Saturday, December 31, 2016

Farewell to 2016

And in several respects—good riddance. But I will not let the year end without mentioning two wonderful events. I already wrote about the birth in April of our twenty second grandchild. Gladys Grace has come to be known as Gigi and when I get my new camera working, there will be many a photo of her and her lovely head of black hair.

In August the entire family got together at Hueston Woods in Ohio to celebrate our fiftieth wedding anniversary. Every child, spouse and grandchild was there. It is possible that although “chunks” of us will be together in the future, there will be the odd one or two missing. Two grandchildren started college this year, in two years there will be three in college and the following year six. Each family had a cabin: there were plenty of activities to keep everyone busy during the day and the children took it in turns to cook dinner at night. On the final Saturday we went to mass in the town of Oxford, Ohio and shared the celebration with a couple who were marking their sixtieth anniversary. There is a photo of us all together, but it is still resting on Lucy’s phone and she can’t download it. Maybe one day, but until then—

Here is oldest child Al with his wife Gody. From left to right, Gody, Al, Ernie, Frederick, me, Manny, Nate and Alex.

Then comes Kate and husband Ron. The same two oldies (but goodies) are in all the photos, but here we have Kate, Ron, Charlie, Eleanor, Patrick and Daniel.

Next in line come daughter Liz and her husband Jeff. There’s Caroline, Lydia, Jeff, Henry (in front), Ben, Liz and Evelyn.

Here’s our younger son is Andrew, who with his wife Marcie is the parent of six of our grandchildren. l-r Veronica, Theodore, Josephine, Andrew, Sebastian, Marcie, Linus and Liesl.

Last, but not least, are Lucy and Peter. Peter is holding Joe, Lucy is holding Gigi and Peter’s daughter Blake is in front.

It was a joyful and fitting way to mark our anniversary. This December Gody’s Italian mother is spending the Christmas season with the family in Virginia. Andrew and his family joined them for Christmas dinner and Patrizia described the event on Facebook as “allegra confusione.” Sounds about right.

So here’s to more allegra confusione in 2017.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Remember These?

I have made headway in my big photo sorting project. I kept lowering the bar, from fantasies of creating albums for all my children or scanning everything to my eventual solution of making reasonably equitable piles, sticking them in brown envelopes and handing them out the the kids when we got together in August (I’ll get round to that before the end of the year.) Finally I found a box of slides. I didn’t want to get rid of them, but since I had not looked at them for fifty years, it seemed silly to mourn their demise.  Some were marked, but I wanted to know what parts of my past were captured in them. I tried putting them up to the light and squinting, but that was to no avail. I know we have a screen in the basement because we show outdoor movies to the grandchildren in the summer and I am pretty sure we have one of those carousel things somewhere. Memories of slide shows with back to front and upside down photos! But I wouldn’t know what to do with them when I identified them all.

I have no idea where I got the camera I used or what happened to it. I do have some photos which I had professionally printed at that period. They are so clear and bring back great memories and I suppose they too were taken on that camera. I obviously had the camera during my three years at the University of London. There are slides marked “Primrose Hill” and "Regent’s Park” as well as some arty views from my residence hall window in Swiss Cottage. The shot of the mail box wreathed in mist is  rather effective, but several titles containing words like “view from so and so in the fog” should probably have been changed to “underexposed.”

The camera went with me to Greece and there are countless views of crumbling temples, most of which I had the sense to label with the name of the site. I remember taking photos at the Corinth Canal, in Crete, at Knossos and Mycene, in Athens and Sparta, in Delphi and Epidaurus. The slides were a great memento, but now they too are part of the past.

The camera also crossed the Atlantic and I have slides of some of the wonderful friends I made in Los Angeles. I could just about make out a slide showing Ernie with a horse, and it made sense when I found others labeled “Will Rogers State Park” and “Polo at Will Rogers.” A number of slides of my oldest children as babies indicate the camera made its way to Michigan, but cheaper, easier and quicker methods of photography must have taken over. So I bid these mementos farewell, BUT . . .

. . . Santa Claus read my blog and guess what I found under the Christmas tree? I love the color.

More technology to wrestle with, but I am excited. Seven years ago I started another blog, with the aim of posting a photo every day. I had to abandon it because of computer problems. I was almost glad, because coming up with a photo every day was so hard, but it might be good for me now and get me out of the house.

Maybe 52at77?

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas Day, 2016

Each Christmas that comes now is different. Not better, not worse, just different. I was reading a blog the other day where the writer remarked that she and her husband  “always have a glass of sherry and a mince pie on Christmas Day afternoon.” The idea of “always” seems a little foreign to me now.

No Midnight Mass for us—we would both fall asleep before it even started—but an early Mass this morning, followed by a nice breakfast for two, not the big ham breakfast for the whole family that has been our custom. It was rather pleasant and certainly restful to drink coffee and read the newspaper before putting together the dish I was taking to Christmas dinner. And what a dinner! Peter and Lucy hosted us in their new house which has plenty of room for the Detroit part of the family, and it was wonderful to be in the company of out two youngest grandchildren, who had nine cousins and their big sister to keep them occupied. Technology brought us two FaceTime encounters with the DC part of the family and with my brother and his family celebrating in Barton Mills. Lots of loud noise and handwaving as everyone tried to make contact.

