Hedwig is more than an Owl

A picture of my grandmother, Hedwig
Hedwig

My maternal grandmother would have adored the Harry Potter books. She loved tales of magic, after all. And the idea of owls as a method of communication would have tickled her fancy. But her favorite part of the stories, I know, would have been Harry’s owl, Hedwig.

Why?

Because she would have loved the idea of having a namesake in such wonderful stories. In Polish, her first name was Jadwiga. That’s Hedwig in English.

Grandma was the first in her family to be born in the United States. Her parents and siblings came here from Poland, through Germany, in 1913. She was born in Greenville, New York, not far from Port Jervis, New York where she spent most of her life.

Her father was a shoemaker. Grandma tells me that he met his wife when he was apprenticed to her father, also a shoemaker. He had a shop in Port Jervis.

Hedwig taught me a lot of things from how to make noodles from scratch to how to make beautiful Christmas ornaments from old aluminum cans. But the most important thing that she taught me was how to tell a story.

I still remember the late summer nights when she would spend hours telling me stories about herself and her family. For example, the story about her own grandfather who lost several wives in childbirth and became rich from the multiple dowries he received. He invested all of this wealth in Deutsche Marks. When the bottom fell out of the German economy, he was no longer so rich.

These distant ancestors, most of whom I never met, seemed as real to me through her stories as the people in my daily life. It was the little details that made it real. Like the fact that she bought my mother a piano and made sure that she got lessons because she so desperately want to play herself when she was a child. Here she would describe how she used to pretend to play and her hands would dance back and forth as though she were playing a piano.

And that is why, to me, Hedwig is much more than an owl. My grandmother passed away in 1995, but Hedwig lives on in my heart and memories.

Happily Ever After

Is there such a thing as a happy marriage?

My husband says no.

And yet…

We have been a couple since 1985 and we are still lovers, we have been married since 1994 and he still holds my hand. We have a grown up son, and he finds it “charming” that we still kiss and hug for no particular reason at all.

I called him on that recently and he said that he still believes there is no such thing as a happy marriage. He says that we are still happy because, although we are legally married, we are more like a dating couple than a married couple. I think I know what he means, but it’s certainly been a wild ride.

I met my husband when his aunt set me up on a blind date. At the time, she had a ceramics shop and I was working for my parents, selling advertising, for their weekly advertising paper. She told me about her nephew and explained that he was recently divorced and wanted to meet someone that he could enjoy spending time with. She said she had told him about me and that he wanted to meet me. We set up dinner at a local restaurant.

We met and I fell in love. Corny, right? But I fell in love the minute I looked at him and, by the time he took me home, I was gone.

He, on the other hand, told me that he had no plans to marry again. He had two kids to take care of and nothing would be allowed to interfere with that. At that time, I was convinced that I could change his mind. As weeks, months, and years went by, I wasn’t so sure. On the other hand, I came to the decision that I would rather date my husband than be married to someone else, so I stayed.

We met in May of 1985. Fast forward to the summer of 1993. By this time I was spending every weekend at my husband’s house. I had gotten to know his kids. I watched them go through their teenage years and enjoyed having them around. Yes, I was in it for the long haul. I couldn’t imagine spending my life with anybody else. I was happy. Then everything changed. That summer, we went to the wedding of my husband’s nephew. While we were dancing at the wedding that day, he began to talk about the possibility of marriage.

I, of course, became excited. While I no longer expected to get married, I still wanted to marry him. The subject came up more often and, as Christmas approached, I began to hope that he would propose. After all, what better Christmas present? When Christmas arrived, my step-son became engaged to his first wife. Rather than “steal his thunder” my boy friend decided to wait.

I was disappointed, but as I said before, I was committed to him, not to marrying him.

Even though he hadn’t proposed, the talk about marriage continued. By the time Valentine’s Day of 1994 came along, I somehow convinced myself that he was going to propose. I was absolute sure of it. In 1994, Valentine’s Day fell on Monday. We both had to work so we decided to celebrate on Saturday the 12th.

My husband must have been exhausted. He was working nights and going to school in the daytime to finish his Bachelor’s degree. I had gone to his house the night before and when he got home in the morning, he suggested that we spend the day wandering through the stores, have dinner, and then see a movie. We started our day, however, by stopping at my parents’ house to borrow my father’s video camera.

