Tuesday, August 30, 2011

We'll Do It Again Next Summer

When the cashier at the golf pro shop says, "I don't need to see your ID.  I know who you are," is it time to admit you're hanging out too much at the golf course?

That's what I heard today when grandson, Landon, and I checked in at the pro shop.  It's not that I know this man personally.  It's just that Landon was the 6th grandchild I've brought to golf at this course in the last 8 weeks.  After chuckling about the frequency of my visits, I told the pro that I would be back tomorrow with the 7th grandchild to complete my summer odyssey -  the good Lord willing and the rain holds off!

We had a wonderful day on the course, despite having to dodge a few raindrops here and there.  Not enough to require umbrellas, but we did have to lower the club protector awning on the back of the golf cart. Guess I spoke a little hastily yesterday about the golf God having given us such good weather all summer.

Landon had brought his own set of junior clubs, but used a good number of mine.  As with the others, I introduced him to my hybrid club.  After using it for a few holes, he asked about the price of a new one.  After hearing the amount, he observed that he didn't golf enough for that, so he thought he'd see if he could find a used one!  Pretty savvy economics.

Landon's golf swing is pretty fast and hard, propelled from the same mindset he uses when playing baseball I suspect. Slowing him down for putting proved to be a real challenge. He found a rhythm on the fairway that he could manage with my hybrid or one of his clubs, but his putting looked more like the final game in the World Series of ping pong. By the end of 9 holes, however, he was pretty much in the groove, and actually ended up with a double bogie on each of the last two holes.  Like a seasoned golfer, he quickly declared those his two favorite holes on the course.

Before we got to the course, we had stopped at a local gas station to pick up a couple of "Arnie Palmers" in a bottle.  Landon was sure this was going to bring us good luck and it did seem to help him if he took a swig prior to hitting a fairway shot.  I have to admit I sneaked a drink occasionally, thinking it might help my game, but Arnie wasn't as good to me.

We were both surprised to find Grandpa waiting for us near the green when we got to the 9th tee box.  Grandpa had one of his 4 football drafts today, so we hadn't expected him to serve as gallery for us.  After teeing off, with Grandpa watching, Landon's second shot on the 9th went into the bunker.  Thinking I was doing him a favor, I picked it up and threw it on the grass so he wouldn't have to struggle with what I figured could be humiliation in front of Grandpa. Since he hadn't been in a bunker all day, and knowing the problems I have in a bunker, I was trying to spare him! I should have known better.

Not afraid of trying any shot he was faced with, he asked me to put the ball back in the sandtrap because he wanted to try a bunker shot.  His pitching wedge out of the trap was almost picture perfect, landing about 5 feet from the pin. He was pretty tickled to have done so well in front of Gramps! And I learned not to presume.

Our apres-game bite-to-eat had to be inside today since the patio was a bit damp from the rain.  But Landon didn't seem to mind, as he and Grandpa quickly launched into a discussion of the football players Grandpa had just drafted, supplemented by the printout Grandpa had brought of the recent picks.  As they discussed the pros and cons of the choices, I was tickled with this evidence of the respect Grandpa held for Landon's sports' knowledge.  Feeling a little left out of this part of the day, I was happy to find a friend of mine eating at the table next to us, so I could turn my attention to more "girly" things while the men talked football.

Though just having turned 12 this month, Landon is a real sports nut.  He has played baseball and football for many years and last year took up basketball for the first time. He has a knowledge of sports that rivals that of most adult men.  I marvel when I observe him holding his own talking sports with my husband.  I'm the first to admit I know diddly squat about most sports, despite loving golf.  On the way home from the golf course, Landon tried to explain to me what a football "tight end" does.  When he heard my neutral grunts and saw the blank expression on my face, he politely started talking about golf instead, subtly acknowledging my sports deficiencies, while taking advantage of the fact that I was at least willing to share my course time with him.  

I'm amazed at how much fun this golf odyssey has been so far.  I'm delighted at how polite and grateful these kids all are for this time together.  The day ended with Landon saying "Thank you, Grandma,"  and then pumping his fist when I responded, "You're welcome.  We'll do it again next summer."  It sure doesn't take much for a grandchild to think a grandparent is pretty special ... and vice versa.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Five Down ... Two to Go!

At the beginning of summer (the beginning of my retirement!), I made a commitment to myself to take 7 of my grandchildren golfing, one at a time, throughout the summer. When I realized last week that school starts next week and I still had 3 kids who hadn't gotten out there, I did some fast calendaring and scheduled 3 days in a row for golf this week.  Hopefully the weather will hold!

