Monday, December 19, 2011

Putto and the Santa Blues

The broken, raggedy cherub--a member of the illustrious putti family of Baroque-style religious art--adorned the top of our Christmas tree every year when I was a child. I hated it! My friends all had modern glittery angels on their trees, and we had this dirty, cracked, buck-toothed, dopey-looking cherub that my mother always said was "from the ruins of Pompeii."

I was twenty when it finally occurred to me (a little art history in college had helped) that there was no way the cherub was from Pompeii! I asked Mother why she told us that every Christmas as we hung it on the tree. "Because my father always said that to his children," she replied. (My grandfather had a great sense of humor, I've been told)

Mother, too, grew up with the putto on her tree, and she wasn't crazy about it as a child, either. No one knows which ancestor obtained it, but we know that some of those ancestors traveled to Europe in the nineteenth century, so it was probably picked it up at an outdoor market, or a shop near a decaying church in Germany or Italy. Maybe it was stolen! (I have no character references for great-great grandparents and their predecessors.)

As an old woman, I adore the putto. After all, it's been in my family for a century or more. It's too frail for the top of the tree these days, but it sits on my mantel (both arms broken and re-glued, missing fingers, etc.) and makes me sad (because it's so broken) and happy (because it's so 'family') whenever I look at it. It's certainly part of my Christmas heritage, and my children's, too. Unfortunately, none of my grandchildren have ever seen it because they've never been at our house during the Christmas season.

But I also love my blue Santas--both of them gifts within the last thirty years, and both handsome together, even though they were gifts from different people. One can easily see the St. Nick influence in the garb. If you hear me say "I have Santa blues," I'm not telling  you I'm depressed.  I'm just admiring this duo.

As Hubby and I get older, we tend to put out less holiday decor. We rarely entertain during the holidays, and our grown children have their own holiday traditions, which don't include visiting 'the folks.' Yet some of our Christmasy things are so beloved and traditional after fifty years, we can't imagine not taking the trouble to display and enjoy them.

If there's ever a Christmas where the putto isn't unpacked, well . . . you should probably worry about us.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Gifts are uppermost in the minds of many this time of year.  But the intangible ones can be the most dear, and time is certainly among the most precious. It could be argued that time is right up there with frankincense, myrrh, and gold in the twenty-first century.

Last weekend we visited our family in the Midwest. One of the activities I enjoy doing with my two granddaughters is making art.
We usually find some form of art to create together during our visits. This year, Maddie (8) had new watercolors she wanted to show me. "Let's paint, Grandma."
Katie (10) had a box of art supplies from which she chose a pristine set of opaque watercolors. Armed with a supply of water, a few paper towels, several brushes, and paper--the three of us spent an hour, or so, talking and water coloring. What fun it is to engage fully in an activity that can be done while talking! Quality sharing is what it means, and that is another priceless gift. Although our visits with our dear girls are short, we have found ways of extracting joy in every minute of shared time.

I intended to leave my evergreen tree painting with the girls--(I even signed it for them) but discovered it later mixed in the WELCOME signs the girls made in anticipation of our visit. 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Newspaper news . . . sad

I have just realized the saddest thing . . . regarding the new size of newspapers.

They are too skinny to make the classic paper hats of yore.

For many years I could entertain small children by helping them create hats (after which we could put on a play or have a parade). With the new slender newspapers, the proportions are wrong.

 Yes, you can trim the paper, but the hats no longer fit human heads.

Have fun with your dogs and cats!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More thankfulness

I failed to mention my daughters-in-law in my Thanksgiving post. That is not to say I am not enormously thankful for them. I have always enjoyed knowing the individuals singled out by my children as interesting enough to date and become romantically involved with. It goes without saying that once deep relational commitments are made—long term permanence taking the form of marriage or partnership—I willingly open up my heart and home to our augmented family members and go out of my way to impose no conditions on their acceptance.

My daughters-in-law are completely individual, each one with different backgrounds and life experience. Each of them bring a richness to our family that is unique and treasured. All are especially gifted in the “acceptance” factor.  When we had our reunion at the ocean this summer, I was able to see their inclusiveness in action. It was a heartwarming observation.  

So thanks, Eleni, Denise, and Candra for the texture, detail, and color you add to our family tapestry.

Sunday, November 20, 2011


It’s easy to grumble, and grumble I do. Hardly a day goes by . . . no, make that an hour . . . when I don’t find something about life that isn’t to my liking. Sometimes it’s stuff at home (cobwebs blowing from a spot on the ceiling impossible to reach, a pile of lint slow dancing beneath the dryer, a stinky smell from somewhere in the back of the fridge), and sometimes it’s stuff in the news (impasse in Congress, pepper spray at Occupy Wall Street, a local favorite for City Council defeated).

I can be short-tempered at the supermarket when I discover it no longer carries my favorite brand of pancake mix, and long-faced when the driver in front of me is straddling two lanes and traveling under the speed limit. The older I get, the harder it is to stay on an even keel and smile through the thick and thin of days.

Then here comes Thanksgiving, the day we’ve set aside as a nation to pause in grateful recognition of the many blessings we take for granted. I don’t need to tell you what about each of the grumbles above I could turn around and be grateful for. You can do that yourself. But I can enumerate some special of the people, events, and things that have made me feel especially blessed recently.

