Saturday, September 25, 2010

Another Candle

"Put another candle on my birthday cake...I'm another year old today", a familiar refrain to any child from the 50's who lived in Southern California. Sheriff John would bring out a lighted birthday cake and sing the birthday song to all his freckle faced, birthday club members but most especially to those who had a birthday.

This morning on the last birthday of my 50th decade, it seemed appropriate to bring out the old ditty and play it on my grand piano. The simple little melody continues to bring a smile to my lips and a sense of childhood to my day. After all it is just another candle and the fact there are so many that I can read by them now is reason enough to celebrate. By virtue of remembering the tune and the words, I have remained a member of the birthday club for over 50 years. I may be a card carrying AARP member but Sheriff John's Lunch Brigade is truly a "badge" of honor.

I was 9 years old. My brother Johnny, sitting by my side, pulling my hair and my little sister, Susie watching quietly on the couch, as my mom turned on the TV to Sheriff John on KTLA channel 5 out of Los Angeles. We watched him in black and white (no color TV) sing the song and tell the birthday child where to find a gift hidden in their house (parents of course, were in on this deal, but who knew?).

Sheriff John read a 100 names a day, five days a week, 52 weeks a year for 18 years, you can imagine how many children waited anxiously to hear theirs. The show first aired in 1952 with Sheriff John telling us to laugh and be happy and sharing bits of wisdom like don't play with matches. Kids would send in their own tips that he would read, like "never put a snake in the bathtub without telling your mother".

Today I share my birthday with my granddaughter and I will proudly sing "Put Another Candle On My Birthday Cake", because that's what a wise Lunch Brigade grandma would do.

The Birthday Polka by Sheriff John

Put another candle on my birthday cake
My birthday cake, my birthday cake
Oh, put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today.

I'm gonna have a party with my birthday cake
Come on and take some birthday cake
Put another candle on my birthday cake
I'm another year old today

We'll have some pie and sandwiches
And chocolate ice cream, too.
We'll sing and play the day away
And one more thing I'm gonna do.

I'll blow out the candles on my birthday cake
And when I do, a wish I'll make
Put another candle on my birthday cake,
I'm another year old today.
Happy Birthday to you!
I'm another year old today.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Man Up!

My father was only as close as the waiting room and believe it or not, with a cigarette in his hand as my mother gave birth to each of their seven children. My husband was not only in the labor room but delivered two of our children. My daughters also had the opportunity to have their husbands in the labor room and my son also was close at hand during the birth of his child. Yes, the times are changing. But there is more left to do according to the September 20th, Newsweek article, Men's Lib.

In a changing economic world, men are finding opportunities to reevaluate their roles in the workplace and in the home. Sweden allows for a 390 day split for new parents to use weekly, monthly, even hourly. But in 1995 they passed a new law - a use it or lose it leave for fathers. If the father did not use a month of his new parenting leave, it was lost. This allowed for a 4% increase in men taking time to bond with their children.

By taking paternity leave, men become more involved as fathers. Seems simple enough but the bottom line is impressive - more kids might stay in school, steer clear of crime, and avoid poverty as adults. Gender parity in the workplace creates an optimal balance of fully employed men and women, increasing the gross domestic product by as much as 9 percent as described in a recent study of the World Economic Forum.

The U.S. is currently the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t bankroll a bonding period for either parent. I propose that instead of subsidizing banks and Wall Street, could our money be better spent funding paid parental leave? That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Rites Of Passage

Spending the last few days taking care of my daughter and my new grandson has been an opportunity to watch the circle of life from a younger perspective. Having been a caregiver for elderly parents for the past few years, I have been immersed in the circle from the other side.

It is interesting to note that like Benjamin Button, we travel through life only to find ourselves at approximately the same position. The care and feeding at the beginning and end of our lives requires loving, patient hands. There is a certain amount of fear for those in charge of the care and those in need of the care. Together, a trust evolves between the cared for and the caregiver and the journey is made meaningful and rich from the bond that develops.

Traditionally family have filled these roles but whether it is new mothers and fathers, or grown children and elderly parents, the delicate dance is a growing experience for all. I have watched my daughter listen for every breath her tiny son makes. I have seen my son-in-law change diapers like a champ while announcing the play by play. I remember playing this same role with my father-in-law toward the end of his life. My daughter talks about how long it takes to get ready just to go to the market. I share how long it takes to get the shopping done when I take my mother-in-law.

Patience is the virtue we are rewarded with through these rites of passage. And by its very nature, the circle of life encompasses us on one end or the other - someday the daughter I cared for, will hopefully care for me. What goes around, comes around as the saying goes. Hopefully the time we spend in the middle of the circle prepares us to embrace both ends. That's what a wise grandma is learning to do.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Time Honored Tradition

Headed up to Portland to take care of daughter and grandson this week. All the women in my family have done this with the new mothers. My grandmother cared for my mother as each of the seven of us made our appearance. She cooked, cleaned and rocked as my mother took advantage of the help after the miracle/trauma of birth.

My mother came and took care of me, even with the adoption of my oldest. Though not a traumatic birth, I was a new mom and needed to learn the ropes just like any new mom. She cooked and cleaned and told war stories of raising me. The story goes that as soon as I was able to crawl out of her lap, I was off and running. Sounds like me.

Now as I pack to follow in the footsteps of the matriarchs of my family, I remember the overwhelming moments of being a mother. This little person is entirely dependent on me. This life is mine to hold for such a short time and each new moment is precious. I was fortunate to be a stay at home mom. I look back at some of the things I did and marvel at how I ever had the time. I actually purchased wheat to grind to make fresh bread. I made my own yogurt and baby food. The garden produced enough to can for wholesome food and the freezer held organic foods for healthy mom and baby. That was over 35 years ago. Where does the time go?

