Hey, Kids! Check Out These Tips from Your Friends at FEMA

Did you know September is “National Preparedness Month”? And did you also know that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, has a rich and comprehensive website, not only to prove they’re on the job, but more importantly to help you survive in case they’re unavoidably delayed? No, you did not. Or if you knew, you haven’t bothered to go there, because you are lazy or because you don’t believe anything they say anyway.

I don’t know what the FEMA site looked like before Hurricane Katrina decimated New Orleans, but I’m guessing it’s been beefed up considerably since that farce occurred. Now you can  download a personal Family Communication Plan, get help compiling your Disaster Supplies Kit, and order from a plethora of free publications. None of this will get FEMA to your door any sooner; still, it’s good stuff to know before you find yourself sitting on the roof in your bathrobe waving at passing news helicopters.


Do I believe you will actually do anything to prepare for the next, inevitable natural disaster? No, I do not – and neither does FEMA. There is, in fact, little reason to believe a majority of America’s adults will suddenly start acting in a responsible and proactive manner. It is no surprise then that the agency has turned its attention elsewhere, to the nation’s youth. Because who knows, maybe they can get their parents off their complacent behinds.

I wish I could say FEMA’s appeal to kids is likely to make a difference in the country’s disaster preparedness plans. Based on my experience with grandchildren, however, it strikes me as a long shot.

Let’s say you send the kids to the site (www.ready.gov/kids). The first thing they’ll see is a list of “items you and your family will need” in an emergency. Let us review this list and (in italics) what you can realistically expect to find in your finished kit.

First aid kit (half a box of Hello Kitty bandages)
Extra batteries (only the size that fits their electronic game player)
Non-perishable food such as dried fruit or peanut butter (the peanut butter has a real shot)
Matches in a waterproof container (no, they don’t know where you hide the matches and have no idea what a waterproof container is)
Toothbrush, toothpaste, soap (ha ha)
Paper plates, plastic cups and utensils, paper towels (one of each, you’ll have to share)
Water, at least a gallon per person per day (completely beyond their comprehension)
Battery-powered or hand-cranked radio (MP3 player)
Sleeping bag or warm blanket for each person (Spider-Man sleeping bag filled with Doritos crumbs)
Flashlights (as many as they can find – they like flashlights)
Whistle to signal for help (plastic whistle from Chuck E. Cheese)
Manual can opener (only if someone explains what “manual” means)
Local maps (Minecraft post-apocalyptic city map)
Pet supplies (some Scooby Snacks doggy treats)
Baby supplies, formula, diapers (three graham crackers and a pair of old training pants)

As you can see, leaving preparation of the family’s emergency kit up to the kiddos might not be the best way to go. If I were the web designers at FEMA, I’d build a more realistic site for kids, one where the home page looks something like this…

HEY, KIDS!!! Want to survive the next HURRICANE, TORNADO OR FLOOD? Of course, you do. That means you’ll have to start working on mom and dad RIGHT NOW! Just download and print this handy ‘I Want to Live Long Enough to Go to Prom’ list of everything you’ll need for your family emergency kit (we know you know how). Then hand the list to your parents and START BUGGING THEM – day in, day out, every day, until your family’s disaster kit is stocked and ready. (Meanwhile, be sure they keep the CELL PHONE charged up, or you could be out of touch with YOUR FRIENDS for a whole day or maybe even longer!)” 

Do you see what I’ve done there? You have to appeal to what kids know and might even give a crap about. Otherwise, they’ll just think “not my problem” and go back to planning how to get the cat to wear a ninja costume for Halloween.

And you never know. The kids might prevail. Frankly, I have more faith in them than I do in you.



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Photo credits:
“Are You Ready”: careerealism.com
“Plan Ahead”: sharielf.com


Hannah Montana Is Dead


Well, she never really existed, did she. But talk about your BFLs (big fat lies, I think I just made that up). For five years Miley Cyrus, aka Hannah, was the idol of just about every pre-preteen girl in America. I know my oldest granddaughter watched many an episode of the hit TV show and did all she could to help support the franchise. Now if a kid asks, “What happened to Hannah Montana?” her mother says, “Oh, I’m so sorry, dear. Hannah Montana is dead.”

Like most Disney Channel offerings, the show’s premise was always a stretch. Miley Cyrus played all-American teen Miley Stewart, who transformed into her alter-ego, rock superstar Hannah Montana, simply by donning a blonde wig and cooler clothes. Instantly, she was unrecognizable. No one ever caught on! It was Clark Kent and his glasses all over again.

