Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bad Karma

Previously, I wrote about the difficulties Grace was having at school with some girl drama. This got me thinking about my own college experience and I remembered that my roommate Joy and I, sharing a triple, had been less than kind to the third girl in the room. Her name was Kim and I can't remember now why she got on our nerves, but I do know that we didn't include her in our activities and probably made her feel uncomfortable being in her own room. I know, I know. That's totally unforgivable.
I messaged Joy on Facebook and she agreed that we were mean, but remembered that our third roommate had some strange rituals that we made fun of, like daily weigh ins while she was naked. Being naked in front of other girls makes girls uncomfortable.
Nevertheless, we were wrong to be rude.
The funny (?) thing about it was that I hadn't thought about this girl for years, until Grace began having friend issues at college.
I decided that the right thing to do was to find Kim on Facebook and send her an apology message. So I did.
I had to look a few minutes to find Kim instead of Kimberly, but when I saw the picture of her, I knew that it was her, my former roommate.
I sent her a message apologizing, saying that I had been rude and selfish, and explaining that our behavior was not justified. I sent the message off and made it clear that I didn't expect an answer but simply wanted to apologize.
The next day, my brother was visiting. He knew this former roommate, since he lived down the hall from me, and I wanted to show him that the girl looked exactly the same. I started searching for her on Facebook. I couldn't find her anywhere.
"She probably blocked you," he said.
I'm not saying that I didn't deserve to be blocked. I hadn't planned to contact her again so she didn't need to worry that I would start messaging her regularly or ask to be her friend on Facebook, but it kind of feels like I held out an olive branch and she swatted it out of my hand.
I suppose it's no less than I deserved because, although I haven't thought of her for years, she may have thought quite frequently about how mean we were. Maybe our behavior changed her life in a big way.
Hopefully, an apology is enough to clear the bad karma that I left behind for Grace. That's why she got to swing dance with the cute guy last night! See things have taken a turn for her.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Still Reminiscing

One year ago today, I was in Paris. It's the anniversary of the crazy, mixed up schedule when we missed the early train to Monet's garden and we needed to find a place to hang out for an hour until the next train. I took some photos in this little pub/cafe while we ate breakfast and I love the expression on that guy's face.
On a gorgeous day, we got to ride bikes and walk through the Monet's garden.

In spite of the missed train and then a bicycle sprint back to catch the train to Paris, the day was amazing.

Then that night we went to dinner at a friend's apartment, taking a bus in the wrong direction first then not being able to get into the building. Finally we got in and had a delicious dinner and shared an evening with some new friends. Their daughter Marie spent five weeks with us two summers ago and the parents were delightful. We definitely feel comfortable sending Grace over there to stay with them next year.
When we walked to the metro, we saw this beautiful scene of the Eiffel Tower and a gorgeous full moon.
Sometimes memories can get you through a tough patch, so I'll hold on to these. Well, and I'll share them with you.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scary Painting

This morning, I am determined to rewrite the opening line of my novel. I packed up my computer and biked down to Caribou Coffee. This place has great writing memories for me. This is where I came early in the morning for weeks and weeks when I was writing my first novel, leaving the kids at home with Earl.
I felt sure I could make some real writing progress here.
The room has a warehouse feel in the open ceiling that shows the ductwork painted a redwood color, but the floor is wood and painted concrete and the furniture has a crafstman style -- wooden love seats with upholstered cushions, leather arm chairs and slick wood tables with straight backed wooden chairs.
Many of the tables are taken and even more of the outlets for plugging in computers are occupied. I spotted an open table and made a beeline for it. I set up my computer, even finding an available outlet. Once settled at the table, I looked up and nearly jumped away from the pastel drawing that is hung on the wall above me.
Caribou displays the artwork of various artists. Some of them have been whimsical, some of them beautiful. This one was just scary.
At first, I thought it was a painting of a sad clown. As I looked at it more, I realized it was supposed to be a woman with a hat.
Either way, it's definitely inhibiting my writing.
The placement of the lights didn't make for a clear picture, but I think you can get the idea.

