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Thursday, May 25, 2017

Worst funny picture, ever

I’ve complained about bicyclists for longer than I’ve had a blog. On occasion I’ve taken pictures of bicycles on the road, described with some disdain. In fact, the township recently suffered bicycle events that bordered on cataclysmic, if you live in or drive in the township. One is a state law; one a federal ruling. It’s not possible to rank the sublime and the ridiculous, so here they are, in no particular order.

The state of Ohio has ruled bicycles may ride two abreast, and cars must give them three feet of clearance. The visual fulfills sublime to ridiculous on its own. There are posters all over town, all over the roads, of two bikers, side by side, and a car passing. The car’s door is open, to demonstrate a visual of three feet.

Ohio township roads may be as little as twenty feet wide, but generally are thirty feet. That divvies out to fifteen feet per lane, less things like the center line and the berm. Let’s say one polite rider is on the berm; his buddy is side by side, consuming say, a yard of actual road. So, fifteen feet are reduced to twelve. Whoops, less three feet of door, in order to pass, is nine feet. The average car takes more than six feet of width.

You get the picture. Bicycles own the road in townships. Our fine (R) representative, Jim Rinnacci, held a hearing no one knew of until the law was passed. Bikers presented testimony. The testimony has been sealed. The law says that the speed limit on all township roads that pass through a federal park (in the foot note, Boston Township and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park are noted as the only roads meeting the standard) will be twenty five miles per hour.

There ya go, folks. For a nice afternoon of traffic constricted bicycle riding, come on down to Boston Township and ride in the national park.

The other day, going to work, I passed a small car parked in a ditch, and across the road saw a fellow bending low, seeming to be looking. This was at the very top of Kendall Road. I slowed to see if I could help, and saw an old man, sweeping the berm.  A definite “do not get involved” situation, and I sped up to 25 mph  to continue on.

Coming home a couple of hours later, I passed the fellow again. He’d worked his way a couple of miles down the road, and only had the big bend at the Boy Scout Camp and past the lake at the golf course, to get on down to Akron Peninsula Road. Definitely under the speed limit.

I could restrain myself no longer. I took possession of the gully where I park to photograph my header tree, and said I had to tell him a story.

This township is overrun by bikes every day, and simply consumed every spring, summer and fall weekend. Years ago I relayed a phone message to the trustees: “It would be courteous of you to keep the berms swept for us.” The answer was, “Sweep them yourselves.” But, he never called back. All these years I’ve waited.

And there he was, sweeping the berms. We laughed, shook hands, and went on our respective ways.

Note to self--pictures through windshields generally are not optimal pictures.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Not winning this contest any time soon

Between not being permitted to go to work when I could work, then being criticized and more by the troublesome trustee, my six week backlog is not dented enough. The work is caught up, the mistakes are not. My counselor listened sympathetically, and said she would advocate for me. She called the trustee, explained traumatic brain injury, and for her trouble got an earful that included, if I wanted to resign, give two weeks’ notice.

That was a red flag I could deal with. I immediately wrote and signed my letter of resignation, effective that very day, and circulated it. I mentioned I would be in and out the remainder of the month, doing what I could. I’m down to sleeping only an extra four or six hours a day, and that’s been helpful. The stack of mistakes remain, and I think before June 1st, the mistaker will call the mistakees and outline the plan of remediation for someone else to do.

But, the worst thing of all—I don’t amuse myself anymore, and I probably bore all of you to tears, too. I haven’t found a bit of amusement in the setbacks. All the people who understand what they want to understand and not a thing more no longer make me say “Fool. Idiot!”. I don’t want to wait another year.

The good news is, we haven’t settled the blood pressure problem yet. I bought a new cuff. It’s little and cute. I haven’t had a blood pressure problem for so long, I couldn’t recall the difference between a decent reading and an indecent one. I took in the week’s list today, and my doctor said, “These are not good.” They were all one sixty somethings over eighty somethings, and I wasn’t fussed. She was, though.

Years ago, before I had the stroke, she and I had a blood pressure fight. Every drug she tried made me sick, one way or another. Another week and another week, I’m sitting on the table and she’s writing a new scrip. “This is like throwing spaghetti on the wall,” I snarled. “How many left before you get one to stick?” “You’re being referred to a cardiologist,” she replied, and so I have a good one of them, too.

Unfortunately, we could not remember the name of the drug he prescribed. I called the cardiologist’s office to check their records. Diovan, the receptionist announced a few minutes later. Diovan! How could we forget? It brought down blood pressure for six months before the stroke (not related), then we damn near killed me with no blood pressure at all.

The road guys would find me passed out at the desk and call the ambulance. I can’t tell you how many youngsters learned to insert an IV needle because of me. My favorite one whipped the monitor around to face him when I happened to glance over. Must have been a really low pressure reading. I looked at the other two medics watching him, and I told the kid he just passed Bedside Manor on his exam. That youngster now is First Lieutenant for the Memphis Fire and Rescue.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Dr. De Ren

The wren, the wren, the king of all birds…

I’ve known Dr. De Ren for ten years. Back when I had a stroke and no nouns, he was one of the first doctors I saw. He’s a neurologist, and was so young and serious. And Chinese, and handsome, with language skills not more intelligible than mine.  He listened to my noun less speech, or looked at the pictures I drew, and answered my questions. Once I looked at my notes, realized I’d missed an important point and shouted “Bird come back” at the nurse. Probably the first noun I used. The nurse just stared, but Dr. De Ren, outside the door, came back. I looked in the little book just now, and see I wrote “kind” at the end of the day’s notes.

