Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Hearing aids

I got hearing aids so I could hear my granddaughters.  Before they lived here it didn’t bother me at all to tell a grandchild to speak slowly, speak clearly, speak up.    That’s what grandmothers do to grandchildren, for crying out loud.  Then everything changed, and little voices were here to stay.  I felt rude asking for repeats, so I did do some investigation.  Maybe they did need to speak up!  I asked Jan if she could hear them.  She could!

Laura’s ENT adventure tipped my scale.  Not only did her testing show improved hearing after those impacted tubes were removed, at every ENT appointment I read a sign on the counter that said Return Used Hearing Aid Batteries Here.  On inquiry I learned their audiologists prescribe hearing aids.  I signed on for the protocol.

My hearing was tested.  It was fine in the lower ranges and not fine in the upper registers and volumes.  Up where little girls talk.  And a couple of my friends.  And a trustee who talks down into a table full of papers.  And the television.  And speakers at meetings.  Often the person sitting next to me at meetings.  All those mumblers!

I still didn’t just jump in.  Pro’s and con’s remained.  Cost was a big con.  I had three choices.  The pink ear plug.  It cost, as my mother would have said, two and a half books of stamps.  I could not bear the thought of a pink ear plug.  I do know someone on whom I only saw a little tube into his hear.  I assumed he wore hearing aids, but, of course, never asked. I did ask the audiologist.

Hearing aids with the little tube come in two varieties.  They look alike, but have different abilities.  One set is adjusted based on the wearer’s description of sounds in the environment.  They cost three and a half books of stamps.  The other set is self adjusting.  They cost four and a half books of stamps.  A large pro was the thirty day right to return.  The audiologist told me a set lasts about five years.  I do hope they cost less in five years!

I parted with three and a half books of stamps and picked them up the first Monday of the month. I’ve been back to the audiologist twice for fine tuning and the gradual increase in volume to “normal.”  That, it turns out, is not something I would have liked on day one.  My brain has forgotten so many noises!  Later this week I have to stop by to be adjusted to ninety percent. 

I can hear grandchildren.  I can hear the trustee who talks to the table.  I tell Emily I can even hear WHAT she is texting.  HaHa, Grandma.  Did they cost too much?  Well, more than I can afford.  Worth it?  Yes.  I point out my new ears to friends who know they should hear better.  Just saying.  There’s no referral fee involved. I asked the audiologist.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

I want to be a vegetarian

Lots of cousins at our house today, for our third Thanksgiving of the week. Such a beautiful day, low forties, sun shining all over the sky.  No self respecting kid would want to be indoors after the grownups sent them out.

When they came in they broke out the cards while the grownups assembled the meal and eavesdropped on the table talk.  Caroline, the eight year old in pink, announced she really would rather be a vegetarian.  

Silence from her brother and her cousins.

“I want to be a vegetarian, but every night my mother makes meat.  Except for beans and greens and pasta night.”

It was another one of those nights; she did justice to her slice of ham.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What’s in this name

My surname is Noragon.  I married it.  I was not interested in its origins back then; I lived every moment in the present.  My husband told me he was a Polish prince, which made me laugh.  He was German to the core.  Blond hair, blue eyes, fair.  His mother’s maiden name was Siebert, for crying out loud.  Explaining their heritage to my daughters, years later, their grandma said Bohunk. That makes me smile.

When I divorced my husband I kept the name.  Back in 1973 it was becoming common for women to resume their maiden name after a divorce.  I had two children, and felt they didn’t need their mother to dump their last name, together with their father, so I didn’t.  He married my (former) best friend shortly thereafter.  Sadly, he died of a massive heart attack at age 44.  At the graveside his wife said, in front of my (her) in-laws and daughters, that in the event we wondered why she was burying him in a single plot, she intended to marry again.  I’ve waited for a story to drop that nugget!

People inquire about the origins of the name and I’ve always responded I didn’t know, I married it.  People wanted to know if I was related to Hal Naragon, the Cleveland Indians catcher.  Especially as his wife’s name is Joan.  I would say my name is Noragon, pronounced like Oragon with an N, and that’s all I know.  Oh, and my grandmother used to take me to the ball games and from the upper deck over first base I saw Hal Naragon catch.