Time is about the only thing we can't can, freeze or capture. Precious moments are there to enjoy, relish and savor for short periods of time and then only memories are left to remind us. Matriarchs are present in our lives to give us the time to create new memories with our babies. My expectation is that my daughter will do this for her grandchildren, sharing her experience and allowing for another mother to enter the role of mother with loving support. That is what a wise grandmas do.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

From Out Of The Cabbage Patch

Okay, so maybe I am a bit baby struck with grandbaby number 6 making his stupendous arrival last week. But let's face it. How many grandmas have 3 new little ones in less than a year?

But as precious as mine are, the fact is all babies have an affect on the human condition no matter how cynical or resistant to them you may be. After watching the trailer for Babies. With no narrative or subtitles, director Thomas Balmés brings the focus to the early moments of lives of four beautiful babies - easygoing Ponijao in Namibia, curious Bayarjargal in the remote farmland of Mongolia, Mari in her small apartment in Tokyo and Hattie, a pampered American in San Francisco.

A scrapbook of moments in this visual diary of these babies captures the essence of our commonalities and differences as the human animal develops. The documentary chronicles the first year of life and is delivered with charm and humor as Balmés sets his camera and lets each baby move through their world unobtrusively. The result is a magical peek into what goes on in the cabbage patch as these delightful babies crawl their way into childhood.

My son-in-law made a memorable comment when looking at his newborn son. "What's new, son?" "Everything, Dad!" Take a look at life through little eyes and see if some of that "new-ness" doesn't rub off on you. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Lucky Numbers

Since I was a young child, I have always felt like the number 6 was my lucky number. I don't know why exactly but it seems to come up a lot and more often than not something good follows. This morning at 6 am, I am waiting anxiously for grandbaby number 6 to arrive.

Taben King will join the ranks of the most beautiful babies in the world sometime today. My oldest daughter is in labor as I write and with any luck, I will make the 2 hour trip in time to witness the next miracle in my life. His mother, I suppose was the first.

We adopted her in 1977, but she was born in my heart in April of 1973. I was there when she was born and when I held her in my arms, I somehow knew then she was mine. She lived with us off and on for the next year until the pain of her leaving was more than we could bear and we petitioned for guardianship. Every time we found a sock under a cushion or stepped on a misplaced squeeze toy, our hearts would break a little more. Fortunately for us, her biological parents and the courts deemed us worthy.

It has been a roller coaster ride ever since but worth every penny of the ride. This is her first baby and a lucky baby he is. Taben has a wonderful father, who I am sure at this moment is bringing Taben into the world with gentle loving hands, soothing his mother as they cross together into the wild and wooly jungle of parenthood.

Patience is the order of the day, though my car has been ready to go for the past week and it seems like dawn will never break. I fed the chickens, watered the garden, walked the dog and am trying to swallow one of the blueberry muffins I just baked. Hurry up, Taben! The world is waiting to greet you and oh, what a world it is. But I have no doubt that my almost 6 beautiful, smart, savvy grandchildren will do an outstanding job of leaving their footprints in the sand where ours will inevitably wash away.

Until then, take my hand and let's walk and talk for awhile...that's what a wise grandma can hardly wait to do!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Summer Reading

Remember when you were a kid and signed up at the library for reading contests? Our library always had fun contests, reading scavenger hunts and summer reading lists that made reading not only fun but productive!

As soon as I got my allowance, a whopping 50 cents at the time, I would get on my bike and head to the library. Armed with a stack of books, I would ride to the Foster Freeze and spend my Saturday afternoon sitting in the booth with a milkshake and a Hardy Boys mystery. Life was good!

This summer, almost 50 years later, I find myself in a familiar situation. Instead of a milkshake in a Foster Freeze dining booth, I am in a wicker rocker with a glass of iced tea. But in my hands is a book. August has been a slower month at work, allowing for more leisurely afternoons to devour the printed word. And though I am not ready to give up the turning of the page for the swish of the Kindle, the stack of summer reading books is getting smaller as September approaches.

I highly recommend Prayers For Sale by Sandra Dallas and At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball. Not being a romance novel fan, I often challenged to find a book that offers a story that carries me from page to page, anxiously waiting to find what happens next to the charming characters in these two books.

Prayers for Sale has a setting in a mining community in 1936. The main character Hennie comfort, welcomes a newcomer, Nit Spindle to town, telling her stories about her past life before and since she arrived on the Colorado mountain. Creating a bond between the two women, the stories weave their lives throughout the book bringing the past full circle as dark memories and hardships are endured and shared. Sandra Dallas uses colorful phrases and moments to artfully bring this story to life with enduring characters.

At Home On Ladybug Farm by Donna Ball had me laughing within the first 20 pages. A delightful set of characters set in present day, decide to purchase Blackwell Farm. Now what? The story is a series of mishaps, calamities and touching relationships between the three women, a confused but determined young daughter and a troubled teen. The language was modern and believable without profanity, a rare treat. The characters were witty and charming and the quiet community surrounding the farm is filled with the history of the old farm, which eventually becomes known as Ladybug Farm. Donna Ball has written a wonderful, funny book - great way to spend a warm summer evening.

Well, those are my picks, although I have started another book, I can't help but think about what is happening to Hennie and her travels beyond the Colorado mountain or how much I would love to see the restored fountain on Ladybug Farm. Don't you love a book that works its way into your heart? That calls for another glass of iced tea and the raising of my bookmark. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Don't Trust Anyone Under 30

Now that we are over 30, the tables have turned. As teens, our rebel cry was "don't trust anyone over 30". As parents (and grandparents) well over 30, teens of our own, the rebel cry has dramatically changed. With young people willing to chat about anything in the open forum of social media sites, parents are finding themselves in the uncomfortable position of "friending" our children.

