Thursday, January 28, 2016

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

My daughter received a copy of "The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up" by Marie Kondo for Christmas. Any author who jumps onto the New York Times Top 10 list can't be all that bad—right? Anyway, Lucy drank the cool aid and came over to address her sisters, using my house as a teachable moment. The no. 1 question Ms. Kondo wants us to ask ourselves as we look at the things which get in our way and which we might possibly throw out is "Does this thing spark joy?"I get it, I really do, but although my vacuum cleaner and my potato masher do not spark joy, I am not about to throw them out. I am happy to say I got pretty un-sparked about some old cans of paint and a few lengths of cloth, all of which I bought to make my daughters cute little dresses. My youngest will be 40 in May.

So that is my rock. And my hard place? Thanks to the Wall Street Journal for illustrating my problem (although a few piles of newspapers would make for a pretty soft place.) A very soft place in fact.

I am resigned. Perhaps I can persuade the co-inhabitant of this house to follow another of Ms. Kondo's precepts and pat and hug some of his boxes of belongings—before he throws them out.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

An Extraordinary Woman

Thanks to my friend Caroll for inviting us both to the birthday party for a member of her Detroit History Club. Not just any party, but a hundred and second birthday party. That is so rare that I don't even know how to type it.

Betty graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Wellesley College. She entertained W. E. Du Bois in her living room. Her late husband was a member of the renowned Tuskeegee Airmen.  Betty taught in the Highland Park School system when it too was renowned and extremely well funded thanks to the tax base from the automotive industry. And did I mention she taught Latin?

I had met Betty before and I wish I had known her more. How did an Afro-American woman attend Wellesley at that period in her nation's history? The article I referenced above describes much of the grim background of that time.

Here she was last Thursday, chattering away to Ernie about Latin and some of their common friends (after all, it was 50 years ago that Ernie came and began teaching at Wayne State.) Her mind is still sharp and it is only very recently that she has moved into an assisted care facility.

Spending time with her and some other members of the History Society was an honor. Detroit needs more teachers like Betty.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Happy Birthday, Blake

Yesterday I mentioned our ready-made granddaughter, Peter's daughter Blake. Here she is after the family dinner (we celebrated on Sunday with some of the cousins) hanging on to her gift of a Darth Vader cake pan. Looks pretty scary, doesn't it? I can't wait for the cakes she and Lucy are going to produce.

Happy 11th Birthday, sweetheart. We are so happy to have you as part of our family.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Peter and Lucy

Continuing with the family theme, I am first delighted to announce that Andrew arrived home safely in Rockville (and avoided snow and ice) after a wonderful two days home with us.

Today the weather is somewhat like it was three years ago for Lucy and Peter's wedding. Cold. Very cold, but all the guests could get here. What a risk it is to have a wedding in winter!

They are now the nucleus of a lovely little family—our pre-made granddaughter (we will note her eleventh birthday tomorrow), our sixteen month old grandson Joe and the surprise we are looking forward to in April.

We love you all.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016


I always admired the people who used the word "unacceptable." Loudly but decisively. The word seems to grasp in no uncertain terms that the speaker is not blaming the speakee (yet), but that somehow a situation has arisen which has to be someone's fault. They are still on neutral terms. Sort of love the sinner but hate the sin.

In the course of several days I used the word unacceptable for three different situations. I kind of liked the way it rolled off my tongue. First it was the kitchen appliances. Two of them and no remarks about these things coming in threes. Chris came to deal with my dishwasher and range top. He knew what the problems were, but had to order parts. In one case he assured my he couldn't show me the broken part, because it was "built in." Me: How do you know that's what it is?" Chris: "Experience." He looked all of 17. No way could I see the range top problem, because the top was bolted on and he needed a gizmo to unbolt it, but the company would call when the parts were in (they did) and he would return. I was too stupid to realize that the date they offered me was two weeks off and when I realized this, I called to complain (no unacceptable yet.) Rick came, all was well, the dishwasher worked so did top right hand burner. Two days later, bottom right hand burner wasn't working. I was expecting to cook dinner for 18 three days later, so it was time for unacceptable. Chris returned, no cost. I also told him I wasn't going to pay him, because apparently Rick had not seated the top properly.

I was on a roll. Then there was the matter of the drug store. We use a small, friendly business and will have no truck with the local big-box store. It was a Saturday and Ernie realized he had forgotten to pick up the medication he had ordered a few days earlier. There had been a shortage and the order was not filled. It wasn't until he got home that it occurred to him that he hadn't taken the medication that day, wouldn't get it on Sunday and would have to wait for the delivery on Monday. His blood thinner! So I picked up the phone and fortunately my call was answered by the charming owner of the store. Even though she sounded like she wouldn't leave the store until she solved the problem, it seemed like it was time for an "Unacceptable" or two. She got the medication from the big-box store and all was well.

Ernie has always wanted a nice pen and I said I would buy him one for Christmas. We went out to a ritzy mall and looked at them together. We agreed a Mont Blanc was out of the question, and settled (after many questions) on a W*******, one that can convert from a cartridge to what I call real ink. Unfortunately the demonstration pen was the only one in the store, so the manager said he would have one sent from the home base in Denver. Sure enough, a strong packing box arrived from W******* in no time. In the box was crumpled brown paper, in the crumpled brown paper was a lovely blue box, and in the blue box was—nothing. Off to the phone and the manager at my mall. Unacceptable, I said. Unacceptable. He did not sound surprised by the empty box and said he would call Denver. A few days later a brown box arrived from Colorado containing a pen kind of thrown in to the crumpled brown paper. But no converter.

This time I called the mother ship. I talked to the manager (Peter. I won't forget his name). He said he remembered the transaction and would send the converter to complete my purchase.

It still has not arrived. I am getting ready to move on to "intolerable."

Saturday, January 09, 2016

Big Day for Danny

Our grandson Daniel was confirmed today. So strange, when I look at this photo I see bits of his two brothers in his face, perhaps even bits of his father. As the youngest of three boys he will not have a brother to pass this navy jacket down to—maybe some of his cousins.

I took this photo in the community room underneath the church where families were lining up to be photographed with the presiding bishop. I tried to squeeze in to the side of the "official" photographer who was capturing the image of Danny with his parents and siblings and his sponsor and his wife. I knew the first photograph I took on my iPhone (note to self: buy a new camera) was lousy so I wanted everyone to stay in place so I could try again. In my best matriarch voice I announced firmly, "Stay where you are."

Sorry, Bishop Byrne. I didn't mean you.

Sunday, January 03, 2016

Epiphany and Caroline

Our church always celebrates the coming of the Magi with a procession of the Three Wise Men carrying gold, frankincense and myrrh—and a camel crafted many years ago by a parishioner. It  trots along under the power of two small children inserted under the body and up to the head, where a large hole allows the children to see where they are going. In the past my grandchildren have provided camel power for this clever costume. And every year I have forgotten my camera.

Today was no different. The only time I ever made a conscious effort to carry my camera and to take photographs was in 2010 when I followed an idea I had seen in other blogs and set up a new blog to record every day in the year with a photo recording the activities of the day, or some scenery I had admired or something I considered memorable/newsworthy/beautiful etc. Since it was my 70th year I titled the blog 365 at 70. I am not sure whether the photos were any good. I enjoyed the format of the blog, and taking walks in the snow and exploring different parts of the neighborhood to find an interesting photo must have done me some good. Until March, when I had computer problems and that was the end of that project.

I do, however, have a photo to  share today. My granddaughter Caroline is twelve, edging up there to the days of becoming a teenager.