Category: Essays


So I Wall-mounted my TV…

Here’s the TV that I actually mounted on the wall (in a niche)

 

 

But before I did that…

I had a forty-three inch TV sitting in the niche above my fireplace which is where the cable comes into the family room. It fit in there quite well and the DVD player sat on the mantel right in front of it. However, the cable box was too big to fit so the coaxial cable went over the mantel and down the wall to where the box sat on a cabinet on the floor. With the cable hanging down and that box with lights that are pretty tempting to a little guy, when any small kids came to visit – and I have a number of great-grands – it was a constant battle to keep them away from the box and cable wire.

Since they were coming for Thanksgiving, I decided I needed a way to place the box so it would fit under the TV up in the niche and out of reach of curious little hands. One of my daughters bought a small cabinet that she thought would do the trick but being genetic procrastinators, we didn’t get around to trying it out ‘til the night before Thanksgiving. It was ‘way too big and there was no way to get anything else before the next day.

So, staring at the box in which the cabinet came, and realizing it was made of sturdy, heavy-duty cardboard that would hold the weight of the TV and was just about the right length and height, I got a brilliant idea, and whipping out my handy-dandy box cutter, I cut openings in the box, made some air holes and, voila, I had my storage “cabinet”.

 

Okay, so it wasn’t pretty. And my daughters laughed at it. And my family that came for Thanksgiving dinner kept giving it – and me – raised eyebrows and funny looks, and my sister suggested that it might look better if I covered it in Christmas wrap but hey, it worked. In spite of the complaining of one of my daughters (she called it “hainkty), there it stayed right on through Christmas. I figured I’d find something better after the New Year but I wasn’t in a hurry.

It might’ve gained itself a much longer stay if we hadn’t gotten a fifty-inch TV that wouldn’t fit inside the niche. The only other suitable wall in the room was going to require that I buy a stand or have the thing mounted on the wall plus I’d have to get the cable company to put an outlet there.

Well, I thought about it and considered the hassle of actually getting the cable company to come out (no mean feat around here) not to mention it would likely cost more than I wanted to pay. So I went looking for a reasonable solution… and found one in an Aeon heavy-duty wall mount with a thirty-two-inch tilt and swivel arm that can remain permanently extended. Perfect for a twenty-four-inch deep niche, right?

Then, I discovered just how much it would cost to get it installed in that particular spot. I got the mount at a discount but to get it installed was going to cost more than the mount. I did some more considering and being a long-time (ago) DIYer, I watched the Youtube video that I found and decided to do it myself.

So, I read all the instructions that came with the mount and it came with all the hardware I would need. I did discover that there was no paper template and the heavy-for-an-old-lady back bracket was to be used for that but I figured I could handle the job since the bracket wasn’t that heavy. I rounded up my ladder, drill, ratchet screwdriver, socket wrench, stud-finder with a leveling laser, and had at it.

The first thing one has to do in order to put a mount into a niche over a fireplace is to climb up, or as my daughter put it: “In order to mount the TV you have to first mount the nook” (her words, not mine!). So, with some judicious placement of ladders and a lot of huffing and puffing (and grunting), and going back to get something with which to pad my arthritic knees, I managed to get up there.

 

(Erm…)

So, there I sat resting for a few (yeah, my Christmas tree is still up; we’ll try to get it down sometime before Valentine’s Day), then I got down to finding studs, measuring stuff, and preparing to put the thing up. And after much marking and careful leveling and drilling of starter holes (and scowling and wishing I’d taken time to make a paper template because I kept losing my grip on the bracket and pinched some fingers which was accompanied by some saying of words that I definitely can’t put here), I finally got the lag bolts in. One of my daughters handed up the (heavy) extended arm, I slid it in, screwed it down and the thing was quite sturdy… but not level.

It would seem that I’d not paid attention to the fact that I’d gotten just a hair off during one of the times the bracket slipped, so the starter holes for the left lag bolts were not exactly where I’d intended, and having put the bolts in, no way could I remove them and put them back that close without splitting the stud. But, thank God, the mount has a feature that allows it to be leveled in spite of such minor mishaps, so… all was good.

My daughters helped place the TV on the mount and after the three of us got through saying more bleepable words (a lot) because it was ‘way harder than we’d thought it would be (not because the TV was heavy – it’s not – but the two bottom screws that attach the mounting plate on the back of the TV to the mount were a real pain in the, um, posterior to get in!) we levelled the TV, stood back, and admired our wonderful handiwork.

