The Joys of Being a Grandparent

It’s good to be a grandparent. It’s a little like Social Security, I guess. You put in a lot of hard work initially, and then down the road a bit, you get it back with a lower tax rate (no diapers, two o’clock feedings, teenage hysterics, or college tuitions) and get to spend it pretty much the way you want to.

We have been blessed with thirteen “returns on investments,” if you will, ranging from two to twenty-five. Some have finished college and are off on their own. Others are learning their ABC’s and starting school. In the summer of 2009, we had them together in one spot and for much of the time, there was this magical ebb and flow of young bodies where there were no ages, no genders, no big, no little. Aside from afternoon naps (the little ones) and evening pub crawls (the older ones), the days were spent wandering the beach, splashing in the pool, playing card games, biking, laughing, and eating. It sure was fun to be a part of—and occasionally, just watch.

The only downside of our particular situation is that none of the grandkids lives, or has ever lived, in the same area as we did. Thus, we’ve spend a good deal of time on the road, making Exxon and Continental very happy campers. We get up to Western New York pretty often, and make annual or semi-annual trips to the Northwest. We even spent a special two weeks in Italy when our Navy son was stationed there.

In the fall, we often find ourselves heading to Indiana, where four of the younger grandkids live. One of the trips traditionally takes place around Halloween, so one October, we stopped and bought several rolls of toilet paper and wrapped up Grandpa like a mummy. Then we snuck around to the back of the house and tapped on the window. Were they scared? Well, not so much, but they were surprised, and that was almost as good. And the germ of an idea was born.

The next time, we didn’t even let them know we were coming. In days past, without cell phones, it would have been almost impossible to pull off. Now, through constant communication with our daughter Anne, we were able to position ourselves in the cereal aisle of the local supermarket just as they stopped in to pick up some groceries after school. Pat and I were concentrating on the display of crackers opposite the breakfast food, when the four of them came pelting down the aisle in search of their favorite brands. As they stood there excitedly grabbing boxes off the shelves, Pat turned around and said, “Excuse me, but do you know where I can find the Cocoa Krispies?” The looks on their faces were priceless.

Since then, we usually do a surprise visit at least once a year. We showed up for a birthday party at Chuckie Cheese. Once, when they were on their own trip to Washington, DC, we were sitting in a booth where they stopped for lunch in Zanesville, Ohio. I like to think we keep them a little off kilter, wondering where we’ll show up next. Don’t spill the beans, but this coming weekend, we’ll be hiding in a corn maze in Indiana. I can’t wait.

Life seems to go by with the speed of light. These are precious times with the most precious gift God has given us. Family. May you and your loved ones hold your particular blessings in your hearts as you celebrate Thanksgiving.


