Thursday, February 25, 2010

What Nana Did Today

Walked the hills with Brenda.
Came home and admired the star magnolia.
In a few days it will be rain-bedraggled but still smelling sweetly.

Sat tiredly waiting for the Yamaha Clavinova 409 to be delivered.

Plunked out a few chords and admired its shiny newness for a few moments before heading off to the church for a humanitarian project.
Quilts to be tied for Haiti...

...and cute little girl dresses made out of t-shirts and a gathered skirt.

Drove to McMinnville to spend time with grandchildren.
Chris is out of town and Bethany had a hard day yesterday.
Sat with the boys while Bethany took Kenzie to dance and Natalie napped.
Josh and I watched Daniel play Wii.
I love this boy, can you tell?

Brought Kenzie and Daniel home for a sleepover.

Watched a Preparedness Pro Webinar with Karen and Hope.
We yakked more than we watched, but we learned a few things.

Papa had half a root canal this morning and wasn't feeling too good, so he went to bed and the rest of us played, I swear, the World's Longest Game of Skip-Bo. Seriously. It lasted for TWO HOURS!
Memo to self: next time, don't deal the suggested 30 cards per person.

Daniel doing Lip-face.

Time for bed.
The Osborne tradition of hot chocolate and Keebler graham crackers.
We dunk them.
Kenzie told me tonight that she remembers the first time I taught them how to dunk graham crackers in hot chocolate. I told them it would be yummy and they believed me.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I love hedgehogs. Not those scrawny African things you see in the pet stores, but the round fat brown ones that live in the hedgerows of England. Hence the name, you see. Plus, the little piggy snout.
When I was nine or ten and we were living in North Littleton, my Dad brought home a hedgehog which he had found on the side of the road. It had probably been hit by a car but was not visibly injured. We were pet-deprived at our house (some day I will tell you the "kitten-in-the-tree-house" incident) so Anne and I were immediately in love. We nursed it for a day or two, but sadly, hedgehog died. We had a little burial service for him/her underneath the big trees at the back of the garden. We mourned him/her quietly for some time.
Ever since then, I have had a soft spot in my heart for the hedgehog. We had an encyclopedia set with a volume of stories and one of them was about a hedgehog. He had many adventures, including running into some gypsies who tried to eat him. Apparently, hedgehogs are a delicacy in some cultures. It created a vivid impression on my mind and I was theoretically scared of gypsies for some time after that, although I'm not sure I ever actually saw any.
There are no hedgehogs native to North America. In fact, those in New Zealand were introduced by Europeans. Hedgehogs will roll up in a spiny ball when threatened, although their spines are not poisonous at all. They are nocturnal, omnivorous, lactose intolerant, and prone to fatty liver disease and heart disease because of their tendency to scavenge from human fast-food containers.
I found this video last night and it occurred to me that I have, over the years and quite unwittingly, surrounded myself with many incarnations of the hedgehog. This little animation was created in Russia in 1975 and has been beloved of Russian children ever since. It was recently given an award for being the best animated film ever. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it is very sweet.

Here are a few of my friendly hedgehogs. I also have some hedgehog Christmas tree ornaments, but I'm not about to go digging them out of the window seat today. The big one in this photo is a post-Valentine's-Day-75%-off that I could not resist. The grandkids love to snuggle and use him as a pillow. The tiny one was a souvenir from the trip to England that Bethany and I took almost twenty years ago. The third is a puppet, which I saw at Mum's house and claimed for my own.

These are tiny, one crystal and one made in New Zealand, again from my Mum.

This is a hedgehog baby, Anne Geddes style. Did you know Geddes is a Kiwi? Is it sleeping or is it dead? Hard to tell.

I think this mug was also from England, a present for Jeff.

Be careful of pregnant hedgehogs. We babysat a couple of hedgehogs once, for Jonnie's friend Ben. Mama was pregnant. She delivered and ate her babies before we knew what was happening.
Which might be why I always refer to hedgehogs as "he".

