Friday, July 31, 2009

Not Tonight

Mom, PPPLLEEEAAASSSEE...not tonight. You
were gone twelve hours today! We thought you
left for another vacation! Please don't blog
tonight. We're tired! We want to go to bed!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

The Importance and Power of Punctuation

Someone forwarded this to my husband today, and he forwarded it to me.

An English professor wrote the words:

"A woman without her man is nothing."

...on the chalkboard and asked his students to punctuate it correctly.

All the males in the class wrote:

"A woman, without her man, is nothing."

All the females in the class wrote:

"A woman: without her, man is nothing."

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Writing and Teaching

One of the reasons I started this blog was because of my love for teaching writing. Since I am an avid fan of a writer's workshop approach, it means I should be writing. The teacher must experience the process of writing in order to understand the student. My writing has been scattered.

Should I unexpectedly die, none of the writing I've done would make much sense to anyone. When my children were small I tried to write to keep a record of my experiences as a mother. I have four children. Need I say more? I didn't have time to be consistent. I have various journals likely buried in drawers, the attic, and who knows where (I don't). No doubt many entries were left without dates.

I've written a bit of poetry, but not for ten years or so. I need to pull it back out. Now that there is some distance from it (ten years should be enough) maybe I'll decide if it is any good. Most people I know who write poetry say their poetry is dark, that the best poetry produced is from the deep, dark self.

Hopefully whoever outlives me won't think I was a narcissistic depressed individual, just based on the snippets I've written. Aren't we all unhappy sometimes? Doesn't some of the best writing come from depressed people....Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor, Edith Wharton, Dorothy Parker, Ernest Hemingway, F. Scott Fitzgerald, and William Faulkner, to name only a few. Maybe they shouldn't have ever been labeled as depressed, unhappy people. Maybe they should have been labeled as normal people who were brave enough to write.

So as I enter a new school year, I'm keeping up with my writer's notebook where I'll plant images, snippets of conversations, and observations to use for ideas. I hope also to keep this blog going, but I hope to write more than daily musings and experiences from my personal and teaching life. Maybe I'll plant a little poetry, a little fiction, and a little memoir right here.

I don't know what the rules of blogging are, if there are any. I don't know if mine are too long or too short, I haven't quite figured out how to label my posts into proper categories, but I'll keep reading and writing and try not to worry about exposing myself or offending someone, because I really really....I really must write.


We all have those days. I'm having one. I can recognize it because I've been there before, for a lot more than just a day. My emotions and thoughts are swirling. It's probably a good day to write a poem.

I'm worrying about someone...frustrated with her, but also worrying. Why can't I accept that I will not be able to change her, nor should I.

I'm angry about a couple of things outside of my control. I keep rationalizing with myself and trying to look at them from another perspective. I'm trying to tell myself to let it go.

I hate double standards. I hate it when people make assumptions about me.

I feel a little like I'm not good enough. I climbed out of that hole a long time ago and am trying not to fall back in.

Why am I not included? How do people see me? Why do I feel left out? Am I insecure or what?

I hate it when people think I have it all.

It must all be the post vacation blues.

Friday, July 24, 2009


This is an example of what your grown children can do to you...first they talk you into things by flattering you into thinking you are still young and hip....and then they record it and post it on Facebook.

This....from the same children who were worried about me going to watch the movie Hangover.

Obviously I don't have too much sensibility or I wouldn't post this, right? That's what happens when you are a sometimes have trouble knowing exactly where you fit in.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Learning to Retreat

It is officially the half way mark of our vacation, and I can see why Anne Lindbergh says in Gift from the Sea that you really don't start letting go, calming your soul, finding peace until the second week. While I am loving this place I am in, both geographically and spiritually, I can see why another week or more would bring even more of this feeling of calmness.

I think it takes a week to rid oneself of bills, laundry, work, housekeeping, and all the things that are burdensome. I do feel relaxed and calm but I can see becoming more so if there were more time to retreat.

To truly retreat I would perhaps come on my own, not blog, not check mail, not make plans. It was hard for Anne Lindbergh to let go of the same things that burden us as women especially, even in 1953. As I revisit Gift I am reminded how its wisdom crosses all generations. Decades have not changed its message and I doubt four or five more decades will either. In a way I believe it is even more difficult for us to retreat from the world, is easier to be lonely if alone, and to be challenged when withdrawing from the technology that constantly keeps us connected.