A Lazy Adventure

An early morning mist hangs low over the Upper Cuyahoga where it flows peaceful and serene past Eldon Russell Park on this summer day. The bow of my kayak slices cleanly through the water, my eyes alert for strainers up ahead that might spell trouble. In my concern about getting stuck and possibly capsizing, I pretty much paddle a clear passage. Beside me, however, my friend Audrey, owner of the bright blue and red kayaks, pokes around the reeds at the river’s edge, looking for what, I’m not quite sure. Baby Moses? I tell myself I need to be more adventurous, but then again, I worry about the camera nestled in my lap. I probably should have left it in the car, except I didn’t want to miss another shot like the one of Audrey paddling furiously through a flock of Canada geese, their wings flapping as they try to get airborne while Audrey is grinning madly. Fortunately, it’s nicely imprinted on my memory, but I would have liked to have shared it. Maybe on Facebook.
(Another day, on LaDue Reservoir, as we’re exploring the edges, we spy what looks like an iguana zipping along under the tree branches. It’s green and sort of triangular. Funny how we both think that before we comes to our senses and decide it’s possibly a small beaver or muskrat with a freshly gnawed leafy twig in his mouth.)
A great blue heron erupts from a tree in front of us. As startling as it is, we both take the time to admire the graceful flow of its body as it flies down river and out of sight. We disturb him a few more times until he finally hides (or so he thinks—
Audrey has eagle eyes) in the lower branches of a tree back away from the river. We seem to have the river to ourselves.
We come to a Y. It’s evident that the main channel goes off to the left, but Audrey, naturally, decides that the other way is more interesting. I remember that line from Robert Frost and paddle after her. And it does make a difference. It definitely seems less traveled. I’m never quite sure whether we’ll run aground beyond the next curve or whether my paddle is going to become tangled in some grasses that bend and flatten with the current. I spy a lovely white and pink water lily unfolding in a bed of lily pads. I move over and snap a picture, then decide to put the camera back in its plastic bag and just enjoy the ride. Go find your own splendor, I mutter to the millions who probably will never see my snapshots anyway.
Eventually, we come to the end of things and turn around while its still possible. The trip back is not bad, even against the current. Our heron friend is still perched in his tree, probably very happy to have his feeding grounds all to himself again.
A few weeks later, we’re back on the river, a few miles further downstream where the Camp Hi people have graciously trailered the kayaks. About eight days before, I’d plied this seven mile stretch with Pat in a canoe. In contrast, the kayak seems lighter. Of course, it is. I’m the only one in it. The day is a bit overcast, which, we decide, is for the better.
We’re not alone this day—Labor Day. We launch ahead of the crowd, but due to our leisurely pace, get overtaken by groups of teens and families and some guys and an older couple. (Well, probably about our age.) The wife is putting on a brave face, but I can tell that the constant paddling is taking a toll. Several times, the husband sprints on ahead, then turns around and comes back, which I think is nice.
There’s a place where the river narrows and the current is swift enough to just carry us along, with an occasional dip of the paddle to keep straight. Ahead, though, I begin to hear the sound of white water. Not exactly the mighty Niagara, I remind myself, but I keep my eyes focused for V’s as the water goes over some protruding rocks. The kayak hits it perfectly and I’m through, taking no little pride in the fact that I read it right. I’d done some rafting and canoeing before, but there had always been someone in the boat with expertise. Pretty small potatoes, to be sure, but this time, all the potatoes are mine. I can’t wait until next summer.




Until about twenty years ago, the only thing I knew about Ohio was that it was one of our fifty states. I had been here only once, to attend a party celebrating a friend’s marriage. I distinctly remember driving around and around and around an area with the rather quaint name of Chagrin Falls until we finally gave up and called our host to get more specific directions. It was a wonder we made it back to New York.

Little did I realize at the time that Ohio was about to become our “second” home state. It began to happen within a couple of years. A job opportunity came up and we relocated to – well, Chagrin Falls. It may have the only place I was even slightly familiar with (despite the fact that most of what we’d seen on our previous trip was dark and trees), plus a feeling that the East side was a bit closer to Buffalo. We didn’t stay there long. Two years later, we were back in New York. I’d been homesick and although I’d been delighted with all those trees that had originally frustrated me, and had become acquainted with the Cleveland Indians, I was more than ready to split.

God does have a sense of humor, however. Within two years, due to some quirk of fate, we found ourselves heading back to Chagrin Falls. This time, it stuck and we’ve now been happily ensconced for almost as long as we’d been in New York.
Busy with life, however, we never really took the time to explore the rest of Ohio, so in 2008, to celebrate my birthday (08/08/08), my husband arranged a lovely weekend that started with a B & B on Kelleys Island. From there, we just decided to wander, hitting the Vermilion lighthouse (and the drug store where I had my first chocolate phosphate in years!), then heading south where we stumbled upon a lovely public garden which I can’t at the moment remember the name of (and Google isn’t cooperative today). We ended up in Loudonville on the Mohican River for a leisurely 7 mile paddle along with half the population of Ohio, I think. Just the thing to do on a warm summer day. We headed home across the center of state, hitting the Warther woodcarving museum in Dover as a last stop.

Our 2009 discovery trip started in Cleveland with a corned beef sandwich at Slyman’s, followed by an engaging wander through the art gallery. We stayed at the Wyndham Hotel, enjoying a lovely dinner and meeting one of the staff who unwittingly sent us on our next adventure – zip-lining at Canopy Tours in Logan. It was an exhilarating experience and one that’s on our list for a repeat someday.