Today the re-imaged Cyrus not only bears no resemblance to the character she once played, she was recently voted “Worst Celebrity Role Model for Kids” in a Yahoo Parenting poll. I guess I can understand why the role of Hannah might have become stifling after a while. But why go so quickly from preteen idol to shock queen slut of the Internet?

Oh, right. Money.


Which is not to say Cyrus isn’t talented. She is. And she certainly isn’t the first Disney star to fall off the Fantasyland castle (think Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan). Her determination to ditch the character that made her famous, however, makes the others look like amateurs.

In an interview for next month’s issue of Marie Claire magazine, Cyrus says her years of playing Hannah may have given her “body dysmorphia.” According to MayoClinic.org, this is a psychological disorder in which “you intensely obsess over your appearance and body image, often for many hours a day.” I get that. For sure the character she played was almost anorexically thin. (She was a pop star after all.) And if body dysmorphia is a battle Cyrus fought and won, good for her. I’m just not convinced that’s what started her down the road to twerking on live TV and swinging naked from construction equipment.

No doubt Cyrus would say she never asked to be a role model in the first place. And I have to admit, as athletes can only be athletes, we can’t really expect entertainers to be more than just that, entertainers. We all know the real role models should be parents or grandparents or people who spend their time doing good deeds and don’t go around blabbing about it.

And who can blame her for wanting to make some money off her fame? God knows Disney made enough. Then again, who would Miley Cyrus be if it weren’t for poor deceased Hannah? Not a 22-year-old making over $50 million a year, I’m thinking. 

Oh, I know I’m on the cusp of being a COP (clueless old person). But remember back in the sixties, when we had that big liberation thing? Women were good and fed up with being treated like sex objects and weren’t afraid of being called feminists. Now entertainers like Cyrus – along with the many manifestations of “girls gone wild” online – could make you think that battle was never fought. I would just like to know, what the hell happened?

Rottenecards_57659850_ywyj58qgrd.jpg Created by: Kimmy B


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Photo credits:
DisneyChannel. com

Pinterest: Because Not Every Grandma Is the Failure You Are

There are grandparent blogs in profusion now. Sometimes I like to check them out, if for no other reason than to confirm that I have absolutely nothing in common with these people. Let me just start by saying that many of these sites perform a worthy service, addressing serious subjects affecting children’s wellbeing. I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about the blogger whose apparent goal is to be just the best damned grandma on the internet.

These are the folks who crochet a complete 21-piece layette in a day and make their own touchy-feely books out of fabric scraps. Often you can recognize them by their fixation on Pinterest.com, where they are forever pinning pictures of their latest project while urging you to find your own creative muse.

Occasionally, when I feel I am not living up to my matriarchal potential, I will visit Pinterest and do a search for “things to make for grandkids.” I have found that this brings me back to reality in short order. Here is a sample of what you find.


First, let me state the obvious. This is a DIAPER. It’s entire raison d’etre is catching poop in all its forms. It will be put through the wash approximately 99 times in six months, after which it will be unrecognizable.

I have six grandkids. Had I attempted to make a mere dozen of these for each one at birth, that’s 72 diapers. If I continued to make them in ever bigger sizes until they were all potty trained, we’re talking well over 500. How OCD would you have to be just to start such a project?


The assumption here is that I have nine different kinds of fresh vegetables in my refrigerator at one time. To my knowledge, I have never achieved that lofty goal. Then I’m supposed to believe that, should I actually go to the trouble of assembling a veggie skeleton for each grandchild, they would eat it. I know them. The only way most of them might finish it is if there were a Minecraft clue hidden underneath. The more likely scenario is that they will be chucking broccoli and carrot sticks at each other across the table.


That’s “Peppermint for focus, Basil for balancing, Lavender for relaxation, Orange for positive energy.”

All you need (in addition to the basic dough formula) is:
4 T coconut oil
2 T Redmond clay
2 tsp Xylitol
Pinch of Redmond Real Salt
2 tsp organic lemon extract
20-30 drops Liquid Stevia (vanilla)

I actually priced out these ingredients, and the cheapest versions I could find still came to $36.50. I can get a 4-pack of Play-Doh at Target for $2.99, less when it goes on sale. I don’t care that the DIY aromatherapy version will “make all of the difference to a little one’s state of mind.” You know and I know that the little ones are going to play with this for five minutes. Then they will eat it.


Okay, admittedly, you will have the green beans if you can wait “just a couple of months” for this thing to take shape. But personally I have trouble growing tomatoes in pots, so I can’t imagine what my tepee would look like should I attempt such an undertaking. Not like this, I’ll bet. Then I’d have to convince the grandkids that it’s just like playing in a plastic pop-up tepee from Toys R Us. They might buy that right up until the time a spider landed on someone’s head. I assure you I would never get Grace into it.


