"" Writer's Wanderings: August 2018

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Maria's Field Of Hope

It had rained for several days so when the first day that promised to be sunny and pleasant came along, we decided to do something I've wanted to do for a long time--see the field of sunflowers that borders Interstate 90 in Avon, Ohio. The field of sunflowers was begun in 2014 by the Prayers from Maria Foundation as a way to gracefully draw attention to the lack of funding for childhood cancer.

Maria McNamara was a six year old girl who in 2006 was given the awful diagnosis of an aggressive and fatal brain tumor. Like many families who stand up and try to fight against the odds, they researched and exhausted all the avenues they could find to give them hope. In the end, they discovered that there was a lack of funding for this type of cancerous tumor called a glioma that strikes youngsters and takes their lives much too soon. Their beautiful Maria suffered through 14 months before she died. Her full story can be found at the Foundation website.

The foundation the family established is called Prayers From Maria because though she was so very ill, she still wanted to pray for other children who were suffering as well. The foundation is dedicated to funding global research into the causes, prevention, treatments and cure for childhood brain tumors known as gliomas. The family is dedicated to raising public awareness and funds to give as grants for research to bring hope to those families who are or will be affected by this awful disease.

The 25 acre field bloomed a little early this year. Each year it is planted in June and the blossoms usually emerge early September. The media each year covers the news of the blooms and this year reported that new construction in the area may be the end of the field of hope if a new location cannot be found. I think many would be sad to see that happen. Hopefully someone will step up with a solution.

We couldn't walk through the field as the pathway was a mud pit from all the rain we'd had that week. Volunteers were putting down a mulch so that you could at least get closer to the field up front. There were signs we could see off in the distance along the path but we couldn't read them from our vantage point. Some sunflowers had dedications attached to them (tags were available at the gift shop).

It was an awesome experience. The sunflowers were stunning. The message deep. There is always hope.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Toolboxes And Toolbelts

[My "toolbox" closet is still full of toys and games nine years after I wrote this. Now there are lots of memories for our grandkids as well. They remember the toys they played with years ago.]
            Most people think of a toolbox as a place for hammers, screwdrivers, wrenches, and pliers. But toolboxes are created in various shapes, sizes, and venues and for a plethora of needs. I have a little toolbox for all my sewing machine parts that are interchangeable to create embroidery designs. Then there’s the toolbox for my crochet hooks. On my computer there are several “toolboxes” for different programs that I run. And then of course there’s the grandkids toolbox—the one that houses all those little necessities for interaction with the grands when they come to visit.
            This toolbox is pretty big. As a matter of fact, it’s grown to the size of the closet in the hall. It contains games, toys, coloring books and crayons, Play-Doh, plastic plates and food, stuffed animals, Happy Meal toys, trains, cars—the list goes on. The last time we had grands, there was a trail of winter clothing leading to the toolbox. Boots came off in the mudroom, gloves lay on the kitchen floor, jackets in the hall in front of the powder room, and the hats landed somewhere in the foyer as they passed it.
The toolbox is great but sometimes you need more mobility. Here’s where a grandmother’s apron should be replaced by a tool belt. Think of it. You could put crayons and a coloring book in one pocket, several small cars in another. Then slip a small brush in one of the loops—just in case Barbie’s hair gets mussed. Tuck in a few moist-wipe packets, a couple of Fruit Rollups, and a remote control preprogrammed with parent approved children’s programs and you’re ready to roll.
One of the must-have tools on that belt is a magnifying glass. It is good for all seasons. In winter, for looking at snowflakes, in spring, for examining the buds on the trees, in summer, for the insect world, and in the fall, leaf skeletons. Now if you don’t live in a place that has seasons, there are still plenty of uses: looking for pollen on flowers, examining the hairs on an arm or leg, looking more closely at the fibers in a rug, or seeing the grains of sand that make up the beach. Next to chocolate chip cookies, this might be one of the best tools in the whole grandparenting toolbox!
What’s in your toolbox? And is it keeping up with the age level and abilities of your grands? Maybe it’s time to do a little “garage-saling” to find some new things or swapping with other grandparents whose needs are changing too. For years I heard my husband say, “If I have to fix this, I’ll need a new [insert name of tool].” Now it’s my turn. “The grands are coming. I need a new [insert name of ‘tool’].”

