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Good Fences 5

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Linking in with TexWisGirl” at “Good Fences”

One weekend in April.

Our good fence around the yard at sometime around the Golden Hour in April.

Our good fence around the yard at sometime around the Golden Hour.


Another weekend in February.
Another day looking over the back fence in February.

Another day looking over the back fence.


Afterwards. Later the same day in February.
Later in February.

Later.

Certainly Lady Bird Johnson served up brisket, bar-be-cued chicken and sausage. I bet she served up ribs, too. Add cole slaw or potato salad on the salad plates and peach cobbler on the dessert plates. The latter was probably made with the fruit from our Central Texas peach orchards. But what was on Lady Bird Johnson’s plates? I’m talking about the design of her place setting you can see at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History.

Answer: wildflowers, beautiful American wildflowers that I’m sure were inspired by her Texas wildflowers on the ranch in Johnson City, along the Guadalupe River and along the roads of the hill country. Her place settings were produced by Castleton China.

Image from wikipedia.  Plate produced by Castleton China.

Image from wikipedia. Plate produced by Castleton China.


View other Presidential place settings here and here and here.

It’s springtime, yay! Happy Easter! What’s on your plate for Easter dinner?

This is a tribute to Lupe and Gabriel García Márquez. Lupe passed away ten years ago and G.G. Márquez today. I don’t write about Mexico often although I do have a category dedicated to it. But if you have read One Hundred Years of Solitude, Cien años de soledad, La siesta del martes, Un día de estos, La prodigiosa tarde de don Baltasar OR if you have viewed the film Serendipity where the book Love in the Time of Cholera takes on the personae of a protagonist, perhaps you will understand why I had to write this post.

She came into the family in 1921 when my youngest uncle was born. They say she was 12 when she came to work for my grandparents and help maintain a brood of five children in Mexico City.

Fast forward many years later, she invited me to her room in the maids’ quarters of my grandmother’s apartment building. I was amazed at the school pictures of all of us that were posted on the wall of her bedroom. She knew things about me and my immediate family I had no idea she knew about. Moesje, my grandmother, had kept her abreast. It occurred to me at that moment in her small room that she probably looked at my father and his siblings almost as her children, and perhaps even considered us almost grandchildren. Oh, the ties that bind.

She loved all of us, all 25 cousins. She helped raise my aunt and uncles, and then she continued to love and give out her rosary prayers to their children. She had her own family, a daughter who earned a doctorate in chemistry and taught at UNAM, Universidad Autónoma de México. Her daughter brought her a grandchild.

One Christmas we were at my grandmother’s. She took me, my brothers and sister on a walk down the street. On the other side of a hurricanefence where there was construction going on there was a balloon. My younger brother saw the balloon and cried to have it. She had to have been in her late 40′s then, and yet she crawled under the fence where the wire had been cut and bent up to fetch him the balloon. As the older sister, I protested. No child should make any adult crawl through a fence to go get something frivolous. My brother got the balloon because that is what she did: meet the needs, wants, desires of the family she served.

After Christmas, we celebrated my father’s birthday on New Year’s Day. We sang the traditional Dutch songs. There was a repertoire of songs we always sang and then we scratched our heads and tried to remember which one we had left out. “La Burra,” she suggested, “Canta la burra.” We laughed until there were tears in our eyes. She was suggesting a song that had the verses “Hip, hip hurrah” and she had always heard “La burra.” When Dutch meets Spanish, what a wonderful translation it makes! What a wonderful, marvelous legacy she left. Magical-realism and I lived it.

Another time we went to Club Reforma to go swimming. All of a sudden my cousin in shallow water got lost, floundered in circles and seemed to be drowning. Dress and all this woman, later in her 50′s jumped in to rescue and comfort him. She was always there, a member of the family, looking after us as if we were her own.

Many years later, she prepared the most wonderful breakfasts, lunches and dinners for me. When I attended classes at the Ibero and UNAM, she always had the most beautiful lunches. I wanted to take a picture of a chicken soup with a leg of chicken, carrots and celery she had prepared. However, I didn’t have the flash or film at the time to take it, but I still remember that beautiful lunch prepared with pride and love. Her soups were the best. Some in the family commented her soups were too salty. To me they were delicious!

One evening I was challenged to analyze a poem for a Mexican literature class. The poem was by López-Velarde. One line referred to the “gracia desquebradiza de una mujer.” What is this “gracia desquebradiza?” I asked her. She stood by me and swaggered like a lovely young woman sashaying down a sidewalk. Ooooh…I got it! She captured the line, she captured the meaning for me.