Our family reunion in Oregon: I’m grateful to Andrea for making an alternate plan so she wouldn’t need to miss any facet of the gathering, and grateful to Matt for driving so many “toys” (outrigger canoes and bikes) to share with all. I’m grateful to Phil for driving two days to get there, and Pete for taking such a far-flung vacation with his family. I’m also grateful to Nick and Tony Gorini whose enthusiastic report on Rockaway Beach, Oregon, encouraged me to take a risk and rent a house sight unseen, in an Oregon town site unseen.

Rock Concert: U-2’s 360 Tour. My first (and maybe only) rock concert! Such a treat, never to be forgotten.

My blog: I love having a place to spout and spew whatever’s on my mind and a place to tentatively offer tidbits of self through the written word.  This year has brought some gratifying reactions from strangers. One stranger lives in Israel and read something I’d written about a now-deceased mutual friend, another from California was trying to locate information about my son’s Pumpkin-on-Pikes Halloween festival, a third offered to help locate the machine I needed to transcribe my father’s letters. I’m still working on that . . . and I’ve had some lovely comments and e-mails, as well, from friends.  It does beat talking to myself.

My Writers' Group: Two wonderful women read everything I submit to them and gently, positively encourage me. They slog through poetry, wade through essays, and critique with always a positive, helpful manner. And after seven years of working together? They have become dear, dear friends, who know more about me than many family members do!

Group Health Cooperative: How lucky I am to have access to healthcare through an organization that is modern and responsive. Plus, there’s follow up and low co-pays, and no paperwork! It’s there for us—whether we need emergency care while traveling, or urgent care outside of office hours. We are so lucky to be able to afford healthcare and this group is remarkable.

My husband: Even though he and I can snipe at each other with words (sometimes it can be fun), mostly we treat each other with respect and love. We have a deep and lasting bond. Lucky me. He is supportive and helpful and always willing to help me.

My children: They pay attention over the miles by calling, sending e-mails and texting, and visiting when they have time and means to do so.

My granddaughters: Three independent, smart, funny, thoughtful, talented girls—each different, but each with that Glerum ‘glint.’ I love them deeply and desperately, and feel amazingly lucky to know them, let alone be related to them!

My sister:  Having known me all my life, she remembers things about me I can’t possibly know, and shares our collective memory of  our together-ties. I love having her near.

My neices: They treat me like the Queen Mother.

My friends: I wish there were more days in the week, so I could have even more time to spend with the women who not only put up with me, but come back for more.

Now that I’ve started, I can barely stop . . . but this blog posting is QUITE long enough.

May yours be a Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Suppers for Solos

Here is my latest venture: Suppers for Solos. Rather than start from scratch explaining it, I am going to reprint (in yellow) the e-mail I sent ten days ago to the residents in our Homeowners' Association who currently live alone. They are all within a half-block's walking distance from my house--in townhouses similar to mine. Some of the people I knew slightly; some I knew not a all.

Dear ___, ___, ___, ___, ___, ___ etc.

As some of you know, Hubby travels quite a bit for his business. That means I have many dinners alone. Usually I make something very simple: maybe heat up leftovers, or microwave a ready-made dinner from the supermarket, then I watch TV or read while I eat.

The other night as I was scrounging through my fridge for food, I found myself wondering how many neighbors who live alone were doing the exact same thing as I—at the exact same time.

I wondered if, once-in-a-while, other solo residents might like to bring their food to my house so we could eat together. If you just brought whatever food you’d be eating anyway, we could have the pleasure of companionship and conversation without any fuss and bother usually associated with” hosting dinner."

To test out my idea, I called one of our neighbors and invited her for a trial run.

“ Bring your own fixin's to my house. You can cook or heat them here: I have a toaster oven, a microwave, a stovetop and an oven.”

“Can I bring my wine?”

“Of course! Bring whatever you’d like, but remember—you don't have to share anything.”

We discovered this is an idea that works! I heated my dinner, and she heated hers. We sat down at my table and talked for a couple of hours. When she departed, we agreed to try it again, this time including everyone in the association who lives alone. We picked a date—November 9, Wednesday. This is NOT a potluck!

You don't need to bring food (and drink) for anyone but yourself. Bring only what you will consume. You can even take home your own dirty dishes!

I don't need to do anything either except: open my door; show you the kitchen; provide plates, glasses & silverware; heat water for coffee and tea; share conversation.

I hope this will appeal to some of you. If it does, grab your food (whether it’s cheese & crackers, leftovers from last night’s restaurant, Lean Cuisine, etc.) and just show up at my house about 6:00 p.m., Wednesday, Nov. 9. No need to RSVP. 

Well, that was earlier this evening, and I'm thrilled to report our first all-inclusive "Suppers for Solos" was a huge hit! Three neighbors arrived, each bearing their own food--some in bags, some on plates. Two people even  brought their own silverware. What fun it was to sit around the dining room table eating completely different items--chatting about various topics of interest. Everyone agreed it's great to get to know your neighbors and very nice to have a conversation during dinner. I'm hopeful we've started something that will continue.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

First Step

I squinted, my eyes fatigued from relentless roving between all three entrances into the hotel lobby. Allowing my eyelids to droop and shut for a moment, I found myself hoping feigned sleep would hasten her arrival. My childish superstition proved true because when I opened my eyes, a smiling old woman was looking down at me.

“Liz?” I struggled free of the huge puffy sofa to stand and realized that, standing, I was towering over her. “Liz, is that you? Yes, of course it is!” I felt foolish and silly and happy all at once. Putting my arms out to hug her, I curtailed my impulse to embrace too hard, lest I crush her in my excitement.