Monday, August 27, 2018

To Listen Is To Love

[One of my favorite stories from 2007. Being a good listener never gets old.]

The first duty of love is to listen. ~ Paul Tillich

             A grandparent’s ears were made for listening but not all of us are good listeners. My husband tires of hearing me tell the story of his lesson in listening. We only had three boys at the time and they were all preschoolers. I longed for adult conversation by the end of the day and eagerly awaited Bob’s arrival home from work when we could sit down to dinner and talk.
Unfortunately, Bob was often preoccupied at dinner with his own thoughts about the new business venture he was beginning. He feigned a listening ear, nodding his head on occasion and murmuring “Uh-huh” when he felt it appropriate. I was not oblivious to the lack of attentive listening and decided it was time to act.
The next night he arrived home to find his wife and children all dressed up to go out to dinner. I met the surprised look on his face with, “So, where are we going? You didn’t tell me.”
“I didn’t say we were going out to dinner tonight,” he replied.
“Sure you did,” I countered. “We were talking at dinner yesterday and I asked you if you wanted to go out to dinner tonight and you said, ‘Uh-huh.’ Then I asked if you wanted to bring the boys along, and you said, ‘Uh-huh.’ So, where are we going?”
We all piled in the car, drove to a restaurant, and ordered our meals. Half way through the main course, Bob said, “I didn’t really tell you we were going out to dinner tonight, did I?”
I smiled. “No but you better put your ‘uh-huhs’ in the right places when you’re listening to me from now on.”
The lesson worked. Bob has become a great listener and his grandchildren truly love him for it.
Listening attentively to your grandchildren makes them feel loved, appreciated, and encourages them in their development at any age. Young children need to have an audience to practice their language skills as they learn to talk. Listening to them can be difficult at times as their brains work faster than they are capable of speaking. By paying attention to what they are trying to say, we help them use vocabulary, put together sentences, formulate thoughts, and sequence events.
Older children are developing opinions, impressions of the world around them, and have a desire to express their ideas. They need to dream dreams and know that someone cares that they do. Their dreams may sound outlandish, impossible, but so did many others who had dreams at a young age and saw them fulfilled as adults. Without an encouraging listening ear, many of those dreams would fade.

Friday, August 24, 2018

The Writing (And Art) On The Wall

[This post was written 10 years ago. The amazing thing is that when our grands recently visited, they all took a moment to peruse the cork board that is full to overflowing with their contributions. And the littlest wanted to be sure she had something there so she drew a new picture for us.]
Decades ago, literally, I purchased a large cork board and divided it as evenly as I could with a black marker between five children. Each one had a space where their best drawings, writing, and/or exceptional test papers could be proudly displayed for family and visitors to see. It was a great place to stand and laud praise on the latest posting and to brag to whoever came in or went out the door by our kitchen hallway where the board hung.
            The board, full of the last remnants of high school graduation and one certificate for a Microsoft course one of the boys took as an adult, still hung there when it was time for my husband and me to move into our new smaller home. I took a trip down Memory Lane as I removed pictures and test papers and the Microsoft certificate—smiling at the thought that the now adult son still wanted to display his achievement. I considered getting rid of the corkboard. It had served its purpose and I wasn’t sure I had room for it at the new house. Pack rat that I am, I saved it and moved it with us.
            Not long after we were in the new home, I decided to hang the corkboard in our mud room where we go in and out to the garage and the side yard. I tacked up a picture or two of the new couples as my boys got married. Then came the wonderful news that we could expect our first grandchild. That first was to be followed by five more. I tacked up pictures of newborns. Then the first scribbles of crayoned papers. Then the first letters of the alphabet written in shaky uncertain script.
            My cork board collection has grown and cycled many times as new drawings, writings, and cards are sent to us or made for us during those special visits with grandchildren. It is the first thing our grandchildren see as they come in the door. Once in a while I catch them looking to see if something they have made is up there. Next to my grandma’s wall of portraits where they all smile out at us in the foyer, the corkboard collection is my favorite piece of decoration in my home.
            Is there a place in your home for your grandchildren’s creations? Their expressions of love to you? I guarantee that if you set aside a spot to display them, it will warm your heart every time you pass by.

Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Fountain Of Youth

[I found this essay among my archives. It was written almost exactly seven years ago. In light of the recent visit of all our grandchildren, I thought it would be fun to post it.]

When you think of Naomi in the Book of Ruth in the Bible, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The perfect mother-in-law? The relationship she had with Ruth who would not leave her side? I always took the mother-in-law angle when I thought of the story, hoping that I could be a mother-in-law that my daughters-in-law would look up to. But recently during a series of sermons from our pastor in the Book of Ruth, I happened upon the real secret in that story--the discovery of the fountain of youth. Grandchildren!!

When Boaz marries Ruth and she delivers their child, Obed, she hands him over to Naomi. The women of the village surround Naomi and the Bible verse reads, “May this child restore your youth.” (Ruth 4:15, New Living Translation). In the Message it reads, “He’ll make you young again!”

And that’s exactly what grandchildren do--make us young again. Suddenly we are thinking of fun things to do often in childish ways. We are enjoying ice cream in a cone that drips too fast in hot weather. Splashing our bare feet in the shallow waters of a beach. Coloring again with crayons and marveling at their unusual names. Seeing the world through a youngster’s eyes.

Grandparents do need to remember however that they can overdo just as much as a child might. There’s a reason young children need a nap and there’s a good reason grandma or grandpa might too. As Gene Perret, a comedy writer who pokes fun at himself and other grandparents with this line says, “An hour with your grandchildren can make you feel young again. Anything longer than that and you start to age quickly.” Which to me just says, don’t drain the fountain of youth all in one visit. Pace yourself. Plan some quiet times in between those backyard scrimmages.

Perret does come back with another line that I find endearing. “What a bargain grandchildren are! I give them my loose change, and they give me a million dollars’ worth of pleasure.” I say make that a million dollars worth of rejuvenation.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Adventures In The Treetops

While our grandkids were visiting from Japan, we decided to take an excursion to Geneva On The Lake, one of the small communities that dot the shores of Lake Erie. I had seen the Lake Erie Canopy Tours on one of our local programs, New Day Cleveland, and made a note that it could be something the kids would like. Like? They loved it!

There are several adventures to choose from and our son signed the kids up for the adventure course for the two older kids and the kids' adventure course for the youngest who was just on the border line of being tall enough to hold on to the more challenging course ropes. The attendants gave us an opportunity to see the courses before they signed on. When the youngest saw the big course, she decided to go on the kids' adventure which turned out to be a good choice for her.

They got into their safety gear and made their way to the courses with the guides. The kids' course was easy enough to hook up to and it wasn't long before the youngest was making her way around tethered to a guide wire that would keep her from falling to the ground. Meanwhile, the older kids got a little more instruction on their course.

The safety hookup for the more challenging course was amazing. There were two hooks to keep attached to the guide/safety wire. While they had to unhook and hook again around some angles, the mechanism would not allow them to unhook both ends at the same time. One hook would always be attached thanks to a magnetic system.

The bigger course was challenging and took about two hours to finish. Meanwhile the youngest child managed to make it around her course about six or seven times and was delighted that she had a small zip line at the end. The older kids didn't get to zip because that was an extra charge.

Guides kept an eye on things and helped move the kids from one level to another. The weather couldn't have been more cooperative and we sat and watched all the kids, enjoying a cool breeze and patches of sunlight as it filtered through the canopy of trees.

When we were done, we explored the shoreline behind the Geneva Lodge and then of course finished the afternoon with some ice cream. It was a great adventure.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Celebrating 50 Years Together--Our Train Dinner

This year we celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary! Who knew it would last this long or for that matter that we would still be around to celebrate it. We are blessed!

When it came to deciding how we would celebrate we tried out several ideas. One was a big party, inviting all our friends and family. That sounded good until I began to look at things a bit more realistically. Knee surgery was going to slow me down and what was the one thing I really wanted to have happen? I really wanted all the kids and the grandkids together to celebrate with us. With that in mind, we moved forward to another idea.

