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Why drinking and driving don't mix

John and I are in for another couple of days without John thought it would be nice to make bagels while they're away. I just finished making up a batch of bread dough. When it's finished rising, I can stick it in the fridge until we're ready to use it. While I was making up the dough, I couldn't help but chuckle at what Doc said to John while they were out in the car yesterday:

Doc: Grampy - dad says that there are 2 things you shouldn't do while you're driving.

Grampy: Oh really? What are they?

Doc: One is texting and the other is drinking. Drinking and driving don't mix.

Grampy: Oh that's very good to know.

Doc: Do you want to know why drinking and driving don't mix?

Grampy: Sure, Doc, why is that?

Doc: Because when you tip your head back to get a drink, you can't see the road.

Yes, he's very cute - but I'm still looking forward to being alone with dogs and husband...good night and don't forget to hug your loved ones tight.



Back To Basics

We are getting back to basics. My goal is to make, re-use or recycle as much as we can. Not everyone is happy about it because it also means we're trying to eat and live healthier than our current lifestyle. I've been keeping track of what we spend on everything and our budget needed an overhaul.

No more paper towels or paper napkins. No more antibacterial wipes. Just about anything can be cleaned without harsh chemicals. I've tried everythingt to get fingerprints and streaks off the kitchen appliances with special cloths, paper products, and a variety of toxic prays. To my surprise, nothing works better than water in a spray bottle and those fluffy towels that fussy people use to dry of their automobiles. They don't want fingerprints or streaks on their cars either, so imagine the job it can do on a kitchen appliance? They go into the washer and the initial investment was $1 a towel! I tackle grease with rubbing alcohol in a spray bottle. Walmart sells alcohol and hydrogen peroxide already in spray bottles in the 'cuts and scrapes' section. I can disinfect a cut AND the counter tops in one spray. Sorry Mr Clean, I'm just not in love with you anymore.

I started taking a closer look at the ingredients of some of the things my grandsons eat all the time. Whoa! Scary stuff. Those frozen waffles they woof down are more high fructose corn syrup than anything else. Now I make big batches of french toast or pancakes, and freeze them. I found a great granola bar recipe and the boys love it. I don't like making cookies, (apologies to my mom, who's probably rolling over in her grave) but cakes are okay. Plain cakes like molasses, oatmeal or yogurt, you know, the substantial ones that don't fall apart when you pick them up. I cook them in loaf pans which makes it easier for portion control and storage. No frosting, just some whipped cream here and there. Nice in lunches. Everyone loves them! And bread. I decided against the bread maker (the crockpot is always on the counter now taking up space) and got the 'healthy bread in 5 minutes a day' book instead. There's a learning curve but hopefully I'm learning! I refuse to buy boxed mac n cheese, and whole wheat pasta is the only one in the pantry now. I even make the dogs' food. I got tired of all the recalls of commercial dog food. Plus my calculations show I'm under budget on what I use to spend on dog food and my dogs are getting 'real' food, not just P&Gs's idea of real food. I've made a ton of changes, with more to go.

This really isn't anything new for me. When my kids were small, I made everything from scratch. Even baby food and all of our clothing! It's a behavior change. Our reactions are so automatic when it comes to most things. We get in ruts that are easier to stay in than get out of. It takes a lot of time and maybe when I have some dog training classes up and running I will need to make some adjustments. But for the most part, we're back to basics and it's not a bad way of living!


Time off for good behavior

John and I are experiencing a rare phenomenom - we are kid-less for a week! The boys left yesterday for several days with their other grandfather. Last week was stressful. Each boy had a certain amount of anxiety about the visit. They usually do. But they are probably having a great time in the sun and surf.

After they left, John was feeling guilty about looking forward to the time off from them. It's not easy raising 3 grandsons. At a time in our lives when our own children are grown and we should be enjoying the empty nest, ours is full again. I have always had a more difficult time with the boys being here than John. The reality is he will be in his mid-60s and I will be my mid-70s before we are kid-free again.

Yes, we are doing what needs to be done. Yes, we are a stable, responsible influence in their lives. Yes, hopefully they will be better off for it. People tell us that all the time. But sometimes it's a conflict to balance our own needs with that of the boys.  Our kid-free time should be guilt-free time. At the very least, we deserve our time off for good behavior.

Peace, love and a sunny day to you all!


What happened when my son wore a pink headband to Walmart

My sister sent me this link from the Huffington Post. If you have a minute, check it out. To me, it sums up the intolerance in this country for anything different.

I worry about Kit, as he is one of 'those' that could be a victim of  people such as the man in the article. He and I have already had conversations about him dressing more neutral this school year as he enters middle school, and the  attitude in this article is one of the reasons why we've had to talk about it. The older kids get, the more aggressive they get in their actions and the more harm they can inflict. Kit seems agreeable to the wardrobe change and wants to cut his hair short, albeit in a Miley Cyrus cut, and colored blue...the shorter hair isn't a bad thing and a lot of kids - boys and girls - color their hair blue, green, purple, etc. I've known grown men who go for these colors as well.

Maybe we can avoid me having to write 'What happened when my grandson wore pink/lace/camisoles/etc, to middle school.'

Have a great Saturday!


Pick up that mop and burn some calories!

When I was working full time, I had a very active job. I was non-stop for 8 hours, much of it being physical activity. You can’t work with dogs sitting still for very long. So being home, I’ve wondered about keeping active and wondered about the amount of calories I burn up in the course of some daily duties. As a reference point, most people burn 100 calories walking a mile.

Here are some calorie burners from Huffington Post Healthy Living:

1. Mopping: Take care of those dusty, dirty floors with an hour of mopping and you'll shed 153 calories.

2. Washing floors: If your floors require a little extra elbow grease, you can shed as many as 187 calories in just 30 minutes.

3. Scrubbing the tub: It might not take you as long as those floors, but some similar umph is required to ditch that soap scum. In 15 minutes, you'll burn more than 90 calories—and you might feel it in those arms, too!

4. Vacuuming: Depending on the size of your home, vacuuming could make a significant dent in your 10,000 recommended steps a day. In the process, you could burn 119 calories per 30 minutes.

5. Sweeping: A 30-minute dance with the broom will burn off 136 calories.

6. Washing the car: Winter road salt still covering your car? Skip the drive-thru and scrub it by hand to burn 153 calories.

