Monday, December 30, 2013

Dear UPS


Oh, dear, you have had such a miserable Christmas. Logjam, fiasco, snafu—all these insults were heaped on you and your normally reliable service. You joined the ranks of people making empty promises; "if you want delivery by Christmas, you can have delivery by Christmas." It didn't work out that way, did it? All those people who waited until the last possible moment to buy gifts for their nearest and dearest were apoplectic because their gifts did not arrive before Christmas. Yes, I know you hired 70,000 extra people to help out and chartered extra planes. The packages just did not make it from the warehouses to the planes in time. I believe it was not altogether your fault, and businesses made idle promises on-line with an eye to their profits and not to your logistics. (Couldn't resist bringing up your advertising pitch. I actually preferred the brown one better.)

I had a slightly different experience. I purchased a book from Amazon with no expectation of receiving it by Christmas. I thought it would arrive the day after and your helpful e-mails tracked it for me. So on Thursday I looked out on to my porch, and there on the bench outside the front door was a brown box. The box, however, looked a little flat and floppy and on closer inspection, it was empty. The flaps at both ends were hanging out and it should have been obvious to the delivery person that there was a problem. There were two possibilities—either the book had fallen out in the truck or someone had crept up on to my porch and stolen the contents of the box. If it was the latter case, there was going to be an awfully disappointed thief that night. That is unless he was very interested in the decipherment of Linear B and wanted the latest theory on the work of Michael Ventris.

Your customer service e-mail didn't seemed to be working, so I tried pushing the button which indicated you would phone me—and you did, two seconds later. I suspect you hired extra people to deal with all the complaints you expected, the chief qualification being someone who sounded maternal and helpful. When I told this lovely woman who sounded like Paula Deen that I had a problem, she replied, "We can't have that now honey, can we?" and within seconds another book was on its way. (Maybe it was Paula Deen. I think she lost her cooking gig.) And look what arrived today!

Thank you, UPS, my faith is restored.

Monday, December 23, 2013

Words I Vow I Will Never Write

Let's go back a year—Christmas 2012. We received some wonderful letters, hand written, full of news and information about the senders, often friends of many decades. Ernie and I had put together a newsletter to send to friends with an outline of what we had done during the year and a few representative photos. Well, not really representative. Our grown kids wondered why some people seemed to appear twice, others not at all. But that's a different story.

I added notes to the newsletter—"I'll write a longer letter after Christmas", "Long letter and photos to follow"—and even apologetic words like, "I know I owe you a longer letter and you will get it soon." In many cases, knowing my habit of procrastination, I didn't exactly say it, but I meant it, looking forward to spending the snowy months of January, February and March sitting by a fire, catching up with all the things I wanted to say to friends of days gone by.

But I didn't. I really don't know why, but I didn't. Writing comes easily to me, so that is not an excuse. Looking back at the early days of this blog, I realize I wrote much more frequently in 2005, 2006 etc. Can't explain it.

This year the cards are arriving and giving me much pleasure. They are fewer than before and sadly events like illness and death explain that situation. I am getting out this year's newsletter and valiantly avoiding the dread words of promise. I vow, though, that I will keep an unspoken promise.

And while we are at it, a word to those people (and I fear we are often included) who part at functions, etc, saying, "We'll have to have you over for dinner." Don't say it, do it.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

The Ethics of Everyday Life.

We live right on the border of Detroit. In spite of the fears of friends and relations (I even had a friend call me from England the day that Detroit declared bankruptcy to find out if I was OK) the immediate problems of Detroit affect us little. Except—the harbingers of bankruptcy are lack of decent lighting and paucity of public transport.

The bus which comes from Downtown Detroit as far as Grosse Pointe turns round at the end of our street and makes its way back in accordance with some kind of irregular schedule. There may be a time table, but I don't think the buses keep to it. Sometimes we drive along the route and see people waiting for the bus—when we know there was not even a bus waiting to come. Old people, young people, black people, white people, frequently women with babies and children waiting in the blazing heat of summer or the cold of winter. Today it is 25 (-4) degrees. The further in to Detroit, the fewer the working street lights, and sometimes people are waiting in the dark.

The voice of reason tells me to harden my heart and drive right on by. We have all read enough newspaper accounts to convince us that the results of picking up unknown people can be fatal. Those stories are not mere urban legends. But there is enough Good Samaritan in me to make driving by a guilt ridden decision.

I was explaining my feelings one day to my daughters who practically exploded and told me to promise never to let my pity overcome my good sense. And they are quite right.

Or are they?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Close Encounters

This week we received a letter from our nephew and godson Patrick. What a treat to be the recipient of a letter from a member of a generation not known for its writing skills. I have written before about Patrick and the help he still gives to his Peace Corps host family in South Africa. His letter contained family news, but he had much to say about Nelson Mandela. How I loved this paragraph:

I once almost had a "chance encounter with him (Mandela) but my love of food intervened. I had just gotten my yearly physical in 1998 in Pretoria at Peace Corps Headquarters. I was waiting for a friend to arrive when boredom overtook me—well, what do I do when I'm bored? I eat. So I took a walk, had some "Bobotie (editor can't read this) " and returned 30 minutes later. The security guard says, "Patrick, where have you been? The others got to meet Nelson Mandela!" Turns out Mandela made a surprise visit at the Hospital down the street to visit some sick childen, and the Peace Corps got wind of it!"

This got us to talking and trying to answer the question , "Have you ever met anyone famous?" I thought the answer was obvious and said that in 1962 I had visited some fancy place (the Albert Hall?) and received my B.A. from the Queen Mother. I curtsied. But in my mind's eye I envisaged a gracious old personage, looking like the Queen Mother before she died. Not the way she looked in 1962. Queen Mary? No, she died in 1952. Did I imagine the whole thing? Maybe.

Which leaves us with a question. Who was the most famous person you ever met?