Then we turned on the TV. It was a beautiful picture… with what appears to be a permanent two or three-inch diameter blank spot on the right-hand side denoting missing pixels. It doesn’t show up in this photo but it’s there. So, we’ll have to take the TV down and return it to the store.

Ah, well. At least I got the mount up, and though I was sore the next day, as my daughters said, I didn’t kill my old self doing it.

Every writer has a debut book, right?  You’re supposed to get a blog, go on social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc, and do a press release and some serious promoting leading up to your publish date so folk will hear about your brand new baby way in advance.

*SIGH* Well, I did none of that.  As far as I know, nobody knows, even now, that my debut novel was Boucher’s World: Emergent, a science fiction novel set on a world circling the star, Epsilon Eridani.

My reason for doing none of that?  Simple: I didn’t have a clue.  I didn’t know I was supposed to do all that.  I just wanted to get my book published before I died.

I’m an independent writer, one who never tried traditional publishing.  I checked into it but determined that if I went that route, since I was sixty-five years old at the time, by the time I got a book published, I’d be at least in my seventies – assuming I ever got one published.

So I checked on publishing a book on my own and discovered there were several ways of going about it.  I decided it was best to steer clear of vanity publishers – mainly because I was broke and they all wanted a bunch of bucks – and went with doing it as an ebook at Smashwords which was FREE.

I liked free.  I had my book ready to go, so I read the free guide on how to format an ebook and get it distributed to the major ebook sites (the Smashwords Style Guide), uploaded the thing, and off she went.

I have to admit that it’s a good guide, especially for a rank beginner – as I was – and after going through it and following the instructions, I had no problems getting my book through what Smashwords calls their “meat-grinder”.

What I didn’t do, though, was read the other free Smashwords guides:  the Smashwords Book Publishing Guide, and Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success.  Something I should’ve done before publishing, I suppose, but, who knew?  Had I read those first, I probably wouldn’t have published when I did.  I think I would at least have signed up for Twitter, first.  Heck, I didn’t do that ‘til months later, after I’d already e-published several other books.  Too late, I believed, to holler about my debut novel.

So, I didn’t.  I just kept writing and publishing, mainly because I realized early on that I got a large amount of pleasure out of just writing the stories.  I wish I was good at promoting, though, because I also get a kick out somebody, somewhere, reading one of my books, too.  Not good at that, so I just keep writing.

Anyway, what I’m trying to do (in a round-about way) is holler about my debut book.  I know, I know, it’s a bit past time for that, and at this late date it’s probably useless to even bring it up, but I spent a good deal of enjoyable time writing that book, and I feel it deserves to be acknowledged as the very first book I ever published.

The first in what eventually became a trilogy in a series of nine (so far), that I call the Boucher’s World series, this  book is free on all ebook sites, the others can be had for a negligible sum.

So, here’s an introduction to my debut novel, Boucher’s World: Emergent

Synopsis:

The people of Boucher’s World have been trapped inside a Dome that has covered nearly their entire continent since shortly after the Earthlings arrived on the world a little over two millennia ago.  For ages, they’ve sought a way out.
One day, a Human predult, a young woman named Jade, and her Cat partner, Tally, make a remarkable discovery: a door to the outside.

This book chronicles what happens when the people – which includes sentient cats and dogs, and an alien race called the Elvwists – finally emerge from what has been a cage for them for so long.  Will they be able to contact their home worlds? And what happens to Jade when she’s kidnapped by a man who “collects” young women?  Will she be rescued in time?

 

Find a couple of reviews, here, and here.

A Good Man Named Brodie

brodiepic2

Born: 3/31/1945

Died: 12/18/2014

My brother died on December 18th, 2014, nearly nine months ago.  You’d think I would’ve written something specific about him then, but at the time, I found myself only capable of generalizing words about him without having a meltdown, so I didn’t.  You might think I’d wait until the anniversary of his death, and perhaps I should.  However, now is when words have come – so here it is.

Brodie was a good man.

A good man…Exactly what does that phrase mean?

Well, he was a son, a husband, a father, an uncle, a grandfather, and a brother.  He loved his mother a great deal and was good to her, and he loved his brothers and sisters.  At his death, he had a significant other, a woman he’d lived with for years, about whom he cared an enormous amount.

