Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Rocks and Hard Places Part 2

I am still being consumed by this business. I am adopting a holy policy and asking for the serenity to accept what cannot be helped. But I fear it is so much easier to deal with other people's bad habits than my own.

One area which comes entirely under my control is my sewing roomlet. It is thus named because it has two full walls, one partial wall and the fourth side has no wall. Not as weird as it sounds. When I set the room up after the walls were painted, I took a large bookcase from one of the children's rooms, painted it red and used it to contain patterns and boxes of fabric etc.,  but since there was still not enough room for my sewing necessities, I bought some cheap, but helpful, stacking units. I'll break down and show these old photos, so you can see how these units are drooping.

The door on one unit won't shut and I have to tie the doors together. The shelves are sagging. It has to go. I now have a heavy wooden bookcase which I can paint and use to store some of my fabric. And therein lies the rub. I am reorganizing my goods, but if one container is for felt, should I put the project for felt that I am just beginning there, or does it belong in my (rather big) "projects to be finished" container? How small does a piece of fabric have to be before it goes in the scrap container?

Of course, I am not the only one with this problem. Ten or so years ago we helped a friend prepare for a move into a retirement home. She was 85 at the time and her biggest problem was winnowing down her enormous collection of clothes, china, linens and all the treasures she had accumulated over a life time. She would be able to take quite a lot (and did), but the biggest problem was her basement, stuffed with who knows what.
The girls and I helped her, but we were not getting too far (ever see Hoarders?)  She is a generous woman and we found that if we said we would like something, she would give it to us—although we knew we would immediately dispose of it.

 I was the obvious choice to be the recipient of a pile of newspapers dated around Dec. 12 1936. The Newspaper is the now defunct Detroit Times and you can just about see the main story of the day. The paper is large and the folds are in poor shape. I couldn't open it without doing more harm to the paper and in any even it would be hard to scan the whole page. There are a number of related articles and a large photograph of Mrs. Simpson. Lynne was a teenager when these events transpired and I can imagine the romantic attraction. Although I know the final provenance of the documents, I wondered what had happened to these papers in the interim. She had gone off to college, married two husbands, given birth to two children, all the while keeping (but not protecting) the newspapers which appealed to her teenage heart.  This English scandal was given great coverage, though I admit that in this paper at least the editors cut away to the Dionne quints after several pages. Even when I took these papers I was trying to decide whether to keep them. I solved my problem by throwing out the others and keeping this one.

The King is Dead: Long Live the King.

Wednesday, February 03, 2016

A Busy Week for Eleanor

We just returned home from celebrating Eleanor's twelfth birthday. Kate's kids get to chose the menu on their birthdays—Eleanor chose chili and ice cream cake. And she made the cake herself from a new cookery book she just received. Delicious.

The next time we see Eleanor will be on Friday evening when she takes the stage at Brownell in their production of "Fiddler on the Roof." She is playing the role of a Russian peasant, costume by Grandma.

All this and practices and games for her travel soccer team.

You go girl!

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."