Turning a Page

This pwatchast weekend I attended a memorial service for my aunt and uncle — a couple well into their nineties when they died within months of one another, having lived long, fun-filled lives.  My aunt was the youngest of my mother’s two sisters and the last of nine siblings to pass.

Most of us attending the service were cousins.  We had all grown up together and spent many hours at family outings. A subset spent many more hours playing while the three sisters laughed and visited over coffee.

We also had to re-introduce ourselves to one another, not recognizing our childhood playmates. In some cases, almost forty years had passed since we had last seen one another.

It was a bittersweet reception that followed, catching up, watching old extended family movies, laughing and sharing memories, highlights of our lives, children and grandchildren.  We reminisced about the family picnics in Stevens Creek and Huddart Parks, the splashing and netting crayfish in the meandering streams and pools, Thanksgiving evenings at my family’s home, and the weekends at the Pope Estate at Lake Tahoe, where one of the brothers was the grounds keeper. 

As the Pope family only visited once a year, we had our “own” private beach, complete with roaring bonfires, bar-b-ques and s’mores.  I can still see my elderly grandmother, in her early 60’s, quietly sitting in her chair, smiling and watching over her brood of twenty-some young grandchildren frolicking in the very cold and crystal clear lake.

Those of us at the memorial service agreed it would be a fun idea to get the remaining cousins together once a year, especially as nearly a quarter of us have already passed. 

Fun, yes, and also a tad sobering, recognizing that we are now the oldest generation living.

While I’m not the most senior of the group, this is my year of turning Seventy.  The big 7-0.  70. No matter how I write it, it looks old. 

Not so long ago, that 7-0 seemed so very ancient, so far off, so decrepit, so…oh, one foot in the grave and the other not too far behind.

It’s not that old, even though I don’t buy the current mantra of 60 being the 40, 70 being the new 50 and so on.  My body and mind don’t lie and both are daily reminders that I am no longer as young as I’d like to pretend to be.

I am aging no matter how it’s framed and, while I may not be as rocking-chair ready as my grandmother, I am nonetheless on the downhill side of life and that downhill trajectory sometimes feels like it is traveling at warp speed.

Even now, I realize there are life chapters that have closed — and probably not necessary to re-live — and dreams that may never be realized.

And yet…  And yet… 

There are still adventures to be had, dreams to be dreamt, and life to be experienced.

I wonder at times if fear and angst are the true shadow culprits that snake around the edges of an aging body or mind, painting a person’s world so much smaller and intimidating than it needs to be?

Of course, fear and angst can accomplish that task regardless of a person’s age.

The challenge may well be in keeping minds and hearts open to new possibilities ~ embracing new ideas, learning from misadventures and contributing to the world and people around us.

ah, 70, big deal. It’ll just be another day, another year. I think I’d rather focus on those adventures still to be experienced ~







The Old Gang

Once upon a timIMG_0790e, there were three grandsons of preschool age.  There was also one very large youthful black cat.

The boys quickly learned that if they were gentle with the cat, he would reward them with loud purring.

When the grandsons came to visit, they’d race into the house.

The cat raced under my bed.

Within minutes, the kids were down on the floor in my bedroom, circling the bed and the cat. 

Poor BlackJack. He knew better than to bite or claw and he didn’t stand a chance against three boys.  Sooner or later, one of the boys would get his hand on the 18 pounds of fur and muscle and pull the mildly protesting cat out from his hiding place.

The kids had their routine.  The three boys, with the cat in the center, would sprawl on Grandma’s bed and catch up with the happenings of their lives or make plans for their time together.  In time, BlackJack showed the boys his favorite hiding place on the shelf of a large bay window. The four would often curl up on a blanket in bay window, hiding from the adult world behind white linen curtains.

On the bed or in the bay window, BlackJack would eventually roll over on his back and purred along with their conversation while the boys rubbed his tummy.  The cat looked like a furry Buddha.

The kids adored him.

In time, the oldest of the three boys joined the 4H and got some hens and a rooster for his project.  He named the rooster BlackJack.  Neither his mom nor I could ever figure out the connection, but to a seven year old, it made perfect sense.

It was not too long after the year of 4H that BlackJack the Rooster died. Mom wasn’t too terribly concerned about informing the young owner as she had now taken over care of the remaining birds. She waited for her son to come home from school and sat him down.

I have some sad news. BlackJack died this morning.

My young grandson’s lower lip began to quiver and tears welled up in his eyes. Mom was not expecting this.

Honey, he was an old rooster and had lived…

The Rooster? The Rooster?  I thought you meant Grandma’s cat.  Jeez, Mom, he was just a rooster.

But BlackJack the cat…he was one of the gang.

