An open letter of apology to Grandma Green for breaking Grandpa’s tall beer glass and your mirror when I was opening the dresser drawer

Dear Grandma Green,

41HqzNaNplLEven though you have been gone a long time I still feel guilty every time I think about breaking Grandpa’s tall beer glass with the mirror (and breaking the mirror too) when I tugged too hard on the stuck drawer of the chest of drawers in your bedroom the summer after Grandpa died and I spent a few weeks with you in Chetek.

I don’t think of it often, only when I see a very tall beer glass like the one to the left or when I hear about one like the one I am reading about in Charlotte Gray, one of my “read-a-shelf” books. I may also think about it when I struggle to open a dresser drawer or see a broken mirror too. I know I thought about it when Clare did something similar with a case holding all of my glass unicorns.

Here’s what happened. I needed something out of the chest of drawers (notice I am calling it a “chest of drawers” like you used to call it) and the drawer which held that something was swollen and stuck fast to the rest of the dresser. I shook the drawer which made the mirror that was tilted at the back of the dresser tip forward onto the very tall beer glass in its wooden stand. They both fell down, shattering the beer glass and breaking the mirror.

When you heard the crash you came running into the bedroom. I believe you said “shit” or some other colorful word. You also mentioned how much Grandpa liked his very tall beer glass. You were momentarily angry at me, but I think you understood it was an accident. I don’t remember if I cried or not. I was 17 years old, so I may have. I probably said something about it being an accident and you may have said I should have been more careful.

We cleaned it up and never spoke of it again. I meant to buy you a mirror to replace the mirror I broke, but never did. I don’t know that I ever apologized for breaking the mirror and very tall beer glass.

Grandma, I am sorry I broke the mirror, but more sorry about the beer glass since it was Grandpa’s and it was something he really liked. You’d just lost him, now you lost something he treasured. As a 17 year old I don’t think that registered with me. I only thought about you being upset with me. I know you forgave me long ago, but I just wanted to get it out in the open.

Love,

Dona

PS I miss you

 

Categories: Memories, Musings, People, Things | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

The Return of the Peripatetic Son

Andrew graduated in May, spent a few days with us then went off on his post-graduation summer travels. First he went to Colorado with a couple friends by way of a circuitous route and flew back to Maryland about a week later. Not long after that he flew to Seattle with his bike and very few other possessions to embark on a 1300 or so mile solo cycling trip to San Diego.

We heard from him weekly along the way (a predetermined compromise from several times a week) about how his trip was going. He spent a few days with friends in Seattle, then took the long way to Olympia to visit Clare. He tried to cycle to Portland, but was picked up along the way by Clare and friends. He spent more time in Portland (but didn’t participate in the Naked Bike Ride even though he thought about it.)

The next time we heard from him he was in Newport, Oregon setting up his campsite. He told us he was living on rice and beans cooked over a small cooker and it was getting old.

11717422_4434734826193_956547921161502244_oWe heard from him again when he was in San Francisco where he was able to meet up with some of Dean’s cousins. He stayed a day or so with Joanne, one of Dean’s cousins.

Andrew and I had a nice conversation when he was somewhere in the middle of California. He lamented that his trip was more than half over but was really happy he was doing it.

It seemed like more than a week, but we finally heard (though Tal) that Andrew was on his way to Santa Barbara where he was going to spend some time with our friend Tal. When he got to Santa Barbara Tal set up a Skype chat. Andrew, Tal and I talked for half an hour or so. Tal knew I was anxious to see how Andrew was doing and I am forever grateful to him for that gift.

11224305_10153139103781523_278894187786000153_nAfter that I saw some Facebook posts from a friend of Clare’s showing Andrew in Topanga having fun with some dogs and swinging on a rope. He called us sometime around then and said he’d stayed with Dean’s Uncle Ed and Aunt Fran in Pasadena one night.

We talked to Andrew a couple of times in the last couple of weeks. Once when he was in Baja California and again on Sunday when he called me from New Orleans for my birthday. Again he repeated that the trip was a great one in which he learned things about himself, was able to reflect on his life and he met some great people along the way.

