Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Over??? NOT!

In my book, Christmas is not over until around Epiphany. Part of that is because I'm Catholic and part of it is because I refuse to buy into the way things are done in the popular culture.

Think about it. Christmas displays start going up around Halloween, and it seems much of the world dismantles Christmas trees, takes down decorations, and moves on as soon as December 25 is over. What a shame, when in reality the timing should be in reverse.

I find the best days of Christmas are those which follow December 25. Part of that is because I am a teacher and don't return to work until early January. I believe the rest of the world should take the week off as well. In leading up to the day, it is so stressful and busy and the pressure is on (mostly on women) to make everything perfect. At least in my house, Christmas simply wouldn't happen without me. It's a good thing Ed has four daughters too. If I'm ever unable to accomplish Christmas they no doubt would take charge.

While gift shopping and grocery shopping, I have to feel a bit sorry for those who have to work to make gift shopping and grocery shopping possible for me...cashiers, clerks, truck drivers making deliveries, etc. We all take it for granted. I ran to the grocery store for a few last minute things on Christmas Eve and told the young man who was cashier I hoped he didn't have to work all day...he said he did; at least he would have Christmas Day off.

I can't imagine having to go back to work a day or two after Christmas, not with the fatigue I always experience a couple of days after. It's a wonderful sort of fatigue...sitting in a chair reading, drifting off, somewhere between a deep sleep and a semi-wakefulness...a sort of drugged state of being.

I'm gearing up again though, as we are hosting Ed's family party this year. It will be fun. We are older. With the exception of two, the cousins are at least high school/college aged, so we parents aren't so exhausted. We will get to enjoy each other's company, eat and drink hearty, and play games. My meal will be simple and one which we can graze on throughout the day. I'm making Ed's mother's fabulous Italian Beef, which consists of slowly cooked roasts, sliced thin, and marinated in a mixture of broth, green peppers, oregano, and more (I'll post the recipe later). From that we'll make sandwiches au jus on hard rolls. That plus sides and desserts will make a meal.

We don't do a lot of gifts. The cousins still exchange through college, or opt in as they wish, through a drawing, but that's it. The focus is food, fun, and games. So, I'm gearing up a little and will do some baking this week, something I didn't get to enjoy as much the week before Christmas. For me, Christmas isn't over and I'm happy about that.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

O Christmas Tree(s)



Ed and I have not yet succumbed to purchasing an artificial Christmas tree. I know that day may come. We are still holding out and purchasing a fresh tree already cut, or occasionally, selecting one from a tree farm. We have a lot of Christmas tree stories in our family.

There was a time that Ed and I attended an annual Christmas party hosted by one of his clients. Somehow on the way to these parties we would talk about stories to share and what evolved were stories surrounding Christmas trees. It became a tradition for Ed to share a Christmas tree story at this holiday party.

One such story was the year his father purchased an enormous tree, too large to stand up on its own. It had to be wired to something to stand up (we've had to do this very thing ourselves on a couple of occasions). In any event, what happened that year was that his older sister brought her boyfriend's parents over to meet her parents. The story goes that when they arrived the tree came loose and fell on his mother which was embarrassing and hilarious.

A tree story we were just remembering this evening was around 15 years ago. Ed had a client whose parents had sold their home and land. At one time someone had planned to raise Christmas trees. Apparently the trees were planted but had not been kept up, so there was a number of acres of trees that had not been trimmed but had been allowed to grow wild. Since the land was going to be used for commercial purposes and the trees would be lost in the development, we were invited to come and pick a tree. Being a younger single-income household with four children, we took advantage of the offer.

Off we went all bundled up to traipse all over trying to find THE perfect Christmas tree when none of them were even close to perfect. We also didn't do a very good job of judging the size we should get because (since again the tree was going to be free) we found the largest tree we could find (picture the Clark Griswold tree from National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation). We could barely get it in the house and then we could barely walk into the living room where we positioned it.

While searching for our tree the girls came across the carcass of a dead deer..just an anecdote to add to that year's life experiences. While we were searching for our tree, and as is typical of a family searching for THE tree, all the girls found their own favorites and were fussing a bit over which to take home, when Ed and I suddenly realized we could take five trees if we wanted, and well, that is exactly what we did.

Each of the girls had their own tree. Since we didn't have stands for five trees, we hammered boards across the bottoms of the smaller ones and since they wouldn't be getting a source of water, didn't allow the girls to put electric lights on them. They had to make paper chains, etc. to decorate their trees, but yes, they each had a tree of their own in their bedrooms.

A great memory.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Am I Being Tested?

I have had a couple of rough days. They happen infrequently, thankfully. Heh! That's it...a number of my family and friends are posting on Face book what they are thankful for, so maybe today's should read I'm thankful that days like the last two don't happen all that often.

I got snapped at about a little thing (at least it was to me) that was an error of omission on my part and unintentional (those are the most hurtful kinds of snaps to receive), one daughter was in an accident (her fault) and I fear the mother of the other driver is going to be one of those who has her son go around wearing a neck brace. I quite by "accident" found out from the officer at the scene that when I left the scene, the mother of the young man (who was positively a gentleman, even though his mother is apparently not a lady) followed him around trying to convince him he was hurt.

I talked to another daughter at around midnight last night, sobbing because of her nasty roommate who has absolutely no respect for the fact that my daughter also lives in the dorm room, bringing people in at all hours, out drinking, never brushing her teeth or taking showers, making the room smell because she smokes and is dirty...you get the picture?

Today I had to rush in and have some of my mid-quarter Progress Reports rerun because I had mistakenly misread or something...the cutoff date for having grades entered into our program and therefore had to adjust some grades. I was in the process of doing that yesterday when my daughter called me to come to the scene of the accident.

I have been quite a bit behind in some things at school. It happens. I'm used to that; but today I fell even further behind when our priest came to visit. Now don't get me wrong; I am thrilled our new priest wants to be involved in the school, but someone needs to explain the situation to him. We have a schedule, we have lessons to teach; time is always the enemy to a teacher. It is THE most challenging thing when it comes to teaching...time management. Even five minutes makes a huge difference to a teacher. Minutes are EXTREMELY VALUABLE in a classroom. He visited my classroom for about 45 minutes or so; he wanted to answer questions from my students. Do you know the kinds of questions first graders come up with?

They are frequently:

1. Not questions at all, but stories or statements (like my mom's cousin's birthday is on Thanksgiving).

2. Questions they couldn't understand even if the priest could answer them himself (like when was the universe created...and being a former engineer, our priest actually tried to answer all the questions like that, in length...like taking five minutes to ten minutes to answer...and by the time he finished he had long lost that child's attention).

3. Repetitive...and even so our priest didn't point out that they were repetitive but answered them again...and at the same length.

4. Embarassing....(I got REALLY lucky this time)

This didn't just happen to me. I think it happened to at least three other teachers. It was exhausting. Oh, also...we had our little letter cards out spread all over the tables getting ready to practice some spelling and by the time he left the kids had theirs all mixed up with their neighbors.

While he was there, one little girl kept putting her foot up on her chair and you could see her underwear, a little boy kept doing what boys (and men) do, and adjusting himself...making me think he had to desperately go to the restroom, some of them became totally uninterested and pulled out a book to read, etc., etc.

And OF COURSE...I didn't know what to do...to say...do I stop him, do I tell him we are out of time, do I tell him they have to probably go to the bathroom, do I cut him off? I mean after our principal, he is sort of the big boss. Will she say anything to him? I think he is a good guy. I just don't think he understands...and.....again...he is a former engineer...they sort of think like lawyers and that is something I know about.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Well, Maybe Not

Did I not write yesterday that my dogs are my new children? I don't think I should have said that.

My dogs don't wreck cars.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Confess: My Dogs Are My New Children

It occurred to me tonight how much my dogs have become my children. I had an appointment to get both of them groomed. I'd do it myself but both of these dogs require professional grooming really...a Goldendoodle who is fairly curly and mats easily, and a Mini-Schnauzer who likewise needs a specific kind of cut to not look weird and also can get matted...of course it is nice to have the hair pulled out of the ears so they won't get infections, get their claws trimmed, etc.

To make a long story short, I messed around at the book store, ran some errands, ate dinner and read by myself in a nice quiet booth and returned to the groomers around the time they thought the dogs would be done.

As I pulled into a parking spot right in front of the grooming place, I could see Roxie standing on the table through the big picture window. She sort of looked like she was looking out to see who was out there as I pulled in, turned off my lights and engine. Right away I said to myself there is no way I'm going in there. If she sees me she'll start having a fit. It reminded me of preschool.