With about 50% of parents surprising their teens with a friend request on such sites as Facebook and MySpace, it seems there is little privacy for teens. Common Sense Media, a none-profit tracking teen use of social media reported that parents were not aware of what their children were doing online from chatting to sexting. In all honesty, I am friends with quite a few of students. There is great controversy from teens as well as the public scrutiny as to the propriety of this invasion of this social frenzy.

After talking with many parents this past week, I am inclined to agree with parents that it is necessary. My own father used to snoop through our rooms. I remember my outrage and his remark about not being my friend, he was my parent. More than 40 years later, I find that I have to be friends with my grandchildren, their friends and my students to parent them. Why? Have you read what the write? I don't spy, but I do call them on rants and bully efforts. My comment to their wall posts is simple - "you do know I read this, right?"

Parents told me of what they have found and yes, I believe it would be irresponsible parenting in this era of no holes barred social media to not monitor your under 18 year olds. Although teens have multiple accounts to thwart efforts of prying eyes, we still need to be on the front lines when it comes to protecting our kids.

Nothing beats an old fashioned conversation with your child. Keeping the lines of communication open on any subject, no matter how uncomfortable it is for both of you. But being proactive in all aspects of your child's life is just plain good parenting. Whatever generation you belong to, there will always be a parenting challenge between you and your teen. Stand your ground but never forget your teen years. Monitor your own social chat. Keep a distance that respects privacy, keep things in perspective and avoid gossip and keep it to yourself and your teen. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

What's That You Say?

Old ears on young bodies is becoming the norm. Rather than waiting until their senior years to require hearing aids, the ear buds attached to ipods have caused a generational gap between the ears.

"It's a different level of use than we've seen in the past," according to Robert Novak, director of clinical education in audiology at Purdue University. Novak says seeing young people with "older ears" is a trend from the Walkman days and today's technology is producing wider spread hearing loss among younger people similar to what one would expect in a much older person.

From a random selection of students, Novak documents this growing trend in what is know as noise-induced hearing loss. Ultimately the students lose the ability to hear higher frequencies, have difficulty following conversations in noisy environments and suffer from tinnitus or ringing in the ears.

Despite the warning signs and mounting evidence, it seems clear that ear buds are here to stay. More people are using them to block out street noise. But how much is too much? Research shows that a portable music player with headphones at 60 percent of the volume for an hour a day is relatively safe. Telltale signs of trouble are ringing in the ears that persists even after rest your ears.

Will this evidence stop young people from wearing ear buds excessively? Doubtful. We attended concerts and came away with ringing in the ears before we wised up to bringing a pair of ear plugs or stuffing them with cotton. I am afraid that telling young people of the potential consequences of hearing loss will most likely fall on deaf ears. With one in 5 teens experiencing hearing loss, limiting their exposure may result in a flurry of adolescent misplaced anger, but in the long run, they will still be able to hear you say I love you for a very long time. That's what wise grandma would do.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Joy of Gardening With The Seasons

My garden definitely took a hit with the strange weather, late summer and my teaching schedule. As the schedule is winding down, I find the weather is cooperating and I have more time to spend getting in touch with my dirty side.

One of my favorite birthday gifts was a cap that says "Plays In The Dirt". That describes me to a tee or should I say trowel. My children grew up with a little shovel in their hands, helping me plant seeds and dig, dig, dig. Although they preferred watering to weeding, all three enjoyed the organic harvest. I suppose next to drowning slugs in stale beer, they loved to pick the vegies of their labor.

My granddaughter is helping me prepare for the Fall garden. With an expected late into September summer, we planted chard, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach and kale, along with another round of cilantro and lettuce. Today we are picking cucumbers, broccoli, zucchini, basil and peppers. The peas and lettuce are done, with the chickens getting the last of it as we prepared the bed for the new Fall plantings.

With gardens popping up and spreading out in backyards everywhere, it is easy to bring kids into each season with fun activities while playing in the dirt! That's what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

A Spoonful of Common Sense

My oldest daughter is about to have her first baby. She is, as we all were, nervous about the parenting challenges that lie ahead. I told her that it is a waste of her energy to worry about the teen years before the teething years. Every child is as different as is every parent who walks miles through the parenting maze. I have often chastised my own mother for not warning me that this job doesn't end once your child blows out 18 candles on their birthday cake. But I have learned it is the one job that you never retire from and rarely live long enough to see the fruit of your labor.

I read many of the mommy blogs to see how the new generation views discipline. I would like to offer a dose of common sense. Here are five basic lessons every child should learn.

#5 Good manners - please and thank you are always appreciated but thank you cards should be sent to those who give a gift, do a kindness, for a teacher or a friend. It is an art that has gone by the way side but makes a huge difference, now and as an adult habit.

#4 Responsibility - no matter how young, children should learn to clean up after themselves. If they take it out, help them to pick it up when they are done. Oh, and set the example...pick up after yourself.

#3 Read! - This is a difficult lesson, but reading is obviously something your child will use for the rest of their lives, even it is as simple as reading directions. Keep it simple and let your child take the lead as to how much they want to read but one day a month (at least) should be a trip to the library. Reading to your child paves the way - and they are never too young!

#2 Tolerance - We are all different and the sooner these differences are seen as points of celebration rather than ridicule the better. Use positive words these differences whether they are of color, religion or disabilities. Be profound in your own behavior toward others.

#1 Kindness - To me this is the same as the "Golden Rule". Treat others as you wish to be treated. Sure it doesn't always work out that way, but for the most part if you smile or offer a kind word to someone, it will come back to you ten fold.

The most common sense approach I have for young parents, is to examine yourself. Buffalo Springfield said it best "Teach Your Children Well". Children imitate what they see and hear. Listen to what you say. Watch what you do. Then listen and watch them - children are a mirror.

