Happy Birthday, Grandma

Four generations: myself, mom, G-ma and Emily, 1999
Today my grandma turns 95.


Just let that sink in for a few.

She was born in 1919. To put that in perspective, here are some facts that year:
  • Prohibition begins
  • The League of Nations is founded
  • UPS is formed
  • Mussolini creates the Fascist Party in Italy
  • US air passenger service begins
  • First transatlantic flight
  • Pop-up toaster patented
  • Treaty of Versailles signed
  • NY Daily News begins publication
  • "Gasoline Alley" and "Barney Google" comics premiere
  • RCA is created
  • The average house cost $7,385 ($93,402 in today's money), and a car cost $525 ($6,640 today) 
Basically, my grandma was born so long ago that this world was basically another planet altogether.

My grandma taught me how to play pinochle, Monopoly, Life, Careers, Scrabble, Rummikub and dozens of other games. She instilled a love of games in me. My grandma bought me my first Big Mac.* My grandma taught me how to clean a room quickly and efficiently (her part-time evening job was to clean the local bank ... I always thought it felt super-cool and a little illicit to be in a bank after-hours). My grandma told the best bedtime stories ever. She'd make up endless tales of silliness and adventure and would custom-tailor them to whatever we told her we wanted to hear, improv-comedy style. My grandma introduced me to Swedish food and Tummetott.**She taught me how to bowl and sort of compensate for the vicious hook I have.

My mental image of my grandma is of a shorter-than-average, pleasantly-plump woman with kindly ice-blue eyes and dark set-and-styled curls. She was generally soft-spoken, but with a ready laugh and plenty of cheek when she needed it. On a Pittsburgh Pirates spring training vacation to Florida one year, she wanted to meet the team's then-manager Chuck Tanner. As the team loaded onto the bus and Mr. Tanner was just closing the door, she hollered, "Hey, Chuck!" He came back off the bus and chatted with my grandparents and signed autographs. My grandpa used to call her "Hat" for the over-sized gardening hat she used to wear in the yard.

Though I grew up only twenty minutes from my grandparents, in Northwestern PA, my grandma has lived for some time now in a nursing home in Texas. I only see her once every three or four years. She still watches baseball several nights a week in season, does crossword puzzles and calls her grandchildren and great-grandchildren on their birthdays. Every year on my birthday she tells me how thrilled she was to meet me when I was born (I'm privileged to be the first grandchild on that side). She's always treated me like a completely special, treasured person and I've always felt the same about her.

She's an amazing lady and I hope I get back down to visit her soon.

Happy birthday, G-ma! I love you and miss you every day.

*Chris and I lied and said that our mom bought them for us all the time. I'm fairly certain she knew the truth.
**The Swedish "This little piggy" game, but played with fingers instead of toes.


Comfortably Homeless

Email, text, etc and I'll send along our new address.
Our home-buying/home-selling deal has been a bit of a roller coaster.

First, I found our dream home, but we weren't even in the market to buy. And the house cost too much, anyway. Then they dropped the price a couple of times and we went to see it. Fell in love. Then we put our house on the market after a stressful week of packing, painting minor repairs, and surgery (for me, not the house). Seven showings and four offers later, we had a deal. Then there were some rather stressful home inspection issues with the house we are buying. Then there were some minor home inspection issues with our house. Then the major set-back of a septic failure. Then termite damage. Our April 18 settlement date loomed ever nearer, and at our agent's urging, I worked and scrambled and called and Joe met with contractors and negotiated bids. Last Tuesday we found out that a Friday closing wasn't happening. We tried for Monday. On Thursday we found out Monday wasn't possible, either.

At this point we were told that Closing would be on Tuesday and that our buyers were "this close" to pulling out of the deal because of their stress and frustration.


We'd done EVERYTHING they'd asked. The refused to chip in on the $12K septic repairs. They refused to even renegotiate the deal in any way.

Well, you know what? We couldn't close on Tuesday. Joe is unavailable all day. (but no one had checked that with us) So, we scrambled again and tried to make it work. Mid-way through this scrambling, on Friday morning, our agent informs us that the only day our buyers are available is actually Wednesday. So ... not Tuesday, then, right?

