Thursday, June 28, 2012

A Cappella

Photo: What is more realistic than live theater?

* * * * * *

Photo: Go into the arts! We're not kidding.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Today is my birthday.  66 Years Old.  It is amazing to me, that I am still here, still breathing, still in good health (knock on wood), still doing all the things I love with all the people I love!  The years go by so quickly that it is important to stop and acknowledge the passing of another whole 365 days.

I wrote the following on last year's birthday and it pretty much outlines my life and my amazement that so many good adventures have been mine to experience.  I am grateful for each and every event and person in my life.  And I am still optimistic that other good things will come my way.  After all, it's still possible that....

"The Best Is Yet to Come!"
June 25, 2011

In approximately 5 hours from the time I am writing this, a milestone will occur in our house.  It will be the anniversary of my birth.  I will reach 23,741 days on this earth!  Funny, it seems longer than that!  A person should be able to accomplish great things in 23,741 days.  Looking back I accomplished many things of which I am proud.  I tried many new things, I've made mistakes, had successes, survived failures, and endured loss.  I learned a lot of interesting facts,  met a lot of great people, plus a pretty fair number of real stinkers!  I have been blessed with many good friends, even several BFFs!

Over the years I have explored my talents, recognized my weaknesses, even tried to improve a few.  I've held responsible positions in an industry where the focus is on caring for others.  I've worked for and with people I deeply respect and admire.  I married, kept a house, raised a child, tried a hobby, kept a secret, written letters, read books, sang songs, and enjoyed much  of what I encountered, tolerated parts of it, and got the hell out when I needed to!!.

I have loved a lot of people and lost many of them.  I have the best relationship a mother ever had with a daughter who is my greatest joy.  I have kept the same husband for 45 years, even though some days we both wondered why!  We laughed together, cried together, got mad together, made up together.  I learned to love dogs and love them I did!  I found joy in performance through singing, dance, acting and directing for the stage.  I have been a part of great shows, and awful shows, but I learned from each one.

I have laughed until my stomach hurt, I have cried until my stomach hurt.  I  have cooked and cleaned and nurtured, and planted and then I did them again and again.  I have had repetitive tasks done a million times and once in a lifetime experiences.

I have had happiness, wealth, sadness, boredom, financial shortfalls, misery, thrills, fear, relief, worry, stress, challenges, simplicity and complexity.  Good, bad, right, wrong, joy, grief, treasured moments and moments to forget.

Yes, 23,471 days to my far.  Like everyone else, each day brought another 24 hours to the sum of my life.  65 Years!  Impossible!  Where have they gone?  It's been a blink of an eye.  How many more will there be?  I don't want to know.  I just want to live them, share them with those I love and hold on to the idea that maybe,  just maybe, "The Best Is Yet to Come"!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

"Spot On"

As we all know, life is a journey, a progression through multiple stages from infancy to childhood, teens, adulthood, middle age, to aging, old age, and ultimately to the final destination that comes to us all....(except for me, of course, as I have decided that  the old 1960s slogan is my new motto...."Hell No, I Won't Go!")

Anyway, back to the matter at hand, each of those stages brings adventure, experience, and change.  It's all part of that Circle of Life thing.  I'm okay with that mostly.  I'm not the same person I was 50 years ago and that is as it should be.  I simply don't have the energy to be 16 years old!  I don't even want the same things I wanted at 16 (well, except maybe for Danny A. who was the great unrequited love of my life before I met Mikey!)

I have suffered the "slings and arrows of outrageous fortune...." just like everyone has.  You can't get through living without experiencing some of those.  Some were good, some were bad, and some were painful, some were heavenly and some were just a hoot!  But what I never realized until recently is that all those times that life (or whatever) throws an arrow our way, it leaves a mark!  Really, it does!  Some sort of visible, permanent outward sign that you have taken another bullet!  ( Hmmm, Mrs. Proctor always told us not to mix our metaphors, but I think you know what I mean!)

That is the only explanation for the latest phenomenon to befall me.  I've gotten used to the grey hair.  My knees feel ten years older than the rest of me.  I've learned to compensate.  Gravity keeps pulling me down (trying to get me into that grave before my time??!!) and my skin continues to be overwhelmed by the downward pressure.  Things droop, sag, wiggle, fade, dry out, wrinkle, and no longer hold their shape.  Somethings seem to just up and disappear (like lips); other things just suddenly look different (like eyelids); and still other things pop up or out or sink into the abyss of "maturity!"  My whole body looks like a comfortable old pair of sweat pants!  No color, no shape, no crispness.

But lately  I am noticing an exponential increase in souveniers from those "slings and arrows!" that just adds insult to injury!  

I have SPOTS.  Lots and lots of spots.  More spots every day!  Big spots, little spots, sort of like paint spatters.  They are called wens, or tags, or moles, or euphemistically, freckles, but what they are, are SPOTS and they are making me crazy!!   

