Thursday, October 28, 2010


We are sitting in the office and hear a rapping sound.  I go down stairs because I think we have company.  Nothing.  I return to the office and there goes the rapping again. 

This time I go out the garage door thinking it is a Fed Ex or UPS delivery man.  Again nothing.

This goes on for some time until I decide to take my camera and walk around the outside of the house.  I suddenly have an idea what I am looking for.  And see what I find!
This adorable bird is tap, tap, tapping on our house.  How adorable is that.  I've never seen a woodpecker here before.  I smile and then I look closer.  Wait a minute - that's not so cute.

He looks like he's making progress on his insect search.  I think I see holes!  I pick up a small rock to throw at him and almost hit our skylights.  So in my wisdom, I yell at him.  And in a few he flies away leaving this.
Dratted little woodpecker.  Makes me think of the Woody Woodpecker cartoon, especially the laugh!

Alex - do you have any ideas what kind of woodpecker is this?  

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Pumpkin Patch

I will share a secret with you.  Saturday I went to my first pumpkin patch.  I've read about them, seen pictures about them and driven past them but never went to one.  So when Dann called and asked if I wanted to go along with them, I was thrilled.

When the boys were little and up to and including the age of pumpkin carving and trick or treating, I didn't know about pumpkin patches.  We bought pumpkins at the grocery store or at a farm stand.  Brought them home, cut them out and set them outside with a candle inside.  Occasionally the pumpkins were stolen or smashed, but usually within two to three weeks, they shriveled up as rot set in. 

Last year, we went to New York City towards the end of October.  I had always wanted to go to Chelsea Market, home of the Food Network.  The pumpkin carvings and displays we saw were awesome.

These are photos of Chelsea market.  The carvings were so beautiful.  

Anyway, we went to Horse Sleigh farm in New Jersey.  They had lots of attractions but first we took a hayride out to the pumpkin field. It made us laugh.  We could have walked, but wanted the hayride experience. We sat on hay bales for the short ride.  It was a hoot! 

We tromped around about 5-6 acres inspecting the pumpkins.  Dann and Micah overturned almost every pumpkin out there. 

Katie found two she liked rather quickly, 

and we found this green one covered in weird bugs

Finally we had our bounty,

Then we spent some time visiting the chickens, feeding the goats and watching them (not the goats, the farmers) shoot ears of corn at a truck  - very unusual pastime!  All in all, it was a lot of fun.  I wish I had known about these places when the boys were little - they'd have loved it!

Oh - and I lost at rummy AGAIN when we got home.  Must be the cards, it couldn't be me!

Thursday, October 21, 2010


The funny thing about being retired, or should I say the funny thing about not working is that weekends come so quickly!  The week used to drag on and on, but now it is flying by.  I have attributed it to retirement, but do you suppose it is a function of aging?  I read about the downhill side of life,  and just the phrase conjures visions of speeding along out of control. Yikes!

Anyway, I started this about weekends.  While they seem to come around faster, it is still only 2 days (aren't I a keen observer?)  As an adult, weekends are such an important part of  living that I have been trying to remember weekends as a child.  What did we do lo those many years ago?

First Grade

It was the '50s.  I remember looking forward to Saturday morning cartoons.   I think Daddy would sometimes golf on Saturday.  And I'm not sure if it was Saturday morning or Sunday morning, Daddy would make me eggs over easy.  Of course, Sunday we went to Sunday school and church.  Then in the afternoon it was time for family visits.  We would visit grandparents, or aunt and uncles.  Sometimes in the summer, we would have a family picnic. Those Sundays where we stayed home, Daddy and my brothers would often watch baseball or football.  I have no idea what Mom did for a whole weekend.  When we walked into the house after church, it always smelled so good.  Either a roast or a baked chicken had been cooking while we were gone.  I got my step stool and it was my job to help Mom peel potatoes.  I wonder what else used to happen on weekends.

