Would Balloons Lie?

John’s sisters provided the definitive balloons when we celebrated his September birthday in June. He would be 80 years old.

Chris, John, and Barbara

He posed with them when we brought them home.

Meanwhile, he kept explaining that he was counting his age backward from age 70. Grandsons David and Nathaniel were told that when he reaches two, they should push him around in a wheelchair like he pushed them in a stroller. John is now 11 years old. When the balloons could no longer support themselves, I hung them from the mantel. We would keep them on display until the birthday was over. I noticed them when we came home from church and asked John to pose with them. There, for everyone to see, the balloons were declaring his shrunken age – ELEVEN!!

Logan’s Most Amazing Game

While neighbor Logan was waiting for John to play checkers with him, I put the Set game on my computer and cell phone so that we could play each other on line. Logan is an expert at the game, and he trounced me in no time. We played another game which was disappointing for both of us. A message flashed on the screen that I was a spectator. No matter how many times I chose a correct set, my score did not register. Logan continued playing, of course winning every single set.

Logan said, “I want to play on the computer. You take the phone.”

I got the first score, and seconds later he got one. The pattern was repeated a couple of times.

“Logan,” I asked, “are you waiting for me to score before you play?”

He simply answered, “Yes.”

I knew he could have finished the game all by himself in minutes, but it took me a while to realize he was deliberately keeping our scores equal. Isn’t that amazing? An 11-year-old figured out how to level the playing field for a very inept opponent. Only when I began to write this did I realize why he swapped places with me. You see, the phone chirped when a score was made, but the computer was silent. He listened for the chirp and immediately knew I had scored and he could play to make it even. I am flabbergasted that someone so young could come up with a scheme like that. My heart is applauding loudly.

A Tale for Shawn

It wasn’t until I was telling John the story two days later, that I knew I needed to write it for Shawn. Neighbor Holly and a relative had come to sit on the porch with me for a little while. Neighbor Logan heard our talking and came across the street to show us some of his Pokemon cards. That in itself was something, that a boy of 11 would want to join our conversation.

After a short while, he said, “I’m going home. I’ll tell Mom you are out here so she can come and join you.”

It sounded so matter-of-fact that I didn’t get the importance of it right then. An eleven-year-old boy was thinking of his mother and knew she would love to be there talking with us! Not only that, he said it aloud and acted on it! What an extremely thoughtful thing that was! You can see why we stay impressed with Logan. You are doing a marvelous job of raising him, Shawn and Bob.

John’s Eleventh Birthday

John was a history major, not a mathematician, so the way he calculates his age differs from most. At age 70, he decided he would count backwards, starting at 21. He is now eleven years old, although most of us think he is 80.

Here are two photos of the celebration his sisters had for him in June.

Barbara, Anne, Thom, Steve, Chris, John
Barbara, John, Chris, Steve, Thom

Then there was the cake on his birthday.

The Gray-shirts — David, John, John $pencer

It was followed the day after with a visit from my brother Bob and Beth.

Thank you to all of them and you who called, emailed, and texted. He enjoyed all the quiet attention and feels he has been properly launched into his eleventh year.

Happy Birthday, John!

We Met on Monday

Former neighbor Marla has Sundays and Mondays off. She has to miss our lunches when her dog Albert is groomed, so we met on Monday.

Anne, Shawn, Marla and Connie

We also celebrated Marla’s recent birthday. Can you guess she is a Big Foot fan? The shirt says, “Big Foot saw me, but nobody believes him.”

Do you know anyone who likes Big Foot?

England 40 Years Ago — September 13, 1981

We watched the first in a series about Winston Churchill on the telly, and I particularly enjoyed the scenes filmed at Blenheim and Chartwell. There were outside shots of both, a dining room scene from Blenheim, and recognizable backgrounds of the bedroom and dining room of Chartwell. It was like history coming alive to see these things taking place in rooms we had been in!

Had someone inspected our parcels at the end of a shopping trip, they would have known the opening of school was near. Six pairs of shoes and nine library books demolished the morning.

Phillipa and Catherine went with us to Gatwick Airport just to watch planes. We’d noticed when driving near Heathrow that Phillipa got terribly excited at the sight of planes (aeroplanes). It was fun to be with them on their first visit to an airport – enthusiasm unbounded! We first went to the observation deck, then wandered around the major terminal areas.

