Tuesday, January 31, 2012

When Family Calls

I hesitate to look in my spam folder, but it’s necessary at times. Though the folder contains a number of ads that make me either laugh or cringe, about once a day I find something that was inadvertently placed there instead of in my inbox.

On Sunday evening, I found an e-mail with my grandmother’s name in the subject heading. I didn’t know the sender, usually a red flag, but seeing my grandmother’s name intrigued me enough to make me review it.

The writer of the note, a woman from Michigan, identified herself as a niece of my grandmother and sought any information I might have on her. Per the note, I learned that my grandmother went to Michigan during WWII to live with an older brother’s family while my grandfather was serving in Europe with the Army Corps of Engineers. Given the timing, my dad and one of my aunts, the first two of my grandmother’s nine kids, would have been in Michigan with my grandmother. I’ve never heard my dad mention living in Michigan but realize he was likely too young to remember much at that time.

My grandmother still lives in the Atlanta area with another one of my aunts and my aunt’s husband. I called that aunt Sunday evening to let her and my grandmother know. My grandmother remembered the woman. I forwarded the e-mail to my aunt. She will contact the lady, her first cousin, directly.

The interesting thing about all of this was that the lady who wrote me had not seen my seen my grandmother since the 40s.

So why now?

My grandmother, a spry woman in her nineties, is the ninth child of eleven kids. However, most of her siblings have passed and she had lost contact with the one still alive, or so she thought. The e-mail brought the unhappy news that her remaining brother had also long passed. The lady in Michigan had been searching for months to reconnect.

I’m still a little amazed by the e-mail. A few years ago, finding my less-than-Internet savvy grandmother would have been nearly impossible. I’m guessing the lady found me as I share a name with my grandfather. Without the Internet, I doubt she would have found me.

I’m glad she did. I hope she has a chance to reconnect with my grandmother. It turns out that one of my grandmother’s best friends from childhood is also still alive.

It’s been seventy years since they saw each other.

That’s an awfully long time to go without seeing friends and family.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Movie Night

“C’mon, Dad. It’s movie night.”

My ten-year old son pulled at my arm, his pleas sounding more and more urgent. Movie night was a family event. He wanted to get it started.

My family and I like to watch movies. We go once a month to the theater. We also own a number of videos and DVDs and occasionally rent directly from our cable company.

However, the movie quotient in our house has been upped of late. Last year, my older son, having saved his money for something he really wanted, bought a blu-ray player. He brought it home, ready to watch the supposedly improved picture quality. Then he made a discovery that none of our TVs are high-definition, meaning that a blu-ray shows little improvement over what we currently have.

Undeterred, he figured out a solution. He asked for an HDTV for Christmas. My wife and I saw the logic in his request. We wanted to get an HDTV as well. However, we realized it made no sense to get an HDTV for our son’s room. So, we offered him a suggestion. We would get a nice HDTV for him. He would then share it with the family. He readily agreed. The new TV is now in our sun room.

My son also got several new blu-ray discs of movies he wanted for Christmas. His little brother, who had a birthday earlier this month, spent some of his birthday money on other movies.

And now we have movie night.

My kids look forward to watching the movies on the new TV. However, they really seem to like sitting on a couch with Mom and Dad and enjoying the night at home. (Yes, they’re still young.)

So, it’s with earnest that my younger son tags at my arm and says, “C’mon Dad. It’s movie night. I made the popcorn.”

“OK,” I say. “I’m coming.”

“Good,” he says and then adds “and Dad, no computer allowed during movie night.”

Because he wants us all to himself.

As long as my kids want to spend time with the parents, I’ll enjoy it…while it lasts.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

What Wouldn't You Touch With a Ten-Foot Pole?

A common phrase many people use to describe things they don’t like or don’t want to deal with is “I wouldn’t touch that with a ten-foot pole.”

Supposedly, the phrase originates from England about a century ago. Back then, horse-drawn barges were a form of public transit. Barge drivers used ten-foot poles for steering among other things.

Why is this important? Well, it’s because we have a basketball goal in our driveway.

Correction, we had one.

The goal was one of the portable types. My older son got it as a Christmas present our last Christmas in Oregon over six years ago. Since we knew we were about to move, we didn’t assemble it until we got settled in Georgia. We played on it for awhile and enjoyed it. However, over the years, severe winds managed to knock it over a few times, slamming it into the iron fence in our backyard.