Just a small thing, I know; but it's a fact. There are other things as well...loving it when they come and greet me when I get home, getting excited over a treat, doing little tricks..doing what I want in order to get a treat...yeah...they are just like kids.

They've recently gotten into the habit of sneaking into bed with me too when I'm asleep. Well, sometimes I'm aware. I don't sleep that soundly; but there have been times when I've been completely unaware too. They must be very careful getting on the bed because I honestly don't wake up if they jump up. The other morning I opened my eyes to find Captain with his head on the pillow...one more good reason to keep them groomed.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Holiday Yard Decorations

Ok..so after you read this, if you are mad at me, please don't be...but then I guess if I am going to blog, I have to not worry so much about that.

For some reason I really dislike the recently popular (by recently I mean the past few years) yard decorations that consist of a blown up figure...a football player, a giant Santa, a Thanksgiving turkey, etc. I don't know why, but they strike me as cheap imitations of real holiday decorating...the kind that requires dad to climb a ladder and hang lights (hopefully not staple holes in their house the way Chevy Chase did in Christmas Vacation, one of my favorite holiday comedy movies).

I'm not such a scrooge that I think they should be outlawed or something. If I had young children now, I'd probably put one in my yard too. They are in my neighborhood where there are small children or day cares. I'm not going to go by and shoot a bebe gun at them or anything.

I also worry about the environment. Are they recyclable when they no longer work? Or are there landfills out there full of deflated Santas, Frosty the Snowmen, turkeys, Halloween pumpkins, and numerous pro football team players or mascots?

I think it comes from having been born in the 50's and coming of age in the 60's. It's about making memories. One of the best holiday memories I have is my dad hanging lights on the frame of our house and on the bushes. You know, come to think of it we did have these stand up plastic (but hard plastic not the blow ups) lanterns that would light up when you plugged them in.

Oh never mind..

Friday, November 13, 2009

A Book Lost, and Found


As an elementary school student I recall vaguely a field trip to The Indianapolis Children's Museum. I don't remember the details clearly, but have an image of the space I was in, including the huge model of a dinosaur. At the time I would have visited, the museum would not have been what it is today at all. My visit would have taken place at the same site, but at that time the museum would have been housed in the St. Clair Parry mansion. There are some books around that travel the history of the museum and it is pretty fascinating in that it really began with one woman's vision. She was Mary Stewart Carey, a civic and social leader who had the vision and inspired the founding of the museum in 1925. It was originally housed in an old carriage house on the near north side, in the Garfield Park shelter house, and then in the actual home of Mary Stewart Carey from 1927 to 1946. After that it moved to the site where it is now located, but was housed in the St. Clair Parry mansion, eventually demolished and replaced by the current building, which has also been expanded and improved.

Some time later in my elementary school, fourth grade to be specific, my teacher (Mrs. Mary McCarty) gave me a book as a prize. Inside she wrote a dedication to me as the winner of the good citizenship award. That meant so much to me. She was a pretty strict, conservative teacher and it was my favorite grade. One of the things that stands out in my memory is the unit of study we did on Switzerland. We had a celebration and had hot chocolate, tasted chocolate from Switzerland, etc. It was much like what today would be called a project based or virtual learning experience; given that this would have been in the mid 60's, she was a teacher ahead of her time no doubt.

You may be wondering how the two paragraphs above are related. I'll continue. As it happens, I kept the book into my college years. I finished school, got married, started my family, and went back to school to earn an education degree. I ended up working part time at the Children's Museum coordinating birthday parties in the computer lab on weekends. One weekend I went to the gift shop and picked up a history of the children's museum. As I read it I learned about a woman, Grace Golden, who directed the museum from 1942 to 1964. It mentioned a children's book she had written, Seven Dancing Dolls. It was then it hit me that this was the book my fourth grade teacher awarded to me and that it should be around somewhere. It was no doubt out of print, and I'd like to be sure I kept it as a keepsake and collectible. (My passion for children's books was already there, even before I was actually teaching...thanks to my mother.) To be sure I went to Central Library and it was listed as being in the rare book room. I was allowed to go to that room to see it (it was a noncirculating book), but the librarian discovered that it was missing. That's a shame. I don't know if they ever found it.

I asked my mom to look around and she said I could come over and check the boxes in the attic. I never found it. Then I thought perhaps it had gotten mixed up with a former roommate's possessions and contacted her. She couldn't recall it either. Whatever happened to it, it disappeared. I did start looking for another copy though and eventually ran onto one from a rare book seller somewhere. I didn't pay too much, probably no more than $20 but it was worth it to me. The copy I have, the one you see above, is in excellent shape. It has the dust jacket intact and is library quality but with no stamping or marks anywhere. Regretfully, it isn't the one my teacher inscribed to me, but it still holds the memory for me.

Grace Golden wrote the book as a result of a year she spent in Poland studying museums. Her story takes place in Poland when it was divided. It is about a little princess who lived in a palace. Whenever her father would travel, he would bring this princess a present. One present was a set of tiny dolls. When the dolls were placed on a piano and the piano was played, the vibration would make the dolls dance. The princess gave all the dolls names, and one of them was named for Frederic Chopin after visiting and playing the piano for the princess and her family. When he left, one of the dolls accidentally fell into his pocket. Eventually he returned the doll to her along with some special music he wrote for her...her very own waltz called "The Waltz of the Seven Dancing Dolls." It is really a sweet story; perhaps not a classic or famous or well known, but it holds such memories and meaning for me and it has some historical significance, at least locally.

So this is just a little story of an experience with a book, and how it wove itself in and out of my life, and back in again; how I lost it and found it again (albeit not the original), and in doing so reconnected with a very important memory in my life.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Reading Tastes

I guess you could call me eclectic when it comes to what I read. First, I don't have as much time to read during the school year as I do during the summer, but I do make sure I am reading something all the time.

I read a wide variety of things. Whether this is normal or not, I don't know. First of all, I read a lot of picture books. I collect picture books, old and new, and hope one day to have those to share with grandchildren or just to pull out and enjoy myself. I know some of the books I have held onto meant a lot to my girls when they were growing up. It's funny how a book, like music, can send a person zooming back to a certain time, place or event...association.

I also read, and enjoy doing so, professional books. They just keep publishing them. I wish they would stop, but that wouldn't be good. There is always something new to learn as a teacher. I particularly have a passion for professional books about literacy...anything reading and writing. I have a number I have purchased but haven't yet read. Like fiction, I just can't keep up.

When reading as an adult, I think I have rather quirky tastes. For one thing, I don't mind reading stories that my husband would call "depressing" meaning that they have sad parts. Sometimes they don't even end happily. I like these types of reads because I believe they have things to teach me. For instance, I loved reading Angela's Ashes and Teacher Man. I love stories about people who were born into adverse circumstances and yet made it, likely because of those very circumstances which made them strong.

Every once in awhile I discover a particular author and stick with him or her. When on a trip during my 25th wedding anniversary, the condo we rented had a few novels of Joyce Carol Oates sitting around. I started in on one of those which led me to another and another. I still have a lot of hers I could pick up. She is extremely prolific, and I have to say when I saw a picture of her on the flap of one of her novels, she looked exhausted. No wonder. If anyone was to ask me what her novels are about, I really wouldn't know how to answer. So I guess I like fiction that doesn't necessarily fall into a particular category like romance (blech) or mystery.

The other day my daughter posted a comment on Facebook that she had met Colum McCann and that was very strange because I just bought Let The Great World Spin. I started it a few weeks ago and then put it down for lack of time. What I read did intrigue me and my daughter's comment reminded me to pick it up again. On the surface it is about a tightrope walker who walked between the twin towers in 1974. It's about a lot more than that of course. I don't always read off the New York Times or any bestseller list. In fact I prefer not to do that. I've never read Dan Brown.

I like memoir and biography. Even though I said I don't usually read the latest fad, I did recently buy a few Jodi Picoult books because they were on that table with the signage buy two get one free. I read her first but haven't read another. Everyone is reading them, but not me. I suppose I'll get around to them but since they are a bit of a fad I'm not all that interested. I'm not trying to be a literary snob; it's just how I feel. I'd never judge anyone for what they are reading.

On occasion I don't want to read what is a great piece of literature. My sister and I took a trip a year ago to Amish country in northern Indiana. It was a quiet, peaceful, and fun getaway. I picked up a trilogy by a not well known and not famous author who writes simple stories about the Amish life. They are sort of Amish romances I guess, and I actually have enjoyed those, although I certainly won't continue to read that author. There was something about them that made me appreciate the simple things and they were very relaxing to read. They made me want to be "plain."

I also like books about animals, most recently the one about the library cat and the one about Marley. We all know how those are going to end, but I read them anyway. Of course as a child there was My Friend Flicka, Black Beauty and National Velvet.