Sunday, February 21, 2010

What Nana thinks in the middle of the night

Life without death and happiness without misery are contradiction and neither can be found alone, because each of them is a different manifestation of the same thing. Swami Vivekananda.

I think about dying a lot. It's not something you want to bring up in social situations, but my best friends and family all know that I have some very strong ideas about my death and burial. A few years ago I read Death: The Final Stage of Growth, by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, and it got me started. I don't think I had ever thought about my death before, except in vague, ethereal terms.
I have been thinking about my Dad's death and some of the traditions that were observed as we mourned him. He died suddenly when I was in Australia on holiday. By the time I got home, he was ensconced in our neighbour/friend/Bishop's living room in an open casket. I wasn't too happy about this, because I had never seen a dead body before and I definitely did not like seeing my Dad dead. And I couldn't avoid it. We had a sweet memorial service in that living room, which was packed with friends who told stories about Dad. Right next to his dead body. I believe the "body in the living room" thing is a Maori custom, and while it was kind of our friends to honour him thus, it felt kind of creepy to me.
After reading about death and burial customs in America, I saw how the status quo is not necessarily logical, functional, or helpful. So, I have developed a picture in my mind of how I want to be remembered and mourned.
Here is how the scenario goes:
No embalming.
Put me in a plain pine box.
Or, if my views get more radical as I age, a shroud.
No viewing, for the family or the public.
No makeup. Just dress me and close the box.
Lots of singing and funny stories at the service. Tell of my good deeds and how much I loved life and dessert and my family and friends. Tell of my adventures. Tell how I was annoying and scary and bossy. Tell it all. But don't be boring and long-winded.
At the graveside, NO FAKE GRASS. Just an big old open hole and the coffin.
Lower the coffin while everyone's still there. Sing something moving while it's going down.
Everybody gets to throw dirt and flowers on the grave.

The old girl's dead.
Now let's get on with life

Remember, we already have our burial plots up on the mountain. My wishes are now part of the public record and I expect them to be followed.

My point in all this is twofold. First, to eliminate all the unnecessary expense that traditionally goes into the process of being put in the ground. Second, I want the people who love me to really know that I'm gone and to experience every part of the process. It's a requisite part of grieving and is often bypassed by the somewhat sterile traditions to which we have become accustomed. You can disguise the hole in the ground, but it's still there, and perhaps it is better to acknowledge it.

So, there is a happiness component of this post.
I've been reading an intriguing book called "The Geography of Bliss", by Eric Weiner.

Eric describes himself as a grumpy man. While researching material for his book, he visited several countries that rank particularly high or low in the World Database of Happiness. Believe it or not, there is such a place, it's in Rotterdam. One of these countries was Bhutan, a tiny monarchy with one major road in the Himalayas. Bhutan actually has, instead of the Gross National Product, Gross National Happiness. Yes, happiness is a national policy.
Eric is told by a Bhutanese intellectual that he needed to think about death for five minutes every day in order to cure his melancholia. This idea resonates with me. In our Western culture we are removed from death until it touches us personally, and then we have no immunity to its ravages. Death is the human condition, none will escape it, and we need to be ready for the moment we cease to exist in this sphere. While my thinking through my own death may be an attempt to exert control even after I'm gone (and my children will tell you that this is probably the reason) it is also my way of strengthening myself for the eventual outcome.
This I do know. Thinking about death doesn't make me unhappy, so maybe there's something to it.

Searching The Blog

You will notice I have added a Google search box to the top of my gadget column. There should be a better name for it than that. There probably is one, but I just don't know it.
It's pretty nifty. You can search my blog for any key words and also search any links or blogs that appear on my pages.
So go ahead.
Search away.
The sum total of my wisdom is now at your nimble fingertips.


