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I thought I broke my damn toe the other day. It's not the worst in the grand scheme of bad things; however, walking and biking are a big part of my daily routine. Right now it is black and blue and a little sore, but I can bend it so I think it is okay. Yay!

How did I do it?  Well, I am in the habit of racing my little grandson, N, from the front door to the car when he leaves our house. It started out more of a command performance than a habit. Now it is a simple joy. As he is leaving he looks at me with those big brown eyes and exclaims "Race you, Grandma!" I can't resist. I have only won once or twice because he is much faster than me.  But I run for the joy of the race. 

My husband, T, was amused and wondered out loud if I have reached that age where I should stop acting like a child. Sorry honey, but as long as that little boy wants to race me, I'm gonna run.


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It's hot, and it's going to get hotter. June in Florida is idyllic compared to July and August. Worse than being hot, it gets thick and steamy humid.  Like you step out of your car and your glasses fog up kind of humid. I tried to walk barefoot from the house to our curbside mail box yesterday, and already the sidewalk burns the bottoms of my feet. I had to divert my path onto the grass. You may not realize this, but grass in Florida is not the kind of grass you actually want to walk on. Here, the grass grows out instead of up, and is not particularly soft to walk on. There are fire ants. I try to avoid the grass, and I am thankful for flip flops. 

So I know you are all wondering, what does a Florida retiree woman wear in this year-round, subtropical wonderland?  Well, I have a closet filled with t-shirts, shorts, and capris.  This is what I've been wearing every day for the past 4 years. I've never been a fashion maven, although I admire the aesthetics of fashion. I wish I cared more, but I have never had the money or inclination to pursue fashion in any real sense. I admire from afar.

Summer down here is almost too hot for wearing pants, so recently I bought a housedress. It is a simple A-line, sleeveless dress in a soft indigo fabric. This fabulous dress is comfortable and looks passably good on me. How could I resist? It functions well as long as I don't leave the house, try to garden, or bike. For hanging around the house being an aging bon vivant, this housedress is perfect. In fact, I love it beyond reason. I am happy when I put it on. Consequently, I ordered another one just exactly like it. Would it be ridiculous to order a third?  If I have three, it kind of becomes a uniform.  One less choice to make. One less thing to consider. I think I'm good with that. Going online right now for #3.


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On Memorial Day 2018, I choose to honor my my maternal uncle, Joe. He was initially stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii with the Army Air Corp. On the morning of 7 Dec 1941, he was walking back to the barracks after attending mass when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. The heel of his shoe was hit by flying shrapnel, but Joe was not hurt. After Pearl Harbor, he was assigned to Canton Island, a South Pacific coral island, where he helped to operate one the first radar facilities.

Later, he received a transfer to Europe. While traveling from Hawaii to England, the B-17 he was in flew over Griffith, Indiana and “buzzed” his hometown. My mother said they had been expecting it, and everyone knew who it was. Joe, being short (about 5’8”), was a tail gunner flying bombing missions over Germany.

The first week in December, on his 13th mission, his B-17 was shot down over the Black Forest. The crew parachuted to safety. All survived but the pilot. Joe hid in an abandoned farmhouse for 4 or 5 days. He melted snow to drink, and in one of the houses he found one egg, flour and sugar. His feet froze, and he wrapped them in old rags. He decided to try to make it back to the American line. He was dressed up as an old lady, and some German solders spotted him crossing a river.

I wonder if he stole the clothes? He was a beautiful young man, charming, and he spoke German. Perhaps he talked a kind older woman into giving him the disguise?  We never felt like we could ask him, he didn't like to talk about those days. Regardless, he was captured and imprisoned at a German prisoner of war camp until the end of the war.

War, of course, is Hell.  
Uncle Joe, Uncle Jerry, and Grandma (before he was captured)


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It is almost the end of blueberry season in Central Florida. There is a U-pick blueberry farm near us I had never been to. I talked myself into taking my grandson.

I picked N up from school and asked if he wanted to pick blueberries. He was surprisingly enthusiastic, so we went. The farm has a bouncy house for the kids next to the concession area where they sell things like blueberry popsicles and blueberry muffins. First he bounced. Afterwards, he chose the muffin and raved in ecstasy the entire time he was eating it. He hates everything, so this was interesting to me. I'm going to have to find a good recipe for blueberry muffins.

