Friday, January 30, 2009

One Down -Eleven to Go -Only The Good

Wow! Here it is, the end of January -one month out of the year 2009 already gone! (Yes, I know there is one more day left -tomorrow -but for all purposes, the month of January now is virtually history, isn't it?)

This month has had a few things that maybe weren't all that pleasant, weather-wise -a whole lot of "wintry mix" stuff that includes a whole lot of sleet and freezing rain and that has meant a lot of icy surfaces, for sure. I've been lucky in that I had very few reasons why I had to leave the house so I didn't have to go out and risk life and limb on icy or even just snow-covered roads.

For most of the month, the only time I left the warmth of the house was to get Maya on and off the van on a couple of occasions and now and then, I had to venture out to check if the newspaper had arrived. I did manage to get out and go to church last Sunday though -a first for the month and thus, for the New Year.

This week has brought me a lot in the "Only The Good" department though. You -my readers -have already heard about the photos I received in the mail last Saturday, the great phone call I had the other night too from an old family friend too.

In the course of my conversation with Art -the elderly gentleman caller -he told me that back in the 60s, he took some extra credit classes at Johns Hopkins University pertaining to autism and his instructor -the professor for those courses -was none other than Dr. Leo Kanner -who was one of the earliest individuals to research the disorder, Autism!

Art told me that when he reads my e-mails to him and his wife, in which I frequently chronicle the issues, actions and reactions of my grandchildren, both diagnosed with Autism, that he can think back to that coursework and understand quite well the things going on with these two little ones in my house. Knowing that, just reinforces the friendship bond I've had all my life with Art and his wife, Priscilla. It's always a special benefit to know there are people who have a good background and understanding then of the situation -of the capabilities the kids have and also,of the problems that crop up in trying to help them learn and grow into being as successful as possible.

Yesterday, being the last Thursday of the month, was my monthly lunch date with some of the girls from my high school class. We've been doing this monthly get-together for a year now and it is really very much an enjoyable thing for me and I'm pretty sure the others have a good time at it too!

There were four of us yesterday -Kate, Rose, Linda and myself. Carol, who lives over in State College -about 37 miles from here -didn't make it over the mountain this month. She had another commitment for yesterday afternoon, plus she and her husband plan to come over here tomorrow for the funeral of her husband's cousin -the friend I mentioned last week who passed away suddenly, apparently of an aneurism. So, since I plan to go to the funeral too, I will get to see her -and her husband, who grew up two doors up the street here from me as well as most likely I will get to see Rose, along with her husband, Durvin, there too then. Rose's youngest sister was married to Ron's second older brother (Den -who was a very special friend of mine and who died of cancer in 1988) and also, one of Rose's older sisters was married to an Uncle of the deceased, who also was a very good friend of mine and his wife still is someone I am very close to. Boy, how's that for a long, long, drawn-out sentence? The funeral will be held in a church in a nearby town which is no longer in use and the mass will be done by Ron's oldest brother, Father Bob. So, on many levels, it will be not just a funeral service for Ron, but a gathering of relatives and close friends of his and of his entire family. That is one of the really good things about growing up in a very small town and people being very inter-connected with each other from childhood to the grave.

Yesterday at our lunch we discussed again the idea of maybe meeting at some different locations from time to time. One of the places we are hoping to meet at for a lunch is a new restaurant that just opened this past month in Philipsburg -a town about 12 miles from here. This restaurant -I think the name of it is either the "1921 Phillips" or the "Phillips 1921" -I'm a little foggy on the correct name there and I apologize for that -but it is located in the building in town that for many years was a very grand hotel -"The Phillips Hotel." It closed a few decades back and then was used as part of a nursing home center for about 20 years or so but they vacated the premises just a few years ago now.

But now, two women from Philipsburg have taken over the building and are in the process of restoring it to the grandeur decor it had back in its hey-day. Right now, the restaurant they have set up there -a very upscale setting and menu too -I believe is the first thing they have finished and in operations. My friend Kate told us her brother and his wife had gone there for the buffet they offer on Sunday and reported back that the food was very good, although many in these parts would hesitate to partake of that because it is $18 per person. I'd have to scrimp a bit to be able to afford a Sunday lunch there but I do think it would be very well worth the price, overall.

I hope this restaurant manages to get off to a good start and gain a good foothold to continue then to operate as there are not very many really nice, restaurants in that town any more. There's maybe one or two over in Clearfield that would be along that type of "fine dining" but otherwise, the closest restaurant of that type would require either a trip to State College -37 miles away -or to Altoona, and that's a 50 mile drive, one way. So I see this new place as being a bright spot to the overall Moshannon Valley Community -one very much needed as the general outlook here has often been very bleak for a long, long time now.

On Tuesday of this week, I had to go to the hospital in Clearfield to have bloodwork done for my six-month, routine check-up with the oncologist. No big deal, ya know. A little jab in the arm, a vial or two of blood removed -not a problem. I mentioned to the phlembotomist drawing the blood that in almost five years of dealing with this particular lab/hospital, having had chemo treatments for over seven months too which of course required an IV and yes, ya know those IV's mean needles and jabs in the arm, etc., I had only on one occasion had a painful experience with one technician drawing blood. As much as I tend to hate needles of that type, I thought that was a pretty darned good thing -a good track record in my opinion, of the staff there then, don't you agree?

One problem arose from having that bloodwork done this week though.

In the ongoing struggle to get Maya fully potty trained -no, we still haven't mastered the fine art of her using the potty for the #2 function -Tuesday evening, Maya announced she had to go "potty" and insisted I go back to the bathroom with her and sit there, holding her hand while she tried to go. (She doesn't require any help to go to the bathroom for other things, just this.) So, back I went. Got a little chair we keep in the bathroom to put clean clothes on so they are there, ready, when you get out of the tub and it works just great to unfold this chair and park your butt on it while talking -and singing -to Maya in an effort to help her produce something, anything, ya know. The song we sing to her -more like a cheerleader's call -"Push it out! Push it out! Way Out!" She even sings along with us on that one too.

But anyway, while sitting there, talking to Maya about all kinds of stuff, she asked me where I'd been that afternoon as she knew I had been out and away from the house. So I told her I had to go to the hospital. "What for?" she asked and I -not thinking anything of this answer had responded, "Bloodwork."

Boy, little did I realize that would spark a long, lengthy discussion as she had more and more questions then about "What is bloodwork?" And when she starts with the Q&A type thing, she doesn't give it a rest until she gets an answer that I guess makes sense in her mind then.

Have you ever tried to explain what "Bloodwork" means to a small child? Especially to a kid who doesn't always comprehend a lot of things completely? My advice here is, if possible, don't go there! It can really tax one's gray matter to try to find a way to explain something as simple as bloodwork but yet, as complicated as that then becomes under circumstances like those were!

I had to pull up my sleeve and show her where they had done the "Bloodwork" and she was so fascinated by all this conversation that she will still come up to me and pull my sleeve up so she can look at the crook in my arm -at the elbow -and she points to that saying "That's Gram's Bloodwork!" Yeah, close enough Maya, I guess.

Meals here sometimes can be quite taxing. First, there is trying to figure out what to cook that isn't just the same old, same old stuff you know. But with botht he kids who don't really like anything other than macaroni or noodles, trying to incorporate foods around those two items can at times be a bit tricky. I hate the idea of fixing one meal for Mandy, Bill and myself and a separate one then too for the kids, so sometimes, if I have a hankering for something I KNOW the kids will completely turn up their noses at, I try to fix those type meals when I have a few leftovers in the fridge that I can just heat up for them.

Last night though, I decided to fix Stuffed Peppers. I love this dish and Mandy and Bill both like it too. On previous occasions when I made this, both the kids had readily eaten the "stuffing" -rice and ground beef, ya know. However, lately it seems rice is becoming -quite rapidly too - an "unfavorite" menu item for both kids. Their tastebuds do seem to fluctuate a lot at times. And last night, apparently was one of those occasions when neither of them wanted anything at all do with rice! Maya did take a couple tiny bites but Kurtis -narry a smidgen of it passed over his lips.

Nope! Instead, he played with it on his plate. Then he took handfuls of it off his plate and plopped it down in little piles all around his plate. After that, he decided this would be a wonderful substance to use to "paint" the table top with it too! And when he finished his paintings, he then decided to push it all off the table and on to the floor! Talk about a mess! Yes, we had one royal one there! So much so that Mandy tried to phone our neighbor, two doors over, to ask her to please bring her big part-boxer dog -Parker -over to have supper directly off our floor! It's times like these when I really miss not having a dog in the house! Heck, even our old cat, Gracie Baby, would have loved being present for a feast like that! She prowled regularly around our feet as we would eat our meals, just waiting for the kids (or even an adult) to accidentally drop a tidbit and would be really quick to pounce on that too as a very special meal I guess. Our current cat, Chino, seems not to have that trait though, unfortunately. Sadly, Mandy wasn't able to reach Karen and have Parker come dine with us, courtesy of Kurtis so we ended up having to clean this mess up ourselves. YUCK! I'll really be very grateful for the day Kurtis starts to eat much better. But at least, the adults here had a really good meal last night, guess that's the good part, isn't it?