I grew up going to the library almost weekly and bringing home much more than I could ever read. Now I do that when I go to a bookstore, an expensive habit but one I don't feel guilty about. I must admit I don't visit the library the way I used to. Libraries aren't the same anyway. I like the old ones, with hardwood floors and rooms that echo with your footsteps, and drawers you could pull out and sit on a table to search through cards for books; I like it when librarians stamp the back of your book with the return date, etc. I'm just old fashioned that way; I miss those things. I do miss smelling books. I use to love the smell of library books. Am I weird? The main reason I don't go often is that I want to see what is newly published and they aren't always available at the library. At the bookstore I can look in the sections that show recently published fiction and nonfiction, and I can see what employees recommend. I guess the library has tried to do some of that.

There is only one thing I haven't done yet, and it is something I would REALLY like to do...be invited to, or start, a book/reading club.

P.S. I collect. I have some out of print children's books. I have a volume of letters Louisa Mae Alcott and her father wrote back and forth (very rare I think), old school books, my own primers, and even some of the Little Golden Books and Elf books with which I associate some childhood memories. When I look at one of my old Little Golden Books about a drum majoriette, I can feel myself sitting on my mother's lap and I can hear her voice reading to me.

P.P.S. Some of my favorite books: Alice in Wonderland (makes me really relate to how much kids loved Harry Potter...fantasy, Little Women, Carolyn Haywood Betsy books, The Bounty Trilogy (if THAT isn't quirky for a teen to love, then what is...but I did..still do...love the story of The Bounty), Rebecca (gothic romance is just fine), Forever Amber, the Clan of the Cave Bear series, oh dear I'd better stop now.

Did I mention I love to buy interesting looking cookbooks, even though I'm not much of a cook? I'd love to hear about anyone else's reading life and interest in starting a reading group.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Random Weird Websites

I can't imagine what you are thinking. Did you ever just type in something in your google or other search engine box and see what you come up with? Only someone with too much time on her hands, or in my case someone who is avoiding being productive, would do such a thing.

Over the summer while on vacation, my silly daughter Kelly showed me some really hilarious websites that had some really hilarious products. I found one myself recently called Strange New Products. Yes, I found there what you see above, the Hillary Clinton Toilet Bowl Brush. Ok, I guess if you are a Republican this would be funny. Don't worry if you are a Democrat. They have a George W. Bush...er brush..as well. There are some other items of bathroomesque humor at the site.

What else? How about paying $24.95 to not have to go to church or donate or offer your time, talent, and treasure in order to purchase up front a Reserve a Spot in Heaven Kit. No kidding...who buys this stuff? They even offer a refund if heaven renegs on your reservation. I wonder how you collect and what difference it would make anyway.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

It's Not Happenin'....

I often told myself when my girls were little that one day I'd have an organized home. It helped that we actually had to go through the process of leaving one home and moving into another. We built almost five years ago. When we went through that process we got rid of so much STUFF. Well, it has happened again...the accumulation of stuff over time. I don't get it...well, I guess in reality I should.

I may not have young children any longer, BUT I do have the stuff that comes from having daughters move into college, out of college, into dorms, out into apartments; plus I have a mother-in-law who moved into assisted living so we have a lot of her stuff here too.

One of the things I wanted was an attic space. I love our attic space. It is the kind of attic you can imagine loving as a kid. I am hoping that one day my grandchildren can go up there and dig through boxes and find what they think is cool stuff. Right now it does have some cool stuff, but it also has some not-so-cool stuff...in other words...junk.

I thought that when my kids grew up I'd be better at staying on top of clutter. Maybe I am a little better, but since I actually had a weekend of no commitments, I decided to get to some of the projects I set aside. I've started attacking some already junky drawers and such. How does that happen...even though I don't have any little ones any longer?

Big announcement: I have to face the fact that it is ME...not my daughters...and ED (who is much more of a keeper than I am). I managed to attack the drawer in my bathroom vanity where I keep make up and jewelry and such. Since it took me quite awhile to get that done and figure out what to do with the stuff I didn't need (much of it got thrown away), it is seriously clear that it will take weeks and weeks of having no commitments to get through it all.

It's probably not happenin'....by the time I get through them all, the first ones will be full again.

Hmmm...what I really should have done? Gotten rid of a bunch of Ed's junk since he is out of town. He'd never have noticed.

While I want my attic to maintain it's "cool appeal" for future use, it does definitely need some cleaning out, trips to donation centers, and organization. Maybe I'll take a before picture of it and get it posted...who knows whether the after picture will ever get posted in my life time.

It's not happenin'...at least not in the near future.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Halloween '09



He'll kill me. Well, he doesn't blog and he doesn't read blogs, unless I put it in front of his face and say "Read this" and then only when he gets around to it. That said, here we are in our Halloween costumes, which we haven't done in years. We are fire and ice. I guess you can probably figure out which is which. He started it all.

On Friday night he set his agenda and expected Erin and me to follow it. As he was leaving to go and work at the local Halloween haunted hayride, he mentioned that Erin and I should make zombies for the front porch. He did bring in some old jeans and shirts of his, and left it to us. We both stood looking at each other, a little frustrated. Our expressions said it all. Here he goes again...giving us a job to do and then removing himself from having to be involved. Not that we had to do it (and I mostly did it myself), I started stuffing the clothes to make bodies.

When he finally returned, he had brought some masks from the hayride which weren't being used, and we added those for the heads. He even got an old stuffed bear out of the attic and put a mask on it. We ended up with two male zombies, a female zombie which sort of resembled Mrs. Bates from Psycho, and a zombie faced stuffed bear. So that started it all.

The next morning when I stopped at Wal-Green for a couple of things and noticed a ton of Halloween stuff on sale. I ended up buying a spider, a spider web, two large plastic images of skeletons you could hang in the windows, and some tombstones for the yard. I also started looking at the hair sprays and things. I hadn't decided to dress up, but got a little inspired. Ed actually went out on his own later and found the red stuff to be the opposite of me. If we were going to be at home alone I guess we might not have done so much, but we had two couples over for a light dinner and to help pass out treats. I was also expecting some of my students as well.

It turned out to be a lot of fun. I guess we are now reverting back to childhood..kind of scary. Scarier than the yard and porch decorations we are. The fun thing is that it reminds me of when we were first dating. We went to a number of Halloween parties over the year. For our first I was a basket of dirty laundry. We cut holes in the bottom of a laundry basket so I could step inside, I stuffed the basket with clothes, laundry soap, etc. He went as Mr. Clean, all in white, and wore a skull cap. For another party we were The Blues Brothers.

One year a friend had a Victor, Victoria party. That's definitely another post! Here are some more pics.






Copycat


Ok, I'm going to be a copycat...or try. I just read my daughter's blog, which is much more interesting and hip and young than mine; also a friend mentioned to me yesterday that she noticed I hadn't posted much lately. It's twoooo. Not only haven't I posted, I haven't read those I follow either. I'm going to try to change that.

As I mentioned, I just read my daughter's blog, Morgendorf, and she mentions it is National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo). Well she didn't call it DaNaBloPoMo (Daily National Blog Posting Month), so I don't know if I'll post daily (which is her goal), but I'll try to get going more regularly again. I might even do more than one a day to catch up.

(One note of frustration: Recently I accidentally put Windows Vista on my computer....well, it wasn't actually me but that is or could be another post. Since that happened, I'm having a little trouble getting blogspot to do what I want. I can't just click in the body of the post and move about. If I get off track I have to click myself back to the title, tab into the body of the post, and use the arrow to move where I want to be...very frustrating and enough to make one stop posting!)

Maybe my life is just too boring to post more regularly...but you know, I'm finding it isn't such a bad place to be.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Anticipating the Holidays

This scene is no longer. I took this photo at my school's autumn gathering...our Chili Off. It took place at our kindergarten teacher's place, which is a beautiful area. She has a wonderful old farm house surrounding by fields. While we were eating great chili and playing games of Corn Hole and Croquet, I snuck over to get this shot.

These fields are empty now. Only stubble remains, and I'm thinking holidays. How could I help it? I've already seen Christmas displays up in department stores when I was in Chicago over last weekend. I'll admit that I love the holidays...from Halloween on, but Thanksgiving and Christmas more so than Halloween. But that doesn't mean I'm game for such early decorating. I don't watch a lot of television but I'm sure the Christmas advertisements are there. I know some holiday movie trailers are out. The new release of A Christmas Carol with Jim Carey is soon to be out. Early November is just too early for a movie like that. I find that when all the hype starts so early, I get burned out around the time I should be in the throes of shopping and cooking and crafting.

