Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Worth the Effort or Not?

When you own (or are buying) your own home, there's always something that needs repaired, remodeled, ripped out and/or resolved, isn't there? And it really makes no never mind if you have a nice relatively new house or an antique, like mine is as there's always something needed.


This place of mine will be 109 years old this year and overall, for a house that age, it's not in really terrible shape but it does need a good bit of work nevertheless.

One thing we're going to have to try to figure out how to get done -sometime in the not too distant future -is a new roof. Yes, by the standards most people set for having a home reroofed, it's well overdue to have this done but lucky for us, it's never leaked yet and that's a bonus considering the current roof is probably at least 33-34 years old now!

Then there's the siding that needs finished up because the contractor who did the bulk of the repairs on the house after the fire managed to screw up my funding so there wasn't enough of my loan and insurance money left to finish siding the back of the house. Sure would be nice to find a way to get that done too.

We need a new window in Kurt's room as the one in there is in an early stage of rotting out because it was not installed properly -or so they tell me anyway -but other than that the inside isn't in all that dire a need at the moment with the exception of the basement, that is.

And that's something I'm really wondering about -if it would be worth the money, time, mess and such to have the old concrete floors prettied up and covered up with basement floor tile? I might think about this differently if the stairway to the basement was a bit wider with a handrail and also, if each room down there were also a tiny bit larger as well as being heated too but since it's highly doubtful that those things will or could happen here plus, we'd also have to find a way to make the area "deeper" too because there isn't all that much headroom down there, so I'm thinking there really isn't much point then to try to figure out a way to improve on that area of the house and make it into something a bit more useful than just to house the washer and dryer.

I guess this is one area where the old expression "Can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear" really is the truth, isn't it?

Supply and Demand

I received a note today from a friend telling me that as of today, she is now officially retired!

Pretty doggone nice for her after working for the same office and company for 39 years. And I sure do hope she has a great time now finding new ways to enjoy her retirement.

But now this puts me in a bit of a pickle as I'd love to get her a nice little remembrance type gift -to let her know I'm happy for her -but one that I can also afford and that won't break the piggy bank, ya know. Plus, she lives almost 300 miles from me so we rarely see each other except once in a blue moon she make come here to visit relatives and I might happen to see her there, then, but who knows too how soon that will be. So, to get her a gift and have it sent to her -well, the darned postage then adds a bit more to the overall damage to the piggy bank then too.

So, what to do?

Well, I did what I find myself doing more and more these days -I went online and searched out for retirement gifts online where I found something fairly reasonable to my budget -although I'm thinking she might better prefer the picnic basket thing there complete with a bottle of wine. However, she's gonna have to make do with a little smaller present from me and that's final!

The nice thing about shopping like this is that I didn't have to walk out of my house, out into the cold to get something very nice for her and I think I really like that part the best of all!

The Letter!

Boy, did I ever get a surprise today and a sweet one it was too!

I received a letter, hand-delivered no less and the biggest surprise of this letter was that it was from Kurtis!
I know his printing is a bit difficult to read so I'll interpret this piece then for you.

At the upper right hand corner -that's the date, January 30. Then he addresses me with the 2nd line there - and believe me, it took me a good while to figure out that was saying just "Dear Grammie!" (Actually I think he has it printed out as "Gramee" or something akin to that.

Then, the body of his letter is really sweet "I luv my mom! Maya liks to play with legos." (Yes, he has likes spelled as "liks." And then he closes it with the "Love, Kurtis."

Isn't that just adorable though?

Now that I have this scanned into my computer I'm gonna have to go looking for some photo frames online to get just the right size and type too of frame to put this in and save it for posterity. Well, it's either that or big scrapbook -which might be in order anyway too!

I don't remember my kids ever writing me a letter, much less one done while they were still in kindergarten.

That just makes me a firmer believer in the saying I had on my status on Facebook today. "All grandchildren are Brilliant, Beautiful and Take after their Grandmother!"

That's gotta be the most honest Facebook status ever!

Monday, January 30, 2012

Viewing Pleasure

Our dog, good old little Sammy and our indoor cat, Pearl the PurrBall (because she purrs on a virtually continuous basis) have been friends since they first met -back in June or July when Mandy found Pearl and brought her home.

She was a sweet little kitten and still is a sweet, gentle, loving and friendly cat now too. The people who had been living in the house about 2 doors up the street from us had moved out and left Pearl and another kitten behind to fend for themselves. Pearl somehow had managed to crawl out an upstairs window and then, had fallen to the ground when Mandy found her. It was also pouring down rain on the poor kitten who then was about 6, maybe 7, weeks old so when she brought her into our house, the poor baby was shaking from the cold and wet, plus probably from being scared to death too.

Sam, of course, had to meet Mandy at the front door and definitely had to check out this new creature she held in her arms. So Mandy then put the kitten down on the floor and we stood back a bit, expecting the kitten to arch her back and throw up some defensive poses against Sam's advances.

However nothing of that sort happened at all!

Nope. Pearl took one look at Sam and sidled up next to him and before you knew it, the two of them were chasing each other around the house, frolicking like they were old time best buddies.

And they've been doing that ever since then although Pearl doesn't chase Sam every chance she gets now -only maybe every third or fourth chance as I suppose she is starting to grow up and mature a little bit. But she does still relish a good rough and tumble bit of exercise with Sam from time to time and she is frequently the one who initiates it too as she will go up to Sam and torment him until he responds and starts rough housing with her.

Here are two little videos that Mandy took the other evening here so you can see our two slightly strange and fun to watch pets in action!

As you can probably tell by watching these two silly videos, it takes very little to entertain us!


Oh, Katie bar the door and whatever else she's supposed to do when you want to warn people about certain things taking place!

Someone in this house in on a cleaning kick today (and it ain't lil ol' moi either!)

I'm not really complaining about this as when Mandy gets the urge to clean, big-time, like she is on track doing today, far be it from me to whine and moan about something like that. No sirreee, Bob!

Just give me ample opportunity to stay out of her way though.

Thankfully, today's cleaning spur is just that really -cleaning. Sometimes she get a wild hair and starts ahead of time trying to figure out what things she can change, other than just moving furniture and looking to make sure there are no "mouseketurds" lurking in any corners along with the dog and cat hairs and other accumulated dust bunnies.

One of these days, I fully expect her to go on a total revamping of all the switchplates which, as long as they are relatively plain and such -nothing along the lines of Michelango's David, ya know -maybe all nice new plain white ones -I wouldn't be objecting to that. (Yeah, color my world calm and oh maybe just a tad bland, huh? Probably not what you figured I'd lean toward there, is it?)