And they are all over!  Arms have the most because of sun exposure, but I have them on my legs, my back, my neck, there are even a couple on my forehead!  Nothing says "old" as clearly and obviously as SPOTS!
I've always had pretty good skin and this is just NOT FAIR!  (Yeah, yeah, whoever said life was fair??)  

Still, spots?? Seriously? What's next???  Polka dots??  Stripes?!? 

I'm beginning to look like a freakin' Dalmation!!   If you see me chasing a fire truck, call for help!

PLEASE NOTE:  Of course, I am exaggerating. Don't worry Ratchlet and LS, my doctor is keeping a close eye on the things and they are NOT  the dangerous kind.  Basically, all they are, are....spots!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Where There's A Will There's A Way"

Times are hard right now.  Ask anyone.  Layoffs, cutbacks, reduced budgets, hiring freezes, rising skyrocketing prices, unemployment....practically everyone has been impacted by the really depressing need to hold on financially and hope the economy will eventually recover before bankruptcy comes pounding at the door!

The standard response by employers to the widespread and apparently critical need to reduce expenses is generally a "slash and burn" approach.  Management unilaterally (it seems) decides to eliminate jobs.  On paper it makes sense.  Salaries and benefits are pretty much always the largest expense any employer has.  Cutting a bunch of jobs is the quickest and easiest way to "save" a big hunk of money.  And that's what most companies do.  Some of them even do it annually!  Cutting, cutting, cutting til they reach bone!  The reality is that sooner or later if you continue to lay off staff in order to reduce expenses, you will reach the point where you cannot continue to function as a manufacturer, a service, a consultant, or what have you, because there aren't enough people to do the job!  "Do more with less" can only be stretched so far without breaking!

Still, this is the option of choice by both large and small companies.  To be fair, most companies will try reducing other expenses and costs first, but usually the typical cuts made are not large enough to recapture a robust financial picture and eventually jobs are the only thing left to cut.

That is basic economics.  It's not pretty, but it works.  The trouble is that cutting jobs not only affects the bottom line, it also affects actual, living people with families to feed and house and clothe.  And this is the true impact....5, 125, or 3,000 families suddenly and abruptly face the loss of their livelihood!  And there is NO recourse.  Nothing poor old Joe Schmoe can do when his job is yanked out from under him with no warning. BOOM!  You are unemployed!

Depending on the size and philosophy of the specific company there is generally a great gnashing of teeth from the CEOs and upper management (all of whom will remain employed in their high-paying jobs) as they play Russian Roulette with their employees' futures. You hear words like "painful", "devastating", "heartbreaking."   Management "cares" about their employees.  "We have no choice. There is nothing else we can do."

HORSE HOCKEY!!    "Where There's A Will There's A Way"

I am aware of a medium sized company that is facing it's 4th year of budget cuts and layoffs.   "Slash and burn" is once again the order of the day.  Except not this time!  The upper management team chose to think outside the box!  They chose to look for innovative and less destructive ways to accomplish their budget reduction WITHOUT massive layoffs!  They have established a plan that does NOT devastate their employees, reduce their goals, or hobble their function!  And it affects all of them, across the board!

What are they doing??  How do they plan to reduce their expenses by the required amount without chopping  out a large chunk of their employees?  How can they do this without having to put an increased burden on those who remain??

Innovation!  Alternatives!  Looking beyond what they have "always done."

A few of the highlights (as I understand them) of what they are doing....

* Most staff, including upper management, will only work1/2 time for June and July.
* Benefits will remain intact but will cost more for the two months of 1/2 time.
* Job eliminations will be less than 3 positions instead of more than 15.
* Plan will go into effect NEXT fiscal year.  (Giving staff a full year to prepare, save and plan.)
* In addition, upper management is taking a VOLUNTARY pay cut in their annual salary.
These are the bare bones of the changes planned, but the required bottom line will be achieved fairly and nearly unilaterally without the elimination of a significant portion of their staff!

This is how Management that truly "cares" about their employees should function and rarely does!   In the vernacular, they embody the concept of  "put up or shut up."  This management team is not locked away is an ivory tower, they are down in the trenches right along side the staff they manage and care about.  In order for something like this to work, it must be a team effort. They are NOT asking more of their employees than they are asking of themselves.  Will it work?  Unknown at this point, but it sure sounds like it should!  One thing for sure, this group really understands what TEAM means!  "Where There's A Will There's A Way" and it's just possible this team found it!

Oh by the way, did I mention that the upper management group who came up with and fostered this clever approach is made up of women?  Truly smart, caring, fair, and innovative women!

Well, gee, there's a shocker!  I'm proud to know them.  

Big business needs to watch and learn!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

"I Don't Know Enough About You"

I knew a lot more about my mother's family than I did about my father's family. My mom had a lot of family and there were aunts and uncles and cousins, grandparents galore.  So I have a lot of memories of family stuff with my Gram and Gramps, 10 aunts and uncles, their assorted children, and a bunch of people who were related to us, but I didn't know quite how!

