Brain drain... On lo mein, cracked pots, and other loves

Brain drain... On lo mein, cracked pots, and other loves

Wherein I ramble on...

Brianna is starting to show. And that's pretty darn awesome. She and Patrick find out next week if their first baby is a boy or a girl. I'm hoping for a girl... yet wonder if it's wrong to even consider hoping for one gender over another considering what they've gone through to get this far. Of course I'll be thrilled with another grandson but as this is likely my final grandchild, adding a girl to the grand group seems fitting. (Don't tell anyone, but I do think it's a girl.)

The life God intended. Conversations and situations

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8 intriguing questions... and answers

pondering angel

I've had the box of Family, Let's Talk questions on my desk for a while now, with plans to use some of the more intriquing ones as the genesis of a blog post or two.

As I read through the fill-in-the-blank questions yesterday, I realized I'm more interested in how you, the Grandma's Briefs readers, might answer them than...

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The Saturday Post: Mama Then & Now edition

The International Museum of Women recently launched Mama Then and Now, the latest gallery in the moving and thought-provoking online exhibition called MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe.

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe explores the lives, visions and voices of mothers from more than 60 countries. Personal stories are shared through original creative works including film, music, art and more.

One of the highlights of Mama Then and Now is the following video in which women from around the world reflect on their personal motherhood experience and the generational differences between the grandmothers, mothers, and daughters of their families.

MAMA: Motherhood Around the Globe also offers in-depth looks at Heroes: International Council of 13 Indigenous Grandmothers, Activist Grandmothers, tongue-in-cheek, Facebook-inspired embroideries in a feature called Friend Me , and much, much more.

Take a look MAMA...then share it with the other mamas in your life.

Today's question:

How is your mothering and grandmothering experience different from your mother's and grandmother's?

10 things this grandma wants to know

1. How to get natural-looking, 100% gray coverage from home coloring products that promise exactly that. I've gone from brown with gray roots that have become trunks with far-reaching vines highlights to Bronco orange to not-so-orange in the past week trying to figure it out.

2. Why my grandsons seem to be sick so much more often than my daughters ever were. Why all kids nowadays seem to be sick so much more often than kids used to be.

3. What the point is of non-binding caucuses. If it makes no difference in the grand scheme of things, why waste so much time, money, effort?

4. How to succeed at growing anything in the mountain desert gardening zone in which I live. I'd like to know before I once again waste so much time, money, effort (and water!).

5. Why sometimes using the auto setting on my DSLR camera results in awesome photos and other times they look like <cuss>.

6. If a despicable, child-killing, poor excuse for a human being gets a free pass through the pearly gates simply because he asked for forgiveness in advance of his heinous act. Or in an email to his pastor. Or at the very last minute. Seriously.

7. Okay, so there are four time zones: Eastern, Central, Mountain, Pacific. If it's 9 p.m. in Eastern time zone, it's 8 p.m. in Central, 7 p.m. in Mountain, 6 p.m. in Pacific. So why do television programs advertised as being on at "9 p.m. Eastern/8 Central" play at 8 p.m. in the Mountain time zone?

8. I want to know what love is. I want you to show me. Okay, not really. I know that one, but how could I resist? (Resist what? you ask? Ummm...referring to this...from Foreigner, not Mariah.)

9. Why the marijuana legalization issue is an issue at all when (legal!) alcohol has ruined far more lives and killed far more people than marijuana ever will.

10. Why this silly little family won't move closer to Gramma: 

Well, I do know the answer to that one. And I respect it. But it can't hurt to ask again.

This post linked to Grandparent's Say It Saturday.

Today's question:

What do you want to know?

7 perfect things: My week in review

I have a tendency to focus on things that need improvement, ways I need to be better to make my life better. Not today, though. Today I'm taking a different tack and focusing on ways my life is already pretty darn good. Perfect, in fact—at least this past week, at least in these seven ways:

My bed sheets. I love my sheets. Don't ask me the thread count because I have no idea. I just know that each time I've pulled back my comforter this week, the color (a dusty purple of sorts) and the comfort when I climb in warms my heart.

Bedside stack o' books. I read before falling asleep, and my current "to read" stack is one of the best I've had in a while. Featured: The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman; Life Itself by Roger Ebert; Freedom by Jonathan Franzen; Labor Day by Joyce Maynard. Now if I could just stay awake long enough to get through the two I currently have in process—non-fiction courtesy Connie Schultz and fiction from Amy Hatvany—so I could delve into that stack. (Must be the afore-mentioned bed sheets sending me straight to slumber.)