I saw Dr. De Ren for several years, until there was little more stroke business to follow up. When I came back from DC after this pointless accident, I was given a list of doctors to follow up with, or be released. The neurologist was the nice, fat little Italian fellow, who dismissed me and my back pain. But, I already had an appointment with Dr. De Ren, and  knew I could tough it out.

Today Dr. De Ren came into the room saying “You had a terrible accident. Tell me about it.” And I did, and gave him a copy of the little Italian doctor’s MRI of my “perfect” brain. My history with Dr. De Ren began with an MRI of my brain, when he told me the good news was that I had one. I told him my complaints were that I could not stay awake, and the debilitating pain since those neurosurgeons (the swine!) had confiscated my NSAIDS.

“Well, you know, those neurosurgeons cannot stand blood,” he said. “So, they prescribe Keppra. Sometimes they cannot stand blood so much, they prescribe extra Keppra. I see you’re on twice as much Keppra as you can possibly need to prevent a seizure.”

“Why would I have a seizure?”

“Disorganized electrical activity.”

I could see where that might come from. But, “What is a seizure?”

He made fists of both hands and made his body shake, violently.  “It shakes the blood out of the vessels. And remember, those neurosurgeons hate blood! All the extra Keppra is making you so groggy! Perhaps they think you won’t notice the pain if you’re not awake!”

He cut the Keppra in half. We’ll see if I stay awake. He added a tiny bit more Lyrica for the back pain. We’ll see what happens. Lyrica puts me to sleep, too, so I take it at bedtime. I hope it works. It seems a shame to waste being pain free by being asleep.

I just recalled another Dr. De Ren anecdote. My sister had some surgery once, and the doctor feared she may have suffered a stroke. He sent her and her MRI to Dr. De Ren, who evaluated it. The stroke could have happened any time in the past, even when she was born. Absolutely fascinating. He told her the good news was, she had a brain, and he absolutely could not seen in one ear and out the other. Now I wonder about my brain. But the important thing to remember is this: “Those neurosurgeons hate blood!”

Sunday, May 14, 2017

How to get yourself back to work after they’ve fiddled in your brain

This current hurdle is not my first time at the rodeo.  I had a stroke a few years ago that hospitalized me for a month, in three separate incidents. I was rather proud of myself for keeping up at work and missing no meetings, but mostly for being independent. I asked the doctor, as I was being dismissed, if I could drive. He considered the question for some time, and then said he could see no reason why not.

I knew my sister was dumbstruck, and I asked her on the way home, what she saw as a drawback. She replied she thought all the cars going by would confuse me. Since I had nothing going for me but a lot of chutzpah, we agreed on a driving test when we got home. I’d drive down the street and back up, and if it was a normal trip down the hills, around the bends, and back up, I was still a driver. It was, and I was, and that was the end.

This time it was not stroke, but a craniotomy to evacuate the hematoma that settled between my skull and my brain. I was kept unconscious for several days, and was routinely handed pain killers. I was not overly conscious of my surroundings for my five week stay, until the last week, when I decided it was time to leave.

At the rehab hospital I was again routinely offered pain meds, but this time for my old back problem. The docs had concluded my lovely ibuprophen, plus all the blood thinners to prevent a new stroke, had been the direct cause of the bleed into my brain that would lead to a new catastrophe.  

I have lived with chronic back pain for ten or more years, and have given the medical profession every possible opportunity to locate the source and end the pain. Abject failure on their part, until I thought I struck a happy balance with a Celebrex tablet in the morning and Lyrica at night. It’s been a happy combo for the last several years, until I woke up in DC and found the Celebrex confiscated.

So, the old protocol began. Try this, try this, try this. But all the drugs were narcotic, and the tiniest dose put me to sleep for four to six hours. The non-narcotics were useless. My back pain continues, debilitating. For the moment I’ve settled on acetaminophen, which barely functions for me. I’m about to begin asking all the medicos again for advice. There’s always the solution of Celebrex and never falling again, but I doubt I could convince a doctor to prescribe it.

Pain was only part of the problem interfering with my job.  My sister and I agreed on the same old driving test when I got home. Sadly my daughter had confiscated my car keys. She claimed it was on the advice of a doctor, and the keys would be returned when I passed a driving test. As the person inside my brain, I was confident of my ability to drive. Her confidence was zero.

I was scheduling doctor appointments, when I came home, and catching up on Laura’s. There were days with two or three, plus work. I tried setting up the Uber application, but failed completely. Beth and Janice decided to split days of the week driving me, until I took the driver test. I just begged for my keys. Both of them have full time employment.

The job that pays mine and Laura’s bills was suffering horribly. I found little windows of time when I could function; sadly, these did not occur at work. I was performing a job I have done for fifty years like a dolt. Sometimes I even put down my head on my desk and passed into pain and sleep. I told my daughter I could not work effectively, standing on the corner waiting for a ride. No keys were forthcoming.

Then serendipity crossed my path again. Early one morning there was a knock on my door from the equipment operators laying the French drains. My daughter had put my car in the street, so she and Jan could use the drive way. It was in the way of efficiently moving their equipment and laying gravel. I explained I had no keys. They offered a tow. I asked for time, and called Beth. Two or three hours later her husband was on my porch with my keys, and nightshirt flapping, I put the car in the drive.

I kept appointments on Thursday and Friday. The Thursday appointment was with the neurologist,  who asked why I was not already driving, as the CAT scan and the exam indicated no reason why I should not drive. The cutest, chubbiest little Italian neurologist high fived me when I said I drove to the appointment.