But, since she's got half the stuff in the living room all out almost in the mjiddle of the floor, including my lovely organ I wrote about last week, maybe this would be a good time to convince her that it would be really nice, even useful perhaps, to put the organ back and put the cord plugged back into the outlet in the wall while we're at it!

Just perhaps the time has come for that to take place once again!

Won't the cat be surprised though the next time she tries to walk on the keyboard and discovers her own brand of musical ability then too?

Just For Suldog!

Many of you who read my blog also follow the same bloggers so if I mention the name Suldog here, I rather suspect a whole lot of you will know exactly who I mean and also, of some of the many things he writes about and things that are high on his list of favorites.

Let me clarify this a bit first off though. Don't get too excited over this post Jim as it is meant for your information and not as an announcement of a pending gift for you. Although, if I ever hit the lottery really, really bigtime, I promise faithfully that I will then see to it that you receive this item!

Hey! I'm generous but also usually very broke hence the need to explain this a bit, ya know.

Anyway, while doing a little bit of surfing, looking for some nice little gift but affordable for my dear daughter's big birthday coming up in oh about 12 more days, I stumbled across something that just told me would make for a perfect gift for my good old blogger buddy, Jim -aka Suldog!

If you read his stuff then you know already that he's is heavy duty interested in sports -basketball, baseball, football and the like. Heck he's been playing on a softball team for umpteen years and for the past several years has professed time and time again that this will be the year he will finally give up playing that game because his knees are about ready to go totally out on him, (Wondering now if this will be the end of that road (year) for him?)

But anyway, what did I spy (with my one little eye) today but baseball cufflinks however, these aren't your run-of-the-mill cufflinks honoring the great all-American sport of baseball. No sirree!

These babies are made using leathers from old seats and such from famous baseball parks! And one of those parks that has cufflinks made from it is none other than Fenway Park which I do believe is up in Boston and that those Red Sox are one of Jim's favorite teams too!

I thought this would be something he might be interested in seeing -at the very least -or maybe even getting himself a set or letting his wife get that for him for some special occasion type gift.

Just hit me as being a great way to pay tribute to one of the things that's taken a good place of interest in a person's life, ya know!

Ah Woe is Me!

Let me first set this record straight here.

I do love plants! Flowers, especially, are high on my list of things I enjoy and appreciate but, to see how they respond under my apparently not fastidious enough care, would make folks think I am definitely a plant hater.

Green thumbs do not run in this part of my family tree!

That's some news that my Grandfather would find totally appalling, for sure. He always had flowers growing in little beds around the house and yard -everything he could possibly get that would grow in this climate during the spring thru fall months, I think he had it growing here.

One thing I don't ever recall seeing here though was any kind of special stuff to make the flowers grow bigger, stronger, faster, bloom hardy, etc. I wonder, were he alive and gardening today, would he try something like ProPlants for get well plants?

Indoor plants -and I grew up with lots and lots of beautiful African Violets growing and on display all over the downstairs of this old house as it was one of my Grandma's favorite things, favorite plants. And they too all grew and blossomed so well for her. But under my tutelage, the longest any plant has ever survived here as an ivy plant that somehow managed to live about 3 years in my kitchen!

And I thought that was quite an achievement too, believe you me!

I have a cousin on my Dad's side of the family who is a horticulturist and became interested in flowers way back when he was probably only about 8-10 years old. By the time he was maybe a freshman in high school, he had converted the back porch on his family's home into a makeshift greenhouse and was then growing orchids -beautiful, beautiful and very delicate orchids -in a large old fish tank! I can still see the look of shock and admiration in my Mom's eyes, on her face, when he showed her the various flowers he had growing -and blooming -in that porch.

One would never know I have people in my family trees who have the ability to breathe life, as it were, into these plants because I sure don't!

I keep telling myself that someday I'll do better but then, knowing my prior track record, and ability to kill, not nurture, I think it's best that I steer clear of harming any more of the floral community, don't you?

Master and Slave

Yesterday -that would be Sunday -we managed to get up (rise and sort of shine), get ready and made it out in time for church. Some Sundays, that's an impossible feat just for me to wake up in time to even think about getting ready to leave the house, ya know.

Since the kids both attend Sunday School immediately after services, we now also take two vehicle to transport four people to church. Why? Well, because Mandy stays after the service to help with the kids and be there when the Sunday School ends to bring them home. Meanwhile, I run to the local grocery store for the Sunday paper (Pittsburgh Post Gazette) and pick up other things too from time to time for our Sunday dinner or for Sunday brunch coffee and whatever trips my tastebuds trigger on that particular occasion.

Yesterday, it was doughnuts -cream filled for the most part with a couple other types -to have with my after-church coffee and while I read over the paper and messed around a bit with the crossword puzzles then too.

But yesterday morning, as Maya and I walked up the sidewalk to go into church, I realized what a beautiful morning it was. Sunny, bright and actually didn't even feel like January cold at all.

What a change the day had in store for us though!

When I left church, there seemed to be a very icy touch to the wind blowing things around -an iciness I sure hadn't felt a little over an hour earlier when I entered the building.

Just amazing how quickly temperatures can and do drop, how much colder it feels when just a bit of a breeze stirs up around a body too, isn't it?

And how our lives often parallel the weather at times.

Things sometimes do change in a heartbeat while others change, but more gradually, gracefully perhaps.

If someone had told me 9-10 years ago that someone in our lives was not going to be at all the same person today that he was then, I would have said that would be the most improbable thing ever.

But, sadly, I now know how that does happen. The winds of change to our lives, within our family came unannounced initially, then slowly at first, we noticed a few minor changes but three years ago now, things began to evolve even more and now, I would hope they've peaked out and that the individual involved in this mess has now perhaps reached bottom.

What caused all this upheaval, the "winds of change?"

That would be this.

