Let’s Talk Timor-Leste

We all learn something new every day, and I am especially excited when I learn about a new discovery or hear about a fact which one of the kids tells me. Now that we have two “yutes” in the family (see My Cousin Vinny for context), we are continually being enlightened and challenged to keep up with them.

Next on the docket is the country Timor-Leste—aka East Timor. I know little about this island country, and I bet none of you do either. All I know is that it is southeast of Indonesia and it has been a country for less than twenty years.

I will soon be presented with a Power Point presentation in which the story of East Timor will be told to me. I admit that I am blown away by the fact that a first grader knows how to put together a Power Point presentation, research the subject on the Internet on his own, and create a Google Doc to write or share the report with his teacher.

Apparently, while this is shocking to me, it is not unusual for young children today. But when I was a first grader, I was still struggling with “run, Spot, run” and “look, Jane, look.” We did not have computers or smart boards in our classroom or streaming televisions in our home.

I look forward to hearing about Timor-Leste. I am just sorry I was not part of the first grade class when a pumpkin/onion/beans dish was served, which is an example of a favorite food in this country. I wonder if the class was as enthusiastic about this dish as he was.

Are You Old Enough to Make my List?

Now that it is December, I don’t mind listening to Christmas music and I am excited to look at the lights. It is also that time of the year to start panicking about Christmas presents. I need to speak with my sisters about what to get for Grandma, and Kelly is going to let me know what’s on Lily’s list. Bryce is easy, and Dad has several ideas regarding him. Now that we have all agreed not to shop for each other, my list is small so it’s not so bad.

I am still not certain about the cookies, so you all may or may not get a box of sweet memories of the past from me. So that leaves only one thing other than the movies (and I promised Geoff that I would give A Christmas Story one more chance), which is the cards. In the past, we got so many that I was able to deck the halls with boughs of cards. Now, I think that the price of a stamp, which is now at fifty-five cents (Grandma was shocked), along with the fact that more and more people are just losing interest, are the reasons why Christmas cards are disappearing.

Every year, Dad asks me what I am doing about them, and each year, I get lazier and lazier. I told him the other day that I am seriously considering limiting my list to friends and relatives over the age of eighty or eight-five.

So don’t look for a card from us!

Scaling Back

While Dad and I were putting up our outside lights today, it was getting more and more unpleasant because a cold wind was blowing and the lights were getting more and more tangled. As we moved inside to work on the tangles, both of us began to complain  about aches in various body parts.  We tried to joke about the situation, and Dad said he felt like we were in the middle of a Carol Burnett skit. He was Tim Conway. (I know that all of you are too young to get the reference, so check it out on YouTube)

We moved inside to work on the tree, and I observed that more branches no longer fitting into the fake trunk. There are more needles on the floor than last year, and I wonder how many years are left. Dad says this all makes the tree appear more realistic. I think it is a metaphor about our lives.

The lights are up and I place the red and gold beads on the tree alone, because Dad’s aching bones needed a rest. I am writing my thoughts to you now so I have the evening free to watch last night’s episode of Madam Secretary. The real reason, to be honest, is that I am a bit sore myself.  But I want to get this tree done so it is all up and ready for Lily’s visit tomorrow, so I can’t rest for long.

I recall those days when I strung up popcorn and cranberries and we made homemade ornaments. It was back then that I made dozens upon dozens of Christmas cookies and sent out a ton of Christmas cards. That’s not happening to that extent any more. I told Dad that I am thinking of sending cards only to people older than eighty-five.

I thought decorating the tree was now becoming a chore, but as I looked at the ornaments, I realized I was wrong. Each one was a memory.

I saw Jamie’s “baby’s 11th and 13th Chrismas” ornaments and smiled. I saw the wooden Peanuts characters and recalled making them and giving a set to the mother of Dad’s friend in Salt Lake City. Several ceramic ornaments brought me back to those days of going to those ceramic classes, while others reminded me of trips I took and brought back souvenir ornaments.

I look forward to the songs as well as watching the movies, particularly my favorites: Love Actually, The Holiday, and White Christmas. None of us likes A Christmas Story, a revelation which I think was quite shocking to Geoff. I promised him I will give it another try.

So now it’s back to work. Are all of you in the Christmas spirit yet?

Is My Power Gone?

I hate to admit defeat when it involves abandoning the search for a lost item,  since this is my prized inherited talent. After losing and subsequently locating loose diamonds three times, I consider that talent a gift.

Sadly, today was the day of my first failure, so I now wonder if that gift had a limit of three finds. Am I  henceforth relegated to joining the masses of the average men and women who just can’t find things?