For 2010, we drove south along the mighty Ohio River, where we found the Sistersville Ferry that shuttles cars and people between Fly, OH and Sistersville, WV. Did you even know we had a town named Fly? The ferry could hold maybe six cars and was powered with a unique sort of attached tug. It spans the longest straight stretch of the Ohio (some twenty miles) called the Long Reach and takes about five minutes to get across. For pedestrians like us, it’s a free round trip. The ferry operator even provided a loaf of bread to feed the ducks and geese that greeted travelers on both sides of the river.
Our ultimate destination was Marietta, which turned out to be a bit disappointing, mostly due to construction on their main road. The glass museum, which we wanted to see, was closed. We did walk around the historic district with shops full of interesting antiques and art and walked around the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum Rivers where there is a wonderful hike/bike path and park. We were looking for canoes or kayaks to rent, but was told that although they had been available a few years ago and might be again next, this year we were out of luck. So, we decided to head north along Rte. 60 to see if we could find a boat livery. We did find the Dillon Dam and a great little cafe in McConnelsville, then swung east again, stumbling upon the Longaberger Homestead. Due to it being a Saturday, nobody was working on the huge factory floor, which I found a bit reminiscent of the Boeing Assembly Plant in the Seattle area. The grounds are lovely, although the once-thriving business has hit a downturn. Perhaps people resist buying expensive baskets when they can’t afford the food to put in them.

We did eventually find a place that rented canoes, though – our own Camp Hi in Hiram. Some of the best places are close to home, it seems!
Fall is a wonderful time to go exploring. Even if it’s for just a day or two, Ohio definitely holds treasures for those willing to look in unexpected places.



While others are wrestling with the “Back to School” mania, I’ve decided to just relax and look back over the past months before the memories slip away to a collection of photos in some dusty box or on-line file labeled “Summer, 2010.”
I don’t have a picture of it anywhere but in my mind, but one of those little miracle moments happened in late June as we were driving along a backroad in Indiana at dusk. On either side stretched fields of corn, at that point about as high as a horse’s eye. Heat still shimmered up from the ground, and in and around and among the corn and weeds were fireflies. Hundreds of them. Thousands of them. It was nothing short of spectacular. We actually had to pull over to the side of the road and watch Mother Nature’s light show.
And while I’m on that subject, someone just reminded me that I once called those delightful creatures “lightning bugs.”
Like a mother putting her child to bed, drawing up the covers so the bogey man will be kept at bay, I go out in the evening and pull the net over my tomatoes, cukes, and pumpkin vines so the deer won’t repeat the carnage of a month or so ago.
The family outing over Memorial Day hosted five of our six kids and seven of the thirteen grandkids. It was fun to just play together—baseball, swimming in a kiddie pool, card games on the deck, walks in the park, and a fantastic afternoon cooling off in the Aurora branch of the Chagrin River. Even Baby Kate got a ride in the rock flume.
Several days were hot enough to even convince me to turn on the A/C. I don’t do that easily. I’d rather put up with a little discomfort than feel exactly like the prisoner I am in February.
I was a little late with my blueberry run and was about ready to give up on the bushes with sparse pickings, until a kindly gentleman told me I was in the wrong place and if I moved over a few rows, I’d find a better yield. Thanks, whoever you were.
There’s nothing nice than lingering in bed in the morning watching the birds flit back and forth outside—only to realize that they’re not birds, but bats—and they’re not outside, either. Instant double espresso latte with triple mocha!
I couldn’t wait for my crop of green beans to come in, so I bought some at Marc’s for pickling. Son Joe declares my dilly beans better than any pickle. They have a kick, too, because of the addition of red pepper flakes, along with a big clove of garlic. He’s earned himself a jar. But I’m starting to run out of refrigerator space. Oh, well. Guess I’ll have to start eating them.
I’ve been going to morning deep water watercize classes in Solon in the outside diving pool. It’s kind of a floating gab fest, but it does wake you up and get your muscles moving.
Morning walks in Beartown have yielded several sightings of my buddy, Jim, the blue heron. One day, he let me get within about 20 feet before he took off. I’ve learned to take my camera along. There’s one poor Canada goose who seems to have lost most of one foot. Elizabeth named him “Nub.” Apropos.
Finally got a chance to go to “It’s Still The Jake.” The Tribe lost, unfortunately, but it was a pleasant evening and Dollar Dog Day. I accounted for two of the over 50,000 hot dogs sold.
The long dry spells have meant retention of the awesome chalk drawings the grandkids have done on the driveway.
As of this writing, there are more even more memories ahead: more family gatherings in the offing and more chances to wear capris and sandals and more tomatoes ripening and more sunshine to soak up and more nights with the bedroom deck door open and the sounds of bullfrogs and owls lulling me to sleep.

Get With It!