I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and Nanny McPhee Returns blogging program, making me eligible to get a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here. I decided to blog because being a grandma coming up on 6 times now, I am eligible for a t-shirt in common sense! That is what a wise grandma would do.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

With A Little Help From My Friends

HELP! I need somebody! For those old enough to know the words, this Beatles song sang a familiar tune this past weekend. Teaching summer camps the past couple of months has left little time to work in the yard and the weeds had taken most of the yard hostage. Childhood friends and sisters, Sharon and Carol heard the call and came to the rescue.

My biggest problem was the pond. The pump had given out again - the third pump in the past 10 years. The pond was over run with iris that had gone wild, no blooms due to the shady area. The 5 gallon pots were too heavy to lift out of the pond by myself and the roots from the iris had embedded themselves deep into the silt and debris.

Cavalry to the rescue! The three of us spent the day clearing the pond, installing a new pump and filter, digging out old and setting in new fence posts. I had done much of the clearing of blackberries, morning glories and dandelions prior to their visit, so I can at last enjoy the last few weeks of summer in my beautiful yard.

With a little more than a quarter of an acre, it is always a challenge to keep it under control. I am forever grateful for good friends who not only know the words to the Beatles tune, but know exactly what they mean. I am having breakfast - french toast made with eggs from my chickens and topped with blueberries from my garden and humming my favorite tune. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

My mother-in-law was a waitress for most of her working years and for all the stories she tells, I think she could write a book. Candacy A. Taylor has done just that in her book Counter Culture The American Coffee Shop Waitress.

Taylor, at age 30, was once a waitress in a sushi restaurant in San Francisco while working her way through graduate school. She remembers sitting around the back table, doing paperwork, counting out tips and sharing the grievances of the day with co-workers. She wondered how women twenty years older could handle the workload when Taylor herself worked half the hours and was tired and aching at the end of her shift.

Thus began a journey of twenty-six thousand miles across the United States to find diners and waitresses that fit the parameters of the project. Armed with digital camera, mini-recorder, maps and a scanner she interviewed fifty-nine waitresses in forty-three cities. Having been a waitress for over a decade she found herself able to speak the diner language.

Candacy Taylor tells the story of “Lifers” referring to the aging diner waitress. The chapter Ketchup in Her Veins, shows these resilient women walk, reach, lift, write, pour, wipe, socialize, bend over, pick up, memorize tedious details, argue with the cook and walk some more, making this career a true art form.

The chapter Tricks of the Trade focuses on veteran waitresses like seventy year old Rachel DeCarlo at Sittons North Hollywood Diner, California. “It’s like watching Fred Astaire dancing. She makes it look effortless,” says Karesse Klein a middle-aged waitress who worked with Rachel. How to carry several plates without the bottom of the plate touching the food, memorizing “the usual” for some two hundred customers a day and pleasing the difficult customer makes the veteran waitress a bit of a baby sitter and an actress changing roles from table to table.

Taylor dispels the waitress stigma of Flo telling customers to “kiss my grits” or a cigarette hanging out of her mouth that has fueled the stereotype of the diner or counter waitress. They have raised their children, put them through college, have nice homes and cars, all on the wage of a waitress. Most of them are divorced, single women, well educated but find they made better money waiting tables.

The history of women in diners in Counter Culture, details the strength, hard work and resolve of these aging women through the years. Despite long hours, heavy lifting and customer insults for up to 80 years these resilient women are among the healthiest, most vibrant and hardest-working women in the country.

The soft bound book is published by ILR/Cornell University Press and retail price is $19.95 and well worth the read. That's what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

A Stitch In Time

So many of the old crafts we used to do as children are disappearing or left to us "old" people to do while in our rocking chairs watching the sunset. I don't think so!

I never understand when kids tell me they are "bored". How is that possible? What is that old phrase - idle hands are the devil's workshop? With the temperature rising and warnings of heat waves, my granddaughter and I have taken up a new project.

Teaching my granddaughter to crochet has been a fun project. My mother (great grandma) was cleaning out her closet and found a box of yarn and crochet needles. My granddaughter and I have taken up the chubby needles and are making long chains practicing our crochet skills.

Struggling through the first few chains of single crochet stitches, she found absolute delight in how easy it was to get rid of one's less than perfect work. A quick pull and no trace of imperfections are left - plus it's cool! And just as quickly, she picked up the needle and tried again. Today she brought me several long chains that she had not only finished off but started a new one on her own.

We have a project in mind, but we are keeping it a secret until we both feel our crochet skills are up to snuff! A cool indoor project in the middle of this heat wave! That's what a wise grandma would do.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Heat Wave!

I intend to enjoy the heat wave with as much enthusiasm as I was miserable during the cold spring. I suppose this means that gardens are an iffy risk this year. The cold kept the plants from doing much more than fighting off the slugs and now the heat is wilting the few blossoms that have managed to set.

But the extreme change in weather is a challenge to little ones. We chase them around in the winter to put on a jacket or socks. Their little bodies somehow resist warm weather clothing. But what does this mean during the summer heat?

Young children and older adults are the weakest link in this chain, so take the time to protect yourself and your kids these next few days. Plan cooler activities. In Oregon, the heat of the day is around 3 to 4 pm. Plan for early morning activities and maybe a trip to the movies in the hotter part of the day. The library is a wonderful place to enjoy a cool afternoon of reading and most libraries have activities for the summer season.

Water activities can be cooling but can also be the most susceptible to the UV rays causing sunburn. Try squirt guns or water balloons. Be sure pets have fresh water and have access to shade. Plan according to the weather and your summer will be safe and sane! That's what a wise grandma would do!

