Thursday, July 28, 2011

Let Them Eat Cake

Today, we hosted a birthday dinner for our youngest daughter, Michele.  Her birthday was July 21, so getting her birthday dinner on the calendar within one week of the date was pretty darn good.  (Contrast that with the fact that we celebrated Tracy's birthday in January this year - and her birthday was July 22, 2010!!!!)

Ever since they were young, the girls have been allowed to choose the menu for their birthday dinner.  I always worried about lobster taste/hamburger pocketbook, but the closest we got to a "lobster" request was Tracy's love for shrimp which developed when she was in junior high.  Shrimp dishes come in lots of different varieties, so pocketbook sticker shock wasn't too bad.  Colleen and Michele were more traditional ... chicken dishes or tacos with corn on the cob, etc.

Michele became a vegetarian during high school (studying about trichynosis in biology did her in), so I don't have to worry about her choosing lobster.  Her birthday dinner now consists of a lot of "sides" that she can eat, along with a meat that she knows the rest of us like.  The last couple of years, it's been "kabobs."  Emily and Nathan love special event eating so kabobs are right up their alley.  However, when Grandpa Ed is involved, practicality rules, and so "kabobs" become trays of meat and vegetables cooked on the grill and then dumped into a big bowl for serving and enjoying.  Not quite the traditional visual image of "kabobs" that most people picture, but, Michele, being the good mom she is, lovingly threaded vegetables and meat onto skewers for Nathan, artistically alternating vegetables and meat on the stick.

Strawberry shortcake ala Sornsen
Dessert for Michele her entire life has been angel food cake.  When she was younger, it was confetti angel food with pink buttercream frosting.  However, maturity brought a move to "plain white" with no frosting.  Not crazy about ice cream, but bowing to tradition, she acquiesced to having vanilla on hand for anyone who might want to indulge.  The kids love strawberries and whipped cream with their angel food cake, but they like each food separate ... not stacked on top of each other.  Being an accommodating grandma (have you noticed?), I wanted to make sure they got what they wanted, and they did ...

Michele and Terry recently bought a beautiful new camper and so her birthday wish list consisted of things you can use while camping ... a picnic basket, gift certificate to camping world, folding lawn chair that you can carry as a backpack, etc.  A couple of those found there way to her birthday dinner ...  here's Michele all decked out for a picnic on the beach!  By the way, she was especially happy to discover the lawn chair has a cup holder ... must be to hold those Sweet Tea Vodkas that she's particularly fond of.  Happy camping, Mick!  We love you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Golfing Granny

We have had some stunningly beautiful summer days in the last two months.  We have also had some stinkin' hot ones.  Today, was one of the stunningly beautiful ones.

A perfect day to continue my goal of taking each of my grandchildren golfing this summer.  Today, it was grandson Cam's turn.  Cam is really Grandpa's buddy most of the time.  But Grandma is the one who has the patience to spend some time on the golf course with those just beginning the game.  I don't analyze, criticize, or agonize over every stroke, although I have been known to apologize for errant shots every now and then.

So, when it comes to showing the grandkids the joys (and pain) of this game, Grandma trumps Grandpa every time.  

I discovered a secret a couple of weeks ago when I took Nathan golfing. Kids and moms like to eat lunch, so you don't find a lot of groups on the golf course at noon.  So, you're free to "instruct" a bit if you have a novice with you, and you don't have to fret about holding up the people behind you.  True again today. There were 3 groups in front of us: a fivesome made up of 2 kids and 3 grandparents ... not sure which were slower; a foursome of two moms and two young boys; and a young teenaged couple who didn't appear to utter one word to each other the entire time they strolled around the course .. and I do mean strolled.  At one point, even Cam said, "If she didn't want to play golf, why didn't she just say no."  My feeling is she was accommodating him and didn't want to look too athletic ... I remember that teenage girl belief that boys prefer girly-girls (although her bag of Ping clubs kind of belied her apparent lack of interest in the sport).

Once we got onto the 3rd hole, however, the pace picked up and we were able to move along and really enjoy our day.  Cam drove the cart for the back 6 holes, dubbing this picture I took of him a "definite Profile Picture."  

Cam is a great baseball player and it trickles over into his golf game.  The concept of squaring his feet is pretty foreign ... he swings the club like a baseball bat and goes for the homerun every time, ending up back on his heels at the end of each swing. We spent a bit of time on the right side of every fairway retrieving his shots ... or looking for mine!  We were equally stumped to figure out how a pink sparkly ball can disappear so totally from sight.  Uh ... the pink sparkly ball was mine, not his!  We did find 8 other balls, one of which was bright yellow with a picture of Sponge Bob on it.  This quickly became Cam's most treasured find of the day and he used it the rest of the round, being very grateful to still have it in his possession as we finished #9.

He did hit several good shots, and, once I got him to take a half swing instead of wrapping the "bat club" around his neck, he actually hit the ball pretty well.