I have to admit though, I'm looking forward to this holiday season more so than I have for years. Why? If you read (and I really don't have a lot of readers..I'm basically just talking to myself here), I'm pretty much an empty nester. While I do have one daughter still at home, it's different. I have no high school children. I am free from all of the commitment it takes to be an involved parent. I loved every minute of it, but....

I won't be planning a Madrigal dinner (although I plan on attending and enjoying it). So, I can cook, craft, shop and wrap to my heart's content. Another interesting change, my adult daughters are encouraging me not to do so much shopping, and I'm game...at least if I can still do a little. We'll still have a family exchange on both mine and Ed's sides, but we will try to cut down on what we are doing for each other and instead adopt a family to assist.

We are having the big Thanksgiving meal (which I actually love because it is about food and not presents), but for Christmas we are planning on a more simple meal of soup/chowder, munchies, and desserts. We can have a lot less stress in the way of food preparation (Ed asked me..."When did this happen? Was I consulted?...he should know better), and more time for fun and games and holiday movies.

I am going to enjoy this...for years I've gotten caught up in making sure my girls were happy, that they had enough, that I was fair with what I did for each of them, etc....I'm a bit like my mother that way, although I'll never do what she still does...buys for each and every one of her children, their spouses, and her grandchildren. It's just too much and I wish I could get her to stop, but it makes her happy. I've finally gotten her to buy gift cards. I've finally convinced her that is what the girls prefer, but beyond that I doubt that her insistence on buying for everyone will ever end as long as her health allows her to do it.

I'm a Christmas fiend, so I'm sure I'll have a lot of posts about what I'm doing approaching the holidays. I've been away a lot due to a crazy schedule at home and school, so I hope to get back into the swing of things. And hopefully they won't be so all over the place as this one is (trying to catch up I guess).

DePaul Family Weekend



Ed and I visited Mary, our youngest, at DePaul University for family weekend last weekend. One of the events was a double decker bus tour from DePaul to center city and back northward again. Here is the back of Ed's head as we are trying to avoid decapitation when departing from the Lincoln Park area. It was a great weekend, except for one thing. I didn't get one single bite of Chicago Pizza. When your daughter lives there, pizza becomes commonplace and she didn't want it....guess I'm going to have to make a secret trip to Chicago to get my pizza fix!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Girl Power!

I'm going to have some fun. After all, it is October. After all, I said I'd share things about my grown children, since I don't have little ones any longer, nor am I yet a grandmother. So here is a good one. How cute is that.

Do you remember the Power Rangers? Have they come back around yet? This is Erin probably around 14 years ago (she is now 20 years old), in a costume I made....yes, I made it. I made almost all of their Halloween costumes. I remember the late nights sewing, determined to get them done. All for an hour or two of collecting candy. But boy did those costumes make fun dress up clothes long AFTER Halloween was over. Yes, I'd do it all again, and maybe I will one day for my grandchildren.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Blast from the Past

Ed and I went to dinner last Saturday evening to a fabulous Greek restaurant in Fountain Square which is very near to where I grew up. The area is booming thanks to some efforts at renovation and quaint restaurants and shops. In my childhood there was no Interstate 65 running north and south through the middle of Indianapolis (which was actually the end of the area for many many years...it split the neighborhoods, many homes became rentals as families moved out, and it was dead for years). Before the interstate, there were nice little neighborhoods of middle class families, with dads who went off to work daily and moms who stayed home. My school, Public School #18, also known as Abraham Lincoln School was across the street from the first house we lived in (a rental), and then later (from 3rd grade on) a house just a block away. That home, where my parents still live, is the one and only home my parents ever owned. I believe it cost around $10,000.

I walked to school each morning, came home for lunch which I ate watching Popeye and Janie, and walked back to school, to return home at the 3:15 p.m. bell. Mom and her friends were in the PTO, had garage sales, sat in each other's backyards while their children played, and we all went home in time to sit down for dinner together every evening at 6 p.m. sharp. We then sat in front of the television watching Andy Griffith, Beverly Hillbillies, Carol Burnett, Sonny & Cher, Dick Van Dyke, Petticoat Junction (and those were from 3rd grade on...probably before that were shows even I barely remember...Wagon Train, etc.). It would never have occurred to my parents, or any parents, to complain to a teacher about school issues; and if we got in trouble at school there was no question it was our fault and we were in trouble.

Before Fountain Square is as it is now, it had a Murphy's "dime store." Actually it still may be there, but it can't be the same. I bought a lot of my school dresses there as a child, something like 2/$5. My mom used layaway. I can still smell that place, warm salted nuts, popcorn...and I can hear the sounds...a "ding, ding, ding" in the background...and I still really don't know what that ding was for. There was a soda fountain. There was an area where you could by 45 records....not actually purchase 45 different records, but actual vinyl records that ran at the SPEED 45 on the turntable. They were sold in sleeves, either plain or with the band's picture on the front. When I was 7 and my sister 14, I'd watch her buy the latest greatest release from the Beatles. She had (and later I had one too) a little carrying case for the 45's. You also had to have the little yellow plastic pieces to fit in the hole in the center of the record so it would play smoothly. At Easter you could actually go to Murphy's and buy chicks or ducklings, and I think we owned a duck for awhile. We also once owned a rooster, whose name was Sir Cedric, and he was mean. When my mother would go out the back door to hang the wash (of course) Sir Cedric would chase after her. Yes, we had a rooster in our backyard in Indianapolis. Sir Cedric was soon banished to a farm in southern Indiana.

In those days we also actually went outside to play, if you can imagine. We were outside from the time we got home from school until it got dark out, especially in the summer of course. Our parents didn't worry about where we were. The streets were safe. Of course there was some crime probably, but mothers didn't have to think about their children being abducted or that a child molester lived in the house down the street. You can't tell me that exposure to such things in the entertainment industry and the media hasn't had an impact in the numbers of sick and criminal minds today.

We were very imaginative and adventurous about how we spent our time, using our entire city block at dusk to play a game called Bloody Murder during which we tried to hide from each other. If you were seen, even from a distance, you were considered "murdered" and out of the game. I played jacks on the front porch of a friend for hours on end. We drew Hopscotch on the sidewalk and played, we jumped rope, we went around the neighborhood collecting soda bottles which we could turn in to the corner grocery store (owned by a neighborhood family who lived behind it) for money to buy penny (yes, penny) candy...25 cents equaled 25 pieces of candy. We bought soda from a machine where you put in your money (15 cents) and pulled the bottle out. My mother kept her old shoes, dresses, purses and jewelry...what little she had. It was put in a bag which was called a rag bag (she had one when she was growing up too so that is what we called it) and I played dress up in those things.

My sister and I played pretend games together such as "Queen." If you were the Queen, everything...and I mean EVERYTHING had to be done for you. Like, if I was Queen and had an itch on my nose, my sister the servant had to scratch it for me. We loved horses, so we also pretended that one of us was a horse and the other the horse's owner. Yes, we would go around on all fours and the other one would climb on and put a rope or string around the other's neck to go for a ride.

It was a huge deal for us to go to a fast food restaurant. In fact there really weren't any for a long time, and then the only one was McDonald's and maybe Steak n' Shake (the drive in kind), and White Castle. We just didn't eat out. I think my mother bought the week's groceries for around $20 a week. It never ever would have occurred to me to NOT eat what my mother put in front of me. As a child I ate liver and onions, beans, kale,...absolutely anything she put in front of me. The word finicky didn't exist.

This visit to Fountain Square last weekend really got me thinking about my childhood, and how very little we had in material things, and how great my childhood was probably BECAUSE we didn't have a lot of things. This foundation that was laid for me is what I tried to give my own girls. While Ed and I have so much more than either of our parents, I still knew what was important, and I tried not to give my girls too too much when they were children. While forces outside of a parent's control often feel stronger than the parent's control, I at least tried to instill in them the idea that the simple things are the best. I'm thankful I had so little growing up. I know it wasn't easy for my parents, but it turned out to be a very rich childhood.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Slump

I've been in a slump since school started. Don't ask me why, but I think I've reached a turning point. Maybe it has been adjusting to Mary leaving and my life changing. I don't know why that would put me in a slump because while it is bittersweet, I have actually had a sense of euphoria at having more freedom and less work when it comes to high school activities. I also really hadn't been feeling that well, and was feeling just a bit paranoid about it.

So I did do the smart thing. I got myself checked out and am all clear. The stress I seemed to be internalizing for whatever reason seems to have lifted. I was having what felt like a weird heart beat...what felt like my heart skipping a beat (which my doctor told me in reality it is not doing). So I've had blood work done, an EKG, thyroid check, etc., etc., etc...and I am all clear.

