Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Boys in the Band

Three of the boys in my grandson's band are graduating this season and moving on with their lives. His Mom, at whose home the boys practiced and who had the privilege (and courage) of hearing them go from noise to good music, asked me to make some special cards for her to give them at graduation. My taste in music has mellowed with age and I had to look back a bit to see if I could come up with the right image for young musicians of today. She says I succeeded.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Cross Country Ramble

I was reading my old journals the other day and one shot me back in time to twenty years ago, to a trip taken in an effort to heal a troubled soul and mend a broken heart. I was trying to work my way through a life changing and painful time and decided I needed to do something just for me, something that required enough courage to give me a feeling of strength and confidence. I decided to take a two month sabbatical and wander across the country, landing in Tucson, Arizona, where my father and stepmother lived. There I would spend six weeks getting to know if there was hope for a relationship with a man who had been driven from my life at the age of fourteen.

Since this is about the trip, I will tell you here that my father and I found truth and love and were very close until the day he died. And my stepmother, Mom to me since that trip, took the place in my life that was formerly held by a sociopath. As for the broken heart, as everyone knows, it takes more than a few months to recover from one of those, but I was headed in the right direction.

So, I had my car tuned up, collected maps from AAA, packed, grabbed my guitar and headed out across the land.

I headed south through Massachusetts, Connecticut and so on, visiting a sister along the way, then took my time cruising along The Skyline drive in the Blue Ridge Mt's. of Virginia. Beautiful vistas greeted me at every turn and I spotted many deer munching lush green growth as I traveled along. And there were thousands of delicate white butterflies, gathering at pools of water left by a passing storm.

Next, I rambled through the Great Smokies, magnificent, hazy, blue green mountains that seemed to go on forever. It was my first experience driving through small tunnels bored into the sides of mountains as I made my accent, and the views along the way were breathtaking. At the end of the day I headed down out of the mountains on a road that landed me on a strip of road that was wall to wall amusement parks, starting with Dollywood. I drove on to Nashville.

On through Arkansas, across Oklahoma and the panhandle of Texas, which is where I saw my first cattle yards...and smelled them! Next, New Mexico where, for some of the ride, I traveled along not too far from the Rio Grande, a ribbon of water with the only green for miles, along its banks. At every place I stayed I met the most interesting people and we shared stories of life in different parts of the country. A couple of people I met had never heard of Vermont.

After two weeks of meandering, I landed in Tucson. My parent's home is only two miles from the Catalina Mt's. which rise to nine thousand feet. While I was there I packed some food, a gallon of water and followed the above trail into the range for about three miles and climbed three thousand feet up. It was wonderful. The terrain, so different from home, offered many kinds of cacti, flowers and scrubby trees along with a prolific collection of wild life. Roadrunners, wild donkeys, havalina and jack rabbits were easy to spot. There were places where the going was a bit precarious, but what's an adventure with out a little excitement?

The last week of my visit, my daughters flew in to join us and we all went on a road trip together. We traveled north and took in so many incredible sights that I was dizzy from sensory overload. We visited Montezuma's castle, an ancient Indian dwelling carved high in the side of a cliff and drove down through Oak Creek Canyon into Sedona, the most spectacular red rock country anywhere. We went to Flagstaff, Ponderosa Pine country, then on to the Grand Canyon. I have seen the canyon four times in my life and the wonder and beauty of it never ceases to take my breath away!
Back to Tucson, a night's rest, a tearful good by, and my girls and I headed back home by way of Colorado, Kansas (no twisters) an on. It was one of the best times of my life and the memory is sharp and clear.
A few years later my husband and I took a trip across the land...adventurous, fun and romantic, but that's another story...

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


My husband's family, on his mother's side, is English and came to America on the Mayflower. His mother's sister, Dorothy (Aunt Skip to us) recently completed many years of research and writing to record their fascinating history in her book "From the Mayflower to Greenbush."

Because I was so impressed with the identity of some of his distant relatives I thought I'd share the fact that Will and his family are related to John Alden and Priscilla Mullins and that he is a fourteenth cousin to Abraham Lincoln.

I am all the more impressed because my family tree is an enigma, our ancestors were never discussed or named as I was growing up. There were allusions to land barons on my grandfather's side of the family, who lost everything during the great depression and I met, a few times, my Great Aunt Mable, an extraordinary artist who, at a time when women artists were rarely recognized, had her work hung in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

I don't think it's imperative that we know who all our relatives are, but the gene pool runs deep and it would be interesting to know who's in our own personal soup. And there is the fact of history, the inescapable trail of events peopled by those who came before us.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Stories of the Sea,The Hopeful and The Ludicrous

On Sunday the two humpback whales, Delta and Dawn, started on their return journey from Sacramento to the Pacific, following a deep water shipping channel from the Port of Sacramento.
They are swimming toward the Pacific nearly a week after taking a wrong turn and swimming inland to the state capital. The whales still have “a long way to go and obstacles to overcome. There are sloughs leading to muddy deltas that could trap the injured whales, which appear to have been wounded by a ship's propeller,” officials said. However, their injuries do not seem to be serious and they will have help all along the way.