Harbinger: hahr-bin-jer. Anything that foreshadows a future event; omen; sign; herald: Baby daffodils are a harbinger of spring.
Apparently, I've been saying it wrong all these years.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Tat-ty Kids

When Bethany graduated from high school she took a celebration trip to the coast with her girlfriends. Upon her return she informed me that her friends had gotten tattoos. "Oh Bethany, I'm so proud of you for not succumbing to peer pressure," was my reply.
About two weeks later, I noticed that her ears had acquired another piercing. My sweet daughter had been hiding her ears behind her hair for that long! It was a minor rebellion and several years later, at the admonition of church leaders, she let the second pair of holes close up.

Ten years later, Charlie turned 18.

I noticed that something was up.
He was acting in a secretive manner.
He went to the doctor and then needed our prescription card.
He would divulge nothing.
My mind, of course, was taking all kinds of wild rides in the realm of possibilities. I was convinced that he had an STD and I felt quite sick at the prospect. I did some digging. In his bathroom drawer, I found a paper giving instructions on "The Care of Your Tattoo."
I was so relieved I wanted to sing and dance and hug his rotten little neck.
I felt like laughing.
His tattoo had become infected.
Ha! Serves him right, I thought.
I decided not to tell him that I knew, because it was so much fun to have him intimidated for a change. I realised then that he had been wearing his shirt all of the time at home. He was often shirtless at home, especially before and after showering. So I thought maybe the tat (that's what cool people call them you know) was on his upper arm. So I just smiled quietly to myself for the next few days, and eventually someone let the cat out of the bag. I think he overheard me telling the story to a friend on the phone. It turned out that the tat was rather large, Death Before Dishonor, on his left chest. Ugly, but at least his clothes hid it.
Then, a year or so later, he was home on leave from the Marines and walking around the house in his usual semi-naked state and I did a double-take. Wrapping around his lower torso was the biggest, ugliest tattoo I have ever seen. Think skeleton and who-knows-what-else. He was already a little rueful, having done it in the aftermath of boot camp. "So, Charlie, thinking about tat removal already eh?" He chuckled.

Then Annie brings Edwin home. Who is also the proud owner of several very visible tats. Including one on his forearm that says Mary Jane. Who is, in case you haven't guessed, his former wife.
Oh yeah, major blunder!
Annie married him anyway.

I was starting to feel like I should get a tasteful butterfly tattoo on my ankle just so that I could fit in with my family.

This Valentine's day Edwin started the removal process for Mary Jane.
Here is the facebook thread, lightly edited by yours truly.

Edwin White I dont know what was more uncomfortable? Getting a tattoo or getting it removed. Im glad I finally did it though.
Susan Wilson Osborne Tell me it's the Mary jane one! Is that one of my Roxy photos?
Edwin White Yes to the mj tattoo, and no, this is a pic of Roxy Annie took when we first got her.
Susan Wilson Osborne Oh, I see it now, she does look younger. Good for you on the tat. That was a pretty big one, did they do it in one session?
Bethany Osborne Mitchell Ow. BTW, I like that you got it removed, not that it hurt. :)
Charlie Osborne DUDE!!!!!! dont give my mom ideas man!!! shell make me get mine removed when i get back.... oh by the way... ill do it mom if you pay??!!! ;)
Susan Wilson Osborne We'll pay!
Bethany Osborne Mitchell LOL Now you don't have an excuse Charlie!
Annie Marie White I AM SOOOOOOO HAPPY!!!!!! :D
Edwin White Now where should i put Annie's name???
Susan Wilson Osborne Did you not learn anything?
Edwin White I'm not going to. I just wanted to see yor reaction.
Susan Wilson Osborne Ha! I foresee a blog post on tats coming up here. Beware!

So you see two things.
#1. People in my family do not know how to use punctuation.
#2. If you are patient and wait long enough, most things will come full circle.

