"" Writer's Wanderings: 2017

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Daddy Hair

[This is one of my favorite grandparenting stories. We are spending the week diving with this young man who is now almost sixteen.] 

            “I’m gonna be a daddy,” our three year old grandson, Tyler announced as he strolled into the restaurant to meet us for lunch.

Tyler lives about two hours and fifteen minutes away from us—less if there are no speed traps. Sometimes we meet at a restaurant at the halfway point for a visit. This day, our son, Ron, had left on a long business trip, and Lori was hoping to ease the good-bye with the excitement of lunch with Grandma and Grandpa.

Now Tyler, being the self-confident young man that he is, always enters a place as if everyone was poised, waiting just for his appearance. It wasn’t any different this afternoon. He strutted up to the table, nodding at people as he went along, then made his announcement.

“I’m gonna be a daddy.”

“You’re gonna be a daddy?” I asked hoping for clarification.

“Yup.” He nodded his head and sighed as if it were a heavy burden. “Mommy will tell you.”

Well, you don’t mention becoming a daddy and not perk up a grandmother’s ears. I immediately looked for my daughter-in-law to confirm what I suspected. She was a little slower in arriving at our table being laden with a diaper bag, sippy cups, and a toddler on her hip who is as shy as her brother is outgoing.

“Tyler’s gonna be a daddy?” I blurted out before even offering to help her.

“Tell you in a minute.” She was struggling to get Danielle to agree to sit in the highchair next to Grandpa. I helped with the other paraphernalia and assisted in opening the bag of crayons the restaurant had given Tyler. Finally, Lori slumped in her chair and took a deep breath.

“So?” I raised my eyebrows. I had been patient. She was sitting down. Tell me, tell me, tell me, my head kept shouting.

“You can thank your son for the daddy idea,” Lori finally said. “Tyler noticed the hair on Ron’s chest the other day. Ron told him it was daddy hair and when he got hair on his chest, he could be a daddy, too. The other day in the bathtub, he noticed he had hair on his legs and he figured that was good enough—he could be a daddy.”

It wasn’t the answer I was expecting, but there was no disappointment. Ron and Lori haven’t planned past two and those two promise to provide a lifetime of entertainment.

“Well, if we shaved the hair on his legs, does that mean he could be a mommy?” I asked.

To her credit, Lori politely asked me not to plant that idea in his head.


Monday, June 26, 2017

A Grandma By Any Other Name

[This week I'll be taking a break from blogging so I am scheduling posts of some of my articles from a grandparenting column I wrote a few years ago.]

This time of year there is a wildflower that blooms around our area and on my morning walk I noticed a field that was peppered with them. I’ve tried to find out the correct name for them but haven’t hit upon it yet in my search. My aunt called them blue bachelor buttons. They resemble an aster but the plant doesn’t grow like an aster. For me, they are the flowers I collected at the bus stop that filled my small fist on the trips into downtown Cleveland with my aunt on her “city day.”

My aunt, my father’s sister, lived next door to us with my grandfather. I never understood all the dynamics of why but it didn’t matter to me growing up. Auntie Ann as we called her even into our adult years was in fact a “grandmother” to me. My maternal grandmother died a few months before I was born and my other grandmother died when I was almost two. My Auntie Ann became the spoiler, the listener, the one to run to when I felt I was misunderstood at home—in essence a substitute grandmother.

I credit part of my love of reading to her constant supply of comic books for my consumption. Every grocery day, my brother and I would hurry over to help her unload the grocery bags. We knew there would be a treat in one of them. Mine was usually a comic book. I don’t remember my brother’s. I lived for that new reading material. On our city days, I was treated to a bus ride into town, lunch at the department store, and if I behaved (and of course, I always did), I got to pick out my own comic book.

Auntie Ann provided for a need in my life. A need to have the unconditional love of a grandmother. My brother’s children lost their grandmothers at a young age and through the years I tried to be a bit of a substitute grandmother in remembering their birthdays, taking an interest in their lives, and trying to provide that unconditional love of a grandma even though I am the aunt. I had a good teacher.

There’s always room in our grandma hearts for one more and while we never want to replace a grandma, there are children who need that relationship and don’t have it. If you can substitute as a grandma for a little one, you will enrich your life as well as theirs. Many schools and some libraries have programs where seniors can help small children to learn to read. It is also an opportunity for some of those kids to be able to have the relationship with a grandparent-figure that is lacking in their lives. Volunteering at your church nursery or toddler room is another way to substitute. Do you know any single moms who might need a grandma for their children?


Those blue flowers that remind me of my substitute grandma have a name but it’s really not important what I call them. I love them for what they are—a fond memory of my Auntie Ann. She taught me that a grandma by any other name loves just as much.