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Memories Are Made of This

On Thursday NBC aired a three-hour live broadcast of "The Sound of Music". Carrie Underwood (who seemed quite the favorite of Simon Cowell when she appeared on American Idol) played the role of Maria, sending shockwaves through an entire community of Julie Andrews' fans. Not surprising that a number of critics, my daughters included, did not think much of her or the production in general. I quite enjoyed it, in part because I was just a little tired of Julie Andrews. Good, yes, but in need of a refresh.  My restless brain, or what passes for one, went back maybe sixty years to the Billy Cotton Band Show, a radio program we always listened to after Sunday lunch. It was a kind of cockney Lawrence Welk show, always introduced by Billy's trademark call of "Wakey wakey!" You can get a taste of the experience in this clip. I wonder how many other people remember his Sunday show? I also remember he frequently had a trio of guests, always introduced as Ted and Barbara Andrews and their little daughter Julie. Perhaps if I spent more time I could unearth this on YouTube. I did, however, find a duet starring Ted and Julie. She was 13 at the time, just the age of a newer singing sensation, Jackie Evancho.

Now my brain moves laterally to a pro-duction of this musical in which I was more intimately involved. The St. Ambrose Community Players' production in 1979. I was stage manager and my daughter Kate played Brigitta in half the performances. I truly believe this was a phenomenal theatre group. We had a gifted director who undertook several productions and the actors were members of the church with varying degrees of skill—but loads of enthusiasm.  We did allow the occasional outsider—we got our Maria from outside the parish—and in this production the Mother Superior came to us from a neighboring parish and one of our most tuneful nuns was jewish. I had never stage managed before and the whole job was harder because we moved from our little wooden hall to a real theatre with curtains and flies and what have you. But we did it . . . and a lot of fun it was.

My brain flits around, doesn't it? But if NBC wants to do a production of Oklahoma next year, I can teach them a lot about making costumes on the cheap.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

A Question of Honor


Another book by Charles Todd! If I had known that Charles Todd is a mother/son combo living in different parts of the United States, I would never have started reading "his" books. I have always felt dual authors can upset the continuity of a well crafted plot. But I have read with much enjoyment everything Charles Todd has written, first the Inspector Ian Rutledge books and now the Bess Crawford mysteries. All the books are set in the period surrounding World War I and paint a vivid picture of the world of English society in that destructive period of history. Bess takes the situation further: she is a nurse in the trenches of France. In this last book she deals not only with war wounds and amputations, but also with the influenza epidemic which swept Europe around 1918. Although this sounds gruesome, and coming after my post of November 11, it could well be, but we see the death and suffering through Bess's eyes. She is a competent, well trained and focused nurse who works calmly and concentrates on the task at hand. Sad to think that in today's world she could have attended university and become a doctor. She is frequently put in charge of accompanying patients back to England and on to clinics for more treatment, so she gets home to Somerset, which gives her the opportunity to find the evidence she needs to solve this mystery. Many of the clues involve the identity of children in a photograph: we could put it up on the Internet and have an answer in a matter of hours, but for Bess (and her worthy chaperone Simon) it involves sleuthing around graveyards and markets and large houses in Petersfield.  The premise is understandable, although it seems a little far fetched that so many people who play a large role in the unravelling of the mystery should bump into each other, sometimes more than once, in the trenches of Northern France.

What made this book even more enjoyable for me is the fact that the beginning is a flashback to Bess's childhood in India, where her father was a Colonel Sahib on the Northwestern Frontier. I am now the owner of an album lovingly put together by my Aunt showing my Grandfather as a Bombadier in the Royal Garrison Artillery in Bombay.


There he is, sitting in the middle of the photo. Why did I never ask questions about his early life? In part it was because my brother and I were always aware there was some kind of family secret. It involved the Aunt who gave me the album and I am pretty sure it involved nothing more than the fact that my Grandfather adopted her, or at least reared her.

There are few dates in the album, but I think I was able to figure out that this photo was taken not long after his father died at twenty nine, leaving his mother with five young children. One of his sisters entered a convent and my Grandfather joined the Army.

He was just sixteen at the time. The juxtaposition of the Army uniform and the flowered frame made a lot more sense when I read the passage in the book which explained that soldiers had a photo taken, perhaps the only one there was of them, to leave with wives or mothers when they went into battle, in case they never returned home again. But he returned to become my Garby down the Lock. Perhaps he thought I would not have been interested in his adventures in India.

I am so sorry I never thought to ask.


Friday, November 15, 2013

The First Thing I See

When I get up each morning, I stumble out of bed, put on my glasses and find my way to the bathroom. Luckily it is not far. When I have achieved my primary goal of choosing that room first, I look out of the window. Sometimes I watch the children going to school or my neighbors going to work (I'm not exactly nosy, it is more that I have a hard time moving). I watch the birds or the squirrels in the trees outside. A couple of weeks ago, this is what I saw.


The maple on the right has already shed almost all of its leaves, not only on our lawn, but depending on which way the wind was blowing, all over our neighbors' property. That's OK, we've got theirs. That perverse oak on the left turns to a pretty bronze color, but waits until spring to lose its leaves and get ready to start the process all over again. When the trees need trimming, we may get a squirrel on the eve over the front door. The day I took this photo I looked across the street at the bare trees an thought how bleak they seemed.

Then I was looking through the photo blog I kept until my last computer broke, and this is what I found.


This will be the view before too long.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Final Farewell

It was, I think, 1997 and Ernie and I, our daughter Liz and her husband Jeff had been to England and were about to follow Ernie's dad's steps in the US Army in WW I, sailing from Portsmouth to Le Havre. No boat crowded with  apprehensive soldiers, but a vessel crammed with gamblers. We arrived at Le Havre long before we could pick up our rental car and then set out. At this point we made up our own itinerary. My memory is so sketchy. I know we looking for a specific WW I grave. An author? A scholar? Maybe it was Wilfred Owen. We paid our respects to the soldiers of WW II by visiting the beaches of Normandy with their immaculate cemeteries, we spent a night in Caen and I remember we bought something in the town square (pommes frites?) and we were so busy talking that we walked away with out paying, pursued by irate vendors. Most of all, we explored anything that looked interesting.



In the middle of nowhere we came across this little Commonwealth cemetery, not many graves but immaculately cared for. Protected from the weather there was a book in which we could sign our names  and the only other visitor was an elderly gentleman. We talked to him and he said he was from New Zealand and had made the pilgrimage to France several times to visit the tomb of his father. He then told us he was 82 and that this would be his last visit.

The beautiful poetry of Wilfred Owen or Sigrid Sassoon or Rupert Brooke will never make such human tragedy bearable.

Monday, November 04, 2013

Time Management

I found this poem recently and loved it. It "spoke to me" as they say.  I hope I am not transgressing any copyright laws. Although I found it reprinted in a book called Grace Notes, which is a compilation of poems accompanying articles in the magazine First Things, I have since found it on-line, and I really don't know what copyright laws apply here. It was written by Stephen Scaer and appeared in the June/July edition of First Things.

