Friday, July 31, 2009

A Most Important Thing

I've been very derelict here for several weeks now and behind in posting things as a result for blogger Shelley Tucker's "Only the Good Friday". If you aren't familiar with this, click on the above link to her place and learn how you too can participate in this event.

Yesterday, was the day for the monthly lunch I share with four, sometimes five, girlfriends from my long-ago school days. Once in a while, we get a couple more school friends who come back to the area to visit and join us for this relaxed time for those of us regulars.

And, yesterday there were five of us from our class plus, one member brought her older sister along too since it just happened to be her birthday and also, because she was only two years ahead of us in school so we all know her quite well too.

I know I've mentioned on numerous other occasions here about those of us who always try to attend this lunch but for today -bear with me as I go down that list again.

Three of us in this group grew up side by side and still live fairly close to each other. Kate -who is my "oldest" friend, having been my first non-family friend and peer -lived two doors from me as children and today, she still lives two doors down from me except she is on the other side of our street now. She and I have been friends for at least 62 years, maybe even 63 -not quite sure exactly how old we were when we first met. And Rose and her family moved into the house between Kate's home and mine the summer between first and second grade so we three then have been best of friends for 58 years now. Rose and her husband -also a classmate of ours -live about two miles from Kate and me today. Linda and Carol -the other two of our base group, became friends with us when we entered 7th grade so that means the five of us then have been good friends for 52 years now. Linda lives about 12 miles from us and Carol lives over on the other side of the mountain -about 37 miles away in State College. But that's still not very far away from home.

And Carol's husband grew up two doors up the street from my home so Kate and I have known him too for virtually all our lives as well -although he is two years older than us. Eddie has always been a great guy -a fun kid when we were youngsters and he's still the same today in so many ways too as he was way back then.

One of the nicest things too about growing up in a small area like this is, attending small schools too like we did, is that quite often these people who were friends for so many years also become somewhat entangled via a marriage here and there and some of us now share relatives too. Rose's great-niece for example was married to my ex-brother-in-law so my nieces and nephew (and great-nieces and nephews too then) are her nieces and nephews as well. That, plus the fact that my kids were also very close when they grew up to Rose's parents as well as to Kate's parents -calling them Grammy and Pap Little or "LIttle Grandma: and "Little Grandpa" with respect to Kate's parents too. And then through Carol being married to our former neighbor and good friend, Ed, whose late cousin was married to Rose's youngest sister -well, in many ways, we are kind of like one big old family, of sorts, I guess.

As always happens at these gatherings, we talk about our families and events -big and small -within our lives. Today, we got on the topic of pets and if we have dogs, cats or both now and if we had pets as kids too. Which then led to talking about how those pets we had as children or adults or still have -affected us when we lost a pet.

I commented then about how when we were growing up the norm around here if something happened to an animal you had, that very rarely would anyone take that animal to the vet but instead either some strong, stalwart family member or neighbor would merely take the animal and shoot it. I know that sounds extremely callous to get rid of an injured or sick pet to many but 50 years ago here, that was generally the way these things were handled.

Except for me -with my pets -and this I think now probably was much to my Mom's chagrin as the dog I had when I was in high school may very possibly have been the only dog on our street ever to have seen the inside of the vet's office. When I think back on those days and when things happened to old Duffy -the mutt I had -if he got hurt or sick and it was something my Mom -who was after all a registered nurse -couldn't handle on her own to patch him up, I would insist we had to take him to the vet and I think I can see her in my mind's eye as she cringed each time this happened too.

And, I know why she reacted that way too today but back then, I had no concept at all of the economic factors that really were present in my life, in her life then. There was no way I would consider having a neighbor take care of the dog and shoot him and in good conscience, my Mom couldn't refuse either then to take him to the vet for treatment.

One comment led to another and then it came to burial or cremation of pets and such and I told about a kitten my kids had 20 years ago and that kitten had the misfortune of escaping the house, running out onto the street and was hit by a car. As my son carried the kitten into the house and gently laid it on the sofa, sobbing over it all the while, as was younger daughter, Mandy, too (and truth be told, so was I) I knew that they would expect me to take the kitten to the vet to see if anything could be done for it. Which we did.

Unfortunately, the vet determined the kitten's spine was broken and it was paralyzed so his recommendation was that it be put down. And so, we cried some more over the kitten, said our goodbyes to "Jellybean" and left. The vet also said his office would have the kitten cremated so we needn't worry about having to bury it then.

The receptionist gave me the bill for the services rendered and I was charged $63.00 for this. Now, $63 may not seem like much to many people reading this I suppose, but for me -just as the vet bills had been for my Mom when things happened to my beloved dog, Duffy, that was a lot of money to shell out at the time but I managed to cover the check.

However, about a month or so later, I received a letter in the mail from some pet organization or other thanking me for the donation of $30 I had made in memory of our kitten, Jellybean.

What the heck? I couldn't figure this out at all initially until, after reading the letter a bit further, it seems that of the $63 I was charged to have the kitten put out of it's misery and all, that the vet then donated $30 of that to this organization as being from us in memory of that kitten.

And you know as I read that letter, I was really angry -ok, I was livid! Not that I objected to doing something like that if I'd actually had the funds available to do that but because it was something that was actually forced on me and that $30 at that time with my budget had lots of other places that it could have been used!

As we talked about how we'd dealt with pets back then and stuff like that, I had mentioned too that back then, I was considered the oddball of the neighborhood because of my insistence on making my Mom take our dog to the vet -among other things too.

To which, friend Rose quipped to me, "So, you recognized way back then that you were the odd one of the neighborhood, huh?" Yeah, that I did!

And in many respects, I was truly the odd man out back then.

I was the one who was an only child whereas Rose was one of 13 children; Kate, one of five. They envied me not having to share clothes, toys, getting all the attention in the house from my Mom, from my grandparents and they both thought my life was the gravy train they had dreams about. Meanwhile, I thought their lives were absolutely perfect as they each had that commodity I not just dreamed about but prayed for on a daily basis and asked Santa for every year for Christmas (until I finally figured out that was never gonna happen) and that was for the brother or sister I never had that they had in abundance!

We laugh over that now -about how lucky they felt I was and how I felt they were the lucky ones but today, they all know and realize too that they were indeed the lucky ones back then.

I was also the wallflower friend while the rest of those I ran around with were much more the social butterflys -going to dances and actually being asked to dance while I stood by or sat and watched. Or they dated and I stayed home and read, book after book after book. That part of the socialization process was one that never fully came to visit me and be part of my experiences.

And, I wonder and worry today -with Maya and Kurtis especially -if they too will have problems as they grow up with things like that -dances, dating, acceptance? I hope things -groundwork, you could say maybe -will have been laid for them by those of us who care for them, who are trying to nurture them today that they will have the opportunity to know and learn and grow by being able to be accepted and experience and enjoy those things that I missed.

We talked, joked -Mandy called the restaurant to see if I was still there and to request that I stop on the way home and pick up a plunger for the bathroom as the commode was plugged again and the plunger we had was broken, she said. "How's that for a topic of conversation you can take back to the table to your friends, Mom? And you can tell them it was your granddaughter who plugged it -again -too!" And from that phone call and my telling the others what Mandy had wanted, it turns out that some of them -or a family member of some there today -had gone through similar problems with a child same as we have now, frequently, with Maya as she regularly plugs the commode but not with toilet paper or some other unlikely object! I'll say no more on that subject, Okay?

And as the time passed and soon enough, it was time for us to part company again, we did what has become second nature now when we leave -we hug each other -long, strong and hard too! The kind of hugs my older daughter, Carrie, says are the kind that are worthwhile giving and getting; the kind where you know you've been hugged and you feel the warmth and yes, the love, that exists there between friends.

Carol's husband had come with her today and while she was lunching, he had gone to visit a cousin of us but when we were saying goodbye, he was there, standing behind us and watching.

I turned to Eddie and said if others in that place were watching us say our goodbyes, they probably think we're all relatives, come together and figure maybe we all live a couple hundred miles apart by the way we say goodbye.

Ed's comment to that was "That's because as we age, we realize more and more the value in the friendships we've had all our lives and the hugs mean that much more now than ever."

And yes, Eddie -I do believe you are so right there!

We come back together on the last Thursday of each month to share not just a meal and a little conversation but also, the love we have for one another.

Old friends, good friends, best of friends.

There's very little in life better than that, is there?

Technologically Impaired!

Once upon a time in my life -back in those dark ages of my youth -because I worked as a "Keypunch operator" then, when I would come back home from the big city to the little village here, many of my friends and acquaintances would remark, in tones of shock, awe and wonderment because I was employed in the great big computer industry.

Or so they thought.

And, for a brief interlude back in those days, I did manage to actually work my way up into a trainee position in which I would learn through a little classroom instruction (very little of that), followed then by "on-the-job training" to become a computer programmer using the COBOL language.

