Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Memories are Made of This.

My older son served twice in Africa in the Peace Corps. The second stint was in Madagascar. He has preserved many memories of that beautiful country, both in words and in photographs.

Here he seems to be holding a salamander of sorts, but there is a story of him carrying a lemur on a bus for several hours to re-house it in a National Park. My husband has put together a number of Al's letters, photos etc. in a booklet called The Red Isle. We sometimes see comments on his Facebook page written in Malagasy. (Malagache?) I wrote here about one of his most poignant accounts, the tombstone of a French soldier.

One reminder of his two years in Madagascar is a photograph that sits on our piano. The Peace Corps had a competition for photographs showing how women were contributing to the economic development of their country. I believe Al's was a (the) winning photo.


A group of women planting rice. This is the posture I have always used when weeding. My husband always said women are built this way, while men kneel, and he kept offering me a rubber mat (which I only used when wearing a skirt.)

This summer I suffered badly from vertigo and instability. I would get into bed at night and the walls would go round and round. The neurologist sent me for yet another neck MRI followed by an ENG and then a VR something or other. When I had mastered the alphabet I landed up having some real or imagined chrystals shaken up in my ears. I had to sleep upright in a chair for two nights and I was supposed to sleep on my right ear. No improvement and although I was supposed to go back—I didn't.

This whole business manifested itself badly when I was trying to weed. I landed on my face in the flowerbed several times. Usually it was a toss up whether my body or the plants were hurt worse. At least the flowers couldn't drip blood.

So off I went to the hardware store. If the rubber mat was not acceptable, I thought this might be.

I now use this piece of landfill fodder as a seat while I bend over and weed. It works pretty well. I cannot claim I am contributing to the economic development of Grosse Pointe, but I have not fallen on my face. Yet.


Friday, August 28, 2015

Ain't She Sweet?

In earlier days I wrote about my previous refrigerator. Public enemy No. 1. We tended to refer to it as "our new refrigerator", although it, together with our other "new" appliances was installed in 2000. Time flies.

Oh the trouble we had with melting rubber hoses, replacement hoses that didn't work and a noisy compressor which was good for 2 weeks or 2 years, according to Rick. No water and no ice either.


So a couple of weeks ago this lovely appliance found it's way into the kitchen. It had to be counter depth, but the freezer is on the bottom, and there have been all kinds of improvements in the last 15 years. Click on the photo to enlarge it.

Look at all the space. I can put big platters of food in it for a party. I wanted to show a photo of the fridge with food arranged tastefully (no pun intended). But a few minutes after I took the photo of the empty appliance, my son and four children arrived. I sent them to the basement to bring up the food I had stored in the basement refrigerator and we shoved it randomly in this beauty. Now they have left and the refrigerator is plundered. I have to decide where everything is to go. Eggs on the left? Pickles on the right? Problems again. But at least water and ice are dispensed from the door rather than the floor.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

This is Ridiculous

If I have no problem, I will create one. It was some time ago that I marked my 10th anniversary, proudly announced I would return—and disappeared off the face of the earth. There were reasons: prior to an iteration of each real or imagined reason I had sketched out a post, written a witty title, researched photos and then I came to a withering halt.

There was the title "The Summer of my Discontent". Not as witty as I imagined, but it did come a fair way to describe a summer which started off cold and so rainy that weeds had their unfettered way with my flower garden. A nice reversal—flowers eventually choked out most of the weeds, but I never bothered to remove the remainder. We did get a few days of the stifling heat and humidity of a typical Detroit summer and today it was so chilly I was looking for a sweater.

We had our usual share of visitors. I had plenty of warning, but I have lost my touch. They were all family of various degrees, all spoke English and all were helpful. The days of screamers and seas of diapers are over. Now I need to find a way to put food into the mouths of teenagers (and I have to remember that "pre-teens" get ravenously hungry too!) I don't have the words to thank my three daughters and their husbands who helped me with meals. Put it the other way round: I occasionally helped them. The weather co-operated with us, so for the most part the kids could use up their energy, and work up an appetite in the pool. A visit from grandchildren would not seem right without an out-door movie. This year it was Breaking Away, which brought forth memories of the 70's for some of us and smiles at the bits of messed up Italian from our guest from Italy.

Just when I was about to write that much awaited (ahem) first post, I got entangled with that neurologist again. Warning, if you can possibly avoid them, do. This time it involved a neurosurgeon, a bunch of MRI's, a treatment for my inner ear which demanded that I sat up in a chair for two nights and subsequently slept on my right side. I also tried taking less medication—but taking more if I had a problem, which of course I did. The problems involved inability to focus my eyes and uncontrollable shaking of my hands. So goodbye typing for a while.