For most of his working life he was a truck driver and a professional mover; but he also had other talents, some of which were perhaps not well known to others, such as the fact that in high school, he was quite a good athlete (he was quite popular, I wasn’t.  Heh, in fact, I was known around school as “Brodie’s sister” – which I didn’t mind).  He could draw and paint, and he loved to dance.  And, he sang: he was a fine baritone and tenor (these were things we had in common, except, of course, I didn’t sing baritone or tenor.  I sang second soprano and alto).

He was sometimes found to be not exactly angelic – to put it gently.  He drank too much, which, of course, often got him into trouble.  He was frequently stubborn, sometimes grumpy, and upon occasion, he didn’t behave the way folk thought he should.  He made mistakes, and in general, bumbled along as we all do.  And that was all right; humans aren’t perfect and Brodie was very much a product of the human condition.

He was the proverbial gentle giant of a man at six and a half feet tall, and children were crazy about him.  He was a “people person” and as such got along well with everybody; folk tended to like him – even when they were mad at him.   That was because he was a warm, loving, caring, sensitive man, one who’d go out of his way to help others, and it showed.  It showed in his eyes, in his demeanor, in the way he carried himself, in the way he interacted with people, and, it showed in the way people responded to him.

He lived his life the way he wanted, with a sense of humor leavened with great compassion, and in the end, his life was complete.  He was a good man.

He was my brother, and my friend, and I miss him.

The subject of the Confederate flag is one that’s full of controversy, and I don’t ordinarily expound on such topics, but there’s something I’ve always wondered: why does the battle flag of the losers of a war have such a hold on so many people?

What I’m going to say here won’t answer that question because I don’t know the answer.  I could speculate, but I won’t.  What I am going to do right now is to digress for a minute, just so I can tell you a little about myself.

I try to stay away from controversy because I’m not good at contending with it.  I tend to want to stay in my little niche, my own little corner of the world, and live my life as best I can.  I’m a “live and let live” kind of person.  My daughters sometimes accuse me of being a hermit, but I disagree with that particular assessment because I do, upon occasion, interact with other people.  I simply spend a lot of time by myself because of what I enjoy doing: my joy in life is writing.

I write because I can’t not do it so I guess you could say I am compelled to do it, and I’m black, so a lot of my characters are, also.  Having said that, I have to add that a lot of my characters are also white,  and some are other ethnicities.  After all, I live in a country made up of all sorts of folk so it would be kind of ridiculous to use only one brand of people in my writing. Then too, because I write fantasy and science fiction, some of my characters are silver, or some other color or shape altogether, because they’re not human.  Basically, my characters are whatever comes to my mind as I dream them up, and I’m an equal opportunity dreamer.

As I’ve said a few times to a few folk I know, “I ain’t deep.”  I’m not trying to influence anyone, or make them think, or change the world with what I write.  I leave that to the passionate people who feel that’s what they want to do, who feel that’s what they’re supposed to do, that have the temperament to get involved in that sort of thing.  All I try to do is tell a good story, and hope somebody reads it and is thereby entertained.

Okay.  I said all of that to say this: as a black woman who was born in the late forties, and grew up during the fifties and sixties, who lived through “Jim Crow” – segregated schools, buses, bathrooms, drinking fountains, restaurants, etc, and witnessed my share of racism and discrimination, I must say that the Confederate flag should, at long last, be permanently retired.

I don’t mean that it should be hidden away and forgotten, never to be seen or discussed again.  No, that’s not what should happen.  I heard a guy on TV say, in protest to the people that want to remove it from flying over the capital in South Carolina, that it is a part of Southern heritage, a part that shouldn’t be denied.

Yes, it is a part of the heritage of the South, all right, even of the United States of America’s since the South is a part of this country, and I’m not one to think heritage should be denied at all, but I wonder if he’s stopped to think about exactly what that heritage is.  He spoke as if he thinks that flag deserves a place of honor, as if it represents some sacred act that the South performed, something wonderful in the history of our country.

Now, I’m not a historian, and I was born eighty-two years after the end of the Civil War, so I only know the things I’ve heard about that era from stories told by the old folk in my family when I was a child, most of them second-hand from people whose parents or grandparents were slaves.  And of course, I learned things about that era in the history books at school (which tended to sort of white-wash it, so to speak, so I had to read between the lines and go reading on my own).  There was only one thing I learned that was really wonderful about the Civil War: the South didn’t win, which meant my parents weren’t born slaves and therefore, neither was I.

