coming out of my shell

coming out of my shell

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ringing out the old year

What a mind-boggling, life changing year 2017 was for me. I'm a compulsive photo chronicler, so I have photos to testify on behalf of the year gone by. If I concentrate on those pictures of my personal life, and ignore the political hijinks/moral decay in this country, I feel this was a particularly good year for me and my family. And I want to feel good, so that's what I'm going to concentrate on.

I rejoined the work force a year ago, albeit as an unpaid volunteer.  Like many others, I found a political niche to fill and spend time every day of the week working against hate. It isn't pleasant and I am often frustrated. I actually quit twice. I can't tell you how many times I have also threatened to quit because I am a hot head AND a raving maniac. However, I will stick with it because I want to be able to look my grandchildren in the eyes and tell them I did my very best. In the process, I am learning about myself. I am learning to set boundaries for myself, and to respect boundaries set by others. These things don't come naturally to me. As always, I learn the hard way. I'm trying to take it on the chin; to not take adversity or criticism personally. Geez, that's tough!

Through the magic of DNA testing, in June 2017, my husband T discovered a grown daughter (R), son-in-law (CH), and three full-grown grandchildren (S, A, and MR) he didn't know he had. Various subsets of these glorious folks have visited us four times, and we all seem to like each other. Building relationships takes time; but so far, so good. Maybe it is presumptuous of me, but I think of them as mine, too. Just like the younger daughter we always knew we had, this older one is a joy, as are her family.

It was a good old year. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. I await the new one with an open heart. I hope you are, too.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve 2017

If you celebrate Christmas, have a good one!  My gift to you is this lovely graphic by Wenzel Oswald, illustration for Himmlische Mär by Leo Blonder, 1914. Wiener Werkstätte. Via 50watts.  I can find no information about this artist, who seems to have disappeared after 1934.  Anyone know anything about him?  He deserves to be remembered.


Wednesday, December 20, 2017

That Damn Gingerbread House

OMG! (loud and breathless, like a teenage girl) I had the all-time worst experience making a gingerbread house with my grandson.

I received a text from daughter, M, saying little N wanted to build a gingerbread house. M, a wise and subtle mother, replied "That sounds like a Grandma thing." She texted me with the good news. Taking a deep breath, I ordered a kit. I hoped it would arrive broken beyond repair. But no, apparently I was one of the lucky few who received a kit with all pieces intact. I took that as an omen.

I picked N up from school yesterday. We began to build the cursed thing. Grandpa helped. That meant Grandpa and I (both ex-managers) embarked on an epic power struggle to get the damn thing to hold together. Initially this involved frosting, but later degenerated into heat guns, glue, and holding that sucker together for an interminably long time. Nails were considered. All while N jumped in his seat talking non-stop.

We used up the kit-provided frosting trying (and failing) to get the damn house to stick together. I made more. N (aka, my shadow) insisted we divide it up into four small bowls so he could use all 4 types of food coloring. He already had the food coloring out of the pantry. Then we returned to the construction zone where T had given up on the blasted house. It was my turn. I used Elmer's glue (and plenty of it) to stick that sucker back together.

As I held it together hoping for the glue to dry, N dumped about half the candy decorations in two of the frostings. He is lightening fast. I guess in his 5 year-old mind he imagined he could frost the roof with the candy infused glop and the candy would stick out. A genius, thinking outside the box! But he had not considered they would just be buried in the frosting. I was holding it all together and couldn't stop him, although I yelled really, really loud. We really have to get that kid's hearing checked. Not sure WHY he didn't hear me.

Finally the roof stayed on! He decorated. Alas, as we stood to look at his handiwork, one side of the roof slipped off in slow motion. He lost interest and went inside. There was no way I could stop. I re-glued the hateful roof and propped up each side with boxes to keep them in place. Two hours later N's father, MV, came to get him. I  took the boxes away from the sides of the roof. It held! N was delighted. I'm pretty sure he thought I was a miracle worker. I was happy, although my blood pressure was rather high.

After they left I took the following pictures:

Not the best gingerbread house you've ever seen, but dammit! it was a house. At last I could relax.  Unfortunately, gravity rules supreme. Here's how it looked this morning:
I surrender. 

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Christmas baking

I have been baking for the holidays. You, too?

My father's family has been in the U.S. since 1714, so they are totally Americanized, with nary a trace of ethnicity.  However, they were from Kentucky and Tennessee, so there were regional Christmas treats on that side. My beloved paternal grandmother, for instance, always made divinity candy and peanut butter fudge.