Friday, June 23, 2017

An American In Paris

Last evening we attended the last in the 2016-2017 season of our Broadway Series in Cleveland. The musical was An American In Paris. The story line is about a soldier just after WWII ends who decides not to cash in on his ticket home but rather stay in Paris and become an artist. He meets up with another soldier who is a pianist/composer and a Frenchman who is a wannabe cabaret star. All three fall in love with a Jewish ballerina who becomes the lead ballerina in a new ballet with music composed by the pianist. It is a love story and one that is fairly predictable but the Gershwin music is pleasurable and as my husband and I both agreed, the staging was amazing.

There are a lot of pieces that move around the stage and have projections on them but the main backdrop in most of the scenes features buildings and monuments of Paris. I recognized a few of those less popular than the usual Arc de Triumphe and the Eiffel Tower and placed myself from memory back on the streets of Paris. It was like revisiting the city.

One of my favorite scenes takes place on a bridge over the river Seine. Two fishermen come into the scene and sit on the bridge wall with fishing poles. It was the only thing I couldn't recall from any of our visits to Paris. I don't remember anyone fishing from any bridge. But then it was taking place in the late 1940s. Maybe the river had plenty of fish back then and not so many tourists.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Irish Treasure

In my quest to discover what secret I might create to write about in a new mystery book, Secrets Among The Shamrocks, I started researching treasure that has been discovered in Ireland. There's a lot to feed this novelist's imagination.

Two boys, Paddy Flanagan and Jim Quinn, were digging in a potato field near Ardagh, Co Limerick, and found a chalice from the 8th or 9th century that also contained several brooches. I remember my brother and I digging in a field that belonged to our neighbor. All we discovered were potatoes but thought it was a real treasure. When we took them to my mother, she made us return them to our neighbor and apologize for digging in his potato field.

Irish peat bog
Now the next story gives me a little more to chew on. In 1945 a man digging in a peat bog (they dry the peat and use it for heat in the winter) found gold jewelry. The items were over 4,000 years old. He kept them for a time then for some reason gave them to the village pharmacist who put them in his safe. They stayed there for over 50 years which is when the story gets even better. Some burglars broke into the pharmacy and stole the safe. The pharmacist then informed the police that there were some artifacts in the safe that the National Museum might interested in. With some good detective work the burglars were found and the artifacts recovered and eventually put on display in the museum.

And then there is the mystery of the Crown Jewels which really don't involve a crown and had little to do with coronations. The jewels were under the safe keeping of the Ulster King of Arms. They were discovered stolen in 1907. They had been kept in a bank vault until 1903 when they were moved to a safe in the library of the Dublin Castle. A man named Sir Arthur Vicars was in charge of the two keys to the safe. He reportedly lost one for a time but it was found on another key chain. When the theft was discovered, he blamed his two heralds especially the one named Francis Shackleton (brother of the famed Arctic explorer) who had a rather notoriously bad reputation. Vicars lost his job, the jewels were never recovered and most agreed it was probably Shackleton who likely broke apart the jewelry and sold the gems. Hmmm. Could that be my secret to write?




Monday, June 19, 2017

Ah, The Leprechauns

Nearing the end of the novel I am working on, I began to think about what I might start writing next. One of my options is a third Casey Stengel mystery. I have the title, Secrets Among The Shamrocks. I just don't have the secrets yet so while I was doing a little research I found some interesting things about leprechauns.

One source said they originated at the North Pole. Santa separated the green elves from the red elves because of intestinal gases emitting from the green elves. It was an obvious choice for the green elves to settle on the Emerald Isle. I had a feeling this was written tongue-in-cheek and pretty much discarded the idea.

Several sources referred to leprechauns as being a part of the fairy family. All of them agreeing that they were small and mysterious and very mischievous. Another common description is that they are cobblers and that is how they make so much money. Where you purchase shoes made by leprechauns was not evident however.

The legendary tales of the leprechauns date back to the eighth century where the name comes from a word, luchorpan, meaning small body. Other origins of the word leprechaun include leath bhrogan, shoemaker, and Lugh which is the name for the Euro-Celtic god for luck.

As luck would have it, if you can catch a leprechaun you can expect to be rewarded with a pot of his money to exact his release. Beware though, a leprechaun is very crafty and witty and to date has outwitted anyone who has even come close to capturing one of the sprightly creatures.

It is said that there are 236 leprechauns living in the caverns of Carlington Mountain. That one is going to take a little more research. Could that be the secret?

Someone is said to have found the remains of a leprechaun. Could that be a secret?

Another source reports that the leprechauns are actually guarding a treasure left by the Danes when they conquered Ireland. Ah, now that could be a great secret.

I love research. It's like a travel adventure.

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Bridge LIst



Lists are always interesting in travel articles. They usually list a number followed by most, biggest, scariest, highest, etc. I scroll through the list of whatever and see if I've been there, done that. This time the list was 10 Terrifying Bridges. I thought of two we'd visited over the years. One made the list, one didn't.