Time Management.

"Luther in the year he spent
as Junker Joerg in Wartburg towers,
translated the New Testament
to pass the everlasting hours.

Though living as a refugee
Erasmus wrote his tour de force.
In Praise of Folly's said to be
the product of a trip by horse.

With dinners late, D'Aguesseau saw
an opportunity to write
his sixteen-volume work of law
in fifteen minutes every night.

Today I slept late, took a walk,
sipped coffee on my ragged lawn,
checked my mailbox, saw the clock,
and noticed half my life was gone."

How very true. You too?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Hate Spunk

By early 1971 I had four children under four. I did not watch television—sleep had a much greater attraction for me. I did, however, glance at the newspaper, and over the next year or so I saw accolades being heaped on a comedy show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. I had not been around to see her earlier work in The Dick Van Dyke Show, in which she played second fiddle to the lead, but I gave this new show a chance, and was immediately hooked. Everything seemed right—a cast of strong actors and themes which were relevant to the time. I still didn't have time to analyze the components which made the show not only successful, but often controversial and I was certainly not aware how major problems were skirted in an era when Mary, as Dick Van Dyke's wife, could only be shown with him in their bedroom (double beds) if she kept one foot on the floor.

I found this book in our local library the other day, and it turned out to be a treasure trove of back-ground in-formation. I didn't know how much work went into pitching an idea to the networks, how much shows had to fight to get a good spot in the line-up and how important it was to ratings, all the work that went into everything from finding theme music and designing opening credits to auditioning a cast.  The supporting cast, real characters in their own right, was noteworthy. Fascinating that Cloris Leachman turned up half an hour late for her audition as Phyllis because her five children were "making trouble." Fascinating that Ed Asner turned back as he made his way to the parking lot to ask if he could have a second chance to deliver what became the iconic line, I hate spunk.

Every page of this book is packed with details. The most socially relevant are the resistance of the network to a show about a single woman (and one who was thirty years old) and the groundbreaking female writers. I love trivia. Who'd have thought that when Mary stopped at the intersection of Nicollet Mall and Seventh Street to throw her beret in the air in her sheer exhilaration at being in the big city, it was a "black and turquoise beret Moore's aunt had given her", or that in the opening scene she wore a fox-fur trimmed jacket which disappeared by the second season when she became an animal rights activist.

I loved this book, yet it occurred to me that it may be pointless to recommend it to anyone who is not a devotee of the shows (or over 65). As for me, I went to Hulu and found I could watch the first three years, that's 72 episodes, free!! I suppose I could access the rest of the series on Hulu Plus. I was sorry I would not be able to see the episode entitled Chuckles bites the dust from the sixth season. The description in the book of Mary's "cracking up" was hysterical. But you can't keep a good woman down and YouTube came to the rescue.

Undemanding, perhaps. Dated, yes, but the beginning of a whole new era in television.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

A Very Special Person

Here is our lovely, smart and ambitious daughter-in-law Godelive. Gody met our son in Rwanda when they were both doing relief work and she came to this country fourteen years ago, speaking three languages perfectly. None of them was English. She set about learning a new language and began working as a nursing aide, even though she was a degreed nurse in Italy. In fact she had earned a Master's degree in Belgium. Eventually she became an RN, all while raising four lovely sons, and this weekend she was awarded her BSN. She has had to make the horrendous trip around the Beltway to get to Providence Hospital and they have appreciated her nursing skills by recognizing her as one of their outstanding staff members.



We are so grateful to Marco and Patrizia Tan-gheroni who gave Gody (and later her sister Yvonne) a home in Pisa and who arranged for a family to assist their sister Apauline. They can be so proud of her dignity and her courage. We certainly are.  We love you, Gody.

Friday, October 25, 2013

They're Baaaack



I thought I had written about these fabrics last year—or maybe the year before. I do know that I found them in Joann Fabrics when I went to check out their Christmas offerings, but I have come to the conclusion I must have posted them on Facebook. As you can see, they feature that traditional Christmas icon—the Christmas pig. Nothing says Christmas like a pig, tastefully interspersed with skinny pine trees. I cannot imagine what anyone did with this fabric, or what the buyer was even thinking of.

So guess what he/she decided to include in this year's offerings.


They have added more traditional woodland denizens, a beaver, an owl and a deer. That's more like it, though I don't think the deer is feeling much love, comfort and joy during the hunting season. Most importantly, this fabric is not cotton, but snuggly flannel, and since I have a tendency to turn flannel into night dresses, I am tempted to make a man-sized one for my new son-in-law who is a hunter.

I think he would prefer a Santa Claus, or a creche.









Wednesday, October 09, 2013

$723.06

My disappointment grows apace!

Years ago, when I started this blog, I went to a great deal of trouble to install Sitemeter (I just couldn't get it at the bottom of the page.) I wanted to track the thousands of people who were going to read my blog each day—who were they? where did they live? who referred them to my site? Each week I eagerly opened the report from the folks at Sitemeter giving me the harsh facts. I get one screen listing the domain name of the last 100 visitors. That's pretty meaningless because it is mostly numbers. Hm, "Churchbutler", I quite like that one. Then there is the location list. Nice to make new friends in Bogot, Cundinamarca, Colombia and Khabarovsk in the Russian Federation. There are are other confusing reports (Out clicks, Exit Pages, Entry Pages) but nothing can disguise the grim truth set out in the Summary. Average readers per day, between 8 and 11. Even worse, when I took that hiatus and published nothing for many months, I still got 8-11 readers a day.

Here's the final straw. I was looking at stuff on my iPhone to while away some waiting time. I don't like to do that because I find it difficult to read screens and virtually impossible to write. I must have been in an area related to Sitemeter. I think. But this is what I found:


There are nine million, three hundred and forty three thousand, eight hundred and sixty one people in the United States who "rank" higher than me. My blog is worth $723.06. What does that mean. Content? Style? I could raise that amount if I advertised beer? No IPO for me. I'm dispirited, but I'll plod on for a while.

Friday, October 04, 2013

To Everything There is a Season . . .

. . .  or maybe not.