My mother's side was both German and French, and her grandparents arrived in the U.S. about 1860. They moved to a German enclave in Northern Indiana, near Chicago.  My Mom was born in 1926, so she was raised in those traditions. Her mother made fancy Christmas cookies.  Mom also made fruitcake, but I think that was a 1950's housewife thing. Dad made chocolate fudge. We always made rolled cut-out cookies which we then frosted with many garish colors and loaded down with sprinkles. Yum.

I already made my usual fruitcake, which I've wrapped in bourbon soaked cheesecloth this year instead of brandy. 


and I'm also making Hungarian kieflis. They are insanely thin rolled dough wrapped around walnut/confectioner's sugar/egg white mix.  Then shaped into a crescent.  When done and cool, they are dusted with more confectioner's sugar. Although I am not Hungarian, I grew up in a Hungarian parish, and everyone made them, my mother got her recipe from a neighbor.

Heavenly Kieflis

Next week, I'll make the cut-out butter cookies with my grandkids.  That's always fun.

Okay, make me say it, I'm going to make fudge, too. Even though it will push me right over the damn edge. I hope you are satisfied, Chilly Hollow, your fudge recipe is my downfall once again.  Don't tell me to eat less.  I can't.

For those of you who also celebrate a winter holiday, what are you baking or making? Not just Christmas, I'm interested in any winter holiday. Are they part of your family traditions?

Saturday, December 9, 2017


I am not an introvert. However, I have lived with one for 47 years, I bore and raised one, and I have many close friends and lifelong influences who are introverts. 

I'm not sure how they can stand me. I suspect they often can't. I'm fluid and potentially explosive, like gasoline. I once talked so much with so many different people over the course of a few days that I started to lose my voice, but I kept on talking. I like to change my mind, and I get a rush from making last minute decisions that throw caution to the wind. I am usually up for a double dog dare, and I have been known to be the life of the party. 

When T and I travel, the first thing I want to do upon arrival is go out and do something; before I even unpack!  T wants to take a nap and recover from traveling. At parties, I am all over the place and I like to stay late. T wants to leave early. It is a conundrum. However, we love each other. Over the years we adapted when we could, or did things alone when we couldn't. It works for us. Building relationships with introverted friends is harder.

Introverts don't necessarily trust extroverts. Extroverts are unpredictable, making introverts nervous. It is kind of like a cat trying to be friends with a puppy. I get it.

When I started to date my husband, my mother said "Why can't you go out with someone normal for a change?"  I replied, "Because if crazy people don't spend time with other crazy people, they will start to think they ARE crazy." Same goes for extroverts. In a life dominated by introverts I sometimes have to remind myself it is okay to be like me. 

It's okay for friends to be different from each other, right?

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Christmas, redux

It is early December and Christmas frenzy is in full swing at my house. I'm ordering presents, actually venturing out of the house to go to real live local stores, making all sorts of lists, and starting those damn Xmas cards. I'm already tired of it all. However, if past years are an indication, it will soon take over every thinking moment. I will be obsessed with the holidays any minute now and I won't resurface until January. Ho ho ho I think there are sugar plums dancing in my head.  Perhaps it is the time for a change. Maybe Christmas should be much, much more about giving, caring, and helping others.  Maybe everyday should be like that?

By the way, the U.S. has received an early Christmas present in the form of #PoorPeoplesCampaign, a revival of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1960's era Civil Rights movement. According to a post on the Repairers of the Breach facebook page, 

"Poor, Disenfranchised," (and) "Clergy to Launch New Movement For Moral Revival of America: Leaders to Announce Historic Wave of Direct Action, Non-Violent Civil Disobedience

Washington – On Monday, 50 years to the day after Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and others called for the original Poor People’s Campaign, organizers will announce a new moral movement to challenge the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation and America’s distorted national morality.

The Monday launch of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival by co-chairs Rev. Dr. William Barber II, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis and other leaders will include the unveiling of details around six weeks of direct action next spring at statehouses and the U.S. Capitol, including plans for one of the largest waves of civil disobedience in U.S. history."


Here's a video that was posted live yesterday to start their campaign:

Saturday, December 2, 2017

And so it begins

I've reduced my Christmas card list in recent years, as many people have. Some send me a card in return, some don't. It is a lot of money to buy decent cards and ten million stamps. I am not sure I can afford to continue this tradition in the future. I am wondering about the politics of Christmas cards. How does one stop sending cards without hurting people's feelings?

