The Granny with the Magic House


IMG_0632It’s unsettlingly easy to make me feel guilty and inadequate. But all these blog posts and articles and encouragements to clear out your clutter before your kids have to—not making a dent on my conscience or behavior.

First, do you know how many years I cleaned up my kids’ clutter? Come to think of it, some of their stuff is still sitting at my house, mingled with my stuff, probably spontaneously generating more stuff.

Second, when I am gone (and I’ll be honest. I’d like to postpone that day till I am ancient and doddering and my kids are saying “We love Mom so much, but she’s ready to go to a better place). Where was I? Oh yes. When I’m gone, I like to think my boys will be going through my stuff and finding treasures. Treasures to remind them of their childhood. Mementos of how greatly they were loved. They’ll see all the saved drawings and “I love yuo mom” [sic] cards and little gifts made of pipe cleaners and cardboard. I want them to understand that to me, each was an expression of boundless love via small hands.

I hope they find mysterious items they can only speculate about. Is it old? Part of our heritage? Something precious? Isn’t this like a treasure hunt?

(I wish there was a stash somewhere of my grandparent’s stuff—especially the little bits of living belonging to the three of them I never knew. To see what they loved, what they thought was important. To see a bit of the history that is a part of me. What delight I’d find in that!)

Finally, I want to be the granny with the magic house. The house with unexpected delights in closets and corners and on bookshelves and the basement. I want there to be things they don’t have to worry about handling with care because Granny saved these things for just such a time as this. And there should be the fragile, lovely stuff to marvel at and cherish, to only touch with a grandparent nearby. There should be stuff with stories, stories that link them with people they’ve never meant and places that no longer exist.

I want them to be able to touch their heritage. I want them to see paraphernalia that connects them to past generations, read books their great-grandparents read, admire jewelry that was admired a century ago. I never want them to run out of clutter and accumulations to explore at Granny’s house, so they always feel there is more to discover. More mystery, more excitement, more objects to handle and marvel at and speculate on. Magical bits and bobs that transport them across time and oceans could be just around the corner, maybe on that top shelf or the bottom drawer or in the dark and dusty crawl space.

Some of my stuff ends up in the trash every time I go through it. But my acid test isn’t very strong:
-Is this stuff safe for the grandkids to play with? Even if it is a one-and-done pleasure, it just won a reprieve.
-Does this stuff elicit an immediate emotional connection? Does it link me to a place or person or event? As long as my brain encourages my feelings to respond, this stuff stays.
-Then there’s the stuff I hold dear only because of its inherent beauty, Does it evoke wonder? Bring me delight? Because it may delight my loved ones too, I’ll hang onto it. We’ve got the room.

Stuff is just stuff. But it can serve a purpose. That stuff can be a visible reminder of love and loved ones, of creative expression and events and people and places that faded into oblivion. Yet when the stuff hits our hands and our retinas it wakens something in the heart and brain.

My kids and grandkids may one day regret my propensity to hang onto stuff. Even so, I hope they take a final look on the way to the trash can and say, “She sure did love us though, didn’t she?”


I blame the mourning dove


mourning-dove-1980911_1920Have I mentioned that two of my predominant characteristics are sloth and short-mindedness?
The first is just a more dramatic way of saying I’m lazy.
The second means I can’t see the end of my nose from my face. In other words I can’t anticipate outcomes. I could never play chess or any other game of strategy. I can’t plan my murder mysteries past the next page, which makes for many painful writing sessions.

It snowed here over night. A lot.
I feed birds.
The connection between the above is that I’m too lazy to maintain bird feeders, and I don’t care if squirrels or the occasional possum snacks at the feed on my patio. The grandchildren and I enjoy tossing the food out the back door and watching the birds on the patio eat lunch.

The sloth-bird seed-snow connection occurred when I was too lazy this morning to shovel off the patio. I just swept a clear spot however far I could reach from the patio door.

The mourning dove-shortmindedness connection comes in because a mourning dove was on the stoop outside the door looking in wistfully.
I could almost hear him say “Please, mum, could we have some more? Ours is all covered up.”
(Another feature of my nature is assigning anthropomorphic qualities to everything. I’ve been known to apologize to inanimate objects after tripping over them. Wouldn’t want the footstool to have hurt feelings.)

So slothful me swept off the back stoop and 18 inches of patio. (I was, to give myself a little grace, in my robe, and it was barely light out yet.)
Short-minded and imaginative me rewarded the mourning dove by sprinkling food on the stoop, where he could enjoy a little mid-morning snack since he had been so polite.

Then I heard the thunk. Sure enough, a plump little junco had been going for the food on the stoop and flew right into the patio door. He got blown back into the snow and sat there. And sat there. And shivered. In spite of my prayers and begging forgiveness because I should have anticipated this, he continued to sit.