Today, was Megan's day.  She's our oldest grandchild.  16, soon to be 17.  When she was 13, we cited her age as "13, going on 40."  I'm happy to report she has grown back into her own age.  What a delight.

Megan is a junior in high school, a varsity football cheerleader for the second year, and a good student, although you wouldn't peg her as a nerd who does nothing but study.  School must come easily to her, since she doesn't walk around with her nose in her books, and yet she consistently makes the honor roll (or whatever it is they call it these days).  A few weeks ago, she got her driver's license (the subject of an earlier blog posting), and so this morning, she was able to drive herself to our house, rather than my having to pick her up.  Easy for me, but not as much fun as when we used to have a whole trip to visit and share our hopes, dreams and silly experiences.

We had another gorgeous day.  I swear the golf God has orchestrated this entire summer experience for me.  Every one of my "grandchild golf days" has been picture perfect.  Heading out on Golf Day #5, the perfect weather gave me cause to be grateful ... grateful for the day, the weather, the wonderful grandchildren I have, the marvelous experiences we've shared with Megan and all of our grandchildren.  

It also gave me cause to be a bit maudlin about how fast these 17 years have flown and made me wonder what the next 17 might be like.  I remember so well the day Megan was born.  This little peanut with the red hair and the big blue eyes, that would eventually turn to green.  We had no clue what to expect as grandparents, but we sure didn't expect the overwhelming feeling of "first love" that filled both my husband and I the first time we held her.

I couldn't help but notice today how beautiful she is.  A lot of this is natural beauty, but she also has learned how to apply make-up with a lighter hand.  Was it just a couple of years ago that the eyeliner was so thick that you couldn't tell if there were eyelashes under there?  The beautiful red hair was covered with brown dye to avoid the teasing from the kids at school.  Now that brown dye is fading and she is proud of the beautiful red that is once more starting to peek through.  She talked of her senior pictures to be taken next summer and how she wants her hair to be its natural color for those pictures so that she won't regret them years from now.  When did she become so wise?

A year from now, she will be getting ready for her senior year in high school and a year after that, she'll probably already have left for college.  That fills me with sadness on the one hand and joy on the other .... what a great job her mom has done raising her and what a "good" person Megan has become.

We had a blast golfing.  She outdrove me several times ... and that's as it should be. Her natural strength and enthusiasm came through in her golf swing.  There was no hesitation or worry about how she looked ... was her left arm straight .. did she keep her head down .. did she follow through?  She just swung and hit the ball.  When she whiffed (a couple of times), a refreshing "Oh boy" would come out of her mouth.  Having heard the way some of today's youth talk, I was tickled with this old-fashioned, honest expression.

As with the others, we followed our 9 holes on the course with lunch.  When she ordered an "Arnie Palmer" it cracked me up  ... just a few years ago, she was trying her wings by ordering a "Virgin Daquiri," and now she's morphed into a more appropriate drink ... and one that is commensurate with the game we were playing.  Her clubhouse sandwich, "hold the tomatoes, please," was further proof that she was a young lady who knows her own mind.  One that I am proud to call granddaughter ... even if she did outdrive me on those holes today.

Thanks, Megan, for a good round of golf and for 17 years of enjoyment.  I'm eager to see what the next 17 bring.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Pennies From Heaven ... and a Dime and a Quarter, too

I admit to being superstitious.  I believe in dreams as omens and I believe that those we have loved who have left this world have ways of communicating with us ... sometimes humorous ways.

Today's blog is about one of those communications.

I have to preface the point of this story with some background.  (My husband kids me that I have to start every story with, "I was born in 1944 ...."  LOL.  I think he's right)

Background: a number of years ago a friend named Mike told me of a friend of his who would always find money in parking lots, stores, etc. Mike's friend had died a few years ago, but before he died, he told Mike that every time Mike would find money, it would be the friend communicating from the other side.  Mike kiddingly said, "Well, when that happens, could you make it quarters and not pennies that I find."

A few years after Mike told me that story, my sister, Colleen, died.  She had always had a great sense of humor and I missed her and her sense of humor tremendously following her death.  Since I am one to always be picking up stray pennies (I used to find them in my daughters' wastebaskets .. they didn't think they were worth much!) I decided one day shortly after her death to use that as my touchstone for communicating with Colleen. (Secondary purpose:  I'd be able to find out if there actually is a Heaven!)