Friday, July 2, 2010

And All The Little Mice Wept

Yesterday, another piece of my childhood slipped away, almost unnoticed. I can picture her little mice friends all standing with the hats she made them in their hands, with heavy hearts sighing for their dear Cinderelly. The voice of a nightingale, or rather a fairytale princess legend will be forever silent.

Ilene Woods, the voice of Disney's Cinderella passed away July 1, 2010. This fairytale princess began as a teenage radio star. As a favor, Woods made a demo recording of "A Dream Is A Wish Your Heart Makes" and "So This Is Love". After hearing the demo, Walt Disney contacted Ilene to audition for the role of Cinderella. Even though he had already interviewed 300 singers, Disney was said to have been impressed when he heard Ilene's voice on the demo.

And the rest is history. A character comes to life, not only through the magic of the very talented and imaginative Disney animation crews, but also from a voice that is recognizable to this day as the poor cinder girl, Cinderella. Ilene said of her experience after being declared a Disney legend in 2003, "Knowing that so many years from now, when I'm gone, that children will still be hearing my voice and enjoying the movie is the biggest thrill to come out this altogether. It was wonderful and wonderful working with Walt and all of the beautiful artists."

A true classic for this grandma, her children, her grandchildren and undoubtedly great grandchildren for generations to come, Ilene Woods will forever be Cinderella making every little girl believe that a dream truly is a wish that your heart makes. "Sing Sweet Nightingale"

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's For Dinner?

It has been ages since I have posted. Life has once again happened while I was making plans. So many things have gone by the wayside, not the least of which is a trip to grocery store.

My days are long and once home, I begin to think "what's for dinner?, the common cry of the busy woman. Like Old Mother Hubbard, I fear opening the cupboard will only reveal bare shelves with little more than a can of tuna and a few spices. Lucky for me there is also a box of crackers around here somewhere. Instant dinner!

Kelly Donlea has come to the rescue with her new cookbook, 70 Meals, One Trip To The Store. No more looking into the cupboard and realizing you are missing the one ingredient you need. Also the common cry of the busy woman. Well, dry your tears and open the book. There you will find a shopping list that once compiled, your worries about what's for dinner or the missing link in the recipe will never darken your cupboard door again.

Along with shopping lists - a semi annual and weekly list, Kelly has a recipe index with 70 meals of a variety of chicken, ground beef, fish, pizza and pasta recipes to compliment any dinner table and bellies of a hungry family. The shopping list is organized into "core ingredients" with multiple uses across the many recipes. When you cut the "ingredient clutter", life in the kitchen becomes simple and delicious.

With several recipes for meatloaf or meatballs, pizza and wraps, the opportunities to raise a fork in tummy full delight are bountiful. Easy to read, 70 Meals is a great way to engage children in the making of a meal. From the trip to the grocery store to the choosing of the meal, children learn the value of nutrition, organizing and helping in the kitchen. Bringing new meaning to family time, Kelly Donlea's new cookbook is the new cry of the busy mom. Entrees, one-pot dishes, soups and side dishes there is something to please everyone and satisfy even the most rumbly belly.

Find more of Kelly Donlea's organizing tips on her web site You will find her other cookbook, Cook Once, Eat Twice, along with her Blog, recipes and Dinner 911. Making mealtime fun instead of another chore - that's what a wise grandma would do.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

What Mothers Are Made Of

I spent the day doing what I love best gardening, watching baseball and being with my kids. Now that they are grown and with children of their own, Mothers day has changed from the days of toddlers to tykes to teens. It is with great fondness I look back on those days of waffles in bed, handmade cards with handprints and backwards letters and with great joy I look forward to many more days of watching my grandchildren show me with pride their handmade cards, asking if Mommy will like it.

One Mothers Day memory is rather dear to me. Breakfast in bed has always been the first order of the day. Mothers Day was always reserved for me to garden and watch baseball with no interruptions. Dad took care of any mishap, diaper change or spontaneous tea party that may arise. It is true heaven on earth for an entire day.

Mother Nature decided to go on holiday this particular Mothers Day, leaving behind a cold dreary day with scattered showers. Unwilling to give up my one day of gardening freedom, I pulled on my boots, slipped on my gloves and pulled my hat from the rack. After a few minutes of pulling weeds on my knees, from the muddy garden beds, I looked up and saw three figures standing in front of me. They stood there huddled together under an umbrella, shivering. I asked them what they were doing out in the rain. "We just wanted to be with you," said my youngest daughter.

We began pulling weeds together but before long the dirt under our fingernails was mud from head to toe. Warm soapy water and hot chocolate then became the order of the day as we snuggled on the couch and I described the fine art of the breaking ball to my muddy gardening crew. A very good Mothers Day indeed!

Friday, April 30, 2010

Do You Know Where Your Cell Phone Is?

Hopefully your cell phone is safely tucked in your purse, pocket or glovebox. How can something so small and so prevalent in our world today be such a big problem? Distracted driving has become a national epidemic.
The statistics are sobering with 28% of all accidents, 6,000 deaths and half a million injuries as the result of cell phone distraction either texting or talking. Drivers are 23 times more likely to have an accident when using a cell phone. Texting while driving has been banned and 6 states ban hand held phones but no states ban all cell phone use despite the fact that the University of Utah reports that their research demonstrates that the crash risk doubles those of driving with .08 alcohol blood levels.
A British campaign went viral with parents and schools requiring students to watch. The shock value aimed at impressing young people, the dangers of this rising problem. There should be no reason to be on your phone when you realize it could save a life or protect one. With a 30% reduction in focus and attention when using a cell phone while driving, it does seem to be a no brainer.
Oprah has focused her attention to No Cell Phone Day and has placed a policy in her company of no cell phones while driving to and from work, including the limousine company she hires. It has caused a bit of an uproar, but since her days as a national reporter working on stories about MADD, Oprah has seen the drop in drunk driving accidents from that campaign. She hopes this will be as effective. You can sign the pledge and be a part of the solution. That's exactly what a wise grandma will do. I am number 227855.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Childhood Dreams

As a young girl, my favorite heroine was Annie Oakley, a rootin' tootin' cowgirl. Being a bit of a tomboy, she fascinated me. She was a woman who stood as an equal among men, something to aspire to in my generation and yet she had already done it, with grace and style in what was considered very much, a man's world.

