Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rick and His AC/DC Mama

I’m here to tell the story of a nephew and a friend
Eastern Maine Tech College is the school he did attend.

He always made the dean’s list where he’d matriculated.
And then he found an awesome job, post-haste, once graduated.

He went to BIW, the shipyard down in Bath.
They wanted men with welding skills who, too, were good in math.

And in a nutshell—that was Rick! That boy could make a weld!
He was an expert at the skill of making metals meld!

His foreman soon discovered—having Bessey was a perk.
He had a great work ethic and was sent to Arleigh Burke.

These warships were the most advanced to sail around the world.
And Rick was proud to build a ship where Stars and Stripes unfurled.

He tested out his talents, those skills he’d learned in class…
Ox-y-a-CET-y-lene for pipes, (you know…that is a gas!)

For much in building frigates, this gas would take no part,
For it was really suited more for brazing and for art.

When over-lapping metal--that weld was called a ‘spot’.
Because Rick was proficient, his expertise was sought.

And, too, he was quite handy at welding with resistance.
It was more complicated, sure! But Rick, he had persistence.

Forge welding was the oldest kind—all welders will concur.
Rick heated metal, pounded it… ‘til bonding did occur.

But Ricky had a fav’rite; t’was welding with an arc!
He got a ‘charge’ when that electrode made an awesome spark.

As much as Rick loved welding, as good as his career…
He had a little worry that was turning into fear.

He hadn’t found a woman. Most weren’t up to snuff.
He simply hadn’t met a girl who offered him enough.

He dreamed of getting married. He owned a nice new house.
But it was pretty lonely there without a loving spouse.

But Rick, he worked both night and day! He had no time to meet
A lady who was charming, and was pretty and was sweet!

He pondered his conundrum as he welded up a joint,
Then through his mask he saw a hand. And then a finger point.

‘That joint is not done properly. That weld is an abortion!
‘I can CLEARLY see from here--rotational distortion!

‘You’ve got residual stress, there! No! Shrinkage will not work!
‘Remember, kid! You’re working on the class of Arleigh Burke!’

Rick quit what he was doing. His visor he did flip.
‘Just who the hell are you, girl? Don’t give me any lip!’

He spoke the words in anger, for he knew that she was right.
He’d been more concentrated on his lonely wife-less plight.

But as he scowled across the haze of flux-created smoke
He got his first long look upon the bossy girl who’d spoke.

My God, she was a beauty! In tight jeans and a tee
That said, ‘I melt quite easily with AC or DC!’

Blond hair up in a pony-tail, strong arms with welder’s tan…
She glared right back at Ricky, and said, ‘My name is Fran!

‘Look, I won’t go too hard on you. But clamp the two in place!
‘We’re building for our country, and that joint is a disgrace!’

Rick bit back his excuses. It seemed he worked for her!
And in his heart young Ricky… he really did concur.

‘Yes ma’am, I’ll get right on it!’ (He wanted to salute!
But if this babe was now his boss, that might get him the boot.)

He didn’t want cold-cracking, so the pieces he off-set,
And made the weld ONE OF THE BEST the US Navy’d get.

And later on that evening, Rick wandered into town.
To get the girl struck from his mind, her memory he’d drown.

‘I’ll take a rum and cola,’ he ordered from the lass
Who tended bar that evening and was wiping dry a glass.

The barmaid turned her eye to him, and Rick, he felt a start.
It was the bossy welder girl! Be still, his beating heart!

‘I’m sorry! Do you work here? Or over at the docks?’
She swept him with a scathing look and tossed her golden locks.

Rick couldn’t really help it. At legs and bust he glanced.
He’d known already she was technologically advanced!

But she sure had a body! Her face was fine of bone…
And Rick, well, he responded in his ‘heat affected zone’.

‘Why is it that you men-folk all seem to be such jerks?
‘Why is it that a GIRL can’t fabricate down at ‘The Works’?’