I thought a trial balloon was in order, so I sent a message heavenward to Colleen asking her to let me know that she was okay and that she was in heaven.  Sure enough, within a day or two, I found a few pennies on the ground.  I thanked her and asked her if she could try sending quarters the next time.  Periodically, I would find a quarter or a nickel, but most often it would be a penny.  I resigned myself to calling these little messages "Pennies from Heaven." Colleen's been gone almost 4 years now, but I still hear from her now and then in the form of a stray coin.

Now to the point of my story today!  About 10 days ago, I woke up very nervous.  Our golf league's Club Championship event was that night. I  haven't golfed well this summer and so didn't expect to do well.  Not sure why I was so nervous, but my stomach felt like I was about to leap off a tall building NOT tethered to a bungee cord.  

I had errands to run during the day, and all morning I found myself focusing more and more on my nervousness.  At one point, I was at the gas station and, while walking in, I saw a penny on the ground.  I picked it up and repeated the good luck saying I had learned as a kid: "Find a penny, pick it up.  All the day you'll have good luck."  I immediately thought "Hmmm, maybe I won't do so badly tonight.  Thanks, Colleen, for sending that my way."  

I took a few steps and then thought, "Okay, Colleen, if that really was you, send me another coin." I wanted to say "And make it a quarter," but I didn't have time.  I was looking down as I walked and the words were no more than out of my mouth and BINGO! There was another penny right in front of my left foot.  I promise you I am not making this up. I laughed and picked it up and found myself instantly calmed.  I put both pennies in my pocket and went about my day, still a bit nervous but nowhere near the panicked state I had previously experienced.

I stopped at a daughter's house on my way to golf.  Standing in her driveway, telling her the story, we were commenting on Colleen's great sense of humor.  As I finished chuckling, I looked down and there was ANOTHER penny in front of my foot.  We really giggled then (although a little nervously at that point) and I added that penny to the other 2 in my left pocket and left for the golf course.

As I was driving and thinking of the coins in my pocket, I couldn't help but think, "Well, this is really nice, but still no quarters."  Shortly after arriving at the golf course, a friend of mine walked up to me and said, "Here" and dropped a quarter into my hand.  When I asked why, she reminded me that she had borrowed one last week and she was simply returning it.  I couldn't help but laugh at the efforts my sister was exerting to help me relax and not worry about the golf game ... and to let me know that she was okay.  I added the quarter to my pocket.  

About that time, I started wondering if it was just Colleen who was trying to send me a message.  I have 5 family members who are gone:  my father, a brother, my father-in-law and my mother-in-law, as well as Colleen.  Were there 5 people in Heaven sending calming messages my way?  Since I only had 4 coins, not 5, I doubted that was it ... I attributed them all to Colleen.

I went out on that golf course and played like I hadn't played all summer ... in other words, pretty darn good.  Before every shot, I patted my left pocket where the 4 coins were and it had calmed me each time.  (I should have remembered to do it when I was putting .. unfortunately 3 and 4 putts haunted me that night)

When I came into the club house after those 9 holes, I walked over to an empty table and 4 chairs to wait for my golf buddies to come in.  The table and chairs were on the deck in the middle of a whole bunch of other ones that many people were walking past.  As I pulled out a chair, right in the middle of the chair seat was ... a dime.  There was family member #5 weighing in ... I attributed it to my brother, Steve who loved to collect coins, but it could have come from any one of them.

This past Wednesday night was round 2 of the Club Championship event.  I carried all 5 coins with me and patted my pocket frequently as I played.  Again, I shot better than I had most of the season and was even involved in a playoff for 2nd place in my flight.  

I didn't win the second place spot .. but I didn't care. I had won so much more.  I now knew for sure there is a Heaven and I know 5 people who are up there watching over me and rooting for me.  What more could a person ask for!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Grandma and Grandpa Day

Yesterday was Grandma and Grandpa Day. 

Hallmark urges you to celebrate Grandparents' Day on Sunday, September 11.  I don't know how long it's been a Hallmark, event, but we've been celebrating  Grandma and Grandpa Day"  in our house since about the year 2004.

We have 8 grandchildren.  Our first celebration of this event was really just "Grandpa" Day. Grandpa wanted to introduce our 3 granddaughters to the candy store in Stillwater, Minnesota. The candy store is officially named "Tremblay's Sweet Shop," and they make and sell wonderful fudge, penuche, nut brittles, salt water taffy, assorted gummy worms, Swedish coins, licorice whips, etc., etc.

