Thursday, December 27, 2012

Good Neighbors!!!

WOW! The snow finally stopped falling here much earlier today and by the looks of things, I would judge that we probably ended up with about 8 inches of the white stuff when it was all said and done.

I had tried to do a little shoveling last night and this morning, Mandy went out and managed to get enough snow cleared from and around her car that she was able to get the car out and moving. She had to run a few errands -including picking her brother up as he came through on his run on the interstate and they then had to get a 5 gallon container to fill with diesel fuel or kerosene to put in his fuel tank at his house as E-beth and the kids had run out of oil for the furnace -again -over night.

Yes, it was a pretty brisk, cold night for sure and 5 gallons of fuel in a furnace when it's really cold sure doesn't last very long, ya know.

Thankfully though, while up at her brother's house, his neighbor across the street apparently was getting plowed out by his granddaughter's boyfriend, using a four-wheeler with a plow on the front and he agreed to come down then to our house and plow out as much as he could of our parking area. Mandy called and told me to go clear my jeep off and see if it would start so we would then be able to move it out for the young man to plow the area almost completely then.

Which I did and Mandy and Clate got my jeep moved and the guy showed up and plowed it very nicely so now we too have a relatively clear parking area. With, of course, a few scattered spots of ice underneath it but what the heck, it's still a whole lot clearer than it was before and at not near the amount of labor as would have been involved without this help!

Now, the next thing on my agenda was to make some phone calls to get information pertaining to my big but non-existent raise I am getting in January from Social Security. The way the papers were worded that I received about this raise and what was going to be deducted from my check  before it floats (finally) into my checking account, I wasn't sure if the money that was being deducted was going to pay just for my Medicare or if it was going to pay for my BC/BS supplemental insurance. Finally got those questions answered and I'm covered on both angles -Medicare and BC/BS, plus prescriptions and the end result is my raise will net me $8.00 less than was was getting before the raise.

Isn't that just super fantastic though? But at least it wasn't as expensive a raise to me as the one we received, oh -about 4-5 years ago when I was supposed to get about a $50 a month raise but ended up getting $35 a month less than I had been receiving. Gotta hand it to those who calculate these things, don't 'cha?

Now, the last thing on my "to do" list at this time is to find out how much it will cost me to get a new wheel bearing put in my lovely little old (but darned reliable) jeep?

Anytime I know there is some kind of automotive repairs needed I automatically start thinking about how many coins this is going to cost me and also, do I know anyone who has some really nice gold ones they'd like to slip my way too! I was just thinking about how some anonymous donor slipped a nice fat kugerrand (I have no idea how to spell that) into the kettle someplace in Georgia I think it was and that one item was reputed to be worth about $1,750 bucks. Boy, something like that and I could get the jeep fixed plus a few other repairs it could use and even get Mandy's buggy doctored up okay too -all at the same time and with enough left over to afford a case of Black and Tan beverages for New Year's Eve for me along with a lot of wine for Mandy and friends too!

Yeah, I could be generous in that instance I think, couldn't I? And wouldn't that be a neighborly thing to get some beverages and invite others to come have a drink and celebrate the onset of a new, clean, crisp year?

I'd really love to see neighbors come together like that, wouldn't you?

More Plows Please....

Earlier this evening -like around 6:30-7:00 p.,m., I took Sammy out for yet another walk. This time, I decided to try to make it a fruitful walk for him, and also for me. As a result of that decision, we walked up to the Moose to get a newspaper but unfortunately, all that was in the container tonight were copies of Monday's paper. I figure that the delivery guy must have gotten stuck someplace or was just having a really rough night trying to maneuver on his route -which probably services most of the backwoods little towns like this one.

I had tried, before I left the house, to clear the sidewalk in front of the place as well as a little of the parking area but realized early on in that venture that I couldn't even get the snow shovel to break through all of the snow to reach the ground or the concrete on the sidewalk.  Walking up the road with the mutt was also difficult to manipulate too as the snow plow apparently hadn't been down our road in a long, long time so I had to walk and try to stay in the tire tracks left behind by some fool out trying to drive in this crapola or just walk completely in areas with no trackage and no evidence at all of any plowing having been done today.

I was beginning to think that to get the roads, parking areas and sidewalks cleared off to actually see the pavement or ground under this snow, it is maybe going to take some kind of industrial supplies to blast the snow -and probably ice -underneath to get things a little back to whatever normal is in this part of the state for this season!

But anyway, although I was disappointed at not being able to get a copy of today's paper, it was worth the trip for the exercise for me, the relief for Sammy and for the mail I picked up on our way back home at our nice little mailbox.

The walk home went much easier for Sam and I because as we left the Moose and began our trek homeward bound, not just one but three township snow plows passed us along the way. The first one ended up being the one apparently assigned to plow our road because I followed him down in the nicely cleared and much, much easier to manipulate but still snow-covered road. Even the snow plow couldn't lower the blade far enough I guess to clear clean down to the macadam but the job he did was fine and dandy for me!

It got Sammy and me back home and both of us each still all in one piece!

And that, considering the shape the road was in when I left the house to what it was when I returned, made my walk actually end up very nice and it was quite invigorating too! (Must have been that for Sam as well because as soon as he got in the house and the leash unhooked, he was like a crazed little manic, racing and chasing all through the downstairs of the house.

His antics even brought a smile for him from Mandy as she grabbed an old piece of toweling and tried to rub the snow off him and help get him dried out a bit.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The Christmas That Almost Wasn't

I came across this little story I wrote a few years back today and the weather we're getting slammed with -snow, snow and more snow -and this story just sort of fit together. So I decided to pull it out of the mothball area on my computer and post it here for your reading pleasure.

The Year Christmas Almost Wasn’t
Jennifer Hill Ertmer

When I was a child, back in the olden days of the 1950’s, Christmas always meant that my uncle who lived down in Monroeville, PA, his wife and their five children and my uncle who lived in Hagerstown, MD, his wife and their daughter, would be here for the holiday.

That meant there would be ten extra people in the house, plus my grandparents, my Mom and me so trying to figure out where 14 people would sleep in a house with only three beds, one lumpy sofa and an old, hard as a rock, colder than a witch’s you know what because the cover on it was old, crackly vinyl (plus it was out in the barely heated sun porch area of the house too) was my Mom and Grandma’s biggest concern.  For me, it meant the opposite – fun and games as my cousins Ray and Dave, from Monroeville and I for sure, would get to sleep on the floor.  In retrospect – liking comfort as I do today – I wonder why this was such a big thrill but, it was for the three of us.

The timing of the arrival of my uncles and their families was also big excitement for me too.  I would wait out in the sun porch, watching the headlights as one car, then another, would come down our road and wonder if this would be the one bringing my cousins, Ray and Dave, here to spend the next couple of days with me.

Their dad, my Uncle Bert, usually left Monroeville early enough that they would normally arrive here by 7:30 or 8:00 p.m.  Late enough so they wouldn’t be here for our normal Christmas Eve supper of the luscious Swedish dish I loved – Lutfisk – but that I knew my cousins hated even hearing about the stuff although I doubt they had ever in their entire lives tasted it.  Their arrival was always so they would definitely be here with ample time for all my cousins to change clothes and be ready to attend the midnight church services here too.

My other Uncle, Ralph, would generally arrive later – sometimes getting here barely in the nick of time to make it to the church by the start of the service at 11:00 p.m.  He had his own business in Hagerstown and so, couldn’t always leave town early in order to arrive home here in an earlier or more timely fashion.  My cousins, Ray and Dave and I would really be excited though waiting for him to arrive as he was the real fun-loving uncle in the family and loved to tease all of us kids, but especially we who were the three youngest of the grandkids here then.

