Thursday, December 26, 2013

Tumbling Rocks

Hmmm....Maybe I'm getting my blogging shoes back on.

 I spent some time yesterday sorting through some old comments which then lead to my reading some of my old posts, and realized that some of them were actually pretty good.  Unfortunately at the time I wrote most of  them, I probably had about 10 or 12 readers.  Some newer readers have told me they've gone through the list on the side of the page and read more. One old friend said he actually read the whole that is a friend indeed!

Anyway, I ran across one that had been tickling my brain for quite a while after I noted that one of my favorite people had used a similar idea to one I remembered using,  although he had absolutely no way of knowing I'd used it back in 2010.  A small discussion group I'm a part of used the same metaphor/simile in a really fruitful discussion a couple of weeks ago, and I just couldn't rest until I found my piece.  Here 'tis.

In re-reading it, I'm convinced that many of you who have just spent some time tumbling with an assortment of relatives or friends in what may have been close quarters might find food for thought there.  My discussion group came up with comments describing what the "rock tumbler experience" might be like as "uncomfortable", "loss of personal control", "rough", "frightening", "eventually beautiful", and others.

Every time my increasingly large family gathers, I could use exactly those words to describe the experience.  I heave a huge sigh of relief when most of these gatherings are over, especially the lengthier ones where we're all under one roof for a week or so.  If we come out with somewhat smoother edges and there are no sparks to speak of, I count it a successful, and sometimes beautiful experience.  Even if it's kind of rough and uncomfortable, we are all usually willing to give it another whirl after a little alone time, because that's what families do. 

How was your holiday rock tumble this year? Feel free to comment below or on Facebook or to me personally at


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Random Christmas Thoughts from Me to You

Ahhh...Christmas Eve and I actually have a few minutes to myself.  The last of the packages are wrapped and actually have matching ribbon and tags for the most part, the rolls are rising, the Walkers are making a last minute grocery run, and the house is quiet for a bit. We've enjoyed the company of good friends, and await the conclusion with our family tonight and a quiet day tomorrow...All is Calm,...All is Bright.

As some of you know, this year we are awaiting a baby.  Sarah will bring what will probably be the final grandchild into our family soon, and we're all awaiting his or her arrival with great anticipation.  Somehow the miracle of birth is always awe inspiring no matter how many you've experienced or how over populated the world might be. Each new life brings with it a promise and hope.

Walker III  has already received some nice cards and gifts, some monetary, others food remembrances from his customers and relatives.  His joy in opening a card from an unexpected source showed me how little it takes to please him.  Our gifts to him this year aren't large, and they actually involve clothing.  He has become active in a Young Life group geared toward adults with disabilities and it's his favorite thing in the world right now...he is a BELIEVER!  I'm not sure he nor I understand exactly what that means, but that's okay...he's convinced it's so.  He's getting a new Young Life logo jacket and stocking cap, which I suspect might get some wear this year, and an upgrade to his old flip phone, which he has reluctantly agreed to.  He and his dad are out selecting it as I write.

Molly and Katie and their families are doing what young families do...attending sporting events and performances...and two of these were really significant to me this year.  Molly and Robert went to Groton to see Robert and attend Lessons and Carols last week while I kept their little boys, and Molly send me a text on Sunday morning that the service would be streamed live.  After going to our church, then The Nutcracker, I was a little less than enthusiastic about watching the tiny screen and kind of jerky picture, but after a little tinkering, we got pretty good reception.  Robert was head acolyte, and at the recession, he proceeded carrying the cross straight into my was fabulous!   The other involved three of the middle boys and their school's annual Christmas program...this year they did the usual Christmas songs by grade, but the finale was 400 plus first through sixth grade boys  in choir robes and red bows singing the Halleluiah Chorus...You just can't imagine!