This week I have felt back to normal finally. The heart thing (which can be stress or caffeine related) is gone, I've been sleeping better than I have in a very long time, and my energy level is up.

I'm hoping that will result in getting some more projects done at home, at school, better organization, and Ed and I getting into a new routine of spending time together, taking some short trips, going out more frequently with friends, and just enjoying the freedom of doing what we want when we want.

I have a feeling maybe the whole thing was related to internalized stress over reaching a new stage of our lives. I suppose adults can internalize things as well as children.

Maybe my posts will even become more interesting. Sometimes I think that my life is boring now, but then...that's not all bad. Boring can be good.

Molly's Spot


This is Molly in her spot for this week. Last week Ed found her curled up similarly in the basement on one of the chairs, on top of a vibrating back massager pad his sister left here on a recent visit. He'd find her down there one evening, go to work the next morning, go back to the basement to watch TV and she'd still be there.


This week she's decided to curl up on the detached pillow on one of our great room chairs. We again would leave for work in the morning, and I'd find her there...still (or at least that's the impression she gave me), as if she hadn't moved all day. I think she is pulling our leg.


There's one way I know...her food bowl is emptying. I can just picture her hearing the garage door come up, and making a mad dash for her spot to make us think she hasn't moved and that there is something wrong with her. It's probably because the dogs get so much attention. This is attention seeking behavior if I've ever seen it. Cats are that way.


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Too Too Much

I have been a bit "blogged" down (groan) with my posting. That is mostly because I've been working on house projects in anticipation of fall and winter.

I don't even know if we'll manage to get to the attic before it gets too cold, but Ed and I have been simultaneously attacking various parts of the house we naturally claim...mine is the den/library and his is the garage. I think I got in over my head.

I am in the process of cleaning off bookshelves...shelf by shelf. We have more than just books in our library. We have DVD's, CD's, various cords that belong with who knows what, stacks of music (written music) left from high school choirs and performances, violin music, guitar music, piano music, yearbooks from my oldest daughter Caitlin, who is 25, starting from K through high school (plus the other daughters' yearbooks), plus my and Ed's yearbooks...uh, let's see...a plastic container full of crayons and coloring books (Christmas coloring books which I refuse to throw away...go ahead and laugh...sometimes I still like to color), vinyl record albums (some of which I am sure are collectible), VCR tapes (movies and family videos), some of my mother-in-law's books (she is now residing in an assisted living facility), and some of my daughters' books too...plays, teacher books, etc., etc.

Are you overwhelmed yet? I am. As I said. I started feeling anxious by the time I was only half way through. What happens when you have that much stuff is that you don't know what to do with it. I'm not one to get rid of books, but it is time. I now have several grocery sacks, and a large plastic container of books sitting in the hall outside of the library. Ed will have to take a look at those, and so will the girls, and probably some of them will come back into the library.

I'll probably donate the paper backs and others I find of little value to the library or my school's 8th grade garage sale. There may be some that, although they no longer hold interest for us, may have value to someone else. For awhile I've thought about selling things on Amazon or Ebay. I'm not sure if it is worth the effort, but I might experiment and try a few.

Ed's area was the garage. His mother as mentioned moved to our town and is an assisted living facility, so not only do we have the aforementioned books of hers, but we have some pieces of furniture, boxes of photos, etc., some of which were in the garage....along with various other pieces of furniture from our daughters' dorms and apartments. He did take a few things to be donated today just to get them out of the garage. We haven't been able to park in one of the bays.

We have only been in this house five years this winter, and I have no idea how we could possibly have accumulated so much stuff, but I think it is from having college aged daughters, parents who are aging, and.....something that is going to stop, an addiction to books. I have a number of books I will keep, but I hereby vow to start going to the library or trading with friends.

Anyone up for a book exchange? Or better yet, forget the exchange, I don't need anymore...anyone up for a book giveaway?

Why is it that when you are watching a movie where there is a room with stacks of books and papers around, it seems so...so...quaint or artsy...like maybe in Finding Forester, but when it is your own house it doesn't feel that way?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

WHAT THE???

So today I'm standing at the Smart Board (aren't I a lucky teacher?) with a background page of primary handwriting lines up so I could model proper form of upper case and lower case letter g. While I am modeling, I'm verbally stating what you do. Something like this: For upper case G, start a bit below the line (just like upper case o), move up to touch the top line, circle to the left, touch the bottom line, come up and stop at the mid line, then trace straight in. I guess that might not make a lot of sense unless you the reader have a piece of primary writing paper and try it.

So if you've never worked with a Smart Board it can get off its alignment a bit. I had aligned it, yet when I started upper case g and said "touch the top line" I didn't quite do it...by a minuscule amount, barely visible to my students I'm sure...except for one.

The "one" who blurted out, and of course without raising his hand..."You didn't touch the top line." Know what else? The "one" has THE WORST handwriting in the classroom and is a complete mess most of the time...snack food on the table and floor....yesterday he dropped fruit roll up on the floor, stepped on it, and proceeded to walk across the classroom carpet, the carpet across the hall to the restroom, and into the restroom, leaving stains the entire way.

This is also the "one" who has holes poked through the zip lock bags in his supply bin that hold his crayons and flash cards, the "one" whose flash cards and letter cards are spilled out of their bags and are loose everywhere in his supply bin, so that 25 other students have to wait on him to get his materials together, the "one" who slows us all down so we get behind, and the "one" who got a red light from me last week and laughed about it.

This is also the "one" who has an extra super long belt that hangs, and he constantly has it pulled up and is chewing on it. His other favorite thing to chew on is a book bag strap while we are lined up to go home. He's the "one" whose shoes are never tied and his shoes are falling off his feet. He is the "one" who wears his food.

When I called him on it, he looked at me blankly. I truly think he has no clue how disrespectful it was, and more importantly, no clue..no realization...of the mess he is. I told him I had certainly (damned well...was what I was thinking) better see perfect G's on his paper when I checked it. So do you think that I saw perfection on his work when I checked it? NOT!

And as irritated, frustrated, angry, and humorous (I hope) as this post sounds, you wanna know what? I KNOW he is one of THE ONES who needs me most, and I honestly don't know if I will be able to make a difference, which is THE most frustrating thing for any teacher!

Friday, September 11, 2009

What's Wrong?

Isn't something wrong when a six or seven year old doesn't know his grandparent's first name? I had my students take home an interview page and asked parents to help them complete the information on one or more of their grandparents.

My students turned them all in today and we took a few minutes to share them. I was naming each interviewee by name so I could connect the student with the grandparent, and I still have one person who has gone unclaimed. I don't get it. I understand they call them Grandma, Pappaw, Nana or whatever...but they actually don't know their grandparent's first or last name????

When one of my students looked confused when I gave directions for making a Grandparent Day card today and stated "What's a grandparent?" I decided there is something very wrong in the world..or maybe very sad.

On a final note, I found that as I read through the interview questions, I found myself almost relating more to the grandparents answering the questions than the parents of my students. Uh...yeah...I can remember black and white television, four channels (no cable, no HBO or anything), gas costing 34 cents a gallon, soda from the machine that cost 15 cents and you pulled it out (and you didn't dare let go 'cause it would slide back in and you'd lose your money), penny candy..25 pieces 25 cents, home made pizza every Friday night from Chef Boyardee kits, drive in movies (our local one sadly closed a year ago), entertaining yourself with a box because you couldn't afford toys, how huge huge huge a treat it was to ever, ever, ever eat out at McDonald's or anywhere (in fact I don't even remember restaurants existing they way they do now), walking home from school for lunch (no school buses)....

Man oh man, I could go on and on. And the scariest thing of all? The prospect that one day soon one of these little kids is going to come up to me and not start to call me "mom" the way they used to do, but they are going to say "Gran......"

And then I will retire.

Tiny Bubbles

Why is it that I come up with great things to write about in my blog, the first line of a great American novel, or the forward for a successful professional book when I am steeped in steaming water and covered in bubbles in the bath tub?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Yucky!

I've been feeling a little yucky lately...more stressed than usual, less energetic than usual. I've preached and preached to others, far older than I, to not let things go and be a proactive person when it comes to your health....soooooo, I AM going to the doctor tomorrow and will probably be asked by the doctor himself...."Why" exactly are you here?

I already know some things, having already gone for my "female" annual. Cholesterol is 207...not unreasonably high "most" doctors say, but I myself who am my own first doctor says it is too high and I'm working on bringing it down. Exercise, exercise, exercise...I'm ready to get going on my walks...part of the reason I have decided to just go ahead and get checked out just for the heck of it.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

We Did It! (addendum to the last)


We did it! I got through it. Of course we shared some tears, but that is just part of it. It wasn't any easier than the first. It's just not a fun experience, but I have to say the anticipation of it is worse than the actuality of it.