You walk into Tremblay's and pick up a basket and start making your way around the perimeter of the store picking out one or two sweets from each of the candy bins, ending up at the counter where the wonderful chocolates, truffles and even sugar-free delicacies are housed under glass. What kid wouldn't love helping himself to all of the candy he could eat (and then being sent home to Mom and Dad!).  Needless to say, the girls loved the first trip and a tradition was born.

The next year, Grandma was added to the mix, as were a couple of grandsons.  I think Grandpa realized that he was never going to be able to handle these kids on his own and so Grandma was brought along to help.  At that time, we had a van and we all fit in one car.

One of our grandchildren, Danny, has special needs and is confined to a wheelchair. While he can't walk or talk, he's still a typical 16 year old who loves to have fun and "hang out" with his siblings and cousins and vicariously enjoy all that they do.  He also loves candy just like the other kids. The first year that Danny came with us, we visited Stillwater, walked along the river, ate lunch at an outdoor restaurant (yes, there were bees and mosquitoes and flies!) and then visited Tremblay's.

As the years passed, a few more grandchildren were added to the mix and we tried different venues: the zoo, bowling, miniature golfing, etc.  Each year, it got a bit harder to decide on a spot that would allow Danny full participation also. Not wanting to exclude him from this special day, we finally made the decision to return to the original Grandma and Grandpa Day agenda: visit a park in Stillwater that has rock climbing walls and other enticements for the kids, take a walk along the St. Croix River in the heart of town, visit Tremblay's and then have lunch somewhere.  We wanted the kids to grow up with memories of Grandma and Grandpa Day being the day they got to go to the candy store in Stillwater, get all of the candy they wanted, and spend the day with their cousins.

We have taken the kids to a number of restaurants over the years, but about 3 years ago, we discovered the Red Robin in Shoreview and the kids loved it.  Burgers as big as their heads, free balloons when they leave and a friendly staff. Each year, the waitstaff asks us what we are celebrating and when they learn of our tradition, we are treated to free desserts or onion rings, and always smiles and congratulations .. I think secretly they are congratulating two old folks like us on making it through the day with 8 hyper enthusiastic kids!

We now have 8 grandchildren, so we have to take 2 vehicles .. girls in one with Grandma, boys in the other with Grandpa.  Grandpa makes the boys listen to the Oldies Station ('50s music!), while Grandma lets the girls pick out the station and has graduated from Disney Radio to 101.3 and was introduced to Lil Wayne and Katy Perry this year.  

Danny is in a wheelchair and this year we borrowed his dad's adapted van so that we could move him in and out easily without Grandma and Grandpa having to strain their backs.  What a joy it was to see Danny's siblings quickly start tying down the chair after he was loaded into the van.  We stood by while the "Daniel crew" managed the work for us. Heartwarming to see them take such good care of their brother.

While this day might be fun for the kids, it is pure heaven for us.  We are rewarded each year with the thank yous and the smiles and the funny sayings that the kids entertain us with. This year, our 8 year old, Nathan, whose love of money drives his days, quickly ate his lunch and then reported to us:  "If you need me, I'll be around looking for pennies, nickles, dimes and quarters." He then proceeded to "case the restaurant" in hopes that patrons in a hurry might have dropped some loose change as they slid out of their booths.  At least, I hope that's what he was doing and not taking the waitstaff's tips off the tables ... that thought never occurred to me until just now!

Two years ago, after the day ended, we returned to our house to wait for the parents to come and retrieve their children.  Several of the kids entertained themselves in the computer room while they waited.  Several hours after they left, Ed noticed a post-it note pinned to the bulletin board that hadn't been there in the morning.  If you wonder why we do it, the post-it note says it all. 

Thursday, August 18, 2011

You Don't Need to Spend Money ... Just Time

In my quest to take each of my grandchildren golfing this summer, today marked the halfway point. Lauren, one of my "soon-to-be-13" year old granddaughters joined me on one of the most perfect Minnesota summer days I've seen.

Noon on the short course at Bunker has proven to be the magical time.  Ladies' league is done by noon; kids are still doing household chores; men are eating lunch in the grill ... the course is ours!  

Lauren plays softball and is a natural at that sport.  Today, I learned she is also a natural at golf.  Knees bent just so, beautiful high-arcing swing and follow-through, head held still .. and all without any coaching from Grandma (well, except for that little thing about keeping her feet still).  What a delight to golf with her .. that is, until she outdrove me on hole #2.  I watched in amazement as her ball went 125 yards with no effort at all.  She even said, "Gee, Grandma, I didn't feel like I hit it that far."  I told her that was a mark of a good swing; it was effortless and effective.  The small smile of satisfaction on her face was one I recognized, but rarely feel!

