Category Archives: Family

Checking Things Out

We are in Savannah now. The weather is sunny and in the 70′ and 80’s. I am stuck in meetings all day, so husband spent our first day exploring the historic area of Savannah by himself. He took a trolley ride that took him all over the city with a tour guide who explained the sights and scenes. Then he explored a little on his own. I like guided tours. I know some people like to explore on their own. There is sure a lot to see here.

How do you like to get to know a place?  Any memorable guides who you have encountered 

Weird Foods

Today’s post comes from Chris in ND.

While hanging out in Philadelphia during the bicentennial summer, I was introduced to scrapple.  Scrapple is not a culinary specialty of the Northern Great Plains.  Most people around here have never seen or heard of it.

On the reservation where I work three days a week, my cooking options are limited.  I often spend my evenings wandering one of the grocery stores, trying to figure out what to eat the  next day. One night last week, I settled on some Jimmy Dean hot sausage and a bag of shredded extra sharp Wisconsin cheddar cheese.  The next morning, I added the cheese to a pot of cooked grits, then mixed it up with the browned sausage.  The result was surprisingly good.  I named it ad hoc scrapple.  I brought some home and will eat the rest it myself.  Renee said that’s ok with her. I also sometimes have biscuit fits, but that is another post.

What weird foods are cooked and consumed in your family?

Sew Buttons on Your Underwear

Forty years ago I gave myself a quest: to photograph MY North Shore, the stretch from Flood Bay to Silver Cliff, or as locals called it then, Silver Creek Cliff. Because I had use of a darkroom, it was at first all done in black and white, or perhaps with some sepia toning, or duotone effect, or Sabattier effect. Flood Bay back then was not the mass of concrete and curbs and cables it is now. It was then as it is now one of the very few official state wayside rests. Despite that, back then it was just a gravel patch with some posts to keep people from driving into the lake, which every so often people still managed to do. Locals routinely hauled away lake stone and gravel for their use, which left no dent on the amount on the shore. Also, then there was no monstrous resort along the shore. And Silver Cliff was a road, not a tunnel. The pictures I framed in simple shadow boxes without glass. I hung them on our knotty pine living room wall. (More about that later.)

The winnowing process of history to our benefit has eliminated most of the pictures. A few exist in my computer, taken from the negatives. My goal was to push pictures to expressionism. Often with high or low contrast.

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One picture that I took in the remnants of a lumber mill a quarter mile from Betty’s Pies was our Christmas card picture.

Sometimes good fortune favored me, when it disfavored elsewhere with a massive storm.

A few I have drawn in graphite or pastel, often doing some adjustment of reality.

One sad picture remains, even though I did not frame it. How did history not winnow this poor picture out? It must be a sign, must it not. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.)

When this picture first appeared in the developing fluid, my first thought was it not worth making anything of it. My second thought was that here indeed was a sign. It must be from God giving me my life’s quest. (Nudge, nudge, wink, wink.) It could not be just random change. I was, in fact, until recently quite good with needle and thread, which my mother taught me at an early age, despite long sideways glances from my father.

I am sad to report that I never did discover how to fulfill the quest. Sigh. And now my chance is lost. Sigh. But I did fulfill one smaller quest and quite by accident. An undisciplined boy a year older than my son lived down the road from us. He was often in our house as small boy but not later. His teens were much troubled, as were his twenties. Now he is a brilliant photographer. I mean that. Does amazing work in the camera and in his computer. Travels the worlds. Makes a good living. Has a happy life. Most of his work is of the North Shore. He is friends with both of my children on facebook, where he told them that his inspiration came from looking at those photographs on our wall. To think such beauty came from such a shriveled seed!

Did you find a life’s quest? How has it gone?

