Roots and Branches: ‘Say Anything’ over soup

The raucous winter squall that stormed through the valley this weekend brought a spattering of turbulence punctuated by a few brilliant rainbows.

There was a power outage caused by weakened limbs blowing across power lines, but nothing that our trusty linemen couldn’t fix in a blink of an eye. There might have been a few homes where the thermostat dropped below 60, but overall it was not a storm that lived up to its winter storm billing by the television meteorologists.

For me, the storm was memorable for its flashes of brilliance, the spectacular rainbows that arched across the valley, their spectacular beauty leaving me breathless, as they bridged the east and west hills. Not even the three double rainbows that crisscrossed the sky, nature’s neon flickering against fiercely black storm clouds, could compete with my two tween granddaughters who stopped by for a quick board game tournament in the midst of the storm.

What better thing to do on a stormy afternoon, when the fire is blazing, the soup pot is simmering and the kitchen is filled with the fragrance of content than to gather your loved ones around you, and see who can kick the other’s butt in a challenging board game. Or so I thought.


It was only a few short weeks ago when I thoroughly trounced Kendra and Aunika in a lengthy game of Scrabble. I am still relishing in that moment of victory. Defeating these two brainiacs is not just a chance to be number one, or to flex my ever-depleting brain cells.

It is far more important than simple competition. I no longer question my mental capacity. If I could so thoroughly demolish these two middle school geniuses, I must not be on the aging Alzheimer Road that shakes its crooked road sign at me each time I forget someone’s name or search hopelessly for a simple word I must have learned in grade school.

So I was very confident, perhaps even a tad cocky when I invited the girls to stop by for a bowl of soup, and suggested they bring a board game for some afternoon entertainment. Of course I have specific ground rules on which games I will and will not play. I will not engage in any game in which I will be at a significant disadvantage or which might inadvertently aggravate my anxiety about Alzheimer’s.

So that eliminates anything that is based on your knowledge of contemporary movies, or television shows, books or rock stars. I legitimately know nothing of these topics, while both my children and theirs are blatant bibliophiles, television critics and film fanatics. They can ramble on endlessly with one another about some book, movie or current television series and I will know absolutely nothing of which they are speaking.

When I throw in some tidbits about health promotion or addiction and the latest research paper on health transformation they look at me with the same blank stare.

The last movie I watched was “March of the Penguins,” to which I mistakenly took Katie, Kendra and Aunika when they were in grade school. I thought it was a cartoon, not a documentary. We left after 15 minutes of viewing 50 million penguins march monotonously across a sea of endless ice.

The only thing that kept the girls’ attention that long was the competitive consumption of a bucket of buttery popcorn. We left the theater in a snowstorm of sticky popcorn on clothes, seats and floor.


Back to Saturday afternoon. The girls agreed to stop by for a brief board game tournament, and suggested the game “Say Anything.” I was ecstatic, comfortable in my capacity to say anything to anyone at any time or any place. Talking has never been a weakness of mine. Saying something concisely is a different story.

Uncle Corey brought the girls down from his sister’s house, and was suckered into joining us.

Aunika has a way of manipulating people with her tongue-in-cheek humor. She simply enlightened Corey that he was in second place in the favorite uncle category, holding Corey’s baby brother Niko in first place since he played board games with her several times over the last month. Of course Corey rose to the bait, since he is highly competitive and playing second fiddle to his baby brother is just plain intolerable. Let the games begin.

Kendra reads a litany of rules which cause my brain to spin. But after a straightforward practice round, I am in it to win it. The goal of this game is to see what you and your friends or family members think, or value, in relation to a question chosen by another player.

For example, “What is something you did that you would never want your mother to know about?” Or “What is the worst thing about being a woman?” I am thinking I will learn some great information, regardless of who wins.

So Kendra starts and she reads this question about what do we think she will be doing 15 years from now. I answer very seriously, Aunika answers humorously and Corey answers very practically, hoping to score points. Of course Kendra, the sweet, serious granddaughter chooses my answer, that she will be a teacher. Score! I know these girls so well I am sure to prevail.

Then Corey reads his question: What is the worst thing he would have to carry if he was running in a marathon. I answer seriously as does Kendra. Aunika rocks the house with her answer “mother” which sends us all into hysterical laughter. Whether Corey’s mother (me) or Aunika’s mother, that would be a lot of baggage for Corey to carry.

The game continues in this humorous vein with wits and creativity running the table. Kendra throws out words not in my vocabulary, and Aunika instantly picks up on the innuendo. These are well-educated girls, light years ahead of me when I was their age, and perhaps passing me at this very moment in time. Corey and I tied for last place, Aunika was second and Kendra was first.

Even though we were the losers, Corey and I felt we were winners as well, having spent a few minutes locked in a battle of wits with two delightful young ladies.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge

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