But that period of time was the ONLY time I did any kind of work that required a bit of understanding of how things work in the innards of a computer or of any kind of computer technology. And seeing as that was 40 years ago now, and although I do have this computer and for the most part I can work with it -just as long as nothing crops up that requires a bit more understanding of those inner things, ya know.

The computer is the only so-called "high tech" thing that I do have here, come to think of it. I don't think a tv set with a remote control is really a high tech thing is it?

The thing is there are so darned many devices out there now and with all these odd names to them too -WII -(which I thought was pronounced as like W two until recently when I learned it is actually said as "WE" and then there are all kinds of cell phones, the Blackberry, and phone plans in some weird abbreviated forms; other terminology that gets bantied about like MP3 -what the heck is that anyway -along with the step-granddaughter and her whining and moaning about wanting and NEEDING this device because after all, all her friends have ipods and certainly any fool can surely realize one has to have what all their friends have too, don't they?

And because she also has this misguided attitude that she is a pearl and the world therefore is her personal oyster and she should be cultured to have only the finest in life but should also not have to do diddly squat along the way either, some how or other I beg to differ with her requirements.

And, until said time that she decides she can spare a few minutes now and again to wash up some dishes, or do a load of laundry -heck, just pick up her own clothes from the middle of the bathroom floor where she drops them -and then leaves them there in a pile -whilst taking her shower -just for openers, you see -I will be the voice crying in the wilderness here no doubt as I preach to my daughter about all these things that this kids wants and needs and urging her to proceed with extreme caution as to what eventually gets purchased for her cultural uplifting and enjoyment.

With the proliferation of all toys of this type -think in terms of the old saying of the only difference between men and boys is the price of their toys -and that applies to girls/young (ah yes, old too) women as well -how on earth would you be able to do any comparison shopping for stuff like these technologically advanced items in the first place?

I think back to the gift I received for my 18th birthday -which was considered to be a high tech item for that era -and my aunt and uncle gave me a very nice little transister radio which I had for many years and it got used very heavily too I might add.

And I wonder too -do they still make them any more nowadays?

And my oh my -how times, they are a changing.

Monday, July 27, 2009

No Worries for Some!

Boy, I do so envy my younger daughter, my son too and now, it is rather apparent that the grandson -Kurtis -will never have to think about looking for any weight loss pills!

Well, that is unless some of Mom/Gram's fat cells are an inherited trait and are slow to show up in them.

If you'd see my son or daughters you'd wonder how in the dickens I managed to have three kids who are tall and slim -really, you would. Well, the older daughter was joking the other night, insinuating when she was here that she might be picking up a little of a "shelf" -like Mom's -but jeez Louise, if you'd ever see how that girl has always been able to shovel in the mashed potatoes, that would stand to reason that maybe someday they might decide to stay put, just camp out there in her body.

My son and Mandy though -neither one of them are slackers at the dining room table either but you never see either of them gaining a darned pound. And Mandy is like a walking or driving candy factory as she always seems to have some kind of candy stashed someplace either in her purse, in the car, or in a couple different hiding spots around the house where she squirrels away Hershey bars, cookies, hard candies -anything sweet -for when the need hits her so she is always prepared. And she wasn't even a girl scout. (Does that motto -"Be Prepared" hold for the girl scouts as well and the boys?)

But the one who really amazes me is little Kurtis. I marvel that this kid keeps growing because you sure can't figure out why based on his food intake!

Maya at least will eat a few things -a cheeseburger (or half of one) now and again or some chicken nuggets and rarely does she turn down macaroni and cheese or other pasta delights.

Kurtis on the other hand often has for his evening meal just a couple slices of buttered bread and some cheese!
Rarely will he eat meat -of any kind -these days. He used to eat half a cheeseburger but lately, he only eats the bread and leaves the meat. Oh yeah, he will scrape or peel the melted cheese off the meat and eat that -most of the time.

Tonight, Mandy and I had burgers -cooked to a charcoaled perfection on the grill out back along with pierogies and I roasted some sliced onions, green, red, yellow and jalapeno peppers and mushrooms on the grill too to use as a topping for the pierogies. Then we also had fresh, crisp leaf lettuce -from my lovely little garden along with some fresh sliced cucumbers from my older daughter and her fiance's garden too.

Mandy fixed Kurt's plate with a piece of buttered bread, a big slice of cheese and a pierogie -plain, no topping for him -and we couldn't even get him to come sit down at the table to eat until we both had finished our meals.

Then, surprisingly enough, he did polish of the cheese first, then the bread and tonight, in a bit of a miraculous type event, he actually also ate three pierogies -filled with mashed potatoes and cheese!

Wish I could eat like that and grow taller -like he keeps doing!

Sometimes, you know, life just isn't fair at all, is it? Especially where my weight is concerned.

So if you have a metabolism factor that lets you eat whatever you want and as much as you want without any weight gain, thank those lucky stars you must have guiding you through your meals and snacks!

"Play" Time!

Yesterday afternoon, Mandy and I ventured up to Philipsburg to enjoy an afternoon of watching the kids in the Summer Youth Theatre Group from Philipsburg do their final performance of "Beauty and the Beast."

Bill stayed home to watch the two little ones so Mandy and I could attend this performance and be able to fully enjoy it. I thought about maybe taking Maya, suggested it to Mandy and she vetoed the idea.

Then, when Maya realized we were going someplace without her, she started giving me her little song and dance routine that she should be allowed to go with us too. Mandy told her no way, because the last time we had taken her to a play (at the high school when she was about 18 months old) she had wigged out, screamed like a banshee as soon as the lights went down and the music began so Mandy has refused to take her since then. I think she might be ready to advance and go now but well, yesterday, Mandy wasn't quite ready to take that chance.

Maya started by asking me why she couldn't go too and I told her she isn't big enough yet. She said "But, I'm big, Gram!" Well, yes, but not quite big enough for this, and besides you have to be in school to go to these events.

"But I'm in school, Gram." Yes, but you need to be in "regular" school.

"Well, I'll go to kindergarten in the fall and that's regular school."

Yes, but you need to be older -you need to be six, going on seven. That was my last reason given to her when she came back at me with this.

"But I know how to play and I could play."

Hmmm. Don't think her comprehension of going to the play is quite the same as ours!

But anyway, we went and we did enjoy the skill of the kids in the Summer Youth Theatre group -very much! They did "Beauty and the Beast" and my cousin, Margaret Anne's grandson, Jamison -aka "Jamers" played the part of Maurice. He was his normal -outstanding!

The young man who had the lead role -of the Beast -was played by Dominic Joseph Matsko -whose grandparents live here in this little village -and he was really awesome! "D.J." as he is known around these hills, has been doing the Summer Youth Theatre since it started up six-seven years ago now and he just gets better and better with each presentation.

He has a beautiful singing voice and his acting skills -well, they're pretty damned good too.

This was his final acting season with the group as he graduated from high school this spring and will be going off to college now in the fall. But he was also awarded a $500 scholarship by the family of Jakob Williams -a boy from a neighboring town to mine, who was killed two years ago this summer when hit by a car about two doors away from his home. He had been active -as were his sisters - in the Summer Youth Group so his parents set up this memorial scholarship in his name.

That D.J. won the scholarship this year really came as no surprise because his work is excellent as is his attitude and he really deserved it for his performance in the play! No doubt about it. And, way to go, D.J.!

This morning was another of the many "firsts" to come in Maya and Kurt's life.

Today, they both headed out of here about 9 a.m. with Mandy and Kurt's TSS and went to Bible School! This will be running every morning this week at our church and Mandy is either a helper or the co-teacher for the nursery class -same as she does with our regular Sunday School too.

They just got home and Mandy said both kids did very well with the school program this morning. Even Kurtis! Maya has a little plastic lizard she got in Bible School because they were studying lizards today. Don't know the connection there as yet with Bible School exactly, but I'm sure it's all part of some theme or other. I would imagine it is like that anyway.

Mandy told Maya to tell Gram what she learned today about lizards and she told me "They change colors, Gram."

Well alrighty now! Glad to hear she learned that much anyway! And even better, that she was very well-behaved too. Always a bonus when that happens ya know!

My legs are still pretty stiff from all my "uphill, both ways" walking Friday evening in our visit to the PIttsburgh Zoo but that is all good too! A reminder to me that I need to get my fat fanny out and moving a lot more to avoid these lengthy recuperative periods then when I do get a little bit of exercise!

And, let this be my own tribute here now too to the late, great Walter Cronkite -as I leave you today with this -"And that's the way it was..."

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh My!

Yep! That was the line Mandy and I kept repeating, over and over, last night as we pointed out this or that animal to Maya and Kurtis during our visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

I think I may have been to the Pittsburgh Zoo sometime or other when I was very young -not sure about that -but I do seem to recall that when I was a little kid, my uncle took me and probably his five children to the zoo during one of our visits to his house. Trouble is, I have no clue as to how old I might have been if/when this actually did take place.