DRUGS: I destroy homes, tear families apart, take your children, and that's just the start. I'm more costly than diamonds, more costly than gold, the sorrow I bring is a sight to behold, and if u need me, remember I'm easily found. I live all around you, in schools and in town. I live with the rich, I live with the poor, I live down the street, and maybe next door. My power is awesome; try me.......you'll see, but if you do, you may never break free. Just try me once and I might let you go, but try me twice, and I'll own your soul. When I possess you, you'll steal and you'll lie. You'll do what you have to just to get high. The crimes you'll commit, for my narcotic charms will be worth the pleasure you'll feel in your arms. You'll lie to your mother; you'll steal from your dad. When you see their tears, you should feel sad. But you'll forget your morals and how you were raised, I'll be your conscience, I'll teach you my ways. I take kids from parents, and parents from kids, I turn people from god, and separate from friends. I'll take everything from you, your looks and your pride, I'll be with you always, right by your side. You'll give up everything your family, your home, your friends, your money, then you'll be alone. I'll take and take, till you have nothing more to give. When I'm finished with you you'll be lucky to live. If you try me be warned this is no game. If given the chance, I'll drive you insane. I'll ravish your body; I'll control your mind. I'll own you completely; your soul will be mine. The nightmares I'll give you while lying in bed, the voices you'll hear from inside your head, the sweats, the shakes, the visions you'll see; I want you to know, these are all gifts from me, But then it's too late, and you'll know in your heart, that you are mine, and we shall not part. You'll regret that you tried me, they always do, but you came to me, not I to you. You knew this would happen. Many times you were told, but you challenged my power, and chose to be bold. You could have said no, and just walked away, If you could live that day over, now what would you say? I'll be your master; you will be my slave, I'll even go with you, when you go to your grave. Now that you have met me , what will you do? Will you try me or not? Its all up to you. I can bring you more misery than words can ever tell. Come take my hand, let me lead you to hell... Repost this and you might save a life... or at least make someone think
 If someone had told me back then that this would happen to this person in my family, I never would have believed it then, even though I've been aware for longer than that of how terrible any addiction can be to cope with.  
 But seeing is believing -unfortunately. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Attitudinal Changes!

Thinking this morning about lots of things -good, bad and indifferent -and my mind wanders all over the place.

One place where my wandering mind crept into today though were thoughts about how some things in our lives have changed and really drastically too in many circumstances.

One of the most dramatic changes -with the kids for instance -has been their attitudes about doctors, nurses, appointments and such.

Not too terribly long ago, we dreaded having to take either of the kids for a doctor's visit. They were horrendous times filled with screaming, shrieking, kicking and screaming small children, to say the least.

Even if while we waited in the reception area the child could maybe be as good as gold but as soon as we got called back towards the examining rooms, Maya especially would set up such a fuss as soon as she laid eyes on the Howard-Medical.com medical cart. This was before the LPN even had a chance to say hello to her much less try to take her temperature (in her ear) and heaven forbid that she had to be weighed and/or have her height measured too!

All those things were relatively innocuous types of stuff that are standard parts of a doctor/nurse's entry examinations but to these two kids, they may as well have just met Frankenstein!

But somehow over the years, things eased out very nicely -thank goodness for that small miracle! And I'm quite sure the receptionists and nurses are all equally happy that no longer is there such wrenching pain-filled anguish involved to either of these kids when it comes time to go see the doctor and even to the dentist too!

I marvel at how much they have adapted and neither of them has this trepidation, this terrible fear of doctors, nurses, dentists, emergency room personnel, etc.

The dentists who saw me when I was a kid would be scratching their heads in amazement too and questioning if I'm really sure that these two are either the same children as before or are they really related to me?

A Bit Baffling!

There are lots and lots of things that truly do confuse me a lot. Rocket science, obviously, is one of them, people and why they sometimes do the really weird things they do at times is another obvious one too.

But sometimes there are lots and lots of other things that really do confuse the living daylights out of me and among those myriad of items to choose from various kinds of advertising stuff really can get me scratching my head -a lot!

Take this for an example: the ads we keep receiving in the mail from the electric company we deal with already in which they promote special savings to their customers. Then there are other things that offer low cost electricity but from other power companies and yet, they say our current power company will still be the provider of the current lines/power supply to our home.

Now, how exactly, can that be? That's the thing I really don't comprehend. Do you?

Of course, if I think back to an episode I saw on Law and Order a while back where some executive of some fictional power company and some other executives of other companies, managed to sell each other power and create well-timed outages so this company could then demand higher rates from their customers and so on, with the end result being that the wife of one executive and his daughter were kidnapped and his wife killed in the process -well sheesh, I sure don't want to risk anything like that happening, ya know!

Guess I'll still be confused, won't I?

Family Politics?

I heard on the news yesterday and saw in our local newspaper the announcement that the gentleman who has been our State Representative for the last 19 terms (AKA 38 YEARS) is going to retire now.

That was a bit of a surprise to me as I had kind of figured all along that he was going to just die in office someday.

I'm not going to put any comments in here of my opinion of the guy either as those who know me also probably are already well aware of my opinons/thoughts about him, his time/tenure in that office.

What I am wondering now though is whether I'll need to make arrangements for another campaign yard sign to put in my front yard again this year?

This sign was in my front yard last summer and early fall in support of my cousin, Paul J. (PJ) Monella regarding his run to be elected one of our county commissioners. I don't know if PJ will attempt to run now for the state legislature as he might be too busy with classes and also, I don't know if there is an age limitation on state elected officials or not. (He's only 19 -just turned that the beginning of this month!)

But someday, I fully expect PJ to run for this office -just right now might be pushing the envelope just a bit too much. However, when he does make a move in that direction, provided I'm still around on the face of the earth then too, you can bet your bottom dollar I'll be there, supporting him with a big old sign in my front yard once again!

Three More Weeks?

Pretty soon my time in what I consider to be a sort of purgatory will be coming to an end. But will it end? Really? That's still a bit of an unknown entity to me at the moment.

The "purgatory" I'm talking about has to do with the allergy shots my grandson, Kurtis, is getting now. The time table mentioned is how much longer he will be getting these particular shots.

He went through all the testings back in December and the first of January and the results of those tests were -in some respects -a bit of a surprise to us.

That he tested very positive for allergies to many of the grasses, trees, leaves type things was NO surprise at all. But the fact that he showed being positive for allergies pertaining to pork, green beans, peas, soy, onion and garlic -now those were a bit of a surprise!

And they've created some problems for Mandy and me too in the process.

How to cook for him has always been a bit of a problem -for his sister too -as they've always had some "issues" -shall we say -with various food substances but not to the extent that they created any rashes or reactions, at least not pertaining to the above mentioned foods anyway.

From the time Kurt was a baby, Mandy had to screen any fruits or juices to see if they contained pears because anything with pears as an ingredient would give him a nasty diaper rash but no where in the testings did he register as being allergic to pears. Go figure that one, huh?