There has been serious sleeping the last several days. On Saturday I literally slept the entire day. I do recall from past anesthesia, I just sleep and sleep until the last molecule has left my body. It has a purpose, and a price. It makes no difference, if I can tell when I can go to work. Laura and I went this morning. She did my back filing, and I got a large batch of checks ready to run Monday. That will straighten out one third of the horrid mess I made of the job last week, when I couldn’t function.

Normalcy returns. I’ll solve the back pain, and be my old self again.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

A fine flowing ditch of serendipity

When we moved in last July, there were some less than wonderful aspects of the house and property, as there always are. One was drainage of storm water. Occasionally I would take the maintenance man by the elbow and point out the defects, some of which were attended to, and most of which were not. Management here was no better, and management “higher up” was useless, which sometimes is the problem with rental property. If yours does not meet these standards, bake cookies, often.

When my next door neighbor and soon to be friend moved in, her tolerance level for less than her standard took her toe to toe with management even sooner than it did me. By fall I was so concerned about her blood pressure I suggested she back off and leave it to me. What happened next shows there is serendipity in more than we know.

I asked Mr. Google several times for an organization that regulated mobile home parks and struck gold with the Association of Manufactured Home Residents in Ohio living in Communities (formerly known as parks)…and so forth and so on, that actually regulates the park conditions. 

To be sure, I called the head of my county’s health district, and got the name and phone number of the Association’s director, to boot. Then, when I dialed the number in the state’s capitol, the director himself answered the phone. It may be that small, or that understaffed, but it was a real talking person, and we had a real conversation.

“Yes,” he said, “we are working hard to bring the last of these communities into compliance,” and “yes, I will have Bob near that address next week. I’ll have him make a call and look around.” Bob picked a perfect day to take a look, because not only did he encounter flooded properties, mine and my neighbor’s included, Bob met the next level of management, looking around the property for the first time in a year or so (according to some other flabbergasted residents). I think perhaps Bob knew who to call and say “Want to walk the property with me tomorrow?”

Sometime during the week, Bob’s boss called me and said Bob had reported that management said the entire problem would be solved by the end of March. This was during one of those spring like days in January. I made a note on my desk pad and proceeded to forget about it.

I left for spring break vacation in DC with granddaughters, not considering the note on my desk pad about drainage resolution, and at the end of March I was comatose, with no recollection of the drainage of my property being corrected. 

When I actually returned home at the very end of April, drainage still was not on my mind. An entire week of May passed before my neighbor, who schmoozes with people and knows things said “Aren’t you excited! They’re starting the drains this week.” And by golly, they did.

Perhaps the universe had me in a coma for a reason, men tending not to work so well when nagged.

Today Dan, the maintenance guy, told me about the pipe with holes under the gravel, and when it settles a bit, they’ll dress the top with topsoil and plant seed. I told Dan that would be great, and not one more word that might sound nagging.

Sunday, May 7, 2017


I’ve not always had decent heath care, but since eligibile for Medicare, I’ve been OK with what I have. I have a small pension from one job that I devoted to health care, and stayed on a reasonable keel for the last  decade. Only this year has my health insurance cost outstripped that little pension. The weakest part of my plan is the rehab, but I’ve always looked around for money to cover that cost, when necessary, and, all in all, been satisfied.

Fast forward to the April weekend when Beth and Ruth drove my comatose self to the hospital in Akron. The hospital, Akron General, has been my standard of care my entire life. In the recent round of hospital wars, it was acquired by Cleveland Clinic, and some company is making a fortune adding an enormous Cleveland Clinic logo at the top, and dropping the other identifiers a line. Imagine how far down the Edwin Shaw sign has descended. That was my destination and I was almost there.

I spent the weekend at General, and was transported to Shaw on Monday morning. After some preliminaries, I was slipped into the therapy production line. Three main venues occupied my days: Physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech therapy. I was surprised at the value of speech therapy, mostly about problem solving.

I had not walked in four weeks. The first time I stood, using a walker, my knees buckled. Nor was the therapy as easy a road back as therapy from the stroke. Actually, shame on me for comparing the two. The physios pointed out, over and over, my deficits were stroke residual, not the craniotomy for the subdural hematoma. Couldn’t blame it on the fractured skull. It’s easy to see now; I coasted for ten years keeping even with the stroke damage, not working harder to get ahead.

Live and learn. Haha.

I had one setback in rehab, that still has me concerned and something I must learn more about.  Two of my physios were concerned that my speech was slurring, and I couldn’t stay awake. I returned from every session, skipped the meal and went to sleep. It’s called hyperammonemia. I don’t know if I’m over it or what else I should know about it. The good news is, these two women recognized and reported it. The worst news, in my case, is that it subtracted two good days of physical therapy from my schedule, and this kind of insurance is unforgiving about physical therapy. Nine days per incident and off you go.

I have been working on my own now, scheduling my life. This week coming up I have appointments with the neurologist on Thursday, my same physiologist who was so disappointed with my stroke progress ten years ago on Wednesday, and various others on Tuesday and Friday.

I got a hair cut over the weekend. Melanie had little good to say about Washington General’s sense of style. “They have none, though they did a decent job of parting half to one side and shaving it.” There was no sense in reducing the left side to match the stubble on the right. The left is trimmed and the right must catch up. Pictures may follow.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Why I recently discharged myself from two excellent medical hospitals. I don’t recommend it highly, but sometimes it’s the required jump start.

I was hospitalized from March 26th through April 28. I was in George Washington Memorial Hospital in Washington, DC, though April 14th; in Cleveland Clinic (Akron General) for the April 15/16 weekend, and on to Cleveland Clinic (Edwin Shaw rehab) on April 17. Laura stayed with Aunt Beth and Caroline for the rest of the holiday, then with a school mate for two weeks, then with Aunt Janice, living from her suitcase.