So...I'm going to go finish up the table, get my hair done, and get ready for the onslaught of my family...the chaos and fun will begin.  Merry Christmas to each of you wherever you may be, and may you have nothing but blessings in the New Year.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Comfort Zone

As some of my regular readers may recall, I spent some time a year or two ago challenging myself to attack things outside my comfort zone, and for the most part, I found that I felt a great sense of accomplishment after doing so. I found that some things were actually fun after I passed the fear threshold (making the video for my class reunion) and others were still a bit too scary for me (riding the Seadoo alone). I discovered that I could push myself a bit at the gym or in Pilates, but some injuries resulted, and I’m reconciled to never being a hard body.(As if I have ever been since ninth grade!)

I struggle on a daily basis with Walker III who NEVER wants anything to change to such an extent that for years he never wanted to watch a movie or TV show he had never seen before. This summer we dragged him, not exactly kicking and screaming, but reluctant, to see The Way, Way Back with us and had a great afternoon and evening out. He found enough familiar about it that he relaxed and enjoyed it after a few minutes and even opened up and talked about it during dinner. Just getting up the courage to try is always the hard part for all of us.

As we age it’s really easy to settle into our favorite chair with our favorite comfy clothes and watch channels on television that we agree with and read books and newspapers that reflect what we already believe. That, my friends, is a recipe for sinking quickly into the quicksand of being really, really old. Instead of watching re-runs of favorite shows, why not tune in something totally new and different for at least thirty minutes a day. Yes, you may be shocked at the language, but you also may also get a belly laugh or two. (Try The Big Bang Theory for a start or Two Broke Girls or Modern Family.) Read an article from the New York Times or The Washington Post or listen to the news from PBS instead of the network you usually do.
Go to shopping center or a park or a museum or art gallery in a neighborhood you never visit, and just browse. Get someone to show you how to use a new machine at the gym, or just get on the big swings at the park and play like a kid again.

I’m about to spend a week at the beach with my daughters who are all enthusiastic about a Paleo (caveman) diet. It doesn’t particularly appeal to me, and I’ve been almost as balky as Walker about getting with the program, but it won’t hurt me to taste some new and different things…some of them I’ve tried have been good, others not so much. (Spoiler alert….I will probably stash some treats for the kids and me!)

It’s helpful if you have friends who explore new frontiers, or children that drag you kicking and screaming into them, but anyone can make a conscious decision to try something new at least once a month. All those things make those little synapses in your brain fire in a more excited fashion and form new and different connections and that keeps them ALIVE!!!! That’s the point.



Saturday, August 10, 2013

TMI or Not

I recently had a purposefully muted discussion with some folks about the use of Facebook specifically, or more generally the internet for sharing information. The discussion made me pause to think why I find Facebook so enjoyable and who the other folks are who either love it or hate it.

I’ve never had a problem with others knowing my “business”…meaning what’s going on in my life, good and bad. I grew up in a culture where people didn’t discuss divorce or illness (especially the big C) or their family’s accomplishments or challenges. I think my mother hid the fact that Walker had Down Syndrome from her own mother…my GRANDMOTHER…as if it were something shameful. There were women’s gatherings back then where ladies would sit and sew or play bridge or work on church activities and exchange news, views, and helpful information, and somehow the grapevine worked perfectly well for their purposes.

After high school, I immersed myself in a new life, making new friends and regrettably, letting some old friendships escape me. There was always a core of close friends and relatives that I kept in a well worn address book, carefully…or sometimes not so carefully…recording each change of address or phone number. We exchanged Christmas cards and baby announcements and occasional letters and phone calls, but we were scattered. I’m a lot better organized now with an Excel sheet of those same friends. I'm more likely to send a get well card or take a meal to a friend who is ill if I find out about it and timely notice means that I've been able to attend a few funerals that I might not otherwise have been able to follow up on.

When I began to piddle with Facebook a little bit, it was partially in quest to locate some people I truly cared about once upon a time and determine how they were doing (actually whether they were still alive) and perhaps reunite with them. I had mixed luck with this venture. The people I was most interested in did eventually turn up in a search, and I have had delightful on line relationship with a few old friends, along with a cold dismissal by a few. That’s life and I'm totally at peace about it. I've offered prayers during cancer treatments and recuperations from surgery for people I haven't seen in over fifty years...because I care.

