reading and waffles

One of my grandson’s favorite foods is waffles. He used to like them frozen out of a box – that started when he was teething and frozen waffles seemed to soothe his gums. He’s graduated to the real deal now.  He’s a very picky eater, believing not in the pyramid of food groups but in a tiny mound of individual food items. Waffles for breakfast. Only.

He’s five,  in kindergarten, and learning to read amazingly well. So it shouldn’t have been a surprise that as he was riding home with his mom and dad last week he realized that nirvana was only  a few blocks away from home. A big shout from the back seat: “Mama, there’s a place called Waffle House!”

Of course they stopped and ate.


I’m canceling my Sunday New York Times subscription for a couple of reasons, but I’ll miss that once-in-while discovery of  a wonder that sneaks onto their pages.  Here’s the link to the back page of the Times where this wonderful poem was published.

Thank you poet ‘”LOUISE GLÜCK, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and author, most recently, of “A Village Life”‘ which I’m going to buy, in real paper book form, so please don’t be upset I am putting your poem on my blog.


First divesting ourselves of worldly goods, as St. Francis teaches,
in order that our souls not be distracted
by gain and loss, and in order also
that our bodies be free to move
easily at the mountain passes, we had then to discuss
whither or where we might travel, with the second question being
should we have a purpose, against which
many of us argued fiercely that such purpose
corresponded to worldly goods, meaning a limitation or constriction,
whereas others said it was by this word we were consecrated
pilgrims rather than wanderers: in our minds, the word translated as
a dream, a something-sought, so that by concentrating we might see it
glimmering among the stones, and not
pass blindly by; each
further issue we debated equally fully, the arguments going back and forth,
so that we grew, some said, less flexible and more resigned,
like soldiers in a useless war. And snow fell upon us, and wind blew,
which in time abated — where the snow had been, many flowers appeared,
and where the stars had shone, the sun rose over the tree line
so that we had shadows again; many times this happened.
Also rain, also flooding sometimes, also avalanches, in which
some of us were lost, and periodically we would seem
to have achieved an agreement; our canteens
hoisted upon our shoulders, but always that moment passed, so
(after many years) we were still at that first stage, still
preparing to begin a journey, but we were changed nevertheless;
we could see this in one another; we had changed although
we never moved, and one said, ah, behold how we have aged, traveling
from day to night only, neither forward nor sideward, and this seemed
in a strange way miraculous. And those who believed we should have a purpose
believed this was the purpose, and those who felt we must remain free
in order to encounter truth, felt it had been revealed.

Decide: Who loses a job?

Our financial situation is not very healthy here at the little newspaper. We all know it. We’re looking over the edge of the canyon of financial doom, wondering if a bridge will appear or if we’ll get pushed in.

Several of us have worked here for more than 20 years. Others have been here long enough to become part of this caring circle of coworkers. We’ve shared family deaths, serious illness, weddings, births and hundreds of birthday cakes together. I care about these people, and consider them my extended family. They were all there, waiting to give me hugs, at my father’s funeral.

So is it wrong to make a big personal decision in part because it might help one of them?

There’s a chance I can take early retirement next fall. It’s a financial risk. But if I can return to work part time as a retiree (a cheaper employee) I think I can make it.  And that leaves dollars which would have paid me available to pay someone else. A person who can’t retire yet, who would lose health insurance and desperately needs it.

I had a long talk with my boss about it. He says he has to look at it purely from an operational standpoint. Okay, but we’re not General Electric. We’re a small group of employees and he knows each of us pretty well. He knows who will suffer most. There’s no pureness about his decision.

Yes, it won’t be great for him without me here full time.  But he said if my decision to retire is purely personal, then he’ll figure out how to make it work. If my decision is based at all on our budget, or on another employee’s needs, then he is totally against it.

There’s no pureness in my decision either. I want to retire, and return to work part time. I need to be able to help out my elderly mother more than I can now.  But I also want to save a job for someone who needs it and doesn’t have the same option I have. And – no sainthood here – I don’t want to take on more work because others have left. But would I do early retirement if it didn’t save a job? I don’t know.

Yet I can’t tell him that protecting others is a part of my decision because he’s against that reasoning.

I don’t feel any doubt that my decision is morally right for me, and it’s topped by the personal reward of more free time.

A decision based only on what’s “good” operationally without regard for the people who actually do the work cannot be right. Right?

on my birthday, family and sinking newspapers

Woke up at 4:45 this morning and thought about the past year. Was I a good daughter, mother, grandmother, sister, aunt, friend? I do think I get a gold star as grandma, the easiest and best role!  And I really did consciously try to think about others first. Good grief, at my age I still have to work on that.

As for my job, who knows what will happen over the next year. As we slowly sink into obsolescence we’re all thinking of options. I’ve been here for 25 years and can’t crank up enthusiasm for doing anything else. Where does a third generation (non-reporter) newspaper person go?

Job interviews? Ugh.  But how to keep a roof over our heads on my retirement check for several years until Social Security kicks in?