There we were, first cousins ages seventy-one and sixty-nine, meeting for the first time as adults. We had last seen each other when we were thirteen and eleven. Within moments we were joined by my sister, Judy, who had taken a short walk around the block—her way of alleviating the anticipatory stress we were both feeling as we waited for Liz’s arrival.

“Here’s Judy now,” I said unnecessarily to Liz, who certainly could figure out the woman greeting her was her other cousin. Funny, the way a squeeze around the shoulders can cause liquid to escape from the eyes.

Not only did we live a thousand miles apart as children, but our parents who were brother and sister ( Liz’s father and Judy’s and my mother) were estranged during much of our young adult years—cutting off all communication (which, in those days meant letter writing). When first cousins rarely see each other as children, it is difficult to develop or sustain a relationship as teens and young adults.  It felt impossible to instigate a link as we embarked on divergent paths.

How does one close a gap that spans weddings and children, career development and divorces? A gap that includes uprooting and settling down, achievements and conquests, sorrow and heartbreak?

Surprisingly, it was easy.  For the first two hours, we talked about the one thing we had indisputably in common, our grandparents—the two people we all referred to as “Grandmother and Grandfather,” never Gramps, Grandma, Nana or Pops.  Liz had brought pictures to our meeting, a 9x12 envelope chock full of old photographs, which she fanned across the round table like a deck of faded Tarot cards. One by one, Judy (who was sitting in the middle) picked each one up, with Liz and me leaning over to pore over images—all of us talking at once.

“I have no idea who that is. . . but, look! There's your dad!”

“This one’s Uncle Billy . . . and this must be little Bill . . . oh, and could that be Allene?”

“. . . I know who this is—it’s the first William Neill, the one who looks like Colonel Sanders . . . oh, and there’s Grandfather’s brother, the one who died young . . ..”

On and on we chattered until the ice was broken, until the clock hands circled twice, until we realized how hungry we were and strolled to the restaurant at the other end of the hotel lobby. Only after we ordered our meals did we change the subject; over sandwiches shared our current situations with each other. Afterwards, when we asked the waiter to take our picture, he assumed we were old friends catching up.

A serendipitous event had precipitated our meeting in Spokane. Grandfather Elmendorf founded The Spokane Association of Realtors in 1911, which was celebrating its Centennial with great festivity. The organization had commissioned a painting, a book, and a DVD commemorating its achievements. Not only would Grandfather’s contributions be prominently featured in the book and DVD, but the painting depicted him and our grandmother, and would permanently reside in the board room of the association. We, the granddaughters, had been invited to view the finished works.

Judy and I traveled from Seattle to Spokane and made it a celebratory event for us, as well. We booked ourselves into the luxurious historic hotel that was built during our grandfather’s reign as real estate kingpin. She and I were feted at the office of the association's headquarters as if we were royalty. Our pictures were taken, and we were reminded repeatedly of our grandfather's foresight in founding the organization.

 Liz accepted our suggestion of getting together in the shadow of our illustrious Spokane ancestor and drove from her home in Northern Idaho to spend a few hours with us at the hotel. She was unable to join us when we visited the Association’s headquarters the day before, but we were thrilled when she decided she could get away from her home fires for a short time.

As we walked Liz to her parking garage, we all promised to keep in touch with the fervor of Olympic Games teammates taking home the gold. We don’t know what the next step will be, but we all agreed there will be a next step. And that—after having no cousin contact for almost sixty years—feels momentous.

“I realized this was an opportunity being handed to me,” said Liz. “It wasn’t going to come knocking again.” Our farewell hugs were not tentative; they were heartfelt.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Little Miss Stewart (as in Martha)

The idea of celebrating Canadian Thanksgiving (October 10) with our Canadian family inspired us to meet our B.C. family somewhere halfway between our two houses. We chose Winthrop, Washington, where we found a dandy condo to rent for the weekend, and proceeded to discuss how we would actually celebrate the event. 

Turkey? Nah, it could be difficult to cook in a kitchen with unknown attributes. Hot dogs? One of us thought that was a great suggestion, but certain adults nixed it. We decided on chicken, and concocted a plan wherein we would purchase an already roasted chicken in Winthrop (e.g. the kind the supermarkets set out under heat lamps) and put together all the ‘trimmings’ as we could muster easily.

Here is our ridiculously simple final menu put together in less than forty-five minutes: Supermarket chicken, stuffing (stovetop), green-bean casserole (canned beans, etc.), mashed potatoes (from organic Wash. farm), yams (baked in the microwave, sliced, then smothered in marshmallows leftover from an overabundance of sumores’ ingredients), cranberry sauce (my mother's recipe) and pumpkin pie made from “scratch” by our son who even started with a fresh pumpkin! 

The table was set by Little Miss “Martha” Mae. She did a beautiful job of transforming the ordinary condo table into a Thanksgiving table, and decided to include the windowsill in the decor. To quote my daughter-in-law after we’d finished the dishes, “That was the easiest Thanksgiving dinner with the least amount of stress I can ever remember.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Friday, October 7, 2011

PC Growlings

I am having a terrible time learning Windows 7 and Office 10. 

I used to think I was computer savvy, but it seems my opinion of my computer skills was inflated. Turns out, I don't know "diddly squat" about these matters. And, to make matters worse (here's my rant about Microsoft--never thought I'd sink so low), there doesn't appear to be easy help anywhere to be found inside the software or even online. In previous Word versions, one only had to tap the question-mark button to find help on whatever was  needed. Now Word refers the frustrated user to a chat room, bulletin board or a forum for help. I have spent hours (so it seems, anyway) roaming various sites for help--just to set tabs easily, or fill a cell with a standard pastel color. The most recent subject of my fury is my inability to set up a couple of macros. I'm ready to have Windows XP reloaded on my laptop, and to re-purchase the old, trusted versions of Microsoft Office--then drop Word 10 AND Excel AND all the rest off the pedestrian trestle bridge near my house.

