Saturday, January 31, 2009

Play Ball!

I make no bones about it. I am a baseball fanatic. To me, baseball is a religion. Everything you need to know in life to succeed may be taught in Kindergarten but out on the field is where the real training begins.

We would play for hours on a sand lot down the street from our house. It was our meeting place, our chat room, centered around four bases made of anything we could find from rocks to old tires. It was baseball in its purest form. Our mitts were old and worn, our bats were Louisville sluggers and our love for the game kept us out until it was too dark to see.

I played catcher by trade. To me, the catcher was the best seat in the house. You could see the entire field from this position. Every player in field and out field depends on the catcher to keep tabs on the game. The catcher needs to know both sides of the game, the players on the field and the ones in the dugout who plan on putting the ball into play.

Today, I watch the game with a bit of nostalgia for the sand lot days. We had our major league heroes - Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench (my particular favorite), Duke Snyder, Don Drysdale, Yogi Berra. But the drama of the sand lot games was more than imitating your favs. It was the smells and sounds of the game up close and personal. It was the way you felt at the end of a good game, win or lose, you were tired but invigorated at the same time.

Where I live in Eugene, OR, we have the fantastic privilege of a minor league team and stadium, Civic Stadium. The short season games bring the fans into the action with seating under ten bucks, the vendors yelling for peanuts and popcorn and the old time signs along the outfield wall. The players are the raw material with hopes and dreams of making it to the bigs and every little kid in the house is looking for their autograph. It's is what Little Leaguers dream of and what baseball used to be about before it became a multimillion dollar industry.

Unfortunately, money talks louder than nostalgia. Our small ball park is in jeopardy. Our situation is not unique. Budget cuts have a way of working their way into the fabric of what is good about a community. Ball parks around the country from Little League and minor league ballparks are finding it impossible to keep up maintenance on these hollowed grounds. We need to step up and preserve what is truly an American icon - Baseball!

Oddly enough, if you watch the Super Bowl you will see an opportunity to put on a mitt and play ball to make a difference. Kellogg's is taking a step to keep ball parks, like Civic Stadium, from disappearing from our children's landscape. They have initiated a call to action for a national field renovation program called "Plant A Seed"

The campaign will renovate over 50 fields across the US to provide better fields and make them into more central community meeting places - chat rooms for families. Check out this Super Bowl ad and nominate your community field for this extraordinary project. 

That's what a wise catcher would do.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Volunteers Make It Happen!

I must admit that one of my favorite jobs doesn't involve a paycheck. I am a Meals on Wheels Volunteer. Once a week I have the privilege of delivering hot meals to seniors in my neighborhood. And an added bonus are my partners, Navigator Orville Smith and my Back Seat Driver and co-pilot is my granddaughter. She also happens to be the Navigator's Great Granddaughter. We are three generations in one blue van, bringing food and a few smiles and giggles to about 20 people on our weekly route.

One thing about this job, everybody is happy to see you. I think my granddaughter likes to go because the seniors usually give her a piece of candy or a cookie. Orville, is my 90 year old father in law. He has Alzheimer's. It is odd the things he remembers and even stranger the things he does not. 

We deliver to a woman who has an apple orchard. He loves to pick apples when we visit her and she is so happy that someone enjoys the apples. When we are getting close to her house, he always says "Don't forget to stop and get some apples." It is one of his favorite things to do, second only to going out for lunch afterwards. He knows the Taco Time we go to and reminds me when and where to turn. But ask him who I am and he will tell you "that girl". He hasn't remembered my name in over a year. 

There are very few moments in life when we have the opportunity to change the world around us for the better. Volunteer. It is worth every penny! That's What A Wise Grandma Would Do.

Nothing Easy About It

As I was drinking my coffee early this morning, my granddaughter called. "Can you come over and bake something with me in my Easy Bake oven?" she wanted to know. Couldn't think of a good reason why not, since I was the one who gave it to her for Christmas.