So I put on gloves and opened the patio door to pick him up. What was I going to do with him?
Good question. Short-minded, remember?
Maybe I planned to put him on near the garage service door where the snow had melted because of lousy insulation.
But it was what we like to call a moot point.
He flew away.
Rejoicing, I ran for the shovel (being fully dressed now) and cleared a fair portion of the patio and tossed out fresh seed and swept any remaining temptation from the stoop.

And I promised to never again be so lazy or short-minded.

That’s when the mourning dove gave me a knowing wink.


Photo credit: edbo23 at Pixabay

With this ring…or was it that one?



Or that ringSeveral months ago I shared my engagement story.

Engaging (or, How About It?)
Below are the rings my husband thought had sunk to the bottom of the river.

With this Ring

On top is the engagement ring. I flashed it everywhere in the nine months before we married.
I made certain everyone in flashing distance knew I was engaged by using my left hand almost exclusively.
I’m a rightie, by the way.

The ring on the bottom is the one my husband slipped (ok, let’s be honest. He jammed it) on my fourth finger, left hand, during our wedding ceremony.

I wore them through pregnancy and child-rearing, baths and showers, cooking and baking and dish washing and puppy house-breaking.

Maybe that was the problem.

About 22 years into marriage, which would make it almost 10 years back, I was fusting with my rings in church. Fusting is the act of twisting the rings on my finger, pushing them up a bit, down a bit and then back around.

Something felt different.

I looked at the engagement ring where the biggest diamond was supposed to be and saw only prongs. Can I confess that I probably didn’t pay as much attention to the rest of the service as I should have?

After the final benediction I alerted my family, who all dropped to their knees to examine the carpet. A beautiful thing happened then. Everyone is church started looking for my diamond.

But no one found it.

I put the engagement ring in my jewelry box and just wore my wedding band. That’s the one on the bottom with the three smaller diamonds. And guess what happened? Yep. Those diamonds jumped ship and the naked wedding band cowered in my jewelry box with the naked engagement ring.

My husband graciously did not remind me that I should have had both cleaned and checked periodically.

For a month or so my left hand remained unadorned and I had to fend off a ridiculous number of men who thought I was unattached and available.
I’m kidding.

But I didn’t like the no-ring/not married look at all.

My mother, not long before my dad died, had bought new wedding rings to wear since the ones Daddy gave her were worn thin to the point of fragility. She’d willed those rings to my eldest son, so he could use the diamond when he was ready to get married. He wasn’t ready to get married when the Great Diamond Fiasco occurred and told me I could wear the rings.

When he was ready to get married, my son could afford to buy a diamond for his wife.
So I continued to wear my mom’s rings.

I loved my mom. She was a great mom, loving and selfless and funny. Every time I looked at my fourth finger, left hand, I thought of her.

See the problem? When you look at your wedding rings, you should be thinking, “I love my husband,” not “I love my mom.”

But there were always other things to spend money on and Mom’s rings continued on my hand while mine sat in my jewelry box.

On our yearly Chicago Christmas junket last month, my husband pulled a small plastic bag out of his pocket.

Inside were my rings.

The ones he had given me almost 32 years ago. He’d snuck them out of my jewelry box, brought them to a jeweler, and had new stones set.

So now my mom’s rings can go to my son to do with as he wishes.

And I can look at my fourth finger, left hand, and be reminded that That’s right! I do love my husband!

The Perennial Middle Child

This is reprinted (with a few changes to some previously irritating syntax) from Nov. 2015.

Version 2

Know what prudes don’t like? Short-shrifting months.

To  short shrift means To give little consideration to.
  A shrift was the penance imposed by a priest to provide absolution.
 Death row in the good old days of jolly old England didn’t last for years.
 Usually one went from the trial to the sentence to the gallows.
 So they only had time to consider a short penance, or shrift, before facing the hangman.
 Every cloud has a silver lining.

The short-shrifted month to which I refer is November. Squeezed right on the back of Halloween, most participants on 11/1 are too sugar-dazed with trick-or-treat candy to notice its arrival.
Poor November grew up believing its real name was “Only a few dozen shopping days till Christmas.”
The typical middle child. Sandwiched between the over-achiever and everybody’s favorite.
November isn’t much to look at, at least in most parts of the northern hemisphere. October is a flamboyant exhibitionist, with its “look at me, everybody!” attitude. December gets grace and affection and enough twinkle lights to give Jupiter a migraine.

But the eleventh month is drab and modest and unmemorable. It shies away from weather extremes. Every few years it works up a doozy of a blizzard, or a few balmy, halcyon days, but they are soon forgotten in the gray chilliness.

No matter what November does, its reputation is set. It is the awkward, frumpy month. Occasionally it can be found huddling with March and grousing about ingratitude and kiss-up months like May and June that everyone likes even though they have no major holidays to commend them.
November may be disgruntled at times. It might indulge in spates of self-pity and drizzle its misery all over our windows, but it still has reasons to hold its head high. Cheer up November. Look what you’ve got to offer!