One of the arguments my discussion revealed was that the people I was talking with already had enough people in their lives and that if they hadn’t kept up with someone for a number of years…so what. I suspect that their attitudes might change with age and maturity. My empty nest means I have more time to be interested in a vast number of people. I am interested in hearing chit chat from friends and acquaintances. Instead of my old friend Katie reminding me of when it’s time to plant my daffodils or trim my shrubs or buy wrapping paper half price, there’s probably going to be someone on Facebook who mentions things like that and nudges me into action. There are people in all parts of the country who recommend books and movies that I might never have discovered. I see posts for people looking for a local handyman or wondering who else remembers business long gone, triggering happy memories along with a bittersweet nostalgia.

I love seeing that Ken has taken up art again and seeing his increasingly impressive work. I love knowing who is having a new grandchild, or who might need a prayer for someone they care about or themselves. I love seeing Jan’s trip to Europe or my daughters vacations in real time. I love getting a recipe from someone far away, along with a picture, tempting me cook something prettier or healthier. I especially love watching the babies grow into children…even those I may never meet. Heck, it’s fun and it’s FREE!

I will try to withhold judgment on the FB bashers if they will in turn just leave me be to check in on my friends from afar now and then and not label me a snoop for doing so.


P. S. Please feel free to leave comments on this page or send them directly to me. You might have to sign in, but I love hearing your opinions.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Shoes and The Economy

An article in the New York Times this morning prompted a memory of a piece I wrote quite a while ago. (Link below) It was written in the midst of our severe economic downturn that changed most of our lives, probably forever.  This morning, the paper says that "The Fed", whoever they are, are relaxing about the crisis and thinking of removing some of the props in our economy....which sounds like a good idea in some ways. 

A later article in today's paper made me realize that things are still insane.  There are people out there who can't even really afford a $10 pair of shoes at a thrift store, and loonies in the 1% are knocking each other down to buy shoes REDUCED to just under $400.  (Link below)

In my current state, I'd pay almost any price...say $150...for a pair of shoes that were even slightly attractive and didn't hurt my feet.  (I won't go into the issues, but believe me, they're almost insurmountable.)

What do you value, and what price would pay for it?  Click comment below or on my Facebook page.  Am I really the only sane female left on the planet or just out of step with the rest of polite society?


Old article:  (You may have to copy and paste to read, but the link still works on my computer.);postID=4297475162414127431;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=117;src=postname

New article:

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Hoorah for Fathers

It’s Father’s Day and I started the day with waffles with “The Walkers” and then posted a short tribute on Facebook to the fathers/dad’s/daddies in my life and felt called to expand my comments a bit.

In an age where society’s very underpinnings are beginning to look a bit shaky, researchers look for causes and hope we can fix what’s wrong before civilization totally implodes. Statistics have shown some of the problems that have led to the unrest in our culture, and the lack of a male “father figure” seems to be a predictor of some pretty dire consequences. It is widely accepted that children who grow up without a positive male role model in their household may be more likely to fail to graduate from high school, end up in jail, father children out of wedlock, contact STDs and/or be unemployed.

Our family has been exceptionally lucky to manage to have almost exclusively intact households, and the few divorces have resulted in a second and successful intact family later on. In this day and age, I think it’s incredible that all my daughters married men whose parents have had long and apparently happy marriages. They probably never put this on their list of “ideal husband material” characteristics, it just kind of worked out that way. None of those marriages have been perfect…at least not my own…but they were good enough to assure that the families would stay together and that the children would have a father in the home during their formative years, and perhaps truly “until death do us part.”

That’s not to say that persons from “broken homes” can’t have wonderfully intact families themselves if they use the absence of their father to decide that their lives will be different. Perhaps those people, more than those of us from more Ozzie and Harriet households, choose partners who are as different from their dads as possible, and hope that their children will experience what they lacked. Others, I'm sure, are so damaged by their experiences that they find it difficult, if not impossible, to find a suitable mate.