I wonder if, in years to come, Maya and Kurtis will remember this visit vividly or if they, like me, will just have foggy, almost dreamlike, visions of having been to the place.

Pittsburgh is a little over 130 miles from where we live and Mandy printed out a map from Google Maps giving us directions on exactly how to get to the Zoo.

As it turns out, we've driven that route -well almost all of it -on numerous occasions in the past couple of years as it is pretty much the same route we would take to get to UPMC for my doctor visits with the wonderful Dr. Hughes there. The only difference in this drive was that as we crossed the Highland Park Bridge, we went to the right and north on Route 8, roughly about two blocks I believe.

We left here around 3:00 p.m. and just after having passed the Penfield exit on I-80 west, we hit a backlog of traffic due to construction on-going between the mileposts 108 and 96 -around Dubois. However, we hit the backlog at about 3 1/2 miles before the construction actually started so Mandy decided to take her chance and pull a u-turn (yes, I know -illegal, isn't it, on the interstate) but the thought of the traffic moving that slowly for the next 15 miles -well, visions of a very over-heated jeep plus two really miserable and cantakerous kids being strapped in the backseat of the jeep were coming up in her mind -and mine as well. So she pulled into a crossover and cautiously made her way across and headed back to take the back road into Dubois. Once in Dubois, we decided to take the really scenic route from there to Brookville -Route 322 -which I informed Mandy had originally been referred to as the "Lakes to Sea" route since Rte 322 (a U.S. Route number) originates up at the Great Lakes and ends at the shore in New Jersey -hence the term, "Lakes to Seas." I know my trivia knowledge just had to be riveting for her to hear me spout this off to her and then I told her I learned that tidbit a little over 50 years ago in 8th grade because our teacher that year, Sara B. London, was one who loved to fill our heads with all kinds of little bits and pieces of trivia. Who knew that a little over 50 years down the road I would be telling my daughter that choice piece of information too?

Our journey went quick smoothly across Rte 322 to Brookville, where we picked up Rte 28 and followed it down to Pittsburgh. We made very good time -until we got to our exit at the Highland Park Bridge where it took us about 45 minutes to inch our way across that bridge and into the northbound traffic on Route 8.

The Google Map proved to be a tad confusing once over the bridge too as it said we were to go left on Baker Street then hook another left on to Wile One Place. However, the first light we encountered on Rte 8 North was for "Wild One Place" so we hooked a left there and ended up driving up alongside the Zoo but with no indicators as to where to park, where the entrance to the Zoo itself might be either. So we doubled back down to that light and back into the heavy traffic again to go one block further up to Baker Street and turned in there and followed the signs from there into the Zoo parking lot.

Once out of the jeep, with Kurtis situated in his stroller -which, by the way is about as hard to steer as is my son's old pickup truck that doesn't have power steering -we started the walk up to the Zoo entrance.

Did you know the actual name of this Zoo is the Highland Park Zoo and in my opinion, it is very aptly named too. Highland though should be written out as High Land as this zoo is all an uphill journey -both ways (as Bill Cosby would say)!

The event last evening was sponsored by ABOARD - a group for people with disabilities of any type (and age) and their families so the area was packed with lots and lots of people in wheelchairs,along with maybe a bit more strollers than would normally be part of the visiting traffic there.

The only "downer" as far as I was concerned was in the parking lot while Mandy was getting Kurtis settled in his stroller. Maya was standing by me and watching a family (father, mother, grandma and two young boys -probably about 3 and 5 or 6 years of age) get ready to make the walk up to the entrance. One of the two boys turned t see Maya watching him and he began to try to converse with her. I had no problem at all with his actions but his father most certainly did! He grabbed the child by the arm and yelled at him -and yes, I do mean YELLED at the kid, that he was being rude and disrespectful and yadda yadda and yanked the kid into line then as they walked away from their vehicle. What harm did that chld's actions do anyway? As far as we were concerned, he was exhibiting the best of his social skills -especially acceptance of other children -and sure didn't need to have his Dad screaming at him in that manner. I wanted to bop the Dad upside the head but Mandy kept mumbling to me to ignore himand not make any audible comments that he or others in their group might possibly overhear.

So anyway -to the entrance where Mandy went to the table marked for people with surnames between T and Z, checked in with the people manning that table to verify our registration, etc. and then headed to the "real" entrance -meaning having to select from trying to take Maya with me on an escalator and leaving Mandy and Kurtis to use the elevator -or, to try to convince Maya that the short ride on the elevator would be fine and dandy!

This was one time for sure when it was nice to be around so many other people with family in strollers/wheelchairs and people (mainly smaller ones) who tend to wig out, kick and scream in sheer terror over the prospect of riding in an elevator! When we four got into the elevator, we forewarned those around us to get out their earplugs if they had any with them as they might come in handy between Kurtis and Maya both crying and screaming at having to get in that elevator. Thankfully, the others around us just laughed and told us not to worry about that as they understood the issue there completely!

The first place we came to where there was an animal on display was a leopardI believe. Initially, we had to really look long and hard to find him as he was semi-hidden in his "area" but then, we "spotted" him, pointed him out to Maya and thus began the thrill of seeing these animals, on display, in a habitat meant to give one an idea of what would be his/her normal type space were the animal on home turf.

I tried to take some pictures of some of the sights we encountered during our long, uphill stroll through the zoo (I wasn't the only one wondering why a zoo would be built into a hillside either -LOL -as several others walking around with us had the same questions and thoughts!) But because of how the animals are housed and such, the distance between them and us was a bit problematic in getting any photos that really show what animal it was we were looking at.

Next up -after the leopard -was the Lions Den. We finally spotted two lions laying atop a huge rock-type locale and I tried to get a picture of them but, as I mentioned above, the distance involved and trying to use the zoom feature on my camera makes it a bit difficult to see the two Lions sleeping away in the sun.
My apologies for the pictures but maybe if you click the "bigify" thing, you might be able to get a little glimpse of the two lions atop that rock.

Here's the flamingos that were sort of across the other size of the zoo -and they were a bit easier to photographe. Also, I think they were the first things that Kurtis was actually able to view too as we're really not sure if he was able to pick up on the the animals in the other areas -or many of them, at any rate.
From there, we plodded on -and upward, always moving upward -and saw these sights then too.
Above - dwarf crocodiles. Yeah -they're there, somewhere, if you strain your eyes a bit.
Rhinocerous - note, that is singular -as we only saw one of this species and in most instances, that often seemed to be the case.
Another leopard of some type.
Ostrich - and though this guy was standing many, many feet away from us I was amazed at the size of this bird. Also learned that they can cover 16-20 foot of ground in just one step too! Now that's one giant step for a big bird, isn't it?
A pair of giraffes! They shared their space with a couple of zebras too but I didn't get a shot of the zebras. Around the corner, sort of, from the giraffes and zebras was the elephant area and we didn't get into that where apparently one could get close enough to the elephants standing with their keepers to actually touch them. The line for that was entirely too long for us to try to deal with what with the kids and the heat and all that. So sorry -but no attempts were able to be made to photograph the elephants.

This was the best I could get of the area housing the gorillas. I think these though were among the animals Kurtis was actually able to see the best but the pictures were taken from behind a thick glass-type wall that was incredibly smeared and blurred because of the fingerprints all over that. Kind of reminded me of the front storm door and the bow window in the living room here at home both of which are usually on overload with fingerprintings as well as lots and lots of crayon markings too!

The area that Kurtis really did enjoy the most though was the aquarium part where he and Maya both especially enjoyed seeing the penguins! Maya had told Mandy before we left for the zoo that she figured we wouldn't be able to see any penguins there though because after all, they have to have snow! Imagine her shock and surprise when we did indeed see a whole bunch of penquins. I didn't even try to get any pics of them as the lighting there was so dim that I knew it just wouldn't take at all.

While in the aquarium area, we came across a section with a big pond-like body of water and I could see some animals swimming around, occasionally surfacing but didn't see the label prior to arriving there as to what animals were in that water. However, I mumbled aloud that I wondered what this was and the family to my left informed me these were otters. They had a little girl probably about 8-9 years old in a wheel chair and as there was a tiny bit of space alongside that little girl, Maya went right up there beside the child and the two of them were glued to the glass, watching when all of a sudden the otters swam right up to the window and did a back-flip, splashing water all over the glass but that move, brought such smiles and even laughter from both this other little girl and Maya, that it was one sight well worth the seeing. It also made me feel very good watching Maya as she stood by that child with no off-the-wall type of reaction to her and her "disabilities" -just saw her as another child, like herself, interested in observing the animals. Kids, left to their own devices, can be very accepting of other children around them regardless of the factors being presented there -as long as parents don't interfere and give them some ideas to form that associating with others is not a good thing to do, ya know.