Veterans Day

After a shameful period beginning about 50 years ago, when the armed services were treated with disdain, veterans are finally, in some quarters, given the homage due them. November is the perfect month to recognize these men and women. Humble enough so as not to obstruct their honor under a plethora of picnics and three day weekends. Sturdy enough to support them on matching 11/11 legs.

Deer Hunting Season

While the season has been extended so far that Pilgrims are now applying for licenses, its apex is November. The quiet sky (bereft of birds that have sought out the warmer fraternal twin of November somewhere ‘down south’ ) is filled with the ringing of shotgun blasts. The drab woods are brightened with jackets, vests, hats and pants in that glowing color affectionately known as ‘blaze orange.’


The shining jewel in November’s dowdy crown. The holiday that exempts us from buying gifts, sending cards, and untangling two hundred miles of twinkle lights. The holiday that only requires us to cook our turkey till it reaches an internal temperature of 165°, include at least one menu item that vaguely resembles a vegetable, and watch football games through a poultry and carb-induced stupor.
November is waving its unprepossessing hand and wants to say something.
 Don’t forget to be thankful. Don’t forget to articulate the thanks. If you have the breath of life in you, there is something to be thankful for.

November remains out of the limelight and lets Thanksgiving take center stage, and Thanksgiving will gladly step back and showcase what really matters.
Gratitude. Hearts filled and overflowing and bursting with so much thankfulness that voices are raised to God and hands outstretch with shared bounty.
Never give the middle child a short shrift. A meek nature can hide a heart of gold.


Fly in the ointment, or, Silver Kisses Among the Gold

Autumn purists are everyone’s heroes come September. Pumpkin this and apple that and spices and yellows, oranges, reds and browns begin popping up while temperatures still hover around triple digits. At the close of Labor Day autumn appreciation explodes everywhere, including my house.

An entire day. That’s how long it takes to decorate my house for fall. And come November first I add the Thanksgiving decorations to the mix.

Here’s the problem. Autumn, so beloved at the end of summer, gets kicked to the curb before the Halloween candy is passed out. Christmas has been hovering around the edges of autumn for two months now and at the stroke of midnight on October 31st it springs full blown to coat the nation in red and green, holly and berries and silver bells.

The ramifications for autumn purists are manifold. And not the least of these is the dearth of autumn colored candy. My pumpkin jar stays out till Thanksgiving but no red or green candies will ever see the inside of it. The problem is getting hold of appropriately-colored candy after Halloween. So I stock up as soon as the Autumn Mix and gold, red, orange and brown M&M’s hit the shelves because they’ll be gone faster than the carved pumpkins on your front porch.


It all looks lovely, doesn’t it? But here’s that fly in the ointment. I don’t understand the silver kisses. Do they fit in with the warm colors of fall? They do not. I try to bury them in the middle of the jar or convince family members to only eat the silver-wrapped kisses. But some always worm their ways to the visible outer portions and MESS with my autumnal color scheme.

I’m thinking of starting a campaign to convince the Hershey’s Kiss folks to Save the Silver for Christmas. Want to join my cause? That’ll earn you a kiss.


And now for something rather horrifying

Once the mosquitoes die off I hit the bike trail again. One beautiful, misty, moisty morning last November I set out with my camera for some final autumn photos.

The frost lay heavy on the fields.

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Except that it wasn’t frost.

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What it was, was spider webs.


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Is the quality of the photos wonderful? No it is not. I was afraid if I stood still, the army of spiders responsible for all this would start in on me. Because you see the mass of web in the trees over the creek in the above photo, right?


What you can’t see here is the vast expanse of webs across the field, the bushes, the weeds…

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They stopped at nothing.

And you know the creepiest thing? The next day when I went back, EVERYTHING WAS GONE! Only a few innocuous strands blew here and there.

So I ask you. What kind of spiders could coat acres and acres of landscape with sticky strings of—of—stickiness? How big were they? How many of them were there?

And something for you to ponder:



The Dowdy Deciduous


SONY DSCMaybe autumn by you this year is spectacular. Maybe the trees are blazing with vermilion red and juicy orange and Fort Knox gold leaves.

Or maybe, like me, you are seeing deciduous trees that should be reaching their glory days but instead are fading to a meek grayish-brown. Their leaves hang from the trees as though too exhausted to put up a fight against winter—the kind of gritty brawl  culminating in those vibrant primary-tinted bruises of foliage that won’t go down without a fight. No, the trees here are waving dingy dishrag-color leaves in surrender.

What is the deal? Our hit-and-miss precipitation of the last past season may be responsible. We’ll go for months with almost constant rain and then see weeks of iron skies and parched earth. The leaves may be tired of all the drama and just want to drift quietly to the ground with little fanfare.

Are these leaf-shedders following the spirit of the times, ashamed of their deciduous privilege? Or, conversely, envious of their evergreen siblings? Who knows. And who knows but that autumn might surprise me and coming storming back in a blaze of eye-searing hues.

It could happen.

In the meantime, (and for my Midwest-homesick son living in gravelly L.A.) I will feast my eyes on these visions of Autumn Past.

Happy almost-October!