Jim's continued support of my non-traditional career choice. My husband is my No. 1 fan and that helps in more ways than I usually tell him. Especially during times...<clears throat> this week....when I consider throwing in the towel and getting an office job.

Alcatraz. The new series featuring Hurley, er, Jorge Garcia and produced by Mr. Lost himself (J.J. Abrams for those who didn't succumb to Lost) premiered this week. It was thoroughly enjoyable, intriguing, and indicative of good things to come.

Clementines & kiwis. This week's bowl of fruit has been especially sweet. And perfect.

My new camera. I've not yet perfected even the smallest degree of its functions and potential, but the camera itself is perfect, and I'm so pleased with what I've been able to do with it so far, including the one above of Wednesday's sunset.

"The Sweetheart" jeans from Old Navy. Sure, they're hand-me-downs from Megan when she started losing all her weight, but they're broken in, they're soft, they're comfy as <cuss>. I love these jeans. And I think I look pretty darn okay in them to boot.

Today's question:

What was perfect for you this past week?

11 things I learned last year

No. 6: Two grandsons are better than one.

1. How to make salmon, cut mango, appreciate the delights of a boldly flavored balsamic vinegar.

2. Every once in a while hype is well warranted. Case in point: Adele.

3. The older I get, the more unbidden kindness and consideration matters, makes a difference.

4. My black thumb is apparently permanently tattooed that color and will never transform into green. (Though I'll surely give transformation yet another attempt this year.)

5. Despite the complaints and bad press, I'm unashamed to admit I love Netflix. Especially instant streaming for without it, I'd never know the thrills, chills, and chuckles of Friday Night Lights, Sons of Anarchy, Nativity!.

6. Two grandsons are indeed double the fun, double the pleasure of one and two of my life's greatest pleasures day in, day out, whether I see them or not.

7. Although decades removed from the drama and trauma of the teen years, mid-life friendships are still fickle affairs. Some flounder and fade for reasons unclear, while others grow and glow brighter than ever—also for reasons unclear yet much appreciated.

8. Committing yourself to fulfilling your heart's desire is worth far more than money. Most of the time.

9. Less really isn't more, it's still less—especially when it comes to having. But it's manageable, survivable, easier than previously believed.

10. There are benefits to having less, though: It highlights the abundance of blessings remaining for which to be endlessly grateful: a loving family, a welcoming home, continued co-pay assistance.

11. Those things that go bump in the night at my house really are just my boogedy boiler. (Or so I keep telling myself...and my houseguests.)

Today's question:

What did you learn last year?

8 reasons besides Christmas December warms my heart

The cookie swap lineup a few years ago.1. My family's annual cookie swap, which has been happening for more than 25 years (no one knows the number for sure). It's the one tried, true, and continuing tradition I share with my mom and sisters, and all the kids and kids' kids we've produced.

2. My middle daughter's birthday, the goofy and great mother of my grandsons. Happy birthday, Megan!

3. My son-in-law's birthday, as equally goofy and great as my daughter to whom he's married and the sons to whom he's the dad. Happy birthday, Preston!

4. My dear friend's birthday, the one friend I've stayed (thankfully) close to for more years than any other. Happy birthday, Debbie.

5. The birthday of a friend from days long gone (but still a Facebook friend!). The high-school friend who graciously invited me to live with her when my mom moved mid junior year. The friend who, inexplicably so, was later diagnosed with MS, just as I was, just as her Dad had been years earlier. Truly, inexplicable. Thoughts of her always warm my heart, make me smile. Happy birthday (today!), Joanie.

6. My baby sister's birthday. A baby sister all grown up—grown up to be several inches taller than me, in fact, and oh-so much stronger in oh-so many ways. Happy birthday, Susan.

7. The anniversary of being laid off from my longest-held job. Three years ago I became an editor no more. I thought it was an end, but it was truly just the beginning of great and unexpected things. Happy anniversary to me...and to all my Special Sections co-horts who were laid off with (and some before) me! 

8. The countdown to a new year, a new year which holds the promise of being, as always, better than the one ending.

Today's question:

What about December besides Christmas warms your heart?

13 things that scare me


During this spooky season, it's not goblins and ghosts that give me goosebumps, but these...