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed in the Zoo as I thought there would be a reptile area too. Yeah, imagine that will ya -me, who is an avowed hater of all things reptilian, most particularly snakes, and yet, I was kind of hoping to see a whole bunch of 'em here -big and little! Probably for the best though as seeing a slew of all kinds of snakes may have caused me to have nightmares later, don't 'cha think?

Overall, I think the trip was worth it and for the most part, enjoyable for the kids as well as for Mandy and for me. However, as we were walking out of the zoo, I saw a sign that listed their rates for visitors -$12 per adult and $10 per child and was very glad that our visit, through the ABOARD organization was free for us. If Mandy or I would have had to shell out $44 to take the kids to see this, I'm quite sure we'd have thought long and hard about that and most likely would have passed on it too then.

The trip home was considerably cooler -thankfully -and also, not traffic laden either -also a relief!

And today, I'm just slowly trying to get around here -moving very, very stiffly cause that walking yesterday was way more than I'd do in a day -more likely even more walking that I might do in a week, possibly a month! Yeah -I need to get out and move around not just a bit more, but a whole LOT more, for sure.

Tonight is yet another parade for our school's marching band -at Houtzdale for their summer celebration. Rain is a possibility but I sure do hope that if it comes about, it hits well before the parade time -or better yet, long after the parade ends as I'd hate to think of those kids all having to strut their stuff while getting drenched!

Tomorrow afternoon, at least Mandy and I (doubtful we will take the kids -maybe Maya though) to see the Summer Youth Theatre in Philipsburg's final production of "Beauty and the Beast." My cousin's grandson has a lead role in it -and he's quite the good theatrical kid too so I'm sure Jammers will put on a great performance there! Anything he's been involved in over the past 4-5 years -at school productions and with the Summer Theatre, have all been terrific. You go, Jammers -do the family really proud, Kiddo!

So it's going to be a pretty jam-packed busy weekend here by the looks of things.

I may forgo the parade tonight as I'm not sure if my old bones and joints can handle standing and watching all the units go by -we'll have to take a wait and see on that event I think.

I might just stay home and play with some crochet stuff I started yesterday in the jeep on the ride down to Pittsburgh. I made a crocheted dishcloth using the cotton thread and finished it just before we pulled into the zoo parking lot! So I'm gonna go monkey around for a while now and work on another one of those type of dishclothes this afternoon now too! If they turn out nicely enough, I'll make a bunch of them to donate for the church bazaar come November.

How's that for planning ahead, huh?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Consider This...

Seems everywhere one turns these days -in the newspapers, on the TV news -the big topic nationwide appears to be finding a way to derive a reasonable health care plan. One that would be affordable for everyone, ya know.

Right now, I am one of the more fortunate ones in that with social security, I have Medicare and also, have a supplemental insurance plan that makes keeping up with doctor's appointments and such relatively affordable.

For me, that is a really new and very big deal as for many years, like from 1979 until 2004 -twenty five years - I rarely had any health insurance at all so I'm kind of basking in what I have today and it's nice not to have to constantly worry about doctor bills, pharmacy costs, emergency room visits and the like.

But for my daughter and son-in-law here, things are not quite that way. Right now, they have no health insurance at all. And although the son-in-law is barely earning anything, what with his trying to start his own automotive repair business and things being what they are with the economy now, it's tough sledding to just cover his operating expenses and make a little bit then for himself and the family. The thought of trying to find health insurance that they could afford right now is totally out of their financial realm.

I read a very interesting blog post earlier today at my blogger buddy, Dianne's place - Forks Off The Moment -in which she gives a good description and explanation of what President Obama's healthcare plan would do for people in this country. If that plan were to be passed, it would give Mandy and Bill a chance to have health care insurance that they could actually afford.

And what a Godsend that would be for them, for sure.

But if that doesn't come through, they might have to start looking into other things in order for Bill to have his own business and for them to be able to manage to have health care benefits. Heck it could come to something as drastic perhaps as moving to a different state even. Like suppose they packed it in here and moved south, at least in North Carolina there is short term health insurance NC.

Now, I'm not crazy about the idea of leaving here -that's for sure. And, if they were to do that, I would have to go along with the deal too because I can't afford to live in this house by myself on just my social security.

That, plus it would be difficult for them, no matter where they might move to, for him to start up a business of his own without any contacts, any thing at all -starting from scratch, you know.

But the fact of the matter is that here in Pennsylvania there's no health insurance that is available at a reasonable cost for a young couple like Mandy and Bill. And, I think that is just a shame!

However, when you stop and think about it, since the overwhelming majority of those of us living in this country today are here because our ancestors immigrated here from some other land -many with nothing but a very few personal belongings and somehow, managed to forge ahead, to find work, to grow, to thrive and in many, many cases, they left family behind, never to see them again too.

Life can be tough, hard, wicked, unforgiving at times, for sure, can't it?

But I'm just thinking that if things would ever come to a situation like that where my family would have to go elsewhere to try to earn a living, they -and I -would all have to become like our forebears and make the best out of any situation we might find facing us.

Here's hoping something good comes out of the work the legislators are trying to do to put some kind of affordable health care options out for the all the people of this country to be able to access.

That's something every bit as important as the recovery of the stock market, the re-invention of General Motors, Ford and Chrysler or anything else mixed in to give us a healthy economy again.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Farming -My New Talent (of sorts)

The old garden here is still chugging along -and amazing me, to no end, in the process!

The lettuce has been fantastic and we have been using it as often as possible in salads and also, for some really tasty garnish with burgers and other sandwiches. Just adds such a nice crisp tastiness there, ya know!
Here's a shot of the whole garden. Remember now, the plot for these veggies is smallish -like about 8x8 foot square, if that, so everything is growing, pretty much each veggies on top of the other. Considering that factor is yet another thing that totally surprises me as to how good this thing is doing under my normally black thumb!

Now, here's two shots of the garden -from left to right. The picture on the left here shows the lettuce, one of the two tomato plants (sandwiched in between the carrots and peas on this end) and at the opposite end is another tomato plant, which actually has 2 or 3 tomatoes forming on it plus several more blossoms too. The tomato plant on this end was put in much later than the first one, so is a "slow starter" and as yet, has no blossoms on it. But hopefully you can see all the blossoms on the peas and I even plucked some peas tonight that I am going to use in some oriental dish this week -like one that calls for "Snow peas in the pods" as they should be fine for something like that. I hope so anyway.

The picture on the left shows the two rows of bush beans, then the cucumbers which are flanked then by the corn! Boy, are those cucumber plants huge! I spotted several blossoms on the cucumbers the other day and the beans have blossoms galore all over 'em! Yippy skippy!

The success of the garden thus far though has inspired Bill and he has promised that come fall, he will build on to this garden enclosure -A LOT -he says, so that next year I can plant more stuff and hopefully, will have enough room to plan for some open space between each item planted too to facilitate weeding and picking too! I wonder, considering how closely these things are planted to each other, can beets/carrots/peas/beans/cucumbers and corn cross-polinate each other? Wouldn't that be something though it they could and would do that? Wonder what one would call veggies of that type anyway?

Today just happens to be the birthday for my ex-husband so Mandy got a couple cards, had Maya sign one of 'em, and she mailed the to "Poppy" yesterday. Okay, so she's a tad late in the mailing there but heck, it's the thought that counts isn't it?

Today is also Mandy's good friend, Jen-Jen's birthday too so Mandy baked two pineapple upside down cakes (9x9 inch square) -one for us and the other, that she took up to Jen-Jen for her birthday. But before she got around to taking the one cake, while I was starting supper, I had company in the kitchen who decided to ignore Gram's instructions to NOT TOUCH anything -primarily the cakes, ya know.

This is how the pineapple-upside down cake that was to be for us looks right now! Can you tell Maya likes the cake part but has no time for the pineapple?

Needless to say, Mandy wasn't overly impressed with Maya's nibbling around the cake there so when she left to take the other cake up to Jen-Jen's house, Kurtis was the favored child who got to go along for the ride and Maya got left behind.

And yes, that brought on much wailing and gnashing of teeth and well, a few tears and lots and lots of screaming! Yeah, a full-blown meltdown!

Maybe one of these days it will register that there are consequences that happen when one does not listen to what Grammy tell her to do. I'm hoping that will take place sooner rather than later too!

And that's all the excitement here in this household for today anyway. Now, time for me to get back to my sauce I'm making to go with some kind of pasta -rigatoni or ziti maybe -with some mozzarella cheese sprinkled over it and then baked for a bit -along with the cheese-garlic breadsticks Mandy is getting ready to put in the oven now. Oh, and served with a nice, fresh salad too!

Love that garden and what it's yielding. Too bad we can have a pineapple tree in the back yard too though!