We went to the family hacienda outside of Mexico City. I wanted to take a picture of this beautiful, petite woman who had given us so much and was such a household name in our family. My aunt who was with me at the time, warned me not to take her picture. I respected her warning. I didn’t dare take one close, but I must confess that I caught her on film as she left the kitchen on the second floor and I was on the opposite side of the courtyard. I wanted it for me to remember that soft gray hair pulled back, her dress below her calves, and her sweet skin of “canela”. She always had a superstitious belief that a photo would steal part of her. Very few have seen that picture and I would never publish it.

Today, April 17, Latin America lost one of its greatest sons, Gabriel García Márquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1982. I think of his magical realism, and think of Lupe who saw two worlds come together, la burra and hip-hip-hurrah, her life and raising the family of a Dutch diplomat. I think of asking her to join me for the beautiful lunch she prepared, but no, she didn’t want to. I respected that. I think about wanting to take her picture, in the open with her knowledge, but no, that wasn’t to be. I remember my brother insisting on that silly balloon…she didn’t have to go fetch it. I read Gabriel García Márquez because I knew he understood about love and loss, the superstition, inequality, and magic of it all.

“What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how you remember it.”
― Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

Good Fences 4

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TWG’s post titles “Put a Fence in Front of It” tickle me. Things do take on a different perspective behind or beyond a fence. I came across this photo taken of our girls many Easter Sundays ago and the title “Put Daughters in the Bluebonnets in Front of a Fence” occurred to me. Thanks again, to TWG for hosting this meme one month young on Thursdays.

We spent many an Easter at the farm with my in-laws. After presenting my mother-in-law with an Easter corsage, we would go to church while the roast or ham cooked in the oven. After church we made up the other dishes: green beans, squash, salad, melon (perhaps strawberries) and always black-eyed peas. Some or all of these came from MIL’s winter and spring garden. Before the girls could change clothes for the Easter egg hunt, my husband and father-in-law whisked them away to country roads to spy bluebonnets and other wildflowers to get their picture taken among them. That photo outing and the Easter egg hunt gave us just enough time to get Easter dinner on the table.

Put two little girls in front of it among the bluebonnets.  Happy Easter!

Put two little girls in front of it among the bluebonnets. Happy Easter!

Caution: I wrote this post about a year ago. “Bluebonnets, Snakes and Bees – Oh My!”

Enjoy!

She reminds me of my mother 88 years strong and beautiful in the song she sings! Olivia Turner’s is “I could have danced all night,” my mother’s song “She believed in us”. Please take a listen.

http://www.wimp.com/singsdebut/

My mother and her brood

My mother and her brood

Jewel

I think about her often as I drink my coffee in the morning. She gave me this lovely cup.

from Jewel

from Jewel

She never wore the uniform issued to her. She greeted us every morning in gingham checked smocks sewn by her and a long lanyard with three keys hanging around her neck. I, on the other hand, had a dozen or so keys to open display cases, the language lab and all the doors of my teachers as the need arose. Yet she had only three. I have learned since, there is power in only having three keys. Of all her gingham dresses, I remember the yellow gingham dress with the large white buttons best. Her long black hair was neatly braided in a crown around the top of her head. She didn’t really smile. Her quiet demeanor seemed to smile for her as she showed satisfaction in doing a good job. And, a good job she did as she had been entrusted with only three keys that opened everything. She helped us start our days peacefully in our child zone. I was an early bird. Still the one hundred cup coffee maker always showed the red light on and signaled coffee was ready to start the day. I don’t think she ever missed a day.

One morning, I couldn’t find my cup. She knew something was amiss.

“Aren’t you going to drink the coffee? It’s ready.”

“Yes, but my cup is missing.”

She wasn’t surprised. She wasn’t as disturbed as I was.

“I’ve got just the one for you, Miss Georgette. Your name is French, isn’t it?”

I knew when she gave it to me, it was a very special cup. It was something lovely that had called out to her when she found it and could be loved by another. Where in the world did she get it? Supplying us with cups was not in her contract. Yes, I always think about her when I drink from this cup and the family knows not to touch it. Just to be safe, I place it in the back of the cupboard, so it’s not the first one someone grabs.

She helped us with gift giving. Her Avon books sat on the teachers’ lounge tables for us to take care of Christmas shopping, birthdays and “just because” occasions during our free time. Free time? Not much, but she found a very practical market and grateful customers.

One morning I came to school without my earrings on.

“Where are your ear bobs?” she asked me.

I had forgotten to get completely dressed! Busy morning I guess. “Good thing I have these I keep in my purse just in case,” I came back.

They were plain gold studs my husband had given me before we were married. So I went into the ladies’ to use the mirror as I put them on. My morning did not improve as I dropped one down the sink.

