Declutter 2017: Can Man (Mr. Man Can?)

red can manI wish I remember on which trip to England I came to possess a 5 lb coffee can decoration. It might have been 1976 or possibly 1979. Anyway, one of Jeremy’s relatives — an Aunt perhaps? bought me a can man — I don’t know how else to describe it — at a church sale or something.

It is possible she knew of my love of the Mr. Men books and perhaps this was a homemade version of Mr. Strong? Anyway, I still have it. And I cannot get rid of it. Does it bring me joy? Not exactly joy — more like nostalgia or familiarity. I’ve owned this decoration for 40 years or so. It used to have two “arms” but one fell off years ago which is probably somewhere around here.

Until the basement remodel it sat next to the hamburger pencil holder on a shelf in the basement office. Before that it hung around my classroom — maybe holding rulers? Now it will hang out with me (and the hamburger pencil holder — see it in the background of the photo?) in my office attic. Maybe in our next declutter I will finally part with it.

Updates 1-29-2017:

I received a Facebook comment from Jeremy that clears up the mystery of this object: ” I think it was Auntie Ella, not sure when. They are a spin off from a t.v. quiz show featuring a character called dusty bin. They were probably made by a resident in Auntie Ella’s old folks home.” (Auntie Ella was a midwife, I believe — Jeremy’s grandmother’s sister. His grandmother had been one too. I always think of them when I watch “Call the Midwife”.)

I’ve decided to use him to hold all of the broken items that need to be disposed of in a different way than tossing them in the regular trash.

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Declutter 2017: Aunt Ginny’s Book About Hunting Racoons

Today Dean forced asked me to go through the books that belong on the basement bookshelves. I did and found three book boxes full of books I was willing to donate. I found hundreds I am not ready to part with and I found about 40 that I want to examine more closely before making the ultimate decision toss or keep. (joy or no joy)

cooning with the cooners

One of these is a book by a D. Kuechler called Cooning With Cooners. At first I thought it said Crooning with Crooners and thought it might be about Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, and company. But no. It was actually Cooning with Cooners and is about shooting raccoons. I assume that is what it is about because the cover drawing depicts a man with a gun pointing at a raccoon in a tree that a dog has spied and possibly chased up the tree. I have not read any of the book, nor do I plan on reading it.

Aunt Ginny's name and address

I wondered how I came to have a book (from 1924) about hunting raccoons, but then saw that it belonged to my Aunt Ginny. I still wonder how I ended up with it and why on Earth she was interested in hunting raccoons, but it will remain a mystery, I guess, unless she wanted to be a Lady Coon Hunter as described in a chapter written by Mrs. R. J. Merrick.

Lady Coon Hunters

I’ll likely send this to Uncle Jack along with two books I found that belonged to him as a child. He can decide what to do with Cooning with the Cooners.

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Declutter 2017: The Hamburger Pencil Holder

Except for a misplaced electric wire, our basement remodel is complete. We spent this afternoon putting items back where they belong and deciding what to toss, what to donate and what to keep. It is very hard to me to get rid of things because …what if I will need it in the future even though I have not used it in two decades and it is beginning to rust? (toss) …but that was my mom’s! (keep)  …maybe someday I will find a record player that plays 78s! (keep for now).

So, apparently, there is a book that says if you hold an item and it gives you joy keep it, if not get rid of it (or something like that we have a copy of the book but I cannot find it so I have not read it yet). Some of the things I held today definitely did not bring me joy (toss), but some did (keep). One of the items that I held today was a gift from my favorite student ever whose mom is my favorite mother of a student ever. It gives me a lot of joy because of who gave it to me.

It is unique and kitschy and  full of memories and I want to keep it but since I really don’t use pencils or pens that much anymore, I really don’t use the pencil holder. It has sat, empty, for years on the shelf in the basement office but once sat on my desk at work and held extra (sharpened) pencils for my students to use. I may end up tossing it, even though it brings me joy, but not quite yet…

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Paint pot children and spark plug toys

When I was a kid I had plenty of toys. I had dolls and books and crayons and records. I was really wanting for nothing. That’s why it still seems strange to me that my most memorable “toys” were not toys at all.