Monday, July 20, 2009


I'm sure many, if not most, of you have heard of the restaurant chain, "T.G.I.F. haven't you?

Well tonight was the monthly escape from slaving over cooking at home night for the Autism Group daughter Mandy belongs to over in State College when other families with a child (or children) with autism meet for supper at the TGIF in State College and now, I am definitely going to need some of the best diet pills available!

Cause I am STUFFED! Filled to the gills for sure! And, I didn't even have any dessert either!

Now, that is full, for sure!

Mandy and I ordered the pot stickers along with the spinach dip appetizers which we enjoyed and even Kurtis ate the spinach dip with the red and yellow special dipping crackers or tostitos or whatever they are. Funny thing there in that Kurtis won't touch vegetables -normally -but he will chow down big time on the spinach dip! Go figure that one out, huh? And I for one will not say a word to him about it either asd I just think it's great that he'll eat spinach in at least one form!

Mandy had the flat iron steak tonight while I enjoyed the Italian sausage and chicken with penne pasta. My meal was quite tasty but I couldn't finish all of it so brought home a "doggy box" and can enjoy the rest of it for a little lunch tomorrow I suppose.

It's about a 35 mile drive from here to State College and on the way home, I fell asleep in the jeep when we were almost at the top of Port Matilda mountain and slept until we got to the house. That part of our trip also included time for Mandy to stop in Philipsburg so she could go into the Weis Market store there to pick up some milk and a few paper products we needed during which time she left me in the car with both kids rather than waking me up.

And the kids were angelic while she was in the store too -no fighting, no kicking, no screaming to the high heavens for whatever reason they might think they have to do that -normally.

Now, I can relax tonight -read the blogs on my favorites list with my reader, work on the picture I am currently embroidering and enjoy the fact that there are also no dirty dishes in the sink or on the counter calling out, "Wash me, wash me" to me!

The best part about today though, aside from the great meal, is that the guy from the cable company showed up this afternoon to check out the connection here for the internet and figured out what was wrong that the connection was shorting out and being just plain miserable to deal with here all weekend. And he found a problem at the pole in front of our house that he thinks must have been the culprit cause that's the only thing he worked on and since then, the line as been working fine and dandy.

Whats really great about getting the line fixed is that now I really do feel like I definitely do have a high speed connection for a change!

Recently, my computer had also been running slower and slower -almost like it was back on dial-up again and then from Friday evening through to this afternoon, if I was able to get online via either the Firefox browser or the internet explorer 8 that I also have and able to maintain that connection for anywhere from 5 minutes to a max of 5 hours or so, I was really lucky.

I was also really frustrated this weekend by the internet problems cause that's something that when it goes down, it definitely puts a huge damper on my mood!

So all is well tonight now. Fed, rested, a really fast internet connection working with my computer and no one breathing hard down my back right now wanting to get online here too! (That could really be the miracle of the day, come to think of it!)

Hope this is the way the rest of my week is going to be too!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sleepy Heads!

Last night about this time, I was fighting with the computer, trying to get my connection to stabilize and listening to Kurtis chattering away in his pac'n'play while the little video, "JJ and the Little Jet Plane" was playing for the upteenth time since midnight!

He had gone to sleep around 8:30-9:00 p.m. but woke up around midnight and it seemed he had no desire to lay back down and go back to sleep -at all! Mandy came downstairs to try to appease him but nothing was making him happy until she hit on the idea of putting that video in the DVD player and boy, what a difference that made then!

Not that he went right to sleep -heck no! But he did quiet down and kept watching it play, over and over again. So as long as he was happy, so was I but I would very much have liked things a lot better if he'd have gone back to sleep well before 4:30 a.m. -which is what time he did finally drop off again!

Last night, as I said, I was having issues though with my connection -just would not stay on. But this morning, it seemed to be ok but by 1:00 p.m., it started acting up again. This time I called the tech services for my isp and had them look into the matter. The tech person said he could see that my connection was dropping offline off and on and he couldn't do anything else for me today but is going to send someone out here either on Monday or Tuesday to take a look at things and see if they can't get it to functioning at full speed and staying online too! GRRR! I really hate it when I have problems like this and right now, I am not sure if some of the problems I am having are with the computer itself or if they are all related to the connectivity issues!

Finally, around 4 p.m. today, the connection seemed to stabilize and was okay till around midnight when it started acting up again. Took me about an hour or maybe a little longer before it finally connected and so far, has stayed online. So, I figured I'd try to get a post squeezed in here while the line was working cause the way things have been going, it's liable to up and die completely on me over the weekend, of course. Don't all computer problems happen on weekends or after hours?

I wanted to share a few photos with you though -before I forget about them. You do realize that senility seems to have become a permanent resident with me of late, don't you?

First off, here's some pics of Maya in the neat little majorette outfit that Mandy found last weekend at a yard sale someplace. Maya is totally fascinated these days with majorettes and twirling because her big sister, Katie, is a member of our school's marching band as a majorette! Maybe Maya will learn to twirl the baton and when she is old enough -if she maintains the interest levels she has now -she might just be part of the marching band at West Branch then too!

I really love the look on Maya's face on the middle photo here, don't you?

Here's some pictures that Mandy took the other night as I was trying to rock Kurtis to sleep and our lovely cat, Chino, decided she wanted and needed to be rocked too! Silly cat!

Those were taken this past Wednesday evening and Mandy just had to get these shots of Chino trying to edge Kurtis out so she could show me how affectionate she can be at times!

Yesterday now -Saturday evening that would be -Mandy and Maya went over to Curwensville to watch the parade there for the Curwensville Days Event. Our band was marching today and we learned later, after Mandy and Maya got back home that our band also took first place in the marching bands department! Pretty neat, huh? What is really cool about this though is that the young lady who is our band director is married to the director of the Curwensville Marching Band!

We had a wicked time tonight trying to get Kurtis to settle down. Shortly after Mandy and Maya got home, Mandy was going to give the kids a little snack before they were to go to bed and she got two containers of yogurt out of the fridge to give them.

Well, apparently yogurt wasn't what Kurtis had in mind because when Mandy handed him a container, he had a hissy fit and sent that little cup flying! It landed hard on the floor and with a big splat too, which didn't really make his mother pleased with his actions, NOT AT ALL! So she reprimanded him which sent him into yet another tantrum of extremely loud wailing, lots of gnashing of the teeth ya know. So Bill picked him up and rocked him, and rocked him and rocked him so more -a whole lot more -almost all the while, Kurt was screaming at the top of his lungs into his Dad's ear.

Until finally, this is what occurred!

We don't know who put who to sleep first though!

And now, I'm gonna turn in too -hopefully, get enough sleep that I wake up in time to go to church in the morning. Although, if I do get up in time and make it there, it appears I will be going by myself. Mandy reminded me that this morning's service is the last service before Lee, a young man in our parish, leaves to go to Iowa to attend seminary there and become a minister in the Lutheran Church then. So, after the service today, they are going to have a "Going-Away" brunch in Lee's honor and Mandy isn't keen on the idea of taking both kids to church and then, to the brunch too. Sometimes, they behave fairly well but that's never a guarantee with any pre-school kids, as you know and certainly is risky business when both kids just happen to be autistic!

So I'm off to bed now -to join the rest of the family in some sweet, hopefully pleasant, sleep!

Preferably without any nightmares of the type I seem to have all the time these days too though -where I am back working as a waitress at the truckstop where I was employed from 1981 to 1988. And in everyone of these dreams, the same thing -or some sort of variation on this theme -takes place. That all my customers -bunches and bunches of those rowdy truckers -are all hollering at me to put some speed into my waiting on them and I'm arguing with them then, telling them this is the fastest speed my creaky, arthritic old bones have these days -SLOW!

Sweet Dreams!

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Yesterday, I had to go over to Clearfield to run a couple of errands, one of which entailed a visit to J.C. Penney's store there to pay on my card so they wouldn't nail me with a late charge of $29.00! I learned that is their standard mode of operation the hard way when I got tagged for making my payment late about 2-3 months ago. A hard way to learn something too that is, ya know!

Maya wasn't home from school yet when I started to get ready but I mentioned something to Mandy about maybe taking Maya with me and she was really excited to think I actually was volunteering to take the little girl with a kazillion questions along on my little jaunt.

Normally, when I ask Maya if she wants to go someplace with me, she's ready to roll in about two minutes flat and I just assumed she would respond that way yesterday. But, to my surprise -and to Mandy's consternation too, she said no, she didn't want to go as she wanted to stay home and "play" with Mommy. So Mandy and I were wracking our brains, trying to come up with a good reason for Maya to jump at and want to venture off with me to the "big city." (No, Clearfield is not a big city -far from it! Just me being a tad sarcastic.)