To get my mind off all this, I've been doodling on the iPad. Here's an example of what I've been doing, thanks to Steve Jobs--R.I.P. 

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tech trek

I want the violins to play . . . to accompany my whining. No new posts coming your way until I become the master of my universe again (or, at least the master of my new laptop computer that's replaced an outmoded tower). The acquaintance period is demanding more attention that it deserves, and my new keyboard is making me feel claustrophobic and crazy. Who could have imagined that such luxury could be such hell.

I am going to drown myself in a big glass of network TV tonight--a comfy fix after a frustration frenzy trying to figure out where things are on the new system. I hope I can find something trashy and fun to take my mind off how privileged I am.

Oh, for just one 24 hour period in which I could ask the questions as they pop into my head. How I would love to have a techie mentor sitting beside me right now. I used to think of myself as computer savvy, but with a new operating system (Windows 7) and new versions of old, beloved software, such as Word and Excel, I feel exceedingly stupid. Yes, I know I will be fine in a few days . . . or weeks . . . but until then, nothing will be happening on this blog.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Palouse . . . eye candy

Let’s just say my traveling companion (the same one who’s been on the journey with me for nearly half-a-century) was skeptical when I proposed we take a short trip to Palouse Country in eastern Washington State

“You’ve seen one wheat field, you’ve seen them all," he said.

But after we returned home from our three day drive around that region, he was a convert. And I was as enraptured as I thought I'd be. You see, after living in Washington for much of my life, I had never spent any adult time visiting that southeastern corner of the state. I'd heard about it from friends who've lived or attended college in the area. My friend and proud Washington State University alumna, Karen Gorini, shared her fond recollections of the region's haunting beauty in one of many phone conversations we had in the last year of her life. "The Palouse just gets under your skin," she said, "and wish I could see it one last time." I found myself thinking of Karen a lot during our trip, missing her even more than I usually do.

Yes, Palouse Country has a mystique that’s hard to pinpoint. Is it the light? the nuance of topography? the patterns that cultivation and harvests create? Or is the determination of farmers who have figured out how to make an arid land (annual rainfall 9”) so incredibly productive? Maybe it’s everything—the spirit of the land that infiltrates its beauty into the eye of the beholder like so much wheat dust.

The area is completely different from what people might think who've seen our state’s automobile license-plates with their slogan: The Evergreen State. If you don't know about The Palouse, take a few minutes to check out this photography site , one of many Web sites filled with photos of the region clothed in different crops and seasons.   

Monday, August 29, 2011

Three plus me

This might be my favorite picture from our saltwater get-together.

I'll bet you can guess why.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

We always did like mustaches . . .

The McDraggles, produced for Washington Grade School's Gong Show, circa  1977
"The McDraggles" act was designed to be 'gonged,' which would allow serious talent to be appreciated by the audience at the grade school fund raiser. We were so funny, however, the gong ringer delayed doing his job while we continued with our music much longer than we'd planned. Four of us kept "playing" our phony bagpipes (the fifth conducted with the plumber's friend), while the audience tittered, hooted, and hollered. Result? Four kids who were really mad at their mother for the next several days.

And . . . our Adam's Apples were sore, too, because to play our phony bagpipes, we had to thwack them with our forefingers while humming "Scotland the Brave."

Monday, August 22, 2011

Braver than I

There are lots of people braver than I, but a ten year old? 

Yup, here is my special ten-year-old, showing off the t-shirt she earned.

Not only did she eat one, she ate two! 

That means she's already eaten twice as many raw oysters as I have, in all my seventy-one years.

Even grownups like to play at the ocean. 

The boomerang always returned, unlike the Frisbee.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Changing appearances

Who are these adorable flappers? (Notice the 'with-it" tee shirt on the woman!) We had fun with masks for a few minutes at our oceanside family gathering. 

Even more fun was had by the entire group when each and every one of us donned a fake mustache. Oh, did I say everyone? I meant to say twelve out of thirteen. One of us had his own mustache, so he had no need of a phony. Hint . . . he's the patriarch.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Oregon beach and happiness

 Happiness is beachcombing in your pajamas, if you're under age 11.

Happiness is getting together with all your grandchildren at once, if you're over age 70.

