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Thursday, September 21, 2017

Close call

We’re connected at the hip to our smart phones. Or there over the heart. Or back pocket, though I cannot imagine how that one works. Or just in the hand, and able to remember to pick it up whenever we move.

I’m on my second Motorola android. The phone store folks call them Droids. I had the first one at least five years, and gave it up only because the battery died. Unlike my previous flip phone, there is no replacing the battery of a smart phone. 

The phone world was juggling at the time between several operating systems. Blackberry was popular. My daughter, Beth and my friend Ann would never part with their Blackberries. I think Beth even had hers repaired, just to have that pull out keyboard.

I knew people who had I-Phones at the time, but they were so expensive! I picked a Motorola because it’s an American name that used to be in Chicago, Illinois. That was my rationale. That phone outlasted the Blackberries. “You still using this!” said the salesman, when it went down fighting, its battery deader than dead.

That was three years ago, just about the time Verizon removed the option of owning a phone. No, it had to be purchased on time, over the life of a contract. I circled the store and eventually selected a Samsung, based on cost. It was the cheapest.

How I hated that stupid little phone. Nothing about electronics is intuitive, in my opinion, and Samsung did not follow the protocol I’d memorized for my Motorola. I gave the Samsung to Emily and got the Motorola. End of phone drama, until Laura’s birthday, last year.

Laura had a flip phone to then, and I told her we had a long list of errands for the day and bring her phone, in the event I lost her somewhere. The penny never dropped until I told the sales person  that Laura was there to  get a new phone. The only caveat, a Motorola. It is one of my best surprises. I probably can’t beat it this year.

While she wandered, looking for a smart phone, I was literally drawn by the center store display of Moto Mods. All these catch words were new to me, but I understood one item simply by looking. The pistol grip of a camera. This Moto Mod was a Hasselblad. I thought about an old boss of mine who was also a photography nut, lending me his Nikon camera. It was so expensive, I ended my SLR photography days with my tried and true Minolta.

The Hasselblad was on sale for a hundred dollars. Of course, it involved the phone upgrade to the Motorola that could be Modified for other purposes. It was so tempting; it was like walking through treacle to get out of the store with only a new phone for an excited young lady.

For two weeks now I’ve been looking at an email: “You’re close to an upgrade!” I merely have to pay off the phone I have (which will be accomplished in next month’s billing) and the new Moto Mods are mine for the picking.

Damn, that new Hasselblad is beautiful! The email is still there. I’ve thought about it and researched it. So tempting. Lucky for me, no eyepiece viewfinder conversion. And Hasselblad doesn't appear to make the camera in red. I’ve dodged the bullet. But, what a beautiful piece of equipment.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Small mystery resolved

Remember the glass beads I heard falling, falling and clicking on each other, after the craniotomy, before I was conscious? I found them.

Today I had an EEG, which records brain wave patterns, and looks for, among other things, indications of seizures. My EEG ten or twelve years ago gave no indication of seizure activity and neither will today’s in my opinion. I see today’s test in a continuing pattern of the waste of taxpayer money. And mine, too, considering the cost of my supplemental Medicare insurance. But, …

I was in a recliner in a darkened room, and the technician recorded brain wave patterns on a computer behind me. For whatever reason I was asked to become drowsy over the hour long test. About three quarters through, I became aware of the glass bead clicking noise, back there by the computer. 

Occasionally I heard the sound of the keyboard strokes, but the majority of the sounds were of glass beads. In my mind’s eye there were no beads dropping, but no matter.

When the test was over, I quizzed the technician about the noise, and we got to the bottom of it quickly. It was the rapid clicking of her mouse, recording brain wave patterns. I tried it with my mouse here and had a more muted click, but I understood what was happening. The tech certainly had a task specific mouse that clicked easily and freely, unlike my very old mouse.

How interesting my brain used my curtain of beads to display images I’d seen of the National Mall during that day in March. I wonder how that translated in EEG brain waves.

Now I’m curious about the March readings. “Normal EEG, except connected by little glass beads.”

Monday, September 18, 2017

How to get up in the morning

People began calling me at eight this morning. I don’t recall the first, and would have to sort through my brain to recall the second.  Laura owes the first. Awake enough from the call, I was stripping down to shower, and thought “I didn’t hear her leave!” Sure enough, she hadn’t, two hours before.

It’s Homecoming this week, and today was Pajama Day (oh the games they play). I was pulling on yesterday’s jeans when she was in the door, and I left in my nightshirt, too, to drive her to school.  I remember, the first call was the drug store; the new synthroid script is ready.

My thyroid numbers continue to drop like a stone. I did new blood work last Friday afternoon. The new numbers were on my “chart” on Saturday, and my first thought was “Oh, shit.” I seriously cannot afford to lose any more weight, and the operative word is “afford.”  I’m from a size 12 to 8 over the last six months. Jeans are out of sight expensive, and I need to go look into 6. They’re like fifty dollars a pair and two pair are the absolute minimum, and etcetcetc.

At cards this afternoon, I complimented one of the women on her new bag. She responded since she has to wear the same shoes every day of her life, she would compensate with bags. I know I miss four inch heels, but since the Maytag suits forced me into trousers back in the eighties, I have not owned a dress.

When I joined the staff of my township, I did survey my closet. Jeans, jeans, occasional chinos. I thought it over, and decided if my jeans had a well pressed crease, a nice jacket and a nice blouse, they should pass anyone’s inspection. Four inch heels would have been mighty fine, too, but out of balance. Haha.