It all seems so ordinary, maybe even boring, compared to weekends now.  We and everyone we know are running somewhere.  No, I don't long for yesteryear, I enjoy all the things we do.  Besides, we don't have to recharge on the weekend.  We have all week to rest up!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Pass the Purell

Every Sunday as part of the service, we "pass the peace".  This involves greeting those near you, shaking hands and sharing "Peace be with you" "And also with you".  It is very friendly, often involves hugs but always is a handshake.

After we  have all returned to our seats, you hear the bottles of hand sanitizer popping open as everyone  cleanses their hands.  Welcome to the new world. 

Monday, October 18, 2010

October Costumes

When the leaves turn yellow, orange and red, the nights turn damp and chilly and wood burning smoke begins pouring from chimneys, it reminds me of putting away the summer clothes and getting out the winter clothes.  Always while getting out the winter clothes, I stumbled upon costumes from Halloween.  The costumes came in a box with a window so you could see the mask and I stored them in that box.
This is the kind of costume we bought for Andy and Dann.  I don't actually know why I saved the costumes because they were never worn more than one year. 

I remember wearing a "boxed costume" at least one year but for the life of me I don't remember the character.  What I do remember is the smell and texture of the costume.  If it was cold, you put all your warm clothing on first.  Then you stepped into the one piece jump suit made of a cross between nylon, polyester and plastic.  From the waist to the neck in the back it was open. There were narrow plastic strings sewn onto the neckline that were meant to be tied together in the back.  By the end of the night - actually usually by the end of the first street - it was torn.  The mask was molded plastic and had a rubber band to go around the back of your head, sometimes getting caught in your hair.  I can still smell it.  It was really hard to see out of those masks.

Usually Martha and I would go together.  We would only go to houses where we knew the people.  When they opened the door, we yelled "Trick or treat".  They always invited us in.  Then came the guessing.  "Do we know you?  Do we know your parents? Do you have any brothers or sisters? Are you (guess a name)?"  Eventually they would either guess right or give up and the masks came off.  They laughed, told us we were getting big and gave us the candy.

There were no fun size bars then, only full size.  We did get a few apples and some NECCO wafers but mostly Snickers, Milky Way and Reese's.  Funny though, the candy never seemed to last as long as I thought it should.  Do you think I shared  it with my brothers and forgot? 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Grandchild Sunday

We had a really fun day today. 

Micah (#39) had a football game this afternoon.  It was the last game of the regular season.  He played offense and defense.  They won by two touchdowns.  It was grand!  And the whole game I was sitting next to and chatting with Katie.  What a delight!

After the game we decided to see if Nathan was home.  He was building this giant Lego tower with Dad.  He didn't hear us come in but looked up and saw me.  He ran over with his arms open and shouted, "Grammy, I'm so glad you came back!"  As he was hugging me, he saw Bill and shouted "Pop-pop, you came back too!  Hooray!"  Then he ran to Bill for a hug.  You can't have a better welcome.

On the left, the tower was falling over.  Dad caught the top of it but it was taller than Eric (Dad).

Then Nathan played with one of his favorite toys, my iPhone.  He understands how it works and has a ball with it.  I have some special alphabet and numbers apps and of course a few games.  There is a game called Fling that you have to fling these fuzzy balls into each other either horizontally or vertically knocking them off the board.  You win if you can get it to one ball left.  He is really good at this.  Soon it was time for us to go.  Nathan wanted us to stay - what a nice feeling!

iPhone focus!
We made a quick run to Sam's club.  We got there at 5:40 and they close at 6.  We had two things on our list; we got four.  And were back in the car by 5:56.  Bonus!

Home again and  - No, I didn't finish the laundry room. :)

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Fall Cleaning

Is it instinctive or is it learned?  Every fall and every spring I get the urge to clean out, scrub down and reorganize.  So today, I started on the laundry room.  And in addition to actually being used as a laundry room, this room tends to be a dumping grounds or a staging area.  And in the past, it was also where we kept Homer's litter box (a different kind of dumping grounds).

