Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Hodgepodge Wednesday

Another edition of the weekly meme. Thanks once again to Joyce for putting this together!

1. Do you think the world became a more dangerous place on September 11, 2001 or did we just become more aware of the danger? How has your own life changed as a result of that day? I think the danger has been there all along and that we are just more aware. The consequence of Sept 11 is that flying in a commercial airliner has become cumbersome to the traveler. I can't travel with only carry-on luggage because my shampoo and hair products will always exceed the 3 oz. requirement for liquids. And I hate the intrusiveness of the security processes that are now in place. Moreover, I've learned that the machines go out of date very quickly and have to be replaced with whatever is the latest and greatest technology -- can we say "waste of taxpayer money?" (Does anyone still go through those elaborate puffer booths? I think not...)
2. Did you think your parents were too strict when you were growing up? How about in hindsight? Didn't most of us think our parents were too strict while we were being raised? I certainly did. In hindsight, I'd say their ideas about raising kids were correct but they really failed in the communication department. "Because I said so" is something that we heard more than once a day in our house. My parents should have taken the time to explain things to us in a little more depth, rather than taking the easy way (for them).
3. Share one random but candid fact about yourself. Randomly and candidly, I agonize over my hair way too much. It is curly and dry, and the water here in the West is aggressively hard. It's very easy for me to have a bad hair day, believe me. I hate piling on the products (at least three), but there doesn't seem to be any other way to make it satisfactory to my eyes.
4. Would your nearest and dearest describe you as simple or far too complicated? Far too complicated, I'm sure. I can be very mercurial. In some things I am very laid back and in others (probably rather random) I am very inflexible. Also, when I'm upset, I tend to become very agitated and loud for a brief time (I'm working on it!).
5. What is your favorite stadium or carnival food? Hmmmm .... there are so many at our annual State Fair that it's hard to choose just one. I love bacon dipped in dark chocolate, I love funnel cakes, I love fry bread, I love fried salmon .... and on and on and on!
6. Tornado, hurricane, many of these natural disasters have you experienced? Which event do you think would be the scariest? I've felt the very distant rumblings from a couple of earthquakes, but not intense enough to qualify as actually experiencing an earthquake. I've never experienced a tornado. Coming from New Jersey, though, I've experienced my fair share of hurricanes. Hurricanes don't frighten me, but I think a tornado or an earthquake would scare the daylights out of me.
7. Labor Day weekend is approaching so a work related question seems appropriate. Growing up, did your parents assign you regular chores? Were you paid for doing those chores? If you're a parent do you assign chores to your own children? Why or why not? We had regular chores. Our amount of allowance wasn't based on the chores, but we could end up being "docked" our allowance if we failed to get our chores done without a lot of nagging by my mother. My own daughter had chores and her allowance amount was based, in part, on the number of chores. But I don't think I ever had to nag her about one single chore in her life!
[That last question was inspired by a post Mindee wrote on Monday. Everyone go say hi to Mindee-she blogs at Our Front Door and she's funny.]
8. Insert your own random thought here. Another moment of randomness (see #3 above) -- this time I'll just say that I am experimenting with Wen haircare to see if I like it.

If you want to play along, be sure to link up over at Joyce's blog!

- Catherine

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The Canine Point of View

Hank and Charley deep in conversation:

Hank (wagging his tail in excitement): This is where we go camping!

Charley (wagging his tail in imitation of Hank): What's camping?
Hank (patiently): This is when Mama and Daddy take us out on the lake!
Charley: What's a lake?

Hank (still trying to explain): It's where we go out on the boat!

Charley: What's a boat?
Hank (still patient): And we get to go swimming!

Charley: What's swimming?
Hank (triumphantly): And we sleep in the camper!
Charley: What's a camper?
Hank (completely out of sorts): Why don't you go inside now, Charley. Just go up the three steps to the door and go see Mama.

Charley: What steps?
Hank: Maaaa-maaaa.......!

Hank is articulate and has good manners. He's also a very good sailor.

Charley is sloppy and lovable, but thick as a plank. He never did quite get the hang of climbing the three stairs to the camper door. But he sure did love his first camping trip!

 - Catherine

Friday, August 19, 2011

Red Sails

"Red sails in the sunset, way out on the sea,
Oh, carry my loved one home safely to me."

(Old song -- anyone remember it?)

The truth is this: my husband has a new mistress. He just acquired her in July. She's a bit worn, with some age to her, but she brazenly wears red at every opportunity:


That's right, a catamaran.

He's so enamored of his new toy that he spent nearly all of our lake week with her. 

So I've taken to calling him Cap'n Tim. Do you love his little yachting cap? He's had that for over a decade now and he finally gets to wear it on a boat! And yes, that was Number 7 flexing his muscles for us. Sometimes it's good to be 15 years old.

Of course, Hank had to be part of it. He went out on nearly every ride, comfortably snoozing on the canvas.