This is increasingly more important to me as I get older with less discretionary income, especially in light of the GOP federal tax bill that passed yesterday. Apparently, the ruling elite believe it is important to take money from the poor and middle class by reducing Social Security and Medicare in order to pay for this crazy tax cut that will allow the wealthy 1% to increase their wealth. Yes, reducing social "entitlements" is how they expect to pay for the tax cuts our "betters" will receive over time.  I'm not real sure how two government programs I have paid into all my working life can be considered an entitlement, but who bothers to listen to reason or facts these days?

I want to apologize to my grandchildren for this unconscionable scam, because it will likely mean they won't be able to retire like I did. However, I did my very best to stop this nonsense. The good part is that this scam will become increasingly clear to the American public in time for the November 2018 elections.  Sometimes you lose, sometimes you win. 

Monday, November 27, 2017

Getting to know me

Our beloved granddaughter, E, recently spent the night with us. While she was here, we got a FaceTime call from old friends. E observed as we interacted lovingly with a family she didn't know. She wondered who they were. I told her that we used to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family almost every year for 30 years. Shocked she exclaimed "Wow, Grandma! You guys have a secret life." That tickled me.

It has not been a secret life, by the way. It has been sassy and loud. It is just that my granddaughter is still at that age where she doesn't realize her Grandpa and I are individuals independent from the social roles we play. This was a bit of a revelation to her, I think; a moment of personal growth.

When I was young I was always asking my mother and grandmother questions about their lives.
Just like you need kindling to build a good fire, you need knowledge of the "other" to build a relationship. It is easier to forgive people for their weaknesses if you have an understanding of how they developed them. And, of course, being interested in the people around you creates empathy.

I look forward to this next developmental step with E. Hopefully, she will learn to know all her grandparents as individuals, rather than thinking of us simply as her grandparents. I will be happy when she knows me as Colette, in addition to knowing me as Grandma.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Is it so wrong?

Sheesh, I can't believe we are really going to stage another relentlessly sunny Thanksgiving in flip flops and shorts. 

As the day approaches, I am finally going to admit I miss having Thanksgiving in the frozen north lands where it is weather appropriate for the season.
No, I do not want to move back. I am done with white knuckle driving and shoveling snow. I just wish I could occasionally spend Thanksgiving  there, and see my old friends.

This is our 4th Thanksgiving in Florida. The first three years we ate like civilized people in the dining room. The first two we even used our good china. Last year, meh! Bring out the white Corning Ware. It's Florida casual, now. I may NEVER haul out that good china again.

In fact, this year we are having Thanksgiving out by the pool in the lanai. I am looking forward to it. It is the best  time of the year in Florida. However, I miss a cold-weather Thanksgiving in a house with a wood stove and lots of candles. I can't help it. That's what I am used to.

If we are giving thanks at this time of the year, then I am thankful for the life I have lived. It has been jam packed with both joy and sorrow, which is to say it has been quite full. As I get older I notice the quiet moments are often swarming with memories. I have to wonder, is it so wrong to yearn for the past?

Paying homage to my friend JE's Challah.  A powerful Thanksgiving memory.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Goodness Gracious!

Wow!  There sure are a lot of slimeball sexist pigs out there.  Right? 

Everyday it seems like a new one is being called out.  There are so many that no one seems to know what to do with them all.  Hold them accountable, I say!  If it ruins their careers, so be it.  Some of them ruined the careers of the women they dehumanized (think Harvey Weinstein), and I'm a firm believer in the punishment fitting the crime.  Make them apologize publicly at the very least.  Force them to consider their actions and how it impacted on the lives of the women they victimized. THAT's how one "begins" to atone for one's sins - by fully understanding what one has done. Begin being the key word. 

It is good to be sorry for your sins, as long as it is real and changes you for the better.  It is a step in the right direction and may keep you from burning in the fires of hell for eternity (big mytho-poetic smile here). And for those who are still trying to lie and pretend all those women are making it up, sheesh - that just doesn't fly anymore.  Bring on the investigations, regardless of party, or title, or relationship.  Let the chips fall as they may.  

We have been moving backwards the past year. Change, however, is the nature of reality.  Eventually we will stop moving backwards, the political dynamic will re-set, and we will start moving forward again.  I can't help but think it is already happening.  Am I an optimist or a realist?  You tell me. 

Sunday, November 12, 2017

I'm no lady

I'm still thinking about snark and how it holds us back.  I think in the patriarchal past "ladies" have had to resort to snark and innuendo. We have been so controlled by appearance and approval seeking that we could not be direct. How many of us even reveal our personalities to all but our closest friends?  I know more than a few cases where women have not revealed their real personalities to their husbands or boyfriends for fear they will not be liked.  These poor "ladies" live their whole lives in disguise. 