Another readily apparent change this Christmas is seen in this photo of the basket where we always put the Christmas cards we receive. Although we can explain the lack of cards by saying that so many of our friends are infirm or in way too many cases now dead, I know from talking to younger friends that the exchange of Christmas cards is becoming a dying custom. I am saddened by that fact, but I regret to say that this was not a Christmas for us to send cards or the customary letter—and last year was not either. I have thought lovingly of old friends and I fully intend to make up for my failure with some letters in the new year, but we all know where good intentions lead. I fear the age of Christmas cards is destined to become the era of Christmas tweets.

Autre temps, autres moeurs.

Sunday, December 04, 2016

For to everyone who has . . .

 . . . will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.

Anyone reading this blog and noting that two of the last three entries have titles taken from the New Testament will be forgiven for wondering if he has come across an index to a book of homilies (or a political rant, of which there have been many in the press lately.)

This quotation came to me as I was writing in the last post about Cyber Monday and availing myself of discount coupons. I feel guilty. The catalogs that come from stores from whom I have already ordered offer me 40% off and free shipping. Krogers, where I spend an awful lot of money on food, regularly sends me a nice wallet of coupons with hefty discounts on some products I buy regularly (yes, Big Brother is watching) and a straight $5 or $10 on meat and on vegetables and $20 or so off my total bill.

I understand the business think. I am a regular shopper, known as a valued customer, and they are luring me back into their store for my well earned reward—and to spend more. But I wish they would provide a box where I could deposit my coupon for the use of someone who couldn’t afford to spend enough in the first place to warrant his own rebate. These would add up nicely for those who could use a little help with their grocery bills.

For to every one who has will more be given. I know this does not refer to material goods but to understanding. I still feel guilty.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The End of a Holiday.

Thanksgiving is over. I have performed my usual rituals—I sat patiently by the phone last night waiting to hear from the travelers on their way to Virginia (they finally got there just before 10:00 p.m. after twelve hours of bumper to bumper traffic), I have photographed the unclaimed objects (so far a scarf, a fork, a hat and a fuzzy throw) and will e-mail to the photos to any of the 23 people to whom they might belong. That’s only four families, so not so difficult.  I have begun the task of washing armfuls of flannel sheets and towels and I have placed the phone call to the appliance repair man to solve my problems with the obligatory appliance which breaks down on a major holiday. The time it was the dishwasher—and they can’t send anyone out until Friday.

Thanksgiving is the time for—well, giving thanks and I am so grateful to my wonderful children who have accepted the fact that my days as the official mater familias are over.  I think it was the time I dropped the turkey that did it. They take it in turns to host the major holidays and Kate and Ron even stepped in with a pierogi dinner two days after they hosted Thanksgiving. Everyone was at our house the day after Thanksgiving and we all pitched in. It wasn’t until dinner was over and I had lamented several times that I didn’t have anything green on the table that I remembered the spinach, brussel sprouts and cauliflower and broccoli in the basement refrigerator. Ah well. Corn too.

My photos show the dinner tables at Kate’s house. There was an adult table, a big kids’ table and a (slightly) smaller kids’ table. The age differences are no longer reflected by the grocery bills. Everyone (except baby Gigi and two year old Joe) packs it away these days. And what a treat it was to talk with my two college freshmen grandsons. They talked patiently to me about technology, but I am not sure much of it stuck. As the years go by it will be harder and harder to get everyone together. We missed Andrew and his family and Gody who was on call, but it was a wonderful holiday. Ron escorted a large group down to a University of Detroit/ Mercy basketball game and there were various other expeditions.

Yes, a photo would be wonderful, but I gave up on my camera a while ago and either my iPhone  camera is having a bad time or my hands are shaking. The next major holiday is upon us, so Santa Claus, if you are reading this, I have been a nice girl and my camera wants (and needs) are modest.

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Whatsoever a Man Soweth, That Shall He Also Reap.

My daughter and I were talking about Thanksgiving, and I asked her when her son, who is coming to the end of his first semester of college, will be coming home to celebrate with the family. She gave me his schedule and then said, “Patrick thinks he’ll be able to get to the airport OK”, or something to that effect. I must admit, part of me thought “I hope he can figure it out” (he’s still a little boy to me) and then it occurred to me that I had never worried about my kids finding their way to an airport when they were coming home. They just did it and to my mind, that was one of the things college was about. Learning to take care of themselves, figuring out what had to be done and using innate intelligence to get themselves on a plane. College always seemed like the beginning of adulthood, rather than the end of childhood.

For the last week following the results of the election we have been reading about college professors cancelling exams because their students are in mourning, or bringing tissues to class, not giving the scheduled lectures and allowing their class to express their feelings and use the classroom as a safe space to vent their grief, anger and frustration. I will make a lot of enemies, but I find this ridiculous. Perhaps a lecture on the history and meaning of the Electoral College or some other topic rooted in history or precedence would be in order. On the other hand, most of their parents did not expect their tuition money to be spent on Kleenex or comfort food. Now I am seeing students are taking to the streets, disrupting traffic and generally marching to protest  the election. One of my great nieces is marching in New York, one of my great nieces is complaining of the traffic jams in DC.

I have seen suggestions that the pandering to the young is the result of a generation of children who were never rewarded for skill or competence, but just for turning up. The ultimate in entitlement.

I don’t know, but I do think it important for young adults to find on their own the literal or metaphorical airport that will take them where they want to go.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

November 8, 2016

Election Day. And no, I am not going to write anything about the candidates, the political parties, the campaigns and some of the general nastiness that has been going on. And it has been nasty. Mudslinging left and right. I am sure I will sit up late this evening to watch the results coming in. I am a little tired of pollsters and political pundits.