Since Dad and I will be off to Washington soon, I decided it was time to put my DC Metro card into my wallet. I went to the business card holder on my desks in the kitchen and laundry rooms, but the card was not there. I proceeded to my bedroom, where I looked through my lockbox, and again I had no luck. I searched high and low, even in places where I knew in my heart it would not be. (Dad had a smug smile on his face.)

I finally had to face the reality that it is forever gone, so I will be forced to purchase another one at the airport. On the bright side, I located fifty dollars in a purse which I had not used since my failed family reunion, along with a full pack of Tic Tacs.  (There is always a silver lining to be found!)

My search took me down memory lane, where I found the business cards of the former Irish Prime Minister; the London business manager of Irish TV who interview me five years ago; the owners of Flannery’s Bar in Wembley, England; the archivist from the National Archives who was so helpful when I was researching my book; and the artist currently living in Malta who was commissioned to paint portraits of both Queen Elizabeth and Nelson Mandela. (An Incredible Artist—Wow #4)

I did not realize I collected library cards, but my search also turned up cards from the Chapel Hill library, Grandpa’s old Boonton library card, my National Archives research card, my Library of Congress research card, and my University of South Carolina Caroliniana card.

My final discovery was this mystery card, which with the use of the Google machine, provided me with a Russian keyboard and Russian to English translator. I believe it may be for a hotel in Russia called Peter’s Palace. Any Russian readers who can help me?

It’s Still Alive

It is now fifteen months since receiving the snake plant from Aunt Linda, and I am so very happy to report that it is not only still alive, but it is thriving. Just a reminder: This plant began as a cutting from a plant that originally belonged to Dad’s grandmother—great grandma Esther.

Dad came up with its name—Yodar—after the character your grandfather created years ago as the family’s chosen name to go into the Yonker’s telephone directory in lieu of paying for an unlisted number. (See Off to Jail.)

Once the temperatures began to dip below freezing at night, I brought newly-potted Yodar inside, where he sits near the front door to welcome our visitors. I feel encouraged that he will live to be passed down through a few more generations.


I Have My Limitations

I have great difficulty doing anything mechanical, and Dad will attest to the fact that my definition of “mechanical” is quite broad. “Mechanical” may be as basic as opening a bottle with a childproof cap or figuring out how to stream a television show.

One day Lily wanted to watch Blippi on YouTube in the pink bedroom, so I followed her there and was faced with great frustration working the Roku. I managed to turn on the television but just could not figure out how to get to YouTube. I pushed one button after another, making certain that the remote was pointed perfectly toward the TV. Finally, finally, finally, I did it, and Lily cheered: “You did it, Grandma!! I know you could!” I should have just given her the remote from the start.

Last week I spent a few nights at my sister’s house while she was away. She left me two videos. One showed how to make a pot of coffee (easy thank goodness) while the other explained how to work her Smart TV. (One needs to be both smart and not mechanically-challenged.)

Again, there were two remotes involved. Just like before, I was able to turn on the television, but I could not figure out how to get the Guide to appear. This was mentioned in the tutorial but not shown, so I was stuck watching the last channel Aunt Ar had watched (MSNBC, not FOX thank goodness!)

Luckily I had loaded my local Spectrum APP on my tablet, so I was able to watch other networks until 9:00, when I switched on the big television and settled down with my glass of wine to watch Rachel Maddow.  I confess that after that stressful experience I had two glasses that night.

If only I had a three-year old to help me! Well, I have many other talents, as long as mechanics is not involved.


A Surprise Meeting

I was in New Jersey recently, and while I was there, I hung out for a while at the American Airlines “Ambassadors Lounge.” When I travel I usually buy the basic economy ticket, which does not permit a change even for a fee, nor does it allow me to choose my own seat, so I usually end up in the middle.

When Dad was working and traveling all the time, his company enrolled him in one of these lounges, which I recalled having free food and wine. We recently decided to splurge by enrolling in a club on our own dime, and I must say, it made my recent trip to the Garden State quite fun.

The bathrooms are considerably nicer (and you all know about my ten-point bathroom scale which I wrote about in The Best Places to Pee), and the breakfasts and lunches were not bad. I had oatmeal, fruit, and yogurt in both Charlotte and Newark (Charlotte’s oatmeal was definitely better than Newark’s), and chili, a lovely salad from the Newark Airport salad bar, and a yummy chocolate chip cookie.

The best surprise happened upon checking into the lounge at Newark Airport. I was asked to show my boarding pass and photo id, and upon handing my driver’s license to the airline employee, it somehow dropped into a crevice at the desk. A hunt for the license followed, and within a short time it was found. I commented that it was not a big deal if it had not been located since I had a duplicate license. I then proceeded to tell the story of losing my license at that same airport earlier that year and then receiving it in the mail after Dad got me a replacement license.

The woman behind the counter then examined the license and then told me that she had been the person who had found and returned my license. I thanked her profusely and then headed to the snack bar.

What a small world!