Friday, July 29, 2011


After loving my bank for many years—proud of its local ties, excited to be part of its growth from local to regional to national, it’s no fun being a takeover customer of TRACE Bank, a big-box bank notorious for its indifference to the pitiful wails of its little-guy-customers getting screwed.
Because of long-term affiliation with my old, no-longer-in-existence-bank, I’ve had free checks since 1989. So when my supply of checks dwindled to reorder status, I took myself to a branch of TRACE near my house. I opened my wallet, pulled out my reorder form, and handed it to the teller.
“I need a minimum supply of checks. May I drop off this reorder blank with you?” Fully expecting a simple ‘yes,’ I was surprised at her response.
“You’ll need to talk to the accounts rep,” replied the teller. She let herself out from behind the counter and motioned me to follow her. She showed me to a kidney-shaped desk belonging to a very young man (in suit and tie) who stood up and shook my hand. “Our customer, Sara, would like to order some additional checks,” the teller said, as she handed him my reorder blank.
“I’m Avery. . . have a seat,” he said. “How’s your day going?”
I took a deep breath. I phrased my answer carefully. “So far . . . it’s great. But. . . TRACE Bank could change that if I don’t get the answer I want.” I smiled, to show him I was a good hearted old woman, capable of a teasing (but biting) remark.
He did not smile back.owhOW’S “ I can help you order checks, but first, I must see your picture ID.”
I handed over my driver’s license. Avery clicked and pushed the mouse, squiggled in his swivel chair, drummed his fingers, and clicked again. I could not see the monitor. Finally he broke the silence. “Computer’s slow today.” Eventually the anticipated information unfolded itself to his eyes only.
“Yes, checks just like the ones you’ve been using will be $24.”
I could feel my blood coming to a simmer. “What?  I’ve had free checks since 1989!
Avery didn’t blink. “Well, Sara, there is a way for you to have free checks,” he said triumphantly. “You’re a great customer, and we at TRACE value your business. I see by your balance in your checking and affiliated accounts that you qualify for an upgrade to our BIG SPENDERS account. With a BIG SPENDERS you’re entitled to free checks (providing, of course, you keep your balance maintained blah blah blah).”
“If I am such a great customer, why can’t you waive the fee for one order of checks?”
“I can’t do that.”
“But I don’t want a BIG SPENDERS account. I’ve been a  customer for twenty-two years and I like the account I have. I want free checks!”
“If you’d use TRACE ONLINE bill-paying service, you wouldn’t need checks at all.”
“ I’ve used online bill paying for years—was one of the first customers way back in the ‘80s (you probably were in diapers, I wanted to add)—but I still need checks . . . for birthdays and gifts to non-profits.”
“With TRACE ONLINE, you can create personal payees, such as family members. All check writing can be done online”
“No thank you!” I kept my composure. “I like tucking a check into a birthday card—I don’t want it sent separately from some payment center in Salem, Massachusetts. There are some things I need checks for.” I forced a smile.
Just then a tall, lean man approached us from the adjacent desk. I think there must have been a customer alarm button under Avery’s desk. The man looked like an undertaker, dressed in a black suit and dark necktie. He made eye contact with Avery who introduced him to me.“This is Pritchard, my manager."
Then Avery turned to Pritchard with, "Sara wants free checks, but she doesn’t want the BIG SPENDERS account.” (I could hear in his voice an edge of disgust.)
“Oh, Sara, that would be a shame,” piped up Pritchard. “With BIG SPENDERS you get a free safe-deposit box 16 x 8 x 4 (as if the dimensions were the tie-breaker), free traveler’s checks (who uses those anymore?), two free cashiers checks a month (why would I need twenty-four cashiers’ checks a year?), you’ll earn higher interest on your savings (from .01 percent to .10 percent—hm-m-m, that’s one penny per year for every $100 versus one penny per year for every $10), and get up to four ATM withdrawals at non-TRACE banks each month for no fee! And . . . (tah-dah!) you’ll be entered in a drawing each time you make a payment on your credit card for a total refund for that payment. Now, wouldn’t you just love to get back one full Visa payment?”
He awaited an answer—my “yes”—as if he were a circus barker waiting for the spotlight to light up the trapeze.
Instead, I shook my head. “What a huge waste. When you look at our time—both yours and mine it would be far cheaper to waive the fee for one order of checks and be done with it.”
“Oh, no—we’re so happy to do this for you. And anytime, you can change back to this kind of account, but then . . . of course . . . you’d have to pay for your checks.”
OK, I was defeated. I nodded weakly. Pritchard scurried to the printer by the window and peeled off a sheet of guidelines for the new account type and four sheets of disclosures. After handing them to me for signatures, both Avery and Pritchard extended their hands, which suddenly seemed stained with the blood of battle. I declined to shake. “Thanks, I’ll await my checks.” I turned to leave.
“Don’t forget, you’ll be entered in a drawing each time you make a payment on your Visa!” Pritchard sounded triumphant. I’m sure if I had looked back, I’d have seen them high-fiving each other.
Clutching my purse and making sure my wallet was in it, I nearly ran to my car. The fresh air felt good. It had taken me forty-five minutes to accomplish it, but at least I wasn’t paying for checks.
Hah! A wild thought crossed my mind. These checks were now so precious, maybe I’d keep them in my free TRACE safety deposit box! Oh, and maybe I's use my free cashiers checks to enclose in birthday cards, and with two a month, I could use cashiers checks for donations to non-profits, as well.  Maybe . . . just maybe . . . I could make those 120 “free” checks last for the rest of my life!  
I felt like high-fiving myself as I drove out of the parking lot.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Singing in the rain

The crowd assembles for the concert at the stadium
around the spectacular set-piece, nicknamed "The Claw"
The small circle in the middle is the stage,
and the two bridges to the outer walkway move.

Did you hear about the outdoor concert in Minneapolis last Saturday, July 23? Fifty-six thousand attendees (yup, you read that right—56,000) sat (or stood) enthralled, even though the heavens opened up and drenched them for more than two hours straight.

Did you hear about the gridlock afterwards? Even attendees who thought they’d outfox traffic by arranging for chauffeured limos to wait outside the stadium spent multiple hours getting home.

Did you know the spectacular 167’ tower and stage (the largest set piece ever devised for an outdoor tour) took 200 stagehands and several cranes five days to set up?   

Did you have any idea that I, Sallie Glerum, was there? Yes I was! I traveled to Minneapolis to be one of those lucky thousands in attendance at U-2's 360° Tour.