I wrote a post earlier this year in which I questioned Hillary Clinton’s candidacy, NOT because of the politics involved, but because I was having age-related issues and wondered if she could put up with the  effort involved in campaigning and answering the phone at 3:00 a.m. The same goes for Donald Trump, but it was easier to put myself in HRC’s shoes.

The fact is, I am marking today not because it is election day, but because it is the first day since my surgery that I have not slept away the afternoon. In fact I spent it struggling with some computer issues and solving some of them relatively well. I am hoping that I will be able to sleep tonight and maybe soon start to tackle some of the chores which have been piling up. I still look extremely attractive with a black eye and badly bruised forehead caused by going back on a little too much medication for a while. I am not going to re-post the nasty photograph that appeared on Facebook. It is a delicate balance.

So let’s hope that in many ways things will be better. For me and the entire country.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Corned Beef

Or as I used to call it “Corn Beef.”

After my last post on custard and Bisto, I received an e-mail from our friend John, who is working in New Zealand. John is a doctor who took early retirement and went to the Antipodes to join a practice in Ashburton outside Christchurch. Here you see him signing the contract in our back yard, under Ernie’s eagle eye. He used  to live a few houses down from us and attended Wayne State where he took a couple of classes from Ernie. The siren song of Latin was not strong enough and John went off to Medical School.

Apparently John was discussing my post with friends in a watering hole called Spike and Nonnas, and they introduced him to two other products of Post War England. The first was corned beef (in a can.) I actually thought it was pretty tasty and it was a way that meat could be preserved and sent to rationed Britain. I seem to remember a lot of jellied fat in it, but I could be wrong. In the States we take a slab of corned beef (brisket) and boil the daylights out of it along with cabbage, potatoes and carrots to celebrate St. Patrick’s day. I am not really a fan.

John saved most of his enthusiasm for Spotted Dick. Of  course, he liked the name. I am not sure that specific pudding was in my mother’s repertoire, although I do remember lots of delicious steamed puddings, especially treacle. (Look that one up, John.) These would boil away on top of the stove, covered by waterproof (i.e. wax) paper and tied up with the “pudding cloth.” Sliced and covered with a blanket of Birds custard they went down a treat.

Such puddings were usually referred to collectively as “stodge.” John is coming home soon for a month’s leave. Perhaps I’ll treat him to some stodge.   Perhaps not.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Ah. . . Bisto!

When I was growing up in England in the 50’s, no meal seemed complete if the food was not blanketed in a creamy, wet and warm substance. If we had a pie, a crumble, or a crisp of some sort, it was smothered in the yellow goodness of Bird’s custard.

I wasn’t totally enamored of custard. I went to Google to get this photo and started reading about the history of custard.

“Though cooked custard is a weak gel, viscous and thixotropic, a suspension of uncooked custard powder (starch) in water, with the proper proportions, has the opposite rheological property: it is negative thixotropic, or dilatant, which is to say that it becomes more viscous when under pressure. This suspension is termed oobleck and often used in science demonstrations of non-Newtonian fluids. The popular-science programme Brainiac: Science Abuse demonstrated dilatancy dramatically by filling a swimming pool with this mixture and having presenter Jon Tickle walk across it."

When it came time for a quick gravy for our Sunday joint or any other meat, we turned to Bisto. I seem to remember lots of  advertisements for it in what passed for Social Media in the 50s and 60’s, but I don’t think it had any rivals. Like custard it started with a powder  containing a thickener that was mixed with water and heated. Don’t know if it was thixotropic. Again, it was a ubiquitous blanket for meat and found its way over to the mashed potatoes.

When I eventually set up shop for myself, there was no Bisto in the States, so I had to go the long route. I was beguiled with words like “deglaze”, “wine” and “loosen the crusty bits”.  More often than not, much to my husband’s disgust, I skipped the gravy part altogether. Too much work.

Then a few months ago on a visit to the super
market and in my search for the shelf with bouillon cubes—look what I discovered!
A quick and easy coating for our meat (and mashed potatoes) and the source of Ernie’s heartfelt thanks.

Maybe I should be on the lookout for custard powder.

Monday, October 10, 2016


What an adventure today. For the first time in many weeks I felt up to going to the grocery store. (Full disclosure, I didn’t drive or take all the bags from the car to the house. But I did wander around and check out what was going on. And buy all the groceries.)

Dear Krogers—I love flowers. But this is Fall, and we feel at home with chrysanthemums, along with the squash and the root vegetables that we buy for comfort food.  These are tulips. You know, the bright cheery flowers that indicate the grey winter is almost over, spring is around the corner and we need to enjoy the lovely blooms. Why on earth are they displayed in the flower section of the store, much more expensive than they are in spring?

After all, some combinations make sense, others fall wide of the mark.

These fall wide of the mark.

Friday, October 07, 2016

October 7 . . .

 . . . is Trigeminal Neuralgia Awareness Day, and I am doing my part to spread the word.

It is about 5:00 p.m. here and I have spent much of the day reading posts on the Trigeminal Neuralgia Support Group’s Facebook page (it is a closed group and I just wish everyone had access to it.)  Teal was the “designated color” and there were photos of children going to school and husbands and wives going to work wearing teal and helping to spread the word around. But as usual, and sadly, there were entries by sufferers in deep pain, some written off by doctors and employers, some waiting for their next trip to the ER and photos of the swollen and contorted faces of people in the grip of an attack. Research will tell you this condition mainly attacks women over 60, but there were photos of the young, even babies and children, and both men and women of all ages and in many walks of life.