Another young cowboy, Charlie Russell, did as much to fill childhood dreams of the Wild West. Living most of his life in the West, he became a frontiersman at a young age in 1880. His extraordinary artistic talent captured the essence of this frontier. No other artist had spent so much time working with horses on a daily basis like Charlie Russell, making his acclaimed artwork a true replication of the spirit of the region. A beloved Western figure, Russell, is a storyteller, environmentalist, a man ahead of his time because of his passion for the American cowboy.

Lois V. Harris, a storyteller in her own right, brings Charlie Russell to life in her new non-fiction picture-book, Charlie Russell Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist. Using Russell's art on each page, Harris tells the story of a young boy who dreamed of being a cowboy. Although his teachers didn't find it amusing when Charlie drew pictures instead of doing his homework, the young artist preferred history and adventure to math.

The book chronicles the life and times of this American artist from his childhood to the time he bought his first wide-brimmed hat, horse and saddle. The joy and hardships of the world of the cowboy literally sing from the pages like tumbling tumbleweeds across the prairie.

Lois Harris, has written both fiction and non-fiction for children's magazines, the L.A. Times and two picture-book biographies. Her storytelling creates visions for children of history as living, vibrant stories, encouraging children to read and write, to follow their dreams. Even an old writer who still dreams of riding a Pinto pony with her hat bouncing merrily on her back, thinks history is best told through stories.

A delightful read for around the campfire or cuddled in a warm bed. I especially like the last quote by Charlie Russell a few months before he died, at age 62. "I lived to play and I'm playing yet." Yes, that indeed, is what a wise grandma would do.

To pick up this beautiful picture-book for your child, go to your local independent bookstore, Barnes & Noble, Borders or order online from or There is a story in every picture and childhood dreams on every page.

Charlie Russell Tale-Telling Cowboy Artist
by Lois V. Harris
Publisher - Pelican Publishing Company, Inc.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Hopping Good Breakfast

Due at my daughter's for an Easter midday feast, the age old question of "what's for breakfast?" required an answer of a light and delicate nature. But after all, it is Easter, resurrecting from forty days of sacrifice, for those of us who follow the Catholic traditions. More importantly, a time of new beginnings, Spring, albeit a bit soggy of here in the Northwest, is slowly waking up from its long Winter nap.

Something new and different seemed to be the order of the day. Although this recipe is making its debut Easter 2010, I can say with all humility that it is delicious and the bonus - it is a healthy start to an otherwise indulgent day. Enjoy the delights of Spring and good health! Hippity Hop!

Sweet Potato Pancakes - Serves 2

2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and grated
1 T brown sugar
1 tsp ginger (fresh grated ginger would be fabulous!)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp mace, nutmeg
1 egg
1/4 c flour
2 T butter

Grate the sweet potatoes and rinse thoroughly in cold water. Drain and remove as much water as possible (I use a salad spinner). Mix in bowl with remaining ingredients except for the butter. Mix thoroughly.

Melt butter in large fry pan. Spoon in pancake size dollops and fry on both sides until golden brown and crisp, about 2 minutes on each side on medium high heat (avoid burning the butter).

Serve with fresh orange slices, a dollop of cream cheese, yogurt or sour cream. Toast with a glass of pomegranate juice as you relish each nutritious bite.

FYI: The sweet potato is ranked number one in nutrition of all vegetables. With dietary fiber, naturally occurring sugars and complex carbohydrates, protein, Vitamin A & C, iron and calcium it is a powerhouse of good eating! That's what a Wise Grandma would do!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Living Memoirs

This past year, I have witnessed the passing of four dear people, parents, grandparents and some great grandparents. To say the least, this has been challenging, sorrowful and more importantly a changing of the guard.

Recently I experienced a road trip like no other, as four of us women traveled to bury one of our own. Our mission was to immerse ourselves in memories spanning a woman's 87 year journey through life as we cleaned the house that held so many memories of our childhood.

As we rummaged through each room, torn with what to keep and what to toss, we found there was more to Phyllis than "just a mom". Friends came in and out of the house one day with stories of her life B.C. (before children) and A.C. (after children). With pictures of her posing attractively on the California beaches, at her teller job, dating, they had us laughing at her antics and crying out for memories we never had of her.

We kept trinkets and photos that were dear and watched as the trash company hauled away 8 large trash cans of "stuff". We locked the door to an empty house, realizing it was the last time we would share a meal, laughter and tears in the house that was home for 54 years.

As I sift through the pieces of her unfinished memoirs I find there are writing about a woman known only to me as my "other mother". I am grateful for the road trip. It was a journey of sisters, friends and companions. We find ourselves as matriarchs standing guard over legacies that cement families and generations. May we be up to the task and do it with the same grace and dignity as our dear Phyllis.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Road Trip!

Are there two greater words for adventure than Road Trip? Whether it be an epic journey or an epic disaster, the potential for great memories is a given.

As the saying goes, every journey begins with but a single step. So here are 10 of my best steps to having a memorable journey with the family.

1) Maps! Homegrown or commercial, learning navigational skills, geography and even how to fold them, can be valuable tools and lessons for any journey. Go beyond "turn right" from your GPS and take a giant leap for mankind. Read a map!

