Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Imagination in action

Molly Kate the pediatrician
Our daughter-in-law is careful to pack a variety of our granddaughter Molly Kate’s favorite toys and books for overnight trips. Molly Kate, now two and a half, also creates her own toys.

On the road to our recent stay in Destin, FL, Molly Kate entertained herself during a Cracker Barrel stop for dinner. While the three adults chatted and dealt with her little brother Walker, Molly Kate latched on to the classic peg game that is standard on all Cracker Barrel tables. 
After awhile I tuned into her quiet monologue.

She had upended an individual-sized butter tub and had laid one of the colorful pegs across it. She was describing and acting out the peg’s visit to the doctor. The peg had come in from the waiting room and was up on the “counter.” In her professional medical role, Molly Kate was taking weight and other measurements. I barely managed to contain my laughter and surreptitiously pull out my camera. Could there be a budding playwright in our future?

She reminded me of the early childhood of my own children, Molly Kate’s daddy Jeremy and her Uncle Walt, our oldest son. Although Jeremy says I would give them sticks and throw them under a bush to play, that is not quite accurate. Both guys had a penchant for turning ordinary objects into elaborate weapons or other tools they deemed necessary for their imaginary adventures.

On one trip to the Smoky Mountains, Jeremy whittled a little on a stick to use as a handle, tied a long string to it and played for days with his “whip.” We returned home and shortly afterward, he entered first grade. One afternoon I noticed he had a portable radio that I hadn’t seen before. The story I pieced together was some days earlier he had traded the homemade whip for it. I called the mom of the new owner of the whip to alert her and arrange for return of the radio.

“Oh no,” she said. “Allen loves that whip. It is his favorite thing to play with now.” 

To this day, Jeremy still has a generous helping of Tom Sawyer in his personality and regularly exercises his ability to engage others in whatever is currently igniting his enthusiasm.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Grandparent behavior

A Walker expression that I love
Our visit with grandchildren and parents in Destin, FL, closed today with a leisurely breakfast at Panera Bread Company. Granddaughter Molly Kate has developed an extreme case of camera aversion, but three-month old Walker suffers from no such malady.

Taking advantage of our last chance, we captured a few Walker photos. I am sure Nana and Baboo made a spectacle of themselves, coaxing smiles from Walker.

This original, uncropped version of the photo at the top of this post includes an example of grandparent behavior, specifically Baboo's,  that is likely to strike anywhere, anytime, even in restaurants.

I traded my camera to hold Walker; and son Jeremy captured the following images of Walker, recording additional special memories of a great trip.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Tunes and travel

Husband Walter’s post yesterday is one of my favorites since he started his travel blog, Outside of Paris. He loves music, and his August 22, 2010, post combines some of his favorite tunes and favorite places.

I have to say, though, that we absolutely must do something about having his pre-digital slides scanned. I love his photos, but only the heart is his on this most recent post, and the borrowed ones don’t measure up to the images he has captured of the places he writes about. 

He has been posting each Sunday for about three months now. He still has some technical kinks that pop up every now and then; but if the site doesn’t come up, I just try again later. With every visit I can enjoy once again some of the memorable places, sights, people and adventures that we have experienced together.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Missing those grandkids

Photo of three-month-old Walker borrowed from The Daily Skup
Husband Walter and I need regular doses of grandkids. Daughter-in-law Katie’s blog, The Daily Skup, keeps us in touch with the latest on Molly Kate and Walker.

Molly Kate and her much-loved Jesse doll compliments of The Daily Skup
I wondered, when Walker was born, if the new mom of two could continue her regular posting on her blog. She has. She brings the same thoroughness to chronicling both youngsters' days in words and photos as she brought to documenting MK’s pre-Walker adventures.

Likewise Sarah, our oldest son’s wife and mother of their four ages eight through two, keeps us posted with periodic packages of photos that we savor. These young women are fantastic! Nothing matches the up-close-and-personal grandkid dosage, though. That treatment is in the near future with MK, Walker and their parents when we tag along on a family outing to Destin, FL.