Yesterday, when Kurt's occupational therapist came, she brought with her some embroidery floss I needed. Last week, when she was here, I mentioned that I was going to have to get out sometime soon and drive either to State College or Dubois -where the closest Joanne Fabrics store is located and which would be a 37 mile trip to one store or a 42 mile trip to the other -one way. This therapist though lives in the Dubois area and since she also likes crafting and such, she is familiar with the Joanne Fabrics stores and offered then to pick up the additional floss I need to complete the tablecloth I'm currently working on. Boy, that was nice, really good of her to pick that up for me. Not just because of the time and gas it saved me but also, because it was less expensive getting the floss there than it would have been had I had to resort to ordering it too from Herrschnerrs -my favorite online craft place! Now, as soon as I complete the places requiring the dark green floss -only three more "sprays" on the cloth to go before I finish that, I can then do all the yellow flowers -lots and lots of satin stitch which uses up lots and lots more floss that way too! She told me anytime I need more floss, just give her a call and she'll be more than happy to pick it up for me! Hmmm. Considering I just got a sale flyer in the mail yesterday from Joanne Fabrics and I see they have floss on sale right now for a quarter per skein, I should go through some of my projects in my stash and also the big bag of floss I have separated into little zip-lock bags to see what colors I will need to work on some of thos items too, shouldn't I? There is a limit of 30 skeins per customer but heck, I could maybe talk Roberta into stopping into the Joanne Fabrics store every day on her way home and that way, I could get oh, maybe an additional 100 skeins then for way less than it would normally run me. So for an outlay at those sale prices of $25 for 100 skeins, it would save me a nice, tidy $10 right there! I may have to give that a little more thought and see if Roberta wants to go in business to be my floss runner for me! Actually, since Mandy had to venture out to Dubois today to take her father-in-law over there for something or other, I should have made a list and given her money to pick up at least 30 skeins, huh? Oh well. I think I'll survive for a while now with what I have on hand. LOL

Right now, as I am writing this, my little sweetpea, Kurtis, has crashed and is taking a nice, hopefully very long afternoon nap. With him sleeping, me actually wide awake too for a change, that gives me at least two, maybe even three hours of good quiet time, no interruptions, and I can get down to work on this tablecloth, get it finished shortly and then -start on yet another project!

Yep, it never ends, does it?

But that too is all "Good" stuff -something I do really enjoy, and which I find to be very comforting, very relaxing and yes, even very exciting as I see the design take form and beauty with the addition of the colors of the floos.

A lof of darned good things, I'd say, wouldn't you?

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Vanity and Vocabulary

How's your vocabulary? Is it small, average, large -maybe even pretentious? I'm not really sure if that last word there would be correct to use in context of describing one with a very large vocabulary and who frequently uses said group of words, often quite merrily. But whether it's correct or not, I'm putting it in there.

To get through my post -my little "Story" as it were -today, I'll take you back in time -a long, long time to when I first began to read, to develop what would become my life-long love affair with books, with reading.

My Grandfather started this for me by reading to me from the vast collection I had as a pre-schooler of the "Little Golden Books." I owe him big time for doing that for me too. I thoroughly enjoyed when he read to me from the very beginning when I was barely big enough to sit on his lap and maybe pay a tiny bit of attention to the process. Not that I remember that far back but that is what my Mom always told me anyway.

By the time I was around four years old, if he read any of those books to me and changed one word, re-arranged any words at all -I corrected him. Told him "No, no, Grandpa. That isn't what it says there."

So when I started first grade, I was well on my way to becoming an avid reader. By second grade, I took the Reader's Digest to school with me and to that teacher's amazement, read from it to my classmates. I don't remember that either but she told me in later years that I did and that I was the only student she ever had that read the Reader's Digest at that early an age.

By fourth grade, I was reading book well beyond my ability to understand fully. Big , fat books -like "Not As A Stranger" for one. I later re-read that book when I was around 13 and again, when I was about 16 or 17 and it was amazing how much more of the book I understood then, although at the age of 9, I had understood a great deal of it.

The older I got, the more voracious my reading became. I attribute this to the fact that as an only child it became my escape into seeing how other people, those with actual famlies, lived. It was a way that I could see the world from the arm chair in our living room while munching on whatever snacks were available in the house.

Along the way, from doing all this reading, guess what else happened?

I developed a vocabulary -one which, by the time I hit high school, was fairly extensive -due mainly to the wide variety of books I read.

In high school -our English teacher for 9th and 10th grade had a test he loved -absolutely loved -to give all his students. Back then, our school was small so the man who was the baseball and football coach was also the only teacher of English to anyone attending our school. He also taught Senior English too though.

But the test he insisted all his 9th and 10th grade students was a standardized test, put out by the Reader's Digest -which magazine was also a required reading item by all students in those grades too.

There was another student back then too -a girl, a year older, a year ahead of me -who, like me was also a total bookworm. She was also an only child as well -many ways our lives paralleled -and when it was time for this Vocabulary Test to be taken, it became kind of a competition between me and her as to who would score the highest on that test.

It wasn't something we set out to do, to see who could out-perform the other, as initially I really wasn't aware of how high her scores were until the teacher, the coach, made a comment about it one day.

It seems one year I scored either the same or higher than she did or had the previous year. Time takes a bit of toll here on my memory as I don't recall the specifics exactly now, just that our English teacher was really surprised to find another student in the school with a vocabulary at least as high as "DJ" scored. I will not post her full name here -just her initials -on the remote possibility (very remote really) that someone who knew both of us back then might read this and might still be friends or possibly even in contact with her and might even write and tell her about this post, this blog. Normally I wouldn't have any issues with that aspect but you see, this particular girl has not spoken to me in over 42 years now and I'm at a loss too as to what I did that ticked her off so much that she would take that type of stance.)

So anyway, that was me, my vocabulary and yes, a bit of vanity I had back then too about it.

Fast forward now to the present.

I've mentioned in the past how 3-4 girls I graduated from high school with and I meet on the last Thursday of every month to have a nice, friendly little lunch. We catch up a little on what's happening in the area, about each others famlilies and oh, all kinds of things.

A couple of months back, I had to phone one of these friends -Rose, the girl who grew up in the house right beside mine. Her husband happened to answer the phone that day and I asked to speak to Rose. I think he asked who was calling because I quipped to him that apparently he didn't recognize my sweet melodic telephone voice. (I do tend to speak a bit softer on the phone, at least at the start of a conversation and then, typically the volume as well as the kind of gruff or raspiness of my voice kicks in.) He laughed -and this guy, also from my high school class, has a laugh that is quite unmistakable, always able to tell when he is in the midst of a gathering if he laughs.

And he said to me, "Now I know who it is! I could tell because you're the only person I know who uses all the big words."

And yes, at times I do that. A good friend of mine called me one time, telling me her daughter wanted me to give her some good, big words to use in something she was writing but also, she remarked that she didn't consider some of the words I tended to use then -"dickhead, peckerhead, peckerweed" -as words that qualified though. Yeah, I have another reputation with respect to other words too.

But what brought all this to mind today was a post that one of the moderators on a writing group I belong to had done. In it, she had given a link to an article in the LA Times about vocabulary, about words, and the beauty of them.

After reading that article and viewing the words that were selected there as the 100 most beautiful words, I've come to the conclusion that my vocabulary is really dropping -rapidly! There were only maybe ten words on the list there that I had ever seen before and umpteen words that I had no clue whatsoever as to how to begin to pronounce them much less use them.

I told my friend Rose about this list and that -just for the hell of it -I was going to send this article to her for her and her husband, Durv, to read. And also, to tell Durv that he need never worry about hearing me use the words on this particular list since I had narry a clue as to what most of them meant.

Now, just for the fun of it - here's the article from the LA Times. Read it, read the words listed there and see how many of them You recognize, understand and would know how to use them correctly in a sentence.

I'm going to dig out all the old Reader's Digests I can find now and start taking those little "Word Power" vocabulary tests too. Can't have my past reputation going down the tubes now, can I?

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/jacketcopy/2009/01/mellifluous-loq.html

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Time in Reverse

The past few days have been really exciting for me -mainly because you know how I really enjoy getting things from the past, making new contacts and such. But over the past week now, that aspect of my life has almost been on a level near to overflowing!

First, I really enjoyed -and very much appreciated -all the comments from readers as to their reasons for beginning their blog and also, what keeps them doing it too. I think, like most everyone else, it is my love of communicating on many different levels, that keeps me blogging, keeps me reading too the myriad of blogs I currently subscribe to or that I follow. So many of you take me on trips I could never afford and show me through your pictures as well as words, the beauty of this wide and wonderful world in which we live. People like Rune, up in Norway, Lifecruiser in Sweden, David (Authorblog) McMahon in Australia and bloggers way too numerous to call out here in North America (the U.S. and Canada). You all know who you are though -great pictures and keep 'em coming, please! The information those three above mentioned bloggers put up almost daily on their sites is really fascinating and if you've never checked out any of their blogs, I would highly recommend you click into them. You won't be disappointed, trust me there!

But aside from that -and before I start to get really off track (something I am very good at doing -I think it's commonly called "Rambling" ) let me get to the point of my post today.