Now I need to ignore the freaky woman peering down at my computer and try to write.
The drawing is for sale for $50 if anyone wants to buy it and get it off the wall so I can focus on my work again.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter with Teenagers

I remember when they were little and the excitement built as we moved toward Easter. We'd color eggs and I'd plan the jump ropes and slinkies that I'd hide in their Easter baskets so they wouldn't get overloaded on chocolate. Sigh...
I mailed Grace an Easter box last week and I was left home with 15 and 17-year-old boys. Would they even want Easter baskets? They would never turn down candy.
"Are you still going to hide Easter baskets?" Tucker asked in the week before Easter. His eyes looked hopeful.
"Well...not me, but the Easter bunny will," I told him.
We talked about it the night before and decided the boys needed to get up around 8:30 so they could find their Easter baskets then get ready for church.
Tucker got up and took a shower. A shower? Before Easter baskets? See, what kind of excitement is that?
Spencer finally got up about 10 til 9 and stumbled around until he found his basket then collapsed on the couch.

Tucker "didn't feel well" which curiously is how he feels most Sundays when we insist he accompany us to church. Easter was no different. He was angling to stay home even before he began looking for his basket.
This is one of those "if looks could kill" given by a teenager and caught on camera. It practically makes me a wildlife photographer -- catching the native species in its natural, aggravated state.
After mass, we went to my sister-in-law's house to play with baby Caroline who was dressed in a floaty Easter dress but who had not tasted chocolate that day. Ah. The innocence.
The only problem was that I took the picture with my phone and she kept tilting her head around to see the picture before I had finished taking it.
After a good meal, the boys interacted with their aunts, uncles and older married cousins. They carried on farily decent teenage conversations with adults and were in much better spirits when we returned home.
Hope your Easter was joyous, or at least you didn't have surly teens.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Family Games in the 21st Century

Last night, my brother Kevin, his wife Dawn and 14-year-old daughter Caroline came to our house to wait for their son in the Navy to land at the Columbus airport. While his flight was delayed and delayed again, we decided to play a fun game we got for Christmas. The thing is, the boys were gone, and we really needed another teenager to make the game more fun for Caroline. That's when we got on the computer and called Grace on Skype. We set the computer in front of a chair with the camera facing the game board so she could play too.

Do you see her on the screen there? Whenever it was Grace's turn, we held up the cards for her to make her choice then answer a question.
It may not have been as much fun for Grace as it was for us. I imagine it was a bit confusing as everyone talked and Kevin took the dog outside and we laughed at things that she couldn't see because the camera was facing the game board.
Still, it was almost like having her there with us.
Earl won by the way.

Friday, April 22, 2011


Yay! I have six days where I don't have to physically go to work.
I mean, I still have online classes that I have to grade and respond to, and I have to prepare my syllabus for the next semester at the other college where I teach, but I could sit around in my pajamas for the next six days.
The problem with teaching at two colleges is that they are on totally different schedules. One college is on quarters and the other is on semesters then breaks those semesters down into 8-week sessions.
The one college had spring break three weeks ago. Next week the other college has spring break. Rarely do the breaks coincide.
I thought I was going to get a vacation at the end of June. I told my mom that we were coming down to Florida. Now I found out that the one college has a two-week break in the middle of June and the other college has a one break at the end. They don't coincide again....
I've asked to teach online this summer. I am determined to get a vacation eventually -- to leave the state and go somewhere other than New York to pick up Grace from college.
I know no one will feel sorry for me since I snuck away for a fabulous vacation in Paris last year at this time. But you can't live on Paris memories forever. Although I'll keep trying. Aaaah, Paris.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Cloudy City

Today we've had rain and storms.
I had to teach at 3:30 and as I drove downtown the tops of the buildings were wrapped in clouds.

I took the picture with my phone (not an iPhone, obviously).
When I sent the picture to Grace, she thought the buildings were on fire. Nope. Just wrapped in low-hanging clouds.