“Mom wants to make a video of a house that she is trying to sell,” he told me. “I talked to your father and he said that he would loan her his camera.”

His house was a bit more than half an hour from my parents’ house. We stopped off there and had coffee with my parents. When I went upstairs to get the video camera, he told them what he was planning. I didn’t know that at the time, of course. He told me about it afterwards. We took the camera and went to the Galleria in nearby Middletown.

While we were at the book store, he showed me a wedding magazine and said, “How about this for a present?”

Before I tell you what I said, I have to explain that by this point, my only question was when he would propose, not if he would propose. I had given him a leather briefcase for carrying his papers for school, and he hadn’t given me anything. Even as I type this, I can’t rewrite it in any way that doesn’t sound self-centered and childish, so I’m just going to tell it. When he offered me a $3 magazine, I blew up.

“I wanted a present!”

He bought it anyway. We went to a nice restaurant for dinner. I don’t remember what we had but it was delicious. Unfortunately the restaurant hasn’t lasted as long as our marriage. It was closed years ago.

After dinner, we went to a movie, one that I was so anxious to see, Jurassic Park. He wasn’t interested in it, but he loved me enough to take me to see it. And, by that time, he was really tired. He didn’t really see the movie. He dozed off, went out to the lobby, and in general wasn’t focused. After the movie, we went to a nearby grocery store and bought blank video tapes for his mother to use with the camera and headed for home.

The weather was miserable. Freezing rain and sleet had made the roads slippery and it took quite a while to get to his mother’s house. I had actually dozed off myself on the long ride. When I woke up, we were pulling into my mother-in-law’s driveway.

“I thought we’d drop the camera off,” said my boy friend.

We went in. His mother put up a pot of coffee, and brought out cake. By then, it was one in the morning, so it was Sunday, February 13th. I wanted to leave, but my husband insisted that I had to show his mother how to use the camera.

Despite the fact that I enjoy watching my husband propose, I cringe somewhat when I watch the video. You can see just how (un)happy I am by looking at the expression on my face. About halfway through, I realize what is coming and it all changes. The proposal was beautiful.

“I may not be the smartest man in the world, or the handsomest, but you could make me the happiest man in the world if you say yes to this question.”

Here he got down on one knee and pulled a small jewelry box out of his pocket.

“Will you marry me?”

He opened the box and put the ring on my finger but when I tried to say “yes,” he put one finger on my lips.

“Let’s say that your answer is tentative. We can’t be together tomorrow, but you can call me and give me your official answer. That way you can tell people you became engaged on Valentine’s Day.”

My engagement ring has a heart-shaped diamond. I did call him on Valentine’s Day to give him my official answer and we were married six months later on August 13th. We have had our ups and our downs, who hasn’t? But I have never regretted my answer that day or wondered what would have happened if I had married someone else.

Twenty-five years has gone by in a flash and I wouldn’t change a thing.

Simplify your Online Workflow

This is a small tip for making your online working life easier to manage. It may save you only a few seconds each time you use it but a few seconds here, a few seconds there…

Many of us are now spending most of our working day using online apps to do our work. We use Google for mail, calendar, and documents, we have IRC chat and more. There are about seven different web pages that I have open at all times on my computer. I’ve been doing this on my current job for over six months, and increasingly using similar setups on other contracts I’ve had over the past six years or more.

This morning, it hit me.

There is an easier way.

Everyone uses a web browser to surf the web, but it is easy to make use of something without exploring beyond the basics. My solution depends on a feature that is available in almost every web current web browser.

Here’s the idea. Once you have all of the browser tabs you need, you can create a folder containing the bookmarks you need. In my case, I created a folder containing bookmarks to my email, calendar, Google Drive, my planning document, the team’s task board, and our IRC chat.

Now that I have those bookmarks in their own folder, I can open them all with two clicks of my mouse. The first opens the folder, the second to open all of the tabs I need.

I use Firefox as my default browser. This image shows how the command would work in Firefox (v. 63.0.1, 64-bit) I have right-clicked on the folder that contains the bookmarks I want and will click the Open All in Tabs command.

An image showing how to open a group of bookmarks in Firefox with a single menu command.

