Friday, November 17, 2017

Curses


I regaled you with the amusement of our family curse. Soon before before Christmas we always have mechanical failures. Automobiles, computers, and last week our furnace.

I thought wehad contributed our share to the family curse for this year. But Noooooooooooo. Or as they say in those commercials, "But wait! Ther's more!"

We were sitting here watching TV Friday evening. We were enjoying the heat from our newly repaired furnace and catching up on computer things. It was a pleasant evening.

Suddenly we heard that all too familiar "Whoomph" noise. Our furnace had gone out again.

I called the repairman first thing Monday because I did not want to pay overtime for the weekend hours. He came out Tuesday since he had a full day Monday.

When he came out Tuesday he found that the furnace had died an ignoble death.  There was no repairing it and we would need a new one.

Next came other repairmen who took measurements and dicussed what we needed at the lowest possible cost and highest possible value. They would do some research and get back to us.

The dead furnacce was quite old. Some fixtures like the chimney would also have to be replaced. They managed to find a unit that would fit all the requirements.

They came at 7:00 this morning. Tools were in the nice big tool  carriers and the new furnace was on the truck. The dog was safely shut up in my son's room. Remember she is not fond of men.

First they removed the old chimnet and installed the new and larger one. They shut off the gas. They shut off the electrical power to the furnace. The rest of the house had power so I could watch TV or get on the computer. Best off all the electric space heaters were still operating.

Out went the old furnace. They will give it a decent burial. I could not do it myself. Too painful.

In came the shiny new furnace. It is slightly larger than the old one. They bumped the light with it and broke the glass shade that made it more decorative. They nicely cleaned up the broken glass.

With much yelling back and forth they ran a new gas line to the outside. The noise was so they could hear each other. They put the shiny new furnace in place and connected the gas and electricity to it.

When the gas was turned back on I lit the pilot lights for my cooking stove. I tested the burners to ensure that they were receiving gas. A-OK.

They turned on the furnace. It worked like a champ. It took far less than the four hours they were hoping it would take.

The repairman explained that there would be a strange smell for maybe a couple of days. That is from coatings on the furnace burning off. It does not smell good but it is getting better.

I was so worried about the water pipes freezing and bursting. I had to have work done to them a couple of years ago and did not want to have them done again.

So I got a new furnace. It is my Christmas gift to myself. Probably the most expensive  gift I have received.

I sit here now in a cozy warm house. I want to go to bed and luxuriate in my nice warm room. Good night.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

This Little Piggy


When I was a little girl all farms had pigs. Grandpa had pigs.

Pigs were good for many things. Pork chops come to mind of course. And pigs are nature's garbage disposals. They ate all the scraps like potato peels, apple cores, and vegetable leaves. Leftover pancakes or oatmeal from breakfast went into the slop bucket too.

Every day someone would take the slop bucket out and pour it into the trough the pigs ate from. It was a good chore for visiting grandchildren.

The pigs also had grains to eat too. Even a big farm family did not have enough scraps to feed the pigs.

I was fascinated by pigs. The snuffling noises they make and of course the grunts and squeals.

Pigs "wallow" in the mud. We were never allowed to be in the pig pen. They are dangerous at times. But I discovered that one of the reasons the wallow is that the mud keeps them cool. So I would make my own mud puddle to wallow in on hot summer days.

When my children were small my husband bought a pig with the thought of raising it to be butchered. Naturally the children and I made it into a pet. We named her Hortense.

When it came time to butcher we refused to allow it. She lived a pampered life. Then we moved back to the big city. A neighbor took Hortense and promised not to end her life early.

Now they have farmers who raise pigs. By that I mean they build large pig barns and sell them to be butchered each fall. The pigs are kept inside so that they won't run off any of the fat. I have not seen a pig in the 6 years I have been back here.

That is until 2 days ago. I was driving to town. There is one farm that feeds the cows in a yard right by the highway. They have several white calves this year.

As I was driving by I saw a pig!

My son said it was a white calf but I know a pig when I see one. It had those little short legs and was skittering along in the pen with the cows.

I looked for it on my way back but did not see it. I am guessing that they are raising it to be butchered. It probably escaped its enclosure for a little run.

So I have finally seen my pig. I am content.

Friday, November 10, 2017

It's Beginning To Look...


I can tell Christmas is coming soon. How you may ask? Well it seems to be a family curse. Mechanical problems happen right before Christmas.

Cars break down before Christmas. One year all cars went kablooey at the same time. My oldest son worked from early morning until afternoon on the east side of Detroit. My second son was driving truck and often left it in line so it would be the first when a plant opened in the morning. My third son had to come from a nearby suburb to work near where we lived. His wife worked in a different suburb in the opposite direction. My daughter worked in a suburb at the end of suburbia. I worked in another suburb near the end of suburbia.