Rick felt his face go rosy. Now, sexist he was NOT!
He’d welded with a few great girls who’d learned all they were taught.

It seemed that Fran and Ricky were destined to butt heads!
But rather than rise to her bait, he gave a smile instead.

‘You’re right! We men are naught but cads! The lowest of the low!
‘But I, for one, would LOVE to see you make electrodes glow!’

Her pretty lips, they barely twitched, but then she gave a smirk.
‘Yup, there’s no doubt about it! Each one of you’s a jerk!’

She placed in front of Ricky a glass of Coke and rum.
‘Are you of age to drink this? Or should you ask your mum?’

‘I’ll show you my ID card, to prove I’m not a fraud!
‘I know it’s in here somewhere… down by my braising rod!’

At this Fran gave a raucous hoot. ‘You’re suffering exposure!
‘When next you weld make sure you stay in posi-press enclosure!’

The two young welders hit their strides. They bantered to and fro.
And like the alloys, melded with coalescent glow.

And just one short year later, they stood upon the deck
Of the ship wherein the lovely bride had given Rick such heck.

The USS Stockdale was launched, stamped with their fabricaton.
And took the happy couple on their honeymoon vacation.

I wrote this story/poem to read to my nephew Rick at his college graduation party.
If you have a special occasion for which you would like a custom poem, please go to for details on how to contract my services. Sample poems are on that site, and scattered here and there on GAG, too.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

To Touch the Clouds

Author Peter Watt’s knowledge of the history of his native Australia infuses his novels with authenticity. I first met Peter last year. A friend of mine had attended a writing seminar that the author was conducting, and when my pal learned that I loved Wilbur Smith’s novels, he recommended I give Peter Watt’s a try. That is one recommendation I’m very glad I followed!

To Touch the Clouds is the latest chapter in the ongoing saga of the Duffy and Macintosh clans. The tale began in Cry of the Curlew, and the opening scenes of that novel were gripping. The government-sanctioned massacre of a tribe of native Australians was openly supported by one immigrant family, and the other was caught in the crossfire. That tragic event was the catalyst for hostilities between the two families which would last for generations. Some thought it was more than the terrible crime of a bygone day which kept the feud and the bad luck going. Some remembered the curse, and believed.

In To Touch the Clouds, cousins Alexander Macintosh and Michael Duffy are sent to German controlled New Guinea on an undercover mission. The Macintoshes have extensive business dealings with the Germans but as Europe balances on the precipice of war, suspicions abound. What these cousins don’t realize is that they are being betrayed by someone very close to them. Who is plotting their failure and deaths? Is it Yank, New Zealander, German cousin, or perhaps another Australian? And will their mission succeed, or will their lives or freedom be forfeited? And what will become of Alexander’s troubled sister Fenella, who is suspected of murder? The author keeps his readers guessing until the very end.

I have been privileged to read several of Peter Watt’s novels thus far, and as in the others, this story is full of engaging characters with very human qualities. Interwoven in this story are tales of passionate love between man and woman, and the fierce love of parent for child. There are hate-filled plots and humorous anecdotes of friendship. Peter has the ability to convey real emotion; whether love, loathing, contempt, greed or camaraderie. He is gifted with insight into the inner workings of both the male psyche and the mind of a woman. As his friend, I can tell you truthfully that this author has keen intuition. Peter knows people, and that is the first and most telling mark of an excellent writer. When his familiarity with the histories of Australia and New Guinea are added to the mix, To Touch the Clouds is guaranteed not to disappoint the reader. Although this novel stands on its own, I recommend you read the whole Duffy/Macintosh series from start to finish if you get the chance. And don’t despair. A little bird told me there is yet another episode in the works. I can’t wait, for more than the obvious reason.

I’ve been promised a nice long letter when it’s done!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Nightly Dance

‘Josie, it’s none of your business!’

‘Yes, it is. I have to live with you!’

‘No, you don’t! You can go live with Cassie. That’d be great!’

‘I don’t want to live with Cassie.’