From the photo I received on Saturday from my friend, Ki -sister of one of the guys with whom I was confirmed almost 50 years ago -and which I posted here the other day too, I had sent that photo to yet another friend, Pat -a retired Penna. State Trooper. Now Pat and I have been friends for several years but after his class had their 45th class reunion, he did something I thought was really cool.

He researched every member of his class, tracked each one down, got their mailing addresses, e-mail addresses too for those who use that medium, and began sending messages out to the members of his class -asking them to share with him what they are involved in now, send pictures if they wished to share too -of themselves, of their children, grandchildren, trips they take, etc. Then, Pat sends these messages out to his list of classmates as well as a few others -like myself -so we can all kind of keep in contact -virtually anyway -with what others from our school, our area, are doing today.

Something I do have to explain here though is that Pat and I went to different schools together. Remember those old lines from years back -silly responses people would make that were a bit senseless -like "What's the difference between an orange?" Goofy stuff, ya know. Except that with Pat and his classmates, me and my classmates, it was the truth because we graduated from high school, all of us with diplomas that said "West Branch Area High School" on them but we attended different schools -physically speaking.

You see, back in the 50s, the five townships in this area that each borders on the other, decided it would be beneficial to the students as well as to the taxpayers, if they had one school district instead of having two, which had at that time been formed to educate those of us in this geographical area. But, in doing that, a new school had to be built and that took a couple of years to complete. So, for the classes that graduated in 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, from the West Branch Area School District, the kids who lived in Morris or Graham Township attended the Morris Township High School and the rest of us, who lived in Cooper, Karthaus or West Keating Townships (the latter there also being in Clinton County I believe), well we all attended high school at the Cooper Township High School Building.

So, when Pat -who attended the Morris Township schools did this research on the Class of 1961, he did it on both classes -the kids he grew up with, attended school with at the Morris School as well as including those who attended the Cooper School and who he probably had little or no contact with during his school days. Quite a feat, really to do that!

Well, Pat took that Confirmation photo and sent it to his classmates network and last night, I received an e-mail from a girl from the class of 1961 but who had attended the Cooper school, same as I did. Gracie is an old, old friend of mine. We go back in time to probably 7th and 8th grade plus, she also was first married to the son of one of my close neighbors too -Bill Gurbal -who unfortunately was killed in an automobile accident in November of 1964 -just three months after their son -his only child -was born.

Over the years, Gracie and I lost contact although once in a blue moon, I would run into her when she was back in the area for a weekend visit or some such. But through Pat's list of classmates and because he has me on his recipient list -as a "thank you" for helping him to track down some stragglers from the Cooper Class -my e-mail address is included on his list, available to his real classmates.

And last night, I got this great e-mail from Gracie -reconnecting once again -as she told me how many memories she had of the kids in that photo as well as our old church here that had burned to the ground back in May of 1967.

Now, earlier this past week, I had e-mailed a gentleman who is originally from this area and who I have known all my life. HIs family homestead was about seven doors up the street from mine and his mother and aunt were very good friends of my grandparents. His mother and aunt lived in New York (Brooklyn, I think but I'm not positive on that) during the winter months and then, come late spring, they would return here to their homestead and spend the summer in a very familiar setting.

This man, Arthur Sherman, is now 88 years old -in very good health -both mentally and physically -surprised me completely last night when he phoned me! Seems when he awoke yesterday morning, he had (as he explained this to me) announced to his wife that he was going to call me yesterday. And the reason behind that decision was that they had recently purchased a new cell phone -one which gave very good reception to call out from their home (the one they had previously they couldn't get a signal from their home so used it only when they travelled) and with this new phone he also has a service plan that provides him with 700 free minutes per month, so as he told me when we talked, he is going to try his level best to use everyone -or as near as possible -of those 700 minutes of free calling time!

However, he had also told me that he and his wife don't tend to check their e-mail daily but later yesterday afternoon, in checking their e-mail he had found my note to him from two or three days earlier and that note, along with some of the things I had written about to him, solidified his decision then to telephone me!

Now, I ask you, how cool is all of that? Some of these little contact things have come to me via posts on my blog and some, from the wonderful invention of e-mail too. But all of them tie back in one way or another to the tool we all have to have in order to use e-mail or to blog -a good old computer, don't 'cha know!

And finally -yes, all good (or bad sometimes) things do eventually come to an end but I have one more thing that happened yesterday that really fascinates me too.

You'll recall if you've followed my blog for any length of time now, that I am very interested in family tree stuff and I love being able to learn more too about my ethnic background, which is Swedish and Scottish. Since about late 1999 or early 2000 -shortly after I got my first computer at home -I have been communicating with a lady in Mellerud, Sweden -Anneli Andersson. I've even been lucky enough to have met her too on two of her visits to this country -in 2006 and again, in 2007. We write back and forth now and then but not on a steady, regular basis.

However, yesterday I received an e-mail from her telling me about a program she and a friend of hers are going to be starting this coming fall in their local school in Sweden. This will involve children around the ages of 11-12 years old and to set it up, she would like to find a school perhaps in this country that would be willing to set up a program in conjunction with the one she and her friend are going to be doing in Sweden. This would be a communcations type of learning experience for kids in that age range in this country and Sweden that would help these young people to learn language skills, particularly for the Swedish children to learn English better and maybe even assist kids here to pick up a bit of the Swedish language. But it would also be a means for a cultural exchange where each group would learn traditions, the culture, of another country, in a more personal manner. She was thinking perhaps it would only be of interest to children with some Swedish ethnic background, but I think it would be a wonderful way for all kids, regardless of their ethnicity, to learn about another culture -the history, the geography, the social mores and such.

I'm going to work on this here to see if I can stir up enough interest and support between our school district, perhaps through members of the church I belong to as well, and who knows, maybe someone reading this somewhere would be interested in helping my friend, Anneli in Sweden, to get this learning experience off the ground, up and running!

I already volunteered my grandson, Alex, to be a pen pal with Anneli's son, Jonathon. Alex will be 12 in August and Jonathon will be 11 so they are close enough in age to have a lot of common interests and such and I'm fairly certain Alex would really enjoy doing something like this too. Maybe, through him, I could get a teacher or group from his school in Bellefonte, PA to take part in this experience too.

Anneli would also like to receive stories too about people who came to this country -preferably from the Dalsland area in Sweden but I don't think she would turn down emmigration stories from other parts of Sweden (maybe even other countries too) about our ancestors and their journey from there to here.

So, now I ask you -my readers -wherever you are, whatever your ethnic background may be too -do you have any stories passed down from generation to generation about your ancestors and their passage to this country?

I can think of three about some of my ancestors -I'll save them for another post though. (Yeah, I know you're all probably wiping your brows in relief to hear that, aren't you?) How did your ancestors come to America (Canada or the U.S.) ? What made them decide to come here? What difficulties did they have to just get on the boat or on the trip and after they arrived? What type of work did they do then after setting up a home here? And do you or your family observe today any of traditions from the "old country" too?

Lots of questions there and I'm sure many of you could give me lots and lots of stories, answers to these questions.

So if any of you reading this would even like to participate with Anneli in her quest to help the children in her area of Sweden to learn what life was like for the people making this difficult move -regardless of how many years ago it was -that would just be, as the old saying goes, "Icing on the cake." All you have to do is contact me and I can then put you in contact with Anneli too!

Wouldn't it be great though to be a part of a way to share and learn a bit more history and a lot more about other countries, other cultures?

And the value of that would be absolutely priceless.

Monday, January 26, 2009

And The Purpose Is....

For the past day now, I've had an "earworm" going on here. You know what an "earworm is, don't you? When you get some bit of music stuck in your mind, playing over and over -ad nauseum -for you.

The song I've been hearing is "The purpose of a man is to love a woman and the purpose of a woman is to love her man." No other words, just those, tumbling about in my mind.

But what got this started came to me after church yesterday and after I had three different conversations about the same topic -which involved my blog -and I got to thinking about things like the purpose of my blog, which in turn apparently pulled a trigger up for me on this song.

So no, this post is not about finding Price or Princess Charming, or relationships with them -nope, not about anything like that at all.

But it is about why do we, each of us, blog? What was it that brought each of us to start recording our thoughts -and then responses to others in the form of comments or even a new blog post to respond to a topic too -in the first place?

When I began this blog, my intent was to kind of leave something of me behind for my grandchildren to read someday. A means by which they could learn of the paths my life has taken, the things I've done, learned, experienced -good and bad. I also wanted it to be a way they could maybe learn about their extended family as I intended to put things in here about family members who I knew and loved but who have been long gone before the day my grandchildren entered into my life.

And, as I began posting, telling more and more about the issues with respect to my two younger grandchildren, both being autistic, I wanted then to pass on to readers about the things my daughter and I have learned from these two little ones -the good as well as some of the down sides to living with autistic children. My point there -or purpose, if you will -being to allow people to learn that for the most part, these children are not much different than other children in the same ages ranges. It's just that these two here need a little helping hand in learning to process information properly.

I have from time to time also talked in my blog about the place I call home -this little village, the area in general, shared my love (I hope) of history and in particular the history of this town as it came into being and as it has evolved to what it is today.

About a month ago now, I received a comment on my blog from a gentleman telling me that he really appreciated my posts about this village because it is where he was born and where he spent the first 12 years of his life. My stories brought back memories to him of a time, long ago, and he commented to tell me that.

