Nathaniel’s Quick Visit

Grandson Nathaniel had Saturday off, and we made the most of it. He finished work the night before at 9 pm, and that’s when John picked him up in Charlotte. They were back at our house by midnight, and everyone went to bed. Over breakfast Saturday, Nate had us laughing.

Rose brought her artist sister to a cabin in the mountains to paint for the weekend. Rose and John $pencer went hiking two days to give her plenty of time to paint. I asked for a quick photo to show that her visit overlapped Nathaniel’s for a few minutes.

Later in the day I asked Nate to pose with his degree earned nine months ago. It says “Associate in Applied Science Cum Laude”. Are we proud? You bet!! He is over half way through his junior year now.

We had tea well past the proper hour. I got out our 40-year-old teapot from England and warmed it. Nathaniel weighed the loose tea and set a timer for the steeping. He is more precise than I would have been, and it was worth it. He chose a cup and saucer that had belonged to my grandmother, and I took one that commemorated our 25th wedding anniversary. Clunky mugs were not suitable for our tea.

Nathaniel skipped the mirror ritual this time. The official photographer had gone to bed when he arrived, and the family scattered quickly the next day. The day he left, I asked him to pose, showing the mirror had not moved. He bent his knees, petted Sadie, and stuck out his tongue.

We went to church on the way to Charlotte, but that’s another story. To show the brothers together, I asked the boys for a fast picture as Nathaniel was heading for his dorm. It was a quick visit, but very satisfying.

Valentine Special

Neighbor Logan (10) is our family sweetheart, and he spent several hours with us on Saturday when there was no school. He wanted us to tell his parents that he did not look at the computer while here, and I forgot to send that message. The only electronic thing he did was practice sending swiped messages to John on the cell phone. He watched me text his mother and wanted to try it. It’s a fast way, though prone to errors. You drag your finger to the letters of a word, and when you lift your finger, the app proceeds to the next word. He and John exchanged short messages, amid much giggling on Logan’s part.

The lad has a high energy level and is never still for long. He doesn’t bounce off the walls, though. He began to play with the old office chair that John uses as a footstool. Bringing it into the kitchen area, he put a spin on it. I didn’t catch his fastest rate.

Logan steered the chair all around the room with full theatrics. I get tickled at all the things he tries. He is careful not to bump into things.

I was also amused at the lunch table. I always give him a choice of cutlery – utensils like we use or a child’s set. I bought the plastic fork, spoon, and pusher when Logan had almost outgrown it. The pusher caught my fancy, and I thought Logan might use it until his nephew Sufi was old enough for it. The thing is, neither Sufi nor his younger brother Pico has eaten with us.

The utensils are construction vehicles. I hadn’t looked at them closely and didn’t realize there were words on the backs of the handles. Logan turned over the fork and and read the words on the back. They said, “CONSTRUCTIVE EATING.” He could read before he went to kindergarten, so it should have been no surprise to me that he read it aloud easily. I giggled, anyway. It’s always fun to be with our favorite child in the neighborhood.

On the spoon handle: CONSTRUCTIVE EATING

This was our Valentine’s Day breakfast – chocolate brioche buns, one for each of us. Next time I’ll roll more chocolate chips inside. Would you agree with me that you can never have too much chocolate?

Like Old Times

It had been weeks since we visited with neighbors Shawn and Bob, so we got together for a long chat. How satisfying it was! Cold weather has always cut down social interaction, but these COVID days, everyone thinks twice about being inside together. We thoroughly enjoyed catching up on news. There was one new person partying with us – Sadie. She was so excited at seeing them that she could hardly keep four paws on the ground.

Sadie adores Logan (10). She forgot all our rules and gleefully jumped on him. Having three dogs at home, Logan can take care of himself, but he shouldn’t have to. Sadie wedged herself in half of Logan’s chair and kissed him. Bless his heart, he was still posing nicely for the camera. I really appreciate that.

I missed getting a photo of Logan bringing me a Valentine balloon. They know I love balloons, and this one was different from all I’ve had before. Bear Hugs! What could be nicer?

David and I Snowboard

Niece Chrissie offered to let grandson David and me go down the slopes on her snowboard with her, and we jumped at the chance. We were at home in North Carolina, but in Massachusetts via cell phone. She and husband Chris chatted with us on the lift, then she wore her phone and talked with us all the way down. It was exciting. She has been clocked going over 30 miles an hour, although not with us on board. I was amazed at how relaxed she was. She mentioned recently that being totally relaxed was the ideal, and she has been working on that.

Here is a clip Chris took of Chrissie. His shadow shows up, too.

David and I went up a second time with them, eager for more thrills. It was most satisfying. They decided to go in and boarded all the way to their building. That turned out to be more exciting than it sounds. Some tourists were wandering on the pathway, and evidently didn’t know that people on skis or boards have the right of way. Chrissie was annoyed because she couldn’t get around them. With perfectly acceptable language, she criticized them when they were out of earshot.