“Oh no,” I cried out coming out from the bathroom. “I dropped one down the sink and it’s gone.”

Jewel found a wrench and went into the bathroom. Before I knew it, she emerged out of the bathroom with the lost “ear bob.” “Alls I did was open the trap,” she explained.

To me it was gone, gone down the drain. But Jewel knew better. In addition to keeping the coffee, displaying her Avon books and supplying the coffee cups she showed me she knew how to wield a wrench, too.

Good Fences 3

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Texas wildflowers along a fence line.

Click for greater clarity.

Click for greater clarity.

Across the road, different textures with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush.

Across the road, different textures with bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush.

“It will kill your blog,” my sister warned me.

“I’m worried they will hear something else instead of bug off,” my sister’s friend added.

“It’s not your style,” my husband added.

Really? I have always enjoyed the upbeat folk songs of the 60′s and yes, even an occasional protest song. They are songs that make us think. “Little Boxes” sung by Pete Seeger but written by Malvina Reynolds was probably the first one that caught my attention at around age 12. It made me laugh and it made me think.

“Hey, we used to live in one of those boxes in Levittown,” I told my dad who also enjoyed listening to the song. “Our house was green.”

“Yes, but there’s not another house like it that has a family like ours living in it.”

As he said this I recalled a newspaper article written in our suburban PA town about our family. “Dutchman Jumps Like Mexican Jumping Bean,” the headline of the article read. Over several moves we entered new communities. I remember telling new acquaintances the story of my grandparents from Holland and my mother’s family from the Pacific Northwest, my father born in Mexico, now working with a major contractor with the space industry. “Interesting,” was always the response of those who listened. And the Levittown newspaper article always confirmed for me, others found our family story interesting, too. The houses may have “all looked just the same” but I never bought into the fact that the inhabitants were, too.

When we moved to our small town in deep East Texas, another song caught my attention. Our milkman, James would always come through the back door and deposit milk in our refrigerator always engaging my mother in conversation. One summer, he brought more than milk. He brought updates about some meetings he was attending and a group he had joined. Around the same time, we used to visit friends of my parents who played upbeat folk songs by the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Kingston Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary. “The John Birch Society” sung by the former group on our friends’ hi-fi, triggered laughter in the living room. It was then I caught on that my mother and father wouldn’t be attending or joining James’s group even though my mother listened to his animated updates politely.

Another song sung by many that also, caught my attention was “Guantanamera.” The fact that it was in Spanish and interpreted by The Sandpipers in the United States made me stop and listen until I had memorized all the lines in Spanish. When Pete Seeger sang it, I realized of course, he would appreciate the verses written by the Cuban poet and revolutionary José Martí from the 1890′s. And the fact that he sang it here with his grandson, won my heart. Pete Seeger sings “♪Mi verso es de un verde claro / Y de un carmín encendido♪” and his grandson sings perfectly “Y de un carmín en-cen-di-do.” Grandson learns from his grandfather, and grandfather perfects his Spanish with grandson. We just lost Pete Seeger on January 24, 2014. He will be missed but his wildly talented children and grandchildren will carry on.

I can add many more songs I have enjoyed that qualify as folk songs with a social message that have shaped my thinking over the years. And I’d like to introduce you to one I discovered during our trip to Washington. The family and I caught the friend of my sister, Steve Erickson, performing “The Facebook Song” at The New Deal Café in Greenbelt, MD, a café that dates back to FDR days. It’s his original song that he performs with another good friend, Nick Peters. And while my sister, her friend and my husband cautioned me, I had visions this could go viral.

I loved it on first listen and caught myself singing along with the chorus. Steve calls it a protest song, but I think it qualifies as a contemporary folk song. When I think of protest songs, I think of the hard hitting, intense and raw songs that came out of the Cold War, the Civil Rights Movement and the Viet Nam era. In search of a list of “protest” songs to see if this one qualified, I found a list of 40 compiled by KDHX, a Missouri radio station. According to KDHX “It’s all in how one points the finger.” Erickson definitely points his index finger, but not his middle finger. His zingers “Can you say bug off on fb?” and other questions are queries. His references to “crazies” and “losers” openly point to the realities and may be perceived as rude, but he has composed a catchy song about an early second millennium phenomenon. It’s all tongue in cheek as his reverbnation website displays “Like this Artist? Share it with your friends — Share it on Facebook.” Like Steve, I will not be canceling my facebook page. You can read here, Five Years on Facebook for my reasons why.

To learn more about Steve and Nick and their group Medium Gauge visit their website.