This is the U-2 tour that was originally scheduled for 2010, but postponed for one year because lead singer Bono injured his back while preparing for it. This is the concert my youngest son, P., invited me to attend as his guest in celebration of my big SEVEN-OH birthday. Of course, my seventieth was last year . . . but because of Bono’s injury, my gift couldn’t be ‘cashed in’ until I turned seventy-one. And now I can cross that off my bucket list. Yes, it was my first rock concert. . and quite probably my last.

We knew the weather forecast, so all four of us (P., his wife, his mother, and his sister) carried raincoats, despite the heat and humidity of the evening. We'd read that the concert would NOT be cancelled due to weather, but little did we know that a huge downpour would begin at 9:10 p.m. (ten minutes after the concert began) and not let up until 11:20 p.m., just as U-2 left the stage and the final applause began to peter out. It's probably just as well we didn't foresee how the rain would soak us . . . through raincoats and clothing . . . how even our underwear and socks got wet! Did we care? Not really.

Below are FAQs  from friends and acquaintances, beginning with my seatmate on the airplane home:
  • Did I like it? Yes! (in the words of a younger person, "OMG, what was not to like?")
  • Was it too loud? No. I was wearing ear protection, of course, but several times during the course of two and a half hours, I sneaked a “listen” without the protection. It was glorious, actually. 
  • Was the crowd wild? No. Mellow would better describe the audience. (It probably helped that the U. of Minnesota stadium forbids the sale of alcohol inside the stadium.)
  • Was the music spectacular? Yes. Moving? Absolutely. Isn’t U-2 music always moving? It gets me in the gut.
  • Had I ever before stood willingly in a torrential rainstorm for more than two hours? No.
  • Am I sorry it rained? No. The concert was worth it, and the rain made it all the more memorable. And, I’m quite sure relatively few of the thousands left early.
  • Did Bono get rained on? Of course! His stars-and-stripes umbrella helped a little, but his hallmark leather jacket and trousers must have been soaked through.
  • How about The Edge? Yes, drenched! Bassist Adam Clayton took off his shirt—one way to solve the problem of being soaked to the skin. Only Larry, the drummer, stayed relatively dry under the ingenious umbrella, part of the stage design.
  • Did Bono acknowledge the rain? Subtly—snippets of Singin’ in the Rain, Purple Rain, and Raindrops Keep Falling appeared inside U-2s repertoire.
  • How long did it take to get back to P.'s house? More than two hours.
  • Did it rain all the way home? No. But it was muddy. We walked a couple miles through construction on campus and city streets toward town (we’d taxied from downtown to the stadium) where we'd parked the car. Eventually, P. ran ahead another mile-plus to get the car, then doubled back to pick us up.
  • Will I ever forget this event? Never! Not unless senility gets the best of me.
I cannot thank my son enough for the privilege of this evening. I absolutely loved it.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The most awesomest present

Recently, our eldest granddaughter, Katie, turned ten. Remembering how much of a big deal I thought my tenth birthday was, I wanted to think of a big deal gift for her. And--if truth be told--it's a big deal for a grandma, too, when her first grandchild is ten.

After considerable thought, I bought several small gift cards from stores that Katie likes. I then wrote a card with lots of "ten" words in context with the types of purchases she could make with the cards (heighten, brighten, smarten, enlighten, sweeten, listen, etc.). I packaged the whole thing on a glossy 8 x 11 sheet with her picture on it.

Did she like it? This is a direct quote: "Thank you for the "most awesomest present . . . like, ever!

And that, my friends, is music to Grandma's ears!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Who needs potato chips?

I first tasted kale chips just a year ago. One of my kids made them—and so quickly I completely missed the process! One minute fresh kale was in the salad spinner; a few minutes later, a bowl of kale chips was being passed around the dinner table. Yum!

This year, thanks to the generosity of a friend and kale grower, I tried making them myself. They are SO good and SO easy, I offer the recipe—in case you haven’t tried making them.

  • Wash and spin (or pat dry) fresh kale.
  • Separate the leaves from the stems (which are then discarded).
  • Toss in a small amount of olive oil.
  • Spread leaves on a cookie sheet and bake 10-15 minutes at 350°.  You’ll know when they are done because they will be small and crisp.
  • Sprinkle with kosher salt (or any kind of salt) as soon as you take them out of the oven.
  • Cool and enjoy.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Pinned down . . . looking back.

Recently I’ve been going through saved letters for the purpose of disposing of them. A few letters I wrote years ago have been returned to me by friends, and as I’ve reread them, they’ve taken me right back to the year they were written. Some have made my hair stand on end—either for the opinions I held, or the life I was living many years ago.

Here is a paragraph from a letter I wrote on Nov. 4, 1970.

A milestone has occurred!  P. is toilet trained during the day. Except for the one night diaper, I’m out of diapers! Whee! Seven years [of] continual [diapers], and I’m no longer a slave to pins and rubber pants.

If you were to ask me how long my children were continually in diapers, I could figure it out—without the letter. But it shocked me when I read it. If we discussed those days, I'd probably remind you that my children were raised before disposable diapers were invented. The introduction of the first mass-produced throw-away diapers, Pampers, was almost simultaneous with P’s entry into the world of underpants. Until the early ‘70s, hospitals sent home a small supply of newborn-sized paper-diapers with their new moms, in case the stork had caught them unprepared. But once the supply of disposables was gone, the wash machine became eligible for an Oscar in its role as the most important appliance in the house.