‘Yeah, that’s because her mother would never let you, anyway.’

‘Yes, she would!’

‘No way! You’re such a brat; no one wants to live with you.’

‘Well, at least I don’t stink!’

‘You do, too! You smell like a pig!’

‘You should talk! You are the smelliest kid on the bus!’

‘Well, at least I don’t act like an idiot every time a boy gets on the bus!’

‘Yeah. Right. You act like an idiot every time anyone gets on the bus.’

‘Just shut up.’

You shut up!’

‘No, you!’

‘No, you!’

‘No, you!’

I pushed myself away from the doorjamb where I had been leaning, arms folded across my chest as I listened to this clever conversation. The sound of their raised, irritated voices had pulled me downstairs from my bedroom office on the second floor.

‘Here’s an idea, guys! Why don’t you both be quiet!’

But Josie, completely unintimidated by my presence and my suggestion, had to get the last word in.

‘No, you!’

‘Josie! I said, be quiet!’ I could see the wheels turning in that lovely head. I could see the split second the cogs meshed and she decided it wasn’t worth the risk to utter one final ‘No, you!’ Wise choice.

‘Well, tell Eli to quit telling me to shut up!’

I cocked my head to one side.

‘I believe I just heard you telling him the same thing!’

‘Yeah, Josie!’

‘You!’ I swung to face my thirteen year old. ‘You be quiet!’

‘She started it!’

‘Nuh-uh! He threw the remote at me!’

‘Yeah, after you moved it out of the chair, where I was sitting!’

‘Guys! BE QUIET!!’

‘You got out of it, Eli! You snooze, you lose!’

‘Josie! Enough!’

‘Mum! I was watching Stargate SG-1 and I got up to go to the bathroom, and Josie took my chair!’

‘You’ve been watching TV for two hours! It’s my turn to pick a show!’

‘After this show is over! You can’t just change it in the middle of a show, and you can’t take my chair just because I go to the bathroom!’

‘Well, I can’t see it from the couch!’

‘You don’t like Stargate, anyway! You don’t need to see it!’

‘I need to see MY show!’

‘You shouldn’t even be WATCHING your show!’

‘You’ve hogged the TV all day! First you played X-Box, and then you watched your stupid shows!’

Your show is the stupid one!’

‘No, yours is!’

‘No, yours is!’


Friday, January 15, 2010

Valentine's Day Contest (aka Photo Caption Contest)


Crookedpaw, a friend from down-country, has been crowned the winner of the NAME THAT PHOTO CAPTION contest. The winning entry? Heck... now I can't see the comments section to quote him exactly... hold on, my friends, while I figure out how to do this. (Rocket science is not my bag...and this simply HAS to be rocket science!)

I'm back! The winning caption is: 'That's the last time I play Twister with Edward Scissorhands!'


Hey, guys and gals... I really appreciate all the fun and original entries you gave me. I love that you came over to GAG to play. I am grateful to the intrepid Ali g who had such a hard time choosing the winner, but who hung in there until he'd painstakingly separated the wheat from the chaff.

And Wade? You, my dear boy (and good friend) are the CHAFF!! Hehehe. Hopeless, that's what you are. (FYI, Grumble Bluffs are STILL on sale at Tranten's! You walk by them almost every day! Ahem... that's all I'm saying...)

Thanks again, my friends. :o)

Okay, okay... not every Pease is a terrible photographer. I purposely cropped this photo. In an effort to renew interest in my photo caption contest and give poor, bored Ali g something to do, I am adding another topless photo of Karen Bessey Pease. But how do you know it's me, you ask? Trust me... it I was going to choose a body to attach my head to, it wouldn't be this one. To begin with, it would be about 20 years younger! And I would simply whittle down from there...

So, take your pick and captionize a pic! Give either of these photos a caption, add it into the comments section down below, and then, STAY TUNED. The winner, chosen by the persnickety Ali g, will be announced on 2/14/2010. The champion photo labeler will win an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff! These fine tomes are valuable beyond measure, so be sure to enter now.