Just for the record Steve and my sister did give this post a “thumbs up” as they read it at a Nat’s baseball game sitting with Nick and his wife.

Is there a folk song you remember that sang a clear message for you?

Good Fences 2

13317117563_c095d0b958_q Click on image to link up with run-a-round-ranch.

Granddaughter: “Oh pleez papa, can I swing on the gate?”

Grandpa: “No, darlin’, you’re a big girl and you might pull the hinges out.”

"I really want to swing on this gate."

“I really want to swing on this gate.”

"Please, papa."

“Please, papa.”

The last time I told this story was here in fall of 2011. My story of St. Francis for those of you who already know him needs a few updates now in 2014. Read on, there’s more to the story.

Many summers ago my aunt in Houston was moving from the family home where she and my uncle had raised their children in favor of a smaller home in an effort to downsize and make other transitions in her life. Her husband had passed away several years earlier. In my adolescent life, I remember my uncle’s death as one of the first I had experienced in my family. He and my aunt shared a full life together. They shared their experiences with us via letters and postcards. They traveled quite a bit and my brothers and sister loved visiting them. One trip they took was to Italy for the Rome Olympics back in 1960, so in that Olympic year we looked forward to hearing about the trip. While there, they purchased a statue of St. Francis and had it shipped back to their home. St. Francis occupied a place in the backyard garden for several years.

In making the move to a smaller home, my aunt had sold off, given away and moved larger pieces of furniture with the help of a moving company. One Saturday, my father, brother, sister, a friend of mine and I, went to help her move her treasures, the things that she wanted to move personally. She had a pick-up truck at her disposal, a station wagon and our family to help her. We came with two cars to complete the job of moving the treasures she did not entrust to movers.

It was a hot day in July. We carefully moved items, wrapped them in sheets, or packed them in boxes placing them in the bed of the truck or on various car seats. I remember walking through the house and remembering the happy times we had spent on visits there. I recalled the happy reunion of all my uncles and aunts in the family room, sitting, laughing and cutting up. I remembered my cousin baking brownies in the kitchen and dancing to music as she baked. She seemed so grown up to me as she swayed to the rock-n-roll tunes she played. I remember reading the Sunday comic section of the newspaper on the floor of my uncle’s study. So many memories.

Then, I remember standing on the balcony of the second floor of her home to survey the lovely garden one last time. Another memory. We had gone on Easter egg hunts in that backyard. I still remember it was late morning as we worked moving things to the cars under the hot summer sun. There was no breeze.

I heard my dad call to my aunt asking, “What about St. Francis, does he go too?”

My aunt called back, “No, he stays.” At that instant a wind blew up in the back yard rustling the leaves of the trees that shaded the yard. The stone figure of St. Francis fell face forward into the mulch of the garden. We were dumbfounded and speechless.

“That does it. He goes,” my aunt gasped. And so it happened that we scooped up St. Francis, wrapped a blanket around him, and placed him in the bed of the truck. One of the first things when we arrived to her new home was to decide on a suitable spot to place him so he could be viewed from the living room and dining room, and he could view family life within. Within our family circle, we call it our “miracle of St. Francis.” Over the years, several of us siblings have searched and found the perfect statue to place in our gardens as a reminder of that occurrence.

Recently, in Northern Virginia at my sister’s house, as I sat in her back room, I would gaze out the window and focus on her St. Francis. She and I reflected again together on that one unrepeatable moment.

My sister's St. Francis in her back yard.

My sister’s St. Francis in her back yard.

What is a miracle? I like Storm Jameson’s definition, “The only way to live is to accept each minute as an unrepeatable miracle, which is exactly what it is: a miracle and unrepeatable.” All of us together that day, experienced something rare, unique and unrepeatable. In an instant, it was as if a husband, father, brother-in-law, uncle didn’t want to be left behind. The little statue of St. Francis could have been reduced to just decorative statuary in a garden, an interesting souvenir from a memorable trip. But the wind rushing up as it did, pushing St. Francis face down stirred us to rescue him from that undignified position. Now, when we reflect on this, because we experienced it, it’s easier to believe in another miracle. Still there’s a conundrum. If we wait in anticipation, the element of surprise we experienced that day is taken away. Perhaps there are different levels of awareness of miracles. We can appreciate every day and realize the miracles that surround us, and then there are the breath taking ones that stir change, make us take a different course filling us with insights not thought before…they humble us deeply. So I take Storm Jameson’s observation every day noticing what’s delightfully unrepeatable, yet I will remember the moment when a whole family on a hot lazy day, woke up to a miracle that has moved our family in recent generations.

