Friday, November 28, 2008

The Grand Finale

We're homeowners again!  I am so tired of moving around and renting.  I've really felt homeless since we left Michigan 17 months ago.

Of course, the last week has been hell. 

Thursday: My agent reminds me that I need certified funds for closing.  We use ETrade which does not have branches so that means a wire transfer.  I get the instructions from the title company, print out the ETrade wire transfer form and fill it out.  The cold that I've had since October 2 (not kidding!) takes a turn for the worse and I get a very sore throat.  Meanwhile, Sam has diarrhea and is getting a bad cold sore.

Friday afternoon: I fax the wire transfer form to ETrade for a Monday transfer. 

Friday night: We learn that ETrade is close to bankruptcy and worry all weekend about whether our money will be there on Monday.

Monday morning:  I wake up 2 hours early because Sam had another nightmare.  She's been doing fine with the chaos while awake, but the stress comes out in her dreams.  She fell back asleep but I didn't.  Later, I check my bank account and the money is still sitting there.  I call ETrade to check and they tell me, "We do not do third party wire transfers."  I know it's a lie but what can I do?  After a few panicked phone calls, I find that our title company will accept a personal check.  Again, kudos to our real estate agent, Sharon Chamberlin, for working with good people.

Monday afternoon:  Seller doesn't show up for settlement.  Duh, he went to the wrong office.  Yeah, right.  Luckily, we were able to close via fax and the upside was that we never had to see his stinking face.  We have a house, yea!

Later Monday afternoon: The wire transfer goes through.  NO!  If the title company has already put my check in the bank, I'm toast.  More panicked phone calls.  The wonderful woman who did our closing actually noticed that the funds were wired and hadn't deposited the check.  Still, I had to drive out to their office to pay a small balance due and get my first check back.  But not before loading up my car with the first of the moving boxes, picking up Sam from day care (where she did not nap at all), meeting the handyman at the new house to get a quote on some small jobs, and finding that the extra set of keys the seller promised to leave under the mat were not there.  The worst part of that day was that Sam was just miserable, falling asleep in the car just as we'd arrive somewhere and having to wake right back up.  Not good for a borderline-sick child. 

Tuesday:  The plan was to move as much stuff to the new house as possible and monitor the installation of new carpet.  The carpet got installed and we did move some things, but Adam also had to spend 6 hours on IV fluids after puking his guts out all morning.  I've never seen him so sick.  Definitely in the Top Ten Worst Days of My Life.

Tuesday night:  My turn.  I got a much milder case of it.  Still, it kept me up until 2am because it takes much concentration to NOT vomit.  Must never, ever vomit.  Stay awake all night and focus, but do not vomit.

Wednesday:  We moved more stuff and got our Internet and cable hooked up.  Adam painted Sam's room.  It was Sam's last day at her current day care and saying goodbye was very emotional for both of us.  I don't think anything horrendous happened.  Oh, except that we were moving, which is one of the most horrendous things in life to begin with.

Thursday:  More packing, painting, and moving.  Brief Thanksgiving with friends which was the highlight of the week.  Up until 2am packing boxes in preparation for the moving company's arrival the next morning.