The one that made the list is a bridge in Northern Ireland. It's a rope bridge that gets you from the mainland to Carrickarede Island. While it's called a rope bridge, there is really a plank on the rope so you are not really walking on a rope. A hundred feet or so below you are jagged rocks and water. There is only room for a single file line and no more than eight people are allowed to cross at a time in one direction.


The other bridge, a swing bridge in New Zealand did not make the list. I can't imagine why. It was terrifying in its own right. The Butler Gorge Swing Bridge is 300 feet long and has an open mesh bottom. I think that made me more nervous than the bridge in Ireland. The NZ bridge was a lot longer as well and there was a lot of water rushing underneath us.

I'm no daredevil. Not related to any Wallendas. Crossing those bridges was a one time experience. I don't know that I'd repeat either one. Been there. Done it. Don't need to do it again.




Thursday, June 15, 2017

Time Out For Baseball!

Baseball is my favorite sport. We'll hope this day is not the rain out that is predicted. It's the LA Dodgers v Cleveland Indians. Go Tribe! 


Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Traveling Roses

Last week I treated myself to a bouquet of roses. Having been a florist (in another life) I was taught to gently squeeze the rose heads in a bunch to see if they were soft. It's kind of like thumping a watermelon or squeezing the tomatoes. If the head is too soft the roses will not last long. If the head is too tight and especially if it looks like a Hershey kiss, it will likely never open and will just eventually droop. This seemed just right and were on sale and were a wonderful variegated color. But how long would they last, I wondered? After all roses travel a long ways to get to the stores in the US.

About 90% of all roses come from Columbia and Ecuador. They are grown in acres and acres of greenhouses and often harvested two to three weeks before a major holiday. They are dry packed in coolers and eventually shipped off by plane most likely to Miami where large warehouses then separate the boxes of roses for the rest of their journey to destinations throughout the states.

In the early days when roses were grown more locally they always smelled so wonderful. The roses today hardly have a smell at all. That is due to their being bred to be long lasting and the preservatives added to them so they will last for their journey and still have life left to be enjoyed in your home.

When we visited Quito, Ecuador, the hotel was filled with huge bouquets of roses. They were beautiful. Amazing. My bouquet has been amazing as well. The roses opened quickly and have a ruffled look to the petals. It was a successful impulse buy. I have thoroughly enjoyed them and I appreciate how far they had to travel to give me the pleasure of their company.



Monday, June 12, 2017

Graduate From or By or. . .?

'Tis the season of graduation. Preschool, kindergarten, middle school, high school, college and the list goes on. A question was posed to me by a friend as to the correct usage of the verb graduate. She wondered if "graduated high school" was the correct way to explain this passage in life. Off the top of my head I said no but I got to thinking that maybe I had it wrong. Once I dug into the search engines of the internet I realized it is quite a common question.

Needless to say the English language evolves and we Americans especially seem to find new ways of saying things that are not necessarily grammatically correct. In school we were taught to diagram sentences. Most kids hated the exercise. I was weird. I loved it and the longer and more complicated the sentence the more fun I had. So I went back to my training to try to answer her question.

If you break down the sentence, She graduated high school, you have She as the subject, graduated as the verb and high school as the object of the verb. In my simple way of understanding, graduated would be an action verb therefore the object of the verb, high school (actually school as high would be an adjective), would be receiving the action. Huh? She is the one getting the diploma.

What is missing from the sentence is the preposition from. Insert the preposition and it makes sense that She is moving on from the high school. She is not giving a diploma to the high school. 

There are all sorts of more correct ways to describe this right of passage and if you get deeper into the dissection of the English language and start into transitive vs. intransitive verbs it can get a bit more complicated. In an era where so much is reduced to 140 characters for communication, I can only imagine what our language will look like in another fifty years.

If you would like to drive yourself a little crazier, here are a few links I found discussing the issue of "graduate vs. graduate from vs. graduated by."

Poetry and Contingency (this one has lots of charts and graphs)
Visual Thesaurus 
Grammar Girl (probably the easiest to understand)


Friday, June 09, 2017

Camping Out Means No Chocolate On The Pillow

There is a reason my husband jokes that camping out to us means staying at the Holiday Inn. It's no reflection on Holiday Inns but rather our way of saying we'll choose a hotel over a campground any day. Why? We have some good reasons. The major one being we've never had a good experience.

At one time in our lives we were youth leaders for our church. We were building a youth group and had gone from one teen to about fifteen in a year's time. We decided to celebrate by taking them on a canoe outing--overnight.

I don't want to say I was terribly naive but truth is, I was. I called the canoe livery not far from us and asked about overnight camping and what they could offer. They explained how we could park our vehicles at a campsite and they would bus us to a starting point. From there we would canoe down the river to the campsite, camp overnight, then continue on to the livery the next day where they would again bus us back to our vehicles. Sounded good.

