Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game Playing

It is always interesting to me how two (or more) people can recall someone they mutually know, and have different impressions. Once, when I was talking with my brother about our mother, I recalled her as particularly organized, and he recalled her as very spontaneous. Of course, she was both.

One thing on which I think my siblings and I would agree is that game playing was something our mother loved to do. And, I certainly inherited that love from her.

We are spending Thanksgiving with our son and daughter-in-law in Pittsburgh. After a lovely time out to dinner last evening, we came back to their house, and our son asked--did we want to play a board game.

That's how we were introduced to Blokus. I don't go looking for new games to buy, so I had not heard of this game. Many good games have very simply principles on which the strategy of the game is based, and Blokus is no exception.

After one round of Blokus (which I lost decisively), our son asked if I was up to another game--a two person game. And, with my affirmative response, he and I played another new game: Pyraos (sometimes also called Pylos).

A fun evening. For the record (my family keeps track of such things), I lost all the games--but I played them and enjoyed them.

Thanks, Mother.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The View from the Rocking Chair

(photo taken at Wooded Glen)

Recently, my husband and I visited an aunt and uncle, who have moved into an adult community. Their one-level house is a great place for an aging couple both of whom are sufficiently infirm that they do not need a high maintenance place.

After I got the tour of their house, the aunt showed me their front--actually side--porch. There were two lounge chairs there, and rocking chairs. We love sitting out here, she said.

There is something about a rocking chair that invites one to sit and watch the world go by. And reminisce.

One of the benefits of growing older is the view--it's like being on a hilltop where you can look down the side you have climbed to get to the peak. And you can also see down the other side--the place you have not yet gone. Ahead of you are many unknowns, but the view is grand.

Since most of us prefer knowns to unknowns, the temptation is to keep looking back to see where we have been.

I catch myself saying--maybe just a bit too frequently--I remember... I try to caution myself not to do that too much in class with the students. Most of these young people were born in 1990 or 1991! What can they possibly want to hear about my memories, many of which pre-date the 1990s by several decades.

Today is a good example--November 22 is a date that has great meaning to someone who was a freshman in college in 1963. Those of us alive then can remember EXACTLY where we were when we got the news that President Kennedy had been shot. That news was followed soon after by the pronouncement that he had died. It is true that each generation has its momentous day--for my father's generation it was likely the bombing of Pearl Harbor; for others it might be when the space shuttle Challenger blew up on launching, for today's generation, it is likely September 11, 2001.

Ah, yes--the rocking chair feels good--sit there, rock, contemplate the view on both sides of the hill--the view from the journey up, and also the view of the journey down.

A brief note of this journey we are all on--last night, we watched the wonderful animated movie UP. It is a sheer delight of a story--with many sweet messages. But one message is certain--sometimes we hold on to memories for so long that they might keep us from grasping new experiences. If you haven't seen it, do. I think you will enjoy it. In fact, it would be a great movie to rent (or buy) and watch with family and friends over the Thanksgiving holiday.
I remember... How about you?

Monday, November 16, 2009

The New Normal

Whew--things have finally calmed down.

After all the festivities were over, and after the kitchen workers cleaned up and moved on to their next job, I packed up and headed off to a national church committee meeting in Houston. We were there to advice PDA.

Two years ago, we visited the Gulf Coast in and about New Orleans to see the damage wrought by Hurricane Katrina. Then a year ago, we visited San Diego to see the destruction the fires had inflicted on that area. Now, this year we visited Houston--actually Texas City--to see what Hurricane Ike had done. This hurricane has been called the forgotten hurricane, because it barely registered in the consciousness of U.S. citizens--for example, where Presbyterians donated millions to help Katrina victims, not even one million was donated for Ike. Yet this hurricane was the THIRD most destructive in U.S. history.

Every time we have visited a place where incredible destruction has turned people's lives upside down, I am struck by the magnitude of people to respond to the needs of their "neighbors." In Texas City, one of the Presbyterian churches there is now hosting a work camp that houses volunteers who come to do reconstruction work. The camp, housed in trailers, can host about 40 people if the trailers alone are used. It can house another 40 if people sleep in the gym. What is so amazing about this church is that it has about 30 active worshippers on any Sunday. So here's a community of believers fewer in numbers than the people they are hosting. And they do this week after week after week.

Since the meeting was held in an airport hotel in Houston, I saw little of the city itself. No matter--I saw so many mosquitoes that I did not mind not being out and about. Further, this was my last meeting--in preparation for a new normal, I have stepped down from the committee.

Ah, the new normal--what might that be?

Well, wedding over, kitchen renovated, we can now turn to finding a different pace of life. You see, my husband has officially been retired for a whole month. Where I had been accustomed to being home most days on my own, there are now two of us. So, when a serendipitous opportunity arises, my husband might say--why don't we do...

And, I want to be able to say--sure. To that end, I have asked to have next semester off from teaching. That way, we can try several uninterrupted months to see what activities we can pursue. Travel? Volunteer work? Cleaning out the garage and the basement? Visiting family? Even just general puttering? Yes, yes and yes to all of the above.

The only thing that I can predict with confidence is that we will find our way to a new normal. And, I suspect, enjoy every minute of it.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Now You Can See It

It's tough to get a full view--but this is fairly good.

Note--this kitchen is now in use...knives, coffee pot, coffee grinder!

