Vitamin Box to Waste Basket

This is the story of how a vitamin box became a waste basket. When it is time to gather the trash to take to the collection center, we swoop around the house emptying waste baskets. I line two with supermarket bags, one in the bedroom and one in the master bathroom. The photo, with Sadie as background, shows one basket properly lined.

Sadie asks, “Why are you taking a photo of me behind a wastebasket?”

Son John $pencer was the one swooping that day, and it was hours later that I thought of getting replacement bags. John ties up used bags for recycling in the laundry room, so I struggled to retrieve two and put them on the kitchen counter. More hours later, I opened a box with vitamins and threw it in the bathroom basket without thinking. This made more sound than usual, alerting me to the unlined basket. Out came the box, and I tucked in a smaller box from a toothpaste sample. By bedtime the vitamin box had two more additions, a tissue and a flossing pick. It wouldn’t take long for this new little litter basket to overflow.

Valiant vitamin box aka Little Waste Basket

The next morning I looked for the bags I had put on the counter, but they were gone. I tugged two more from the tied bag, then saw the original two wadded up. John, bless his heart, must have tidied up the counter. I can see that a 24-hour time limit for replacing liners was a bit too long. Does anyone have a tip about reminding yourself to do something on opposite ends of the house when it isn’t related to what you are doing at the moment? In other words, I NEED HELP!

Fun is Where you Find It

Son John $ and grandson David like to play Backgammon on a phone. I had them in a captive pose when they folded themselves into chairs. Not to be left out, Sadie brought a toy and enjoyed David’s divided attention.

After church and lunch, we used our annual passes to go to the grounds of Biltmore. John knew the trains were running in Antler Village and might not be available next month. I’d call this equal opportunity fun, something for everyone. The fellows liked the setting for the trains and enjoyed watching them move. I enjoyed seeing the trains running among the plantings.

Has low-key fun found you lately?

Like Riding a Bike

I’ve heard it said that once you learn to ride a bicycle, you never forget. I hoped the same rule applied to driving a stick shift car. I learned on an old army Jeep when I was 16 years old. My grandmother quit driving and let me use her car when I was 20, and I was 57 when my brother gave me his older car. All told, I had driven a stick about five or six years. This week I was the only one in the family who could drive son John $’s car from the rental home to our house. Would I be able to do it? It would take an hour and a half, starting on steep mountain roads and ending on the interstate highway.

As anyone knows who has tried it, the tricky part is getting the vehicle to move smoothly when you start up. One foot presses lightly on the gas pedal as the other eases the clutch out. If you don’t get it right, you lurch forward as your car moves like a bucking bronco. $’s driveway was so steep that all I did was keep my foot on the brake until we got down to the road. Because of the angle, I couldn’t see the road on the right, and $ said either “Gun it!” or “Floor it!” Talk about pressure! If a car had come around that curve fast, I needed to be moving. Everything was fine. No car came, and we didn’t lurch down the road.

I didn’t expect the trouble I had. I was used to three or four forward gears, not five. Almost every time I shifted to third, I went too far and ended in fifth. Both $ and I could tell by the sound that it wasn’t right, so I’d press the clutch in as he shifted the lever with his left hand. That’s the way we made it home. One of us would suggest shifting up or down, and I’d say, “Clutch in.”

Sadie was calm, sleeping on $’s lap much of the way. She sat up and was alert when he went in a store to get cigarettes. I’m going to let Sadie rate my driving, and I expect the rating to be “Boring”.

Grandsons 20 Years Ago

I’ve been looking at my letters written in England 40 years ago and decided to see what was happening 20 years ago. I found one of my favorite photos of grandsons David and Nathaniel. In the year 2000, David was patiently holding the bottle for Nathaniel. These days, the roles would be reversed. Nate would be baking a cake for David.

A Day with Logan

We saw neighbor Logan (10) on his porch as we came back from our morning walk. John asked him to come over to get Sunday School activity sheets we had printed for him. He asked to stay, ran home to get permission from his parents, and thus began a whole day with our special friend. None of us knew at the time that it would last until evening.