The next-to-last call was the neuro nurse practitioner. I thought we’d agreed  last week, there would not be another MRI of my brain when all they are missing from the one taken by, gasp, a competitor hospital, is the written report. Pick up the phone, please. I’d also resolved to my satisfaction the EEG tomorrow would settle the seizure question once and for all, and she need not renew the Keppra.

However, she’d had a talk with Dr. You Know Who (I had no idea) and his opinion was that two catastrophic brain events warranted continuing the anti-seizure medicine. Case closed.  I suggested I could just skip the EEG tomorrow, since the case was closed. “Oh, no. You need to have that!”

The last phone call:  the body shop. My car is in the line and work is happening. I can call Ken any time to see how it’s coming. Hurrah. I went to play cards.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Friday end of the week

When I woke yesterday, it was another one of those “I want my life back” days. It came on all week, starting with not getting past runs when I played cards with the Methodists, Monday. My mind doesn’t move quickly; I don’t remember what I read long enough to remark on it.

I remember being impressed by my father’s speech. Every word and sentence parsed, perfectly diagrammed, formed into a full paragraph before we heard it. I can sit quietly by, pretending, and the topic will move on before I’m called upon. Another escape.

Poor Kristen, my trainer, took the worst hit, at eleven at the gym. I plugged away, my face an inch thick in tears. I’ve watched these professionals work for the last six months now, and they are as adept at steering situations as workouts. Kristen is no slouch, uphill as it was.

She attempted to make good of every activity she quizzed me about, to little avail. Finally she was reduced to what time I got up that morning. Ninety minutes before the eleven appointment. Long silence. “Did you make your bed?” Of course I’d made my bed! “Well, see,” said she, in triumph.

Kay invited me for dessert last night. We sat on the back deck of the old house, tea and raspberry tarts. My mother would love this woman, for raspberries and tea, too. I told Kay about the state of cars at my house, and especially how I despise the little Kia assigned to me. Kay said she was up to four cars now, two over her limit, and until she sold the excess I was welcome to one. Pure Mom.

To boot, I could do her an enormous favor and help her retrieve two cars from the mechanic. The plan was to go in the Kia to her mechanic, get the Saturn I was to drive, deliver the Kia to the airport, stop at the mechanic on the way back and retrieve the car she intended to drive and scoot on home in time for me to get Laura at ten a.m. from an overnight. This required me getting up at six a.m. this morning. Kay was so into the project, I could not tell her six a.m. left my repertoire years ago. So, we did it.

When I pulled into her place last night, an enormous cloud of purple in the garden. Dad’s fall blooming crocus, colchicum, in full array. When I got home, I looked in my little garden, and there they were, just beginning to come up. Another year and they will be a purple cloud.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

A teen club that rankles and a club I could sell

Laura is a self proclaimed slug, and failed gym back in fifth grade, to prove it. I know there is close to too much on our plate, but I keep looking for something that will engage her, physically.  She has a bicycle and miles of paved roads. The tires were flat, so it sat unused most of the summer.

I ordered a foot operated bicycle pump. While we waited its arrival, she walked the bike up to the complex maintenance barn and got one of the maintenance guys to pump up the tires. Laura rode to the mailbox, she rode home. The bike has languished in the shed ever since, accompanied by the pump.

A flyer in the mail this summer announced the advent at our school of the Drug Free Clubs of America. Get ready for this: every member takes a urine test, which remains anonymous. If it indicates drug use, the club involves the parents. If not, the child joins. Then whenever invited to participate in drug use can say “No, I might be tested.”

Frankly, it turned my stomach. I put the flyer in the trash and never mentioned it. This girl has walked a long road since she was fragile and susceptible to overtures of a pusher. I’m sure she knows of the club; the school pushes it enthusiastically. I think Laura’s opinion might include a four letter word. Maybe I’ll check, one day.

Monday I played cards with a Methodist. Just two of us this week. We played gin rummy and rummy. It was enlightening. All I could see were runs. I couldn’t sort out the other worthwhile card combinations. I wonder if I can add that to the suit against the Red Bus. Sadly, Peter was in the hospital and not available to snatch my cards and sort them into what I should do, while, he, in the meantime, cleaned the table. Hope he’s back this Monday!

I did learn, though, the local Boy Scout troop is sponsoring an “adventure” group, hosted by the local Appalachian Outfitters. I know all the scout leaders in the community, got hold of one and asked about the group. They have just begun the season, are meeting at the park right now, but about to move to the library because it cold and dark in the park.

There are seven girls and three boys in this year’s group. They are planning a white water rafting trip and figuring out how to pay for it. Since these kids are in a different school district, they all would be new acquaintances for Laura.

When I saw Laura next I asked what she knew about white water rafting. She knew she’d never done it. I told her about the group, who they were and their plans. Oh, yes, she’d like to try that. So, they are on the calendar for next Tuesday evening.

Monday, September 11, 2017

What the yooofff do

I found that word, yooofff, on John Gray’s blog this morning. It makes a great title for a post I was not going to write.

The blog commences last Friday; the football game! Another of the despicable non-league games. Only one small injury this week. We were home by midnight and in bed soon after.  It was obvious this time last year neither Laura nor I are nighthawks. Nine or ten hours a night, at the right time, suits each of us. “Sleeping in” is no panacea; it’s confusing.

The next day was Saturday. We were invited to a picnic that Laura could not attend because of---a band show. I certainly intended to go to the picnic. We got up close to noon, ate breakfast, set out on errands, arranged neatly as all right hand turns until the last left into the grocery store. Great logic, eh? Turn right, first star on the left, you’re home.

The learner’s permit drove, and made careless mistakes that I attributed to tiredness, the second to last involving speed and overshooting a drive. I decided I would drive on the way home. We reached the grocery, drove down the lane and Laura pulled into a parking place. “Slow down” commanded grandma. How fast does a car go when the driver slams the gas pedal, not the brake.