My dad, on the other hand, had no siblings and only two uncles and two cousins that I know of.   There one older couple who my dad referred to as Uncle Gus and Aunt Gussie that we saw fairly often as we were living in the same town. I don't, however, know if they were actually related to my dad or if they were Aunt and Uncle in name only!  I never met the cousin who was the son of his father's brother, though we got a Christmas card from them every year for decades.  My Dad's parents were divorced when he was a boy and his mother died while he was overseas in the South Pacific during WWII.  He was pretty much estranged from his father and as far as I know they were not in touch with each other for years.  

Up until I was about 5 or 6, I had never met my paternal grandfather and had only seen one photograph of him.  The one photo we had, was taken somewhere between 1908 and 1914 I think,  my dad was born in 1919 so he was not in the photo.  I have no idea who took the photo and there is nothing written on the back.  But I have always been fascinated by it.  The picture was of the house my grandparents were living in at the time.  If memory serves it had something to do with a fishing camp (rental cabins and a lake) that they owned or managed or something, though I could be wrong.  (Little Sis is my editor in absentia and she will undoubtedly correct whatever I get wrong!)

My grandfather is to the far left standing in the yard close to the house, my grandmother is standing on the steps of the cabin and her brother is standing to her right in the yard and either he or my grandmother (I can't remember which) is holding a cat who appears not to want to be held!  My grandmother had dark hair pulled back severely from her face.  She is wearing a skirt down to her ankles, a plain, probably homemade shirt and a long dark apron.  Her shoes were laced up and mostly hidden by her skirt.  My grandfather was wearing dark pants, a light colored shirt, open at the collar and an open vest.  He wore work shoes that looked well-worn.  My grandmother's brother looked to be somewhere around 12 years old.  He was wearing a light shirt also open at the collar, a pair of knickers, and suspenders and he was barefoot and pretty dusty looking.  None of them was smiling, nor did any of them appear to be happy.

In the  photo my Grandfather appears rather tall, thin, and a hard-working raw-boned man with light eyes and a shock of pretty shaggy hair that hadn't been cut in a while.  I believe he was somewhere around 6'1 or 6'2....and in my family that makes him really TALL!

There is one other photo of my grandmother that was taken fairly close to her death (in 1943 or 1944.)  So that is all we had of my father's family.  As a little girl I knew I had a Grandpa Johnsen somewhere, but I didn't know where.  

My Mom, Dad and I moved to Florida in 1952.  As I think back to that time, I realize now that it probably was because of the impending move, but for the first time we went to visit my Grandfather.  He was living in the County Home, as he had never had any money to speak of  and he was in poor health.  My parents certainly couldn't afford to help him financially, besides I'm pretty sure my dad wouldn't have given him any money anyway.  (I don't think he ever forgave his father for the divorce and the hard times he and his mother endured.)  

Still, we drove out to the country from Chicago one weekend afternoon.  I remember it as being a rather depressing kind of place,  just a couple of long low buildings that housed many of the county's elderly, men in one building and women in the other.  I was only 6, but I knew it wasn't a place I ever wanted to live in! 

I only have three real memories of that day.  When we arrived I remember my Grandfather walking toward us and he looked pretty world-weary and unwell and OLD.  But he was TALL!   (I was a tiny 6 year old.... EVERYBODY looked tall and old to me!)  He and my Dad were uncomfortable with each other but my mom and I both knew that it was going okay although it was hard for both of them.  I was a pretty sensitive kid and I was a bit nervous about the whole thing.

When we went inside, we all sat together.  I do not remember if he and I talked to each other at all.  But I do remember thinking that he and my Daddy looked nothing alike,  my Daddy was MUCH handsomer!!  :)

Evidently my grandfather knew that little six year old girls got bored just listening to grownups talk, so had borrowed a hand held slide viewer from another resident and he showed me how to look at pictures.  It was sort of like a View Master (remember those??) but you could only put in one slide at a time.  There was a box with lots of slides in it and they were landscape photos as I recall.  Pictures of waterfalls, flowers, mountains, in COLOR too!  Those slides entertained me for quite some time.  I worked my way through the slides while my parents talked with my grandfather.  It was kind of fun.  

Now the conclusion of this story is odd.  NOTE:  Remember that these slides were borrowed from some other resident of the facility and did not belong to my grandfather.

I eventually came to the last slide.  I popped it in the viewer, expecting to see yet another rainbow or something, but I didn't!  I saw a pretty lady who didn't have on one stitch of clothes except shoes!  Shoes!?  I didn't know what to do!  It shocked me deeply.  I  don't think I had ever seen anybody naked except myself!!  And I sure didn't look like that lady!  It was one of those times in life when you know you shouldn't look, but you just can't help it!  So I kept sneaking looks at that last slide.   I can't believe even now, that I didn't give it away.  Somehow I knew that if I told my mom or my dad about the slide, it would cause real problems for  my grandfather.  So I never said a thing to either of them.  I just put the slide back in its slot, and thanked my grandfather for letting me look at them.  (I was a very polite little girl.)  I think we left shortly thereafter.  I thought about that lady for weeks!  Somehow I knew that it wasn't just an ordinary kind of picture....I didn't know what it was exactly....but it sure wasn't ordinary!  I instinctively knew that I wasn't supposed to see that photol  But wow!