Friday:  Official moving day.  We hadn't packed as much as we'd hoped due to all the illness, but we had done amazingly well, considering.  We knew the movers could pack up the last of our stuff and we'd just have to pay a bit extra for the supplies they provided plus extra time.  The biggest challenge seemed to be waking up at 7am.  In the end, this moving company stole about $2,000 from us.  I can't describe it any other way.  They wrapped a plastic toy mirror in bubble wrap and said it cost $19.  I'm not kidding.  They held our stuff hostage until we paid.  We knew they had the power to do it - this happens with moving companies all the time (although I had done so much research on this one and I've moved so many times that I thought I was smart enough to avoid these problems).  If they say, "Pay me or we'll keep your stuff," you pretty much have to pay whatever they ask.  After an hour of phone calls trying to resolve it with a manager, we decided to pay but to note on the contract and credit card receipt that we were paying under protest.  They would not accept this and demanded payment with NO changes on their documents before they would release our goods.  We had to call the police out to our new home on our first night here to get these bastards to allow us to pay the extortion, but with a stinking note on the paperwork.  After the officer made them allow it, I went with the mover into the kitchen to find a horizontal surface to use to sign.  With no shame, with the officer in the next room, this slimebag tried to get me to sign a separate document which signed away all my rights to dispute the charges at a later date.  I brought it to the officer, who forced the mover to call his supervisor to allow us to get our stuff without signing such a document.  Of course, we had to pay the moving company for the 2.5 hours it took to resolve the whole dispute.  Then, at the end, these immoral creatures kept a few boxes in the truck and made us pay another $150 before they'd release them.  We were too tired to call the cops again, and what's the difference between being reamed to the tune of $2,150 versus $2,000 anyway?  THIS MOVING COMPANY IS CALLED METRO VAN LINES LLC OPERATED OUT OF ROCKVILLE MARYLAND DOT NUMBER 1496324.  DO NOT USE THEM IF YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON IT.

Friday night:  Drinking champagne (finally!) and loving our new home.  Thanks for listening to my rant.

A Little Thing

I got the greatest satisfaction just now in moving my nightstand just a little bit closer to the bed - because I like it that way - and because it was worth the trouble since I am going to live here for more than just a few months.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

In the Spirit of the Day

I am thankful that Samantha has not yet figured out that it might be fun to open the toilet seat and put objects other than waste in there.

Sunday, November 23, 2008


How do people get their little girls to wear clips and bows in their hair?  Sam is developing quite a mullet since the only way we can keep the hair out of her face is to keep cutting off the front part.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Chain Blogging

Ok, so BAW didn't really tag me, but I don't have friends either and I can't resist a game where I get to write about my favorite subject: me!  Also, I'm desperate for easy ways to promote my blog.

Here are the rules:

Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on your blog.
Write 6 random things about yourself.
Tag 6-ish people at the end of your post.
Let each person know he/she has been tagged.
Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

1.  One of my biggest hopes is that before I die, I will be able to slip the surly bonds of earth, to touch the face of my own god.  I want to see the Earth from space.  Thank you, Carl Sagan, for helping me hone my reverence for the mind of man. 

2.  I can't see out of my right eye.  Actually, I can see a little bit, but that eye is legally blind.  I have a birth defect in my optic nerve and most of what I see is dark and there is a huge gap in the visual field.  With my good eye closed I can walk around without running into walls, and I can even tell you how many fingers you are holding up, but I can't read.  I couldn't even read the big E on the eye chart if I didn't know what it was.  I was curious about this because that big E is bigger than fingers held up a couple of feet away, and it only has four elements while a handful of fingers has five.  Why can't I tell that it is an E?  I decided to practice reading with my bad eye.  I used a word processing program to make a column of random letters, one letter per screen.  At first I could not identify any of them, but after a bit of practice I started getting some right.  After about a half hour I could get any letter or number, so I reduced the font size.  I spent another half hour working on it and eventually hit a wall with how small I could go.  I also was unable to identify any letters when they were in a horizontal row.  They had to have enough space around them or it just looked like random lines on the screen.  When I had had enough I opened my good eye again and I'll tell you, I had the worst headache ever.   Obviously, I was exercising my brain, not my eye.  My mind had to learn how to connect the sense data from the eye to something it could recognize as a percept.  Since I had never used my right eye to do this before, it had to be learned, just like a baby learns (automatically).  There may be some truth to the idea that humans who are deprived of sense data early in life are never able to learn to process certain data later, but I proved to myself that there are some neural pathways that can be forged as an adult.  It was a fascinating experiment but that headache was so bad I never tried it again.  I get along just fine with one eye.

3.  I'm a Valley Girl.  Like ohmigod, fer sher, I'm really from The Valley, ya' know.

4.  I dropped out of college my first time around.

5.  I named my first cat Geddy, after Geddy Lee of Rush.

6.  One of my biggest regrets is that I never made good on my dad's offer of $1,000 if I could learn how to play Rachmaninoff's Second Piano Concerto.  I still hope to play it someday.

