Time Capsule

This records my personal memories, thoughts, and other miscellany.

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Location: Colorado, United States

My wife Sue and I are retired and have lived in the same house for over 30 years. Our local family consists of son Mason, daughter Katrina, son-in-law Dan, granddaughter Natalia, and grandson Joel, all living in the same metropolitan area where we live.

Monday, February 13, 2006

A Grand Granddaughter

I recently wrote a most complimentary article about our grandson Joel and his amazing feats in game-playing and math. Now, it’s time to talk about our granddaughter Natalia.

Natalia is in the 4th grade. She is a very intelligent, personable, caring, athletic, beautiful, and talented young lady. She is an excellent writer and illustrator and has the most beautiful singing voice. We are as proud of her as it is possible to be.

Last month, she entered the Spelling Bee at her elementary school. It is open to 4th, 5th, and 6th grade students. Generally, it is assumed that the 4th graders, and to some extent the 5th graders, compete in the contest to gain experience, so they can seriously compete when they are in the 6th grade. The age difference, extent of vocabulary, and experience in spelling normally create a considerable gap between the 4th and 6th grade students. We encouraged Natalia and told her we were proud of her for taking on that challenge. We knew she would do her best, because she is a real competitor at whatever she attempts. We were not prepared for what happened.

At the conclusion of the Spelling Bee, at which all the school’s students were in attendance, the top two finishers were Natalia and a 6th grade girl. Natalia missed her final word (euphoria), but by finishing in second place, she will be competing at the next round, which will include the top two finishers from the other elementary schools that feed their common middle school. We were amazed, as was just about everyone else. We are looking forward to watching her compete at the next level. We do not know whether there will be any other 4th graders competing, because she is the very first 4th grader to ever be one of the two top finishers in her school.

Natalia writes fictional stories on the MAC at her home and on the PC’s at our house, using Microsoft Word. Her command of language, spelling, punctuation, and keyboarding (at least 32 words per minute) is quite impressive for her age. In addition to her mastery of these “mechanics,” she just has creativity oozing out of her brain. Her stories include a wide gamut of emotions, including a successful use of humor. The dialog she invents for her characters is appropriate and sounds very natural. Her stories are delightful. Her creativity also shows through the beautiful free-hand illustrations she sometimes adds to enhance the stories.

I mentioned she is athletic. She is a very good basketball player who has played a couple of seasons in a recreation league (YMCA). But, her forte at this time is gymnastics, again in a recreation center program. After one class as a beginner, she quickly moved up to the intermediate class, and as soon as that was completed, she was “promoted” to a pre-team class. This is for students who are not yet ready for a competitive team, but are more advanced (and more serious) than the regular recreational classes. To move up this quickly is surprising. At school, she wins or places second in almost every “field day” event, especially running competitions, including hurdles.

Her voice and poise as a performer are almost startling. From at least age four, she has displayed a natural vibrato that I’m sure many professional singers have worked hard to develop. At the last two school talent shows, she sang currently-popular songs and was a major hit in both shows. She has prepared and submitted an audition CD to try to be accepted to sing the national anthem at one or another of our local professional sports venues. She did that shortly after amazing the family last summer by singing The Star-Spangled Banner beautifully, a cappella, for us at a backyard picnic, on the spur of the moment. She, her brother Joel, and their mother (on piano), with sound work handled by their father, perform gratis a couple of times each year for a local assisted-living center and are much appreciated and encouraged to return. Natalia and Joel do the singing, mostly “oldies,” and we see many of the residents singing along with them. When Natalia is in front of an audience with a microphone in her hand, she demonstrates true stage presence. Although she says she is usually nervous, no one else has any idea that she is anything but comfortable. She moves naturally about the stage while singing, makes eye contact, and shows that she enjoys performing. She is now in the school band, taking clarinet lessons, and progressing impressively.

Natalia has a wonderful personality. She is as comfortable around adults and elderly people as she is with kids her age. She has a genuine caring feeling for other people and for animals. I call her our latest family “care-giver.” At school, she attempts to solve interpersonal conflicts, including those between other students, rather than to exacerbate them by “taking sides” or reacting angrily. She is sensitive to others’ feelings. She is soft-hearted and can be easily hurt, emotionally. But, she is also resilient and is willing to stand up for herself when necessary. She is one of those children whom teachers love to have in their classes.