Moving her in was the easiest of any of our college move in experiences. We pulled up and were immediately surrounded by upperclassmen and security helping us unload. A couple of gentlemen came with large boxes on rolling carts, loaded our things, and had us upstairs in no time at all.

From there we worked with Mary and her roommate to get her bed, desk, etc. in just the right spot to give them the maximum space. She and her roommate got all her clothes unpacked and put away, Ed and I helped with a few other things, and she was set.

Ed and I left to check into our hotel, while Mary, her roommate, and suite mates went to a soccer game. As it turned out, Ed's brother and our two nieces were in town for the Jazz Festival, so we met up for dinner.

Sunday morning Ed and I went to Mass at St. Vincent DePaul Church on campus (a beautiful traditional old Catholic church) where I teared up a number of times thinking about "the goodbye." We picked Mary up and went to lunch, where she and I both continued to have our little moments of tears. But somehow we got through it and both decided we were going to be ok. One more trip to the bookstore to pick up her books and buy some DePaul wear, a return to her room, and we were set for the big goodbye. Of course I cried...I had to..I didn't have a choice. But I'm ok, Ed's ok, she's ok.

We are looking forward to parent weekend in mid-October. I'm so proud of her...of them all.



Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Baby

Here she is...my baby. Message to her sisters: Yes, you were and are alllll my babies. It's just that she REALLY is my baby, THE baby of the family. Here she is holding one of the boxes she has packed for her college trip. This is it. This Labor Day weekend, her father and I will be driving to Chicago to drop her off at DePaul University. It's starting to sink in...I can feel it. I've avoided it all year long...sort of .

All of her senior year in high school, with each passing event...each choir concert, the fabulous Madrigal Dinner, the musical...she has turned to me and said "Mom, did you cry?" I've sort of looked at her wondering what answer is it she wants? I cried...sort of...a little...if tearing up just a bit is crying. I worried that just tearing up would disappoint her since she has seen me profusely cry at some of her older sisters' performances. I never really answered her directly. So Mary, it isn't that those events didn't mean as much or touch me as much. Imagine how I felt playing Beauty & the Beast as you stood up there singing it. I maintained my composure but there were the few that dripped down my face as I held back so I could read my music. I think it is just that I had to remain stoic so as to protect myself until it was time.

I've been involved in the middle school or high school for 12 years now. I've seen my daughters perform on the high school stage as well as community theater. I've seen one or more of them sing at Carnegie Hall in NYC. I've been to Prague and Chesky Krumlov (a great little medieval town in the Czech Republic), Salzburg, Vienna, and Gumpoldskirchen (a great little wine town outside of Vienna. I've seen them sing on the steps of the Vienna Opera house, and in a salt mine in Salzburg. I've traveled to Peru and stood in Machu Pichu. I've seen them have lead roles or great parts in musicals....Hello Dolly, Bye Bye Birdie, The King and I, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, I Remember Mama, Down by the Ocean, Harvey, Jekyl and Hyde, You Can't Take it With You, Our Town, and loads more plays, including those when they were children in community theater.

It's over. It's starting to sink in. I will miss them performing. I hope I will see it again. What great memories. I'm not sad it's over in one way...they've had so many opportunities. I promoted those abilities, their involvement in the arts, since they were children. I took them to plays, and even when they were little I brought them up on movie musicals. (I was always shocked when they would come home from school and tell me that their peers had not hear of this movie or that when it was so familiar and so a part of our lives.)

Anyway, do you possible know how much you are loved...all of you? So, the baby will be leaving this weekend, but she's not so very far away and it will give us an excuse to visit Chicago. The others are well on their way...one finishing up undergrad and possibly planning on law school, one an English teacher, one pursuing a degree in Anthropology, and now the baby.

I think the dam is about to burst. I'll let you know. But that's ok. It's a passage. I've done what I am supposed to do. There are more good things to come...namely, some freedom for me. Don't worry, I'm not trying to be a parent who behaves as if other people don't love their children as much as I love mine. I just want to acknowledge that I am incredibly blessed as a mother.

(One last note...look for some blogs and pictures and stories now and then about their growing up years.)

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Bridezillas

I am a violinist. I am not a professional, but I'm decent enough to play for weddings and such. I'm in an all volunteer orchestra and recently joined an all string ensemble as well.

As of today I am giving up playing for weddings, unless I play for someone I know or the close friend of someone I know, or a family member, a friend, the daughter of a friend...hopefully you get the idea. I will no longer agree to play for the wedding of someone I do not know at all.

Here are the last two experiences I had when I was asked to play for a wedding:

Number 1: Last spring I received a phone call out of the blue from a bride-to-be who introduced herself and told me she had talked to me a few weeks ago about playing for her wedding which was to take place on such-and-such date. I had ABSOLUTELY NO MEMORY of talking to this person. But....as I am prone to do...I believed HER instead of myself. I checked my calendar. I had not written down the date. I would have written down the date without a doubt. I still believed HER. The date was free, so anyway I said yeah okay, I guess. But I will tell you. I WAS SCARED. I truly felt frightened that I was losing my mind, that I was showing signs of Alzheimer's, etc. I'm not being funny when I say that I was truly concerned about myself.

It just so happened that a friend who often plays weddings with me (we are in the aforementioned orchestra and ensemble together) and I were on our way to a rehearsal when I mentioned to her this phone call. She looked at me in surprise, and shock I'm sure, and said "It was me." I replied, "WHAT???" She repeated, "I talked to her. It was me she called." To make a long story short, things went downhill from there. She kept calling one of us or the other and getting us mixed up. She told my friend that since she had talked to me first (which she hadn't) she wanted me to play. This was after more time went by and I had already stepped aside telling my friend "You can have her." When the phone call came that she wanted me and not my friend, my schedule changed and I had something else on the calendar which could not (not that I would have anyway) be changed.

As it turned out, neither one of us played for her. She was rude, disorganized, and hung up on my friend. Done, except that I wasted a lot of time, experienced a lot of frustration and stress for no fault of my own (and so did my friend). At least I'm not experiencing serious memory loss.

Number 2: I had another bride call me in the summer to schedule me to play for her September wedding. She wanted both my friend and me. I hadn't heard anything from her for a very long time, but she finally did call just a couple of weeks prior to her wedding (this was late last week) and said we should get together to pick the music and whatnot. I said fine, called my friend, and we scheduled for this Sunday afternoon past. A day or two after that her bridesmaid called me to get directions to my house which I gave. The bride ended up calling me the day of our meeting and told me she was sick and couldn't make it. Ok. Fine. We rescheduled for this evening at 6 p.m. I had a funny feeling about this whole thing for some reason.

To back up, my friend and I found out just a couple of hours earlier that this bride has no vocalist, no piano, no organist...no one else...just two violins. Typically we play as people are being seated, perhaps a song if the mothers are lighting a candle, etc. We usually have the support of an accompanist. Our church is large and two violins alone is not a big sound. Oh, the bride earlier in this whole process had mentioned that she was doing "a wedding on a budget" yet it was for 200 people. What that means can be translated into "I don't want to pay you much, if anything." We don't care all that much about money, although we have both upped what we charge. We have to plan, we have to get together with the bride, we have to get together with each other and rehearse, and we have to show up and do it. In general it isn't unreasonable to charge $50 to $100 each. When I got married almost 28 years ago, I paid my organist $50 and that was then.

What happened next was that 6 p.m. came and went. At about 6:10 p.m. the phone rang as my friend and I sat and waited. It was the groom, with whom I had never spoken before, saying they were on their way (I didn't know he was coming too but that's ok) and they needed directions. I started giving directions as if they were in or near my town, but then realized I should know from what direction they were coming. They said they were coming from a town way south of my town and that they had just gotten on the interstate. They were at least a half hour away, even in good traffic, but this was still rush hour.

Still, my friend and I said we would wait. I did have someone else coming over at 7 or so for something else, which is true, although I could have dealt with it. We hung up and my friend and I waited about another five minutes. The phone range again and it was the bride. She said she was sorry for the hassle, but they had allowed themselves plenty of time (yeah right) but they weren't going to make it. I said ok, well I don't know what you are going to do, and she said she had messed it all up. As far as I know, this bride has no music for her wedding which is supposed to take place a week from this Saturday, but that's her problem.

I'm done. No more weddings. I think this is scary. There are people like this out there in the world. What will happen to these marriages? What will life be like in their home? What will their children be like? Good grief, I could end up teaching one of them.

The good thing is I got to spend some quality time with my friend. She stayed for dinner and we had a nice glass (or two) of Pinot Noir.