7. Cleaning windows: Get the grime off the inside and the outside and let the springtime sun shine in. You'll burn 167 calories in 30 minutes.

8. Rearranging the closet: Ready to put away those sweaters and your heavy winter coat? Moving around some lighter options can burn about 85 calories.

9. Redecorating: Painting your bedroom a springy pale green? Knock off 167 calories in 30 minutes of indoor remodeling.

10. Moving: Got any furniture to move? You're in luck: You could burn another 100 calories in just 15 minutes, and even more if you have to move anything up and down stairs!

Hmm…I don’t think I need to worry about my activity level. One thing I learned from a BBC special on weight and burning calories - even if some activities don't seem to burn up a lot of calories, the physical activity can increase your metabolism for several hours after the exercise, even while you sleep. That's a good thing, especially for somebody like me whose 63 year old metabolism might not be as perky as it use be.

Cheerio then - I'm off to burn some calories and kick-start my metabolism for the day!


It's almost August!

Yikes! I can't believe it's almost August 1st. I haven't posted anything since the end of June. July has been a busy and interesting month for me, mostly because of reconnecting with some of my family members. I have been estranged from them for a long time because of my adversarial relationship with my father. My mother died in 1997 and I was unable to see her before she died because of him. He died last November at the age of 95. My sister was here this month to pack up his house and get it up for sale. She wanted to get together while this was going on. It was a visit filled with emotional discoveries for me, which I will write about another time, but oddly enough, it allowed me to reconnect with my mother.

John is busy with his work and since he is the major bread winner right now, this is a good thing! He's also fencing regularly and steadily improving his skill level. He's a good man! Kit and Doc are enjoying day camp which keeps them very busy. Kit and I are coming to some agreements on a wardrobe for the school year...details to follow.  Tio is working on his gaming and video editing. He and I are learning Italian, a light-hearted effort but fun when we get around to it. He balks at different chores around the house but does them.

Since I have taken on most of the cooking and kitchen duties, I am endeavoring to make everything from scratch. I made bread for the first time in many years, granola bars, cakes, crock pot and electric skillet dinners...nothing out of a box. The only time they get boxed mac and cheese is when it's dad's time to parent them. I'm still arranging the kitchen to my liking. And still can't get the hang of grocery shopping...  I also have a dog client here and there and hope to get classes started again in the fall.

So as July comes to a close, life chugs along in our neck of the woods. Hope it finds you well in yours.
Cheerio then -



Kit and Doc started day camp this week. Yesterday was a field trip to a theme park, which is about 2 hours away. I read the camp's weekly newsletter carefully so they would have everything they needed for the trip. Two things were highlighted: 1. No backpacks allowed, but they could take lunch in an open bag. and 2. No electronics allowed on the bus. They would have activities for the bus ride.

Doc uses a backpack. Kit uses a tote bag. Okay, that's easy.  Kit can take his lunch in his own bag. Doc would need a tote-style bag. Doc was very agreeable to the alternative I chose for him. When I explained to Kit he could take his own tote bag for his lunch, something got lost in the translation:

Kit: I can't take that because I can't take a backpack

Me: But your bag isn't a backpack. It's a tote bag. You can use it.

Kit: You said's written on the newsletter that we can't have backpacks so I won't be able to use my own bag. I need a different one.

Me: But your bag IS different from a backpack. You can take you own bag.

Kit: Why are you giving me a hard time? I know what kind of bag I can should use and that's not it.

Me: But I'm not giving you a hard time. I'm just trying to explain to you that....

I stopped. Either he was being deliberately thick, or I was way off the mark with my explanation. Kit went over to the cabinet and pulled out a plastic grocery bag.

Kit: If you're not going to give me a bag, I guess I'll just use one of these.

Doc came over to get his tote bag and I helped him put it over his shoulder.

Kit: Well if he can use that bag, why can't I use MY OWN bag?? It's the same style!

I felt like the coyote that just got slammed by the roadrunner and never saw it coming. Isn't that what I originally said? My brain froze. I took a sip of coffee then transferred Kit's lunch to HIS OWN tote bag and off they went.

I didn't see the kids last night before they went to bed, as it was their dad's day off.

Bright and early this morning, Kit walked up to me. No good morning Grammo, lovely day isn't it?

Kit: Boy were you wrong. We could take our backpacks and leave them on the bus. We just couldn't take them into the park. I don't know how you got that wrong. It said so in the newsletter. Didn't you read the newsletter? All we had were stupid tote bags. AND they didn't provide us with any entertainment on the bus, not even paper and pencil and it took forever to get there and...

Me: Even if that's true, Kit, you don't have a backpack, and all I was trying to do was explain...

I stopped. I could see the roadrunner in the distance. Time to cut my losses before sustaining another direct hit.

Me: Oh dear, did I read that wrong? It looks as though you survived anyway, Kit, even without your BACKPACK. Did you have a good time?

Kit: But I don't have a backpack...

Oops. He stopped.

There was a faint beep-beep in my ear and a rush of wind in my hair as the roadrunner zoomed past. I turned just in time to see his tail feathers in the distance.

The coyote lives to fight another day.



A free ride in a police car

Kit and Doc were suppose to be in their own bedrooms picking up. Kit of course couldn't mind his own business and stay on his own task. I could hear shouts from Doc, telling Kit to get out of his room. I yelled for Kit to come upstairs.

"I was just getting this stuff out of Doc's room," said Kit as he plopped a bunch of junk in my lap - a half-eaten hard candy in a tube, a container of powdered candy, and several sticks of gum.

"Doc stole this when we were at the store yesterday," Kit said, with a very smug, oh-boy-he's-in-trouble-now on his face. No, he wouldn't steal. Well yes, turns out when Grampy said all they could get was a bathing suit for day camp, Doc decided to literally take things into his own hands and stuff them into his pockets.

Now Doc has already tried something similar to this. At the grocery store when Grampy said 'no' to the extras, Doc started putting stuff in the cart, like a container of fresh spinach, which he didn't really want but was desperate to sneak SOMETHING past Grampy. That kind of backfired as Grampy made him eat the spinach, which he doesn't like. So I guess when that failed, he decided to change his tactics. And it would have worked had his brother not wanted to get him in trouble.

So John and I talked, deciding that the best way to teach Doc a lesson would be to go back to the store with the items and have the store manager talked to him about what can happen when somebody steals from the store. And off they went.

