Turtle's Progress

Thursday, June 26, 2014


My new passport came in the mail last week.  The next day the cancelled one was sent back as well.  This set me to wondering if I still had my other cancelled ones and how many there were.   After a quick search through a couple drawers I had them all gathered together.  As I lined them up, six in all counting the new one, I began thinking about the places I'd been that had required their use and wondered what memories opening them up would bring back to me. 

The first one was issued in my maiden name on August 1st 1973, exactly three months before I married my first husband in Nicosia, Cyprus.  The young woman pictured, barely 20 years old, looks hopeful and in love.  There are Cypriot arrival and departure stamps, and a  "Temporary Resident Permit" stapled in the back that is valid "for so long as her husband is employed with the State Department agencies functioning in Cyprus."  That turned out to be only six months.   But during those six months we married, made our first home together, traveled from one end of the island to the other, visited ancient ruins, drove on the left, came to love the Cypriot people and celebrated my 21st birthday shortly before we left. 

In January 1975 my husband was on temporary duty with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut, Lebanon.  Still using this first passport, I joined him there for a short time on an entry visa "good for two journeys and six months stay".  This visa cost me $5 and stated I was not entitled  to work in Lebanon.  This visa is from the "Consulate General of Lebanon in New York" and is stamped over a beautiful green Cedars of Lebanon Stamp.  (It's the prettiest thing in any of them!)  I nearly missed the entry notice back in to New York from that trip.  It is stamped ever so lightly and seems to say I was hardly gone long enough to warrant one at all!  But my time in Beirut was a grand adventure.  I roamed through the city, in and out of the tiny shops, walked along the seawall down to the Embassy, spent an afternoon in "The Souk" (a giant outdoor marketplace full of anything you would want to buy and oozing with the big smells of Mediterranean spices).  One day I got too close to a Palestinian refugee camp and was sent on my way by a police officer.   The Charles Hotel where we stayed for those six weeks was right in the city center with walking access to the main area of downtown Beirut.

My second passport was issued in 1976 shortly before we departed for Misawa, Japan.  Though my first passport would not expire until 1978, this new one was issued in my married name.  It also, as well as the two following, was valid "only for use in connection with the bearer's residence abroad as a dependent of a member of the American military...."  The picture shows a slightly older young woman, more serious than the first, and looking somewhat unsure about where this passport would take her.  My first child was born while we were there, and the second one on her way before we departed.  I like to say both of my daughters were "Made in Japan."  We lived in a small house just outside the gates of the base and chose not to move into base housing when our name came up on the list.  Vendors specializing in all sorts of wares would visit our neighborhood during the week.  The basket man, the plant man, the sweater man, the vegetable man, and the trinket man all made their rounds.  Our neighborhood consisted of both Americans and Japanese citizens and these older men pulling their wooden carts sold to all of us!  Winters were brutal in this part of Japan!  We arrived in February 1977 and 36 inches of snow fell during our first  24 hours in country.  This California girl was in shock!  There was a traditional Japanese hot bath in our neighborhood where I would sometimes walk and enjoy a good soak with my baby in tow.   It's interesting that this passport has a departure stamp from Japan in September 1979 but no entry stamp back in to America.  

Less than a year later in August 1980 this second passport also took me to Athens, Greece.  My daughters were three months and 21 months when we arrived.  They each had their own passport with a baby picture attached.  My time in Greece was full of babies and motherhood.  I remember well the small apartment where my daughters grew from babies to toddlers and preschoolers.  They were four and a half and three when we left.  Our apartment building was in a Greek neighborhood but filled with American families.  We became good friends with one particular family and our daughters loved to play together.  We survived a fairly strong earthquake during our time there and thereafter lived with a quick-exit travel bag filled with passports and other important papers located close to the door.  I came to love the smell of Greek food cooking at outside tavernas and the open air market that closed our street every Tuesday morning.


During our time in Greece my second passport expired and the next one was issued by the American Embassy in Athens.  The picture shows a harried mother of a newborn and toddler.  I remember the day that picture was taken and it is not a pretty sight!!  The lone entry in this third passport is my departure from Greece.  Again, there was no entry stamp back into the US. 


The fourth passport was issued in 1987 shortly before my family departed for nearly three years in Coco Solo, Panama.  My girls were seven and eight when we arrived and my passport picture reflects a more relaxed and pulled together mother of school-agers!  We lived in old WWI era housing on  a beautiful waterfront area loaded with little girls all nearly the same age as our children.  They had the freedom to roam the waterfront (I could look out the front window of our second story apartment and see exactly where they were) and play with their friends all day long!  They both still talk about this time as the best of their childhoods.  I enjoyed my time there by putting my newly acquired degree in Early Childhood Education to good use by opening a small preschool for our neighborhood children.  I located it in the bottom of our building, using the garage area and a room that was the "maid's room" when this housing was used by high ranking Naval Officers in the early part of the 20th century.  (I've often wondered if this is where his family lived when Senator John McCain was born on Coco Solo Submarine Base in 1936).  This passport contains entry and exit stamps from the Republic of Panama and an entry stamp into Charleston, South Carolina.