Huh? I thought that’s what the front of the refrigerator was for.


Well, who doesn’t have an old cabinet, a chalkboard and four wheeled casters lying around? Knock this together and you’ll be able to park the grandkids at the end of the driveway, where they can earn money for that college education – or approximately 75 cents a day.

Here’s the lemonade station my grandkids and some friends set up this summer while their parents were attempting to unload crap at their yard sale.


Of course, it doesn’t have the panache of the Pinterest model. But if anyone was in possession of an old cabinet, a chalkboard and four wheeled casters, I’m guessing they were probably on sale in the yard.

I could go on, but why?


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Photo credits:
Diaper: babyvilleboutique.com
Veggie skeleton: feedingfourlittlemonkeys.blogspot.com
Play dough: skiptomylou.org
Bean tepee: todaysmama.com
Brag board: emmymom2.com
Lemonade stand: mycreativedays.com

Home Again, Home Again

Home. I’m embarrassed to admit it, but when I turned onto the road to my house, I wept, I really did. “Home,” I said, “home,” and blew my nose. Who knew?

I came back with an aching back and bronchitis, but I’m not sorry I went. I’m glad I got to see Santa Fe and Taos and Manitou Springs. America is vast and beautiful. You have to drive across it and see it at ground level to realize that.

So what have we learned? It is good to get away by yourself sometimes. I would travel alone again but I’d fly next time. I am simply too old and achy now to drive across country without someone to spot me on the driving. And navigate.

Living out of your car and hotel rooms gets old rather quickly. It isn’t normal. It’s discombobulating.

You don’t need fifteen books for a two-week trip. Thirty bottles of water is about right though.

There is road construction going on in every state in this country. For sheer number of projects and inconvenience though, Minnesota gets a big gold star. Why, I wonder, do they close the freeway down to one lane for five miles in either direction of the small area where they are actually working. Perhaps I will write Amy Klobuchar, and she can get to the bottom of it.

But did I find enlightenment? Yes, I think I had a couple of enlightening moments. I’m not going to go into the details, but I will say that enlightenment lies somewhere between your idea of what it should be and what you get. And I remembered things I know very well but tend to forget.

What I have is immeasurable. I have three daughters who are loving, compassionate and fun to be with. I have three sons-in-law who are kind, honest men. I have six grandchildren who are a joy in more ways than I can name. I have amazing friends, good people who persevere in life and keep trying to do what’s right. And all these people put up with me – my laziness, forgetfulness, impatience and weird sense of humor. I have done nothing to deserve all this, but there you are. It is good to go alone into the desert once in a while. It wakes you right up.


grandsons at wedding

Buca pic

Friday in the Rock Garden


Day 10: Manitou Springs, Colorado, is a little resort town with plenty of souvenir shops and not much else. It is, however, just minutes from the Garden of the Gods, and that is everything. I did a little hiking through the amazing sandstone rock formations, but mostly just drove the loopy roads through the park, pulling off now and then to take photos that can never do justice to the real thing. It was busy in the garden – I can’t imagine what it’s like mid-summer – and how is it that all the tourists except you are so annoying?

Well, I am just hobbling around now. Pulled the heating pad out of the trunk last night for my back. Also, no one told me that the mountain air can cause severe nasal congestion. I was going to take the train up to the top of Pikes Peak today, but I’m afraid my head will explode at 14,000 feet. So instead, I think I will start moving in the direction of home. I am looking forward to kissing the grandkids and sitting on the porch with a good book, thinking about all the yard work I should be doing. Travel is good – it grows your knowledge and broadens your horizons. Home is good too.

Rocky Mountain Highs


Day 9: Drove the Old Santa Fe Trail scenic byway from Santa Fe to Colorado Springs yesterday. It is indeed extremely scenic. You can drive 75 mph most of the way and make the trip in four to five hours. Back in the 1800s it took around a month to travel the same route in a covered wagon. I don’t like to complain but my back really hurt for the last couple of hours (too many days in the car), and I didn’t have to ride on a wooden seat in a dirty wagon and worry about justifiably disgruntled Apaches waiting over the hill. You just know there are still bones out there somewhere. This would be a great trip and history lesson for kids. Not that they’d care.

Less than 200 years later, I’m sitting at a hotel in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, where last night I was able to soak my aching back in a hot tub. Travel is so draining. Next door is the Emerald Fields Recreational Marijuana store. So that’s convenient. To think, Zebulon Pike himself may have sat on this very spot smoking something. Although it probably wasn’t as easy to get.