One year though, when Uncle Bert hadn’t arrived here with his family by 9:30 that Christmas Eve, I was getting depressed and tired from waiting for them – too young then to worry why they weren’t here yet –but my Mom and Grandmother were both getting stressed out and wondering aloud where they might be. Perhaps they had a late start someone suggested – probably my Grandmother.  Mom, who drove a car and had more ideas of problems one could encounter with a vehicle, began to muse and worry though that maybe the car had broke down on them someplace.  Grandpa put his two cents in on that idea though as he said he figured if they had any problems with the car like that, Bert was a good mechanic and no doubt, he could fix just about anything.

Near as I can calculate, this most likely was the Christmas of 1953, maybe 1954, because it was the last Christmas I think that all five of Uncle Bert’s kids were here as the oldest was either a senior in high school or had just graduated and the very idea of one of Uncle Bert’s kids staying at their home, alone – well that never would have washed with him or his wife, my Aunt Nellie either.  Nope, you came here to our grandparent’s home for the holiday and there was no ifs, ands or buts about that.  You didn’t argue –ever – about things involving come back to his homestead, to see his parents, with my Uncle Bert!

Close to 10 p.m., there was a knock at the front door and there stood our neighbor from across the road, telling my Mom that she was needed and had to come to their house to take a phone call.  That was another thing too – back then and my entire life growing up here, we had no telephone so if someone needed to reach us, they called this neighbor across the street.

Mom hurried and threw on her coat and boots too because it was snowing too –very heavily and was those huge, wet but oh so beautiful snow flakes that guaranteed you would have good stuff with which to make a snowman, build a snow fort, go sled riding on the hill across the road and yes, even pitch an occasional snowball at whoever just happened to pop into your view.  Good snow to my way of thinking; bad snow to Mom’s as she tried to stay calm, knowing this phone call couldn’t be anything good at that hour and with my uncle and aunt and their family now officially among the missing here.

When she returned home, she was visibly upset because the caller had been Uncle Bert.

He was calling to tell her that they had been in an accident. No, no one was hurt but the car couldn’t be driven and there was no place available at that time of night and especially on Christmas Eve open to help him.  He had gone into a skid, rounding a really wicked curve and with the snow on the road, had hit the guardrails and had a flat tire. Apparently, although I don’t remember this part, he must not have had a spare or if he did, it must have been bad too.

So, there was Mom who had a car but it wasn’t trustworthy enough to try to risk driving over 50 miles to go pick them up and truth be told, I think for the first time probably ever in her life, she was too nervous to drive there alone too.

So, she set to thinking of who she could possibly ask to help her and go with her then to rescue Uncle Bert and his crew.
Finally, she decided she would ask our neighbor two doors up the road from us.  Herbie had a newer model car than Mom’s, he was a fairly young guy and probably wouldn’t be afraid to drive that far on a night like this and so, she went back out into the night, and the snow, tromping her way to his home to ask him if he could do her this really big favor.

And, he said he would.

He pulled his car up in front of the house about 15 minutes later to get Mom – of course she had to come back home and put on a different coat, one that wasn’t all raggedy looking you know, and she had to have a hat, and of course, a scarf along with an old pair of slacks pulled on under her dress for a little more warmth.  The necessities of going out in the middle of a snowstorm and to make a trip of that distance – one had to go dressed for the occasion as well as prepared!

Today, that trip would take roughly and hour each way – probably the same amount of time snow or no snow – only freezing rain or solid ice on the roads today would slow folks down that much compared to the time it took them to make that trip down to get the family members and back to home again.

It was very close to 3 a.m. before they got back to the homestead here. 

And, what a sight they were too.  Grumpy, tired, cold – you better believe it but I remember as soon as Uncle Bert set foot in the house, his expression immediately turned into his big wide smile – something he was notorious for displaying as soon as he saw his parents!

His kids, all five, were still growling about how cramped it had been in the car for the last part of their Christmas Eve journey. 

You see, Herbie’s car was a 1950 Ford – I don’t know the model type – but I do know that those cars were not really made to pack four adults, three teenagers and two smaller children into in the first place.

And the fact my aunt was a little more than a trifle on the heavy-set side, as was Herbie, the driver, and Uncle Bert, while not overweight, was not exactly a small man either.
So the ride from the accident site to here – had to have been the most cramped, most uncomfortable ride any of them ever had in their entire lives.

The family missed going to the midnight church services that night but Grandma probably prayed more here at home than she would have had she been able to go to church anyway that her son, his wife and her grandchildren would soon arrive here safe and sound.

And me – I was just really, really relieved too because now, I knew Christmas would happen after all because finally, we were all together again.

And, the next day, I knew too, Ray, Dave and I – along with all the kids in the neighborhood, would be out on the hill across the road, sled riding, having a great time, while Uncle Bert and Uncle Ralph spent the day driving back to the little town where the car was parked to fix the bad tire and get the car here then.

We could finally relax then and let the holiday begin!

Snowy Day. VERY!

We've been getting reports for the past couple of days about this big winter storm that was to be heading this way and today, well trust me, it's now here!

 Lock. Stock. and Barrel!

It started to snow here roughly around 11 a.m. -while Mandy was out and about, in town to run to the bank, pick up milk and probably a couple other small grocery items as well. Good to be fairly well stocked up on food and most of the time, we usually do stay pretty well prepared. Milk though is one commodity that does tend to get depleted fairly fast.

It's now almost 4 p.m. so after roughly five hours or so of this fine snow, sometimes feeling a bit mist-like, sometimes sounding -and feeling too -that there might just happen to be a few ice crystals or sleet mixed in with the snow and I'd guestimate that we already have 4 inches now or very darned close to that amount since 11 a.m.

The snow falling this quickly was enough to alert Miss Dawn, Kurt's TSS, that maybe she would call it a day here a bit earlier than she was scheduled to do in order to get home safely and not go slip-sliding away down the mountain to her home. Mandy told her to call or text us when she did finally get home so that we would know she made and and when she did text us, she said it had taken her an hour and 25 minutes to make the trip, in her jeep, which amounts to about a 30-35 mile drive, give or take a little. So for her to have it take her that long to get home, you can bet your bottom dollar the roads are already treacherous!

I went out into the snow about 2 hours ago on an errand of mercy with Sammy. Figured it would be better for me to try to get him out for a little walk now instead of putting it off much longer. (Will still have to take him for another romp in the snow sometime this evening now too and that, I'm not looking forward to, for sure!) When we came back in the house and I took his leash off him, he bolted off like a streak of lightning -running around the house like a half-crazed little mutt -which he is -but give him a dabble of snow and he really gets excited and races and chases all over the place. Even came out into my room as I was taking my boots off and hopped up onto my bed.

Thankfully, I don't have any fancy-schmancy spread atop my bed and certainly there is nothing even remotely resembling a velvet coverlet, for sure! (Hey, with a dog (even as small as Sam is) plus at least 2, sometimes a 3rd cat often sharing my bed, I'd be crazy to invest in a sumptuous type of spread or comforter, wouldn't I?)

Of course, Mandy could always invest in something really nice like that and use it for a good while and then, when it's been "broke in" ya know, she could pass it on to me as a well-worn object that no small animal friends need worry then about ruining it!

That would work for me, anyway.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Out and About

So -as happens here every day now -I finally got my self awake enough to venture out for the first walk of the day with Sammy. That was about 2 p.m. when I did that. Yes, it took me several hours to get up the energy level to want to take him out in the cold for the much-needed stroll.