My international travel days were on welcome hiatus for 15 years until 2004.  By then I had divorced, and remarried.  Almost as soon as we married Tom started talking about wanting to travel abroad.  We planned a British honeymoon which required a new passport!  This one, issued in 2003, and showing what looks like a mugshot of my 50 year old self, has had more use than any of the others.  Two trips to England and a tour of Ireland during its ten years of validity.  This passport was used strictly for vacationing!!  I have wonderful memories of our times in England.  On our first trip there in 2004 Tom met and exchanged business cards with a British police officer.  He and his wife have since become good friends and we have had the pleasure of traveling with them through California and down to the Gulf.  Our time in Ireland was jam-packed full of information from our tour guide and made much more fun by traveling with Tom's cousin and his wife.

And so this new passport sits on my desk ready to be broken in.   Comparing its picture to the 20 year old in that first one, I see the resemblance.  I also see the life that face has lived during the past forty years.  I see the airports, the suitcases, the homes, the children, and the heartache that face has borne.  Most of all I see a life well-lived and ready for more!  This new passport will take me to England once again this September and on a quick side trip to Paris.  It is valid until 2024, expiring 50 years after the first one was issued!  Let the adventures begin!!

Friday, May 09, 2014

Laundry Room Solution

I've never been happy with the way my laundry room looks.  It is right off the kitchen and has the only window that allows light to come into one area of the kitchen.  Closing the door blocks this light but with the door open it always looks messy.  No matter how neat I keep everything it still looks thrown together.  There are no cupboards to keep things in, just open shelves.  

Well, here is my solution!!



The door can stay open for the light, Cali can get to her water and the mess is hidden away but the curtains can easily be slid back to reach anything behind them!!  Yay!!  Because the fabric is clipped on with rings I can easily change it when I get tired of it or just need a change and the rod is sitting on the top of the window frame and the door frame -- no need for hardware!

Because this idea is one my grandmother often used to cover shelves or designate areas in her home and now my grandchildren will probably remember me doing it, I'm linking up to The Grand Social at http://www.grandmasbriefs.com/

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hanging Out With the Wash (Originally written June 2006))

I'm linking up with:
Lisa's "Grand Social" at Grandma's Briefs
Connie's "Grandparents Say It Saturday" at Family Home and Life 

Washing clothing is something that everyone deals with. Most of us wash our own but there are those who “send it out” or have household help to do it for them. Until I moved out of my childhood home at age twenty I don’t remember being responsible for doing my own laundry. Earlier this summer as my small contribution to the energy crunch and to save a little money, I began hanging laundry on our backyard clothesline. As I set each item in the sun to dry I am taken back to my childhood and to thinking about “washing clothes”.

My mother’s favorite domestic chore is washing the clothing of her family. In one of my earliest memories she is standing at the wringer washing machine that she loved, feeding the soapy clothes through the tight wringer at the top and into a fresh tub of clean water. After she had allowed them to rinse for a time she would run them back through the ringer, place them in her laundry basket and head outside to the clothesline. The rental home we lived in at that time (the mid 1950’s) had a “high tech” clothesline. Instead of walking along the line to hang the clothes while kicking the basket and sliding the clothespin bag along the line as was the usual way, this house had a wooden platform she stood on to reach the lines which were connected to pulleys. As she stood on that platform reaching up to the line, she would lovingly shake out each item, pin it to the line, slide the line away a bit, hang the next item, and before I knew it the line was full. The first item was way down at the end and my mother had stood in the same place the entire time. To a five year old this was an amazing thing to watch! Mom didn’t hang the clothes haphazardly but sorted as she hung – towels together, wash rags, t-shirts, jeans, socks, sheets, etc. All like items were hung together and by the time she finished the laundry was like a work of art splashing against the background of the sky. I realize now that this was also practical – it made taking things down from the line and folding them much quicker and easier.

Bleach was my mom’s favorite laundry additive. She used it on all of our white clothes; on our towels, no matter what their color; and on the sheets, which were always white in those days. With all that bleach, and then hanging in the hot San Jose, California sun for most of the day, our clothes were bright bright bright! Another product she used often was called "bluing". It came in a small round glass bottle with a cork top (if my memory serves), and it was also used to keep clothes bright. It is a whitener that is still available today and is actually much more environmentally friendly than most other laundry products. Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing or MSB was a favorite. Mom moved on to automatic washer and dryers when I was about ten years old. She still hangs her clothes on a round line out on the patio every once in awhile, and adds bleach to just about everything, but I haven’t seen a bottle of “bluing” for a long long time.