After reading his words, I replied to him in an e-mail and thus began a little stream of communication between us. I learned for sure (I had suspected this in his early comments) that he had grown up in a house about four doors down the road from me. I had also grown up hearing about members of his family too as apparently some of his siblings were of the same age range as my Mom and some of her siblings. Probably because his parents were like my grandparents -of Swedish ethnicity and members of the local Lutheran church, there was another link there between his family and mine.

But yesterday was the first time since I began communicating with "Arnie" that I managed to get to church and because yesterday was also the day our congregation held their Annual Congregational Meeting, there were some folks there that I don't always get to see too. Three, to be exact, who I figured would be in about the same age range as Arnie and those three also had grown up here in this village.

So I approached each of them, telling them about my blog and how Arnie had commented to me and of our line of communication no on going and in doing so, I asked each of these folks if they remembered Arnie and/or any of his siblings or his parents.

How great it was for me to see the way each of these individuals eyes lit up upon learning I'd heard from someone from their past! The one man I spoke to -Steve -told me he didn't recognize Arnie's name but that he had been good friends with a boy named Herbert who had lived in the house where Arnie spent his first 12 years of live and we ascertained that Herbert was no doubt an older brother of Arnie's. The two ladies -one who after her marriage lived in the house adjacent to Arnie's old home and who remembered the family -Arnie's family. The third lady told me she had gone to school with Arnie, that they had been in the same grade together until his family left the area and had moved to Williamsport, PA.

I have a friend who reads my blog -lives down in Carlisle, PA now -and because of circumstances in her family's life, she grew up in/around the Harrisburg area while her older brother lived here with their paternal grandparents. It just so happens her brother was my age and we had gone through grade school, then high school and graduated together. Although her brother died back in 1981, she still has family in this area and those members of her family are very much a part of my life as well as my kids! We can now share information of a family tree variety now too because the daughter of one of her first cousins married the brother of my ex-husband so my nephew and nieces there are this lady's cousins! Because she spent a lot of time here as a child in the summers at the home next door to mine with her aunt, uncle and many cousins there, she remembers many of the things about this area that I write about from time to time. She knows many of the people I mention in my blog now and again too.

So, in conjuction now with some of the "purposes" I mentioned above for my blog, here are two photos I recieved on Saturday and which I scanned in here.

The first one is mainly for anyone from my Mom's family who might possibly read my blog.
This picture, taken over the holidays, shows at the top, the children and spouses of my first cousin, Tom Eld and his wife Linda's family. There's Corey Eld, his wife, Mindy, their daughter, Berlyn, Rick Eld, Amie Eld and her husband Rob. And the bottom photo is the granddaughter of Tom and Linda Eld. According to the note that Linda -the grandmother -sent along with this photo, our family tree also has another addition to it with the recent birth of their grandson, named Oscar Bryce Eld! Linda promised to send photos of the new baby too in the near future. Something of interest to me -perhaps not to anyone else even in my family but the grandson's name "Oscar Bryce Eld." You see my grandfather had a brother named Oscar who was one of my favorite great-uncles growing up. He passed away in 1964 or 1965 -not sure right now of the year -but now about 40 plus years, there is, once again, an Oscar Eld in my Eld Family Tree!

The other photo here was taken in October of 1959 and the people in this photo are the members of the Confirmation Class that year at what was then First Lutheran Church of Grassflat, PA. The church in which I was confirmed was struck by lightning in May of 1967 and burned completely to the ground within what was said to be seemingly a matter of mere minutes.

Here then are the names of those in my Confirmation class: (from left to right)
Dennis Nelson, Edward Handzo, Bridget Raymond, Ruby Nelson, Pastor Robert H. Magnuson, Jackie Duck, me (Jennifer Hill), Nancy Duck, Arlene Anderson, Richard Terry and Gerald Smith.

Four of my fellow confirmands are deceased -Ed Handzo, Ruby Nelson, Nancy Duck and Gerry Smith. Two -Ruby and Gerry -died in the 60's in separate automobile accidents.

And that photo serves another purpose of my blog -to remind any readers I may have who were originally from this area -of events from the past in the little village of Grassflat, PA!

How about you and your blog? Do you have a specific purpose now or did you start it with a purpose in mind and then, kind of branch out to being much more eclectic with it, in purpose?

Talk to me, tell me what it is that spurred you into blogging as well as what it is about blogging that still keeps you going, that serves the "purpose" of your blog!

Inquiring minds want to know these things, ya know!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Gruel and Unusual Punishment

This morning, Mandy told Maya to "Ask Grammy if she'll cook us some oatmeal for breakfast?"

And Maya did that -came and asked me for that food item. I obliged too -fixing it -for the most part -the same way I have always cooked oatmeal for my kids -with a big blob of butter and several spoons worth of brown sugar added to the water to melt and then, adding in the oatmeal. Today and the other day though, I added a bit more to this item -an apple, pared and cut into small pieces and today, I even tossed some raisins into the mix.

I love oatmeal with things added to it -to give it some flavor, some zest -a few more nutrients too. My kids have always eaten oatmeal too -fixed like that -with no hassles, nary a one! Maya -and even Kurtis -will eat it this way too.

But as we were enjoying this concoction this morning, I got to remembering how things were -back when I was a kid -and my Mom couldn't convince me to eat oatmeal then. No way, Jose! Not for love nor money would I even consider eating that stuff back then!

Mom and Grandma both thought oatmeal to be a wondrous breakfast meal. Cook it up, pour some milk on it, sprinkle maybe a tiny bit of white sugar and that was it though.

And gosh, how I hated it!

Their oatmeal was always grayish in color, usually lumpy in texture too. And that teensy bit of sugar on top of the milk on top of the oatmeal just never cut it for me back then.

When my kids came along, was about the time Quaker Oats began making the instant oatmeal that had dried fruits, or other types of flavorings in the packets and thanks to their advertising, one of my kids suggested that they would like to try that.

So I obliged them. Watched as they ate the stuff and I tried it then too. Hmmm. It's amazing what a bit of extra flavor can do for a substance so bland, so yucky looking (and tasting)!

I decided to try experimenting a bit with cooked oatmeal and when I hit on the idea of some butter and brown sugar, it met with immediate approval with all three of my kids and has been a "comfort" type breakfast food for them ever since. And yes, for me too!

I was wondering this morning as we were eating, if my Mom and/or Grandma had tried jazzing the oatmeal up -just a tiny bit -way back when, if I would have become an oatmeal lover early on then too?

My kids also love grits -with butter, salt and pepper on them too -as do I. And grits was something never on the breakfast menu when I was growing up. Once in a while Mom would buy some cream of wheat but even that didn't appeal to me then but I will eat it occasionally now -just not a big favorite of mine though.

How many of you ate oatmeal as a child? How many of you liked it then too? And do you like it now or not?

No, this isn't a scientific survey and no, it's not a paid post for anything either.

I'm just curious about how things come about and our taste buds change or accept other foods over time, that's all.

And how about other foods too? What foods wouldn't you eat when you were young but maybe love now -or perhaps you still don't like certain foods to this day?

I also had a fixation for most of my childhood that I refused to eat lima beans, coleslaw and also, grape jelly. Turnips, parsnips and rutabagas were also on my "Will not touch with a ten foot pole" list back then too. Today, I love limas, coleslaw and grape jelly but the turnips, parsnips and rutabagas are still on my "not well-liked" listing. If someone served them to me, I'd be polite and take a small portion but it's highly unlikely they will ever grace my table here!

I cook lots of things that never were served in this house when I was growing up -haluski (fried cabbage and noodles), halupki (stuff cabbage) -for openers. I never had shrimp, clams , crabs, lobster or scallops until I was about 19, maybe 20 years old. As a child, I remember one time Grandma had made oyster stew and I wouldn't taste it but when I was around 20-21, and I tried it for the first time, I loved it!

I love hot spiced crabs but my son is the only one of my kids who was ever even willing to try them but I never had them, never learned how to eat them until I was about 20 and living in Maryland -where hot spiced crabs are a big favorite. Think Chesapeake Bay, ya know!

I also love oriental food -so do my kids -and I attribute their liking that to my being a bit of an experimental cook -willing to try to learn to fix foods from different cultures. Growing up, about the only ethnic food we ate (that wasn't Swedish in origin) was spaghetti!

Yes, mealtime back then was a lot on the boring and very bland side much of the time -quite unlike the meals I serve today which frequently are very, very spicy! Sometimes much to my son-in-law's chagrin as he doesn't care much for spicy seasonings, much less stuff that is heavily seasoned and might endanger your tongue or the back of your throat -not to mention other parts of your system as the stuff makes it way through, ya know!

My son-in-law might label some of my cooking as "Cruel and unusual punishment to the tastebuds" but I think bland stuff -like the grey oatmeal -is "Gruel and unusual" punishment, myself.

Come on now and tell me what you like or dislike -even hate -in the foodstuff categories, will ya?

Friday, January 23, 2009

Seek and Ye Shall Find

Friday -and I'm doing a post for the "Only the Good" which I have neglected to do for quite a few Fridays now. Not because there weren't many, many good things easy to be found on those days but that my mind was elsewhere and I just plain forgot on some Fridays when I did post, to label the things I've experienced as "Good" -also as plentiful in many instances as well.

