What’s in a Name?

I’ve always been a little envious of people who had special names for their grandparents.  My nephew calls his maternal grandmother “Maga.”  I’m not sure of the origin but we were all concerned he would end up dyslexic (he didn’t) since it sounded like “Grandma” backwards.  My mom called one of her grandmothers “Blah-blah.”  Not as endearing as “Maga” but “Blah-blah” obviously thought so because that’s how she signed all my mom’s birthday cards.  My nieces and nephews called my Grandma Teetsel “Gigi,” the initials for Great Grandma (G.G.)  I only ever called both my grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa which I always thought as boring.  However things could have ended up a lot differently for my Grandma Teetsel (my paternal grandmother) if if Grandma Broschard (my maternal grandmother) hadn’t intervened. 

Up until age 3 I actually did have my own special name for Grandma Teetsel.  I called her “Granny.”  I’m not sure that was the name she would have picked for herself, evidenced by my early birthday cards where she signed herself as “Nana,” the name my father called his grandma.  Looking back I would have been happy with “Nana” but thanks to early exposure to The Beverly Hillbillies I adopted the name “Granny” for my Grandma Teetsel.  Everyone seemed happy with that until my other grandparents came out from New York for a visit. 

We were driving home from picking up my mom’s parents and her brother Robert, from the airport.  I was sitting in the backseat, silently enamored by my beautiful and elegant “New York grandmother.”  Getting ready to say something about her long red fingernails which I found fascinating, I took a deep breath and innocently quipped, “Granny?” 

My remaining thought was instantly banished by the snicker of my Uncle Robert, who was only 9 at the time.  “Karen just called Mom, Granny,”  he announced to the rest of the car.  “Like The Beverly Hillbillies.”  Everyone in the car thought it was just as funny as Uncle Robert, except my grandmother and me.  I was confused and my grandmother was annoyed. 

She was also adamant.  She turned to me and said, in a most un-grandmotherly way, “Let’s get something straight right now.  You can call me Grandma or you can call me Mrs. Broschard.  But you won’t be calling me Granny.” 

I solemnly accepted the order and for day churned the moment away in my mind.  According to my 3 year old logic I decided that maybe “Granny” wasn’t such a good thing to be calling anyone. 

A few weeks later I found myself standing in the doorway of my Grandma Teetsel’s kitchen in turmoil asking her what I should call her.  It was an awkward conversation, even for a 3 year old, but I was determined to settle this once and for all.  “You can call scan0001me whatever you like” Granny…er…Grandma Teetsel told me kindly and so we settled on Grandma. 

At the time I figured Grandma Teetsel was just being nice and like my other grandmother did not like being called “Granny” either but looking back now I wonder.  It probably never mattered to her. 

It probably didn’t really matter to my Grandma Broschard either now that I think about it.  Her reaction was not directed at me personally.  All those years I thought she was mad at me for calling her Granny.  I realize now she wasn’t mad, she was shocked at the fact that she was a grandmother.  She was a good 10 years younger than Grandma Teetsel and still had children living at home. 

The one thing I do know now is that grandparents are the epitome of unconditional love.  They may have certain ideals of how they should be named by their grandchildren but in the end it doesn’t matter.  Because as all four of my grandparents taught me, they will love their grandchildren no matter what. 

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Chocolate & Vicodin by Jennette Fulda

There is nothing worse than a headache.  I get them occasionally, usually as a “gift” from Aunt Flo.  Even the smallest headachecv-sidebar-cover can make me completely useless and miserable.  Luckily they never last for more than a few hours and can be knocked out with a few Tylenol and a nap. 

Jennette Fulda, the poor dear, is not so lucky.  She’s had a headache for years.  Years!  Eeeeck! 

I’ve been reading Jennette’s blog for a long time so I knew about her headache and I knew she wrote a book about it.  I resisted reading it at first because I thought: a memoir about a headache?  Seriously?  But Jennette’s clever book trailer finally intrigued me and last month I added Chocolate & Vicodin My Quest for Relief From the Headache that Wouldn’t Go Away by Jennette Fulda, to my Amazon order.  I’m glad I did. 

Jennette has a witty, easy style of writing that makes reading about even a headache enjoyable.  I went into the book thinking it would come off as whinny and full of self-pity but to my delight it wasn’t like that at all.  Jennette hooked me from page one as she took me on a tour of what must have been half the waiting rooms in Indianapolis seeking the advice of neurologists, chiropractors, allergists, acupuncturists and massage therapists.  She reports on her experiences clearly and candidly in a conversational style that makes you feel like you’re talking to your best friend.  Jennette also has the simile down pat.  A little too pat for my taste actually which is my only criticism of the book. 