I never saw my grandfather again.  I think he died just a few years later, but I never learned anything more about him.  He had been divorced from my grandmother sometime in the 1930s, I think.  Had he married again?  I don't know.  Had other children?  I don't know.  Where had he been all those years?  What had he done?  What was he like?  Who was he??  Did he ever realize the the naked lady picture was in the box and that I probably saw it?? 

All things I never learned.  I wish I had.  I'd like to tell him, "I Don't Know Enough About You!"

It occurred to me today that I don't believe I have ever even thought about my Grandpa Johnsen on Father's Day.  He just wasn't part of my life at all.  All I knew about him was contained in that one old black and white photo, a few stories told over the years,  and one afternoon visit to the County Home to meet him when I was only six!  But he was my grandfather.  He and his wife produced my father.  His blood runs through my veins, and my daughter's and my granddaughter's.  So he is still a part of us.  

Somewhere I hope that he knows I am (finally) grateful!  My grandfather, Walter Johnsen, a man who was not particularly successful, but a man....and an afternoon... I will never forget.

Don't worry, Grandpa, I never told my mom or dad about the lady with no clothes on!  

For all of you out there who are dads, have dads, are married to dads, best wishes to all of you on this Father's Day.  You have one of the most important jobs on earth, being the Daddy, and by and large, most of you do a stupendous job!

Also, for my Grandfathers, my Dad, my husband, my son-in-law and all the dads I am related to, I'd just like to tell you how glad I am to have known all of you.  Your children have turned out well, so you did a good job!  I wouldn't trade ANY of you for any other Dads in the world!


Saturday, June 16, 2012

"Hard Times In New York Town"

Have you heard about the latest lunacy being proposed in New York City??  Mayor Bloomberg is at it again.  Trying to legislate people into being healthy!  

This time Mayor Michael Bloomberg wants to bar restaurants, movie theaters, sports arenas, food carts and delis from selling sodas and other sugary drinks in servings larger than 16 ounces.  This will, supposedly, reduce obesity in New York City.  

HUH??!   What would prevent people from buying two drinks If they want more than 16 oz??  Or will that become illegal too?  Will someone follow you down the street to keep you from going into another convenience store and buying a second 16 oz?  It's beyond ludicrous!  

He and the city of New York have already led the charge against all kinds of other things that are allegedly "bad for you"....banning things like trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, and smoking in public places.

There are people who refer to his actions as attempts to set up a "Nanny State!"  Well, I hate to tell you folks, but that isn't trying to be anyone's nanny, it is perilously close to becoming a Police State of the Big Brother variety....  where people are constantly watched and punished when they don't comply with laws set up by idiots!

In the 1920s Prohibition (banning  the manufacture, sale, and/or consumption of alcohol) resulted in the availability of boot leg liquor, the establishment of the Mob run by guys like Capone and his cohorts, cronies, and the organized crime crowd  They made a fortune selling on the black market and then quickly expanded into all sorts of other illegal activities, like gambling, and money laundering, and their influence is still felt today.  

Surprisingly, the Fed fairly quickly realized that Prohibition wasn't a very good idea after all.  All it did was increase crime.  I seriously doubt if Prohibition convinced many alcoholics to quit drinking.  In fact I doubt it convinced anyone to quit drinking alcohol.  The law was repealed and the nation's drinkers returned to business as usual.

Did we learn nothing from Prohibition??  Seems not!   At least not in New York City!

So what's next on the Bloomberg hit list?   Meat products?   Automobiles?  "Dirty Books"???
Since when did a Mayor (even for a city the size of New York) get the power to become the unofficial dictator of what is permissible and what is not?  That is a very slippery slope and if the citizenry isn't careful we are all going to slide down that slope and land in a place where personal freedom is a thing of the past!  "Hard Times in New York Town" is just the beginning!

Look out folks, Big Brother may be a little late, but he's on his way....and his name just might be Bloomberg!!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

"Bits and Pieces"

As I am wont (don't you just love that word?) to do from time to time, here are a few Bits of this and a couple of Pieces of that from the hodgepodge of thoughts that run through my mind on any given day....

1.  I lived in the state of Illinois for something like 30 (non-consecutive) years of my life.  Although all those years were in Chicago (which is almost like a state all by itself), I learned to sing the State Song...."By thy rivers gently flowing, Illinois, Illinois...," I know the State Motto is "Land of Lincoln", I know that Abraham Lincoln lived there for most of his early years.  What I did NOT know until our recent trip to Chicago, is that the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library is in Springfield, the State Capital.  How could I not have known this?  I lived there for 30 years and I never once heard about the Lincoln Library??  So consequently, I never WENT to the Lincoln Library!  Lincoln is one of my heroes and I still missed it!!  How is that possible?

