Monday, April 29, 2013

Post Grandma D's Old Address Book

Grandma D was the one who kept different groups of distant cousins in touch.  We sort of rode on her letter writing, which was prodigious.  In going through the boxes that Mom left behind, I found an old address book that looks like it's Grandma D's.  It's got an address sticker with my Grandfather's name and address pasted to the cover, but he wasn't the one who wrote letters or collected addresses.  So it's Grandma's book.

It's mostly in pencil and therefor smudged and hard to read.  It was completely filled.  Addresses ran over into the front panes and the backs of the covers.  Some were written on scraps of paper and one edge glued to the top of the front cover, so that they can be flipped through. 

A note inside says that Grandpa began working in Buttonwillow (CA) July 24, 1967.  It doesn't say what he was doing, just what his temporary address was.  He was a carpenter and a welder, so he was doing some sort of construction, but I've never heard what. 

There are also interleaved pages glued in, and interleaved address stickers, too.  It makes the small book very flippy.

I recognize some of the last names as family names.  Some of the first names are ones I'm unfamiliar with.  There are friends, too, lots of friends and co-workers and friends of her children.  Some of the addresses are current, for relatives who don't move around.  So this was her last address book,

Let's calculate.  She died at midnight, December 31, 1999.  (It was five years before we had recovered enough to comment that she wasn't Y2K compatible.)  It might have been started 1967.  But she had Parkinson's and was unable to write for the last 5 to 10 years of her life.  Assuming 10 years, that's 2000 - 1967, or 33 years worth of addresses.

It's going to take me awhile to go through it and fit names and addresses into the family tree.  Yes, I'm doing one of those. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post Hell, Aggravation, and other Family Games

Dad worked swing shift most of the time I was in elementary school.  That's when we lived on Walnut Street, in the two bedroom house that my parents had built and were proud of.  My two sisters and I shared one bedroom.

Since he was usually at work while we awake on weekdays, when we played games as a family, it was usually Mom and us, which made a good foursome for board games that didn't have slots for more than four people. 

Aggravation was the first board game that became a regular thing for awhile.  It's played with marbles as tokens and is a steeplechase kind of game, like parcheesi.  We loved it.

Hell is the name of a competative, two-person game of solitaire.  The two people face each other across the table (or floor).  Each has a deck of cards.  The decks must have different patterns on the back, so that you can tell whose card is whose.  Each person sets out cards.  Each has a solitaire setup that they play alone and a center setup, on which both people play.

For the solitaire setup, there's a hell pile of twelve cards played in a stack, face down, with another card face up on top.  Then there are four cards in a line, face up, that can be played on, solitaire fashion.  That is, you can place the next lower card in sequence on any card, with suit color alternating.  A red five on a black six, for instance.

Aces can be placed in the center and they are built on in rising sequence, staying within the suit.  Two of clubs on the ace of clubs, for instance.  Again, you play on your solitaire area and both play on the center.

When a gap opens in your solitair area, you fill it from your hell pile and turn the next card there over.  You can also play directly from your hell pile to the center.  Game play stops when the first person plays the last card from their hell pile.

When game play stops, the center cards are sorted and you tally a point for each card.  If you had cards in your hell pile when play stopped, those count against your score.  The faster you play, the more likely you are to go out.  It can get intense.

Although Dad wasn't home most weekday nights (his days off were Sunday and Monday), this was a game that entered the family as something that Mom and Dad played and we watched.  Later, we'd play against each other, but Mom and Dad always played faster and harder, so watching them play Hell sticks in my mind more than playing it did.  It was fun to watch.  They stayed good humored and enjoyed themselves, but always played to win.

So Hell was the first family game and Aggravation was the second.  I'm guessing that's a function of the family budget.  My folks were always proud of their thrift, which was a good thing because when we were young, it was a very necessary thing. 

Hell can be played with two decks of cards, which are cheap and which can be used for many different games.  Aggravation was more expensive, and could only be used to play Aggravation.  And it was a family game, when it was purchased.  The adults kept it stored and decided when it would be played.

I think the next family game was Yahtzee.  As the years passed and our discretionary income increased, games were purchased that were kid's games and that we kept in our room and could play when we wanted.  The boxes for those games tended to get beat up fairly quickly.  Between the shabbiness and the fact that they were just around and available, they didn't seem as important. 