The man on the TV probably thinks the flag represents the fact that the South was fighting for state’s rights, and I suppose that technically, he’s right, but, the biggest right those states most wanted to retain was the one that allowed them to own other people.  They wanted to continue to do that, so they went to war.  I find nothing honorable about that.  The Confederate flag represents an era in the history of our country of which a big part was slavery and hate.  I’m sure he doesn’t think that’s what this flag is about, but it is.

Now, what a private citizen wants to do with the flag is his or her own business, but it should not be flying over public buildings – anywhere.  However, the flag shouldn’t be stuck somewhere and forgotten, either.

No, I think that the flag should be put in a museum, and displayed along with the manacles, the shackles, and the chains that represent some of the things the enslaved had to contend with.  The history of its place in the Civil War as a banner of encouragement for the folk who wanted to keep the manacles, shackles, and chains, should be written on a placard and placed in front of it so that it will show the exact heritage of that flag.

The image of it in all the history books should always contain the notation that it was the battle flag of the states that lost the war that they fought to retain people as slaves.

What this flag represents should never be forgotten.  Lest it be repeated.

Reflections

Well, a new year is here, and as I do every year at this time, I tend to get a little introspective.  I suppose everyone looks back over the past year remembering the good, the not-so-good, the neutral, making excuses for reneging on those resolutions made the year before, and goals met or unmet.  And I suppose that’s normal.

Among other things, I’ve been reflecting on my health.  One thing that has made me do this is the fact that on December eighteenth, my two-years-older-than-me brother died.  Yeah.  He was sixty-nine years old, and he died suddenly of a massive heart attack.  He’s already terribly missed.  This worked to put a real damper on the holidays.

Still, while it was a shock, I guess it shouldn’t have been totally unexpected since he was on blood thinners, which I understand he sometimes missed taking.  But, that’s life.  We are here for a while, then one day something comes along and takes us out.  It’s the natural order of things.

Makes me think, though.  My mother lived to be eighty-six before she died of liver cancer.  I had another brother to die in two thousand and two at the age of fifty-nine, of colon cancer, and after thinking about it, I realized a lot of my relatives die of either some sort of cancer, or of heart disease.  Another thing that’s making me think about health is that I managed to get the flu in spite of having gotten the shot back in October, so have been feeling pretty rotten.  Just points out that, sometimes, even when you do the right thing, it doesn’t work out.

So.  I had my first colonoscopy at the age of fifty, and because they always find polyps, and because my brother died of colon cancer, I have to get one every five years.  I am also a diabetic, which so far I’ve been able to control with diet and exercise, and I have high cholesterol, my blood pressure is creeping up, and lately I’ve been plagued with a “frozen shoulder” – which may not be fatal but is surely painful, especially the exercises my therapist has me doing, and let us not forget my shingles that keep recurring.  My eye doctor tells me I have cataracts – nothing has to be done about it, yet – and dry eye, for which I have drops.

I guess I have a lot of the creaks and complaints that come with aging, including the fact that my knees and fingers sometimes don’t work that well due to arthritis.  All things that indicate that I’m into the slide everyone does when going downhill.

Now, mostly, I can’t complain.  I have a lot to be thankful for.  Other than the aforementioned troubles, I’m otherwise healthy,  I have health insurance, a house in which to live, a car to drive (yeah, it’s ten years old but it runs!), clothes to wear, food to eat, and best of all, I have a family who loves me.  I just take whatever pill I need to take, or do the assigned exercises and try to eat as right as I can.

After all, nobody lives forever and this is a thought that doesn’t bother me.  It’s the way things are, and anyway, what would happen if the old didn’t move out the way for new people?  Think about the mess that would make.

But what all this says to me is that I need to type faster.  I have Word 2010 and a whole lot of stories still in my head. I want to get as many of them written down as I can before I go.

 

Almost

Almost

Did you ever think about the word, “almost”? My daughter and I were sitting out on the deck, shooting the breeze and vaping.  What’s vaping?  It’s a term used by smokers who’ve switched to e-cigarettes, which uses a process of vaporizing liquids containing a nicotine extract, instead of actual tobacco.  So it’s “vaping” instead of “smoking”.

Don’t ask me if it’s better for you; I don’t know.  I’ve only been doing it for about a month.  I have to admit, though, that I breathe a bit easier, so I guess that’s something.  I hope to be able to quit smoking or vaping one day, but, I digress; that’s another whole post, and not what this one is about.