I’m always captured by stories of animals in distress and the efforts
made to save them, getting emotionally involved to the end which can result in cheers or tears.
If you watched 60 Minutes last night, you saw the following story. I am quoting just enough of it here to share with you the mind boggling incompetence and, I would guess, greed and dishonesty that we have to cope with and pay for.

“Five years ago the Coast Guard undertook a massive modernization program called 'Deepwater' and ended up way over its head. The $24 billion project has turned into a fiasco that has set new standards for incompetence, and triggered a justice department investigation.

You can begin with the fact that the Coast Guard spent nearly $100 million to ruin eight patrol boats. The plan was to take the aging workhorses of the fleet, the 110-foot Island Class patrol boats, and lengthen them by 13 feet, adding a launch ramp for small inflatable boats and expanding the superstructure. But something went drastically wrong at the Bollinger Shipyard near New Orleans, where the first eight boats were extended.

After just a few weeks on the water, all eight boats experienced severe structural problems and had to be pulled out of service. They are currently tied up at a pier at the Coast Guard’s Baltimore yard waiting to be decommissioned. Their problems, the Coast Guard says, are too serious to be fixed.”
There is more, there always is, but I thought this sufficient to stoke the fires of outrage.
A sidebar...My husband and I were watching an old 1930's John Wayne Film this weekend where the good guys were fighting the bad guys in an effort to allow the town folk to vote their territory into statehood. Now the following may not be an exact quote, it was a cowboy movie, after all, and my attention can wander during a shoot 'em up, but you'll get what got me. The heroine, who ran a printing press and was getting ready to print her paper, turned to an old townie and said, "We're fighting for honesty and integrity," to which the old coot replied "What's that got to do with politics ?" The more some things change, the more they stay the same.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Simple Pleasures

Do you recognize this house? Most everyone does, it's the Walton's home from the show of the same name. That's me standing on the porch.

I hear friends and acquaintances of my generation complain about "the kids today" and how times have changed for the worse. I've been thinking about this a lot since it's been the cry of every aging generation. Most of us have heard our grandparents and parents talk of the changes wrought by the young folk of their time, sometimes in anger, sometimes in confusion and sometimes in appreciation. Remember the furor brought on by Elvis? As we age and as the world around us changes, we often resist. We find new ways and technologies difficult to understand as well as the youth that embraces them.

But life IS change, sometimes for the better, at times, not. What sticks with me now and worries me is that something fundamental and important seems to be changing and this change has a dark side. Our population appears to be in a head long rush to do everything, to have everything at breakneck speed, with no time for the simple pleasures of living or regard for what's left behind. "I was going to: play with my kids, call, visit, stop and smell the roses, let the people I love know how I feel about them, help... but I've been too busy," seems to be the mantra of the day for many. In the wake of our dash forward we are leaving a legacy of lost moments behind, time that can never be made up.

I'm all for progress and change but not at the expense of our children, our families and friends or the home of beauty and wonder we all share, earth.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Just Right

I have been using a lift chair for almost a year to make it possible for me to stand and move to my power chair without assistance. The chair I have been using was lent to me by the very generous mother of a friend. I am eternally grateful since working with our insurance company and the MDA/ALS association to get one of my own has been a slow and tedious process.

The problem, besides waiting, is that said chair is very old and rather uncomfortable and with the discomforts of ALS, this was becoming an issue. Then something totally unexpected happened, a chair was purchased for me by someone I hadn't had contact with for a very long time. Flabbergasted is the appropriate word for my reaction. And, of course, thankful beyond words.

I am now sitting in a top of the line lift chair that vibrates and heats, and the back rest and foot rest move independently from one another so there are infinite positions to help keep muscles from cramping and skin from getting sore.

What keeps running through my mind is this...

The first chair was tooooo hard,
the second chair was tooooo soft,
but this one is juuust right!"

Sure, I'm way too old to be Goldilocks, but if the chair fits...

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A Mixed Bag

First, I would like to introduce you to the newest member of my husband's son's family, Zach. Because our family is so close he will, of course, end up being a big part of all our lives. He is being held by Emily.