October is certainly the month to clean up the garden ready for spring, Everything is dead or dying: the phlox is mildewed, the peonies have black blotches on their leaves, the shastas and black-eyed susans have proliferated, but cannot keep themselves from their ultimate demise. Everything must go into large paper bags or the compost. I try to get everything done before it gets too cold, but right now it is hot and I rush around trying to work in the shade. Anyone who has read this blog in the past knows that this is the time I quote Laurence BinyonWade through the post until you come to the link to his glorious poem. Each year I quote it brings me one year closer to the time that someone else will welcome the beauty of the re-born peonies and phloxes.

As I cut down the plants, look what I found. I had  taken my dead and yellowed Easter lily outside in spring and planted it in the hope that it would have understood the message of resurrection and bloom again next year. One thing you can count on around here is that the lilies will burst into bloom right around the Fourth of July. And here it was, the Fourth of October. I hadn't noticed it coming back to life until it was uncovered. Perhaps there is a lesson for me here or a topic for a homily.

P.S. Today is Liz's birthday and I can't find a photo. She will be so happy, but I have to acknowledge this special day.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Something Came Up

Remember those words. I have heard them twice lately in annoying circumstances. The first time was three days before our first set of summer guests was due. The installation of air conditioning was supposed to take three days—a narrow window of time, but hey, that's us you are talking about. The workmen were due to arrive between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. Shortly after 11:00 I called and asked where they were. The scheduling engineer replied, "Something came up". He had, so he said, just heard from Arthur, the crew chief, who was on his way to Chicago. Family problems, he muttered. That is a phrase with which I was quite familiar in my working days. You can't really argue with it, you should not enquire into the nature of the "something", especially with the addition of "family" even though you know it can include anything from a hangover to sleeping in. You swallow it and go on. In this case, of course, I couldn't swallow it. I wanted my air conditioning before six small children and their parents arrived. And I got it. The only problem was that the new crew didn't have time to explain how it worked. But it did work pretty well, in spite of us. (Later on, we got a charming engineer out who was patient and explained it all. I was happy.)

After everyone left, I was so glad that my wonderful housecleaners were due. Not as impressive as it sounds, but two nice women from Poland who understand elbow grease. I dragged out all my cleaning stuff and buckets and rags etc. and just ten minutes before they were due the daughter of one of them called to say they wouldn't be coming because —you guessed it—something came up. And they couldn't come until their next scheduled date, two weeks hence. So I was on my own and it didn't hurt one little bit.

I have not posted here for a while. Any one looking for an explanation?

Something came up.


Thursday, September 05, 2013

It Has Taken Fifty Years

I have finally begun to like baseball. When I first arrived in LA and started my life in the States as a Teaching Assistant, my fellow TA was a delightful man called Joe Margon. Joe was way older than me and had lived in New York with his wife and two children. After he moved to LA he earned a living working for MGM, reading books and plays and giving recommendations as to whether they would make good movies. Somewhere along the way he studied classics and was admitted to the University of Southern California as a Ph.D candidate. That first summer I told him I could not see the point of baseball, which seemed to me like a glorified version of rounders. Now football, the American variety, I could see, but not baseball. Joe looked most upset, but we were way too busy for him to explain why he thought I was wrong. He did mutter something about a game of the mind.

Time marched on and in 1968 we were in Detroit with two small children. If I thought I was busy when the topic first came up with Joe, that was nothing to this time in my life. When I got a chance to read the paper or watch the news, I realized the Detroit Tigers were having a great season and we were watching when they eventually won the world series. Together with most of the population of Detroit (and I suppose with those two small babies) we poured into the streets and we drove up and down Jefferson, beeping our horn. Not probably the smartest behavior.

The Tigers repeated their world series victory in 1984, though I don't think it made much of a ripple in this household. It is conceivable that they will repeat again this year, although you would never guess from the game I watched last night. They lost 4 to 20 to the Boston Red Socks. One of the joys of watching on ESPN is that there is all kinds of commentary, necessary and unnecessary, telling me that this was the worst Tiger loss for 20 years. And I have got my co-habitant telling me all the rules, even the ones I know. My daughter Elizabeth pitched for John Carroll University, her husband Jeff plays short-stop for a church league and their son, Henry, is a real baseball fanatic and Tigers supporter. I just talked to Liz who told me she and Henry (that's him in the Tiger shirt) spent three and a half hours in the emergency room last night after a ball hit Henry in the eye. He's fine.

Now I will revert to my heritage and try to figure out soccer.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

In Which She Demonstrates the Courage of her Convictions

No secret that I have a favorite blog: the first one I go to every day is Ronni Bennett's Time Goes By. She very carefully selects "elder" as being the best and most appropriate word for people of our generation. Besides very well researched posts on Social Security, the Affordable Care Act and matters like Sequestration, she deals with more "social" matters. If you go to her blog and search on "elders and", you will find entries on "elders and loneliness", "elders and loss", "elders and voter suppression" and many other similar topics. Try it. This week she dealt with the paucity of well designed clothes for elder women. You may be interested in The Media's Take on Elders, which is a prelude to a number of later entries where Jay Leno and other comedians knock the older generation of geezers.

This is where I come in. Sort of. Grosse Pointe has few places to buy a decent birthday card. There used to be a couple of stores with Caspari cards, which I loved, but they are gone. The grocery store and the drug store don't work. Believe it or not, there were attractive and thoughtful cards in the Hardware store, but it too has taken off. Of late cards have been on offer in the corner of the second hand Treasure Trove, next to the post office sub-station. So that is where I went. And what did I find? The majority of cards had images of elderly men in shorts with knobbly knees and wearing sleeveless undershirts. The women all looked like Maxine, wrinkles galore and everything sagging south.

I just couldn't buy them, so I thought of Ronni, approached the young man who obviously sold second hand diamonds and asked for the card buyer. As usual in these situations, he was at lunch. I expressed my unhappiness and with the unctuousness they teach at second hand diamond selling school, he suggested we look at the selection of cards. He pointed out the card with the glittery flower—about the only semi-decent card—and I gave him my lecture about elders and image, bought the card and left.

I can't help feeling Ronni would have organized a march on the Better Business Bureau with a sit-in outside this store. Maybe next time.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

And just in case . . .

. . . you wonder where I have been since that last post, take a look at this.

One group left, another group came. Just enough time to get clean sheets on the bed and take another trip or two to the grocery store. And then one more wonderful week of swimming and picnics and barbecues and fire pits and sleep overs (thanks to Kate who seems to be able to handle anything).