My daughter and I got to talking about the word “almost”, and thinking of some of the “almosts” that sometimes happen.  I have to give it to my daughter – she thought of some I never would have.  Our thoughts on it were set off by the phrase “almost won” which I think she’d just heard in reference to a basketball game.

Almost won?” she scoffed.  “Doesn’t that mean they lost?  That’s like saying “I almost got away from the cops after robbing that bank”!

Hmm, thought I, she does have a point.  “Give me some more examples of situations that didn’t quite cut it, that almost got there but didn’t.” She was happy to oblige.  And throwing reasons in with some of them, too.

Almost passed – as in, “Well, I almost passed that geometry class.  Would’ve, too, if I’d bothered to study.”

Almost missed the bus – “I would’ve missed it, if it hadn’t stopped short right in front of me!  Darn thing made me crush my front bumper.  Just because I was answering a text message and didn’t see it right off…”

Almost got the job – “I would’ve had that job but I was a little bit late for the interview, and then my phone rang right in the middle of it, so I had to answer it, right?”

Hmm, those are a bit negative, huh?  Let’s look at a few that have more positive connotations.

Almost dated him – “Hey! That guy in the mug shot on the news for holding up the convenience store? I almost went out with him but I couldn’t get my car to start so I had to call and cancel, and he never called me again!  Thank God!”

Almost fell – “Whoops! Whew! I almost fell! It’s a good thing you had my hand! That sure was a huge pile of dog s***!  I would’ve landed face first!”

Almost had  – “Wow!  Look at that report on E. coli in the salad at that restaurant I ate at the other day, I almost had that for lunch!”

And, of course, there are many, many more: almost lost it, almost as good, almost persuaded, almost cried, almost laughed, almost ready, almost shot him (don’t ask), almost left, almost took a trip, almost wrote a book (my favorite!) just to name a few.  There were some we came up with that aren’t fit to post here – well, I almost posted some but changed my mind.

If you’re wondering where I’m going with this, and hoping I’m finally getting to the point, okay, here it is: Some things you’ll be happy that only “almost” happened (see above for “almost dated” – or shot!).  However, there are going to be at least a few that you don’t want to reach the end of your life and look back and say “If only” about.

The past can’t be changed, so some of those “almosts” are gone, but for others, it’s not too late, and new ones will crop up, so go ahead, check into that new job you’ve been thinking about (but make sure you’re on time for the interview, and for goodness sakes, turn off that cell phone!),  take that trip you almost went on fifteen years ago (but got talked out of by your friend who couldn’t go with you at the time so you kept putting it off and one day your friend went – without you!), or write that book you’ve had in your head but you were too busy (or too afraid) to get started on.  Whatever it was you almost did, but for some reason didn’t, get going.   Can’t hurt, might work.

Now, when I’m gone, hope I don’t find I’ve almost hit Heaven…

 

Hummingbirds…

Today I finally managed to get my hummingbird feeders refilled. I haven’t been feeling well for a few weeks and the daughter who helps with keeping the feeders filled is in Massachusetts visiting her brother at the moment. But, I felt pretty good today so I made up a batch of nectar and filled the containers which have been empty for about a week.

I’m not a “birder” so I don’t know much about hummingbirds (though I have looked up information about them: see this article and this one about making nectar) Heck, I never even saw many of them when I lived in the center of the city.

When we moved here to a suburban neighborhood seven years ago, we planted hibiscuses in large pots and put them on the deck. I was thrilled to see a whole bunch of hummingbirds show up to feed when the plants bloomed (I found out the ones around here are called ruby-throats). I was absolutely astonished to see one land on a flower stem one day. Heh, it hadn’t occurred to me that they ever landed. Then we planted the hibiscuses at the bottom of the yard, and I could no longer see the wonderful creatures feed, so I went down to the local hardware/gardening store and bought a feeder and a bottle of nectar (I no longer buy nectar as it’s very easy to make).

At that time, I learned the tiny birds have to eat more than their weight each day to survive so I went back a few days later and bought another one, and have always kept them filled since then, starting in the spring when the first ones show up until the fall when the last one leaves.

It has been a real pleasure to watch the little things feed, so I was bummed when I was too sick to refill the feeders. They still had the flowers around the yard but at those distances, I couldn’t see them.  Besides, the feeders are a easy source of food for them.