[I’ve added the photo below, just because it shows the four girls I wrote about in this letter. It was the first day of term for Lisa. You may remember that we rented half a large house that was owned by neighbors at the bottom of our garden. The other half was owned by the parents of Phillipa and Catherine. These girls were the same age as Lise and Kate, and we loved the fact that they were constantly in and out of each other’s homes. For over a year they were closer than cousins.]

Phillipa, Lisa, Kate, and Catherine

Cooperation was the name of the game one day when Kate went with me to Co op and Lisa volunteered to water all the roses while I was setting out about a hundred pansy seedlings.

John $ has no need to talk. He doesn’t fight having his hair washed, but doesn’t relish it, either. He picked up my hand, put it right on the shampoo bottle, and said emphatically, “UH..UH!!”

John has been in pain recently. He woke up with a stiff neck and tingles around the shoulder. A day or so later as he was writing at his desk in the office, his arm became numb. Not about to play games if something were serious, he sped to a doctor. X-rays showed that the bones in the left of his neck have settled too closely together and must be pinching nerves. The doctor advised aspirin, said it should go away in a week, and if it didn’t John could consult a neurosurgeon or osteopath. His health has been so good all his life that we’ve decided having 40 staring him in the face this week must be his undoing.

We wanted to go somewhere close by since John felt better walking about but not sitting. I drove us and Phillipa to Guildford. The car park we found had entrances directly to stores. Many major London stores have branches there – Marks and Sparks, Debenhams, C and A, A and N, etc. We walked along the deep canal running through the downtown area of the city. Imagine, if you can, a car with three wheels, the solo one being in the REAR! We are used to seeing the three-legged variety, but the one wheel is in the front. This one was really different. We walked cobbled streets closed off for pedestrian malls and wandered in a lovely toy store. The height (literally) of the tour was seeing the ruins of Guildford Castle high on a hill. The gardens flowing from one bed of colourful flowers to another were the prettiest I’ve seen since we moved to England. Each bed was a different fancy shape cut out of lush grass. No camera! You’ll be amused when I tell you the featured tall plant in several groups was maize (corn)!!

Napping, I tried to rouse myself when I heard Phillipa insistently saying, “We’ll cope. We’ll cope.” There were no more distress sounds, so I went on drifting. Kate came quietly to stand by the bed to wake me by staring at me. Works every time! How can I pretend to be asleep feeling those eyes boring into me? She proudly announced, “We (meaning Phillipa) changed a dreadfully dirty nappy. Could you take care of it in the loo while we put on his clean one?”

Wow!! Phillipa said, “It looks terrible when YOU do it, but it’s not so bad when I did it myself.”

Afterwards we had a special tea with homemade biscuits to celebrate.

Sadie’s Drinking Fountain

When Sadie and I came back from walking, she checked the drip bowl for water as I plugged in the fountain. It was dry, of course, since the leak had not yet begun. Hearing the water flowing in the fountain, she decided it would be much more elegant to drink standing up. She didn’t say if it were more efficient or not.

[Grammarians and proofreaders — Barbara, Ellie, Nancy, Chrissie. Would you comment on “if it were”? That was proper usage when I was in school, but I suspect common usage today would be “if it was”. I tried looking it up on line and got hopelessly lost. I would like to know what is proper usage today.]

My New Game

Thanks to neighbor Bob, I have a new game. Bob repaired a faulty wire in the electric line to the front porch. After John cleaned out the angel fountain, I set it up again and ran it. I hoped the fountain would work better in its new position. It didn’t. It has leaked for seven years, because the water clings to the under side of the middle pool instead of falling into the pool below. Changing the slant at three different levels did nothing. This year I added some plastic film to encourage the water to fall straight down instead of running back to the base and dripping. There is one improvement. The sound is better than it has ever been.

The new game is a race. I plug the fountain in, read a devotional book, and work the daily game of Set on line. I win if I finish before the drip bowl on the floor is full. I’ve done well, except for the days the scripture readings are exceptionally long.

Sadie was on the porch with me after our walk. She was sure the fountain was her new watering hole. She wasn’t quite tall enough to get water from the lowest pool, so she helped herself from the drip bowl.