Choosing Charities

I have a hard time choosing which charities to give to. They all seem so worthy. How do I decide?
I usually give to the local NPR station. I love NPR. I would not have survived being a stay-at-home mom without the intellectual stimulation of NPR. It seems right to give to something that I'm using daily.
I also give to the local YMCA. My kids have done sports at the YMCA since they were little. Now only Tucker continues to swim there, but I know plenty of other kids who don't have the money or are in danger of becoming obese can go to the Y and learn how to play soccer or basketball. That seems worthy too.
With the slow economy, I also felt like I should give to the local food pantry. Making sure people have enough to eat seems more important than playing games or listening to NPR, right?
But wait a minute, I just got something from the Sierra Club explaining how the earth might not even be habitable unless we take some action. I mean, what good does it do to provide food and exercise for people along with intellectual stimulation if the earth becomes too warm or too watery for people to live here. We have to take care of the earth.
Then I get an email from a politician or a political party pledging to make things better in the economy, which could fix the hungry people, and they also promise to help clean up the oceans and wean the U.S. from its oil fixation so the earth can be healthy again. Maybe I need to support the politicians and trust them to improve our country and our planet.
It's so hard to prioritize.
Then I'll see a picture of little children in an orphanage and I'll be sucked right back to thinking that I need to donate to them instead. It's a vicious cycle for me.
Which charities do you donate to?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Refreshing Walk

I want it established right up front that walking to the library was my idea. I had a whole route planned out where we could stop by the bakery to get a baguette then have a coffee at the coffee shop then run by the grocery store.
It's true that my friends and I canceled our morning run because the wind howled through the trees and a cold rain fell. By 10:30 or so, the morning seemed to have cleared up. Let's say the weather resembled this day along the Atlantic.

I remembered to grab the big umbrella from the back of the car and I said to Earl, "How about if we both take umbrellas?"
"Nah," he said. "It's not going to rain."
So we walked to the library in the light breeze avoiding puddles on the sidewalk. We picked up an Italian movie for tonight then we took a turn up a side street to go past the school.
A drop of rain fell on my arm. Then another. Thunder rumbled and a shrill whistle blew at the field. Soccer was canceled due to thunder. The kids ran screaming from the field as Earl opened the umbrella and held it above me.
I understand that holding the umbrella can be a tiring job and I am thankful to him for doing it, but, to be honest, the person not holding the umbrella gets wetter than the person holding the umbrella. He thinks he is keeping me dry, but he is a foot taller than I am, so inevitably the rain begins to soak my shoulder.
We walked fast but the rain became more fierce as the thunder rumbled. In a yard between two tall buildings, the rain came in at an angle blowing my hair across my face.
"Get on my other side," Earl said as he attempted to block the rain with the umbrella. We rounded the corner headed toward Panera and the rain suddenly turned to hail bouncing off the sidewalk in little chunks. The rain came straight at our faces and Earl held his umbrella in front of us and it buckled.
I ran for it. My jeans were soaked. My wet hair curled wildly. My socks were wet inside my shoes.
We decided to get the baguette and the coffee at Panera so we didn't have to go any farther. We shivered in the cool restaurant trying to warm up with the hot coffee. When we finished, the rain had stopped and we walked straight home with the sun trying to peak out.
Now the weather looks like this, kind of mocking us as we hang up our wet jeans and put on dry socks.