I've peeked into Gift just a bit while here. I couldn't remember if Anne used scallops as an example of one of the shells she used to inspire her writing. She did not. Scallops are everywhere on the beach and although I've picked up dozens, they continue to attract me. They are common but unique, like snowflakes I guess, or people. I find myself glancing down attracted by the variety of colors, a pale pink, orange, white, gray, or brown. I wonder where they've been, what they've experienced, how they've become who they are. Even the ones with barnacles attached are beautiful.

Most of the shell seekers on the beach are after that one prized shell, perfect and rare; I think I'd rather stick with that which is not fleeting, that which is still special no matter how common, that which has a story to tell.


As an addendum to Monday's post, I wanted to add that as Mom and Dad were sitting there on the couch I came in the sliding door from the balcony and said "Heh, how's it going?"

Mom's response was "Lilly has cancer." (referring to the soap she was watching).

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mam-maw and Pap-paw

My parents... there they are.. they are so happy to be here and we are so happy to have them. They are wonderful people. And they are hysterical.

My dad doesn't get around so well and absolutely does need some help, but he is spoiled rotten. I don't know what he would do without my mother. I can't even tell you some of the things she does for him. You don't want to know. I can't imagine ever doing some of them for Ed. My mother is so used to doing everything for him that it has just become her culture. To some extent it has always been their culture, their norm.

The woman puts his food on his plate! He can't stand up and act like he is going somewhere without her immediately responding "What are you doing? Where are you going?" He sometimes acts half annoyed by it, but you can tell he is just pretending and that he actually enjoys every second of it. I think once in awhile she actually ought to ignore the fact that he is moving and see what he says. He'd probably be moving along with his cane or walker but looking behind him wondering why she wasn't saying anything. She follows him into the bathroom. You don't want to know...I don't want to know.

This morning he got off the couch to go sit outside on the screened porch and she immediately stood up behind him and asked the inevitable questions as mentioned above. Then she went to the sliding door before him and started asking him which chair he wanted to sit in. That one? This one? He pointed to "that one" and she proceeded to pull it out for him.

Oh, and this conversation just now took place while I was blogging:

Mom (standing next to him as he sat on the couch): I think I'll go down to the beach for a bit and look for some shells.

Dad: Ok.

Mom: Is that ok with you? It had better be...I did get your ice cream for you.

Dad:, I don't think I want you to do that (joking).

Mom: Well you'd better. I'm going anyway.

So you see, half of this way of relating comes from her. Maybe more. I honestly don't hear him make demands upon her. She has just done everything for him for so long, it's her norm. It is way outside of my norm. You will rarely if ever find me putting food on a plate for Ed (although I did puncture and drain the blisters on the bottom of his foot this morning), and you will never find him asking me to do so. It would annoy the hell out of him. So while it is amusing, it also worries me. I can't imagine one of them functioning without the other.

I remember a time he used to make fun of her for being so addicted to soaps. Now he himself is an addictee. I know this because when they travel with us I get a sneaky peak into the lives they live at home on a day-to-day basis. When they aren't looking for their soaps, they are looking to see what "judge" shows are on TV. I heard dad whine this morning because he couldn't find Judge Matheson (whoever that I don't know if I'm spelling it correctly).

Although Mom and Dad sit on the couch and watch soaps and judge shows, we do manage to make them get up and go. Ed took Dad this morning to rent a wheel chair so we could get him to some places which are difficult for him to reach...the beach, the pool, and whatever else we find on the island that might be a little on the inaccessible side for him.

They are so fun. Dad is ornery and likes to spend a lot of time teasing the girls, teasing Jon, and making up lies about me (or at least exaggerating the truth) when I was a child. And each and every night we are together, Mom and Dad (but especially Dad) want us all to line up and give them a hug and kiss goodnight. Dad hugs me, kisses me, tells me how much he loves me, and says thank you for the hundredth time for including them in our adventures.

As far as I am concerned they have been the best parents ever and they deserve to spend their time doing whatever they want.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

What Day Is It?

You know you are on vacation when you don't know what day it is. For that matter you often don't know and don't care what time it is either.

It is evening, it is dark. Ed just came in from the pool, sighed and said "What a great day." He got up early (I didn't) and walked on the beach. He learned that only locals can fitness walk on the beach barefoot because their feet have toughened up. He realized this when his feet started really hurting. He was getting blisters. The problem is that he had to turn around and come back...a long way back. He made it eventually and had to treat his blisters. Other than that, poor guy (the feet seem fine now), it has been a perfect day.