Several Christmases ago, daughter #2 and my husband searched statuary gardens and then gave this St. Francis to me. Father and daughter together found the one unrepeatable gift that transcended perfume, chocolate or flavored coffee. He stood outside our living room window, a reminder of a family “miracle”. Many have sat in the chair by that window and noticed him, felt his presence. Unrepeatable moments.

St. Francis at the city house, georgettesullins.wordpress.com

Last weekend, as Rick and I moved our treasures that we will not entrust to movers, we took St. Francis to his new home out in the country under a beautiful oak, where we can view him from the back porch, the back room window and our bedroom, and he can greet all who come up the driveway.

St. Francis standing in the shadow of the oak.

St. Francis standing in the shadow of the oak.

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One more note: Perhaps my aunt reacted as she did not only in memory of her husband, but in memory of her father. You see, he came to Mexico City for business interests and was appointed the Consul General from Holland to Mexico in the early 1900′s. When I took students to Mexico, DF, I told her our hotel was an old one, the Hotel St. Francis on Reforma (the main boulevard of Mexico City).

“That’s where Papi (my grandfather) stayed when he first came to Mexico and before he married Moesje (my grandmother),” she informed me.

Good Fences 1

Linking up with run around ranch

Linking up with run around ranch

Tex Wis Girl at run-a-round ranch is starting to host Good Fences. Follow her directions here and you can do it, too.

It’s March. Rick and I hosted Andy the Armadillo at the city house and the country house during the month of March of 2012. My mother and I even drove him to Dallas to take in the sights there. Remembering the good times we had together, here’s a photo of Andy sitting on a fencepost and taking a view of the road that runs in front of our property. At the time he had just arrived from visiting Kate in Florida and was on his way to New Zealand to visit Judith. He originated in GA with Lenore Diane, My Thoughts Exactly.

Don't pay attention to the sign.  Andy says "Welcome."

Don’t pay attention to the sign. Andy says “Welcome.”

Holler or text for us to open the gate.  Gotta keep this one closed to keep the cows out of the yard.

Holler or text for us to open. Gotta keep this one closed to keep the cows out of the yard.

We Will Return

We saw much during our trip to Virginia. Daughter 2 and her husband took in the monuments on their first day. They visited the Pentagon and then on Tuesday we planned to visit the museums. We made our way from the Capitol Building on down the Mall.

“The National Archives is just one street off the Mall. Let’s veer off here,” I suggested. “We can view the Declaration of Independence and continue on down.”

“No, not yet. We’ll see it on our way back,” they replied.

Knowing this was their trip, I didn’t insist. After all, I had made this trip several times. My daughter had been several times, but this was SIL’s first trip. I was just tagging along enjoying them view things together for the first time.

So I snapped a picture of the exterior just in case.

We continued on to visit the Museum of Natural History, the American History Museum and then looped around to visit the back and front of the White House.

On our way back to the car, I reminded them again, “Now is our chance to visit the National Archives.” My son-in-law looked skeptically at the line visible from the front and wrapped around the building. They walked on. Taking this as a “no” I stopped two twenty-somethings and asked them if it was a long wait.

“Oh, no,” they informed me. “The line looks long but it moves right along. We were in and out in twenty minutes.”

“Let’s go.” Now I was insisting. “We can do this, get to the car and beat the rush hour traffic.” Still I was met with a negative.

“We’ll go on Thursday when we visit the Air and Space Museum,” they answered.

So we never went inside, but I did snap this photo.

So we never went inside, but I did snap this photo.

On Thursday the weather took a turn for the worse. The temperatures were frigid yet D2 and SIL went in to the city again together. I stayed home with our little guy to keep him out of the weather and prepare a Thank you dinner for my sister and other family members for our last evening together.

“Where did you go?” I asked them when they returned home in mid afternoon. “We visited the Holocaust Museum and the Air and Space Museum.”

“Did you get to the National Archives?” I asked.

“No, we’ll go on our next trip back.”

What have you seen or do you plan to see the second time around?

Foxes…Really?

“Haven’t they ever seen a fox before?” the Irishman standing next to me asked. Perhaps some of the foreign visitors snapping photos hadn’t. He was thinking one thing, but I was wondering another.

“Well, not in the city!” I replied. “How in the world did this one find himself right here taking a nap on the lawn of the Museum of American History?”

The visitors standing around us had their cell phones up, snapping away at the seemingly docile, sleepy fox napping just feet away from us. From what I could see, no one was calling Animal Control. They were taking in the fox as curiously as they would study the museum exhibits they had come to visit.

On the lawn of the Museum of American History!

On the lawn of the Museum of American History!

I never did get to tell the Irishman that in fact, we have seen foxes before in my sister’s back yard.