Well anyway, we did convince her to go by telling her when Gram was done with what she had to do there, I would take her and get her a surprise -probably something from the Dairy Queen there and in chocolate too. The kid is a bit of a sucker for chocolate-most-anything but especially if she thinks it might just be a chocolate milkshake!

So off we went and first stop on my list was the Penney's store where I wandered around back to the Women's clothing department.

Not that I am in dire need exactly of more clothing but gee, I sure could use -always, that i -some new tops that are loose fitting and capable of hiding a multitude of sins that seems to be an ever growing family of fat cells.

I was looking at the sale racks -naturally -since it is generally the only area where I do shop to begin with -but Maya was busy as all get out, pulling this top and that one off the racks to show me. She was actually handling the job quite well being pretty careful about getting the item with it still intact on the hanger and then, calling my attention to it with questions like "This one's pretty, Gram" or "Do you like this one?"

Of course, she has no concept of pricing and affordability issues so there she was showing me all the neat (and very pretty, I might add) items on the racks that were not part of any sale, much less a clearance sale -which is more my favored area.

The clincher though was when she showed me a really pretty item in a small but very colorful print (think oranges and yellows in tiny flowers), also this was pretty low cut too and most definitely was not any where near my size range. She was disappointed when I told her Gram doesn't need any dresses and besides that, what she was showing me wasn't a dress anyway, but rather, it was a very pretty, very sexy and very skimpy, night gown.

She kept asking me why I didn't want to get that item and even when I told her they didn't make it in a size to fit fat old grammies, she was still undeterred and kept insisting the yes, Grammie does need a new night gown. Finally, I told her that when it was my birthday, maybe she and her Mommie would come over and she could help Mommie pick out a nice nite gown then for Grammie. Hopefully, if that happens, they will do that in late September and the store will have nice, cute flannel nighties on sale -all in overly large sizes too that will suffice to cover and keep me nice and toasty warm during the winter months ahead.

I lucked out in my shopping though as I found a pair of bluejean shorts and had also found some tops to my liking as well -all on sale too! By my calculations, what I had decided on was probably going to run me close to $50 but I figured, what the heck! You only go round once in life and I may as well try to spruce up my wardrobe a tad if I could so up to the register we went.

There I got a really nice surprise as the clerk explained if I was purchasing these items with my card, I got to pick a scratch-off card and whatever percentage it said on it, I would get that percent off my chosen items as long as they weren't from the clearance racks. Well lucky for me, the shorts and two of the tops were on sale but not clearance sale things and the scratch off card I piecked gave me an added 15 percent discount so I ended up only splurging about $31 instead of the $48-50 I had anticipated. I really should have gone back and pick out two more tops in my size that I had found on sale too but I decided not to be quite that crazy with my big income, ya know!

We ventured from there up to Walmart where I procured a nice little gooseneck type lamp that works just perfect on the end table by my recliner -gives excellent light on my embroidery projects and will help save my eyesight for maybe another day or two anyway. I also got one of those little "flash" things you can stick in your computer and save all kinds of stuff to them Figured it might be an easy way for me to save larger files that I can't copy over to a cd.

From there, we had to go to the only grocery store in Clearfield (aside from the grocery department at Walmart) and pick up a couple items Mandy had seen that were on sale there this week -five pounds of sugar for $1.88 a bag and also, peaches at 88 cents a pound!

I bought a nice bag of peaches along with two of the five pound bags of sugar -would have bought a couple more but it was a restricted sale -two to a customer per day thing, ya know. Upon arriving home, Katie spied the bag of peaches and asked me if I had bought them for something specific -hint, hint, she was eyeing them up as a snack -and I told her yes, I planned to make a peach pie with them. So today, I figured if I didn't want to be accused of lying to her, I'd best be getting my fat fanny into gear and baking that peach pie I had mentioned yesterday.

I did that -had more than enough peaches left over but I had them peeled and then sliced them, put 'em in a nice heavy zip lock bag and popped the sliced peaches in the freezer so I can make another peach pie sometime down the line for a good treat. I was really happy with the way the pie turned out too considering, believe this or not, this was the first time I have ever made a peach pie! Why I never tried doing that before now is beyond me but sure was happy that it turned out as tasty as it did!

Today was the beginning day for the big event a little down river from where I live -the "100-Mile-Yard Sale" -which is one of Mandy's favorite summer events! Because Kurtis had me up last night -or rather, very early Friday morning for close to an hour, he was still sleeping very soundly when Mandy was getting ready to leave for this big yard sale so she decided against taking him along and he and I stayed home and enjoyed each other's company for about five hours while his mother traipsed all over the little byways and back roads between Shawville and Sinnemahoning!

For supper tonight, I splurged and bought cheese steak subs for us to dine on and in addition to that, I made myself a really nice and very good tossed salad using a bunch of the lovely and very crisp, fresh leaf lettuce procured from my nice little garden! Later this evening, I ventured down to check on the other stuff in the garden and was really pleased as punch to see that there are already at least 10-12 pea pods formed on those plants plus the bush beans are blooming like crazy too so I suppose it won't be long then before we can have some fresh buttered green beans with our evening meals now too!

Mandy was a little disappointed in her yard sale efforts over all but she still managed to find a couple good deals. One of those being a cover for the sofa she got about two weeks ago at another yard sale. She got this sofe which is in very good condition -actually it is a sofa bed thing -in a very nice color that coordinates very nicely with the two recliners we have -one, purchased at an auction last fall for $5.00 and the other, given to my son-in-law by a friend of his when he was clearing out items from his late mother's house! Lucky find there for sure. But the couch cover she came across today -originally from Pottery Barn -she picked up for a steal, for sure at $3.00! Can't beat that with a stick now can you?

This evening, the little guy -and his sister too -both went down for the count by 9 p.m. Ah, peace, bliss and QUIET!

Unfortunately that was a bit short-lived though as about 10 minutes after Mandy went up to bed around midnight, don't you just know, Kurtis woke up and was sobbing unconsolably. Nothing we offered to him would soothe him, calm him, much less do anything to convince him to lay back down and go back to sleep.

Until Mandy happened to think of this cd video she got the kids and which he paid a lot of attention to earlier this afternoon when she had popped it into the DVD player. So she put it in, hit play and presto magic, he sat down and was glued to the tv set.

So now, we have decided to put out a call for help and if anyone around has any more of the "J.J., the Little Jet Plane" dvds laying around, taking up space and if you'd like, I'll gladly bag up a big zip-lock bag of fresh lettuce for you to trade.

Sound good to you?

It has the ring of salvation to me!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Remembering - A Trip Back in Time!

What with the episode the other day of the black snake in my yard, I got to thinking -and remembering -some other snake episodes in the past.

When I was about 9-10 years old, I remember one day that summer when I was playing on the front porch of our neighbor's house with their son, Bobby. He had a balloon and was chasing me around with that balloon and for some reason or other,back then, I was afraid of balloons. (Why, I'm not sure but I think it may have been a fear that the balloon would burst with a bang. Stupid, I know, but that was one of my little idiosyncranatic fear back then.)

Anyway, to try to get away from him, I jumped off the porch (only about a foot high jump -nothing drastic) and began to run down through the yard to their back porch.

About 4 foot or so from where I jumped out into the yard, there was this long black thing laying in the yard and I blithly jumped over it. But as soon as I did, it struck me that it wasn't just some piece of wood or tubing laying there but rather, something else.

I turned around and standing on my tippy-toes to look down at the object, I realized then I had just hopped over a big old black snake. I let out a scream just as my friend, Bobby, was almost on top of the snake and then, we both went flying down to the back porch.

At the top of the back porch steps sat Bobby's older sister, Louise -busy painting her toenails. We scrambled up the steps as fast as we could, all the while, screaming -"Snake, Snake! There's a black snake in the yard!"

Louise jumped up and the three of us went into the kitchen, still screaming about this snake but with all three of us making all this racket, poor Gert -their Mom -initially couldn't make out what it was we were carrying on about. As soon as she figured out we were yelling about a snake, she pointed us into the living room, where Bobby and Louise's Dad was laying on the sofa, supposedly watching a baseball game but in truth, he was napping.

We woke him up and he pulled himself up -slowly, very slowly -and I recall his first words to us were to inquire if the Pirates had hit a home run. We had to tell him then we weren't waking him up because of the ball game but rather because there was this big old, long, black snake out in the side yard.

Howard muttered a bit to us about having to go find a hoe or some other implement -which he did -and then, he moseyed up and attacked the snake, killing it and dropping it down by their chicken coop.

Fascinated by this dead snake, Bobby and I both kept watch over it for the rest of the afternoon as it still continued to move -even though in the act of killing it, Howard had beheaded it. Howard told us that it would continue to have these reflex movements clear up until dark as he said the snake wouldn't totally die until the sun went down. (How true that is, I have no idea but I do recall Bobby and I were both really engrossed in this thing!)