The woman at the service desk was totally taken back. She couldn't remember anyone ever bringing their kids back to the store to return stolen items. So she ushered them to the back of the store so that Doc could talk to the head of store security. As luck would have it, there was a police officer already at the security office to pick up somebody who was shoplifting. Reality was starting to set in for Doc. He had his conversation with security. John paid for the items and promptly threw them in the trash.

Doc came home, vowing he had learned his lesson and would never, ever do that again. He told me the police were there and he thought he would get arrested. I said, "You know, Doc, there is a sign in the room where you try clothes on that says 'Shoplifting will get you a free ride in a police car' so you really need to take this seriously."

"Really?" said Doc, "Where do they take you?"

Spoken like a true 7 year old. We have our work cut out for us.

Cheerio - and have a great Saturday!


Everything old is new again

One of my clients has 4 young boys and has shared her helpful hints on how she manages them all. One thing she raves about is the crock-pot for dealing with those hectic dinner times.The Crock-Pot! I haven't used mine in many years.

I have one of the originals which I got it in 1972. There were slow cookers before that. Apparently Irving Naxon, of Naxon Utilities in Chicago, developed the Naxon Beanery All-Purpose Cooker which was one of the original slow cookers. The Rival Company bought Naxon in 1970 and came out with the slower cooker under the Crock-pot name in 1971. The brand now belongs to Sunbeam, although there are many copies of the same cooker from many different appliance makers.

As I recall, my crock-pot use was limited to beef stew or chuck roasts, or the occasional whole chicken. Have times changed! My client makes mac n cheese in hers as well as meatloaf, quesadillas, lasagna, just to name a few of her family's favorites.

When my kids were small, using the Crock-pot gave me the feeling of being organized and efficient - two things I am struggling with now. So I have resurrected it from the depths of my cabinets and have been firing it up on a regular basis. The internet has tons of recipes dedicated to crock-pot cooking. I need only to point and click to expand my crock-pot menus. It does give me the feeling of being more in control at the end of the day when the house is mayhem with hungry dogs and kids, all wanting my attention at the same time. And the kids seem to be enjoying the meals.

Many thanks to my client with the young family who helped me rediscover something old and extremely helpful.

Yesterday, meatloaf...tomorrow...?

Cheerio, then - and happy cooking!


Myths about fitness after 50...

…or in my case, fitness after 60. Running around after 3 active boys at 60 is quite different than running around after them when you’re 30! As I was pondering about just how physically fit I really am and what I could/should be doing to be all that I can be, the AARP Magazine arrived in the mail. Behold! An article on Six Myths About Fitness After 50:

1. Stretching becomes more important after 50 - Fact: In an article in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, research shows that stretching a muscle for a minute or more causes a decline in performance because when it’s released, it contracts and tightens, doing the opposite of what we want it to do.

2. Best way to burn fat is to work out longer - Fact: Exercising more doesn’t help you lose weight but the intensity of the workout will. The article gives the example of running 5 miles burns more calories and boosts your metabolism than walking 5 miles.

3. Cardio matters more than weight training after 50 - Fact: Weight training is just as important as cardio if not more as we age. We lose muscle mass as we age which causes loss of strength, which may not be noticeable at 50, but will start to affect our ability to exercise at all after 60.

4. Doing crunches will get rid of your belly fat - Fact: Spot training doesn’t work. When we exercise we burn up glucose and fat that’s supplied by the bloodstream, not the fat on our bodies. Best way to get rid of belly fat is to eat smart and exercise consistently.

5. You shouldn’t exercise when your sick - Fact: As far as exercise and illness goes, the neck is the dividing line. Symptoms above the neck such as cold symptoms, it’s ok to exercise as long as there’s no fever present. Below the neck chest congestion, stomach flu, etc, it’s better for us to take a couple of days off and rest.

6. You burn more fat when working out hungry - Fact: Looks as though the body burns the same amount of fat whether or not we’ve had anything to eat. But having a small snack can help fuel muscles.

I think I can handle all of the above with making some minor changes to diet and routine...whether I will have more energy for the kids remains to be seen...

Cheerio for now - have a great day everyone!


Eat Pray Hope

The last day of school was Monday <heavy sigh> and day camp doesn't start till next week. A very inconvenient addition to this scenario has been the last 2 days of rain and thunderstorms. Not many opportunities for outside activities. So I did what any rational desperate grandmother would do - got out the DVDs! Each grandson could pick a movie of their choice with no objections from the others. We made it through the afternoon on Monday with few mishaps and after dinner, the boys wanted to continue the movie marathon. Doc was tired and went to bed. Kit wanted to watch the movie Eat Pray Love, which he has seen before. It wasn't what Tio had in mind, but he settled in with no objections.

Well, it seems that Kit only wanted to choose something he knew his brother wouldn't like and left about 10 minutes after it started. Much to my surprise, Tio stayed to watch the film. As he watched, he made interesting comments - he was really paying attention. During the part in Italy, he said, 'Gram, let's learn Italian. Can we do that together?' Ummm, sure! He thought it would be nice to go to Rome at some point so we should plan a vacation there. When the movie went out to India, he made comments about the differences in the cities and why he liked Rome better. He made other comments through out the movie, ending with, 'You know Gram? I really like this movie.'

Really? Who is this person sitting next to me? After just watching what some might consider the ultimate chick flick, my 14 year old, video game obsessed, basketball jock, girl-magnate grandson said he like it.

And then yesterday, while I was making dinner, Tio asked me now that I'm not working what do I do during the day? After talking about some of my new duties as a stay-at-home grandma, he said, 'Gram, don't you wish you had time to do absolutely nothing?'

For a kid whose life is constant turmoil, a kid who has a harder time than the dogs do with self-control, a kid who is so egocentric you'd think he was the only person in the world, this Tio gives me hope! This Tio is thoughtful, hopeful and thinking outside his own little bubble.

Today, I'm going online to get him a travel book about Italy or Rome, or maybe one of Rick Steves' DVDs on traveling in Italy, and definitely looking up how to learn Italian. It's worth a try to keep this Tio's interest in some new things...yes indeed, folks - there's hope!!


The Moose and Me

There's been a moose wandering around the neighborhood for several days. It's an adolescent according to Fish and Game. Looks to me like a female but I haven't wanted to get that close to find out for sure. They said she was no doubt recently kicked out of her home because mom's getting ready to have another baby. They said she'd wander around for a while before she finds her way and fits into a new life. But poor thing looks lost and lonely. I can sympathize with her. I've been feeling much the same way.