After breakfast and David’s leaving for work, Logan went to town with us. The fellows ran an errand or so while I had my teeth cleaned. We headed for Walmart. Logan has been shopping with us before, and we let him pick out a small toy to take home. Understandably, Shawn and Bob did not want their son to be in the habit of ASKING for things. We cleared it via text that we could get him something. Shawn had said Logan was so good to her, fetching things when she had limited mobility after her hip replacement. He did whatever she asked without complaint. I felt a minor miracle like that from any child should be rewarded.

When we came home, Logan helped John in the garden, picking up leaves and limbs from John’s recent trimming job, while I prepared our main meal. We three sat down to eat, and it didn’t occur to me until then that Logan had not played with his new toy. He brought it out on the porch, and only after we ate did he ask if he could open it. I realized many children would have already opened and broken a toy in that time. What remarkable restraint and self-control! (Round of applause for Logan, please!!)

After lunch I took a photo of the fellows playing Go Fish. John said Logan had already trounced him in a game of checkers. I suspect we will win only games of chance with him from now on. For the record, I quit playing games of strategy with our grandsons many years ago.

Go Fish! in progress

When John excused himself to do paperwork, I set up soda-can targets for Logan to shoot. He hit six in a row, I think, but naturally that wasn’t when I was taking a video. I saved one short clip of the cool marksman hitting the target. Looking at it frame by frame, I could not see the bullet at all.

Logan and I played an unscramble word game until he tired of it. He picked up a shrunken balloon from another day’s play, and I remembered I had a bat for him. It was a cardboard tube that had been the center of a roll of wrapping paper. He used it to play baseball with the sorry balloon, not wishing to get a new one from the closet. John rejoined us, and we all laughed at the bat that was slowly uncurling. At the end, there was a whooshing sound as he swung at the “ball”. The impromptu rules were like baseball, but in a real ballgame, the batter wouldn’t be able to hit the ball twice in one play as Logan did. I don’t know what else we might have found to play with, but Bob came over to take Logan home. What a fun day it had been for us!

England 40 Years Ago — August 10, 1980

The week started out normally enough with Lisa going to her French lesson and Kate shopping with me. When we came home, we put John in the play pen and went back out to bring in the groceries. Kate didn’t realize I didn’t have my keys with me and shut the door. There we three were locked out and could hear 10-month-old John locked in! We walked around the house twice looking for a way to break in; should have tried 7 times and a ram’s horn. Then we noticed our neighbor’s painter up on a high ladder and went for help. He so willingly carried the ladder over, reached through a window we’d left open to open a larger one and just walked right through from the guest room upstairs to the front door. We don’t dare think what we’d have done had the upstairs window not been open!

John C. came home that day fussing about the ineptitude of British stores. There in the department where 150 different shower curtains were sold, the store had no shower rings to hang them with. He came out with one of his good exaggerations, “A store like that wouldn’t last more than 10 or 15 minutes in the U.S.!”

Things were hopping Tuesday as well. Gardener Clewes was here, and the neighbor children came to play tennis. John $ cried a lot that day until I wrote in the book that he cried tears in his ears! Perhaps he didn’t feel so well because Lisa talked about how his tummy was “extended.”

Clewes brought us some tomatoes he’d grown at some other house where he works. You did pronounce that correctly, didn’t you? Toe-mah-toes. That was Wednesday, the day the push chair lost a hind leg. The poor stroller had had a terrific workout with the girls constantly fighting over it and running at break neck speed over roots, up curbs, etc. We must count our blessings that it wasn’t John $ losing a hind leg.

I knew I was grounded until I bought a new stroller; that baby is heavier than a sack of potatoes and much squirmier. We took Lisa to her French lesson, and Kate stayed in the car with $ until I’d gotten a stroller. Luckily I’d seen them in Boots (a drug store chain) and knew just where to go. Returned to the car and immediately put the stroller to work by going to the freezer center. Have I mentioned that there are stores here that sell only frozen goods? I think it’s amazing since there are many homes that still might not even have a refrigerator! Prices are good, as a rule.

Friday I went shopping while the girls were at neighbor Mary Anne’s. Then we all had lunch there. Alex lit the fire in the barbeque grill and cooked the sausages! He’s only 10!! Mary Anne had a friend staying the weekend, and the two girls were having a war with Alex and his friend from Holland who is staying 10 days. They were hiding hair brushes, setting traps with books on top of doors, and soaping tooth brushes. Carol had had it up to her ears. She had me take the girls here while she went to the library, and then all of us except the boys went for a walk on Reigate Heath. It was a lovely walk over rough terrain, and I began to feel sorry for the new stroller. We had a nice time. Saw a windmill converted to a tiny church where there are services once a month in the afternoon. We also saw a gaily painted gypsy caravan parked there. I’ve seen pictures of them and thought it something unusual, but there it was right before my eyes.