I was up late so I slept in a bit. The girls, Jon, and I left to see some of the island by car. We ate lunch at one of my favorite Sanibel spots, The Lazy Flamingo, where I of course had my first (and definitely not last) taste of grouper. We did a bit of shopping, returned to the condo and headed for the beach.

In the early evening the sky darkened a bit with clouds and a small (typical of Florida's gulf coast) storm moved through. The darkened sky made the water seem translucent and the color was an amazing cerulean blue. We watched from our balcony, took naps, and then returned to the beach for the sunset, shelling (it was low tide), and just strolling along an almost deserted stretch of sand. So peaceful.

After dark we moved to the pool which is as warm as a bath, finally came in, and had some pizza delivered for dinner. We are getting ready to begin our week long Skip-Bo tournament, of which I intend to be champion. Jon tells me otherwise. We'll see about that.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

We Arrived...Vacation Blog

Our travels from Indiana to the Gulf Coast were uneventful, meaning no car problems, no arguing (it helps to travel in two vehicles), just a normal, but long (worth it!) drive. Our condo is roomy and nice, looking out onto the beach.

After unpacking we walked on the boardwalk out to the beach. Mom and I strolled along the water's edge, already doing the "Sanibel stoop" to search for shells. Kelly, Erin, Mary and Jon donned their suits and jumped in that delicious warm water...not delicious tasting, but delicious feeling. It's warm, not cold like Lake Michigan, which is why I prefer the sea although it is salty.

It was early evening and a good time to spot dolphins, which we immediately did (Erin came to the shore line because she first thought that she imagined seeing a fin, and then she worried it was a shark rather than a dolphin). No worries of course. There were at least two of them, and they came in very close. They even jumped and played in the water a bit, splashing around.

The weather was unseasonably cool while traveling and only when we reached the Ft. Myers area and stopped for a break did we feel the typical Florida heat. It was actually quite pleasant this evening. Mom and I headed
to the grocery story for a few, vodka, tequila. It was late so we made a quick dinner of spaghetti and relaxed after two days of driving.

More to come...should I feel like it.

It is heaven.

Friday, July 17, 2009


I'm a boomer, but mostly I consider myself a betweener. I'm somewhere between my children and my parents. Right now it is a blessed time and a time to enjoy each and every moment at both ends of this strange spectrum.

My youngest of four will be leaving for college soon enough, and I suppose, as difficult as it is to say, I don't know how many more years my parents will have with us.

Last year we took an extended weekend trip with my parents because my father in particular cannot travel on his own. My mother has a driver's license but really doesn't drive much, and he can't do it on his own. It would be risky at this point for them to take off anywhere for long on their own. So my dad noticed in the AAA magazine a driving tour through a section of West Virginia. Ed and I decided to find a long weekend and made it happen. We had a great time.

That prompted us to invite them to travel to the gulf coast of Florida with us last year at the beginning of summer. As a child, my parents and some friends of theirs vacationed at a small family-owned motel on Madeira Beach. We went for years each summer. They became friends with the owners of the motel which turned into a years-long friendship. Their friends are retired now, my parents had not seen them in a very long time, and I know they just never thought they would return to Florida ever again. They were a little nervous about all the work it takes to prepare and withstanding the heat, but it worked and we had a wonderful time. Again, they (and Ed and I) really didn't know if it could happen again.

It is happening again. I am writing from somewhere near Macon, Georgia, on our way to Sanibel Island, Florida, a spot my parents actually have never visited although it is within two hours of the area where we used to vacation. I will try to report on our fun over the next few days. There are eight of us...three of our girls and a boyfriend. There should be lots to share.

I am so blessed and thankful to God to have my parents with me, particularly my father, since staying healthy has been a challenge for him for the past 27 years, when he suffered a heart attack shortly before Ed and I were married and in fact could not attend our wedding. That is another story for another time perhaps, but I am so grateful that he has been around to see the birth of all four of my children, seen them through grade school, high school, and into college.

My parents ask me why in the world I would want to drag them along, and all I can do is assure them that we truly want to do this with them and for them. It is giving us a great deal of pleasure to see them happy and enjoying themselves.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Bliss is....

going for a manicure when you rarely do it (and you play violin so can't usually do nails) and.....

going for a pedicure when you rarely do it (especially after having foot surgery on both feet) and...

doing it with your daughters.