My grandmother also had a wringer washer and hung her clothes on the line. A vague early memory is the family story of my mom’s arm getting caught in the wringer when she was a child. My grandmother had a wooden clothes hamper in her bathroom that my grandfather had made. It was counter high, about four feet long and two feet deep. Half of this chest held three deep drawers for towels; the other half had a tilt out clothes hamper where the dirty clothes were gathered. I had hoped to inherit that hamper from my grandmother but my uncle, who was only seven when his father died, had also wanted it, and I’m glad that he has this item which was handmade by his father.

While sorting, washing, and drying the clothes were always done by my mother, folding was another matter. As the oldest child, that job often came to me. I still fold most of my clothes in the same way my mom taught me. T-shirts into quarters, mated socks rolled into balls, towels stacked with the fold out, diapers folded to fit the current size of the baby, and I’m sure many other rules that I do so automatically I don’t even realize it. When my wheelchair bound grandmother moved in with my parents she always wanted to help around the house. Folding clothes was something she could do easily. The dry clothes were easy for her to retrieve from the dryer and roll into the dining room table where she would fold them and make a stack for each member of the family. I realize now in thinking about the way in which she did this, that, just as I learned most of my laundry skills from my mother; my mother, in turn, learned them from her mother.

My daughters have learned about laundry from me as well. But their responsibility for their own clothes began at a much earlier age than mine did. Up until they were about nine or ten their sole responsibility when it came to their laundry was to put away the clothes I had washed, dried and folded. One day after I had carefully completed these tasks I asked them to put their clothes away before dinner. They complied but the next day when I entered their rooms I found that the clothes had been carelessly stuffed into their drawers with half of them hanging out and most becoming wrinkled and unfolded. When they got home from school that day their relationship with laundry began in earnest. I told them I was no longer washing their clothes. I showed them how to sort, how to use the washer and dryer, and how to fold. I also told them that Saturday was their laundry day and they would not be allowed to go outside and play with their friends until this chore was complete. They learned that cooperation would get them outside much more quickly and began to do it together combining their whites and coloreds, and helping each other fold. My own mother was appalled at this development but I think my daughters were much more prepared to be on their own in college and in life because they had developed this skill. They knew at an early age, unlike most of their friends, that “clean clothes” were something that required effort and did not just magically appear in your drawers a few days after you had placed them in the hamper.

And so, as I carefully hang my clothes on the line in this hot Alabama sun, sorting by item and type, smelling the detergent and bleach, I think of my mother and grandmother. I think of how I do this by choice, out of frugality and nostalgia, and how they did it out of necessity. I think of those rainy days when their babies must have needed dry diapers and the towel drawers were empty. I think of how they improvised by using an inside drying rack and hanging things near the furnace, and I appreciate much more their dedication to making sure their families had clean clothes. I also think of my daughters who learned about laundry at an early age but will never know how much effort it required in the past. Then I remember the old glass washboard that decorates my laundry room. When my father gave it to me he said it had belonged to my great grandmother, and I realize suddenly that I too have no clue of how difficult washing clothes really was so long ago.

(Update:  2/27/13, I currently use the above pictured clothesline with all of my laundry.  I keep it set up in the guestroom until company comes.  It will hold two loads and they usually dry in less than 24 hours.  My dryer is used to toss each load on air only setting to get out the machine spun wrinkles before hanging on the line.  I can't imagine what my power bill would be without this clothesline!)

Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Surprise in Grandad's Closet

When  any of our children and their families come to visit there are two things that our grandchildren can count on happening each and every time and both of them happen in Grandad's closet!

Since 2006 when we first moved to this house my husband has been documenting the growth of the grandkids.  He chose a wall in his closet and has a spot for each of our four grandchildren where he marks the date, their height and their weight.  The first time he did it they weren't quite sure what the point was, but now four years later, they are all anxious to see how they've grown, who has grown the most, and who weighs the most!  The have become pros at standing up straight while he uses his ruler and pencil, and then carefully stepping on to the scale to see the numbers!

The other very special thing that happens in Grandad's closet is the official visit to the money jar!  My husband stashes all of his change in a large pickle jar in the closet and each time the kiddos are here for a visit, before they leave, and only if they have been very very good (I don't know what they would have to do for Grandad to consider them not very very good!) they are allowed three hands full of change from the money jar.  He has them place this money in a ziplock bag and then he dramatically adds a gold or silver Doubloon (silver dollar coin) which he tells them he received from The Pirate Steve (who,the story goes, floats around in a lake near our house!).  The older ones have about given up on believing in The Pirate Steve, but they know if they do that the Doubloons will quit coming.

