Archive for February, 2008

Crossed (Out) Words
February 27, 2008

My spelling is Wobbly. It’s good spelling but it Wobbles, and the letters get in the wrong places. 

A.A. Milne (from Winnie-the-Pooh, 1926) 

On the final leg of my journey home from New York, I found myself midway between Baltimore and Houston with a finished novel and nothing else to read. So I checked the seat back in front of me to see what I might find and pulled out the Spirit magazine (the “official magazine of Southwest Airlines”). I think I read every word of it; there were actually some fairly interesting articles this month! Then I came to the puzzle section. Besides the Sudoku (not interested), there was a puzzle called “Snowflake” that no one had touched. There was also another puzzle that I made a note of on my little cocktail napkin for writing about later, but alas, our paper-eating cat has chewed that corner of the napkin off. Finally, I found what I like best when I discovered the two crossword puzzles, one easy and one difficult.  

I love crossword puzzles! My family will tell you that I do the one in the paper daily about 5 p.m. as I take my “afternoon break” with a bowl of popcorn and a diet coke. Even when Shannon was a baby, she knew that it was mom’s time out, and she was to amuse herself for awhile.  

But back to the Spirit magazine… the easy one looked like it had been completed by one person, because the handwriting was all the same. However the difficult one was a mess. I wonder how many other idle hands had given this one a try and failed? There were lots of attempts scratched out and other answers written over. I laughed out loud at some of the guesses… 

Clue: “Ballet bend” Written answer: “Plet” Correct answer: “Plié” 

Clue: “Indicated agony” Written answer: “Whence” Correct answer: “Winced” 

I’d like to brag that I polished this one off, but honestly, it was just too messy to write the answers in squares that had been written in, scratched out and written over again with incorrect answers. But I was amused, and it did fill the time. The next thing I knew, we were in our final descent and it was time to sit up straight and put away our tray tables, etc.  

However, because our flight had been delayed, our pilot had to kill some time before we were allowed to land. As we made a long lazy loop over the glittering city of Houston on a crystal clear night, I wished for a parachute as we sailed right over our house! But as eager as I was to get home, it was well worth the few extra minutes to see the sight of downtown all lit up and sparkling in the darkness.  

Finally we arrived at the gate, and I whenced as I stood up stiffly, did a small plet to stretch and then headed for baggage claim. And tomorrow, when I get back on another Southwest jet, I believe I’ll take another crack at that puzzle!

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Walking in a Winter Wonderland
February 23, 2008

O, Wind, if Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

-Percy Bysshe Shelley (1819) 

All who know me well are aware of two facts: a) that daughter Shannon is a student at Bard College, in the beautiful mid-Hudson Valley region of New York State, and b) that I am a human Popsicle. What does one fact have to do with the other? Well, in all the four years that Shannon has been living up in Yankee land, I’ve never visited her in the winter, until this past week!  

Fall in New York is spectacular. Spring in New York is extra special (maybe because they are all so grateful to have survived another winter?). Summers are lazy and warm, and can get hot at times, which we have experienced once or twice, particularly last August! And while I’ve actually been in NY when a fresh snow had just fallen, it was technically spring according to the calendar, and somehow, that made all the difference. 

As I flew in last Friday, we broke through the cloud cover and I saw a monochromatic patchwork crazy quilt, all in winter whites, a virtual wonderland of snow and ice. Trees and rocks were bare and black against the snow, and the usually sparkling ponds and rivers had a matte pewter tone of solid ice. The most amazing sight to me from the air was a frozen waterfall! It looked fake in its silent roar over the rocks. All of the roadways made up the black seams of the quilt, and even the evergreen pines looked black from the sky. It was beautiful! But I was anxious about living in this alien environment during my visit.