Surprisingly enough though, it wasn't as cold outside as I had feared it might be. Thank goodness for that small favor, for sure!

We got a pretty covering of snow from last evening through the night and morning hours to make the place look whiter and brighter and very pretty. When Sam and I took our walk, it was sort of misty -a very, very fine mixture of snow and a dabble of rain -just enough to provide a touch of moisture but nothing accumulating from it -at least not today or not yet, anyway!

I had bundled up -a lot -to prepare for this outing with a tee shirt, covered by a heavy sweat shirt, warm sweat pants, boots to wade through any accumulation or guide me across any possible slippery spots, a nice, thick warm scarf around my neck, my heavy, hooded with fur trim winter jacket and knit gloves that will extend clear up to the elbow too!

I got to thinking as we walked though that as mild as the temps were today, if I'd had in my possessions a patagonia vest type item, I probably could have gotten away without having had to bundle up as much as I did!

But, unfortunately, I don't happen to have anything like that in my closet so I was left with no real choice in the matter. Go outside being just a tad overdressed for the weather or omit some of the heavy clothing and run the risk of freezing myself -even though it was, as I said above, actually quite mild.

For my part, I much prefer to being out in the elements with a bit of extra apparel on and staying warm.

How about you?

Something Missing Today...

Merry Christmas!

That's one thing that isn't missing from me today and here's hoping all my Blogger and Facebook Friends as well as other friends and family members as well all are able to say that they had a Merry Christmas today.

Ours got of to a bit of a rocky -and rather sad -start this morning.

Mandy woke up around 6 a.m. and apparently heard some suspicious sounds floating up the steps to her bedroom and so, she got up then and ventured down to check them out.

What to her eyes did appear? No, it wasn't St. Nick and 8 tiny reindeer but the residue from that crew after 2 small children had apparently got up around 5 a.m. and ventured downstairs and made short order out of opening every single package left behind under and around the tree for them!

All that without their Mom or me being able to watch their excitement, the glee in their faces, and the surprises those packages held in store as they tore into those presents and no camera to record that for posterity!

Needless to say, Mandy was very disappointed and very, very hurt by the kids actions. She had so looked forward to watching the smiles appear, the eyes twinkling with joy from see the presents Santa had left behind here. Truth be told, I was feeling very much the same way too.

Both kids had apparently done the deed and then, went back to bed because Maya was in bed with me when Mandy came into my room to raise a little cain with her about having upset that precarious applecart of wishes in Mandy's mind for a great start to Christmas Morning.

Neither of them has ever done anything like that before and after the dressing out Mandy gave them this morning, I sure do hope they never get an idea like that ever again!

In Search of Calgon...

My dear, ever so thoughtful daughter, left this tab up on the top of my computer screen earlier and being the nosy person I do tend to be at times, I had to open it and check it out for myself.

5 Day Forecast

Updated: Dec 25, 2012, 3:12pm EST

Tonight Dec 25

Mostly Cloudy
32°F Observed High 7:05 am
Mostly Cloudy

Wed Dec 26

Snow to Wintry Mix / Wind
Snow to Wintry Mix / Wind

Thu Dec 27

Snow Shower / Wind
Snow Shower / Wind

Fri Dec 28

Partly Cloudy
Partly Cloudy

Sat Dec 29


Yes, that's the five-day forecast for this region.

Don't even think about asking me if I'm impressed with this or not because I think you all probably know my answer to that already.

No matter how much I love living here in this little village and being content to mull over -frequently -so many wonderful memories I have of growing up here, of living in the old family homestead again for the past 33 years now, a weather forecast like this one makes me think that maybe there is potential in looking into a home at Ocean Isle Beach Real Estate after all!

The thought of a snow storm coming our way that may be packing with it the possibility -very REAL possibility too, no less -of anywhere from at least 6 inches of snow but most likely a minimal figure of 12 inches and up to perhaps 18 inches accumulation over a 24-hour time period.does tend to put ideas of a warmer climate in my mind -even if only briefly!

I don't mind and can abide a little snow, a little at a time -not major accumulations such as this stuff predicted for our region. 

Sadly though, the weather forecasters can only tell us what they see if going to happen and it's beyond their ability to manipulate good old Mother Nature into a change there so guess we'll just have to wait and see and take what we get!

Close But Not Quite Done...

Christmas Eve is now in the annals for 2012 but Christmas is far from past -at least not here in this house. Not yet!

The tree is surrounded right now with packages galore -all for two small children who reside here. And, strangely enough, although there would appear to be enough gifts there to allow for probably at least 1 present to give to almost every other youngster here in town, Mandy knows there will still be a majorly upset little girl come morning when she realizes there is NO DSS amongst the presents here!

Too bad and sooooo sad is going to be the tag line from the adults -not that it will bring any comfort to her though.

We went to the 4 p.m. service at church today -mainly because the children both had parts with the Children's Choir for a nativity scene and song during today's service. I tried to video their part but it was hard to get a smooth picture going as there were too many people in front of where we were seated to get a nice clean shot. Oh well. It's a memento, such as it is, anyway and was a very cute presentation the kids made too!

I had planned to go to church to the late service tonight as well -at 10 p.m. -but the weather during the early service had begun to turn nasty -and when we left the church to come back home then, the car was coated with snow then and the roads were getting very slick too. Normally, snowfall wouldn't deter me now since I do have 4-wheel drive in the jeep but I just found out yesterday that the jeep also has a bad wheel bearing (left rear) and Mandy really didn't like the idea of my driving out there tonight with the jeep not being quite up to par level.

So, after supper tonight, I sat down in my recliner to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" and did what almost always happens to me after a meal -promptly fell asleep in the chair! Good thing I've already seen that movie umpteen times already so I know how it goes!

But, tonight is also the first time in a long string of Christmas Eve's that I missed attending the late service at church and so, as a result of that, I also missed hearing our choir sing my favorite Christmas song. If you've been reading my blog lately -or for several years -you already know it's a Swedish carol and this is a quiz to see if you remember the name of it!

After supper tonight too -while I napped -Mandy helped Maya write a note to leave on the kitchen counter for Santa, telling him to have some cookies and hot coffee too so he can get warmed up and able to continue on his journey around the world today, leaving gifts for good girls and boys. (How these two ever managed to fool him into believing they were so good and well-behaved as to warrant all the packages left here, I'll never be able to figure out.)

Anyway, here's a copy of the note that they wrote for Santa.along with a picture of the cookies and coffee left for him too!

Santa also printed out a thank you note to Maya for the coffee and cookies and even explained a bit about some of the presents under the tree for her and for Kurtis. As I was sitting here, writing this post, I heard footsteps on the stairs and then, the hall door opened and there's Maya -up at 2 a.m.! She found the note Santa had left for her on the tree, read it and was very happy with that.

Then, she decided to go back to bed but instead of going back upstairs, she decided she's going to sleep the rest of the night now in my room with good old Gram! Last night, she had gone upstairs and went to bed in her room as she wasn't happy with some things her Mother had told her as Mandy had tried to explain that there was probably not going to be a DSS (video game toy) under the tree for her as she wanted. So, as a result Maya had gone upstairs to bed because, as she told Mandy, "I need to think about some things!" Hmmm. My sweet little girl is growing up way too quickly in many ways but still, she bought the note for Santa and even the "Thank you" note he left behind so all is not history -not quite yet anyway. Maybe one more year of the fantasy fun still is waiting?

I'm pretty well "baked out" right about now as I have baked bread and sweet rolls and more bread and more sweet rolls in the past two weeks than I've ever made in such a short period of time before!