As I did with the other 3 I've already taken, I offered her a 5 hybrid golf club to use on one of our early holes.  It quickly became her favorite.  I explained how my friend, Sue, calls it her "magic club," and Lauren agreed with that sentiment.  It feels effortless to swing and sends the ball a decent 125 yards.  At least, one doesn't feel embarrassed after hitting it.  Who needs 14 clubs in the bag?  I think a hybrid "magic club" and a putter gets us where we need to be.  (I have to note it was right after I offered it to her that she outdrove me!)

As with the others, Lauren drove the cart from hole #3 on, and found that to be almost as much fun as golfing itself.  Each one of the kids has found something special about cart-driving that they enjoyed the most.  In Lauren's case, it turned out to be going in reverse. She found reasons to  back up on just about every hole.  And backing up FAST seemed to really tickle her.

Following our 9 holes, which went pretty quickly since she could hit the ball so well, we got a bite to eat at the outdoor deck on the clubhouse.  The deck overlooks the 18th green, so the chicken wings and onion rings disappeared rapidly as we dissected the putting skills of the people on that green, hashed over the latest video Lauren and her siblings are making for You Tube, talked about sibling relationships, childhood homes, favorite fast-food restaurants, and the myriad other things that grandmas and granddaughters find to discuss.  It was an easy and fun-filled conversation and I found nothing out of the ordinary about it.

As we stood to leave, a gentleman sitting alone at the table behind us offered his hand and said, "Pardon me, Ma'am." (Did his mother not teach him to NEVER address a woman as "ma'am," regardless of how old she might look?)  He apologized for having eavesdropped on the conversation Lauren and I had been having but was open about the eavesdropping, and even seemed happy he had had the opportunity to do so.  He complimented us on the wonderful interaction he had witnessed.  He asked if I was an aunt or what our relationship might be.  When I proudly claimed Grandma-hood instead, he said he had been taking notes and was already thinking about what kind of a grandpa he wanted to be, hoping he would have an equally easy interaction with his future grandchildren.  

He then commented that he was totaling up in his head all of the 4-wheelers, boats, ATVs and other "toys" he would have to buy in order to be a good grandpa.  I laughingly shook my head and said, "You don't have to do any of that.  Just spend time with them.  That's the most important thing a grandparent can do."  

As Lauren and I left, I asked her what we might have been talking about that would have left such an impression (you know that darn Alzheimer's ... say it - forget it!).  She reconstructed a few things we had talked about, none of which seemed extraordinary to us.  As we drove home, we continued our easy exchange, including commentary about the need to paint the local ice arena which is looking dingy, speculation about why no fun new businesses are being built on the empty land parcels near Lauren's house, and mutual enjoyment that 4 rented video games were theirs to keep when the Movie Gallery went out of business before the return due date had been reached  ... ordinary, day-to-day topics.  But ones that build on the foundation of love and mutual respect that we have for each other.  

I drove home feeling very blessed.  A day of golf with a beautiful, much loved granddaughter had ended up being a visible statement to the world of that love.  Our bond was forged the day she was born and becomes stronger every day.  I'm glad the world, through the eyes of one man, witnessed the darling granddaughter I have and how totally awesome she is. I hope some day Lauren will have an equally wonderful relationship with her own granddaughter, whether it's through golf or some other venue.  Just remember, Lauren, you don't need to spend money .... just time.  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

And The Beat Goes On .... Thankfully

A year ago at this time, my husband and I were in Ireland driving through what appeared to be a farmer's field!  Our GPS had directed us to this "road" as we entered Cong, County Galway.  Do NOT believe everything your GPS tells you, regardless of the seductive quality of that automated voice ... "recalculating!"

We had gone to visit relatives (his) in Northern Ireland and had proceeded to County Galway to visit the birthplace of his paternal grandmother.  While driving through what the GPS insisted on calling a road, I began reading emails on my telephone to distract me from the fact that branches and shrubs were scratching all sides of the rental car we were driving.

One of the emails delivered grim news.  My brother, Patrick, was critically ill in a Naperville, Illinois, hospital.  Since our parents were elderly, Ed and I had worried about the very real possibility of receiving news of a health crisis for one of them during the 2 weeks we were to be gone.  Never did we think that the crisis would involve a brother (quite a few years our junior!) He had entered the hospital on his 56th birthday.  None of us would ever have predicted the twists and turns his health would take before he celebrated his next one.