The pork thing -which of course means pork chops, spareribs, bacon, sausage and hot dogs -the latter three things that he likes and the pork chops/spareribs being something he had only recently begun to eat and surprise-surprise -that he also likes were things we could deal with.  I just don't fix ribs or chops for all of us for a meal until this shot period ends and we can re-introduce foods back to him. Hot dogs were easy to contend with as we switched to beef/kosher hot dogs and the bacon and/or sausage, we started trying turkey products in place of the pork sausage or bacon and he was fine with that.

Vegetables have always been an iffy meal item with both kids but not due to any reaction he ever had to any veggies, just his taste buds not being big on most veggies. But, wouldn't you just know it the green beans and peas were two that he initially would eat! That does figure to me because I am a firm believer in old Murphy and his stinking law, ya know.

But the roughest part of this whole thing has been trying to figure out what and how to cook without onions, garlic and yes, soy!

Soy seems to be a major component in just about any food products on the market today. One of those that Mandy discovered contains soy just happens to be the Nestle's Quik Chocolate Milk stuff and on learning that, she decided she wasn't going to remove that from his diet in order to preserve some degree of sanity for herself and for me! The boy is totally addicted to chocolate milk and LIVES for those periodic cups of chocolate milk that, in his mind, provide curative, restorative properties to him and fix all sorts of ills and ailments!

The onion and garlic thing was a big issue for me and my cooking though as I use those two items in just about everything I cook -well, except for breads, cakes, pies, etc., anyway!

But try getting allergy information about these food substances -now that's a whole 'nother ball game there!

Mandy did hear or read somewhere that when reading food ingredients on a package that the further down the list that a substance is mentioned means that it has lesser amounts of that substance in the product. So, with respect to products containing soy, we've pretty much taken that tact there. And we have done that on some occasions to where a product lists garlic powder too. My theory there is how much garlic powder could there possibly be in some items anyway?

As to my cooking, well I've made my own spaghetti sauce or marinara sauce sans onions and garlic by loading the sauce up with various other seasonings, including sugar, a bit more of the red cooking wine and bay leaves and the sauce has tasted pretty decent! (Yeah, I'll always believe it would be better were there some amount of chopped onions in it, but still and all, it was very passable in the end.)

But, I wish I knew to what degree he actually is or was or will be in the future too affected by these food items. Another three weeks to go with the shots and then, we can start introducing those items back in to his diet so as to see how much, if any, reaction his system has to them then.

Sure am hoping the onions/garlic and soy items come up as minimal though! And Mandy and I were both extremely relieved, as well as surprised, that he didn't test positively for being allergic to dogs or cats.

That could really have been very problematic news in this household!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Ups and Downs

The past week has been a full one, that's for sure. Full of funny little things coming from the kids -mainly from Kurtis and also, unfortunately, very full of some major downers that do come along with life.

I'm sure most everyone has heard by now the news coming out of my Alma Mater, Penn State University, that "Joepa," (as many referred to him) -Coach Joe Paterno, died on Sunday (January 22, 2012) of complications of lung cancer. It's been a very difficult time for the Penn State community as a whole since early November with all the bad news of "that" event circulating like a tornado some days and no need for me to mention it here. But regardless of what some people may think about Joepa, he was a great coach, mentor, family man and supporter of education -in particular, Penn State University. Although I never met him -never even ever passed him on campus while I was a student there in the early 90s -but I've admired him and his work for many, many years!

He will be missed, for sure!

And then, on Tuesday afternoon my daughter and her children (Maya and Kurtis) received some very sad news too. Her former father-in-law -the man the kids knew as "Pappy" - died of lung cancer too. Granted, we knew he had very little time left but no matter how much information you have, how much you prepare yourself and especially two small children for such news, it's still a difficult time for all concerned.

Mandy had been explaining as much as she could, as much as she felt the kids could grasp and understand about Pappy and his illness and such but still, when it came time to tell them what had happened, she was braced for an onslaught of questions -mostly from Maya. And yes, those questions did come forth too!

She started to tell them that Pappy had no longer been able to fight off the thing that had been making him sick and making him hurt any longer and so, he had died. Maya does understand to a degree about death but Kurtis -I'm not sure there about how much he really grasps. He hears things but he may be too immature right now to actually comprehend this. Mandy also tried to explain a bit of what we think will probably happen and, knowing that the plan is for Pappy to be cremated, she mentioned that too.

And after that, Maya's questions began and that's when Mandy called out to me -saying "Assistance needed in aisle two, Mom" -meaning hey, I don't know how to answer her, see if you can help me out!

So Maya came over to me and began by asking me "How do people go up to heaven? How do their bodies get there?"

So, I told her that our bodies don't go there, just our souls or our spirit -whichever you want to call it. And she seemed okay with that explanation. But then, she asked me what happens to people's bodies then when they die and I explained to her that most people are buried in the ground but some people are cremated and yes, I was hoping that she would gloss over my use of that word - "cremated" but my hopes were all for naught as her very next question, of course, was "What's cremation?"

Now, trying to figure out a way to explain that process to an 8-year-old who has a tendency to pick up on things and then obsess about them, I ended up telling her simply that right now, I felt that trying to explain cremation to her was a topic she wasn't really old enough just yet to understand exactly but when she is older, able to understand things better, I would explain this to her then.

And thankfully, she accepted that answer. But then, she caught me a bit off guard with yet another question as she asked me if people who are cremated have cream rubbed all over their bodies? Hmmm. Now how to respond to that. So I said "Well, in a manner of speaking I suppose you could say that."

And her response to that was to clap her hands together and say -very excitedly -"I knew it! I just knew they did that!" And away she went, off to her own devices and seemed content with the explanations she'd received. If she gets her mind set on something and the answers she's given don't register completely with her, she will keep on asking question after question until she is satisfied with what she'd heard in her mind so apparently -for the time being at least -she's coping fairly well then.

I mentioned as I began this post that the past week or so had also had some ups too and those times involve things with Kurtis, beginning with his questions one night last week at the supper table.

He was trying to skirt around finishing the chicken on his plate that he was just pushing around, not eating, when out of the blue, he asked me "Where do ducks come from?" I have no clue what possessed him to ask this question because there are no ducks around us and nothing about ducks had been mentioned prior to this.

So I answered him, very matter-of-factly, saying "They come from duck eggs." I figured this would suffice but unfortunately, he had other ideas as he then began to argue with me that no, they didn't. I don't know where Kurt gets his information from but it led to a strong discussion about who was right -him or Gram. Just before he asked me that question though, Maya had left the table to go back to the bathroom and as she came back to the dining room, I said to her, "Maya, Kurtis doesn't believe that ducks come from duck eggs. Will you tell him that I am right and he's wrong because they do come from duck eggs?"