It has been quite awhile since the whole room was worked over.  In the past few years, I often attacked the room in parts but never the whole thing at once.  I probably worked about 7 hours on it today.  I moved everything out of the room but the washer, dryer and a cabinet.  Scrub the floor, scrub the walls, should I paint? 

A great break was a visit with Dann and Micah.  They brought videos, pictures and stories from their cruise.  The boys threw the football around.  We played a hot game of rummy, Dann won and Micah beat Pa Bill.  I was the big loser!  We ended with a trip to Applebees. When we got home, I committed to myself to get back at it until the Phillies game started. (Phillies are on now)

Now I have this pile of stuff - no, of course I didn't finish it today - to sort, organize and fit back into the room.  Where did it all come from?  Oh, did I mention that when I moved the dryer, I broke the exhaust hose?  Some things don't go back in the room - which will lead me to the next room, and the next room, and the next room. 

As my friend says, no good deed goes unpunished!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Scary Movies

I really love romantic comedies.  Right now I am watching "Holiday" about two women who decide on the spur of the moment to trade houses for two weeks.  One lives in England, the other in Los Angeles.  The movies are usually predictable, end happily and make me feel good.  Sigh.....

Let's see - I also really enjoy fantasy.  No not that kind, ha ha ha!!!  I mean fantasy like Star Wars or Lord of the Rings.  But I really enjoy them better if I know the story - and yes I had read the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  I don't like movie surprises.  Even in good dramas, I enjoy them more if I know when the awful stuff is going to happen in their life. 

My attitude probably comes from a particularly memorable Saturday afternoon.  I was probably around 12 years old.  And my friend Robin invited me to her house to play games and then watch TV.  We were throwing the football around with her brothers - Jon was the starting quarterback on the high school team (I was in awe!).  Then we came in and had a snack and settled down to watch the Saturday Afternoon Horror Show. I actually don't remember the name of the show but it started at 3:00 every Saturday and I had never watched it before.  I thought about going home, but the brothers were there and they were so grown up and I didn't want them to make fun of me so I stayed.

The movie starts and it was "The Fall of the House of Usher" with Vincent Price.  The movie tagline was "He buried her alive... to save his soul!"  So you can imagine what I was in for.  I watched the whole thing scared down to my shoes.  In the last scene, a decrepit hand reaches out of a coffin.  Hated it!   It lasted until about 5:00 and it was DARK.  I had to walk home 4 blocks. Past the house with the creaky front porch. Past three alleys.  Past the dark factory.  Past Aunt Elda's house (it was dark). And past the high school.  The school was the worst.  It was nearly a block long and there were tall boxwood hedges all along the sidewalk completely blocking your view.  They only broke at the front door to the building. Then towards the end of the building was a cement bridge.  I was seeing scary things in the shadows.  I ran almost the whole way home.

I remember Grandma asking why I was so late (supposed to be home at 5:00 for dinner). I have no idea what I told her and I don't remember anything else about the day.  But I can still remember the feel of my pounding heart running home, scared all the way.  I did not get a thrill from the scares like some people say they get.  In fact, that is a thrill I'll never understand. 

So if you are at my house, or I am at your house and a scary or suspenseful movie comes on TV - don't be surprised if I leave the room at the most interesting times.   

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Yesterday, Bill and I were standing in the kitchen when the door opened and this little voice called out, "Hello!"  He proceeded to jump his way across the kitchen giggling "Surprise!  We surprised you!" 

I can't think of many better ways to start the day!

So we took a little game I had...
 And after a pile of giggles and laughs, made....