This picture taken by my sister in her back yard.

This picture taken by my sister in her back yard.

Later for dinner, I couldn’t help but tell a friend of my sister about our encounter with the fox. I still was wondering and asking “How in the world did he get to the Mall with all the buildings, people, busy streets and traffic?”

My sister’s friend winked and then quipped “I think he took the subway from your sister’s house.”

No Lines

As I flew back from Reagan-Washington DCA to Bush-Houston IHC it occurred to me there was a bit of a theme to my spring break trip.

It started Day 1 of my trip. An English gentleman standing in the security line in front of me asked how many tubs I needed to go through security, kindly offering to gather up the necessary tubs for me while he was gathering his. Thinking out loud I named off “my purse, jacket, boots…I’ll need two.” AND I noticed I was only steps away from clearing security unlike another line that weaved back and forth about six lines deep.

He informed me, “You don’t need to take off your shoes or your jacket.”

“Since when?” Skeptical, I hardly knew how to act.

“If you’re in this line you’re TSA Pre-ckd.”

“Huh?” I couldn’t believe it as I simply placed my purse into ONE tub. How did I get so lucky? I took another look at my boarding pass and sure enough at the top it said “TSA Pre-ckd.”

The TSA agent waved me on. I walked through the security gate with my jacket and boots on. All was good. No worries, after all.

On the other side I simply picked up my purse, slung the strap over my shoulder then paused to sit at a bench, not to put on my boots but to text husband, sister, D1 and D2. “Guess what? I just got ushered through security without taking off my shoes or my jacket or emptying my pockets! No long line.” Feeling a bit giddy, I even texted Dianna at These Days of Mine the same message adding “I think this is a sign it’s going to be a great trip.”

Good luck continued. Sister was at the security clearance gate to greet me. All we had to do was to meet up with SIL who was flying in via Chicago and arriving not long after me. No waiting except that D2 and GS2 were arriving the next day.

Then came Day 2. We picked them up and drove back to sister’s house with visions of the great Greek food we were going to eat at a favorite family restaurant with my brother and his family. Ten minutes had not gone by when 18 month old GS2 took a step down into her back room, fell and came back up with blood streaming down his face. There was no hesitation, SIL and D2 scooped him up, stopped the bleeding, applying ice and pressure to the cut in his forehead. Sister ran to the car with us in tow and I texted brother to cancel the evening’s plans. We were bound for the ER! No, a tasty gyros was not going to happen this night. Within 10″ we were at the hospital. Sister dropped off the parents to check in, and then she and I parked the car. As we entered the waiting area filled with adult patients, we didn’t see GS or parents. We inquired and the staff directed us through the hallways to another waiting room where we were told the patient and parents were already seeing a doctor. Good news, there was no line and no wait. Bad news, we were in the ER within two hours of getting off the plane. We couldn’t believe it. We four adults were standing right there and none of us had saved him from his spill into a planter by the sofa. The doctor glued his wound together with medical super glue. No stitches…she used super glue. An hour and a half later GS emerged all grins with a “Batman” band-aid in the center of his forehead and clearance from the doctor that it was safe for him to fall asleep. We all slept well that night. Whew!

"Batman" is all smiles the next day.

“Batman” is all smiles the next day.

In spite of all the excitement the night before, SIL and D2 were ready to do some sight seeing on Day 3. My sister suggested that since it was Sunday morning, it would be a good time to take in the memorials at the Washington Monument end of the Mall: Viet Nam, WWII, Korean, Lincoln, FDR, MLK and Einstein. Little traffic. No lines on a beautiful and cool morning. By noon they had covered their destinations and my sister and I returned to pick them up.

Day 4 SIL’s uncle picked them up to tour the Pentagon where he works. No lines.

Day 5 I joined them to tour the museums starting at the Capitol Building and working our way down the Mall. We greeted the ducks in the pond at the foot of the capitol steps. GS squealed and was all grins.

What do ducks say? Quack quack.

What do ducks say? Quack quack.

D2 spotted a carrousel in the Mall and the two of them whirled and whirled about waving at Daddy and Grandma with each turn. We found a kiosk and snacked on all beef hot dogs while GS chased the birds taking a bite of hot dog after each chased bird flew away. Tired of running GS crawled into the stroller for a lift to the Museum of Natural History. SIL was amazed with no lines and no admission fees. GS’s mouth became an O as he took in the giant mammoth that greeted us on the main floor.

He was okay with it while Daddy held him.

He was okay with it while Daddy held him.