Damn fast, I’m here to tell you. So, lucky for her, a concrete stanchion stopped the car. My body still remembers that abrupt stop.

Aunt Janice came and bailed us out. She took Laura home, then to the band show, and later took me to the airport to rent a car.  As I waited an hour for a tow truck, I managed to make all the appropriate calls; filed an insurance claim and put a car on hold at the airport, picked it up, and at the appropriate witching hour, retrieved Laura from the band show.

Sunday was the heart to heart. If you are not focused, in the moment, paying attention, you do not drive a car. Oh, yes, there have been plenty of tears over two days, the most touching being “I can’t believe you’re not mad at me.”

Today I got through the part that could have made me angry at someone. The insurance person told me on the phone that between the mileage (75,000), the age (2010) and the damage, it could be a total loss. I saved it for the adjustor, who said, “Calm down, calm down.” The appraisal came out for big bucks, but under the value of the car. Thank you, Universe. While I’m at it, I’ll pay for getting the scratches and scrapes removed, and that car and I will keep on cruising. It will be two or three weeks to the end of this, and another trip to the airport to renew the rental car (or get a different one!).

Today was the first cards with the Methodists. It was their picnic I missed on Saturday, too. The Methodists raise a lot of money out of their kitchen, and election day is a big turkey dinner fundraiser for them. A huge wooden chicken stands outside. It says “Save a chicken. Eat turkey.” The chicken was a stand in bill board for the picnic. I found him in the card room, waiting placard replacement. What a guy.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Inspection, 5:15

I am so fortunate to have a laser focused OCD grandchild, who performs circles around my best output. The children here are the end of the line, so she leaves the house at 6:20 a.m. and the bus comes back after four.

This band has band mothers, who leave us in no doubt of expectations. The trumpeter came in the door announcing “Inspection is at 5:15”. We performed rapid arithmetic and saw we must leave at 4:45, or 30 minutes from the present.

The cookerer headed for the kitchen, and in ten minutes produced mashed potatoes and chicken and pea pod stir fry. It was good. In those ten minutes I gathered all the trash to be emptied. We ate, we left, trash in hand for the bins, which went to the curb while I started the car. Teamwork, I’m telling you.

“Does it really take thirty minutes to put on a uniform?” I enquired. I was told there are a couple of tricky fastenings, then you must do things with your instrument, then with your squad leader, then…  “But if they get there with five minutes to spare, I’ve seen guys get into that uniform in five minutes.”

But, getting Laura to band isn’t my only excitement this week.

After a week of playing chicken with the insurance company, I was issued a three month supply of Belbuca. For everyone who does not remember, my first lumbar vertebrae was crushed in ’03 or ’04. How time flies. The orthopedic guys could not fix it, and then I had bad experiences with several pain doctors. That really didn’t matter, as they dispensed narcotics, which made me comatose.  I was living on Advil, until I persuaded my doctor to prescribe Celebrex, and I went merrily along for many years.

To their credit, a lot of doctors told me the various body parts I was destroying with Celebrex. They simply did not comprehend the difference between functioning with some pain and not functioning. Or, as I told my doctor, “I eat butter. Deal with it.” And then, the neurosurgeons just threw it all out the window. No more blood thinners. Except for occasionally being drugged with narcotics, I have lived with debilitating pain since the big red bus sent me down the aisle in March.

I finally had an appointment with the pain doctor. He’s about thirty five years old and just too cute. Single, too, I hear. We reviewed the list of narcotics I’ll not take again. He sighed and said, “Well, we’ll get you Belbuca.” And, he did. Now I suppose I’ll hear all the rest of them tell me about disintegrating body parts. I eat butter, too. I can walk to the corner and back. That’s ¼ mile. Take that, liver and kidneys!

I had breakfast with Carol. A year ago last spring she and Frank moved to South Carolina’s outer banks. In September they evacuated. This year they happen to be here visiting. Pre-evacuation, I guess. I had breakfast with Linn, who had a love letter from my brother Mel, who thought she was moving away after fifth grade. Then she didn’t…

There were two separate lunches with two separate fellows who thought I should be their girlfriend. I’ve known them for years. Sudden interest? The one who is eighty turned back to kiss me good bye, then hoped that wasn’t too forward.

And last, but not least, I got out of bed this morning, and in my best Scarlett rant said, “As God is my witness, I’ll never be cold again!” I stripped the bed and switched to winter feathers and flannel. Notice, the cat has staked out territory before the pillows have gone down.


Wednesday, September 6, 2017

From sea to shining sea

My brother, Walt, had an extended van with bench seats behind the front seat.  It held about nine passengers, ten or eleven for good vacations. Way before the days of seat belts. Mom called it the “Flapping Chicken.” It was a Chevy, and its body was flapping away on the highways. He had such a big van because once he was married to a woman with six children. Plus, at that time, his three.

One year Mom and I took her grandchildren to see the Atlantic Ocean, starting in Maine. I think my oldest daughter will remember it as the year her oldest male cousin, a head taller than she, refused to get on the ground under the camper and knock lose the camper’s foot, because he was too cold. Directing a look of disgust at him, Beth went under and got the job done.

The next spring the children discussed potential vacation venues. My niece Michelle prevailed. “Pacific Ocean!”  She had a bottle of the Atlantic, and intended to balance the collection with a bottle of the Pacific. Neither of us entertained naysayers. It was 1980. I wanted to see the Columbia River and Mt. St. Helens, which had erupted.