He hits his wedge pretty darn well, and repeatedly told me what a good "wedge player" he is.  Fun to see that he's already found that one confidence building club we all seem to have.  We both had great ... accidental ...  shots on Hole # 5. Our balls had landed in the rough with a grove of trees between us and the green.  There were two different "gaps" in the trees, and he decided to go through one of them ... and did .. albeit, not the one he was aiming for.  At that point, I explained the difference between "Theory and Execution" in the game of golf.  

I, on the other hand, was pretty sure I could go OVER the trees ... well, theory and execution ARE two different things!  But I also ended up going through one of the gaps (the one Cam had been aiming for!) and we both found ourselves up near the green.  We couldn't help but grin at each other with pride in our accomplishments!  In our postgame rehash, we both agreed those shots were the highlight of the day.

As with Nathan a few weeks ago, we followed up the round with a beverage and a bite to eat out on the patio.  A surprise visitor joined us ... Grandpa! Between Grandpa's recovery from knee surgery last October and another surgery this past March, he's not been able to golf in a year, so even sitting on the clubhouse patio watching golfers putt out on #18 now holds a certain amount of appeal for him. We had called him as we teed off on #8 and invited him to join us at the end of our round.  He hesitated until I reminded him I wasn't cooking tonight.  However, Cam believed, and I agree, that it was Cam's asking him that turned the tide.

There just isn't anything that compares to a beautiful afternoon on the golf course made even more enjoyable in the company of a grandson!  

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Some Light Summer Eating

Is there anything better than a fresh rhubarb pie?  

Well, maybe piecrust cookies made out of the pastry I whipped up for that fresh rhubarb pie.

With thanks to my good friend, Linda, who brought me a slew of fresh rhubarb on the 4th of July, today we're going to have rhubarb pie for dessert.  And, before dinner, I'm nibbling on the piecrust cookies made from the excess pastry dough.

I remember rhubarb being called "pie plant."  I never asked why ... I just knew what to expect if Mom said she had made a pie plant pie for dinner.  I haven't heard anyone call it pie plant in years, but that's how I think of it.  And in many places I've been throughout the United States, I've met people who have never tried rhubarb at all, regardless of what it's called.  

When I was a kid, we used to eat stalks of rhubarb straight out of the garden, unwashed of course, dipping the stalk into a bowl of sugar with each bite.  The flavor was akin to that of a Sour Patch candy, but before Sour Patch candies were invented.  My kids grew up eating rhubarb the same way.  Thinking of how paranoid folks are these days about "double dipping" and eating unwashed produce, I'm amazed we all survived that great unwashed treat.  

One other thing my mom would make from pie plant was rhubarb sauce.  Not sure why it wasn't called "pie plant sauce," but, it wasn't.  There wasn't a better summer breakfast than a bowl of rhubarb sauce and a slice of cinnamon toast.  I'm not talking about fancy cinnamon bread that Mom would buy at the bakery and then toast.  Just plain, white Wonder bread toasted, smeared with soft oleomargarine (couldn't afford butter with 10 kids) and then sprinkled with a homemade mixture of white sugar and cinnamon.  To this day, I can cook up a pot of rhubarb sauce, chill it and have it for breakfast with cinnamon toast, and voila! I'm 10 years old again.

I'm a purist, so I don't muddy up my rhubarb pie with strawberries.  It's tart and sweet all at the same time and, when served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream, a beautiful summertime treat.  Here's my rhubarb pie recipe, should you wish to indulge.

Mix together:
4 cups (washed!) rhubarb cut into 1" slices.
1/4 cup Minute Tapioca
1&1/2 cups white sugar
Dash of salt

Let stand 15 minutes.

Pour into 9" uncooked pie crust.  
Dot with 1 Tbsp butter
Cover with top crust.  Seal and flute edge.  
Cut slits in top crust.  Sprinkle crust with white sugar.  
Cover crust edge with aluminum foil.
Bake in preheated 400 degree F oven 35 minutes.

Remove foil from edge of crust.  Bake another 20 minutes or until juices are bubbling from slits.

Cool 3 to 4 hours before serving.

Oh, and the piecrust cookies?  Use the trimmings from your piecrust and place them on a cookie sheet. Sprinkle with a cinnamon sugar mixture. Put in the 400 degree oven at same time as pie, but bake for only about 10 minutes or until piecrust is golden.  Cool and enjoy!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Some Summer Reading

Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
Those days of soda and pretzels and beer
Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer
You'll wish that summer could always be here.
                                   Nat King Cole, 1963

With a heat index hovering near 110 this week (that's Fahrenheit for our European readers!), those words from an old Nat King Cole song (ask your parents, kids) seem particularly appropriate.  Although, I'm not so sure all of us wish summer would always be here to this extent (exception being my daughter, Michele, and I who absolutely love it hot!).

The heat brings a certain amount of lethargy with it, so outdoor activities are a bit curtailed and people stay indoors and do things they normally might not do on a beautiful summer day ... like read the newspaper!

Over the years, my late father-in-law and I would send each other interesting newspaper clippings from our respective papers (at least we found them interesting).  We believed, and, usually, rightfully so, that the other one would agree.

With his passing in March, I now find myself reading an article and thinking, "Dad would have LOVED this one."  Having no one to share these with, I've decided to share them with you from time to time.