I feel pretty good right now, but suddenly, though not unexpectedly, my e-mail was converted to a Microsoft based system. There are training sessions for all the employees, but we retirees are on our own.  It took me three days to figure out how to print a document. I'm getting there because I hate to be defeated, but I still have to deal with the instructions on "How do I set up my Apple iPhone (and iPad) to synchronize to the new Wayne Connect using Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync?" Until then, I cannot get my e-mail on my phone, but it involves backing up to iCloud, which I have always avoided.

O well, time to call in the grandchildren. See you soon. I promise.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Ten Years Ago . . .

. . . I made my first post on this site.

There's lots I want to write, but it is late (great victory, USA). Always an excuse, isn't there? But I will be back. It just seemed appropriate to mark this anniversary.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Hamburger Helper

Embedded in our family lore is an item about me and a not-too-palatable food item called "Hamburger Helper." Yes, there is some truth to this story, but I can explain.

First, I need to go back at least half a century. My family never possessed a car. That was not in the least bit unusual when I was growing up in those post-war years, although by the time I left England in 1963 car ownership was becoming more common. During my childhood, not having a car was never a hardship, although of course it may have been to my parents, when it came to shopping and all the requirements of life, like shopping and going to work. I blithely lived my life jumping on a bus.

Here is the form of trans port ation my dad had before his mar riage. I wrote about this in an earlier post. Fast-forward to 1971: Andrew had just been born and with four children under the age of five I decided I needed to learn to drive. We had a bizarre lifestyle which involved waiting for Ernie to get home before we bundled four children into a car so he could take us all to the grocery store, for appointments at the doctor etc. I don't think I realized that doing all that singlehandedly would not be much fun.

In any event, I signed up for driving lessons in the parking lot of Grosse Pointe Farms. I am a bit vague about who offered the lessons, how many times a week, but I am pretty sure they were at 5:30. (Or was it six?) It involved Ernie and the kids dropping me off, going home for dinner, and coming back to fetch me. They would need dinner, so I bought this product called Hamburger Helper, which called for browned ground beef which was mixed with the contents of the box. That way I could prepare it in advance and it merely needed warming. An added advantage was that the kids liked it. Heaven knows how I fed Andrew. I completed the course, passed the test, parallel parking included.

Last week I went to the grocery store. I had noticed earlier that the shelves were looking different. Some brands were being culled, others restocked. Imagine my surprise when I came face to face with shelves stocked full of a product I had not looked for for years. All flavors, all kinds of Hamburger Helper. Chicken Helper! Tuna Helper!

There must be a lot of mature women learning to drive.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

It's Always Greener . . .

Our winter is, perhaps, winding towards its close. Though heaven knows, we have had some pretty rough Marches in the past. All  we have to do is navigate potential spring floods. My guest beds remain un-made. Should I make them with flannel—and have to rip the sheets off and re-make the beds with percale if my first bunch of spring guests arrive on a hot spring day? Or should I make the beds with percale? Then I have to search out blankets already smelling of mothballs to keep them warm? Problems, problems, problems.

This will be with us before long. And worse. I'm just showing this to people who say they like to live in the Mid-west because of "the seasons." Then the question is bandied around, "Which do you prefer, the winter or the summer?"

I know the answer to that one—whichever we are not suffering from at the time.

Friday, March 06, 2015

It Calls For a Reversal

In late 2012 I was pretty insulting to the firm Paper Direct for the slew of catalogs they were sending. And still do. I should not be upset, because they had rightly surmised that I loved to write letters and that I loved attractive stationery.

Paper Direct's Pretty Petals
In the past, many of my letters and non-cyber communication were addressed to my sister-in-law who did not have a computer and had no intention of getting one. So I loved to send her long letters on paper like this. I had to use a computer because I have a somewhat shaky hand these days, but it was probably easier for her to read. After her death I found my correspondence was pretty much limited to e-mail. Not that it saved work: I write some pretty long e-mails usually with photos attached. It would be easy to plunk the text in a letter and mail it, but I have fallen into the trap of instant gratification—the e-mail can be there within ten seconds, I save the cost of a stamp and don't have to make the trip to the mail box.

The other day as I was reading some blogs and following links to some previously unknown blogs, I was thinking that there are a lot of great writers out there. And I got to wondering how many letters they send. Perhaps an aunt or cousin would love to get the content of their blog not on the internet but as a letter. (Don't expect that friends and relatives will read your blogs and follow your life from the internet. They won't. After a long post about, perhaps, a month long safari, someone is bound to ask , "What did you do this summer?" Needless to say, I made up the safari bit, but the underlying truth is there.) I can promise you that the sight of the mailman coming up the walk with a letter will make the recipient happy and feeling loved.

I know that was the case with Flo. So this is a challenge for some of you great writers. Forget the blog and use your skill to enrich someone's day.