Lesson learned? Probably not. Unless I carry two umbrellas, we'll probably have to share again next time.
Do you think it's a marriage problem if I want my own personal umbrella in the rain? Does that mean the romance is gone?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Weighty Visits

Today I had a doctor appointment. I hadn't been to the doctor in awhile. You know what I dreaded the most? Getting weighed.
Ridiculous. I'm an adult woman with strong self esteem. My husband would be happy to tell you that I never think I'm wrong. Yet the idea of walking in and being weighed by the nurse makes me feel like a junior high girl trying to get in with the popular crowd. I never think I'll measure up.
In honor of the weigh-in, I gave up wheat for the week because I immediately feel thinner when I don't eat wheat. I also avoided eating red meat all week in case the doctor wanted to test my cholesterol.
I exercised every morning, but I usually exercise most mornings, so it wasn't that different.
This morning, I fasted, water only before my appointment. Of course, I said that was so they could take my blood, but it also might have been because of that sliding metal arrow on the scale. Why does the scale at the doctor always weigh heavier than any other scale?
As I got dressed, I picked my lightest weight clothes. Luckily, it was warm out. I wore cotton capris, a short sleeve t-shirt and my crocs. The outfit would not have won any fashion awards, but it probably weighed a pound at the most.
Now for most people going to the doctor, getting weighed should be the least of our problems. We don't visit the doctor simply because she's funny. We usually have a medical concern. There are times though that I avoid going, even if I need to, because I don't want to be weighed.
I guess it's time to get over that. If I don't like my weight then I had better change it rather than avoid the doctor.
The problem with being a woman in the United States is that no matter what our weight, we're never satisfied with it. In my late 20s and through my childbirthing years, my weight stayed at 118 pounds. After each baby, it slid right back to 118 with very little effort. Yet, never in my life have I thought of myself as thin or slim or even "just right." So it doesn't really matter what the scale says. The picture I have of myself is embedded, whether the arrow on the scale moves up or down.
What about you? Do you dread visiting the doctor?

Blog Milestone

This is my very lame way of celebrating, maybe commemorating, my 500th blog post, which was the last one I wrote. I never realized it until I clicked on it again to write another post and saw that I had completed 500 posts.

Some good. Some boring. Some interesting. Some with way too much information.
Thanks for reading.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Choking on Powdered Sugar

Tucker has always been precocious. Maybe because he's the third kid and he caught on quickly to what his older brother and sister were doing. He learned how to work the mouse on the computer when he was 18 months old. He learned how to pedal a bike when he was two. He started the violin at 4 and quickly caught up with his older brother.
Does it count as being precocious if you can grow facial hair early?
Tucker just turned 15 and is growing a beard.

He has had a few episodes in the past where he refused to shave and the hair on his face looked scraggily, like Shaggy from Scooby Doo. This time, I think he's actually got something going. Luckily, he still has braces so he doesn't look like he's 20 when he smiles.
People have always told Tucker that he looks like his father. I warned him that he would get more comments that he and Earl look alike if he grew a beard. He was undeterred.
Looks are not the only way Tucker and Earl are similar though. Actually, both of my sons take after the father in this one way.
I was making French toast for breakfast on Saturday morning. I hadn't put the powdered sugar and spoon into a bowl like I usually do.
Tucker pulled the bag of powdered sugar from the "baking center" where I store it. As he took off the clip and began to unfold it, he started coughing. Then when he sprinkled the powdered sugar on his French toast and took a bite, he coughed again.
All of the men in my family get choked on powdered sugar. Earl has often told the story of how he nearly choked to death when he was a child because his sister sprinkled the brownies with powdered sugar.
No matter how much they all look like each other, or don't, they have that one trait, a hatred for powdered sugar. Yet, they continue to encounter it.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Long Sunday

Today was the most gorgeous day of the year with the temperature climbing to 80 degrees and the blossoms suddenly bursting forth on the trees.
Spencer is playing AAU basketball, which means many weekends are spent at local basketball tournaments. Today's tournament was 45 minutes away and they played at 9 a.m. so we left before 8. The morning was foggy and eerie until about half way to Lancaster. Then the sun burned through.
Only five guys showed up for Spencer's team, so they all played hard the entire game without any subs, getting only a 3 minute break at half time.
Spencer had some friends over for awhile then they decided to go bike riding. When Earl and I got home from ballroom dance class, a sweaty Spencer was sitting in a stupor on the couch. I took the boys for ice cream then Spencer swung his legs over the arm of the chair and he fell asleep while Tucker controlled the remote control. When Spencer roused after a little while, I urged him to move to the now vacated couch so he didn't get a stiff neck.
As the bright sun headed toward 6 p.m., it left these shadows on my tired boy's sleeping face.
An afternoon nap well earned during a pretty satisfying weekend.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Dream Girl Update