Well, I wish you could have seen the look on her face when I said that to her. You could see she was really bewildered about what the heck Gram was talking about there so I repeated myself to her and then, you could see a look of understanding come across her face -that here was her chance to side with Gram in an argument with Kurtis that she could win! (And do it without getting into trouble too!) So she immediately then told him "Oh yes, Kurtis, they do come from duck eggs so you are wrong!"

And then she geared up to have a nice long session of lecturing Kurtis to show him how knowledgeable she, his big sister is and how he doesn't know anything at all. I think Kurtis sensed that was what was coming too because he then turned to her and said "I no wanna talk about duck eggs no more cause I am not interesting to them!"

I love the way he tries so hard to speak using "adult-type" words and sometimes, gets them a bit confused -like saying "interesting" instead of "interested" but it sure does say that he's understanding words and usage a lot better than we realize a lot of the time, isn't he?

Then another day last week, someone had posted a video on Facebook of Etta James -about her passing and the video was of her singing the song she was probably best known for, "At Last." I was sitting here, playing that video, watching and listening to the beautiful words and music when Kurtis came up to me asking "What's that noise?" So I corrected him by saying "Kurt, that's a lady who was a very good singer and she's singing a very beautiful song."

He backed off momentarily then came back over, standing by my left side and said, "Boy, she sounds like Mrs. Lawrence when she sings!" The Mrs. Lawrence he was referring to is a lady who belongs to our church but more than that, she is also one of the Kindergarten teachers at his school.

I had to giggle to myself at that comment and posted about it as my status then on Facebook that I was wondering if Mrs. Lawrence had any idea at all that Kurtis thought this highly of her singing! To which, one of the members of our church choir then responded by saying "Well, now they know who to go talk to about joining the choir!" I'm still waiting for the opportunity to tell Sue Lawrence this myself.

So anyway, there you have it - a few of the light and bright spots of life in our little "fast lane" here and also, the things that had come to pass within my grandkids world that will change their family, their roots and life and the event that also has greatly impacted not just my world as an alum of Penn State University but had saddened many, many people across the nation.

Rest in peace, Pappy and Joepa!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

How To Cultivate Potential?

There are things I would like to have happen here -kind of a repeat of history if you will -but as yet, I haven't figured out how to do many of these things.

One thing I wish I could see take place is more musical instruction for both the kids.

When I was Maya's age (she's 8 now, ya know), I had begun getting musical instruction on the piano.

The teacher I had was a strict (boy, was she ever!), crusty old maid - Miss Grace Dom!

If my cousin Ruth Ann ever reads my blog and sees this post, I know she can attest to Miss Dom's methods because she too had her for her piano teacher back then.

Miss Dom made you sit up -very straight, VERY STRAIGHT! Proper posture was I think the first thing she tried to teach her students. After that it was finger and wrist position which had best be just as exacting as did your finger and wrist positions in school for those Peterson Penmanship Classes all students of my generation seemed to be forced to learn. Then it was on to the finger exercises and she was as much a bear over those things as the positioning of one's back and hands.

The coup d'grace though probably had to be the metronome and how everything you did, ever key you struck, had bloody well be according to the right timing on the metronome or the little wand she always carried in one hand would surely be landing in no time at all across your fingers to let you know that last move -whatever it may have involved -was in error!

I think she had also taught my Dad's baby sister how to play the piano too and I think Aunt Mike had said Miss Dom was "old" then but by the time I landed in her front room, she definitely should have been retired long before I got there! Patience was the very last thing that could be said about Miss Dom's attributes although the mere fact that she took me on as a beginning student and put up with me and my lackadaisical ways for over 18 months does say that she must have still had some patience left in her, doesn't it?

But anyway, I would really like to see the kids -Maya especially -learn not to just read music but also, to learn to play an instrument. But herein lies a bit of the problem.

When I was a kid, we still had the piano my Grandparents had purchased via Sears and Roebuck back in 1917! My Mom had taken piano lessons on it as a kid and she actually had learned a good bit about playing the piano too -unlike her wayward daughter.

But today, the piano no longer resides in my house. It's now in the "rec room" at my older daughter's home. It also is in dire need of tuning -to the extent that I wonder if tuning it is even possible to do for it today.

But we do have an instrument here in my house now -the beautiful electronic Hammond organ that had been the pride and joy of my late Aunt. Something I had coveted for many years but never dared to even dream that possibly it would become mine after she passed away. And when it was given over to me, I was in such a state of shock for quite sometime, in disbelief at my good fortune. Not that I am so talented in the music department that I actually know how to play this instrument. Oh my no! I can putsy around on it a bit but about like those violin lessons I also had as a child, most of my attempts at making music on it sound like a big old nasty cat fight much of the time.

I think the lousy sounds that come forth when I try to play the organ are what prompted Mandy when she last rearranged the furniture in the living room to put the organ against this one wall and leave the cord to it showing on the floor under the keyboard but to plug it in, would require the help of another adult to move the organ out, away from the wall, to be able to reach the receptacle. Yeah, that's what she did to me, knowing full well that I wouldn't be able to find someone when I get in the mood to try to play this organ to help me move it just to plug it in. Sadistic, isn't she?

But anyway, let's be realistic here too and come to terms with the fact that to learn to play a keyboard type instrument, well an organ like this one isn't exactly the recommended piece of equipment! That, plus to be honest, I don't want any unnecessary further possible damage inflicted on this item that, truth be told, I do treasure having it here in my home. Every day as I walk past it, I remember my aunt and the beautiful music she was able to come out of it and I remember that aunt for all  her wonderful ways too.

I wouldn't want to take a chance that allowing the kids access to the instrument might harm it in any way, shape or form.

About the only solution I can see here to my lovely but yet jaded idea about their learning to play a keyboard type of instrument is if we could ever afford something along the lines of say a digital piano maybe. Even something like that, although the prices are way lower than those for a spinet or heaven forbid, a big old upright piano, they're still more than a bit out of bounds for Mandy's and my income put together.

And then too, there's also that other thing that comes into play here -that being do either of the kids actually have any talent or interest in learning to play an instrument. In many ways, it's evident they both do have a modicum of musical talent but is it enough for one or both of them to make it worthwhile to invest in the cost of lessons and of course, an instrument? The talent may be there but I wonder if either of them would be able to sit through the dull part of music lessons to learn the very basics without the child going totally stir-crazy in the process?