This morning though, several things are on my mind and when I first started to think of the good stuff, my brain wasn't wrapping well around the concept.

Last week there were lots of issues. The cold -bitter, deep-freeze cold with temperatures well below zero and wind chill factors that took the "feels like" down even further. BRRRRR! A Big time brrrr! What's so good about that kind of weather?

Well, for openers for me, it gave me a reason -a darned good reason in my mind too -NOT to venture out of the house. And so, yesterday Mandy mentioned to one of Kurtis' therapists (the occupational one who was here) that "Mom hasn't left the house for three weeks now." This really shocked the therapist and she asked me why that was. My reason was simply that I saw no need to go out and I didn't -except to put Maya on her van, get her off the van once or twice and a couple evenings I did venture out to look for the evening newspaper out in the snow or by our cars. But to go out somewhere specific, which meant trying to find clothes that would keep me really warm -toasty warm -bundling up against the severe wind chill -was just something that I saw no earthly purpose to do that and opted to stay inside, with a blanket across my legs, in my favorite chair, and utilized the time to complete one table topper I was embroidering and to begin -and get a good jump start too -on the tablecloth I am currently working on then.

The cold weather took a toll on the old house though -for sure. Ice and snow building up on the roof over the porch caused a leak between the overhang and the little roof on the stoop over the front door. This leak of course immediately froze, solid, and created issues with the new storm door Mandy had purchased last summer and which my older daughter's fiance had spent an entire day working to get said storm door hung too. As a result, the door couldn't be closed completely because of the ice build-up there and if it was closed completely, it would become stuck to the frame by the ice! So, we had to leave it (the storm door) slightly ajar and then, the wind began to whip it so we ended up having to tie the door to one of the poles under the stoop and doing that removed the problem but it also removed that little bit of draft protection the storm door provided too.







When the wind whipped the door open and while it was banging away there, the force then pulled the spring thing that fastens the door into the door frame out, splitting the door frame. That means the door frame which had a tiny split in it prior to installing the new door, will now HAVE to be removed and replaced. And what's so good about that? Well, sometimes one does have to dig a bit to find good in things and the good there is that this needed to be done before but was felt it could be put off and by putting it off, since it was an accidental event that really did the final split, it does appear likely that our insurance will cover the bulk of the cost then of a new door frame sometime this spring -after the weather breaks, when the whole thing can be taken apart and rebuilt then. Ok, I know -that is really reaching for some good, but that's how I see it today, anyway.

This week has had a few other things that bring to mind "where is the good in that?"

Monday night, Kurtis went "exploring" on the steps going to the upstairs and as a result of that venture, lost his footing and fell down the stairs. The good there is that the fall was only from about the half-way mark and that aside from scaring the living daylights out of me and his dad, he wasn't seriously hurt -just a little bruise on his leg and a tiny scratch on his belly. And another good thing too is that maybe it taught him a little fear again of those steps too! Unlike many small children his age, he hasn't been one who was fascinated by stairs, wanting all the time to try to climb them but now, when he does eye them up, he tends to draw back a bit and re-think "why do I want to try to climb them?"

Then Wednesday afternoon, someone else in the house was reminded about how tricky stair steps can be to people as Mandy was rushing down the cellar steps to take care of some laundry work, she tripped, slipped and fell, landing in a ball at the bottom on the concrete floor with her left foot injured!

Yeah, that event scared her -and me too! She couldn't stand to touch the foot when I got down there to her side and all I could think of was how in the dickens am I going to help her get up and get upstairs? I rarely traverse the cellar steps because there is no rail there, nothing for me to hold on to, plus they are a bit on the narrow side and my balance isn't always very good with stair steps as my right knee has a tendency to lock up on me unexpectedly, which interrupts my gait and my balance. And the last damned thing I NEED is to take a header down the steps and break any bones at all in m creaky old body.

Mandy did finally manage to get up, pulled herself up the stairs and in the meantime, she asked me to phone our neighbor and my good friend, Kate, and ask her to come look at her foot to see if she thought a visit to the E.R. was warranted. Broken bones in the foot are often not quite as obvious to the naked eye as are broken bones of other parts of one's body -and yes, I know that first hand from having broken a bone in my foot about 19-20 years ago. So, after looking the foot over, both Kate and I felt it would be best if she did go to the E.R. and get it checked out properly. I called Bill to come home from work and away they went. Thankfully, the x-rays showed no breakage -just a very bad sprain -and they sent her home with one of those protective boots to wear on the injured foot to allow her mobility without as much pain and to allow the sprain to heal better then. So that was a good thing that there was nothing broken there.

Yesterday, after Mandy had brought up the fact of my being such a hermit the past three weeks, she then put me on a guilt trip by asking me to go in town with her as she had to take Kurtis in for his "Floortime" therapy session. Her main reason for wanting me to go along was because she needed to go by the office of the fuel oil supplier that my son uses to drop off a check to them so they will deliver 100 gallons of oil to his house today. A check that Mom had to write out because, as usual, my son hadn't remembered over t he past several months to budget for the cost of a filling his oil tank. (He will repay my checking account when he gets back home tomorrow.) She said if she went alone to run that errand, then she would have to deal with getting Kurtis in and out -in the cold -and trying to lug him, while walking with the gimpy leg, across the snowbanks along the street in town. Yeah, yeah, nothing like a guilt trip like that to inspire me to get off my duff and go out into the frosty cold! But the good thing -and yes there was a good thing to all of this -with my decision to leave the house, it first inspired me that the need to get my hair done -cut and permed -was really a major necessity so I called and got an appointment with my friend Nila, to get that taken care of and also, I took along a book I had stopped reading back in August when the embroidery bug hit me and managed to read a good bit more of it while waiting at the agency where Kurtis gets his therapy! Sometimes, to get me to do things that are right in front of me does take almost an act of God ya know and the hair thing, as well as the book -yeah, pretty much those both came under that header -good things yes, and something dire to motivate me too!

However, when I arrived at Nila's to get the hair done, one of the first things she told me as we began our normal catching up conversation we always have while she works her magic on my hair, was not something good to hear. Not at all.

She informed me that sometime overnight Wednesday, into early Thursday morning, a man, formerly from here, had died.

He was seven, maybe eight years younger than me but I've known him, his family the bulk of my life. My feelings about him are very strong as I have been friends with his three older brothers -good friends with them -and he was a bit like a younger brother in some ways in my mind.

His oldest brother is a priest -a very intellectual person -always has been even when we were kids. Father Bob is a year my senior and someone I often seek out to sit and talk to, catch up as it were on lots of things and also, who I confide in about things in my life that are unsettling as well. I know he is a priest in the Catholic church and I am a Lutheran but he doesn't look at that difference, but rather embraces it, as do I. And, because he -like me -being raised here, knows the little quirky things about others in the village -and ourselves too -and we have an excellent raport, understanding then, of each other.

The deceased's next older brother -Den -was the same age as me and we had been friend -very good friends -from first grade on through to his passing at age 44, twenty years ago this past September. That was a loss I wondered at times if I would ever be able to completely come to terms with as I very much valued Den's friendship. Heck, for almost 15 years of my life -from first till I was almost 20, I had the most ferocious of crushes one could possibly have on him! And, yes he knew it too! And in later years, we even talked about that and joked about how I had eventually reconciled myself to the fact that a serious relationship between us would never work. That's a fun story for another day though.

And the third brother -who is four years my junior -I was close to when in high school and when I worked in Washington, because he went to college at Catholic University there and as such, he and I kept in contact during his college years. He and his fiance were among the few friends I invited to attend my wedding back in 1972 too. And, whenever he would come back home and I saw him, it was always a joyous occasion -hugs, lots of stories shared, always a lot of laughter there.

And so, I thought as I wrote this today, what good can I find in the loss of Ron -the youngest of these four brothers? Because in the death of a relative, a good friend, acquaintance -whatever the relationship -at times it can be difficult to find anything good in that loss. Right? That's where my mind was, of course, initially. What good is there in his passing?

I know he had a problematic life - difficulty due to addictions, yes, plus a marriage and two daughters but one that ended on a very bad note in divorce. However, five years ago, shortly after I had been diagnosed with cancer, had surgery and all that, he too was diagnosed with cancer. His prognosis at that time had been very poor though because his system was very run down from the abuse he'd given himself over the years. THe disease had been more wide-spread in him than it had been in me too. But somehow, he had managed -with surgeries, good doctors, and finally, getting his life a bit more back on track to come through that and the last I'd heard about him from his brother, Father Bob, was that he was handling things quite well.

The thing is, as we all know, none of us is here forever! Eventually, the time does come that signals the end of the line for each of us. And as much as it does bring sorrow to know Ron too is now gone, joined with his brother Den and also with their uncle, my wonderful friend, "Uncle Joe Benny" I know the good here is that I knew him -as I knew his brother, his uncle and problems aside, he was a great guy -funny, interesting, and yes, a friend.

A friend whose memory I will cherish and who I know and believe that he is now at peace -out of pain and resting comfortably - a welcome respite from the hard path his journey on earth had often taken him.