I was supposed to run with Dream Girl and Pam this morning, but my knee is a little swollen and I thought 7.5 miles would be pushing it. So I stayed in bed where the cats pestered me until I finally got up to feed them.
Since I'm not running with my friends in my weekly therapy session, I may as well write about them.
For anyone who doesn't know the story of Dream Girl, she was diagnosed with breast cancer last March. She had a lumpectomy at the end of that month. She and her husband went hiking on the Appalachian Trail then she began her chemotherapy treatments and met us each Saturday for a run. She was amazing. She out ran us throughout the summer and throughout her chemotherapy. She kept running through the summer and into the fall She ran the half-marathon in October.
Now Dream Girl has hair again and has had two haircuts. This isn't a good picture of her because we had just run 7 miles and I made her take her hat off for a picture, but as you can see, her hair is back and it's kind of wavy.
When Dream Girl went to see her doctor, she told him that people kept asking if she was cured or in remission. She didn't know what to tell them.
The doctor said she won't be considered cured until she has gone 10 years without a recurrence of cancer. Gulp.
How will she know if it comes back, she asked. Scans, blood tests, xrays?
"Your body will tell you," he said.
Double gulp.
What does he mean her body will tell her? Did her body tell her about the original lump? Not soon enough.
I don't like the idea that the doctor is relying on her to figure it out. I don't like it when the eye doctor shows me one lens then another and says, "Which is clearer? Lens 1 or Lens 2?" What if I'm wrong? You tell me, I want to shout.
But which lens is clearer is a much less important question than has my cancer returned.
The doctor explained that the scans are expensive and make a lot of money for the companies that give them, but he doesn't rely on them.
He told Dream Girl to begin self-breast exams again. She suggested that if the cancer came back it probably wouldn't come back in her breasts.
He said that if the cancer came back, the treatment changes from being cured to increasing the length of survival.
Here's to the countdown of 10 years cancer free for Dream Girl, who now has turned her worries away from her breast cancer and toward paying for college for three kids.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Extreme Couponing

I watched a few minutes of a show called Extreme Couponing last night on TLC. I know it's ridiculous, but I kind of wondered how someone could spend $600 on groceries and only pay $6 for them. I'd like to do that. Unfortunately, the show doesn't really explain how to save a lot of money with coupons.
Photo from TLC website.
It focuses on a couple of families in each half hour episode. It shows the family's "stash" where they store loads and loads of items, like toilet paper, paper towels, canned goods, boxed goods. Then it shows them organizing coupons, going through the weekly sales papers and finally at the grocery store. The families pushed three and four carts each and the checkout took two hours. One woman bought $1800 worth of groceries and paid less than $100 for them.
That same woman said she wants her kids to be able to go to college without loans and that she has saved $40,000 on groceries by couponing. Earl was impressed that she had saved that much money. I suggested that she hadn't actually put away $40,000, but had avoided spending $40,000 on groceries. I'm sure that unspent money dissipated into the family budget somewhere. And if I was going to be really catty, I would point out that $40,000 would pay for one of her seven kids to go to college for two years.
Here's something I noticed while watching the show. First, stores don't offer coupons for meat or vegetables or fruit, so if the families were paying $6 for groceries, they weren't bringing home some of the necessities for a healthy diet. Most coupons are for pre-packaged-type things. Cookies, Pop Tarts, Ritz crackers, cereals that my boys would love to get their hands on like Reese's Puffs and Crunch Berries, filled the shopping carts.
Maybe once a person starts spending less and less on groceries, she can't break that habit to buy healthy foods, like $3 for a pineapple or $2.50 for a quart of blueberries.
One 24-year-old woman who lives with only her boyfriend and who was extremely overweight was up shopping at 6 a.m. to get to all the items she needed before the other shoppers.
She had a $5 coupon off Maalox and the store was selling it for $5.67. She bought 35 containers of Maalox.
If two people can go through 35 containers of Maalox before they expire, they have many more problems than their grocery budget. Maybe they need to start focusing on living their lives to reduce stress rather than clipping coupons and popping antacids.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Formal Dances