We worked our way across the country, seeing things children are obliged to see. I remember the kids won the license plate game at Mt. Rushmore, where they collected the twenty or so missing states in the parking lot. We pulled off the interstate for gas. Montana, I think. Mom leaned against the Chicken, shading her eyes and said “Look up the butte, there. I’m sure that’s the road my father took in 1936.”

My grandfather was big on vacations, too, and took his two kids and my longsuffering grandmother across country in 1936, brand new Buick 1936 Buick Roadmaster and color film in the camera. My Aunt Flo always moaned “Do anything but make me watch the movie of 1936 again!”

We took the road. It went up, up, up, around and around. Once it dipped slightly into a valley with a picture perfect farm set into fields of green crops. We came out at the Columbia River, and picked up a trucker on the CB who regaled us for an hour with stories of his great grandparents crossing this country in covered wagons.  The Columbia River is breath taking.

We drove California State Route 1 down the coast, through sequoias, to San Francisco. Michelle got her jar of Pacific. All the children had jars of Mt. St. Helens ash. My brother wanted to drive Lombard Street, but left it to me, so he could see better. He redeemed himself when I was driving on the way home and the Chicken lost its fan belt in the Great Salt Desert. I’ve always been terrified of dying by fire or drowning. I can add dying in the Great Salt Desert to that.

There literally was nothing and no one. “Drive it until you peg out the heat gauge, turn off the ignition and coast to almost a stop, do it again, until we find help,” Walt said, and so I did. Like those car races on the salt flats, I put the Chicken to her max of about a hundred miles an hour, killed the engine and coasted on down, over and over. Like a scene from Wile E. Coyote and the Roadrunner, a gas station materialized from the rising heat waves. I do not recall gas pumps, but I distinctly remember two solid walls of fan belts.

Good times. Yesterday I smelled campfires while I was outside. Today I saw a map of the smoke.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Thankful for, in this week’s sadness

We went to Grandma Ruth’s for a Labor Day picnic. I don’t see these two grands often; in fact, not since being in the hospital, and incoherent. Francis is the focused kid who rode his bicycle from Pittsburgh to Washington, DC, to collect his passport that I transported. Long story. Caroline is the other young lady in the DC pictures. I think she will round out next summer’s vacation pictures well.

I needed a picture. Here are four in a row, of goofy people lining up for grandma’s obligatory picture.

As plates were passed at the table, I mentioned we needed to be grateful to those who were and are responsible for Labor Day. To my pleasure, grandchildren returned words like mining and car industry. Francis is also grateful for a vintage Vespa scooter he scored and has restored, including vintage paint. Caroline is not happy with the blue.

Compliments of France, for Joe and all the guys who like mopeds.

Like Laura, France is working on his driver’s license. He’s two weeks younger than Laura, actually, and about that far behind her in driver’s education classes. Laura has one in-car session left, and almost all three’s on her last class. Three is the best mark for the twenty odd skill categories tested. France has started none of the testing, yet, and was a little on his mother’s nerves, advocating starting at once. Competition is good.

Caroline will be fourteen in January, and eligible for a moped license. If I knew how I would post a large “grin” emoticon here.

During the evening, Grandma Ruth’s daughter called, from her home in Sacremento. That family is leaving and going north for a while, to evade the smoke and smog. This morning I checked blogs I follow, to find a levee near Ellen Abbot’s home and studio broke. We hadn’t heard Stuff fromEllen’s Head recently, and I’d checked up on her by email. All was well then, and yesterday she and Marc were rescued by air boats.

The president’s termination of DACA is another unspeakable this week.  The Rep from Iowa, Steve King, announces ending DACA will restore the rule of law. What’s wrong with these people? Nearly eighty percent of American voters support DACA. I hope it shows at the polls. Vote this November. Vote next November. Vote in your primaries. You are in charge of selecting the people you vote into office. Always vote.

Friday, September 1, 2017

Raising a modern child and other facets of the week

Hard to believe this child is wearing velvet and lace to homecoming. With her friends, not with Denny. “Don’t be concerned, it’s his fault.”

Here is the back of her tee shirt. It’s Laura’s second year of American Sign. She eats lunch with deaf friends. “They eat a lot slower because of signing.” “That’s good for you, eating slower.” “I know. I’d eat with them anyway.”  American Sign can bring tears to my eyes. It’s lovely, like swans on water.

Laura is becoming a decent driver. I have her drive most everywhere, in daylight, and discuss any shortcomings when the trip is over. She has driven at night with her instructors, and, perish the thought, on the freeway. I’m not up for riding shotgun on the freeway. She’s only been at this a couple of months. I did see one of her driving instructors wrote “Catches on quick” by the maneuverability test.

I don’t know what the weather is up to this last month. Temperatures should be in the eighties during the day, but barely make seventy, as in seven, zero. The house hung onto its heat until the last couple of days, but now the morning temps in the house are mid fifties and not rising to seventy. Of course, no sun is shining on us, either.

It's time to clean the filters and switch to heat. If it's going to be cold in the morning, I prefer to wake up to, say, sixty.

Last spring, when I first came back, I pathetically climbed the steps to the office and asked if the maintenance man would show me how to clean the filters. I’d seen the furnace guy seem to whisk them out, up to his armpits over the barrier. I didn’t get it. Dan was there before I was home. He pulled down the top wall of the furnace room, reached in and pulled out the filters. Honestly! I was so unmechanical five months ago.

Then, Dan was going to wash the filters in the kitchen sink. Laura wrested them away and had them to the outside faucet in a heartbeat. I’ve raised her well. Filters are on tomorrow's job list.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Life assortment

We picked up some more plants for the garden last Saturday. I think in another year this garden will be packed full and look like an old lady’s garden. No rhyme nor reason, no plan, no symmetry. One picture has the water lily in it, and if I ever meet a fellow tall enough to stand on a ladder and pound the stake further into the ground, it will not be so ungainly tall.