Positive Lifestyle Changes

The month of March was pretty difficult for our daughter.  Early in the month she rear ended a large pickup with her Subaru Forester.  She was only driving about 30 mph at the time when the pickup in front of her stopped suddenly. She was cited for following too close.  The pickup sustained no damage. There was only $3000 damage to the front end of her car, but, since all eight of the air bags deployed, the insurance company wrote her car off.  It would cost $16,000 to repair them.  This, then, entailed her getting a rental vehicle, waiting for the damage estimate and the insurance cheque to get deposited in her account, and the purchase of a new vehicle.  There were tons of phone calls to me, with her in anxious agony when adjusters didn’t get back to her when they said they would or when the  cheque wasn’t deposited when it was promised.  (The local car dealership  was having a great sale on new Subarus, and she wanted to get in on the deal. They told her to just write them a cheque and they wouldn’t cash it until the insurance payment arrived.  Since the insurance payment was late, there was angst and heartburn that the cheque to the car dealership was going to bounce.)  This is the second car she has totaled in three years. Thank goodness the insurance company isn’t going to cancel her policy.  She lives in an area noted for horrible traffic and lots of accidents, and she isn’t even considered high risk.

March’s next blow was a doozy.  Daughter lives in a one bedroom apartment with her cat, a cat that never goes outside.  Last week daughter noted that her cat was particularly droopy and was avoiding eating and was hesitant to walk on the carpeted floor.  A closer look revealed that the cat and the carpets were infested with fleas. There were even fleas in her rental car.  Daughter surmises she brought fleas home with her from work.  She does intensive family therapy in people’s homes, and probably picked the fleas up in one of the homes. The same thing happened to her supervisor last year.  Daughter had no previous experience with fleas, so this meant multiple, distressed phone calls to me, trips to the vet, constant laundry and vacuuming, and setting off flea bombs in the apartment.  We are now flea free.

Daughter said that March’s events have prompted her to make positive lifestyle changes. She wants to slow down,  simplify her spaces, and get rid of unnecessary things and be more orderly. She said that when she cleaned her Forester out preparatory to  the insurance adjusters looking at it, she was appalled at all the junk she had there. “Mom! It looked like the Box Car Children were living in my vehicle!”  She stripped down to socks and underwear outside her front door after work the other night and put her clothes directly in the washing machine. I told her she could probably strip in the bath tub for the same results and less alarm for the neighbors.

It does no good to scold someone  when they are distressed, so my internal, unspoken monologue to Daughter during March has been a very constant and rapid “YOU NEED TO START  TAKING YOUR G** D***** ADHD MEDICATION AGAIN!!!  YOU ALWAYS DRIVE TOO FAST! SLOW DOWN! PAY ATTENTION!!  THERE IS NOTHING I CAN SAY THAT IS GOING TO MAKE YOU FEEL BETTER RIGHT NOW.  DEAL WITH IT!!  HERE, TALK TO YOUR FATHER!!

It is no surprise my dentist told me yesterday that it looks like I have been grinding my teeth in the daytime. This is a recent development since my last checkup six months ago.  I imagine it really increased in March. I paid attention today and noticed just how much teeth grinding I am doing. I hope that as long as Daughter sticks with her positive lifestyle changes, I can make my positive lifestyle changes and save my tooth enamel.

What has prompted, or could prompt, you to make positive lifestyle changes?

What’s in a Name

Today’s post comes from Steve Grooms.

Most people cheerfully accept the name their parents gave them. But not all. Some folks have strong emotions their given names . . . strongly positive or strongly negative emotions.

A Jewish friend had a teenaged daughter named Sarah. For some reason that chose not to share, Sarah came to despise her name. My guess was that she decided it was too Jewish and old fashioned. Sarah began identifying as “Daisy.” That put her in conflict with her teachers, for they knew her given name and felt compelled to use it. After months of moods and conflicts, Sarah proved she would only respond teachers called her Daisy. The teachers caved in.

Names can be difficult in several ways. My mother’s name—Charmion—was a problem all her life. The name sounded vaguely French and was a challenge to spell or pronounce. People assumed it should be pronounced with a hard “ch” sound, like the word “charm.” But my mother grew up thinking the only correct pronunciation began with a “sh” sound like the word “shard.” Later in her life my mother began spelling her name Sharm, hoping that would be less confusing. Then, in her seventies, she went back to the original spelling. She was Charmion, dammit, and if other people couldn’t deal with that it was not her problem.

