Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Summer and Progeny

After a day with the grandchildren, we are exhausted and nothing compares to time spent with our two grandchildren.

Our delightful granddaughter just became five years old which makes me feel like Methuselah. We feel extremely fortunate considering that her first five years were a great concern to her parents and all of her family. Her arrival came with a c-section due to a breech birth and a near preemie early birth. Feeding problems were apparent early and determination and persistence by her dedicated mom got her through a very difficult time learning to nurse. She began to thrive in the early years due to breast feeding, but solid feeding problems persisted leading to feeding therapies which continued for several years.

Miss E. began walking at ten months, but speech was a long, overdue process which led to speech therapy for several years. We were very concerned that she would never speak; today, she never stops--music to our ears. After Child Find testing for preschool readiness, OT was also pursued. Today, she is getting ready for all day kindergarten next year with all developmental stages on target for her age. Cheers!! After a year in Montessori school, she's quite the little scholar. At her birthday celebration we heard a very detailed lecture on the finer points of quadrupeds. No memory problems, no speech problems. She can write her name and she has all of her skills ready for kindergarten. Many sight words are in her tool box and reading is on track.

Her energy and enthusiasm for the little things in life are contagious. When she visits my house, we walk about and look at things that she likes and talk about features of things she finds fascinating. She likes my tabletop jewelry cabinet that has little drawers and doors for storing tiny things. I found a small cabinet at a toy store that has similar features for her birthday. It was her favorite present but a close second was the sparkly shoes from Mom and Dad. The girl is wild about shoes, probably the only thing she inherited from me. 

Both Miss E. and her little brother, Mr. M., who is 19 months, are like little sponges looking for input.  Our grandson, unlike his sister, seemed to have no early problems and is eager to take on the world. His sense of adventure borders on the reckless, but he is a happy little camper who always cooperates with directions. He is so cheerful with a smile on his face and I marvel at his calm disposition. It is very rewarding to watch him in self-directed play because the wheels are turning and he seems to have a very specific task in mind when he plays. On their last visit, he awoke from a nap in another room and came to find the family. I like to sit on the floor with the kids so he came to me and curled up on my lap to cuddle for a bit--Grandma melts. Later he took a toy to Grandpa, gave it to him and said "Papa"--putting in those brownie points early. That will be Grandpa's favorite story forever.

The kids love to visit Nana and Papa and we wouldn't have it any other way. Who needs Europe, the South of France, the mountains, or the shore? The best that life has to offer is in the backyard with the grandchildren. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2010


WTZ4DNR                C-ISLE

LNRIGB                    BUBSTOY

FLAGTR                   YGOSLO

MUMMR                   BNKRGRL

IIMEME                      NAWTY2

WHUTEVR               TCKT2RDE

GLDMYN                  747IFLY

MOPSEY                  GOOFEE

I don't text behind the wheel, but I like to read the texts behind the wheels in front of me. I have spotted all of the above license plates and wished I had my camera. I have learned to keep it handy because anytime I am driving, I usually see several that make me chuckle. Of all of the collections on the web at various sites, this is my favorite: 

This site has a fun collection too:

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Lion

I readily confess to being partial to macho novels. I admit that reading plots that involve fictional characters who are able to solve some of the world's problems (even in a fictional context)  gives me a certain feeling of control and hope that somehow the problems of our country can be managed. I'm not a person who can hide my head in the sand, and say I don't watch TV or read about the news since I can't do anything about the problems, why do I need to know about them? I can't be that Pollyanna about real issues of the world where I live, and I feel we all have an obligation for collective moral outrage when the oceans have been turned into sludge, jobs are disappearing, people are losing homes, and forces from abroad would like nothing better than our total annihilation. When I see the news, I feel helpless. When I read a book, I feel my control issues are pampered, but I'm not naive and I'm not in denial.


When I read The Lion's Game by Nelson DeMille, ten years ago, I was fascinated by the clever plot published in Oct. 2000. After Sept. 11, 2001, I was really troubled by the issues it raised. It is called fiction, but I feel it is fictionalized non-fiction. The criminal mind on a political, religious, and personal vendetta isn't easy to confront. Fanatics are always dangerous. It is a little like swallowing bitter medicine--it is a real wake-up call. It's not pretty, it's not sweet, but I take my hat off to all those folks involved in the struggle to overcome the kinds of adversaries in this work of fiction that are all too real in the world as we know it today. I am a natural worrier so as I look at the struggles and conflicts in The Lion, I look for the real problems and real solutions to challenges raised. The answers and conclusions I reached are not what I would have thought in 1960. Citizens have to make their peace in their own way with the kind of world we have now. This book continues to raise some important issues that have confronted us in the last ten years. Even so, The Lion is a really fun read.