All the kids, big and little, are interested in trains or have been in the past. When the boys were little Bob had a train table that he would set up every Christmas. A little investigating later and I found that we could reserve the dining car on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad and have dinner aboard the train. It would be casual which would suit all of us and a lot of fun and something everyone would remember.

After we were able to determine when it would be possible for all the grandkids to get together working around school, summer camps, softball and a myriad of other activities we made our reservation for August 12 on the evening run. Putting together the menu, ordering a small cake, and making all the reservations was easily done and we finally managed to arrange for all the kids to be together for that weekend--the one gift I truly wanted.

A couple of friends were able to come and take group pictures for us using all the cameras and phones before the train arrived. We boarded the train as a group carrying with us a cake and some extra themed napkins and plates. The Table Car (as the dining car is called) was set with white table clothes and cloth napkins. In the back corner, the caterer set up our appetizers and main entree. There was more than enough food even though I had not ordered entrees for each person. With small kids, I knew they wouldn't eat a whole entree.

Our menu included shrimp cocktail, a cheese and fruit patter, sausage kabobs, chicken tenders (the kids loved though), a salad, the most delicious tender honey pecan chicken, potatoes and veggies. Our cake was way too big for all of us but I had to order a certain size in order to get two tiers and use my original cake topper that I'd modified for the 50th.

The ride was about three hours long and the kids lost interest a bit on the trip back. One of them had brought cards and they entertained themselves. We all enjoyed visiting together and just being family. I love that everyone got along so well. That doesn't always happen in a lot of families.

Our anniversary is actually in September and we have booked a cruise in October as our personal celebration but our evening on the train will hold a special place in my heart for at least the next fifty years.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Family Tree

[Having just had all of our children and grandchildren together for the first time in I don't know how many years, I thought this was kind of an appropriate time to post this article I wrote a while back.]

Many of us were blessed to be able to spend time with close family and even some extended family this past holiday season. When we don’t get together often, it gets more difficult to explain to grandchildren how all these people are related to them. While kids generally are more interested in just playing with all the cousins, it is nice to inspire a little interest in family history. While genealogy has never been a burning interest of mine, it has been fun lately to make connections with cousins I haven’t seen in years. Of course that always brings up the question of where they belong on our rather large Family Tree.

Mentioning the Family Tree to your young grandchildren might inspire images of a large oak or maple tree with people sitting on the branches. Actually, that’s not a bad way to begin to teach them about the family heritage. But don’t hang Uncle Vito out on a limb yet. Try this idea I gleaned from one of my creative daughters-in-law.

Gather pictures from your family but don’t go too far back. For younger grands ancient family history is too much to grasp right now but hopefully this project will instill a curiosity for later in life. Start with the child’s grandparents—you and the in-laws. Then gather pictures of your adult child and his/her spouse. Next find pictures of your grand/s. If you scan the pictures into your computer (or have someone do this for you), with a little help from some editing software, you can reduce the size and even put a little frame around each picture. Then print them out on your printer on a sheet of regular paper.

Next, find a picture of a tree in a coloring book, or scan one from a magazine and print it out on a full sheet of paper. Sit down with your grand and let him/her cut out the faces of the family members you have collected. At the top of the tree on one side have them glue or tape the pictures of the parents of Mom and on the other side, the parents of Dad.

On a lower branch, under the appropriate parents, place Mom and Dad. Then, in the middle of the tree, your grand can paste his/her picture and those of the siblings if there are any. What you have is a visual explanation of how everyone is related—simple enough for a young one to understand.

For those grands who want to expand on this, make it a family project the next time everyone is together. They can take their own pictures and figure out where everyone fits on the tree. Maybe you could even make a large tree on brown wrapping paper, tape it up somewhere at the house and let them add their pictures where they fit into the family.

Now be careful. This can lead to phone calls like the one I got one day from a grandson who wanted me to put his daddy in time-out because I was his mommy and I could do that.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Nemo Lives!

[This post is from June 2006. Hard to believe our big flood was that long ago.]

When I last posted, I had no idea what was before us. Thursday afternoon we had two storm fronts move in on us and for almost an hour the rain turned into a torrential downpour leaving much of our area flooded. Our backyard became a raging river, floating our 500# bridge away from what was a dry riverbed in our yard and wedging it between two trees. As I watched the water rise wondering if it would reach our basement windows and begin to flow in, I was unaware of what was happening beneath me.

