I (heart) San Francisco.

I have nine grandchildren. Anyone who reads my blog or has ever met me knows this fact about me.photo-61 Being a grandmother is my best job yet. As each grandchild graduates from high school, I try to take him/her on a trip. Last year I took grandchild #3 to San Francisco. (I wrote about it here.) This year grandchild #4 requested the same trip. I think, initially, the attraction of the City by the Bay is its frequent presence in television programs and movies. I’m happy to report, though, that there is a great deal more depth than that in today’s youth and once they find themselves in the city, they are as captivated as I am by the history, the art, the people, et al.

photo-50
Flowers, flowers
everywhere, we should have worn some in our hair.

 

Chinatown is a must. We went there twice. The colors, the smells, the lanterns, the people. photo-44 photo-45Wonderful.

 

 

 

 

Some people told us not to miss Pier 39, others told us it was nothing but an amusement park. I disagree with the latter. It’s much more than that.photo-52 One of my granddaughter’s favorite things there was observing the sea lions from above.photo-62 There was one grumpy old fellow (or gal) who defended his territory with a vengeance. Fascinating to watch.

The only thing Iphoto-43 saw that gave the pier an amusement park feel was the carousel. We didn’t ride it but it has some imaginative and interesting animals for those who are so inclined.

photo-46I don’t know why I’m fascinated by the piano-playing stairway, but I am.photo-60 On the left is a photo of granddaughter #3 playing us a lively tune. On the right is this year’s traveler doing the same.

There’s a wonderful produce kiosk on the pier. Fresh fruits and vegetables galore.photo-59  photo-58Ranier cherries and freshly picked strawberries. Does life get any better? Yum!

Almost everyone who goes to San Francisco wants to visit the crookedest road in the country, or so they say. It’s very difficult to get a good shot of the curviness of the road with a phone camera. photo-42I was intrigued by this fairytale-like entry to one of the houses on Lombard Street so I’m showing you that instead.

We had lunch in Sausalito–best crab cake I’ve ever eaten.photo-63



Last year we didn’t make it to Haight Ashbury. I’m happy to say we went there this trip. I, being an old hippie, enjoyed that part of the trip more than my daughter and granddaughter did. photo-47It was (and still is) much romanticized. Truthfully, the only thing I find romantic about it is some of the architecture. photo-49I like the painted ladies. Many of them are being well cared for now and are simply lovely to look at. I think my travel buddies enjoyed the “ladies” too. And H (age 18) loved the huge music/poster store on Haight Street.

I went “heart” seeking again this year. I wrote about the hearts last year so I won’t repeat myself. I will leave you with a photo one of my favorite this-year hearts along with two of my favorite people in the whole wide world.photo-54

 


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He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.

photo(6)He was my brother, and sometimes he got pretty heavy.  ~ Pat

The Korean Peninsula is perhaps the most talked-about item in the news nowadays.  At least that is the case here in the United States.  And all the chatter about North Korea/South Korea has caused me to think a great deal about my late older brother.

Jack was his name and he spent about fourteen months in South Korea with the US Army.  I can’t remember the exact dates of his tenure there but I do know that a part of it would have been in 1961, about eight years after the so-called end of the Korean Conflict.  I think of it as one of the many “conflicts” the US should never have entered. Peninsula-Korean-001

My uncle fought in Korea.  Like many veterans of war, he wouldn’t talk about it.  I remember one time when he had been drinking heavily he said, “It isn’t fun seeing your buddies’ arms and legs flying through the air.”  That’s the only time I ever heard him mention it.  He received a bullet wound in his wrist.  I used to ask him about the scar but he would make up some joke about how it might have happened.