Monday, February 15, 2010

These I love

In no particular order:

Cuddles and kisses from little Jeff.
Cuddles and kisses from big Jeff.
The blogs of my kids.
Comments on my blog.
Fruit and nut Toblerone.
Sunny days.
Brightly coloured spring flowers.
Piano students.
Hot chocolate in the morning.
Walking to church.
Slabs of butter between two graham crackers.
Gathering with friends.
A good poem.
Any chocolate by Lindt.
Jamie Cullum.
Digital cameras.
My house.
Kangaroos and koalas.
Children singing.
Riding my bike.
Outdoor concerts.
Protest rallies.

Ain't life grand?
I could go on, but you would find it tedious.
Feel free to add your own list.
In the comments section.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

This and That

I've been feeling a little bored again lately.
And boring.
I think it's the empty nest. As much as I love having a house that stays clean and the luxury of not HAVING to be busy if I choose not to be, I miss my peeps.

In a couple of months we will have a full house again. Mum is coming for four months, starting in the middle of April. Then Annie arrives for a month, Charlie for probably three weeks of leave, and Edwin will also be here for a week. So for at least a month I can cook and entertain to my heart's content. I will hug Charlie to death, put Edwin to work (he's such a handy soul), make smoothies for Annie, and try to fatten Mum up. Then, by the time Mum leaves in August, I will appreciate my empty house once again. Variety is definitely the spice of my life.
So here are a couple of things I've been doing to relieve the boredom this week.

I know I promised a fascinating idea for Valentines Day, but it was a bit of a bust. I found this website, where you can upload photos, set them to music, and make your own video. It seemed like a fantastic idea. You can make a 30 second video for free, so I made one and tried to embed it here, but I couldn't get the embedding to work. However, the process seems sound, and you can make full-length videos for only $3, so I may try it out again at a later date.

Yesterday, Jeff and I went to the Yard, Garden and Patio Show at the Convention Center in Portland. A friend gave me tickets, so it was a bargain. Only $6 for parking. We spent a couple of enjoyable hours wandering the aisles, wondering at times what some of the booths had to do with the subject of the show. Socks? Really? Trivets? Dip mixes? I suppose you can do almost anything on a patio that you can do inside the house, but some of the connections were tenuous at best.
I found some lovely glass necklaces (see preceding thought) and Jeff was happy to let me get one for Valentines Day. Yeah, like he had any choice, right? But he is always gracious about my purchases, he says it's my reward for sticking with him all these years. And this lovely, um, thing, for holding flowers. Maybe my arrangements will finally look like ikebana. Right.

If you want to see some truly beautiful ikebana arrangements, go here. And yes, my daffodils are blooming. Spring is almost here.

Friday night, I got together with a few friends and we canned chicken. It's a surprisingly easy process, although I am quite fearful of pressure cookers. Go see Kellene's instructions if you want to give it a try. I love this woman more and more.
Six little jars of chicken breasts.

Today, I tried cjane's recipe for a crock-pot chocolate cake. It's very similar to my favourite recipe, it just uses a little more liquid. I've never tried baking a cake in a crock pot, but it worked wonderfully. I used a Triple Chocolate Fudge mix and added dark Dove promises. I think the Promises were a little too bitter after being cooked, so I will use milk chocolate next time.
Here's the recipe:

1 box of cake mix
1 c sour cream
1 c chocolate chips (or other chocolate treats)
4 eggs
1 small chocolate instant pudding mix
1/2 c oil
1 c water

Mix by hand.

Spray crock pot with non-stick spray, put batter in the pot.

Cover, cook on low for 6 to 8 hours or high for 3 to 4 hours.

Eat hot with vanilla ice cream.

We took it over to Jon and Jenny's place.
Jeff loved his.
Thomy said, "I don't like chocolate cake."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Speaking of Charlie...

...he has started a blog. You can catch his ruminations in my blog list at The Life of Oz.

Warning: I cannot vouch for content on his blog. He is 19 and a Marine. His idea of language and idioms that are acceptable for polite society do not always coincide with his mother's. So read at your own risk.