Turns out he is a remarkably good farmworker. The concept of picking enough little berries to fill his pail was not daunting; it inspired him. Of course, he also assumed it was a competition and wanted more than anything to pick more than me. This is what blueberry picking is like when one is all hopped up on testosterone. I tried to be grandmotherly and ignore the competition, but it was a formal challenge! In fact, this challenge was shouted out with great bravado, arms raised with fingers pointed to and jabbing at the heavens. You know how I like to win. I picked with abandon. 

We ended up rather even, but when weighed I had a few berries more. That bothered the boy, so the next day he insisted we go back. This time he had a quiet plan involving going into rows all his own, not following me as he had before. Nothing was said about winning or losing. However, he picked fast and furiously. I pretended not to notice, and picked leisurely as a Grandma should. 

When we had the pails weighed, one weighed more than the other. I told him the heavier one was his and congratulated him. He bellowed in delight. I think you know the truth.

 
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I apologize for how sporadic my posts have been. We've had a lot of visitors, which has been wonderful. It is the end of the school year so there have been plays and kindergarten moving up ceremonies, and the like.  As the Florida primary approaches (August 28, so late) I am busier than ever with coordinating candidate FB Live Q&A's on my beloved secret group.  We are on fire, and some like it hot. I know I do.

I sat down with the sole purpose of writing a blog about something specific.  After writing the first paragraph, I have completely forgotten what I wanted to say.  It was gonna be good, too!  Sheesh.

I can muster up a photo, though.  Will be back in a few days with something of substance.  I'm almost sure of it.

palm fronds and fruit

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I could not sleep when I went to bed last night. I was awash with memories of people I knew at the University over the 37 years I worked there. I was not remembering my work friends in this trip down memory lane. In this particular bout of insomnia I was obsessing about the many faculty members I knew over the years. They paraded by me, in chronological order by place of work. I worked one administrative job or another in 9 different departments in those years, so the parade went on for a long time. I was reminded how deeply I care about most of them, and what an impact they each had on my life.

They are an interesting bunch, those academics. Except for a few notable jerks, they were/are lovely people. The engineers and mathematicians are less sociable with staff than humanists and social scientists are. However, the theoretical and applied "science guys" are still lovely because they are gloriously logical and conflict averse. There is little drama in those departments. I especially liked working in the Department of Mathematics. 

The humanists spent more time interacting and building relationships with the staff. However, they also tend to pull the staff into interpersonal conflicts.  It is a toss up as to what environment was best. I will say I preferred the humanities despite the emotional wear and constant drama. I guess I am a glutton for punishment, or perhaps they were simply more interesting to me.

I worked at an Ivy League research university, so the faculty's contractual duties involved teaching, research, and public service. Some of the professors are the best in the world at what they do. All of them were probably the smartest kids in their high schools. They all made top grades in college. They studied for their PhD's with icons in their respective fields. If they had an overriding fault as a group, it is that they all needed to be perceived as "smart." It needlessly stressed them out! More on that some other time.

None of them were rah rah boosters of the University. It just doesn't seem work that way at a research university. The faculty identified with their international field first and foremost. Where they were employed was of secondary interest, as long they derived sufficient status and salary from the appointment. The central administration never quite understood that. Those bozos are business types who don't quite understand the community they serve. Actually, they may not even understand they "serve" the faculty and students.  Education was our business product, for crying out loud!

Anyway, it was interesting to be around people of such distinction and drive, because I'm not that. 
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We had visitors two weeks ago. We have visitors this week. We will have more visitors the week after next. It is an embarrassment of riches, a plethora of love, an overabundance of hilarity. But most of all, it is an excess of food and drink.

Our current visitors leave today. It has been wonderful. However, I'm stuffed to the gills and sick of food. I don't know if it is the glut of alcohol or sugar, but I am lightheaded and slightly nauseous. Of course, it could also be the fact that I keep forgetting to take my daily medications on time. Yeah, that could definitely be my problem. Let's pretend that's it, okay? Now that we have THAT figured out, I am popping the pills I should have taken 6 hours ago. Maybe I will stop eating pumpkin chocolate chip bread, too. Couldn't hurt.

People like to visit Florida, which is good for us because we like having visitors. We have this entertainment thing down pat. Tom makes amazing dinners and/or we go out to eat. If I make dinner for guests it will either be a stew or pasta. I like stirring the pot, you know what I mean?