Our generation was brought up with “shame”….over unwed pregnancies, over divorce, over STDs, over not completing our education. I’m not so sure the succeeding generations have gotten the same message. Pop songs no longer sing of a cottage for two where baby makes three or going to the chapel of love. They glorify casual sexual gratification and even violence toward women. Women get the message that they can do very well, thank you, without a man, which is sometimes absolutely so. I’d be willing to bet that those who accomplish that feat are the ones who manage to provide some sort of positive male role model for their children. Those who don’t are much more likely to have those kids we see on the local news every single night in mug shots, or the ones joining street gangs that provide some sort of family structure for them.

I don’t know whether it’s even possible to rebuild our nation’s underpinnings of morality and hard work by just making sure that more marriages last, but it’s certainly worth a try, especially where there are children involved. If the same effort were put into that project as has been put into blocking same sex marriage, perhaps it could be accomplished.

I’m so grateful for all the fathers I have known, beginning with my own and, God willing, it will end with seeing my grandsons as they begin their families and become wonderful fathers too.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Mistakes Were Made

Looking at a time line of my recent injury , (a fall in a restaurant resulting in a severed Achilles tendon). the first mistake was when some decorator decided that it would be cool to raise the floor level and have a couple of banquettes one step above the main floor in a restaurant.

Then…being a doddering old person, I forgot that I had gone up said step barely an hour earlier and walked off into thin air as I exited. I can do a lot of things, but walking on air is definitely not one of them.

Then, the barely post pubescent manager of the chain told me as I lay on the floor, “Oh, it happens all the time. We have 51 stores in this chain and the new ones aren’t designed with the step up.” Um…I’m no lawyer, but isn’t there some responsibility of correcting a hazard you are aware of in ALL your stores?

Then there was the surgery, which I am happy to say was uneventful. My final words to all anesthetists and anesthesioligists are always , “Now, don’t let me die, okay?” I did not die.

But then came the visit to get my “real cast” a week later. My surgeon, whom I love and trust implicitly, had told Walker to bring me in to have staples remove from the incision (ouch!). Somehow the purpose of that visit got lost in the shuffle and my doc turned me over to a tech for casting who commented, “Oh, he forgot to take the staples out. I guess he’ll do it next time.” She then proceeded to put the cast on as she deemed fit, aiming for a 90 degree angle for my foot. I chose a nice denim blue for my cast, and gingerly got down off the table. It hurt…a lot. “Oh sometimes a little hurt is nothing to worry about,” said the cute little thing.

I rode home in my wheelchair, which I had hoped to escape, and spent the afternoon in the most discomfort since the injury. By dinner time, and after a couple of strong pain killers, it was still unbearable. Son in Law John chased down the surgeon who called and insisted that I come in. “It should not be causing you that much pain.” Thirty minutes later he had me all patched up, with my foot at a much more tolerable angle and able to bear weight. He thought the assistant had removed the staples, but , “It wouldn’t have mattered if they had stayed in longer.”

All went well as I got home and got my first tub bath in two weeks. This is a major quality of life issue for me, and we had invested in a fairly expensive “boot” to keep water out of my cast and allow me to soak comfortably. All went well for two more baths, and then the next catastrophe struck. The boot leaked…probably my fault. I’d tried to get control of it after it blew up like a pool toy by letting some of the air out of it and in the process got water in.

Agonized over my wet foot all night envisioning a raging case of epizoodiac if I didn’t go get the cast changed, which I was really embarrassed to do after the amount of chaos involved already. I woke up the next morning with a plan to get it dry. My hair dryer blew too hot, so I posed stuffing paper towels into the space around my foot and getting it as dry as possible, then using our shop vac as a blower to finish the drying. By late afternoon I was dry as a bone, and not even considering taking another tub bath.

By last night, I thought, “Okay, I’ve done it twice with no incident. Surely I can do it again.” I booted up and took a brief bath, but before I got out good, realized that my foot was wet again. It was way past bedtime by the time I went through a roll of paper towels, and neither Walker nor I was in the mood to get the shop vac into the house or me into the garage. So that’s how I spent my forty- seventh anniversary…up every hour or so changing the damp towels. Back to the shop vac this morning, and hoping to avoid further mistakes at all costs…even if it means no tub baths for a couple of weeks.

