Tuesday, August 23, 2011


This morning I got up and found there was no milk for my coffee.

And no orange juice for breakfast.

I went to the grocery store for a list of things. The college kid behind the deli cheese counter told me that a round of Brie would cost $40.00. I left.

I went to the car wash. It would only give me 2 minutes. Speed wash...

A giant wolf spider was in the dirty laundry. I played Catch & Release.

College Grad Claire called from Richmond: Earthquake!!

It was 103 degrees this afternoon.


Yes. The Boy is home this week.

Monday, August 22, 2011


This evening I read a blog post which I catch a few times each week. The author was asking for birthday party activities for her kid. The replies really brought back memories for me. And planted some ideas for future celebrations, even though my kids are in their twenties, and the blog writer's kids are pre-K. Ha!

When one of our daughters was really young, she and her friends (we followed the rule of age-plus-one, so our kid parties were rarely overpopulated) sported princess hats - regular party hats with floaty fabric flowing from the tops. This idea came from G'ma (my mother), who saw such party favors on her annual stay at Hilton Head. It was a big hit!

At some point, we did a Pinata party. Seashell party. Sombrero party. A sleepover. (note: singular.)

One of our best (in my mind's eye) was the party when young son Graham received Dollie Golightly, the world's best pony, complete with a huge bow around her neck, found grazing in our front yard.

Our worst? Again, son Graham, who invited friends to a Super Bowl birthday. He was still quite young, early elementary, so had only a few invitees. None of his friends could "make" the party, but one. And that one? He came late, and without a gift. Happy birthday, son.

Other celebrations? Santa, one year, put us on a scavenger hunt across 15 acres, to find the kayaks he left for us.

My sister always sent us five a "take and bake" package in the mail: a cake mix and frosting that she thought each of us would like that particular year.

My mother is incredible! She sends out birthday cards to each of her kids, their spouses, and all her grandkids, and they always arrive on time. I am even challenged to get my three kids' birthday gifts out, now that they have fledged the family nest. How can I possibly aspire to getting all the siblings, SILs, AND the nieces and nephews taken care of?

Hey! Maybe...maybe that should be one of my New Year's Hopeful Aspirations!

Hope springs...eternal.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Take a Breath

Sunday evening. I've been sitting outside in my grotto, watching hummingbird battles. It seemed like there was an exodus of the little flitting entertainers the past three weeks, and I am quite sure it had to do with the triple-digit temperature. But they are back, and my grotto has a faint background noise of whirring wings once again.

Last week, grad student Gillian and I finished our Tour de Desert by driving across Kansas, heading back home.

It certainly looked like a desert, and not as pretty as the Painted one. In the past ten years I have made this drive many, many times. I have probably stopped at most of the sights along the way at one time or another: The World's Largest Prairie Dog, The Cathedral of the Plains, Buffalo Bill's birthplace or resting place (I forgot which), Mother Cabrini's Shrine, See-Oh-So-Many-States-From-our-Lighthouse-in-Landlocked-Rural-Kansas (that one was kind of creepy), and more!

It's a drive that gives one lots of time to think. Hours and hours of thinking time. So we thought a lot, and we also listened to the unabridged version of Daniel Defoe's Robinson Crusoe. It's a good book! But I am amazed at all the discussions of cannibalism in it. My head is too dainty to entertain thoughts of eating human flesh. I spent the time in-between shipwrecks thinking about things I saw and did on our trip.

One thing I saw: I was standing out curbside at the San Diego airport waiting for Gillian to come by after work and pick me up. There was a young father who was pulling his toddler son in a carseat-cum-airplane seat, complete with wheels, so the kid was sitting tilted at a 45º angle while his dad hauled him around behind him like a pack of luggage. The kid was straining to sit upright, allthewhile his dad was pacing back and forth and chatting on his phone. Finally, unbeknownst to the father, his little toddler kid (and toddler is the operative adjective) took one of his shoes off and stuck it in his mouth. Uh...dad? You want to monitor your kid, who no doubt has just spent a few hours in at least two germ-ridden airports, toddling, no doubt, across all sorts of amazing fields of microorganisms, and now they're in his mouth?? Blechhh.