But this is the new world order. Now we need to to learn to act like Women, not like Ladies. We need to redefine what being a woman is. Being a woman means being courageous, direct, and passionate about our truths.  It means being more concerned with our presence than our appearance.  If we believe strongly in something we need to feel free to speak outright, in plain sight, without fearing how we will look or how others will judge us. 

Don't worry over much about being a lady.  Consider being a strong woman, instead.

Saturday, November 4, 2017

Holding on to the past

I need to get rid of things in this house. A winnowing is sorely needed. When we moved three and a half years ago I thought I had been sufficiently bold in discarding "things." But I still have too much, and it oppresses me. 

I could start with toys, that might be the easiest place to begin. Now that my grandson is in school, the toddler toys and books can go to a thrift store. I know exactly which toys he has not been the least bit interested in for the past year or two. Why don't I give them away? 

I still have a number of toys that my young teen granddaughter used to play with as a child.  Why are they still here? Who am I saving them for? 

In fact, I still have a box of smurfs that my daughter played with as a child.  She loved them, but neither of her children showed any interest in them. Why do I keep them? 

What is this nostalgic mania that keeps me loaded down with family relics? Why is it hard to let go of the past?

Surely memories are enough?

Monday, October 30, 2017

I'm so tired

Yes, I am SO tired.  Tired of all the nonsense we are required to experience, read about, listen to, and live through these days.  Tired of people lacking compassion, most of all.  Today I despair.  This will pass, of course.  I'm not one to give up; however, today I am tired.  That's all I have to say.

Monday, October 23, 2017

A recipe for love

I have a box filled with old recipes. Some typed, some painfully constructed in all caps on index cards of varying sizes. Others are xeroxed and folded. A few are scribbled down on a scrap of paper. They chronicle the various stages of our married life.

The oldest were transcribed before the advent of xerox copiers. When we got together in 1970, copying machines were unimaginable. The recipe cards from that earliest decade are the most interesting to me right now. 

We were poor.  Everything we ate was homemade; it was cheaper that way. We did not have a car during our first years together. Consequently, I went grocery shopping twice a month. I walked there and shopped like a brazen hussy before calling a taxi to take me home. I was organized about food because I had to make our money last. Before shopping I figured out two weeks worth of meals, buying what was needed for each and planning for overlap. It worked! We never starved. 

I've had fun seeing the old recipes from those early days. There is a certain recipe for "Herbed Soybean Casserole" that was truly vile. I could never make it taste good. Probably no one could. I almost threw the recipe away today, but decided it is a cultural relic, good for a laugh. 

My signature dish from my youth was homemade pizza. Years ago, I found a reasonably quick recipe for pizza crust in a Fanny Farmer Cookbook. I also made a quick, fresh sauce from cans of peeled, plum tomatoes and dried herbs. In my youthful exuberance I grabbed each tomato by hand, pinched a hole in the middle and then squeezed them senseless into the pan. I was still a kid. It was all about having fun.

I bought mozzarella in solid rectangular packages and carefully sliced it, making it last. For the topping, I fried up onions and green peppers in olive oil until they were limp and luscious. Fresh sliced mushrooms would go on the pizza, too, and sliced black olives for color.

Yesterday I decided to make that venerable pizza again, the old way. I still enjoyed squeezing the whole, peeled tomatoes into the pan. It seems some thrills never get old. I threw myself into kneading that dough, punching and pushing and giving it tough love until it was just right to stretch. I even used the same old pan from our youth to stretch the pizza out on for baking. It was fabulous. Now I am going to eat the leftovers for breakfast. That was always part of the plan.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Say no to snark

I have noticed a preponderance of snark on social media since the election. Perhaps you have, too? Snark is defined by my computer's dictionary as "snide and sharply critical comments." You know what I'm talking about. It is the online equivalent of giving someone the finger...

Personally, I hate snark. It makes my skin crawl when I hear it, and it makes me want to punch someone out when they use it against me. It seems people use snarky comebacks because they think it makes them appear strong and smart. It doesn't. It makes them appear rude and childish. When you use your vast intelligence to come up with a pithy reply designed to destroy your opponent, then you have wasted your words. But most importantly, you've done no good.

The best way to convince someone to change their mind is to listen to them (as respectfully as you are able to pull off...) and THEN start engaging in discussion, strategically. The best way to shut someone down and push them away is to throw snark at them. Because who is going to want to listen to you if you have accused them of being less than human? 