Patrick had experienced a cardiac event following a successful surgical procedure.  I won't go into the medical details, except to tell you that he was kept alive for a number of days on a tandem heart machine and he was in the hospital for many weeks.  Recovery, at the hospital and eventually at home, was a slow process, but fully successful, due in large part to his hard work, determination, healthy lifestyle, exercise and the love and care of his wife, daughter and medical team. And I don't think the many prayers that were offered up hurt.

While he was in the hospital, major yardwork was going on at his house.  He and his wife, Janet, had contracted to have a lovely patio laid in the backyard with custom-made bricks that would also include a walkway around to the front of the house.  Major landscaping was being discussed and designed. The contractor was there; the work was underway.  On a daily basis upon reaching home after a long day at the hospital, Janet was faced with making decisions about things such as the shape of the walkway pattern in the front of the house, where shrubs should be placed, etc.  I can only imagine the angst this added to her already high level of anxiety.  Janet is very artistic and creative and, despite the stress in her life, she made wonderful decisions and the patio and all surroundings took shape under her creative direction.

As Pat recovered, he and Janet and their daughter, Natalie, talked about the patio and the yard and how much they would enjoy it once he was healthy.  They decided to hold a patio party for family and friends a year after his "event," once he was fully recovered.  A celebration of life in so many ways ... recovery of his health, another year older (what a gift!), good friends and family, and, of course, the breaking-in of the new patio!

So, on Saturday, August 13, 2011, we gathered in Naperville to "party on the patio."  It was a beautiful sunny day - except for that little storm that blew through exactly at the time the party was beginning!  Wind gusts - rain - even hail!  Did it daunt Pat and family?  Not a bit - bring on Plan B! What? There is no Plan B?  There is now!  The outdoor party on the beautiful new patio became a garage party ... with a few partiers claiming couches inside the house.  Unruffled, Janet and Pat carried on as if Plan B had been Plan A all along!

The afternoon and evening brought together many family members, neighbors, co-workers, and medical personnel from the hospital, all who came to celebrate Pat's success story.  

Pat's cardiologist was one of the guests, and I was pretty taken with Pat's easy relationship with this man who has treated him for 10 years. Their mutual admiration was obvious, and I believe it was this "friendship" that contributed to the doctor's all-out efforts to do everything possible to save our brother.  He didn't just do the minimum and walk away. Lot to be said for the importance of a doctor-patient relationship.

In the last couple of years, Pat has taught himself to play the harmonica ... or the "harp" as I've learned it's called by real musicians!  He has teamed with D.T. Strickland, who plays guitar and sings.  On Saturday night, they treated us to a few songs that showcased the talents of both of them.  

As they played, I noticed the strenuous "in and out" of Pat's diaphragm, and realized what great breath control and lung capacity this skill requires ... yet more proof of his full recovery. The hoots, hollers and applause that greeted the end of each song represented gratitude for Pat's good health as well as for the musical talents on display.

There was a "beat" to the party that you couldn't miss.  You couldn't "beat" the fun we had ... the music had a honky-tonk "beat" to it that I dearly love ... and more than that was the beating of Patrick's heart ... long may it go on!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

You Go, Girl .... Just not too fast!

At 8:00 a.m. yesterday, my oldest granddaughter, Megan, got behind the wheel of her Mom's Dodge Durango and toodled off into the streets of Anoka, to return 8 minutes (and a lot of grey hairs later) as the newest driver in Minnesota.  Hooray, Megan, and congratulations!

Getting a driver's license is certainly a touchstone along the path to adulthood.  To most 16 year olds, I believe it signifies "freedom."  Freedom FROM parents knowing one's every move ... freedom TO live one's own life, at least one's own MOBILE life ... freedom to just be.

To those of us a few years past 16 who are the parents and grandparents of the new young drivers it signifies fear, trepidation, relief, happiness, and, yes, freedom for us as well.  No longer must we be the human taxicabs.  No longer must we dash home from our activities to get our children to THEIR activities.  And, hey, if there are younger kids in the family, this new driver represents another chauffeur for dropping kids at traveling sports team venues, at school dances, at friends' overnight slumber parties, etc.  It's also a person to send to the store when we discover ... as we are mixing up the chocolate chip cookie dough ... that someone has eaten all of the chocolate chips that were in the refrigerator!  (It was probably that kid named Not Me who seems to live in everyone's house!)