13 things that scare me:

• Holiday potlucks with people I don't know well enough to have been to their house to see how they prepare food

• Holiday potlucks with some of the people I do know well enough to have been to their house to see how they prepare food

• The sound of rocks being stacked, reminding me of Crowhaven Farm

• One of my grandkids...or kids...or Jim...or myself falling down the millions of stairs in my house

• The state of our society as we struggle to adjust to and compensate for the thousands (millions?) of jobs lost that will never return

• Grown men in Speedos

• Having a flat tire in a dark, relatively seedy part of Denver after a PR event. (Which, believe it or not, happened last night. Luckily Brianna drove, Brianna changed the tire...while I used my iPhone as a flashlight for her.)

My boiler

• Sleeping with one hand over the edge of the bed

• Jim's driving (It's not him, it's me...most of the time)

• No life insurance

• Having an angry—or amorous—buck charge me and the dogs while on our morning walk

• The possibility I may never have a book traditionally published

Photo: stock.xchng

Today's question:

What scares you?

Time is on our side


Nearly 20 years ago, I tried to steal my sister's son. Well, steal isn't quite the word. More accurately, I tried to save my sister's son, my nephew.

Nearly 20 years ago, my youngest sister was young, divorced, and had two sons—the youngest lived with her; the oldest, with his dad in the Pacific Northwest. Her life was, to put it mildly, a mess. She was in a drug-fueled relationship with an abusive maniac who thought nothing of beating the hell out of her, of shooting a gun right next to her head as he held her against a wall and threatened to kill her if she considered leaving him.

Which she didn't consider because, as such stories go, she loved him.

She loved her son, too, though, and knew the situation was a dangerous one for the little boy to be in, to witness. So she often asked me to babysit him. Which I did. Often. Little J stayed many a night at my house, ate many a meal with my family, was a welcome part of my family.

One particularly bad time, my sister asked me to have J stay at my house for the night, as Wacko Boyfriend was wackier than ever. She also asked that if she didn't call me at regular intervals through the night, that I come check on her. She wouldn't not go home for fear her boyfriend would come after her, so I had no choice but to agree.

My sister called once, then twice, as she was supposed to. Then no more calls. As my fear and panic became unbearable, I asked Jim to stay with the kids while I went to see if my sister was still alive.

When I arrived, the door of her apartment was slightly ajar. I knocked, I called out, I begged for my sister to answer. Which she didn't. I was scared to go inside, just in case her boyfriend was there with a gun to her head. I was scared to not go inside, just in case her boyfriend was there with a gun to her head. Or worse.

I couldn't bring myself to go in alone, though. So I knocked on the door of a neighboring apartment. An enormous black man who looked much like the linebackers I'd seen on TV answered. Inside were a few of his friends, also similarly large and scary-looking to this silly white girl begging for help in rescuing her sister. After a few fearful glances at one another, the big burly guys agreed to accompany me to my sister's apartment.

It was the scariest experience of my life. I was scared for my sister. Scared of the strangers I asked for help. Scared we'd all be ambushed by a freaking maniac if we went into the apartment.

We knocked. We slowly entered. We tentatively searched the apartment. We found no one.

Then, out the patio door, I saw my sister take off running and jump into a car with her boyfriend. I quickly thanked the linebackers, raced to my car, and took chase after my sister, believing she was being taken against her will.

When I finally caught up with them, my drugged-up sister pointed at me through the window and laughed as the car sped away. The joke was on me. A horrible, heartbreaking horror of a joke.

I returned home devastated, worried about what was happening to my sister. Most of all I was worried about what might eventually happen to my nephew. So when my sister called the next day, acting as if nothing had happened, as if she could just drop by and pick up her son, I told her I wasn't letting him go with her, that I was keeping him until she straightened her life out.

Surprisingly, there was no resistance from her.

Then, as Jim, my daughters, and I—along with my nephew—got ready for church, my sister pulled up in front of my house. With a cop. A cop who told me I had to give J to his mother. My sister wouldn't look at me, just stood by her car. The cop told me he understood how insane this was, but that legally I had to hand over my nephew. That his mother, as crazy as her situation—as she—apparently was, the boy was hers and I had no right to keep him. He knew it was wrong, the cop said, but it was the law.

I surrendered J to his mother. To my sister. Who had seemingly lost her mind.

Not long after that heartbreaking weekend, J's dad came to town to take custody of J. I honestly don't recall exactly how it all transpired, who had contacted him—such holes in my memory being the reason I could never write a memoir—but he came to save his son. Something I couldn't do. He had J's brother with him, kindly brought both boys to our house to tell us goodbye. Then he took them away.

We never saw either of the boys again.

Until yesterday.

My sister had thankfully pulled her life together several years after losing her boys. She got rid of the maniac boyfriend—after having three children with him. Three incredible children, all pretty much adults now, who are better off because their mom ran and hid and healed. Better off because, harsh as this sounds, their father died in a car accident before they knew the horrors of him.