A knock on the door early this week. On the screen door, actually. This global warming thing is more than serious. It is August. It is the end of August. Kids are going back to school. It should be hot, hot, hot in Northeastern Ohio. But, it hasn’t been eighty in a week or two, and when I wake up in the morning, the house is down to the mid fifties. I open the front door wide and let the sunshine in.

So, a knock on the screen door. I went around the corner to see who, and it was a man in khakis and a shirt with the logo of the big owner of trailer parks from New Jersey to Ohio. I stepped out, he introduced himself and I did the same. He blended his first name into his last and I really didn’t get it. He started out saying, “I understand you recently sent a letter to corporate in New Jersey.”

Poor fellow, pushed a bad button. I’ve never sent a letter to the owners of this park. So, I told him what I have done. “I located the bureau responsible for the condition of parks that people live in, and got some drains installed.” I showed him phone pictures of the inches deep lakes between the last units on this road. I told him there was a current brouhaha over grass length, but certainly reasonable adults could compromise on that. I told him I’d put several hundred dollars into landscaping after the drains, as management here ignored the torrential storm that washed all the soil, grass seed and straw away.

Mr. Polo Shirt looked quite ready to get off my porch, and I asked his name again, as we shook hands. “Bob, said he.” “Oh, The Bob,” replied I. “I suppose.” He left. I told my neighbor later, and her immediate reaction was “I cannot believe he led off intimidating you by saying you sent a letter to corporate.” I thought for a minute. I guess that is a kind of intimidation. I’m seventy four, and still waiting.

Laura is through all the classroom instruction and taking behind-the-wheel. She is not a relaxed driver yet, but she’s quite collected. She has eight sessions in the contract, and, what with school and band and damn football and other students, scheduling has been a pain. The previous week night classes were five to seven; last night’s was seven to nine.  Some night driving. I dropped her at the school and was barely home before a text. Could the instructor drop her at home instead of the school.

Why? Where does he live? What time? What is his name?, I shot back. He lives five minutes from here and can go home. And all the rest. I consented; I’d hate to be working at nine myself. At the appointed hour the car arrived, but Laura did not get out. I went out. “We’re finishing the paperwork, Gramma. I’ll be right in.”

I stood back and waited. The instructor never knew I wondered if I’d done the right thing.

Monday, August 28, 2017

How fast the past separates from us

Or, further Friday night thoughts.

My parents swept us all over the country. We children were to see all 48 states before we graduated high school. For me, the oldest, that meant many states more than once.

My dad was an aeronautical engineer. I could not even estimate his annual earnings, but my parents were depression children, and made sure we knew the value of a dollar. We camped everywhere we went, and especially in the west, where camping was as basic as dad’s service days.

Dad was an Army man, from the day he turned sixteen. I think he was alternatively destined for truant’s confinement, but I blogged that to death long ago. He packed his radio equipment on mules. He learned all he could from every person he met and every book he encountered. He marveled he was born the same year the Wright brothers flew a plane, and lived to help put a man on the moon.

Reading a map while riding in the front seat made mom ill, so the job often fell to me. I wonder if she knew the gift she gave me. My dad was an encyclopaedia of natural history, geography, meteorology. Back in the days we drove this country from town to town (“66 goes right at this intersection, Dad.”), Eisenhower was president, and I listened for hours to “this man’s army” being able to move from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Canada to Mexico, on one unified highway system. To dad, the proposed Interstate Highway System was first and foremost to move troops.

Dad designed electrical systems for space capsules and flew around the country and the world to visit Lockheed engineers and Boeing engineers and army bases, but his heart and his discipline always were “this man’s army.”

Interestingly, my father-in-law was a civil engineer. He was after my dad’s depression era, had the benefit of a real education. My dad snatched three semesters at Tri-C college in Indiana, between the army and unemployment. My father-in-law graduated from Case Institute of Technology.

I wonder if my daughters remember how often I told them Grandpa Noragon was an engineer of State Route 2 along the top of Ohio, and becoming Interstate 90 into Pennsylvania and New York State. Probably as much as they remember Grandpa Lytle worked on both Project Mercury and Apollo Eleven. Grandpa Noragon went on to engineer infrastructure for Sun City, Arizona. I think they only returned to Ohio because their first grandchild was born.

I tried the civil engineering story out on Laura the other day. I drank up every syllable of my dad’s civil (military) engineering stories. I’m sure they were lost on my kids, and they surely were lost on Laura. Old news. Whenever you want to change the subject, Grandma. I know all this history isn’t lost on a new generation. They are learning it from a new source.

My dad, John Lytle, at a family picnic in the fifties. I wish I had a corresponding photo of my father-in-law, James Noragon.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Waiting for the band bus

It’s Friday night, right up to Thanksgiving. It’s late this time; the game is at Austintown Fitch, in Mahoning County, two counties away, east on the turnpike. It’s not even a league game, so it doesn’t count. I don’t understand the stupidity of having kids knock the crap out of each other, extra.

It’s late; it’s a long way to and from Austintown. Too late for Radio Theater Los Angeles; listening to the Duke Ellington/Billy Strayhorn interview, again. Fabulous musicians, wonderful to hear, but a re-run nevertheless. I wonder if PRI will ever get the kind of money they need. They’ve even called me to thank me for my pitiful continuing donation of a few dollars a month. Think how sad that is.