Megan, like every kid, could hardly wait to drive on her own.  As soon as she walked back into the examining station at 8:08 a.m. yesterday with a grin wide enough to cause her mom's cheeks to ache from just looking at her, she was asking for "the truck."  Since the truck is my daughter, Colleen's, only vehicle, there was a certain amount of scrambling to find Mom a ride to work (thank goodness, Grandma is now retired and has some free time!) and a ride home (thank goodness for good friends who are also co-workers).  As she left my driveway after dropping Colleen off at MY taxicab stand, it felt like just a short time ago that Colleen, herself, was asking to use our car for her first solo performance.  It's actually been 25 years - just the snap of my fingers.  

I wonder if 25 years from now, Megan will be standing in Colleen's driveway with her own daughter waving out the window of the car as it pulls into traffic ("She DOES see that garbage truck making stops down the road, doesn't she?  I hope she doesn't have her radio turned on while she drives ... Thank goodness, new drivers in our state can only carry one passenger with them for the first six months.  Will she remember that there's a detour on the main drag nowGosh, I hope she doesn't go digging for a Kleenex while she's driving ...." )

Will her stomach be churning with worry and her throat be thick with tears as she thinks about how quickly the years have flown by ... and will she be worrying about what she will do if HER daughter has an accident with their one and only vehicle?   

I suspect that may happen, but I hope that Megan will also then reflect on what a great kid Imaginary Daughter #1 is ... just like Megan was (is).  I hope Megan will "just know" that her daughter will drive responsibly and safely ... and work as hard as possible to not betray the trust her parents (and grandparents) have in her.

Congratulations, Megan.  You have earned this first step into adulthood and we are proud of you.  Enjoy your time on the road.  You go, girl ... just not too fast!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"Why do they tell us to ask you for help, when you can't?"

I've put in my first two days as a "Technology Docent" at our local library.  That's the official title of the position in the library's job system.  The staff at the library simply call me the computer docent.  I call myself the IT Help Desk - and try not to remember how I and my work colleagues used to refer to IT support as the "Helpless Desk."  What goes around DOES come around.

It's been fun so far and I was able to answer every question posed to me.  Even turned an "angry" customer into a satisfied one by the time she left yesterday.  

In order to protect the library computer system which runs throughout our 11 locations, many functions have been disabled on the library computers.  Functions such as right-clicking to bring up shortcut menus (which I live by!) are not available.

While I understand and appreciate the security precautions, I have to "regroup" in my brain to find a "workaround" when a function I normally would use has been disabled. Here's the opportunity to "use my brain" as I've been telling people I need since I retired. Come on, KK - step up!

Having to explain to users why they can't do something at the library that they might have done on a home or work computer takes a bit of finesse.  This is compounded by the fact that users have a time limit of one hour of computer usage from the time they sign on .. and that's for all day!  Watching that time limit visibly ticking away on the screen as I explain why they can't do what they want to do doesn't make them happy.  And add to that, more lost time as I try to figure out how they CAN do it and you might understand the circles of sweat appearing under my arms (actually I don't sweat very often, so that was an exaggeration, but, trust me, inside I was sweating!)

The aforementioned "angry" user who left happy came in yesterday and was simply trying to  print a set of directions from Mapquest, but the print preview kept showing a very garbled document.  Oh yeah, one other factor .. users have to pay ten cents a page to print a document, so she wasn't about to spend her money only to get a "garbled" set of directions.

After spending a few minutes trying to "ungarble" the document, while listening to her tell me how she has " ...done it a million times before and knows it can be done," the user finally said, "Why do they tell us to ask you for help when you can't help?"  Secretly, I was wondering the same thing.  

After some sleuthing on my part, I figured out how we could do it within the limits of the library system, and the woman left happy, even telling me her name and that she was up there "all the time" and had known all along there was a way to do what she wanted! "Watch for me.  I'll be back," she said.  No doubt.

Helping a gentleman from Korea figure out how to save and print an email from someone in his home country so he could share it with others at his local residence here gave me a small sense of pride in my "global outreach."  I'm probably not ready for the Peace Corps yet (is that even still around?), but I felt positively cosmopolitan!  When he left, he smiled, nodded and tipped his cap to me. I am going to like this job!

I've already noted that there are regulars who know how to move around on the computers to get the most time possible.  Without being at all invasive, I have to keep an eye on what people are viewing on the computers ... surprisingly, I've only seen Facebook visited by one or two very young people ... and assist folks trying to print or copy documents.  In my spare time, I'm allowed to read a book, use my own computer, help the staff "shelve books," straighten DVD racks, etc.  I'm certainly not taxing my cerebrum, but I'm feeling pretty darn useful, something I've been looking for since the day I retired.  I think I've found it.