At my grandson’s college graduation a few years ago, the speaker actually had some helpful advice to hand out, rather than the old “you are standing on the threshold of a new life” chestnut. He had three suggestions for success. I think I wrote them down somewhere, but as usual, I haven’t a clue. It’ll show up eventually, I’m sure. But I do remember two of them.

One was to think globally. It’s not your grandfather’s world out there these days. The last couple of decades have taught us that. While old-fashioned values like honesty, compassion, and understanding have not lost their importance, the playing field is a lot bigger and the rules more complex. We all need to add a little humility, too.

The second point, and the one I remembered best, is to embrace technology. It’s true of seniors in high school, seniors in college, and the “other seniors.” Us.
When the Internet first began changing the way we all communicate, I thought to myself, This is going to be one of the best things for us as we age. It’s going to make such a difference in our lives, make us more knowledgeable, keep our minds active, keep us in touch with the world around us. And it’s indeed wonderful that so many of us have become comfortable with computers and e-mail, can research healthier options for food and exercise, will pick up a remote for a game of Wii bowling with the grandkids, carry a cell phone, learn how to program a DVR. (I personally do not know how to do this yet, but only because we don’t have cable and I haven’t yet found anything on our TV that bears taping.)

So, good for us! Keep it up. If finances are an issue, use the computers at the library. Have your kids and grandkids teach you something new. And if you still long for bygone days, well there’s www.hulu.com and other sites where you can catch those old Cary Grant flicks for free.

My gadget of choice is the iPod Touch, which is like the iPhone without the phone. I’m constantly in awe of what I can accomplish when I combine it with a little wireless access: Starbucks, the library, hospitals, some restaurants, etc. It’s literally an entertainment center and business station that fits in the palm of my hand. In its honor, I’ve composed this little ditty, with apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein. (For the as-yet uninitiated, “apps” is short for “applications,” or programs, if you will.) And yeah, I know the rhyme is a bit off in places, and I apologize for that, but there isn’t yet, as far as I know, an app that will compose good poetry. Although Wikipedia (yet another app) does give some rhyming suggestions, which I used.

(To the tune of My Favorite Things)

Banking and newspapers, recipes, weather,
Music and photos, a tip calculator
Notes that remind me to pick up some bread.
Three little goldfish who need to be fed.

Books I can read or else give a listen,
E-mails to send when the kids I am missin’,
Locate a place with the aid of some maps.
These are a few of my favorite apps.

Travel and Skee Ball, alarm clock and TV
Stock market, Scrabble with a great dictionary.
All this I do with a couple of taps.
When I’m accessing my favorite apps

Play the slots or
Watch a movie,
Google search or
Hear a song.
I simply will touch on my favorite apps
And life can’t go too far wrong.


Social Networking

Love it!
Hate it!
I could care less.
What’s Facebook?

Unless you’ve been living under a rock lately, you’re aware of Facebook, the popular and controversial social networking site. Where we used to get our personal news from the town crier, and then Mabel, the gossipy telephone operator, and more recently, the annual Christmas letter, we now have our own giant cyberspace bulletin board. Is there such a thing as TMI? Too Much Information?
Legitimate worries abound: privacy, stuff you post coming back to haunt you in a job search or college application, ads targeted to your spending habits, crooks looking to see when you’re going to be on vacation so they can break in and make off with your plasma TV. And more.
Facebook probably isn’t going to go away any time soon. I don’t know how many gazillion users it has at the moment, but it’s a huge number. I’m one of them.
I like to think I use Facebook sensibly. I limit viewers to those people I invite to be friends, I check in periodically to see who’s doing what, I try not to put anything personal out there, and I’ve pretty much trained myself to ignore any and all web-based advertising. Maybe you’re not a business or need to stay connected with everyone you ever met, but there’s no reason not to use it. And several good reasons why you should.
Few families live around the corner from each other any more. More likely, it’s around the world. I currently have close relatives in Japan and Thailand and at least a quarter of the 50 states. It’s hard to keep up with everyone, and everyone with me. Facebook has been, therefore, like an ongoing family reunion, without Aunt Sally’s famous baked beans and the water balloon tossing event. I can even pass around my photos and see the latest additions to the clan, sometimes only hours after birth. During the recent upheaval in Thailand, my nephew was able to quickly assure everyone that he was okay. I learned when a friend had returned from Paris and it was a lot easier for a wife who was meeting her relatives for the first time because she’d “met” them already on Facebook. During the winter, one of my nephews posted something about Robert Frost’s “Stopping By the Woods on a Snowy Evening” and several people had fun chiming in with the subsequent lines. There are frequently calls for help in finding things to amuse a sick toddler and I’ve been able to assure a college-age grandkid that we’re praying for him during exams. The older I get, the more these connections mean to me.
Maybe you’re not a computer person. There are plenty of you out there. Rest assured, I’m still going to enjoy getting those hand-written Christmas cards with the yearly family updates.
NOTE: This is not posted on Facebook: My potatoes are doing great, at least as far as the foliage is concerned. It’s pretty frustrating when the only part of the plant I’m interested in is underground.