Andrew comes home tomorrow morning. Home meaning the home in which he spent most of his life so far, but I know that before long he will have a new “home”. None of us know what is going to happen in the future. All I hope for is that Andrew be happy in whatever he does next.

I am so proud of both Andrew and Clare. They have both turned out to be amazing adults. I cannot wait to see what happens next.

 

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Watch this video

Back when the kids were young we met Annie and Mike through the kids’ school. One day Annie suggested I read a book by her cousin’s wife, Denise. Annie loaned me her copy of The Question of David and I loved it. I got to meet Denise and her husband Neil at Annie’s son’s bar mitzvah and again at Annie’s daughter’s bat mitzvah. In addition I spent some fun times with them in Lake Tahoe (and Reno) when the kids and I visited Annie and her family at their vacation home there. I’m friends with both Denise and Neil on Facebook and when Denise posted the video below, I knew I had to share it.

Denise and Neil both have cerebral palsy and are in wheelchairs. They are also featured prominently in the video below which discusses how the public — specifically the public that deals with people for work (shop keepers, baristas, waiters, salesclerks, etc.) — should interact with people with disabilities. The number 1 rule is to not focus on the disability and focus on the person. Another important thing to remember is to talk to the person with the disability directly, not to someone with them. If they cannot communicate their friend will let you know, but talk to the person first. Also, don’t act nervous. You can feel it but don’t let them know you are. I learned a thing or two from watching this video. Watch it.

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A Modern Fairy Tale in Pictures

The things I find in my mother’s extra bedroom! This latest find is an anniversary card I made for my folks on their 24th anniversary. That would have made me 22 years old. Let’s agree that the artistic genes in the family skipped a generation and not mention it again. My artwork at 22 is worse than my mother’s at a much younger age. Also I was a poor speller.

Note, if you click on one of the photos it will take you to a slideshow which may be easier to navigate.

Categories: Memories, Things | Tags: , | 3 Comments

More Reading (Non-RAS)

So, in addition to my RAS challenge I am also reading things on my Kindle and Nook devices. Some for book group, and some for just because. All of these books are worthwhile reading, so go ahead and enjoy one or all of them.

A few months ago Barnes and Noble emailed me to tell me I had three hours to spend $7.59. The only thing I could do was fire up my Nook and search for a book I wanted to read on it. (I don’t love my new Nook Glowlight — it feels cheap compared to my Kindle Paperwhite). I eventually chose The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. I read it in two nights, staying up late to do so. My book group is now reading it — I am pretty sure they will be critical, but I don’t care. It was a fun read.

Shortly after the the Charleston, NC AME Church shooting a Facebook friend mentioned that she’d heard of the Charleston church and Denmark Vesey in a book by Sue Monk Kidd called The Invention of Wings. I’d read Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees a few years ago, so I knew she was a great writer, so I downloaded The Invention of Wings in Illinois, before we returned to Maryland and began reading it on the drive home. I finished it a couple of nights ago and when I read the author’s note was surprised to discover it was fact based. I knew Denmark Vesey was a real person and the church was real, but I didn’t realize that everything, including the two main characters, Sarah and her sister Nina, were really abolitionists and crusaders for women’s rights. I’m really glad I read this book. It was well written and I learned a lot.

For book group last month we read Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See. While reading it I declared to anyone who would listen that it was the most well-written book I’d read in a long while. I still think so — and I am not the only person who does. I was at a dinner party and another guest (a professional writer herself) mentioned the book and said it was so well-written she wanted to go through the book and list all the verbs. All the Light We Cannot See is about a blind French girl and a German boy whose lives are connected and whose paths intersect near the end of World War II.

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Andrew’s graduation

Yes, it seems like only last week we dropped Andrew off at Oberlin when he was a new student. I took photos and planned a blog post about it but waited too long and now he’s graduated. Time sure does fly!

andrew-clareAndrew graduated from Oberlin with honors of some sort. We even went to the home of the president of the school to celebrate his honor where we drank punch and ate fruit on sticks. Dean’s sister, Diane, was able to join us for much of the weekend.

Oberlin goes all out for graduation and invites several alumni back for reunions. Oberlin goes from a small quiet college town to a very busy place. It was even more busy this year because one of the graduation speakers was Michelle Obama.

