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Archive for February, 2008

Soccer Folks

Bruce is coaching soccer out at Fort Gordon: the eight, nine, ten and eleven year olds.  Until I met Bruce, I knew very little about soccer.  I’ve learned that it is a relatively simple game. His  team, the Cougars, is even co ed.  Wish my boys could have played it.  However, soccer was never dreamed of out on the American prairies of the 1970s and early 80s.

It must have become more well known because of ESPN and international television.  When we were in Scotland in August of 2005 chaperoning the Davidson drama group, Bruce hung out with the taxi drivers and they would keep him informed of the World Cup standings.  Important stuff.  I already mentioned that we watched it on TV when we were in France last summer.  In 2000 I was in Paris when an impromptu parade broke out along the rue de Rivoli — a main thoroughfare in the heart of the city — because Senegal won an important match. There is a large immigrant population from Senegal living in Paris.  They waved flags and honked car horns with lots of merriment.  Such pride!

Bruce is teaching them the fundamentals.  Some kids have played a little;  some are first timers. He’s a great coach with 15 years of experience.  Once upon a time he coached his own sons and many other youngsters.  He knows when to encourage, when to scold, and when to joke.  He explains rules and technique and strategy.

I’ve been attending practices with him.  I  take roll, hand out information to the parents and chat with the ones who stay to watch.  Someday I might even get to put a band aid on somebody’s boo-boo.

Go Cougars!

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The Good Life

Although I’ve fussed a lot lately about the trouble with the washing machine, as if it’s a major disaster, the truth is we lead good lives. We’re spoiled and privileged, and we must remember that. Americans have great lives and we complain far too much.

When was the last time you were really hungry? For me, it was probably the last time I was dieting. How about that irony? Be hungry because we’re too fat? I had a few pangs — not gnawing, clear back to the backbone hunger. I like to cook and really like to eat so it’s a constant battle. It’s a battle I’ve been losing since the arthritis in the knees has wreaked havoc on my exercise program. Like most of us, just eating less doesn’t often occur to me. Once when I was in North Carolina visiting my brother, Hugh, we drove up the Blue Ridge Parkway to the shops there. We paused outside a candy store where they were making caramel corn. You know the places — the ones with the exhaust fans blowing that glorious smell out toward the sidewalk. Hugh stared at the table filled with the sweet golden popcorn. “I could fall on that table and eat my way to the other end.” Standing next to him, I, with similar genetic makeup, knew exactly what he meant. I could have fallen face first on the other end and met him somewhere in the middle. I have met few sweet things that I don’t like. Chocolate covered cherries is one. I like each, just not together, if that makes sense. Even for healthier foods, I can probably think of only five or six things I really don’t like. (Mixed vegetables — they’re awful because they’re globbed together. They need to be in their own piles, like God intended.)

When was the last time you wore rags? I never have. Never. Ever. I usually have too many clothes and have to give them away when I run out of closet space. I was a frequent critic of my students who wanted to come to school wearing raggedy clothes. Only a person who has never known want would think that torn blue jeans were a fashion statement. If rags were their only option, they’d feel quite differently. Ask the people in Calcutta. However, even my poorer students from the projects dressed nicely.

When was the last time you were without shelter? Never? Me neither. I’ve alway had a roof, a bed and bathroom . . . and a frig and heat and a sofa . . . . Well, you get the point.

Since I ‘ve started traveling to Europe. I am constantly reminded of all the advantages we have in this country. Food, clothing, shelter, clean water, jobs. We have it all. And that’s for the average person, not someone who is rich. No wonder other countries see us as spoiled brats. Don’t spoiled brats think they have it rough? Sure. Don’t they whine and complain? And don’t you want to knock them silly?

I’ve heard it said, that if clean water were the cure for AIDS, that most of the world would not have access to it. Oh my . . . we all need to fall to our knees and thank the Lord Almighty for our enormous blessings.