Storm sewers filled and overflowed apparently into the waste sewers and for whatever reason of engineering, our basement became flooded with about 8" of filthy water. Our basement was finished so the damage is extensive and, needless to say, we are concerned about getting it cleaned up properly for health reasons.

My beautiful pond was full of muddy water from the creek that had swollen to emense proportions. When the water receded, I found my little goldfish speckling the yard. I ran the hose in the pond to flush as much dirty water as possible. It cleared some and I went about working more on the immediate problems in the house once the cleaning company came to extract the carpeting and help clean floors.

Today I headed outside for a breath of fresh air. I stood looking at the pond that was beginning to resemble normalcy. Suddenly a little flash of gold caught in the beam of sun shining down. Nemo lives! Amazing how God can take a little thing and bring hope for a better tomorrow.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Take Me Fishing

[I wrote this in 2006 but it is more appropriate as time goes by. One of the things I love when we spend our winters in Florida is having my grandkids visit and being able to walk down to the dock and fish with them. Brings back memories--and builds new ones.]

            “Take me fishing,” cherub faced youngsters plead in a public service commercial that runs frequently during the summer fishing season in our state. It’s the last little girl about ten years old, who tugs at my heartstrings. “Take me fishing,” she begs her brown eyes wide and innocent. “Because my wedding day will be here before you know it.”

            Maybe it’s because I see myself in her and remember the great times spent with my grandfather sitting and watching a red and white bobber float on the surface of the lake as we waited for the big one to bite. Grandpa always seemed to have all the time in the world to sit with me and coach me in the skill of knowing just when to jerk the line to hook my fish. It taught me a lot about patience.

            Grandpa had a lot of patience when it came to teaching me math basics as well. He would tear off a long sheet of white shelf paper and fill it with simple addition and subtraction problems. He nurtured in me a love for mathematics which served me well in school. There was always time to show me how to plant a flower properly, turn a pancake over when he made the special treats, or know which tomatoes were just right for the picking. The key word in this relationship was time.

            Today, time spent with grandchildren is just as valuable but often difficult to squeeze in between all the extra-curricular activities that fill a child’s life and all the opportunities that are presented to active grandparents no matter what their stage of life.

            “Take me fishing…hiking…biking…exploring…” All of these and more are now available to grandparents and their grandkids through summer camp programs. The programs are varied, lasting from a weekend up to a week. This can be the answer to those grandparents and grandkids who are separated by miles. It can bring them together for an experience that will create lasting memories and a special bond.

            Dr. Arthur Kornhaber, a family psychiatrist who has studied the grandparent role since 1970, started one of the original camps in 1986 at Great Camp Sagamore, on Raquette Lake in New York. Their programs are sponsored in cooperation with Elderhostel. Programs are varied but usually include hiking, music, and crafts.

            Grandkids and Me, founded by Don Schmitz, offers a grandparents’ camp that features a discussion time with other grandparents as well as the opportunity to interact with your grandchildren in the beautiful natural area of the camp near Amery, Wisconsin.

            At www.elderhostel.org, you can choose, according to your desired level of physical activity, other intergenerational programs that offer travel both domestic and international. Enjoy everything from bird watching to hiking, skiing, and kayaking with your grandchildren.

            Some local zoos also offer programs where overnight camping is available and you and your grandchild are introduced to nocturnal animals. Or check out a park system near you that might be offering nature programs and camping. The idea is growing and opportunities are multiplying.

            Camps and outings like these can dispel the idea that grandparents are old and feeble. “Most folks conceive their notions of grandparents early in life. My own notion, which I’m sure is shared by many, was that grandparents were elderly, had gray hair, wore old fashioned clothes, and, if not feeble in the muscle, were at least stiff in the joints,” says Eric Wiggin in his book, The Gift of Grandparenting.

            Even if the physical level of your activity is limited, the opportunity to be together will draw your grandchildren closer to you and help them to see you in a different light. The valuable life experience you bring to that shared time will enrich their lives and cement relationships.