There was one car running. My second son's wife who had three children to get to school was the de facto chauffeur. That poor thing was in the car from morning till night. I forgot to mention that we worked from around 4:00 AM to 3:00 the following AM.

Somehow for that almost week she managed to get all of us to work/school on time and then pick us up when our shifts were over. She seemed to love juggling all the schedules to deliver good service. It was a horror. Let me tell you we were happy to get our individual cars back.

It seems like each year there are car troubles. Even though we are driving better automobiles than we did back then the glitches still pop up right before Christmas.

Now it seems that the curse is spreading.

My computer said I needed to upgrade. I followed all the directions and waited. And waited. And waited. I had been having some minor annoyances and was anxious for them to be solved.

Unfortunately it was worse after the upgrade. It seemed like everything was trying to run in a molasses lake. Finally my computer froze.

I duly did a shut down. It would not come back up.

Thank goodness my son thinks solving problems like this is a fun challenge. But he was not having much success either. After a couple of days he was ready to throw up his hands and give up. He decided to completely re-install Windows to see if that would work.

It took him another day and a half to get it working. Now we are still finding things we need to load again but it seems to be working good anyway.

While he was busy working on my computer we started hearing strange noises from the furnace. After hours we heard a loud WHOOMPH. And the furnace worked no more.

It has been cold out. It will be slightly above freezing today but not so tomorrow.

We do have electrical space heaters to keep us warm but because under the house gets cold the floors get cold. And there is always the danger of the pipes freezing under the house.

It took a couple of days for the repairman to get to us. They have to come from a town about 25 miles from here. They already had repair jobs ahead of us. We were lucky they came as fast as they did.

He gave the furnace a good cleaning and it relit the first try. Bless his little heart.

He was a nice young man who showed us pictures of the dog his family took in. It had been physically and sexually abused. It is doing well now and is a beautiful animal. He was on his way to pick it up from the groomer when he left our house.

So now my house is comfy and warm. My computer is working as it should. Just remember that Christmas is coming.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Dale


My husband's oldest brother was Dale. Dale was a year younger than my father. As with many families at that time they seemed to have two sets of children. There were those who were born when the parents were young and then the ones born when the parents were older.

Dale was born with the red hair my mother-in-law wanted all her children to have.

Shortly after I met my husband Dale moved away. I did not meet him before he left.

He left behind his wife and 5 children. For a long time they had no idea where he was. He would occasionally send money to his mother to give to the children.

I actually knew his oldest daughter before I knew my husband. She and I went to school together. We were never friends. That has not changed.

Dale came back for a quick visit after my husband I were married. He went into the house to visit his mother for a few minutes. He left the woman who was with him in the car with her two babies. I still do not know if they were his children. I do not think he visited his children.

After many years he moved back to Iowa with a new family. His wife had 4 children from her first marriage and they had 2 more children together.

They all came to the big city to visit us and another brother's families. His son from his first marriage was with them.

It was an interesting thing that each of my mother-in-law's children had a daughter who looked just like my daughter. Dale had 2. The second was around the same age as my oldest son. His youngest son was the same age as my second son.

As you can see I did not know Dale well because I was not around him very much.

He had a sudden heart attack and died around the time that my husband and I divorced. My father-in-law was inconsolable. I see one of his daughters occasionally. Most of his children live far away from here.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Childish



The word childish has a negative connotation and it should not. What it means to me is as a child. Some may say that child-like is the more proper term. Child-like means to be like a child. I suppose the difference is minimal but think about it.

To be child-like you must work to be like a child. To be childish you simply are more like a child. So you may insert child-like but I mean childish.

Think of a baby tasting a new food or eating a favorite food. Do they act "cool"? No. Their eyes light up and their bodies wiggle. They roll it around in their mouths and smack their lips. They might put their hands in it and slap it to see what sort of sound it makes. Why they might even share it with other portions of their bodies like their hair. They are not shy about wanting more. Could life be better?

As a quick side note I made sure that all of my children came with a guarantee that they were washable. That way I could clean them easily after a fun meal. Make sure to order your children that way too.

Mud is a great thing for a little one. It squishes in hands. It oozes ever so lovingly between toes. They might get a tiny bit in the mouth before you can stop them. Do not worry. There is the washable guarantee. Besides they do not grow properly without eating just a touch of dirt. I still love to step into the mud and feel it between my toes. (Try it. You will like it.)

A two-year-old child is the perfect age. That sense of wonder is at its fullest. They are fully mobile and they can talk. Best of all they have learned that they are people. What they say and do matters.

These little people have often been referred to as being in "the terrible twos". They have learned to say, "NO!" They have opinions and expect people to listen.