My sister's contact with her two boys in the Pacific Northwest was sporadic and strained over the years, the pain and lies and misunderstandings too hard to overcome. Not long ago, though, they did overcome them. My sister finally visited, hugged, talked earnestly and honestly, offered apologies and explanations.

That was this past spring. This past weekend, the two boys came to visit their mom and half siblings. A party was held yesterday so as much extended family as could make it would also reconnect with the two boys. Two boys we hadn't seen in nearly twenty years. Two boys who had grown into bright, delightful, funny, interesting, and admirable young men.

I've not yet found the words to describe it. I won't even try.

I will, though, give thanks. Because although time—regardless of what anyone says—does not heal all wounds, it does lead to some level of forgiveness, some degree of grace, some appreciation for the time that is left.

I give thanks that forgiveness was offered. I give thanks for such grace. And, especially, I give thanks for the time that is left.

Today's question:

Who would you like to reconnect with in your extended (or immediate, even) family?

5 things I used to be...and one I still am

Because of various opportunities presented to me in the past few weeks, I find myself again and again promoting the notion that I'm qualified for this or that because of things I used to do, things I used to be. More and more I feel like I'm singing an off-key version of Bruce Springsteen's Glory Days, trying to convince the world I once was great...back in the day.

Despite no longer being things I tout, I keep telling myself it's okay to utilize them when appropriate, that the sum of my parts, my past, make me who I am today.

The one I've been utilizing of late is that I used to be the special sections editor at the newspaper. Although a writer long before that, it's the "editor" title that seems to make people take notice. Little do most realize that the "editor" title was just that: a title. No powerful abilities, no magical results. Except, of course, when it comes to impressing folks who might open a door for a writer. So for that thing I used to be, I am truly thankful (but mostly thankful it's no longer something I'm required to be).

There are plenty of others things I used to be.

I used to be shy. Achingly shy. Turn-my-stomach-into-knots-and-render-my-voice-mute-in-the-face-of-strangers-and-authority shy. Until I had children to protect and support in the face of teachers, doctors, coaches, bad boyfriends and more. Being crowned editor helped, too, as with that title came the obligation to speak up and protect my people and publications, my writers and our writings in the face of the newspaper and advertising gods that be...or were.

I used to be one to work with numbers, not words. I worked for mortgage companies, for a major auto finance company. I learned to hate numbers. But I also learned to pay attention to them—and to be a formidable force when it comes to securing a mortgage, even tougher when buying a car.

I used to be a licensed nail tech. Am I now someone with a penchant for perfectly polished fingers and toes? Far from it. But it made me less ashamed of my hands. The hands I used to hide at all awkward costs because of hateful comments made by a sister. Not because my hands became beautifully manicured, but because it's impossible to work on someone else's while hiding your own. So I stopped hiding them. And stopped worrying about things my sister said. And stopped thinking such things mattered at all.

I used to be a Girl Scout Leader. Did it leave me craftier and wiser than the average mama bear? No. But it did give me three life principles I regularly fall back on: 1) Make new friends, but keep the old; 2) Be prepared; and 3) Right over left, left over right, makes a knot neat and tidy and tight.

As the post title says, those are five things I used to be. Five things I am no more.

And the one I still am? Simple: I am a mother and wife, the one thing I've been longer than any other thing.

But that's two, you say? No. Having been pregnant when Jim and I married, the mom-and-wife things go hand-in hand, are one. And it's that one that I've been for the majority of my life and above all else. Fortunately that one thing expanded to become many. The mother of babies, then toddlers, adolescents and teens became a mother of adults. All very different things, but very much the same. The mother of adults become a mother-in-law. Then, of course, that mother expanded (as did her heart) when she became a grandmother...partner to a grandfather. Still a mother and wife.

All the things I once was made a difference, but it's the one I still am that truly defines me, that matters the most. The one that always will matter most. The one I always will be.

Photo: That's my peeps. That's what matters.

Today's question:

What did you used to be? What will you always be?

A little of this, a little of that ... not!

Where I'm least likely to exercise moderation. (Can you blame me?)Yesterday's post and question was about cupcakes, and Grandma Kc mentioned in her comment that although she loves sugar, she's pretty good about "moderation."

Well, I'm not good about moderation. At least when it comes to some things. Here are a few of those things:

Accumulating books. I plea for free ones for review, I download free ones, I buy as many as I can afford from and the bargain shelves at Barnes & Noble. I have a serious book addiction — even when I'm physically unable to read them all. Crazy, I know.