So today, for your summer reading pleasure if you don't want to go outside, here are links to a few articles and opinion pieces that I found especially motivating, fun, inspirational, or just plain good reading in the past few days.

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Ms. Wheelchair Minnesota Seeks Next Crown
Up North Everything Stays the Same, and That's Perfect
Grandparents Have Got Your Back
Kids are Safer When Grandparents are Driving

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Choosing Grandchildren Over Toilets

Retirement has all kinds of rewards that I didn’t expect.  Not the least of them is the chance to attend Grandchildren’s events on Saturday instead of cleaning the house!  I’m always looking for a reason not to clean, and spending time with my grandchildren, even if it's just sitting in a chair watching them from a distance, is the best one I can think of.  I remember my Grandma T saying "The dirt will be here long after I'm gone."  Great motto to live by.
Today was one of those days.  Lauren, one of my 12 (soon to be 13) year old granddaughters was playing in a softball tournament.  Lauren is a natural athlete whose coach alternates her between catcher and second base.  She plays both positions equally well, so I know that I’m always going to be entertained when I attend one of her games.  She didn’t let me down today.  While playing second base with a runner on 2nd late in the game, she made a leaping catch to put the batter out and then made a valiant attempt at a double play.  While she’s quick, the girl on second had quickly gotten back to the base, and so we were left applauding, and bemoaning the fact that none of us had our cameras out to capture the “Webgem.”  
In the last inning, Lauren played catcher, rather than second base.  Regretting my lack of preparedness when she made her great catch in the field, and not wanting to miss any potentially spectacular play she might make, I stationed myself behind home plate and caught a couple of “action” shots.  While spectacular plays will wait for another (probably unprepared) time, her performance was steady and reliable and her team ended up winning the game, always fun when a grandparent is there .. fun for both the player AND the grandma.  
At one point during the game, the pitcher on Lauren’s team was having some control problems.  After walking a few players, Lauren's coach sent Lauren out to “talk to her.”  I watched the two of them chatting out on the mound, and, always having wondered what a catcher and pitcher talked about during those events, I asked my daughter what Lauren said to the pitcher when she was sent out.  Tracy told me that Lauren went out there the first time she was asked to do this and said, “I’m supposed to talk to you, but I have no idea what I’m supposed to say, so .... whew, it’s hot!”  Then she returned to her spot behind the plate and the game continued, with the pitcher “settled down.”  As Paul Harvey used to say, "Now you have the rest of the story."
After Lauren’s game ended, I made my way to a local grocery store parking lot to have my car washed by the Anoka High School cheerleaders, one of whom is my 16 year old granddaughter, Megan.  It’s supposed to be 100 degrees today so a perfect day for a bunch of young girls to be able to “play in the water,” while shining up the dirty cars that were roaming the streets following the 3 days of rain we’ve had.  I was happy for them that it wasn’t raining, as that certainly would have cut into the profits.
Having gone to an all-girls’ school that had a few sports teams (girls half-court basketball ... remember that?), but no cheerleaders, I had always assumed that cheerleaders were just pretty faces who had spent their lives taking dance or gymnastics.  As a teenager, I had attended a few high school football games played at neighboring schools, and so remembered cheers being a bunch of girls in short skirts yelling “Push ‘em back, push ‘em back, waaaaay back.”  Or “Rodney, Rodney, he’s our man.  If he can’t do it, NOBODY can!”
Even I could memorize those chants without a lot of practice and so I thought being a cheerleader was probably a walk in the park.  While Megan and her colleagues are all definitely beautiful young women, and Megan did take one year of dance when she was about six, I've learned these young women are more than that.  Megan became a cheerleader last year and I learned that the cheerleaders give up a great deal of their summer vacation to spend a lot of time getting themselves ready for the football and soccer seasons.

Beginning in late June, there is daily practice for many weeks, attendance at a week-long cheerleading camp in July at which team-building, fellowship, and cooperation is modeled and practiced, and active participation in a large number of fund-raising events to pay for their fees and uniforms.  Along the way, they do have to memorize cheers, and learn jumps, lifts, leaps and stunts (ooh... where did those muscles come from?). Once school starts, they must maintain a good GPA or they're benched.  The carwash, today, was one of their numerous fundraisers.  I was happy to participate in helping them make their way, since our schools these days seems to be bearing the brunt of the budget cutting that is going on in our state. Shame on you, Governor Dayton and Minnesota legislators!
Along with the chance to interact with two of my grandaughters, I got a bonus grandchild sighting ... Danny and Cam were in attendance at the ballgame to cheer on sister Lauren.  Danny is recovering from his surgeries on Monday and doing well .. check out the "Minnesota Twins Blue" cast on his left arm.  Cam is sporting a new “do” and was pretty dang proud of it.  Handsome devil, isn’t he?
All in all, a most satisfactory Saturday and much better than spending it with my head in four toilets, wouldn't you agree!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

K Squared becomes Computer Geek

"It's hard to know when to respond to the seductiveness of the world and when to respond to its challenge. If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I rise in the morning torn between the desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day."  E.B. White