I used, occasionally, to clear clutter from the house via EBay.  Selling their heritage according to my daughter Beth.  It’s a joke; the girls were always offered to re-home the stuff first.  My email address always displayed my last name to my buyers, and I received more than a few friendly inquires about my name.  I can’t believe how many people knew about Hal Naragon!

One fellow from the Midwest would not let me off the hook with my usual dismissal of “I married the name.”  “Just hold on,” he said, “I will make an inquiry of my friend on the west coast, (I don’t recall her first name) Naragon.  She has traced the genealogy back to Europe and was telling me something interesting about it not long ago.”

And several days later he forwarded an email from a lovely sounding lady who assured me that her research showed that every variation of Noragon, Naragon, Naragan, Narogan, you get it, can be traced back to one Hessian soldier, sent over to fight for King George, who did not go home.  His name was—and she gave me a great long name that began with N, contained an excess of consonants, and had an Eastern European ending.  I passed it along to both my girls, one of whom was interested in genealogy, and parked the email in a Save Forever folder.  Of course that was fifteen years and umpteen computers ago, it is long gone.  Neither girl was interested enough to hang on to the information, either.

I thought I’d leave reseaching their father’s genealogy to my girls, but the little green leaves on Ancestry.com are compelling.  I’ve begun plunking in the facts I know about my husband’s ancestry.  I’m not back to that Hessian soldier yet, but I do know my lovely mother-in-law was right—Bohunks.  I wonder if the Hessian was Bohemian.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Janice loves to quilt!

You know my sister quilts; I’ve said something about her and quilts from time to time.  Click on Janice over in labels and you’ll see how often!

Possibly in self defense, but more probably because she has a good deal to say about her art, Jan started her own blog.  I see where she’s headed now, explaining how she does things.  Little does she know…

Even before this country joined World War I, the international and American Red Cross organizations were involved as ambulance drivers, and hospital staff. Red Cross chapters raised money by making and raffling quilts, many with a red cross theme. 

One of Jan’s current methods involves making quilts from old shirt fabrics.  She and her friend Patty shop thrift stores for men’s shirts, and spend chatty evenings cutting them into useable parts.  There also is a steady stream of beautiful shirts from my son-in-law, who wears through the right elbow of his dress shirts in short order.

This quilt pattern has been around in one form or another as a tribute to Clara Barton and the Red Cross.  Jan made it from her salvaged shirt fabrics.

Give her a look: Janice loves to quilt

Friday, November 16, 2012

All the roads have a first name

Our side trip through Frostville last weekend brought so many interested responses I will confess my other addiction—history. 

When I became clerk of my township I was the second occupant of the clerk’s office in the restored township hall.  There always has been a clerk, but until the township hall was restored clerks clerked out of their homes.  I can’t even imagine.  The last clerk before me, a stronger soul than I, packed every remaining piece of paper from the last hundred years of clerks into boxes, by years. They pretty much filled the office and left a few square feet for a desk.

After I completed all the documentation required to be permitted to dispose of the disposable, the town historian and I spent several months of Saturday mornings going through the boxes.  My grandmother used to say “Many hands make light work.”  So do many stories, and I was treated to hours of stories as we went through papers.  I got the back stories, too. 

As we went further and further back in time some of our disposables became hard to part with.  Especially as we passed first his birth date, then mine.  We were handling invoices we could shred, but that had long ago logos on them.  We came to a compromise when his stack of electric bills picturing Reddy Kilowatt was totally out of hand; we kept representative samples of the good stuff.

As we slipped back to the Great Depression the historian knew where all the buildings had been or still were, but the population then far exceeded the current 695.  He carried the thread of the major families:  they still own the quarry where kids swim in the summer; he owned the bank; that family had the Nash dealership.  

 I was struck by the humanity and community the papers spoke to.  There were township warrants to local stores for shoes for this family, coal for that, payment for an ambulance or a doctor.  It seemed half the township men worked some hours each month on the roads.  While that was common in townships I was struck by the two road superintendents foregoing pay and the workmen being paid when funds were lowest.  That was not documented; I figured it out from the trail of checks.