It’s planting time again and since I added Growing Pumpkins to my “Done That” list last year, I decided it was time to move on to other adventures in agriculture. I’m going to be growing potatoes.
I have to admit that up until a few months ago, I knew absolutely nothing about potatoes, except that you don’t want to toss raw ones in your compost bin and that as French fries, they really dress up a burger. But my master gardener sister gave me one of her Ozette potatoes and I was smitten.
Ozette potatoes, at least the one I had, looked more like a hot dog. It was long and skinny and well, kind of funny-looking, and came complete with a history that captivated me even more than its unusual appearance.
The Ozette Indian tribe of the Pacific Northwest once lived on a little slice of land on the westernmost side of the Olympic Peninsula, which is still only accessible by water. They had quite a culture, including the ability to make wooden boxes out of a flat piece of wood without sawing anything. I saw an example of this at the Makah Cultural and Research Center in Neah Bay, Washington. My sister had worked for the US Public Health Service in Neah Bay for several years and was eager to see the new display about the Ozette people when we visited there last October. It seems the tiny coastal village was decimated around 1700 by a mud slide. The survivors paddled up the coast to Neah Bay and were eventually assimilated into the Makah tribe.
The town lay buried and ostensibly forgotten, until it was discovered that tidal erosion was gradually washing what remained of the settlement out into the Pacific. Thus began a massive 11 year project to remove the ancient artifacts. Water was pumped into the site as a means of uncovering the artifacts, as digging and other common means of excavating would have damaged them beyond repair. Some 55,000 objects were retrieved and are on display at the Makah museum. If you ever wander out to what is frequently referred to as the westernmost part of the contiguous United States, be sure to visit the museum. It’s well worth spending a half of a day, and its new Welcome Statues, some 30’ high, are delightful introductions to the small fishing community.
Ozette potatoes were introduced to the Northwest by explorers from Central and South America. There has been renewed interest in the tasty tubers in the Seattle area and elsewhere, so I feel myself honored that perhaps I can introduce them to our area. My sister adds to my collection of one potato by adding several more smaller seed potatoes.
How to grow them, though. I needed to find that out. Potatoes like lots of sun, which is in somewhat short supply on our property. Where can I dig a hole that doesn’t impact the septic system and which is out of the shade? As I mull this over, my sister comes to my rescue once again. There is, she e-mails me, such a thing as a potato bag. I go to the link and find that indeed there is—a large container that appears to be made of perhaps landscape cloth. Fill it with dirt and potatoes and plop in a patch of sunlight, water well, and voila! Spuds for the upcoming winter months. I order two of the bags. I figure I can use the other for either regular potatoes or maybe some squash vines. Although enticed by the availability of special pre-mixed soil, I draw the line. There’s something about paying for shipping dirt that just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
As of this writing, my potato bags have not arrived, but rest assured I’ll be detailing my progress as the summer (if we ever get one) waxes and wanes. Happy growing, all you gardeners!