Well, it’s a beautiful night. I have on my lightest jacket and have it unzipped, a wonder for an always cold old person. I’m parked at the curb, not in the lot. It’s a faster get-away out to Stow Road, down to 303 and home. It can be a game of chicken, running the lane between the incoming and the parked cars. I told Laura, if your mirrors can clear, so do you. Just watch for that.

There is a white car parked to my left, in the lot, under one of the many lights. They do light up this campus like day, every night. And, the stadium lights aren’t even on, because it’s an away game. The car seems to have a wrinkled front fender, and I study on it intently, to the melody of Take the A Train. Finally I take a close up picture, but still cannot discern actual crumpled metal.

I’m not the same person as last year. I can stare at that crumpled fender, oblivious to everything. Suddenly the dents disappear, then reappear. I do not understand. I look harder, but nothing happens. I check my phone for the time. ETA is 11:30 for the band busses. The dancer’s bus has already come and sent the dancers on their ways.

The dents disappear again and reappear again. I see it! They are images of the leaves to the tree in the median and a car pulling into or out of a space interrupts the light from one of the lamp standards. How neat.

The band straggles out from the school. They are delivered to a different door, to go in, put up their instruments, change out of their uniforms, and stagger out under the weight of a loaded garment bag and a hat box. No wonder they leave the instruments in a locker at school.

Laura opens doors to deposit her burden in back and then fall into the front seat.

“How was the game?”

“We won.”

“I know, 20-7.” I cheat and keep an eye on the running score so I have an idea when to leave. As for football, I could care less.

“Three guys went down. One went to the hospital.”

It must have been late in the last quarter; the football dad who “broadcasts” the game, somehow, on the internet, has typed no mention of it.

“How were they hurt?”

“I don’t know. I don’t understand football.”

The trumpeter who marches in the band falls asleep, and we start home. It’s another Saturday morning.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Citation dénouement

For three days I stopped at the office and asked for someone to show me what of my “property” was in violation of the rules. The first two days no one was sent to show me and the third day no one was at the office. I duly noted this each time on the citation, and this morning filed it in the rent folder.

Laura went out to measure the length of our grass, my best guess being that’s what is in their craw. Our grass, mowed five days before, was just over four inches. Our mower is factory set at three inches. The rules state “cannot exceed three inches.” We got out the mower manual and see we are capable of moving some assembly and lowering the cut. That was on the agenda for today, if we ever got up from last night’s away game.

Yesterday, Dan was roaring through properties, a mowing fool. “Can’t talk!” he shouted, when I tried to flag him to stop his huge, roaring machine. “Damn wimmin!” This morning, Cathy explained, as she was leaving for a day out.

The owners are coming in three weeks, she told me. Apparently this week’s drama is practice for the next three weeks. Cathy paid her neighbor, Danny, three dollars to weed wack her property and mine. I pointed out that Dan had mowed the majority of the properties on the street. She hasn’t been out to see.

But, the people Dan is feuding with (and there are many), he skipped. Cathy hadn’t noticed. I pointed out my Mr. Next Door and Mr. Across the Street. Mr. Next Door keeps his grass tidy at all times, though it’s pushing over three inches. Mr. Across the Street, who I love for his attitude, has lengthy grass. I’m thinking he may mow once before the New Jersey suits show up, and it won’t be the day before.

Dan the Maintenance Man probably will keep his favorite lawns scalped for the next three weeks. I doubt we’ll lower our mower blades to mow thereafter. I think three inches is good; shorter is tough on grass, and the stuff here that passes for grass. 

Cathy and I have a fantasy of hiring a landscaper when our ship comes in, and putting a fence around. Pretty arrogant for renters, eh! Laura now knows every nook and cranny to weed wack.

Laura and I weeded today, and bought new mulch to dress the whole garden. It’s that time of year. I weeded an entire bucket full before I failed. The bags of mulch are staged, and the rest is up to her.

Pig says, if a New Jersey suit comes up the steps, he'll knock him down! Toad will jump right on his chest.

Laura and I, and  Pig and Toad hope all our friends in Texas came through the storm, and I hope the trailer park feud made the rest of us smile. 

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Docs in a row

It will be an unparalleled pleasure to push the whole big red bus affair through the gate and see how it rolls. The attorney (we’ll call him Taz, for cause) is in charge of thinking through the pain and suffering, lost employment, pension, all that stuff settlement, and I have been in charge of listing all the docs, as I was the one referred to, and sort of obliged to go, at minimum, to a doc of my choice with the same credentials.

Today was the last doc, the one who performed the abject failure radio ablation of several C’s a while back. In fact, it was his nurse I wanted to see, but as it has been two years since that procedure, no Amy without the doc, too. I had no idea of the protocol, and booked the appointment with his nurse weeks ago, Tuesday last being her first opening.

Some scheduler picking through the records found my violation of procedure and called me to reschedule the whole affair until sometime in September. I pulled off the road, pitched my finest aggrieved patient performance ever, and was magically rescheduled for today, with Amy and the Doc. Now the drug store is working on getting insurance to OK the dissolve in the cheek version of a pain patch they already pay for. Amy, the head pharmacist, is working on that one.

When Dougie Howser and the guy from NCIS, the DC neurosurgeons, took away my Celebrex, they changed my life. My physical therapist and I have agreed we’ve hit the wall on balance training until I have the pain controlled, so here we go, again. Or, as my neurologist told me, “Those neurosurgeons, they hate blood!”

So, when Medicare goes picking through the pile, looking for charge backs, all my docs are in a row.

Here’s a little story about Taz. He rides his bicycle to work six miles each way, every day, he says. He is a law abiding cyclist, and would never ride the fine line between lanes of stopped traffic, clearing side view mirrors by inches. That’s what his friend, Taz, does. Five months of conversations and I’m having a clear mental image of Taz.