And the checks!  I fell in love with the checks.  Mouse nibbled corners.  Dried on rubber bands.  The handwriting!  I thought of my parents, who each wrote a lovely hand.  All payments were by warrants (checks), and the backs of the checks told a story, too.  There were multiple endorsements; the checks passed from hand to hand like currency.  I puzzled at the number of endorsements in pencil until I realized the pens were in the bank.  Men on the street of a farming community town at the turn of the 20th century might have a pencil, but not a fountain pen.  I kept all the old handwritten checks.

In the end I cataloged all those checks and posted them on our web site, in history.  That’s when I realized our roads all have first names. Except for Oak Hill Road, every road is called after a family that once lived on it.  My own road is called after the dairy farmer who owned all these acres and ran a cheese factory on the other side of the road.  His grandson still lives on the corner.

We have put so much history under the history tab of our township website it might sink if it were a ship.  The tracking program tells us the website has thousands of page visits each year, the majority of them looking at history pages.  I like to think we’re leaving that to the future.

Two trustees added signatures to this check, Thomas Major and Isacc Stine.  And, we have a Major Road and a Stine Road.

I love the endorsements.  There are three, so this check went through several hands until it became cash money or increased a bank account.  The perforated cancellations are wonderful, too.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Historical villages

I admire historians, the keepers of history.  I work with the young man who directs our local historical society.  He and I were sorting old records one Saturday, several years ago.  There was no usual chatter that day, he was quite distracted.  I joshed him good naturedly and he just exploded:  I found his invoice! I knew he designed this building, but I couldn’t prove it, and now I’ve found his invoice!  The building is my town hall, the BostonTownship hall, the architect was John Eisenmann, rather famous in his day, and the stick style building was erected in 1887. His research led to an historical marker from the State of Ohio for the building, but I really smile about that happy historian on a Saturday morning.

Nearby to us are Century Village in Burton, Ohio and Hale Farm here in the valley.  They are collections of structures so typical of the Connecticut Western Reserve; farm houses, barns, school houses.  Hale Farm has grown to national prominence since its acquisition a decade or so ago by the well funded Western Reserve Historical Society; many buildings of local significance have been relocated to the grounds and exhibits change constantly.  Century Village remains a charming snapshot of a place in time.

Over the weekend we went the west side of Cleveland to see a quilt show.  On the way I spotted an inelegant little sign, Frostville:  Event Today, and knew we must stop there on the way back.  And, we did. Frostville is an historic village in the making, organized, according to a diagram of the structures currently in place, by the Olmsted Historical Society.  

The buildings are arranged around three sides of a square, and we traipsed through a muddy parking lot to look around.  Perhaps the event was just getting underway; the organizers seemed disorganized.  They were more underfoot than anything, but we persevered, looking at their old buildings. Jan and I observed, from the number of husbands in evidence on the grounds, the Olmsted Historical Society was where the male members went to build stuff.  We had to smile, what with men with stuff to do and women in costumes and little to do, until a crowd might appear.

Father Frost stood at one turn of the road, and told Laura and Emily they would ask for shoes for Christmas if they were 19th century children and that would be the only gift they would receive.  Shoes cost one month’s wages. Jan and I caught up with them and rescued them from a pedantic historian who did have candy canes to pass out.

Up one side of square, across the top and down the other we looked at the six old farm houses and cabins on the site.  The best display, in all its hope and enthusiasm, was on the far leg of the U shaped road. Site of the schoolhouse the men would build. 

We added to the collection box.

And so, home.  The parking lot was filling with patrons coming to support Frostville, a good sign.

Friday, November 9, 2012

A hundred or so dogs later

When Ann and Pat married, each brought along a dog.  The dogs hated each other when they met in Ohio and moving to a farm in Wisconsin didn’t change their attitude.  Ann and Pat went for dog counseling, which tapped into their latent dog sensibility, I suppose.  I don’t “get” dogs, but I do get what the two of them have done for dogs in the more than twenty five years I’ve known one or the other of them.

Everything I know about handling a dog I’ve learned from watching and emulating the two of them.  A visit to Ann commences as the spoke of a friendly wheel and generally a new dog to meet and an old dog to sadly (or not) miss.  Ann has never given up on a dog, but I have not missed some who have gone on to their reward.