The Lion's Game has always been on my favorite books list and I wouldn't read the sequel, The Lion, without first reading The Lion's Game. Nelson DeMille has a talent for fast paced drama and a cryptic sense of humor that I needed for comic relief while reading this gut wrenching thriller, The Lion. Plum Island, Nightfall and Wildfire, also had NYPD cop John Corey as a central character who seems to be able to handle chaos with his wisecracking irreverence. I'm a huge fan of the character John Corey and I'll inhale any plot by Nelson DeMille. Highly marketable authors like to leave a cliffhanger to segue to a sequel and Nelson DeMille is no exception. Darn his hide--I hope he doesn't wait ten years for the next one.

Friday, June 18, 2010


During my teaching career, I met many students and two of the most interesting were Dan and Sheri (not their real names). They quickly adopted English sounding versions of their given names. Dan arrived at my school in September with very limited English skills from a country found on this map. As a high school librarian, I had a unique opportunity to get acquainted with hundreds of students who liked the environment and some were also assistants. As a person new to this country and the school, Dan wanted to spend spare time in the library to pursue his studies, and also assist with our new computers. I've never met a teenage boy who wasn't a computer whiz. Never one to turn down free help, especially with computers, I showed him our routines and tasks which he picked up very quickly. He was very intelligent and he had deliberately scheduled advanced classes even with his limited English. He was speaking English like a native by the end of October.

He had moved to the United States to live with relatives to attend high school and college in the U.S. He began showing me e-mails from his sister who was still living in his home country with their family. I also had the opportunity to meet his father when he came to visit. He was a scientist in their home country. Dan told me many stories about his sister and he obviously had a great deal of affection for her. We sometimes discussed his culture through pictures he found on the Internet. Dan liked ancient antiquities and the architecture of his ancestors. He was very aware of their contributions to mathematics, medicine, and science. He was a quiet young man with excellent manners and an innate confidence. He got along well with other students because they seemed to respect his abilities and intelligence. Dan received credits for working for me each year and he would do his assigned tasks quickly then head for a quiet corner to study. He was very mature for his age--more like a college student than a high school student. When he went to college, he majored in the computer field.

Before Dan graduated, his sister Sheri arrived. She was planning to attend high school and college in this country so she learned English quickly also. Her mother had also moved here and began working in health care. Occasionally, the father would visit them and stop at the school for events, but he did not move to the U.S. from the home country during the time I knew them. Dan and Sheri were their mother's only children, but they had other half-siblings. They discussed holidays they celebrated with extended family, but not the nuclear family dynamic of their culture. They spoke of family members in various places around the world, but they mentioned no religious affiliations.

Sheri assumed the job that Dan had held for four years and I had the chance to get to know her for four years. They were both extremely attractive young people and she was very interested in her new culture. She was responsible for the magazine collection and read a great many of them. She especially loved the fashions and played with different trendy designs like any teenage girl--jeans were a big hit. Sheri liked to have her eyebrows waxed or her makeup custom designed at the local salons.One day she flat ironed her very curly black hair and it was extremely long but beautiful hair to envy. She never wore the head cover that she was required to wear in the home country. She was like any teenager who was excited by new things and enjoyed her high school experience. She was thrilled to take driver education and to learn to drive. Both Dan and Sheri were extremely personable and fun to know. I will always remember their ready smiles and kind faces.

Several years after they had graduated and I had retired, I saw Dan in a sushi restaurant with a very attractive young lady he was courting. It was wonderful to have a few minutes to get re-acquainted. He had graduated from college, and was employed by one of the big name companies, as well as doing charity work in the community. I keep in touch with his activities through his web page. He has grown into a handsome, very professional young man. His sister Sheri attended college and majored in communications. I saw a picture of her in the newspaper recently and she is still a gorgeous young lady.

They were proud of their heritage and their culture, but they obviously embraced the benefits of life in the U.S. to enjoy the parts of this culture that appealed to them. It was interesting to observe how they could simultaneously entertain two cultures with ease. They were interested in cultural assimilation as needed, but they don't plan to return to their previous country. If I did not know their country of origin, I would never suspect if I met them for the first time today. It was very rewarding to witness their metamorphosis.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sin City

Many things found in Las Vegas are fake, gaudy and over-the-top. However, not even Lyme Disease or antibiotics can keep me from my annual Vegas odyssey. I sometimes ask myself why it is one of my favorite vacation spots because I never tire of visiting it. I like the variety of experiences available and I always find something new to see or another extravagance to observe.