Only one thing could have made it more foot and one more hand. Are you listening Cate? We'll make it a fivesome one day soon...I promise.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Nature vs. Technology

Let's get ourselves and our children reconnected with creation, the natural world. Last year I received a small grant to incorporate the theme of creation throughout my curriculum. It turned out to be an amazing experience, not just because I got a little money and from that some materials. It was an amazing experience because I know I learned as much as my students.

I've been teaching long enough now (over 10 years) to have seen a change in children. Part of the reason for the change is technology. I love technology; but at the same time technology is a tool and that's all. It allows us to do a lot of wonderful things we couldn't do. It helps us stay connected. It makes the world more accessible. It makes life easier. We don't need it. We would survive without it. But just like everything, there is a good side and a bad side to it. It shouldn't replace reading, pretending, and going outside to play.

I've watched six and seven-year-olds over the past ten years get more involved in things that I still thought would be reserved for at least middle schoolers. I've been out at a movie theater or grocery story and seen younger children with cell phones and iPods, and it obvious from my conversations with my students that most of them own some sort of game system.

In my classroom this year I was fortunate to have pretty good technology. I have a Smart Board and an Elmo, and it did make teaching easier. It helps with making learning very visible to my students. For instance, if I only had one copy of something I wanted to show them, I could just slip it under the Elmo instead of having to pass it around or make copies. Yet in spite of these tools I saw some of the down side. First, they have to remember to look at the Smart Board to see what I'm talking about. I sometimes observed them "not" looking where I wanted them to, so I knew they were either not listening or were focused on something else and had tuned me out. Listening is the second area of concern attached in a way to this first observation. Since what I am teaching from the Elmo or Smart Board IS very visual, they often DO tune me out and don't listen to what I am saying ABOUT what is on the screen. They are relying solely on the visual and not the oral.

What does this have to do with creation? Because I had all this new technology at the same time I received the grant, I had a sort of double edged sword on my hands. I enjoyed and will enjoy learning more about the technology, but I also made a great effort to get my students outdoors more often. I could tell being outside was a novel experience for some of them. When we launched this theme with a walk in the local park at the beginning of last year, you might have thought I was taking them to an amusement park; either that, or they were just excited because they don't normally get to do such a thing in a school setting.

I learned a lot from the year and have been reading about what is called "nature deficit disorder" in children. Although I won't get funds every year, I have plans to continue using creation/nature/environment as a theme in my classroom, keeping in mind the technology at my hands are great tools and should be used as tools.

The best thing I learned was the importance of immersion. By the end of the year, I received a lot of feedback from parents about how this project based teaching had taken hold of their children, to the extent that it carried home with them in the areas of recycling, conservation, and respect for the natural world, both plant and animal life. I feel I really only touched on the possibilities this past year, and want to continue branching out from there in the coming years.

Monday, July 13, 2009


After not having slept well at all on Saturday night, I decided I would try my best on Sunday. I soaked in a nice bath for around an hour, reading my book, toweled off, put on my p.j.'s and climbed in. I ignored taking the dogs out, I ignored our guests, I just climbed in and continued reading. I was hooked on the book so did read for awhile until it became the normal bedtime, somewhere between 10 and 11 p.m.

Suddenly my husband bursts into the room with the dogs in tow (we have two...a mini-Schnauzer and a Goldendoodle) and asks me to smell Roxie (our Goldendoodle). Well, first of all he knows my smeller doesn't work well because he always smells odors I don't smell, so I sort of rely on him to decide if something in the pantry or refrigerator has gone bad. Initially I didn't smell a thing (of course), and then it hit me in the face. Roxie had been skunked.

My husband likes to let Roxie run off of her leash. We live on about an acre in a small town. We are in a neighborhood but there is a fair amount of wildlife around us. A railroad track runs along the back of our property and there is nothing but a field on the other side. We have quite a number of species of birds, I've seen deer, ground hogs, bunnies of course, and where those animals live, of course there will be raccoons, fox, possum, and (naturally) skunks around even if we don't see them.

So when he took them out one last time before bed, Roxie got skunked somewhere in the back of the yard. To be fair to him, Roxie doesn't run off when you let her run; at least not far. She has run a couple of houses away but is a bit of a wimp and doesn't stray far. She'll go further if the mini-Schnauzer (Captain) is also left off his leash to run (typically we don't do this). I will let Roxie and Captain (sometimes) both off their leashes and they chase each other around the yard, around the house, and Roxie is pretty good about staying around. If I can get her back on her leash, Captain will follow where she is. And with practice and training, they will get even better at not running off. Our neighborhood covenants don't allow us to have fences, so if we wanted to rein them in we'd have to get an invisible fence.