The last batch of sweet rolls I made -on Friday -were filled with a raspberry filling and they baked up beautifully and were soft and light in texture. Really MMMMMM-MMMMM good, for sure. Christmas Eve morning, I had baked yet another batch of the Swedish Limpa Rye bread too -took a loaf with me to church to give to a good friend of mine there as I know she very much loves the home-baked bread but is unable anymore to do things like that for herself due to the arthritis that plagues her now.

Tonight, around 11:30, I ventured out to walk Sammy and what a difference a day (or night) makes! Last night, it was all moonlit, stars galore shining and really, really cold -the kind that starts to feel like your nostrils are being pulled shut! Tonight, the sky was filled with clouds, covering the moon and stars and snow was still lightly falling but it was actually quite warm compared to last night's stroll! Peaceful and pretty too, even if the snow is going to make the roads treacherous and also, the weather is supposed to get even worse, come Wednesday into Thursday when the forecasters say we probably will get hit with between 6 and 12 inches of snow -at least!

And tonight, as Sammy and I walked, I was contemplating how different the house was tonight on Christmas Eve compared to other years -quiet! A very unusual thing to have in this old place on Christmas Eve, for sure!

Normally, my kids and I -and since the grandchildren came along over the past 14 years, it's always been pretty hectic and usually very noisy here on Christmas Eve as well as in the morning of Christmas Day too with the family being gathered here but tonight, it was just Mandy and the kids and me enjoying more of the Christmas Ham I cooked for our family gathering we had this past Saturday. A very tasty meal it was tonight, but also very different being just the four of us, for a change.

Thinking back over the years (yes, I've been doing a whole lot of that lately), this old house hasn't been this quite on a Christmas Eve in nigh onto 50 years -since the Christmas of 1963, after my Grandmother passed away earlier that year. Prior to her passing, at least two of my uncles and some of my cousins were always here to liven the place and make the holiday very merry and bright. But Christmas of 1963, it was just me and my Mom here that year and also over the next 2 years too. By 1966, my Mom was living with me in Maryland and the house was closed up most of the year except for a couple weeks in the summer when my Mom and her older sister and brother-in-law would be here for a little vacation time. It wasn't until 1972, when my ex-husband and I moved back to Pennsylvania that the house became a little alive over the holidays and then, from 1973 until this year, it's been the focal point for my kids and me. There was one year in the early 80s when the kids went to Ohio and spent Christmas there with their Dad and I was in Transfer, PA with the guy I was engaged to and his family that year. (One of the most depressing Christmases I have ever spent as it was the only one to date that I wasn't with my kids on Christmas!)

All this brings back lots of other memories of Christmas past -thankfully, no real ghosts though like Scrooge had visit him, but yet, a bit like that classic story as one replays the mental videos again.

So now, tonight -or rather this morning now -I'm going to turn in and maybe dream about those Christmases of long ago for me -spent with my aunts and uncles and cousins and the warmth just thinking of all of them -and me -reunited again -brings to my mind.

Wishing you and yours a very Blessed Christmas and of course, may we all have a very Happy New Year too!

And let there please, be PEACE on Earth and Goodwill to Men!

Monday, December 24, 2012

For the Love of Music....

Time is running down now -almost midnight and it will be Christmas Eve. Already. Again!

Where does the time go that it seems now to move so much faster than ever before, ya know.

When I was a kid, it seemed to drag, on and on, forever, that year from one Christmas to the next and yet, those years -so many now -are all like a flash in the pan that they came and went by so darned quickly.

Bear with me a bit as I wax a little nostaligic most likely this week. Christmas tends to do that to me.

I'm lucky, I think, in that I do have many, many memories of wonderful times spent with family over the Christmas holidays for the first 18 years, at least, of my life.

One of the things I remember very vividly about those days with my aunts, uncles and cousins though always involved music -lots and lots of music, with my Mom or once in a blue moon, my Aunt Mamie playing the piano and my cousins and I all gathered around who ever was the pianist, along with a couple of adults and usually our Grandfather, and we joined voices and sang lots and lots of Christmas carols.

Sometimes, we would be doing the Christmas carol songfest here when my Dad's baby sister, my Aunt Mike, would arrive and we'd even get her to join us too. (She, like so many in my Dad's family, had a whole lot of musical ability too -beautiful alto voice and she was also the organist/choir director too at her church in Morrisdale, in addition to teaching music too at the school in that town as well. We did have a good assortment of family members who could carry a tune and even harmonize very well -especially with my Grandpa joining us with his beautiful, rich, clear bass voice!

So, when my granddaughter, Miss Maya, came along and early on, it seemed that she too has a good bit of musical ability in her, this made me especially happy to see that in her.

She has been a part of the children's choir in our church since she was five years old now and has even learned one of my favorite hymns in Swedish too! Quite a coup for a five year old to manage to do that, don't 'cha think?

One of the toys she received early on -when she was about 3 or barely over that -was a toy, but it was a workable toy too. It consisted of a tape cassette player as well as a recorder complete with a microphone too. She loved it but unfortunately, pretty much wore out the batteries so quickly from playing with it that we couldn't afford to keep it working then! (I think she also just wore it out from use too though!)

Because of her love of music though, her aides and therapists have often given her gifts for Christmas or her birthday that involved musical things. And one year, for her birthday, they pooled their resources and gave her a more grown up version of the cassette player/recorder she'd had when she was little. This one also featured the ability to use it as a karaoke machine too! Just what she needed.

She hasn't played with that in a while lately mainly because she's currently really into watching videos on youtube of girls dancing, doing ballet and gymnastics -that's her fad right now. But I supposed there will come a day soon enough when she will rediscover that karaoke capability in that unit in her bedroom -sitting quietly now, waiting for her interests to shift back to it again and who knows, we may find ourselves searching of a pcdj at Musician's Friend to get her to keep that machine up to par on all levels then.

Meanwhile, today now, we will be heading out to church in the afternoon for the first (the "early") service which will be mainly music and the children's choir will have a special number they will be performing at that service. You can bet your bottom dollar too that Gram will have her little digital camera in tow and at the right time, will be clicking on the video capacity of that unit to capture the music with both my Grandchildren -Maya and Kurtis, too -involved! (Kurtis sometimes is a bit iffy about the singing stuff. He goes to practice, seems all geared up for it and then, sometimes at the drop of a hat, will change his mind and flat out refuse to participate. So here's hoping today is not one of those non-participating days for him!)

Then, late tonight, we will try to venture back out into the cold and attend the second service at church which will begin at 10 p.m. That service is also one that is music-laden and will begin with the senior choir singing a capella from the Narthex of the church, the Swedish Carol I love so dearly -"Lyssna, Lyssna!"

And once again, Christmas will have arrived and gone too but not before hearing and sharing lots and lots of beautiful Christmas music and songs!

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Frosty Moonlit Night...

I took Sammy out for a little much needed stroll tonight around 9:30 p.m. and the way the cold hit me, plus the moon shining so bright and the stars all glistening so pretty, along with the crunchy sound coming from stepping on the snow-coated ground brought to mind a memory of a night here many years ago.

I don't recall the year or my age -just a guestimate that it may have been the Christmas when I was either in 6th or 7th grade -mainly because my cousin Joan was with us that year. It may have been Christmas Night or perhaps the night after Christmas but it involved a walk in the cold, on a snow-covered road with two of my uncles and at least 3 of my cousins. If I was in the 6th grade, my cousin Carl would have been along but I don't remember him being with us so perhaps I was in the 7th grade that year.