The second good thing is that I have now made dinner and theater plans with some friends for that Saturday and I am totally unavailable, so don't call me.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Stress<----->Computer


This is where I have been spending a lot of time lately. When people first started having PC's in the home they sort of became addictive. It was just such an awesome thing. The kids who have been born in the past ten years won't understand what a novelty it was for some of us.

I was an addictee when we first got one in the home, then I got away from that thankfully. Now a bit of me has become like that again. I've started this blog and another, I'm typing instead of writing out my lesson plans, I'm on Facebook, and there are always emails to check and websites to investigate (usually teacher websites I like exploring).

Lately my computer has been really slow...I mean sssllllloooooooowww. I'm a patient person. Unlike my husband, who will walk away if it doesn't do what he wants it to immediately, I stick it out. I wait...and wait...and wait...for something I need to load. It's funny, but lately I've sensed a lot more tension in my body than usual. The back of my neck has been aching and burning, and I've had a number of headaches.

Just yesterday the man who helps me with computer issues came over and installed some memory on my computer, updated our virus software, and removed some of the things that come with computers that you never use.

After he left (I didn't have much time because we had evening plans) I came in and clicked explorer only to have my home page almost instantly appear. I felt this huge weight lift from me. I'm starting to wonder if my stress, the tension I felt and headaches I've had are somehow related to the amount of time I've spent sitting here waiting and waiting and waiting, bound and determined to get that picture loaded, that blog written, and those lesson plans done.

I hope so. I am trying to simplify my life in a lot of ways. One is that I really do not want to live on the computer. Life is too short. Technology is a tool, not a way to spend hours and hours of my life. I hope this means the end of the extra tension and headaches.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

An Earlier Visit

Back in March I posted about an experience I had, one of feeling the presence of someone near me on a stressful occasion, someone who had died. It was a calming experience. I knew that one day I would write about the one other time in my life when something similar happened.

The thing is that I was only five years old. It was shortly after my maternal grandmother (Mammaw) died. Having been so young when she died, I really don't remember that much about her. I just have this image in my mind when I think of her. I have very vague memories, if that is what they are, of her being around. My sister being seven years older than I, was very close to Mammaw, and I know it was a hard time for her and my mother.

I have this feeling that Mammaw wasn't a real happy person. When I do think of her, I picture her as in an old photograph we have around somewhere. She was only a a couple of years older than I am now when she died, yet when I look at the photos of her, she seemed so much older. I guess life was harder then. I've heard she was very different than Pappaw. He was the playful, silly one; she was the serious one. My mother was their only child. Maybe my mother will talk to me about her one day in a little more detail.

What happened is that I believe Mammaw visited me, and I feel she did so to say goodbye to me. All I remember is being in bed in the bedroom I shared with my sister. I remember waking up and opening my eyes. I felt her presence and I saw what I believe was the dark outline of her...like a shadow. Of course, being five years old it frightened me to no end and I hid under the covers and eventually fell back asleep.

That memory has lived with me all my life. I haven't shared it with too many people. I once worried that someone would think I was off my rocker. Actually, the response has been an overwhelming belief that this was a real experience and I should have faith that it was just what I feel it was. For many many years I never told my mother, but I eventually did. I still think about it once in awhile. It had to have been real. How could a five year old's brain retain something like that? I have no answer to that question, but I did and still do think about that event, now 48 years later.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Mmmm...Mmm...Good

Ever since I went to see Julie and Julia a few days ago, I've been cooking up a storm...for me anyway. I've signed up for something called Farm Fresh Delivery (my first delivery is this Friday), I've visited a local Farmer's Market, and I've run by a local farmer's roadside stand to pick up around four dozen ears of sweet corn (some to eat this week and some to freeze for winter)....the last unfortunately.

On Saturday I made both chili and Italian beef. Also on Saturday I got a call from a friend who has a garden bursting with zucchini and she called to beg me to take some. I did. Especially since she so kindly even grated enough for me to make four loaves of zucchini bread, delivered it to my house, and even brought a couple of recipes typed out.

Tonight when I got home from school (and it was practically night since I didn't leave school until 5:15 p.m.) I put on some kale to boil, broke green beans to steam, put the Italian beef in the oven to reheat, mixed up two loaves of zucchini bread which are now in the oven, and will probably go back after posting this to put on some water for sweet corn.

Here is my mother-in-law's recipe for Italian beef:

Ingredients: 5 to 7 lb. rump roast, 2-3 cps. of water, 2-3 beef bouillon cubes, 1 t. marjoram (I actually used some from a small herb garden I grew on my deck this year), 1 t. thyme, 1 t. oregano, 5 drops Tabasco sauce, 2 t. garlic powder or 1 clove minced, 2 T. Worchestershire sauce, 1 c. green pepper (more really) chopped or sliced into thin strips (I prefer sliced), salt and pepper to taste

Directions: Cook beef 40 minutes per pound at 325 deg. Remove, cool, and slice thin. Add water, bouillon, etc. to juices (in same pan). Simmer 15 minutes. I put that same pan right over the burner or flame of my stove. Add sliced beef. Marinate 4 to 5 hours or overnight. Heat before serving on rolls. Do not boil, just simmer.

This recipe is somewhat like the chili I make because you can play around with it a little. You can add more bouillon if you want a stronger beef flavor, use herbs to your own taste, use minced hot peppers of some kind (I did this weekend using the peppers I got at the Farmer's Market) and adjust for how spicy you want it, and you can chop or slice the green peppers. Also, I like a lot of green peppers to put on the sandwich with the meat and juices.

Also, for bread I don't use plain old buns. I use rolls, preferably hard rolls which I've had trouble finding lately, but did find them at Kroger. This allows you to pile on the beef, peppers, and pour some of the broth (au jus) right on the sandwich. It really is best to leave the beef marinating overnight for more flavor.

Enjoy...I'm off to check on my works in progress.

I'll never attempt to be Julia Child, but then I've found good tasting food doesn't have to be difficult. Au jus just may be the only french cooking term I do know. Oh, and bon appetit (even though this is an Italian recipe).

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Good Golly Miss Molly!


Meet Molly. She isn't in sight too often. Since we got the first and then the second dog, she sometimes goes into hiding. They have all adjusted though, and she pretty much has learned to behave in the typically feline fashion...aloof....around the dogs, instead of running from them.

For some reason, she refuses to drink water from a bowl. Actually she probably does since I do provide water for her, but as is typical of cats, she wants to do things her way and would never allow me see her drink from the bowl. So when I am in the kitchen she occasionally hops up on the counter (I can hear the non-animal people gasping) and I know she wants a drink. I turn on a slow steady stream and there she goes.

Of course, she does it when I am cooking off of clean counters and don't particularly want to have her on the counter. Note the muffin tins in the background. We had chili with corn muffins for dinner tonight. No one complained about finding a hair in their muffin, so I guess we escaped discovery.

Saturday Morning Excursion

Although it would have been easy for me to lounge in bed a bit longer this morning (the first Saturday following the beginning of school) I didn't. Instead I invited my husband to go with me to the Zionsville Farmers Market (thanks to my friend Janet who wrote about this in one of her blog entries). Ed isn't one to stroll and just enjoy the moment sometimes, but it was good for us to do something together and to get out of the house.

We did a walk through of the market first and went around a couple of more times to buy what we thought was the most and best for the money. We picked up a cantaloupe (which is called in Indiana a muskmelon and is somewhat different looking and better tasting than a plain cantaloupe), tomatoes, green peppers, hot peppers, peaches, chili sauce, sausage (his pick), rosemary/olive oil bread, and lastly (with all the cash we had left) this beautiful bouquet of flowers.

He seemed to enjoy it, although I did have to encourage him to relax and stroll, and not become his "efficiency expert" self. We should have brought the dogs. There were dogs everywhere...next time.

I think we have to learn to do these sorts of things together more frequently and rediscover ourselves. When you are raising children you are going every which way and are so busy all the time. It is hard to learn to spend one-on-one time together again. We are entering a new phase.

Of course on the way home, he fell into one of his favorite things to do...explore...go a different way...get lost sort of (but not admit it). He's never really had a hobby other than that he reads a lot....maybe something to do with cartography, not that there are any places in the world left unexplored. I know...he could be the person who creates better directions for online services, since they never give you the most efficient route.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

How Could I Possibly....


...be thinking of autumn. I don't know if it is because summer seems over to me when school starts. I don't know if it is because I was truly satisfied by this summer. I was. It was the closest thing to the summers I remember as a youngster in a long long time...warm days, cool nights, rain enough for the farmers. I don't know if it is because my life is changing since all of the girls are out of high school. Maybe it is just because I love living in Indiana for one important reason. The change of seasons. I love it. I love change.