2.  There is a phenomenon of the human body that I don't understand at all.  Well, actually there are many phenomenon that I don't understand, and come to think of it, the particular phenomenon I am going to write about (if I ever GET to it!) very probably applies to most species in the animal kingdom as well as humans.  So finally to the point, have you ever had a splinter that was rather deep and was impossible to remove without digging around in your rather sensitive epidermis until you bled?  But it remains stubbornly embedded in you! Or have you ever had a food particle get stuck "in" a tooth and no matter how much you floss and poke and rinse, you can't remove it.  You know that it is still there because it's the size of the Rock of Gibraltar, and it hurts every time you chew in that vicinity.  Still, it will not be moved!

In both of those situations, I remember my mother saying to me, "Just leave it alone.  It will work itself out."  And it generally did, eventually.

What I want to know though is HOW?  HOW does this not so little piece of detritus actually "work itself out?"  There are no moving parts in those areas that could be pushing out the strange intruder.  There is no freely flowing liquid that could swish it along with all the other waste.  There is no little teeny, tiny person sent in to do a search and rescue, no Navy Seals who make a daring raid to kidnap and eject said intruder, no handheld laser or phaser, or transporter (if you're into Trekdom) to break it down into molecules and recreate it outside of you!  

So how does it WORK ITSELF OUT??  Or is this another of those unexplained mysteries that drive researchers (and ME) crazy??

3.  It occurred to me the other day, that M-t-G is now 11 and going into the 6th grade.  I believe that I was in the sixth grade when I had my very first  "crush" on a real, live....(gulp)....boy!   Yowza!  If memory serves, at 11, Ratchlet too, began to be aware of boys as something possibly more interesting than dirt!  As far as I know M-t-G has not yet shown any interest in the male of the species, but that could (and probably will) turn on a dime any minute!  Oh boy!  Or rather oh, BOYS!   

Of course, our girl has always had her own schedule for when things happen.  For instance, she didn't walk until she was 18 mo. old....but then she just stood up and walked like she had been doing it all her life.  Sooooo, she may not discover boys until she's 18 YEARS old!!  Or it could happen next week!  

Either way, I'm pretty sure we'll all have to fasten our seat belts!

4.   After 46 years of married life, one  make that two grownups accumulate a LOT of stuff.  As I look at several rooms in our house, I realize that we are only one or possibly two Christmases away from Critical Mass!  Purging is desperately needed.....but not today!  I think I feel a headache coming on.

5.   Summer has already made its presence known this year.  We hit 95F one day last week.  As the heat looms for the rest of the summer, I am (once again) struck by the idiocy of our HOA (I'll blame them, because I'm not sure who else to blame!)  Despite being an upscale development with home values ranging from $250,000 all the way up to $2M+, there is NO community pool!!  Oh there is the pool at the Country Club, but it is restricted to use by members only....and membership costs mega-bucks!  There are somewhere over 400 homes in the "neighborhood" at least 2/3 of which have multiple children.  Some homes have their own pools, but many, many do not (including us.)  Most developments, even those at the low end of the economic scale, have a pool, sometimes several!  Yet we do not.  We pay a reasonable amount in our annual HOA dues, so I think most of us wouldn't mind a sensible increase if it were used to finance a pool for the non-Country Club set!  However, one simple phrase keeps running through my head as I think about this.  Does "FAT CHANCE" tell you anything??

6.   Have I ever mentioned that I love a pretty yard?  Lovely landscaping can make your home just sparkle!  Unfortunately, I have neither the talent, the money, nor the commitment, for making it happen where I live.  Sigh!  When we lived in CA, our yard was small, beautifully landscaped by the previous owners, and reasonably managed.  We had roses, jasmine, a couple of small fruit trees, and close to the front door, hydrangeas, a gardenia, and a gorgeous hot pink azalea!  In the eight years we lived in that house, I managed NOT to kill them!  Remarkable!  

We have lived in this house for 11 1/2 years and we inherited none of those beautiful flowering plants and my yard, while presentable (mostly), is certainly never going to be a contender for "Yard of the Month!"  It's times like this when I really wish I could just wave a wand, or twitch my nose, or do a little hocus-pocus and make the yard gorgeous with lots of beautiful blooming plants....and a pool!

7.   Have you noticed that there is a growing trend in blogging for writers "taking a break?"  This is a real shame, because most of those who take a break, essentially disappear.  Oh there may be a sporadic "update" that will appear, but in fact, they never really come back.  And their friends and fans are left wondering what happened and if those MIA are all right!  

The sad truth is that blogging is a very draining experience!   It drains your free time.  It drains your creativity.  It drains your stash of "stories."  It drains your excitement about having your very own blog!!  

And sometimes life just gets in the way!  I can understand that....we never know what obstacles will suddenly pop up  as we travel the roads we have chosen and some of them are just too overwhelming to write about.