Next: Laurie, Don't MAKE Me Get My Flying Monkeys, has nominated me for a Thinking Blogger Award. My first reaction was "who, me?" but I am very touched and honored. Like many, I don't handle complements very well but am always very pleased to receive them.

I am now supposed to nominate five bloggers from my blog roll for this honor. However, after much thought, I find I cannot choose. I have kept my blogging community small since typing is difficult and commenting important to me, and I like to take the time to know each person and savor these new relationships. The people who's blogs I visit have all touched me deeply with their intelligence, humor, insight and vision. They have all become part of my life and help me to stay strong and positive.

To Tammy, The Daily Warrior, my dear friend and fellow warrior against ALS, I say thanks for introducing me to blogging and encouraging me to set up a site. And to Laurie, my fellow conservationist and new friend, Thank you for the nomination.

Finally: My friend, Carol, who dislikes our Pres and the vice pres as much as I do, gave me a "Backward Bush." It is a credit card size clock with a picture of Bush, looking stupid, on it and the clock in the corner counting down the days, hours, minutes and seconds until we are free of them and all they stand for. I love it but worry when I see how much time they have left.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Happy Mother's Day

Children are funny, uninhibited, irreverent, free with their affections and opinions, genuine and playful. May the child in you be alive and well.

Happy Mother's Day!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Power Chair Mishaps or, Beware the Chair!

You've all seen those power chair adds where everyone is tooling smoothly along with nary a mishap, right? Lies, all lies! They have been neatly choreographed, the maneuvers diligently rehearsed and my guess on takes would be about twenty. Now I will tell you the rest of the story. Power chairs are awesome, there is no doubt about it, but getting the hang of handling one is a challenge, at best. I've been using one for nearly a year and still find myself in awkward, and sometimes hilarious situations.

I'll start with speed. My chair has five speeds forward, one being a crawl and five powering me up to the equivalent of speed walking. Reverse is slow but relative to my forward motion. I usually power around the house on three, comfortable enough to feel safe, usually, but fast enough to make me feel like I'm getting somewhere. The problem here is judgement, which also raises another problem, spacial awareness.

Suffice it to say that all our door jambs are missing paint at the level of my bumpers, our kitchen cabinets have an artistic looking collection of long scuffs where I missed turning on that proverbial dime, and I managed to shear the knob off a drawer with the arm of the chair. In my own defence, our home is old, small, maneuvering is tricky, and most damage was incurred early on, which brings me to...

Backing up. I have backed into chairs, tables and footstools, succeeding in rearranging much of our furniture. Let me state here that I was a very good driver, really! My husband, who is also a good driver and can make driving a bulldozer look like child's play, thought I was being careless and decided to teach me a lesson. He hopped into my chair, turned, and with a look of male superiority, drove smack into the phone table. He no longer picks on me.

But the best was the day I was headed out of doors to sit in the sun and read. I had managed to get the door open and the chair aimed for the first ramp onto the porch, ready to roll. What I neglected to notice was that I had inadvertently hit the speed button which was now reading five. I grabbed the joy stick and, to my horror and surprise, my chair and I shot through the door like a rocket, down the ramp, onto the porch and on down the second ramp into the yard before I ever knew what was happening. After the wave of adrenalin and fear wore off, the full picture of what I must have looked like registered and I dissolved into fits of laughter.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Cars I Have Known and Loved

After I left and divorced the bad boy and my children and I had found a place to live, we needed a car and money was in very short supply. For some time we relied on our Radio Flyer (old post) but eventually life and work required transportation with a motor. We ended up with a beaten up, old, black, VW beetle that ran, it seemed, on two cylinders. It did pretty good for about a month but then refused to start. As anyone who has ever owned one of those old bugs knows, they are rather easy to jump start, two mph usually does it. So we resorted to parking on hills whenever possible and when we could not...well, the kids pushed and I jumped it. I know what that sounds like in toady's world, but times were different then and we had few choices. And, we thought it was a hoot.

Oddly enough, that old wreck carried us around for quite sometime. We owned another one just like it in another place and time and it ran quite well but had a faulty heater. We carried army blankets and a spatula to scrape the inside of the windows when they frosted, and on very cold days we used candles on the open glove box door to warm the interior before we embarked on the days journeys.

Then there was the old Nash Rambler wagon (remember those?) which needed a spray of ether in the carburetor to get it going...and next, the VW wagon. The VW Wagon was memorable because, as we were tooling along one day, the battery fell through a hole in the floor. Miraculously, it didn't break or disconnect (we weren't going very fast at the time) and we managed to save it by placing it on a couple of two by sixes. And on and on we went.

Never did we feel that we were missing anything, to us it was an adventure and the norm. We did the best we could with what we had and found fun at every turn. We still do.