Shannon picked me up at the airport, and as we drove south from Albany towards Rhinebeck, snowflakes dusted the car. We stopped by her house, an old 1930’s farmhouse between Hudson and Tivoli, and I was honestly afraid that I would do a “butt plant” slippy sliding on the ice-covered walk. Shannon told me to just put my feet into the previously made footprints (by bigfoot?), and so I managed to make it both in and out without becoming a laughing stock. 

We all enjoyed a delightful dinner at our favorite Chinese food restaurant in Rhinebeck (which is our tradition on the first night of my visits), and as we walked back to my room at the old inn, we couldn’t help but notice that the clouds had passed, and the sky was filled with brilliant stars. Once safely checked into my room, I enjoyed a cozy fire in the gas fireplace, and settled down for a LONG winter’s nap (I slept 11 hours! I can’t believe it, but it’s true). 

Saturday dawned clear and cold. I can deal with cold, as long as the sun is shining; somehow it doesn’t feel as cold that way. The sun was so sparkling on the snow, it was blinding! We all enjoyed brunch at the local diner, then had a busy day of errands, a meeting with the caterer (for a graduation party), and then Shannon took me by the Bard photography studio and showed me how to develop film, which was a totally new experience for me! Thankfully, I didn’t embarrass her on campus, and managed to keep my footing on the icy walkways. After another wonderful dinner in town (of course, I treated, I mean, what else do you do when you visit your kid in college?), I had another great night of zzzz’s. 

The weather took a turn overnight, and Sunday dawned gray and dreary, threatening rain, which eventually did make an appearance. Between going to the photo lab again to print the photos, the grocery store and other points of interest, including a final delicious dinner out, we ran into a drizzly mess… but at least it wasn’t cold enough to freeze! Even the waiter at the restaurant that night opined that it felt more like April.  

On Monday, I opened the curtains to the eeriest sight of a dense ground fog hovering over the remaining snow and ice because of the shock of being exposed to temperatures that were in the 50’s! I didn’t even need a jacket that day, which was good, because that meant I didn’t have to lug it around in the airports all day. The fog was bizarre looking in its fluidity, and it took quite a while for it to burn off. As we headed north to Albany, it just kept getting thicker and thicker, and I had some concern that my flight would be delayed, but it was not, thankfully.  

Who knows why the weather was so “interesting” while I was up that way? All I know is that I was lucky to plan my visit right between two major snow storms. I read that they had a foot of snow this Friday; thank goodness that didn’t happen LAST Friday!  

Whether it was me bringing a breath of warm air from the south or “global warming”, I was relieved to have survived my trip to the far north without freezing to death, and delighted enough by the change in the scenery and climate to better appreciate the sweet springtime that is just now bursting out down here in Houston. I think I’ll go outside and sit in the sunshine! Lucky me…      

The Fountain of Youth
February 14, 2008

Now the eyes of Israel were dim with age, and he could not see well. So Joseph brought them near him; and he kissed them and embraced them.

-Genesis 48:10 

I think God purposefully causes our near vision eyesight to dim as we get older, so as to soften the blow of aging, because what we can’t see won’t upset us. It never fails to startle me when I put my glasses on and discover a really obvious brow hair that I’d somehow missed before. How on earth did that happen? 

Magnifying mirrors? Yikes! The one that was in the house in Hawaii that we leased was downright scary to look into. Talk about a wake up call! But when I turned away from it and saw myself with my own eyes, I wasn’t so bad looking after all! Thus my theory.   

There are some days when I feel really decrepit, haggard and all the other sensations that come with being blessed to be the age that I am. I try not to dwell upon it, but sometimes it’s tough, especially for women who are held up to a different standard than men. Gray hair? Distinguished on men. On women? Mousy and drab.   

I am probably totally gray underneath my “highlights”, so much so that I now have to get touched up monthly. When will I be free from this madness? Joel says he’s not ready to be married to someone with gray hair (even though he is that way!). And my sisters still do the highlighting thing, too, so one must keep up with program for the time being. I guess we’re all afraid to look older than each other, which would then expose us all! 