So for some reason I started thinking about autumn today...the leaves, the crispy days that require a hoodie, layering my clothes, the smell in the air, pumpkins, fall festivals, the orchard, sitting around a bonfire, pots of chili on the stove.

I guess it does have something to do with being back at school, like the opening scene in You've Got Mail when Joe Fox is writing to Kathleen Kelly: "Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address."

I think I'll go get my sweaters out of storage.

Monday, August 17, 2009

I Stand Corrected

After posting the previous and "gifting" it to my parents, my mother told me I had just a couple of things mixed up. The first and not all that important is that my father had just been discharged from the Navy, but he was in uniform. Secondly, and more important, my mother did not turn 18 on her wedding day, she turned 17.

My mother was an only child, living in a small town in southern Indiana, getting married on her 17th birthday. Oh, she was also already expecting her first child. If it was scandalous at the time, which maybe it was, does it really matter after 62 years? I don't think it was a shotgun wedding. My grandfather might not have been very happy about it but it wasn't that. They wanted to be married. Look at what happened...four children, nine grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren. The most important thing is a marriage that has lasted for 62 years.

They didn't get married in a church. It was a civil service. On their 50th we four children put together the celebration they never had...the whole shebang...a big reception, the cake, a slide show video with music, a limo, dinner and a hotel, and lots of family and friends.

I just figured out I would have to live to be 91 to be married for 62 years....not so sure about that.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Ode to Mommy and Daddy




Happy 79th birthday to my mother (tomorrow, August 16). It also happens to be my parents' wedding anniversary (the 62nd). My mother was just turning 17 when my parents married. That is amazing to me. She was born in 1930 and my father in 1927.

Those were the years of The Great Depression. I'm not sure they had a sense of the economic situation in the country at the time because they were born into it. I think that has a lot to do with what they instilled in me. I think that is why it was natural in our family not to focus on things, but instead using the imagination, and spending lots of time reading.

Neither one of them is well educated in the conventional sense. They did not go to college. My father did not complete high school, although a few years ago the Salem Indiana School Board issued him an honorary degree because of his service to the country.

He joined the Navy during WWII. He didn't see action but was on a ship, and I've heard some amazing stories about what goes on with sailors on those ships, e.g. the ceremony that takes place when a sailor crosses the equator for the first time.

Not being educated didn't mean a whole lot in their lives. My father was skilled and worked for a radio/television place, then in civil service at Ft. Harrison, and then part time again in an appliance store up until a few years ago. He used his hands. And he is smart. He should have been an engineer. He's one of those naturally handy guys who could fix anything.

My mother was born in Salem, Indiana. My father was born nearby in a town you usually can't find on an Indiana map, Fredericksburg. Both were born at home. My father first spotted my mother at the Salem roller skating rink. He was a sailor on leave and was too shy to ask her to skate, so a friend asked her for him. He was a sailor in uniform. Need I say more? My mother wasn't too shy to say yes.

So they were married on my mother's 17th birthday. My sister was born less than a year later, followed by my older brother, me, and my younger brother...girl, boy, girl, boy...that's us.

My mother stayed at home, my father worked....sometimes two jobs. She did kid duty. Dad came home, ate dinner, and rested. He had the boys involved in community sports. There weren't community sports for girls back then, so we girls hung out with mom. Even if they weren't formally educated, they saw that we were. They let the school and teachers do their job. There weren't helicopter parents in those days. If we caused problems in school, we'd answer for it. I don't think any of us ever had to answer because we behaved. It's just what you did. My mother was friends with other mothers, and they were in the PTA. We came home to eat lunch and went back to school in the afternoon. We attended the neighborhood school and walked there and back home.

I mentioned my father should have been an engineer. Well my mother should have been a nurse. Dad has had some pretty major health problems for around 27 years off and on. We call him the Everready Bunny. We thank God he's gotten through it all so far and has been around to see all of his grandchildren born, and many of them all the way through high school and into college. My mother continues to take care of all of his needs. He's spoiled, and he knows it I think.

So today (actually it is tomorrow but I'll be celebrating with the family, not blogging) I honor them both for all they have done for me, for my brothers and sister, and for our children. I love them both more than I can express. Happy 79th birthday mom, and happy 62nd anniversary mom and dad!


















Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Great Meal With A Surprise


Tonight we had the best meal of all meals, mainly due to its simplicity and the fact that as it turned out only two meals were needed, one for Ed and one for me. Mary wasn't hungry and Erin was going to her boyfriend's house. That means no cooking an entree because we happened to have some leftovers..only enough for the two of us.

We had eaten at Macaroni Grill a couple of nights ago. Restaurant portions have gotten out of control. Ed had a pork chop left, and I had spaghetti and one large meatball left. As sides we had leftover (from home) stir fry veggies mixed with....also leftover...rice. The only thing fresh was the Indiana corn I picked up today from a local farmer whose sons grow sweet corn each year (which is planted weekly for six weeks, so as to produce a bountiful, delicious six-week long crop).

It was a great meal and an easy meal. There was one interesting thing about one of the ears of corn. I've never, ever seen this. I am the product of a family of farmers. While my father didn't farm, my uncles and grandfather did. I've picked, shucked and eaten loads of sweet corn. Do you see it? The itty bitty baby corn growing inside its....mother?


By the way, I am buying a couple of dozen extra ears this last week to parboil, cut off the cob, and serve at Thanksgiving.














Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Little Women: Its Meaning to Me

Finally, the last one. What it meant to me.

I just thought those four sisters had so much fun together. They used their imaginations. I was definitely an "imagination girl" growing up. They made it seem fun to be poor. I didn't have a lot growing up, but I had love. I didn't have a lot of things, but I had my imagination. It gave me a true appreciation for the mind. I play acted like they did. I was swept away by my dreams. I had what was called a "rag bag" (probably because that is what it was called when my mother was young). The rag bag was like a pillow case probably and it was full of old clothes, shoes, purses, and jewelry my mother was no longer using. I played dress up often with those throw aways.

We used to set up fairs in the back yard, makeshift booths of games we made up similar to ring toss, etc. We even had rides (the swing set, the slide). You paid a nickel probably for each game or ride. Then we had money to buy penny candy at the store. That's something you don't see any longer. My brothers took old bike parts and pieces of wood and built go carts which we'd ride down the alley. I could go on and on. The point is that we used our imaginations and what little resources that were on hand. We took such pleasure in simple things, as did the March girls.

I wanted to have an attic space like the March family (I sort of do today). I used to love to go into my grandma and grandpa's attic space and look through old boxes of stuff, including some navy uniforms that had belonged to my uncles and my father, a raccoon coat that had belonged to an aunt of mine, etc. My attic is a mess, but a mecca for a child who has an imagination and wants to explore. One day...when grandchildren come, I hopefully will still have it.

The March girls were a little bit old fashioned and a little bit ahead of their time. I'm a little like that. Their old fashioned way of life, wearing long dresses, making do with what they had to gather Christmas gifts for Marmee...that all appealed to the little girl me. At the same time, Marmee was ahead of her time. She pushed her girls to be independent and self-sufficient. She didn't want them to marry just to be taken care of. She wanted them to marry and be happy, whether they married someone with money to support them or not. She wanted them to be honest and have self-respect.

Finally, what can I say...I ended up having four daughters of my own. I've been a sort of Marmee I think. I hope I've taught them to appreciate the simple things. When they were small, we had a lot less than now, but more than some. I never bought them game systems or electronics. I mostly encouraged them to pretend. They had dress up clothes. I exposed them to many of the old movies and musicals. I remember when their high school put on Bye Bye Birdie, Cate and Kelly came home and were astounded that so many of their peers had never even heard of it (not that it is up there with quality musicals). We always read aloud. We made cookies, we played board games. Sometimes we had...gosh I forget what we called it...but a sort of night when we pretended we were living before electricity. They made tents using blankets over furniture, or we'd set up a tent and sleep outside in the back yard.

As they were growing up I would try to match their personality with that of Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy. They didn't fit perfectly, but it did seem that each of them shared certain characteristics of the March girls. Beth was the sensitive musician. That was Kelly, who has often told me..."Thanks mom, I'm the one who dies." Cate was Jo for her acting. Mary matched up with Amy who liked to use big words, often mispronouncing them (it's TRUE Mary), and that left Meg and Erin, who I think share some characteristics, although Erin may be a mix of different ones.

Well, you can maybe see why I've had a connection with this wonderful book. It all began with reading and becoming immersed in the lives of the March girls. I was right there with them...I felt like I was one of them. The rest just fell into place in my life.