Then, as things are apt to happen, the three boys grew into young men.  They got much taller, much louder with much deeper voices, and BlackJack the cat grew older as well.

During this last visit, the boys occasionally tried to entice BlackJack out from under my bed, but the cat was having nothing to do with the teenagers. He no longer wanted to hear about their adventures or be part of the old gang.

BlackJack spent the better part of their visit hiding under my bed, coming out only to grab a bite of food when the boys were at the lake, or curling up with me at bedtime. 

When the travelers got the car packed and headed off, it was a while before BlackJack ventured out.  He was exhausted and stretched out to sleep first on the couch, then on my bed.

But, for hours, every time a car drove by, his ears would perk up and BlackJack would stare out the front screen door, just to make sure the kids weren’t returning. When a car had safely driven past our driveway, he’d curl up to rest again.  Soon, he fell into a well-deserved deep sleep.

Truth be told, as much as I love everyone showing up, I know just how BlackJack feels.

I think I’ll join him for a nap.



The Science Project

scienceWhen the grandkids descended, it was not just to eat, fish, terrorize the cat and see Grandma.  It was so Mom and Grandma could complete the annual middle school Science Project.

Two of my grandchildren attend a small school in a smaller school district in an upscale area.  To say the school district takes itself quite seriously would be a monumental understatement.  They strive to make sure their students are functioning at much higher levels than developmentally possible.

Translation: with luck, their parents are college educated and can do the work.

I helped Grandson I for two years with The Science Project, and have just completed year one with his younger brother. 

The Science Project Directions for Sixth Grade (12 years old): 

Select an experiment that can inform our community.  Include a summary introduction, manipulated, responding and controlled variables, a problem statement, research question, hypothesis, background research as well as materials, procedures, setup drawings/photos, observations, data tables, results, analysis and a conclusion.

All of which well might be fine… if the students actually had a science class that walked them through their experiments and reports.

They don’t.

…and, if the expectation was for the experiment, report and poster were in line with the abilities of sixth, seven and eighth graders. 

They aren’t.

Translation:  select an experiment that the parents can underwrite, conduct, marginally understand and submit a 30 some page word processed report as well as an artistic poster board presentation for the community to admire.

When Grandson I first ventured out, he and his partner teamed up with partner’s Dad to measured the levels of methane gas with Dad’s company’s newly developed thingamajig.  Unfortunately, as the thingamajig hadn’t yet been completely patented, much of the threesome’s findings remained largely confidential. 

While the kids didn’t have much a clue as to what they were doing, they did enjoy the trips to woods, cemeteries and the ocean in Dad’s brand new car to measure whatever Dad could measure on said thingamajig. 

The Mom in the equation is an exceptionally talented artist so while Dad helped write the required report, keeping the non-disclosure items confidential, Mom made an incredible poster for the required Science Fair, where the kids appropriately dress up to show off their parents’ handiwork.

Entering the Fair, the boys were very excited to discover that the exceptionally professional and artistic poster, the focal point of the exhibit, was actually theirs.

The ensuing years have not been as easy for my daughter and son-in-law, who have now had to take the lead on these annual Science Projects. Grandma, former English teacher and Office Word and Excel Wizard, has been recruited to do the editing and de-plagiarizing as well as the formatting of the overall report and data tables for Mom’s poster board. 

This year, as I am pretty much fully retired, I was also assigned to gather some of the background research. 

The annual Science Project is an extended family activity.

The adults attempt to follow the Science Project webpage and directions, which evidently haven’t been updated since 2010 and could possibly be the reason this year’s project was due in the middle of Spring Break and website refers back to what we covered in class when, in fact, there is no class.

Just the Project. And it has to be in Goggle Docs.

There’s a required Table of Contents, which is not found in Goggle Docs, and a list of all the topics to be included in the TOC.  A good number of those topics are not included in the directions that follow, but, to keep things more or less balanced, there are other topics that evidently do need to be included.

The pages are to be numbered a particular way, which is more or less standard formatting in college and quite easy for a former English teacher to format with either Word or an old timey typewriter, but the particular formatting required can’t be done in Goggle Docs.


The website for the science project is akin to jumping into a rabbit hole — a string of one idea/link after another, with no organization and minimal application to what has been assigned.

It’s no wonder the parents (and grandparents) get frustrated.

To be fair, by the time of the Science Fair, the kids do have a superficial understanding of what has transpired and, as it’s all about appearances, they do have to wear nice outfits when they present their parents’ work.

This is where many of the young boys actually get involved: figuring out their wardrobe and the tie, pressed shirt and nice pants that will make the most interesting contrast with their florescent Nikes.