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The previous blog about the washer reminded me of one of our adventures in Europe last summer. In June, to celebrate Bruce’s graduation from college, we took a wonderful three week trip to France and England. We flew from Augusta/Atlanta to Paris where we stayed for nine days in a sweet little hotel I’ve stayed in before. It has a delightful garden out back with tables and chairs — a rarity in the city. Several times we brought take out food home at the end of the sightseeing day and had dinner in the garden. We also had breakfast out there on really nice mornings.

In Paris we did the usual tourist things. This was my fourth trip to Paris — a charming city even if it is inhabited by Parisians. They have the same reputation there with the other French like the New Yorkers do here. A bit know-it-all.

Anyway, our last day in Paris was rainy and we had seen all the places we really wanted to visit. And we needed a down day before leaving early for the chunnel train trip the next day. Since there was a laundromat three blocks from the hotel, we decided to go wash clothes. Since I long ago learned to travel light, (if you can’t carry it, you can’t take it — is my motto) I had been washing undies, sox, and shirts in the bathroom sink. I’m good at lavatory laundry. However, sooner or later you have to wash the big stuff, like heavy trousers. So off we went to do up everything and hit London with a suitcase of clean clothes. We looked a bit trampy as we headed down the street with our duffle bag full of dirty duds. Daughter-in-law, Darlene gave me that snazzy zip-to-change-sizes-bag years ago. I’ve taken it on all my European trips since. It fits flat in the suitcase and is an extra bag for the trip home.

A laundromat is a laundromat the world over. Thanks to a nice young man who spoke English, and was one of the 132 non-snobby people in Paris, we rapidly learned the set up. In no time, we had three machines full, chugging along and we sat down to people-watch while we waited. Soon a gentleman came in and threw his clothes into a machine that I knew already had clothes in it. I know because I skipped over it when I found machines for our things. Hmmm. Wonder how that will play out. Bruce and I settled down, pretending to read our books.

Soon an older lady came back for her washed clothes, ready to place them in the dryer. Ooops, she couldn’t get to one load because Monsieur had put his things in with hers, and since the machines lock down, there was nothing for her to do but wait until the load was finished. Bruce and I cut our eyes at each other.

Monsieur finally returned and Madam lit into him — some things you just don’t need translated! However, Bruce’s high school French came in handy. Monsieur kept apologizing and she kept chewing him out. Bruce whispered to me, “She finally told him he was too stupid to be sorry!” Wow! Eventually he slithered out the door and Madam finished fluffing and folding with righteous indignation. Don’t make a French woman mad. She will clean your plow!

We trudged back to the hotel with big smiles. Eight euros for clean clothes. A new view of France — priceless!

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Washer Woes

Right after Christmas I wrote about the 10 year old washing machine needing repair. It worked fine for several weeks. Recently it started switching itself to different settings. . . ? I would find it beeping and blicking. Set differently. Hmmm. How did it do that? Yoooo oooo oooo. Obviously, a problem with the electronics now. Even I, who is dumb as dirt about repair, could figure out that.

So Monday when it wouldn’t spin out the water from a heavy load of clothes, Bruce and I didn’t even discuss it after we finished bailing out the water. We put on our shoes, and headed the car to ApplianceLand. That’s the store where Dale sold appliances for 15 years. It’s a great store, with wonderful staff and owner and quality merchandise. If they don’t have it, you don’t want it anyway. Besides, I still get the “family” discount.

The choice was easy. We got another Fisher and Paykel washer, just a newer model of the one we already had. We knew the settings and features. It has a 1000 rpm spin that renders the clothes “drier”, therefore they are easier to dry in the dryer. The company is from Australia. The outer dimensions are slightly smaller than American ones. Rather than remodel the laundry room, we got a smaller machine.

They brought it this morning, bright and early; we were barely awake. Twenty minutes later it was installed. I loaded it up with the first load! Guess what? This one won’t spin either! The tub is all flopped to one side like it’s 20 degrees crooked. It couldn’t be more off if the whole room was on a hill! I’ve called the store and I’m now waiting for someone to call back and see what can be done. Woe is me . . . .