Just take one day at a time. Do what I can to keep us going.  Be grateful for my wonderful family and decent health.

Enjoy the ink on my fingers while I can.

Why I love community gardening and Ace Hardware

August was bad for me and my garden. It was miserably hot and humid. Early in the month I lost my corn crop to corn borers, pulled up gasping tomato plants, and left the beans and peppers to struggle on alone.

I abandoned them throughout all of September until the Friday morning before our monthly community garden meeting. I wanted to start fresh for the fall crop plus not look like the totally neglectful gardener I was. I harvested a mini-mountain of peppers, a meal’s worth of beans, then yanked out the plants. I pulled out the old irrigation tape because it was dried to the cracking point and nibbled on by settlers of the new mouse village.

Saturday morning, during a quick walk-through with a community gardening expert, I learned that (1) tilling the soil (2) dumping in bags of steer manure and (3) tilling the soil again would be the best next steps.

I pondered schlepping seven heavy bags of manure from store to car to garden in 100-degree heat, then hand-digging them in. Then pondered how I could get the soil ready in time to plant without me keeling over.

First lesson: Community gardening is a great thing. The mom, dad and two kids with the plot next to me were also pulling out their plants and preparing to till. Except at least one of them knew how to run the gas tiller available to all of us. I must have looked rather pathetic sweatily poking at my plot because the woman politely suggested that her husband could till my plot after he did theirs. Yes!

The tiller wouldn’t start so the husband said he’d go to Ace Hardware to buy a spark plug. Again, wife to the rescue. “Why don’t you go with him and buy your steer manure so we can till that in too?”

I kinda wanted to throw in the trowel and go take a shower. But I’m a trooper, albeit an old and out of shape trooper, so even though I was exhausted and melting I said YES!

On to Ace with neighbor-husband and tiller. While he spent time with a clerk figuring out which spark plug to buy, then putting it in the tiller to test, I asked the cashier for seven bags of steer manure so I could start lugging it out to the van.

Second lesson: Always go to Ace, not one of those giant box stores. A very pleasant clerk went and got the bags, wheeled them to the van, and loaded them for me.

Then the entire plot neighbor family helped carry them to my garden and till them in.

For someone who isn’t used to asking for help, getting so much of it in one morning was wonderful. There’s definitely more to this gardening thing than just vegetables.

out with the table, in with the pizza and a good son

It’s Brush and Bulky pickup week!  My week when the city  sends its big trash trucks around the neighborhood to  pick up  stuff you can’t fit into your regular trash container. Broken furniture, tree branches, palm fronds, kiddie toys cracked and faded by the desert sun. No chemicals or paint.

This is turning into a cultural event. Most junk never makes it into the trash truck but gets picked up by neighbors or by strangers who drive the streets  looking for salvageable items to keep or sell.

In past Brush-and-Bulkys nearly everything I put out vanished almost as soon as I left the front yard. I expected the same this time, and it did. Almost.

I just about killed myself hauling out a 4′ x 3′ coffee table made of whatever they call that manufactured weighs-a-ton fake wood.  It was stained black, still solid and unwiggly, with only a few scratches. No one I know wanted it because it’s too big and heavy, and I had no way to take it to Goodwill and never know if Salvation Army will refuse to load it when they see a few scratches. Bulky pickup furniture rarely ends up in the landfill because hope springs eternal in curb pickers with repair skills.

I got it to the curb by pulling it through my house on a blanket, then onto a thick plastic tarp. Saturday was 102 degrees, a bit humid, and I had to take dragging breaks every ten feet. By the time I stood the table on end at the curb, I wanted it out of my life forever. I figured that would happen within an hour.

Five hours later the only non-brush items left on my block were a stained broken turquoise upholstered rocker and my coffee table. I was insulted.

Eight hours later the turquoise rocker was gone. I was depressed.

And exhausted from a day of heavy cleaning, so I ordered pizza.

Forty minutes later the pound on the door and a young delivery guy. I gave him cash, took the pizza, and he asked, “What’s up with that coffee table?” I told him it was bulky pickup week and no one wanted the table. “Wow, my mother needs a coffee table and I could fix it up. Can I have it?”

He was even driving a truck.

I hope his mom likes it.

is buying a Kindle a betrayal?

I never considered buying a Kindle. Until, well, last week for about five minutes before I bought one.

It could be that I pre-ordered one of the new (cheapest) Kindles because since my house was burgled I’ve been suffering unreasonable urges to buy more stuff.

But I hope I ordered it because of the reason I’m telling people: That it’s uncomfortable for me, now that I’m older, sigh, to hold for long periods of time 500-plus page books. There are quite a few hefty books I’d like to read but won’t buy because I know after a couple evenings I’ll get cramps in my hands or get tired of shifting from side to side, up and down, at each new chapter.

Not to mention the fact, and oh, how I wish I didn’t have this fact to mention,  it’s getting harder for me to read at night. The perfect reading lamp isn’t keeping up with my imperfect eyes.