Apparently, I still have two more years of the annual Science Project and then the youngest grandson will be off to high school, where the assignments will be oh-so-much easier.



3 Teens, 2 Fish & 1 Grandma

bassThe house was clean.  Spring cleaned.

Then three teenage grandsons arrived.

The cat dove under a bed.

When the boys were toddlers, I used to say that a whirlwind had gotten into the house; now, that they’re all taller than I, it’s a full fledged tornado.

hey, Grandma, hi, where’s the drinks, homemade cookies, wow! we’re going fishing, ok?

Then they phoned; they had caught a fish.  Quite a large fish, to be exact. 

Now what?

Their mom/aunt and I walked over to the lake.  It was a very, very large fish with quite a large mouth. It was a fish that looked very intent on living.  Currently, the fish was held captive in a large bucket and not at all happy.

We could take it home and cook it, the boys said in unison.

oh yeah. and just who do you think is going to kill the fish? IMG_3043 (1)

The boys looked at each other. That fact has not been factored in.  The boys looked at the fish that was looking very mean, sort of in a Jaws-like way.

And, who is going to clean and fillet this dinner item?

My daughter and I looked at one another.  She’s the daughter, the only daughter, who is just now learning the fundamentals of cooking. She shrugged and looked at me.

Not going to happen.  Toss it back.  Besides, it’s a bass and they’re lousy to eat. It’s better off living. 

I had no idea what I was talking about, but I used to teach high school and the kids usually believed me. These were two fifteen year olds and an up and coming preteen brother.  They believed me.

The fish went back into the lake to live another day.

Then, the darn kids turned around and caught another large fish. This time, two serious fishermen in a boat on the lake gave them the thumbs up (at least, there was a digit that went skywards), shook their heads and headed home. 

The boys knew better than to ask a second time, and another fish was granted a stay of execution.

Thank goodness.

All that fishing left the boys inhaling food.  My mother used to wonder if my brothers had hollow legs; the same thought crossed my mind.

Where do they put all that food? A second batch of cookies was well on the way to being devoured as well. Ditto lasagna, salad, veggies and a loaf of French bread before trying their hand, and their grandmother’s clubs, on the green just beyond my deck, coming back for some gin rummy and more food.

Two of the three –IMG_0371– the teens — were up before dawn, hauling a kayak to the lake along with the fishing gear.  Something about the early bird…

They returned a couple hours later to inhale Dutch Babies and a large bowl of fresh fruit before heading back again to hunt down yet another monster fish.  I can only hope the fish stays well out of reach.

Who knew that one lake, a 6th green, a deck of cards and a mountain of food could keep teenagers entertained?


Spring Cleaning

MopAdmittedly MIA from Justme…a combination of wrapping up the piecing the quilt tops before family and guests begin arriving, spring cleaning and general busy-ness.

It was rather cathartic, giving my home a thorough cleaning, concluding with a rather thin motley orange mop tossed out with the garbage and poking out of the top of the green trash can. From a distance, I swore it had a comb-over, but that could have just been wishful thinking.

This was the usual spring cleaning, dust-bunnies included. I don’t have a lot of extra stuff; most everything I have, I use. It’s been part and parcel of being a gypsy and moving fairly regularly.

In one of my early moves, just post-divorce so it was a long time past, I rented a small storage unit for all the treasures I couldn’t part with.  A few months into my adventure, as I wrote the check for the monthly fee, I began wondering just what exactly was nestled in that storage unit.

So, I drove there shortly thereafter, on another spring day much  like today. I arrived at the storage facility, punched in my code, unlocked and rolled up the metal door and stood face to face with no more than ten boxes.  In the grand scope of things, it was a pretty meager stack and certainly, at face value, not worth the monthly fee I had been paying.

That was even more evident when I opened said boxes.  Good grief, talk about junk. 

Needless to say, I tossed a lot into the garbage, loaded up the very few items worth keeping and cancelled the storage unit.  Since then, I’ve been vicious at recycling, donating and tossing a whole lot.  And haven’t missed much of anything.

This year, however, has been a bit different due to this new quilting adventure.  Having been both handed a large bin of scraps from our local Project: Linus and having my own smaller collection, I managed to piece together four — count ’em, four — scrappy quilt tops.  Now, I’m in a bit of a quandary: what to toss; what to keep.

The whole process gave me pause.  The scraps became one queen, two twin and one crib quilt tops. Out of habit, I probably tossed more scraps than I should have and I began to wonder what other things could have been put to good use, other than the trash or recycle can. 

On the other hand, the scraps are gone and my guest/sewing closet is once again relatively neat, organized and ready for guests. And, of course, another quilt.  Or two.  Or three.  But first, family, friends and then a run at actually quilting the five tops I did make this winter.