If I couldn’t laugh, I’d definitely cry.

Blessings. Janie

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Lookin’ out for Mama

To those of you who expressed some concern about my son in law “pickin’” on me….rest easy. I can defend myself perfectly well, even from my current location of a wheel chair. I adore John for many reasons, the most significant one being that he makes me laugh at myself…a real gift in a world where many of us take ourselves way too seriously. He’s amazingly bright, remembers obscure details, and presents valid arguments…most of the time. So far, however, he hasn’t been able to budge me from my convictions once I have cast them in the concrete of the blogosphere.

I was just going through some old articles and comments and re-read a couple of pieces I had written a while back. This one explains my abiding affection for John.

Walker III has struggled a bit with my being laid up. He’s been through several significant surgeries with me in the past, but somehow the added equipment of a wheelchair seemed to make this annoying, but not fatal, injury more real to him. (By way of explanation, I took a tumble off a step in a restaurant a couple of weeks ago and tore my Achilles tendon completely.) Aside from the embarrassment, it hasn’t been as bad as I thought it might be, and I’ll eventually be 100%. Right now, though, there are some limitations, particularly in the kitchen. I can’t put weight on the affected foot, and can only balance on one foot for very short periods of time, meaning I escape KP for few more days until I get a walking cast.

The night after my surgery, Walker raced to my chair where I had plopped after we got home. He hugged me as if I had been raised from the dead. “I thought about you all day,” he commented as he nuzzled my neck. His anxiety passed on to me, and I teared up a bit. “I’m going to be just fine,” I stated with conviction.

“Um…how long do you think it will be before you’re better?”

At that point, I knew his concerns were not entirely for my health, but for his happiness. I’m the go to guy for getting pictures sent to Walgreens on the computer, and his ritual of presenting his camera to me for an upload or download or whatever they call it a couple of times a week was possibly going to be disturbed.

“I can do your pictures tomorrow if you like.”

“Whew…that’s just great!” And off he trotted to watch yet another animated cartoon and photograph the screen as he watched.

I don’t understand his need to do this anymore than he understands my messed up foot, but I know what makes him feel like all is right with the world.

In return, Walker is observant of my struggling to get around with my tea glass gripped between my thighs and quick to help me get situated in my chair with the things I need surrounding me. His hugs after work are less angst filled, and life is near enough back to normal for all concerned.


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Here we go Again

Son in Law John has been jabbing gently, and sometimes not so gently, at this old lady lately, and I'm going to use today to catch up on some of his complaints.

1)  John showed up at the dinnertable last week with a print out in hand and posed a contest to guess how many posts there were to Only Casual Observations in various years.  In doing this he got to annoy both me and my daughter Molly who LOVEs to win a good contest.  Molly and I tied on most questions.  The questions were "What year did OCO begin?"  Then morphed to how many posts in each subsequent year...down to the current year, 2013 with ...0.

2) John asserts that I pretend to just be casually observing whereas I am actually a fully vetted liberal mama.  To which I reply, I'm not pretending to be anything other than a rational thinker and given a set of facts I arrive at what seems to me to be a logical conclusion.  Right now the liberals are giving me much better material to work with than my conservative friends and relatives who hold positions that even they can not back up with any kind of rationality.

3)  John also asserts that I'm just posting things, mainly on Facebook, to annoy people.  To which I reply, my mission in what's left of a rapidly waning life is to bring enlightenment and harmony based on logic to those I care about.  They can take it, or leave it, any way they choose.  Some are choosing to pray for my soul, others just think I'm a nut case, but whatever I am...I'm me.

So with all that being said, and with at least 51% of of Americans now in my camp on same sex marriage, I'm going to repost something I wrote back in 2010, along with a link to one of the most poignant essays on the subject I've ever read.  Hope I don't offend too many, and if I do...keep prayin' for me.