However, I NEVER let Roxie run off her leash in the dark. First, as mentioned she is a bit wimpy and shies easily. I wouldn't..ahem...want her to get into any trouble or see something (which may only come out at night...ahem) and take off after it. Second, why of all times would my husband assume I needed to be the one to determine whether Roxie smelled of something since he knows my smeller doesn't work well? That's what he said when he came upstairs to our bedroom..."Smell Roxie...does she smell?" Third, if he SUSPECTED she smelled of anything, why in the world would he bring her in, trailing skunk spray everywhere in the house?!?

So OF COURSE, just like he used to not want to clean up children who were throwing up, I basically sighed loudly, tossed my book aside, got up and threw on some old clothes and headed downstairs with Roxie. She was upset, maybe smelling herself, and by that time had not only gone in her crate and laid down on her cushion in there, but also came back out of her crate onto her doggie bed, so the smell was on those things as well. Through all of this of course, he's overreacting (what he usually does when in reality he is mad at himself, not me), and I'm overreacting to his overreacting.

I took Roxie downstairs, put her out on the porch and went to the computer to look up what to do about skunk spray, it never having happened to me before. Our guests were still up, probably from all the chaos going on upstairs. So much for their sleep. My sister-in-law first said tomato juice. I've heard that but wanted to be sure. (I did eventually find out tomato juice is not the answer). We googled it and my computer was being slow, so she actually called a friend in Taos where she is from to get her recipe.

What it took was a quart of hydrogen peroxide, 1/4 cup of baking soda, and a teaspoon of dish soap (the kind that says it removes grease). We had no hydrogen peroxide that I could find, and if we had any it wouldn't have been a quart, so I sent my daughter off to the store. In the meantime Roxie is upset on the porch, barking to get in, and probably still keeping our house guests awake. I had my daughter get 2 quarts of hydrogen peroxide.

After mixing up a batch of this recipe, I started scrubbing Roxie down head to toes. They say it can bleach the dog's fur, but Roxie is blond anyway and who cares. The poor thing was shivering since the night air was cool. I applied two batches to her, followed by a regular shampooing and rinsing, toweled her off, and my daughter (who was by that time helping me) took Roxie to sleep in her room. I then had to go upstairs and grab all her bedding and get it in the wash. Fortunately the daughter who had gone to the store for me also picked up another solution which is also supposed to remove skunk odor, so as the directions indicated I added a capful of that to my laundry detergent to wash Roxie's bedding.

You know how "they" say to never let the sun set on your anger? I don't think that's realistic and if you try to live by it, there is too much pressure on you to pretend you aren't angry when you really are. So if you can picture our king sized bed, my husband and I slept far apart and back-to-back. Sometimes it is better NOT to figure it out right then. Sometimes it IS better to just stay quiet and wait until morning. I don't know what time it was when I got to bed, and I don't want to know, but I did get what I wanted...I did sleep well once I got there.

Oh, and we slept with both the air conditioning running and the windows open. I've decided the only way to know for sure the smell isn't in the bedroom or elsewhere in the house is to remove myself and come back in later. Especially smeller doesn't work! By the way, we were both fine and laughing this morning, and my husband was being his sheepish self, the way he is when he knows he messed up! If he blogged, I'm sure his version would be very different from mine, but this is MY blog. Not only does he not do puke and not do skunk, he also doesn't read or write blogs, so I can say whatever I want..heh heh heh.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Picnic Season

I always say I love cooking and entertaining even though I don't do it that often. I have over time become a bit of a cookbook addict. No, I don't usually go to that section if I'm at a book store, but I have made several purchases from a discount book seller who comes to my school. I've been trying to break this habit because I have a kitchen cabinet full of them. I also buy them when I travel.

Most of my favorite recipes come from friends, and I try to keep those in a special place. The recipes handed around are usually the best. There are, however, a couple of recipes that I have discovered in old cook books (now falling apart or marked with stains and spills from lots of use) that I hold on to.

Since I have company and more family is coming over for a cookout, I decided to pull out one of my favorites. We have an acquaintance who was once visiting when I served this recipe, and he complimented me on it; I took that seriously since he owned a couple of grocery stores in another town; not a grocery store chain like Marsh, Kroger, or Walmart, but a family owned business, so his stores had these wonderful international areas and amazing delis and bakeries. If he liked it, I thought it had to be a good one.