I thought this quote from E.B. White would set the stage for this blog entry.  A few weeks ago, I was at the local library and expressed an interest in volunteering.  Apparently, there are lots of people who want to do that, as I was advised they were "full" and I should check back in the fall.  I thanked the librarian and mentioned I was interested in assisting people who might have questions or issues while using the library computers.
You would have thought I had walked into the ER with chest pains.  The librarian’s demeanor changed immediately.  She handed me an application and asked me to get it back as soon as possible, advising that “computer docent” was the one volunteer position they desperately needed and no one ever wanted to do it. 
So, today I was “interviewed” by the assistant librarian and the volunteer coordinator and was “hired.”  I think, basically, if you express an interest in doing something like this, the “interview” is a mere formality. They started out with a sheet of standard “form” questions (thankfully, not the one asking what vegetable I might be in a parallel universe!)  They quickly set aside the list of form questions when it became apparent that a conversation among the 3 of us would elicit more valuable information.
When asked what prompted my volunteer interest, I was quickly relayed how, as a child, I would “play librarian."  I loved the smell of the library and its books, and always wanted to be the librarian.  Part of the appeal was the tool the librarian used to "check out" books.  She (there were only female librarians in my childhood) had a pencil with a small metal ring around it near the writing end. The metal ring had an embossed date stamp on it that she would first tap onto an inkpad and then stamp on a small printed chart on the inside of the book.  Next, she would initial next to the date, proving that she had "checked out" the book to you.  The date stamped inside the book was the return date. That motion of stamping and initialing appealed to my innate sense of organization and process, and it was the height of my ambition to be the "library lady" who got to stamp the books. I liken that ambition now to one of my daughters wanting to be a "Fotomat girl" when she was 10 years old and had to consider possible career choices for a class assignment.  If you're too young to remember Fotomats, ask your mom or grandma.  We have come sooooo far in the world.

So here I am, still aspiring to be a "library lady."  Alas, scanning machines, book barcodes, online renewals, self-checkouts and, worst of all, ebooks have now replaced most of what appealed to me.  I’ll bet little girls don’t have nearly as much fun playing librarian as I did.  Come to think of it, even the smell of the library isn’t the same.  Sometimes modern isn’t better.
I was a little concerned that the people interviewing me might be looking for a real technology person - one with a degree and expertise in networking, programming, etc.  When I asked, I was told that a degree would result in my being overqualified for the job!  Whew!  Apparently, if you say you know how to turn on a computer and are willing to answer users' questions, you’ve got the job!  It frees the librarians up to do the things librarians need to do .. like shelving books, plugging in the scanning machine, etc. .. borrrring!
So, I’m the new computer docent at the Crooked Lake library.  I have to go for orientation on July 21 and will officially start on August 4.  I’m not sure exactly what types of issues I'll face, but I'm ready to take them all on.  My motivation to volunteer in this capacity was triggered when I was in the library one night and an announcement was made that the library would be closing in 10 minutes and the computers would be shutting down.  A gentleman completing an online job application was audibly upset and was looking for help in saving the information.  The librarian was doing her best, but was also struggling with her other “closing” duties.  As told to me today, that is typical of what I can expect to run into.  Just think, both of them would have been helped had they had a "docent" nearby to call on.
So, E.B. White, this might be one day when my desire to improve the world actually marries with my desire to enjoy the world. I think this is going to be right up my alley. 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pump it up, Daniel!

You'd think a grandma who intended to blog about her grandson's surgery would have gone to the hospital prepared.  She would have taken her camera with her and taken a pre-op picture of her grandson to post with the story.
I did go to the hospital prepared.  I took my camera.  However, that presupposes I would remember that I HAD my camera with me when I went into the pre-op room to visit with Daniel today.  I do hope that cure for Alzheimer's is close.
I didn't think to take a picture until Daniel was in the Recovery Room ... where no electronic devices were allowed.  So, the best I can do is feature a picture of the hospital sign.  Gillette Children's Hospital ... a wonderful place that takes awesome care of the children who come there for help.
Following the surgery, I left the hospital to spend some time (and make some fudge) with Lauren and Cam, Daniel's sister and brother - notice how forlorn they are without Daniel at home.  They traded a beautiful arrangement of homegrown flowers for the homemade fudge!  Good trade from my perspective.
Daniel had two different surgeries performed today. One of them was to replace his implanted Medtronic medicine pump .. hence the title of this piece!