Anyway, it was a very, very cold night, that I do recall. And the moon was shining so bright, reflecting off all the whiteness of the snow all around too that there was no need at all to bring a flashlight as my uncles decided it would be a really great thing to go for a walk down our road towards Peale, the ghost town.

And so, about 10 or 11 o'clock that night (most of my Mom's family all had a tendency to being night hawks, so I came by that trait very honestly, you see) Mom's older brothers, Uncle Bert and Uncle Ralph (who were always here for Christmas when I was growing up) and Uncle Bert's three younger children -Joannie, Ray and David -and I set out on this almost midnight stroll in the very, very cold moonlight.

I don't remember now if it was their intent that we would walk the distance of almost two miles in the cold and snow down to the curve in the road that meant you were entering the defunct village of Peale or if maybe they had just been thinking of a shorter stroll initially, but once we got started, we kids were having a really fun time, wading through the snow that was virtually untouched -probably at least 8-10 inches deep along our route too.

My uncles talked as we walked -pointing out things they remembered from their childhood days when there were still several houses still standing along the hillside there and they recollected too memories of the time they had both spent working in the coal mines with Grandpa -their Dad.

Their talking about working in the mines also reminded them of what had caused them to decide to move away from here and venture down to Pittsburgh to look for other employment as neither of them wanted to stay here and be relegated to a life depending on working underground, in very cold and often extremely wet territory just to barely eke out a living too.

Once we reached that particular curve in the road, we turned around and headed back home.

Ray, Dave and I were walking together with Joannie a short distance behind us and we were running, scooping up snow and tossing it around, talking, singing, joking and just, in general, having a whole lot of fun.

Keep in mind though that this road is out in the woods -no one was living in that old coal mining town by that time.

I don't know who noticed it first, but one of my cousins or I saw what looked like movement in and along the trees -lots and lots of big old pine and hemlocks -that bordered the road there and we stopped walking briefly to look and listen, but then, neither saw nor heard any movement, so we continued on our way.

We took only a few more steps though and heard the rustling sounds of something walking on top of the ice-encrusted snow there and so, stopped yet again for a few seconds, then resumed walking but much slower. Then we noticed shadows cast from the bright moonlight which showed an outline of something quite large moving along in the woods, almost beside us. At that, we began to get a bit nervous.

As we turned around to look for Uncle Bert or Uncle Ralph, we didn't see them behind us and that's when we got very nervous and started to run a little and the rustling noises got closer and louder and that shadow got larger and closer to us too.

Then, it came -a noise from the "thing" whatever it was that was trailing us and now, catching up quickly to us and we kids all let out a scream that probably could be heard up the road a mile or better a our grandparents' home!

And with that screaming we were doing, we then also heard very loud laughter and guffaws and the unmistakable voice of our Uncle Ralph as he began to holler and pick on us, calling us a bunch of babies for being afraid of a shadow -his shadow, too boot!

That little run though sure did get the blood flowing and warmed us all up too so it had a good benefit to his scaring the living daylights out of us.

And tonight, as I walked Sam up the street -away from the road that goes to Peale because I wouldn't want to walk down into those woods even in the bright moonlight as it is tonight, by myself, that much is for sure -the memory of that walk many years ago was crystal clear then in my mind's eye.

I remember it for the fun it was being with my uncles and cousins and having a little expedition like that. And today, I remember it ever so fondly as a time when life was so carefree for my cousins and for me and also, for the fun-loving ways my uncles had that they both enjoyed scaring us kids that way.

Uncle Bert has been gone for almost 46 years now and Uncle Ralph for almost 19 years and in those years in between, so have their four siblings -my Mom, Uncle Cookie, Aunt Ethel and Aunt Mamie -all joined them too. Now, it's down to my generation and already, three of my cousins have passed now too -David, Nancy and Carl -leaving the other 8 of us to remember and try to share the memories of loving, very special parents we had and the closeness that existed back in those days between the cousins then too.

I hope someday my children and grandchildren will share memories they have of growing up here that are sweet, sentimental and special to them as mine are of my family and my childhood.

Recognizing Abilities?

Music seems to be on my mind today. It's a topic that actually is very near and dear to my heart but one that whatever talent I was blessed with has pretty much gone to waste or to pot (not the leafy kind either) over my lifetime.

And remember now too, my lifetime involves a lot of years, ya know!

As a child, I was fortunate enough that we had a big old piano here in the house and my Mom insisted on my taking piano lessons. I think I started when I was about in 3rd grade to take lessons but I was not exactly a good student because I definitely did not like the teacher I had as she was old (VERY old) and EXTREMELY strict too and my responses to both the circumstances of her instructions there wasn't what my Mom wanted, for sure.

Okay -I hated to practice!

When I was in 4th grade, the music teacher we had back then, tested every single elementary school student at the 3 elementary schools in our township for their musical ability and as a result, those who were found to have what he felt was a modicum of talent for music, were then selected to take home papers to their parents extolling the benefits of signing said child(ren) up to take instruction on various instruments. People were asked to search their homes -attics in particular -to see if there might be an old instrument or two, hidden away, unused, that their child or perhaps some other child, could use to learn how to play whatever instruments could be found.

It was then discovered that at my Dad's family homestead there was an old violin that one of my uncles had learned to play and that I could use it to sign up to take violin lessons. Which I did and for three years then, I took violin lessons at school plus occasionally continuing with the piano instruction too.

Now, if any of you know anything at all about beginning musical instructions on any instrument but especially on a violin, it is a very arduous and often painful process to endure for those around the student!

It was a blessing that my grandfather's hearing wasn't very good by the time I began the instructions on the violin because the screeching sounds that came from my putting bow to the strings -well it was pretty darned ugly! But my grandfather -who apparently truly believed I could do no wrong -would always tell me how nice my violin playing sounded. It was either that or he had gone completely deaf!

So now, at the age Maya is -as I've mentioned before, we've had an excursion down the recorder path and she has, from time to time, mentioned learning to play a REAL instrument. She does have some musical ability -that much we've seen and yes, because I had the opportunity to at least learn to read music and to stumble through playing the piano (also really stumble through playing the organ at church in my teen years). putting my grandparents through the hell of a learning musician too not just with the piano and violin but eventually in 6th and 7th grade, with the French Horn then too, (my grandparents were both obviously heading for sainthood), I'd love to see Maya be afforded the opportunities or at least one, that I had as a child.

When Maya was a mere 2-3 year old, she began exhibiting some signs of interest in an instrument -at that time, it began with a toy guitar but based on the way she held it and tried to play it, her dad -along with another family member -both thought that perhaps she would do well to learn to play a guitar. I think this was a trifle too early for her but it was pretty neat to watch her in action with a larger guitar she got one year for Christmas as she would insist then on watching the Country Music Channel on TV and she would then emulate in posture as well as fingering, dance moves as well as learning the words to many of the songs that were popular at that time. It was one of the early things she did that really shocked and amazed us at her abilities for her age.

Over the next 3 years, she managed to have 2 guitars in addition to the toy one, given to her. One was a relatively inexpensive instrument but it was the real thing, none the less. (Obviously none of the two larger guitars were even close to being an affordable epiphone but still and all, it did awaken all of us to the fact that the girl does have a lot of talent.

Now, the key factor is how do we determine which instrument would be a wise choice for her and one that would/could also fit into the family budget?

That's the hard part of trying to find a way to allow a child the opportunity to learn some very valuable and useful knowledge  for future use.

Well, that and getting a child to practice, too!

Nice Words...