How do I know this? Because I was once trained in the art of persuasion by an international representative of a large and famous labor union. She could convince anybody of anything.  It was a gift that some people have. If you don't believe me, then follow a successful salesperson around for a day. Salespeople take a lot of abuse and disrespect everyday, but they keep trying to find a way to connect - to make that sale. 

Okay, okay, we all have certain friends or relatives we absolutely cannot listen to or argue with. And social media has brought out the troll in way too many angry, lonely, and desperate souls. Unless you have an advanced degree in psychology, just step away from those folks. Detach. Don't waste your time. Don't surrender to the snark side. It's a slippery damn slope that will deliver you to straight to cynicism. And, well, that's kinda like burning in hell.

I want the world to change for the better. I want to win. The only way to do that is to get strategic. We can do this without sacrificing our humanity.

Don't just react. Take the time to think. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

The more the merrier!

My husband, T, had his autosomal DNA tested last May in hopes of finding out his heritage. This is a popular endeavor in the U.S. right now and at least one other blogger has written about it recently.

Autosomal DNA gives you information about all your ancestors, not just ones in a male or female line. When you get the results it also gives you biological matches to near and distant relatives who have also had their DNA tested on, telling you what the matches are to you, like siblings, 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins. Well, when he got his results it revealed to him that he has another biological daughter. BIG surprise! He had no idea. It was the 1960s, for crying out loud.

R was given up for adoption by her birth mother. She did her DNA test as a way to find her birth parents. Many of her DNA "cousin" matches had the same last name as T. Since she didn't know about T, and he had not yet submitted his DNA, the repeat appearances of those family surnames did not help her in her search. R assumed that she would not find her actual biological parents unless they submitted a DNA test via Which is what happened with T.

She is a lovely person, solid and good. There are many interesting similarities between her (and her children) and the rest of T's family. We have grown-up grandchildren now, and another son-in-law!!!! Plus our daughter, M, now has a sister! When I wrote my bit about the concept of
Grace a while back, this is what I was referring to; this unbelievably mind-altering, joyous cosmic gift.

Sunday, October 1, 2017


ANOTHER great thing about being retired (!) is that I do not have to wake up to the sound of a jarring alarm 5 mornings out of 7. In fact, this is one of my "10 best things about being retired:"

1.  I get to say whatever I want

2.  I don't have to be nice to people I don't like

3.  I don't wake up to an alarm, I get up when I wake up.

4.  I don't have to wash my hair every day

5.  I don't have to buy Xmas presents for co-workers

6.  I wear flip flops instead of shoes every day

7.  I stopped wearing contact lenses and using eye makeup

8.  I can shop in the grocery store when most people are at work 

9.  Biking is my life

10. The only people who tell me what to do now are people who love me (and I don't have to do what they say)

Did I miss anything?

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Wine Tasting Tour

I just returned from a long weekend in California's wine country (Napa and Sonoma). T and I went with my brother (Big D) and his wife, Vacation Sue; Baby Sister and her husband, Mikey; Big Sister C; and Little Sister (my youngest brother's wife). There were 8 of us. Big D was the master of ceremonies. He made all the arrangements, wrote up an itinerary, and drove us all around in a large Suburban. It was kind of like the clown car. Whenever we stopped, seemingly hundreds of us poured out of the vehicle, laughing and shouting all the way. 

In addition to visiting a number of wineries, we also spent a day being extremely touristy at Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco where we ate at Scoma's, drank Irish Coffee at the Buena Vista, and made a stop at the See's Candy store. It was fun, and also beautiful. Here are a few photos, sorry they are not in order:

The last of the convoy of ships that stormed Normandy beachheads in 1944


Golden Gate Bridge

I expected to see Popeye on one of these.

C and T in Fisherman's Wharf

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Woodturner's Dream

It is a woodturner’s dream down here in Florida. Piles of downed tree trunks and limbs have been hauled to the front of most yards since the hurricane. I have just such a friend in NYS who should really be down here with a truck driving from house to house, picking up the best pieces for future live oak bowls or platters. She would have raw material to last for years.

T is fixing our privacy fence, a key component for staying sane in these close Florida developments. Many fences came down in the high winds, so stacked fence panels also sit at the curb, waiting. I am happy our fence still stands. Sneaking a peak at our neighbors’ backyards this week seems almost indecent. I do NOT want them to see ours! We are on waiting lists for various repairs to roof and pool areas. We slowly wait for civilization to return our teeny part of the world to what passes as normal...for us.