These are just some of the talents, traits, and abilities she has already demonstrated, at age 10. We are very much looking forward to watching her grow up, and we believe she can achieve anything she wishes to in life. She is a most grand granddaughter.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

More About Organization

After giving more thought to our organization, I realized I hadn’t covered everything (guess I’m not that organized, after all).

We like to purchase Christmas gifts throughout the year. To do that successfully, you have to be fairly organized. Sue uses a spiral notebook to record the gifts we have purchased for each person in the family and to note ideas for other gifts. If we have something in mind to buy for someone, she writes the item under that person’s name in the book. When we purchase the item, she underlines it. This is very handy. We store the items in large plastic storage boxes until we are ready to wrap them near Christmas, and there is one box for each person. We not only purchase regular Christmas gifts for our children and grandchildren; we also give each of them 12 small gifts, one each day for the twelve days before Christmas (for five people, that’s sixty gifts). And, finally, our grandchildren’s birthdays are both in December, so we are also accumulating birthday gifts in the storage boxes. It would be almost impossible for us to handle this activity without good organization. Incidentally, the gift books make interesting family history documents, since we have many years of gift information in the notebook.

Our family enjoys playing boardgames and card games almost every Saturday, and we like to keep a record of who won each game. I update the list of winners each week and use a spreadsheet to track “points for finishes.” The winner of a game receives 8 points, 2nd place gets 4 points, 3rd gets 2, 4th gets 1, and 5th and 6th (or 7th) get no points. We have a record of our gaming from January 2001. One document shows all the games and who won the game on what date, along with the current record high score. The spreadsheet shows how many games each person has won, by month and year, and how many points they earned, based on how they finished in the games. This all started when some of us lost a game and then said, “I never win this game.” Someone else would say that of course that person had won the game in the past, but no one could remember for sure, so we decided to keep a record.

Sue and I have spent a lot of time working on our family histories. We both have collected lots of old photos, documents, genealogy information, and artifacts from our ancestors, as well as from our own lives. To engage in that hobby requires good organization, and that fits well with our life style. We have numerous notebooks containing photos and documents, identified and cataloged, using acid-free mounting paper and protective page covers. I have hundreds of old photos in photo storage boxes. The photos are numbered, identified, and cross-referenced. I can look up an ancestor’s name and find the numbers of all the photos in the collection in which that person appears. I have also written any information I know about every photo, keyed to its number. It is about as complete a family photo collection as I know how to create. It appears that Sue and I have always been collectors. We both saved all the letters we received from each other while we were dating for over a year before we married (and neither of us knew the other was doing it). We combined all the letters and cards into one box, in chronological order. Over several months, I typed up all the letters, to preserve the information, in case something happened to the original letters in the future. I also scanned the cards we sent each other and any enclosures, such as newspaper clippings, that were enclosed with letters. All of that has been copied to a CD. It is an almost perfect record of our communications during that time and contains some interesting historical references about things that were happening in the world around us.

We use a monthly work list to assure we do not forget something important that needs to be done around the house. I have items listed, by month, in a Word document. I print the month’s work items at the beginning of the month and post it on the refrigerator. Probably 90% of the items are my responsibility, and the rest are Sue’s or ours together. Sue keeps a greeting card organizer with pockets for purchased cards and dates of birthdays and anniversaries. For many, many years, we have kept a wall or desk calendar on which we note all appointments, baby-sitting days, and many related items of interest that we do not want to forget or miss. Before the end of each calendar year, we purchase a calendar for the coming year and add all repetitive information (birthdays, holidays, etc.) to it, before the year begins. We have a file cabinet in which are organized various documents, such as all types of receipts and paid bills, filed by month; financial documents; instruction books and warranties that come with purchased items (filed by type of item); medical receipts and records; income tax-related items; and auto maintenance records. We have determined, documented, and filed in a small safe at home (and in our safe deposit box) our family trust, instructions to be carried out upon our deaths, powers of attorney, and similar important items. We have just finished digitally photographing all the rooms and furnishings of our house and will soon copy those photos to a DVD and store it in our safe deposit box for insurance purposes (as well as hundreds of photos of the items in our various collections).

Okay, I’m sure there are more examples of our organization efforts that I could include, but that gives a fairly good picture. What is interesting is that all these efforts are second-nature to us. It is not a burden to create, maintain, and use these organizational products. In fact, we would be terribly lost without them. As I said before, once these things are written down, they no longer bother our minds. We rely on these lists, files, and calendars to make our lives easier, and they work well for us.