I liked spark plugs. My dad was an auto mechanic for the first part of my youth and must have given me some to play with. You have to admit — they are kind of pretty with the metal and ceramic. I don’t remember what I actually did with the spark plugs — maybe just admired them but I always think of my dad when I see a spark plug.

Spark plugs among other garage stuff

Spark plugs among other garage stuff

I also remember playing school with my mother’s paint pots. She was taking a correspondence art course, so she had a lot of art supplies. I used to put a large paint pot in at one end of a table, then line the smaller ones in rows like desks. Girls on one side, boys on the other. (Red, yellow, pink, orange, white were girls. Blue, green, brown, black, gray were boys). The teacher would then teach the class.

Some paint pots lined up on a table

Some paint pots lined up on a table

As I said, I had plenty of toys but these were unique and memorable. Did you play with anything unusual as a kid?

Note: It seems I already blogged about this!

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Recipe Blog Pet Peeve

I have an issue with recipe blogs that make you read the entire blog post before giving you the recipe. I am not talking about blogs like The Pioneer Woman who usually has photos of how to make something, then a printable recipe at the end. I am talking about blogs that promise a recipe in the title and briefly mention it in the first paragraph but then post photo after photo of unrelated things before actually posting anything substantial about the recipe. Kind of like this:

Grandma’s Split Pea Soup Recipe

Grandma made a really wonderful split pea soup that we all loved. I asked her how to make it and she gave me the recipe!

The little girl and little boy and DH and I went to a store yesterday. We really had fun. Little Girl was so cute. She said something really cute. So did Little Boy. Then he sat on a chair with his cousin.

After that it was Christmas and here’s Little Girl in front of the tree. She is so cute with the bow in her hair.

Oh, then it snowed! What a snow it was. Little Girl and Little Boy had fun!

After the snow Little Boy played with his two sooty pets. Puff and Jacques.

Grandma’s Pea Soup*
2 1/4 cups dried split peas
2 quarts cold water
1 1/2 pounds ham bone
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 pinch dried marjoram
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 potato, diced

In a large stock pot, cover peas with 2 quarts cold water and soak overnight. If you need a faster method, simmer the peas gently for 2 minutes, and then soak for l hour.
Once peas are soaked, add ham bone, onion, salt, pepper and marjoram. Cover, bring to boil and then simmer for 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.
Remove bone; cut off meat, dice and return meat to soup. Add celery, carrots and potatoes. Cook slowly, uncovered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

*not really Grandma’s Pea soup. I just stole this from the Internet

Categories: Musings | Tags: , | 4 Comments

New Year Resolutions v.2017

I always make resolutions — usually privately — and never actually accomplish anything. One year I was going to learn Danish. Nope, didn’t happen. (nope, skete ikke). One year I was going to stop procrastinating. Again, nope, didn’t happen). Exercise? Nope.

This year I’m doing something different. I simply want to learn a new thing each month. New things like how to parallel park, how to make gnocchi, and more about our personal finances. I also want to take this year to finally organize the house — declutter, I suppose — by tackling a different part of the house each month. This month it is the basement since we are halfway there anyway with the remodel.

That’s it. I am not making any other resolutions.

We’ll see how it goes.

Categories: Musings | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

Remembering Richard Adams and Watership Down

Carrie Fisher died on December 27th which was tragic because she was only 60. However, I was more sad to learn that Richard Adams died that same day because I had more of a relationship with his work than I did for Ms. Fisher’s.

I don’t remember how I first learned about Watership Down, maybe Jeremy told me about it? Maybe a teacher recommended it? All I know is that I read it in 1975/1976. I loved it. That may have been because I enjoyed watching the rabbits that congregated in our back yard when I was a child or maybe I got to like the rabbits because I’d read the book.