For the years you were here with us though, for the friendship we shared over those years too, that is the good I take away from this too!

And with that said, I'll dedicate this post to the memory of Ron Humenay.

Proof somehow that somewhere, there is always something good to everything, isn't there?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Oh, The Fun!

Last night, Kurtis had discovered Maya's bedroom slippers -a pair of really soft, furry, red Clifford slippers -and was putting them on, taking them off, putting them back on again. Very much enjoying himself with them.

That is, until Maya saw he was messing with HER slippers -which she had previously been totally ignoring -and as that old line to the joke thing goes "And then the fight began!"

Oh yes,it was the end of the world as Maya knows it you know! How dare her little brother try on her slippers? Just an unheard of thing in her mind. As a result, she launched off into a major meltdown which it took Bill and I a long, long time to calm her down, bring her out of it and back to being relatively calm for a while.

Just one of those little idiosyncracies that come about from dealing with the mental processes of a five-year-old with sibling rivalry -or it is just the norm for dealing with a five-year-old, high-functioning autistic child? Who knows!

I meant to post this on Monday but sort of got side-tracked a bit by other things and yesterday -well yesterday, was pretty much all evolving around watching the inauguration.

But anyway, here's a little video that we did Monday morning here of Kurtis playing his own type of basketball game. He was so doggone cute -and very comical -to watch him toss this big ball into the box -or even just in the vicinity of the box -and then, he would dance around, flapping and clapping, chortling "YAY! YAY!" at the top of his lungs. The rest of us just cackled away, laughing at his enjoyment of this little game -so pure, so simple and yet, so fulfilling for him and for us to see!

Hope you enjoy viewing it as much as we enjoyed watching him at play too!


video

I'm going to go a bit off-topic here now and tell you about something that has been evolving with a friend of the family.

This is about a young woman, good friend of Mandy's, a wife, mother to two small boys. Recently, she went looking for a job -something part-time, that would give her family a little bit of extra money (who can't use that from time to time) and also, which would afford her a little bit of time outside the house, away from the constant demands of a two-year-old and a six-year-old.

When she initially got this idea to find a job, her husband was very much against the idea. Why, I'm not really sure, but suffice it to say, he was not at all happy when she accepted a part-time position waitressing in a restaurant, not a restaurant-bar, just a restaurant, in a nearby town. Mandy agreed to watch her little guy on the afternoons she is scheduled to work. Not a difficult thing to do, overall, as he is generally a very happy little camper. Also a very comical little guy much of the time too and it gives Kurtis a little bit of much needed socializing with a child in his age range. Not that the boys actually "play" all that much together but still, just being around another little boy his age is good for both the kids.

Shortly after this friend of Mandy's took this job, she also stumbled across something on Facebook -the information about a long-ago former boyfriend of hers and she, quite innocently, sent him a little message, just a "Hello" thing, not a proposition or anything like that.

Well, seems the husband discovered this (from checking the history on their computer) and now is convinced she is involved with the guy, being adulterous, the whole nine yards, ya know.

To add insult to injury, the woman's younger brother, has written a poem, which he dedicated to his older nephew, the six-year-old, about the tragedy he sees is unfolding in his sister's life.

When Mandy explained to me what was really going on -which is nothing, at least nothing like the brother or the husband think is going on anyway, I said this is a dynamite keg she's sitting on and that they -the friend and her husband -are in dire need of counseling. Just the fact that the husband can not understand a woman, a mother, has a need to escape at times from the zoo that life can be when dealing only with small children and housework, is something very few women in that type of situation don't have a need for either. The checking of her search history on the computer, jumping to conclusions about all the other things too -to my mind, smacks of a very controlling relationship as well.

The poem the brother wrote, the comments he inserted too on Facebook, all indicate to me that the brother is very chauvinistic too in his views about his sister -and women, in general as well. Ah, but that is very much still a big part of the society in which we live here -backwoods attitudes about women, motherhood, marriage and such. The brother tried to explain his poem with the words that he is a "Writer" and that is what he does, how he expresses himself. I don't -or wouldn't -have an issue with the poem as such then, with respect to him calling himself a "writer" had he not posted it with the heading it was dedicated to his little nephew in view of the circumstances ongoing in the home, the potential break-up of the marriage, et al.

So with that little bit of information I put forth here, I'm just curious as to what your thoughts are about a situation like this. Do you see something with dire consequences all because a woman says hello -whether it be via an e-mail or in person -to an individual from her past? And what thoughts do you have about the aspect of a woman with small children wishing to have a part-time job too?

Feel free to make your contributions here to the discussion.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Miles Ahead

After reading so many various blog posts over the past day, I found it very heart-warming to read so many wonderful, beautiful tributes to the late, great Dr. Martin Luther King in recognition of his birthday. That, combined with the historic event which will take place today in Washington with the Inauguration of Barack Obama as our 44th President gives extra meaning to celebrating the life of Dr. King.

Full circle? Have we come full circle now with respect to race and the many issues that held for centuries here? I'd like to think so, but I know racism is still with us -unfortunately. I don't think it has quite the impact now that it had, even when I was growing up as more children are growing up in an integrated society, learning more about equality and by experiencing things differently, they are much more understanding today than ever before.

In my lifetime, I have seen many changes transpire, particularly with respect to prejudices that often existed in this country. In the little village where I live -have lived almost all my life -prejudice, bias, was quite rampant but not based on race. Rather, it was based on ethnicity and religion.

The early settlers of this community in the mid-1880s were mostly Scot/English and Swedish and as such, the overwhelming majority were also Protestant. By the early 1900s, a new wave of immigrants predominately from Slovakia, Austria and Hungary made their way to this area and those people tended to be Catholic.

Thus, early on the "war" -if you want to call it that -began between these factions here.

By the time I was born, although there were occasional marriages between the people of these different cultures and beliefs, and a little bit of friendship begun here and there, it was still something that I grew up b eing taught that I shouldn't really associate with "those" people in school or heaven forbid, socialize with them after school either.

Granted, by the time I started school in the fall of 1950, all my classmates, regardless of ethnic or religious background all spoke English though. An improvement over how things had been a mere twenty years earlier when, as a very dear old friend of mine (gone for five years now) told me, when he started attending school, he spoke only Slovak so had to learn English in his first years of schooling as well as the other classes being taught. And of course, there were no special teachers, no special programs then either to assist him in that transition either like many schools today offer if they are located in an area with lots of immigrants. Nope, he had to learn ALL of that all on his own!

I really believe the election in 1960 between President Kennedy and Richard Nixon served a very good purpose here in this little town in that it seemed to begin to bring people away from the prejudices created, instilled and pushed by the churches here too.

Early on in my life, I decided the Democratic party was the one I preferred so during the election of 1960, I was really excited over John F. Kennedy as "my" candidate. (Of course, this was before I was of age to vote but still, I had my own thoughts about him as a candidate.) I had always admired my Mom for being quite open-minded about the prejudices within these streets here. Not that she didn't still harbor some of them, but I always felt she tried to keep them out of her daily life. But in 1960, I was very upset when she told me although she very much liked Kennedy, she just couldn't bring herself to vote for him because he was -oh my, that terrible thing -a Catholic! She later told me she regretted very much not having voted for him as she eventually realized this was not near the issue that many had made it out to be.

Since 1960, this village, the people, the churches especially, have changed -and yes, for the better too! In 1972, the man who was our pastor at the Lutheran Church I've attended all my life met another man from the village -one who was an ordained Catholic priest but was during the first years our pastor was here, the priest was taking graduate classes at nearby Penn State, thus he had no parish in these parts.

But those two men, being of the same era, generation -whatever you care to call it -met and became friends. And they, recognizing jointly how the separatist attitude of old that still permeated this village was not the road that should be followed, began to work to make the community more ecumenical. In doing that, as people began to integrate little by little with joint services between many of the local churches, some of the other barriers of the ethnicity began slowly at first, then picking up speed, to disappear.

Back in the late 80s, when our church had built a new church and held the dedication ceremony for it, I knew the prejudicial issues were finally becoming a thing of the past when I went to the dedication service and saw the priest of the local Catholic church there, participating, as it were, in our service!

That process only took 100 years! Only.

A very good friend of mine who is Slovak and Catholic and I often discuss how much we missed as children because our parents -and our churches then too -adhered to the old ways, the old beliefs, the ignorance of their parents based on religion and ethnicity much of which was brought about simply because of the language gaps that existed in my grandfather and her grandfather's time.

Today, that friend and I often compare notes on ethnic traditions, even religious traditions too, that we both carry out and teach our children and grandchildren and the similarities in those traditions are much greater than are the differences.

As a young child, I remember learning a song in church and it was one of my Grandma's favorites too -with these words in it -"Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight." How I loved that song and I believed those words then -still do, for that matter -as being truth.

And yet, at home, I saw my Grandmother not practicing the words of the song she professed to love as she was a very prejudiced individual of the old school -no socializing with the enemy -and the enemy to her were Slovaks and Catholics! I never dared to confront her about this issue -that was something children then just didn't do -but I made up my mind upon understanding this, that I was not going to follow in that way, nor was I going to teach that to my children, if/when ever I had any. And of all the things I tried to do, to teach my kids, that at least was one area in which I do believe I was quite successful as all three of my kids grew up accepting people for who they are, inside -not for their specific ethnicity, religion, race or sexual preferences.