I read the book in a weekend, unable to put it down.  Even though I already knew how it all ends from reading her blog, a little part of me still had hope that Jennette would finally cure her headache.  SPOILER ALERT!!!!  She doesn’t.  But what I won’t give away is the revelation Jennette comes to at the end of the book.  It’s a piece of wisdom anyone could all benefit from (I sure did) and fortunately you don’t need to suffer from a chronic headache to have it. 

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30 Days of Truth–Something you Never Get Compliments on

There’s a lot of things I don’t get compliments on but the thing that stands out most in my mind at the moment is my voice.  It’s OK.  I totally get why.  I do not have a very nice sounding voice.  Not only that but it’s really loud.  So not only have I ever heard someone tell me “You have a really nice voice” but I frequently hear people tell me “Can you keep your voice down?” 

My voice gets especially loud when I’m excited about something or talking on the phone.  It’s especially bothersome in the workplace.  I currently work in a cube environment and while I do try to keep mindful an use my “inside voice” as much as possible, I know my co-workers still get plenty to listen to from me.  They are all overly polite and nice and never tell me to shut up. 

I didn’t always have a loud voice.  When I was a kid I was very quiet and shy.  People used to tell me “Speak up little girl!  I can’t hear you.”  So I finally did. 

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Spring?

Dear Mother Nature,

As you may already know, today is June 1st.  As you are also already aware it is 50 degrees outside and raining in California.  Because of this people are still turning on the heat in their homes.  Others are avoiding the purchase of cute summer outfits. 

Based on our calculations it appears that your calendar is stuck on February.  Please look into this and make appropriate adjustments. 

Thank you in advance for your cooperation in this matter. 

Very truly yours,

California

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Troops Direct

Since the majority of my Memorial Day weekend was spent watching Tora! Tora! Tora! on AMC while helping Jerry pack for his business trip to Japan seemed ironic to say the least, I was happy to find out this morning that there was something else I could do today to actually make a difference for someone in the military today. 

Troops Direct is a local non-profit organization that sends bulk packages to front line troops in Afganistan.  They send things like power bars, toothpaste, socks and hopefully pants to guys like this who look like they could use them: 

troops direct

For more information about Troops Direct and how you can donate go here

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30 Days of Truth: Something You Get Compliments On

Not so much anymore, but when I was young and pretty I used to get compliments on my eyes.  They are a lovely shade of light blue and really used to stand out against my natural hair color which, before it turned grey, was brown. 

When I was a child people used to come up to me and say things like “Oh what beautiful blue eyes you have little girl!”  I actually found it kind of annoying and also a little creepy since the phrase was similar to what the wolf said to poor little red riding hood before he tried to eat her. 

Once when I was in the grocery store with my grandmother a woman came up to me and said “Did you know you have the most beautiful blue eyes?” 

Sitting there in the metal grocery cart I sighed, rolled my blue eyes and snapped  “Yes!” 

I was only 3 years old at the time, young enough for my snide remark to be cute but I do remember my grandmother coaching me later on in the car.  I had to practice saying “Thank you very much” the rest of the way home which was, she told me, the proper thing to say to someone who offered you a compliment. 

Of course now that I finally have the “Thank you very much” down pat people don’t come up to me like that in the grocery store.  Now I’m just an aging bleached blond with bloodshot blue eyes clutching a box-o-wine and thinking about my next blog post. 

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Wise Old Swiss Indian

grandma and grandpa 1983It turns out that I have a lot to say about my Grandma Teetsel.  She seems to come up in many of my blog posts so I finally decided to give her a category.  I could have gone for something simple and self-explanatory like “Grandma Teetsel” but that seemed boring.  So instead Grandma’s category is going to be called “Wise Old Swiss Indian.”  Members of my immediate family (none of whom read this blog anyway) know exactly what this means.  Here’s the story for the rest of you. 

Grandma Teetsel was Swiss.  Her maiden name was Schlatter.  Hedwig Asa Schlatter.  She was American born but her parents immigrated here from Switzerland.  I don’t know much about Swiss culture but I imagine the people of Switzerland to be a lot like my grandmother:  tidy, no-nonsense perfectionists who are extremely organized.  This is because when I was a kid my grandfather would say things like “The floors are always clean in this house because your grandmother is a good Swiss woman.”  and “No cheating at cards tonight.  Those Swiss eyes are watching.” 