This is actually a photo caption contest. Posted here and to the right (unless you're on the opposite side of the screen and facing in my direction) is another professional photo of me, author Karen Bessey Pease. This photo needs a caption. A good caption. A funny one. Look at the picture closely and see how creative you can be. I'm thinking of using this shot for my author bio on the back cover of Grumble Bluff,so put on your thinking caps and see what you can come up with!

(I had a teacher in third grade, Mrs. Beane, who always said the 'thinking cap' thing. It seemed appropriate to use here until I realized she used it on THIRD GRADERS!)

Oh, well. The contest runs until Valentine's Day, and the winner will be announced on Sunday, February 21, 2010. (Oops, meant 2/15/2010...sorry to those who read the original text.) Our very own Ali g will be judging the entries, but he has assured me that bribery WILL NOT WORK. There will be NO FAVORITISM! No NEPOTISM! No DESPOTISM! No PRIAPISM! None of that, nuh-uh! He has promised me he is above such things! (He has also stated FOR THE RECORD that he prefers Chardonnay, and that there is a 34 HP farm tractor with detachable bucket and PTO and a three point hitch on his wish list, but those facts hold NO RELEVANCE WHATSOEVER as it pertains to this contest.) What a guy!

Create the best title and win an autographed copy of Grumble Bluff. I'll even throw in a signed photo of myself to use at your discretion! (But how will you know it's me? And what would you discreetly use a photo for, anyway?)

Come play on GAG. You're guaranteed to grumble or grin!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chocolate Covered Bomos

It’s not easy being me.

I’m a bonehead. I love people, and yet, I get nervous around strangers and in crowds. Even when that crowd consists of people I know and love, I occasionally feel tense and edgy. But it’s not the people who cause me anxiety. I have no one to blame for that but myself.

I get nervous because I’m a bonehead.

History has proven that I cannot trust myself to be suave. To be cool, or witty, or sophisticated. For those of you who have a personal relationship with me, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know. I simply can’t seem to help myself. Unless I am completely and totally alone, I cannot be trusted to escape saying or doing something ignorant. Something embarrassing.

My intentions are always good. I never mean to talk like an idiot. I never plan to let a naughty word slip. I never intend to insult anyone! But when I am nervous, my mouth has a mind of its own, and that mind isn’t mine! In fact, I sometimes wonder if I haven’t been possessed by a rogue psyche. Maybe Joan Rivers? Ugh.

I’ve been watching what I eat in an attempt to lose weight. That’s nothing new. What woman doesn’t want to lose a little excess poundage? Recently I’ve had some success, but I fall off the wagon frequently. One recent morning I stopped at Trantens’ Store for some candy to fill the dish at the office. As I walked past the chocolate covered peanuts, a bag jumped into my basket and before I knew it, I’d purchased it.

I put it in the pocket of my jacket. I had every intention of taking it home to my husband, who loves chocolate covered peanuts. Truly, I’ve never been a big fan of them. But I am a dieting woman. And I had a pocket full of chocolate. That is a force of nature beyond reckoning. Once I had that confection in my possession, there was no way in this world I was going to share one single little nut with Mr. Grumbles. They absolutely had to be gone before I reached home, where I might be tempted to share.

So, I ate them. The whole bag. For breakfast. Yum.

That was last week. That same day, after work, I went up the road to do a bit of target practicing. Two separate and completely different events–snacking on junk food and shooting at cans–conspired to set me up for my latest Bonehead Moment.

I was almost ready to leave the office yesterday when a stranger walked through the door. As always, I greeted him and we chatted as we got to know each other. It’s the Maine way. A stranger can walk into your life and a half an hour later, leave as your friend. How delightful.

This particular gentleman and I somehow began talking a bit about politics. That’s always enjoyable, and gets the blood flowing. I especially love it when my partner in conversation has views and opinions that differ from mine. Sometimes I learn a lot and can see an issue from a new perspective. And sometimes, I manage to bring my new acquaintance around to my way of thinking. What fun!