And then too, there's also the added problem for us in getting enough funds gathered to build a side room onto the house -one that would house the organ as well as the piano! (We barely had enough room in the living room as it was to get the organ in here, ya know!)

Oh well. I'll cross that bridge if/when it ever becomes a reality or a necessity and right now, it's highly doubtful that will come about.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Mr. Blue

If I remember things correctly -which sometimes I do when it pertains to something from way, way back -like my elementary or high school days -wasn't there a song that was popular at sometime with the words "I'm Mr. Blue" I think in the opening line? Well, something like that anyway. I don't remember any other words but do recall the melody a bit. Be glad I can't record my lovely once alto, now almost bass voice, trying to hum the melody for you now.

Anyway, I do believe my grandson either wanted to change his name to "Mr. Blue" or already thought perhaps that it was his name -at least judging by the appearance of his hands, in particular, the fingers of his left hand. Not that the right hand escaped unscathed but it wasn't near the color of the left!

Mandy left the house tonight about 6:45 to attend a church council meeting. Maya finished up what she wanted of her supper and then, disappeared to her room (aka MY room) to watch the Disney channel and play with her DS and Kurtis had been here in the living room with me. Then, about the time I realized it was ultra-ultra quiet in the living room, he appeared, coming from the bathroom and said something to me that I couldn't understand as he waltzed past me with a brief wave of his hands.

It was that hand wave that caught my eye -a tiny bit after the fact -but I did a double take, got up and looked at him sitting on the couch only to see -much to my chagrin -that his fingers on the left hand were a very, very, VERY dark, dark, REALLY DARK DEEP BLUE!

Yes at least one -probably a few more -expletive deleteds escaped from my mouth!

"Do not touch the couch, Kurt!" I roared at him!

Then, I grabbed him and marched him into the bathroom where I had to begin the job of trying to get whatever it was he had gotten into washed off his hands. Hopefully sometime this evening but at least before tomorrow morning was my prayer that the hands would come clean.

I began questioning him, in the hopes he would explain to me what this stuff was all over his hands but as soon as I started to ask questions, he immediately dissolved into tears. For the next 10 minutes, as I scrubbed -and scrubbed -then scrubbed a whole lot more -the only thing coming from his mouth that I understood at all was his repeating, over and over, "It'll be all right!"

I scrubbed his grubby little fingers first with hand soap, which didn't even make a dent in the color. So, from there I moved on to trying the lysol liquid cleaner stuff on top of the bathroom shelf. That took a tiny bit of the deep blue away but not near enough. Finally, in desperation, I grabbed the spray stuff of Clorox toilet bowl cleanser, squirted some of that on the washcloth and went to work on the blue fingers with that stuff. I was a little worried about using the Clorox stuff for fear combined with the wash cloth that I might wash skin off too but lucky for him -and for me too -it did take almost all the color and left all the skin, intact!

After that, it was pajama time and as I got him dressed for bed, I questioned him a bit again about what he'd been into. Finally, he pointed to this little box on the table in the living room that said something or other about SpongeBob Squarepants and indicated there was a marker pen that came with that box but I didn't see any marker things around so I asked Kurt where the marker was. It was then that he told me it was on the couch.

Talk about feeling a bit of a panic, I was about that time as I thought to myself, boy am I gonna be in deep doo-doo with your Mom when she comes home if this sofa has all kinds of dark, deep blue marker pen stuff smeared all over it!

Lucky for Little Mr. Blue, I found the marker -sans the cover being on it but I did also locate the cover too -and none of it -fortunately for Kurtis (and for me) was showing up anywhere on the couch cushions or under the cushions either (which was where I located the marker.)

I stuck that marker into the box and then, put the box up on top of the mantle while giving instructions to Kurtis that he is never, ever, ever again to touch that box. Actually, I told him don't even go NEAR it or even think about going near it!

What kind of company manufactures markers that won't even wash off tender skin on little kids anyway?

Only someone with an extreme hatred deep inside for parents and grandparents and no respect whatsoever for any kind of furniture.

That's my opinion anyway and I'm sticking to it!

Meet Rudolph Harbart...

The past week was, well - interesting - to say the least. A whole lot of ups and downs along the way but we survived 'em in spite of 'em all (as an old trucker friend would have said.)

Mid-week, Maya developed a cough -dry, hacking kind of thing -and by Wednesday evening, it was obvious she wasn't feeling up to par. Thursday morning though, still coughing, Mandy asked her if she wanted to stay home from school, telling her if she didn't feel well, she didn't have to go to school.

Her response to that was such that you'd have thought she'd just been threatened within an inch of her life or had been given a really long, terrible prison sentence because Maya informed her Mom that by no means would she be staying home from school, that she absolutely had to be there.

Some things are such a switch to hear for me as I think back to when my kids were in school. If I'd ever given them the option of staying home or going to school, I probably would have needed dynamite to get them up and out the door when the illness was gone!

Friday morning though, it was quite the different scene as about 10-15 minutes before the bus was due to arrive, Miss Maya developed a severe case of the weepies during which time she rattled off several reasons why she couldn't go to school that day. One of the reasons was that she was afraid to get on the bus and another that the bus driver calls her names. Yeah, right!

It took a bit of prodding but eventually Mandy got to the root problem which was that she had been given a paper by her reading teacher to bring home, have it signed and return it to school and apparently Maya had misplaced that paper so as a result she was obsessing about the whole thing and was afraid to go to school because she feared she would get into trouble with the teacher and get an "infraction" on her record.

Needless to say, she was on the bus when it pulled away from in front of the house.

Saturday morning was another really interesting day here too.

Mandy was at work Saturday a.m. -her last day -so I was here with the kids. Maya was upstairs playing quietly -a switch from her normal routine of pestering her brother by bossing him around, getting him in trouble -and Kurt was in the dining room playing by himself with the "Hungry Hippos" game.

He was having himself a high old time with that game as he played one game after another and after each one, he would announce that he had won that game or that "You won that one!" to his invisible opponent. Then he stopped playing that and came to me announcing that "Rudolph Harbart had gone home."

Okay, I figured, I'll bite and I asked him who Rudolph Harbart is. His answer was that he is his friend and he had just gone back home -to the North Pole. According to Kurtis, Rudolph Harbart lives at the North Pole with Santa Claus. Oh, yes he does! Quite emphatically he told me that story.