Doritos. Yes, they're horrible for you, which is why I do my best to not purchase any because regardless of how horrible they are for you, if they're in the house, I eat them. But Jim loves them, so I occasionally acquiesce — then eat them until my TMJ acts up and my jaw pops ... or locks up completely.

Recipes. I've got an out-of-control recipe and cookbook obsession, despite using only a few of my many recipes on a regular basis. They just all look so darn good that I tell myself that I will definitely make them ... one day.

Pictures of loved ones. I can't take just one ... or one hundred. More, more, more is my motto. Now if only I had the money to print them all, my obsession might be satisfied.

Bubby. Moderation is not even a consideration here. I truly cannot get enough of him, yet I keep trying. And he feeds into the one just prior to this: pictures. I'll never have enough pictures of him, either. It's a vicious cycle.

Socks. I love socks, especially unusual ones, cool ones, non-black-or-white ones. It used to be standard when the girls would ask, "What do you want for Christmas?" (or Mother's Day or my birthday) that I'd respond with "socks." They satisfied my sock cravings for a while, then simply groaned every time I asked for more. So I don't get socks anymore. At least not from them.

Candles. Replace "socks" in the paragraph above with "candles" and you'll get the idea.

There is certainly more that proves moderation is not my middle name, but that's a start. A moderate start, I admit.

Hey, maybe I'm on to something here: proof that I can do moderation.

At least to a moderate degree.

Today's question:

In what are you least likely to exercise moderation?

Label me loony

Last week I told you about all the press releases I get in my mail box and how I delete them all. At least most of them. I must admit there are a few product pitches I fall for, and most recently it was labels.

I'm a sucker for labels. Not labels marking a person part of this clique or that stereotype or a renegade marching to his or her own beat. No, I mean the labels marking a thing mine. Mine alone. Per the label with my name — and only my name — clearly printed for one and all to see.

I'm not sure exactly how my label obsession began but I think it had something to do with one of my favorite gifts ever received as a child: a book of labels all marked LISA, given to me by a well-intentioned relative. Stickers in the shapes of circles, stars, squares, hearts, rectangles bearing my name in block, cursive and wingy-dingly fonts of varied colors. They were lovely, and they were mine. Only mine, an uncommon affair in a family of seven kids. I marked anything and everything ... at least anything and everything that was mine.

The fixation on labeling all things LISA increased when I started babysitting and used my hard-earned cash to buy my own goodies — everything from books and records to socks, shirts, and snacks purchased just for nibbling on with my friends or by myself — and needed to protect such goods from some especially sticky-fingered siblings.

Label it or lose it became my motto. (Of course, the tactic wasn't always fool-proof.)

Then Jim and I first entered into twitterpated-ness, he fed into my labeling obsession right away in especially cutesy-coy fashion. Using an old hand-held Dymo label maker, he fashioned our first love note: a label reading "Iay Ovely Ouyay."

Labels continued to be the name the game from that moment forward. I labeled record albums, books, dishes and utensils shared during potlucks. I labeled the girls' clothes with their initials so they'd know what belonged to whom. And when they became old enough to steal my socks wear the same size footwear as me, I labeled the bottoms of my sports socks with MOM so they'd steer clear of mine. (Although as MOM upside-down is merely WOW, that tactic wasn't always foolproof either.)

Now that Jim and I are the only ones with socks in the laundry, it's pretty obvious the size 13 men's socks are his, the size 7 ladies socks are mine. No need for labels anymore. For the most part.

That didn't stop my heart from twittering a tad when I recently received an e-mail offering the opportunity to try out Name Bubbles, newfangled waterproof labels that stick to anything. Best of all, the PR company asked me to simply supply the name I wanted on my review labels and they'd be on their way to me. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.

And I didn't refuse it.

I gotta admit, though, that despite having no need whatsoever for waterproof labels fit for camp clothes, water bottles, and school totes, it sure was tough to not offer up LISA as what I wanted on the Name Bubbles headed my way. I seriously considered it.

What stopped me was knowing that if I had done that and Jim started seeing new evidence of my seemingly silenced labeling obsession, my dear husband would surely offer up his own label for me — that of LOSER.

So I caved ... and am soon expecting some shiny new Name Bubbles personalized with Bubby's real name.

I'm wondering if his future wife will one day rue a seemingly innocuous gift once given him by his well-intentioned grandma.

Photo: stock.xchng

Today's question:

Which of your possessions do you label? And how?