Sometimes of an early morning, as I stir and stretch, my mind drifts in the stillness of a new day and I begin to wander through the homes where I have lived.
Today, it’s my childhood home—a lovely Tudor-style single family that my mother and father had built just before the end of WWII. It was a split level, unusual for its time, with four bedrooms, a bath and a half, a family room, laundry room, basement and attic. It cost $12,500. We moved in the summer of my fifth birthday.
I enter through the milk chute. In those days of home delivery, it was a handy place for the milkman to stash the bottles, but also provides an emergency hatch if you find yourself locked out. For a few years, anyway, until you get too big..
Once inside, I’m standing in the laundry room—a full sized room with washer/dryer, double laundry tubs and a whole wall of built in cupboards and closets. I envy it now. In winter, the popular feature is the Mitten Rack. I think my dad built it. It comes out from the wall with arms on either side to slip on soggy mittens after a day on the slopes.
Through a short hall is what we call the Pine Room, paneled in knotty pine. It houses our upright piano and also a wonderful vent in the wall that pours hot air out between the couch and bookcase. In one corner is the infamous Dragon Vase, which I inherited. With good reason. I used to stash my old apple cores and tangerine peels in it.
Up a level is the kitchen with its family table in front of a picture window. There are glass shelves on it that hold an assortment of knickknacks. I can almost taste the mashed carrots and baked potatoes that kept our insides warm in winter and the exquisitely decorated birthday cakes.
On that floor is the dining room, scene of Sunday dinners with family, as well as Thanksgiving. Also, the living room, traditionally furnished with a cheery fireplace. In front of the picture window, I see our German feather Christmas tree, decorated to within an inch of its life. It’s a comfortable place and used quite a bit. In Lent, I see us all kneeling to say the Rosary, and in a sadder time, it holds my father’s casket.
The major staircase, where I learn the words “newel post,” leads up to my parents’ bedroom and mine. For a time, I shared it with my sister Kathy, six years younger than myself. I think we may have engaged in a few hostilities here and there. There is a cubby hole in my bedroom. I think it was to keep blankets in, but it was also great for trying out my brand new super-duper glow-in-the-dark decoder ring as soon as it came in the mail.
Up a few more stairs is a landing and a full bathroom. It’s there I construct my May altar to the Blessed Mother, with strings of blue and white crepe paper and vases of sweet-smelling lilacs, tulips, and lilies of the valley.
Off the landing is my brothers’ bedroom with its plaid wallpaper and my older sisters’ room, with its huge walk-in closet where I once hunted for Christmas presents in early December.
All windows have storms on them in winter to keep out the cold. However, at the bottom is a slot that can be moved up to expose three holes that let in the crisp night air.
The attic tops the house. It’s where our Christmas tree is kept, and the old glass-fronted bookcase that holds my dad’s medical books. I love thinking of the fact that it now holds our son’s medical books.
I cast my mind around one last time, spying the fruit cellar in the basement where my mom keep the jars of tomatoes, from which she makes the most awesome spaghetti sauce, simmered for hours in the deep well in our stove. I see the screened-in back porch so good for summer sleeping without mosquitoes, and the detached garage and double drive-way where I once practiced three point turns because nobody could go out and work on my driving with me. Sheltering the yard is the huge split-trunk maple I brought home as a small twig from Aunt May’s house. I climb it and sit among its branches once again.
There are other houses that I will wander another day, perhaps none with quite so many memories. Satisfied, though, for the moment, I rise and start the day.


The Arizona sun feels warm on my face and my whole body is just sucking up all the Vitamin D it can absorb. Peering out from my sandals, my toes look the happiest they’ve been for months, even though a pebble occasionally jumps up from the trail to lodge under my foot. After enduring piles of snow for the past two months, everything feels delicious.
Moving ahead, trailing behind, or amiably ambling next to me are my two brothers and three sisters. We’re exploring the fascinating Desert Museum outside of Tucson. It’s a museum, zoo, and botanical garden all in one and I’ve been making the acquaintance of some animal species I’ve never encountered before, such as the somewhat pig-like javelina, which roams wild and like our deer, can do a number on local landscaping. In one cage is a roadrunner, running, of course. The video on my camera isn’t fast enough (or I’m not) to capture him, but he climbs up on a pile of rocks and poses for a still shot. One of my sisters comments that until recently, she thought a roadrunner was just a cartoon figure. That’s not an uncommon belief, I’ve discovered. But he’s real enough. Just doesn’t go “meep-meep!”
As we wind around the museum’s paths, we also encounter a variety of cacti and other desert flora. Some of it is in bloom, although they do say in a few weeks, it will be quite colorful. (Which seems to be the story of my life, at times. Either too early or too late.) We find a hummingbird garden and see a mother hummingbird sitting on her nest. Also, a bird sanctuary, which sports quail and other birds unknown to easterners. We see a wolf, rattlesnakes, a gila monster, bobcat, birds of prey, and iguana, to name a few, before deciding that our feet need a rest and head for the charming open-air restaurant and lunch.
We are spending the week in Tucson, the six of us. Every day is a new adventure: the Saguaro National Park, Sabino Canyon, the Mission of San Xavier, the Tubac art colony, Biosphere 2, Old Tuscson (an old West movie set), and the Kartchner Caverns. At night, we relax and have a happy hour, during which time we dredge up all the old stories/arguments and do a lot of laughing. Then we eat dinner, followed by a soak in the hot tub (or gene pool, as my brother calls it) until bedtime. For a bunch of old—well, a bunch of seniors, we’re doing pretty well. In fact, we are mightily blessed.
This is the third time we’ve taken a “siblings trip,” the first about ten years ago, right after we officially became orphans. Ranging from our 60’s to our 80’s, we live a fair distance from each other and so it makes sense. We’ve been gravitating to the Southwest, which is fine with me. Yes, at times tempers flare and the old “I did not!” “you did, too!” surfaces. Kids, take note: some things really do never change.
But generally speaking, we’re family. And in the long run, all that counts.