She and I love to bake cookies, so it seemed like the perfect gift. I have fond memories of my Easy Bake oven as a child. I was so proud of the little cakes and cookies that I forced upon my poor father. He always ate them graciously and my mother to this day has me bake the birthday cakes in the family. 

There is a long story about the 100 watt light bulb that the manufacturers did not include in this toy oven. But to keep a long story short, we assembled the oven and after 30 minutes of tearing the house apart to find the little baking pans she had lost, we set about to bake a chocolate cake. 

The batter was dry and crumbly. Not at all like a batter. We added a little more water until the consistency seemed right. We struggled a bit with the long u-shaped handle to slip the cake pan inside the oven. Patiently, we set the timer and played a game while we waited the seven long minutes prescribed on the box.

Ding! Time's up and in great anticipation of what was about to slide out of the oven, we had camera in hand. To our disappointment, the result of the morning's labor was nothing more than a wad of goo. "Is this right?" my granddaughter asked. Even her limited culinary expertise knew this was not even close to right.

We popped it in the oven again and after another seven minutes, we had a slightly more formed wad of goo. We decided to call it goo cake and opened the frosting mix and sprinkles to add something festive to our new concoction. The watery frosting melded with the goo and the sprinkles added a bit of sparkle to the extraordinary and barely palatable fiasco.

I am tempted to call the Easy Bake people and ask them what happened. I remember this toy as being truly easy and it actually baked. Now I am beginning to wonder if my gracious father thought my treats were just a step up from my early mud pie faze. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Mother Knows Best!

Go Green! Save the Planet! Global Warming! The warnings are days late and several dollars short. My mother was WAY ahead of the times because she was recycling before Webster made it an official word in the dictionary.

As the oldest of seven children, I can say with all sincerity that my mother taught us not only the value of a dollar but how to stretch the greenback until you could see through it. We learned to wash tin foil, rinse plastic bags, save twist ties and bread bag clips.
We saved every empty jar or plastic container. I never knew that Tupperware was an actual brand name. I thought it was a plastic container - any plastic container.
Recycling is in my blood. It is my nature and nurture that I find recycling to be not only an art but in these tough economic times, a matter of necessity. We should all make a firm new year resolution to return to the three Rs - reduce, reuse and recycle. BYOB - bring your own bag to the grocery store and reduce your carbon footprint a toe at a time.
It is cutting edge these days to be green. My 80 year old mother is green from head to toe and great grandkids are learning to follow in her giant footsteps for humankind and good old Mother Earth, because that is what a wise grandma would do.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Taking Time Off

The idea of taking time off always sounds great but I find that time off just means not going to the office but not necessarily no work. I am in Boise, Idaho enjoying what my dear friend says is a "dry cold". Surrounded by beautiful snow capped mountains and a wind that cuts through my layers of clothing, I am sitting here wondering how long I can type before I will have to wrap my hands around my cup of green ginseng and honey tea to get the feeling back in my fingers. I am grateful, though, that I am here and not living back east. Dry or wet, I don't do cold.

The good news is I have spent my "time off" reading and researching more about the social networking possibilities that bring you to me and me to you. Did you know that of the 78 million baby boomers in the US today, about 65 million are online? We account for one third (by the way that is the largest constituency) of the 195 million users. An impressive number.

From Facebook to MySpace, young people have dominated the social network but sites are being forced to shift to older users. Although only about 1 million of the 215 million social networkers who are regularly active are over 50 years old, the predictions are that by the end of the year that number could potentially explode to 20 million!

This is not the pen pal letter writing days we grew up with (my first pen pal was my cousin in Florida and we were 10 years old) but it serves the same function as we try to stay connected or reconnect with old friends and family. So as I sip my tea, warm my fingers and type this, I find the possibilities for this new social activity to be quite exciting, somewhat terrifying and definitely overwhelming.  You are definitely not alone anymore. Log on to and join the 100,000 members and prove to these 20 somethings that boomers are savvy tech users. That's what a wise grandma would do, even in a "dry" cold. Brrrrr!