Our visitors range from those who only eat french fries and chicken strips to low carb, vegetarian, vegan, diabetic, dairy free, gluten free, food allergies, and everything in between. Got a food issue? We can handle it with one arm tied behind our backs. We like a challenge.

I have a limit though. I prefer people stay no more than 3 nights, although I can manage 4 nights without losing my mind. If they stay a full week, I start hallucinating.

Not only do I forget to take my pills when I have company, I stop remembering to breathe. But I NEVER stop talking or taking pictures. I'm filled with sadness and longing for days after they leave. Sigh. I'm already looking forward to the next bunch. I hope they eat vegetables.






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I had company last week, and had a wonderful time.  For some reason I'm left with nothing to say.  This will pass. 


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I am reminded of a certain fairy tale, The Six Swans. In this story the princess was forced to work her fingers to the bone sewing shirts out of nettle for her six brothers.  They had been turned into swans by their (of course) evil stepmother. The princess could not speak during the duration, so she was unable to tell her father what transpired. Only by silently completing this impossible task could she free her loved ones and herself.

For six long years she toiled until she completed the onerous and painful work. There was blood, for crying out loud! There was a marriage. There was an evil (of course) mother-in-law who kept stealing the princess's new-born babies and making it look like the princess devoured them. Still, the princess could not speak to defend herself or the six brothers would be lost. Finally, at the end of six years she was sentenced to be burned to death for, ostensibly, eating her children.

Only at the last minute did she finish those shirts enough to throw them over her brothers as they flew overhead, returning them to their true shape. The last shirt wasn't entirely finished, so one brother had one wing instead of an arm. What the hell! It was the best she could do.

At the moment of deliverance, she recovered her voice. She was finally able to speak the truth. She got her brothers AND her babies back. That was the big payoff.

Call me crazy, but this reminds me of retirement. How many people at the end of their working lives, having sacrificed themselves for the betterment of their family at jobs they did not love, can relate to this fairy tale? 
Illustration by H.J. Ford



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I picked up my 6 year old grandson from school yesterday. My daughter asked me to take him to the mall to buy plastic animals for a diorama he was making. I'm an amiable sort. I said,"Sure!" O wa ta foo lie am!

Picking N up involves parking 2 blocks from school and walking to get him. Walking back involves dodging rotten older boys on bikes and getting N to keep moving. He's inclined to stop every few steps and pick something up to stick in his pocket, or pluck flowering weeds to make a bouquet for me. He also has a mania for collecting rocks. It was raining, so he had the pleasure of wielding his own umbrella, too. No one was safe.

Halfway to the mall he decided we must play the alphabet game. This involves each of us taking turns finding the next letter of the alphabet on a passing road sign. Try dodging traffic with children's music blaring and a kid screaming "It's your turn, Grandma, find a Z!"

We went to a craft store that sells plastic animals. He was enthralled by the children's aisles, and each step was a negotiation. He knows Grandma is a sucker. He kept disappearing behind stacks of toys, only to emerge with something in hand. Then I had to wrestle him to put those things back.

I agreed to buy one kit for him to bring home. He chose an unfinished wooden train set with acrylic paint and stickers. Yes, acrylic. I didn't realize that when I bought it. I assumed any child's kit would be washable paint. Wrong. Note to self, always read the box, especially when your daughter buys her son expensive designer t-shirts. 

At check-out he announced with the cutest damn smile, "Do I look different?" Well, that's code for "I have something in my pocket you don't know about." We retraced our steps to put it back when we saw a blank puzzle board where a brilliant child could design their own puzzle with markers. I really HAD to get that. When we finally made it to the cashier he yanked a wet umbrella out of the cart. Before I could yell "Stop!" he punched the button to open it in the store. Water spurted everywhere. 

One of reasons I buy him toys he doesn't need is that he will play quietly with them in the car on the way home from the mall. 

At home I collapsed, picked up my iPad and played solitaire at a manic pace. Grandpa took N to the lanai to paint. N kept yelling for me to come out and paint with them. I played solitaire all that much faster, yelling back "Grandma needs to rest, honey." When I forced myself to go and see what transpired, he was already covered with paint. What did I care?

After a much needed shower, he dove right into the puzzle. That would have been fine, except he became bored and decide to turn the puzzle over and draw on the back, too. I tried to stop him. I shrieked "No, don't do that! You'll never know what pieces go with which side!!!" He didn't believe me. I looked the other way and played solitaire with great vigor while he finished.  


I love this kid






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