Odd how that works.  If I stopped and thought, I could probably remember a few of them.  But they were never as important as Hell and Aggravation.  And Yahtzee.  Those were family games and had to be arranged.  They were more important.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Post Dog Pictures

Kayla and Buddy in their pavillion, with the round doggy cushion inside.  We would never have set it up in front of the fireplace if we'd known that it would survive.

It's a cheapy kid's toy from Ikea.  Buddy is rough and Kayla is an inveterate chewer.  We thought it was doomed, but cute enough, for as cheap as it was, to bring home for a brief while.

Turns out the dogs love it.  Picture rueful shrug here.

They're both mutts.  Or mixed breed, if you prefer.  Kayla is my puppy.

Buddy was cuter when he was smaller.  Also softer to pet.  But he's still softer to pet than Kayla.  Buddy is the youngest son's girlfriend's dog.  

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Post The Chicken and the Egg [philosophy]

I have long known that the supposed joke of the chicken or the egg was a shibboleth spread by Creationists.* But I didn't know that the Chicken and the Road question was so philosophical.

Add that to the chicken joke from Long Dark Teatime of the Soul*, and you have to wonder if every chicken joke is profound.**

*It was S2, my youngest sister, who brought this to my attention.  I think she was in junior high at the time.  She shared with me the actual answer to the joke, which was that the bible said that the birds of the air were created all on one day, so that meant that the chicken had come first.  I don't think she meant it as a point of personal dogma, she was just pleased to have found an authority to quote on the matter.
I thought it over and decided that, if considered from an evolutionary perspective, there would have been a theoretical moment when a non-chicken produced an egg with the final mutation that resulted in a chicken.  Or maybe it would have been too gradual to determine the divide between non-chicken and chicken.
While I was pondering that, I remembered that, again from an evolutionary perspective, eggs had been laid by creatures for millions of years before chickens evolved.  I know that's kind of a cheap shot answer, since I'm pretty sure that the joke is referring to chicken eggs, not fish or amphibian or reptile ones, but I liked the reference to authority and I liked it's symmetry with my sister's answer.
Conceivably, if everyone realized that there was a creationist answer and an evolutionary answer, one could ask the riddle and use the answer to see if the questionee was one of us or one of them.
**First Person: "We're terribly worried about Uncle Henry. He thinks he's a chicken."
Second Person: "Well, why don't you send him to the doctor?"
First Person: "Well, we would only we need the eggs."

Monday, April 8, 2013

Post English to English Translation

On an interned forum I read, regarding relatives who refuse to wear hearing aids: "She has developed an irritating habit of nodding at everything we say, pretending to have heard us when we know she hasn't."

My aunt got in this habit. This one is Father's younger sister. She also had never been in a hospital in her life. She was even born at home, about which there was an amusing family story. 
Then she had to go to the hospital in an ambulance. For awhile they didn't think she was going to make it.  Then she recovered enough to be awake.  She was nervous and just fell back on smiling and nodding when anyone she didn't know talked to her. 
The nurses and doctors thought she understood and scheduled whatever they had been talking about. Then the procedure would start and she'd be startled and terrified.
She had moved 500 miles away from her main family and was 200 miles away from me. So I basically had to go stay in her hospital room and do what my sister called English to English translation. The nurse or doctor would talk, and she would nod and they would nod, and they'd make a note on their board.  And then I'd lean over and yell straight in her ear, saying what they'd said. She'd frown and ask me to repeat and start asking questions, and very often say no, she didn't want that or it wasn't like that and they'd have to change their notes. 
I talked to the nurses and put up signs saying you had to yell and that if she couldn't repeat it back, she hadn't heard it. Eventually, she told me that she owned a set of hearing aids that she didn't like and didn't use.  They were in her dresser drawer. I brought them in and they helped a little. It was hard to turn them up high enough to work without causing a feedback squeal, so I could see why she'd avoid them if she was at home with her husband.
Having any kind of hearing aid put her ahead of her husband, who didn't have or want a set and was also wheelchair bound. He had gotten used to not dealing with anyone while she took care of him.  It appeared that they had a habit of having conversations past each other.  If they really needed to communicate, they got up close and yelled and and yelled until enough got through to satisfy them, or until they were too tired to care.
When she landed in the hospital, a good time was not had by all.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Post Stacks of Things

It's not hoarding if it's something you're going to use, and use up, and you're really just buying ahead on sale.  In fact, you can brag about it. You have stocked up.  You are set.  Other people can pay more because they didn't make the effort to buy ahead, but you're sitting pretty.