Back to my brother.  Jack used to say that the best he could tell, he and the other GI’s were in South Korea to play war games at the border from time to time, and to sit around playing cards and drinking beer the rest of the time.  He told me the North Koreans and the Chinese would line up their tanks at the border and aim them toward the troops.  Then the US Army would do the same, aiming at the North.  The North would retreat.  Then the US troops would retreat and go back to their beer.  I realize that not all American soldiers were sitting around drinking beer but that would have been important to my brother.  He had the genetic predisposition to alcoholism which has been the demise of many of my relatives.

I was listening to the Diane Rehm Show on NPR as I was driving home from Chapel Hill this week.  The first hour Diane and her guests discussed the scary young President of North Korea and his irresponsible threats.  A guest on the show talked about the war games that are going on now at the North-South border.  The description sounded almost exactly like the one given by my brother more than fifty years ago.  I think my jaw dropped.  Are we still doing that!?  Should I take heart in the fact that there’s now a woman in charge in S. Korea?  I can hope.

The black and white photo at the top of this post is my brother surrounded by children while he was in Asia.  Jack is the tall one with blond hair.  😉  This is my favorite shot of him.  I’m not sure where he was at the time but wherever he went the children gathered around him.  Dogs liked him too.  The ubiquitous but vague they say that anyone who’s loved by children and dogs can’t be all bad.  Many times that thought comforted me.

My brother died at the age of sixty-one of an alcohol and drug overdose.  That was almost eleven years ago.  I still miss him.  When I think of him I try to remember his charming smile, his sense of humor, his big heart for animals and children.  My daughters loved him, as did the older grandchildren.  The younger ones either didn’t meet him or were too young to remember him.  It gives me pleasure to show them this snapshot of him and to tell them they would have loved him.  RIP Jack T.

He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother by Neil Diamond

To Momma.

Today is my mom’s birthday.  If she were alive she would be ninety-two years old.  She died three years ago just days shy of her eighty-ninth.  Mom loved pretty things, most of all flowering baskets to hang on her front porch.  One of the last gifts I bought for her while she was still living in her house was baskets for Mother’s Day.  She would love this one.

In Mom’s honor I went around the house and yard this afternoon looking for things I knew she would like.  It was a good exercise for me as it helped me to recall many of the sweet memories I have of her.

I think she would enjoy this colorful bookmark.  She loved to read, and her favorite color was blue.  I prefer to remember her when her vision was still good enough for reading and jigsaw puzzles.

The photo on the right is a beautiful wind chime my daughter gave me.  When I moved to this house four years ago it became a tangle of colors and glass and keys.  I guess I didn’t do a very good job of packing.  It’s waiting patiently for someone to untangle it and free its lovely song.  If Mom were here she would sit on the deck and carefully straighten every strand, restoring it to its intended artistic state.

I have a profusion of chives growing in my unkempt, weedy little garden.  She loved growing things so I know she would enjoy the flowering chives.  I don’t think she would be too pleased with the weeds but she wouldn’t scold.  She stopped that years ago.  I can imagine her saying, “Well, it’s just to hot to do much weeding down here, isn’t it, Honey.”  She and I are, after all, mountain women.  We don’t do very well in hot weather.

There’s a new little tree asserting itself in the back yard.  We’ve had “extra” rain this summer.  I’m sure it has achieved additional growth because of the rain forest conditions.  I’m rather proud of it.  I know Mom would be, too.

If I could, I would give this sweet jeweled box to Mom.  I think she would put her favorite earrings in it.  And maybe a ring or two.  When she was a young mother she couldn’t afford nice jewelry.  Hopefully we (her children and grandchildren) made up for that when we started to earn salaries of our own.

I especially like this afghan.  I made it with scraps of leftover yarn.  I think Mom would appreciate my attempt to be frugal by using what I had on hand.  I would like to give this to her, to keep her warm.  Of course, she would let her dog Odie sleep on it, too, but I’m finally mature enough to give with no strings attached.  Did I say strings?  Aren’t afghans made of strings?

This sentimental journey has made me cry a bit.  Okay, a lot.  I would like to leave you with a chuckle.  My caption for the photograph below is “Even my cat is voting for Obama!”  So would Momma if she were here.