Opening all bookmarks in a folder on Mozilla Firefox with one command.

Here is the same procedure in Chrome (v. 70.0.3538.77, 64-bit. Notice that you have more options such as opening the bookmarks in a new window or even an incognito window:

Opening all bookmarks in a folder on Google Chrome with one command.

Here is the same procedure in Microsoft Edge.

Opening all bookmarks in a folder on Microsoft Edge with one command.

And, finally, here is the same thing in Opera.

Opening all bookmarks in a folder on Opera with one command.

I hope you find this little tip easy to follow and useful in your daily work.

Unsocial Media

I have a page on Facebook for my writing and I also have a Twitter account. I created both of these social mediate accounts for the purpose of “building my brand” and making people aware of my existence as an author, programmer, and web designer. That’s the cool thing about social media. You can promote yourself without spending a lot of money on advertising.

One of the disadvantages of social media, however, is the intrusion into your life.

Since I started my Facebook page, in particular, I have had men send me text messages with greetings like, “Hello pretty lady!” or “Hey, beautiful.”

I haven’t talked about this before because I have had a difficult time deciding how to present my case. On one hand, it feels creepy. Would they address a strange man as, “Hello, handsome?”

On the other, maybe it’s totally innocent and I’m just being vain in thinking that a bunch of strange men want to hit on me. After all, I am old enough to order from the Senior Menu at Denny’s. My body is fat, my hair is thin, there are definite wrinkles around my eyes, and it is no secret that I’m married. Maybe these are not sexual advances; maybe these men feel that I would be fun to talk to, but it feels like a come-on and I don’t like it.

In addition to any sexual component to these communications, it also occurs to me that it is arrogance on anyone’s part to think that people are available to chat at any hour of the day or night. If I showed up at their place of work and started chatting as they restocked the shelves at Walmart or made fries at McDonald’s, how long before they told me to go away because they are busy? Okay, that was deliberately nasty. I’m sure these men are not all minimum-wage workers. And yet, you see my point.

If I could contact Stephen King directly, I wouldn’t approach him with “Hello handsome, how was your day?” I would ask him a question about his writing or one of his books. I would comment on something he had said, or done, or anything other than what sounds like an attempt to lure him away from his wife.

And, if these approaches are sexual, it makes me wonder if anybody other than straight men approach people of the sex in whom they are interested in the same way.

But the ultimate question is: how do you discourage it without being rude? Can you?

At first I would respond. I figured if I was friendly, we could have a short conversation and they would lose interest. It doesn’t work. Responding seemed to indicate to them that I was just as interested in a relationship as they were. More than one told me that we were meant for each other. So I started ignoring these messages. That doesn’t really work on Facebook. It makes it seem as though you are ignoring people out of laziness or inattention.

So what’s a person to do?

If you use social media to promote yourself, do you have this problem too? I’d love to know how you are handling it.

Nimue’s Grotto – Fall 2017

It’s that time again! I am pleased to announce the Fall 2017 Issue of Nimue’s Grotto. I have gathered up nine stories for you this time, three of them by authors who have not been published before anywhere else. I have also included one of my own stories from Dreams in Transit, my collection of flash fiction stories. Although I don’t normally publish stories that have already been published, I did this time because two of the authors with stories in this issue are my husband and son.

To see the issue, please point your browser to Nimue’s Grotto and enjoy.

Nimue’s Grotto Summer 2017

It’s a hot night, and I’ve got some hot news…

The Summer 2017 Issue of Nimue’s Grotto is available for your reading pleasure. I’m proud to present some new writers, and some that are only new to the Grotto.

You can visit us at: Nimue’s Grotto

Let us know what you think. We’d love to hear from you.

And, if you’re a writer, we’d love to see your stories. We specialize in flash fiction (up to 1,000 words) stories in the genres of Fantasy, Science Fiction, and Horror.

All moved in…

Welcome to the new home of “An Irene Thing.” Posts have been imported from our original installation and we’re all set for business.

In case you’re curious, the header image is a photo of the Oculus, the PATH station/shopping mall at the World Trade Center. I took this picture right before Christmas. Here is another interesting view from inside the Oculus:

Inside the Oculus
Inside the Oculus