So, how did they come to have all those dogs?  I understand it started the first winter they were married.  A co-worker of Pat’s, knowing he liked dogs, called him late one night and said something was wrong at a house with an outdoor kennel of Malamutes he passed daily.  He investigated, found the house empty, the dogs apparently abandoned and no authority wanting to intervene.  The dogs needed rescued.

There were four or six Malamutes, as I recall, moved to a makeshift kennel on the side of the Pat and Ann’s granary for the winter. They were not indoor dogs!  They all earned names and one name included Psycho.  In the spring Pat built a proper kennel behind the granary, and while he was about it, big enough to house say ten or twelve dogs.  The beginning of being the farm that acquired homeless dogs.

The first Wisconsin dogs of their own were a pair of rangy Doberman mutts they named Motz and Colby.  The start of the pack.  Pat and Ann each have their own favorites at all times.  So do I.  My current favorite is a husky named Bandit.  Ann is between favorites; she recently lost her beloved Shepherd mix, Ginger.  Her favorite before Ginger was Whoopi, a black lab Ann and Pat rescued from death row.  Whoopi bit the child of her former owners, who not only brazenly bestowed the name, they brought her into a house with a two year old and expected the best.  As Ann said, it was not Whoopi’s fault.

I made a list of the breeds and names of all the dogs I can remember, and it is long.  Breed is a loose word at the house; Pat and Ann usually are able to identify the several strains apparent in the dogs in their house and in their kennel.  From the list I have to pick Herman, a long legged, short hair white terrier with a pointy nose.  Probably the smallest dog they ever took in, Herman spent his years before I met him as a homeless man’s dog.  He lived in a shopping cart, which kept him at eye level with much of the world.  When his owner died he moved along to the farm house, where every other dog occupied the windows along the drive way to see what car was coming in.  Herman had to jump four feet up and down to catch a glimpse out the back door window. A couple of summers ago Herman was no longer there when I visited.  I missed him.

The house dogs right now are Seamus, a collie mix that looks like a Holstein cow.  He and his mother ran away from a neighboring farm when he was a puppy.  They were returned, but he made his way back alone and the farmer said just keep him.  Seamus is good at keeping new dogs calm and helping with the rules.

Zoe is also a house dog.  She’s mostly Akita, and usually twice as puffed up, but still growing out her summer shave.  Zoe is extremely needy and oozes into the verboten kitchen frequently.  She’s a dog who outlived her mistress and was abandoned by the heirs and assigns. In their wills Pat and Ann have provided for their dogs.  It’s something people should consider.

Freyja is the current rescue.  She was abandoned, together with a litter of pups. The puppies all were placed and the mother taken in by Pat and Ann.  She is named for the Norse goddess of fertility, although she won’t be having any more puppies.  Freyja is about a year old and just learning her place in the house and the pack.  Out of the kitchen still doesn’t mean her, to Zoe’s great dismay.

Bandit has been my buddy for several years.  He’s a ten or eleven year old Husky and I don’t recall his history.  He parks his head on my lap when I sit on the counter stool and doesn’t leave.  Pat says that is bad behavior and I told him to humor us.  Bandit arrived a scrawny dog with every bone protruding.  I’ve watched him fill out over the years.  Last summer Bandit was loping along, caught his foot and went down.  When he couldn’t get up Ann helped him, then scooped him up and went to the car.  I trailed along and opened the door.  They went to the vet.

Bandit not only suffered severe osteoporosis, his compound fracture of the femur could not be set. Pat and Ann looked at each other.  Well, that’s his fifty dollars (the amount in veterinary costs they tell each dog it is allotted).  Bandit’s back right leg was amputated, and he came home to spend his last several years.  He’s quite protective of one of his two beds, and he still puts his head in my lap.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Swiss boarding school

My friend Ann’s pragmatic father sent her off to Switzerland and boarding school so he would know what she was up to between the end of school and when he returned from work.  I do have a lovely mental picture of a twelve year old Ann buying a ticket home to demand of her father why he was ignoring her.  He, in the meantime, was winging it to Switzerland to have a stern fatherly talk with her.  Yes, their planes crossed somewhere over the Atlantic.

Ann met girls from all over the world while at school, making lasting friendships.  She thinks nothing of making a trip to help a friend in England, celebrate a milestone birthday in France, meet a friend in Germany.  A wonderfully cosmopolitan woman lives in an old farmhouse in Wisconsin, on a road that isn’t plowed in the winter, and has an oak tree saved from power lines.