            So, take them fishing. Take them camping. Spend some precious time devoted only to them—because as parents we learned that all too quickly the time passes and suddenly, the children are grown.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Storybook Memories

[This essay was written back in 2007. Since then I discovered Shutterfly.com and that made putting together a storybook a little easier. It costs a bit more but will last longer. If you watch for sales, you can often get the storybook for half price.]

A 1941 cover of the Saturday Evening Post features Norman Rockwell’s Girl Reading. I wondered if he may have done a painting with a child sitting on a grandmother’s lap while she read to him. I wouldn’t be surprised since that is truly one of the tenderest moments between grandmother and grandchild.

            As a writer, I like to encourage the next generation of readers. After all, without readers where would a writer be? I started something with my own grandchildren I would like to pass along to you—a storybook featuring your own grandchild. Kids love to read about themselves and with all our computer technology and digital cameras, creating an original storybook is easy.

            I chose the occasion of each grandchild’s first overnight visit to our home without their parents but you could easily do any other occasion you felt was significant. It happened that my grandkids were between two and three years old when they stayed overnight the first time.

            Camera ever ready, I snapped pictures of the games we played, of where they slept, of places we visited (usually the zoo), of meals they ate, etc. When our house was quiet again, I downloaded the pictures and chose ten to tell the story.

            Using my Microsoft Word (I’m sure most word processing programs will work), I began to piece together a little story of  “[Name]’s Great Overnight Adventure.” My book cover was a picture of our home with the title above it and subtitle “Staying at Grandma and Grandpa’s House” below it.

            Each page illustrated something we did and explained it in storybook form with my grandchild as the main character. “[Name] helped Grandma bake cupcakes. They were delicious!” I used simple short sentences since my grandchildren were very young but if you do this with older kids, you want to be sure to write the story at their level of reading.

            I laminated the pages with sheets of self-laminating plastic I found at the office supply store. It is like clear Contact paper—sticky on one side. If you want to invest a little more money, you could have the pages laminated at the office supply store. They can also clip your book together with a comb-binder.

            When I was finished with the first book, the others were easy to make. I saved the document and just went in and changed pictures and wording to reflect the other grandchildren’s experiences.

            Each one had a story to “read” to their mom and dad. It was their story so they didn’t have to know the words. It is a great keepsake memory of their first big overnight adventure and. . .it encourages reading!

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Meeting My Characters

[While Paul Carson never worked out in one of my novels, the process has yielded some other great characters. This post was from January 2010.]

It's a new year and time to start a new novel. I have had a story idea kicking around in my head for months and I guess it is time to let it out. Now that involves meeting new characters. Usually I have a character in mind before I begin a book but this time the storyline came first so I need to get out and "shake hands" with some people to determine who is involved with this story.

Developing a character is a lot like meeting new people. On a cruise for instance, we sit down at a table for a meal and introduce ourselves to the others at the table. After that the conversation turns to where we live, how many kids/grandkids we have, professions, etc. As the cruise goes on, your table mates reveal more and more about their lives--interesting tidbits from their prior trips, tales of exciting experiences from their jobs, what they like to read and why, etc. You get the picture.

So I "met" this character yesterday. His name is Paul Carson and he's an air traffic controller. Now that's an interesting profession! I have lots of questions for him. So far I've found out he's married, has one daughter, grew up in Detroit, MI (but we'll forgive him for being from MI since he went to MSU not UM), and he has quite a story to tell about a time when his faith in God was tested. I'm excited to learn more.

Monday, August 06, 2018

A Favorite River Stop in France - Ville des Andelys

[This was one of the most picturesque stops on our French River cruise back in 2009.]

What a treat to awaken one morning along the Seine and find ourselves in the middle of a Monet painting. The sun was lazily making its way up into the sky and a haze lay over the countryside creating the romantically mysterious sense of picturesque landscape that Monet and other Impressionists often captured in their work.

The little town of Ville des Andelys included a delightful morning excursion climb to the top of a ridge containing the remains of a fortress. It once belonged to Richard the Lionhearted. Not a lot of the stone fortress is left standing, but the view from the top was so very worth the climb.

Our timing was perfect. As we finished snapping the last of our pictures, a low hanging cloud engulfed us and shrouded the view. We headed down once again to the little town and began to explore.