Then, about a year later, in school one day -during our lunch break -the boy who sat in front of me brought a green snake into our room and put it in the drawer at the bottom of his desk. I immediately went into a screaming, hissy fit frenzy that brought our teacher back to the room in a rush. She reprimanded me because by that time I was standing on the seat of my desk and told me to sit back down and behave. I remember telling her I would -just as soon as Denny Humenay removed the snake that was in his desk drawer! Wish I'd had a little digital camera back then available to take a picture of the look on Miss Johnson's face when she realized that Den had smuggled this lovely little snake into her classroom and who knows what kind of havoc he had in mind to wreak on the rest of the class after our lunch break ended that day. (Den was like that -loved to pull whatever kind of prank he could on the rest of us kids AND our teacher too. Lucky for him, he was her "Pet!"

In remembering that story though, I got to thinking that he would never have been able to do a prank like that if our classroom desks had been of the style used for most students today though! No way could a kid have hidden something like a snake -or a frog -or whatever creature in furniture like the ones of today.

Snakes are a commodity that are fairly plentiful in these parts and thankfully, I have never had a really close encounter with any of the poisonous types -except for seeing a dead one on the highway now and again.

But, back when my kids were small -probably early elementary ages -they used to play with my son's Tonka trucks and excavating equipment under a big old pine tree in my front yard. And one day, they came to me telling me that the cat we had back then was flipping something around under the tree and that it looked like it was a snake.

So, out I went to check it out and sure enough, there was our cat, taunting this snake. It wasn't a big snake -but then too, size with snakes is of no importance to me. (You probably figured that out from my post the other day about the snake episode here.) And I wanted that snake out of there THEN, right away!

I sent my son down the street to our neighbors' house as I knew my friend Kate's husband, Jim, was home and he came up with a big spade and killed the snake. He also left here carrying the snake slung over the handle of the spade as he headed back to his place to bury the thing.

Well, about half-way down to his home, I saw a pickup truck making its way up the road had stopped and Jim was talking to the driver -all the while, holding this spade with the snake draped over it. But when the pickup pulled away and Jim resumed his walk home, I noticed the snake was no longer on the shovel handle. Knowing the guy driving the pickup was our neighbor, Daryl, who back when we were kids was a lot like the boy in my class with the snake in the desk drawer in that Daryl -better known around town by his nickname of "Sharkey" - I mentioned to the kids that the snake was now most likely in the bed of his pickup truck, enroute to the local bar where Sharkey would probably try to terrorize the patrons having a quiet cold one there that afternoon.

I later learned that is precisely what had happened too!

Isn't it just great how some folks can make entertainment though out of a dead snake?

Monday, July 13, 2009


We had a little experience here today that is a bit on the unsettling side for me.

I had been out in the backyard, checking out the progress in my garden -peas are blossoming as are the green beans and there are at least three blossoms on one tomato plant now too. The beets and carrots are growing nicely as are the scallions and the lettuce -well, it is really excellent! Mandy and I have had two beautiful chef salads from the fresh lettuce and the whole family has enjoyed regular tossed salads a couple of times, plus the other night, we all dined on bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwiches -on toast -for supper too.

Ok, I just digressed, big time there, cause I got so excited talking about my lovely bed of leaf lettuce. So, back to my story.

I had come in the house and was getting a few things ready to start supper when Katie's boyfriend, Simon, showed up here.

When he came in he told me that some guy in a blue -or blue and white - older model pickup truck was stopped out in front of my house and hollering for me, from the cab of the pickup truck.

Now, there are times when I have difficulty hearing the damned telephone ring when I am in here, with the kids making noise, tv blaring, etc., but when the front windows were not open (as they weren't today) and the neighbor across the street was moving grass in his yard, directly across the road from our house, tv playing here -yes, of course -and me in the kitchen, you can bet your bottom dollar I'm not gonna hear someone calling out to me from a pickup truck (that is also running, making a bit more noise to add to the mix)!

And just why was this fellow yelling for me?

Well, because he wanted to tell me he had just run over a black snake that was about four foot in length -so he told Simon -and that said black snake had slithered away, down into my yard and was last seen slinking along the side of the house.

Wonnerful, wonnerful! I'm, highly impressed. NOT!!!!!

For the record, I HATE, HATE, HATE, Loathe, Abhor and Despise snakes. Any snakes! Big snakes, little snakes, poisonous, non-poisonous -makes no never-mind to me. I hate 'em all!

I know many will get upset by my saying this but in my book, the only damned good snake is a DEAD, DEAD, DEAD one!

Of course, Simon didn't know which side of the house the snake traveled by in making its exit but I got up my courage and went out, taking a walk along the side of the house where the kitchen is located. I didn't see hide nor hair of anything remotely resembling a slightly -or maybe severely injured black snake in the throes of making a get-away. Boy, I was thankful for that! But then again, I wasn't thankful for not having spotted the damned serpent either because that, to me, means that the little so-and-=so may have managed to make its way down to my little garden, which by the way, is so thick now with veggies just growing away that it could hide in there, recuperate and regenerate itself and be waiting for me the next time I go there to pull some lettuce or to check on the tomato plant or well, do whatever, ya know.

And trust me when I tell you this, if I do happen to encounter said black snake -or any or its relatives or progeny, you will probably hear me screaming no matter what far corner of this earth you may call home!

I am however quite thankful for one thing though.

At least this snake was not a rattlesnake like the one someone ran over right in front of my son's house about two weeks or so back!

Now had this been a rattler or a copperhead, I would not have even ventured out of the house to take a look-see around for a carcass of the snake or any trace of it whatsoever!

It does still boggle my mind as to why whoever this guy was that hit this snake -who obviously knows me because he told Simon to tell "Jen" that he had hit this snake. He knows my name so surely then he also knows I am getting on in years, the limbs don't function quite as smoothly or quickly as they once did and the hearing -well, it just ain't quite what it used to be either.

If the guy was that darned concerned, why the heck didn't he just pull the truck over into a parking spot in front of my house -there are about 3 or 4 slots open most of the time there -and come down to the house, bang on the door and tell me about this and then, also tell me which side of the house the darned snake was last seen by too?

I know that knowing all that information, being much clearer in my mind, would eliminate (hopefully, anyway) the prospect of my having nightmares now about black snakes invading the crawl space under the sunporch which is now my bedroom or sneaking into the basement or hiding from me amongst the veggies in my garden patch.

Wouldn't you feel better if you knew all that too?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Busy Week!

I had planned to do a post on Friday for the "Only the Good Friday" that Shelley Tucker at This Eclectic Life has set up but somehow or other, before I knew it, the time had just flown by and it was Sunday morning and no time this morning to do any post, that's for sure!

So, just what is it that I've been doing anyway?

Well, I was caught up -as of Saturday -with my blog readings but today, I see I have 102 posts waiting in the wings for me to read and possibly even comment on but somehow, I don't think I'll get around to clearing my Reader tonight.

So I'm going to backtrack a bit and try to bring things up-to-date here!

First off, I finished the Strawberry tablecloth -as those who have me on their Facebook are aware but I didn't get around to taking a picture of the completed project until tonight. So, for your viewing pleasure, here's the pics of that tablecloth. (I did not take a picture of the entire tablecloth, as it is 50x50 and if I put it on the table, it doesn't show the entire cloth. But there is no design in the center so what you see in the photos is repeated as a border the entire way around the cloth. And, it's 50x50 inches square!)
This picture shows almost half of two sides of the cloth. It's about the largest display I could manage of this cloth.
And here is a close-up of one corner of the tablecloth. As I said above, just picture this design repeated around the entire border of the cloth!

Tuesday, as you know from my last post, was the first day of the summer session of classes for Maya and also, for Kurtis! Although we were a bit worried on his first day that he was going to wig out on us and fight getting into the van, etc., he surprised both Mandy and me -a LOT!

His teacher called Mandy shortly after the kids were loaded on the vans and on their way home to tell us how well he had done on his first day in school! For openers, he drank out of a regular cup! Imagine that! A year ago at this time, he would not even attempt to drink out of anything at all except for his bottle and even then, he would not try to sit up and drink from it -had to be laying down! It took us the better part of the winter to get him to a point where he would sit up and drink -but from a bottle -and finally about 2-3 months ago, he graduated up to a sippy cup. But drinking out of a regular cup? That was still unheard of -until this past week. So we were celebrating that milestone for him!

I started working on a new embroidery project last Sunday night -after I finally got the tablecloth done. This project is a set of six Christmas ornaments designed by Mary Engebret and each ornament, when completed, is about 4x4 inches square. Each design is also what I refer to as "busy" -meaning it has a ton of different colors to be used and there are several rows of stitches in a square surrounding a small design in the center. It took me till Friday to complete just the stitching on ONE of these ornaments! And I was about nuts too from changing colors of thread about every 4-5 stitches -or so it seemed! That one ornament is still not technically completed though as I have to sew a backing on it and then, bind the edges too! Arrgh!