Well, we have a defective machine. Tomorrow a new one will arrive. The washer woes will be over. We’ll make a clean start — again.

Postscript — The store sent us a new machine today. Perry, the delivery man, one of Dale’s favorite people at the store, took it as a personal affront that the first machine was defective. He was here two hours early. Now — we are washing again.

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Circuses – Old and New

Saturday we took Emily to the circus. The last time I went, I was expecting Emily’s daddy. It hadn’t been quite that long for Bruce.

That last circus adventure was in the summer of 1970. James was a few weeks away from his ETA. I was starting to waddle. One day, friend Judy and I decided on the spur of the moment to take the kids to see the circus playing in Hastings, Nebraska, an easy 60 mile drive from Superior. We dashed home and changed clothes and off we went: Judy, her two girls, David and me. We got there right before it was to start. The only places left were half way up the bleachers. No way could I carry a three year old and climb up there. My face dropped. A man from the circus standing nearby saw me, took pity and came over to us. He picked up David and told me, “I’ll help. Hold onto my belt.” Slowly we climbed up. Then my heart dropped. Heavens, I thought, how will we ever get down? Mr. Circus Man read my mind. “Don’t worry, lady, I’ll come back after the show and help you down. You wait for me.” I heard several people breathe a sign of relief. They wanted to see an elephant do tricks. They didn’t pay to see a woman resembling an elephant tumble down the bleachers.

It was a great circus! They had everything a circus should have. Animal acts, trapeze artists, jugglers, clowns. Granted we led rather simple lives out on the prairie, not very sophisticated and certainly not jaded. But it was great fun. They had quite a variety of acts. However, I started to notice something. I saw the same faces, just wearing different costumes. They all performed in several different acts! All of them! On one hand I felt gypped, but on the other hand, I admired them! Really admired their versatility.

The circus here was Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey. Top of the line as circuses go. A great combination. They even had a interactive time before the start of the show. Children got to swing on a trapeze or juggle or wear a clown nose. Stuff like that. A man even led around a baby zebra for us to admire. Zebra isn’t your everyday animal.

The music and lights were very high tech. The costumes sparkly. One lady, the flying lady in an aerial act, was the tiger tamer. They had six beautiful Siberian tigers. The ones with white background and black stripes. Rather like a zebra. . . . After the star tiger did his hopping-on-his-back-legs-like-a-dog trick, a man thrust a stick through the bars of the cage and feed him a big piece of something as his reward. Bruce leaned over, “A chunk of baby zebra,” he said. “Don’t big cats eat zebra?” Naaah, I’m sure it was chicken, or tofu. I did notice she never turned her back on the tigers. Apparently, she, too, heard about the Sigfried and Roy incident.

Anyway, I discovered that 50 cent cupie dolls on a stick are long gone, and now, I had to get out the credit card to buy souvenirs for Emily. This is also what I learned: that the blonde gal with the dog act also helped the sharpshooter. That the main clown didn’t wear a red nose but rode trick bicycles. That a huge spinning unit looking like a giant hamster wheel with mesh “baskets” powered by two guys doing flips is scary stuff, even though I understood the physics of how it operated.

The whole experience was exciting. It’s fun regardless of your age. Some things never change and some do. The only thing I missed was the cotton candy. I haven’t  had any of that spun sugar goo since they stopped serving it on paper cones, like God intended. Those plastic bags are just too clean. I always thought plucking out a fly stuck in the candy fluff was half the fun!

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Demon Television

One week without television. One week. One looonngg week without television. We gave it up for Lent because our viewing had become extremely mindless. Just so much noise. However, I now realize this is much more about discipline than about entertainment, mindless or otherwise. We’ve even said, “Uh, how many days left in Lent? It is 40 days long, isn’t it?” Now we’re down to 33 days. There are a couple of programs which we will want to see so I’ve set the VCR to record them. We’ll watch them when Lent is over. One is “Jericho” which we liked last fall. New episodes are now out. The writer’s strike has ended so, presumably, other shows with crank up again too.

