Saturday, January 30, 2016

Growing pains

Beth and I made plans to get together today and let the cousins visit. That was cancelled this morning, when Laura’s cough (from yelling so much at the dance, Grandma) turned into a barking cough. The last barking cough was a sinus infection, but this one seems to be bouncing from lung to lung, so we’ll see. I do know if I felt like she sounded I’d be in bed, not reading a book.

Last night, when the bark was an occasional throat clearing, my plan for today was a stop at the drug store for some cough syrup for Laura and a beautiful razor for Caroline, on my way to visit. But Laura went with Jan and Emily, to the bank and the drug store, and after an earful of that cough, I could only call Beth and cancel.

Emily needed the trip to the bank to open her first checking account.  This was on the “to do” list for fall, but her current job preempted the requirement by refusing to deposit her paychecks into her savings account. The reason given; the bank’s handwritten savings account and routing numbers could be entered incorrectly by the payroll department. Emily is working for the school, after school, maintaining computers. And, that’s enough about that bit of illogical thinking.

Why does Caroline need a razor? Beth mentioned a trip to the drug store might be in her plans today, too, if she needed something for Caroline’s rash. “What rash,” asked Grandma. “From shaving with her father’s razor,” snapped my daughter.

I laughed.

“Why haven’t you bought her a razor,” I got out between lingering chuckles.

“Why hasn’t she told me she wants one,” came the irritable answer.

“Do daughters do that? I don’t recall you asking me; my razors just disappeared!”

Well, she supposed so.” Then, “Did you give Emily and Laura razors?”

“Long ago. It seems I should get one for Caroline, too.”

Perhaps next week.

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Buyer’s remorse

We went to the phone store last Sunday. All of us, en masse.  My phone was really acting up, but on a reconnaissance mission earlier I’d learned it might be curable by being sucked dry and reloaded. It seemed like an opportunity to procure a phone for Emily (mine), and outfit myself with a new phone.

Reconnaissance left me with buyer’s regret for not purchasing the new phone last summer, hang the form of the rebate. Verizon no longer sells phones with a two year contract.  They sell phones on time, no interest, no contract, and a plan a la carte. But, I was open to a new phone and to passing the old to the college bound senior.

My sister, keeper of the phone contract, listened to the dollars and cents of saving money by dropping the old contract and buying a new plan. The young phone nerd explained to me that I would prefer a Samsung analog phone to a Motorola, for reasons I cannot recall. As my only reason for another Motorola was because it is an American company (never mind it went offshore long ago), I was easily convinced by technical talk.

The phone fellow went over the highlights of my phone, and my sister, looking on, said “I think I want one of those. I really wish I had GPS.” So, two phones went on the counter, and two eager granddaughters looking over shoulders gleefully recognized now there would be one for each of them to explain to the old ladies. Uncle Tom sat in the chair by the window and watched the trains go by.

There was a stack of tablets near my left elbow, on sale for fifty dollars while quantities last. Now, with Emily’s phone, and a tablet added to the deal, plus cases all around, we were no longer saving money. But we agreed on a divvying up of the extra charges, signed many forms, packed two handle bags with the swag and came on home.

Emily and Laura were in electronic heaven all afternoon, changing ring tones, adding apps, connecting wi-fi, adding email, turning on this, turning off that. Emails from Verizon began rolling in. “You have used 75% of pro-rated data. 80% of pro-rated data. 85%...” We decided not to worry; it was what was left of the old contract, rolled over to the new plan.

By the time I came home from work Monday, I knew I hated Samsung. The phone book, which I use the most, was maddening. Jan was unhappy, too. A flip phoner for fifteen years, her thumb refused to swipe properly and she was missing calls from friends and customers. Only Emily seemed happy; Laura, whose phone still flips, said it must be nice to not have a dwerb phone anymore.

Then the killer email: “You have used all your data. All additional data used will cost megabucks per kilowatt.” Or something like that.

The next day all the goodies went back into the bags and we were off to the phone store. The solution was too simple. Jan returned her phone and after the restorative business happily tucked the old flip phone back in her purse. Bonus—she no longer needed a bigger purse.

My remorse was not so easily solved. The tablet was returned; the phone could not be. Although I thought I’d gathered all the associated chargers, I missed the one that came with the phone. Back to Plan A.1; Emily could have a smart phone. So, the adept young man transferred my new phone back to my old phone, and Emily’s old flip to my new old phone. It took us time to sort through that boggling transaction, and I had to stop and reconstruct it, in order to type it.

And then the painful remorse—the 30% restocking charge means we will be months recouping our “savings.”

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Nine o'clock appointment for purple hair

These three women, Lindsey, Mel and Beth, and several others, 
once worked for a hair salon that I used.
One day I recognized no one.
In a dispute with management, they upped sticks and opened their own salon.
They get my business and my support.
I'm here today with two young women interested in purple hair.

Laura started out in Mel's chair,

but ended in Lindsey's.
First all the old colors, and especially Laura's own Sharpie pen tints, had to be removed.

Over by Emily, Mel used two different color removers on Emily, and the teal would not come out.
Plan B: Purple on the new blond and teal on the ends.

Now it was noon and I had things to do.
I quit knitting and left them. 

When I came back, Emily had hair on the floor, purple and blue on top.

Laura had a lot of purple, soaking in.

Mel and Emily are pleased with their compromise.

Over at Lindsey's station, Laura is drying out.

"You'd really like it curled," Lindsey told Laura.

And, everyone did.

Emily is very happy and I think Laura is over the moon.

Back home in the real world, six hours from start,
making egg rolls for supper.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

More art

Remember this?

July, 2014
Laura's first formal art class.
Over the next year she and Mrs. P worked on sketching.

Last fall they took a fun break for another fashion project.
Today Aunt Janice, Emily and I attended the reveal.

Laura took a mid fifties, June Cleaver type evening gown,

and restyled it into a breezy sleeveless dress for a young working woman.
She explained her working sketches for the jewelry and the shoes.
The piece of fabric draped on top of the easel is a fabric remnant, perfect for the shawl.
Laura thinks she may wear it to her school dance tomorrow.
The necklace is mocked up from heavy silver ribbon.
The first shoe rendition was heavy and closed.
Now it's light and airy.

 I like her new logo, in the upper left.
Her old logo was LCL in cursive.
This is so classic and streamlined.

I know there will be so many comments on how well they are growing up.
And, they are.
But it takes a village, it really does. Their teachers. My friends. My sister.
Women like Mrs. P.

And a hint I received years ago, from my oldest daughter, who told me, "Thanks for letting me make my mistakes and work through them myself."

I remembered that today when Mrs. P asked Emily if she was worried about starting college in the fall.  The answer was an emphatic "No, not at all."

Another one, ready to leave the gate.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Hill, Elucidated

I was laughing so long at Emily’s hill yesterday, I did not explain it well.

There are a great many hills like that hill in northeastern Ohio. You drive down one side and up the other. Except when it’s snowing heavily and you’re in front of the plow truck, not behind. In that case vehicles can lose traction and wander the road, including slipping back down the hill. Cars descending can be in as much trouble; it all is a big mess with fender bender accidents and more. If it happens, expect to be out in the snow for a long time waiting for the traffic to clear or for a tow truck.

The easiest way to avoid dealing with this hill in a storm, until the road is cleared, is to stay home. In a storm, the only way to be in trouble going up that hill is to have come down the other side first. Roads were clear yesterday, no snow, and the drive up as easy as down. Oh, well. Emily is 17 and does not drive. She thinks a lot, though.

When I worked in an office, long ago, it was not unusual to be caught in bad winter weather during the day and obliged to get home. I worked in University Circle in Cleveland and lived in Lake County. It was a half hour drive on the freeway; much longer straight out Euclid Avenue, the alternative in bad weather.

One day we had inches and inches of snow. The radio said the freeway was at a standstill and drivers could no longer get on. Euclid Avenue was at a crawl. I did pick up a woman shivering at a bus stop, waiting for a bus that might never come. I drove her a mile down Euclid, to her street. It took a couple of hours. I decided to cut off to another route that went down into the Chagrin River Valley and back up. There was one bad hill, but I knew my VW was up to it.

When I looked down the hill folks seemed to be doing OK, so I committed. The one hitch in the plan was the cross road at the bottom and drivers attempting to turn from it to go up the hill. They did not have the momentum of the cars coming downhill. Sure enough, as I approached the uphill side, trouble began and cars were forming a jam at the bottom.

I took a good look, revved that little beetle, let out the clutch, jumped the curb of the center median and started up the hill. The median was grass in those days, covered in several inches of new snow, and clear of traffic. At the top of the hill I bumped down to the road and headed home. I remember picking up my girls from daycare at about eight; the staff was not happy and I did not care. It was a long day. That was 1969.

Monday, January 18, 2016

But the hill, Gramma

Emily had a 1:30 interview at Hiram today, for the eclectic honors program.
It's a forty five minute trip.
At 12:30 she wanted to leave.

"What if we have trouble getting up the hill, Gramma?"
I'm still laughing.
Here at the end of the glacial moraine, there is no such thing as trouble getting up hills like this in winter. 
If there is trouble getting up the hill, it's because you drove down the other side in the first place.
Sorry, I'm still laughing.

It's two degrees here, which is in the minus sixteen range for Celsius users.
However, the roads are clean as a whistle. 

Emily's interview was in a building I would call a student union.
I wonder if they still have that name.
As we entered, a tall woman stepped out from the students gathered and asked "Are you Emily?"
I kept on walking, climbed a tall bistro stool at the back and took out my half knit sock.

It was tough, but I didn't look over too often. Once I saw the tall woman stop some students walking through, who stopped and chatted a bit.

When it was over and we were back in the car I asked Emily about the students who had been brought into the discussion.

"They're eclectic honors students," Emily explained. "I was introduced as 'a prospective eclectic honors; oh, never mind, this is a new eclectic honors student.'"

No idea, except she's in.

As for the hill, all I can tell you is she might as well be finishing high school at Hiram. She's a natural, who does not intend to show up late.

Still laughing about "trouble getting up the hill."

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Child labor at work

The girls are switching rooms; Emily going upstairs and Laura coming down.
They began last Monday to stage the move. 
I didn't go up, but I assume Laura had as many piles of stuff as Emily.

Emily's room Friday afternoon, after school.
Toby considers the potential.

Friday night after supper. 
A room that glows will not work for Laura.
Dust and hardware removal.

 I suggested old clothes would be in order.
Prep work has given way to primer.

Laura's first go at painting a room.
Two coats of primer and the glow was gone.
Two very tired young women went to bed about ten.

Early Saturday morning.
Except for telling them to paint the ceiling first, they were left to their own devices.
I dubbed this The Great Painter's Tape Caper.
Fortunately we bought the four roll economy pack.

Laura, promoted to ceilings.

Emily's shirt with hand prints is an old school project. 
Laura's hand prints indicate another paint roller has done its job.

Detail work.

More detail.

The radio is in the box. Across the hall, I overdosed on teenage music.
It was OK.

It is still Saturday. Four hours each, Friday night, all day Saturday.
There was a lunch break.

After supper they carried down some essential furniture.

Assembled the bed.
Laura slept downstairs.

Little feet ran up and down stairs most of the day.
I believe it's all moved in.

And now it all goes back together.
I imagine the same thing is going on upstairs.

This was their project and the two of them worked through it.
My contribution was supplies, especially the four pack of painter's tape.
I was impressed.
I cleaned the smear of paint off the door and the door jam without complaint.

Thursday, January 14, 2016



Male downy woodpecker


That's it. Back to another fine spring day in Boston. I've worked as hard as the birds at my feeders to get up to and through the first meeting of the Board of Directors of Boston Township. That was last night. I am going to breakfast with Carol tomorrow and I will not go to work after.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The people vs. winter

I knew it was going to snow yesterday. My BFF was coming for our standing breakfast date at the local diner. But Monday I had a text, bad storm starting at 3 a.m. through noon. We rescheduled for Friday. We’ve talked about making Friday our standing day; Pam, the owner of the diner, makes cinnamon rolls that day. You must call ahead and reserve your rolls, but Carol will do that.

Pam keeps a saucepan of homemade caramel sauce if you want it. I don’t; too much sugar for me. However, soon she will be making hot cross buns, and those two lovely stripes will go down nicely. When I was very small, my grandmother and I would ride the trolley to Hough Bakery and come home with the box, tied with red and white string, of hot cross buns.

We had one minor snowstorm this season, and my road was not its usual pristine self when I went to work in the morning. I teased the new road super, when would he get to my road? He said he had salted twice, and when the snow eased on out he’d go back and plow them all. And he did. Not the sort of attention I was used to, but the road indeed was passable.

My drive begins half way up the last hill; it’s a sharp left onto the road. They never plow our apron onto the road because our apron is concrete, not asphalt as indicated in our zoning regulations. When we built that drive in 1988 we didn’t know zoning regulations. We just forged on. 

Municipal plows do not have pads under the blades to protect concrete, so our apron generally was not cleared. The last two winters the road super took pity on me and lowered the snow so I could get out. “Paycheck protection,” Tim called it. Perhaps I will mention it to the new guy, later on.

Tuesday morning was thickly white. I’m still armpit deep in all the details that will make the rest of my township year easy, so I needed get in. The drive was deep enough in snow to grab my tires, but I kept on, slow and easy through the stuff on the apron, slow and easy onto the road, slow and easy up the hill to the level. I am so glad I do not live at the bottom of my road. Every one down there knows when to go back in, and wait to be cleared.

The county road was no cleaner than mine, and Virginia Kendall, down into the valley, was most unkempt of all. I went straight on, to state route 303. Surely the state route into the valley would be pretty clean at nine a.m.; in spite of the fast falling snow.

And, it was not. In defense of snow plow teams, it was snowing heavily. On the other hand, clearing the roads is what we pay for. I made a slow and easy left turn, straightened up and began heading down. Not two hundred feet along, a police car was marking the descent of a car into the shallow ravine, burying itself completely in the bushes.

That’s one greenhorn driver, I mused, and kept on driving.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Interesting encounter

Before the federal government turned all grant seeking and giving over to the internet, there were actual federal employees involved. One of these was a ranger in my own national park, the Cuyahoga Valley National Park. My township once received grants to help maintain the roads that millions drive on. A lot of paperwork was involved, but I did it, and submitted it to Washington.

All went well until Washington began the big migration to internet platform. Now forms were submitted to regional offices where chaos reigned. I raged at the park super, “I cannot get these grants paid and my township has already put out the money!” Someone called me one day and said, “Hello, I’m Dee. John told me to help all the municipalities that get grants keep the money flowing while the process is changing.”

Dee had a deep voice; sometimes I wondered if she was really a man.  As in D. Not a question one asks. Dee indeed kept the wheels of government greased. We became phone friends. I knew her mother was not in good health, she knew about my granddaughters arriving. She was a good friend to Tim, the road super, too. Tim initiated a lot of the grants; I got them paid.

Tim had met Dee; she worked a couple miles down the road from us. Dee was a park ranger whose area of expertise was natural infrastructure; making sure streams ran downhill, I guess. She had been given this paperwork job in addition, and was very gracious in carrying out the assignment.

One day Tim came in my office, said “This is Dee,” and left. The tiniest elf of a woman, in a ranger uniform, ranger hat and hip holster, came in. Dee’s voice came right out of her mouth. We connected at once. She sat and chatted a bit, then went back to work; she had a project going over at Stumpy Basin.

We agreed it was nice to have put a face to the voice and the person, and so life went on. Then there was Hurricane Sandy that damaged the east coast so severely. I called her office and got a recording that she was gone to assist on the east coast. I called the park superintendent, “You can’t send her; she’s too little to do anything!” He laughed and said she would be fine.

I was waiting one Saturday morning for a gallery in town to open. Someone joined the line behind me; I glanced over my shoulder and saw Dee. I whirled around and almost hugged her, but grabbed her hands, instead. It was great to see her back, and all in one piece. Dee introduced me to the woman she was with. John, the park super, had told her I gave him heck for sending her to the coast, and I said all I could visualize was her dealing with looters, or giant waves.

Both women laughed, and Dee said she had gone to be a driver of people who needed to get around. Destruction or no, she’d enjoyed every minute. She drove people all over New York City, and even saw the Statue of Liberty for the first time. No looters, no waves, though plenty of destruction.

The next year was Dee’s last. She had worked for the park since high school; she was thirty years and out. We went to lunch fairly often over that last year. She had plans very like her Hurricane Sandy plans; she was applying for a federal job that would send her places that needed help with anything from paperwork to disasters. It was an on call job that would utilize her areas of expertise.