I was working at my computer in my office (hallway) when Spencer came in from school yesterday a little later than usual.
"Hey. Where've you been?" I asked.
"Working on bio," he said. He's taking a biology 2 class, which isn't as challenging as his chemistry class.
"Good day?" I asked, my eyes half on the computer screen where I was grading papers.
"I got a date to prom," he said.
That got my attention.
Then Earl walked up and asked if Spencer would help him move something heavy at the neighbor's house.
"Who is it?" I asked as they walked toward the back door.
"Claudia," he said as they left. She's a girl his age. One of those startlingly pretty girls who didn't seem to exist when I was in high school, but who seem to fill the halls these days.
I wanted more details but I would have to move slowly rather than bombarding him with questions.
A few details trickled out. They were leaving bio after school when he asked her.
"Did you feel like Harry Potter?" I asked.
He smiled. My family has read and listened to Harry Potter enough that he knew exactly which scene I meant.
The scene in Goblet of Fire where Harry has to have a date for the ball. He blurts out to Cho Chang, "Would you go to ball with me?" running all the words together so she can't understand him. I can hear the voice of Jim Dale, the Harry Potter narrator, saying the words.
Spencer smiled. "It's embarrassing, but that's just what I was thinking."
But, her friends had already let him know that Claudia would go to the prom with him, so he wasn't as nervous as Harry Potter must have been.
The experience made me think back to my own prom days.
When I was a sophomore, I was a last minute date for a guy named Brad whose date got sick. I wore a cream-colored dress with ribbon straps on the shoulders, and Brad brought me wrist corsage of white carnations tipped in brown. I know. Couldn't we just have waited a few days for them to wilt to get the tipped in brown look?
We lived in a small town about 30 minutes from Cincinnati, so the prom was held at a fancy hotel in Cincinnati. I don't remember where the after prom was, but I know Brad asked me if I wanted to start dating. I can't remember if I said yes or no, but we didn't after that anyway.
Then my junior year I went to prom with one of my best friends, Bobby. When I couldn't find a prom dress I liked, my mom made me a dress of dusty rose material. It has a drapy look over the front and Mom, following the pattern, had to put a weight in the material to get it to drape correctly.

Here we are sitting on the couch for a prom photo. Love the hair -- both of us with our wings flying out. Isn't he a cutie!

We were driving to Cincinnati for prom and first went through the drive-through at McDonalds to buy Cokes to mix with the rum we had brought along. We were such bad teenagers. A lot of the couples got rooms at the hotel where we had the prom. They were even naughtier teenagers.
Going with my friend Bobby was much more fun than an actual date and he kissed me at the door as the sun rose.
That afternoon, for the AfterProm, we all went canoeing. Bobby canoed us right under a tree where a snake was dangling from a branch and I screamed at him. He continued to be my friend for years after that.
I graduated after my junior year, so I never went back for a senior prom.
Do you have any fun or horrible prom memories? Do they have prom where you live?