I was also amazed to see a number of public buildings lit up with teal lights to help bring about a wider awareness and understanding of this cruel condition. It is not curable, though medications which are in and of themselves a nightmare of side effects can help and there is surgery which is not guaranteed to last forever even if it is successful. These posts showed the variety of drugs which their writers are using—up to and including marijuana and oxycontin.

It is rare, comparatively, and not one of the “glamor” conditions that appeal to donors. You may even have friends or family at some point of the spectrum.  If you are reading this, do a little homework and check the websites, both medical and anecdotal. This is a well written article by a journalist, written from a patient’s point of view:

I believe this information is worth having and disseminating. It may help you, your family or friends one day.

And remember, Trigeminal Neuralgia is not called the suicide disease for nothing.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

The Rain it Raineth Every Day

I want to make sure I have the dates of last week’s rainstorm down in black and white, not only because of the misery our neighborhood has gone through, but because I will have a date of reference next time the City Council says we were visited by “a hundred year rain.” That’s what they said twenty years ago.

I didn’t need this message last Thursday or the accompanying loud warning noise. I had already gone down to the basement and seen the water swirling around the floor of the large finished room we have there. I admit that the night before I snuggled in bed, listening to the rain and somehow not thinking it might be a good idea to go downstairs and pick up the two large rugs. It was several hours before the enormity of the situation sank in.

We live in what is usually referred to as an “upscale community”, if you like to use vocabulary like that. We certainly have a couple of extra “e” s in the name. Although one of the nicest features is the variety of the architecture, the houses are for the most part red brick, well kept up with landscaping to match. The majority were built at the beginning of the century (ours was built in 1929) and as modern styles of living came into vogue many people had one or more rooms in their basement finished, with fireplaces, TV sets etc. Ours is mainly used by the grandchildren and is pleasant but not opulent. Just about everyone has their laundry room in the basement—my knees are beginning to object.

As the rain tapered off we ventured outside and everyone was asking, “How much water got into your basement?” The house across the street had none and we just had an inch, but we were hearing numbers like “14 inches, three feet et al.” Phones rang off the hook in insurance companies and soon people were dragging sodden possessions into the street. Before too long this was the view from our front porch as flood remediation trucks poured into the neighborhood. Our neighbor’s tree came down across the sidewalk. The city removed it quickly, but if if had fallen the other way it might have done damage to my car.

Later in the day the City Council sent out a press release. 2.5 inches before 7:30 a.m. another 2 inches between 7:30 and 9:30. “The level of water within the city’s storage system rose to the point of reaching the station’s transformers at approximately 11 a.m. Because of this, pumps were taken off line . . .”

Over the weekend people put up Facebook pages to share information. Words like class action suit were bandied around. There was a garbage pickup every day. Photos began appearing. I saw over 160 photos like this on one day, but there were many more by the next.

 The streets were lined with garbage bags, furniture, carpet, washers and dryers which had shorted out, bookcases, books, children’s toys—you name it. My neighbors were due to leave for Italy on Monday and Tim had to go out and buy a new washer so they could get ready for the trip. I don’t know what happened to the beautiful sauna they had in their basement. There has been some more rain, but not a huge amount.

A new word has come into the local vocabulary—rage cleaning.

And I forgot to tell you, on the evening of the day that this happened we had tickets for the performance at our local theatre. The show—and I kid you not —was “Singing’ in the Rain.”

Monday, September 26, 2016

The Birthday Boys

Before I go back to catch up on what happened in the last month or so, let me take a moment to acknowledge two grandsons with birthdays today. (Notice I said “a moment”? I thought I could just click on my Blogger dashboard and carry on from there. BUT while I was gone something changed and I was sucked into a Google vortex. I got back, I think, and if I have trouble with photos, this new lap top is going out the window.)

Fifteen years ago Ernie was in Chicago where his sister was having surgery and I got the news that Liz was in labor (it was touch and go, because both she and Kate were due within five days.) I so clearly remember Benjamin's birth and walking down the hospital corridor, trying to get ahold of the lucky grandfather who was at Rush Memorial hoping for my call. And here is Ben on his first day of high school—not as bad he had expected. His high school campus contains three separate but linked high schools and it is enormous. Ben says he has got lost once in a while, but things are getting better!

Thirteen years later Peter and Lucy’s son Joe chose the same day to be born.

Joe has just started taking swimming lessons and is thoroughly enjoying the experience. He has a ways to go to catch up with his Maryland cousins, but it’s a start!

There, I did it. Watch this space.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ten Years Ago . . .

 . . .  I posted this photo marking the fortieth anniversary of our wedding, August 10, 1966.

We reached fifty today.

More tomorrow—I do want to mark a few pieces of history for my grandchildren in the future, but the weather today put pay to some of my plans. Suffice it to say it was hot, hot, hot. Dinner tonight at The Hill, three wonderful days in Ohio with everyone together.

And here are some of the swimmers, Olympian or not, from the outstanding swimming program in Montgomery County, Maryland. They answer to the name of Ament (Theodore and Linus) and Ledecky (Katie.)

Wednesday, August 03, 2016

The New Normal

That is a phrase that has been bandied about around here, especially by one of my daughters. But as I began to think about it, I realized that we (mainly I) have reached a phase in our lives when nothing will ever be the same again.