All in the family.

For the better part of last week I had a family — here, at my house.  My daughter’s air conditioner gave up the fight and they had to get a new one.  During the wait and installation they lived with me.  Some days we had three of the children, sometimes we had only the youngest.  (The oldest was at gymnastics camp in Pennsylvania.)  Oh, and the cat!  I forgot to mention the cat.

It was fun being part of a family again.  I missed them when they moved back home.  While they were here, I found myself relaxing into the chaos that having children entails.  There’s almost always one who’s hungry, one who needs a ride to somewhere, one who needs a little extra attention, etc.  Multigenerational families are a thing of the past in our American society.  After last week, I can see reasons to bring them back.

There are times when moms and dads can’t stop what they’re doing in order to give extra attention to the child in need of it — even acting out to get it.  But Grammy can.  My little boy entertained himself for a long time after I snuggled with him on the couch and taught him to play Solitaire on my tablet.  Granted, times are different.  I learned to play by watching my dad play with a real deck of cards.  Still, F and I had some quality time and he knows a new game.

I’ve written about my youngest grandchild S before.  She’s five.  She, of course, has a personality like no other.  She constantly fascinates and entertains me.  I can’t decide whether I should call her my “bag lady” or my little “pack rat.”  She borrowed an empty purse to put her “finds” in, but quickly decided it wasn’t big enough when she discovered one of my large canvas grocery bags.  She took her bag and went about her days accumulating “stuff.”  It seemed harmless enough to me.  Occasionally she would show me one of the treasures she had in her stash.  No problem, right?

After “little missy” went home, I found her bag in an upstairs bedroom.  I picked it up.  It was heavy.  How on earth had that small child carried it up the stairs?  And down?  And up?  As I emptied the bag, I was able to solve many mysteries .  The Earl Grey tea we couldn’t find for breakfast?  The entire package was in her bag along with the missing place mat, a partial set of coasters, a flying pig doorstop, a modern-day version of the Bible, a book of positive quotes to start your day, some cocktail napkins, a bar of soap — I could go on and on.  How I wish I had taken a picture of her mountain of goodies.

They have gone home now to their once again cool house.  I miss them.  I’ve been thinking as I write that it certainly was fun having someone to “blame” when I couldn’t find things.  And guess what!  Even though they have moved back home, I’m no longer alone.  I have a cat!  That’s right, they left Lulu with me.  I’ve adopted her.  We’re getting along very well, adapting to each other’s idiosyncrasies.  It seemed the natural thing to do.  You see, Lulu doesn’t do well with children.  She’s getting less nervous every day.  Maybe I am, too.

A birthday on Bastille Day.


It’s Bastille Day in France.  In our family it is granddaughter A’s birthday.  She’s fifteen, the middle child of my nine grandchildren, and the middle girl of seven granddaughters.

Today I recall one of my favorite memories of A as a young child.  She was four or five years old when her family took her and her older brother and sister for about a month-long trip to Europe.  My ex-husband and I had the good fortune to meet them in Paris for the better part of a week.  A’s mom, my daughter, had rented a little apartment in Montmartre.  D and I found a hotel a few blocks away so we could be near them.

I don’t know if it was sheer good luck or good planning on my daughter’s part but they could see the Eiffel Tower from their living room.  Imagine her mom’s delight when an excited A exclaimed, “I know I’m in Paris because I can see the real Eiffel Tower!”  Her mom had probably told her in advance that she would see the Eiffel Tower but I know that she had recently seen a movie called “Rugrats in Paris.”  I’m guessing it was the movie that impressed her but I was glad she recognized what she was seeing.

So Happy, Happy Birthday Dear A.  I hope you will one day return to Paris.  It’s a magical place.

And FRANCE, as you put this day to bed, I’m hoping it was a happy celebration for all.

