Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lessons From My Grandparents

As I was packing my lunch to drive a field trip the other day, I took a cold canned drink out of the fridge and wrapped it in a couple of thicknesses of paper towels, then in a layer of aluminum foil. It struck me that my grandmother used to do exactly the same thing and in fact that is where I learned it from. At times like these I miss my grandmother and feel thankful for all the life lessons she and my other grandparents passed along.

With the economy tanking more every day, it is kind of comforting for me to remember that all of them lived through The Great Depression. It may have been a little easier for them since most of them were farmers and could at least grow their own food. Even after they all left the farm to work in the city, they brought that same sense of independence and self reliance with them.

Their houses weren't fancy, but they were clean, comfortable and paid for. The same went for their cars. They both had a vegetable patch in their backyard for growing tomatoes and strawberries, mostly. One of my grandfathers taught me how to make a compost bin and the other showed me that just because you had open heart surgery doesn't mean you can't play softball at the family reunion.

These weren't lessons they beat me over the head with. Instead, they were spread out like a warm, comfortable quilt, practical, useful and even colorful. It's not that there wasn't any turmoil in their lives, but those times were weathered under that same quilt, with patience and faith in God.

I'm not a grandparent yet, but when I do get the chance, I hope I can pass that same quilt along to my grandchildren.

Friday, September 16, 2011


We got this hairy dog from the Birmingham Humane Society.
I can't understand why anyone would give her up.

Last night our friends Trent and Paul came over to practice with Fear an Cheoil for the North Alabama Scottish Festival and Highland Games, which takes place in Scottsboro, Alabama, the first weekend of October. Daisy waded into the circle of guitars, mandolins, accordions and bagpipes, tail wagging. I think she would have laid right there for the entire time they were playing if I hadn’t dragged her away. She wouldn't stay in my office with me but laid at the top of the stairs so she could at least hear the music, even if she could not see the musicians. This is a new behavior for her. She usually just ignores them. Doggie  dementia, I guess. She is eleven.

 Starting to show her age.

She was content there until Trent started playing his Highland Bagpipes. At the very first squawk, she ran back down the hall and cowered behind my chair while I was sitting at my desk. Her eyes pleaded with me to make him stop. We compromised. I let her out into the backyard while he was playing. Funny, that dog has not willingly gone into the backyard unless there was food involved since the beginning of June.

 Daisy, chillaxin' in the kitchen.

Since May she has been a constant fixture on the kitchen floor, kind of a large, furry rug taking up about half the room. She wants to be ready, just in case anything edible gets dropped. We don't allow her in the dining room while we are eating but as soon as she hears the chairs scoot back she is doggie on the spot. Rattle a little plastic or paper, Daisy is instantly under your feet, looking up in anticipation.

 My furry kitchen rug.

I guess I can't really blame her. She is used to having the run of the backyard, chasing squirrels, chomping on chipmunks and eating baby birds that fall out of the nest. Oh yeah, I know it's gross, but that's what dogs do. Last May she was diagnosed with degenerative liver disease, as well as significant arthritis in her back. We were devastated at first, but the vet put her on a detoxifying supplement called Denamarin, a special low protein diet and subcutaneous fluids three times a week. Right now, she's holding her own, having more good days than bad. I don't mind at all that I have to step over her to get to the fridge. I'm just glad she's still here to step over.