Al and three boys left this morning and I just had enough strength to upload some photos. This one needs to be re-cropped—Patrick on the right is losing his head—but I am going to bed. Eleanor, the adorable one on the left, is coming for a couple of days, but I think she is actually going to take care of me instead of vice versa.

I declare the summer over.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Just in case . . .

. . .  anyone has been wondering where I have been, this will give you some idea.

Andrew, son number 2, together with his wife and six children, came to visit. So nine of the  cousins in the neighborhood came swarming, along with their parents. There was swimming, food (lots of food), a party to celebrate Josephine's fourth birthday, more swimming, and more food. So many thanks to the eight parents for their help.

Andrew and Marcie left at 7 a.m. this morning, and there is no way I am going to get caught up on this blog—son number 1 is arriving on Monday with his four boys and we will start all over again.

I'll fill in the gaps later.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Kate is 45

Kate and family are up in Che-boygan, returning tomorrow. So let me say "Happy Birthday" to a gracious, kind and talented woman.

And just in case Patrick, Charlie, Daniel and Eleanor want to know something about the day their mother was born, it was while we were still living in our little duplex on Marlborough in Detroit. Al, who was 13 months, slept in one of the bedrooms and Ernie had appropriated the other for a study—shade of things to come—so we were sleeping on a rollaway in the living room. I was a little smarter than the last time, and I woke up knowing we should get to the hospital right away. Ernie was teaching summer school and the time for handing in grades had come and gone. He was, I am afraid, notorious for being late with grades and he was determined to get this set in before I was allowed to have a baby. Fortunately his chair lived a mile or so away and would be able to take care of the problem, but Ernie was (and is) the kind of person who needed to shave, put on a clean shirt etc. before dealing with an emergency. Unlike Kate, I was not too gracious. Time was running out, We made it, although I cannot for the love of me remember what we did with Al.

And that evening, my parents, who had never met Ernie, landed at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, in the midst of a mid-western heatwave.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

In Which She Muses about Mewses


I spent my undergraduate years in this Hall of Residence. Lindsell Hall was located in Swiss Cottage and there is some pretty spectacular architecture in that borough and the neighboring St. John's Wood and Hampstead. Obviously Lindsell is not a shining example. The bay window on the top floor with two heads in the window shows how the large rooms were divided to make two smaller rooms—the heads are in different rooms. It was in those rooms that little groups of us gathered late at night to drink coffee and to plan our future lives.

My little clique included Jane King (Chemistry), Audrey Ashworth (Classics, and that's her head in the middle row), Sylvia Smith and Jackie Walker (Geography), and Gillian Levesque (Biology).  There must have been more and if I could only find a photo I have of one of our gatherings, I could come up with more names. One of our plans, influenced I am sure by the local real estate, was to graduate and move into a cozy mews. I suspect a Mr. Rochester look-alike with a nice income came into it somewhere, and for some reason we thought married life included dinners of duck a l'orange.

The graduation part came and went and some of us stayed in London. No mews for me, but a share in a shabby apartment across the street from the former residence of Dr. Crippen. We kept in touch in various ways with some of our late night coffee drinking friends and I knew Gillian married her long-time boyfriend, Colin, right after graduation. I also knew Colin was working as a teacher and I think Gill was too. One day I and probably Sylvia, though I can't remember, received an invitation to dinner with Gill and Colin. They were living in a lovely little mews cottage and—you guessed it—we had duck a l'orange for dinner.

I have tried frequently to get in touch with Gill and she came back to mind a couple of weeks ago.  I love the Friday Arena section of the Wall Street Journal where they describe real estate both in the States and all over the world. I have read avidly about luxury developments in Hong Kong and New York, condos in Miami, stark residences in San Francisco and cozy cottages in New Hampshire. The editors are very fond of writing about London and the expensive developments with floors excavated below ground, and the other week the subject was mews. A mews, two mews ? Two mewses?


Can you read that? $10.49 million. Gill and Colin were such modest people and I do wonder what happened to them.

Gill Levesque, where are you?


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Hold on Tight

The birth of this child has received huge coverage in the States. I must admit I peeked in once the Duchess was in labor. I love listening to reporter  Jonathan Hunt, an import from England, but please don't make me explain Anthony Wiener. I did, however, miss the original video of the Duke and Duchess appearing on the hospital steps with the baby, but I saw it several times on the news.

I was aghast. I am not used to this—a woman one day after giving birth, trotting down steps with the future king of England in her arms, rather like a football. Let me explain. In this country a new mother who is being discharged from hospital is required to wait in the room until an orderly comes with a wheel chair and pushes her all the way to the waiting car, where she is assisted into her seat. In the footage I saw, I missed the pedestrian sight of the Duke of Cambridge putting the baby into the baby seat. In this country the seat is inspected for safely and the parents are instructed in all the necessary procedures. I believe they are even provided with a child seat if they do not have one. The video with the Jonathan Hunt footage shows the Duke of Cambridge swinging the seat in rather a cavalier manner, and while I can see the point of the Duchess standing with the baby in her arms and walking unaided down the steps, it scares me. Here she is looking up at the photographers and not down at the steps. And I think she was even wearing heels.

Is there a doctor or a nurse in the house? Any comments?

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Addendum to Yesterday

Somehow I forgot (how could I?) to add two things that made July 19 memorable. The first is recorded here. I took it at about 4:30, and though it is not the hottest I have recorded on my iPhone, it is bad enough. The little rainy, cloudy icon means they expected it to rain, and boy, did it. Everything in the garden is flat, but the wet, accompanied by a certain degree of heat, is way too tropical to get out there and check for damage.

The second is that I was so enervated that I sat with he-who-shares-the -house and watched the British Open. (Usually I find golf the most boring thing on the face of the earth.) I would have appreciated some of that wind. What time do they start televising it today?

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Play the Role of Samuel Pepys

Today I don the hat of Samuel Pepys. Rather his wig. I had no intention of writing a post today, but I think I should record this date and make a note of its significance. I am certain that everyone has heard that Detroit has declared bankruptcy. What does that mean for a gritty city which helped countless poverty stricken hard workers earn a decent living? There is still footage of the thousands of southerners pouring into the Ford factory to claim their $5 a day. The Henry Ford in Dearborn is a mecca for automobile history. How did this brave city become a plundering ground for the likes of Kwame Kilpatrick and a City Council who rode around in shiny, chauffeured Escalades, and, if the story is not apocryphal, was governed by a Board of Education with a member who announced he couldn't read?