But, today, I’m happy. As soon as I got the feeders filled and back out hanging over the edges of the deck, my little friends started showing up, and, as usual, engaging in little hummingbird wars. They jockey for position at the feeders, running each other off, facing off while hovering in the air twittering excitedly at each other. They do this at both feeders as they strive to hog both. Every once in a while, one would zip across the deck, and hover in front of me with what I could have sworn was an indignant look its eyes, as if to ask why was I there.

I was wishing I could find my little digital camera to get a snap-shot or two, or at least knew how to work the one on my cell ‘phone, but alas, I didn’t feel like trying to remember what I did with it or hunt for the camera, and I’ve never learned to work the one on the cell (haven’t wanted to.  I feel that it’s a ‘phone, darn it, and why should I have to take pictures with it?). After a while, I got out of their way and went into the kitchen to watch them through the door.  I didn’t want to keep interrupting their feeding – or their battles.

I did a watercolor of a hummingbird a while back for my daughter, and as soon as I get around to it, I’ll scan it into my computer so I can post it on here. But for now, I’m just glad to be able to, once again, provide food for them, and to watch them going about living their fast little lives. They always brighten up my day.

Curing Boredom in Children

Curing Boredom in Children

I’ve noticed a lot of young people and children complain of being bored a good deal of the time.  I was puzzled as to why this would be.  As near as I can recall, I’ve never been bored.  I finally decided that it must not take that much to entertain me.

I love to read, so I’ve always kept a book at hand to read when I have the time.  If I don’t want to read, then I’ll write as I enjoy doing that just as much as I like reading.  If I don’t want to do either of those, I’ll draw and paint (or some other form of coloring: sometimes I’ll use crayons) since that is another thing I get a great deal of enjoyment from.  I’m not a great artist or anything like that, indeed, I’ve never been schooled in it – unless you count the two drawing classes I took at the community college for the humanities portion of the electronics curriculum I was in at the time (took the drawing lessons because that was something I’d always done anyway).  Or I’ll go for a walk (weather permitting).  If there is absolutely nothing else I want to do at the time, nothing I want to watch on TV, no old movie I want to see, then I’ll just sit and think.  I reckon you’d call that daydreaming.

Anyway, I know exactly how to keep kids from being bored.  This is a time to get all that stuff done that you haven’t had time to get around to doing, and  entertain your kids at the same time, such as getting help with straightening the garage or basement.  There are lots of entertaining things to do around a house that kids can do.  I had a lot in my repertoire when I was raising my kids.  Herewith are a few tips for keeping your children entertained when they come whining and complaining there is nothing to do:

1. If they are over the age of eight, hand the kid a bottle of Windex and a roll of paper towels and direct them to the inside windows of the house.  Don’t worry about them being too little to do this, or about them doing a good job.  Give them a step stool and a squeegee and believe me, they will do a good job.  Maybe not the first time they go over the windows, but even the most inept of them will finally get it done right by, say, the fourth time over.  Then, send them to get the bathroom mirrors.

2. If they’re over twelve, get a bottle of window wash that can be connected to a hose and send them out doors to clean the outside of the windows when they’ve finished with the insides.  Explain to them that they have to cover the bushes or flowers first.  Of course, you should only send them out for this during nice or warm weather as you’ll want to avoid icy windows – or kids.

3. Have them clean up the mess they made while doing the windows.

 4. If they are under the age of eight, get them to take old newspapers and magazines that you’ve been meaning to put in the recycle bin but haven’t gotten around to yet, out to the bin, and have them empty every waste can in the house and place plastic bags in them.  If you don’t have enough waste cans, go buy some.

 5. Then, have them pick up the stuff they dropped or spilled while carrying it to the recycle bin or emptying the cans.

6. This is a great opportunity to get the walls cleaned of fingerprints and spots. Don’t forget the doors and the knobs. Even really small kids, down to the age of four I found, can clean off spots and dirty doors especially if you give them one of those Mr. Clean Eraser sponges to work with.

 7. Have them clean up the mess from cleaning up the walls and doors.

8. This is also a good time to get the vacuuming done. Don’t be concerned if it’s not done the way you would do it. The point is, you’re not having to do it because your bored kid is doing it instead.

9. Have the kid empty the cleaner and put it away.

10. If you have a garden, either flower or vegetable, send them out to pull weeds. Of course, you should point out to them first, exactly which are the weeds. You may want to supervise this activity closely from your lawn chair with the sunshade while sipping on your favorite iced beverage, just in case.  Don’t forget leaf raking in the fall. (side note: my oldest daughter swears that my mother, who babysat her and her sister and brother after my divorce whilst I worked my two, sometimes three jobs, planted weeds just to keep them busy.  Hmm.  She could be right.  I remember pulling a lot of weeds when I was a child.)