Woohoo!  That was fun!  I also had a lot of fun reading back through the chain.  I loved the one about the physics major who was convinced that time travel would not be invented in his lifetime because otherwise his future self would have come back to tell his present self.  Ha!

I hope these folks join in:

Rational Jenn
Diana Hsieh

Eternal Vigilance

Today I signed off on the homeowner association documents for our new townhouse.  I certainly didn't want to read the entire package, but I did look at every line item on the financial reports,  checked the reserves, reviewed the rules, and noted the level of detail in planning for future expenditures.  Everything met with my approval.

I turned in the documents, and came home to this amazing story from Rational Jenn.  $600,000 stolen from her HOA - holy crap!

I've been involved with 2 HOA's prior to this purchase, and I know exactly what Jenn means about how you just want to pay your fee and be left alone - the whole idea of these communities is a bit too collectivist for my taste, and that makes me loath to get involved.  But in my first HOA, which consisted of only 5 homes, I had to take over the accounting and arrange for maintenance because nobody else would get off their lazy butts to do it.  I hated every minute of it and I didn't do a good job, but I left it a bit more organized than I found it.  My second HOA was a brand new one for an apartment building that went condo in downtown Chicago.  The developer didn't honor his commitments in upgrading the common areas and we lived for over a year with hallways half-painted and wallpaper half-removed because somebody decided the color was wrong in the middle of the job.  When we complained at meetings, other homeowners told us to pipe down because it would all get done eventually and didn't we want it done right and what can we do about it anyway when the contract states that the developer has "reasonable time" to do these things?  When we spoke to the developer about his neglect in completing promised work, he told us, "Sue me."  We moved.

Jenn's analogy to being politically and ideologically active is apt.  When things get messy in our culture and with our national government, I tend to tune out.  I tuned out for most of the Clinton administration and I've been only half tuned-in for the past few years since GWB turned into the worst president in my lifetime.

This is a mistake.  Facing up to these distasteful issues is a matter of selfishness.  In the short run, it might seem wise to avoid the pain of paying attention, but you'll pay a price in the long run.  I can't say it more eloquently than Jenn did, so I'll quote her:
... When people don't pay attention, coast through life, the people to whom we've delegated power over our lives may take advantage of us. And they might even look us directly in the eye, and smile at us while they're doing it.

I seem to be doing a good job at the community level, but I hereby recommit myself to, at minimum, paying attention to current events at the state, national, and international levels.  At some point I may do more, but I've got to start somewhere.  Thanks for getting me up off my own lazy butt, Jenn.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

House Hunting Odyssey

I've made most of the arrangements necessary for our move and the packing is on track.  We're moving on 11/28 - the day after Thanksgiving.  Luckily, some good friends in town have invited us for a quick Thanksgiving dinner and we won't have to do more than bring a store-bought pie.  We'll probably be painting that morning and packing more boxes that night. 

Aside from being Sam's mom, house hunting has been my dominant activity for the past few months.  It's been so frustrating not to be able to write about it, but we had to break our lease and so didn't want to go public.  Our landlords here have treated us so well and we're working closely with them to re-rent their home.  It was a risk to rent a townhouse privately, but it worked out better than we could have hoped.  Thanks J and L!

Our house hunting adventure started with exploring a huge area of northern Virginia by car.  We spent about 5 weekends just driving around and looking at a few open houses.  Samantha was a real trooper, although the portable DVD player we said we'd never buy was a big help.  We found that there were only a few neighborhoods in our price range that would meet our basic needs.  A regular detached house was pretty much out of the question, although we did look at a few.  The next option in this area is the townhouse, like the one we are renting now.  I despise living on 3 levels and not having windows on 2 sides of the house, but other than that, the townhouses here are pretty nice (and low maintenance!)  A commute was also going to be necessary, as the area around Adam's job carries California-like prices, and the next ring around that is a slum.