Since I had been preparing to leave the office, I had my jacket on. The fellow and I talked on and on; debating, agreeing, differing, laughing, commiserating. My concentration was on our animated conversation. That’s my only excuse. My hand was in my coat pocket, and I felt the presence of some stray chocolate covered peanuts that had obviously escaped the open bag and fallen loose into my pocket. A bonus, when I thought they were all gone! I scooped them up and popped them into my mouth.

I don’t know why I did that. I don’t usually eat in the middle of a conversation. At work. Standing in the middle of the lobby. In front of a stranger. But I did.

I chewed. I chewed again. Something wasn’t right. There was something wrong with the texture of one of the nuts. It was soft and squishy, but tough. And it refused to be chewed up.

And then it hit me. With my tongue I pushed the offending nut to the front of my mouth and plucked it from between my lips. I looked at it. I felt a wave of heat wash up my neck and over my face. I raised my eyes to my companion, who had stopped midsentence to stare in awe at this magnificent specimen of intelligence and sophistication standing before him.

I held in my hand a chocolate covered ear plug. A used chocolate covered ear plug. One that had been in MY EAR last week, as I fired away at a saw horse lined with a coffee can, a spray starch can, and a couple of 12 ounce Bud empties.

And I’d tried to eat it. Failed. Spit it out in front of a stranger. A stranger who was smart, and witty, and none too shabby looking, either.

Damn. Bonehead Moments. My specialty. I don’t think Bomos are contagious, but one never knows, really. The only thing I know for sure is that there is no cure for me. I’ve been afflicted with this particular brand of idiocy from childhood. It never gets better, and it never goes away. Sometimes it goes into remission, incubates, hibernates… storing up energy so that when I let it loose again, it is glorious, strong, and full of renewed vigor. Completely prepared to bring me to the depths of humiliation. If there’s one thing I’m really, really good at, it’s executing the perfect Bonehead Moment.

Aw, shucks. It’s nothing, really.

Yeah. Chocolate covered, once-used ear plugs. They’re not all they’re cracked up to be. In fact, they taste like chicken.


This is not a photo of chocolate-covered anything; really, it's not. It's just a picture for Ali g's perusal...

And this photo is of the rare Poo-birds found most often on the shores of Mooselookmeguntic Lake in the Rangeley Lakes region of western Maine (but visiting my desktop this evening...)

Saturday, January 9, 2010

It's All in What You Know

This morning I had to run to town to pick up some packages at the post office. On the way back to Lexington Township I had the radio on, and I was listening with amusement to the banter between the disc jockey from Q106.5 and the meteorologist from WABI-TV.

The DJ was reading some survey results pertaining to which countries, world-wide, were the most desirable to live in. The United States had dropped from the number four spot it held in 2008, to seventh place in 2009. It was with some interest that I listened to the list of countries which were deemed to be better places than America in which to make one’s home.

France was number one. Australia came in second, and I felt a smile spread across my face. I have several very good friends who live Down Under, and so I know for a fact that that country is tops when it comes to the caliber of people who live there.

Of course JR, the DJ on my favorite radio station, couldn’t let that go. He’s a patriotic cuss, and so he tried his darnedest to come up with ways in which Australia must be inferior to the U.S. It was all in good fun. We Yanks are proud and stubborn, and not very good losers, either--because we rarely lose, of course! (See what I mean?)

It tickled me when he started going off on all the poisonous and dangerous animals that live in that vast continent in the southern hemisphere. He said, ‘Of the ten most poisonous snakes in the world, fifteen of them live in Australia!’

Hehehe. I thought that was kind of funny. And in fact, I have had ‘snake’ conversations with four of my Aussie friends. Although they admit to living in the same neighborhood as poisonous reptiles, not one of my chums seems to get worked up about it.