Hate taking pills?
You’re not alone. None of us likes to think of our body as less than perfect, and unfortunately, the older we get, the less perfect it is. At some point in our lives, most of us will face the fact that we need a little help if we want to hang around awhile.
I’m not talking about tossing down an aspirin or Tylenol once in a while for a headache or sore toe, or maybe a few of the big boys after major dental work or open heart surgery. It’s the every day, maybe several times a day, for the foreseeable future pill popping that’s the most irritating, and the type that everybody in their 30’s and 40’s claims they are never going to succumb to.
About ten years ago, I could answer the question “What drugs are you taking?” pretty easily. In fact, the nurse used to look up and say, “Is that all?” Well, no more. The vials in my bathroom are now lined up like a platoon of those Chinese terra cotta warriors all around my sink.
Let’s say your doctor has given you the good news (you’re alive) and the bad news (it’s questionable how long). And say you’ve finally gotten to a grudging acceptance. You fill the prescription, only to have a new host of problems arise. Your bottle might have a little label that says “take with food. Pretty easy. However, what if your doctor adds yet another drug for that or another condition. Which, of course, says, “take on an empty stomach,” so taking them together is not an option. And that’s if you only have to take one pill a day. But what if one is once, but the other is twice of three times? It’s easy to see that as things add up, you’re going to have a scheduling issue similar to Amtrak.
Fear not. Medical science is wonderful. Even now, they are trying to come up with ways of reminding you about your meds so that you won’t have to worry. The Wall Street Journal recently published a story about some of these developments. One company is considering putting what is known as a “GlowCap” on top of your prescription bottles equipped with a wireless transmitter that plugs into the wall and which “emits a pulsing orange light” when it’s time to take your pill. “After an hour,” the Journal article goes on, “the gadget starts beeping every five minutes, in arpeggios that become more complicated and insistent. After that, the device can set off an automated telephone or text message reminder to patients who fail to take their pills.”
OMG! as they say. And what if when, as has been known to happen, I completely forget the entire morning array? I can see my bathroom looking like a “Q” performance of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. And if I happen to be a complete no-show there (i.e. I’m off running errands), Verizon would be absolutely delighted to put through those calls and texts on my cell phone. At an additional charge, if I go over my allotment of minutes that month. There are other options, too, including a micro-chip that you swallow and which alerts you to a missed dose, an iPhone app, or even a personal call from your pharmacy if you haven’t renewed your prescription lately, asking if you need more information.
A brave new world, indeed. Best option? Stay as healthy as possible. And invest in pharmaceuticals.


We never ventured onto Lockwood’s Hill during the summertime, but once the first crunchy layer of white coated its slopes, we knew the witch was snowbound and we would have the place to ourselves. Then out of the garage would come the wooden Flyers and the sounds of singing runners echoed again through the winter air.

Probably one of the few land uprisings of any proportion in the entire city of Buffalo, NY, Lockwood’s Hill still crouches low between Downing St. and Dorrance near the Lackawanna city line. But although the old dirt road still runs up past the water town and the ancient house, streets have been carved into the sides where we spent so much of our childhood winters.

There never really was a witch who occupied that Victorian dwelling on the crest of the hill, but rumors were rampant. The mere thought of coming to a toe-to-toe meeting with Old Annie deep in the woods was enough to keep me away. There were, however, a few devil-may-cares who scorned the relative safety of the windswept slope in order to attempt a slalom run through the trees, often ending in a bone-jarring collision with a sturdy oak.

The hill was good enough for me. Taking a good lengthy run off the top, I’d flop down on my outstretched sled and careen madly down, wind singing in my ears and a spray of snow blinding all vision. A good run was one that ended in a low soggy place near the sidewalk on Downing St., and although it might result in a soaked mitten or boot, that was the ultimate. One could literally go no further.