 Sometimes they were "becalmed" and had to paddle her in. But that occurred less frequently as Tim's skills improved. This is his first sailing craft of any kind, after all.

She really is a lot of fun, given that she's my summer rival!

We're still thinking up a name ....

- Catherine

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Getting to Heaven

Yesterday I posted the first of my vacation blogs, and it was about Heaven.

But before we could arrive there, we had the usual Day 1 Experience. To wit:

Our departure had been planned for 7:00 Tuesday morning. On Monday we had shopped, repaired, and packed in a frenzy, working until 11:00 or so that night. We flopped into bed and were out of bed again at 5:45 a.m.

As usual, our actual departure was more like the Keystone Cops than the smooth procedure for which we had ostensibly prepared all day Monday. Every time I turned around it seemed that one more little - yet crucial - item had been left inside, prompting much running back and forth between our RV parked on the street and our house.

Oh yeah, the RV was supposed to have been parked in the driveway right next to the house -- because having that kind of space is one of the reasons we moved to this house.  But the City, in its infinite wisdom, chose Monday and Tuesday to pour the new driveway that goes with the new sidewalk that goes with the new roadbed in front of our house. So all vehicles that were going to be needed on those days had to be parked on the street.

Fun times.

I finally got on the road in my vehicle 30 minutes late. My friend Rhonda and her daughter followed behind me in their car. The boys were not so lucky.  They ended up about 90 minutes late, mostly because as they started to pull away from the curb -- the first time -- the back window of the camper got gob-smacked by a tree branch and shattered into a million pieces. 

Okay, not a million. 

But enough that Tim had to go find something to effect our red-neck window repair: that's right, we sported a very large cardboard advertisement for a Sony™ TV all the way through our camping trip this year. That's what everyone uses those old TV boxes for, right?

Really fun times.

But, as you already know -- we did make it to Heaven. And a few more posts will be coming soon, including the viewpoint of our two dogs.  

Talk soon!

- Catherine

Wednesday, August 17, 2011


In companionable silence, Rhonda and I sat gazing across the sunlit lake waters, marveling at the sight. 

"It's so beautiful I almost can't stand it," she observed. And in silence, I agreed. 

The view from the little beach where we had pulled up our kayaks really was superb. Tall pines, birds wheeling through the air, and the rippled blue/green waters. Paddling across the lake, we'd left behind the main beach's gaggle of small chldren and their screams and cries. Now we could hear nothing but the birds and the wind. 

The pure sunshine mirrored my feelings and I thought, not for the first time, that this place is a little slice of what Heaven must be like. The natural beauty created by God is certainly part of that, but the real taste of Heaven comes from the absence of a measurement of time. No clocks, no watches, no cell phones. We deliberately put them all away at the lake and we live only in the present. That's what heaven will be like, for God lives outside of time.

For one week each summer on this earth, so do we.

- Catherine

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today it rained, it poured, it thundered, and it lightening-ed.

And in the midst of it all, I buried my uncle's ashes.

The box containing his "cremains" had been sitting in the corner of my aunt's kitchen since August of last year.

Something had to be done.

I called the cemetery where the family plot is located, knowing that there was one empty grave remaining in the plot. The caretaker graciously agreed to open a hole in the remaining grave.

For $650.00.

Frankly, I could have dug it myself for a lot less, but there you have it.

The rain let up for about 30 minutes this afternoon. Unfortunately I was still driving to the cemetery when that 30 minute window was open. By the time I arrived, the rain had resumed, accompanied by thunder and lightening.

"Very funny, Uncle Bob," I muttered as I sat in my car, waiting for a break.

At one point the storm rolled overhead with a thunder crash so loud that I flubbed the check I was writing at the time. For $650.00.

Guess Uncle Bob didn't like the price either.

Finally the thunder moved off and I got out of my car in the pouring rain. I quickly set the box of ashes in the hole and carefully placed a tiny Swiss flag and then a tiny U.S. flag on top. The caretaker was nice enough to ask me about my uncle, and I spoke about him for a minute or so.

Uncle Bob was born in Switzerland and served in the Swiss army during WWII. He came to the U.S. in 1948, married my aunt in 1950, and returned to Switzerland only for visits after that. He was a naturalized American citizen and very proud to be so. He was also proud of his Swiss heritage. Hence my putting both flags in his grave.

My memories of him include his Swiss-German accent, his remarkable skill for gardening, and his extraordinary energy and vitality. I sure hope he made it to Heaven. I would like to see him again someday!

- Catherine

Saturday, August 13, 2011

More treasures?

I briefly lost my mind today.

In my Uncle Bob's office there were two audio cassette tapes -- one of my grandfather's last celebrated birthday (he was 88 that birthday) and one of a visit made by his children (including my Aunt Muriel) during his final months in a nursing home, about nine months after the first tape.

I cried.

And cried.