I do not live in Detroit, because even 47 years ago when we arrived here, we realized that we would be unable to send our children to the Detroit Public schools and would be saddled with private school fees.  I know many people who do live within the boundaries of the city and who are working constantly to improve conditions. Both Ernie and I spent our working life in Detroit and our daughter works there now. I was most impressed with the Emergency Manager who was appointed by the Governor but I am not surprised he could not forge an agreement between the warring parties.

There are many who think that bankruptcy is the right way to go. Let's wait and remember this date.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

A Perfect Morning

I like to get up first, make coffee, set the table and grab the newspaper. I have been having a problem focusing lately. I think it is too much pain medicine and my ophthalmologist doesn't think it constitutes an emergency. But that's another story. I can still read the paper, drink coffee and I try to disappear before I have to make breakfast for the other occupant of the house.

Then it is my choice. I go to the garden, I go shopping, I attack laundry, but whatever I do, the morning is my prime time for action. Of course, most of the time I go to the computer.

How I love the descriptions of the lady of the house slipping into the morning room and writing gracious "thank you" notes to family and friends. Thick vellum paper and a quill pen. Our heroine, and Jane Austen comes to mind, sends out invitations for tea and occasionally a ball. Perhaps this woman is pondering who to invite to her daughter's "Coming Out" party. Those invitations are always carefully arranged by a scout on the mantle shelf of a room at Oxford or Cambridge (think Brideshead Revisited.) Of course, for a suitor, a degree from those august institutions would be no good without a title and an impressive estate.

Sad to say, in my case, I whip out my lap top, erase some redundant e-mails, check on library books to be returned, send e-mails to kith and kin and see what Facebook has to offer.

And before I know it, it is lunchtime.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Is it Wrong . . .

. . . to hate an appliance?

First let me say that this is about the sixth post I have started. Five of them are preserved as drafts and may or may not be resuscitated. I am sure most of you know what happens when you feel you can't resume writing after a long period without writing the most splendid post ever—and it is easier to write nothing.

For now, suffice it to say we have had sweltering heat and enough rain to make Noah happy, and sufficient wind to bring down several trees and to provide employment for crews with noisy machinery. While we have not had to water much, pots have been swimming in water and mud has taken the place of grass. There have been three sad deaths in dear families, and the birth of a great-nephew in England with the lovely (and classical) name of Milo. And I should not forget good news concerning employment and a family member. Perhaps some of this will be described in more detail: that's the trouble with having a Facebook account. I do not feel the need to to write a splendid—or even a grammatical entry on that platform.

I realize that sturdy grandsons are coming tomorrow to chop vines and weed, then the Mitsubishi man is coming, so it is now or never. The washing machine died a premature death, although it turned out to be a problem with electricity, not the machine, so that helped.

This, however, is public enemy number 1. When we finally—after almost 35 years— got the kitchen remodeled over 10 years ago now, I was talked into a counter-depth fridge. In all honesty, I didn't have the room for an appliance like I had before, which projected into the kitchen. I felt like all my neighbors with the water and ice dispensers in the door, and although I had the feeling that a bottom freezer would make more sense, at the time they didn't make them. I think I have about 3 square feet of room in each side of the freezer/refrigerator combination. Totally useless, even for two of us. But the worst part is the design flaw which means that the hose bringing in the water for the cold water and ice in the door is so near the compressor that it melts, sending water over the floor periodically. For about three years we have had the water turned off and used bags of ice, but I am going to make one more attempt next week. "Rick" assures me he can wrap the hose so that it will not melt again.

Meanwhile, I hate my GE refrigerator.There, I said it.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Do You Know What This Is—Part Deux?

I'll start off by telling you—it's an iron. Now my mother's generation knew what an iron was. Every Monday morning she did the wash. Unless it was raining cats and dogs and she couldn't hang up the wash on the line in the garden. In that case it was often hung up to dry around the fire. I am pretty sure that over the years the washing was done in various "machines", including pans of boiling water and it wasn't until after I left home that we got something resembling a washing machine. There really was no way to expand our tiny kitchen. Lunch (our main meal) consisted of leftovers from our big Sunday lunch—nasty if it had been lamb, so greasy.   In the afternoon, out came the ironing board and the iron and she went to work. Sometimes I helped her. We ironed sheets and dish towels—well, just about everything. Everything was  cotton, but we had never been allowed to change our clothes with the frequency of the modern child, so I never remember this job lasting past tea-time. That's how I learned to iron. We watched "Look Back in Anger" not too long ago. Strange to watch the rebellious products of a disaffected generation ironing shirts.

For over fifty years I have ironed. I was led to believe that university chairs needed ironed shirts (though I met a Vice President in our local library one evening and he told me he spent every Sunday afternoon ironing his own shirts). I drew the line at towels and dishtowels. This is a brand new, unused iron. My former iron had begun to drip brown pools of water, but even worse, the steam was burning my arm. Of course, I am going to use it, but I am apprehensive. Every new appliance gets more and more complicated. There was an enormous choice, so I pretty much chose this one because I thought the purple was pretty. Will I be able to follow the instructions? I still can't work the car we bought six months ago. Will this iron talk to me? Worse still,  will it beam my location up to the N.S.A. so that some contractor seeking asylum in Ecuador knows where I am am what color my underwear is?

One thing is sure, I know it is not a good idea to give cotton garments as gifts to some of my grand children. A couple of my daughters are proficient with an iron, but at least one, and I am talking to you, Liz, don't know one end of an iron from another.

Which leads me to wonder about my grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I guess there is nothing wrong about being crumpled. Or is there?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Do You Know What This Is?

Out of context, it may be difficult. Here's some background. When I was working, I usually dressed, put on some make-up and then jazzed up even the plainest outfit with a minimum of jewelry, usually a pair of ear-rings. Since I retired, I have given my skin a rest and never worn my ear bobs (don't you love that term? Chiefly Southern, says the dictionary.) Except for special occasions. The problem has been that the wee little holes in my ear-lobe have closed up a little. This has caused a problem when I have tried to wear the only expensive David Yurman ear-rings I have. You should have seen me before Lucy's wedding, poking the little probes through my ear lobes —finally succeeding. So I have practiced this aural acupuncture more frequently and my favorite jewelry tends to be drop ear-rings. I bought a lovely set last week. Here's the back and front. HOWEVER, the little fish hook doo daddies have a tendency to fall out if the ear-ring touches my (or anyone's)
shoulder. Hence the plastic thingamajig. HOWEVER, the manufacturer fails to take into account the inability of elderly fingers, especially ones suffering from the twitches, to line up the hole in the plastic with the probe on the fish hook.