However, as Ross and Rachel (remember them??) found out to our infinite amusement, "taking a break" really means the end of a relationship!  

So, even though I can understand why some bloggers feel the need for a break, I will try very very hard never to type those words in relationship to my own blog.  For it surely would be the kiss of death!!  Even though several days may separate my postings, I remain a committed blogger!  I'd never leave my friends just hanging like that!!  

Heck, I was raised Catholic, I'd have way too much guilt about unfulfilled promises!!  LOL!

And, there you have it, "Bits and Pieces" of life inside my head!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

"In My Merry Oldsmobile"

Something I saw on another blog several months ago brought back a memory.  Actually it's kind of a second hand memory because it is a memory from my mother's childhood that she told to me during MY childhood....all of that adds up to a story that happened a looong time ago!!. 

I never met any of my Great Grandfathers, but my mom vividly remembered her father's father.  Evidently there was absolutely no doubt who was in charge of that family.  My great grandfather ruled with an iron fist.  Both he and my great grandmother were from Germany and as many Germans of that time, he was a hard-line disciplinarian and unchallenged head of the house.  I believe it is fair to say that he intimidated his wife and all of his children (of which there were six or seven, I believe.) rather consistently.  What Father says, goes!  No questions.  I don't really know much about him however.  I have no idea how he supported the family.  I don't know his profession.  I don't believe he was wealthy, but I do think they were "comfortable."   I have never seen a photograph of my great grandfather, but I have always thought of him as a rather large man, dressed to the nines,  who bellowed!

Even after my grandfather married and had 11 children of his own, his father remained the head of the family....his WHOLE  family up until the day he died.  A case in point....

At some point in the 1930s (after the start of the Depression) my great-grandfather bought a great, big, shiny, black car that  would hold quite a lot of people.  I don't remember what make mom said  it was, but in my mind it has always been an Oldsmobile, probably because of the song "In My Merry Oldsmobile."   The car may well have been an Oldsmobile, but after hearing mom tell the story, I'm not at all sure it ever could have been considered "Merry"!!

You see, my great grandfather couldn't, or wouldn't (I don't remember which) drive, so he let my grandfather have use of the car.  The hitch was that Great-Grandfather wouldn't let Gramps drive the car alone!  He insisted on going along where ever and when ever they were going somewhere!   Mom told me he would sit in the back seat, like an enthroned king, and proceed to drive my grandfather crazy with his backseat driving!!   Mom said that when they got home from one of their rides, Gramps would be in a bad mood for the rest of the day.  I can understand why.  I'm sure he resented being told how and where to drive by his father!  Still, I guess it was a small price to pay for the use of an auto when you have none of your own!

Going for a ride was a highlight for all the kids.  The 11 kids in mom's family would have to take turns going with and they used to argue fiercely about whose turn it was to go for a ride in their Grandfather's big shiny car.  The kids had a great time.  Even though their grandfather was a tyrant, I guess they all thought it was worth putting up with, just to go for a ride.  I probably would have thought so too!

I don't think this is the same car, but since this was taken around 1949, I guess it could have been.  But one thing I do know for sure, my Gramps had a much better time driving without his father in the back seat!  He could finally go wherever he wanted "In My His Merry Oldsmobile!"

Friday, June 8, 2012


In one way just about every kid in this country is the same.  There is one thing that brings about great joy to each of them.....Summer Vacation!

When I was growing up, it was a time of great freedom.  I remember being outside all day long.  I rode my bike all over town.  I played in open fields, climbed trees, went exploring, tested my limits and my courage.  I never did anything too dangerous (at least by the standards of the 1950s and 60s) but there were a  few things I was really glad my mother never found out about!!

"Summertime" was heaven on earth from age eight to age 16.

Today, it is somewhat different for kids.  Not nearly as much freedom, which is a shame in a lot of ways.  Many parents both work and arrangements must be made for their children to be watched over, entertained, fed, and kept safe.  It's  a different world.  Even so, I'm pretty sure the kids still feel that "Summertime" is heaven on earth!!

Each summer since M-t-G started school, Ratchlet and TA searched the Internet and asked their friends for a variety of day camps for fun things to provide M-t-G with a great summer.  She has been to a bunch of different camps for things like swimming, Girl Scouts, singing, and horseback riding.  Of course, some have been more successful than others, but there has been no true failure....until this week.

This first week of summer was supposed to be horse camp this year.  Just for variety they chose a different camp than they had used before.  It had good reviews and they expected it would be fine as had the others (she's been to 2 other horse camps in the last 4 years).  It wasn't, not at all!

I won't go into detail about the camp's problems, let me just say the first thing Maddie said when her Dad picked her up after the first day was "I'm angry, I'm hungry, and I'm NOT going back!!"  Pretty clear it was not a good experience.  In fact, just about everything that could be wrong WAS wrong.  So, of course, Ratchlet and TA did not send her back!