I won't go into the technical details since my command of medical jargon is pretty limited. These are just two of the surgeries Daniel has had in his short almost 16 years of life.  He actually had a very major surgery (fusion of his spine) just 3 months ago .. barely enough time to have recovered before getting on the merry-go-round again.  
He was five months old before he ever came home from the hospital, and he had already had 5 neurosurgeries.  There are more surgeries in his future .. a couple that we already know of; possibly others hidden from view at this time.  And he never complains.  Rarely cries.  He just smiles and greets you with his own special sounds.  He wants the same things the rest of us do .. to be loved and accepted.
Daniel is my oldest grandson.  He has beautiful blue eyes, freckles (mostly on one side of his face) and thick brown hair that reminds me of his mother's when she was growing up.  He has knobby knees and is getting visibly taller, something that is obvious even from the confines of a wheelchair.  He likes pretty girls and watching his siblings play computer games. He's the most social kid you've ever met for someone who can't talk, and he makes friends wherever he goes. He uses his head controls to drive his power wheelchair and does a pretty darn good job of it for a kid who hasn't taken driver's ed!  All in all, a pretty typical 15-year old. And, yet, one who is totally different from most other 15-year olds.    
Many years ago, I wrote a poem about being Daniel's grandmother. I wasn't sure what I was going to do with it.  I've never shared it with anyone.  Today seems an appropriate time to share it.  This space seems an appropriate place to publish it.
My excitement at being a grandparent was ...
Tempered with fear at the fact of his premature birth
Shattered by the words, "He may never walk."
Rekindled the first time I held him in my arms.
Put on hold during his first neurosurgery.
Bolstered with relief when all went well.
Awed at his tenacity in choosing life over all obstacles in his path.
Shored up by pride when watching his parents cope with the unexpected change in direction of their dreams.
Dampened by sorrow at the realization of all he would never be able to enjoy or experience.
Swelled by amazement at the realization of all we would learn from him.
Renewed by hope the first day he left for school on the bus.
Amplified by gratitude and faith in the next generation after witnessing the many classmates who greeted him and accepted him so readily when we lunched together on Grandparents' Day at school.
Married with acceptance of the gift he brings into our lives ... the gift we call Daniel.
And through all of the excitement and fear and wonder and awe and gratitude and hope and acceptance runs the strongest emotion of all .... love.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

K Squared equals P Cubed

I'm sure there's some mathematical theorem that would disprove the title of this posting; however, I claim no scientific documentation ... just a reflection of a great day spent on the golfcourse.  K Squared (the two initials of my name) became P Cubed on Thursday of this past week.  That's the day I was in a golf tournament with 3 good friends, who dubbed me the Putting Princess from Pinehurst ... P3 (or P Cubed for those mathematicians among you).

I love the game of golf (I think I've mentioned that a time or two in this blog).  That doesn't equate to being GOOD at the game of golf.  Quite the opposite in my case ... as the years go by, I seem to get worse.  A couple of years ago, I was shooting in the upper 40s for 9 holes ... now I'm lucky to escape with a score in the low 60s. For a really good golfer, the upper 40s isn't anything they would brag about (especially since I've been golfing for about 25 years!), but to me it was the mecca I had been striving for. Unfortunately, after I shot a few games in the upper 40s, I think I fell into the golf chasm of "Hey, I've got this game knocked." And the Godess of Golf quickly said, "Oh no, Buttercup.  Life just ain't that easy."

I've tried to blame this downward slide on my advancing age; however, there are a number of women on my golf league (yes, I even humiliate myself on a weekly basis by golfing in a league!) who are older than I (this number is getting fewer every year!) who regularly shoot better than I.  So I can't throw age under the bus.  I'm pretty sure it's one of two things:  1) my tendency to multi-task at everything I do, which results in a very thin "focus" available to be spread among: the ball I'm supposed to be "keeping my eye on"; the green I'm supposed to be aiming at; and planning my dinner menu for the next night! OR 2) my tendency to spend so much time talking to my cart partner that the game becomes secondary. Now that I think of it, the talking is probably part of the multi-tasking and so the two become one.  I am, after all, a SOCIAL golfer!

Despite this lack of focus, Joyce, Julie and Sue still invited me to join them in the "Choker's Scramble" Invitational at Bunker Hills golf course in Coon Rapids (I just live there, folks .. I didn't name the town!).  Bunker is in great shape and I golf there every Friday night during the season in a quasi couples league with 5 or 6 other couples.  In other words, I know the course fairly well and, by now, should be able to play it fairly well!  LOL! 

Two of our foursome are long ball hitters and very good golfers, regularly scoring in the 40s (not the high end, I might add).  They are competitive but nice about it .. in other words, not golf bitches!  The other member of our foursome also hits the ball very well, just not quite as far. Her handicap is close to mine and our games are pretty similar, at least when I'm playing better.  Recently, she is playing at a much higher level than I ... but she still likes me (and she also is not a golf bitch!)

A Choker's Scramble requires one person to be the "choker" on each of the 18 holes.  That person hits her ball from tee to green and counts her strokes MINUS her handicap for that hole The rules required each of the four of us to be the Choker at least twice during the 18-hole round.  While the Choker is playing her ball from tee to green, the other 3 golfers play a "scramble" from tee to green with one of the other 3 balls.  

If you're a golfer, you understand everything I just said; if you're not, this probably sounds like I'm speaking Azerbaijani, but take my word for it, even allowing for use of your handicap, being the Choker brings great stress and anxiety ... at least when your game has been in the tank.

For the first 13 holes, I didn't contribute much to the game.  I apologized and said I felt as if I were being carried by the rest of them, similar to a "Princess" in a fairy tale setting.  I was wearing the visor I had bought when we were at Pinehurst golf course a few weeks ago, so I was dubbed the Princess from Pinehurst.  On one of the holes I did make a fairly decent putt, and Princess from Pinehurst gave way to the Putting Princess from Pinehurst - or P to the 3rd power ... P cubed ... hence, the title of this posting!