Are my ear bob wearing days over?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Product

I have observed that whenever a person has a haircut, the question that is asked when checking out is "Do you need some product?" On the shelves behind the checkout desk are bottles and jars of fragrant potions which make up the "product". Product for curly hair, product for frizzy hair, product for limp hair—well, you get the idea. I always answer politely, "no thank you." And that's it.

I like the guy who cuts my hair. He's quick, doesn't talk much, looks at the way my hair is behaving (and it does seem to have a mind of its own these days) before he hands me over to Samantha to wash it. Last time I was in his chair, he muttered, "You have dry scalp." Samantha who was standing near by agreed. He poked around until I dared ask, "You mean dandruff?" He acquiesced. Head and shoulders, have you let me down? Andy and Samantha agreed I needed product. I supposed I agreed too.

Fast forward to checkout desk. Samantha hands me a small, neat bag with a shampoo, conditioner and stuff you rub in. I have product! I always write a check. Quick and easy because it is always the same amount. This time the bill was twice as much and then some. I'm a coward: I paid it. But they are not going to catch me napping again. "Product? No thank you."

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Amazing Things?


Last week I got an e-mail from Flickr. That’s the service I use to store some of my photos and, like many of you, to organize them in sets. Better word than organize—separate them. I have photos of a wedding and a funeral: the photos and the commentaries I could make were more appropriate when kept separate.

The e-mail was excited to tell me:

"Amazing things are happening at Flickr. We’ve made a lot of important upgrades to your service that we wanted you to know about."

Note, they had already done it and now they wanted me to know. What were these changes?

"Biggr.That’s right, a terabyte*"
Thank heavens the asterisk explained what a terabyte is—
*500, 000 pictures, 537, 731 6.5 to be exact.
The cute spelling continued—
"Spectaculr. Share in full resolution
Wherevr. Available anywhere you go."

Of course I went immediately to my Flickrpage and was taken aback by what I saw. It looked like a collage, but I had had no input into what photos I wanted in what size. After some research I made a little more sense of what  had been done, although as a Pro member I found no indication of whether my Pro subscription would be refunded now that I had a free terabyte.

I thought I would find some assistance by googling help  (there didn’t seem to be a help button on the Flickr page) and came across a help forum with almost 30,000 comments. Among them was “What an UTTER heap of CRAP”, Stupid, stupid and more stupid”, “It sucks”. Some I couldn’t repeat. Apparently the comments were shut down and there are another 6,000 in the new comments page. Many of the comments covered technical issues I could not understand, but there were enough dealing with aesthetic issues to let me know I was not alone.

I must admit that over the years Flickr has made it much easier to upload photos. I was using it as a vehicle to allow friends and family to follow our lives visually and yet provide an input for narrative. I have yet to find out what will happen when I try to upload new photos and create new sets—and I must figure out how to remove the berries in the banner.

Do any of you use Flickr? Any concerns?

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Garages


“Two car garage, five bedrooms”. Sounds a pretty impressive description if we decide to sell the house, doesn’t it? I have already told the full story of the five bedrooms, bedroom number five being frigid in winter, a furnace in summer. Not exactly truth in advertising.

Let’s move on to the garages. When we bought the house, there were indeed two garages, an unnecessary luxury for us since we only had one car. To get into the garage we had to drive down the driveway, unlatch a gate and maneuver through (and, during the years we had Murray, first tie up a walk-craving dog), latch the gate and make our way gingerly into the garage, avoiding a sturdy metal basketball post. So even one garage didn’t get much use.

Somehow I didn’t pay much attention—I was working at the time—when my husband said he was getting his trustworthy Grazio Brothers “to brick over the large area of driveway in front of the garages and had contracted with Eddie to brick up one of the garages to make a workroom.” Well, many thousands of dollars later he had his workroom, which, of course needed a door. And a heater. And a table saw. As the years went by, thanks to the children, the room acquired a television and a refrigerator, and became a man-cave.

As for the  other garage—needless to say it became the repository for all our garden equipment, bikes and general junk. No way a car could get in, especially since there is a large bench on one side which I laughingly call my potting bench. This side looks a little smarter this year since we have a new door which I can once again open with an electronic switch. When my children were younger, they did their best to “decorate” the walls.

Here we have the German poet’s wall (in translation):

Here the English poet's wall:



















Here the pets' and siblings' wall:
























A lot of memories in what started out as a "2-car garage."


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Peasy



Everyone born in Iowa likes corn. A generalization maybe, but it is certainly true of my husband. It sure makes cooking dinner in the summer easy. It also makes for a meal which is totally unhealthy for anyone, especially the older generation, of which he (sorry sweetie) is one. You see, the final touch is lots of butter and salt.  To complete his preference,  the only thing resembling a vegetable is sliced tomato (sprinkled with vinegar) and of course the best kind of sliced tomato is fresh off the vine, which around here is in late August or September. So for the time being, I have had to improvise.

This year we have had two meals of corn. In this last one I incorporated two pork cutlets, hacked off a loin which I was getting ready to cut in two and freeze. Pork, of course, is another favorite of sons of Iowa—and my sons-in-law. Since all I have to do is boil a pan of water and throw in the ears of corn (immaculately shucked) for a few minutes, I will not complain.

But should any of the local gentry drop by for dinner, I can gussy the whole thing up a bit.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mothers' Day

Or Mother's Day. Collective or one single? Oh, never mind, I prefer the English version anyway. Mothering Sunday sounds so much more kindly and gentle and avoids the sound of a Hallmark holiday (which is is.) Also avoids the punctuation problem.

This holiday is coming up on Sunday and therefore many a pastor or priest has been saved the trouble of composing a homily by offering up a paean to mothers. I never thought much about it until I read a blog post which my friend Liza brought to the attention of her Facebook friends. It is considered bad blogging etiquette to eviscerate a fellow blogger's post and post it in its entirety, so let me tell you that you can read the whole thing here. I am going to reprint the prayer which I found so very moving. A number of my friends experienced losses this year and sometimes remarks are hard or even inappropriate to make. There's a lot to think about here and in the comments.