My mind, my writing skills, my thinking skills can no longer be described as merely rusty. These attributes which were always sharp are slowly fading. Not to the extent which bothered Billy Collins, but I am sure it will not be long. (And I have not forgotten how to create a Blogger link: I have a brand new Apple LapTop and have not quite figured out how everything works.) Things these days are quantitive. Look how many posts I wrote ten years ago. They were, for the most part, longer, smoothly written and I can assure you that I never sat for fifteen minutes trying to remember a noun or a verb. If the one I wanted did not come immediately to mind, I made something else up. Queen of the workarounds.  Not only was I Queen of the workarounds, I was also Queen of letter writing. Now I find it so hard to write a decent, or any, letter. When my sister in law was alive, she could always count on a letter from me. These days my family can perhaps hope for an e-mail and perhaps an occasional decent (but always typed) letter.

The only reason I am plugging on just now is for my grandchildren. I want to fill up my ration of twenty “pages” so that they will have something tangible to remember us by.

Oh, this new computer! I remember when I got its predecessor I couldn’t get anything right, but gradually I figured it out—photos, albums, in iPhoto and in Flickr. Now I must start all over again. First it was a lost WiFi connection. Then it was my new Microsoft app. which the man who sold me the package said would not be difficult. Thanks to Ann Marie at the Partridge Creek Apple store I can now write a letter in Microsoft. I think there is a special place in Heaven for people with her patience. How nicely she asked if there was a reason my computer clock was two hours off. Now I have just discovered I cannot scan. Is that because I have a new lap top? New drivers needed?  Do I have to make another long phone call?

As I worked my way through more photos I was astounded how many showed us eating, as in entertaining friends and family. I was always cooking, setting the table—clean table cloths, Christmas plates, odd bits of Waterford,  even a set of Wedgwood. All this for an ever-growing family and family members visiting from the Mid-West and England. Three or four years ago two of my daughters took over Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners. I think that was after they saw me drop the turkey. And now Lucy has a house just perfect for entertaining and wants to be included in the roster. How can she do that with two kids under two, I ask? You did, they say. Four under five, in fact.

Mine is not the only life that is changing. In September two grandchildren will be going to college. That will amount to changes for their families, not for me. In fact, as I think about it, changes have been going on slowly for years. I just didn’t notice them. I don’t do much in the way of sewing. All those soft toys and girls’ dresses I meant to make—I found a large box full of size 4 year dresses that never saw the light of day. The garden this year was full of weeds, but I can claim medical problems for that.

Yes, there will need to be changes. Big changes. I will let you know. I may even illustrate posts if I can figure out the scanner. And I promise you, future posts will not take ten days to write. This one did.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

First She Was Catherine . . .

 .  .  . Mary Ament, then Katie Ament, then Kate Ament, then Kate Bernas, then Mom and so it goes. Today we wish her a Happy Forty Eighth Birthday. In less than three weeks she will be accompanying son no. 1 to St. Louis to start his University career.

No coincidence that today is the Feast Day of St. Ignatius of Loyola. But we never thought of Ignatia.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Hole in my Head

I have been home for about eight days after having had the surgery I mentioned in my last post.

The operation for which I  had reluctantly signed up was, as it appears on the discharge papers "Retromastoid crainiectomy microvascular decompression, fifth cranial nerve (trigeminal nerve)", or MVD. I cannot give you the IRL for the YouTubes of medical training videos—nor would I want to. I had thought that the extensive recuperation period would give me leisure to catch up on my posts, and to write to friends. Instead I slept a lot and wobble. I seem unable to type and often to read. I have watched some Wimbledon . . . actually TV isn't too bad.

To make matters worse I have a new iBook and am finding it difficult to use. Certainly confusing, probably something to do with installing Microsoft Word after Apple had transferred documents in Microsoft 2004.

I'll be back on the grid with a working computer, a hole still in my head, but hopefully no trigeminal neuralgia pains.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Alea Jacta Est

I have started several posts in the last two weeks. I have made lists of people to write to and to e-mail, but never actually written. My garden is totally neglected. The laundry is pretty much up to date, but nothing is ironed. I have ignored phone calls.

Let me just address the why. I have written before about the condition called Trigeminal Neuralgia. I have had it for several years and of late I have had too many flare ups for my comfort. My neurologist had never been in favor of surgery, and when he did send me to a neurosurgeon the latter announced I was "too old". When I spent a couple of days in hospital a month or so ago, I woke from a nap to find a man sitting on my bed. He had ridden on his bike from his nearby home to talk to me. Long story short, he was a neurosurgeon newly arrived in the area. He had worked with Peter Janetta who had pioneered Microvascular Decompression surgery, which is now widely used throughout the country. If you are really interested, you can look it up. After numerous tests I am considered a viable candidate (this man has operated on a 94 year old woman) and I will have the surgery this week. I have no idea what the recovery will be like for me, but I am hoping I can make up my un-done tasks. Well, maybe not the gardening.

In the meantime, the die is cast.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Two Down, Twenty to Go

The first two grandchildren have graduated: distinguished young men, off to college to be shining examples to the world. How distinguished they look! The gravitas!

Whoops—wrong photo. How about this? Manny with some friends and Patrick with Ron and Kate. The time has gone by so fast and soon there will be more. I can't help wondering how many more graduations I will get to see. I don't think that's melodramatic. Just practical.

Monday, June 13, 2016

Always One Step Behind

Just when I think I have got this Internet thing under control, Marcie comes up with this timehop creation. Now I will spend days trying to figure how to do it for myself.

It does, however give me a cute photo to post on this recognition of Sebastian's ninth birthday. I can't believe you look so old, Sebastian. What a pose. We can't wait to see you in Ohio in August—and if you look like that we will have to keep all the girls at the Lodge away from you! Happy Birthday, kiddo!