(note: sister Mary has a hilarious story about meeting the firewood delivery guys with foil all over her head! They were rendered speechless.)  

I’ve got two friends with glorious silver hair. Polly has two sisters, and her situation is the total opposite of mine. Neither she nor her sisters have ever colored their hair (nor did their beautiful mother), and so none of them ever broke rank with the others. To do so would have been treason! But they’ve all got that great hair color!  

On the other hand, Tonya used to color her hair until she’d had enough of it. I once admired her tresses and said, “If my hair looked like yours, I wouldn’t ever color it!” She asked me, “Well, how do you know it doesn’t?”  My answer is that I just know. It’s mousy and drab under my auburn tresses. I just know.   

And so I continue to subsidize my favorite hairdresser, whom I’ve been going to for the past twenty-seven years! I can’t believe it’s been that long. Danny and I are both the same age, and so we’ve talked about the day that we will both eventually transition into gray hair together (yes, he colors his own hair; I think he’s the same color as I am!). Someday.   

In the meantime, here’s my absolute best tip for feeling younger than your years: go visit somebody at an Assisted Living residence! Whenever I go visit my parents, I always feel like the coolest and ever so with it YOUNG lady! It works. Try it yourself! You will be a blessing to those whom you visit, and THAT is the key to feeling great, no matter how old you are, or how well you can see, or whatever your hair color is.   

(note: pewperson is off to the land of ice and snow- i.e. New York-  and will return Feb. 23)

Time Travel
February 9, 2008

Every instant of time is a pinprick of eternity.

-Marcus Aurelius

I went back in time this week to see what I was up to fifty years ago in 1958. Three passages from my mother’s letters made me laugh, so I thought I’d share them, as long as you promise to not make fun of me after you read them! At this point, I was three years old, the baby of the family, but not for long, as you will see. 

March 1958 (in a letter to her parents): “Wish I could put sweet Carol in this box to loan you for a day or two- tho I’m afraid that’s all we could spare her, she’s such a little ray of sunshine. We believe she’s a born comedienne! We laugh at her all the time- and she knows it and laughs, too. Since her little ailment, she has been eating like a small horse- even has been learning to eat vegetables- has now worked up to seven peas, five carrots and two spoons of broccoli! And so proud she is- it’s the first time she’s earned desserts in months. She is always so busy (she just raced by me, squealing with delight, holding her pants up!) and is forever ‘someone’ else- tho mostly ‘something’ – usually a red and white donkey! We found a gold mine the other day, too, a copy of ‘Poky Little Puppy’ and have we read it!” 

Note: I’m glad my mother made us eat vegetables; I think I’m the only person I know who likes beets. No comment on the red and white donkey; where did that come from? And a comedienne? I am the world’s worst at remembering jokes, although I am pretty good at unintentionally mixing up my idiomatic phrases, which always makes Joel laugh. I did it again tonight! I said something about Sen. Barack Obama being “green behind the ears” (instead of “wet behind the ears”).

June 1958 (in a letter to her sister in law): “ ‘Tis ‘rest time’ and the only smart one in the house, Carol, is sawing wood- Dee and Tetot are tearing one double bed into shreds- and Ray is in the middle of a slightly crooked Monopoly game- but I have too much to do to straighten them out at present!” 

Note: I am still a great nap taker, and indulge whenever I have the luxury… but I do NOT ‘saw wood’. Joel does that.  

November 1958 (in a letter to her sister, a week after baby Mary was born): “The other children have been a riot- especially the little girls, who never let a thing go on that they aren’t in on. I’ve really had to rack my brain for true explanations of things in their language, but seem to have succeeded because all the girls agree that they wouldn’t be boys for millions of dollars because only girls have the babies, hence all the fun (?). We arrived home from the hospital just as Dee and Carol came from the bus stop (Dee coming home from school). Carol’s face brightened up and she was delighted with the baby, then she sat me down and got on my lap and demanded, ‘What did they do to you at the hospital?’ Next we had to explain the cord- then the nursing (‘Does she bite you?’ says Dee; ‘N-O-O’ squeals Carol, ‘She doesn’t got no teeth!’). 

