Way to go Helen!

helen-medalI’ve not posted about wrestling in a long time because my favorite wrestler has gone on to bigger and better things. This past week, though, I’ve been back in the wrestling state of mind. It has been a long time coming, but one of Montgomery County’s own wrestlers, Helen Maroulis, made it to the Olympics and made Olympic history by being the first US female to win a gold medal.

Why did I care so much? Mostly because she and Andrew grappled a few times in his freshman year. I remember the first time. We got to the meet and saw that Andrew was up against a girl. It felt a little odd, and I remember hearing, “Andrew’s wrestling Helen” repeated a few times that day. The next time he was up against her, it was not so strange and by then I’d learned more about her. She had a brother who was also a wrestler, she was very good.

Here is Andrew wrestling Helen at Counties:

Here he is wrestling Helen at Regionals:

She beat Andrew each time he wrestled against her but when she was wrestling others in different meets I, and all the moms of our team, not-so-secretly cheered Helen on.

After she left our county to train more extensively I followed her on Twitter and Instagram. I was disappointed when she didn’t qualify for the London Olympics, and delighted when she qualified for the Rio Olympics. I told everyone who would listen about her and Andrew’s history with her.

helen-lapOn Thursday of last week I stopped what I was doing to watch her win the quarterfinals, the semifinals and finally the finals. I cried tears of joy when she ran her victory lap around the arena, the US flag trailing behind her.

We most likely never exchanged a word, but I am claiming the right to feel proud to have been in the same room with her and watching her wrestle as a young teen.

 

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Random Memory: The time the catalpa watered me

Catalpa in late summer showing the beanpods

Catalpa in late summer showing the bean pods

I grew up on a street lined with mature catalpa trees. These trees, if you don’t know them by name, you probably know them by sight. They are the trees with large heart-shaped leaves that produce huge white flowers in the spring and long green bean-shaped seed pods in the fall. I used to tell people that Heine Avenue should have been called Catalpa Street.

velvet leaf weed

Velvet Leaf in tomato garden

One afternoon I stood under our yard’s catalpa tree admiring what I suspected was a baby catalpa. It had large heart-shaped leaves, just like the tree above me. I wanted it to grow so I ran into the house, filled a pot with water and ran back to the front yard and poured the water over the baby catalpa tree. Just as my pot of water sprinkled the last drop on the baby catalpa tree I felt drops of water on my head, then more, then what seemed like buckets of water fell on my head. My first thought was that the mother catalpa tree was watering me, but then I suspected she was trying to drown me because I poured water on her child. As I ran into the house I realized that the water was just a sudden rainstorm.

Years later I discovered that what I thought was a baby catalpa was actually a velvetleaf — a weed which, according to the Internet, was introduced in the U. S. as a possible fiber plant. I see them now and then when I’m in nature — I saw a lot in Illinois the last couple of weeks. Yesterday I saw one — 6+ foot one — in my tomato garden. Which is why you are reading this now.

Categories: Memories | Tags: | 2 Comments

A Man Called Ove and one similarly-aged woman’s opinion

Ove is fifty-nine. So, currently, is Dona.

That’s probably the only similarity between the two. Ove would hate book groups, Ove doesn’t read much, except maybe manuals. Dona loves books and enjoys her book group. Dona also loves electronics. Ove doesn’t trust them. Ove likes cars. And order. And following rules.

A Man Called Ove coverDona really wanted to read A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman so she chose it for book group when it was her time to host. She thought it would be similar to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry. It wasn’t really. It was readable — very readable. Dona enjoyed reading A Man Called Ove. She liked most of the characters and the situations and the writing style was easy to read. But The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry was so much fuller than A Man Called Ove.

But here is what Dona didn’t like about A Man Called Ove. The author (currently thirty-four if you believe Google) seems to have little idea what fifty-nine year old people are like or capable of doing. He’s made Ove seem much older than fifty-nine — maybe somewhere in his seventies. His similarly-aged neighbor Rune is portrayed as being skinny and bent over when he’d been fit enough to scare drug dealers a decade or so before. Granted Rune has dementia, but it doesn’t seem quite right that he’s gone from being strong and large in his forties to being skinny and bent over in his late fifties. Ove doesn’t always act like he is in his seventies — he uses his strength on more than one occasion, but generally, as a fifty-nine year old Dona thinks that the author has written off the older generation as basically useless. The occasions where Ove uses his strength are accompanied with an explanation why he is strong. The only people in the book that are past their forties are either dead, sick, unable to cope or depressed and all but one is retired. Sure, Backman makes some under-forty-year-old folks incompetent (as seen through Ove’s eyes), but he doesn’t make the entire under-forty crowd one-dimensional.

Dona is glad she read the A Man Called Ove (and even saw the film, thanks to connections) but she is annoyed at Mr. Backman for portraying her generation as being far less able than his generation.

 

 

Categories: Musings, Reading | Tags: , , , , | 3 Comments

The blood of a stranger

Vince's bloodI sit here at my desk, sort of listening to a webinar on mobile app accessibility, but I am thinking about the blood stain on my jeans. I should have changed into clean jeans and thrown these into the wash, but I just have not done that yet. It is the blood of a stranger I met today.

His name is Vince and he’s probably somewhere in his eighties. While I am not an expert on dementia, I’m pretty sure he’s in at least the early stages. The shuffling walk, the confusion, the falling. I do not envy the talk his family is going to probably need to have with him regarding his driving ability.