In March, I left a job I'd had for a long time. I didn't get kicked out, but might as well have been. They eliminated  the job for which I have certification and reduced it to something any entry level employee could do with little or no training, and attached an entry level salary to match. I got the message - I'm 63 and made almost as much money as the highest paid employee. I was old enough to be everyone's mother or grandmother. The woman in the top position was my daughter's age. The organization was looking to make budget cuts. So it came as no surprise to me that my position was eliminated at the end of last year. I tried the new one for a couple of months, thinking that any job was better than no job. But I was wrong. 'Mother' didn't really want me anymore. It was time for me to go.

Like the moose,  I found myself in strange territory. I worked full time for many years. Now I'm semi-retired, trying to get some classes and clients of my own together. But the real change is taking over the every day workings of our extended family from John while he expands his own business. I have a tough time being Suzy Homemaker. I hadn't done grocery shopping in years, or all the laundry, or cooked - or really looked after the 3 boys who have been in our care for 3 1/2 years. That was all John's doing. I'd raised a family. Actually, I'd raised two families. I took care of two younger brothers until I went off to college before I had children of my own. So why would I want to do it again?

It's now June. I've spent a fair amount of time wandering around my new situation, wondering just how to fit in to this 'new' life. The needs of John and the boys have helped me put it in perspective. John's art is winning awards. Hopefully it will become popular so he can make a new career for himself in the jewelry field. He shouldn't have to try to do it and take care of the boys. And the boys - they really need a mom. I can't keep saying 'That's not me.' If not me, who else? They are my kids, just like my brothers and my own kids were mine. Maybe not what I thought I would be doing for a job when I retired, but it's good work - and necessary for the well-being of those boys. John has done a wonderful job. Let's see if I am up to the task.

Early this morning, the moose was walking by the bay window. She stopped and looked over at me. Her ears went up and forward as if to say 'what do I do now?' I knew the feeling all too well. But it looks as though I've found where I fit in. I hope it won't be too much longer before she feels the same way. 

The World According to Tish

Well, dear friends, here I am again unable to keep up the regular pace of Grampy's Acre. Always wanting to, never finding time, or energy when time allows. I have started an artist/metalsmith blog on a different site because it is part of a scholarship I received and I'm back to working full time while all the world of kids and dogs and whatnot whirls around. So it has left poor old Grampy's Little Acre behind.

The good news is, Grammo has decided she wants to take over this blog for a spell and put her special voice and stamp on the goings-on round here. So you'll be treated to the other half of the leadership team in this madhouse we call home. I know you'll love her perspective and what she has to say.

When I have time again, I'll drop by for an occasional post but for's Tish!


Gay marriage? I'll be happy to survive gay puberty.

I'm really glad the tide is turning on national attitudes towards the gay comminuty. It will make Kit's life so much easier. But there will still be plenty of bumps along the road. This week he told a friend (a boy he might be interested in) that he didn't choose to be the way he is. The way he put it was pretty clear. "It's not like I decided who I was right out of my mother's womb." To which the boy responded, "Exactly. You had the choice to be gay." It caught Kit a bit off guard.

Anyone who knows him and seen what he's gone through in his 12 years would know there was no choice in who he is. The path was set so early that if it wasn't genetically predisposed, it was a damn good imitation. And he's still going through changes and pains over it. I helped him dye his hair a couple of weeks ago and last week, he wore a skirt out in public for the first time when he was at a party with his girlfriends. They all dolled up and walked around town. He told me that he felt great being one of the girls. At the same time, when a substitute teacher mistook him for a girl, he turned bright red (and so did she, according to another teacher).

It's a fascinating study in contradictions and breaking social barriers. I just wish my own grandson didn't have to go through it.


Leap of Faith

I took a big jump this week and hired Tio to manage my social media. He's 14, immature at times, and not always dependable (nothing unusual for the age). But we have been stuck in a rut trying to move past the usual "when will you grow up?" lecture and I want to break that cycle with something new. I handed over the passwords to my website, facebook, linkedin, twitter, crafthaus, pinterest, youtube, and younameit. He's of the generation who understands and likes these things more than I do and can intuitively figure out how to coordinate, cross reference and run them smoother. I'll continue to post and read stuff from friends and family but he'll operate the sites, update pictures and info, manage the fan pages and work to increase traffic for my flutes, glories and the new Irish whistle that I'm designing.

Besides - I hate doing that stuff. I like creating the pages but run quickly out of steam after that and don't keep it up. It takes way too much time to make it all work. I have this blog and will be starting another one on Crafthaus in a couple of weeks that will keep me plenty busy over and above all the other things I do every day.

My bigger motive is to bring him into a new business venture (the whistles) that he could have a stake in if he sticks with it. He could learn online social media design, advertising and marketing, and once I get set up, could be involved in manufacturing and learn a trade. If we're successful, there's a future in it on a lot of different levels that could give him experience in business and manufacturing here or elsewhere. He's smart, capable, and I think at a good age to get his feet wet in a serious endeavor. If he succeeds it could give him the courage and confidence to try other things, make some money, earn respect and connect outside his local world.

What do they say about never hiring family? We'll see...


"An Irishman walked out of a bar..." and other St. Patrick's Day non sequiturs.

Yesterday Doc, all of 7 years old, said to Grammo, "Tomorrow is St. Patrick's day. I want to go to a bar."

So we went to the pub this morning where they were having a special breakfast with live fiddle and guitar music. He was so excited. All five of us actually got a table in the crowded room and I shimmied him up to the bar so he could order a root beer straight from the bartender. Then they had a full Irish breakfast and I had a beer. The music was good, the food was good and we all had fun.


Fear and Loathing Across our Nation

I'm amazed at the gun violence debate in this country these days. Since the Newtown massacre, more people have been voicing their opinions and resolve to do something about this, which has made the gunz'n'ammo crowd cry all the louder about how we'll all be helpless and defenseless in the face of all the marauders out there if we don't have heavy firepower in our homes.

I've tried to counter this argument with the simple question "why do you need a semi- automatic military style, high round magazine weapon in your home?" to which there is no real answer except "why not?".