Cloth diapers were indeed a staple at our house—in our family, we actually wore them out! (If they weren’t worn out, they made GREAT dust cloths.) The phrase in the letter, “slave to pins and rubber pants,” startled me in the letter. I’d all but forgotten the hazard of pins. While I don’t remember ever jabbing my babies, I do remember jabbing myself a number of times as I shielded their tender flesh with my fingers. 

And the rubber pants! They came in two kinds: leaky and not-very-leaky. The best ones were rubber-lined fabric—soft and machine-washable. Eventually the rubber flaked off, which rendered them ineffective, but while they lasted, they kept clothing relatively dry. The worst "rubber" pants started out as supple plastic, but became brittle after a few washings—poking the child in uncomfortable places and, of course, leaking. Personally, I was a devotee of  J.C. Penney’s product. Not only did I purchase dozens of pairs over that seven year period, but touted their superiority to anyone who was interested.

If this were July 1970, I’d have to stop writing now to put a load of wash in—and since it’s sunny and warm today, I’d be hanging a dozen diapers outside to dry. But it’s July 2011, and I’m going to have a second cup of coffee and read the newspaper on the deck. I feel no nostalgia for that part of my past.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Airing My Dirty Laundry

I wish underpants could earn frequent flyer miles, because I’d have an extra few thousand miles if they could. Here’s how it happened.

Recently, our five-year-old granddaughter and her papa were visiting Hubby and me. Their home is seven-ish hours from us by car. They’d packed the way we all do when taking a road trip—in bags and boxes, coolers, toy-bag, shoes, loose stuff and bad-weather gear laid out over the top of everything else. After a short stay in Bothell, they were heading off to the Midwest on an airplane for a short visit with his brother/sister-in-law/nieces or her uncle/aunt/cousins, depending on which one you talked to.

The day before the flight, I’d dragged up a big suitcase from Hubby's and my luggage larder, so our son would not have to pay the airline's baggage fee for more than one suitcase. My son easily fit into it everything needed by two people for four days: clothing and shoes, gifts for the neice-cousins, and a large number of stuffed animals. It was plenty big and completely ready, except for toothbrushes and P.J.s, which would be deposited in the next morning.

At the crack of dawn the next morning, my son zipped the bag shut. “Oops! The zipper just broke,” was the remarkably restrained comment emitting from his mouth. Only ten minutes remained before needing to depart for the airport, and there were still some essentials to accomplished before we could leave.

I lept into action. I didn’t know I still had it in me—barking instructions for retrieving the next biggest suitcase from the storage shelf in the basement, then repacking and folding as fast as I could, so they would not miss their plane. It was going to be a tight fit, but I was sure I could do it. As the clock ticked, I narrated where I was putting stuff. “Look, the girls’ gifts are in this outside zipper pocket,” I said--fearing he might never think to open the outside pocket. Whew! We made it. Without so much as a @#$%^ , the bag was closed, the passengers settled in the car, the driver ready to go.

Four days later, we retrieved them from the airport. After the hugs and exclamations, my son asked, “Did you know your suitcase had a zipper-section full of underwear?”  


‘Yes! I opened the zippered pocket where you said you’d put the gifts for the girls, and there was this plastic bag stuffed with underwear.”

A few weeks earlier I had wondered why I seemed to be running out of undies between wash machine loads. No wonder! I’d traveled two months earlier—and apparently never finished unpacking. That plastic bag full of underwear was none other than my dirty-clothes leftover from my trip to North Carolina.

So there you have it. The case of the flying underwear, the soaring skivvies.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bright future

The subject of getting married came up in a recent conversation with a certain five-year-old who--for the purposes of this post--will remain nameless.

"I might get married when I grow up," she said.

"Really? That's a possibility," I said, "but you don't have to, you know. Maybe you'll decide you don't want to marry."

"Oh, I know. But if I do get married, I'm going to marry either Jordan (age six) or Amelia (age eight)."

Thirty years ago, I would have reacted differently. With alarm, probably. I would have immediately begun a treatise on how you can't marry someone of the same sex. Instead, in 2011, I felt proud and hopeful. Proud that she could imagine such freedom, and proud that I would have no problem if she were to choose Amelia over Jordan. Hopeful that the choice would truly be hers by the time she's ready for such a decision.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Out of the mouths of babes . . .

"Mae-ma, I need to tell you something.”

My four-soon-to-be-five-year-old granddaughter is talking to me as we travel to the neighborhood toy store.

We have dreamed up this field trip so she can point out items she likes. Our expedition is not dissimilar to what engaged couples do when they show up at Target or Macy's to select items for their wedding gift registries. Mae and I will walk through the toy store, and she'll show me what she likes. I’ll make mental notes for a return trip to the store—solo. That way, when her birthday comes in five days, she'll be surprised about my gift because she won't know which item I'm going to select.

Her voice continues from the backseat of the car. “It’s about my birthday. You need to know something . . . I don’t mind if you give me more than one present.”

“Really? You mean it would be OK if I bought you two or three—or even six gifts?”

“Even twenty would be OK. I like a lot of presents. Just so you know.”

“Ah, Mae,” I said aloud. “Here is yet another thing we have in common. I also am willing to accept any number of gifts . . . at any time.”

“Me, too. Even a hundred.”

Sunday, May 29, 2011

My new hometown

Hubby and I have lived almost a year in Bothell, Washington. Before moving to Bothell, approximately five miles north of the Seattle City Limits, it could be said I was a Bothell snob.