The whole point of starting the house hunting early was to give us time to make a large quantity of low-ball offers, in the hopes of getting a good deal.  We saw a house we really liked, so before we even had a real estate agent we decided to make an offer on our own, working directly with the seller's agent.  This turned out to be a waste of time.  She was supposed to represent both us and the seller, but after 3 meetings with her we realized that we could not trust her, and decided to get an agent.  In the meantime, that house went under contract.  That was ok with us - we knew we had only a slim chance of getting it in the first place, and we were determined not to get emotionally involved in any offers we made.

We know a lot of people who have purchased homes here recently and could have referred us to their agents, but for some reason we decided to use an agent we met at another property and had liked.  I just don't know what possessed us - it was a bad decision.  This agent was helpful in the house hunting process, but once we started making offers we realized she was incompetent and dishonest.  At one point, we had 2 offers outstanding because she neglected to revoke one before we made the next.  If both sellers had accepted those offers, we would have been on the hook to buy 2 houses!  Besides that, this agent had no idea how to be an advocate for us in the negotiation process.  She seemed to feel it was her job to convince us to spend as much money as possible.  We fired her after the 2-offer incident.  We hired a new agent on the recommendation of a friend, and we've been pretty happy with her.

During this whole process, the credit crisis hit.  I was on the phone with our mortgage broker almost daily, trying to keep up with interest rates, down-payment requirements, increasing mortgage insurance costs, and stricter lending practices.  It was a real nightmare.  There were days that we decided to make an offer, but by the time we got the paperwork done we could afford to pay 10% more.  Remember, we were making very low offers on all these properties, so we were trying to offer as much as we could afford at any given point in time.  One day we were all set to make an offer and suddenly every single mortgage insurer decided they would not insure 95% loans.  We could not put more than 5% down, so this basically killed any chance at buying.  We resigned ourselves to renting indefinitely.  A few days later, our broker found that FHA loan rates had come down, and they only required 5% down, so we could manage that way.  We got a lock on that and were about to make another offer when we found the house we ended up buying. 

We called it the "comparison townhouse" because it was in the same neighborhood as the original one we were interested in, was listed for $10K less, and the ad said it had more updates.  We decided to go look at it so that we could use it as a reason to convince the seller of the original house that she was overpriced.  When we saw it we were blown away.  It had a great open floorplan, 4 bedrooms instead of 3, and although it needed some work, was in better shape overall than the first house.  We realized that this was no exercise, but the perfect house for us!

Needless to say, after much haggling, we closed the deal, but not without more nightmarish hassles.  The owner of the house is a real estate agent representing himself and tried to pull every dishonest trick in the book.  We thought we had a ratified contract at one point, only to find out 4 days later that he had never signed 2 pages.  Our new real estate agent isn't perfect either - she told us specifically that he had signed the whole offer (as we were driving to Pennsylvania for my grandmother's funeral) so when Adam and I noticed the missing pages we assumed that they had gotten lost between our agent and us, not that they were never there.  We actually did the home inspection before we had a signed offer, so if he had backed out, we would have lost $450.  He tried everything he could to use this against us, but finally, our agent did her job and got this bastard to sign the papers.  Whew!

A few days after that got resolved, our mortgage broker stopped returning our calls.  When I finally cornered her, she admitted that she could not honor the rate-lock agreement we had made because the rules had changed again.  I'm not sure if she was dishonest or simply incapable of keeping up with the insanity in her industry, but we had to fire her and get a new loan.  I can't tell you how frightening this was.  It's bad enough when this sort of thing happens in a normal market, but with the uncertainty that we had already experienced we thought for sure that we were toast.  Once again, our real estate agent came through for us with some options, and we ended up getting a good loan that is costing us about the same as we had anticipated. 