On this trip, we saw the new City Center complex which has opened with another experience for tourists.
The City Center is so huge, a monorail snakes around from hotel to hotel which is helpful in hot weather. It has all the usual shops, hotels, restaurants, casino, and the required Cirque du Soleil show which we haven't seen yet. The Beatles show at The Mirage is fantastic, but we aren't Elvis fans so we skipped the Elvis show at Aria in City Center. Instead we repeated a trip to see KA at MGM Grand. KA, as well as O at Bellagio are my favorite Cirque shows because of the technology and high level of performances in both. Many Olympians in swimming, diving and gymnastics find employment in these shows which I feel are worth every penny in entertainment. 

We aren't devoted gamblers, but we hit the slots briefly. We spend less than it would cost to attend a pro athletic event in any big city. It is just entertainment and soon bores because you know all the bells and whistles just mean we donated to the casino again. The winners are few and far between which we already knew.

The dichotomy of the city is jolting. A street minister stands on a street corner and yells about Sodom and Gomorrah in the middle of a group of immigrants hawking the latest peep shows and snapping brochures in your face. A woman wearing religious head gear walks down the street while passing behind her on The Strip is an advertising truck proclaiming "Hot Babes, 24/7 in your room in 20 minutes. They want you!" Of course, they mostly want your wallet. It must be hard for those serious poker players to concentrate on their game while a pole dancer slithers around on a table in front of them.

The location of Vegas makes it a good home base to take side trips to visit the Grand Canyon, Hoover Dam, Red Rocks Canyon or other points of interest outside the city limits. We like to drive outside the city at times and take in the nature scene too. The environment is very different from our region.

Vegas is amusing and it makes me smile but after a point, enough already and I've had enough for another year. I know I'll return because it is full of noise, energy, audacity and defiance. It is a great place to meet friends or family from other parts of the country because there is something for everyone to enjoy. As long as the city continues to put up new, more exciting extravaganzas to enjoy, people will continue to trek through the desert to waste gasoline, money, water and their time in the name of entertainment for a brief time. 

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I am a big fan of Maxine from Crabby Road, because I am a cantankerous old hag too. A visit to a doctor's office is worth a good rant; that's the guarantee we get from Medicare. I have a new doctor and he is a proud mother's dream. I'm as shallow as any 20 year old--good looks and charisma count. Isn't it unnerving when your doctor is younger than your children?

Continuing with my dissertation of Monday on Lyme Disease,  when I was in the doctor's office, all was going swimmingly until I showed them my Medicare Card. At that point the receptionist started talking louder like I had lost my hearing. Later she said, "You'll need to write this down so you don't forget." Am I missing something or do they hand out hearing aids and Alzheimer's with those Medicare cards?

How some people treat older people as if they are imbeciles ought to be illegal. I like to claim my senior rates but I don't expect to pay for it with a hit to my self-esteem. Back off junior, we've all been young and stupid too. That didn't sound quite right. I don't mean that we were also stupid when we were young as well as now that we are older. I meant that a young person can be young and stupid. Is that why she looks at me like I am an imbecile? I wasn't stupid when I was young and I'm not stupid just because I am over 65. Later, the nurse who took my blood pressure said, "You're in good shape for someone your age."  Well what did she expect, a Rascal scooter and a chaperone?

No generational wars intended, but young whippersnappers get on my nerves. Don't they realize that if they don't self-destruct first,  they will get to lose much, if not all of their hair, get gray hair, get wrinkles, grow a bigger tummy and forget a few nouns? They are already doomed to hearing loss if their listening habits are any indication. Seriously, the noise at concerts, movies, or the ear phones of an IPod that you can hear from three feet away can't be great for their hearing. I'm sorry, I forgot if you are under thirty, you come with a money back guarantee of immortality and no consequences for irresponsible behavior. Try cashing in that guarantee.

Yours truly,
the imbecile  (no capital letters since I didn't mean it as a proper noun and a select few under thirty can spell it anyway. I'm on meds, I'm not responsible.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Bull's Eye

Isn't this guy gorgeous! I was in awe when I photographed him in the middle of my driveway but today, I might shoot him if I had a chance.

I've always loved trees and I am fortunate to live in a forest. The only downside is that we share those woods with many, many, many deer. The fawns are cute when they are fifteen inches high and wobbly on their legs. Then they grow up and stack antlers on their heads so they can run at each other and fight for the right to create more fawns. They eat amazing amounts of greenery and there is no way to stop them. The young tree seedlings are consumed and now we live in a forest that is more like a canopy of a rain forest. Forget trying to plant the flowers I love because deer have no respect and seem to prefer eating flowers rather than anything green.