A cabinet over the refrigerator--a new item. And things previously stored on top of the frig are now nicely tucked away.

A fun corner cabinet--perfect for coffee mugs.

This is a kind of "before" photo--all the open counters with nothing on them. That soon changed.

Woo hoo--trash and recycle bins tucked away.

The highly popular storage cabine, just waiting to be filled.

Yes, you are correct--the coffee pot shown here is NOT the same as the one in the top photo--new kitchen, new coffee pot. ;-)

Note the one essential in our house--an electric tea kettle.

OK--enough said (and shown).
The next entry from the kitchen will be the return of Saturday soups. Stay tuned.

Sunday, November 08, 2009

How to get a new kitchen...

This post is about a lot of hard work--and I can't really claim to have done to most of it. After living in our house for 30 years, we decided to have our galley style kitchen, pictured below, entirely rebuilt.

First, we contacted a kitchen designer, and then hired a local builder who, along with his brother and step-father, did almost all the work. These men had wonderful work habits--arriving most days at 8, and frequently not leaving until 5. That meant long days for us, mostly trapped on our sun porch with the frantic dog. The dog probably suffered the most as she was terrified by the BANG BANG of the nail gun. She would tremble, drool, and in general be totally miserable.

But this post is not about the dog, but about our emerging kitchen.

The first step was to rip out the old cabinets--just like that! GONE.

Then the appliances went. And, as the pipes were being moved, the workers made gaping holes in the walls to locate the existing pipes.

Never fear--what gets torn out can also be rebuilt. Here the walls are once again sealed up.

Additionally, a partial wall was extended, to make room for a pantry style storage cabinet to be installed next to the existing refrigerator.

The walls are now ready for painting--my husband and I were the painters. That's how we spent last weekend--priming and painting walls.

Meanwhile, all kitchen items had been moved into the garage. I planned to make that a make-shift kitchen for the duration. Well...

I had not counted on the workers using that as a make-shift building location. Saw-dust flying everywhere. At least the toaster worked, and I could get to a few essential items: knives, paper towels and Pam.

Getting there. New cabinets go in; new sink in place.

Now we're really moving along--faucet hooked up.

And finally, the microwave and new range in place.

From start to finish--the work part of the project took two weeks. We had done advance planning, however. Beginning back in August, we got a design. We picked cabinets. We got bids from several potential builders. And I went appliance shopping when sales were on, and had the place hold them until we were ready for delivery.

We only changed one decision once things were underway--we switched to lighter color cabinets, to match the wood in our dining room and living room.

My favorite parts of the new kitchen? I have several--first, a galley kitchen became an L shaped kitchen. Amazingly, in the same amount of floor space, we have a more spacious kitchen. Second, the old cabinets were 30 inches high; the new ones 36. I can't reach the top shelves just standing, but a small stool--and I can get there. So upper cabinets now house rarely used items. Third, the sink is on a diagonal--that's a fun touch. Finally, I even got a storage cabinet with 5 pull-out shelves.

New kitchen--woo hoo!

Next post will just be a photo gallery.

Thursday, November 05, 2009


Of late, I have been somewhat remiss making the rounds of my blog friends. I am sorry. I have been a bit distracted.

There was the wedding--already noted here. And then there is the kitchen redo--currently ongoing.

Now, I admit, I am doing NONE of the work on the redo. We have two brothers who have come in--they are custom builders, meaning simply they do work when contracted to so do; they no longer work on speculation. So, while they still build entire houses, they only do that when someone contracts with them to do that. As you might expect, business has been a bit slow for them.

So when we went looking for a builder to redo the kitchen, we came upon their names, by way of referral. What a great job they are doing. A future post will detail the project a bit more, complete with photos.

Here's why I am exhausted--I have too many balls in the air. This business of being retired is crazy. People have always told me that--and, truth be told, at first it was NOT so. I officially "retired" in 2002. I had not planned to retire exactly when I did, but the company I worked for thought it was a good idea.

So, when I first began time at home--and before I started teaching in my adjunct capacity--I had time on my hands. Days crawled by. I always thank our dog for keeping me on an even keel. She was thrilled to have me home, and thought 4 or 5 walks a day were a grand idea.

Well, those days of little on my hands are gone. I have responded positively to various requests to help out here and there--mostly with the Presbyterians. I am now finding I need to pull back.

OK--where am I going with this post.

These last several days--of watching workers rebuild a kitchen--have got me to thinking about my paternal grandfather. I have written about him several times before here, and here.

As he approached retirement age, he and my grandmother were teaching at a small college in Pennsylvania. With a bit of land on the college campus available, he decided to build the house in which they would live out their final years. Now, when I think of my grandfather, I do NOT think builder. As a young man, he had done many things with his hands--including homesteading in Saskatchewan--but he was much more a thinker than a builder. But he doggedly set about to build a small two story house.

It was during that project that he discovered he was going blind. He went to sight up part of the building to see if it was level, and realized he could not see with enough acuity to level the project. So, my aunt helped him do that.

When the house was finished, it was perfectly adequate--not elegant, but livable. My parents, brother and I even lived in the upstairs, which was made into a small apartment, for a brief time in the mid 1950s.

Now, these days, watching the workmen, I think about my grandfather. How did he do it? He was an old man when he began that project.

And I think I am exhausted?