When Mandy came home, I gave her a bit of a heads up on what he'd said and then, I asked him to tell Mommy who he had been playing Hungry Hippos with that morning and he reiterated the whole story to his Mom then too. And, again on Monday when his TSS -Miss Dawn -was here for the day to work with him, I asked him about Rudolph and he repeated the whole story all over again for her too.

Makes you wonder where in blazes these kids get some of their ideas doesn't it?

Tonight, at supper, he delved into a whole different area -clothing!

I had on a red v-neck sweater made of a sort of soft, plushing kind of yarn and out of the blue, Kurt reached over and ran his hand up and down the right sleeve of my sweater after which he looks up at me and announces, "Gram! Your sweater is made of fabric!"

Why yes, Kurtis, I guess it is.

At that point, he looks up at his Mother and tells her "Your sweatshirt is made of fabric too, Mom."

Gotta love his observation skills, don't 'cha?

I love never having a clue as to what is going to enter in a conversation here next. It's the little announcements that definitely keep things moving along, don't they?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Swift Recovery

Children, when they are ill, amaze me!

No, that doesn't mean I enjoy seeing them sick -most definitely not. But I do have to smile, sometimes even laugh aloud at the antics they will pull to try to get out of things, or around stuff, under the guise of an illness or an injury.

Right now, Miss Maya is slightly ill. She does have a dry cough that started Sunday night and isn't improving either. The lack of improvement though, I firmly believe, has to do a lot with the fact that she doesn't want to take any of the cough medicine that Mandy has for her and proclaims too that she can't take any cough drops either because -well, they are yucky. Sorry for your luck child, but you keep this up and you'll be enjoying this cough from now until spring arrives and then some most likely. Mandy did finally get her to take some cough medicine, the amount of which in the little dosage cup came to less that the amount of wine she gets in church every Sunday now that she takes communion. She was protesting swallowing that big amount of cough syrup though until I pointed out to her that it looks like the wine, is a smaller amount than the wine and she could just pretend she is taking communion then at home. Why that logic on my part apparently appealed to her, I really don't know, but it did and I'm not arguing with it.

Now though, she's maybe feeling a notch better because after Mandy left to go to work tonight -it's her 2-hour shift this evening -Maya knew she had homework to do and was all nice-nice about discussing it before her Mom left but within 10 minutes or so, she was making very strident statements to me about NOT doing her homework. So at the moment, I am currently biting my tongue so as to not give her any more things about which she could and would use to dig in her heels and argue more with me other than to remind her that if the homework is not done when Mommy gets back home, she'd better be prepared to get with the program in a hurry and get it done then!

However, she is going to be a bit upset when Kurtis gets a snack/treat here shortly because he did all his homework earlier when Miss Dawn, his TSS, was here, plus he ate all his dinner too. Maya did eat all her supper but the homework thing is there, doing the "heavy, heavy, hangs overhead" thing and when that comes crashing down on her as she gets no treat/snack before bedtime... Well, we'll see how smug she is then, I guess.

It is funny though some of the things kids do, the comments they make from time to time, isn't it?

Take this past Sunday in church when Pastor Carrie was doing the regular announcements for the week, prior to the beginning of the service and this week, she announced that anyone who didn't have any plans immediately after church, if they would be able and willing to stay and help out, they would be most welcome as help was needed to de-trim the church and remove the trees from the holidays. Upon hearing that, Kurtis called out to her that he would "Help because I'm real, real, really strong, ya know!" Thankfully, he and Maya were involved after church with their own Sunday School classes so his brand of help wasn't quite needed but sure is nice to hear him volunteer his services this early on in life. Now, if only that motivation will stay with him during the teen years and well beyond that as an adult!

This evening though, he and Miss Dawn had a bit of a difference of opinion and he kept disobeying what she had told him until finally, her patience ran out and she grumbled, a bit more than her normal correctional voice level and he became quite hurt and upset. About that time too, supper was ready and he came to the table still whining and whimpering about having been reprimanded. When I asked him what his problem was he told us that what Miss Dawn had said had "Hurts my heart." You know, it's more than a little difficult to explain things in a straight-forward manner when deep inside you just want to laugh out loud at his expressions!

So now, the time has come for me to end this little post and go dip a bit of chocolate ice cream into a small bowl and make Kurt's day complete. I had no idea that chocolate had so many healing qualities until seeing Kurtis recover virtually immediately from a myriad of illnesses and injuries simply by our offering him a scoop of chocolate ice cream or a cup of chocolate milk.

Of course, I should have realized it was a potion that great because I do know what a smuggled bite of chocolate candy will always do for me.

Definitely puts a smile on my face and a little lighter step to my walk too. Well at least until the pounds start piling back on anyway.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Time Will Tell

Not too much happening around these parts this past week. Rather quiet and a bit boring -except for the fact that I have managed, since December 25th, to read five (5) -yes, 5 - books! I've got a whole lot of books here that I've purchased or had given to me or that Mandy has bought too, acquired over the past 2 years or so, that I have yet to read so decided Christmas Day to try to get a bit caught up on my reading! I'm on book #6 right now but not making all that much progress with this one. Hopefully, it will take a bit of a turn to the "interesting" somewhere along the way!

I'm still working on the smoking cessation. Still not completely off the nicotine but at least, I'm keeping my intake down to a very dull roar of between 5-10 smokes a day. That's an excellent figure for me, considering I had been using 2 -2 1/2 packs a day prior to beginning this program. The big drawback for me right now isn't so much the smoking as it is the sleeping -which this past 7-10 days has been terrible! Can't seem to stay awake during the day or early evening hours and then, of course, I can't fall asleep when I do go to bed, even if I am feeling very tired, sleepy, yawning, etc., when I do turn in. Then I lay there and toss and turn for hours on end. If/when I do finally fall asleep, it's very sporadic as I keep waking up within an hour or two and then, struggle to fall back to sleep again. Very frustrating!

Maya came up with a good one the other night at supper though. We were having leftovers and as she was sitting there, slowly eating (leftovers, unless it happens to be mac'n'cheese), when she asked Mandy and me, "Why do they call these 'leftovers?' Why don't they call them 'rightovers?" Good question kiddo, for which neither of us had a suitable answer to her -not one that she liked, that is!