I grew up in Canada watching American television. There was a a common assumtion and palpable fear among Canadians that America was a dangerous and violent place. Even though my mother was American by birth, I worried every time I came across the border that I would be robbed or attacked or be witness to some form of violence. As recently as 10 years ago, my Canadian nephew expressed similar trepidation before he came here for a vacation. It is a common conception about life in The States (as we call it there). I moved here 30 some years ago and have long since dropped my fears of the common Perpetratori Violencia Americanus.

However, what I have come to realize is that there are a lot of Americans that are more afraid of this country than even the Canadians are. He is the rabid gun owner. The myth stokin', gun totin', NRA votin' "we gotta have all the guns we can get our hands on or we're doomed" extremist. These people are truly scared of strangers, their neighbors and local & national government. They expound that arming their homes with more firepower than a terrorist cell makes them safe and sound. How wrong can you possibly be? I'm not talking about folks that have rifles to hunt with or a pistol locked away. I mean the segment of Americans that have whole arsenals like the killer's mom in Newtown.

What are we afraid of? Each other? Is that any life to live? "Love thy neighbor, but better keep the safety off just in case."? How do we possibly walk back from that if we don't do something aggressive about limiting access to so many guns. The Newtown massacre showed us in plain language where this unfettered gun access is headed. Are we really so frightened by the overarmed extremists that we'd rather cower and point our weapons at our locked front door, or should we take the country back from them and say enough is enough?

How many more children will die before we wake up?


The more things change...

Raising kids seems like an endless stream of repetitions. "do this...stop that...didn't I tell you..." etc.. Sometimes I think it's a waste of time varying the routine. I mean, what's the point of customizing it for a particular kid when the final word are always "because I said so."

Tonight, Tish was wondering if was good to always serve the dog the same thing over and over. They don't care, I countered. But do they get the right variety of nutrients and grains and so forth if it's always the same? Good question. Same with the kids. Will they grow up fine and dandy if we just soak them in a generic bath of "do this...stop that...didn't I tell you..." or do they need the variations to survive? Of course, this is a silly hypothetical but it often feels that way.

For instance, I spent a couple of hours this weekend setting up a user account on my computer for Tio so he could manage and edit my facebook, twitter and other social media. It seemed like a good project and a way to build trust since his online experience in the past has been sketchy and had to be severely curtailed. He's 14 now and I want to move beyond past indiscretions that lost him online access months ago. So I gave him my passwords, told him what needed doing (creating a fan page, linking Twitter to Crafthaus, etc.), and left him to it.

I get back 2 hours later and, being the trusting soul that I am, check out the browser history. The kid was viewing porn sites! In the first hour back online in months, he goes straight to the porn. I know that boys and porn are like popcorn and butter but what the hell - you'd think he'd show enough restraint first tap out of the box to build some trust.

So we're back to square one yet again. The same food out of the same can served up cold to the same boy. It's been like this for 3 years. Is it total lack of self control? An inability to differentiate from one experience to the next? Simply doesn't care?

Maybe it doesn't matter and amounts to the same thing. I can't trust him with unrestricted computer access like I can't trust Doc near a freezer full of popcicles. But Doc is only 7. At twice that age, shouldn't Tio have moved the bar up just a little bit?


Frank & Val. A story straight from my sleep

Here's some fiction for your day. This story is almost word for word from a dream I had a little over a year ago. It probably says more about me than I suspect...

                                                        Frank & Val
One afternoon in a timeless part of my life where one day leaked into the next and didn’t really make a dent on whether it was a Thursday or a Sunday, I was working out in the back garden with Val. She often came over, kind of drifted over from her house to share the quiet hours of the summer. That day we were clearing away some weeds from around the stone garden near the pond.

She was wearing a print pattern summer cotton dress and I looked up as she leaned over to pull a fallen twig from the grass. Her dress was hanging down and she wasn’t wearing a bra. I just stared. I hadn’t thought about Val as being old, or particularly young, either. She was kind of ageless, locked in that twilight between time when you slip through the years without changing much. But this was definitely and old woman’s breast, swaying like the pendulum on a grandfather clock.

For some inexplicable reason I saw my hand reach out as though it belonged to someone else and slip through the gap of Val’s indiscretion to gently cup the bare breast up against her rib cage. The warm pouch of skin in my hand didn’t feel of any age either. It was the soft familiar feel of womanhood that I hadn’t held in a long time.

Val’s face suddenly came up and her eyes met mine. Not having the vaguest idea what I was doing, I half expected her to be enraged but she wasn’t. Just the opposite. Her hazel eyes were dancing with the mischief of a twenty year old girl who lifts her shirt just to shock the boys. She dropped the twig and her hand came up against mine, pressing my fingers further into her soft flesh. “Why Frank,” she said with playful innocence, “thank you for protecting my virtue.”

As we were frozen in the moment, her tone, and smile and bright eyes were of a young woman that had been hidden for a lot of years. As quickly as it came, it faded and she suddenly looked very old. The lines of her life re-creased her face and gave away her secrets. She stood up and I slipped my hand away realizing that it wasn’t just her age I was seeing but my own as well. Before me was a dry, wrinkled hand with brown spots on the back of it and knuckles that more resembled ball joints than fingers.

Val moved in close to me and I thought she might kiss me but she didn’t. Her eyes held me, mixed up with the faint aroma of skin cream and shampoo.

“I’m sorry,” I said. “I don’t know why I did that.” I could feel my face heat up.

She patted me on the chest with the flat of her palm the same smile lingering on the corners of her mouth. “Come on, I’ll make us some tea to go with the cookies I bought this morning.”

In that moment I realized I would never again see myself through the love of a woman’s eyes. Never to see the look of hunger after returning from a trip like she’d been starved of me while I was gone, her eyes running over my face and chest to see what had changed during the few hours I’d been out of her world. It saddened me.

I had been a widower long enough now to have fallen into a quiet ritual of comfortable loneliness. I had gone out with a couple of women after Jenny died but nothing came of it. They never looked at me with anything more than need and I looked back with even less. The years spun on and I kept to my own. Except for Val. She had been a neighbor and friend all these years.

“I miss her, too, you know.” she said, as if everything I was thinking had been said out loud. “She would come over many nights when you were off on the road selling your patent medicines and we would read Walt Whitman or James Joyce to each other into the wee hours. Did you know that?”

I shook my head. It didn’t surprise me. She took my hand and led me towards the back gate, her fingers gently holding mine as though I were very fragile. Val had been, was still, a very beautiful woman. She’d been through several bad marriages. Men fell in love with her for all the wrong reasons and she let them. Then they would both be disappointed.