Decendent of the rabbits I watched as a child near the rabbit Jeremy painted on the garage door

Descendant of the rabbits I watched as a child near the rabbit Jeremy painted on the garage door

Not only did I read Watership Down, but I also read a book that was frequently referenced in Watership Down: R. M. Lockley‘s The Private Life of the Rabbit. I am sure that my friends and family grew weary of my never ending facts about rabbits. (they sometimes eat their own poop; females can absorb embryos if the environment is too hostile for giving birth)

I also started collecting rabbit figurines, most of which I still own.

When I was in England in 1976 Jeremy’s father offered to take me anywhere in the UK as long as it was somehow tied to a book. One of the places we visited that year was the real, actual Watership Down in Hampshire. Jeremy found a piece of rock there and created a one-of-a-kind souvenir of our visit.

Jeremy at Watership Down

Jeremy at Watership Down

watership down out of white rock

Watership Down out of white rock

Shortly after the Watership Down film was released in 1978, Jeremy and I saw it at a cinema in Leeds.

So you can see I was quite the fan of the book by Richard Adams whose death was eclipsed by the death of Carrie Fisher. (Not unlike C. S. Lewis’ death being eclipsed by the death of JFK) I am deeply grateful to Mr. Adams for giving me Watership Down which led to so many related experiences which led to so many wonderful memories.

Categories: Death, Memories | Tags: , , | 2 Comments

Happiness is… Being Together at Christmas

It is Christmas Day afternoon and I am sitting alone in our house, nursing a cold. Dean and Clare are off on a hiking adventure, Andrew is in Atlanta with his girlfriend. I am not complaining — I do like my alone time, but looking at Facebook posts of families opening gifts is making me a little sad.

Santa

Christmas 1967. L to R: Kevin, Jeff Green in foreground, Aunt Lelia in background, Ron Choitz as Santa, Debbie (?), Julie (?).

When I was young our Christmas eves were spent with the Greens. I think the family would take turns hosting everyone else for Christmas eve (I remember it at my Uncle Bud’s house, our house and my Uncle Dick’s houses. Maybe Aunt Ginny too, once she was married. The cousins would play together — and often put together a performance of some kind. I was the oldest, so I was the bossy director. When we were all very young, Santa would come. I don’t remember when that tradition ended — maybe when my Gullick cousins moved to Mississippi? I do remember we did have a Christmas eve celebration at my Uncle Bud’s the year after my grandfather died.

Stop me if I have already told this story — it is definitely possible since I like it so much…

Sometime after 1963 (the year my brother was born), my mom made a line drawing of her parents and siblings with the title Happiness is… Being together at Christmas. After my brother found it at the lake house in Wisconsin and posted a photo of it on Facebook, my Aunt Ginny said it looked just like a photo she had and surmised that my mom had traced it from the photo. The drawing is too large to have been traced from the photo, but it was definitely the inspiration.

See for yourself…

original photo

Original photo

drawing

Drawing

So this year they are finally all together again for Christmas — the first time since 1972 when Grandpa died. They have a lot of catching up to do.

Categories: Memories, People | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Remembering BLC and Sister Margaret

It was September 1979 and I  was fresh out of college with no employment other than my job at an all-night “pancake house” as a waitress. Someone who knew someone who knew I was looking for a teaching position told someone at Bartlett Learning Center (now Clare Woods Academy) about me. They called, I interviewed and was hired as a long-term substitute teacher at the school for learning disabled and developmentally disabled youth. The school was housed on the main floor of a Catholic convent run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis.

At that point in my life I did not have a car so I took a bus to the train station, rode the train the few stops from Elgin to Bartlett, then walked to the school. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked for me.

December of that year I moved to my own apartment. Around that same time, Sister Jane, the teacher for whom I was substituting returned to the school. I was kept on because she needed assistance after surgery. She lived in Elgin and my apartment was on the way to the school so she picked me up each morning and dropped me off each afternoon. Later, for some reason, two other sisters, Barbara and Margaret, joined the carpool (although they lived on the east side of Elgin and my apartment was not on the way to Bartlett) and for several months the four of us rode to and from school together each day. Suddenly my closest friends were nuns! I worked with them, commuted with them and even socialized with them.