There is no universal hospital system in this country. For all the grand talk of the last thirty odd years, computers do not talk to each other.  Nor do doctors. When my brother-in-law retired, my sister refused to move to southern Ohio for Tom to be closer to his family. Old truck drivers don’t get it; the doctors, the hospitals, the rehab is not out in the corn fields, nor is he. Jan and Tom still live in our doctor central, and amid all their friends.

When I had sorted through enough grey cells, and begun asking questions, I knew it was decision time. The DC doctors appeared once a day, and I realized they were talking to me about not leaving. They would transfer me to rehab in DC. They pretended to, or perhaps actually knew nothing about Edwin Shaw rehab clinics in Ohio. I’ve gone to these since my hip was replaced in 2003. I was there last the day before we left, and scheduled our return for Thursday, so I could keep my Friday appointment.

The fact I had responsibilities in Ohio made no nevermind to the DC docs. I have a granddaughter in school. I have a job. I have a home, with expenses to pay.  I have family and friends. I have a cat. I was well enough to move on to rehab. The DC docs wouldn’t even look up “Edwin Shaw rehab.”

When the DC docs left the room, I called my clinic and had a nice chat.  I left my therapist a message, and  told them I would be there to start rehab on Monday. There were logistics, of course. New patients are admitted on Monday. I was in no shape to spend any time out of the hospital, so I arranged to show up at Akron General, be admitted through emergency on Friday, and on to Edwin Shaw on Monday.

The Edwin Shaw folks were a bit incredulous, but said if I actually arrived, of course I would be admitted. I called my daughter, told her I was being discharged Friday, and could she come down from Cleveland to drive me back from DC.  When she arrived, she fell in with the plan, more or less. Like me, she found the reasons to leave far outweighed any reasons to stay. They are a post themselves.

The DC docs put together some unhappy discharge paperwork, I was rolled into Beth’s car, with Grandma Ruth riding shotgun in the back seat, and we were off. We arrived at Akron General’s emergency room, and politely took our place in line. I dozed, and completely gave up my plan to get Beth and Ruth on their way.  I knew my name and knew I could raise my hand when it was called. But, they would not budge, and so be it.

Eventually I was asleep in a warm, soft bed, with new tags around my wrist and Beth and Ruth back on the road, north to Cleveland. I had home just down the road, the weekend off and the beginning of the next phase of recovery looking decent.

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Minors on the town

Good to their word, the girls called Aunt Beth, while grandma drifted through bead land. I have no idea what made the sound I fixed on, but it made the dreams work out. The doctors kept me unconscious for four days. In that time I had a right craniotomy for subdural hematoma evacuation of my encounter with the grill.

I can say this: if someone volunteers to perform my very own craniotomy, I’d probably decline. But, the most pain, post-procedure, was the little slice into a groin artery to thread a drain to my brain to evacuate two hematomas, a nice big one from the sudden stop against the grill, and a smaller one just a couple of months old that I bet a sudden stop against my own cupboard door left. The surgery left me unable to talk or walk, but the nice surgeons drifted in every few hours to tell me I was doing a good job, before sending me back to beads and park rangers.

My daughter Beth came to claim the girls, and her husband Bill came to drive home my car. When they called her, Beth told them to Uber back to the motel, order in a pizza, and not create a disturbance. Oh, yes, and order a new room key with the best story they could muster. Beth checked them periodically, and was satisfied all was well. At least the phone was answered, as expected.

The very next day the girls expressed their disappointment at missing the Jefferson memorial and the tidal basin boats by grandmas’ sudden stop. Good for them! Beth took them back to view the marble they missed, before heading back to Ohio, the next morning.

As they left the hotel the next morning, the girls suggested a quick trip to Starbucks, across the road,  and Beth led the expedition. Before the doors closed behind them, the wait staff were out from behind the counters. “There you are! We’ve been talking about you! How’s your grandma? We’re so worried about her.”

“Grandma will be just fine,” Caroline announced. “Mom’s taking us home and coming back for grandma.” Thirteen year old minds deal beautifully with time and place. Beth exited behind a latte and a chocolate with double whipped cream, smiling.

Grandma did leave, a couple of weeks later, though not discharged. It was a fine adventure, and I doubt my grandchildren will realize it for several more years.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Vacation images

For the longest time I just heard the beads, click, click, clicking, and watched the picture forming, building from the bottom to the top. When I was tired, all the beads slid from the bottom and new beads fell to start a new picture. The pictures were Disneyish, but not Disney. They were pictures I’d seen during the day. Cherry blossoms, of course. Children. Families. People who understood the meaning and use of etiquette. People who had no idea.

A ranger would say, quietly into an ear, “This is a national monument, sir. Please remove your cap, take your smoking materials to the other side of the perimeter; take your argument with your friend there, too.  I had to smile; I didn’t remember hearing so much during the day, but there they all were, back again. I smiled. We are one rude nation.

I was tired; the girls and I had been on their feet most on the day. Caroline and I consulted, decided to go back to the Union Station for some supper, and come back to see our last monument, the Jefferson Memorial. They could ride the paddle boats for a bit, then back to the hotel and a good night’s sleep for Mt. Vernon and Montpelier. It was a bit of a hike down the hill to the red bus, but we were among the first on. These red busses fascinated me; on anywhere they stopped and off anywhere they stopped, for a buck.

A look around and I was beginning to sit down, when the bus exchanged its snooze at the curb for a dash to the center lane. I fell to my shoulder and sped pell-mell down the aisle, until my head crashed into a metal grill. I brushed off Laura and Caroline, who were up at once to help. I got up, got to the seat, and took a look at myself and at the bus. “I need to go somewhere to clean up,” I said. The girls said nothing.