Pop-pop calls it "Turkey in a Wind Tunnel"

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

The Way Over

The beginning of the cockroach story actually starts in NH.  Lew had orders to report to the Philippines.  We had to clear out of base housing, Lew left for the Philippines and Andy and I waited for our papers so we could join him.  I don't remember anymore how long it took - I'm guessing about 2-3 weeks.  After we got our orders, we had shots, physicals, shipping things (including the car) and I wanted to spend a couple of weeks at home in PA.  After all, we would be gone for 2 years.

We came home and had a great visit until....... Evan, Eric and Brian all developed chicken pox. This was late 1971, Andy was 14 months old.  I forged ahead and about a week later, Andy and I left to join Lew.  We were flying commercial to San Francisco, military busing to Travis Air Force Base, then flying to Clark Air Base.  We were on the bus when I looked down at Andy asleep in my lap and noticed a red pimple on his temple.  No, It can't be.  We were staying overnight on base and leaving in the morning.  By morning he had more pimples.  I tried to get on the plane, but they wouldn't let us go.  Go to the doctor, yadda, yadda, yadda chicken pox, can't leave until the lesions are crusted over. 

Now I have three new problems.  First, I have a sick baby in temporary quarters with no food for either of us.  Second, I have $35.00 to my name.  Third, Lew is expecting to meet us at the airport and won't know what happened to us.

So, the Red Cross notified Lew that Andy was sick and it would delay our arrival.  Unfortunately, they told him it was small pox!  Next I call a cab.  I get in the cab with Andy and he drives me to a base version of a 7-11.  I don't want to take Andy in the store with me, so I ask the driver if I can leave him in the car while he waits for me.  What a trusting soul I was.  I went into the store alone, bought peanut butter, cereal, milk, bread.  When I returned, the driver took us back to the room and wouldn't let me pay for the taxi.

We survived four days on that one trip to the mini-mart.  On the fifth day, I had to take him back to the hospital for the doctor to release us to travel.  He did - and I even have the note to prove it - it says in part - "He can fly"  (I love that note!)

I wanted to check out of the BOQ but didn't have enough money.  They adjusted my bill from $7.00 a day to $3.00 a day.  That I could afford.  I got to the boarding area and the airmen and soldiers couldn't have been nicer or more helpful.  While in flight, if Andy was awake, the men played peek-a-boo or just talked to him.  We flew to Hawaii where we had a 6 hour layover.  Since he had thrown up on his clothes, I bought Andy a flowered shirt.  Next stop was a layover in Guam, and then finally the Philippines. 

And you know the rest of the story - except that the reason Lew had just moved us into a new location was - we had been robbed!  Before I even got there!  They knew it was the housing security guards but were unable to do anything about it except move. 

Military ties run deep.  I can tell you that the reason the men were so helpful to me is that they would want someone to help their wife and children should they be traveling alone.  Today I marvel at the communications military families have with their soldiers on tour.  It doesn't replace being home together, but it sure is better than the "old days." 

Monday, October 11, 2010

Stink Bugs and other pests

I have been noticing stink bugs in the house every so often for the last two years.  And tonight I saw a news report that these bugs are becoming quite a problem to crops, fruit trees and ornamental shrubs too.  This is the time of year that everything - from mice to preying mantis - pushes indoors for the winter.  So of course the stink bugs are trying to find solace inside too. 

I do not like bugs, but am less creeped out by bugs since we lived in the Philippines.  Andy was 14 months old when he and I flew to Clark Air Force base, RP.  We arrived after about 18 hours in the air exhausted, stinky and stiff just hoping to go to our house and crash in bed.  It wasn't to be.  We ended up in a hotel.  And within a few minutes, i was introduced to one of the Philippine cockroaches scurrying across the room floor. These roaches are about 3 inches long.  (Later i was to find out some of them fly)Lew squished it under his boot but refused to clean it off the floor.  By morning IT WAS GONE!!!  Did it pull itself back together (I believe this) or did his buddies drag him off, or did some other insect eaters drag him off.  Whatever happened to it will remain a mystery.