“Did you ever have an affair during all the long trips you were away?” she asked, still reading my thoughts.

“No. Never,” I said with a tone that only comes from honesty.

“I didn’t think so. Neither did Jenny.”

“Think so or have an affair?”

“Both.” She spoke into the air in front of us and we walked through her words like walking through the mist of a perfume spray where a hint of the memory sticks to your skin and the rest dissipates into history.

 “Although, there was one time when I wondered about you, when you looked like you were drifting apart.” Val added.

I named the year. She repeated it in confirmation.

“I had a hankering for you that year,” I said, this time the playful smile was on my lips. “It was during a time in my marriage that... I don’t know... I suppose every marriage has squalls that you simply have to shutter up the windows and wait through.”

“I got more than squalls than calm in my life,” she said. “That was when I was on the verge of divorce from Lars. I would come over to your house to get away from his bickering and there was a look in your face that should have made me blush to the bone.”

I could feel an awkward grin spread across my stupid face. All I could do was fess up. “I would fantasize about you, wonder what undressing you, touching you, having you want me would feel like. Jenny was so aloof right then, in her own world, as, I suppose was I. It was a palpable need, or so it seemed. But it passed.”

She clicked the gate that joined a path connecting several back yards. I looked up at the swirling cirrus clouds that were telling me they would force me to pile on a spare blanket that night no matter how warm it felt now.

“I lived for that look. It kept me sane. The idea that there was a man out there that found me attractive...” she admitted and held the gate open for me to walk through. “I dreamt the same thing. It wasn’t love or anything just a safe place during a bad time. It helped me survive a dreadful breakup that was inevitable anyway.”

“For me, too.” Her words could have been my own. I didn’t want to have an affair with Val. The imagined assignation was enough: a raft to float on while Jenny and I got our footing again. “Isn’t it strange how our mutual need helped each other out without a word or touch between us. Do you suppose it was any sort of love?”

“Maybe. Maybe not. Probably not that uncommon. People spark for each other. Simple as that. I don't suppose sexual energy is always meant to be spent like a fiver that’s burning a hole in your wallet.”

Her hand touched my back as she gently propelled me through the gate and down the path. Her fingers lingered there as we walked on, like a blind person keeping contact to make sure of their footing. A moment later, she linked her arm in mine. We walked in silence the three doors down to her back fence.

As she lifted the rusty wrought iron latch, she said, “I want to read you a passage from Ulysses I think you’ll like.”


Chaos Theory

My local, the "Salt Hill Pub" in Newport
The curtain has officially come down on my vacation. The kids got home late last night. By 5 this aftenoon, I bailed. I told Buddy to apologize to Tish for my skulking off before she got home from work. I'm down at the pub amid the noise where my thoughts can be quiet. I'm glad to have the kids back home (if not quite ready to face it). I loved the break but I love the grandsons, too.

It's there where the chaos starts but not where it ends. With Tish retiring, the kids starting a new term, introducing a new line of Irish pennywhistles this spring, and still worried about health concerns - everything is up in the air.

Chaos Theory suggests that out of the mess comes order, that the subtle movement of events in one part of reality can impact and create a tidal wave in others - for good or bad. That's what's so great about being a risk taker and embracing change. If you don't shuffle the cards or throw them in the air once in a while, every hand you deal will be the same. But after a good shuffle, while the cards are being dealt, the new hand has infinite promise. It's exciting.

Taking risks is not a gamble. Gambling is playing short term against specific odds on the chance that you will win something. Taking a risk comes when you build something without knowing the outcome but have a decided advantage against the odds. The risk involved is how well you handle the twists and turns along the way.

Being an artist, is by its very nature a chaotic risk. We risk failure and rejection every step up the learning ladder in the hopes that we'll get it right and speak to our audience. Commercially, the odds are against us and creatively our choices are constantly scrutinized. But the road I've travelled has been a real trip.


At Home Together Again for the First Time

The kids are away on vacation for the whole week and I haven't left the house in 4 days. I'm living in my pjs (yes - I have showered and brushed my teeth) and losing track of time being a cycle of someone else's schedule. I used to live like this all the time. I'd forgotten how liberating a completely fluid schedule can be. My sleep pattern, eating and work all fall into a natural cycle that has little to do with 9 to 5.

A lot of people would love to work at home but it's not easy. Too many incidental things just clutter up the day and  compromise level of work you can get done for the hours spent and a lot of people get lonely because it can get damn quiet. I don't mind admitting I talk to the dogs (and am happy to report they don't talk back). I've been at it for so many years now (I've only spent 2 of my almost 40 working years at an outside office/shop) that I know how to get work done and procrastinate all at the same time. I generally work 5-6 hours a day all 7 days a week.

The big change comes next week when my wife starts her official 'retirement'.We spent 10 years working and running a business together many years ago and it had it's ups and downs. Now we'll be together for the first time in almost 15 years. We're looking forward to it but it is a big change and a challenge for us both. We'll have more time to spend together and still have to find our ownmar space. It's all part of a new beginning that we don't quite know where we're headed.

Anyone who works at home with their partner always there want to share how they manage?


The Man Behind the Mask

I'm a loner caught in a noisy world. When the kids are at school and Tish is working I don't seek out others to chew through the daytime hours with. The phone doesn't ring and no one knocks on the door. I'm could spend days alone without seeing a soul if circumstances allowed. I write and muse and pet the dogs until the time comes to do errands, rescue the kids from school, think up meals, and sort through all the other family hustle that come to the fore. Again, late at night, when the house is sleeping along with the rest of the western hemisphere, I go down to my workshop and tap images in silver and create flutes until 3am.

The contrast between my quiet work and the bustle of our family life is huge. Three kids need food, hurt feelings need mending, homework overseen, 3 dogs clamor for their share of the rowdy, and so forth all swirling around in constant tornadic activity.

As any artist will tell you, it is very hard to turn creativity on and off. I can't get up in the morning and automatically be ready to write or draw or sift through ideas. All too often I spend the day in anticipation of when I must go out to get groceries or haul someone to the doctor or whatever else my calendar will foist on me. So I get my coffee, read the news, and suddenly find that I have 90 minutes before this, a possible hour after that, and maybe 15 minutes waiting between one thing and the next.