Old Fashioned Potato Salad
1 c. mayonnaise (not salad dressing like Miracle Whip)
1 T cider vinegar
1.5 t. salt
2 t. prepared mustard (if you like mustard potato salad, put in more of this and less mayo)
.5 t. celery seed
dash pepper
4 hard-cooked eggs, chopped
4 c. diced cooked potatoes
1.5 c. sliced celery
.5 c sliced green onions
.25 c. sliced radishes
2 T chopped parsley

Early in the day: In a large bowl, stir mayo with next 5 ingredients until mixed; add remaining ingredients and mix well. Cover and refrigerate.

It's pretty simple. The thing to watch is the potatoes. I don't like mine overcooked or they turn into mashed potatoes. If you like yours that way, of course, by all means cook them longer. I peel and cube the potatoes, get the water boiling, and pour them in. I just remove them and rinse them under cold water so they won't keep cooking. I like the potatoes to stay a bit firm.

It serves six, but I usually double it for a crowd, as there will be today. This recipe comes from The Good Housekeeping Cookbook, Copyright 1973. Maybe this same cookbook is reprinted and updated, but I haven't checked to see. Mine looks very used and the pages have come apart from the binding. I have to keep it together with rubber bands.

Today I'm adding to that a linguine vegetable salad, brats and burgers, and possibly a rhubarb/strawberry pie. Oh, and our guests will bring things to pitch in, so no telling what we'll end up with. Isn't it great the way food reminds us of places, people, and our childhood? The only thing I won't have that I miss from my childhood is homemade ice cream.

Now I'm just hoping it won't rain, but if it does, the guys will just grill in ponchos.

Friday, July 10, 2009

WANTED: G.E.E.K. (Gifted Eccentric Electronic Know-it-all)

Lately I'm at a standstill when it comes to deciding what to do with all the old gadgets around the house. I guess it isn't about making a decision; it is more about actually knowing what to do with them, so I COULD make an informed and environmentally conscious decision. What I'm calling gadgets are the technologically related things that use to serve a particular function but no longer do because they are broken, e.g. cell phone chargers and/or old broken cell phones, iPods, laptop computers, hard drives from old computers that don't work (from which data needs to be extracted), and a variety of cables and cords.

I think it would be a great business idea for some technologically saavy persons (i.e. geeks) who are so familiar with all the gizmos out there that they could come into my house and organize them, tell me what to keep and what to dispose of; they would have to organize them in such a way that I could easily locate them and they would have to be labeled. Right now, I have in my basement an old computer we brought with us from our previous home, a couple of laptops from my husband's office, a couple of old laptops from a daughter who has graduated from college, a laptop that we purchased when we moved to the current house, but now won't charge up; and that's just computers. Of course with every gadget you buy there are numerous cables and it is hard for me to decide what belongs with what, what is important, and what could be tossed.

The way the prices have dropped on computers and other electronics, it is almost easier to throw away the old one and buy a new one. What is the point of spending $150 to repair a printer when I can go to Walmart and buy a new one for the same price or less. But then, what do I do with the old one? Is there an organization out there that will take all of this junk off my hands? If I just toss it, will it end up in a landfill? Do the materials put into these things break down, or will some future generation discover some deep dark secret about me? Even if I had any, what would it matter since my body would definitely be broken down by then? Would someone actually be standing in a landfill digging for information about dead people? If I don't miss what is stuck in the hard drives, how important can it be?

I think I'm going to start looking for someone to hire to take care of all this for me. Maybe such a business already exists. If it doesn't, I know what will happen. I know I won't be able to stand the stuff any longer, so I'll toss it. That means that on Saturday (following Friday's trash pick up) I'll suddenly need one of the things I threw out. Oh well, I guess I can just run to Radio Shack or Walmart and get another.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Conspicuous Consumption

I don't think there is any hope for me. Last night I cleaned out a walk-in pantry and today the refrigerator. We've lived in our home less than five years, and I actually have completed both of these tasks a number of times. That means...when things are falling off shelves or out of the refrigerator when I open the doors. Another sign they need to be cleaned is when someone else in the family opens one of the doors and says "There's nothing to eat." even though both are crammed full. Oh, one more sign is when a guest in your home (particulary a friend of a teenage daughter...teens have no tact whatsoever...) opens the doors and mentions that they need to be cleaned out).