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Be Prepared

He was born during the great depression: I was born three months into WWII. So we were both familiar with the concept of being ready for a shortage—or hoarding, which ever way you look at it. But flat anchovies! That's what you get when you tidy/organize/clean out your pantry. I have been getting help lately with my grocery shopping, so I will have to mount a major TSAtype screening procedure when we leave the store.

It wasn't me!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

... and now an Anniversary

Today is Andrew and Marcie's anniversary. Such happy memories of our trip to New Jersey, a wonderful wedding and then a few days in New York. While the happy couple were on their way to England, my brother and his wife and son and girlfriend were hurrying back in the same direction to be in Burwell to open the front door for them.

Yes, I have photos of Andrew and Marcie, but I am going to substitute this memorial of what they would say is their best achievement.


I remember being at St. Mary's for a celebration when one of the kids was attending Preschool. A lovely church right by the main road through Rockville, some nice grounds and a peaceful cemetery.

And tucked away in the corner of the cemetery is a grave site with a headstone marking the final resting pace of F. Scott Fitzgerald. Who'd have thought it?

Friday, May 27, 2016

Our Baby Turns Forty

Lucy was 40 today. Love you, honey and wish so much happiness to you and Peter and Blake and Joe and baby Gladys.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

What Have I Been Doing Since April 30th?

I can't really remember. I know it included some pain, two nights in the hospital, some horrendous (and—I think—unnecessary) drugs which had me drooping all over the floor.

I know I have missed a wedding weekend in Chicago which we were both looking forward to. And then when we realized that if we could not leave Detroit, we could cross town for our Grandson's Confirmation. But we couldn't—sorry Ben. But it was a wise decision and now there are other decisions to make.

Andrew made the long journey from DC, leaving Marcie with a car which broke down and which they have now decided to replace. I have been the recipient of love and kindness and of some delicious meals. I really can't remember what else happened, but it is TMI anyway.

See you soon.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Hi, Fef

That's our grandson, Frederick, with his younger brother, Nate. I think I already wrote about Nate and his nightshirts. Anyway, Fef is 12 today and we send him all our love. And, as I have written before, I am determined to ensure that his father gets a decent camera. When Al lived in Africa he took magnificent photos with a magnificent camera. Alas, the urge has passed.

It seems that April is destined to be a month full of special occasions. But May is not far behind. Happy Birthday, Frederick. Love to you all.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Wonder What's Been Going On Around Here?

On Monday, April 25, 2016, Gladys Grace came to join the family. That makes our twenty-second grandchild and a girl who helps to make the girl/boy ratio a little more even.

There will be more photos later, of course, but for the meantime we are leaving the growing family alone to settle in with each other.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Fun, Work and Suffering

When I wrote my post on Brooklyn I omitted one important part of my experience when I first came to America. That's my fellow students. They fell into several categories. There were a few sent by their religious orders to expand their knowledge of Latin and Greek. I especially remember Fr. John Gubbins, a friendly and smiling individual. There were some teachers who were working for a higher degree or adding coursework to their current transcripts. Jeanette (and I can't remember her last name) was about my age and we spent some time together, but Jane Smith is the character I most remember. She was certainly much older than me and she took me under her wing. It was Jane who took me to my first football game. Remember, I was at USC, so there was a Trojan riding in on a white horse, and a couple of dozen bronze, blue-eyed surfer types waving pom poms and forming precarious pyramids. And of course the burly guys, playing a strange game with an oval ball. In later years I learned to loved it, but at the time I had no idea what was going on.

My best friends, and the students I spent most time with, were Rory Egan and Joe Margon. Rory was a Canadian who lived outside Toronto and had done his undergraduate work in Windsor (as I was to learn later that's just across the river from Detroit.) We met up with Rory and his wife a few years ago to see plays at Stratford. Dr. Rory is now in Manitoba and has not changed one bit.

All these years we have kept Joe's dissertation. It is entitled "Antigone:A Study in Critical Method". It was presented to his committee in June 1968. By this time I was just about to have my second child, but Joe and I had started together, both of us working for our Ph.D degree. The older I get the more I regret that I have not asked people in my life more of their history. We seem to live in the present, and that was certainly true of Joe as we went from class to class. (Usually late if it was Ernie's class, so goes the myth.) After our day was over Joe rushed off to his wife and family (Joe was at least twenty years older than me). I knew where he lived. A long trip: over some mountains—or were they hills? I know his wife, Saritha, was an artist and I believe she is still working and mounting exhibitions. I know he used to work for Warner Brothers. I think his job was deciding which books would make good movies. And I think he was working on his own book.

I don't think you write ded
ications to diss
tions, but Joe wrote this in the copy he gave us. Strange, after all these year I hardly remember the fun, work and suffering, but it is always there. What I failed to recognize at the time was how much work Greek entailed for Joe. I had been studying it for eight years in England: Joe, as virtually all Americans, did not have that luxury.

It all paid off and Dr. Joseph Margon had a great career teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

In 1980 Ernie went to California for a conference and had the opportunity to meet up with Joe in Santa Barbara. He is dead now, but this is the way I will always remember a dear, dear friend.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Here's Henry

It helps people remember your birthday when it falls on the day that Income Tax is due. Poor Henry got us all confused this year—or rather the Internal Revenue Service got us all confused when they extended the deadline to April 18 for one of those reasons known only to a few bureaucrats.

So today is Henry's eleventh birthday and he has been celebrating just the way he likes it. A day off school, a special birthday breakfast and lunch and a trip to the park with three siblings with the afternoon off, dinner, presents and —wait for it—the first baseball practice of the season.