After such entertaining sessions, you may find your kids are never bored again, and they will protest they aren’t bored when you’re trying to get them to perform such duties at a later time. In these cases, simply explain to them that you are helping them continue to not be bored by enabling them to retain whatever devices of entertainment you have provided for them, such as toys, laptops, cell ‘phones, games, etc., by performing these  really entertaining functions you have laid out for them.  They’ll understand when it’s properly explained.

I must say, my children, who are grown now, one with children and grandchildren of his own, are never bored.  They got over that early on.  Neither were my grandchildren when they came to visit me.  And, as soon as my great-grandchildren get older, they won’t be bored when they come visit Granny either.

If nothing else, I got weeds.

An accidental find

Today as I was clearing out some old papers, I found this. It was one of my few attempts at poetry and I wrote it for my granddaughter back in 2005 after the loss of her first child, my first great-grandchild.  We have never forgotten him, but finding this brought him back sharp and fresh in my mind.

Le’Aedyn

He came into being beneath his mother’s heart,

Soothed, nurtured, loved unconditionally

He lived beneath his mother’s heart,

Comforted, safe, floating in a world created especially for him.

He waited without anticipation, without knowing he was waiting,

No fears, no worries, dreaming unborn dreams.

He breathed his first breath and lay in his mother’s arms,

Soothed, nurtured, loved unconditionally.

He lived in a bright new world, bringing joy, happiness, tenderness,

Gentling everyone around him.

No fears, no worries; for a fortnight and a few, he tarried…

Now he lives in his mother’s heart,

Soothed, nurtured, loved unconditionally,

And in God’s bosom, heaven’s littlest angel.

No fears, no worries.

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Le’Aedyn, one week old.

Mom

From time to time, thoughts of my mother gather in my head.

Mom. Sitting here thinking of her, gone now for over eighteen years. Yet, I still see her in my mind’s eye, as though she were sitting right across the table from me, huddled in her fuzzy burgundy robe, sipping on a hot cup of herbal tea.

She came to live with me when she was seventy-eight, after my son left home leaving me with an extra bedroom. The first time I saw her all bundled up in that housecoat, with leg-warmers on, and a knit cap, I was aghast.

“Mom,” I exclaimed, “Are you cold?”

“Not anymore,” she replied, smiling.

Well, after I got through laughing, I turned the thermostat up a bit. I couldn’t see freezing my poor old mom just to save a few pennies by keeping the heat turned down low.

She was eighty-six years old the year she died, and a lot of those were hard years. I don’t know or remember from her stories, the whole tale of her life, but she was born in nineteen hundred and eight, delivered by a midwife, as probably most folks were at that time. Or, at least in the south, if they were poor.

Her mother died when she was a year old, and her father placed her, and her brother and two sisters in the care of his sister and her husband. Just as her parents were, they were share-croppers, so the work was hard. Somewhere in there, along about the time she was three or so, her father died too, leaving them total orphans.

She wanted to be a teacher but she never got further than the seventh grade. At the time she completed that grade, there was no public high school for blacks – or as we were (politely) called then, “coloreds” – available for her to attend in the area, and her family was too poor to send her off somewhere to a private one. And anyway, from what she said, they didn’t much value higher education for girls, so she probably wouldn’t have been educated even if it could have been afforded.

So at around the age of twelve or thirteen, she got married. Too late for her, a few years after that, a high school for blacks was built in Charlotte, the city near where she lived. Soon after marrying, she gave birth to a baby boy who died at around six months old, and the marriage didn’t last long after that.

She married again and had more children but she never forgot her first child, David. She had no means to get photographs taken of him, she was much too poor, but she always said she remembered his little face, how he felt in her arms, the sound of his voice. He was born sometime in the nineteen-twenties and died of pneumonia while lying on her lap. She knew he was dying, so all she could do was pray for his soul. One can only imagine how frightened she was when, years later, her youngest child – me – became ill at the age of two with the same disease. By then, it was nineteen forty-nine and penicillin was widely available, so: I’m still here.

Neither I, nor my sister or brothers, will ever forget that we had a brother we never got to meet. But, because of our mother, we did know him, and we have never forgotten him. And we will never forget her.

That is just one story from the life of my mother.

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