Last night, after Maya got ready for bed, she came over to me and asked me if she could sit in the recliner with me and "snuggle." Sure thing, Sweetheart! That's what Grammies are here for isn't it? So she crawled up on my lap and we sat there with a nice heavy robe over us to try to keep warmer since the house is at a temperature that tends to leave me a bit chilled. Well, within five minutes of her coming to sit in my lap, Kurtis decided quite quickly that he too wanted to do the same thing as his sister! So he started trying to climb up onto my lap too only to discover that Maya takes up a whole lot of space there and Gram's lap isn't quite as big -apparently -as it used to be. Definitely doesn't hold a fairly tall 8-year-old and an equally tall 5-year-old there like it used to do!

This move, I know, was one of pure jealousy on his part -something that normally is displayed more by Miss Maya than by Kurtis. But once he tried to squeeze in and get a bit settled, Maya began to object to his presence then too. Both kids insisted that I scratch their backs which normally is a pretty easy task with one, but with both of them, well, it's not quite as simple then -especially when one's movements are a bit restricted by the presence of two kids the sizes of these two now! Eventually, when Kurtis decided to bend forward and rest his head on Maya's leg, things erupted into a bit of physicality as Maya decided that move wasn't in her best interest and punched him on the arm! Within five minutes of her throwing that punch, the nice snuggling session came to an end. Gee, I wonder why, huh?

With Christmas now gone for this year -unless of course one is celebrating Orthodox Christmas -I've had a lot of thoughts about Christmases past -mainly with the assistance of some wild and rather wacky dreams courtesy I guess of the meds I'm taking. (Chantex comes with a paper that says, among other things, this drug can produce vivid dreams, ya know.) Well anyway, let me tell you there is a whole lot of truth to that prediction!

Not that I could tell you what the majority of these dreams were about -'cause I can't -but I can tell  you that the majority of them were populated with people from my past -mainly relatives, especially aunts and uncles long since gone from this earth. One of the dreams though I do remember vaguely was about Christmas and gifts, centering on a watch my Mom's older sister and her husband gave me for Christmas one year -I think I was about 14, a Freshman in high school. That aunt worked in a jewelry store so frequently she gave jewelry to her nieces for Christmas as she could get it at very good discounts and be able to buy really good stuff that way. (This particular aunt and uncle had no children of their own so they tended to get things like this for the kids in the family.) Anyway, this watch was a very nice watch -a good watch -as I recall it was not a Bulova watch but another brand of equal quality. It was white gold with a spandex type wristband and I had that watch for at least 10-12 years at which time, all of a sudden, this darned allergy I now have to certain metals (contact dermititis) kicked into gear on me and I was no longer able to wear that watch. What is sad though is I have no recollection whatsoever of what happened to the watch! I'm not one, nor was my Mom, to throw things out -even if it is something I can no longer use, I tend to keep things as mementos then but I haven't been able to figure out what on earth happened to that watch for many years now. It hadn't been on my mind either for just about as many years so why on earth did this watch memory suddenly crop up in a dream then?

Go figure, I guess, huh? Who knows what inspires dreams under normal circumstances but with the aid of various medications, I suppose I'm in store now for lots of other dreams about way distant times and events, aren't I?

Yep! Only time will tell about that stuff, I guess!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Almost Here!

In less than 30 minutes now, 2011 will become history and 2012 will be ushered in.

Unlike a lot of folks, there's no partying happening here. The kids were in bed and sound asleep too by 8:30 p.m. -which is pretty much their normal bedtime -and since Mandy has work in the morning, she was in bed then too by 9:30 p.m. I'm still awake but hoping that tonight I will be able to fall asleep easily and soundly too so that I can rise and shine by 8 a.m. and start the New Year off on a good footing then too by being able to get myself and the two grandkids up and dressed and off to church by 9:30 a.m. That's my plan anyway. Whether I will succeed or not -well I'll fill you in on that later!

Although I am trying to stop smoking (or at least make a drastic reduction in my consumption of those things), I'm not doing it as a resolution type thing for the New Year -not exactly -since I actually started doing this about 2 1/2 weeks ago now. Today wasn't one of my better days -still under 10 cigarettes for the day but the three previous days I had it down to about 5. So gonna have to step up my watchfulness a lot more now aren't I?

Other than the effort to stop smoking, I'm just going to try to live life to the best of my ability -which for me simply means making every effort I can to enjoy watching my grandkids grow -and grow -and boy, they surely are doing a bang-up job of that too! Hard to believe they are as tall as they are now with Maya coming up almost to my shoulder and Kurtis very close behind her.

Having them here, living with me, was truly a Godsend right from the start and even though they each have their own little quirks, their own particular little tricks and such, they've always provided a renewed incentive every day since they arrived on the scene.

Two nights ago when my older daughter and older grandson were here to spend the night, Kurtis provided quite a neat little story for Aunt Carrie and Gram -telling us all about what happened 5 years ago and since then -basically it was his own version of the story of his life and I wish I'd had a tape recorder handy to have preserved that for posterity. Where he got the imagination to rattle off the things he told us, I'll never figure out but it sure was interesting to listen to his little tale.

The kids both had a great Christmas, that much is for sure -perhaps even too much "Christmas" in some respects because I've always believed that too much of the toys and new clothes can be just as detrimental than not receiving anything. Way too easy then for kids to price themselves out of Christmas further down the road if they get expectations of a plethora of gifts early on is my thought on that aspect of the holidays. They certainly got enough that they won't or shouldn't be bored all that soon anyway and Mandy calculated that she probably could got maybe close to 3 weeks without having to do laundry based on the new clothes they received too. We've still had a few little spats over the new toys and sharing but overall, it's actually been relatively peaceful in that context and the kids have been entertaining themselves with lots and lots of crafty things to play with along with some new games and loads of crayons and coloring books. So that's been a blessing, for sure.

Only one time did Maya start to consider whether she or Kurtis got the most gifts and we were -thankfully -able to nip that idea in the bud, then and there!

I've got a lot I'm actually looking forward to in the year ahead -the biggest thing on my agenda is the 50th Class Reunion of my High School class which will take place in early September. I'm very much looking forward to that event and working with several other classmates to try to organize it in such a manner that those who show up for it will find it memorable and enjoyable! (And that they will all be able to still recognize each other too!)

Beyond that, if the coming year treats me as well as the outgoing year did, with respect to my health, I will be a very happy camper!

My wish for each of you -family and friends -is that the New Year brings with it perhaps a large dose of that elusive peace and prosperity that often just seems to dangle close but still out of reach much of the time.

May each day be filled with laughter and love, good friends and good health! Anything beyond that is just icing on the cake, isn't it?

Happy New Year and Sweet Dreams for a great New Year ahead!

Positive thoughts only.