Somewhere in the middle of nowhere, my thoughts went to the ships I had toured in San Diego. One of the ships was the USS Midway, an aircraft carrier:

I had gotten there fairly early in the morning, and there was no line to wait in to board the ship. But as soon as I was on, I discovered there WAS a long line of people waiting to receive headsets for their self-guided tour. Huh? I wasn't interested in A) waiting in line for anything, and B) a self-guided tour wearing a headset. So I left that side of the ship and took my own meandering tour. I am so glad I did. All over the ship, on both decks, there are military veterans, wearing yellow ball caps, who volunteer their time to talk with Midway visitors. These guys sure did beat listening to a recording. And you can't ask the headsets questions. I walked around and talked to men standing by their aircraft. One man was so interesting, I think he and I talked for 45 minutes. He was a gunner on an Avenger, flying over by Iwo Jima. He showed me the type of bombs they dropped, the refueling tanks and how they worked midflight. He showed me the mechanics of the wings of the Avenger. I got to see where he sat in the belly of the plane, how the pilot was crammed in a tiny, tiny cockpit, and where the navigator sat, above the gunner's seat. His plane was shot down near a small island near Iwo Jima. This was so interesting to hear about. No doubt he has told his storied many, many times. But I got to ask him questions, and that made MY visit very memorable. What did it feel like, when the plane was shot? "The pilot motioned for me - I wasn't wearing my headset then - to see just where the damage was. I went to the back of the plane and there it was." Did you have any time, any glide ratio that gave you more time to prepare for a ditching? "There was not much time." What did it feel like, when you ditched? "Well, it hurt a lot. My shoulder was jerked back into the middle of my back." All three men survived the water ditching. His plane was one of several which were flying in a group that day. I asked him if they stayed in the vicinity once their plane had crashed into the ocean. "No, those planes only had about one hour of fuel left, and so they beat it back. We (his crew) were really mad when they left, but we found out later that they contacted a ship near us before they did, and we were picked up soon after." Our conversation went on, about his recue and his many months of physical rehab afterwards. Such an interesting man.

Another area of the Midway exhibits the Vietnam era, and how the ship was utilized then. During the fall of Saigon, Operation Frequentwind aided in the evacuation of more than 7000 South Vietnamese. Many of these people fleeing Saigon found themselves on board the USS Midway:

An interesting tale from this bit of history: As the ship was preparing to move on with its load of Vietnamese evacuees, a small plane flew low over the ship, and the pilot dropped this note from his plane:

"Can you move these helicopter to the other side, I can land on your runway, I can fly one hour more, We have enough time, Please rescue me, Major Puong, wife, and 5 child."

The US navy moved the aircraft, and this man, a major in the South Vietnamese military, landed his small plane on the ship. He deplaned, as did his wife, carrying a small baby. Then he opened a door on the fuselage of the plane, and four more little kids fell out. Can you imagine the fear of that family?

The drive across long, hot, windy, rural Kansas gave me time to mull over these memories and more. I suppose THAT'S what long, hot, windy drives are good for.

Once I got home to lush, green "Home", (we watered a LOT last month), I immediately looked forward to our coming weekend: College boy Graham came home from the west coast, having been gone since CHRISTMAS!, and his arrival to us was benefit of his sister/taxi driver-from-the-airport, Gillian. Add to the mix, my niece, her husband, and their wee little 5-week old baby, Charlotte. It was very nice having every seat round the dining table occupied.

And so here I am, Sunday evening.

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek through the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!

An exile from home, splendor dazzles in vain;
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again!
The birds singing gayly, that come at my call --
Give me them -- and the peace of mind, dearer than all!
Home, home, sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home, oh, there's no place like home!
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