Sunday, August 31, 2008

Starting to look like a room

We're in the process of converting our laundry room into an office. Last year we removed the old ugly drop ceiling and put in a drywall ceiling. This was tough, especially because the new ceiling is not flat, there were lots of wires and cables to deal with, and there isn't a true right angle anywhere in the room, but it looks so much better now.

Then we had the whole room insulated. It had been a porch at one time, so it was never properly insulated, and we've been having the whole house redone anyway.

Sorry I don't have a true "before" picture, but here you can see the ceiling in progress. Also the old steel cabinets above the old washer and dryer.

Next we had the sink, washer and dryer moved to the other side of the room, where they can be hidden behind doors, pulled off the old pressboard walls and patched up the paneling. Turns out the paneling is quality vintage stuff, so we decided to keep it for the character.

Then we got a new, stackable washer and dryer set. Yay!
Next put up drywall and installed a new floor.
It really is starting to look like a real room, isn't it?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Great New York State Fair

My parents took Genevieve to The Fair yesterday and sent these pictures.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Future Olympian

Genevieve is part monkey. She's always loved climbing, swinging and jumping and has practically no fear about anything on a playground. Years ago when John and I would walk with her, one on each hand, she figured out how to do a backflip between us. She also has the perfect gymnast's build. So when Miss Karen recommended I sign her up at the Gymnastics Training Center, it seemed like a no-brainer.

I have never seen her so happy. The classes are 90 minutes long, but afterward she's not tired, she's just pumped up and can't wait for the next one. The first day she jumped into a pit of foam blocks from about 10 feet up and thought it was hilarious. I doubt that I would have had the guts to do such a thing in my life. I showed her some of the Olympics gymnastics, and she loved it. Shawn Johnson is now her idol.

I'm generally not allowed to watch, but yesterday was the last class of the summer, which is parent observation day. She spent the entire time bouncing around. I noticed that she wasn't so great at following the instructions--she was too excited. She seemed to be unable to keep off the other equipment when she was supposed to be standing patiently in line. Her favorite is definitely the bars. Sara Jane, the owner of the school, says that's because she's "strong like a bull." Definitely. She's got incredible muscles for a kid her size. She also loves the balance beam. And a real treat is when they put them in a harness and hoist them up in the air to do flips. How could this be my kid?

I'm so glad she's found something that she enjoys so much, though. I don't see much difference between her ability and the other kids her age, but apparently Sara Jane sees potential. She wants her to train up to get on the team. We're going to take it slowly for now, but we'll see...

Thursday, August 21, 2008


Someone was in our house while we were at work. We had been working on our laundry room to office renovation and had removed the interior door frame which meant that it couldn't be locked, although no one would have been able to tell from the outside. It's strange that this happened on the one day that the back door was unlocked.

The TV was moved, although the burglar apparently couldn't figure out how to get it entirely off the wall. Upstairs a small chest that looks like a jewelry box but actually contains batteries and other junk was moved, and papers were scatterred on the floor. Nothing appears to be missing, even though several items were around that could have been taken, like our camera. So for a long time we tried to figure out if it really was a break-in, or if it could all be explained some other way. Then John found a footprint on our front door, like someone tried to kick it in. All we can think is that the burglar must have gotten spooked and ran off before he found anything worth taking.

So now it looks like we're getting an alarm system. Ugh, I hate them. But it's better than feeling unsafe in your own home.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Goodbye Grandma

My grandmother passed away on Wednesday. She was 97, would have been 98 next month. She went the way we all hope for...practically without pain up until the last day of her long life, in her sleep, surrounded by family. My mother was completely devoted to her and had taken good care of her up until the end. When she first started having health problems my mom was going down to Florida constantly, and a few years ago she moved her to the Jewish Home in Syracuse where she could visit her every day. Mom was always totally on top of her care and made sure she had everything possible. My uncle was also remarkably devoted and drove up from Connecticut to see her quite often. For her part, Grandma was always an easy resident for the staff--never demanding or cranky--so everyone liked her. I think she was relatively happy there, but it was always sad to see how much she had declined mentally in the past couple of years.

Per her wishes, there was no funeral (she hated both religion and ceremony), but my sister and my uncle's family all came to Syracuse for the weekend. We spent a lot of time looking at old photos and reminiscing. It was really not sad at all. In fact, it was kind of nice. Grandma was quite a character in her day, so it was fun to hear the stories.

I found out her original name was Bessie, although she changed it to Betty at some point because she thought Bessie sounded like a cow. She also changed her birthdate somehow. She had always been stubborn about not telling anyone her age ("old as the hills" was as close as she would come). This drove my mom crazy her whole life. Finally, when she was in the hospital several years ago, my mom snuck a look at her driver's license and found out she was born in 1912. So in 2002 we had a family reunion in Florida celebrating her 90th birthday.... Well, a couple of years later my mom cleaned out her apartment when she moved, and guess what? Her birth certificate said 1910!

Grandma was born in NYC but grew up on the Jersey shore. She always hated the beach, because sand got in everything. After graduating valedictorian of her high school, she moved back to New York and worked for a high fashion dressmaker. I find this hard to fathom since she could have cared less about fashion in her later life, and she hated fuss about material things. My mom says she went without a bra or slip long before it was the fashion (rather scandalous, actually). My sister recalls that she used to try on clothes right over her own clothes because she couldn't be bothered with taking them off. "Good enough," she would say. Jessica also reminded us that Grandma used to run a comb through her hair and then just cut off anything that stuck out. She definitely did things her own way.

Betty married Ralph, the love of her life, in 1938. She chose a man who was the opposite of her own father, who was apparently a dandy, a womanizer and a gambler. I wear the 2.5 carat diamond from his pinky ring (which Grandma had to buy back from the pawn shop after his death) as my engagement ring, and it always gets stares. Grandpa is a whole other story, which I won't go into now except to say that I am really sorry I never knew him well. He died when I was 5. Grandma never really got over his death, and she refused to even consider dating another man. In addition to being an all-around great guy, he stabilized Grandma. Apparently she was much more anxious all the time when he wasn't around.

She was a strong woman and a feminist before that was even a word. For a long time she was the only woman of her generation in the extended family who drove a car. She had a job as a bookkeeper when most married women were housewives. The company she worked for made greeting cards, and I remember getting cards with those goofy big-headed kids for years. She never wrote anything in them except "XOXO, Grandma" (and enclosed a big check).

Grandma lived in Yonkers when I was little (I do remember the house), but in West Palm Beach, Florida most of the time I knew her. We used to go down to visit every February. When I got old enough to travel alone (12 or so), I used to go by myself at other times. We were pretty close in those days, and I enjoyed talking to her. She used to tell me things like "When I was young, I thought everyone liked me. I was shocked when I got older to find out that some people really didn't like me. But I know now that you can't make everyone like you, so don't waste your time worrying about it." I remember her as a very independent woman who had a lot of friends and joked in Yiddish all the time. She would play tennis most days and bridge several times a week.

She also used to come up to Syracuse for a long visit every summer, and often would take care of Jessica and me while my parents went off somewhere. Grandma was a great traveler herself. Both before and after Grandpa died, she traveled a lot. I still have my collection of dolls from around the world that she brought back for me. For many years she also went to "elder hostel" programs at various colleges. She was a very intelligent woman who had never had the chance to go to college, so this was her way of getting a late education. Probably the last ones she went to were at U of Wisconsin--John and I used to go visit her in Madison since we were living in Chicago at the time.

Overall, I think Grandma was a unique person and in her own way a great lady. She had a good life. We should all be so lucky.

Saturday, August 2, 2008