We did end up doing fairly well despite my ADHD, and actually earned a $65 "skin" (more Azerbaijani) for our score on one hole and a gift certificate to the Bunker pro shop for our team score.  My golf buddies encouraged me to replace K Squared with P Cubed as the title of this blog and I did give some thought to it.  However, I've been a "Square" my whole life (yes, my maiden name started with a "K" also) and I've only been a Princess since Thursday, so making a jump to this new title seems a bit like "putting on airs" as my mother would say.

Oh yeah, there was one other thing I got as a result of our game Thursday ... a really ugly suntans on my feet!  I don't think even Coppertone's fake suntan in a bottle will even out these puppies.


Monday, July 4, 2011

Happy Birthday, America!

It has been a wonderful 4th of July.  Despite the state of Minnesota being in a public "shutdown" due to our legislators being unable to agree on a budget (really, guys, how difficult is it to understand this is what you were elected to do!), I've cried a little, laughed a lot, and just plain enjoyed being an American.  Apart from the horrible storms on Friday night, the holiday weekend was picture perfect .. blue skies and warm temperatures (hovering near 90 all weekend) and just a small, fleecy cloud in the sky now and then.

Ed decided to build a small "screened in porch" on our patio by draping a zip-up circular screen around our patio umbrella/table to allow us to sit on the patio at night without being bothered by bugs. I'm not sure when exactly this has ever been a problem for us .. I don't remember the last time we WANTED to sit outside on the patio at night.  We have to keep Ed from reading those "Sky Mall" magazines on Delta airplanes!  He's exactly the guy they're targeting!  It took a bit of coordination to figure out the logistics, but, once it was in place, his trial run, which consisted of 2 vodka tonics while enjoying our backyard (see picture of his "enjoyment") proved successful, so the "porch" will periodically make an appearance. 

I enjoyed local fireworks last night with my daughter, Tracy, and her family (including grandson, Cam) and some neighbors.  There were about  300 other people who found the same "perfect spot" we did ... the local library, located in the middle of a huge field across the street from where the fireworks happen. How amazing that the same people who fly into church at the last minute on Christmas Eve, astonished that there isn't a front row seat for them, also show up for fireworks at the last minute and wonder why they can't find a parking spot.  And when they can't, they simply stop where they are and get out of the car (or more often a huge pickup truck!) and plop down in front of you ... looking rather indignant if you mention that they're blocking your view.

Apart from that little annoyance, the 4th had a number of highlights.  Not least among them was a beautiful delivery of "God Bless America" offered up by the trio of musicians who had just led us in celebrating at our Saturday night 5:00 Mass.  The congregation was leaving church, the priest was already outside shaking hands, and a number of us were visiting with friends when we heard the first few notes of the song being sung by the woman cantor.  As the song grew around us and filled the large space, many of us stopped where we were and turned and began singing along.  It was one of the most spontaneous exhibitions of patriotism I have ever witnessed and it moved me to tears. Believing he was finished greeting departing congregants, our pastor came through the door and couldn't hide the surprise on his face to see so many people scattered, standing and singing from their hearts.  He stood in the door and joined us, adding his voice to the already swelling chorus.  The finale of the song was greeted with applause, whistles and "whoo-hoos" ... something you don't often hear in a suburban Catholic church made up of people who can hardly force themselves to shake hands during the "kiss of peace."

This morning, I attended the 4th of July Mass at church and was a bit surprised to see tennies and white socks poking out from under the robes of our rather staid priest.  During the sermon, in which he enlisted our aid in sharing what freedom we are most grateful for as Americans, I learned that the tennies and socks were a perfect complement to the bermuda shorts under his vestment ... the freedom to wear shorts while celebrating Mass turned out to be what he was most grateful for.  It made me grateful to have a "human" priest.

The stunning necklaces courtesy of a quick trip to the Dollar Store!
This afternoon, in honor of the occasion, we grilled hamburgers, brats and hotdogs .. I made potato salad, cut up a watermelon, sugared some strawberries, made a shortcake, and invited my 92 year old mother (who LOVES the 4th of July) and two friends to join us for a traditional Independence Day meal.  Mom, who claims she "just doesn't have much of an appetite any more," put away most of a 1/3 lb. cheeseburger, 2 helpings of potato salad, a saucer of cucumbers and onions, a slice of watermelon, strawberry shortcake, and a piece of rhubarb bread!  She has COPD, uses a walker, and has a touch of dementia that exhibits itself in sundowner tendencies from time to time.  None of that inhibits her appetite when faced with a plate of homemade food (most of which was made using her recipes, I might add).  We are grateful for every day that we have with her, and on this 4th of July, I was reminded of all of the holidays of my childhood (and beyond) when she worked so hard to give us good food, good times and good memories.  She succeeded in all three.

It's hard to imagine living in another country and being so content.  I know we are sometimes viewed as "arrogant" Americans, and that's unfortunate (but well deserved at times).  However, when I think about my husband, 3 daughters, 2 sons-in-law and 8 grandchildren, my beautiful home, and the freedoms I enjoy, I truly believe that, even with the state shutdown and legislators who don't seem to know the meaning of the word "legislate,"  I am blessed to be a citizen of the greatest country in the world.