Somewhere in the conversation I remember the words "primitive camping." So, okay, I thought, we can deal with an outhouse for one night. Like I said: naive.

We arrived at the site and realized to the girls' horror that there was no outhouse--nothing. Undaunted and not wanting to create more of a panic than was already ensuing, we strung up a blanket so the girls could have some privacy. To my horror the next morning I realized that we had strung the blanket just below where the bridge in the road was. I tried not to let the girls know.

So all right. We lost one girl to the youth group who refused to ever go with us on another outing but most of the kids were willing to try again. The next year when we made reservations we planned on going to a camping ground nearby that I was assured had facilities. Ah, I thought, this will be really special.

And it was--until a storm system moved in and the lightning and thunder began and water rushed through the tents. We ended up spending the night sitting up shoulder to shoulder in the vans, slightly damp and nodding off once in a while.

So you see while it may have made some fond memories (I think they are fond) it completely turned us off of camping ever again. I hear that some of those kids though are avid campers now and take their kids (and some their grandkids) camping. Me? I'll go where I get a chocolate on the pillow.


Thursday, June 08, 2017

Checking Out The Tourism Offices

In the old days if you were planning a trip you could write to the office of tourism in the place or places you were going to visit and receive a packet of maps and coupons and all sorts of information to help you plan your trip. Today we have the internet but we still have offices of tourism as well.

A word of warning though. Be sure when you go online to search out the official office of tourism you don't end up on a site that is just a company offering tours. Many of the online offices will however usually supply links to tour companies for your convenience.

Most of the sites I've visited for places we planned to explore give a good historical background of the area with highlights of the most significant sights to see. They will also offer up ideas for recreation in their area and usually offer suggestions for where to stay which are probably supplied by the chamber of commerce or paid for advertising. Still, it's a starting point.

Some offices will also introduce you to value tickets to tour their city or area. We have seen several tour cards that package many of the sights in a city into one card and usually at a budget price. Be careful though that you are not buying more than you plan to see. We had one that we considered and found that we didn't want to see a lot of the offerings in the package and it would actually cost less for us to pay full price for the several that we would actually visit.

As I always say, do your homework. Now that comes from a former art teacher who never gave her students homework. Guess I've changed my habits.


Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Who Travels With Duct Tape?

Apparently a lot of people travel with duct tape and it has many uses I'd never thought of before. I stumbled onto a thread on the Cruise Critic Forum that was all about people traveling with a roll or at least a length of duct tape. Now the question is gray or a color?

The most common use for the duct tape was on luggage. Most often it was for luggage repair but it was also used for more easily identifying your suitcase. In that case a nice bright color or patterned duct tape would be best.

On a cruise ship that is tossing around a bit a closet door or a drawer might not lock in place and will cause an uneasy night of listening to it click open and closed. A piece of duct tape will keep it in place.

A torn hem can be quickly repaired with a piece of duct tape if you have no desire or supplies to fix it in a hurry.

Forget your strapless bra? Apparently duct tape can help out with that. I don't know how but I'm sure if you search online you'll discover the solution. I don't do strapless dresses or tops and I'm not sure I would feel comfortable with the thought of removing  the duct tape when the night was over. Does duct tape come in skin colors?

Those new shoes weren't broken in enough? A little duct tape on the blister (tissue cover first) will help. You can also use it in place of a bandaid on small cuts. When we go diving, we see this often since the duct tape sticks better when it gets wet.

Roll a piece of duct tape, sticky side out, around your hand and use it to remove lint from clothing.

Need to do laundry? Put tape over the drain in the sink so it will hold water. Make a clothesline from a length of duct tape, sticky sides together.

When you really want to block out the morning light and the curtains won't close completely use some tape to hold them shut.

And shoe repair is always a possibility with duct tape--that is enough to hold you until you get to go shopping.

An easy way to pack duct tape is to get an old plastic card like an outdated membership card or key card from a hotel and wrap some duct tape around it. It will fit in the suitcase a little easier than a large roll of tape.

Of course there are all sorts of projects you can make with duct tape like luggage tags, purses, coin/credit card wallets and even clothing. Check out the projects on the Duck Tape site.

Like my husband's sweatshirt says, "I can fix anything with duct tape."


Monday, June 05, 2017

Staying Friends When You Travel Together

Over the almost fifty years that we have been married we have taken quite a few trips with my husband's twin brother and his wife. There were several trips before children, a couple with children and now, as empty-nesters, several more. Over the years we have learned how to travel together and still remain friends. I would not recommend this to you unless you learn to respect each other's interests and budgets and are able to compromise.

I found an article that talks about ten mistakes not to make when traveling with friends. It offers some good advice. Here's some of the things we do.

First it has to be a place we all want to go and explore. Both couples do their research to see what type of accommodation we would choose. We set up a list of priorities of things to do or see. They don/t always match exactly but either we compromise on some or we agree to go our separate ways on some days.