I'm linking up to "Grandparents Say It Saturday" at
"The Grand Social" at

Monday, January 28, 2013

The Blissful Couple

The Blissful Couple
by Judith Viorst
(from her collection of poetry Suddenly Sixty)

They laugh together.
Read together.
Paint together.
Listen to music together.
Walk, holding hands, together.

They love exchanging

He rushes to greet her,
His arms outstretched,
Joyfully calling her name,
When he sees her arrive.

Who, you are wondering,
Is this blissful couple?
She is his grandma.
He is almost five.

Here I am with the other half of my Blissful Couple on our
Christmas Morning date!

I'm linking this to Lisa's linky party over at Grandma's Briefs.
Check out the fun!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Red Thread

My daughter gave me the Lucy Kaplansky  CD "The Red Thread" after hearing an interview with the singer on NPR in 2004.  It was around mother's day and after the interview the sales skyrocketed.  You can hear the interview and a version of the title song here . 

I found a live version on youtube also.  You can hear it here .

A great song for generations of women learning to love from watching each other!  Get out your tissues!

"I'm the girl who learned to love from watching you." 

I've joined the linky party over at Lisa's Grandma's Briefs.  Check out the fun!!

Grama Vegan

Over the past few months I have slowly toyed with with idea of becoming a plant-based or vegan eater.  I watched the documentary "Forks over Knives", read many articles and blogs on the subject and have slowly become a believer in the health benefits of eating this way.  My main goal in doing this is to stay healthy as I age.  I want to be around for my grandchildren's weddings and maybe even the births of my great-grandchildren!  I want to live on my own for as long as possible and avoid being a burden on my daughters.  My health now is good and I'm on no medications for blood pressure or cholesterol but I want to keep it that way! 

It's been months since I've eaten meat but giving up eggs and dairy is more recent.  That was much harder.  I was an egg everyday for breakfast girl, and loved plain non-fat yogurt that I could mix with my own fruit and flavors.  But since the first part of the year I have given these up as well.  I still walk longingly past the yogurt display when I grocery shop but I know I can live without it!  I keep right on going around the corner to the frozen fruit that now keeps my oatmeal delicious and vaired! 

A couple of nights ago I made a veggie loaf that tasted very similar to meatloaf.  My husband, the carnivore, even had seconds!  My daughter gave me a vegan cookbook for Christmas and I've discovered that what they say about tofu is true -- it will taste like anything you mix it with from fruits and vegetables to spices and barbeque sauce!  Soups and chilis are my bestfriends in the winter.  Squash, roasted veggies, onions, peppers, pastas, and grains can all  be combined in different ways to make tasty and varied hot one pot dishes!

Best of all, I'm not hungry!  I think I could live like this!!

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Surprise in Grama's Closet

Is there a special place in your home that your grandchildren can't wait to see the minute they arrive at your house? (after hugs, of course!)

Mine head straight for the large closet in our TV/Family Room.  They know that its bottom three shelves are reserved for the toys and books.  It is always a work in progress.  As they've grown older the baby toys, noise makers, and Duplos have been replaced with Legos, boardgames and art supplies.  It is always fun to have them open the closet and exclaim over whatever they find that is new while often still reaching for the old standbye race car track or drawer full of "little toys" that my own girls used to play with.
The boys tend to go for the cars or Legos while the girls gravitate toward the art supplies and Grama's discarded jewelry.

Another storage space reserved just for them is the vintage suitcase under the bench.  The girls almost always immediately pull it out and check for new additions or get busy creating.  This suitcase has been dubbed "the office".  In here is stored markers, crayons, kid scissors, junk mail envelopes, stapler, tape dispenser, paper, play money, etc, etc.
Their creative side gets to work as soon as they start pulling things out.  Our Family Room has been converted to a jewelry store, a museum, and a baby nursery, a Star Wars set, an office and any other fun thing they can think of to use the things available in different ways. 
I keep these spaces supplied with  age-appropriate treasures by shopping thrift stores and always being on the lookout for games, toys and art supplies.  In addition to the closet and suitcase, the garage houses bikes, trikes, and wagons, all of which were found at my local Goodwill.

My own memories of playing at my grandparents' homes was much more limited than this.  One grandmother had one Richard Scarry book that my siblings, cousins and I had worn out and memorized.  The big draw at their house was that it was usually full of cousins to play with.The other had a few toys but the biggest thing at her house was her attention.  She was a widow and gave to any grandchild who came to visit her undivided attention.  She taught us to play jacks, checkers, rummy and "slap jack".  But no matter what or who I had to play with at my grandparents' houses, I always knew I was loved.  That is what I hope my grandchildren remember too.  I know they will think of "the office" and "the closet", but I hope they know that those spaces were filled with those playthings because their grama loved them and loved having them in her home to play!