In watching the programming on the television Saturday, in particular, the Obama team as they rode the train, following President Lincoln's path to Washington, I was struck by the speech President Obama gave in Baltimore, in which he spoke of the problems facing our society today -the economy, health care for all, education, -to name just a few, and his words were to remind us that he alone can not even begin to cure these ills in our country. He can present ideas, he can work on his end to finding ways that will be beneficial for the common good, but he can not do this all by himself.

To achieve any of the proposals from his pre-election speeches, from his platform, will require work on the part of us, all of us, all being constiutents in this land.

I have no idea what I can do in my tiny corner of this country to help but I do believe his words ring very true that it is not something one person alone can achieve but with everyone pulling together, then in the words of his campaign, "Yes, we can!" We can, we should, we must, all come together, forget the differences that separate us and work towards a better, greater, unifying process for our children, and for me, especially for my grandchildren, to have the best life and the best government possible.

But, in the words of Robert Frost, poet extraordinaire, there are many, many "miles to go" before we all sleep.

And, the problems facing our new president, our government today, bring home the words too of President Kennedy as he spoke 48 years ago today -telling us "Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country."

Can we afford not to make an effort to uphold those words today?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Of Weather, Kids and Even Memes

I don't know about everyone else, but I'm bloody well tired of this winter! The below zero temps between Thursday and yesterday wreaked a good bit of havoc all over the place.

Here, well yesterday morning was pretty much filled up for my son-in-law as he was busy trying to thaw out my Jeep and Mandy's Jetta. While he was trying to do that, a friend of ours who lives over in the back-side of town called, wanting Bill to come by his place to get his car started and then, the next-door neighbor's son asked Bill to see if he could get his car started too. The only one Bill couldn't help was the neighbor's kid as his car wouldn't even turn over.

Mid-way through the afternoon, Maya earned a slot on her mother's "Not-so-good" List by getting into the medicine cabinet and finding a slim bottle there that probably looked to her to be either lip gloss or fingernail polish but in actuality, it really is a little bottle of automotive paint in the exact shade of the hood of my jeep -a nice red shade! That shade then appeared on the edging of the changing table (which by the way is a nice light wood) and a blog of the paint also made its way to land in a big splat on the vanity and a few splotches in the vanity sink too! No, Mandy was not the least bit impressed by this latest artistic display of Maya's! Neither was Grammy for that matter.

That little bottle of paint is now on the very top shelf in the cellar way -which I can hardly reach so I don't think Miss Maya will be able to get to it and get it down for a long, long time now!

My son got home last night around 5 p.m. to a house where the furnace had run out of fuel sometime this week while he was on the road. Lovely, huh? He's just darned lucky he doesn't have hot water heat where the radiators could freeze up and burst on him! He and the son-in-law worked on thawing things out this afternoon and the only problems he ended up having were that the meter thingy had frozen and was leaking so they had to take that apart, weld it and then, put it back together. Then he also discovered there is a problem with the cold water faucet in his bathroom sink so he;ll have to go to the hardware store tomorrow and get a new faucet and fixtures for that I guess. Again, as I said above, he's just darned lucky more pipes didn't freeze and break on him!

Last night, for supper, we took the really easy route -sausage patties and pancakes! But, the fact it was an easy fix wasn't my only reason in making that but also, because I knew both kids would "sit up, shut up and eat" without anyone having to say word one to either one of them to do that! I had buttered one pancake, cut it up and given it to Kurtis and was in the kitchen by the griddle overseeing a couple more pancakes and happened to glance up at the kids. Kurtis was sitting in his chair at the table, with a big old butter knife in hand. I thought I had the butter knife well away from his plate but apparently it was close enough for him to grab and he used it then to nail himself another pancake! There he sat, knife in one hand, pancake in the other and gobbling away at the center of the pancake. It was half finished by the time I got to him and removed the knife from his little hand! Yep, as I said -I knew both kids would eat the pancakes with no coaxing necessary!

Today, I made a meatloaf (half ground beef and half ground venison), flattened it out and sprinkled shredded cheeses -mozzarella and cheddar -on it and then rolled it up -like a jelly roll to bake it -along with a big bowl of home-made scalloped potatoes with slivered onions in it. Broccoli and applesauce rounded out the main menu and for dessert,

While the potatoes were cooking and I was reading blogs here, I heard Bill talking to Maya out in the kitchen, asking her what she was doing. Seems she decided -after watching me peel the potatoes for the scalloped potatoes, that she wanted to help Grammy cook today as she had found the potato peeler and was trying her level best to peel some potatoes! Bill said she had one pared down to about the size of a french fry, but hey, at least she's watching, apparently learning how its done too! Wonder how soon I can turn the kitchen duties over to her now?

I fixed "Tandy Cake" - a recipe I got from Empress Bee's blog post the other day. Ya'll know Empress Bee and how she does love her cake, don't ''cha? Well, let me tell you this -little Kurtis definitely appreciated Bee's Tandy Cake too -very much so, he did, as evidenced in these pictures Mandy and I took of him as he sat, with a hunk of cake in each hand, shoving it in his little mouth and chocolate and peanut butter smeared all over his sweet little face.


After he finished the cake, he then struck this fancy pose -foot up on the table to give a little "down home" look I guess as he proceeded to try to lick any remaining chocolate and/or peanut butter from his fingers, hands, probably from his arms too, for that matter.
In this shot, I think by the look on his face, he was kind of trying to send a signal that we should supply him with another hunk of that cake. Not tonight, baby -but for sure, you can have a piece tomorrow!



After supper though, he gave us one heck of a fright. Bill was working upstairs -spackling on the wall where he and Mandy had changed the doorway to their bedroom and Kurtis was at the foot of the stairs, chattering away at his Dad. I heard him moving around a bit and called to him to get away from the steps and at the same time, his Dad turned around to warn him to get away, and even more specific, to not try climbing up the steps but those little feet can really move quickly when he wants them to and he was by that time, half-way up the stairs when he then lost his footing and came tumbling down in a crash landing at the foot of the steps. I ran to the steps and picked him up just as Bill reached there. Poor little guy! Aside from the fact that I'm sure it was a bit of a painful roll down the stairs, he had also scared the living daylights out of himself too. Screamed bloody-blue murder, he did! Mandy did a once over on him, checking for anything obvious that he may have injured in his fall but found nothing except that we figure he must have bumped his mouth against his teeth as his mouth was bleeding a tiny bit -just enough injury there most likely to upset him a bit more ya know.

And that's what I've been dealing with here over the past two days. Now, on to the other thing I mentioned in the title to this post -Memes!

Normally, I don't do memes. I enjoy reading them when others do them, but the majority of them -particularly those where you are to mention 50 things about yourself that are weird or exciting or whatever and those, I hate. I also tend to ignore them too if someone tags me with one of those cause they immediately tend to make my brain freeze up completely and at my age, I can't deal with any more braindeadness than is already in full bloom, ya know.

However, a Blogger Buddy of mine posted one yesterday and tagged me for it and this one I think I can handle.

Here's the instructions, per Morgan at her place -All I' Have to Say --
All you have to do is list six things that make you happy and then tag three other bloggers. Now that is my kind of meme!

So, here's my six things:

1. Having my three kids -Carrie, Clate and Mandy!
2. Having my grandkids -Alex, Maya and Kurtis.
3. Having my daughter Mandy, her husband, Bill and the two younger grandkids living here with me.
4. Being able to watch Maya and Kurtis as they each are learning so much, so quickly now, and seeming to be responding very nicely thanks to all the therapists they both have had helping them, and the teachers Maya has who work with her at the school she attends. For anyone reading this who isn't aware of this, both these two little grandkids of mine are autistic and to me, they are also just plain, pure and simple, Amazing and Awesome too!
5. Chino - the somewhat simple-minded cat we have! Sweet, cuddly, loveable and also about a silly as any cat can possibly be!
6. Friends -in person, bloggers, old ones, new ones!

And considering what I'm doing most of the time when I'm not playing on the computer, reading blogs, posting here, I have to add a 7th thing that makes me happy -embroidery, or crafts -knitting, sewing, crochet -along with reading, which I haven't really done much of the latter due to the blog stuff and the embroidery!

Now -to take 3 other bloggers huh?

Ok -here goes:

Linda at These Are the Days

Tee at The Diva's Random Thoughts
Jocelyn at O Mighty Crisis
and anyone else who wants to share six things that make them happy too!

Oh -before I forget -remember the issues I was grumping about the other day with respect to my wacky sleep patterns? Well blogger buddy Suldog commented that perhaps I should try melatonin. This is really funny because you see, we have melatonin here and give it to both the kids -religiously, every night to help them to calm down, fall asleep and hopefully for Kurtis, to help him sleep through the night so as not to upset what ever sleep pattern old Grammy might be in every night. Yep -have it here, handy -in the kitchen -and I never even thought of taking it myself! There's a whole lot of braindead space going on in my pea brain, as you can readily see! So last night, I tried it and managed -thanks to the melatonin -to get over 5 1;2 hours of uninterrupted sleep in -felt fairly decent when I woke up this morning except for the fact I was stiff and sore as all get out but hey, that's all part of getting old and much, much grayer, isnt it"

And one more thing -the "Tandy Cake" as recommended by Empress Bee -just bake a yellow cake, slather a layer of peanut butter on top of the cooled cake and then, top that with a batch of chocolate icing! Yep! Pretty doggone good stuff it is! Thanks, Bee, from me -and also, from Kurtis too!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Bring on the Heat

BRRRRR!!!