Inside, they showed us the new floor in their condo, which Chris installed after we visited them a year or so ago. It was fun to see their place again. I was tired after all that armchair exercise, but they were going to play active video games with their children who live in Utah.

Lap Dog

I invited grand-dog Sadie onto my lap. With a quick leap, she was there, and neither of us knew what to do next. She did not fit. Knowing this was historic, I asked David to take a photo as he sat on the opposite side of the room. He took a bunch of shots, and this was his vote for the best one of Sadie. I liked it too, because David was reflected in the window behind me.

Sadie knows I do not like to be licked when we are both standing on the floor. Being on my lap was an opportunity she took advantage of. Quick as lightning she had her tongue on my hands, cheeks, and LIPS! Ugh! David caught the action as I tried to avoid that searching tongue. My smile shows I was successful for at least one second.

I will wait until I’m on a sofa before trying that again.

Hoarding TP

It has been almost a year now, folks. Aren’t you tired of hoarding toilet paper? We never bought any ahead of time, trusting we could buy more when we needed it. Recently my bathroom was the one needing more, and there were only a few odd brands on the shelf. I read the labels carefully, wanting to avoid one-ply – the kind you need to tear off six feet for the simplest job. I shunned the obese rolls that get stuck in our holder. John was ready to set up a camp chair when I decided on the least offensive package.

A few days later, the first roll made its debut (de-bue not de-butt). My suspicions were aroused, because I could HEAR it unroll. Granted, there were no splinters in the paper, but it was CRISP! Crisp is not the ideal adjective for toilet paper. I am going to deal with it, hopefully without undue complaint. I beg you, if you have a closet full of TP, wait until you’ve used up half of it before you buy more. Please give the rest of us a chance to get our normal brands. Thank you.

COVID Vaccination

The county texted me that I could get my vaccination the next day between noon and one at the fairgrounds. I had put John’s name on the list first, so we assumed rightly that he would be able to get his, as well. We joined the line of cars slowly moving up the hill at the fairgrounds. Workers talked to us on both sides of the car, giving us forms to fill out and putting a sticky note on the windshield in front of us. Anyone taking a blood thinner was marked with a sheet of paper under the wiper. Two lines formed inside the first barn as workers checked our forms. We moved into one line again to approach the second barn.

We split into two lines again, giving me a chance to take a photo of the other line. John and I got our shots at the same time, along with cards to get the second dose in 28 days.

The exit line snaked down the hill. Workers checked our time, making sure we had been on site for the required 15 minutes after the vaccinations. A traffic cop waved us onto the highway, and we were through! We never got out of the car. I thought the operation was very smooth and efficient. Most of the workers were inside the two spacious barns. If we get snow and rain the next few days, they will be nicely sheltered as they work.

It’s really amazing that the vaccine was developed so quickly. Each state is responsible for organizing its distribution. John said West Virginia and Florida were ahead of everyone else. We got ours sooner than I thought we would, but we will continue to be careful until after the second dose.

I would love to hear about your experience of getting the vaccine or some of the things you have gone through during the pandemic. These have been strange times.

Challenge of a Common Cold

The challenge is this: can you describe a common cold without mentioning sinuses or lungs? I think I can.

For two weeks I haven’t worn rings or earrings. One week ago I quit wearing shoes and a belt. Last week I lost ten pounds, which would have taken ten years at my usual rate of one pound a year. Although my legs are a bit rubbery, I am feeling better.

Disturbance in the Neighborhood

I was the disturbance in the neighborhood. David worked late, and the two Johns were in Tennessee. When I went out to get the mail, I smelled something awful. It was a chemical smell like nothing I had ever experienced before. Our common odors are liquid fertilizer applied to surrounding fields and the paper mill in Canton. This was far worse. Going back to the computer, I realized the smell was invading the bedroom. In fact, it was in every room, as well as on the porches and the deck. I texted four (yes, FOUR!) neighbors to ask them what they thought the smell was. Bless their hearts, all of them stepped outside and sniffed the air. They didn’t smell anything amiss.

Following is the message I sent to these wonderful neighbors:

“Thank you all very much for sniffing the air two days ago. Because I had a head cold, I went to bed early, not waiting up for David and the Johns to get home. I asked the first one up what he thought the smell was.

“Asking like I was a mental patient, he questioned, ‘Do you still smell it?’


“He said, ‘Well, there isn’t any bad smell here. The others didn’t smell anything, either.’

“A few hours later the odor in my head went away by itself. In all my born days, I never had anything like that before.”

Have any of you smelled something that no one else could, and did it go away by itself? I need company here!!!

England 40 Years Ago — January 4, 1981

Got the date right the first time! [January 1 was a Friday in 1981 and 2021.]