2) You've got the map, now let each person choose one stop along the way. Whether it be to stop and smell the best chili in the Southwest or a vista potty break, the trip can be more enjoyable with frequent stops.

3) Pack Rats are allowed to pack their own goodie bag. This can range from food stuffs to video games. You may want to limit the size of the pack or have a contest for the most interesting things packed into the pack. Winner gets "shot-gun!" for a leg of the trip!

4) All goodie bags must have one item to share with your traveling companions. This can be a game or food stuff - but everyone must be able to play or eat at the same time.

5) Create your own postcards. Take digital photos of the group at different stops. Find a local Walmart, Costco, Target...any major chain to download photos and make prints. Most shops have creative options or slip it in an envelope after everyone has signed it. Date it and send it to grandparents, friends with a Wish You Were Here message!

6) Travelers Blogs keep those not on the journey up to date. These can take the form of a computer blog (stopping at an internet cafe or wifi hotel) or a written journal. Each person should take a day to journal. If they are too young to write, do it for them but use their words.

7) Interviews can be exciting and informative. Assign your reporting crew to interview different people along the way. Interviews can range from the fellow at the gas station, the hotel clerk, park ranger or a ride operator at an amusement park. Reporters may need help so have a list of questions ready for them to choose.

8) Autographs are a fun souvenir to collect. Like the old souvenir stamps on trunks, you can find fun scrapping ways to display the autographs from random people you meet. A napkin, a receipt or ticket stub can be a fun thing to collect when it is signed by a "not-so-famous-yet" person along the way. A great addition to the photo album.

9) Hunt and gather wherever you go. Put together bundles of bits and pieces you find along the way. A twig from a nature hike, a straw wrapper at the burger joint, sea shells, rocks, moss, tickets...doesn't matter. Bundle them and in the winter months, burn them in a campfire or fireplace as a way to start a conversation about where you found them and the memories of the trip.

10) What was the best part of your trip and the worst is a fun way to debrief after any road trip. It makes planning the next trip easier and brings lots of giggles in hind sight.

Road trips are a fun way to bring families together and just get the conversation going. We traveled across country with 5 siblings, 1 grandma and my parents in a station wagon and the funniest memory was the diapers flying off the top of luggage rack. Now that is a disaster - over 45 years later we still laugh about it. Even my 80 year old parents!

Share your favorite traveling tips with families at TwitterMoms. That's what a wise grandma would do!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The World On Ice

I am not much of a sports junkie. Baseball is my sport. I may have learned everything I needed to know in Kindergarten, but Baseball is my religion and philosophy for living.

But I must admit, the Olympics have always captured my attention. Olympians are a dedicated group of individuals who spend every waking moment, working toward a four year goal of competing on a world stage.

Although not a big fan of snow, cold or ice, Olympian fever is warming my winter soul. The energy, enthusiasm, the agony and glory - all essential elements of life, take center stage on Whistlers Mountain in Vancouver for the next few weeks. The cultures represented are not only fascinating but one of the few times when we are invited to learn about each other with open arms and hearts. Cheering our USA team but recognizing the skill and dedication of all the athletes. We hear their stories, we learn about their countries, their culture and their sport.

Encourage your child and grandchild to engage in this moment of world unity. For those connected, Twitter has a list of Olympians who Twitter. Connect to their experiences in real time. I'm following @ApoloAntonOhno. That's What a Wise Grandma Would Do.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

It Only Takes ONE

From recent headlines comes a story of a group of teenage boys setting another boy on fire, over the price of a $40 video game.

Bullies have been around since the time of Cain and Abel. No tolerance rules fail to take in to account both sides of the story. Preventative action such as talking to children about what makes someone a bully and directing them with positive responses can be much more effective. Teaching our children to act rather than to react is tackled on the PBS Kids web site .

The picture book, One, by Kathryn Otoshi can also provide a valuable lesson for recognizing and celebrating each other, even the bullies. One is a unique blend of colors, numbers and counting that tell a story about standing up and being counted. It opens the discussion and offers support for parents, grandparents and teachers to talk to children about how to stand up to a bully.

Kathryn Otoshi is a children’s book author and illustrator. Her work with such filmmakers as Robert Zemeckis’s (Monster House and Polar Express) and as Graphic Design and Multimedia Art Director for George Lucas (Star Wars), Otoshi brings a brilliant visual perspective to story telling. Her book, One, is an anti-bullying story introducing colors, numbers and counting to young children while skillfully playing upon the larger themes of tolerance, acceptance, and the power of one voice.

Blue’s colorful friends find it difficult to tell Red to stop being a bully. The story captures the dilemma not only of Blue, but of his friends, as well. The simple illustrations define the emotions of the colorful friends and feeling challenged in standing up to the very hot Red.

Along comes One who decides to stand up and say “No” with bold strokes and squared corners. One acts and inspires the other colors to say “Me, Two. Me, Three.” and soon there are Five. Blue finds with the support of his friends he can count, too.

A quiet moment of reading to a child, can open up a world of confidence to stand with a friend, rather than letting them stand alone. To help them understand that to make all the colors count, sometimes it takes just One.

Kathryn Otoshi has presented us with the perfect book for Valentine’s Day. A message that is timeless and filled with the spirit of love and tolerance. And it would certainly go well with a heart-shaped box of chocolates. That’s what a wise grandma would do.

Read more at Character Counts and Shelftalker: A Children's Booksellers Blog. One by Kathryn Otoshi published by KO Kids Books, available in bookstores nationwide.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Wheels In The Air

Staring out at the fog on the tarmac in Seattle, I am bleary-eyed and anxious to get home. Leaving from Boise last night, the flight was delayed an hour, which translated to missing the connection in Seattle. My choices - wait until the following day and fly standby out of Boise or take the delayed flight last night and sleep in the Seattle airport until the next flight to Eugene, OR this morning.