So much for my first night.  The next day, he dropped us off at our house and went to work.  He had just moved us to this new place - there was much to do.  Within a few days I already had a few run-ins with cockroaches. I was determined to rid our house of the buggers, so i bought pesticides, motels and whatever they had at the commissary.  (I am scratching as i write this - i guess some things you don't actually get over).  First, we (I had a house girl, Olive) emptied the cupboards then i sprayed and sprayed in, around and under the cabinets. We shut the cabinet doors.  As we stood back admiring my work, the stampede began.  They came from the top of the cabinet, the bottom of the cabinet and the sides of the cabinet.  They came running across the walls, the ceiling and the floor.  A few died, but most just ran.  I left Olive to handle it - she seemed unimpressed by the whole thing.  I escaped to our bedroom.

I decided to organize our closet.  It had many hanging clothes, but they were jumbled together and in no order.  I grabbed hands full of hangers and laid the clothes on the bed.  As I reached back for another load, a roach ran over my hand.  I screamed.  I nearly packed my bags to come home.  And that wasn't my last encounter of the day.  That night, I was in bed laying on my stomach reading.  Picture this - my pillow is under me and i am on my elbows, my book is laying open on the bed and I see movement.   It starts with the feelers waggling over the edge of the mattress. Here comes a roach up the headboard side of the bed. We find out later that the bed legs need to be in empty soup cans.  Something about the roaches not being able to climb up the can or something.  I was beyond caring why something worked, i just wanted it to work.

Nothing will ever come close to the infestation we experienced those two years.  We could not get rid of them.  Our habit was to tap on cabinet doors then wait a beat giving the bugs a chance to run away.  If you get up at night, turn the light on, but if you don't want to see them, keep your eyes closed and give them time so they can run away. 

So unless the stink bug infestation gets 1,000 times worse, it pales in comparison. 

Saturday, October 9, 2010


Tomorrow is..... 10/10/10.  (AKA my brother-in-law's birthday.)  By itself, however, it is another in a long line of weird dates.  Last year was 9/9/09, but my favorite series includes time.  This year on August 9th at exactly 6 minutes and 7 seconds after 5 AM it was 5:06:07 8/9/10. 

I have always had a fascination with numbers, which developed into an interest in incidences, coincidences, statistics, etc.  I'm not really sure why I am mentioning this.  But I think it is because I am watching baseball, the sport with more numbers than any other.  It isn't enough to learn the rules of the game - you have to know the history - the statistics - the numbers.  Your depth of "fanness" is rated by how well you know any number of inane facts, players, wins, losses, pitches, on and on. 

I am sure my initial interest was driven by wanting to fit in with three older brothers and a dad who watched the Phillies whenever they were on TV.  The rules for watching were funny.  I was allowed to stay in the room as long as I didn't disrupt anyone.  Of course you know that meant no talking.  Imagine a 6-9 year old not talking.  By not talking, I ended up listening to the announcers (lots of facts) and to the discussions in the room.  All those things added to my base of baseball knowledge, such as it is.

Truth is, I really like baseball.  What follows seems a strange segue, but it'll make sense soon.  Imagine it is about 1981, I was working at ALPO.  My friend Rich came to my cubicle and asked me "Do you know who hit the shot heard round the world?" (Now for those of you who don't know baseball you might remember the announcer saying "The Giants won the pennant, the Giants won the pennant"  If not check this out. )  I gave Rich a who-wouldn't-know-that look and said "Of course!"  "Come to MJ's office, you have to tell her.  She won't believe me."  Rich said.  Naturally, we stick our heads into MJ's office and she asks, "Linda, tell me who you think hit the shot heard round the world."  Mostly sure of myself, I answer, "well Bobby Thomson, of course"  MJ gestures to a man sitting in the corner, "Linda, I'd like you to meet Bobby Thomson!"  What a thrill for me.  I was able to spend a few minutes chatting with him.  I really was star struck.  I have no recollection of the conversation.

Maybe if he'd have thrown in a few numbers...........