The bus pulled back to the curb. Police came on; passengers left. I wondered for a second about their dollars. But the police were down to business, collecting information. We, obviously, were going nowhere. I considered my granddaughters, more mature than minors, but minors nevertheless. 

I picked a policeman from the group, and told him he was in charge of them for the time being. I told the girls the same; the policeman was in charge until he handed them off to a new person in charge. I told Caroline to call her mother. Then I stopped remembering.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

My Mystery Grandmother

My name is Francis; apparently, some of you know me as France. My grandmother has had quite the adventure and will be telling you about it probably before next week is over, so hang tight. Rest assured she is doing alright. In the meantime, if you'd like, check out my blog at and/or Facebook at You might not have heard about the tail end of my trip, but I came out the other end of my adventure in one piece!

Cheers, Francis

Friday, March 24, 2017

No spontaneity until Sunday

My grandson, Francis, wandered into the Washington DC adventure because our destinations might coincide, and he could use a favor. As you recall, he invited me to lunch to quiz me and assess the opportunity. I heard nothing more, and dismissed the possibility of seeing him, until the package intelligence surfaced.

A week and a half ago he asked if I could bring a package for him. Sure, what’s the plan? He hadn’t thought about that, and since he is a spontaneous kind of a guy, he’d just ship it.

I forgot about it again until his mother called, and explained what he was planning to do, which was to bike the tow path trails from Pittsburgh to DC, ship home the bike and other stray belongings, grab the package, containing among other things, his laptop and his photo ID passport, Uber to the airport and visit his South Carolina cousins on Tuesday. He would find us on the mall via his sister’s GPS.

Sounded like a plan to me; I signed off and forgot about it again.

I followed France several days on the trail via his morning and evening Facebook posts.  I was impressed at his determination. He was in it and would see it through. The snow, the frozen trail, camping several nights in primitive conditions, and then that eleven hour day, slogging uphill in mud, walking the bike. Poor guy came out several miles short of a town with decent food (France likes his decent food), and settled for outback poutine; French fries and gravy, served up in a crossroads bar.

But then it was downhill, and he rolled along beside the Potomac River in sixty degree weather, into his favorite lodging, an AirBnB, very near the National Mall. Good food, nice bed, clean clothes. Teddy Roosevelt thought about his safari porter, and texted me, at 6:30 this morning:

How would you like to coordinate package delivery tomorrow? My AirBnB is right by the National Park.

I smiled and went back to sleep. At 8:30, after a shower, dressing, breakfast, bed making and so forth, I replied:

Tomorrow I am driving to Alexandria VA. Expect to be on the National Mall around 10 am Sunday.

Five minutes later: Alright.

I expect he will be through with sister, cousin and grandma long before Tuesday, and change his ticket for a Monday flight.

The weather forecast is outstanding, half the cherry blossoms survived and will peak this weekend. The weather here was so lovely today that I had the front door open all afternoon. 

Toby was beside himself, between standing on the door closer, and peering through the chink at the bottom. I promised him I will get him an all glass storm door this summer and maybe an interior door with full glass this fall, though  that improvement will be more for me than for him.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Of course it’s not over

The sun is shining, the thermometer is just short of fifty, and there are cars in the nursery parking lot.  It’s good for both my expectation and purse that I’ll be out of town for a week. Else I would be looking to buy whatever is out, and add some color to my outdoors.

There is political news. The ACA vote is delayed. The house lost the propaganda value of overturning the ACA on its anniversary date. The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017, must try again for votes.

In the meantime, the House inquiry into Russian interference in the last election is in doubt. Nunes, who chairs the committee, took confidential information to President Tweet. I’ve heard that compared to Donna Brazile passing questions to Hillary Clinton, pre-election. Grow up. Clinton was not the sitting president, and Brazile was not under oath. Scandalous, yes. A scandal, no.
This presidency is costing us so much. Trump sons travel the world on Trump brand business; Melania stays in New York; Ivanka inherits the west wing office and awaits top security clearance. Actually, I think all the Trumpsters are in Aspen this weekend, with a hundred secret security agents. Dumping Meals On Wheels cannot underwrite this expense, even for a day.

A terror attack in London, and its population does what grown up’s do. Gets on. Life goes on. We face down the terror by keeping on; living our lives, believing our beliefs, supporting what we care about, and not taking it for granted. Some more post cards and phone calls do not go amiss.

I enjoyed, and participated in a FaceBook challenge. Paul Ryan had disconnected his office phones and faxes at the beginning of the ACA replacement debate. I took up the challenge to land several tons of postcards in his drive way. Recently the challenge was to mail postcards to the White House, all on March 15th. What better way to have a president wonder about his approval rating and why it’s running low.

My post card stash is running low. I’m currently working on my wimp senator, Rob Portman, to oppose The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017. Something is getting to him. His office phones weren’t answered today.

It’s too soon to hang hope on spring, but not too late to effect damage control leading up to the next election. In the meantime, some kitchen window photos.

Excess rosemary, drying in the egg separator.

 The orchid will be in bloom, when we are back next Friday.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Oh, the details and the reality

This morning Francis is on the downside of Mountain Top. He says, on FaceBook, it’s a gradual descent into DC. In spite of the mud, he seems intent on sticking to the towpath trail. It has been muddier than he expected. He spent eleven hours on the trail yesterday, the majority of it walking, and fell short of his goal of connecting from the GAP trail to the C&O Trail.

France is on the C&O this morning. He said he would start early, perhaps 2 a.m. It seems he did. He expects to be in DC Friday evening. He can just track his sister’s GPS from Cleveland to DC, all day Saturday. Knowing France, he will spend Saturday biking the National Mall, so he can tell the girls where to go. I’ll let you know if he conquers the road and arrives before we arrive.

I wonder when I emerged from spontaneity? When did I abandon “Get dressed; road trip.”  It doesn’t seem that long. But steering two youngsters and myself through a weeks’ getaway required planning. Looking into visiting Monticello, Mt. Vernon and Montpelier was an education.

Perhaps we paid a small admission fee back in the eighties; I don’t recall. Now you pay the fee and get tickets in advance. But, there’s more. You don’t just show up; you schedule a time. So much for spontaneity. I did some juggling and added extra driving to visit all three Presidential homes in two days, to accommodate George Washington.

The area temps will be in the sixties for the duration of our stay, but rain in the forecast, so I made sure everyone has a raincoat. I already learned the circulator bus for the National Mall is a dollar every time you get on, so I will bring a lot of dollar bills. Then I thought of the regular bus line that will get us to the mall, and made the call. It is $1.75, exact change only. I’ll add a roll of quarters. I think I’ll get hand warmers, too.

Laura and I need to think about efficient packing of the car, since I’ve added the push chair to the luggage. She is charged with getting audio books at the library Wednesday night, while I am at the trustee meeting. Laura and Caroline exchanged texts about the book selection while she and I drove home from shopping last weekend.

Suddenly Laura burst out laughing. “Caroline just gave me a list of books I can’t get. The sexual scenes are too explicit for Grandma.” I laughed, too, and had trouble keeping my eyes on the road, for wiping my eyes.

May, 2007. Bekka, blowing bubbles. Uncle Walt on the ramp. Caroline in pink; Laura in some of her clothes, and France, who couldn't catch all the bubbles himself, commiserates with his father.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Ellen asks, “What’s in the package.”

These last two grandkids, Francis and Caroline, have been raised to think and do. Beth, their mother, owned and managed a well known restaurant in Cleveland for most of their lives, and they could bus tables, refill drinks and run the dishwasher as soon as they were old enough to see the top of a table. That hasn’t been a problem for France, though; he’s always been tall enough.

Then, there’s constitution. Their mother is Irish and German, their father Welsh and German (well, really Lithuanian, though Grandma Ruth doesn’t often acknowledge it). Grandma Ruth describes herself as a tough weed, and these two kids are, too. They used to go to Lithuanian Scout Camp, where they learned to shoot rifles and take care of themselves in the wilderness. Caroline, wisely, opted out, for home and hearth, but France carries on.

I didn’t see much of Francis until these last couple of years. He often was off with his dad, climbing rocks, sleeping in wilderness camping areas, hiking for miles. I got involved, to the extent of following his adventures, when he started the blog last summer, to cover his trip across the middle heartland.

That trip was with a group of people who were testing themselves, just as France was. The leader went all the way across the country, ending in Oregon. A couple from Japan went to San Francisco. France stopped in Illinois. Others were in for a distance, and out. It was a good group, not all speaking the same language, but united in purpose.

France was already biking hundred mile days around Cleveland, in preparation for this spring break jaunt, when we met for lunch, with his ulterior motive of enlisting courier service, and perhaps getting a hot shower and a place to bunk for a couple of days in DC. His details were completely sketchy, and I figured I’d hear more later.

“More” simply was that text about seeing me in DC. I ruffled his composure when I said I needed a plan and he said, “Fine, I’ll ship it!” His next destination is South Carolina, where he will meet his mother and visit cousins he hasn’t seen for a couple of years. I’m thinking he’ll Uber or Lyft  to the airport. I don’t even know which day, though I’ll either be on the national mall or visiting a founding father’s home.

His “courier” parcel contains his passport, his laptop, and probably some clean clothes and socks. He’ll need ID to get on the plane, and all he has is his passport. For good reasons, Beth doesn’t want to ship that to South Carolina. I’m interested to see what will become of his bike.

If you’ve had a look at his Facebook postings so far, tell me what you think in comments. He's posted a couple of videos. He was the only person last night in a little campground; he slept on a concrete slab. It was below freezing. This morning he had to bike six miles to breakfast, fueled by a surprise latte mix from his mother and sister that he described as, “Surprisingly, not half bad.” He hoped the trail was frozen, not muddy, and he was off. Whatever makes your latte, I guess.

So, Ellen, civilization is in the package.

The plaque Francis made for the leader of last summer's adventure. 

Friday, March 17, 2017

President Tweet

A news commentator on a PBS station this morning misspoke, “President Tweet trumped.” Several sentences in she caught herself and said, ‘I meant “President Tweet trumped.”’ And gave up. 

President Tweet, it is. Now President Tweet is quoting his “favorite” Irish proverb, written by a fellow in Nigeria, named Alhassan. Mr. Alhassan wrote a little morality poem, and its last verse certainly should be taken to heart by President Tweet.”

Always remember to do your duty,
And some kindness, day by day.
But never forget to live a useful and happy life,
That is the only way.

That’s my political remark for the day. Here is a grandmother tale, funnier than President Tweet.

Francis, my grandson who is two weeks younger than Laura, started on his spring break adventure today. He is biking “The Great Alleghany Passage” from Pittsburgh to Washington DC, by himself. Or fellow bikers he meets along the way.  I’m copying and pasting a description I found on Google:

The initial 125 miles of this tour are on the Great Allegheny Passage from Pittsburgh to Cumberland, MD, located on abandoned railroad beds. The final 184 miles from Cumberland, MD to downtown Washington, DC, are on the C&O Canal Towpath, which is the heart of the C&O Canal National Park.