Wednesday is one of those ships-that-pass-in-the-night sorts of days for us. We barely see each other long enough to kiss good-night. So more scrambling ... this time to complete a limited Power of Attorney so I can sign for Joe on all the home-selling and home-buying paperwork. The "upside" through this is that our dream house will be available for us to move things into on Monday.

At this point on Friday I'd made eleventy-nine phone calls, about half of which were to or from my parents. They decide it's time to pull the plug and begin driving from their home near Erie, PA -- nine hours away. I've also secured a handful of loading and unloading volunteers and reserved two UHaul trucks.

Yesterday we picked up the trucks as scheduled and loaded them with almost everything from the house. (Thanks and love to MJ Atkinson, John Dugan and Brad Marcus!) Today we loaded our mattresses and a few other final boxes onto the trucks and moved into a hotel for a few nights, hence the Title.* Tomorrow we unload everything at the new house (and it's my birthday). At last. Tuesday we clean the old house and veg a bit (Joe has to go back to work after Easter break). Wednesday, I go back to work, too**, and the buyers walk through our old house. I then go to sign papers to grant us ownership and occupancy of the new house. Joe will meet us there when he gets out of work. We unpack and settle in for as long as it takes after that.

I'm tired. And I have a headache. But the end is (somewhat more) in sight.

Stay tuned for an epic Housewarming Party to come as soon as possible. I promise.

*We're all comfortably homeless, except for Joe ... he's staying at the house with dogs, cat and trucks, and our soon-to-arrive-from-PA friend, Brian. In a house without furniture, save for one twin mattress on the floor.

**Thank you, Snow Days.....this was to have been a week-plus long spring break and I was going to have everything pretty settled in that time.


Climate Change

I am not a climate change scientist, nor do I play one on TV.

However, I'm concerned. According to many sources*, we are rapidly approaching the climatic point-of-no-return. Some estimates say my kids' generation will suffer significantly, some put it off until my grandchildren's prime years.

Most experts agree that weather will become increasingly erratic and violent, animal species will die out and or migrate significantly to compensate for environmental changes, tropical diseases will spread further into previously-temperate latitudes, already-overtapped-fossil fuels reserves will be exhausted at increasingly rapid speeds as we attempt to compensate with climate control in our homes and businesses. Pretty much everyone who seems to know what they're talking about agrees that our lives, routines, comfort, food supplies as we've come to know them are going to change for the worse.

And it will be worse even faster for the poor of the planet.

Please don't misunderstand me ... this is not the world coming to an end. On the contrary, the world will be just damn fine, thankyouverymuch. It is us who will suffer. Animal and plant species will evolve, die off, adapt. We will have to do the same. Period.

We are, as a species, relatively helpless without shelter. We don't adjust well to changes in our environment. Instead, we use our massive brains and opposable thumbs to adapt our environment to suit our narrow criteria of comfort. Where there's a will, there's a way, and all that.

Until the environment becomes simply too extreme for us to continue compensating. Until our financial resources are exhausted with no end to rising seas, rising temperatures, and extreme weather systems in sight. Our food resources will become increasingly scarce. We will run out of options.

According to numerous scientific sources (I heard it from Niel deGrasse Tyson), but this quote is from the British Natural History Museum "More than 99% of all species that have ever lived on Earth are now extinct. The vast majority (over 95%) died out because they couldn’t compete successfully for food or other resources. Or they failed to adapt to changes in their local environment over tens or even hundreds of millions of years."

The planet will be just damn fine. We don't need to worry about the end of the world. The only thing we have to fear is that our own complacency and the lack of action on a national and global scale by our leaders ... will lead to our own extinction.

That's all.


PS: Climate change can be slowed, stopped and/or reversed if enough people care. Every individual counts. Your habits make a difference. Even more so, the leaders you select can make a difference on a regional or national level ... so choose wisely and communicate the importance of this issues (one might argue the importance of this issue over any other issues). We may differ politically or philosophically on a variety of issues, but saving our species from extinction and choosing the "greenest" leadership we can seems like a pretty no-brainer thing to do.

* See the latest report from the UN Climate Change Working Group, here. If you look at the PDF, scroll through to the nifty and easy-to-grasp graphics and tables at the end.