Okay, here’s what happened. I took my car to the Toyota dealer this morning for its 15000 mile checkup. It was a bother and I was annoyed I had to take time out of my work day to do that. I chose to go to the nearby mall while I waited for my car to be checked out. I didn’t buy anything (I was in the market for a lightweight jacket and some plum colored nail polish). When I got the call from the dealership I headed back.

In order to get back the dealership I had to cross a couple of smaller streets and a larger street — nothing much, but there was some traffic. As I got to the bigger street I noticed a man lying down on the corner on the other side of the street. I thought he was about to get up — I figured he had fallen and could get up on his own. As I watched, I realized he was not getting up or turning over. I ignored the traffic light and ran across the street just as a woman with a toddler in a stroller got to the man. We told him we were going to help him up and he seemed grateful. We each grabbed an arm and pulled. She was the stronger of the three of us, but eventually we got him on his feet. Just then a man in a truck pulled up and jumped out to help us. The man who fell said he was okay and needed to get to the Toyota dealership so I offered to walk him there. The man in the truck didn’t think the man who fell could walk that far ans insisted he drive the man who fell to the dealership.

At this point we realized the man was bleeding and luckily the woman who helped get him on his feet had some baby wipes that we applied to the wounds on his elbows. She then said goodbye and left us to deal with the man who fell. He didn’t want to get in the truck, but the man with the truck insisted and we walked the man who fell to the to the truck. At this time I told the man who fell that my name was Dona and asked him his name. He told me it was Vince. I asked him if he lived in Bethesda and he said he lived in Gaithersburg, a town about 20 minutes to our north.

After a couple of tries we got Vince, who was worried about getting blood on us or the truck, into the truck and the man drove him to the door of the Toyota dealership. I said I’d meet them there. We were greeted by concerned Toyota salesmen who called 911 after we explained what happened.  I told them that the man’s name was Vince and helped him into the shop. I also said I didn’t think he should be driving. All this time I was holding his iPad, so handed that to Vince who said I was a real peach, a real peach. I offered to stay with him until the ambulance came but he said no and the Toyota guys said they could handle it from there. He said he wanted to give me something for my troubles and began reaching into his back pocket, but said that all I wanted was a hug. As I said goodbye after a one-armed hug I could hear the ambulance siren turning into the parking lot.

I’ve been on the receiving end of the kindness of strangers a few times so I am glad I could pay it forward with Vince today.

And yes, I will wash my jeans now…

Categories: Life, Musings, People | Tags: | 1 Comment

Take time to smell the lilacs

I have an app or two on my phone and tablet that sends me “memories” of what I tweeted, or posted on Facebook or took photos of that day in history, back to 6 or 7 years ago. For the past few days I have been seeing photos of lilacs that I took and either tweeted about or posted about on Facebook. This morning I panicked, worrying that I’d missed the lilacs this year. That I’d been so preoccupied with a bunch of other things that the lilacs had come and gone and I’d not had the chance to smell them this year.

My lilacs are in the front yard and one would think that I’d notice if they were in bloom or not, what with my car usually being parked 10 feet away from them. But I’d not gone outside much lately and when I did, didn’t think to check the lilacs. I did check them about three weeks or so ago and noticed there were a few tiny buds, so I knew I was going to get a few blooms this year, but not many.

I was happy to see that there were some lilacs on the tree when I checked from the front window of the house but it was hard to tell if they were in bloom or past their prime. This afternoon, after my dentist appointment I got a close look at them and saw that a few of the small flowers were in full bloom, but most were still tightly closed. I’d not missed them after all. I took a few big sniffs, smiled and went on with my day. For the next week or so I plan to visit my lilac bush several times a day and deeply inhale one of my all-time favorite scents.

I also took a moment to snap some shots of the other flowers in our yard. Spring is definitely the nicest season on our property.

Categories: The Great Outdoors | Tags: , | 2 Comments

A small box of things

I have, once again, taken all the stuff out of my attic closet in the hopes that at some future time I will have a nearly empty closet. Yeah, that’s going to happen.

boxOne of the things I have kept, for unknown reasons, is a small box from the Joseph Spiess Company store in Elgin. It was a gift from my best friend at the time, Cindy. I think it either held my POW bracelet or else a gold metal mesh belt ring. Cindy wrote, “That’s a put-on!” on the cover of the box because she purchased the gift somewhere other than Spiess and used the box in which to put the gift. Spiess was an upper-end store — somewhere we certainly didn’t shop, and I guess Cindy’s family didn’t either, very much.

Inside the box now are three apparently random items.

ceramic figure with no head, holding a basketOne is a white decapitated ceramic figurine in a dress, holding a basket. I have no idea where it came from or why I kept it in the box. I vaguely recall finding it in the dirt somewhere.

monkeyAnother item is a one-eyed plastic monkey with a hole in its head which probably once held a tuft of hair. The monkey probably came out of a gumball machine, but I have no recollection about when it.

The third is a spark plug.

spark plugThe only item I know for sure why I kept was the spark plug. I kept it because my dad used to give me old spark plugs to play with. I guess I liked the combination of ceramic and metal. Or something.

These are going in the trash today. Honestly. Three down and 10,000 things to go.

Categories: Things | Tags: | 4 Comments

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.

 

Categories: People, Rave | Tags: , | 5 Comments

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