Since then, things have gone more smoothly.  The home inspection showed that the house is in good shape (although we did find out that the seller lied more than once in the MLS advertisement.)  There were renters living in the house who have since moved out, which had been another huge worry.  The seller has tried to get out of every single thing that he agreed to, but mostly our agent has had to deal with him.  In the declining market we have now, we also had to be concerned about the house not appraising for the amount we paid for it.  In all 3 of my previous real estate purchases I've never had to think about that, but our good eye for value was validated when the appraisal came through.

The sad part is that we never had a day where we felt like, WE BOUGHT A HOUSE!  Somehow, we've morphed into knowing that it will all work out, but there was never a specific moment.  I'm hoping we get our moment when we close escrow on Monday.  I think I'll go buy some champagne just in case.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Ayn Rand Book

I'm excited about this new book of Ayn Rand interviews, Objectively Speaking, edited by Marlene Podritske and Peter Schwartz.  I've probably read most of the print interviews already, but it's been a while.  Since I can't afford to buy recordings of all her audio interviews, this book will fill that gap nicely.  Too bad it's not available for Christmas.

If you've never heard Ayn Rand interviewed you're missing out.  Treat yourself to the pleasure of observing a brilliant mind in action: the Ayn Rand Institute has a nice selection of her lectures and interviews you can listen to for free.  I just listened to the beginning of Speaking Freely, a wide-ranging interview by Edwin Newman, and I'm blown away all over again by her clarity and precision.

Monday, November 17, 2008

I Forgot All About that Place

I can't believe our President-elect gave a shout out to Harold's Chicken Shack.  This one was right next to MY old apartment in Chicago.  Go South Loop!

Sunday, November 16, 2008


Forgive me, Internet, for I have sinned.  It has been 26 days since my last confession.

I ate the last of my daughter's Halloween candy.

Another Little Thing

Samantha finally figured out how to put together some tricky syllables and spent the evening chanting I LOVE DADDY I LOVE MOMMY I LOVE DADDY I LOVE MOMMY.

A Little Thing

I promised Samantha that I would announce to the world that she went poo on the potty for the very first time today.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


Why do I get sick for 6 weeks straight every fall?


I just added a link at the top of this page to photos of Sam on Shutterfly.  I've only managed to upload her pictures through September or so.  That's when I switched to Picasa, and I haven't quite figured out yet how I'll share those in an organized way. 

Does anyone have a suggestion as to the fastest and easiest way to manage and share photos?

Something the Lord Made

Something the Lord Made is a great movie.  It's theme is:  The intrinsic value of doing work you love is more fundamental than any reward you can gain from the world for doing it. 

The movie is based on the true story of the two men who pioneered heart surgery.  The partners, one a relatively uneducated black man and the other a respected doctor, are both great men, and the central conflict is one of good versus good - an essential element in any good movie.  (Even the better superhero movies present an internal clash within the hero which ties in to his struggles against evil.)

Without giving away too much, I can say that this movie portrayed independence as the antidote to racism.  Watching it during this historic time when our great nation has elected a black man as President gave the story extra meaning.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

A Little Thing

Samantha started singing her ABC's today.  I guess she really was singing the alphabet song all along, not Twinkle Twinkle.  It's amazing how she went from just humming the tune to getting about half the letters right in just one day.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Diaper Genie

I've been so busy lately I've been falling down on my homemaker duties.  More than once, we've run out of something essential.

Yesterday it was the Diaper Genie refill bags.  Never, ever, since Sam was born, have I not had an extra ring of bags.  One poopy diaper was enough to send me to the store this morning before just about everything else on my to do list.

I know some people consider a diaper disposal system to be a luxury, but, come on.  Skip one meal out at a restaurant and you've paid for the diaper pail and refills for a year, at least.

I have the Diaper Genie II.  The only thing I don't like about it is that, in order to get the diaper past the spring-tight opening, you have to push pretty hard.  Although it has never happened to me, sometimes the pressure threatens to explode the diaper.  At least, in my imagination it's possible.  Also, your hand usually has to touch the top of the plastic bag, and I'm never quite sure if it is totally clean.  But both of those complaints can be chalked up to my poo-paranoia, so take them for what they are worth.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Sam Update - Twenty Six Months Old

Sam Nov 08Samantha is an integrating machine.  She is working on connections.   The associations she makes are astounding, puzzling, and sometimes hilarious.