To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Keeping up Appearances


I was adding a note to a birthday card to a friend in England when I wrote “Must go. I have moved to my upstairs study and it is cold.” I had the grace to finish up with a brief explanation of my grandiose comment.

It is getting warmer now and I am happy sitting at my desk in Lucy’s old bedroom with my computer and my collection of stationery and books. I moved in here when I got my laptop. I realized if I didn’t move fast this room too would be annexed by my space hungry husband. How did Lucy ever sleep here? It is freezing cold in winter and steaming hot in summer. When I realized the problem, I packed up my tents in Fall and took my laptop down to the playroom in the basement where there is an old desk of mine with the requisite drawers and a lovely gas fire to keep me warm. In spring it is back upstairs until the heat drives me down to the basement, where it stays cooler longer, then nomad-like to any space with a window air conditioner.

I was going to include a photo of this room to relieve the monotony of the prose. I have some in the catalogue of photographs I took for the insurance company. You know how people sift through pictures of themselves to select the most flattering to insert on Facebook or, dare I say it, blogger? I couldn’t find an attractive likeness of this room. The main problem is that years ago I put up wallpaper here. I did a super job. The walls are smooth and there is a lovely frieze. Some time later, we had a door blocked off and although it is nicely plastered, I had no way to cover it. The wallpaper is no longer produced and the thought of stripping the existing wallpaper and starting from scratch did not appeal to me. After those pictures were taken we did get a bookcase from IKEA which fills the hole quite nicely, but not perfectly.

I didn’t want to post an imperfect picture. Would you think less of me? I doubt it. This room is immensely practical, but Martha Stewart would raise her eyebrows.

I wonder how many of us are guilty of this, especially as we blog. There are blogs which give details of the writer’s visits to a psychiatrist, problems with obesity, their children’s desertion, losing their job, but how many writers gloss over these conditions, publish photos of smiling children, describe a pleasant incident, which even the most unhappy have, and cover over the parts of their lives they are ashamed of?

And perhaps the bigger question, does it matter?

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Now it's the Watercress Syndrome


If any of you have been reading this blog for any length of time, you may remember The Raspberry Syndrome. It is the notion that a person (i.e. me) leaves something beautiful/precious/delicious until later because this person (i.e. me) wants to save it for a really special time. By which time it has rotted.

Now let’s add Watercress. Watercress is not terrible common in Michigan. At least, it may be common, but expensive. Last week when I was in the grocery store there were lashings of watercress at $1.50 a bunch. So I bought some, added a little to the salad we were having for dinner and put the rest in a glass of water in the refrigerator. As I was poking around at lunchtime, what did I find but a glass of shriveled, dried out watercress? I chewed a few of the fresher leaves and they were so good, but the rest was a victim of the Watercress Syndrome. I’m not quite sure if I was saving it or if I had forgotten it. Either way, it was my loss.

Friday, April 19, 2013

It Happened Again, Sort of.


I have already written about the painful condition from which I suffer. If I mention it again, it is not because I want sympathy, but, I repeat, in case someone you know ever gets the symptoms and  has trouble getting a diagnosis. It happens,

Shortly before the wedding I got some pain, and since I was at my family doctor, he simply upped my dose of Tegretol, even though I was pretty sure it was not the electric pain of Trigeminal Neuralgia. I sailed through the wedding and the last couple of months. I had a routine visit with the neurologist, told her about it and said it seemed to be getting better. She handed me off to the dentist, who could see no problem. Now I do have a problem which involves eating and talking. If I do not open my mouth, I am fine. I sat by the fire all weekend. Great unless my meals consisted of things I could drink. Occasional comments were fine, but for the most part it hurt it hurt too much.

When I wrote about the kind of blog that repels me, I forgot to mention anything which mentions “rant.” I feel myself launching into one. My neurologist (I ditched Boris and got a highly recommended doctor, remember him?) has a large sign just inside the door which proclaims that the purpose of the practice is to deal with pain. But a phone call to the office never connects with a human being. My husband called to make an appointment with the neurologist and was told the first opening is in May! And when I do go, I will probably meet with a Physician’s Assistant. Nice women but as Ernie says, “Dr. V*** is not unlike the Wizard of Oz.” Without meeting with me he prescribed a painkiller, but the insurance won’t pay without the right paperwork, which the office failed to supply. If they are so concerned with pain, they must prescribe it all the time. I finally fought my way through their switchboard and my pharmacy is also trying to sort this one out, but —O.K. rant ended.

As I was in the middle of this, I got a call from a friend. His father-in-law has developed this condition and he needs advice. So it isn’t rare. Be on the look-out for it.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Hitting a Man when he is Down.


I started this post yesterday. I came up with a title, tracked down an illustration or two, then had to decide whether to look up a few basic economic facts, or watch the end of March Madness. Had I got around to posting, you would all be amazed today by my prescience. Maybe you would have given me my own hedge fund. Maybe not.

My post concerns J.C. Penney and pajamas. I needed pajamas, and still do. I looked for replicas of the Karen Neuburger garments I have, and started off at Macy’s. My have they gone down hill, and in all honesty, I poked around the internet and don’t think the pajamas are still being made. I may be able to score on ebay, but I don’t have the patience.

Here’s the economics bit. Ron Johnson was wooed away from Apple to be the CEO of Penney’s and he was following the Apple mantra of “Keep it Simple, Stupid”, at the same time introducing new brands. I even wrote him a note shortly after he took over praising some of his new policies. Then things broke down and shares dropped in value, sales dropped as much as 75%.

Back to pajamas. I was offered pages and pages of “garments” like this



I could have had a lace-trimmed sleep short or a stretch lace chemise. The words Flirtitude, Donatella and Jezebel kept cropping up and when I closed the windows in disgust, I was asked to rate my shopping experience. After rows of “On a score of one to ten, did you enjoy shopping at J.C. Penney today?”, I was given the opportunity to write some comments. And I most certainly did. I remember starting off, “I am a 73 year old grandmother and I am looking for appropriate night wear. I have been a customer of your store for almost 50 years and your records will show the amount of money I have spent . . .” I went on to express what I thought of this junk.

This morning I came downstairs to find that Mr. Johnson had been fired. Do you think it was my fault?