Happy Birthday, Americans!  

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Weathering the Storm

Last night, daughter Michele, her husband, Terry, and their two children, Emily and Nathan, had to abandon their car and lie in a ditch while a storm with winds at about 80 mph passed over them.  It was the most frightening situation she has ever been in and one that gave me a lot to think about during the night when I was supposed to be sleeping.

Michele and family were driving to a local grocery store in preparation for a 4th of July camping trip in their new camper.  The weatherman had been predicting storms; however, we all know how that goes.  Half the time they're right .. and half the time they're wrong ... and they still draw their mega paychecks regardless of their accuracy.  So assuming that the dire predictions of hail, strong winds and possible tornadoes would be as wrong as it usually is, the 4 set out.

I had been at the golf course and had come home after the sirens had sounded, sending all the golfers into the clubhouse to get rainchecks to return and play another day (we, too, didn't believe the weatherman and had gone to the golf course despite the forecast). Shortly after arriving home, I got Michele's first text advising me that they had just abandoned their car to lie in the ditch to avoid what they thought was a tornado.  She and her husband and kids were lying there saying the "Our Father" over and over.  She wanted to know if there were any more tornado warnings out.  She told me of 2" hail, "dancing streetsigns" and bowing trees being pulled out of the ground by the roots.  I could sense the fear in her text to me, especially when it ended with the word "Pray."

I immediately started saying the Rosary, while texting her to "call me" as soon as she could.  A rather disjointed call followed, and, then, more texts, indicating that they were trying to either get to the grocery store or home, but the roads were all blocked with fallen trees everywhere they turned.

After several hours, they did manage to make it home (with groceries!) only to find a number of large trees down in their own yard, a piece of siding missing from the house, and a lot of flattened plants.  Miraculously, a large branch right above their brand new camper had been ripped off a tree but had been flung aside without touching the camper or the house!  We started saying prayers of gratitude instead of prayers of petition.

This morning, I went over to Michele's with a homemade coffee cake.  I knew I didn't need an "excuse" to see my daughter with my own eyes in order to satisfy myself that she and her family were okay, but, I also knew that she would accept it easier if I came for a reason ... delivering the coffee cake.  Terry and a neighbor, along with Nathan and the neighbor's son, were busy cutting up the fallen trees and carrying the logs into the "woods" behind their house.  The coffee cake was my offering for "breakfast" for the workers.  Michele saw right through it and, with tears in her eyes, hugged me and thanked me for coming.  Her tear-filled eyes matched my own ... we both realized what a close call she had experienced.  She vowed that she would never again take weather for granted, and might even begin believing the weatherman when predictions of adverse weather were made.

I was frightened when I talked to her last night to think of the danger they were in trying to outrun a storm.  I was saddened when I heard about the damage to their beautiful home and yard, Michele's pride and joy.  She is the caretaker of both and the yard and the home both reflect her creativity, artistry and sense of neatness.  But I didn't get REALLY frightened about the experience until 3:00 a.m. today.  You know ... that "witching hour" ... when all of the problems in your world become larger than life and it seems as if there is no solution to any of them.

What I thought about at 3 a.m. today were all of the horrible things that could have happened to them lying in that ditch.  When I heard about the trees on the road everywhere they turned, I realized any one of those trees could have fallen on them or been hurled through the atmosphere by the strong winds, landing where they were taking shelter.  Even their car, which they had abandoned on the roadside next to the ditch assuming it would act as a buffer between them and the wind, could have been blown on top of them, had the wind gusts been strong enough and coming from the right direction.  Either one of my grandchildren could have been picked up by a wind gust and dropped at a point far removed from where their parents were.  The possibilities were endless, each one more frightening than the last.

Thinking of the damage to their home, I thanked God that Emily and Nathan had not been home alone when the storm blew up.  They are 12 and 8, old enough to be left alone while Mom and Dad run to the grocery store.  In fact, they often stay home alone in such circumstances. Fortunately, the 4 of them were all together, so that no small child was left huddled in a room wondering if the end of the world was coming as siding was being ripped off the house, trees were crashing around them, and the wind roared overhead.  I worried about the expensive repairs had any of the trees landed on the house.  There was so much to worry about .. and so much to be grateful for.  Finally, gratitude won out over fear ... and I fell back to sleep.

I have only recently begun to accept that my children are no longer "children" in the sense of being a child. They are adults who must face dangers on their own without my being there to protect or guide them.  While that is what parenting is all about .. raising an independent child ... it is difficult to accept that an adult child is really no longer a child.  I think of that periodically when I read an obituary of a young person (in their late 30s or early 40s) or hear from a friend whose "child" has suffered a stroke or died from cancer.  My "children" are now old enough to face the same dangers and ills that I, myself, have to face.  And they must do it without me, even though I want to be there for them at all times.

Weathering a storm like Michele and her family did is an experience that ended well, thankfully.  They will never forget it, nor will I.  Because it helped me realize that weathering the storm of parenthood is an experience that doesn't end .. it just continually changes.  