Happy Birthday, Henry.

Sorry, Henry and Veronica. I got your birthday posts mixed up.

Five Years Ago Today . . .

our granddaughter Veronica Katherine was born.

She was named thoughtfully but hastily—she was baptized almost immediately. She was born at 23 weeks and 5 days and for the longest time her parents could not hold her. Marcie soon went home and she and Andrew took it in turn to drive from Rockville to George Washington Hospital to hold her. Before long they were able to hold her against their bare skins to let her know how much they loved her. Gradually her precarious health improved, and after 118 days she went home.

Today is Veronica's fifth birthday. She will be starting school in September. We all look forward to seeing her in Ohio in August—she'll be able to hold her own against everyone.

Happy Birthday, Veronica.

Monday, April 11, 2016

My Pretties

A couple of weeks ago I spent some time cleaning. Whether it was the approach of Easter, the knowledge that guests would soon be on the way or the deep seated feeling that Spring Cleaning was part of my DNA (or should be), I don't know. But out came the rags, the paper towels, the buckets and those sprays and spritzes that Madison Avenue tells us we can't live without. The glass shelves of my china cabinet were coated in dust—somehow the doors don't fit as snug as they should—and as I took out all the different glasses and the occasional chachzki, I realized that the contents of the shelves were telling their own story.

In the rear left there is a Waterford crystal glass which is part of the group my parents sent when we were married. I am not sure if I gave the details of what I wanted, but I realized later they are claret glasses, and not being akin to the Downton Abbey folks, we don't drink much claret. I did, however, inherit some Waterford wine glasses in the Lismore pattern, probably from Ernie's mother. That's one, second from the left, in the rear. I would be somewhat ashamed to include in this photo the rather bulbous, and definitely cheap, sort of wine glass appearing center back. However, one day some time ago I was reading an account of a State dinner in Pakistan which featured a photo of the immaculately set table complete with our J.C. Penney's glasses. Wish I had thought to save the paper.

I do not know the provenance of the two kinds of etched glasses on the right. I do know that the taller one was one of six which belonged to an elderly couple who lived across the street when we moved in. One evening they summoned us over to give them to us "because we looked like such a nice young family." We used them with pride, though thanks to some of the littler members of the family, some of them are no longer with us. I do not know where the smaller etched glasses came from, but they have been used for many a glass of sherry. The heavy Waterford glass in the middle we inherited. Doesn't it look distinguished?

Ernie bought me the colored liqueur glasses on the left to mark the birth of one of the babies. Originally there were six, three blue and three green, but only four remain.

In the interest of full disclosure, although I do like to use the "good" glasses, my children make a beeline for the Ikea glasses stuffed on the shelves. We bought them for a big party and I never packed them up and took them to the basement. No problem.

As for the chachzkis, I can't find the photo I took of the rather confused piece of Royal Doulton I bought for Ernie on a trip to England. Confused because it is a pair of  bunnies (nice on the Easter breakfast table?) but the bunnies are riding a sled. Christmas vignette?

So let me leave you with a mug of Anamosa, Iowa (small town USA) and a cow. I am forbidden to remove them.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Here's Another One

Here's Patrick. He's eighteen today. He can vote (hmm.) In June he will graduate from high school. He has pretty much decided which university he will attend in September, but I am not sure if he has crossed the T's or dotted the I's. We will go and have dinner with him and his family tomorrow—not as much fun as today when his girlfriend came over early to cook him bacon and waffles. Patrick worked at both his jobs today—the kid is no slouch.

His aunt, one of my other daughters, said she burst into tears after she phoned him today and thought about the passage of the last eighteen years. I know what she means.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Youngest Son Hits 45

I think this is the latest photo I have of Andrew. I think it was taken when he was here last summer. Trouble is, I just downloaded a bunch of photos from my camera, and they all appear to have been taken on May 12, 2007. Now I know that is impossible, so I must bite the bullet and buy a new camera if and when I buy a new laptop. We will see.

We just talked to Andrew. Marcie is cooking a birthday cake, but it is one of those (very frequent) evenings when one or the other of them will be shuttling Theodore and Linus to and from swimming practice. Now Andrew has a a taste of what we faced when he and Al played basketball.

He's happy, and as he remarked when he saw a "5" and a "4" candle—better to be 45 than 54.

Wednesday, March 09, 2016


Recently I went with the male movie critic in this house to see Brooklyn. I didn't think he would care for it—"It's a chick flick"—while I would enjoy it. As it turned out, he enjoyed it, and as for me . . . it hit too close to home.
Eilis and I had rather too much in common.

I am not sure how old she was when she left Ireland in 1950. I was twenty three when I left England in 1963. She left because she had no job and no prospects of getting one, while I had no job, but I made my decision sometime before I finished my course and I had plenty of time to apply for a position, especially armed with my letter from the Minister . O dear, I forgot I had written that account when I wrote about it again, this time with a visual aid. I know I went for adventure. Eilis made the trip to New York by boat. For someone leaving home for the first time, she looked remarkably calm and brave, although sea sickness took its toll. I flew to New York in an old turbo pro plane. I had flown once before, when I went to Geneva to visit a friend who was working there. Nasty feeling crossing the Alps. When I got to New York I had a day to kill before I boarded the plane for Los Angeles. I know I got from JFK to Manhattan. How? I know I wandered around a department store. Which one? I have a photo I took of the Empire State Building, but I decided the cost of going to the top was too much for my meagre budget. Somehow I got back to the airport and on to LA.