Well, it's done. And I have to live with a ton of recycling because the bin is full and I've had to resort to using another container to hold the surplus; the large garbage container is also full (I threw as much as I could into the garbage disposal, but you can't throw paper, cardboard, or non recyclable containers in a garbage disposal (hey, there's an idea of something someone should invent). The recycling will be picked up on Tuesday of next week and the garbage on Wednesday, so I have to live with it until then. I hope I sealed everything up tightly.

I'm marking this date on my calendar. I want to know if having let go of a lot the responsibilities that go along with being the mom of a high school aged child (FOREVER!) will make any difference in whether I have just one bag of powdered sugar in my pantry instead of five partial bags, or whether I discover things in my refrigerator I no longer can recognize.

All humor aside, I really do want to live in a way that avoids waste, especially when our country could probably feed the entire world.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

An-ti-ci-PA-A-tion, It's Keepn' Me Wa-a-tin'

The lyrics of that song have more to do with the anticipation of being with a lover than going on vacation, but I am suddenly feeling that great feeling of looking forward to something, our family vacation to Sanibel/Captiva Island, Florida. We took a trip to the Tampa/Clearwater area last year and it was great, but Sanibel is one of my favorite places.

One of my favorite books, Gift from the Sea, published in 1955 (my birth year), was written by Anne Morrow Lindbergh on Captiva Island. I discovered it around ten years ago and wish I had found it much sooner.

Gift can stand alone, but if you are interested in its background, I recommend Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Her Life by Susan Hertog, published in 1999. There may well be other books about her life out there, but I sense most of the material is focused on Charles Lindbergh. I loved reading about the way Anne was raised. Her mother was consistent at reading aloud to her and three siblings. (I have three siblings and my mother also read aloud to us regularly; I likewise have four children and reading aloud was extremely important in our home. Was I not meant to learn about Anne Lindbergh?) Once they outgrew being read to, the habit of reading to themselves and also writing on a regular basis came naturally. Anne's father was a lawyer (my husband is a lawyer). They obviously grew up in a household which placed value on education and held high standards of achievement. Anne's mother was active in promoting women's education. When I discovered Gift and also read her biography, I related so much to Anne, her life, and also her struggles. Any woman friend I know who has read the book relates to it, no matter what stage of life.

The flap of the biography states that Anne was "shy and sensitive, yet rebellious and ambitious." She had her own ambition, yet struggled with being caught up in her role as wife and mother, and what was expected of her. I didn't get the feeling she resented those responsibilities, but they are labor intensive, and we all know how easy it is to set ourselves aside. Of course Charles was in the limelight and I'm sure this made it even more difficult for her. It seems not many people know that she was a writer and also an aviator. Most only know of Charles' aviation record and of course the horrible events surrounding the kidnapping and murder of their infant son.

Gift from the Sea is poetic, simple yet deep, wise; it crosses time and space.

So I think I'll pull it out to take with me, knowing that when I search for shells on the beach, Anne Morrow Lindbergh might have walked the same path. I might even find time to reread her biography.

The area is governed well. It isn't Panama City. There are building restrictions on height, so you won't find high rises. There are restrictions on shelling. No live shells may be taken, yet there are piles of shells on the beach at low tide. Being a barrier island, the area is known for shells and you'll see people in a stance (bent over looking at the ground) called the Sanibel stoop. When in the water you can find many live starfish, sanddollars, and other shells to enjoy even if you can't (and shouldn't) take them. The area is also populated by sea turtles whose nests are marked and protected by law. The fauna and foliage are interesting and beautiful. The J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Reserve is located there as well and is part of one of the largest undeveloped mangrove ecosystems in the country.

There will be eight of us. Regretfully our oldest daughter, Caitlin, is out of the country and can't join us this year; but there will be other years. My parents, who can no longer travel easily on their own, will join us (a road trip with two vehicles). We plan on relaxing, enjoying the quiet and beauty, eating good seafood, reading, writing (I intend to) and playing some Skip Bo, Scrabble, and Phase Ten....and I mustn't forget the Bloody Mary's and Margaritas.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


For the ____th time (lost count) I am trying to follow a home maintenance/cleaning method that comes from a website you might (or might not, especially after you've looked it at) want to check out in detail. It's called Fly Lady and is a system of keeping your house clean. Like Weight Watchers I've signed up for it more times than I can count and have given up. I'm trying again. If you check it out, don't be overwhelmed by the information on the website. Just taking a few minutes each day will familiarize you with it.