Now we’ve been listening to the music channels on the TV.  Guess what?  We surf those just like the shows until we land on something we like.  Music Choice has one-liners about the different artists or composers.  Boy, have we learned some thoroughly useless pieces of trivia.  Someone’s song “peaked at 192nd on the charts.”  Peaked?  Heavens, need a different word choice there.  “Roger Williams played for 12 hours straight on his 75th birthday in 2003.”  Did he get paid big bucks or was he going for a Guiness World Record?  Somebody “attended PS 102 in New York City.”  Sooo?  This is important to his music career?

Anyway, Bruce and I have had some good chuckles about some of the more irrelevant bits of info. So far we’ve stuck with it.  We will admit, it has taken both of us to stay firm.  Old habits die hard.  Soon we’ll be addicted to the music channels.  Maybe we can give up them next Lent!

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At Christmas we got grandchildren Austin and Abby, Jim and Marcy’s two children, Raggedy Ann and Raggedy Andy dolls. I also ordered several of the storybooks that are the original inspiration for the modern dolls. However, the books arrived after Christmas.

I’ve had trouble sleeping lately, which I do occasionally, so in the middle of the night I’ve been reading them since we haven’t yet gotten the books to the children. I’m going to keep a couple here because they are such good stories. However, in this PC world there is actually now a disclaimer in the front of the book. To paraphrase — several of the stories may be disturbing. What? They are fiction — about a doll’s adventures! In one, Raggedy Ann ends up on the end of the tail of a kite and drops down to the ground. Ouch. In another, Fido, the family dog , takes R.A. outside and drags her along and her clothes get torn and she lands in a stream where she is eventually rescued. Ouch. They find a kitten in another story who goes to live in the nursery with the dolls. In a later story the kitten, who has grown up into a full fledged cat, finds a mouse, is about to kill it so then it has to beg for its life. R.A. intervenes and saves the poor mouse from the killer cat. Is all this pretty heavy duty? Are you going to be up all night fretting? No? Would you, as a child, worried then either? No? Neither would I. Even as a little kid, I understood the concept of fiction. So do children today not understand it? I think not. It’s the nutty parents who don’t. The PC world and the hover parents think every darned thing in the world might warp their little darlings. Heaven forbid! Doesn’t it make you wonder about them? What on earth is their problem? One answer perhaps is — no sense of perspective. Another is — no sense of humor. Another is — not a lick of common sense. Puhhleese. . . .

Anyway, as I’ve been reading the stories I was in the back bedroom where we keep the toys for the grandchildren. Three generations of rag dolls are there now. One Raggedy Ann was mine, so she is — ahem — at least 50 years old. The Raggedy Andy belonged to James. It has a music box inside, which, amazingly, still plays “Rock a bye, Baby”. At one time he had blue marker on his face, as James thought it wouldn’t seem so babyish to play with if Handy Andy had a blue moustache and goatee. Facial hair is more masculine obviously, even on dolls. That one is almost 30 years old. Then I have a more modern one I bought at a yard sale. She wears polyester and is brighter. Yesterday I looked at all the rag dolls and decided their clothes were overdue for a wash. Off their clothes came and into a tub of warm water and Oxyclean. It would get out stains and not hurt the fabric. It was then I discovered that my Raggedy Ann was missing her bloomers. Yikes! My doll has been sitting there without her bloomers. I didn’t let my dollies go naked even when I was a little girl. It’s not right. So — where were her drawers? I looked and fretted and thought and even went on-line to see if I could order or make her some more. I just couldn’t have my doll be without her britches. Didn’t seem quite decent somehow. Finally, it dawned on me. They were in a pile of things to be mended — a looong time ago. That meant that now, they are in with some sewing things, put away — way away.

So now we have a new adventure for Raggedy Ann. “One day Mistress discovered Raggedy Ann’s bloomers needed mending, , , , , “

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