If you remember, one of my recent posts was about our church service last Sunday when the speaker who was supposed to be there, for whatever reason, didn't show up and a man who is a long-time member of the congregation agreed to lead the congregation in the liturgical part of the service and a neighbor of mine's grandson offered to deliver an "off the cuff" sermon too.

Both guys did an excellent job -considering neither was prepared to do that, at all!

After the fact of my post though, as I was reading posts in my very over-populated reader, I saw a comment by a reader of one of my favorite blogs - Older Eyes - had written in a comment to him about another post of his that at that reader's church last Sunday, the text for the day was based on Psalms 30, verse 5 -which dealt almost exactly with the message our young man spoke about in his unplanned sermon! What a pleasant surprise to see that and how nicely it acknowledged then too his ability in addressing a topic.

Also, since I'm referring any of you who haven't ever heard of the Blog -Older Eyes and the author of it -"Bud" -please check out his writings as he posts some really, really thoughtful and very informative posts.

And, while I'm at it, I want to thank him in my words here today for the comments he left on my last couple of posts too -especially the ones in which I mentioned the problems with our society and our mental health care system in the wake of the the Newtown tragedy.

So good, so comforting too, to learn I'm not alone in my heartbreak and dismay over the total situation that has been brought upon us on Friday morning, December 13th.

Please, for the sake of who knows how many others, pray that the government, the insurance companies and the mental health community all begin to work together to find ways to help those who are in dire need of medication, hospitalization if necessary or perhaps, in some instances, just counseling.

The lives that can be saved through much needed changes in this process could very easily be yours, a family member's, a friends or countless others unknown to each of us but who otherwise would languish and could possibly even lash out on society in yet more tragic events than we've already seen.

And, in my opinion -hopefully yours too -Lord knows that we've all seen way more than enough of these things!

The Beginnings....

Sometime in the past week or two (can't remember exactly when because truthfully, I wanted to not think about this) Maya made an announcement here.

This is the kind of announcement that tends to strike fear into the hearts (and ears too) of almost all parents.

"Next month, we're all going to get a Recorder and learn to play them in our Music Class."

Oh my!

I was reminded by my daughter that I was the fool who on a whim actually bought both the kids each a recorder (on sale for only a buck a piece so I figured it was a great bargain, ya know).

Those recorders were also given though with instructions that the playing of said instruments would only take place in the bedrooms of each child here.

Yeah, you know how long that edict lasted, don't 'cha?

However, with the school having this as part of a class activity and also, that Maya has been -off and on -talking fondly about getting an instrument of some type and learning, seriously learning, how to play some instrument, one that she has mentioned and which there is at least at the moment, a bit of potential is a flute.

Maybe I'm just in an ultra-Christmas mood or something but I could be talked into perhaps helping with said purchase at some date in the relatively near future.

Who knows what's around the musical corner in this house, ya know

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Surprise Service...

This past Sunday the members of our congregation had a bit of a surprise in store for the service.

At the present time, we have no full-time minister serving our parish so the minister at a neighboring church -about 12 miles or so from ours -is the vice-pastor and he serves us three Sundays out of the month with usually one Sunday when we have a supply pastor or speaker who leads the worship service.

The President of the Church Council always makes any pertinent announcements every Sunday prior to the beginning of the service and two days ago, after he finished making his "announcements" he said "Oh and we do have one more announcement today. We have no speaker as the gentleman who was to be with us isn't here and I haven't been able to reach him on the telephone."

Hmmm. What to do now?

He asked if anyone would be willing to lead the service and one member did step forward and said he would be happy to try to do that. That still left us with no one to deliver the sermon though.

Early on in the liturgy, a young man walked quietly up to the chairs behind the pulpit and said something to the man leading the service and then the younger fellow walked back and sat down.

Just before the time for the sermon, the liturgist announced that the young man had come up and told him that he would be willing to try to deliver a sermon based loosely on one he'd had to read a couple weeks ago when the church youth group had the service but he'd also try to interject points from the readings of the day in it too whenever he could.

And so, that's how the son and grandson of two of my neighbors down the street came to deliver a sermon that was pretty much just off the top of his head but one that he did a really great job in speaking his thoughts in a very organized fashion!

The mix-up on the speaker and all that did provide for one of the fastest services we've had but it all worked out quite well anyway!

Leaving church, as the young man and the other one shook everyone's hands as we were exiting the sanctuary, I told the younger guy -who is a Freshman this year in college -that perhaps he should think about the ministry as his potential calling as I shook his hand, gave him a big hug and he returned it to me!

He really should listen to me because, yes, he did a very good job!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

What next?

Boy, things just seem to get crazier and crazier, don't they?

The days since learning of the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut have been filled with way too much trauma and news that is impossible to fathom that someone could do something this atrocious. To try to wrap one's mind around what could possibly have gone on in that young man's mind to shoot all these people -and especially those little children is an impossibility to me.

I can't even begin to think of how I would feel and/or react if someone took the life of a loved one in any way, shape or form, much less in a manner such as this was. Just to think about something like that happening here is entirely too painful to even consider.

Where do we, as a nation, go from this point now is the question.

Does gun control work? Not really as evidenced by the fact that the guns used in this were all purchased legally. That this young man had access to them is something else to be considered though.

Frankly, the mental health issues are the ones I think need to be given massive consideration.

There is a great gulf in this county -perhaps world-wide too, who knows -that creates a tremendous need for many improvements in the availability of mental health care, just for openers. Mental health care that is also affordable too, I might add. It does not good to have it available if people can not afford to access it.

As a country though, we also need to have a much better understanding of the issues of mental health and the important part it plays in the overall picture of people being able to function properly. Believe it or not, so many people still make fun of various mental health issues -ranging from depression to paranoia and psychosis -all actions that certainly do nothing to improve conditions for healing for many of those who deal with these problems on a daily basis.

The stigma that has always been attached to a mental health diagnosis is just as rampant today as it was a century ago. And this is one area where better understanding of the symptoms and treatments available could go a long, long way.

Awareness of the symptoms and how they can affect individuals is a necessity. Someone with a mental health problem may actually have physical symptoms that point to other illnesses -such as high blood pressure, fatigue, inability to focus and function, aches and pains that can't be determined as to the source often are caused by depression. And that's just for openers.

People will sometimes look for treatment of the physical complaints they have but it often takes a lot more intensive diagnostic care to realize that issues of depression can be the root cause.

Yes, our mental health often plays a critical role in our physical well-being too and should be given just as much attention to getting it the care needed as one would take if you broke a bone or were running a very high temperature and/or other physical signals of something being awry.

That's my thoughts on where to begin trying to make societal changes to curb events like this from happening. Not that it is a definite cure-all, but it is a start and one that shouldn't or wouldn't bring about outcrys of anger and such over the thought of people's Second Amendment rights being upended.

I personally see nothing wrong at all with gun registration, licensing, testing people for proper knowledge of gun handling and of having an attitude too that is conducive to not being over-reactive to various situations either. No, I don't own a gun but I have nothing against hunting or the sports affiliated with gun usage -skeet shooting, other types of competitions involving guns either.

The gun control debates go back really beginning probably with the assassination of President Kennedy and many of the killings since that time there have been various gun control regulations in place but which by some method or other were managed to be avoided and people who shouldn't have had a gun, did!

We all hear the old line about Guns don't kill people but people kill people. and yes, that is a fact, for sure. But having fewer means for anyone and everyone to gain access to any kind of weapon would perhaps be a start in that direction too. We have plenty of gun control laws but not enough of them prevent their ending up in the wrong hands.

As to needing a gun for protection of self and family, is a full-fledged arsenal REALLY what people need in each and every home?