Last week, I tossed storm damage deadwood away from the house. Yesterday, my right arm and side were very sore. This morning, I had a huge red bull's eye rash on my right side--amazingly good description. So off to the doctor for Lyme Disease treatment. I have always been a bug magnet for some strange reason and I need patches to wear on my skin to repel bugs, but I haven't found any in drugstores. Instead, I spray DEET on a tissue and pat exposed skin--face and arms. However, the bull's eye rash is under my clothes. The little buggers are impossible to repel. I understand the chemicals in DEET aren't very healthy so I avoid it when I can, but I can't take a bath in it if I walk outside. If I walk down the driveway to the mailbox, the bugs start to bother me before I get back to the house, so I shouldn't be surprised that a little time in the yard resulted in a deer tick bite.  This is another good reason that I avoid camping.

Lyme Disease isn't a condition to treat casually and can result in serious health issues, so it really annoys me to have to deal with it. Years ago, my husband had treatment with antibiotics for four weeks for Lyme after we had a trip to Cape Cod. We didn't have to drive that far to find it, we live in the middle of prime territory for this disease. Aside for that obvious problem, I still like many things about living in this region.

I'm not a person to get sick very often because it annoys me to have to deal with my health. I am fortunate that I am usually healthy since I have no patience with interrupting what I want to do because of health issues. My doctor assures me that after three weeks of antibiotics I should have no lasting effects and the medication shouldn't create any problems as long as I religiously take it. Even with the danger of tick bites, I love the warm weather and spending time outdoors after the severe winter we had. I'm not picking up tar balls from an oil spill so it could be worse.  

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Reacher Creature

Another fun beach book just in time for summer, and this Reacher Creature (that's what his fans call themselves) couldn't wait long enough to find a beach to read it. 61 Hours by Lee Child has a main character called Jack Reacher, ex-Army MP and currently a nomad with no home address, so he is living off the grid from day to day wherever he wants to wander. I like his no-baggage approach to life. He never travels with luggage, he buys new clothes when he needs them and throws away the old ones. Works for me--today being laundry day. Reacher always finds trouble no matter where he goes and doesn't seem to mind. We can rest assured that he can handle any situation. By the by, we learn that he, a West Point grad, was kicked out of the Army after attacking a general who was withholding food from the troops on the front lines and selling it for personal profit. Jack Reacher has a clear sense of right and wrong. He becomes even more human and likeable in this book in the way that he relates to several other characters and his efforts to help others who can't help themselves.

This is Reacher's 14th adventure from Lee Child with the sequel due out in October. Amazon has some interesting reviews with complete plot summaries included. I didn't read them until I read the book and visited Lee Child's great website where he blows smoke across the page--great effect on a web page. Everything about this book seems implausible, improbable, and you've gotta be kidding, but it works. It screams "suspended disbelief." The ending really left me ticked off, so naturally, I am frothing at the mouth to get to the sequel. I think anyone who hasn't read the first 13 in this series would really enjoy them, but would also have a different view of 61 Hours. I've been a fan from the first book so I appreciate the development of the character and the series. 

Jack Reacher is a character who is always a leader no matter where he finds himself. A man with "skills," confidence and size is a natural hero. It is unapologetic entertainment with no pretentions to being "great literature" and this English major has suffered through some so called "Great Literature." This is a great page turner. I've tried to figure out my fascination with this bigger-than-life character. Yes, he's big, at six feet, five inches, he's not afraid of anyone. I like that attitude and his application of reasoning skills to know what are his odds in any situation and using facts to figure out how to overcome adversaries. He seems to know a lot about everything necessary for his self defense and solving crimes. I've concluded that I like how the character can take care of himself in any situation and doesn't mind taking on the bad guys because he always knows how to beat them. By the time he gets around to putting down villians who "really needed killing" it seems totally justified, and you wonder what took him so long. He waits until the reader agrees that it is a righteous kill. Hey, it's fiction and, like anyone with control issues, I like to think there are answers to some of life's pesky problems.

The author puts a lot of effort into the details of these adventures and I appreciate that kind of work. Considering that Lee Child has licensed all of the titles for movies, I am eager to see who they will find to play Jack Reacher. It just won't work if he isn't 6' 5" tall. Meanwhile, I always eagerly wait for the next one. Eat your heart out James Bond!  Who needs "shaken, not stirred."