I am a book person. A book-of-cloth-paper-ink-binding-endpapers-design-bookplate-name-scrawled-in-covers-notes-in-the-margin-booky-smell-loving person. I even grew the herb costmary because I read the leaves long ago were used as bookmarks, with a light lovely fragrance that possibly repelled silverfish and other page eaters. And I used the leaves as bookmarks.


I scoffed at e-readers, agreed with the danger of corporations digitizing books and readers giving up on paper books. I can sit on my library floor and feel incredibly rich because I have a room filled with books. A little room, with books worth little in dollars but immeasurable amounts of contentment and stimulation. A room that says “look around, this is who I am.”

How could I get that from a piece of black-ish plastic? What if I downloaded a book that was so good that I wanted to share it with someone? What about the books not in Kindle format? Would I self-censor because of it?

And how would this –this battery-run, non-book  thing — add to the meaningfulness of my library? How could it enrich me?

Since all Kindles are back-ordered, I have time to wonder. I don’t know how much time. One day I’ll get an email saying my Kindle has been shipped, and it will be too late to stop it. I’ll keep it because I’m curious and a bit of a gadget girl. And because I’ll convince myself I will use it only to read those meaty books. But it’s a betrayal, isn’t it? Of whom or what, I need to decide.

and does it matter where you’re buried?

I occasionally google myself to see if anything bizarre shows up on the list. I’ve gone from three pages to nine, with a lot of repetitions but only a few links totally unrelated. At least the one linking to my race time in a half-marathon is gone. Years ago I walked in a fundraiser, the only time I’ve ever walked that far without stopping. I’d be embarrassed if anyone from my past googled me and thought I could actually finish any part of a marathon.

One surprise today was a link to a PDF of part of my family’s genealogy. I know the basics, but having this document pop up in relation to my name was new.

My grandmother came from two branches of early white arrivals to what became Massachusetts. I want to try to trace her ancestry through the mothers since the odds of no woman in nearly 300 years getting pregnant by a man other than her husband, voluntarily or involuntarily, seem pretty slim.

But for now, I’ll assume that generations of Groziers and Hopkins brought my mother into the world, and then me. Our first Grozier ancestor on this continent, William, died September 28th, 1734 and was buried at Christ Church in Boston. Christ Church is the Old North Church, built in 1723 with the steeple used to broadcast “one if by land, two if by sea.” Stephen Hopkins, a Stranger, landed with the Pilgrims in 1620 and died in Plymouth in 1644. He’s always been a favorite of mine, because, if the story is true, he got into hot water with the Pilgrims for brewing beer on the Sabbath.

The genealogy notes where many of the men are buried, but often the resting place of the women is marked “unknown.”

It seems most of my ancestors before 1920 were buried in Plymouth, Boston or in the Old North Truro cemetery.

On the grave listing of the Truro cemetery I see many ancestral names. Which makes me sad because I don’t know exactly where my grandmother is buried. Somewhere in Connecticut. I haven’t been to Connecticut since I was 13.

But a casual internet search, lasting a few seconds, puts pins on the map of our family’s lives and deaths. Why do the long dead feel more real than the grandmother who made us fudge and had brown eyes?

who knows which child gets left behind?

I went to the first open house of the year at my grandson’s elementary school last night. We all gathered in the courtyard in the center of the school to hear a brief talk from the principle. It was a warm humid evening, but the kids were running around having fun behind us and the PTA had set up water jugs and chocolate chip cookies, so it was a relaxed and celebratory atmosphere.

Lots of parents came, and lots volunteer to do stuff for the school. This is a magnet school which uses a lottery system to admit kids outside the neighborhood boundaries, and it’s highly desired. I didn’t see too many other grandparents, and I’m grateful that my daughter in law is engaging me in my grandson’s educational life. As with most other grandparental experiences, I get to enjoy my grandson’s enthusiasm for school without worrying too much about occasional problems or challenges. He loves his school, and that’s what I can focus on.

The principal started by giving us a report on the school’s status with the “No Child Left Behind” act. When she said the school failed on reading, I was shocked. But she went on to explain that the NCLB reading tests are given in 3rd grade. And until this current year, the school didn’t even offer third grade, was only a K through 2nd grade school.

What happens is the kids leave after second grade and feed into their neighborhood, charter or other magnet schools. And if one of those schools fail in reading, any school that feeds kids into it also fails.

I’m not sure how this really identifies where the problems are. I strongly doubt many of kids who left my grandson’s school would fail at reading. But now his school must offer “intervention” classes to address the failure. If that helps even one child read better, that’s great. It just seems a wacky system, and maybe diverts funding from schools that really need more.

I also learned that the arts and P.E. programs exist at our school because of donations. It’s sad, no, it’s neglectful, that so many kids around the country don’t get to discover their talent or love for art, music, dance, or athletics in elementary school. We visited the art teacher last night. She had given her first class this week. She asked the kids what “art” is, and wrote their responses on big white paper.

“Art is music on paper.” “Art is like my heart.”