The family tree and other scary stories.

We all grow up with the weight of history on us.  Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.                        ~ Shirley Abbott

Yesterday my daughter (I’ll refer to her as DJ in this post.) and I went on a little road trip to our home town, Boone, NC.  It was good to get out of the humidity and enjoy the mountains.  We went up to have lunch with my youngest sister and to take some things for her thrift shop.  We were all happy to see each other and had a nice time together as we caught up with what’s going on in whose life over lunch.

After lunch DJ and I walked down to Daniel Boone Native Gardens.  It’s one of her favorite spots.  I hadn’t been there in years so I was happy to see it again and snap a few photos.  No matter how many times I return to my native “stomping grounds” I continue to be taken aback by how green everything is.  The reason is, of course, the fact that there is adequate (an understatement) rainfall there.  I took this photo of ferns in the moss and fern garden to emphasize the green-ness of it all.

From the beginning to the end of our little tour, we kept seeing plaques honoring, thanking, memorializing people with my family surname, people I knew or sorta knew as a child.  I started thinking about the family tree  and where these people should be placed on said tree.  I grew up thinking they must have been on the right side, up high, reaching for the sun (or the moon).  And we must have been on the left side barely above the root system, struggling for a little ray of light to keep us alive and growing.  That was my perception, more or less.  Alas, perceptions aren’t always reality.

Why did I have that perception?  That’s the question I’ve had rolling around in my brain this afternoon.  It sounds like a simple enough question, but of course it’s actually very complex.  As a child and a young person, I thought they have money and we don’t.  They are educated and we are not.  They have fancy homes and we do not.

I know now that my perceptions, my attitudes toward the upwardly mobile branches of the family came from my insecure parents.  And they got their attitudes from their parents.  Who knows why brothers and cousins from the same family started out with equal amounts of wealth and acres of land– in the same county at about the same time and some wound up wealthy while others were destitute?  That’s the way it’s always been and ever will be.  Different personalities.  Different sets of skills and training.  Different ambitions.

I’m happy to say that the destitute don’t have to stay that way.  They can learn things.  They can go to the university.  They can have a better life than their parents, and in so doing they teach their children that lesson as well.  My childhood wasn’t always fun but I learned how to survive and then how to thrive.  Would I have learned those valuable life lessons if I hadn’t suffered hardships growing up?  I also know now that those “Ozzie and Harriet” relatives probably weren’t.  They were just people fumbling much like the rest of us.

My Hometown by The Boss.


Birthday fun on April twenty-one.

April 21st is a special day in our family.  My eldest daughter whose birthday is that day gave birth to her son some 27 years later on the same day.  Double the reasons for a family party and this year was no exception.  We started with “Ronnie’s Chocolate Sheet Cake” which is our family’s favorite special occasion cake.  (One day I’ll tell you about Ronnie.)

As the younger generation grows up  these parties start to have more significance than ever before.  Two of our family had to drive some distance to be here for the festivities.  We very much appreciate their effort.

It’s fun to watch the gift-opening and to read the funny cards.  Often in our family we say “I love you” by finding the funniest card in the store and trying to make the celebrant laugh.  Does your family do that?

My birthday grandson gave these lovely cut flowers to his birthday mom because he knew they would make her smile.  They fit right in with the quirky colors on the cake and we didn’t even compare notes.  ( You probably noticed in the top photo that I’m not a decorator of cakes, just a baker.  To make it look festive I find candles and ribbons to fake it for me.)

Here you see the honored birthday folk with smiles on their faces right after blowing out the candles.  (They are deliberately in shadow because I failed to get permission to publish them.)  May all their wishes come true.

Meanwhile I’ll pack up the 9 x 13 cake pan and look forward to June when we will have another cake that will look eerily similar to the one pictured here.  But more important than the sameness of the cake will be the sameness of the faces and the laughter and the silliness and the dogs and the children–our family!  How lucky we are.