Once we have our agenda outlined we begin to map out our trip and where we will stay and how long. It's a whole lot easier when it's a cruise because then the itinerary is pretty much set by the cruise line although we usually plan a few days before setting sail to explore the port of embarkation.

Thankfully our interests are very similar so it makes our days together much nicer but no matter how similar there are still times when it is a good idea to split for a while. Sometimes that split means the girls go one way and the guys another. There was one trip through Europe where one evening my sister-in-law and I wanted to just spend an evening relaxing and reading. The boys went off on their own to a fair in the town in Germany where we were staying. There were lots of good stories told afterward--fully embellished, I'm sure.

Number 10 on the article's list can add a lot of frustration to your travel though. Electronics can get in the way of enjoying a nice dinner out or cause distraction when you really want to enjoy an experience together. Electronics can be helpful for travel but can also tend to separate you. Use them wisely.

Thursday, June 01, 2017

Cat's Paws - A Short Story

There is a term you learn when out on the water in a sailboat. It is cat's paws. When the water is relatively calm you can see the wind rustle the top of the water and cause ripples to form. They dance across the surface and when they catch up to you the wind fills your sail, the boat heels (tips to one side) as you suddenly gain speed. The following story was inspired by our sailing adventures when we owned a sailboat. It is purely fiction.

Cat's Paws

 The breeze whipped through her long blonde hair and cooled the face she lifted to the sun. She smelled freedom in the air. It would all be over soon.  Her long legs shifted to a more comfortable position and she smiled as she adjusted her bikini top. Certainly the gene pool had been good to her, but what was a body without brains. She congratulated herself on her ingenuity.

Blue water stretched before them. Soon the little strip of green land would disappear into the horizon behind the sailboat as it sliced through the smooth surface of the lake. George loved sailing on a day like this. While the lake was calm, there would be bursts of wind that would ruffle the water and create a pattern like the paw of a cat, a cat with its claws out. When the sailboat hit a cat’s-paw, it would heel to one side and send the occupants for a brief exhilarating ride that took breath away. Today the thrill would be a ticket to freedom.

A hiss from behind her head startled her out of her daydream. Missy, George’s pampered cat, couldn’t walk past her without some kind of feline comment. More than once the marks of a bared claw marred her legs. Honestly, a real man would have a dog, not a cat for a pet, she thought.

She looked aft. George was adjusting the sails again. She smiled. This would be her cleverest and easiest “accident”. The others had been a little more complicated. Henry, her first husband, loved flying. Her investment in flying lessons had paid off as well as the extra time spent with the mechanic learning the safety checkpoints. Henry’s last joy ride paid her a neat million.

Lenny loved hiking and mushroom hunting. She spent hours at the university library investing in her future by improving her mind with the study of mushrooms. Lenny was pleased when she agreed to cook the mushrooms he found. The addition of a few of her fresh mushrooms went unnoticed. And, of course, being proud of his knowledge of wild mushrooms, he wouldn’t admit that his stomach pains were from bad choices made in the woods. His “mistake” netted her three million after all the assets were sold.

McKenzie, the third in succession, loved mountain climbing. His accident had been more difficult. She had to listen to him beg her not to pull the ring that held his rope out of the crevice in the wall of the mountain. In fact, he’d almost climbed up to where she was working on it before the metal finally slipped from its hold in the rock. Another two million was added to her Caribbean retirement fund.

This would have to be the last accident. The investigation of McKenzie’s death had been a little too intense. If her calculations were right, George would add enough to her Swiss account to round it out to twelve million. A nice little bungalow on Grand Cayman and all the pina coladas she could drink would be the payback on all her investments of time and energy.

“Can I help you with that, honey?” she asked George as he fiddled with the lines trying to get the perfect set to the sails. She had to admit, George had been the most pleasant of the four husbands, or maybe she had just been more tolerant of his advances because she knew the reward would be worthwhile. And he was handsome—distinguished looking. His thick white hair made his tan appear even deeper than it was and gave him almost a youthful look rather than adding years. He had kept himself in good shape through his middle age and filled out a business suit with an air of strength, self confidence and success.

George’s wild dream was to cruise the world in his sailboat. That was the reason he wanted to teach her all the techniques to setting a good sail and using the wind to best advantage. They would be a great team, he predicted.

“Why don’t you hold the tiller and keep her steady as I work on that jib?” he suggested.

“You know I don’t know what to do. I’m afraid I’ll turn us in circles,” she said smiling to herself. She had already invested time and money to learn the basics of sailing. Today, it would pay off. There would be no better opportunity and she wanted to be done with it.

“Try it. I’ll show you what to do. You’ll really like this once you get the hang of it.” He patted the seat next to him and she moved to the back of the cockpit, holding onto the lifeline that ran around the deck to give sailors a “safety fence”. She nudged him with her breast purposely. No reason why he can’t die a happy man. Just as she started to nuzzle his ear, Missy jumped into his lap and surprised them both.