Note: Mary was my own little “live” baby doll for quite some time. She was a precious little girl and is now a precious “big” girl! I’m afraid I have let on how old she is in this entry… oops! You’ll be happy to know that in the past fifty years, I’ve learned about double negatives and have ceased to speak like the three year old of this letter!

How blessed I am to have such a fun and funny family… Thanks, Mom, for capturing all these moments of our time for eternity!

Choices, Choices…
February 2, 2008

Any colour- so long as it’s black.

– Henry Ford  

Last summer, Joel’s car was totaled when a woman who ran a stop sign broadsided him. His car was an 8-year old Mercedes that he HAD planned to keep for another few years, so at the time, he didn’t really have a particular replacement car in mind. In the meantime, he has been driving good old “Bert” the Explorer.

We tend to keep our cars a long time, which is really a neat thing to do when they are reliable. The very definition of reliable is our Bert, who is now 12 years old and still running well, although I just had to spend some money on him this week to get his brakes in order. The usual drill at the shop is to ask, “Is this a safety issue?” If it is not, then I don’t fix it.  

So when we read that the car show was in town this week, we went with the thought that we could look at all sorts of cars at the same time and comparison shop. It was a good idea, and it really did help Joel to whittle down the list of cars that he might look at more closely.  

It’s interesting to me that he looks first at how fast the car can go from 0-60 mph. That would be the LAST thing I would look at! There were a few autos he salivated over that I told him would lead to his being dead in a ditch somewhere. Who needs to go 171 mph? Ever! And in 3 seconds?  

(I‘m only slightly exaggerating here; I think there was one car that went from 0-60 in less than 3 seconds, but let’s not quibble. Note: he did like that car!) 

He tried to explain to me that it’s a guy thing; he said that girls look for different things in a car, and that is the truth. I suppose I look for a certain elegance and line. I have this thing about proportion. I do like comfort, and I like certain bells and whistles (like a sunroof, a cd player and such, although now that cd’s are passé, what am I going to do?), but I am not really too particular about the rest of the expensive options.  

And the reason I am not particular is because I was raised by a dad who eschewed luxury for the bare bones in a car. Dad was so frugal! I’m not complaining at all; he saved up enough to put all 6 of us kids through college and live a comfortable life, and now that he needs help in his declining years, he has it, because he was so frugal.

The cars we drove had rubber floor mats and AM radios only, with roll down windows (thankfully, they DID have air conditioning!). It was only after we had all left the nest that he got a Lincoln Continental with carpeting and an AM/FM radio… we were all amazed!  

I never even had a car of my own until I married and became a co-owner of “George” the Granada (a Ford, circa 1975 model year). I was very clueless in the ways of cars, so much so that once Joel asked me to buy a can of oil for good ol’ George the next time I went to the gas station (where in the olden days, you had people that could actually help you). I told him to write it down, and so he did.  At the gas station, I went to the counter and checking my note, I asked for a can of “low 40 oil”. The man said, “What?” I repeated what I’d read, and he said, “Let me see that.” He looked and laughed, because you see, the note said “10W 40” oil, which I had read as “LOW 40” but WHO KNEW? Not me!  

As you can see, I had a deprived childhood car-wise, so tonight I just followed Joel around. Whatever he ends up picking, I will drive it whenever he needs my “Donnie Ray” for whatever reason (like hauling kayaks, bicycles, dogs, etc.). It will be fun to have a new car in the family, but after awhile, the car will just become ordinary. Such is life!

The older I get, the more I cherish what’s tried and true. Say, there was a really cool “Classic Car” exhibit at the car show tonight with vintage cars from decades past. Perhaps if I can keep Bert long enough, maybe he will become a classic, too? I’ll whisper that to him to keep him going… and give him doses of Low 40 to make sure he will keep on trucking!