Eventually, I began putting the goal over on its side on stormy nights. However, there were certain nights when the wind would start long after I’d gone to bed. Last week was one of those times. After last week’s storm, I found the goal against the fence again, this time beyond repair.

I disassembled it, removing the goal and base. Then I tried to take apart the pole. It came in three pieces when we got it. I thought it would be easy to take it apart, but the pieces were stuck together.

So I’m now in possession of a ten-foot pole.

My plan is to put it on the curb and see if the garbage company will pick it up. However, if they don’t, I’m trying to figure out what I can do. I could borrow a saw and cut it into pieces or else plant it in the backyard and start a permanent court back there.

However, I could always keep it for when someone says “I wouldn’t touch it with a ten-foot pole.”

Now I’m trying to think of think of things people wouldn’t touch. Friends of mine have suggested a few things:
1) Brussels sprouts
2) Joan Rivers
3) Junk e-mail with attachments

What things wouldn’t you touch with a ten-foot pole? I’d love to hear it.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Who speaks for the NOOKies?

My “shares a birthday with Elvis” younger son put me on trial this past weekend.

The charge? He claims I deserted my previous favorite toy, my Nook, in favor of my new toy, an iPad.

I got the Nook last year and was hooked immediately. I’d wanted an eReader for a long time but hadn’t gotten around to it. For a long time, I debated Nook vs. Kindle before settling on the Nook. I downloaded some books on it as soon as I got it and began reading. I took it with me on trips and found it a lot easier than carrying four or five books for a week. Granted, I still brought one book with me on trips to take to the pool so my Nook wouldn’t get wet.

Then, I got the iPad.

The first apps I downloaded were Nook and Kindle applications and I began reading again. I also downloaded other applications, such as Words with Friends and Angry Birds, meaning I’m now using my new toy to read, play online scrabble, and shoot pigs. However, I still use my Nook. I took it with me when we visited family over the holidays. I’m even reading different books on each device.

Then, last Wednesday, I left my Nook in my wife’s car.

My older son found it a couple of days later and brought it inside. My younger son then accused me of abandoning my Nook, throwing it aside in favor of new technology. He set himself up as legal counsel, claiming to speak on behalf of abandoned Nookies everywhere. He re-named his mom Judge Judy and called his older brother as an eyewitness.

I tried to defend myself. I said that my older son was already using the Nook and was reading some books. I’m also said I was still using it. Given that it’s become somewhat archaic, it’s actually a little more valuable. I can take it places where people are using iPads. No one notices a first edition Nook.

My younger son found me guilty anyway but has yet to decide my sentence. Finding me guilty was enough for him.

Also, my older son does like the Nook. He does read on it. He also plays sudoku on it.
However, to fully make the transition, I’ll probably have to download Hunger Games for him.

Still, my younger son has another complaint.

Why is his older brother getting the Nook instead of him?

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Christmas Recycling

My little one loves Christmas trees. I've mentioned that here before.

This fact leads to interesting scenes when it's time each year to get rid of them.

My son, now nearly ten years old, doesn't like to think about it. This year, with a week-long trip to see family beginning on the 26th, we stripped the tree of ornaments on the 25th, laying them on the dining room table for putting them away on our return. We also took down the lights. On the morning of the 26th, we took down the tree, leaving it on the front porch, out of sight from anyone. The idea was not to draw attention to ourselves. We did our best.

After we returned home, we knew it was time to get rid of the tree. My older son and I tied it to the top of my wife's car and we headed out to Home Depot. I was a little nervous as there was a blustery wind. I drove the back roads, afraid of having made a mistake and seeing the tree spill out onto the road a la the mayhem commercials from Allstate.

As I said above, my older son went with me to help me get rid of the tree.

My younger one stayed home.

The trip to Home Depot proved uneventful. We picked up a pizza and headed back.

There were broken branches still left on the porch as well, remnants from wreaths and other greenery decorations my wife had done a masterful job with in decorating our house. I asked my younger son to throw them in the woods out back. My wife called down and just asked that they put in the shrubbery out front, the needles to serve as pine needle mulch.

Maybe we should have done that with the rest of the tree and allowed my little guy to say goodbye.