Sunday, April 03, 2011

Life With Boys

My life is so different now that my daughter has gone away to college. Here's just one example.
In the car the other day, Spencer and his friend Dakota were in the backseat on the way home from an AAU basketball game.
"So are you going to prom, Dakota?" I asked.
"I don't know. Probably." Dakota looks to Spencer and they both shrug.
Spencer, who has heard this question before, adamantly said no to prom about a month ago. "Why would I spend that much money if I'm not dating someone?" he asked.
Last week he said, "Maybe" lilting his voice up at the end, which means there's a girl he may want to ask, although he would die rather than tell me who.
My friend Stephanie told me her daughter's prom is in two weeks, so I asked the boys if they were running out of time.
"When is the prom anyway?" I asked.
They both looked blankly at each other. They had no clue.
Last year, the minute spring musical wrapped up, we were ankle deep in prom preparations. Dresses were chosen and shoes admired. Hairstyles considered and flowers ordered. The date, the group, the dinner, all were in order long before the prom tickets were printed. That's how it goes with girls.
With boys, the pace is a little slower.
I wouldn't be surprised if prom came and went with the boys not even noticing that it had passed. But I plan to pressure Spence a little bit to ask a girl his age, rather than the freshman and sophomores who flock around the upperclassmen; a tall girl who might not get to wear heals unless she goes with a tall guy like Spence. Okay, I already have a girl in mind who he was texting the other day -- not that it means anything. They all text each other constantly.
I imagine if he does ask someone, we'll be scurrying to find a corsage and to buy black dress shoes that will match his tux.
I went to the school website this morning and learned that the prom isn't until the middle of May. We have plenty of time -- in boy time, that is. In girl time, we would already be in panic mode at the lack of a date.

Saturday, April 02, 2011

April in Paris

No, we didn't take another trip to Paris, but I reminded Earl that last year at this time we were anxiously anticipating our trip to Paris. We decided to create our own France staycation by walking downtown for coffee and dessert.
We went to one of our favorite restaurants Roma Trattoria. We got to the restaurant just moments before they closed between lunch and dinner. They seated us along the front windows and we ordered espressos while we perused the dessert menu. Earl is a tea man usually, but he drank some espresso in Paris and decided that he would drink coffee for our Paris staycation. I'm not sure if espresso tastes better in Paris, or if everything tastes better in Paris, or if it was the lack of sugar cubes. A sugar cube is more sensory satisfying than a packet of sugar. Dropping it into the cup then using that tiny little spoon to stir it around, watching it melt slowly until it melded with the espresso.
Earl went for the chocolate cannoli for his dessert.

And I chose the lemon torte with vanilla bean ice cream. I don't usually like ice cream with my desserts. I don't like switching from the warm to the frozen. In this instance, the warm and the cold melted in my mouth. Delightful.

After our coffee and dessert, we walked to the grocery store and bought some French brie. When I was paying, I looked curiously at the cost of the brie. I thought the tag said $5.99 but it rang up $6.99. While Earl waited at the door, I went back to look at the price. Sure enough, it should have been $5.99. We went to the customer service desk and I showed them the receipt and the cheese.
The woman gave us back $7. When it rings up incorrectly, the buyer gets the item free, she explained. Plus, she was the only one behind the desk and she didn't want to go check the price. So, with our free brie, we walked down the street to Panera where we bought two baguettes. One baquette was to go with the cheese, the other baguette was to assuage the boys when they got home from school.
We walked home with the baguettes jutting from the bag and saw the spring flowers blooming in yards.
With our cheese, baguette and a new bottle of red wine, we were set for our Friday night date with House Hunters International France night.
Tucker claimed we were pitiful when he discovered our plans to watch six episodes of House Hunters International set in France. But he went to a Cake Walk, so who was he to talk?
Earl and I sipped wine, ate bread and brie and watched a couple of professors buy a tiny apartment in Paris, watched a British family choose a country house in Normandy, watched a single woman and her mother squeeze into a studio apartment in Paris, watched a family from New Orleans get a country house near Toulouse, and I went to bed while Earl watched a couple searching for a bed and breakfast.
We may be pitiful, but it was a lovely France staycation for us and cost much less than last year's 10-day trip to Paris.