We were lucky. Our neighborhood was only without power for one and a half days. Our daughter’s subdivision was without for nearly 5 days. There are still places in the county (and definitely the state) where households will be without electricity for weeks. T and I still don’t have internet or cable. First world problems…

Our daughter’s family chose to stay in their house during the dark days. They managed in a semi-camp mode with gas grill, candles, flashlights, and bottled water. They charged their phones sitting quietly in their cars, in the driveway. Our grandson, N, received a few Lego kits that kept him busy.

When we got electricity back our 13 year-old granddaughter opted to stay with us for a couple days. It was fun. We made jewelry and ate ice cream. Best of all, we had her all to ourselves for a while. As long as we live, none of us will forget this hurricane or our time together.

The worst hit us between 2 and 4 a.m., early Sunday morning. What a cruel time for a storm to hit! All you can do is lie in the dark, unable to see the direction of the wind or the damage wrought, but hearing it nonetheless. The wind was ferocious, absolutely petrifying in the fullness of terrible, destructive power. Sometimes it sounded like a train was coming straight towards us. We were ready for anything. Now I am tired. 

I think of refugees; how hard their lives must be. They are left with so little. How do their children pass the time? How is their food cooked? When will civilization bring hope and normalcy back to their lives? What IS normal, after you have suffered so much?

Palm trees surrendered some skin and fruit - made for a nice photo, I thought

Friday, September 8, 2017

The Great Bitch, Irma

We are trying to get ready for this monster hurricane. Irma will find her way to Central Florida on Sunday. We are trying to prepare both physically and mentally. We will likely lose power, for how long is anyone's guess. If you don't hear from me next week I am likely without electricity. Don't worry, I'm almost sure everything will be messy, but fine.

How do you prepare for a hurricane? Well, preparing is endless. Getting enough water stockpiled is hard when stores sold out a week ago. When a delivery arrives, people are waiting in line to get it and they buy it all up without a thought for others. Community spirit seems to kick in after a catastrophe hits. Before, everyone is desperately trying to protect their own.

I think we have enough bottled water to see us through a week without power, but I have taken to freezing tap water in gallon sized freezer bags just in case. If power goes out it should take them a while to melt, keeping the fridge cool a day or two longer. We have plenty of canned foods, cereal, and nuts in the pantry. Our extra batteries should arrive today via We have propane for the gas grill. T will drain the pool to accommodate torrential rain.

Gasoline is another scarce commodity. All gas tankers are going to South Florida so evacuees can have gas to travel north. Tom filled his car before the rush. My car is a little less than half full. We wasted gas driving around yesterday but could not find a gas station with any gasoline left.

The sand bag distribution center has a multiple hour wait, with cars lined up to the moon and back. Wasting precious gasoline to get sand bags! It's a conundrum.
Consequently, our sandbox for little N has been raided; the sand turned into sandbags to keep all that water out of the house.

Highways are filled with people from South Florida trying to escape Irma at her worst. I worry they will run out of gas and be forced to endure Irma on the side of the highway in cars with kids, animals, and important papers. It happens. Can you imagine? We have not been told to evacuate, but schools are closed. I imagine if evacuation becomes mandatory, the gas tankers will begin stopping in Central Florida again? However, I hope once she makes landfall that bitch will settle down a little. I would be grateful for a Cat 2 storm. I really don't want to hit the road.

Our important papers and pills are in plastic freezer bags, too. I've moved many things off the ground in case of flooding. We have lots of toilet paper! Wine, too... Any potential outside projectiles (potted plants, deck furniture, pool cleaning implements, toys) will be moved to the shed or the garage. No basements in Florida! I'll move my computer away from my office window. Bathtubs will be filled with tap water for cleaning up and flushing toilets. Unfortunately, we do not have plywood to cover windows. That is also long gone in the stores. We will buy some afterwards for next time. For now, we take our chances. 

There is the added worry that our daughter and her family aren't preparing well enough. They are, they will, but still my mother/grandmother's heart is sore and stretched for miles. If I worry enough, will it ward off water and wind?

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Grandma Told Stories

The last Grandma story (for now):

Grandma was a fundamentalist Protestant and a Pentecostal charismatic who talked in tongues when the spirit moved her. This was quite different than the European Catholicism of my mother's people, which was the way I was raised. However, loving someone with a different religion was my first clue that mysticism and goodness belong to all religions, and all (or none) are valid paths. She also retained many old Appalachian mores, superstitions, and beliefs.