Baby, it is c-c-c-c-ooooolllddd outside! I know, compared to places like Minnesota, Chicago, the Dakotas and other places in the far northern tier, we're probably just experiencing a blip in the weather radar -only a mere minus 5 with wind chills between minus 15 and minus 25 degrees (that would be farenheit, ya know) but still and all, that's pretty doggone cold to me!

It was cold enough today that even our school district closed for the day. What's so unusual about that, you ask? Well, the last couple of storms we had that deposited enough freezing rain and snow that all the other schools surrounding our area either went with a two-hour delay or full closing, ours stayed open, held classes.

My neighbor and I were just discussing this on the phone this morning too -about how they close the schools now just because it is cold and how they sure didn't do that when we were kids. Back in the "dark ages" of my school days, we kids all had to walk to school from first through 6th grade. It was a distance of probably 3/4 of a mile, maybe a little bit over that. And, it was uphill too -yes, both ways -well, it sure seemed like it was uphill both ways back then. And then, from 7th grade on, we still had to walk at least 1/2 mile to the bus stop. Today, the bus comes around and practically stops in front of the houses to pick the kids up -or if they do have to walk it's only a matter of maybe the length of a football field from house to the bus stop in most cases.

I remember as a kid, the old general store was still in operation and it was located about mid-way between this house and the school, so we would stop in the store just to stand over the big hot air register in the middle of the floor and let that hot air warm us from the toes up for a few minutes before heading out to complete our daily journey.

This morning, I decided to try fixing something I've been craving for a long, long time. I don't have a clue what the name of this item is in the Slovak language but back when I was a kid, a neighbor lady up the road had made some one day when I happened to be at their house, playing with their daughter, Vicky, who was my age and Vicky's Mom gave me some of this to try. Well, I loved it. I think its called Crepki or some name something like that but another lady from town told me a couple years ago what it is -fried bread dough! Anyway, Mandy got me a package last night of frozen bread dough -which the friend had told me I could use to fix this stuff -and this morning then, I fired up the deep fryer and made a big batch of what kind of looks like those donut things they serve on the buffets at Chinese restaurants. Except mine were a lot darker in color than theirs are, they still were pretty tasty -a nice little breakfast treat any way you cut it.

Mandy liked 'em, so did I and Kurtis loved ''em! Maya though -decided it wasn't her cup of tea. I was kind of surprised by that as she generally loves donuts. So I asked her later why she didn't like them and she said "because they weren't chocolate." Hmmm. Making a mental note of that to myself that the next time I fix these things to be sure to also whip up a little bit of chocolate powdered sugar frosting and dab some on them, so she'll eat them too then!

Kids and their doggone picky taste buds anyway.

And, while I'm on the subject of kids, I gotta tell you this too -Kurtis has something new he says now! Just picked this up this evening as a matter of fact.

Mandy was playing with him, fussing over him, ya know, and she kept telling him to give her a big hug and all of a sudden, he started to try to say that too. "Be huh. Be huh!" Well, I don't know about how you might interpret that but to us, it sure does sound enough like "Big hug" don't 'cha think?

Today was also the day that Bill -that would be the son-in-law -got things finished up with the car Mandy is getting -a 1997 (or 98?) Volkswagon Jetta. Nice looking unit, it is too -a very pretty sort of teal-hunter green -if you can picture that kind of green color tone in your mind's eye. The drawback to this car is that the interior is very light -like a buff/ecru type shade and Mandy isn't known for keeping a really neat car so this is going to be interesting to see how well the interior stays decent for her. Upholstry in very dark colors, with sort of a tweedy texture to it tends to fare better in her care. She says this will be the end of letting the kids eat anything now in the car too. Yeah, right. That will be the day.

But the neat thing -really neat today especially -was when Bill took the car out for a test run after doing the stuff he had to do to it -dont know exactly what it needed fixed before she could take it but anyway, he called this afternoon, all excited about a discovery he made while checking the car out with a test drive.

It has heated seats! Now Mandy thinks she's gonna be driving a luxury car for sure to have those nice seats and toasty warm to sit on while driving around this winter! Pretty good deal, I'd say!

I've been busy -when I've been able to stay awake -the past couple of days, working on yet another table cloth now. When I do these things, I generally go through by color and do all the designs, one color at a time, if you know what I mean. This afternoon, I finished up all the dark blue flowers on the cloth and now, I'm working on all the yellow flowers, yellow centers, and such. I think there are like 7 or 8 different colors involved in this tablecloth, and that, plus it is a lot larger than the other cloths I've done lately, I've got a lot of work ahead of me, for sure.

And now, that's my big report for today -nothing spectacular that's for sure except maybe for the "Big Hug" thing from Kurtis. Any new words coming from him are a little reason for celebration though.

This message today has been brought to you by Lipovox. Something maybe I should look into after eating all that fried bread dough earlier today, huh?

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Images, Telepathy and Signs -of all Types

Here is it -my "prime time" again. That would be 3:30 a.m. -just in case you're wondering. And yes, I'm awake, as usual, or so it does seem.

I had a nice little snooze earlier for roughly 3 1/2 hours -which is generally the norm for the maximum amount of sleep I seem to be able to manage to get during what I would call a "good nap." That amount of sleep usually energizes me for roughly a minimum of eight hours to sometimes, as much as 12-14 hours, depending on other variables, such as how much sleep I had earlier in the prior 24-hour time span. So, considering I woke up around 11 p.m., I figure I'm probably good to go now till at least 7 a.m., possibly as late as 10, even 11 a.m. Unless, that is, the stomach gives out an alert that food would be nice and then, it generally brings on the need for a nap within an hour after eating.

So, what do I do? Well, right now, as you can see, I'm blogging. Doing a little post. After this is finished, I'll do my normal morning read of the newspaper from the adjacent county -which is a morning daily paper and I can read it online. It's usually a fair fast read although not usually near as fast a read as is the daily newspaper from our county. I can generally whiz through it in 5-10 minutes, tops.

And after that, I'll -hopefully -be able to get back to working on my new project I started last night. Yep -another table cloth is in the works! This one is larger than the ones I made for my daughters for Christmas. They were 50x50 inches and this one is 50x70 inches.

The reason I said I will "hopefully" be able to work on my project is because I am awake and so is someone else. Besides, the cat and probably the darned mouse that made an appearance here last night. Although I haven't seen Miss Mousie at all since last night nor have I heard it scurrying around, I'm quite sure it's still here, somewhere in the depths of the old homestead!

Nope, my partner now in being awake is none other that Kurtis! He's been doing really good with his sleep for sometime now but tonight, he woke up about 3 a.m. and still hasn't nodded off to dreamland again as yet.

I was thinking earlier, as I was working on my tablecloth project about a myriad of things. One being what was I going to try to write about tonight.

One thing I have found is that when I am working on one of these "projects" it seems to relax my mind -freeing up all kinds of dormant thoughts that may be floating around in that vast wasteland called my brain -and these thoughts pass in and out, randomly then as I stitch.

For example, tonight, as I was kind of trying to gear my thoughts towards a potential blog post, things about various blogger friends of mine would intermittently pass through the mental conduit and when that happens, I find my thoughts then drifting to things I've read on the many blogs I follow. Quite often, then as I think about this or that person, I think of things going on in each of their lives now or in the recent past and often I find myself thinking of them with a prayer in mind.

Some of my blogger friends are recuperating -Smalltown Rn recently had open heart surgery but thankfully, is mending quite well; Sweetie is coping with the recent loss of her husband as well as the murder of her daughter a year ago -a case that has yet to be resolved. Then there is Singing Owl, an Assembly of God minister lost her mother and even though it was anticipated and her Mother had led a long, full, very rich life, the sorrow is still there. We've all been there in deep valleys like those at some time or other during our lives so I'm quite sure empathy factors kick in for all, as well as sympathy to extend to those dealing with whatever trials are in their lives today.

I know Keith has some things he's struggling with over the past couple of months, as are Debo Blue and Dave -and when I think of them, I'd like to think maybe just the thought for better things for them is a bit of mental telepathy -or perhaps you can call it a brief prayer -and they might feel a little lifting within from that.

Not all thoughts of my blogger friends involved loss or pain or health problems. I think of Vic Grace and how she's preparing for a lengthy vacation time this winter from her home up in British Columbia to Mexico, or Linda, whose younger son just started attending a pre-school program similar to the one my granddaughter, Maya, has been in for the past 16-months. Knowing first-hand how beneficial this program has been to Maya -and to us -in coping with the Autism factor in her life, I can smile as I think of Connor starting into this new journey, knowing he too will be learning so many things, advancing at a really rapid pace most likely, and the rewards for him as well as his family will be great.

But through all of these thoughts and many, many more that drifted through my mind tonight, nowhere could I find any that dealt with digital signage - the sponsor of this post today.