One friend came home from a grocery shopping trip to find a snake wrapped around the front door knob. What a conundrum! If my husband had been confronted by such a sight, he would have immediately put our home on the market and camped out at his mother’s until the house sold. But it didn’t faze my friend in Oz. He simply took off his shirt, wrapped it around the snake and removed him. Or her. After all, he couldn’t let the beer get warm as it sat in his car, now could he?

Another of my buddies talked about having seen a poisonous viper in his dooryard, and he matter-of-factly went about ‘snake-proofing’ his ranch. I’m not quite sure how one goes about ‘snake-proofing’, short of burning the place down, but it appeared no more of a chore to him than when I put banking around my foundation each fall.

Nope, having an abundance of deadly snakes, poisonous toads, lethal crocodiles and mosquitoes the size of F-15’s does not an undesirable country make. One of my friends in Australia is actually a Maine native, having grown up near Greenville. He’s lived Down Under for more than two decades, and just became a dual citizen. Larry owns property in the northern tropics, and he tells tales of crocs and snakes and sharks and bugs and vicious mammals. But he isn’t the least bit dramatic as he relates those tales. I suppose it’s akin to Mainers telling yarns about blizzards and ice storms, mud season and black fly season. It’s all in what you know.

Mr. Grumbles is afraid of snakes. He’s petrified of garter snakes, and cute little green snakes. He can run the 100 yard dash in 2.3 seconds flat if he sees a nest of six-inch-long baby snakes. He screams like a girl* if one slithers across in front of him when he’s walking outside.

He skirts the stone retaining wall on our upper lawn, simply because he knows that there are snakes living amongst those rocks.
But our snakes aren’t poisonous. Our snakes are usually quite complacent, and will allow you to pick them up if you are gentle. They won’t strike unless they feel threatened. And even if they do bite… their teeth are tiny! So tiny that they are almost invisible. Here in Maine, snakes are more often the prey than the predator. Unless you are an insect or a small toad or frog, you've got nothing to worry about.

Like I said, it’s all in what you know. My friend who grew up in these hills and chose Australia as his home despises the snow. Loves the heat and humidity. It was a good trade-off for him. Six months of bone-numbing cold and an occasional swarm of black flies ‘round his head every May in exchange for twelve months of warm weather and a plethora of poisonous fauna.

Mr. Grumbles, on the other hand, loves a good blizzard and never leaves home without full combat gear stowed in his rig; insulated coveralls, hats, mittens, gloves, extra boots and a blanket. He carries an ice scraper in his hammer holster. Wool socks in his glove box. Kitty litter in his trunk, along with a shovel and some flares. He’s got matches and lighters, chocolate bars and jack-knives. A cell phone. A CB. A walkie-talkie. And if none of those work, he’s got the matches to light the box of kitty litter afire, and the blanket to send up smoke signals. A blizzard, you say? No problem for Mr. Grumbles!!

But let a three foot long, non-poisonous snake tumble from the floor joist onto his head as he works in the cellar and watch that grown man run!
Listen to the wails and shrieks of panic. See how pale one dark-complexioned man can get; how badly his strong arms can shake; how discombobulated he can become! I didn’t even know he had a nicotine habit until I watched him pace back and forth outside as he tried to gather courage enough to come back into our snake-pit of a house; a cigarette in each hand and a stream of blue smoke coming from between his lips. And that was before he’d lit them!

No, my husband would not fare well in Australia. He’ll content himself with staying in the country that’s the seventh-best to live in. But Oz’s snakes wouldn’t bother me! Nuh-uh! I’m not afraid of them–no way, no how! I’d do just fine Down Under. The only thing I’m afraid of is spiders. And everybody knows, there aren’t any spiders in Australia.


* I, personaly, do not know of any girls who actually scream, and that comment was not intended as a slur to my gender. It is a turn of phrase, only.

The photo of the snake and the worm was taken by Josie-Earl Pease. All others, save the Aussie flag (which I found in a Google search) were taken by the author of GAG.

This is a photo of a fisher... a nasty critter we have here in Maine, and one you do NOT want to tangle with! See comments below for context.