A large square marked the center where a church faced out on one side. At one end of town was a large hospital. As I walked toward it, I found myself at a Y in the road with a bakery at the point of the intersection. A few doors down and across the street was another bakery (the French love their baguettes, croissants, brioche, and pastries). As I passed between the two shops I stopped and inhaled deeply. The smell of fresh baked yeasty bread hung there between the two bakeries. I forced myself to move on.

As we traveled along in Normandy, there were large clumps of what at first appeared to be squirrel nests in the trees like we have at home. We discovered, they were not squirrel nests but rather a parasite growing in the trees—mistletoe! Well, no wonder the French are so fond of kissing in their greetings. They’ve been wandering under the mistletoe!

Friday, August 03, 2018

My Mother's Great Adventure

{Lots of smiles every time I remember this story.]

Mother's Day is around the corner and maybe that's why my mother's been in my thoughts lately. I think I owe a lot of my travel itch to her. When we were little, Mom used to pop us into the car and we'd "get lost." I'm still not sure if we were literally lost on those day trips or if she just did that to make it adventuresome. With my mom, it was hard to know. She was a great storyteller. (I think I owe that to her as well.)

Today I had to cross over a bridge to get to the Lowe's I was headed for. The bridge always brings back memories of visiting my uncle who lived on the other side about 20 minutes from our house although at my young age then, it seemed like hours. The bridge has been modernized. Gone are the iron rails that I remember, replaced with concrete sides, but the memory of our first trip over that bridge with Mom driving lingers.

Mom may have had a learner's permit--or not. Dad was teaching her how to drive which in itself must have been quite a feat for their marriage to survive. We had a stick-shift Chevy. (Dad was a Chevy man all the way). It was the weekend and Dad had decided to go fishing. I'm guessing that there was a little tension over that because Mom decided she wanted to go visit my uncle and his family and she still didn't have her driver's license.

Mom packed my brother who was about 2 or 3 and myself (I was about 7) into the car and we headed out to Uncle Harry's house. I don't remember Mom having any trouble until she spotted a couple of policemen directing traffic at a crossroad near our destination. She panicked a bit, popped the clutch at the wrong time and stalled the car in the middle of the intersection. She then proceded to flood the engine in her haste to get it restarted.

Now as Mom embellished the story, she said, "The cop got in the car and tried to start it again. He sniffed the air--I think to see if I'd been drinking because my face was so red. I told him the baby (my brother) stood up (no child restraints back then). He and his partner then pushed me off to the side of the road and told me to take it easy and try to start the car in a few minutes. Thankfully, they never asked to see my license. The car started again and I made it to Harry's."

Joe and I were threatened with "death" if we told, but eventually the story came out. And I later learned that she tried to get Uncle Harry to drive her back but he wouldn't. He also wouldn't give her an alternate route. Now I'm not sure if she went back the same way. I suspect that might have been the first time we "got lost."

Thursday, August 02, 2018

A Three Year Old's View of DIsney

[Our grands have grown a lot in the nine years since I wrote this.]

As I sat one afternoon waiting for a parade to begin in the Magic Kingdom, I was talking with my three year old grandson, Caleb, and I suddenly realized that sitting down, I was just about his height. What was it he was seeing? I snapped the picture on the right. He was seeing lots and lots of legs. Nondescript legs. Some had jeans, some were bare to the length of their shorts. How in the world can a child be absolutely sure he has the right pair belonging to his own parent?

Actually I ran into that problem with our youngest, Annalise (18 months). She desperately wanted into the arms of the man standing next to me who had an almost identical red striped Polo shirt as my son. "Sorry, honey," I soothed, "right shirt, wrong daddy."

Imagine meeting the Disney characters when you are three and only about three feet tall. That would be like one of us at six feet tall looking up at a furry costumed giant of 12 feet or more. "And they want me to turn around with my back to this guy and smile?!"

The kids do catch a break in the restrooms. Disney is one of the most handicapped friendly places I've ever seen. There are lots of low sinks where a three year old can feel like giant as he washes his hands and reaches for towels.

I applaud the pluckiness of three year olds. Although there's a little fear and trepidation, they plod ahead and stretch their imaginations and their anxiety levels. Disney's counting on it.
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