After my parents bought a new car and gave me their old Buick LeSabre and I no longer needed to commute with the sisters we remained friends. In fact one of the other teachers at the school told me she didn’t trust me because I was friends with the sisters (one of whom was the head sister at the time).

Sisters Barbara and Margaret shared an apartment on the east side of Elgin. Sister Jane lived alone. Sister Jane was from a state farther west — Nebraska? One of the Dakotas? I don’t remember where Sister Barbara was from — maybe near Elgin? Sister Margaret was from Elgin, though. I knew that because one day I saw Sister Margaret’s photo among the photos of my mother’s classmates in her high school yearbook. I never told anyone but Sister Margaret that I saw the photo because because she was very secretive about her age.

Sister Margaret taught the younger students when I was at Bartlett Learning Center. She was so patient with them and they loved her. She was funny and kind and caring. I can actually still hear her voice in my head. She had brown short curly hair, twinkly eyes and a ready smile. In fact, the only time I saw her even slightly upset was when I told her that I saw her photograph in my mother’s yearbook.

When I read on Facebook that Sister Margaret died yesterday it brought back a flood of memories about my first two years as a teacher. About how I learned  so much about teaching from all the sisters. Sister Jane taught me classroom management skills, Sister Barbara taught me organizational skills and Sister Margaret probably taught me the most important lessons. She taught, by example how to be kind and patient and caring even when I wanted to scream at the students.

After I moved on from Bartlett Learning Center I kept in touch with the sisters for many years. After a while I lost touch with them but a mutual friend occasionally lets me know some information about these wonderful women.

These past 12 months have been a year of loss for me in so many ways. While I’d not talked to Sister Margaret for years, the world is that much worse because she is no longer in it. But she’s sitting at that table in the cafe in my mind’s picture of Heaven.

Categories: Death, Memories | Tags: , , , , | 2 Comments

The Ghosts of Christmas Traditions Past, Present and Future

While enjoying a tasty pizza dinner together a few weeks ago, my son surprised Dean and me by telling us he was not going to be spending Christmas Day with us this year, but, instead, was traveling to Atlanta to spend Christmas with his friend, Alex and her family. I acted brave, but cried when I got home, and texted him that I was not ready for my kids to not be with me for Christmas.

I’ve spent the time in between thinking about him not being home on Christmas Day and realized it was okay — he would be there the day after and we could squeeze in a family Christmas on December 26 before Clare left on December 27. We often moved our personal Christmas celebration around when the kids were small because we usually traveled back to Elgin for the actual day.

Andrew and I had lunch earlier this week and he confided that he was a little nervous because he’d never not spent Christmas with us and we had our own traditions. He was going somewhere where they had their own traditions, ones he was not familiar with.

I thought about this and remembered that my first Christmas away from my family was in 1978. I was a year younger than Andrew is now and I was gone from early December through March. That year I did student teaching in London and left Elgin early to spend time with my English friend, Jeremy, and his family. I also recalled that I, too, was nervous — although I’d spent months with this family over the previous four years — because I was not familiar with their traditions. It was wonderful though. I was introduced to wine with Christmas dinner, Christmas cake, chocolate oranges and Christmas crackers.

While I never did attempt to make a Christmas cake, I did insist we have wine with Christmas dinner the year after I returned from England. I also always made sure to include a chocolate orange (and a real orange) in everyone’s Christmas stocking. Once Christmas crackers became readily available (and affordable) in the US I always buy a box Christmas crackers which we pop before the Christmas meal, wear the silly hats that come in the crackers, read the lame jokes and play with the included toys.

I sent Andrew a text telling him about that Christmas and that many of the unfamiliar traditions I experienced that year were such fun that I incorporated them into our family celebrations.

His reply made me cry a little again. He thanked me for telling him about my first Christmas away and then said he was bringing chocolate oranges and Christmas crackers for her family.

Categories: Emotions, Memories, People | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments