Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Another spring break

Recently I asked Laura where she might like to go on a vacation, and she said “Four Corners.”

“Do you know where that is?”

“Arizona and New Mexico, and Colorado and Utah.”

“How would we get there?”

“Oh, we’d drive.”

I didn’t find that any less worthy than my own burning desire to visit famous locations when I was her age. But, having already visited most of the country by then, I knew about hours of driving and countless Burma Shave signs between home and a destination.

Laura has been close to nowhere in her life. The actual gap in understanding, I think, is not the lack of sights seen, but the lack of sense of the vastness of this country. So, I proposed a trip to Texas over spring vacation.  We’ll drive. Two days down, two days back, five pleasant days between.

I enjoy driving, Laura is a good passenger. I’m OK with her sharing some driving, but she was reluctant at the suggestion. “How will I know where to drive?” I think when we’re committed, she’ll ‘get it’. My sister and I drove over two thirds of this country, from Bangor, Maine to Austin, Texas. Wonderful memories.

“Aunt Janice says I’ll be so amazed, watching spring unfold all the way down to Dallas,” mused the kid. I remember a van full of children, some her age, coining the phrase ‘rock sap’ to dismiss the ice hanging from the sides of blasted rock along Ohio interstate. We were on the way to Dallas that time.

After our six inches of snow last night, spring will be a pleasant change. This time last year it was near spring in Ohio, and definitely spring and cherry blossoms in DC. We can dismiss the balance of that trip; it certainly did not leave either granddaughters involved with a distaste for travel.

I need to get a good cooler tomorrow. “We borrowed Aunt Beth’s last year.” I am not adverse to stopping for meals, but I am adverse to fast food. I stopped the mail for next week. I told the maintenance men we’ll be gone. And, Toby is booked into the spa for the week. Another opportunity to socialize himself, or lie haughtily in his doorway, paws crossed, and cross words for any cat who wants to touch noses or butt heads.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Mosh pits and life

When I frequented live concerts in the olden days, mosh pits did not exist.  How sedately we sat, or stood, finger snapping, singing along, clapping, stamping, yelling. But there was no room to “mosh”, until it was invented. I only knew about it; my punk nieces and nephews had interesting stories, and their friends even more.

I must have been sixty five or seventy the first time I saw people adjourning to the area in front of the stage to dance alone, or with somebody, or anybody, or anybody else. It was one of Bob Dylan’s final tours, featuring people as old as me, or more. I think Bob Dylan’s maybe a year old than I am, but that’s not the story.

Willie Nelson’s band was playing. I remember John Cougar Mellenkamp, though he’d dropped Cougar by them. And Dylan, performing last. My young friend Cara was in the mosh pit, twirling and dancing and hoping for Nelson’s red bandana. I found the entire spectacle a mesmerizing metaphor for life, and then forgot about it.

Laura has been dancing a couple of times of late that devolved into mosh pits. Once at school, when the band teacher left the room, setting off an impromptu session and some dancing, and then the teacher came back. The first time she said Mosh Pit, she looked stricken, until I laughed.

I’ve considered mosh pits and life frequently the last couple of years. Life goes on; the people in it change. My best friend moved far away, my next best friend quit me. The rest of my family support system faded back.  I was into the pit, elbows and knees, looking for folks of like interest.

I danced with the knitters and moved on. I danced with the young adult book club and moved on. But I’ve found more than a few people with interests in common. The impromptu National School Walkout brought to life several little activist groups among those of us out in the cold for seventeen minutes. When we’re back from vacation next week I’ll have even more places to go and things to do.

We’ll miss our first event, the opportunity to stand in the street in Akron on March 24th and help people register to vote. I do hope it’s warmer than March 14th.  But, we’ve organized another event to occur just before the Ohio primary on May 8th

The Ohio legislature passed a bi-partisan structuring plan for congressional districts, subject to voter approval. The end of gerrymandering in Ohio, we hope.

There will be a postcard party at the library in April, to send postcards to voters in the village and the township, giving them the number of the issue and encouraging a vote in support. We settled on the library when we decided no one house would have enough room or parking if we turned out as many people who came to the National School Walkout.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

One eighty five mystery

My blog has been here since 2011, when I brought Toby home from Pittsburgh. I need it to remember how old he is, without calling the vet. I have a John Gray question. Who else notices followers increase, then fall back to some old mark? That’s not so much a John Gray question as sentiment. I took a look at his number, which is 1119. I think I recall it over 1120, when he went on vacation, and his kitchen not totally finished!

I have 185 followers. Occasionally I’ll see a new face and a new number, and then a Jenga block from way down the pile is removed and I’m back to 185, but with the same new face at the top. I wonder if Blogger sorted out an unregistered lurker, or if someone did pick up sticks.

My new computer will be installed on my new desk on Wednesday. Someone asked what it is, and it is an IDon’tKnow. I have relied on the same computer nerd since forever. It is the one Jim recommended. It is “self-contained”, he said, but not a laptop, “because you can’t get along without a keypad, and laptops with keypads are too big.” OK, Jim. I’m sure he also understands I could not face Windows10 and a laptop, too.

I do need a new checkbook program. My QuickBooks is 2010. Totally unsupported both ways. The program won’t install on Windows 10, and QuickBooks certainly does not care. Years ago, before I taught her to use QuackBooks, I found a checkbook program for my sister. I’m sure it was Tucows, but I cannot download it to see. Another sign my computer brains are too foggy.

 I brazenly lifted the photo from FaceBook. With attribution. I think it’s fantastic. I’m happy to know the herons are back, and there are great young people out there snapping them. I haven’t been to the heron rookery to take pictures for at least two years. My hands aren’t steady enough, even to hold the camera to my eye.

Finally, how the sun is shining today. Perhaps the last of the snow will melt and the ground can begin warming up. Perhaps.

Rob Blair
Bath Road heron rookery
Cuyahoga Valley National Park

Saturday, March 17, 2018


Laura takes a personal fitness and safety unit as part of her gymnasium requirement. I remember Hamilton taking a rigorous personal training unit, and emerging proud of his increase in strength and endurance. I have no recollection of Emily’s gym classes. I hear about Laura’s almost every day.   

The youngster who failed gym in elementary school because she could or would not do pushups, now tells me how to fend off several sorts of unwanted physical threats. When and how to use hands, feet, knees, fingers, physical objects commonly available is good knowledge.

This week Laura told me she’d learned how two people can disarm a gunman. How one person can. I won’t argue with her; only be glad she probably never will be in the situation. I don’t understand how her instructor, and by extension her school, can cover this topic in forty-five or ninety minutes and have the children believe it’s possible. Laura does want to join a local Krav Maga class, and we’ll do that when we get back from spring break.

On our way home from weekly grocery shopping Laura’s friend texted, “Can I come to your house and spend the night?” The friend said she had been at a sleep over the previous night where she had not only been bullied, she felt she was set up to be bullied.

“I warned her,” Laura said. “Now she wants to visit a real family.”

I have these mental images of this week, and one more to add. A young woman at my drug store took opportunity to turn my anger and make me a good customer and a friend. This incident happened last summer, when I was pretty much a mess of drugs, though she did not know that.

Carol is the assistant pharmacy manager, and worked diligently on the phone with me to unscrew a prescription mess up that existed. I was going to say “probably Keppra!”, but I do recall it was Lyrica, another Tier something or the other drug, easy to get boggled. When I appeared at the counter to pick up the prescription, it was sucked back into the quagmire.

In too loud a voice I said “NO!” From the back of the pharmacy area, “Noragon!”, and a young woman came forward. The voice belonged to the person who had helped me on the phone. A very young woman, long dark hair bleached far too blond. “I’m Carol. I helped you.” She elbowed the clerk aside, got my script back in the queue, and got it for me. Ever since, if she is on duty, even if I do not see her, from somewhere in the pharmacy I hear “Noragon!”

On today’s errand list, a stop at the pharmacy for my Belbuca script.  Of course the refill is sucked back in the morass, and I objected. Like magic, Carol appeared and worked magic with computer screens. Laura said “You got your hair cut!” “Just yesterday! You like it?” What I took for bed head was the real deal, and one young girl twirled for another.

Which made me brave enough to ask a year old question. “Carol, I like your accent. Where is it from?”

Utter silence. Then, “I don’t like to tell. But…you are my friend. Syria.”

I felt tears spring up, and Carol was distraught. “Oh, Carol, thank God you aren’t there now!” Laura handed me a tissue and Carol agreed, “Yes, it’s no place for anyone.”

Thursday, March 15, 2018

The irregulars’ rearguard

Laura told me about her National Student Walk Out experience yesterday. She was very somber; sad. All students who wanted to were ushered by 10 a.m.  into the gym of Hudson High School, to stand in silence for seventeen minutes. She often heard remarked, “This isn’t a walk out, it’s a lock down.” There was a police officer at every door, to prevent anyone leaving.

Laura and I discussed her dismay over her school’s lack of support. I told her the civil rights of any student who did plan on walking out of school had been violated (she was shocked), but it appeared to me more a problem of apathy. No adult had planned this event, or stressed the opportunity the students had to organize an event. It seemed to have snuck up and crept on by, unnoticed.

However, we continued, high school is the beginning of her adult life. It was a shame she’d missed an opportunity here to organize some solidarity, but on the other hand, she’d learned that waiting for a teacher to fulfill a promise to help them had been an empty promise, and now she knew she could do better in future, if she wished to. And, part of her college selection criteria should be campus activism.

In the afternoon I had a phone call from the Akron Beacon Journal reporter who quoted me in their weekend coverage of events being planned around the area. The photos of the Beacon reporter already were available to her, and she wanted to know how I thought our unique event went. “Did we chant?” she wanted to know.

I said we stood in support of the students in Florida; we were protesting nothing. We felt it important her readers knew we supported the next generation, and their effort to end gun violence.  She remembered I had said the gathering in Peninsula came about because I’d received an unsatisfactory answer from the Hudson school district, where my granddaughter was in high school, about their anticipated response to a National Student Walk Out. Did I know anything about their response; she had not yet contacted them.

I was happy to give her Laura’s version of the Hudson response, and sad to see nothing about Hudson reported this morning. That means I have letters to editors to write. I have three grandchildren left in high school. Beth posted video of both Caroline and Francis’ schools marching out of school as a group to honor the protest.

Yesterday was not lost on any of my grandchildren.

A group of 37 stood along Route 303 in front of the old Boston Township school in support of National School Walkout Day on Wednesday. (Phil Masturzo/Beacon Journal/

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. ...

Margaret Mead

A couple of weeks ago one of us thought about supporting the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students' seventeen minute walkout in honor of students and faculty shot and killed by a gunman. Another said "I'll join you." And another and another.

I am so grateful to everyone who stood in front of the old Boston School today, for seventeen minutes. Someone counted thirty seven of us.

It was cold, about twenty degrees, and snowing. The township road superintendent shoveled and salted the walk as we began to arrive. Thank you, Ron.

Somebody's mother came, in support, and started her little one off, too.

With my sign, and my flat blogger, who does have a name, Jean, for my friend who passed away last fall, and the mother of one of the three of us who just decided to be old hippies on the corner, doing the right thing this morning. Jean wouldn't have missed this for the world.

Rose and Margie, blogger friends vacationing in Ponce, Puerto Rico, joining us. Thank you.

The silent sentry, who stood with us across the street. Thank you.

For all the horns and waves from passers by, thank you.

To the students of Stoneman Douglass, and to students and adults all over this country, who stood in support of gun sanity and your work to achieve it, Thank You.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring to it

I have a new computer coming, to replace my fairly choked up ten year old, with windows 7. It means moving on to 10. Laura did it; I can do it. It's like, all those little kids in France speak French, and so will I.

Some office furniture has been switched out, including the oak filing cabinet from our weaving studio days. 1989 or 1990. I did not realize the one I bought needed assembly.

Laura and I have opposite assembly protocol. Mine is to clear the area of packing material, lay out parts in order by parts list, read instructions. Hers is to throw packing material over her shoulder as needed, and start. 

She is up to listening to me read directions, staring glassy eyed into the distance, and beginning as soon as I am quiet. The fact I've laid it all out in order before I let her dive in is essential. The fact she is left brained and I am neither, these days, generally gets her home nearly free.

It's March, and here in Ohio some organization is serving pancakes and trimmings every Sunday. We live in the land of sugar maples and dairy cows, and can find pancakes with real maple syrup and real butter if we go to Geauga County.

And so we did. The twin cousins. Two weeks apart in birth, one foot apart in height. I haven't seen Francis since last summer.  On my side of the table, Ruth, Beth and me. We all looked grumpy in our picture. We need smile lessons from the kids.

Friday, March 9, 2018

Another week gone

Last month dragged; March is zipping along, a good thing. The weather is milder, snow notwithstanding. I find myself going out the door with sunglasses on my head, keys in hand and my faithful blue sweater. Pull shut the door, and, “Damnation. I should have worn a coat.” Down the steps, eschewing the snow covered railing, driving the first mile holding the steering wheel very lightly, while the car warms up.

This week has been hectic. Laura worked two afternoons for Mrs. P, her old art teacher. The hours were the same as our evening meal. We both scavenged something Wednesday, but last night was the end of a long day for each of us. When she came out, I texted to come around the block and find me in a primo parking spot by a nice restaurant.

Poor child, in the eternal leggings and a fairly thin hoodie. It never occurs to her to say “My clothes really aren’t adequate for one and a half city blocks.” Her teeth were chattering when she appeared through the heavy snow, arms wrapped around herself and chin way down. It’s a nice restaurant, and a good burger with Swiss and bacon, French fries and hot chocolate made her right again.

During the day yesterday a new chest was delivered for her. Laura has another shortcoming, not asking for things she needs. A small part of that is being the last child, with the most hand-me-downs. And then, when you have a hand-me-down, you no longer need whatever function it fulfills.

Laura has a chest probably fifty or sixty years old. It’s not of good construction; pressboard and staples. Bits of it are gone, the drawers are wonky. Ever since I’ve had to look at it I’ve suggested replacing it. I’ve replaced several old pieces of my own this last month, and suggested replacing that damn chest of hers more than once.  Last weekend she fell in with the plan.

There were four aisles of bedroom furniture and chests at the furniture store, but no feedback on what she likes because “they cost too much.” The sales lady steered her into three or four choices, then we walked the aisles two more times, eliminating, then she picked. It did resemble pulling teeth.

Now it’s in her room, and if the door is open, I can see it. She confided her best friend has bedroom furniture the same color. Last night, over a warm burger and hot chocolate, I suggested we paint her bed frame the same color. It’s a good and classic frame; my grandmother bought it for me, maybe 1945. The silence was long, long, long. I waited for her to figure out how to say “No.”

“OK!” I could sleep on the floor a couple of nights and it can dry while we are on vacation in New England!”

She’ll be on the floor more than a couple of nights. Lots of sanding involved.

On her door. "The colors are wonderful!"

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

We have an obligation to this national school walkout

When “we”, this old generation facing the exit door, were coming up, we dealt with a lot of hard issues. There was an unnecessary and illegal war; boys, our classmates, dying. If not already aware, and many northerners had not learned the hard way, our country was infested with racial injustice. How could anyone watch marchers mowed down by high pressure water hoses, attacked by dogs and white police men, and not make an opinion?

We were young then, and idealistic. We thought we were invincible. We protested. We marched. We “sat-in”.  We went to Canada. We were supported, by family and friends.  If not by family, by friends. We had such an idealistic hope of peace and love and flowers in gun barrels. There were signs of hope.  A flower in a National Guardsman’s gun barrel. Tiananmen Square.

Though we were sidetracked by mortgages and children and carpooling, we still worked for and voted to end racial injustice, poverty, restore voting rights. I was wondering which one tipped the NRA and the bigots? But, who cares what it was, or that it is. It must end.

Now we are left with addressing violence by guns, mass shootings of innocents, unsuspecting gatherings of happy people, halls of school students, from the wrong end. Instead of “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all,” we have one nation, fragmented. We are impoverished, in wealth, in education, in skill, in spirit.

The hope of the sixties was swept away, less by complacency than chicanery. My brothers’ NRA taught them sportsmanship and shooting skills. The political turmoil of the sixties, assassinations, shootings, led to gun legislation, limiting, for instance, sale of machine guns. NRA leadership felt it was acceptable to sportsmen. The young turks did not. Sound familiar? In a surprise committee move, new hardliners took over operation of the NRA in the course of several hours of an annual meeting.

My finger pointing and rant changes nothing. The fact remains, on an average day nearly one hundred people in this country die from gun violence, and two more are injured. Common sense gun legislation and administration is needed to save lives.

Students should not die by bullets. Concert goers should not die by bullets. Children. Lovers. Neighborhood antagonists. No person should die from gunshots.  There is no need to end gun ownership, no matter one’s perception of the Second Constitutional Amendment. But, I believe military weapons do not belong under civilian control, guns modified to shoot more bullets, faster, do not belong in civilian hands. All current forms of gun ownership restriction should be enforced.

The students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, have an extraordinary right to engage in an act of civil disobedience by walking out of their school on March 14th, in respect of the seventeen people murdered in their halls by another gunman. As do students in every school in this country.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

This is real

One weekend ago Laura and I visited Deb’s, so Laura could see their old farmhouse and pick up some eggs from the henhouse. We mentioned the seeming lack of interest on the part of Hudson High School to join the national student walk out on March 14th.  Laura knew, whatever Hudson planned, I would stand with her.

But, Hudson had no plan, except parents were excluded. Laura and I planned simply to stand outside the school. Knowing the police would intervene if we were on school grounds, we told Deb we would stand on the sidewalk for seventeen minutes. Laura was prepared to take whatever punishment her school meted out.

“I’ll stand with you,” Deb said. “I have an old hippie jacket you can wear”.

In my mind, Pam was there too, and three women would be on the corner. In front of the old Boston Township school. I left Laura on her own, to keep prodding Hudson. I knew what I needed to do. It was as clear in my mind as being twenty one and casting my ballot for Lyndon Johnson. Or 1968, and Eugene McCarthy’s anti-war platform.

Now it’s our turn to not block up the halls. Support these young adults who have helped put a national statement in place. For my part, one phone call led to another. The ripples from the pebble spread. Other townsfolk called and volunteered their effort in support.

It so reminds me of the effort we old hippies put into ending a war. And the years it took! I think it’s our duty to tell today’s youngsters it’s OK. Work for it. It will be the best thing you ever did, instilling common sense back into life. It’s our duty to support all the common sense we currently find; retailers restricting gun sales, even though Congress doesn’t. 

There have been texts all morning, from old friends and new, “I’m with you!” Better yet, “I’ll be there!” And I text back, “Thanks. It’s the best 20 minutes you’ll spend.”

It takes so little. Three women, silently standing in support of high school students and their future; now we’ll fill the corner. There are ten days to March 14th. I would be honored to know you made a sign and took to your sidewalk in support. Tell your FaceBook friends. Call your newspaper. It can happen.

Friday, March 2, 2018

Backside of a nor’easter

I keep threatening to get a step counter. I’m getting close. Greg is steppier than Kristen ever was; he uses diagonal corners of the gym, switched out after every routine. 

After gym I ate lunch, then went to town and delivered flyers and my chat to fourteen places of business. Fifteen, actually, except one restaurant, The Winking Lizard, would not take a flyer to post. Wouldn’t take a flyer to throw away later to let me know he supported Stoneman Douglas students. If you eat in my town, I recommend Fishers.

I am so tired tonight.

Last night, last band concert save one. It poured rain all day, as previously reported. After the concert, the door opened to a howling mess. The wind was gusting sometimes sixty miles per hour, I heard later; the rain was biting ice, sneaker sole deep. The cars were encased in the stuff.

I sent Laura ahead with camera and keys, and I minced along, with my cane. A couple of times the wind stopped me short. Finally in the car I pried the ice from one side of my head. The storm definitely was blowing west to east.

Just when I think I’ve covered all possibilities with band, a new one. First the trumpeter is on the wrong part of the stage for my vantage. Then, the camera runs out of battery. For last night I asked where she was sitting (center stage), and I charged the camera. I neglected to ask how high the music stand would be. Only a seat in the balcony would solve last night’s problem, and that only if I wanted pictures of the top of her head.

School was on a two hour delay this morning, for roads to be cleared. So, here are snow covered pictures of yesterday’s rain. The in-house shoveler left me a clean, clean car and the entire drive shoveled. “It was heavy snow!” she reported tonight.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

Watching time go by

My cat sits outside my door, glaring. I will not let him innocently slip down the back of my chair and be wedged behind back and shoulders when I lean forward to type.

Another day with nowhere to go and little to do. An ENOUGH participant and I worked out the final details of the poster I will hang around town. Tomorrow, after the gym, I will go around and talk nice and see how many I can have posted. I say “old hippie” about all of us, but I think that only applies to me.

They all are twenty odd years younger, which puts them in the range of my daughters, but I don’t know what the new activists are calling themselves. These women who have marched for the last year, plus. Though the potter does have a “hippie jacket” she wanted me to take.

I am looking forward to “talking nice.”

Monday, before any of this began, I think, was a day of blazing sunshine. This bush at the Methodist church basked in it.

In the mornings while breakfast is preparing, I look out the kitchen window at the weather. My solitary indoor plant is this little orchid from Caroline, years ago, on the way to Pennsylvania to see my great grandfather’s grave and the GAR star planted by it.

The little orchid in the kitchen window is tolerant of me beyond explanation. The first time it outgrew a pot and I transplanted it, I put it in dirt. It thrived anyway. A couple of years later I read not to do that, and got not dirt from the nursery. Plus, advice to submerse pot and all into a sink full of water weekly. I still use the kitchen faucet.

The rain woke me first today, then the phone chime that said I had a calendar obligation. We used to get up to turn off the alarm, now to see what’s on the phone. I’d left a note to charge the camera, there is a concert tonight. Laura dropped band next year, in favor of art and creative writing, so just the spring concert and we are done. I will leave my hearing aids at home.

Signing off from several inches of rain. Everyone on this street has green grass, and I have a garden stream.