Dee lives within about five miles of me, in a darling little house with a picket fence. I believe she lives there with the woman she introduced me to. We agreed the friendship could not end; we would be in touch and catch up over lunches, as we had done for the last two years.

And, that was the end. I did see her on the sidewalk once; the conversation was short, she had to keep walking the dog. I called twice and left messages about lunch, but never heard back.  I pass her street three or four times a week, taxi service for my granddaughters. I see her car occasionally, and she knows mine, which she called the red bullet. She never waved back. The end.

I wrote this for Tom Stephenson, who mused this morning about expectation and friendship. I concluded from knowing Dee, it began as the same sort of friendship one makes at twenty or thirty; you share a lot of personal information. I think this one could not develop further because it might require examining more baggage, and people can have a cart of baggage when they are almost fifty and almost seventy, as we were then.

A U.S. Park Ranger, like Dee

Friday, January 8, 2016

A good day yesterday

I went to lunch with Beth and Ruth yesterday. We had a very nice server, who took good care of Ruth and me while we waited for Beth.  I screwed up my rudeness courage, told the server I liked her haircut and could I take a picture to show my granddaughter. She went down to camera level for the front, then the back, and told us in cosmetology terminology exactly how the cut is made. That was over my head.

She is growing out the same basic cut as Emily has, and this is its current iteration. After school I showed it to Emily, who needs a haircut. Emily would leave the long side a bit longer, but have the back cut identically. However, she is waiting for the teal to fade more so she can have it dyed purple (I think). I like the cut so much I’ll do it myself, next trip to the barber.

It’s only a week since the holidays ended, a week back to school and work. I try very hard to focus on the good and bright spots of being an old grandma in charge of two abandoned girls, and work on the hard spots in the background. Offstage. The second semester of the school year began Monday. It is going well for Emily; so well she has almost left us in spirit and is waiting for her body to transport to college, too.

I asked her jokingly if she has selected her roommate yet, and learned she is about to open that module of the Hiram website. I saw all this happening in my mind’s eye last fall. Band uniforms had to go to the cleaner after the last football game, and the dry cleaner receipt turned in. Seniors, however, had to turn in the uniform, too. I asked about the Memorial Day parade. “I won’t be marching in that!” replied the young woman who has lived and breathed marching band since I dropped her off for camp, four years ago.

But I can see the sadness index rising for Laura. She was ten when she landed here, a hardened little soul with no father, an absentee mother, the tail end of a string of siblings not much interested. I didn’t help a lot in the beginning. I treated Emily and Laura as a unit, sending them to the same summer and after school activities. Emily, of course, flourished and Laura tagged along. My great epiphany a couple of years ago sent Laura off on her own, to drama and art classes. She had the courage to try for and be accepted as a sixth grader to the jazz band.

Laura’s her own person now, with long hair of many colors, thanks to her art box of felt markers. She wears tall boots and denim jackets, and hasn’t resolved losing her first, false “boyfriend” last summer. Her father showed up for the first time in a year at Christmas and her sister is leaving in a few months. It’s tough to be fourteen. Her sad little face has come home no happier all week, and no changing it.

I climbed the many steps to Mrs. P’s art studio yesterday to fetch Laura, rounded the corner and heard peals of laughter from the studio. Mrs. P. hurried out. “I have to block you right here, while Laura finishes up. It’s a secret.” Mrs. P is half my size, and I laughed out loud. Laura came out laughing, and I got a hug. Next class is the big reveal of the fashion project they have worked on since summer. Emily and Aunt Janice are invited, too.

Laura’s Christmas blues are not banished, but they are lifting. Regular routine is a good thing, Mrs. P and her art class one of my salvations. We will work harder at happy these next several months; Emily will only be a phone call away, Laura will go to marching band camp in August and we’ll see what she thinks of being the only child.

There are no paper report cards during the year; the electronic cards were released yesterday. No matter the other issues in their lives, both these girls stay focused at school. Perhaps it’s the best constant in their lives. Each made the honor roll, with distinction. And Laura aces gym, now. It’s a long time since fifth grade, when she failed gym because she wouldn’t do push-ups.

Laura - A in gym