“That’s my girl,” George said as Missy began purring and making herself cozy. “You’d like to learn to sail too, but I’m afraid the tiller is bigger than you are.”

It was disgusting the way he fawned and fussed over the stupid cat. Well, Missy could follow her master today and use up her nine lives all at once. She placed her hand on the smooth wood of the tiller. George put his hand over hers to guide it.

“Do you feel the pull of the water?” he asked. “Just keep it like that. It’ll only take a minute for me to fix the other line on the jib.” A minute was all she would need. She could see a cat’s-paw on the water. They would be into it by the time he was in position. When his back was turned, she loosened the line for the main sail and held it in her hand.

The cat’s-paw was upon them. The boat heeled. Quickly she pushed the tiller and released the line sending the boom swinging across the bow. George barely knew what hit him as the force of the blow sent him flying over the lifelines.

She quickly secured the main line as the boat sailed on its new tack. She glanced over the side, expecting to see a body disappearing into the water but, instead, she saw a foot being held just above the surface, entangled with the jib line. She fastened the tiller in place so that the boat would sail itself for a few minutes while she freed George.

Unhooking the lifeline on one side enabled her to lean over to release the captive foot. Concentrating on the problem before her, she didn’t notice the cat’s-paw approaching the boat. Nor did she notice Missy’s agitation. George’s foot came free. Before she could straighten up, she heard a howl and felt Missy’s claws dig into her back. She screamed just as the boat heeled and water rushed up to engulf her. In an instant she was in the water as the sailboat rushed by. She floundered for a moment gasping for air. Swimming lessons would have been a good investment, she thought, as blackness closed in.

The boat sailed on. Its lone occupant sat in the sun on the deck and licked her paws.


Tuesday, May 30, 2017

The Project

Embarkation does not always mean you are getting on a ship and setting off on a cruise. This journey that I've started is quite different. Somewhere in my web surfing or social media, I'm not sure which, I saw a posting about making sleeping mats for the homeless from plastic grocery bags. The idea nagged at me for a while and then took hold. So here I am on another adventure.



I started with trying to get people to collect bags for me and then enlisted as many ladies from my church as I could to join in the project. It has created a new exciting journey. Our local grocery store (Heinen's) which has a recycling program agreed to donate their collected bags to us. Online, I found several postings on instructions for making the mats which are really quite simple if you know how to crochet. So here's how it goes if you might be interested in your own project:

Grocery bags work best because they are not so thick as some plastic bags are. You flatten the bag, fold it over several times lengthwise, cut off the sealed end and then the handles and then cut 1 inch strips to make what is called "plarn." The video from Craft For Humanity shows the whole process quite well. She makes her strips a little wider but I found that it is much more difficult to crochet that way.

Take the loops and tie one inside the other to make your chain of plarn. Roll it in a ball and you are ready to crochet. A size P hook (10mm) works best. Chain about 42-44 stiches (it should measure 2 1/2 feet) and turn. Single crochet back and forth until you have a mat measuring 6 feet. The carry strap is a chain 6 feet long with a row of single crochet on it. Join the two ends to make a loop and wrap it around your rolled mat, looping one end into the other.


This project took on a life of its own as the grocery store employees became excited as well and have really given me more bags that I can keep up with. Now I need to schedule more work nights to share the load. The cutting and making the plarn takes the longest. If you embark on a similar journey and want to involve others, you can find people who would like to help but don't know how to crochet to cut bags and make plarn.

The only danger in this whole project is becoming known as the bag lady. In this case though, I'll wear the title proudly as we make the mats that will be distributed sometime in the fall or early winter when our church collects gloves and blankets and coats and takes them into downtown Cleveland to hand out.

I'm thinking this may also be a good project to send to churches in other countries who sit on bare floors--sometimes just the earth--to worship as we saw in Papua New Guinea. I'm sure there are lots more applications but one thing at a time.


Monday, May 29, 2017

A Look Back to Normandy

[One of our best remembered trips from 2009]

One of the main objectives for our riverboat trip on the Seine was to be able to see the beaches at Normandy where the landing of American, British, and Canadian troops was the turning point in WWII. After our arrival in Le Havre and over-night stay aboard the Viking Seine, we joined the other passengers on buses for the trip west to the beaches.

The first stop was the Gold Beach where the British came ashore. There is a museum there with a movie and slide show that explains the building of the artificial harbor that allowed ships to bring and unload the supplies and ammunition needed for the troops. Existing harbors were all under German control so this was the only way to safely supply the troops.

It was an amazing engineering project. There were two harbors built, one American and one British, but only the British one survived due to a huge storm that hit the coast just about the same time as the landing of the troops.