Ready...set... create! Write that brilliant chapter that binds a sub atomic concept together with human spirituality. Think up a plot structure for your sitcom pilot - and don't forget you need 3 jokes per page. Weave together a interesting blog that gives my readers something to mull over. Can't quite pull it off between loading the dishwasher and peeling pee soaked sheets off a bed? Why on Earth not? No wonder I find more peace in the fluteshop at night where my work is more with my hands than my thoughts.

Who I am is my imagination. It is my core. If I can't find the peace of mind to let my imagination flow, I am rudderless - my career and my sanity will grind to a halt. Do I protect and defend myself from this at all costs? Do I let it in and take what comes? Can I balance them better without collateral damage at either end?

For all my artist readers - how do you balance creative life with busy reality?


The Bobblehead Family at Home

Me & Grammo Immortalized in Bobble
Let me kick off this new chapter with a bit of a domestic update.

Tio is a basketball champ. We're still struggling with his lack of dedication to academics. He's a bright and curious kid. He was asking about the value of morality/integrity yesterday ("I know you believe there should be a ban on all assault weapons, Grampy. Would you sell them for Ruger's if they paid you a million dollars?"). That's fairly deep water for an 8th grader.

Kit still wants to be a girl. I dyed his hair blonde last week and he buys all his clothes in the girl's department. He worries about what will happen to him when he hits puberty ("will I be gay or just still want to be a girl?"). None of us knows but we're facing it open eyed and open minded. Won't be long until we find out.

Speaking of clothes... Doc got a gift card at Christmas and spent it entirely online buying clothes. A 7 year old buying clothes. Seriously? We shopped for shirts and skinny jeans and socks - yep, socks, you heard right. One of the shirts even had a tie with it. I recall at that age when I had any cash I wanted G.I. Joe, Hot Wheels, candy and more toys. I left clothing to my parents.

While they all get along better than they ever have they fight and make up like normal siblings which keeps the place at a constant dull roar. Kit flirts with the idea of being vegetarian but loves pork too much to make it stick. Doc is a constant blithering chatterbox and Tio skypes with his girlfriend all night. As l said, all normal stuff.

As for the adults in the mix? Tish (Grammo, and my reason for living, to the uninitiated) is 63 and retiring from full time work next week. She plans to set up dog training classes from home. Buddy, the boy's dad, has a new girlfriend who has 2 small kids of her own adding a whole new element into our lives.

That should be enough to get us started. As for me...


The Jack of Arts

Welcome back to my world. It's been almost 5 months since I died and was reborn after stage 3 lymphoma. Without recanting the tick tock about how cancer changes a life and takes it on a ride you never forget, suffice it to say that it did and it has.

The first 2 years of my blog were about raising grandsons in a hectic house full of people, dogs and high energy. I'm returning with a wider lens on the lives we lead here. This time through the eyes of the artist rather than the guardian-grandparent.

I've spent my life in creative endeavors - making flutes, writing novels and screenplays, creating stop-motion animation shorts, playing music, and living through my imagination. My life has been a mosaic of creative choices that include raising my family and directing my business, to writing books, studying music, astronomy, cartoon art, quantum physics, metal chasing & raising, right down to flying an airplane and entering local elected politics (a misunderstood art form if ever there was one). I took on all of these things and more by choice and blended them into the way I want to lead a life, not through peer pressure, or being boxed in by bad decisions, or even convenience.

As luck would have it, my wife and partner of almost 30 years travels her own individual path as well so we understand the need to adapt to changing circumstances and life choices. We are both lousy consumers. We don't follow trends and fashions, don't feel we need the latest car, bigger house, or fancy gadgets, and when we make a bad choice, we step back and correct it rather than follow it to disaster.

I suppose it's much easier to look at the world from a parental, political, or even simply a male/female perspective. But that wouldn't be me. I'd rather show you life through a flawed artist's eyes. We'll talk of grandsons, art & music, family, physics, dogs, town life and all the other thoughts & ideas that whirl around my imagination. Those that have read my blog will recall that I didn't focus on the mundaneries of family life, such as the dinner menu or the cute faces children pull. I tried to bring some solid substance into my posts, some realism that would leave you with something to think about and sometimes leave us a bit exposed. The same holds here. I don't intend to regale cookie recipies and talk about how good the coffee is this morning. That's why I took a break - to gather up and refresh rather than just repeat and report on the nothings that make up most of our days.

Life is a strange and glorious trip. Ride with me for a while and share your thoughts and responses along the way.


Au revoir

I seem to be reluctant about getting back into writing the blog since I went home to Canada for a visit. I'm not sure where the pin went into the balloon but I'm having a hard time finding anything fresh to say.

Since I survived cancer and am looking ahead, I feel like all the things I can talk about on the blog have become well trodden ground and that I'm just kicking the same can down the road. Perhaps, my perspective has shifted slightly as much as anything else and I need to find my new voice. But it's been 2 years almost to the day that I started Grampy's Acre and I feel like all I'm reporting on are the mundaneries without anything fresh to add. For instance, it's Homecoming weekend right now and Kit got grounded and can't go to the bonfire. Last year Tio was grounded. How boring is that? What makes it interesting is what I can add and see behind the events and right now I'm not seeing much.

I suppose I'm searching my world with new eyes and trying to assess where I want to fit in and how I might express that best in my writing. The last thing I want to do is get tired of what I write until both you and I stop tuning in.

Thank you for stopping by and sharing our busy and oft times bizarre world. Please hang in there, dear readers, I will be back. If you want to send me an email address, I will send a notice out when I spark up and shine our crazy light into the bloggoworld again.

John Lunn


A rest is as good as a change

I'm off to Canada tomorrow and today I get to clean up loose ends.

I woke up at 7 this morning listening to Grammo going over the same routine with Kit and Doc. "Stop that." "Get breakfast." "Get dressed." and so forth. This isn't her job. We both schlep these kids around all afternoon and make supper, get the homework done, manage their tempers and needs, and get them off to bed. The morning is Buddy's turn. So what does he do? He gets up 5 minutes before they go out the door, says goodbye and goes back to bed. I told him clearly this morning this has to stop happening. 'Get up when they do and get them ready for school.' "Okay," he says, like its the first time he's heard this and it never occurred to him. Yeah, right.

I hunkered down back to sleep only to be woken to the dulcet tones of Sammy Malone howling in the kitchen. Man almighty. Nonstop. I figured Tish had gone out and the puppy was alone. Turned out she was on the front lawn laughing at the whole thing. Big joke.