I traveled this highway at least once a month in my show days. Let’s see if I can describe it. He’s starting in Pittsburgh, so we’ll skip the bit about the flat farmland in Ohio. He’s a little bit up the hill to start. Then, the road climbs the Alleghany Mountain. Before the top, my road went through the Alleghany Tunnel, and dropped down just a bit to Breezewood. From there the road climbs Mountain Top, before dropping down to Hagerstown, Maryland, and on to Washington DC. France biked the Alleghenies from West Virginia to Illinois last summer, so this is just a little spring break jaunt. He says.

Francis wanted to meet up in DC. He proposed the rendezvous back when we met for lunch, and even acquiesced to some chair pushing in exchange for courier service of a small parcel via Grandma’s car. He texted me about passing off the parcel. I texted back, in a Grandmotherly way, “We don’t have a meeting plan for DC.” He replied he was just going to be more spontaneous, and guessed he’d ship the package, instead.

For, in DC, Francis will ship his bike back to Ohio and take a plane to meet his mother in South Carolina.

Beth called me the next day. She does not want to ship the package. Here’s how the great meet up will work. Francis will find us in DC via the GPS on his sister’s phone. Who am I to question. The plan is on.  

Erin Go Braugh

I see Francis has invited us to follow him on this trip:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

What to do with another snow day

Due to inclement weather and the other usual phrases, school is cancelled again today. It just occurred to me I cannot remark smugly that I used to walk uphill both ways. Actually, I did. 

However, there were way fewer cars on the roads then, and we walked strung across the roads that had no sidewalks. When we reached sidewalks, the homeowners and shop keepers had them cleared. The majority of kids these days seem to be on busses, and bus traffic on poorly cleared, early morning roads is a different matter.

I woke the second time to the front door slamming. I’d already told Laura there was no school, so I looked out the window. She tells me this is a far more efficient method of getting ice from the window than coming back in for car keys to get the snow brush.

I looked out the back window, at my neighbor’s car. This is what Laura started with.

Laura had a plan. She’d texted Deb and asked if she could help at Elements Gallery. She packed a lunch, I ate breakfast, and I dropped her off.

Back home, I perused Google news to see what new wheels fell off the clown car that is the presidency of our country. My current assessment is, the wheels don’t actually need to fall off. The Republican controlled houses of Congress are doing a fine job of shooting holes in them. And hopefully in their own feet as well.  The realization is dawning that replacing ACA with, and I quote, “The World’s Greatest Healthcare Plan, 2017,” is political suicide.

I used to send postcards to people in power, asking them to oppose or support things I opposed or supported. Or, I’d tell representatives doing a good job, “Thanks! Persist!” Now I’m thinking of sending post cards to, say, Paul Ryan: “Why stop at 14 million. Go for 24. No, 34. That’s a nice big number. Your seat is up in 2018; keep up the fine work.”

My real plan for today is to finish up the DC trip details, like the elusive Montpelier tickets, and get a firm grasp on transportation available in the city.  And, wonder if the ice will spare the cherry blossoms.

Picture credit: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Sunday, March 12, 2017

This morning, this afternoon, and tomorrow

Another pancake breakfast this morning, this time in Geauga County, home of real pancakes, real butter and real maple syrup. Good sausages, too.

My daughter Beth, her mother and her husband here. Beth broke a lot of her arm last December, in an awful fall. It's not progressing as well as could it should, but she's a long way from where she started.

We all futility waved  the refill sign around, until Francis took the matter under his six foot charge.

Beth, her mother and her mother-in-law. You remember Grandma Ruth. There is no picture of Caroline and Laura today; they tend to move as unit when together, and fade in and out of sight.

Back home this afternoon, here is Toby, attempting to recover from springing ahead for daylight savings. I took a bit of a nap before supper, too.

I sewed two more quilt tops this afternoon, and Laura put several more together, before retreating to her room to exercise her thumbs.

The winter storm forecast starting tomorrow afternoon is now up to 9" of snow. I'm beginning to take this personally.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Stormy weather

The rain and wind commenced Wednesday, early.  It seems I'd only just heard Laura leave when a clap of thunder rattled everything. I looked at the clock to see if I should get my sorry self up to the bus stop, but, fortunately, it was 6:40, and the bus better have left.

I got to work early, to get payroll done, the rest of the bills paid, and everything in order for the night's board meeting. I had a project to finish at the house before the 1 pm knitting group meeting. That project did not happen because the electricity went out. It had stopped raining, so we neighbors commiserated up and down the street about the state of utilities, until the chilly air drove us in for warmth.

But, there is no warmth inside with no electricity to circulate it around the house. I decided to go to work to keep warm. Kendall Road, down into the valley, was closed near the top. Not a good sign. I turned around and went down SR 303.

The first clue was there at the bottom, in Peninsula. The traffic lights were swinging wildly in the wind, and not working. Most of us were politely making a four way stop of the intersection, but in waiting my turn, I counted more than a few had no idea why the car in front stopped, and went on through the intersection with them.

At the town hall, at 303 and Riverview, Riverview was closed. There was no problem apparent in the few hundred feet to the town hall drive, so I squooze the car past the barricade and went on down. One garage door was open, so I moseyed on in there to hear the latest. The road crew was just in from clearing roads of fallen trees, and it did not look good.

I came home and took a nap until time to pick up Laura from book club. The power was on in Hudson. I think the sun was shining, too. Laura and I went to a restaurant for supper, because you cannot cook in an all electric house with no electric. 

My neighbor texted me; the power was back in my little house on top of the hill. I texted the road super, expecting the same. However, no power in the valley. No word from the powers that be cancelling the meeting, though, and I went back down.