Large concrete structures were made in England and floated over to the coast of France when it was time to put them together. They formed the break wall and then eventually floating docks were used to lay “roadways” that allowed for tanks and jeeps to be off loaded and driven to shore.

After spending some time at the museum and beach area, we ate at a restaurant called June 6 and then boarded the buses again for the ride to the American cemetery. As expected, the cemetery is a deeply reflective experience rather you have a direct connection to those buried there or not. Over 9,000 graves dot the landscape, all laid out in neat military order. Their sacrifice and the service of their fellow GIs stopped one of the largest threats to freedom the world has ever faced.

Moving on, we next visited Omaha beach, one of two beaches where American soldiers came ashore. While the beach area was flat, the soldiers were at a disadvantage because of the cliff areas from which the enemy could position themselves to fire down at those below. I cannot imagine what it must have been like to spill out of a landing vehicle and into a maelstrom of gunfire.

Our last stop was atop a cliff area where the German bunkers were. There were several guns positioned there at one time which could swivel and cover both the Omaha and Utah beaches. The position was bombed as the Allied assault began and the craters you see in my picture are from those bombs.

The next time the Honor Guard passes at the parade with our flag or the Star Spangled Banner is played, stand in remembrance and thankfulness for the freedom you have to enjoy your parade and/or your sports event. Freedom is fragile.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Flashback Friday - Our First International Trip

Our very first passports in hand, we flew to New York and then on to Heathrow Airport in London. It had to be the late 1980s. There was no fuss with security and once through immigration we were greeted by Bob's sales rep, David, who was English but had lived for a few years in the US. He popped us into the car with our luggage and we were on our way.

Of course the steering wheel was on the wrong side of the car and we were driving on the wrong side of the road. With little sleep and anxiety over being in unfamiliar territory we began our crazy journey through the streets of London. Roundabouts made me dizzy and then I happened to glance at the speedometer from my place in the back seat. He was doing 100! It wasn't until later that I realized it was only about 60 mph. All I could think of was, "I'm gonna die!"

Finally it was time to check into the hotel and see if we were lucky enough to have our room ready for us. Thankfully it was. We may have napped a bit. I can't remember but I do remember the visitors we had. A knock on our door and we kind of looked at each other. Had David decided to stop by? Had we left something in the car?

Bob opened the door which was around the corner from where I sat. I could hear a female voice but couldn't understand what she was saying. Bob's voice came through loud and clear though.

"Uh, no. No. That's won't be necessary. Thanks anyway. My wife is here with me."

He closed the door and gave a chuckle. He explained there were two ladies-of-the-evening who had offered him their services. I laughed. He looked so uncomfortable.

Later we saw them hanging out in the entryway to the hotel. They didn't acknowledge Bob. I guess they didn't want to embarrass him with his wife. When we returned to the hotel, they were gone. We assumed when we never saw them again that they had been removed or just moved on.

During the day, Bob worked the trade show (our reason for being there) and I got to explore. David had shown us how to use the tube (the subway) and I ventured out several times. My only scare was hearing a rowdy crowd headed in my direction and I feared it was one of the demonstrations that were happening around that time with the IRA. They were upon me before I had a chance to react but I realized with relief that it was only a group of young men all dressed in soccer gear and celebrating. I breathed a sigh of relief although today I know that it could have been just as dangerous a situation. Those soccer fans can be intense.

Sadly David is gone now but while he was still with us we always blamed him for getting us to travel to London. It was the beginning of a wanderlust that has not yet abated.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Have Hot Dog, Will Travel

Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener. That is what I'd truly like to be.
For if I were an Oscar Mayer wiener, everyone would be in love with me. 

And now that little chorus is stuck in your head too. On my trip to the Walmart's near me a few days ago I was surprised to see the iconic wienermobile sitting at the entrance. Now that's a way to travel in style.

There are six wienermobiles that travel the highways throughout the year. The drivers who are hired to work from June to June of the next year are called hot doggers. They also hand out the iconic whistles which I should have stopped and picked up but forgot.

The 27 foot long vehicle was first created in 1936 by the nephew of Oscar Mayer, Carl. Since 2004 the wienermobile has been able to play the Oscar Mayer song in 21 different genres from Cajun to Rap to Bossa Nova. 

The last time I saw a wienermobile was when we visited the Henry Ford Museum. The 1952 version of the vehicle is there. This one in front of Walmart's though was a double-take moment. What a way to travel!

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CLEMET Zoo - The Trumpeter's Nest

A couple of years ago we had our granddaughter at the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo and were thrilled to watch little trumpeter swans following mommy all over the pond where they had nested. They were soft fluffy cuteness and we enjoyed revisiting to see their growth over the summer. If I recall correctly they were sent to another area to try to reintroduce the trumpeter swans into the environment as they are slowly disappearing.