To be able to go back 29 years in time to hear the voices of my grandfather and my aunts and uncles is a priceless treasure. Instantly I was transported back to my childhood days -- especially Christmas when all the family would gather in our home (we were the only children on that side of the family, so my mother had ample reason to insist that Christmas was at her house). I was not allowed to participate in the adult conversations back then, but I certainly heard them. Listening to this tape was like an immediate re-visiting of my childhood.

Hence the losing of the mind. I lay on the living room floor of my aunt's house, crying, laughing, and talking back to the tape.

The birthday tape is mostly conversation among the siblings. But I caught the remnants of my grandfather's native British accent, which he had worked hard to lose in his younger years, but which crept in occasionally anyway. For instance, "married" was pronounced "marrid" and "Cathy" was pronounced "Kethy." I heard my Uncle Norman's very broad North Jersey accent -- by far the most noticeable among all the siblings, that's for sure. No ambiguity about where Uncle Norman had been brought up!

The second tape is of my grandfather playing the little organ in the chapel of the nursing home. Mostly he played hymns, but he also played  -- and SANG -- "O Danny Boy," a song he'd sung many times as a professional tenor (his side job when his kids were growing up). It is obvious that his vocal cords were totally unused to singing by then -- he was 89 at the time of the tape -- but I can still hear the WAY that he sang and, occasionally, a note that rang true both in intonation and tone quality from his youth.  Fascinating!

I sang along with him on "O Danny Boy" and reveled in the virtual duet.

Over and over again through my lifetime, my mother and her sisters would try to figure out just whose voice I had inherited. One aunt swore that I had their mother's voice  -- but Grandpa put an end to that when he noted that his wife (my grandmother, whom I never met due to her early death) had been an alto. In my classical years, I was a lyric soprano. So, not Grandmother's voice.Listening to these tapes, I'd say that I really inherited the female version of my beloved Grandfather himself -- a lyric tenor in his professional days.

The pop group ABBA had a song in the early 1980s (or maybe late 1970s) called "Thank you for the music." It is most appropriate for me to say to my Grandpa Newark -- thank you for the music.

Treasure indeed.

- Catherine

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I have spent the last few days cleaning my Aunt's house and getting it ready for sale. There will also be an "estate sale" in the next month or so in order to get rid of the contents accumulated over a 60 year marriage.

It has been a long haul, these days of sorting, cleaning, dumping, and saving.

My aunt has Alzheimer's, a sad diagnosis in itself. To think that I will lose her soon - not physically but mentally and emotionally - is daunting, to say the least. I had a conversation with an old friend recently. She is the major caregiver for her mother, who also has Alzheimer's. Her mother no longer recognizes her, and my friend's heartache is acute.

As I go through my Aunt's personal belonging, a clearer picture emerges. It is heartbreaking to see the attempts she made to keep track of things after my uncle died last summer. Heartbreaking to see how often her mind failed her in significant ways. Heartbreaking to know that she was/is aware that she needs to be responsible but that she is no longer capable of thinking clearly enough to do that.


And what do I say when I return home to Idaho with so much of her stuff? She will want to go home, but that isn't possible anymore. Do I tell her that she has Alzheimer's and that she will one day cease to know me? I want so much for her to know how much I love her and that she will always be secure with me watching over her. But would telling her just be a selfish act on my part? She is, after all, God's child - perhaps it is best to leave the knowledge of her condition with Him?

- Catherine

Tuesday, August 9, 2011


No, this is not the long promised vacation post with pictures.

It's not even a post about my 35th high school reunion, although I will eventually write about that too.

This is where I tell you that I am cleaning out my aunt's house in preparation for selling it. And I have found many treasures, including a sterling silver napkin ring engraved with the name of my great great Aunt Ada, along with the year 1896; including a tintype of one of my great great grandfathers; especially including a photograph of a soccer team of young men in England in 1911, featuring my own grandfather - who played so well that they wanted him to play for England and who gave it all up to come to America. The photograph was presented to him on the day he sailed, never to return to England and never to play soccer again. It must have been a hard choice, but I sure am glad he made it. Here's to you, my wonderful "Grandpa Newark!"


Thursday, August 4, 2011

The aftermath

I haven't posted anything about my vacation, but here I am talking about the aftermath?  Yep.

That's because one must get through the aftermath before one can return to one's usual pursuits, such as blogging. And uploading vacation photos.

We arrived home around dinnertime on Monday and spent the evening unpacking the camper. Three people, two dogs, and a boatload of dirt came home from a week of camping. I immediately started the first of some seven or eight loads of extremely filthy laundry, a process that continued for the better part of the next two days. Thank heavens for my front loader or I'd STILL be doing laundry from the vacation!

And that would be bad because I am already off on another trip - my 35th high school reunion is this Saturday night in NJ. So here I sit in the Salt Lake City airport in the middle of a three hour layover. Sharing my layover with you, dear reader. You're welcome.

I promise there are vacation posts and pics coming. You do want to know all about it, right???

I thought so.

Talk soon!

- Catherine