I must remember to ask if that suit hangs in the office closet, because he rides to work in and spends his day in jeans and an anti-Trump tee shirt.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


My neighbor called me, on her way out of the park. “I just saw Joe with a stack of pink folders and said ‘Hey, where’s mine? I want to come to the party, too.’” Joe told her they were citations, and he had none for her, but one for her neighbor, which would be me.

I retrieved the bag from my doorknob, and it is a citation, for unwhipped weeds. How petty. Three unrectified citations equal an eviction. Thirty days to fix it. I stomped off for an inspection, and made it around the building without my cane. Laura mowed on Sunday, and, frankly, I didn’t see a problem.

On the other side I met Dan, the maintenance man, mowing at top speed. I flagged him down and asked where my problem is. Poor fellow, he’s flustered. He’s out mowing everyone’s lawn at top speed (Joe delivered forty odd citations.) I asked him “What?” And he replied “Those women!” I told him to be sure he went down and around my place, too, through the previously verboten side yard that now is well established.

Back in the house, I collected my library book to return, my car keys and my curiosity, and went to the office, via the mail box (all junk). Theresa, the big boss, came out, and I said “Hey, what’s going on?” It seems that “corporate”, which is one above her boss, Bob, the regional vice president who was nailed for drains recently, will be here “sometime in September,” and she’s starting early.

I asked where my weeds needed whipped. “Behind your shed,” she responded, sharply.   Inquiring minds do wonder who climbed down the very steep hill behind the shed to observe the weeds, but did not become an inquiring mouth. “Three citations and you’re out,” came even more sharply. “Out of my hands.”

When Laura came in from school, I inquired, and she confessed she has been very lax of late, especially with Kathy, the neighbor. Laura’s being sucked down the damn social media rat hole again. Over the summer she lost phone privileges, and is twelve hours on, twelve off since school started.

Sadly, I realized she has her nose stuck in the computer when she’s phoneless, inhaling that social drama. I could deal with it, if she handled her end of the bargain and took care of the grass. I pointed out to her that we’re both down a blind alley now, with no place to go and keep her in the school district.

Laura is at “hands on the wheel” driver’s ed tonight. It was a pretty, blue kind of day, but that citation sure kicked the karma out of it.

Monday, August 21, 2017

Summer’s almost gone, winter’s coming on

I had a sad look at the pink mandevilla this weekend. I love flower gardens but can neither make nor maintain one. Mandevilla to the rescue, and thank you to Laura, who lifted the pots onto the hooks and continues to lift the watering can.

Early June
The pink mandevilla is fading back. Its leaves are yellow, its blossoms drooping. Sunday Beth admired it as she left and reminisced about a fellow staff member at the plant who brought in his pink and yellow mandevilla every fall, to hang in a window and winter over. It’s a safe bet there are no cats in the plant.

Late August
For two summers I’ve hung the white mandevilla by the house. I remember last year’s plant was stunning, and so is this year’s plant. I believe it was up until we hung the pine greens wreath in November, and watched a nuthatch liberate pine seeds from the pine cones.

The yellow mandevilla is this year’s sleeper. It absconded so quickly with the railing that pig’s nasturtium completely slipped my mind. Next year, pig. Seasons go round; next year will be the same.

Except, next year there will be no eclipse. Our view begins in ten minutes. The sun is bright, the sky the least bit overcast. It’s hot (still summer!), and no one is out. Our partial solar eclipse will be at its maximum at 2:30 and over at four. 

I turned on the TV and found ABC, and probably most of America, is following the eclipse. It just past totality on the west coast.  I do hope the schools are viewing; the event is spectacular. Now I wonder how dark we will become in an hour. 

PostScript: The band practices outdoors, and was allowed out, with the admonishment not to look up. Some had glasses and shared them around. Mostly, according to Laura, they joked about President Trump looking up.

Friday, August 18, 2017


John McCain: “It’s like a game of Whack-a-Mole.” That was a long time ago, when GW was still in charge of the war in Iraq. The metaphor never goes away. This started out to be a not too serious piece, about disappearing statues. I was going to toss in the stock market and Durham, North Carolina, although the last could be more serious than an impromptu dance party. I tabbed over to Google news to check up on Durham, and the headliner is Steve Bannon, shown the door. Talk about Whack-A-Mole.

Back at home, we have our own clear and hold strategy under question. I went to lunch today, a perk of being old and unemployed, and willing to confront the vagaries of the stock market. We went to another branch of the same chain as yesterday, and I was momentarily puzzled by the same menu as yesterday in what was a different city. Strange pictures pass through a traumatic bran injury.

Deb got iced coffee, with milk. When the waiter set it on the table, I was fascinated by the color of white milk descending through black coffee. “Don’t touch that,” I admonished her while I reached for my camera. But she did, and the colors muddied a little. Never mind; it’s still pretty.

Then I learned the eclipse glasses we turned up, after diligent searching, have been recalled. It was in the local newspaper, and already emailed to all Acme card holders. I bought four pair at a buck ninety nine each, so it will behoove me to fish the receipt from the unbalanced receipt glass and go to Acme this weekend.  That’s like another lunch with someone I like.

The eclipse itself has been recalled in part of the Hudson School District. I realized Laura would be in school on a historic day, and suggested she ask if they would be allowed to go look, with approved glasses. Yesterday she reported No, the students would not be permitted to view any part of the eclipse during school hours. However, the middle and elementary grades would be permitted, she reported. Considering we no longer have authentic glasses, I suppose I can wait out the truth of this information with careless confidence.