While helping her to put on her shoes the other day, I named the parts of the shoe, including the tongue.  Later in the car, she took off her shoe, held it up, pointed to the hole and said, "MOUTH."

She learned my name from an old personalized book I had when I was a kid.  At the end of the story, my name is spelled out in fireworks in the sky.  One day, Sam kept pointing to a spot on my sweater and saying, "AMY AMY AMY."  I finally realized that there was a pattern on the sweater that looked exactly like the fireworks in the book.

When she first learned how to eat fruit, I taught her not to eat the stems and peels by calling them the icky parts.  I also recently started letting her peel her own bananas.  The other day I asked her what she wanted for a snack and she kept saying, "PEE-OW, PEE-OW."  I asked, "Do you want peas?"  NO!  "Are you saying please?"  NO!  "I'm not sure what you are asking for - fruit, yogurt, pears?"  PEE-OW PEE-OW  PEE-OW.   "How about an apple?"  Then I saw the wheels turning and she finally came up with: ICKY.  Ah, she was saying "peel."  She wanted a banana to peel, and when I didn't understand, she told me in another way.  I'm not sure why she didn't just say banana but I thought this was quite a leap in her thinking and communication.

I got her an orange shirt with a black Halloween cat on it which she's worn a few times.  While putting away her summer clothes, I was baffled when she began meowing at her orange shorts, until it dawned on me that they are the only other orange piece of clothing that she has.

She loves the color yellow and she loves big trucks and cars.  A yellow school bus makes her squeal with delight.  But now every big vehicle is a yellow bus, even if it is a white van.  And once she says it, I get treated to this song:

YEYOW-BUCH.  YEYOW-BUCH.  MORE-YEYOW-BUCH. MORE. MORE. MORE. MORE. MORE-YEYOW-BUCH. BYE BYE YEYOW-BUCH. BYE BYE. BYE BYE. BYE BYE. BYE BYE YE-YOW-BUCH.  Sometimes I get a bonus of BEEP BEEP BEEP if she recalls the last time she saw one back up.

Speaking of songs, she can now sing three songs that I recognize.  She hums Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.  (Have you noticed it's the same tune as the alphabet song?)  She misses notes and just keeps going and going and I want to give her a Grammy.  She gets a few words of Rock-A-Bye Baby, but it's mostly ROCKABABY ROCKABABY.  Tonight, she sang Ring Around the Rosy.  We've never sung this to her so she must have learned it at day care, but I actually recognized the tune and her own, minimalist lyrics: ASHES ASHES DOWN!  ASHES ASHES DOWN!

AstronautSamantha has an eye for the sky.  I've learned not to doubt her when she calls out "AIRPLANE."  If she says it, I follow her sight line.  Sometimes I have to look carefully and there is just the tiniest speck in the sky, but she's always right.  Except when it's a helicopter.  She also loves birds, and she adores the moon.  The Halloween costume her dad bought for her about a year ago just-because-he-couldn't-resist-even-though-it-was-way-too-big-at-the-time turned out to be perfect.

I'm surprised she didn't meow at it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Little Thing

Whoever thinks it is necessary to spread newspaper all over the table to carve a pumpkin never served a meal to a toddler.  A little pumkin guts and seeds?  Bring it on!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

We're in Escrow!

We're buying a house!  This has been a long process and I haven't been writing about it because we had to break our lease with our awesome landlords, one of whom reads this website.  We weren't sure if we could find a deal while interest rates were low, but we did.

We are set to close on November 24, just 18 days from now.  Every day we have a new emergency.  Last night our financing fell through and somehow we got a new loan by about 2pm today. 