Cellphone in hand, bluetooth in ear, I hustled to contact those waiting on the other side of this delay, the Alaska Airlines clerk continually kept me updated on my options. She suggested the standby flight as the best option because Alaska could not guarantee the connection in Seattle and because of the Superbowl, she thought it likely some would sleep in and miss their morning flight out of Boise.

Not being much of a gambler, I weighed my options with those who had the burden of canceling meetings, appointments and would have to arrange their schedules to pick me up at the airport. The clerk found me in the lobby and told me she had arranged for a hotel in Seattle and would get me on an early flight to Eugene. Done!

From the moment I was given the news about the delayed flight, Alaska has been outstanding in their service, attitude and accommodations. The hotel was excellent, breakfast on the house, shuttle service to the front door and at the airport both in Boise and Seattle. A rare commodity - customer service.

I will write all this in a print format and mail directly to the CEO of Alaska Airlines. Making it their business to make their customer happy. Yes, that is definitely what a wise grandma would do. Hey, they are calling my flight - gotta fly!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

The Generation Gap

After watching Frontline's program on Digital Nation, I found myself understanding what this generation gap really means.

For years, I heard the expression and thought it was the difference between parents and children. For boomers, it was a generation of long hair vs short hair, questioning authority and free love. Although few were true "hippies", the boomer generation stood up to government in a way that had not been done since the Civil War. We questioned everything from the war in Vietnam to segregation and women's rights. We did not have the benefit of social media, Facebook, Twittering or going viral with our protests. We used cardboard signs, chanted and had sit ins.

The generation we see unfolding before us is one of nimble fingers and wired brains. We complain that they spend too much time in front of a computer screen or texting to their BFF. While we are trying to adapt to technology, it is all they have ever known.

We worked in grass roots movements, their greener grass comes with wireless connections to communicate and function. Army recruiters are using video games to engage the next generation of soldiers whose technology skills will be essential. Teachers are using games to engage students on whole new levels of learning and comprehension.

Would we have wanted Ford to not build cars? Should Neil Armstrong not have walked on the moon? Should Thomas Edison have left us in the dark?

It is a necessary evolution of young minds and bodies to gravitate toward what they know and to excel beyond our generation's wildest dreams. with new discoveries and innovations from the touch of a screen or the dexterity of the hand. That's what a wise grandma would tweet about.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Simple Things Stimulate the Muse

It occurs to me, as I sit here savoring the smell of a freshly brewed cup of Americano and pondering the complexity of a slice of toasted Dave's Killer Bread, with just a smidge of peanut butter, that the simple things in life are often the most profound.

I live modestly by choice and by circumstance. I drive an old van, wear hand me downs from my daughter or thrifty buys from the Goodwill. I put out barrels to gather the rain water in the soggy Oregon winter months to water my houseplants and potted plants during the summer. I wash out plastic bags and foil, save rubber bands from the morning paper and carry cloth bags to the market. Simple, really.

I worry about the economy like everyone else. Monthly bills on the rise, groceries, repair bills, insurance. The news from Haiti puts things in perspective but at the end of the day those bills must still be paid. Then something unexpected happens - a piece of toast. That first crunchy bite and each one after that fills my senses and all seems right with the world.

Sure the bills are still waiting to be paid. The crisis in Haiti is devastating and a painful reminder of how precious and precarious life can be. But in the end, it comes down to something simple. A taste, a memory, a smile, a smell, a hug, a tear or even a slice of Dave's Killer Bread. A moment of gratitude and simple pleasure.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Are You Man Enough?

Ever since Seinfeld yelled out on a New York street that someone had stolen his European carry all, it has become fashionable for men to carry purses. Yes, a purse - call it what you will, a rose by any other name is still a rose. Or in this case, a "murse".

Why would they want to? I am always looking for reasons to leave mine behind. More stuff gets lost in them, than is actually ever used. Because we have a purse we think we should carry more than we need and spend more time looking for an item than using it.

I think this is some form of equality for men. We want equal pay for equal work and they want equal carry on luggage. Seems fair, I suppose. But now they will face the same issues women do everyday. "Does this bag match my shoes?" "Oh, I left it in my other European hand bag." "I know it must be in here somewhere." Yes, murses come in every style, color, fabric and size any man could possibly want.

What will they put in these man bags? A hammer or screwdriver? Other than breath mints, what do they need to carry? Cellphone fits in a pocket and they never seemed to have any problem carrying their wallet. Technology is supposed to make our life easier, but obviously it creates more to carry.

But here is the biggest problem with the man bag. Who is going to carry our purse when we our hands are full? Perhaps equality in accessories is not a good thing. Like the airlines, I think we should limit all carry ons. If traveling as a couple - only one bag carries it all and I am all for the man bag being the one. That is what a wise grandma would do.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Recycle Thwarts Reuse

I have been using reusable cloth bags for several years when I go shopping. I even bought bags for my adult children one year as a Christmas bag filled with their presents. The bags come with me when I take my mother in law to the market. I use them to take things to the office, carry goodies to a party or books to and from the library.

The bags live in my car creating a life style change and a habit. But my diligence has brought about an unexpected downside.

A long time subscriber to the reduce, reuse and recycle philosophy, I reused the grocery plastic bags as trash can liners, doggie doo pick-ups and packing material for shipping boxes. Brown bags were reused to line baking dishes, wrap packages and make book covers. Now I find my resource material has disappeared! I have systematically rid myself of these reusable materials by using recyclable bags.

I suppose this is a good thing and was inevitable. I still believe in the cloth bag, but may have to pay for the privilege. But, that is what a wise grandma will do.