However, I am sure that he will narrate some interesting adventures, so the risk may be warranted.

Funny, I used to call Jeff "Oz". I can't even remember when I quit doing it. His Uncle Al has always been Oz as well. It seems like one male in each generation ends up with the moniker. I am often asked by people if we are related to Ozzie Osborne. Isn't that name a redundancy? I am ever so happy and relieved to tell them "No." Although his daughter spent some time at the addiction rehab facility just down the road from us. So I reluctantly admit to a slight connection to the family.

I'm working on something for Valentines Day. I hope to get it posted soon enough that you can utilize it for your own needs, if you so choose.
Keep an eye out.
Right here.

Now, I must be off to Freddies.
Jon called to tell me that their Rugers are on sale.
Armament serendipity.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Charlie update, updated

Of all the animals, the boy is the most unmanageable. Plato.

When Charlie was a child, he had beautiful hair. I remember the first few times I cut it, before he was maybe two, I would have to chase him around the garden with the scissors. He had lovely white-blond hair with little curls. As he got older his hair darkened up, as did the hair of all of our kids. For a long time I gave him bowl cuts. They were kind of awful, but I think he looked cute. And don't you see how silky his hair was? Ah, but I wax sentimental.
Now, my Marine wears his hair in a buzz-cut. Strictly military. It's so short that you can see all of the scars that he accumulated on his head in his childhood. Not attractive at all.

I thought you might be interested in an update on Charlie's life. As it turns out, to my relief and his dismay, he will not be seeing any combat this deployment. It being the Marines, we're not supposed to say too much, but they have mostly been on board a Navy ship doing training and security work in several different countries. He spent Christmas day snowboarding in Dubai. Nice life if you can get it!
Someone posted this photo on Facebook so I stole it. It's the only photo we have of him since he left.

We expect him home in April, all things being equal.
However, this is the Marines, so we remain flexible above all else.

P.S. I found this photo on Charlie's facebook album. I'm not sure if it's from his days at Camp Pendleton or his deployment, but it depicts the new Charlie a little better than the small photo.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Home Improvement in Spring Lake

While I was fairly idle at Annie's house, I did manage to get a few things done. And if you know me at all, you know I count my worth in the number of things I get done in a day.
So here is the photographic record of "Stuff that Nana did at Annie's house."

Bought a new curtain rod so that the living room curtains will look elegant.
And coerced Edwin into putting up the rod.

Cooked up a bunch of ground beef into spaghetti sauce and shepherd's pie meat.

Bought a new 400 thread count sheet set, including four pillow cases, for their bed. I love good sheets and figured it's where Annie spends most of her time lately. Also bought two co-ordinating cushions for the bed. What would we do without Ross and Marshalls and their ilk? Then HAND-SEWED a duvet cover for the feather comforter out of two sheets. Yes, my friends, hand sewed. It took me about four hours of fairly small back-stitch. No sewing machine, don't you know? Annie loves it. The lump in the bed is she. She had a migraine the day I left so I told her just to hunker down while I took the photo.

Talked Annie into buying these pretty sheers at TJMaxx to replace Edwin's ugly old faded blue curtains. Sorry Edwin, it had to be done!

Finally, some pictures of the happy couple.
And Roxy.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Things That Make Annie Throw Up:
Dog smell
Lumps of meat
Chocolate chip cookies
Talking on the phone
Sitting at the computer
Dairy products
Mystery smells in the carpet
Ice cream
Car travel
Moving around
Smoothies (sometimes)

Things That Don't Make Annie Throw Up:
Smoothies (usually)
Air freshener smell
Cheesecake Factory's Godiva chocolate cheesecake
Mashed potatoes
Lemon juice in water
Watching TV
Sierra Mist soda

Do you see my dilemma?

Edwin's last line of defense.
A carton of Breyers Triple chocolate icecream.
To which he has, fortuitously, sole proprietorship.
(See above lists.)