We spent much of our long weekend lounging on the grass. The weather was perfect for that — although it became a little hot on graduation day. I thought I would be in mourning since I loved Oberlin so, but strangely I didn’t feel sad. It would not be the same without Andrew there, and I said my expensive farewell to Bead Paradise.

lightsMy favorite, and most anticipated part of the weekend was the illuminations in Tappan Square the night before the graduation ceremony. It did not disappoint.

The ceremony was far too long, but the two main speakers were excellent. Michelle Obama’s was the best, by a long-shot. My favorite takeaway from Obama was:

“And I know that these days, that can seem counterintuitive, because we live in such an instantaneous age. We want everything right away—whether it’s an Uber or your favorite TV show—and we want it tailored to our exact preferences and beliefs. We fill our Twitter feed with voices that confirm, rather than challenge, our views. If we dislike someone’s Facebook post, we just un-follow them, we un-friend them.

And even here at Oberlin, most of the time you’re probably surrounded by folks who share your beliefs. But out in the real world, there are plenty of people who think very differently than you do, and they hold their opinions just as passionately. So if you want to change their minds, if you want to work with them to move this country forward, you can’t just shut them out. You have to persuade them, and you have to compromise with them. That is what so many of our heroes of history have done.”


Transcript

Marian Wright Edelman’s was inspiring too — although a bit long. Someone suggested that since she was an elder she felt the need to be thorough in her speech. My favorite takeaway from Edelman’s speech was “So often we want to be a big dog and make a big difference but all of us can be a flea and bite and bite and move the biggest dog. Enough determined fleas biting strategically can make the biggest dog uncomfortable. And if some of us are flicked off but keep coming back and continue biting, we can change our nation. So be a flea for justice—for children and for the poor.”


Transcript

More photos

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Thoughts on reading and reclaiming the joy

Now that I have begun to read again (hallelujah!) I’ve been thinking of why I quit — or at least slowed down and what I can do to continue to read. It is not that I quit enjoying reading — it is more that I found other things to do instead including the Internet, playing games on my tablet, and enjoying that third glass of wine.

Another thing I did that did actually restrict my joy of reading was be too critical. At some point in the past 10 years I thought I needed to be on guard while reading and be as critical as possible. I no longer read for the sake of reading. I “needed” to be ready to either argue why I liked or disliked a character or scene or plot.

Reading like that takes energy and takes the fun out of reading. If I like something — great. If I don’t, then that’s fine. Did the story move me in some way? Yes? Good. No? Then move on. No need to be all critical — maybe the book that moved me didn’t move someone else and maybe the book that didn’t, did move someone else. No need to waste energy arguing the point.

So some of you wondered why I [really] decided to do the Read a Shelf project. The answer is because I’ve used many ways to relax all my life and reading was my favorite until I made it a burden by being critical. If I am reading I am not wasting my time on games or the Internet. (By wasting time I don’t mean reading blog posts or writing them — I also don’t mean meaningful FB interaction.)

Anyway — I should go now, I have some reading to do.

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RAS 3: The Book of Ruth — Jane Hamilton

I couldn’t tell you where this book came from. I am sure it was not new when I got it — I probably picked it up from a used book store after reading and liking Jane Hamilton‘s second book, A Map of the World.

What I liked most about the extremely depressing A Map of the World was that it took place in Wisconsin. While I don’t know the area of Wisconsin in which this book took place, the fact that it was in Wisconsin made me happy, despite the subject matter.

The Book of Ruth is also depressing, but very well-written and the story is engrossing. The Book of Ruth takes place in Honey Creek a (made-up) small town in Northern Illinois on the border of Wisconsin.

Honey Creek is way up in the very north of Illinois. If you lean over the Abendroths’ back fence your torso is in Wisconsin.

I tried to plot where the town could be by clues in the story.

  • Borders Wisconsin
  • 40 miles from DeKalb
  • Rockford is closest big city

I figured it was somewhere near Harvard, Illinois. I have probably been there. Dean was there just last week. Ruth’s Aunt Sid (from the book) lives in DeKalb — where I went to college and near where Dean’s brother lives.