The dinosaurs were scary and he favored Mommy, looking only if she was holding him. His favorite was the aquarium with colorful fish including the Nemo variety. He protested as we scooted on to see other things like the Hope Diamond in the Harry Winston Gallery.
I like this!

I like this!


Leaving the MoNH we moved on to the Museum of American History. By then GS had crawled into the stroller and hunkered down for a nap that lasted for hours. He woke up in time to get his picture taken in front of the gates of the White House.

Over the years I have seen all the seasons of Washington DC. And I thought of the many seasons of my life that I have spent in this city. There were no cherry blossoms to behold this trip, yet I thought back to when I was fortunate enough to see them on other trips. I remembered the snow covered mall when we had brought D1 and D2 to view the Vermeer exhibit in ’96. I remembered the fall of ’97 when Rick had attended the Million Man March with church friends for Stand In the Gap. I remembered how as a college student I had taken a bus to Washington to participate in the November moratorium of ’69 while my future husband was in the Bay of Tonkin thousands of miles away. I remember celebrating a milestone birthday June of 2000 at the Kennedy Center. This year this trip was not about setting out on a mission but being a grandma and being with family and friends.

On Day 6 we drove south to Hanover to meet up with Dianna of These Days of Mine and her husband. Several weeks previous to our planned reunion, we had made reservations at the Hanover Tavern, a good half way point for each of us. No lines.

I recognized Dianna and her husband right away. She was the beautiful lady with MM who walked in with her camera in hand. They had arrived early to Hanover and decided to tour the small township. Dianna had taken pictures as MM obligingly stopped. Imagine that! As we waited for our table, I could tell Dianna had something on her mind. She shared with us a curious photo of a hundred running shoes or more piled up and tied together. She asked our hostess about it and she told us about a very recent tragedy in their town. Like the lens of her camera, Dianna’s focus was sharp and clear as she asked questions and we listened to the story. Paying tribute to the jogger who lost her life, Dianna wrote about that tragedy here on her blog last Thursday.

Her husband delighted us with stories of their travels to the West Coast, points in TX and the midwest. They told us more about Bride and Groom Swan, the ducks, the deer, Sundae and Gypsy. I know they were disappointed not to meet my husband who had stayed home to tend to the business of selling our city house. And, I know Rick and MM could have swapped quite a few stories. I was grateful though, that D2, SIL and GS had accompanied me on that special trip for them to meet as I have written about them too, on this blog. We could have just kept talking and visiting. I didn’t want our visit to end, but GS2 all full of himself with his now changed to “Spiderman” band-aid was getting a little rowdy restless and the weather was changing fast. I had texted Dianna the day before concerned about the drastic weather forecast of storms and temperatures dropping. I didn’t want them to risk traveling in icy conditions. As we left the restaurant Dianna and I posed for a photo by the tavern entrance. On cue MM took Dianna’s camera, my daughter took my camera, and SIL pulled out his smart phone to take this memorable picture. As we left it started to rain. Thank you, Dianna and MM for braving the elements and making this adventure happen. Aren’t they the greatest?

at the Hanover Tavern

at the Hanover Tavern

More posts coming regarding this past memorable week.

I saw it again this week posted on a classroom door while I was heading to class, “Class cancelled today.”

Note to self: Look it up…again…how to spell “cancelled”.

And then again, on Saturday morning around 10:20 D1 texted me from the second to the first floor and sleepily asked, “Was the showing canceled today?” She had spent the night with us to help me be sure the house would be straightened up for this weekend’s showings, the first one scheduled at 10:00. D1 was an English major, born and raised in TX. I noted she preferred “canceled.”

I called her back to answer. “Yes, dear, that’s why I wasn’t running around the house calling out a minute by minute showing countdown. Go ahead and sleep in.”

I had received a text from Showings.com (or some such) around 8:30 “We have CANCELLED (their caps, not mine) the apt. on Sat (no period) 2/15 @ 10:00.”

Back to my Note to self. From Grammar in Context, by Sandra N. Elbaum, here’s a rule regarding spelling the -ing ending in a two-syllable word and extends to -ed words that end in consonant, vowel, consonant. Double the final consonant only if the last syllable is stressed.

For example: refer becomes referred
admit becomes admitted
rebel becomes rebelled
control –> controlled
propel –> propelled

And, here’s a rule when the last syllable of a multi-syllable word is not stressed. Do not double the final consonant.

For example: listen –> listened
open –> opened
offer –> offered
limit –> limited
develop –> developed

Therefore, following these American rules, the -ed spelling of cancel is canceled.

Note: In varieties of English from outside the U.S., including Canadian, British, and Australian English, cancelled and cancelling are the preferred spellings. [Case in point, note preferred] “Cancellation” is the spelling for the noun in all varieties of English.

