Thursday, July 31, 2008

My New Grandson, Abraham Lincoln Gardner

I’ve been reading The Lincolns: Portrait of a Marriage, written by Daniel Mark Epstein, as part of my lifelong fascination with Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln. I don’t know why I and others are so interested in them, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that they are the first accessible President and First Lady. I don’t recall ever seeing photographs of previous presidents, but thanks to the development of photography and the work of Matthew Brady and his staff, we have many, many pictures of the Lincolns and notables of their age as well as of the Civil War. I have heard that there is even a recording, scratchy and poor, of Lincoln speaking; I don't know if this is true. I think that part of the fascination may also be because Lincoln would seem to be such an unlikely man (very poor, unschooled, and born to a mother who was apparently an illegitimate child) to have become president. (Although, perhaps in his era, he was not as unlikely a possibility as someone like him would be now.)

I have even gone so far as to bid through an online auction site on a hair purportedly from Mary Todd Lincoln. I didn’t really want it, but I bid early in the auction so that I could send links to both daughters telling them that one of them would be receiving it for Christmas--and no fighting, you two! I figured that there were people a lot more obsessed than I and that surely I would be outbid. The joke was almost on me as time went on and on and there were NO competing bids. What on earth would I do with it? Ick. But at the last minute, several bids came in and I lost. Whew….

Anyway, the book is very interesting, well researched and has a lot of letters and documented statements from both of the Lincolns and from people who knew them. History comes alive, but without the soap-opera aspect of the book I read before this one, which was so bad that I can’t remember the name of it.

This book was a novel about the life of Mary Todd Lincoln, and boy, did the author take liberties with what little research she apparently did. Part of the plot? Mary Todd Lincoln seduced Abraham Lincoln (on the sofa at a friend’s house, no less-while the friend and her husband stayed out of the way in the kitchen) in order to get pregnant so that he would marry her. The author seems to have “channeled” MTL in order to be able to write her thoughts as she plots to trap Abe into marriage. I realize that Mary is long dead, but it still seems wrong to me to take such liberties with the life of a real person.

I have always thought that it would be interesting to be the descendent of someone so famous (NOT infamous) that the whole world knows about him. I wonder what that would be like. The only lead I have on finding out is the sister-in-law who claims to be descended from President Polk. He seems mainly notable for starting an unnecessary war for reasons that were, at best, exaggerations of fact (sound familiar?)and my sister-in-law seems only interested in feeling somewhat superior because of her ancestor. But the last descendant of Abraham and Mary Todd Lincoln, a great-grandson, died in 1985 and so there are no descendents to protest what history does to their story.

I suggested to older daughter, who is having a baby and seems to be having a problem coming up with names, that she should name it, if it is a boy, Abraham Lincoln Gardner. She says no, but I think it would be a lovely tribute to someone as significant as our sixteenth president.

Abe Gardner, anyone?

Converging Thoughts

1. Blogger Amanda says (quoting her mother): Raising children is like being pecked to death by chickens.

2. I heard on the news this morning that as men get older, they get happier; as women get older, they become less happy.

Hmmm.....could there be a connection here? As women get older, there may be one chicken left that tries to finish off the job. (Check out Mad Mad's post today for a clue.)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gardens in a Time of Drought

(with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez )

I live in a suburb outside of Atlanta, Georgia. We have been in a drought for several years, but last year and this have been the worst of it so far. Last summer we weren't allowed to water outside at ALL, except with water saved from the showers indoors---water that runs while we wait for hot water. There was even controversy over that because some people thought that using that water in the yard kept it from going back into the water supply via the sewer system. But that's all the water we had for outside use.

This summer, even though the drought has not eased, we are allowed to water three times a week, for twenty-five minutes each time, using a hand-held, automatic shut-off nozzle attached to a hose. Woo hoo! We can do this until ten in the morning.

If we want to install a pool, we may fill the pool. If we have a pool, we may top it off throughout the summer. If we have landscaping professionally installed, we may water it for a month. This allows pool and landscaping businesses to survive. But if we have---and I do---nearly 20 year-old landscaping---tough. I understand this, I really do. I've been to Lake Lanier and seen how terribly low it is. It is just so frustrating to watch plants wither and die. Last year nothing died, but this year things are on their way out. My azaleas didn't bloom this year and are now wilted. Daylilies, which are tough plants and survive neglected along roadsides, did not bloom. My roses are just hanging in, but not flowering. Very large leyland cypresses that give us complete privacy in the back yard are now diseased and will probably fall over in the next ice storm. I think the drought has stressed them beyond the point where they could have remained healthy longer. Meanwhile, in other parts of the country, there are floods! We watch the news and cringe to see floods ruining homes and destroying crops.

Last summer we learned that Atlanta is the only major city in the country to have only one source of water: Lake Lanier. Other cities have multiple sources and thus, have resources to allow them to deal with droughts. Not here. And our always-unhelpful governor, Sonny Perdue, can only think to hold prayer sessions on the steps of the capitol.

Gotta love the "Bible Belt"!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Chat Bizarre

My summer has gotten way off track. I quit my teaching job (YAY) and planned on doing lots of gardening and other DIY projects. I also planned to join my friend Kathy and go to Art in the Park in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. It's held one weekend a month during the spring and summer and many great artists and craftsmen participate. Also, Blowing Rock is a great little town in the mountains, and there are lots of interesting shops there. My favorite is de Provence et d'ailleurs, a French shop run by a very patient French woman who is quite nice about allowing me to practice my French with her.

Because of other trips and my knee surgery, I haven't been able to get there yet this year. Two of my friends did, however, and they sent me a sign that reads: ATTENTION! CHAT BIZARRE
I put the sign on the door to the laundry room (my cat's "office"), where we keep his food and bowls.