One winter, someone built an ice slide. It was slick and bumpy and extremely dangerous, but it eliminated the problem of dragging your sled back up the steep and slippery incline. As I recall, it was given a coating of ashes after a near fatality. There was also a group of madcaps who actually had skis! They were usually older boys, but occasionally girls, and they constructed small jumps to test their skills. For the reset of us, though, sleds were fine. They were a lot easier to steer than today’s molded plastic or inflatable tubes.

What I remember most of all was the six block walk back home, after darkness had fallen, though silvery mica crystals of snow. Tired, hungry, and cold, thoughts ran on ahead to a warm house, a welcoming family, a hot meal of mashed baked potato and carrots, and a quiet evening around the radio.

Although we didn’t know each other then, Pat and I had actually zipped down the same hill, possibly passing each other or narrowly avoiding a collision halfway down. We walked through that same winter air to different houses, but to the same feelings of warmth and belonging. Every age has its simple pleasures. I doubt if they’re any different now for our own children and grandchildren. It only seems that way.

A few weeks ago, while driving home, Pat said he had a sudden urge to grab me and a sled and head over to the hill at Beartown. My first thought when he mentioned this was a deep shudder. Then I thought about it. True, a few years had gone since that last bellyflop on Lockwood’s Hill and we were too fond of our bones to risk that again. But did it mean we were too old for a little fun? Not on your life!


A Piece from the Scrapbag

Before we’re even finished dealing with the train wreck that was last year’s New Year’s resolutions, it’s time to make more. Or again, as it were. What possesses us to set ourselves up for failure every January 1? It most assuredly has something to do with hope. Hope that one of these days, one of these years, one of these decades, we can affect some meaningful change in our lives. Nothing wrong with hope. Here, therefore, is my list for 2010.

1. Run the Boston Marathon
2. Bring about world peace
3. Make every deadline for the Spirit of Bainbridge
4. Eat healthy, exercise more, lose weight (yadayadayada)
5. Finish my novel
6. Keep up with my blog
7. Grow a bigger pumpkin
8. Go gray
9. Read The Pillars of the Earth by Ken Follett
10. Regularly check myself for breast cancer

Now, as every politician and diplomat (is there a difference?) knows, it’s always best to have a fallback position—something you can live with in the event you don’t get exactly what you want.

1. I probably won’t even visit Boston, much less run there. Last summer, I did start trotting from the park path to my back door, a distance of about 60 yards, about half uphill. It took me a few weeks to work up to it, but I finally made it. It wasn’t pretty, and took me an equal amount of time to catch my breath, but I didn’t die. That I know of. The beauty of this resolution is that I can wait a few weeks until the snow goes away and the weather warms up a bit.
2. I’m pushing things a bit here, I know, but I (and definitely my husband) will be happy if I learn to hold my tongue instead of informing him that OF COURSE THE PEANUT BUTTER IS IN THE CUPBOARD. IT’S BEEN THERE FOR 16 YEARS, FOR PETE’S SAKE!
3. Anne will love me for this and I’m really going to try. Hey, I’m one for one already!
4. This is fuzzy enough that if I have a carrot stick, walk to the mailbox, and pass up that chocolate chip cookie, I can check that one off the list.
5. Well, I’d like to at least get past Chapter 2, which is where I’ve been stuck for two years.
6. Blogs are sort of like having a new baby. They require lots of attention. I have to confess that I’ve been cheating a bit and posting my Spirit articles, so if you’re reading this, it’ll just be a repeat. But on the off chance I occasionally take off on some other flight of fancy, the URL is www.entropyplaza.blogspot.com
7. I’m not aiming to break Jim Domo’s 925 lb. record, but I’d like to see something that resembles a basketball, instead of a softball. I have some seeds from a white French heirloom pumpkin that has bright orange flesh and cool warts all over and I’d love to bring that off, as well.
8. No way.
9. I’ve heard this is a great book and I already have the sequel on my MP3. If I start now, I might be able to finish by December 31. My problem is that where I used to read until all hours of the night, anything longer than a Robert B. Parker mystery gives me a good case of zzzzzz.
10. Since I got blindsided by this in 2009, you can be sure it’s one resolution I intend to keep. And it would behoove all you ladies out there to do the same.

Happy New Year!