As our global world becomes smaller and smaller, it seems that “cancelled” has not only penetrated but permeated our American English. The same goes for “traveled”, “traveling”, “travelled” and “travelling”. My wp spell check wants me to correct “travelled” and “travelling” however, it does not check me on “cancelled.”

It is not my intent to be the grammar police, but only from time to time I think it is useful and desirable to brush up my spelling. First and foremost, I want to read my blogging friends’ stories, thoughts and opinions, how you construct them without specific attention to the grammar or spelling. An anathema to both? Perhaps.

Recently, as I went through old letters written by my Dutch father and grandmother, I remembered the spelling errors (not specifically the ones pertaining to the words mentioned above). It was in those letters that I received in my younger years, I was gifted an important insight. Although, I had grown up with two languages: Spanish and English, they had grown up with more: Dutch, Spanish, French, English, and in the case of my grandmother German, too. Considering English came fourth in their acquisition of languages, I have nothing to critique here, but am filled with admiration.

"Take good care of yourselfs and have as good a time ase we are having.  Give my regards to all the people we know and please also give our regards to the famiies you are staying with Love to Both of you  Dad

“Take good care of yourselfs and have as good a time ase we are having. Give my regards to all the people we know and please also give our regards to the famiies you are staying with
Love to Both of you
Dad


from my Dutch grandmother Moesje

from my Dutch grandmother Moesje

With that humbling knowledge I have kept my thoughts or comments regarding their spelling in check and I encourage my students to spell the best they can favoring a more holistic rubric, including other criteria in addition to mechanics.

Oh, English is challenging. I still remember my grandmother Moesje laugh until there were tears in her eyes when my dad shared with her this poem written by a Dutch writer. Although it doesn’t deal with spelling, it certainly magnifies the degrees of difficulty in not just the fine points of English grammar, but the pronunciation of English, as well.

The Chaos
by G. Nolst Trenite’ a.k.a. “Charivarius” 1870 – 1946

Dearest creature in creation
Studying English pronunciation,
I will teach you in my verse
Sounds like corpse, corps, horse and worse
I will keep you, Susy, busy,
Make your head with heat grow dizzy.
Tear in eye your dress you’ll tear,
So shall I! Oh, hear my prayer,
Pray, console your loving poet,
Make my coat look new, dear, sew it!

It goes on further for 146 lines with 800 examples of English pronunciation pitfalls. Click here to read more about our English pronunciation chaos.

In memory of Allie Karine Sullins

We love gravy in my household. My mother liked au jus, my mother-in-law made it thicker adding flour and milk (or stock). But how to make it without getting those lumps? When my mother-in-law shared with me her secret, I felt I had won the cook’s lottery. I watched her over and over until it became so routine, I knew I could possibly, just maybe duplicate her delicious and fail proof version.

Here it is. A recipe for lump free gravy.

You can change the amount of flour and liquid depending how much gravy you want to make. Here’s a recipe for four to enjoy.

Measure one or two tablespoons of flour into a Mason jar with lid. Add salt, pepper, Mrs. Dash to taste and/or your favorite herbs. Pour a cup of cool milk into the jar. Now here’s the secret. Shake, don’t stir the flour with the milk. Shake, shake, shake. It will make a frothy mixture. Check the bottom of the clear container for no clump of flour sticking to the bottom. If there is, scrape away with butter knife and shake again until milk, flour and seasonings are thoroughly mixed together. Pour the frothy mixture into the cooking pan of drippings and stir combining the drippings. (If it’s turkey drippings you may want to use a basting dropper to aspirate/suck up the drippings from the roasting pan being careful to avoid fatty grease and squirt/release into the cooking pan. In other words, mix them the other way around. Milky mixture first, then add turkey drippings/stock to taste.) Stir, stir, stir. Cook longer for thicker gravy.

Thanks to this recipe, I can serve gravy without disappointment with biscuits, brisket, pork chops, chicken, turkey and ham. Yum!

1 cup of milk + 1-2T flour in Mason jar

Add milk to flour in the Mason jar. Shake, shake, shake. Ooops! There’s still a clump at the bottom. Scrape away with a butter knife and shake, shake, shake some more until frothy.

When thoroughly shaken and frothy, pour into drippings and cook to desired thickness.

Be careful: Don’t add warm drippings to the milk mixture in the Mason jar before shaking. If you do, the flour will expand and it will explode into a mess. Always, add the cool frothy mixture to the pan drippings separately (or for turkey when there is a lot of drippings, pour frothy mixture into cooking pan and then add the drippings to the frothy mixture).

Don’t shake with warm drippings in jar.

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