Eilis had a place to live, an Irish boarding house with four or so young Irish girls whose journey to New York had been arranged by their Catholic priest. The boarding house was presided over by a woman who presumably had the job of keeping the girls out of trouble. But how much Eilis learned from her fellow boarders! I was supposed to be living in a graduate dorm, but when I arrived I was told it was unfinished and that I would be living in the undergraduate dorm for one semester. My roommate was a grad student from Lubbock TX (as if I had ever heard of Lubbock, TX!) She was an opera vocal student. I, however, spent a lot of my time with the undergrads. How much I learned from them! It was the era of the Beatles and being English made me quite an attraction to these younger students.

Eilis had a job arranged for her in a department store. I had a job set up for me in the University, although towards the end of my three years, when it was obvious to me that I would not be staying to complete my Ph.D, I also worked part time in a department store to make some extra money. I sold handbags and Ernie will never let me forget how I was as stiff as Eilis was when she started out and how I shooed him away from the handbag counter.

I suppose it goes without saying that Eilis and I were both homesick as we got to know our new surroundings, but it was less of a problem for me as I fully intended to return to England. And Brooklyn was somewhat of a cocoon for Eilis with its Irish dances and fellow immigrants.

Like Eilis, I went home for a visit: she because her sister died, I because I wanted to see my parents and brother and friends. Like Eilis, when it was time to go back to America, I hesitated. She already had a secret husband in Brooklyn, but the ties to Ireland were pulling at her. She eventually boarded the boat back, this time a mentor to a young girl as she left to start a new life. I hesitated because I knew that if I went back to LA I would never leave. My reason for returning was not unlike Eilis'.

It all worked out just fine. Thomas Wolfe was right when he said that you cannot go home again. But sometimes it is hard to know where home is.

Monday, March 07, 2016

Love to Lydia Jane

This cute little girl is my granddaughter Lydia Jane, commonly known as Diddy. Not hard to figure out that she is eight years old today. Elizabeth, her mom, allows each of her children to take the day off for their birthdays and she takes them out to lunch, shopping etc. Tomorrow we are the destination for the two of them and I am so excited that we will be seeing them.

Any of your cake left, Lydia?

Wednesday, February 24, 2016

It's Ron's Turn

Ron and Andrew, Chesapeake Bay, 1994
Happy Birthday, Ron. This is not a photo which highlights your activities for the year. No mention of another great theatrical role (although I wanted to post the photo of your face when you wore—and dropped—the towel in Enchanted April). No mention of all the bread you baked and the garden and the koi you tended. No mention of the trips you took with your family to check out colleges for Patrick. No mention of your ambitious blog (
and sorry, Ron, I am still catching up with that.

And I am not writing this because you are the only person in the family who could read the paragraph above and recognize praeteritio.

No, this is a photo of an act of kindness which made me so happy to know you would be a part of our family. In 1994 Lucy was about to start college in St. Louis, 600 miles to the south. On the same day Andrew would start graduate school 500 plus miles to the east. Both had a great deal of "stuff" which needed to be transported. We were all set to take Lucy and trying to figure out how we could help Andrew. Kate's boyfriend at the time came up with an offer of help, which was so welcome. While they were there Ron's former roommate, who was living in the area and who would be Ron and Kate's best man the following year, took them sailing on Chesapeake Bay.

Amazing how digging out old photos can be such an aide memoire.

Friday, February 19, 2016

A Political Post Devoid of Politics

On May 21, 2014, way before the American political arena was populated, I wrote a post advising Hillary Clinton not to run, based not on her political viability, but on her age and the difficulties we all encounter as we get older. Then here comes Bernie Sanders, who is now 74 and who would be 82 at the end of a second term, assuming he got one. Sure he looks pretty good now—they both do and they have both been facing the rigors of campaigning and riding around on buses and eating suspect food in diners. But there is a limit.

I swear I had figured that with the advent of Mr. Sanders it would be a good time to repeat my warnings, and by one of those co-incidences or synchronicities, today Ronni Bennett wrote a very a propos post, listing some of the ways we are robbed of time as the years go by. People who wrote comments were delighted to find themselves members of a club, sharing their experiences. I know I was. Forgetting how to spell: check, getting mixed up with numbers: check. And so on.

How does this play in the political arena?  Bernie can't fly to Europe, Frau Merkel,  because he's having a double bunionectomy. Hillary can't get to the phone, Mr. Putin, because it takes her so long to pee these days. If we pay heed to these and other examples in the comments, neither of them would get much done because they will both sleep longer and need naps.

I rest my case and am off to bed.

Thursday, February 18, 2016

A Week for Birthdays

First there was Andrew's wife, Marcie, who celebrated her birthday on Monday. In addition to raising six delightful children (and all that involves as they segue into the teenage years), she works full time on a schedule which involves a commute from Rockville to downtown DC, arriving home at 2:00 a.m. Marcie has had to confront many crises head on, as those of you who followed Veronica's first year will recall, and there is now another dragon to slay.

Yesterday and today marked birthdays for two grandchildren. Yesterday was Charlie's sixteenth birthday so we joined the Bernas family for dinner. Charlie is the proud owner (and player) of three guitars, so a number of his gifts were guitar related. Thanks for inviting us over for dinner, Charlie. Today we celebrate the fourteenth birthday of Andrew and Marcie's oldest child Liesl. She's our oldest granddaughter and it has been such fun to look through photos and see how much she has changed. Next year she will be in High School!