She often told me ghost stories about events that happened in the family over the years.  One of my favorite stories was the one about "The Three White Horses.”

The Three White Horses
Grandma’s paternal grandmother, Luella,
lived on a farm in Pickett County, Tennessee with her husband, Ewell. She was sitting on her front porch on 1 Jun 1919, when unbeknownst to her, their son Thomas (my great grandfather) died. Luella told Ewell that she saw three white horses running in the fields by their house that day. He just laughed at her and told her she was seeing things. Three months to the day, she went into the cornfield to fill her apron with ripe corn for dinner. There she had a stroke and died on 1 September 1919.   

Grandma also told me she once heard a strong, decisive knock on the front door to her house.  When she opened the door no one was there.  Later she discovered that a relative had died at the exact moment she heard the knock. These stories scared me half to death, and I had trouble sleeping for many nights after hearing that one.  Still, I was fascinated and could not stop asking for more.

My father died in 1995, and Grandma was bereft at losing her son. I came into town for the funeral, and I was dropped off at Grandma's house a couple hours before with the understanding I was to keep Grandma company until my mother came to pick us both up. It never occurred to me that Grandma hadn't been told I would be coming. She answered the door red eyed and with tears streaming down her face. It killed me to see her that way. She said she didn't want company right then, something I had never heard her say before. I felt so bad for intruding. I apologized and hugged her and said I'd walk to my Mom's house (probably only about a 15 minutes walk - no big deal). When Grandma realized I didn't have a car she refused to let me leave. 

Then I had to make it right somehow, you know what I mean? It was super awkward and one of those moments you will always remember. I realized it couldn't be Grandma who made it right, she was a 90 year old woman beside herself with grief. I had to do or say something that would change the tone, but still honor the feelings of that day. The best I could come up with was (in a small voice) "Grandma, could you tell me the story of the three white horses?"

She look at me out of the corner of her eyes for one long moment (as if to say, "Are ya kiddin' me, Colette?). Then her eyes crinkled up and she laughed out loud, a most welcome sound. She patted my knee, and proceeded to tell me the story. She was the grandmother, I was the grandchild, and we both knew how that worked. 

This brooch belonged to Grandma.  Not three WHITE horses, but still...

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Grandma's letter

--This treasure is a letter from my Tennessee grandmother (1905-2000) to my daughter, written in February 1981, for the occasion of my daughter's 9th birthday. My grandmother was a Pentecostal Christian, so there is a good bit of "Jesus" talk in this.  It is simply the way she talked.

Dear (M),

As I never see you to talk to you long enough, I just wanted you to know how we lived when I was a little girl.  I thought it would be nice to send you this for your birthday in February 1981.

I had the sweetest childhood a little girl could have. We were very poor. We didn’t have toys like children have today. We would always get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, because you see, we lived on a farm. I was about five years old when I can really remember. My mother would wake all of us up and we would eat our breakfast. Then there were cows to milk and horses to feed. There were seven of us children. My one little brother (Johnny) died when I was just about three months old or less (note from Colette – he died September 2, 1905, my Grandma was born at the end of May 1905). I can’t remember seeing him, but my mother said he called them to the bed and asked to see me before he died. He was about two years old when he went to be with Jesus. Well now, to get back to our farm and all the work we had to do. I just had the best daddy in the world, I thought, and he was so kind to us.  I never remember him saying an unkind word to us, yet he had a way about him that to look at him you just didn’t want to do anything, only what he told us to do. We would thin the corn out to two stalks in a hill after it was big enough and that I could do.  As I grew older I got a harder job like hoeing corn. In those days we had hand plows and mules or horses to pull the plow. I can remember my grandfather plowing with oxen with a wooden yoke on their necks. Then we had sheep. The little lambs were so sweet. When I think of them now, I think of Jesus with the lambs in his arms and around him. But I think he created all animals and the lamb was a symbol of his love – how he died that we might have eternal life.

We would cut the wool off of the sheep (I helped do that).  One day I was, as we called it, shearing them. I cut his hide till it bled. It went “ba,ba”. I felt so bad about that. Then my mother would send the wool away and get our blankets for the bed that way. Oh yes, she would keep some and she had an old spinning wheel. She’d make the thread to knit our stockings for winter. They were real warm. She taught me to knit. I was making a pair and I told her this was like going around the world and to the North Pole. Ha!