While I am here for my children at all times, I also know that they are experiencing life in all of its fullness without me on a daily basis and I am hearing about it after the fact.  The worry and fear of a mother never goes away ... at 3:00 a.m. you worry about a 30-something daughter and family no differently than you worried about that same daughter when she was 6 and had strep throat.  You can't pick her up and rock her and hug her and kiss her and make it all better.  All you can do is the one simple thing my daughter asked me to do for her last night.  Pray.

Friday, July 1, 2011


This week I discovered the fun in taking an 8 year old grandson for his first-ever round of golf on a "real" golf course.  Or, as he so succinctly put it ... "Finally, I get to golf while I'm moving around, instead of just standing in one place."  

His previous experience consisted of going to the driving range and hitting balls with the "big club" as he calls his driver.

I got to introduce him to his FW (took me a while to figure out that was a "fairway wood) and his hybrid.  The hybrid, as it turned out, became his favorite club.  I couldn't fault his choice.  I call mine my "magic club."  

It was a beautiful summer day and having promised myself that I would take each of my grandchildren on an individual golf outing one day during the summer, I canvassed my daughters to see who was available. Nathan came out on top!  His mom had to wake him to give him the news of this spur-of-the moment outing, and, once he heard, he didn't waste any more time under the covers.

He decided to bring two hats with him to the golf course ... golfers DO wear hats after all.  He came downstairs with his propellor beanie on his head, carrying his baseball cap from the "Get your Rear in Gear" walk.  Now that I think of it, that's a wonderfully appropriate hat for the golf course ... if I could only get mine into it, I might hit further than 130 yards! 

I was a little concerned about the propriety of the propellor beanie hat, but not wanting to dampen his enthusiasm or his individuality, I kept silent (I also don't want to be remembered as "the crabby grandma").  When we got out of the car and started loading our clubs onto the golf cart, he changed hats. I wondered if he had been reading some golf fashion magazine during summer break. He later told me he played a lot of Wii Golf. Ahh, technology.  It even informs fashion for the unschooled.

We played a par-3 course, beginning about 11:45 a.m.  There were several twosomes (walkers) a couple holes in front of us and several a couple holes behind us, so there was no pressure at any time to hurry this young Rory McIlroy along ... we were free to engage in some flights of fancy as we enjoyed the presence of a white butterfly following Nathan and his ball down one fairway and then land on his ball, "kissing" it before darting away.  We decided the butterfly kiss must have been what caused him to hit his next shot so well. 

We had a few lessons on having to stand fairly still while hitting the ball, not taking a full backswing with the putter, and keeping one's "eye on the ball."  Along the way, I didn't even have to explain golf terms or appropriate golf behavior.  When a putt from off the green missed, he groaned and said, "Oh, I thought I was going to have a chip-in." While I was grateful he hadn't yet learned the "golf language" used when missing those chip-ins, I wondered aloud how he knew what chipping in meant.  He again cited his familiarity with the game through Wii Golf, also advising me that golf was his favorite sport! Virtual sports ... gotta love 'em.

I wanted to build a memory for him of his "golfing grandma" that he would carry with him forever.  I thought sharing little mental golf tips that seem to work for me (sometimes!) would be a good building block for that memory.  So, as I putted on one green, I explained how you should picture a railroad track running from your putter to the hole, and then stroke the ball down the railroad track.  The ball, of course, totally missed the cup, going right past it.  Nathan astutely observed, "Guess the train jumped the tracks."  Hope that's not the memory he retains!

Of course, I let him drive the cart ... every 8-year old's dream.  He did pretty well, even with his arms crossed in the shape of an X as he tried to turn the wheel (remember being a teen-ager learning to drive a car?)  I'd have to pass him on his driver's test .. by the end of 9 holes, we hadn't hit any trees and had only driven over 2 tee boxes ... 

Wanting him to have the full golf experience, we engaged in appropriate golf behavior at the end of the round as well ... a burger and a beverage on the clubhouse patio.  While sitting there, we watched other golfers putting out on the 18th green.  Not realizing it wasn't the same course we had just played, Nathan commented that he hadn't noticed the dining patio when he and I were on the last green.  I told him we had played a different course, a short one.  His comment:  "Yeah, we didn't have time to play the long one."  I love the unfettered view a child has of his own abilities.  

As we left the course, I was thinking about how happy I was that the timing of our game had been such that we hadn't delayed anyone else's game.  After all, as would be expected for a first-time golfer paired with a Golfing Granny, the two of us had needed a fair number of strokes on each of the holes.  We're the twosome you hurry to get ahead of when you see us in the parking lot or the pro shop.  Speaking out loud as I drove away from the course, I said, "It was a perfect day.  We couldn't have picked a better time to play.  No one in front of us or behind us.  Thank you, God."

From the back seat, a small voice said, "Uh, actually, Grandma, it was us."  Guess God will have to wait for another day to get His due.

When I dropped Nathan off at his house, he told me not to leave for a minute.  He disappeared into the field across the street only to return with a gift for me ... his building block for MY memory of this day.  

It was a perfect day!  Thank you God AND Nathan!