In my mind, Bothell was a Seattle suburb by default, caused by the GREAT BIG IMPORTANT CITY of SEATTLE crawling right up to its edges. But how wrong I turned out to be. Bothell is a progressive, smart, forward-looking little city--holding its ground and taking a stance. Take a look at this article appearing in the Seattle Times today.

For the record, we say Bahth' ul (accent on the first syllable)--not Bah thul' the way the United Airlines' employee in India pronounced it yesterday on the phone. Yes, it rhymes with the word it looks like, minus the 'r.' Some years ago, there was a sign at the city limits with the slogan, "Welcome to Bothell for a day or a lifetime." We used to yuk it up when we'd see the sign. And now . . . uh, we're quite probably lifers.

But wow--we're excited to be part of a little city that knows where it's going! I'm proud to be a Bothellite. Our home on the Sammamish River is within walking distance of the development outlined in the article. Lucky us.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The eyes have it

Are you old enough to remember the expression, “My eye!,” from the ‘40s and ‘50s?  Instead of exclaiming, “You liar!” or “I doubt that very much!,” we sputtered, “My eye!” It was a polite way of indicating disbelief. 

“I wrestled with a wild tiger today,” a fourth grader might boast on the playground. “A wild tiger? My eye!” could easily be the retort. 

Handling disbelief sixty years ago was noticeably different from the way we handle it now. Ladylike behavior was valued above all—to the point, sometimes, of absurdity. Today, of course, the response on the lips of a ten-year-old could easily be unprintable.

However, this post is not about archaic slang. It’s just that I’ve been thinking about that expression because of my eyes. For a span of ten weeks, I have not had the right prescription in my eyeglasses, so my eyes have been straining. Faltering. Stinging. A source of annoyance. I have muttered the plural form of “My eye!” probably a hundred times in the last two-and-a-half months, which is what made me think of that archaic slang in the first place.

But now—finally—after ocular implants (two, a month apart), plus the mandated four weeks of healing after the second surgery, I have the right correction in my glasses. After ten optically fuzzy weeks, I can clearly see my book, my newspaper, the view out my window, and my computer’s monitor. I can also see dust and cobwebs and rings around the bathtub. (Notice the lack of the personal pronoun in the last sentence. At our house, those things belong to everyone.)

I feel very lucky to have been able to obtain crystal clear implants and updated prescription for eyeglasses, thanks to Medicare and a nest egg earmarked for such expenses.

“Write about your cataract surgery, and you’ll pick up 1,000 blog readers,” says the jester. 

The writer retorts, “My eye!”

Monday, May 16, 2011

Sage advice

For many years, Hubby and I received our medical care from a wise and wonderful physician. Then, four years ago, he realized he wasn't getting any younger and still had dreams to accomplish. He announced his retirement. The HMO where he'd practiced for many years, Group Health Cooperative, threw a farewell party for him. All his patients were invited to bid him farewell at a modest, daytime reception in the clinic where he worked.  Easily a hundred-fifty people showed up to wish him well. Not a few tears were shed, either. He was a remarkable doctor.

William Affolter, M.D. stood before his beloved patients and delivered a speech he'd written for the occasion. Reflections, he called it. I can't remember a lot of it, but something he said was so straightforward in its simplicity, I am unable to forget it.

"Good health has three main components," he said. "Good genes, good luck, and good choices. You can't control the first two, but you can control the last . . . things like sunscreen and seat belts and diet, not smoking, health screenings, exercise . . . these pay off. "

I've shared this observation with a lot of friends over the years. A surprising number of people are taken aback by the idea that they're not entirely in charge of their own good health. But when they think about it, they see the light. Ah, yes . . . genes and luck.

 If we do what we can to make healthy choices, we've done everything we can. The roles of luck (sometimes very bad, indeed) and genes (sometimes greatly lacking) will play out in time. Only choices--one third of the equation--can be managed by us.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The fragrance of cookies . . .

I have gone on record with my less than my less than positive feelings about the holiday of Mother's Day.
But I love being remembered by my offspring.  Any day is Mother's Day when that happens.  

Sunday, May 8, 2011


Night had fallen when we saw "Red" roosting
Imagine our surprise yesterday when we woke up to the sound of a rooster crowing. We live in a managed community, after all . . . one in which animals are expected to be on leash and flora isn't supposed to run wild. NO skateboarding, EVER!

The voice we heard yesterday belonged to a huge rooster that apparently has wandered away from his cronies upriver about a mile. (Years ago, someone set a flock of chickens loose in a park the riverbank, which has been there ever since.)

Some years are good for chickens (no coyotes) and some not so good (big, hungry coyotes). This year is a not-so-good one; we've seen only roosters and no hens. It seems that our uninvited visitor, "Red," is on a chicken hunt, himself.

Last night he bedded down for the night in a bush at the foot our our driveway. I hope to get a picture of him strutting around the property before the Homeowners Association chases him off (or cooks him up for Sunday dinner).

Sunday, May 1, 2011


As promised in my last post, today I planned on updating my photograph on the blog. To that end, I conducted my own photo shoot this morning.

However, formatting the new photo on my blog's header was another matter. All the giggles that bubbled up during the ten-minute session (being one's own photographer is a silly activity) turned into grumbling and mumbling during a twenty-five minute session on the computer, as I struggled to replace the old photo with the new one. Bottom line? I couldn't do it!

Nowhere could I find the little encapsulated portrait on the blog's guts to remove it. So . . .I added the new picture farther down the page. At some point, I'll get the hang of Blogspot's "upgrades," but not today. It's too sunny outside to be held hostage by a computer.

Meanwhile, I thought I'd reveal my methodology with this picture.