A two-year-old has a completely uncensored imagination. They will tell you some great stories with very little encouragement. Ask them to tell you why the squirrel ran up the tree. With a few well-placed comments from you there might be a monster chasing them or a baby squirrel wanting its Mommy. All that limits them is attention span. They soon need to move on to another activity.

I love to walk with children. It is an adventure. They like to explore because everything is new and they want to see what it is. That is why they want to look under the neighbor's porch or peak into the sewer. Make sure they are safe but allow as much searching as possible. It would not hurt you to peek into that sewer either. There may be a treasure there. You will not know until you look.

Do you ever look at a leaf? I mean really look. Up close. Pay attention. Is it smooth or bumpy? Is it dark green or light green or has the color begun to change in the fall? What color is it exactly? Are the edges straight or striated? Has something been chewing on them? What was it? Is it on the tree or has it fallen off? Why? What do the veins of the leaf look like? Is it a pretty pattern?

See what I mean? We take so many things as normal that we forget the wonder of them. A child can find that wonder in its finger and examine it for a long time. That is childish and beautiful.

I want to experience my life with the glee that a child has. The glorious wonder and sense of awe that cannot be contained is a joy to watch in others. But to have that sense of wonder and awe is indescribable. And the best part is that all we have to do is open ourselves up and feel it.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Sticks And Stones

Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me. A beautiful sentiment that all parents teach their children. It is meant to show that words can roll off your back and you do not have to deal with them any more whereas a physical blow can leave an injury that needs to be cared for after the altercation is finished.

The truth is that we have all been deeply hurt by words. Maybe someone called you stupid or ugly when you were a child. If that was a person whose opinion of you mattered those words would cause great pain. Perhaps someone made fun of you and it seemed to catch on with other people until everyone was making fun of you. Torment. Often a misused word can bring a misgiving you have about yourself to light and exaggerate that into what you see as a serious flaw.

I have mentioned that my family did not have much money. My mother made a lot of our clothes. But there were families in town who spent a bit more on clothing than we did.

I can remember some of the women bringing huge boxes of clothes that their daughters could no longer use. They were expensive clothes and in practically new condition. I loved getting those clothes because they were so nice.

What did bother me was that when they delivered the boxes the women did not pay attention to what they were saying. Even at that age I knew they were trying to do a good deed; it was in fact a good deed. I not only liked the clothes they brought but I needed them too. They were nice people doing a nice thing.

The problem was that they almost invariably said, "I thought Emma could wear these. If they don't fit just throw them away." I always felt like they were saying that they were not good for anybody else but they were good enough for me.

I believe in hand-me-downs. There is no sense in throwing out perfectly good items because you cannot use them for whatever reason. But I make sure if I give something to someone else that I say, "If you cannot use them maybe you know someone who can."

Another example is tasteless jokes. I have to be honest and say that often they are funny. But they are funny at the expense of others.

I was at a conference. A bunch of us met at the hotel for drinks after the meetings had adjourned for the day. Several people were standing around telling jokes. Most of the jokes were tasteless. Of course I had to join them.

I told my favorite tasteless joke. They all laughed. But afterward a woman came to me and told me that one of the other women had left because of my joke. It touched a nerve with her and hurt her feelings. I felt terrible.

I went to her room and asked if I could speak to her. She did not want to talk but was gracious. I apologized to her and she was such a nice person that she accepted my apology. We hugged each other and I left. I have not told another tasteless joke since.
My mother was laughing one day. She had seen my niece arguing with a friend. They were little girls and Mom wanted to make sure the argument did not turn into blows. But it was an argument using words as weapons. Finally my niece screamed, "Well at least MY mother buys real gold jewelry!"

How much did it hurt the other girl? I do not know. I do know that the girls are still good friends 30 years later. If only that was the worst thing we could think of to hurl at someone when we are angry with them.

Mom also liked to tell about her days as a waitress when she was young. There was a young man who came in once a week like clockwork. In those days people were called retarded and she just assumed that was his affliction.

He always ordered allep pie meaning apple pie. Mom would serve him and speak to him for a few moments before moving on to her next customers.

One day a woman came in to thank everyone at the cafe for being so nice to him. The family had to institutionalize him and he would not be coming in any more.

Another time she saw customers sitting at the table who were being very animated while they talked. Their hands were going a mile a minute and they talked and talked.

When she went to the table to take their orders she decided to join in and waved her hands excitedly. To her chagrin she soon realized that there were people who could not hear at that table. They had been using sign language as well as spoken language to communicate.

I hope these examples demonstrate that things are not always as they seem. And especially that words have power. It is so easy to unintentionally hurt someone with a careless word. And all we need to do is think before we open our mouths. Think. Think.