The deed of killing all these innocent children and teachers has been done and for now, I think prayers for understanding, for solace, peace and comfort to the families is the number 1 priority at this point in time. Then, reflection of what may have been the trigger to this and open discussions of what is needed for prevention of individuals taking steps like this again.

Please, let's look at this logically and realistically but each of us doing our best to learning and understanding of the issues those around us may be dealing with but of which we are totally unaware of the pain and stress levels that so often exist in the minds of others.


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Special Attire Needed!

A while back, I found this really neat pattern to crochet cute little hats. They are the kind that pull down over your ears, keep your head warm, your ears and you can roll the brim in the back but leave it flat in the front. I made some that I donated for door prizes at my Class Reunion and then, used some red, white and green mixed yarn to make one of these just for me to wear when I have to venture out in the cold to take Sammy for his walks over the coming (fast approaching, really) winter months.

However, as nice and comfy and warm as this hat is, it leaves a lot to be desired with the type of weather we seem to be having most of the time here.

Which is to say it's been raining --a lot! Like almost every day, or so it does seem to me anyway.

Sammy doesn't really care for walking in the rain although he has no objections to walking in freshly deposited snow. I'm pretty much the same way.

I have decided I need a different hat to wear when we are forced to go out in the rain.

I found just the site too where I can get one with a nifty large brim that the rain water could hit and then very neatly just flow off the hat and eliminate the need for me to carry an umbrella then.

What kind of hat might this be, you ask?

Well, let me just show you a Jim-dandy one I found among a bunch of other Womens Cowboy Hats shown at the very top of the page here.

Now, be honest and tell me, don't you think this would work to keep the rain well-directed and away from me?

And wouldn't Sammy and I look just the fine pair, strutting our stuff down the street?

Well, maybe it would be a good idea but at a much lower price range to suit my budget.

So much then for the best laid plans of mice men, ya know.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Drowning Charlotte...

It was, I know, a dastardly deed that I did today. But, you see, I couldn't help myself. I just couldn't!

I killed Charlotte. Yes, I did it and I have no regrets, sorry to say to those arachnid lovers who might be around, although I think they are pretty much few and far between in number aren't they?

I was in the bathroom, undressing to get into the shower. I had already placed my clean clothes that I planned to wear to my monthly lunch group meeting with some of my high school classmates on the top of a cabinet in the bathroom and had my pjs and robe also laying there. I turned to finish undressing and what I saw then caused me to let out an audible gasp.

There, laying on top of my nice white, very plush bathrobe was a spider -a pretty darned good-sized one and a black one at that!

Surely this must be one of those very poisonous black widow spiders I thought.

Then I thought but how the heck am I going to get rid of it as obviously it was still alive and healthy -even though it wasn't moving.

Spiders and I are not friends. Not. In. The. Least!

Normally, my move would be to stomp on it but unfortunately, my leg sure as heck wouldn't allow me to lift it up that high to begin with and that too would probably leave some marks or some kind of residue on my lovely robe, wouldn't it?

How to get rid of this ugly thing then?

I grabbed a fistful of toilet paper, all bunched up and bravely reached over and snagged that spider in the folds of the toilet paper.

Pulling my arm back, I looked down at Charlotte and saw she was wiggling about a bit as I then very quietly dropped the bunch of toilet paper -holding Miss Charlotte firmly in there -into the commode and pulled the lever to flush.

I watched as Charlotte tried in vain to swim out but to no avail. However, she was apparently a better swimmer than I had judged her to be as when the commode had refilled the bowl, I noticed she was still there and still swimming too!


Pull that lever down once again and this time, I watched as this was one spout she wasn't going to survive going down and coming back to haunt me ever again!

And that my friends is how I ended Miss Charlotte's life in her web today!

And I can enter my bathroom again now with the peace of mind that at least there is one less spider roaming around my house tonight!

Did I mention how much I hate spiders?

Well, now you know, don't you?

Monday, December 10, 2012

It's That Time of Year....

Unless you are living under a rock or a total unbeliever, you're aware that we are full into the Christmas Season now this year! What does this mean to you? Is it a Christmas tree, decorating all over the house, special festive clothes, shopping, or more than the usual number of excursions into the kitchen to produce many delicious aromas and great-tasting little goodies? Or are there other things that come into your mind besides all or many of those above mentioned things? For me -it frequently seems to put my brain into overdrive and especially so where the memory factors of my life to date are involved. These memory clips are not all related to Christmas though as some of them are just little blips here and there that slip and slide through my brain. Some of them last a bit longer as I mull them over again and again then, remembering so many things -people, places, positives as well as negatives too often come into my mind. Often, a lot of these random things -and some of them also then make my pea brain wander off in directions that some would probably be saying "OMG! How weird that you thought of that or in this or that way and why now, too?" Many of my strange thinkings come about when my brain is a bit on the empty side though -which generally happens when I am doing something really exciting, totally scintillating to my brain, like walking the dog! This morning, while walking Sam -before the rain came back again -the weather very much brought to mind the way the weather was on a Saturday back in time, in late April of 1991 -grey all day, rain off and on but mainly misting then, a little bit heavier later on but not a downpour. Temps that day were a little chilly early in the day for April but by that night, it was a lot more on the "nippy" side. And it was that evening when my life along with my kids' lives too took a really drastic turn! That was the night that my son, in his infinite wisdom and myriad of talents, managed to catch the upstairs of our house on fire! It was not a really devastating fire but it was bad enough to pretty much destroy the upstairs of the house -meaning the bedrooms but thankfully, not the roof. And it entailed then our living -one adult and two teenagers -in a motel room for almost 4 months after that while the house was being repaired. What caused that bit of a debacle I learned that night from the fire chief that it was started by a smoldering cigarette in my son's bed! Hmmm. So that's what he did when I had grounded him for the night? And today, as I looked back on that episode in my lifte -it dawned on me that I really should be thankful it was only a cigarette that caused that and not something like a cigar or a macanudo, to be precise.

Don't ask me how in blazes the idea of a Cuban cigar entered into my pea brain storm here as I have no clue and don't even know anyone today who even smokes cigars!

Maybe I'm reinventing my mind back to the days -almost 50 years ago -when I slaved for about 8-9 months at the cigar factory that used to exist near here at a job I hated!

At any rate, whatever brought that on, go figure!

Awesome, Adorable, Amazing -Also Annoying!