It was Grandpa Teetsel who is actually coined the term “Wise Old Swiss Indian.”  Grandma and Grandpa were visiting our house for the weekend and we were all sitting around the dinner table arguing about something.  I have no idea what just that we were all yelling at each other about something.  My grandmother who usually participated in such events with vigor had quieted down at one point while the rest of us tried to out-shout each other.  And suddenly Grandpa’s voice rose above the rest saying “Quiet everyone!  Let the Wise Old Swiss Indian speak!” 

It totally broke the tension in the room and when we were all done laughing Grandma rose her half-drunk Tom Collins and said….something.  I have no idea what because I don’t remember but whatever it was it ended the argument. 

After that we referred to my grandmother as the Wise Old Swiss Indian.  And whenever the family got in some kind of heated argument someone would eventually break off topic and ask my grandmother, “What does the Wise Old Swiss Indian have to say about this?” 

Rest in peace Grandma!  Your tribe will go on even if our floors are never as clean as yours. 

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China Shepherdess

If you are a fellow Little House geek you all know about the china shepherdess.  For the rest of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, the china shepherdess was practically a character who made an appearance in every one of the Little House books written by Laura Ingalls Wilder.  She was a china figurine, Ma Ingalls’ most prized possession probably because it was the only pretty thing she owned, who  travelled across the mid-west with the Ingalls family in their covered wagon.  She was the last thing Ma always unpacked, always with great ceremony, each time the family moved into a new home.

In Little House on the Prairie, the second book in the series which tells about the Ingalls’ journey to Kansas and the log house Pa built for the family, the china shepherdess lived on the fireplace mantel.  In other books she stood on a wooden bracket.  In Little House in the Big Woods Laura tells us exactly how Pa made the wooden bracket and describes the detailed flowers he carved on it.  In later books she stood on the top shelf of a whatnot.  The lower shelves of the whatnot contained china figurines Laura and her sisters received as Christmas gifts in one of the books, Carrie had a china dog and Laura and Mary each had a china jewel box. 

In Michael Landon’s TV production of Little House on the Prairie (a total bastardization of the original stories but a great show nevertheless) the china shepherdess was displayed on the fireplace mantel and looked like this:

china shepherdess TV

For years when I read the Little House books, before I ever even saw the TV show, this is also how I imagined the china shepherdess.  After all it was the 70s and Holly Hobbie was big back then. 

Just recently I did some research and discovered that the china shepherdess no longer exists.  I guess it finally broke and I only hope poor Ma was not alive to witness it.  There have been replica’s made based on Laura’s description in her books and what was common at the time and I was disappointed to see that they look like this: 

china shepherdess

I’m not sure what I was expecting.  I guess something that looked closer to my own china shepherdess.  Because the other day I realized I had one of my own.  And considering the country life the Ingalls family lived, I guess I figured the china shepherdess, despite Laura’s description that it was fragile and delicate, should have been a lot more hardy like the one my grandmother had at her house.  It was a figurine that my grandmother actually made herself.  She eventually made her way to my house and sits own her own bracket (sans carved flowers): 

china shepherdess mine

She actually may not be a shepherdess.  She could be a Dutch milkmaid for all I know.  But she looks pretty hardy and I’ll bet she could totally kick Ma’s china shepherdess’ ass. 

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30 Days of Truth: Someone You Need to Let Go

I started this post by writing about a pen pal I had in high school who I wrote to for years, met a few  times and finally let go because we have extreme political differences.  It had the potential to be an interesting story but it just wasn’t doing it for me.  Similar to the friend I let go I suppose. 

We started our relationship as two 15 year old girls who liked to write letters about boys.  As time went on we grew apart.  Last year after I decided I no longer wanted to see her ultra-conservative updates on Facebook (anti-Muslim this….pro-Glenn Beck that) I unfriended her along with a short, curse and somewhat flippant email.  It felt good having that long drawn out thing over with.  Kind of like it feels to finish this post. 

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Wardrobe Tip

I’m probably the last person who should be giving wardrobe advice but this is important:

Never trust the dressing room mirrors when trying on v-necked tops.  They will lie to you.  If you really want to know how your new v-necked top fits wear it to work.  On a day when you have lots of meetings.  Sometime around noon you will realize that the top is cut way too low and needed to be worn with a camisole underneath.  I’ve tried this at least five times now.  It works. 

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