If anyone has another idea to fix the fountain, please let me know. Sadie can get her water elsewhere.


I was happy when the cancer test came back negative a few days ago. I had cancer seven years ago – diagnosed on June 1 and removed on July 1. You don’t take life for granted after that. Although there are no guarantees, I expected to feel free longer than a few days. John put his hand on my back this morning, paused, and asked, “What is this?”

There was a lump on my shoulder blade. Although I couldn’t reach it, I could see it in the mirror. He went on to his doctor’s appointment in Asheville, and I walked to the stop sign. It was a sobering walk, with lots of things going through my head. It’s best to pray before panic sets in. By the time I got home, I had seen two paths ahead. It would not be my choice which to take, but I could choose to ask God to lead the way. John had suggested I call the doctor’s office, and I got an appointment for early afternoon. He was home in plenty of time to drive me. As I sat in the waiting room, a message came on the phone that a young family member has been diagnosed with a rare form of cancer. Doctors will be considering the next step. What a blow! Lots more prayer is needed.

Amid all this serious stuff, get ready for amusement. The doctor’s assistant asked many questions, typing things into a computer. After she left, Dr. Ramsey came in and glanced at the computer. She examined the lump briefly and said in a pleasant voice, “It’s fat. Nothing to be concerned about.”

My brain went into overdrive, processing an hour’s worth of material in a few seconds. Fat has been the bane of my existence all my life. How can a serious lump be FAT??? It can’t have been there long, because the dermatologist would have noticed it a few months ago. FAT??? I’ve been worried about FAT lumping around my back? How useless! That inch I lost around my waist – are you telling me it was FAT creeping up my back, unnoticed and unhated? FAT deposits, you say? No! I make a deposit at the bank, and that is good. I made a fat deposit here, and I want an immediate withdrawal.

Having good manners, I let her talk. She explained that fat accumulates under the skin and is not dangerous. If it becomes painful or bothers me, all I need to do is call her, and she’ll set up an appointment with a general surgeon. She measured it and was most reassuring. I thanked her profusely for seeing me quickly and putting my mind at ease.

I went out to the car and immediately told John the news is good. It isn’t cancer. It is FAT!! Of course, I didn’t stop there. I want a transplant! You remember years ago a doctor told me I’d lost the fat pads in my feet? Well, I want that lump on my back to be transplanted to my left foot. What good is it on my back? Let’s put it somewhere useful. FAT!! OK. Shall we go home and have lunch?

For those who pray, please thank God with me that my cancer has not returned. Also, please pray for healing for our young family member and for guidance for her doctors. I appreciate it. God bless you.

Neighbors on Labor Day

Our marvelous neighbors can pull a party together in 18 hours. John and I texted six households, and four were available to celebrate Labor Day. The photos show the crowd from each end of our porch.

Since my posts have become my memory, I’ll list the people. Deb, Joyce, Jeff, John, Logan, Mark, Bob, Dawn, Shawn. Deb and Mark are college friends of Shawn and Bob, visiting for the day. Mark was too far away for me to hear him, but I enjoyed hearing about Deb’s background. Her dad was in the service, and she lived in 18 different places before she was 18 years old. All the states were on the east coast. The state she enjoyed the most was South Carolina.

When Joyce asked what she should bring, I said our impromptu gatherings should be run like a come-as-you-are party. Instead of coming to a party dressed as you are at that moment, you should bring food that is already in your house. She immediately said she would break that rule, because she has very little that is extra. She keeps mostly foods that she eats on a regular basis. I might envy that. We could feed a small army for a day or so by pulling things from the freezer and the pantry.

For the foodies: Our table had hot dogs, hamburgers, buns, condiments, salsa dip, chips, baked beans, potato salad, warm blueberry muffins, cantaloupe, and TWO pans of warm Brownies. I told Joyce that Brownies were always welcome. It turned out that two kinds of Brownies were doubly welcome. The ones that Joyce and Shawn prepared were different, so of course everyone had to eat both. Indulgence at its best! A year or so ago our pot luck non-planning resulted in a different set of Brownie doubles, ones made by Holly and me. It’s safe to say that Brownies are very popular in the US.

Did you celebrate Labor Day?