This is Lewis, THE cat:

And he must be able to read French because he is turning crazy. Last night he opened the Rubbermaid bin we keep his dry food in. Maybe we hadn't left any food for him to eat during the night; I don't know. He has never done this before and without opposable thumbs, how he managed it is a mystery. But he apparently ate himself into a stupor and didn't wake us earlier than we'd like this morning.

Just now (noonish) I heard a racket in the laundry room and went in to see what was going on. He was trying, again, to open the food bin, even though he has plenty of food in his bowl. So it's just for fun, I guess. He is crazy...

Monday, July 21, 2008

Too Lazy Today

I apparently am too lazy today to write, so instead I'm sharing this video from The Country Doctor's Wife. It's for English majors, English teachers and the grammar/spelling obsessed everywhere (or at least for the one or two who read this blog).

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


This past weekend, I went to Austin to visit my wonderful, perfect, gorgeous and funny grandchildren (and their parents). I had a great time just watching and listening to them. Yesterday we stuffed them in the hot car (it was HOT in Austin-over 100 every day, and one day, even 105!!!) to take them to lunch, and then to a new yarn shop in town. It's called Gauge and it's great! Lots of gorgeous yarns to pet and drool over. The woman there was very nice, and didn't even seem to mind 22-month old grandson "admiring" the yarn. I told older daughter that she was to stop me from buying any more yarn, but she must not have been listening, because, oops, I ended up with this:
It's Lorna's Laces hand-dyed Shepherd Sock Yarn (80% superwash wool, 20% nylon) and it is really, really soft and the colors are ...well, you can see the colors. My daughter and I each bought the same colorway, and will make socks out of it. Great minds think alike.

However, I REALLY had not intended to buy yarn, but resistance was futile. One of the best reasons to knit socks is that no matter where you are, if you see a sock yarn you love, you know how much you need. The same is not true of sweaters and other items, so you end up either buying a new pattern in order to buy the yarn, or you leave the yarn in the shop for another knitter. But you can ALWAYS buy sock yarn!

And if you live in Austin, and love this particular colorway in Lorna's Laces, too late---we beat you to it and bought it all. Sorry...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Dumbest Idea I Have EVER Had

I don't know what possessed me. Last week at Knit-Nite at the LYS, I saw a beautiful scarf. It had beads knitted into it, and I loved it. "What a great gift idea," I thought. And it is. I'm sure people I would knit them for would love them.

However, each scarf requires 1500 beads. FIFTEEN-HUNDRED!!!!! And how do these beads get in the scarf? Each of these FIFTEEN-HUNDRED beads is threaded onto the yarn, bead by bead, by hand. I've been at it for twenty minutes, I have about thirty beads on the yarn, and I've broken one needle already.

I am visiting older daughter in Austin this weekend, and I offered to watch her three children, to let her have absolute, complete peace and quiet so that she could string all these beads. She said "No," very emphatically.

So now I have NO idea how I am going to accomplish making this scarf. The only thing I can think of is to leave the beads, yarn, needles, and foam pad out on the dining room table, and then to work on it little by little, bead by bead.....for a very long time.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Middle Child

My older daughter and her husband are expecting their fourth child in November. They hope that child #2 and new baby will be buddies, no matter the sex of #4. Child #1 (almost 8) and child #3 (almost 2) are great buddies, and that is helped by the fact that #1 is old enough to understand personal space, and knows that she can’t force #3 to like her. Instead, she plays with him in an appropriate manner, reads to him, and generally lets him be him. #2, however, tries to make #3 love her, and is way too enthusiastically and physically affectionate. (You don’t want to play with me when I love you so much? See how much I love you? Momma, he’s running away and I want to HUG him!)

My sister is the middle child and she has always been opposed to anyone’s having a middle child. She told her husband that if he wanted four children, fine, they would have four. But they wouldn’t have three. He pointed out to her that they couldn’t have four without first having three and she explained that three guaranteed four. They have two children.

When I see how #2 and #3 interact, I realize what my sister meant all these years. I think back to how my brother (#3) and I (#1) treated her. There were five years in age between my brother and me, and we got along well. My poor sister was often the odd man out. My brother was (in my memory, at least) the worst of the two of us when it came to tormenting her. There was a period of time in his youth when he was obsessed with robots; they didn’t exist yet in any form but there was plenty written about their development and my brother was fascinated by the idea of them. When my sister was angry with him and told him off, he would repeat in a monotone voice, “That does not compute. That does not compute,” until she gave up and went away.

A lot of what we did to her was the result of her having her birthday on April 1st. It wasn’t her fault that she was born on April Fool’s Day, but my brother and I made the most of it. One year we sent her on a scavenger hunt. She followed clue after clue, only to find a gift-wrapped apple core at the end. I really, really hope that we had the generosity (and the budget) to give her a decent gift after all of that, but I don’t remember. We often told her that she had won the Fussbudget of the Year Award (after Lucy in the Peanuts cartoon), but no wonder!!! We tormented her and she, understandably, fought back.

So, for #2’s sake: I hope new baby just loves, loves, loves his or her big sister!

Oh, and---sorry, Linda!!!

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

One Pair Down---Many, Many To Go

I finally finished the Noro socks. They aren't identical because there was a knot in the yarn at the bottom of the leg of the second sock-rats! But I love the colors anyway. Noro has GREAT colors!

I am just finished with the heel flap on the Paca-Ped Socks, and boy-howdee, do I love this yarn. It is alpaca and it is just SO soft! And instead of forming horizontal stripes, it stripes in a spiral. It's fun to watch it stripe up, and now I can't wait to see how the spiral works on the foot.