How would you think a weekend would work out when it began this way? I had just worked up a good lather of shampoo when I heard pounding feet and this excited statement, “John just threw up in the hall!” It was Saturday morning, and I knew there would be 10 pairs of eyes looking for full plates that night. I sighed, then yelled to the girls to just keep John out of the mess. I was greeted coming out of the steamy mists with a wail, “Lisa used my face cloth to clean it up!’ Well, I’ll set your minds at ease; we had a great weekend. It was spit-up, not throw-up, and the cloth went in the next wash. Before I could begin preparations for the dinner, I heard in the distance a child’s voice in a messy room, AVALANCHE! Crash! Bang! Bump! Roll! I never investigated that one. There was no loss of life because everyone turned up for lunch.

By 5 p.m. we hardly recognized our home. It was a pleasant time to have company late because we simply sat down and reveled in the neatness. It was such a heady feeling we nearly wallowed in it, but wallowing tends to produce a mess, so we restrained ourselves.

John said he invited Sten H-L and his family as a good deed to give them a rest from the rigors of moving. They had been in the country six days, living in a hotel half the time, and spending their days trying to remodel their home and clean up from the previous owners. I couldn’t help feeling a bit smug because we’d been through it and had a chance to recover. We could afford the luxury of feeling sorry for someone else.

I enjoyed talking with them; they had lived in Florida for years and so knew American English. Gunnbjorn (that’s the way it was spelled to me, not a typing error) said she can understand Americans better than the British. The children are going to school right now to learn English and were not willing to talk, though they seemed to understand much that was said. Helena, 13, has a mouth full of braces. They were told in Norway that England had great orthodontia; we were told that orthodontia was still in the dark ages and don’t dare let an Englishman get hold of Lisa. Wonder what the real story is? The boy Lisa’s age never uttered a sound. I presume he can talk Norwegian. Heidi was cute enough not to need to talk; she’s Kate’s age. After dinner they all played upstairs with the Fischer Price toys until 11 p.m.

I got tickled at the Norwegian views of the British ways of doing things. I presumed that since they are close geographically, they would be close in customs. Not so. They think the workmen are sloppy as well as slow. They were horrified at the tiny milk bottles.

Food is fun here. This week I noticed we had tuna from the Solomon Islands, peaches from South Africa, toilet paper from Finland, pears from France, oranges from the U.S., matches from Sweden, grapefruit drink from Germany, bay leaves from Turkey, and porridge oats from Scotland.

John $ was bad in the creche today. Screamed. Kate calls it the CRUSH, and I imagine that’s what the keeper thought of it today.

This afternoon we drove almost 60 miles to ride a steam train. $ enjoyed the ride and only had the heebe-jeebes when the steam hissed. He kicked his legs and snuggled in tight but did not cry! Kate, at that age, would have been hysterical. Today she just kept her hands over her ears.

John $ and John riding the Mid Hants Railroad

That’s enough of my meandering (me Anne dering). Hope all of you are fine.


We missed the North Carolina earthquake! I didn’t find neighbor Joyce’s text until we got home from church. She felt her house shake around 8 am, and that’s when we were getting our breakfast ready. My brother Bob felt it in Winston Salem, too. He wrote that it was 5.6 on the Richter scale, the biggest one in North Carolina since 1916. I’m sorry I missed it. Earthquakes in this area of the country tend to be amusing rather than catastrophic. It’s an event for which you compare stories and laugh about the odd things you observed.

The earthquake that amused me the most happened when daughter Lise was away at college in the mid-eighties. It was Saturday morning, a time when John enjoyed sleeping later than usual. I was dozing, not quite ready to get up. The bed began to shake, and I thought, “What is John $pencer up to now???”