Those words in my title are how I would frequently describe my family -kids and also, my grandchildren too. And they are all of those things -and then some much of the time. They range in age from the youngest in the mix who is now four-years old to the oldest, who is way up in years having moved up to a new decade -the fifties! Three of them are my biological children, three are my biological grandchildren, four are quasi-grandchildren (my term for part of the family -just not by blood), three are significant others and two are not quite in the ranks of being quasi-grandkids. At least, not at this time. One of the quasi-grandchildren is going to make me a quasi-step-great-grandmother somewhere around early February too! Quite a mixture there, huh? At least two of the grandchildren also bring with them another word from the "A" section of the dictionary too. That word -AUTISM! My daughter Mandy and I were having a good heart-to-heart conversation last night about that thing that can be really frustrating, very depressing at times to cope with, and yet, at the same time, being around the two who have this disorder, is more than likely to be awesome and amazing! Not that I am a trained diagnostician or anything at all along those lines, but somehow, the first time I held my granddaughter (Miss Maya) when she was just one-day-old) as I looked down at her in my arms, there was a feeling -or some kind of vibes, if you will -that passed through me then and seemed to call me or beckon to me to let me know that this little baby and I had a special connection. One that said she needed me and also, that I very much needed her too! Is that ESP? I don't know if that's it or what, but there was this definite feeling I had deep inside me at that time and it's become stronger and stronger each and every day I am blessed to be around her too. And now, there is also her brother who brings the same thing to our family group -but often his surfaces in ways a bit different from his sister. But that's a normal happening isn't it -with all children and adults as well -in that we are all individuals and each of us brings with us our own sets of thoughts, ideas and yes, all kinds of quirks too! Every. Last. One. Of. Us. Does. That! Like it or not, it's the truth! Of course, as a grandparent -and yes, probably one considered to be very doting too -I tend to think those individuals who are part of my life are truly awesome. Why? Well, because they ARE. No other explanation should be necessary! But with the Autism being present, sometimes it is necessary to somehow try to show that these kids all that and a box of chocolates! Frankly, I don't agree with some things people tend to say or believe about Autism. Yes, these kids may process some things -words, actions, and the like -differently than most people, the ones society considers to be "normal" a bit differently. Or so it seems but in reality, are they really THAT much different and are they really THAT difficult to accept for who they are, warts and all? I don't understand the logic or theory behind some parents who have a child with autism but they don't do much of anything to help the child learn to adjust to what we often refer to as "Reality." People, i.e. children, ALL need discipline in so many ways and without that, think about what society will then gain ultimately -a bunch of teens and adults with no sense of understanding how to make their way in the world, with no compassion then much of the time for others, for creating then more and more bullies to try to run rampant over the rest of society. Is that a good thing to allow that to happen? I think NOT! There have been people over the years who thought at times of me as being a not-very-attentive parent to being a very strict and hard-nosed parent -depending on the child involved as well as the circumstances of what they observed about how I raised my children. For many years, I sold Avon products and yes, I was the proverbial Avon Lady who actually went door-to-door with my bag of demonstrator items and little catalog, taking orders. I also frequently had my children -especially the two younger ones -in tow with me because they sure couldn't be left home alone and I couldn't afford a sitter either! But because many of the homes I went to were often meticulous in their decor, I pressed hard on my kids that they had to behave no matter whose home we were entering! Sure there were some houses where there were children in their age range and yes, if that parent was willing to allow their child(ren) to play with mine, that was fine. But even so, they still had to learn and remember that someone else's house brought with it a lot of boundaries they had to know and respect. Sometimes, things went fine and dandy with the kids and sometimes, well not so great but overall, things usually worked out pretty good and I never hesitated to take my kids with me and into any customer's home then as a result. They were taught that from early on and they knew too that failure to uphold Mom's rules could and probably bring about consequences for their actions. Most of the time they were able to comprehend that. The grandchildren -on the other hand -well, it's often taken a lot of perseverance and repetition of rules and regulations pertaining to behavior that would be acceptable or not but they have learned a lot of what constitutes "good behavior" over the years now. Occasionally, they have slip-ups -all children (and lots of adults too) do have things like that happen in our lives, don't they (or we?) With these grandchildren and the sometimes goofy -sometimes also very annoying -little quirks they bring into the picture, we often have to try to figure out if this is something that is actually a normal -or sort of normal-behavior for a child in this age range, or is this something that comes into the picture via the Autism factor? Take Kurtis, for instance. He's come a long, long way over the past six year, that much is for certain. He didn't being to talk until he was around 4 years old and now, 2 years down the road, his vocabulary is something to behold! One never knows what comment this kid is going to pop off with next. NEVER! Sometimes, he says things that seem way beyond his years and other times, it is very babyish too. Just a heck of a mixture there, that's for sure. One thing he does, frequently, is that he sort of "chirps" almost like a little bird. And when he gets into that type of rhythm around the house (or in school) it can and usually is, more than a bit annoying! OK, make that VERY Annoying! Yes, it is! But that is something that comes from the Autism factor and I don't believe that trying to teach him it is not always appropriate behavior to make those sounds is not robbing him of anything that is his and has to remain with him forever the way it is now! It's something that yes, will bother, disrupt and often anger others who are subjected to it and one of the things we all -regardless of our status in the social community, do need to learn when and where some things are appropriate or NOT! To my mind, teaching a child to "can it" or tone it down or just to go to a different room to act in a way not fully acceptable to others is merely teaching a bit about discipline and well, good behavior. If we want and expect children with quirks such as this one to assimilate a bit, to be accepted in society by those standards, then we do have to find ways to help them to curb these actions, at least when out and about in the general public and especially when in school. If we want our children -all of 'em -to be teachable (and believe it or not, most people with autism are very capable of learning many, many things along the lines of what is considered to be "normal") we can't expect them then to be assimilated, main-streamed into a classroom and expect the teacher to have to deal with behaviors that are disruptive, especially if the child is able to learn some types of self-control. For the most part, neither Mandy nor I treat either of these kids any differently with what our expectations of them might be than I would have expected when I was raising my children! They can learn! They are learning -and lots and lots too as a matter of fact. Sometimes though, some things do take a different path to reach the objective! They have both learned over the past couple of years to behave quietly in church. It was not an easy transition a lot of the time, but we have them to where they at least -generally -do sit quietly and behave fairly well. (Yes, they do usually have things with them that can keep them quietly occupied during the service and every now and again, something might happen that will bring on a sudden outburst of tears and even very loud wailing as well, but that is no longer the norm every Sunday the way it once was. I don't get upset with people who bring babies and small children to church when those children (or babies) get upset, cry, talk out loud, sometimes even get very unruly and disruptive) misbehave as long as I see the parent is trying to teach proper behavior. When however, I encounter a child the age Kurtis is or even Maya who acts in a manner that is disrespectful of the church and the surroundings or to the parent or other authority-type figure, now that upsets me and most especially so when I know the child has not side issues to prevent them from learning good behaviors! This applies not just to church services but virtually anytime, any place. Yes, I know children can and often are impulsive, sometimes VERY much so (as often is Kurt's problem) but for the most part, we do try to nip these actions in the bud! Don't ask me to be constantly in control of the behaviors of the two kids often in my charge if you don't do the same too with your own children! A little understanding goes a long way. And, thankfully, with these two kids and in particularly in church, the overwhelming majority of our congregation is aware of their issues and having watched them grow and learn, have become very understanding of some of the challenges involved in getting these two to use their ability to make "good" or "wise" choices, at least the bulk of the time. Please though, don't allow other children to try to boss these kids by bullying them or making fun of their issues of control. If another child is loud and forceful and being mean to either of these kids, with no reason other than to just acting in a way they would not like being put back to them, then yes, you can often expect a "Mama Bear Attitude" to surface -usually from their mother! (And, if she is angry enough or hurt, her emotions might just erupt in a public place then too!) We do often have some problems with the grandson along those lines -other children who often make fun of him and he doesn't fully understand the whys and what fors of those things. How many adults understand them too for that matter but yet, expect a child who has processing issues to cope? So many people say and expect everyone to accept unequivocally the actions of their child or children because the child has Autism. And I'm fine with that to a point. That point being that the parent still needs to teach the child to be respectful, in that child's own way and no, that doesn't always make it something that is fully in line with the expectations we may hold for those "normal" children. But rather these things can and often do come in line, provided the parents are actually working with various therapeutic teaching methods by which a child can have a better chance of learning more and more about that quality we consider to be "good behavior." And so, for today -that's my little sort of rant -explanation maybe -or perhaps a bit of advice too. Regardless, I still think these kids are Awesome, Adorable and Amazing most of the time -enough so that I can understand and occasionally overlook, or at least try to lessen the annoying factors that come through in ALL of us!