Which is where I come in!  It was impossible to make arrangements for a different camp at the last minute, so the obvious choice was an impromptu session of the Camp of Grammy!  For three days M-t-G and Grammy had fun together.  There was already one week of Grammy Camp planned for August, so I didn't want to duplicate anything I had planned for that time.  Nevertheless, I think what I came up with was reasonably successful.

I picked M-t-G up from her Mom's office at 11:00 each day and then we went off to find lunch and on to our adventures.

Tuesday we went to the Austin Zoo.  As zoos go, Austin's is pretty small, but it is unique in one way.  It is a rescue zoo!  All of the animals have been rescued after being abandoned, or neglected, or mistreated from other places.  That's a pretty cool thing.  They have a bunch of monkeys, many birds (including peacocks). a few large cats (lions and tigers and leopards etc), a bear, some reptiles and amphibians, and goats and llamas and deer.  Maddie loved the petting zoo and she got up close and personal with some deer!

It was fun, but it was kind of hot and I forgot sun block!  Luckily neither one of us got sun burned.

Wednesday, I decided we needed an inside activity, so we went to the Library (always a hit) and then had movie time at my house, complete with popcorn and soda!   Also successful!  We watched one of my favorite films "Father Goose" with Cary Grant and Leslie Caron.  It's a delightful film and M-t-G is a new fan!

Thursday  it was miniature golf and ice cream!

We were pretty evenly matched.  I beat her on the front 9 and she beat me on the back 9.  She even got a hole in one!!  Going on a weekday was great.  There were other people there but not so many that we were rushed.

So it was a fun 3 days and I hope a good start to a great "Summertime"

Sunday, June 3, 2012

"On the Road Again"

Things I learned while we were "On the Road Again"....


1.  Driving in the middle of the night (left home at 1:30 a.m.) is the best!!  No traffic, open roads, no construction, you can go the speed limit even through the big towns!!  (We only drove at night on the way to Chicago, but we got from Austin to the first Missouri rest stop by 9:00 a.m.)  All the other driving was in daylight and was not nearly as pleasant.

2.  None of the roads we drove in Oklahoma had any rest stops at all, just one Welcome to Oklahoma tourist information stop.  Luckily they had restrooms and a gift shop.  Texas, Missouri, and Illinois are much more travel-friendly with multiple rest stops along the way!

3.  I swear that at least half of those same roads in Oklahoma were under construction.  It was slow down for construction for 10 miles, drive for 20 more miles, slow down for construction....the whole way through the state!

4.  It is interesting that most drivers on two-laned  interstates will keep in the right lane except to pass....just like you are supposed to....EXCEPT when it opens up to three or more lanes in the cities!  Then its every man for himself!

5.  According to the Big Guy's GPS unit, my speedometer reads about 5-7 mph higher than my actual speed!  No wonder I haven't gotten any speeding tickets!!  LOL!

5.  Despite being doable, 11 hours in the car is too much!  At least it is for this frequently creaky old body!  It was  nearly 2400 miles round trip....that's a lot of driving time!


1.  We were very surprised that the only arrowhead jewelry at the Oklahoma tourist was made in India!!!  Kind of defeats the purpose!  The lady in charge said that finding genuine arrowheads is very rare these days and collectors and archaeologists snap them right up!

2.  Every town along the way has some variation of essentially the same stores!  In some ways its like you never left home!  I'm sure that if you go off the interstates and wander through the smaller towns you could still find independent retailers, but we pretty much only saw Walmart, Target, Academy, Walgreens, Sears, Penney's, and all the standard shopping center chains.  It makes shopping on vacation really boring!  The good thing is we didn't blow our budget buying stuff!

3.  The price of gasoline was pretty much like Austin throughout the trip.  The range was somewhere between $3.23 to $3.49 a gallon for unleaded....until we hit Chicago!  Gas prices for unleaded everywhere around Chicago were averaging about $4.10 a gallon!!!   Yikes!!

Food and Lodging::

1.  The situation with restaurants along the way was pretty much like the stores, but much worse.  McDonalds, Carl's Jr., Subway, Waffle House, Cracker Barrel, Braum's, and Love's Truck Stops are about all you find.  I have this great fantasy of finding a great little small town cafe with great food and friendly people, you know sort of like the Whistle Stop Cafe!  The trouble is there are no such places along the interstates!  And the food at  Braum's, the Waffle House and Cracker Barrel restaurants is just barely edible!  From what they charge, the food should be a heck of a lot better.  Their glory days are long gone!

2.  Even the places like Motel 6 and Days Inn are charging anywhere from $40 to $50 a night for a dinky little room in the middle of nowhere.  Holiday Inn Express was charging $100 a night!  The best we were able to do while on the road was a Best Western for $70 a night and a Quality Inn for $75.  That is part of the reason we made the drive in two days each way....only one night to pay for!