The Book of Ruth centers on young Ruth, the daughter of a bitter, likely depressed, woman named May and an absent father named Elmer. Ruth has a brother, Matt, who is brilliant and who eventually escapes to MIT. Ruth marries a local man, Ruby, who may or may not be developmentally delayed. The book is about dysfunctional families living in poverty and what they do to survive.

I’ll continue reading Jane Hamilton (happily she’s written at least two more books) but will wait a while in case her other stories are as depressing as A Map of the World (social ostracization) and The Book of Ruth (poverty, depression).

Stats 298 pages. Started June 14. Finished June 26.

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RAS 2: The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin — Benjamin Franklin

A fair number of years ago I bought a set of books at a library sale in Minocqua, Wisconsin. I was with my sister-in-law, Jill, and she claims I paid more for the set than I thought. No matter, it was a collection of well-known dead authors and to me it was a bargain.

Not that I read any of the books which eventually found their way to the top self of the living room, then to a box in the attic. One book, however, remained on the top self. It was a pure accident.

I never expected to read Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. I am not very much into history — especially American history — so had no interest in reading this. However, I figured I would give it a try.

Franklin was quite ambitious as a teenager and beyond. In his early adulthood he embarked on a sort of self-actualization quest trying to better himself in 12 steps (virtues):

  1. Temperance – eat not to dullness; drink not to elation.
  2. Silence – Speak not but what may benefit others or yourself; avoid trifling conversation.
  3. Order – Let all your things have their places; let each part of your business have its time.
  4. Resolution – Resolve to perform what you ought; perform without fail what you resolve.
  5. Frugality – Make no expense but to do good to others or yourself; that is, wast nothing.
  6. Industry – Lose no time; be always employed in something useful; cut off all unnecessary actions.
  7. Sincerity – Use no hurtful deceit; think innocently and justly; speak accordingly.
  8. Justice – Wrong none by doing injuries; or omitting the benefits of your duty.
  9. Moderation – Avoid extremes; forbear resenting injuries so much as you think they deserve.
  10. Cleanliness – Tolerate no uncleanliness in body, clothes, or habitation.
  11. Tranquility – Be not disturbed at trifles or at accidents common or unavoidable.
  12. Chastity – Rarely use venery but for health or offspring, never to dullness, weakness, or the injury of your own or another’s peace or reputation.

I learned a few things about American history that was otherwise elusive to me. For instance, I never quite understood who General Braddock was, even though we lived for years near one of his abandoned cannons. I knew he was a British soldier, so why would Franklin want to help him obtain horses and carts? It was the French and Indian War which was before the Revolutionary war so we were not necessarily enemies of the British at that time, although it seemed much of the colonies were a bit passive aggressive. I didn’t know that!

I was surprised that the book was as readable as it was. Benjamin Franklin was interesting and had a captivating way of writing.

That’s not to say that it was not incredibly boring in parts. Lots of parts. I basically skimmed the end of the book.

I cheated on this book. I turned every page, but did not read every word.

This 200 page book took me many weeks to read. Hopefully the next book won’t take that long.

Stats 200 or so pages. Started May 12. Finished June 14.

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Found (in Oberlin): The Place Where the Sidewalk Ends

We spent Memorial Day weekend in Oberlin for Andrew’s Graduation (more on that later) and much of the time was down-time as we waited for Andrew to do this or that. Sometimes we simply rested on the grass, other times we drove around the area. On one of our drives we drove through a new neighborhood in Oberlin, not far from Andrew’s house. In one corner of the neighborhood was a strange brick structure in the middle of a neatly mowed lot with sidewalks leading to it and floodlights pointed towards it. Dean and I discussed what it could be for (it had signs inside it that said “PRIVATE”). On the way back to the car, however, I found something more interesting. I found the place where the sidewalk ends. Right there in Oberlin*.

Where the sidewalk ends

Where the Sidewalk Ends

There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.

Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends,
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.

Yes we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.

— Shel Silverstein — 1974

* It is fitting to have found this during Andrew’s college graduation weekend. Interpretations of the poem suggest that the place where the sidewalk ends is where childhood ends and adulthood begins.

Categories: Musings, Places, Travel | Tags: , | 3 Comments