So, Friday, I broke my cardinal rule about embroidering and started working on a 5x7 counted cross stitch picture. This one is kind of "busy" too but not near as much so as are the ornaments.

Thursday morning, Mandy got Kurtis ready to go to school and he was all decked out, standing by the front door and watching for the van to show up. He had his special comfort items -his bear pillow along with his little Etch-a-sketcher -and was there, waiting, watching and when the van pulled up, he saw it before Mandy did and called out to her,"Ready, Go?" Guess that tells you all how much this little fellow loves going to this school, doesn't it?

Thursday afternoon, Mandy and I picked Maya up at her school and headed to Walmart to get a pretty large -stock-the-shelves -type of grocery order. Something we haven't done for about 3 months now, so by the time we got home from doing that, I was pretty well whipped from walking all over the place and pushing that heavy cart! Loaded up on coffee, sugar, flour, plus a bunch of other stuff and the cart was so full, it was getting really hard to move! Time to quit shopping when things get to that extreme, isn't it?

And that brings me up to that last big thing in my life, which took place today!

Mandy, the kids and I left about 11 a.m. today and headed down to Indiana, PA to the home of one of my Mom's cousins -Arline Calhoun -who was hosting a gathering of as many descendants of my great-grandparents (Carl and Maja Lisa Till Eld) as could make it to her house today!

Now, I have to tell you a little here about cousin Arline. First off, she is fantastic! So organized and coordinated -a terrific cook and baker -and she is also 83 years old now but has way more energy than I do or than a whole lot of others in our family have too!

With some assistance from her daughter, Sandy Duncan, Arline fixed a feast for our meal of the day that you just had to be there to believe! Roast eye of round of beef, pork loin and sauerkraut, hashbrown potato casserole, green bean casserole, a carrot casserole, meatballs, jello salad, pasta salad, fruit salad, rice pudding and also, a family favorite, a Swedish dish that is a baked custard and is called Panakaka. Along with all that, she also had rolls, homebaked Swedish Kaka breads, nut breads, seven different kinds of cookies, cake plus two homemade cheese cakes too! Talk about some great food, this was it for sure!

Arline's Mom -who was my Grandfather's baby sister, had worked prior to her marriage in Pittsburgh as a cook for one of the wealthy families there. Another of Grandpa's sisters -Aunt Esther -also worked as a cook for one of the well-to-do families of the 19-teens and early twenties -the Brainards -and a cousin of my Mom's was a cook for the Frick family too of Pittsburgh! So, when it came to cooking, Arline had her Mom, our Aunt and a cousin who all could give her advice about food preparation and she does excel at that, for sure!

So, anyway, I got a few photos today of the family and hopefully, by posting these pics here, I will try to explain who the various family members are and how they figure into my family tree too.

So here then is a picture of all of us -or almost all of us who were at Arline's house today!

Seated on the ground in front is Arline's son, Jim and his wife, Chris. Sitting on the chairs behind them are:
Carl Bengston (a brother of Arline's) and his wife, Eleanor. Then there is their granddaughter, Hannah Mitchell, cousin Arline (Bengston) Calhoun, her brother, Paul Bengston, my granddaughter, Miss Maya, and Arline's grandson, Nathan Calhoun.

Standing in the first row behind there are:
Joyce Bengston Mitchell -daughter of Carl and Eleanor Bengston who are seated in front of her. Next is my first cousin, Nancy Eld Lang, then her younger son, Mark Lang, his wife, Toni Lang, my first cousin, Barbara Eld Donaldson, Arline's youngest brother, Cliff Bengston, then Karen Eld Putnam (a third cousin) Mandy, (my daughter) and Arline's youngest son, Chris. (Chris is the father of Nathan, the boy seated in front of him.)

In the back row there's Melda Bengston (Paul's wife, Arline's sister-in-law) then, Arline's son-in-law, Gary Duncan, her daughter, Sandy Calhoun Duncan, then the gentleman with the big hat is my cousin Barb Eld Donaldson's husband, Bill, followed by Jon Putnam (Karen Eld Putnam's husband), cousin Nancy Eld Lang's husband, Howard, and me! Kurtis was in a couple of the earlier group pictures but they didn't have everyone on them and by the time we got this one taken, he was refusing to be held and was off on his own, sort of, playing in the grass with some toys Arline still had in her house from when her oldest grandson was a little boy!
This is one of my favorite shots I got today and this is Arline, seated next to Kurtis and that's her brother, Carl and his wife, Eleanor on the end to the left. I loved the way Kurt was sitting there next to Arline and can't you just see from the look on her face, in her eyes, how much she loves little children? Remember, I told you, she is a gem! Considering there's a bit of a n age gap between her and me (but it does seem I am closing that age gap faster and faster every year, if you know what I mean), Arline and her siblings are all my Mom's first cousins but I am very close to Arline. We try to stay in contact from time to time throughout the year by phone and although Arline doesn't have a computer or internet, her son Jim and his wife do and I e-mail back and forth with her daughter-in-law, Christ, to let Arline know bits and pieces of things going on within the family as well as around the village here too. (Arline and her siblings lived across the street from my house for a number of years in the house that had been her grandparent's, my great-grandparents' home so she knows a lot of the locals here in town too.

Kurt and Maya both behaved relatively well today too. Translated that means simply -NO MELTDOWNS! And that is really a good thing! I tried to get Maya to sing for Arline as I had told her that Maya had learned the old family favorite hymn "Children of the Heavenly Father: and even had learned the first verse of that song in Swedish too. (That song just happens to be Arline's favorite as well as mine and so we were hoping to be able to get Maya to kind of perform a bit but no dice! Although, in the car on the drive home, Maya was singing her little heart out! Figures, doesn't it? Don't kids always do things like that to ya?
And this picture was also another favorite shot I got today. That's Mandy in the green tee shirt pointing to Kurtis and Arline is looking on. Leaning on the car is Arline's sister-in-law, Eleanor Bengston and Arline's oldest son, Jim. It almost looks like Mandy is saying to Arline "Here, you take him!" Not really, cause you know by now I'm sure that neither Mandy nor I would ever relinquish Kurtis or his sister Maya to anyone but well, there are moments with all kids that thoughts like that might momentarily be entertained, huh?

We did have one little scare today with Kurtis though. Mandy and I were both trying to give him a little space and letting him run a good bit. Heck, this kid rarely walks anywhere as he has to be moving at a good running pace almost all the time. But anyway, we were doing that and just keeping an eye on where he was all the time too but at one point, around 3 p.m., all of a sudden, he got out of Mandy's range of vision and she couldn't see him, couldn't find him and so she called out to me that she couldn't locate Kurtis. Well, when the family heard her say that, you should have seen people stop talking and scatter around the yard, the house, looking for him! Sure does bring on a panic feeling deep in your gut when a little one disappears like that and so quickly too! Within less than a minute though of many people fanning out and looking for him that my cousin Nancy's son, Mark Lang, spotted him, two houses down from Arline's home, exploring her neighbor's back deck!

Although the drive between our place and Arline's is only about 90 miles -give or take a bit -and it takes a tad over an hour and a half to make the trip, we left Indiana shortly after 4 p.m. but didn't arrive back home till a little past 7:30 p.m.

That's because as we got near to Curwensville, (a town along our route home) Maya announced she needed to go to the bathroom, so we made a "potty stop" there at the home of my ex-brother-in-law -my kids' Uncle Tom! This is my ex-husband's next younger brother and Tom is quite a character, for sure! Initially, I wasn't going to go in as I was really tired, half asleep really, so Mandy left Kurtis and I in the car and took Maya inside to use the facilities.

Well, before we knew it, Uncle Tom had heard us pull up and had come up from his back yard to talk to me and ended up making up with Kurtis. This too was a bit of a first for Kurtis as he hasn't been around Uncle Tom and his wife since he was just a baby. Tom opened the back door of the jeep and started talking to Kurtis and initially, the look on Kurt's face looked like he was afraid, and going to have a hissy fit on us. Tom leaned in and as he had a bit of stubble growth on his chin, he pointed to that and motioned that he was going to rub his beard against Kurt's leg or his cheek and I could see Kurt starting to kind of withdraw from him but then, all of a sudden he just started to laugh at his great-uncle Tom and ended up letting Uncle Tom get him out of the car and walked with him down through his backyard, just as nice as you please!

So, we had a nice visit with them and I even had a cold beer there too -first beer I've had in months and months now! Tasted darned good too, it did!

And there you go -that's what I've been up to the past five-six days that's been keeping me away from taking the time to write a post!

And, as my good blogger friend up in Bean Town says when he closes a post , "More later, with better stuff!" Hope you don't mind that I stole your tag line there, Suldog!