This year we were excited to see the pair of swans nesting again. Well, mom was on the nest and dad was sleeping nearby. Trumpeter swans mate for life and it was good to see this pair still together and healthy. They are the largest of all waterfowl measuring up to six feet in length and can weigh almost 30 pounds. Their trumpet sound can be heard all over the zoo when they are excited.

We stopped and mom eyed us for a minute. They choose to make their nest which is about 5 feet in diameter near a walkway. The nest is always in the same spot each year. Bob jokingly said, "Can we see what you've got in there?" A moment later, mom stood up and sure enough the nest was full. There were about a half dozen eggs the size of my fist in there.

She stepped around them carefully and then stuck her head under a couple and moved them a bit. Once she liked where they were positioned, she turned herself around and sat back down. Either the eggs needed to be turned or she was just trying to make it a little more comfortable.

Bob thanked her for her kindness and we walked off feeling we had witnessed something special.

That's why I love the zoo so much.



Friday, May 19, 2017

Flashback Friday - The Smokies

One of our first vacations with all five of our kids was to the Smokey Mountains. We rented a beautiful house on a mountainside near Gatlinburg and drove to it from our home in Ohio. We had a station wagon at that time (later we would graduate to a van) that we packed up and headed south. There were no problems with it until we reached the mountains and began the climb.

Our youngest son, newly adopted at the age of five, did not have good speech skills yet. He is developmentally handicapped and at that point in life had few words in his vocabulary communicating mostly with grunts and sounds and hand signals. What he did and still does have is a great smile. He smiled all the way to Tennessee.

We began to notice the car not getting much acceleration up the inclines. We would make it to the top of one holding our breath and hoping that the next one would be okay. At one particular incline almost to our destination, the car crept along slowing and slowing almost to a stop. We were so close to the house. Bob didn't want to turn around and try to find a service garage at that point so he kept the pedal pushed to the floor and his hands tight on the steering wheel.

 I don't think any of us were praying out loud. Maybe I didn't realize it and I was. The kids had been very quiet feeling the anxiety of the situation with the car not having any power. Suddenly we heard a loud pop and for a moment the car lurched and chugged then began accelerating on the incline. Before anyone could say a word we heard a chuckle from Donny and then, "God fixa car!"

Not only did God fix the car (it ran like a charm after that) but it was definitely a break through in Don's language skills.

Oh yes, the rest of the vacation. We hiked. We relaxed in the big hot tub. And we fished. The fishing was the other dear memory. It was a stocked trout pond. Now imagine trying to keep track of five kids who were pulling in trout one after the other. Finally one of the attendants said, "Ma'am how many fish do you want to take home? You know you buy them by the pound."

I looked at the kids and the pile of fish. Yikes! "I think we'll stop now." It was a quick but successful fishing session and we enjoyed the fresh trout on the grill for dinner.

And then there was the indoor skydiving. But that's another flashback for another Friday. Fond memories.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Avoiding The Local Travel Scams

The older we get the more likely we are to be targeted for scams. Seniors are thought to be less savvy than younger travelers but no matter what your age, those who feel they can cleverly scam you out of money and/or possessions are ever present in the tourist areas of the world. I could tell you what the most recent scams are that I read about but by the time I post this and you read it the scammers will be on to something different. So here are a few common sense things to remember as you are out and about in foreign places.

Whenever you are approached by someone who wants to stop you and talk or sell you something be wary. When in Paris several years ago we were approached not once but three different times with the is-this-your-ring scam. Someone would run after you with a ring in their hand and ask if it was yours. If not, they would offer to go off and sell the ring. Of course you are not going to go with them so they will conveniently let you pay them half of its value and then you can have the ring to pawn or sell yourself. Others have approached us with items to sell and one almost succeeded in emptying my fanny pack which was in front of me and under my jacket.

Stay with authorized taxis. You can find out that information in tourist books or on board your cruise ship or at a tourist information booth. Otherwise you may be overcharged or be given counterfeit change.

Be aware of your surroundings. Travel in groups when possible or stay on the main roads and byways. While pickpockets may like large crowds, muggers will enjoy the less traveled alleys. Get a money belt but don't carry a large amount of cash. The best place to get money at an ATM is inside a bank or at the airport. It is less likely you will encounter trouble. And for goodness sake--don't take all your money out of your wallet or pocket or money belt at one time and hold it in your hand showing how much you are carrying.

Probably the scariest scam that we encountered albeit not directly was when we passed through Mozambique. While we were escorted with a tour group on our way to a safari in South Africa, others from our ship were exploring the capital city. Whether actual police officers or not, there were two instances of cameras being confiscated. We had been told that you could not take a picture of someone in uniform or an official government building. The camera owners were accused of taking forbidden pictures and were told that if they paid a fine they would return the camera. One man was told they would detain his wife too. Luckily they returned wife and camera when he emptied his wallet for them. I think I would have left my camera on the ship.

Whether home or abroad, common sense is the best thing to travel with. Don't leave home without it.


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