I have had issues with my name, which is Stephen. While I always knew that was my name, nobody called me that. As a kid, I was “Stevie” until the day I demanded that my parents and friends call me Steve. I have been Steve almost all my life, although some people—like bankers, lawyers and doctors—insisted on calling me Stephen, for that is my name on official papers.

After I moved to Michigan about a year ago, I acquired a new team of doctors and nurses who call me Stephen. Sometimes I ask them to call me Steve, but they don’t always comply. It really shouldn’t matter if the phlebotomist about to draw my blood calls me by my formal name. And yet it does matter. When people call me Stephen a little voice in my head notes, “You don’t know me, do you?”

When I became a writer I had to choose the name I would use on published work. A writer friend who lived in Boston was Steve to friends and yet the author name on his books was Stephen. I’ve always been amused and slightly put off by that decision. And actually, he is a somewhat vain fellow who tries hard to impress others. But then, many writers present themselves in print as being more accomplished than they actually are.

I decided to publish under the name of Steve Grooms. It was an easy decision. I am a thoroughly Midwestern guy, and the core of being Midwestern is humility. My mother raised me to be modest, optimistic and unpretentious. The persona I used in print was that of a guy who was often amused by his own incompetence. For me, this Steve/Stephen thing is not trivial. I have feelings about it. In my heart, I am Steve, not Stephen.

I haven’t mentioned my middle name, and that was another easy choice. I hate my middle name. It was “given” to me by my father in a foolish attempt to flatter his father. But his father (my grandfather) was a bigot and misogynist who was disliked by most people in his family. I never mention my middle name.

Do you have any issues or thoughts about your name?

Little Rebellions

My Uncle Wink (his real name is Arthur but he’s an Arthur Junior, so he’s always been known as Wink) is a dentist. As you can imagine, this means that dental health and hygiene was a huge deal in my house when I was growing up.  Brushing, flossing, two check-ups a year – the whole shebang.

And Crest toothpaste was the ONLY toothpaste allowed, decreed by Uncle Wink. And when I was younger, there weren’t any variations… no special flavors, no gels, no nothing.  This wasn’t too big a deal until I was in high school and different kind of toothpaste began to show up on grocery store shelves and the ads for fancy formulas that made your teeth shine and sparkle began to proliferate on tv and in magazines. But it didn’t matter to my Uncle Wink (and therefore to my mother).  Crest was the only sanctified toothpaste for us.

So when I moved into my first apartment in Northfield, one of the first things I bought for myself was a tube of Aquafresh. It came out of the tube in three stripes of white, red and aqua – an unheard of thing back then.  Every night when I brushed my teeth, I felt a little thrill of rebellion run down my spine!

 

These days I buy toothpaste by price or coupon, but if there isn’t much difference between pricing the day I’m standing in the toothpaste aisle, I always reach for Aquafresh. And I still feel that little thrill each night!

When have you rebelled?

Mystery Visitor

I had some annual medical checkups recently, and I am happy to report I will be around for at least another year.  I signed up for my medical provider’s on-line medical records portal so that I could read my medical chart. I enjoy reading the nitty gritty of my lab reports and such, but I was shocked when I read a radiology report from a recent mammogram. There was a mystery woman described in the report .

“Patient is a 60 year old white female” the report starts.

Wait a minute, I thought.  Where did this 60 year old woman come from? How did she get into my radiology report? Get her out of here!  There’s no one that age around here. I’m not that old!  Well,  I was born in 1958, and I did have a birthday in February. . .But how can I be a 60 year old woman?

I don’t feel “old”. I feel like me, a little stiffer and quite a bit grayer than I used to be, but not old. I know that most of the Baboons are older than I am, but I don’t think of them as “old” either.

Maybe it is a family trait. One of my great aunts resisted  going to the nursing home when she was 95 because she “didn’t want to live with a bunch of deadbeats”.  My father was always proud of his volunteer work with RSVP.  He drove “the elderly” to their medical  appointments when they were unable to drive, and most were younger than he was.  Maybe it is all in how you see yourself?

What about aging has surprised you? What makes a person “old”?