Here is is, folks! A photo taken right here in Maine, by the Canadian border. The largest mammal in North America, and a perfect example of a bull in his prime. He was twice the size of the car, and folks were some tickled when he turned and walked in the opposite direction!

These are rare photos of a black bear sow and her quintuplets. Almost unheard of! The really grand thing? All five made it through their first, harsh New England winter. These pics were taken in neighboring New Hampshire, across Maine's western border. Pretty magnificent, hmmm?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Titles Are Clear-Kut Innovations (aka TACKI)

For those of you who are fans of my Irregular column ‘Observations From The F.A.R.M. (Fresh Air and Room to Move)’ please check out my pal Jack Ramsay’s blog, The Down Under Dunder, or DUD. (Jack and I are masters at this game! GAG… DUD… The cunning we possess when coming up with titles for our creations is mind-boggling! Remember, it was Jack who wrote that excellent children's story about the circus cow who wowed audiences with her extraordinary juggling act. The title was, if I remember correctly, Balls on a Heifer. And of course, I am the best-selling author of the tale about the hirsute creator of custom-designed portable under-the bed toilets; Hairy Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. Yeah… Jack and I? We know what we’re doing in the ‘title’ department!)

Some of you may remember the Scotsman from his guest appearances in my column and on Grumbles and Grins. But if you missed him (and I assume the ONLY reason you missed reading ‘Observations’ or GAG was due to a terrible, debilitating illness) then you have an opportunity to catch up, right now!

Please travel to Australia via the cyber-highway and spend a few moments with my pal, writer Jack Ramsay. You won’t be sorry.

He’s an idiot, but don’t take my word for it. Jack is the expert on idiocy, here. Go check him out.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

All She Wanted for Christmas

This was the first Christmas in many, many years that I was able to spend some of the holiday with my grandmother. For the last decade she's spent her winters in Kansas with my uncle, her eldest son. This year, however, her visit was delayed. This year, she was a part of my holiday traditions, and those of my children.

My two youngest kids are only a little more than a year apart in age. Like puppies in a litter, they bicker and brawl, snap and snarl. It is rare for a day to pass without the two of them getting into an argument. Usually, the disagreement is over something stupid or trivial, like whether Duracell or Energizer batteries last longer. Neither of them knows the answer. Neither of them cares. Not really. But they each have the urge to have the last word. They each want to prove their superiority over the other.

There are days when they drive me 'round the bend.

But Mammy had a request for Christmas. When asked by my daughter what she would like for a gift, Mammy told her that all she wanted was a photo of the two of them. Together. Smiling.

Lordy, lordy, lordy...

I envisioned The Photo Shoot From Hell. My son hates to have his picture taken, and when I do manage to get him to stand still for a moment, he's usually scowling. And my daughter is convinced that she is The Boss. She has the urge to control her brother, and she drives him (and her parents) crazy as she tries to direct his every action, word and and expression. Which makes him grumpier, of course, and that causes the frowns to grow in size and frequency.

So I thought that getting a decent photo of my two youngest children was going to be a royal chore.

Instead, I didn't have to lift a finger. Not only that, but the two of them didn't fight, at all.

My daughter asked to borrow my camera. She told her brother that his great-grandmother had only one request for Christmas, and that was to have a picture of the two of them smiling for her. And that's all it took. She held the camera at arm's length and snapped away. My son smiled for every shot. They laughed together, and they acted a bit silly. Oh, they squabbled. They had to! It's a long-ingrained habit, and an addiction, of sorts. But they had fun and even though most of the pictures were a bit blurry or fuzzy or the lightning was wrong, they managed to find one they both liked, and they framed it and wrapped it and gave it to Mammy. She was ecstatic with her photograph. And I have twenty pictures which prove I am the mother of some of the most awesome teenagers on the planet.

Yes, my ninety-three year old grandmother made Christmas special for us this year. In more ways than one.

Thank you, Mammy.