See you at the library.  By the way, there's still a lot of summer left.  Time to enjoy a good book or two.  Here's a few suggestions.  Given the theme of this posting, the Number One Bestseller is aptly named.    New York Times Fiction Bestsellers.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Another Round of Golf with Granny

Granddaughter Emily was my golf partner this week in my quest to get all of my grandkids onto the golf course at least once this summer.  I'm starting to get a bit panicky.  Summer is almost over and Emily is just 4 out of 8 to get out with me.

And she had to share her time with her mom!  Last night was my annual Mother-Child golf event at the ladies' golf league I belong to.  Each year, the members are invited to bring along a "child."  It can be an adult child or a "child child."  I have belonged to this golf league for 17 years so the first few years I brought along one of my own children .. no grandchildren, just one of my daughters. I would rotate the daughters, keeping track in my calendar to ensure fairness to all (the main focus of motherhood as I recall).

The girls all seemed to enjoy it, as did I, and as the years passed and each of my daughters had a daughter, it was difficult to invite the daughter and see the look of longing on the granddaughter's face as we left for the course.  So, I started inviting both the daughter AND the granddaughter. We've done it that way for about 7 years now and I'm happy we moved in that direction.  We team up each year with my good friend, Linda, and her two daughters and it has been fun to watch them all grow into delightful young women!

Emily is almost 13 now.  She and Michele were my guests at Mother Child on August 1, 2007, when the 35W bridge went down.  We had been called off the golf course because of a thunderstorm, and were huddled in the clubhouse watching the TV for weather updates when the news bulletin came across showing the horror and tragedy unfolding about 20 miles south of where we were.  For all we knew, there could have been people any one of us might have known involved in that incident.  It was difficult to even grasp the idea of a bridge collapsing and harder still to think about going back out to golf in the face of such a catastrophe.  I remember how proud I was of her that she, too, was struck by the magnitude of the collapse, and wasn't just asking "Can we go back out now?"

This year, she is at the age where she really wants to do "cool" things (which she thinks golf is), but is afraid she won't be able to perform as competently as others might and that's definitely not "cool" when you're 13.  So last night, she decided that her mom, Michele, could golf and she, Emily, would drive the cart.  Now, that's cool! And that she could, and did, do very competently!  (And she was pretty excited when I lost a headcover and she had to drive our path in reverse - by herself! - to find it!)

Fortunately, Michele and Emily are both what would have been referred to (in my era!) as "Twiggys," so 3 of us adult-sized women in the cart at one time worked just fine.  The game was an alternate shot format, so two of us would tee off, go to the best drive out of the two, and the person who DIDN'T hit the drive would then hit the next shot, and on down the line, until we got the ball into the cup.

My game has been pretty much in the tank this year, so I was grateful for the help.  Even with the help, we kind of struggled, but it was fun to see the look of surprise and shock on Michele's face when she would connect with a club (hybrids are the Magic Club!) and send the ball down the fairway.  At first, Emily only wanted to putt, but even she got hooked on the fairway shots after we showed her how easy that Magic Club was to hit.  I think we've got another Anika in the offing.

Following the game, there was a meal and prizes for all of the guests.  In years past, some of the prizes have been a bit age inappropriate --- bottles of wine for an 18 year old (drinking age is 21 in MInnesota) and Mickey Mouse wallet for a 13 year old (you should have seen the look on the face of that girl when she returned to the table).

This year - problem solved.  Cash all around.  There was an old fashioned "punch board" and for the most part there was cash behind each of the punches.  Michele left with $5 and Emily with $8.  I've never seen anybody get cash and return it because it was the wrong color or size!  We all went home happy, although with a few mosquito bites and yawning over the late hour.  Emily had gone to a sleepover the night before and the girls had stayed up until 6 a.m., at which point they fell asleep, only to be awakened at 9:00 a.m. for the day!  Ahhh, youth!  I, personally, was exhausted just thinking about it.

What a bonding opportunity golf is ... regardless of how well or how poorly we play, we leave feeling good about having spent time together as family or with friends .. having gotten some great fresh air ... and just knowing that we are going to do better the next time .. we're sure of it! Mark Twain was wrong ... golf is NOT a good walk, spoiled.  It is a good walk that spoils us ... makes us sad for the time we aren't on the golf course and we aren't together. I love the game and I love the time it has given me this summer with my grandchildren (oh, and with you, too, Michele!)