Son $ was about seven years old at the time. He was a very active child, though not a destructive one. I realized there was an unearthly hum, low-pitched and barely audible. I nudged John and asked him if he thought we’d just had an earthquake. He grunted. Not getting any other response, I got up and went downstairs to find a radio. If something unusual were happening, I wanted human confirmation of it. The radio was set to a New York station, and in just a few minutes, the announcer said they were getting reports about an earthquake. Aha! I was right! Soon they had details. The epicenter was near Bronxville, 25 miles north of New York City. Lise’s college was in Bronxville! In those days before cell phones, you waited to hear from anyone who might have been in danger. Since $ and daughter Kate were still asleep, I went back to bed. A day or so later we found out Lise and most of those around her had slept through the earthquake. I was left with a tiny, niggling sense of guilt for having blamed my son for an earthquake.

The Egg and the Angel

When returning from our morning walk, we chatted with Shawn and Bob as they sat on their front porch. They laughed as they pointed out an angel among their plants.

When questioned, Logan (10) said he had nothing to do with it. If Logan was not the prankster, who was? Could it have been neighbor Holly, who comes over frequently? I find it hard to believe that she would raid her own refrigerator before going next door. Would neighbors Dawn or Jeff have put the egg there? Using the Holly-logic, I doubt it. That seems to leave chicken Ariel. I have published a photo of Ariel attending Bible study on that porch, so we know she wanders at will during the day. It’s not chickenly possible for her to lay the egg there. Just perhaps, Ariel laid an egg on one of the neighbor’s property, and the nameless, blameless neighbor placed it near the home where it belonged.

Does anyone else have a theory about how the angel came to hold the egg?

Logan at the Pond

Neighbor Logan (10) stayed with us for a few hours, and I know he was pleased that, for once, David was not working. While grandson David and I finished our late breakfast, John did something with Logan having to do with a puzzle of the US. They may have reviewed capitols, but whatever they did, it was mildly educational.

We brain-stormed about what to do next, and Logan said, “Let’s go to my pond and look for frogs.”

That’s certainly the kind of activity everyone would approve. We were outside in the fresh air, interacting with nature, and having fun together. John stayed home to trim shrubs in the garden as David and I walked down the steep hill with Logan. I loved watching Logan search for frogs with a stick to stir the grass and a cup to catch them. It’s too bad the frogs had other ideas and made themselves scarce. Logan had remarkable patience, which was fine with me, since I found a small boulder to sit on.

I waved at neighbor Jeff when he rode his mower within view, and David and I watched iridescent blue dragonflies dart about. Logan gave up on frogging. He called out, “Look! I found a praying mantis!”

He was holding the creature very gently and let it loose to climb up his arm.

I was scrambling to get these shots and did not pick up on the fact that he was very uncomfortable when the mantis got to his neck. David came to the rescue! As I focused on the creature on Logan’s hair, David scooped up the cup meant for frogs and held it for the praying mantis to walk into. Can you see David’s hand with the cup on the left side of the photo?

They set the mantis free, and Logan ran up the steep hill as David hung back to make sure I was safe on the uneven ground. I felt privileged to have been in a boy’s world for a little while.

Leftovers in the Neighborhood

Neighbors Shawn and Holly had a fun idea for a street party on Sunday. Early in the afternoon they suggested we bring leftovers to share, and the response was a resounding YES! We converged at the appointed time and began laying out our dishes on a long folding table on Shawn’s lawn. As soon as most of the food was there, a dark cloud moved overhead, accompanied by thunder and raindrops. You should have seen us scramble! I picked up a heavy glass pitcher and two trays that might have slid off, and the fellows lifted the table onto the porch.

Before even thinking of filling our plates, we admired the rainbow in our yards. I’m sure Holly was aiming at her house where half the bow was. I wanted to catch the other end in our yard. That’s when I realized that trees continued to grow after we moved here six years ago. Our ugly tan house was barely visible. It takes a little imagination to see the rainbow in the middle of the picture.

Rainbow in the center. Trucks are in almost every photo from the South.

We settled down to eat, and everyone looked at the camera at my request. What a cooperative bunch! Only Logan and I were missing. Left to right were Jeff, David, Bob, Joyce, Dawn, Holly, Shawn, and John. This is the whole cast of characters who often appear in my posts, residents of the five houses at this end of the short street.

When an adult left the area, Logan sat down to eat. This should have been a video, because Logan was swinging his leg as he ate and the cat wandered by. That was action eating. Logan was very helpful in fetching things, cleaning up, walking Joyce home in the dark, and carrying our chairs back to our porch. He’s always a bright star in the ‘hood.