All last Monday was taken by the driving home from Rotterdam. We did get home a little earlier, though, than planned. When we drove up to the ferry terminal we found the ferry was just about to disembark for Folkestone. Took that rather than wait for the Dover one; landing point was just a few miles south. The boat shoved off just minutes after our car was stowed. That’s the way to do things!

$ and I had a quiet day when everyone else went to the Tower of London on the 30th. I don’t think there were many tourists there, so they got good views of everything. That evening we celebrated Harold’s birthday. He had been given the choice of no dessert or the dessert of his choice. He picked a pecan pie and then keeled over laughing when we brought it out. I thought the candle stuck in a pie was funny-looking and was surprised he shared my feelings. When he could talk after all the laughter, he said what got him so tickled was that he suddenly reached the age of one candle. It must have made him feel ancient. It isn’t very funny in the telling, but we did get a kick out of it.

I can tell Christmas is almost over. Just looked over at the train card holders and see the caboose has collapsed its rear wheels and is sitting down like a recalcitrant mule.

New Year’s Eve Harold went to London alone to do more sight-seeing while John diddled around here. Kate, $, and I walked to town. I was planning to get something at Knight’s, but it was closed. We went to a grocery instead and stocked up on the cheapest peanut butter in town.

We didn’t plan any festivities to see the new year in, just stayed up talking. Shortly before midnight we turned the TV on and saw the camera positioned on Big Ben. The shows of various parties and entertainments continued soon after. They had no instant replay like we do in the states! The bells of St. Mary’s [the church we go to in Reigate] were pealing away on the windy, frosty air. That was one of the nicest sounds of the day.

I don’t know where in the world the new year was coming in when it was almost 4 AM here, but $ got up to celebrate at that time. Thank heavens he went back to sleep. He would not have had good company with me that day if he had stayed up!

During New Year’s Day Kate said, “I’m going to Royal my Smurfs.” ??? We watched to see what would happen. She made a paper hat for each one and crowned them. Now we know.

We know of nothing that was open on the first, so just stayed home. Poor Harold said he was suffering withdrawal symptoms because there were no football games on TV. He used his energies to play Monopoly with Lisa.

On Friday a family from church was here for dinner at noon so their whole family could come. Normally their girls, 4 and 6, eat their last meal of the day at 5 or 5:30.

P. explained that the older girl had asked her to tell me that she never eats much at noon. Her napkin never came off her plate! However, she did the thing most grown people don’t know to do when not eating, she sat and entertained us so that no one noticed that she didn’t eat. I was slightly shocked that neither girl would drink milk but would ask for and gulp soda. The parents are both medical doctors.

I’d been dying to ask A. if he started out in his medical training intending to write, and he said no. He was planning to practice, but along the way edited and wrote for medical magazines in school. After all his training was finished, he did practice for three years. He said it was terribly frustrating because he was not given enough time to treat people as he wanted. P. echoed that saying that she was given double time when she first started practicing because she was new. They allowed her six minutes per patient in general medicine instead of only three. She said it was faster to write a prescription for a cold than to try to explain to people that they would be better off to go home, drink fluids, and rest. They both talked as if they’d love to practice in the states but wouldn’t make a move, at least a permanent one, because of all the family ties here. [The last time I asked, probably in 2007, John said there was a book or so by Dr. S. on the shelf at Borders.]

Yesterday the girls and John took Harold to the airport. They were disappointed to find long lines and to learn that the computer was out of order. The good seat Harold had reserved was no longer his. We just hope he didn’t get stuck in a middle seat.

Also yesterday Lisa went to a party at Pippi’s house. The invitation said “fancy dress”, so Lisa had asked her if that meant a party dress. Pippi made some reply that Lisa took to mean yes. Turned out to be a costume party, but they said she could just be Alice in Wonderland in her graduation dress and with long hair. Don’t think it bothered her. She had not been feeling well, but we coaxed her to go anyway. Were we glad! Many of those invited had called up to cancel because of illness. She had a great time.

John brought pizza home for the rest of us last night. He began to feel worse and worse with the cold $ so generously shared with us. He went to bed before the girls and didn’t get up until 10 this morning. He kept $ while the rest of us walked to church.

About half an hour after we got home from church, John commented on how dark it had gotten. I looked out to see a very gray day. Soon we saw rain, hail, and snow coming down all at once. Not much later the sun was shining again, the sky was blue, and there were fluffy white clouds hung in the sky. Kate and I took $ for a walk up on Redhill Common, exploring some of the paths and finding a bricked pond on the north side. There was a fantastic kite flying with the longest tail I’ve ever seen. We all came home with frozen ears.

Now John has driven the car to church for choral evensong. I’m eager to find out what that is like. The rest of us are home listening to $ try to tell us it is tea time. Must stop and feed him.

Bed time for one and tea time for others. We’re thinking of all of you at the beginning of this year and hope to see as many of you as possible during the course of it. God bless you.