I'm not talking about things like Dad and the napkins from the restaurant.  They may have been stacked on the corner of the kitchen counter, ready to use, but he didn't buy them.  In order to stock up, there must be a purchase.  So this does not apply to Grandma L's plastic strawberry baskets, or to the napking and spork packets from Kentucky Fried Chicken that she used to collect and then mail to me. 

What counts are the Ivory Soap bars that Dad would buy ten 4-packs at a time, when the price dropped low enough.  At one point he had a whole shelf in the towel cupboard filled with them.  It was a small cupboard, but it's possible that he never had to buy soap again.

Well, a normal person wouldn't have had to.  Dad was fixated on killing germs, though, so I'm sure he went through it.  Even for him, though, it had to have been multiple year's worth of soap.

He did the same thing with toilet paper.  The cheapest brand, of course.  Or, rather, the cheapest name brand.  But that was bulky enough, and we all went through it fast enough, that even filling a shelf or more (which he did) would not free us from having to purchase it again for very long.

He also watched the price of motor oil, and always changed his own.  He had a rant about the foolishness of people paying someone else to change their oil.  It was mathematically sound.

I don't change my own oil.  I'm flush enough to pay the cost of a quickee lube oil change.  They didn't have those back then, and he probably wouldn't have trusted them if they had.  And back when I was broke, I changed my own. 

So he would wait for motor oil to be on sale and buy a flat at a time.  He also had a bucket-sized can of bearing grease and a hand pump.  He greased his own wheels and taught me how to grease mine.  As little as he used each time, if he didn't still have that bucket when he died, it was because it got lost or water damaged or something.  He sure didn't run out.

But the thing that my Mom and both Grandma's would stock up on is Fels Naptha. 

I'm not sure what the Grandma's used it for.  In our house, it was used to wash gym shoes, back when gym shoes were white canvas tennis shoes.  It was a time before Adidas or Nike, and those white cloth shoes scuffed and stained easily.

I only inherited a couple of bars from Mom.  But that's because she gave me five bars five or six years before she died.  She wasn't going through it like she used to when she had kids.

I foget how many I got when Grandma L died.  I was out of state by about two thousand miles when Grandma D died, so I was spared.  Still, it's only been a year or two since I did the big purge under the kitchen sink and either threw out or donated nine bars.  I kept one.


If you know that no other pre-treatment is going to touch a stain on cloth, and you're willing to take a scrub brush to it, Fels-Naptha is the way to go.  If it can't get it out, nothing will. 

I have to admit that I'm really keeping the last bar for sentimental reasons.  The feel and the smell just make me feel that the cupboards are stocked for anything. 

Monday, April 1, 2013

Post The Velveeta box and the Flashlight

I found another old journal entry.  it was an exercise in writing every day.  It started out with a complaint that I couldn't think of anything to write about, and it turned into writing about a little memory. 
Reading it, It feels kind of like starting a lawnmower - a couple of unproductive yanks before things start puttering along.

The thoughts hide when I'm armed with a pen. A pen's line is too sharp. It can cut ideas like a string cuts cheese.

The Velveeta (tm) weeps at the slicing.

Father mailed a flashlight in a Velveeta box, once. It was our box [my sisters and I]. We had been using it to hold crayons all our lives.

He laughed, thinking of the person at the other end opening it and seeing all the rainbow net of random marks on the inside cardboard. But it was the right size. So the flashlight went in with the letter that their batteries had leaked far too soon and ruined the flashlight and what were they going to do?

He was very happy when the new flashlight came. It was a triumph and a lesson to us.

I don't know that we did with the crayons after that. I can remember a tin - a round fruitcake tin that was hard to open and pained the fingers. Perhaps it inspired us to keep crayola boxes intact longer.

It was a better flashlight. We liked the shiny silver. And we were getting old enough to want to throw out crayon stubs.
[I emailed my sister, after finding it.]

Do you remember the box and Dad sending the flashlight away? I remember us both watching the whole thing. I suspect that using our box made us feel involved. 
[She replied]
Yes, I remember the flash light story. He was over the moon they gave him a better flash light.