I am in the middle of:

  • Hiring a moving comany

  • Buying boxes and supplies

  • Buying homeowners insurance

  • Securing the mortgage

  • Finding new daycare for Sam

  • Hiring a cleaning service

  • Buying new carpet

  • Hiring painters

  • Helping our landlords to re-rent our current house

  • My usual duties as CFO, CEO, zookeeper and mommy

I had to dig some pants out of the dirty laundry this morning.  Sam has watched 2 hours of TV today.  Food means McDonald's in the car and Halloween candy for snacks.

Blogging might be slow for a while.

But it will be worth it.

I think.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

A Little Thing

Tonight, for the first time ever, Samantha laughed so hard she threw up.

Sunday, November 2, 2008


My grandmother died two weeks ago.   She was 95 years old.  Her mind was sharp and she was physically active until her final days, when she just slowed down and then died in her sleep. 

Grandmère, as we grandchildren called her, still drove a car, volunteered at a hospital and traveled all over the world.  In the past ten years or so she visited New Orleans, Louisiana, Charleston, South Carolina, Ireland, England, Paris, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, took a train through the Canadian Rockies, took cruises through the waters of Alaska and the Mississippi River, and more.   My aunt usually traveled with her, not out of a sense of duty or because Grandmère needed an escort, but because she found her mom to be a great traveling companion.  Grandmère climbed the Great Wall of China and walked along it when others were frightened, and outpaced people half her age.

The night before the funeral, I was asked to say something at the service.  At first I balked, feeling like I didn't deserve to speak about a woman I barely knew.  As I talked to my cousins I realized that we all felt that way.  But we also talked about the times that we spent with Grandmère and I was struck by how we all carried such similar memories.  That night I realized that I could only speak of her as I knew her, and that maybe some other people who loved her would learn something they didn't know before.  I knew I would regret it if I didn't speak.

This is what I said:
I feel a bit unqualified to speak about my grandmother this way.  As my cousin Rebecca put it, we grandchildren didn't really know her "as a person."

When I talk to my cousins about Grandmère, we inevitably end up talking about ourselves - the shared memories and good times we had because of her.

There are four of us "older" grandchildren who knew Grandmère best when we were little kids and she lived in California.  Thanksgiving always meant a trip to Grandmère's house, where we looked forward to staying up late with the grownups to listen to their political arguments more than we looked forward to eating.  That doesn't mean our grandmother couldn't cook.  Oh no.  Grandmère's house also meant good food, especially breakfast.  One thing my husband will never understand about me is why in the world I love Scrapple.

Going to Grandmère's house also meant a swimming pool with a slide, jigsaw puzzles, playing football in the street, and corn dogs at the park.  I remember the long drive from LA to Fresno, when we kids played Mad Libs and drew signs to hang out the window that said, "Honk for Grandma's Turkey."  It's interesting that I can't remember a single return drive back home.

When we grandchildren talk about Grandmère, we all seem to relish in these same wonderful memories.  We don't talk about Grandmère much at all.  She didn't tell us stories or spoil us with gifts.  Most of what we know about her we learned from our parents.  But she was kind to us.  She brought the family together.  She brought us together.  We older cousins are really more like siblings because of her.  Her presence and her home were a focal point for all of us as children, creating a bond between us and shaping our lives to the present day.  I suppose it's true that we really didn't know her "as a person," but we knew her as the matriarch of our family...we knew her from a child's point of view...we knew her as our grandmother.

I learned so much about my grandmother at her funeral.  My aunt spoke of their travels together, a woman from the hospital where she volunteered spoke of her positive attitude and high energy, my mom (who was not her daughter, but her daughter-in-law) spoke of Grandmère's confidence and sense of self, a friend spoke of her great mind with its seemingly endless storehouse of facts, and others spoke of her dedication to her family and many other things which escape me at the moment, but which come to mind at random times each day.  I hope the others learned something from me too.

I'm at peace with only having known Grandmère as my grandmother now.  I won't pine over not having spent more time with her or not getting to know her better.  She was not my peer and we never could have been buddies.  But I am profoundly glad to have witnessed this tribute to her.  It was inspirational.  As the officiate at the service said, she lived a grand life.  Now that is something to aspire to.  Thank you, Grandmère.