Friday, April 01, 2011


Nearly a month ago, my grandmother suffered a stroke. We didn't find out about the stroke until a couple of days afterward. She was moved to a rehab center fairly quickly. My brother Kevin and I planned to visit on that Friday. Then a snow storm cancelled our driving plans.
We talked about other days we could visit, swimming and basketball schedules interrupting our plans. Illnesses and dance recitals interfering.
This week, I learned our grandmother had contracted pnuemonia in the rehab center. I begged off a staff meeting on Thursday afternoon, went to teach Thursday morning at 7:30 a.m. then hit the highway headed south. I drove four hours to the little town of Mt. Vernon, Kentucky, where she lives.
Nothing prepared me to see my lively Nana in a hospital bed struggling for each breathe. She told me I shouldn't have driven all that way. We talked about cousins and relatives. After about 15 minutes, she said she was going to rest.
I told her I'd be back later. When I got to the car, I called my parents in Florida and suggested they head north.
My uncle and aunt who live in Kentucky were both home with the flu, which they caught at the rehab center. I called my uncle and he asked whether my grandmother recognized me.
"Of course," I said. That meant she was better than she had been. She didn't seem better to me, but I hadn't been there every day to watch her progress or regress. I took some soup to my cousin's house, since my aunt and uncle were too sick to want it. I hung out for a bit then went back to see Nana.
Standing at the hospital bed, talking about whether she would improve, was awkward.
"I told Grace we would visit when she gets home from school," I said to my grandmother, willing her to hold on since Grace is 10 hours away from home.
She said she wanted to hold on, but she was miserable.
"Are you miserable because you hurt or because you can't do things for yourself?" I asked.
She confirmed that she hated to be waited on. Her mouth was dry but she wasn't allowed to have water because they were afraid she would aspirate it. I offered to read to her from the Bible, but she said she couldn't pay attention. She had the important parts memorized anyway.
I mentioned our childhood visits.
"You all always had a big time," she said. That's how she talks. A "big time."
Here she is with all of her great-granddaughters.

Nana married my grandfather when she was 16 and he was 28. He said he wanted a bride that he could raise the way he wanted. I think she ended up being more of a handful than he suspected. She had three children by the time she was 20.
She ran a store in the country and worked at the post office. She knew everyone in her small town.
I love the stories she used to tell. My favorite was the horse that got caught in quicksand, or maybe it was the horse that ran away with her. I might be melding the stories together. In Kentucky, in Rockcastle County, time didn't progress as fast as it did in other parts of the world. That's why my grandmother could go get a permanent for her hair, but had to ride a horse to get to the beauty shop. I think that was the time she was riding home from getting a permanent that the horse became mired in quicksand. She climbed over the horse's neck to get to dry land then pulled him out.
Another time she would tell the story about the horse running away with her, "and me just a skinny, little thing holding onto the horse's neck."
My grandfather died in the 1980s and in 1989, Nana met and married Grandad Ish. Grandad Ish took her away from Kentucky to winter in Arizona and to vacation in Peru. He opened up the world for her and he thought she was the cat's meow.
She survived him too. But she has been well loved by her three children, eight grandchildren, and 12 greatgrandchildren. As my kids have gotten older, we don't go to Kentucky as much. They all have busy teenage and young adult lives now, but I bet they look back on their times at Nana's house with a smile, just like I do. I wrote about some of those adventures when we visited last May, which you can read here: Nana.
Before I left the hospital, I leaned over the bed and kissed Nana's lined, papery cheek and slipped my hand under her bony shoulder to hug her. She raised up her right arm, unaffected by the stroke, but now taped with tubes at the hospital, and patted me, hugging me.
"I love you, Nana," I said as I left. Her pale blue eyes smiled at me, but looked a little sad and resigned too.
The doctor let my parents know today that Nana has taken a turn for the worse. I'm glad I got to see her yesterday, while we could talk, but I know that my memories of Nana are not made from that one visit. My memories of Nana are made up from a lifetime of hugs and laughs and scoldings. Every bite of fried chicken, every UK basketball game on TV, every clip on earring pilfered from her jewelry box, every bottle full of jewel-colored water that sparkled in the sun, will remind me of the things my grandmother gave me in a lifetime. It's not the last few minute spent with someone we love, but the lifetime of minutes that we spend together.

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