3.  This one falls into the category of  "unpopular sentiments", but did you know that the ENTIRE STATE of Illinois prohibits smoking anywhere in ANY hotel?!  To say nothing of restaurants!  And still....smoking is NOT illegal!  You can buy cigarettes everywhere, but you sure can't find anywhere to smoke them!   That is why you see so many people smoking in their cars, its the only place where no one will hassle you!  And I swear if one more little 4 year old comes up to me and says "Smoking is going to kill you", I'm going to drop kick the little darling into next week!   It is my right to smoke and I don't need to be hassled by obnoxious children whose parents  should know better than to let them accost strangers!!

But I digress, sorry!.

4.  At least Chicago did not let us down in the food arena.  We had Chinese food, Italian food, the best pancakes I have ever eaten (Walker Brothers Pancake House in Glenview, IL)  and the required visit to a Chicago tradition....hamburgers and chocolate malts at Superdawg!   The Big Guy was able to get his favorite Fannie May candy and his favorite breakfast coffee cake (Swedish Flop-delicious).  For him the trip was mostly about the food and he was able to fill up on all the things he misses!  I think we both probably gained ten pounds.  I'm afraid to get on the scale to find out for sure though!

All in all it was a pretty good trip....but I think it will be a while before we get "On the Road Again!"

Saturday, June 2, 2012

"My Kind of Town"

Surprise!!  I'm still here!  Haven't been sick, haven't died, haven't quit blogging!  The last month or so has been particularly busy and I just haven't had the time to write very often and when I did have the time, I didn't have the inspiration.  Plus for the last 9 days we have been out of town.

Yep, that's right a VACATION!  Whee!  We haven't been on vacation together for more years than I can remember. I won't fly and the Big Guy doesn't like to travel so convincing him to go anywhere has been impossible.  Not that that stopped me.  If I wanted or needed to go somewhere I went by myself!  That was okay, I like road trips.  But this time, I managed to convince him we needed to go together.

A little background here as to why we needed to go to Chicago.  We have a long history with our very best friends,  Cathy, Tim, and Helen.  All of us are singers.  Cathy and Helen and I had been a trio for over 15 years and all five of us had worked together on several "performance" events over time. When we moved to California in 1991 leaving them was the hardest part.

We drove to Chicago to attend the 30th Wedding Anniversary celebration of Cathy and Tim.  We had told them we had several conflicts (including M-t-G's elementary school graduation) around the time of their celebration and we obviously couldn't be in two places at once.  They concluded (as I intended) that meant we wouldn't be able to come for their celebration.

It was, however, an erroneous conclusion! We had fudged a little on the dates of our "conflicts" and we missed M-t-G's actual graduation (with her permission!)  We actually surprised them by showing up at their home the night before the big party!!  It was terrific!  My dear friend, Cathy, must have said "Oh my God!" fifteen times when she opened the door; then the very next thing she said was, "I have to change clothes!"  She had been doing all the things one does before a big party around her house and she was dressed for that, not entertaining guests!!  But we convinced her we didn't care about her clothes at all!!  Tim had not been home when we showed up and when he got home, he said "Oh my God" at least ten times!!   It was so funny!   I love surprising people and they were really glad to see us as I knew they would be.  It was terrific.

We saw several other old friends at the church and party the next day.  Everybody kept saying, "Oh my God" when they realized who we were!!  What a hoot!  One of the highlights of the party was close to the end of the party one of our friends asked the trio to sing and we did!!  Even though we hadn't rehearsed and hadn't sung together for an audience in 21 years!!  It was amazing how many songs we remembered and how we still pretty much sounded good!  I almost miss singing with the trio more than anything else.

Through a fluke of timing (life is funny that way), not only were Cathy and Tim home for Saturday, Sunday, and Monday (Memorial Day), they were home on Tuesday and Wednesday too.  Helen joined us as soon as she finished work and the five of us spent the better part of all five evenings together!  We talked, ate, sang, and laughed for hours on end.  Like with all true friends, it was as though we hadn't been away at all.  It was just the best ever!

Of course, Mike and I didn't totally monopolize their time, each day we tootled around Chicago driving by places we had lived or worked or went to school.  We visited the grocery store and stocked up on a few things that aren't available in Austin.  We went to all our favorite restaurants and had memorable meals of all our old favorites.  Chicago has, obviously, changed; after all, we haven't lived there since 1991.  A lot of things can happen in 21 years.  Nevertheless, it was recognizable and felt like home.  We each realized how much it still feels like "My Kind of Town".  If it weren't for the cold, cold weather and the snow and ice Chicago is a great place.

It is, however, a huge city and in some ways it feels mostly like a big set of highways with a few residential and business areas thrown in!  Traffic was pretty awful.  After being there for those five days we had pretty much had it with the traffic!  We were ready to come to back to Austin traffic which, although getting worse every day, is still a snap compared to Chicago!!

It was a great trip, and we were both thrilled to be able to spend time in our dear old home town and with our dear old friends!

Must admit, however, getting back home last night (and sleeping in my very own bed) was pretty terrific. Seems like Austin is "My Kind of Town" too!

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