On the way home I saw the scene below, except with the workman’s boots extended from the back of the van. It was a wonderful scene, and I wanted it captured for my repertoire. Being in federal offense country, I opted to turn around in the Boy Scout property and come back for the picture. When I pulled in, the poor fellow flew out of the truck and dropped his cigarette. “I wish you were still sitting in the back of the van with only your boots sticking out.”

“No, m’am.  I could be in trouble for that.”

This is a helluva mess some misguided voters got us into. Go to the polls in November!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Four way stops and other discrepancies

Do you take those tests on Facebook? I am addicted. “Only 5% can correctly spell these top misspelled words. Can you?” I take the test. I can spell the top misspelled words. Frankly, I’ve always considered the tests fake, because I pass them.

The other day I took a driver’s test. I’m zipping along on those nice, green “Correct Answer” and clicking on “Next Question”, when I got one wrong. I do that occasionally. But how to proceed at a four way stop?  Hello. Everyone knows you keep pulling away in rotation. Everyone who stopped ahead of you goes, then you go, and so on, forever and ever at the four way stop by my house.

Not so. This is the Federal, US of A Law: everyone stops. Everyone leaves, in order. But, if two cars stop simultaneously, the car to the left yields to the car to the right. This is not the law at my four way stop, that controls plant traffic from the west, two high schools from the south, and regular people from the north and east. Everyone always knows who stopped before them, and we just go on, so we can go home. And I got it wrong because two cars might stop at the same time. Impossible. Rational people always work out this stuff.

I must look at the doodads on my phone for the microphone for recording. Today I worked my way into high cotton country to have lunch with Ruth. I was listening to an incredible discussion on PRI on the week’s events. All I had to take notes, while navigating the twists and turns of the Adirondack foothills, was the little scrap of paper with the restaurant’s address.

Perusing the notes this afternoon, I spent far too much time translating “listop” into “dystopian.” I must look into this. I recall Hamilton and Emily read nothing else, though I migrated Emily into decent biographies and autobiographies around her senior year. Laura’s genre is dystopian, and I didn’t make a dent in ninth grade. Maybe this year. Maybe it’s a phase. There’s more world to look forward to as each year of high school is in the rear view mirror.

And, I read our side of the aisle is drafting articles of impeachment over Trump’s lack of morality in handling of Charlottesville. That’s like throwing spaghetti against the wall to see if it sticks. I wish they’d wait for a much more substantial issue. Russia, for instance. It’s not that much longer.

You know I like pictures with posts. I thought I'd ask the wait person to take a picture of Ruth and me, at lunch. But, my parking meter was running dry, and Chagrin Falls has police on scooters who do nothing but monitor meters. Just so no one is confused over who is who, I'm on the left and Ruth on the right in the top picture on my side bar.

Finally, it’s raining, and my rain barrel has a wide open mouth and an empty belly.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I’ll be damned

I’ve never treated my cars lightly, except the Nissan my husband left me, with no further instruction. I drove it, until it quit. My brothers took pity, rebuilt the engine and instructed me firmly in car maintenance. Every since I’ve told every vehicle, “I’ll take care of you and you take care of me.” And so we’ve gone on together, very well, for forty five years.

Last weekend I drove my  Dodge Caliber out to the farm, on my sort of road. Here are Deb’s instructions: take 303 west out of the Village and through Richfield. You’ll go up a big hill and down a couple of camel back hills. My kinda road. I’ve driven it a few times, and, in fact, it’s the road where Jan and I nearly cashed out.

The tree crews were out, decimating trees that might drop a limb and black out the east coast again. The “big hill” was one lane, and we were flagged to a stop at the bottom. The uphill lane was closed by those monster chipper machines. When the lane of traffic cleared downhill, the flagger at the top turned his flag to “stop” for his traffic, and our guy at the bottom signaled “slow.”

I was half way up the “down” lane when a panel truck came out of the lane stopped at the top, swerved around the flagger and started down the hill, hell bent for extinction. I considered my options, decided I could just fit my extended van between two parking pads of the next chipper, and swung in, to the rush of wind from the out of control truck. Our mirrors cleared by inches. When I could, I pulled out and finished going up the hill. I do not know what happened behind me. I only worried my sister would be half way through a classic panic attack.

To my surprise, she was simply unfazed. “I knew you’d save us,” and on we went, to a farm in Medina to buy fleece. She had the panic attack the next day, with covers over her head all day. That van, Sarah, saved me in many ways. All her break downs were convenient, and saving our lives was above and beyond.

Going up that big hill to Deb’s last Sunday, of course my foot was on the accelerator. Cresting that kind of hill at a fair amount of speed is certainly worth the gas. But, my transmission was talking back. It gave a couple of starts when shifting. “Oh Dear,” said the driver, and eased up a tad. The same behavior on the saddleback hills, then I was at the farm and forgot, until I came home to the same reactions from my car.

Today was my first opportunity to get to the garage. Randy, the guy at the desk said, “Hmm. It’s a CVT you know, but we’ll take a look.” I came straight home and looked up “CVT.” One auto magazine summarized my vehicle well:

“In summary, there are a few advantages to getting a vehicle with a CVT: It’s good on gas, gives a relatively smooth ride, and is versatile enough for daily driving. It also has a few drawbacks. It’s nowhere near as fun or engaging as a dual clutch automatic or manual transmission. It can also make quite a racket when accelerating hard. Keep these points in mind when looking at your next car.”

Now I know not to worry. Continuous vehicle transmission. A continuous chain that runs on a whole lot of gears. I asked them to change the oil, and brought it home.

School starts tomorrow.