Now I’ll tell you how we played.  We had rocks that green pretty moss grew on and we would play like we were making beds.  And we did, too –real pretty.  We never worked on Sunday and we had friends come to visit us.  I think back about it now, it was really fun.  We had one little china doll – about 5 inches long.  It was handed down from the oldest to the youngest. We never broke it. I wish I had it now to show it to you. We would play ball and sit around a fireplace in the wintertime popping popcorn.  I remember one time my brother Wint and I got to go to town with my father and we got to go to a movie. We didn’t have radios or TV’s then, but my childhood is all sweet memories.  We were just one big happy family. We had a cave close to our house and at the entrance there were shelves my Dad made.  We would keep our milk and butter there –so cold.  We had one cave us kids used to have to crawl in. After we got in it was the most beautiful place, but scary.  We could see skeletons, maybe of animals, I don’t know.  It was so dangerous as I think of it now. Then we had a place we called the “rolly hole.”  You could throw a rock and you could hear it roll down, down, down.  Somehow the rocks would come to top rolled so smooth. It isn’t there anymore, they tell me.  

We walked 2 miles to go to school. There were no sidewalks, and there were rocks, etc.  We walked barefoot in the summer and when fall came we got new shoes. Like boys wear. We were so proud of them. I’ll tell you about our chickens later.

One day my mother and two oldest sisters went to pick blackberries and blueberries.   They would take a couple of big pails and go up into the mountains and would be gone all day sometimes, as they grew wild in the mountains.  They were delicious, better than what we get now from the grocery store.

Once, I asked my mom what we would eat for dinner. I was only about eleven years old and my brother and two little sisters were there for me to feed. There was no lunch meat like we have now. She said, “Well, you can have chicken if you will kill one and dress it.”  Well, that sounded so good to me.  I told my little brother if he would hold its head and my sister (then about seven) would hold its feet, I’d chop its head off.  We laid it on a block of wood and that poor chicken, I thought, I just can’t do this. But then I thought about dinner so I took an ax and cut its head off. Then we built a fire out of wood and heated a big kettle of water and dipped it in hot water, took all the feathers off, cut it up and washed it good. We fried it on an old-fashioned wood-burning kitchen stove. We did have a good dinner!

We used to have a ball to play with that mother made us out of rags; she rolled over the rags many times with heavy thread. We would play throwing it over the house to each other. We also used to tell riddles we would hear. Maybe your mom can explain that to you. My sister Bertha and I used to saw big trees down. I helped cut corn when in the fall the corn was ready to shuck. We’d cut it and put it in bunches and tie the top. Big bunches of the stalks it grew on and corn, too. Then we’d feed the horses and cows in wintertime. One day my father came to the field where we were working and said, “Ma is sick, you will have to go to Grandma’s house.” So we all went to Grandma Sharp’s house and in the middle of the afternoon Grandma came home. She said, “You have a little baby sister.” Grandma Sharp was the midwife who delivered the baby. You should have seen us run for home! The baby’s name was Neva, my baby sister. She will be 65 years old the 23rd of May. So you see that has been many years ago.

We had a spring near our house and carried our water by pails full to drink and to wash clothes. It was fun. The water was as clear as crystals. It was pure water that God made; no chemicals of any kind were in it. I went to a little one-room schoolhouse. My Dad took me the 1st day and I cried to go home with him. I was six years old. The teacher had a watch on a chain around her neck and she took me to one side and showed me the birds on the watch to get me to stop crying.

I just wanted to tell you how different it was when I was a girl your age. Of course that has been over 70 years since I was 5 years old. I wish I could take you and your Mom and Dad to where we used to live. Our house is torn down now, they tell me.

The saddest part I left till last. My father died when he was only 39 years old. He was sick quite a few years and it left my mother with 5 of us to raise. But that didn’t help her as far as missing him. We all worked together and we never went hungry. But that didn’t ease the aches in our hearts for a father. He died in Louisville, Kentucky in hospital in 1919. He never got to see his 1st grandchild. She was born May 18, 1919.   He died June 1st, 1919. But you know, someday we will all be together. Jesus went away to prepare a home for us. And then if we live a good life he will see that we all be together someday. I know you are a good girl. You have a good mother, so always listen to what she tells you to do. You also have a good father. I wanted a little girl so much, but God gave me two sons instead. Now I have two daughters (in-law) and oodles of grand daughters and a great grand daughter to love. And I love each of you. And my great grandsons, too. I hope you enjoy just a part of this letter – how we used to live.

Love you,

Great Grandma

Here are some early photos of my grandmother and some of her siblings:

Grandma and her brother, about 1914?

My grandmother is the one in back with the big bow in her hair. Taken about 1918?