Kit's teacher emailed me to say that he's not getting his homework done. I look it over every night but I can't be sure I'm seeing the whole picture - and sometimes wonder. I told her it may stay slack for a week until I get back because his dad won't review it. Buddy barely knows what subjects he has.

Then I hear Tio got a detention for mouthing off in class, something he has insisted he is over. I also have to keep on him to work enough on his homework. He's a minimalist when it comes to that.

I'm going to forget about all of this while I'm away. I'll brush the dog hair off my clothes, hit the road at 8 am and put the family behind me. Tish is taking the week off from work, too. She's staying at home, hoping for some quiet for a few days - just her and the dogs.   Kids will be at school and it's Buddy's weekend.

Maybe when I get home the two of us will be able to face the commotion with more zazz.


Aw, craps!

I'm still having a hell of a time trying to get Tio to be honest - a regular subject of this blog. Where we left off last he had most of his privileges taken away, lost his new scooter and has to come home on the bus instead of stay after school and hang with his crew.

Yesterday he came to me with an offer to lift some of the restrictions. He made a case for what he's been doing to be trustworthy, that he's doing his homework and getting to bed on time, and how he'll stay within the rules and keep his word. All well and good.

Or not. During all of this happy talk he was lying to me. I asked about one of the things we're dealing with and he lied about it, hoping that my not knowing the truth would give him the opportunity to do as he pleased. Without knowing the lie I agreed to give him a shot at proving himself again and letting him stay after school. 

I learned of the lie today and that he was being a total hypocrate while he earnestly made his plea for trust. The irony is that had he told the truth, I still would have restored his after school freedom. However, he consciously made the choice to lie, it wasn't a misunderstanding or reflexive. He wanted to cover up his intentions which means he'll do it whenever it suits him. I can't decide if he doesn't care or if it's a calculated gamble. It's like a game of Snakes and Ladders where we climb up the ladders and then slide down the snakes all on the roll of the dice. 

Looks like we're back to square one and it's my roll.


How do you keep blood thicker than water?

I'm travelling home next week for a few days to visit my mom and sibs and a couple of cousins. I haven't gone back to Canada for several years. Besides the fact that I can't stand driving and it takes 6 hours to get there, I admit that I have an imperfect relationship with my family. My mom and I get along fine, have done for many years since we worked out our "mother/son" issues and became friends. My oldest brother and I are friendly but not that close but we love each other and get on fine.

My brother Alec, he of "You Pedal I'll Steer" fame, and I have been estranged for the past 4 years and at awkward arms length for years before that. I know that has kept me from visiting. I could never understand it and we tried on several occasions to work it out only to find anger and frustration rearing up between us both. Since my cancer, we've managed to break through the noise and reconnect. I think we both had a flash of how short life really can be and didn't want that to be the last word between us.

One thing I faced with my family was just how crazy we all are and, therefore, how crazy I am. There is another brother I haven't mentioned and my sister, Katrina, who you may have met earlier in my blogs when she's visited us. I think the 3 of us are the whacko ones. Without going into issues and details, we all 3 recognize our mental frailties. We each deal with them differently, but when I look at them I look in the mirror and that can be difficult. Which can make visits difficult.

It makes me realize how frail any long term family relationships can be. Tio and Kit insist they hate each other. They certainly have typical sibling rival issues but underneath it all, they do care about each other. Can that sustain them into adulthood so that they might be able to connect and count on each other? Hard to say. Tish has been totally estranged from her family for over 10 years and emotionally estranged from them for much longer. Just being 'family' is not a given of a lifelong relationship. Nor is it a guarantee of a positive experience as so many will attest.

I want these boys to walk away from childhood with the support of each other. I'm sure there will be some distance for a time when they sort out who they are as individuals but  I want them to be able to return to the family, turn to each other, and know there are people there they can lean on, count on and come back to.

Will that be too much to ask?


Buddy’s new girl

I mentioned a few days ago that Buddy got a new car, a 1981 Porsche 928. He bought it on a trade for some equipment he had and then see if it was worth salvage or stripping down for parts. Turns out to be neither of those things. He’s fallen in love with it. He always loved this model Porsche best and it is in within a stroke of being roadworthy.

He tinkered all weekend with it, borrowing sandpaper and tarnish remover and crooning over the details. He took Danny and Sugar and each one of the kids out for a spin as though it was a ride at the state fair. He even stood over the open hood, admiring the engine - something I’ve never seen him do on any other car he’s owned. He’s even pulling it into the garage late at night to work on it.

“Meet your Dad’s new girlfriend,” I said to Doc as we sat on the deck and watched Buddy crawl under the car to tighten something. “That’s who Dad will be spending his weekends with from now on.”

“How do you know it’s a she?” Doc asked.
Good question. “Hey, Bud. Is the Porsche a she or a he?”
“Definitely a she,” came the voice from under the car.
I raised my shoulders in resignation. “See?”
“I like her,” said Doc.

That’s good, I thought. It’s better to like your Dad’s new girl straight off rather than resent the attention he spends on her. I just hope the honeymoon lasts because he’s in this relationship for the long haul.

It's us or them

Tish works in an humane society and animal shelter. The place is full of constant noisy barking and screaming animals, emotions run high among the staff who have to deal with stress every day, people bring in abused and abandoned animals and they regularly have to involve the police and other officials to rescue dogs from unsavory conditions. Yet today she told me that she can handle all of that more easily than the stress of the 3 boys at home.

Not good.

She is bothered by the fact that there doesn’t seem to be room in this world of ours for us and  it’s not healthy for us personally or our marriage. We’re either busy with our work, busy with the kids, constantly picking up after them and then too tired to do anything but watch TV or nap. Just looking after the boys, even when they are playing on their own, wears us down. Because they don’t get along and always demand attention every hour of their waking lives, it constantly saps that little bit of extra and leaves us less for each other.

We’re very close and our relationship can withstand a lot of pressure. But how long can it continue like this? Is there a limit where we crack or do we just endure until it either winds down or leaves us sucked dry?

I want to enjoy my marriage, my partner, my wife. And she me. Even when we do get out for a meal we end up talking about the crap that goes on here, leaving us no escape. We need a getaway. She’s talking about kayaking and camping. I’d settle for live music and the odd play every now and then. Either way, we need to change the parameters of this deal or it will change us.