A couple years ago I visited at the right time and went shopping with Ann for little gifts for her goddaughter’s Advent calendar.  I only learned of the tradition when my daughter began the tradition for her children, in recognition, I assumed, of the Lithuanian heritage mixed with her Irish.  The calendar had little doors that opened on little chocolate rewards, the largest behind the 24th door.

But, Ann wasn’t buying chocolate, and for the rest, well I’d just have to wait and see.  She bought practical little things I would consider stocking stuffers, and one pretty little necklace in a box.  At home she produced the Advent calendar.  It had been a gift to her, from her Danish friend, Annette. Some of the gifts on it in 1984 are still in her kitchen-- crocheted potholders and a woven wheat cross.  It remains a tradition between herself and her oldest goddaughter, Olivia.  Every year Olivia returns the emptied calendar and every Thanksgiving Olivia takes home the current calendar, which her father hangs in her bedroom door.
Ann keeps a list of what gift is tied to which day, and much of her pleasure lies in wondering if she will get a “how cool is this” text from Olivia that day. 

The Advent calendar was mentioned to her friend in England last summer; Ann was over seeing her girlfriend through a tough medical procedure.  “How sweet,” her friend said, and Ann’s project for us last summer was to duplicate the old Advent calendar for two little English goddaughters.  We did, they were a hit and being refilled by their mother this year.

We haven’t exactly created a monster, but two more Advent calendars for nieces were on the agenda for this year’s visit.  Ann does not sew, but laid out for me the sewing machine her husband knows how to run and her tin of threads and needles, accumulated during her school and college years in Europe. 

We used narrow bias tape to bind the burlap calendars last year, but my hands can’t turn a neat edge anymore, so I went for blanket binding this year.  Last year we used some pretty iron on winter motifs Ann had picked up on close out; this year we found heavy felt designs that required a glue gun.  Another skill mastered. And finally, the last time I knew of the little round rings that hold the gifts I stood next to my grandmother who was asking the clerk for bone rings.  I said that to a clerk last year and she almost choked on spittle.  This year we knew the exact notions aisle we needed.

So, here are the current advent calendars from Wisconsin, after the Danish original gifted in Switzerland.  With apologies for lack of flash, which would have made the pictures much better.

The original 1984 calendar with felt figures and felt numbers.  I repaired the elf's beard again this year.  Ann has just begun snipping off last year's ribbons that tied the packages.

If you sew, or ever did, smile with me at Ann's sewing supply stash.

Putting on the numbers.  Last year we used fabric paint.  This year we upgraded to magic markers.  Ann said they worked better; she could go over the number and make it fatter.

Gifts all sorted and ready to wrap.  The blue potholders over the stove were on Ann's 1984 Advent Calendar.

Tying them on.

Frea inspects.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Wisconsin miscellany

A quiet, busy week in Wisconsin.  I helped Ann with a project, read Annie Dillard’s An American Childhood, a couple of Darcy Regency novels and took a chunk out of George Stephanopoulos’ All Too Human. I thought about bringing it home to finish, but it will be there when I go back.

The road noise will settle and the project will be a fun topic.  In the meantime, I carefully took these pictures on the Ohio turnpike.  And yes, the speed limit is seventy miles per hour:

After the power blackout of 2003 that left much of the East and Midwest without electricity our power company, Ohio Edison, and probably many others, undertook a brutal attack on trees as part of preventative maintenance.  Any tree limb capable of falling on a line had to go.  This preventative program keeps  Asplund and other tree management companies in the green to this day.  As soon as the leaves are down the big orange trucks line the road and branches are dispatched. There are no spreading oak crowns, or maple or any other sort along Ohio’s streets and roads.  They sport horizontal and vertical shears, to keep them away from power lines.

I’m not against this maintenance in the aggregate.  In fact, I have no say in the matter whatsoever.  But then I noticed this tree, across the street from Ann’s home.  The power lines go right down that side of the street, up to the oak.  Look at the two lines in the upper right corner.  They come off the last line before the oak, cross the street to the only pole on Ann’s side of the road, cross back and continue down the rest of the poles on the oak’s side of the road.  Ann said their power company did that to spare the oak.