Oh, Look! A Target Store


Day 8: This Target store behind my hotel is the first I’ve seen in New Mexico. For some reason, they don’t have one on every corner here. Weird. I went in to pick up some sundries and guess what? Inside it’s just like every Target store everywhere. Found the aisle with Up & Up sinus medicine with no trouble. It almost brought tears to my eyes.

Other than that, my shopping day was kind of a bust. Got six postcards and sent them off to the grandkids, and I hope they all arrive on the same day or I will hear about it. I read on the Internet this morning that some couple in Illinois just had their 100th grandchild. I’ll bet they don’t bother to send postcards anymore.

Driving to Manitou Springs, Colorado today, about a five-hour trip. I hear there’s shopping there.

Snake Charming


Day 7: I drove up into the canyons around Santa Fe yesterday, where you see the kind of scenery found on postcards. I wanted to see the Pueblo cliff dwellings in Bandelier National Park. Turns out you can’t drive your car into the park in the middle of the day, but a 25-minute shuttle ride will take you up there. I don’t care for buses, to say nothing of one straining to make it up and down a mountain. Took a Dramamine, got on the bus.

The shuttle drops you off at a visitor’s center, and from there you have to walk up about a mile to the site. The dwellings are caves cut out of the volcanic rock about a thousand years ago. You can climb up wooden ladders and look inside. I hate heights. I climbed the ladders. There weren’t a lot of other people up there, so it was a little lonely, but peaceful and quite moving.

I decided to take the nature trail coming back down, which is a little longer hike and there are numerous signs reminding you to “Stay On The Path.” Like I’d leave the path. Rounded a curve and startled a snake lying in my way. I think it was just a garter snake, as I have seen them in my basement. Normally I might have let out a little scream, but he slithered away pretty quickly. Also, I was under the influence of Dramamine.

Then I ran across this deer, who was chewing something and showed no interest in me at all. At least I think it was a deer. Why does it have such long ears?


I was happy to see the visitors’ center again, although I’m really glad I went to see the cliff dwellings. Drove back down into Santa Fe, got a little lost. I fear I am slowly becoming the weary traveler. Perhaps a day of shopping will help?



Day 6: Okay, I know it’s really Day 7, but Day 6 wore me out. It was my favorite day so far though. Spent most of it on Museum Hill, where you will find the International Museum of Folk Art. Really you should just get in the car and go there right now. The Girard Collection is unbelievable; had to go through twice to absorb it all. The Between Two Worlds Collection will make you weep.

Walked across the plaza to the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, where the current exhibit in the sculpture garden, “Courage & Compassion,” may be the closest I come to enlightenment on this trip. All of the pieces are made by Native American women artists. When you go into the museum, the first thing you notice is how much the Indians honored the mother and the sacredness of Mother Earth. Gotta love that.

I was going to go to the Botanical Gardens, but it was sprinkling by then, so I went to the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art instead. Not many people left by that time. The man who took my money said the docent had left for the day so maybe he should show me around. Mike Gonzalez, retired volunteer, easy to look at (gray hair, neat beard). This seemed like a good idea to me. Of course, he was very knowledgeable about which pieces came from Mexico, Peru, Columbia, etc. – and that’s the important thing, right?

Came back to the hotel, spent a half hour in the hot tub. Thought about blogging, but then I started reading a book instead. (I brought along fifteen books and nine audiobooks on this trip, which made sense to me at the time.)

Went to get something out of the car this morning and saw a black dog playing in the yard adjacent to the hotel. I think this means I am supposed to go into the lands outside of Santa Fe. (Pretty sure Georgia O’Keeffe had a black dog.) So that is where I’m going.

Santa Fe Holiday


I think I could have timed this better. Who knew Santa Fe was the hot place to be on Memorial Day weekend? The hotels and restaurants are full, the shops and galleries all doing a booming business. People can’t seem to get enough turquoise jewelry, Mexican skeleton art, and things woven by genuine Indians. There’s an art fair featuring local artists down at the Santa Fe Plaza, as well as an antique car rally, so it’s quite the colorful assembly of folks milling around.

Given the chaos, of course, I had to put my personal quest on hold. I walked the streets of historic Santa Fe today, listened to the Mariachi band in the Plaza, went to the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and hunted for Western-style boots for the grandkids. You’d think there’d be a lot of kids’ boots for sale in New Mexico, but no. What you do see all over are Minnetonka Moccasins, which I can buy in Minnetonka, Minnesota, where I happen to live, for half the price.

I imagine things will slow down some by tomorrow. I’m going to take one more day of sight-seeing in downtown Santa Fe, then head for the quiet of the New Mexico countryside. There must be a lot of buttes and things out there, places where a body can sit and contemplate her insignificant spot in the universe. Georgia found enlightenment. Why not me?