I am wondering if we will last until October, however, without a quick trip for a dose of the other four grands. We will miss grandson Nate’s turning six this week, but none of our six are ever very far from our thoughts and prayers. And there is no distance in prayer!
Soon-to-be birthday boy Nate, left, and brother Luke blow shampoo and bodywash bubbles, a bathtub tradition initiated by Luke.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

A tour via technology

A visit last week with my 91-year-old mother in Hattiesburg also included a tour of a new dormitory room in Virginia. I had my computer on, showing her photos of her great-grandchildren when that Skype thing popped up. Becky, my 17-year-old niece and Mother’s granddaughter, answered our call. She was in her new dorm room, moving in and getting ready for freshman orientation for her first year of college away from home. With her were her dad, who is also my brother, her mom and Becky's younger brother.

We had a wonderful visit, talking face to face. Then they answered my request for a virtual tour. They aimed the laptop around the room, and Becky would provide detailed commentary, with supplementary comments by everybody else. With her family's help, she had managed to pack what she needed in the small space and still have breathing room. What a treat to share, via Internet, a first in Becky’s life even though we were not right there physically. I am thankful for the technology—and the talented people who developed it and keep it operational, that made our participation possible.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Procrastination on the home front

Sometimes procrastination has its place. Paperwork, for example, will eventually compost into its own little ecosystem. Of course, it is unsightly while it composts. Not a biggy for a procrastinator.

Another procrastinating plus is money saved. Procrastinate long enough and you could decide you don’t really need that item or service anyway.

The time comes, though, when even the most dedicated procrastinator has to take action on some things. Husband Walter tore out the ancient and disreputable carpet in our living room and hall more than 14 months ago. It needed to go long before we removed it. It was almost 20 years old. Procrastination again. We—and intermittent guests--have lived with bare and old, old, old concrete during those months.

Even so, it has been easy to procrastinate. Neither of us is exceptionally handy. We both would rather be doing any number of other things. So we have kept busy doing any number of other things. Hubby, I have to say, is not as dedicated a procrastinator as I am. He has completed a couple other fairly major handy-man projects during that time. But lately procrastination is not working so well, even for me.

So finally we are at work putting our living room back into a more comfortable state--maybe coastal Washington or some other state with cooler temperatures. Just kidding! Hopefully by Tuesday we will at least have the floor finished. One step at a time; one baby step that is!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Visit from a hawk

Red-tailed hawk photo compliments of Nature Photography by Bob Moul
Yesterday afternoon I went out our back door onto our screened porch. On top of our camper about 20 feet away perched a hawk. I stood motionless, hoping not to startle the avian visitor. It looked about 2 feet tall from head to the tip of its tail and sported white feathers on its legs that looked like fluffy pajamas.

I tapped lightly on a window to alert husband Walter. Before Walter could round up his camera, the raptor launched off the camper. For a heart-stopping moment--my heart, not the bird’s--it flew straight toward me then veered upward and over our roof. That wingspan looked huge close up. According to my field guide the red-tailed hawk wingspan is around 48 inches. 

My bird book and several Web sites I visited described the species as well known and common. But it is not common in my backyard. It was a memorable moment in our backyard birding. The gorgeous image captured by Bob Moul is the best I found of the white feathers that were so striking on “our” hawk’s legs.

I will be visiting Bob’s site, Nature Photography by Bob Moul, more often. His galleries include a wide spectrum of dazzling photos of things wild and wonderful. I especially appreciate that he includes common name, scientific name, where the photo was taken and, usually, habitat information. Thanks, Bob, for the use of your photo!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

August vegetable garden

Mild cherry pepper
Not much going on in my garden right now except okra and a few cherry peppers and straggly zinnias.

Yesterday morning I ran out after a heavy rain to pick okra. There were two box turtles soaking in the after-rain lake around the okra. The water made their dark-brown and caramel-colored markings glisten. I ran inside to get my camera, but those critters are faster than I expected. They had scooted and hidden away somewhere.

That is one reason I like taking photos of flowers and other plants. They rarely run away. Another reason is the visual—and functional--variety in the center of blossoms. The range from simple to complex and beautiful to weird fascinates me. These zinnia centers are rather gooey looking. Guess that is great for pollination.