Our meeting was not cancelled, though it was among our shortest in my thirteen years. This morning the road super texted me, "Don't rush down here. Still no power." I didn't rush, but I did go, to get the bills in envelopes and mailed while there was sunlight to see. I still had to rig up a flash light to see well.

On my way home, behind a county road crew. The fellow by the middle truck swore at me as he waved me around. Road crews probably have not been to bed in the last 36 hours. That middle truck lifts tree trunks up and off the road.

Like this one, further up the road. Look at all the scrape marks across the pavement, to the other side. The winds were up to sixty mph, I read in today's paper.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pancakes, snow and art

Pancake breakfast season is upon us again. I wonder how many organizations I could name that do not have a pancake fundraiser. And, so, it was the Hudson High School Parent Teacher Organization's event yesterday. Laura and I were in the crowd.

A sign at the door announced all pancakes were gluten free. In addition, all pancakes were donated by the local Perkins Pancake franchise, as were the accompanying sausages. 

Factory pancakes, re-heated in a steam unit, served over two questionable sausages. At the table, imitation butter and syrup. But, the coffee was real, and my $16 probably is well spent. We left the deafening cafeteria for the quieter student art exhibit in the gym.

There was a lot of good art on display, but these bowls held my attention. My mother would have loved these. All those church bulletins and colorful magazine pages she could have kept from the landfill.

Perhaps in my dotage I will look into the rolled paper art form and make all presents in-house.

This structure is at the end of one of the exits of the high school, and is where I pick Laura up after school, if she needs picked up. They call it The Gazebo. Ours is not to question, etc. I liked the lace edging the melting snow commenced making.

This morning the snow on my neighbor's roof caught my eye. Each section of his tin roof is sending down a a distinct unit of snow.

Friday, March 3, 2017

Weather, whether or not, and the spring band concert

 Counting Emily and Hamilton, I am approaching two dozen band concerts. Last night, another one.

She's spotted me. The stink eye.

"Take the picture I'm smiling for!"

Laura has been in band since fifth grade. Her band director reminded me of Uncle Tom playing the part of the Old Grey Goose at her first concert. 

I continue to be amazed at the discipline of band. As soon as the conductor stands by the podium, it's all eyes front, instruments ready.

When we left the concert, the snow had begun. It was falling hard, and looked exactly like it would be the two to three inches our road super was loading up for Thursday afternoon.

When I left for the gym, at 9:30, Laura had cleared the porch and steps, a path around the car, and swept the windshield clean of snow. The ice scraper is in the car and it's locked, so she has a pass, though I remain amazed at the responsibility she assumes with no asking. Perhaps you see, it has begun snowing again, in the picture. In the fifteen minutes it took me to clear the windows and leave, we were in a deep squall.

When I got home at 12:30, the porch and steps were full and drifted. I didn't stop to clean them; all I wanted was dry shoes and socks. It's been snowing all this time, so we need to do some work tonight, so we can go out in the morning.

I stopped at the river today, on my travels, and took this "color" photo of the black and white world. I must remember to ask if that small rill in the bend of the river is a natural formation or the residual of an old dam or bridge.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

In like a lion

I seem to be on a whippersnapper rant of late. After hours on hold to enroll the township bank account in on-line access, and another two hours of staring down a bank manager, yesterday I pulled the February bank statement. There were no copies of checks. The bank told me to call my account manager. I’ve left him two voice messages to date. Townships are required to have copies of all cancelled checks. Don’t ask why.

There was meeting in February for instructions on reporting the township’s waste. Don’t ask. 

It’s called the SummitAkronSolidWasteManagementAuthority. Tim and I used to call it Sa-swampa. It’s a quasi-governmental authority. They collect fifty cents per ton from all waste haulers operating in the county (Summit), and redistribute it to foster recycling. Every municipality receives a “grant” based on population. There is a not too complicated application involved, and an on-line report no one understands, including the people who run Sa-swampa.

I have not attended the mandatory meeting for the last several years because I cannot walk the approximately one mile from parking to the meeting and back again. Last year all the old employees of Sa-swampa retired, and new whippersnappers came in. I de-RSVPed the meeting. I downloaded, completed and sent in the application for our $707. I assembled our waste hauler information for last year. I called Sa-swampa, because I refuse to attempt this report unaided.

There is a new whippersnapper in charge of a new form. We both struggled. In my defense, it is her form, not mine. At some point she icily informed me “this is why we encourage you to come to the meeting.” Long pause as I attempted to regain my composure, but I failed. “You do know I cannot walk,” I replied in an equally uncivil tone.  She struggled on. In the end the form was submitted incomplete. She was crying. I didn’t care.

Oh, did I mention the tornado in the middle of the night as March first dawned. For thirty years I lived in a house with a basement dug into the side of a hill, and missed the only tornado, in 1988, because I was driving in it. Now I live in a trailer!

I knew this one could happen, and I slept restlessly, waiting for it. I listened to awful wind and wondered if my rain barrel would survive. I heard raindrops hit it like sling shotted rocks. At 5:45 my storm alert blasted me out of bed. I turned on the local TV, with the same message. We went into Laura’s closet, with pillows.

K texted from the old house, “Tornado warning. Want to come over?” I answered we were staying in the closet, it was that imminent. Straight line winds in the sixty mile per hour range raged past. The all clear was 6:30. We got dressed and went our ways to school and work.  Note to the future: next time go to the bathroom first. The next 45 minutes will be far more comfortable.

February friends. I've sat in my car fifteen minutes at a time watching them. Sparrows don't disperse until I get out of the car and approach them.

Aconite at the library. I neglected to add aconite bulbs to my list last fall. Next spring I'll have them, too.