who did not suffer the effects of the storm.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I'll Never Be Hungry Again

If Scarlett O'Hara had lived in Michigan rather than Georgia, I suspect she would have edited her vow to "I'll never be cold again."
It is certainly a vow I have made countless times over the years. No, please don't picture me as a little match girl shivering on a street corner. But there have been times . . .
Growing up in England, I knew cold. But it was a damp, clammy cold and a winter coat was usually wool, made a little more cold friendly with layers of woolly cardigans. Home made, thanks to my mum. Then there was three years in Los Angeles, where the Santa Ana winds was the closest I came to something that even sounded like winter. On to Michigan, where I first came across those piles of snow I had unbelievingly seen on TV in California. Funny thing, I can remember the blue snow suit I bought for baby number 1, but I can't remember what I had for outerwear. I do know, however, it wasn't always the right thing..
My dilemma is illustrated by the catalogs that have been arriving at the house. Eddie Bauer, Landsend and L.L. Bean. Do I want mid thigh or hip length? There's even a high hip. There's a long coat and a maxi coat,  a three quarter coat and an "above ankle" coat. If you want wool, there's also an insulated wool, and I could protect myself with an Adirondack cotton canvas Barn coat, either insulated or flannel lined. Of course the real work horses of winter coats are modern down, essential down and now cirĂ© down. Did I mention goose down? Thinsulate is always a winner, be it waterproof or water-resistant. Windproof helps too. And so it goes.

I have two winter jackets—one a gift and one I bought by chance. It is a Landsend jacket and I love it. It caught my eye in one of the Landsend stores at Sears which I visited because Landsend is primarily a catalog business and I am not crazy about buying clothes I haven't tried on. This jacket is amazingly light weight and amazingly warm and I can throw it in the washing machine and have it come out as good as new. But it is also rather . . . bright. You can't see it in this photo, but it also has an orange facing. So everyone knows it's me coming, and it may be time for a new jacket. Here I am wearing it in England. In fact I bought it right before we went to England and I didn't wear it until it was time to leave for the airport. When I put it on, I realized that the anti-theft tag had not been removed. I had visions of Homeland Security bearing down on me as I tried to leave the country, but this chunk of plastic turned out to be the kind that squirts ink all over you if you try to remove it. We changed planes at Dulles and I got on the phone trying to find a Landsend outlet in Virginia which could remove the tag. In the end I gave up and spent a couple of weeks in England trying to drape myself casually over the rather  obvious device.
So if I were ever to sort out all those jacket models—I'd need to move on to legs, hands and feet. I watched a documentary about Everest the other night and saw footage of Mallory in 1924. I bet he would have loved to make some of these choices.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In Which We Go Up North

Michigan is an interesting state. The Lower Peninsula is shaped rather like a mitten, so if you ever see inhabitants of the state holding up their hand and pointing to a spot, they may be indicating where they were born or lived. Mitt Romney has been know to do this. On the other side of the magnificent Mackinac Bridge (pronounced Mackinaw) is the Upper Penninsula, the land of Youpers. Escanaba in Da Moonlight, anyone? Maybe I will give you more of a history/geography lesson one day. I'm sure you would like to hear the story of how I, a neophyte driver at the time, drove across the Upper Peninsula and, as we neared the bridge,started looking for a place to exchange drivers, suddenly finding myself driving across the bridge, the third longest suspension bridge in the world.

This trip was to spend a few days with a friend in Cheboygan at his cottage on Lake Huron, at the northernmost tip of the Lower Peninsula. (I'll also have to give you a lesson on why vacation homes are always described as cottages, even though in many cases they are grander than our main residence.) I also have to write on the rather vague "up north", as in "I went camping up north" or "We went hunting up north". If you Google "up north", most of the early references are to Michigan. I was looking forward to all kinds of photo ops. Here's one I took right after we got there looking down his winding "driveway"—

and not long afterwards it started to rain and the beautiful leaves and ferns and mosses were flattened. We did get a walk down to the beach before it rained and we could see the bridge in the distance and a few tankers making their way down towards the Detroit river. 

The weather was not a problem. There was a lovely stove and couches to stretch out on and we all had plenty to read. Each day there was an expedition: down to the Cheboygan Opera House, buying white fish at the Big Stone Bay Fishery, searching for esoteric information at the Public Library (they had it) and the enormous lunch at Mulligans. Then it was nap time.

For me, most of the joy of taking a trip is seeing my own surroundings through different eyes when I return. Our friend has just retired after forty four years working at the university. We certainly hope he invites us again.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

October 9, 1992

Can it possibly be twenty years today since my daughter Elizabeth marched down the aisle with a big smile on her face? Could I have guessed that Jeff would prove himself such a wonderful husband, father and a son-in-law who never saw a dirty dish in my kitchen without washing it?

Twenty years and five children later there are a few wrinkles and (dare I say it?) a few grey hairs, but the smiles are still there.

Happy Anniversary, guys.

Friday, October 05, 2012

I'm Self-Medicating . . .

. . .  and there's probably not a single doctor who would object. My medication of choice? Water.

I've had some days of feeling lousy this year—tired, wobbly and generally miserable. Vitamin B-12 shots elevated my blood levels from poor to acceptable, but I still didn't feel right. Then I started noticing that I was waking up with a very dry mouth and dry feeling lips and I began to put two and two together.

In my entire life, I have only been thirsty a handful of times, and I have rarely drunk water. This is very noticeable because I am married to someone who can't leave the house without a bottle of water, who drinks his water at dinner and urges me to drink mine (though I never have) and who, when we go out  to dinner drinks his water down, then mine and then asks for more. I also recalled one of the posts written earlier this year by my favorite blogger, Ronni Bennett. Hers is the first blog I read every day. Her research is extensive and lately she has had much to write about such things as the effect of changes in Medicare on elders. But she has general health information too, and in February she wrote this article on dehydration. I think she is spot on. I have been trying, and for me at least, it is not easy. Drinking water is something I have to make a conscious effort to do. But I do think it makes me feel better, so I'll keep on trying.

Any opinions?