Center of giant zinnia

Center of smaller zinnia variety

Oh, and I also had to relearn the requirements of taking a camera out of air-conditioning into the August steam bath that is our out-of-doors environment. There is that waiting period for the condensation on a cool lens to go away.

Friday, August 6, 2010

When I can’t get to the Smokies

Meigs Falls on Little River Road is one of two in the Park that can be viewed from a vehicle.
The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of my favorite places to visit. But it wasn’t until a November 2008 trip that an enthusiastic volunteer introduced us to the nonprofit Great Smoky Mountains Association and the Smokies Life magazine.

Published twice a year, Smokies Life is one of several membership benefits. I love it. Its colorful and well-designed. Great articles and beautiful photos feed my interest in the area’s plants, animals and people--past and present.

When I can’t get to the Smokies, I can enjoy a hike through the pages of Smokies Life.

Related sites

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Premarital sex and chain letters?

A blogger friend and fellow grandmother recently included my blog as one of four she selected to recognize on her blog. Thank you Kathy! Kathy, also known as MiMi to her grandchildren, blogs at MiMi’s Mini Tales.

There are a few rules to the award:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you the award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award to at least 4 fellow bloggers who inspire you.
4. Let them know about the award.

I enjoy Mimi’s accounts of her grandchildren’s antics and development, and I appreciate so much her recognition. But I am someone who usually breaks the chain in any pass-along Internet activities, whether via blog, email or social networking site. So instead of passing along the honor, here is my excuse:

It’s my parents’ fault.

Yes, parents can ingrain certain principles firmly in your brain cells by frequent repetition and the reinforcement of living proof. “Living proof” could also be considered gossip, and it always really grabbed my attention. As a child I relished living proof, whether I was supposed to hear it or not, and living proof evidently held my interest long enough for those short life-lessons to take root.

You know the ones. Every mother has an inexhaustible store. One I especially love is from a favorite movie, Christmas Story. The recurring words were in response to the protagonist’s desire for a BB gun, with Santa issuing the killing blow to his Christmas-present hopes: “Kid, you’ll shoot your eye out!”

Some of these pithy principles you follow; some you don’t; some incite rebellion; but the words remain embedded, ready to bubble up without warning. The three that were stamped indelibly at the top of the list in my growing up years:

No alcohol or tobacco;
No premarital sex; and
No chain letters.

Yes, that is correct. Chain letters were right up there in my mind with premarital sex. My dad was a letter carrier, and little Linda took his admonitions to heart. As an adult I just can’t bring myself to do the chain thing and disappoint my daddy. Well, that and the fact that I am inherently lazy!

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Happy Birthday, Daddy!

My father and mother pose with my brother, capped and gowned for his May 1978 high school graduation.
I don’t remember that we ever celebrated my father’s birthday with much fanfare when he was alive. But on this anniversary of his birth, here are some random memories about him:

- You never had to wonder where he stood. He was not afraid to take a stand contrary to the crowd; but his style was more often love and humor than confrontation.

- He was generous in showing affection. He never missed an opportunity to give my mother a hug and a kiss, whether anyone was watching or not. He was a hugger with my brother and me, too. Only as an adult did I recognize how important that was to the way I grew up. What a gift to grow up secure in the knowledge that my parents loved each other and loved my brother and me.

- He worked fulltime with the postal service while also managing and maintaining his own rental houses and those of a relative, fulfilling the weekly and summertime obligations of the Army Reserve, and working in our church and the Gideons. He worked just as enthusiastically at “leisure” activities: Keeping the yards of the homes where we lived ever changing and interesting; fishing and maintaining a houseboat then later a camp; scouring yard sales for interesting finds; reading; collecting stamps, coins, books and friends; and investing in the stock market.

- He and my mother made laughter a staple of our daily life. 

- He valued education, passing along his high standards to his children by example. He encouraged my mother to finish her bachelor’s degree. She became an elementary teacher and later earned her master’s in education. He earned his own bachelor’s degree at the University of Southern Mississippi while he fed his passion for history with intermittent university courses.

- He fought in the Philippines in World War II. He occasionally talked about comrades and friends he had made in the Philippines but rarely about his combat experiences. Television episodes involving combat sometimes brought on nightmares.

- He died more than two decades ago, but his influence lives on.