The first thing to do is ignore most of it and follow the baby steps. Don't expect perfection or you won't do it. I skip some of the things, like leaving little sticky notes around the house for my husband, my kids, and myself, reminding us to do certain things. To me sticky notes add to the clutter of the place.

So just about three or four days ago, I started trying to get myself into a routine again. It's better to do this in the summer than when I am starting back to school. The first routines consist of things that normal people (who are not like me) do, such as keep the dishes out of their sink, make their beds, get dressed and put on shoes. Simple enough. Well, not really (not when you might roll out of your bed before your husband..why bother making a bed when you get home from work...note: maybe I should actually ask him to do it.) The first thing you do, and I think it is to impact you psychologically, is to clean your sink. Specific directions are given for this which amount to filling your sink up with hot water, adding bleach, letting it sit there, getting a sharp object to clean out the crud along the edges, etc., etc. Well, as hard as it is for me to admit it, there was an impact. Every day when I walk back and forth by that sink, it actually makes me feel good that at least that one thing is done.

They also recommend not sitting around in your PJ's until noon (drat, I was afraid of that). Well, that works too. It really does make you feel better to get up, get showered, put on your clothes, put on your face and so forth. But they are NOT going to take away from me a few minutes to sit and enjoy my cup of coffee, sit on the deck and maybe read the paper or a chapter or two. Oh, and you can't put on just any shoes; you have to put on shoes that tie so you won't be prone to kicking them off and sitting around. Not me, no sir. I've been through two foot surgeries in the past four or five years just to be ABLE to wear sandals and show off my painted toes, so the heck with that.

If you sign up for this you will receive numerous emails consisting of zone cleaning projects (which are pretty fast and can make a difference over a long period of time), and testimonials from other people (which I'm not interested in). The whole thing seems a bit OCD to me. The point of keeping an organized clean home is doing it without having to obsess over it and so you feel like you have lots of time for more interesting things (like writing in your Blog).

I can't figure out how these women, if they are keeping their homes clutter free and clean, possibly have time to run this massive website. The only thing I can figure, is that they actually have hired someone else to clean their homes and don't follow their own system at all. Check it out and let me know what you think. Above all, don't expect perfection. After all, perfection is no fun and boring.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

An Adventure of Sorts, Part 1 and 2

Part 1

This morning I left with Mary for a drive to CYO Camp Rancho Framasa in Brown County. We had received an email from the camp notifying us that a bridge on the road that takes us to camp was under construction and we would have to follow an alternative route. A map was attached and it it looked simple enough. When driving toward Nashville from Columbus, all we had to do was take Salt Creek Road instead of Clay Lick Road. The Salt Creek Road turn off and following it to come into camp from the opposite direction was clearly marked on the map you see here.

Looks simple huh? Well I turned off of State Road 46 onto Salt Creek Road and I drove and I drove and I drove. Not only did I drive, but I sure didn't drive in the way the dashed line indicates. I kept heading further north and further back east and I knew I was driving away from the camp, not toward it. By now we were a half hour or so late. I turned around. On the way back we didn't see the intersection of Salt Creek Road with Gatesville Road either.

I next pulled into the Shell Station (called Circle K on the map). The gal behind the counter told me she had no clue why they were sending campers "that away." She told me to get back out on S.R. 46 and keep going west toward Nashville. I'd turn right at Seasons (an inn), follow that road up a hill past the fairgrounds until I come to a T (I'm already getting worried). That T would be Greasy Creek Road...take a right onto Greasy Creek Road (really? Greasy Creek Road? See Part 2) until you come to a Y (first a T and now a Y), and veer to the right. That road should take me to camp (coming in from behind on the correct road, Clay Lick Road).

I asked her to repeat the directions to me again, and then I got a pen and paper and wrote them down (after she repeated them a third time). The directions actually worked and I didn't spend nearly as much time trying to get there via Greasy Creek Road as I did on Salt Creek Road. Now that I'm back, I wanted to show you what Salt Creek Road was really like; but first, scroll back up and look at that nice straight Salt Creek Road. Now check out my approximation of Salt Creek Road below.

Salt Creek Road (the one they told me to take) looks more like the road I've marked with dashes here. It winds and winds and winds. I felt like I was on the coast of Maine. Look along SR 46 to the west and you'll see my actual route (marked with circles).

When I got to camp (now more than an hour late) of course no one was around (except Angie the director) because it seemed I was the only idiot who couldn't find my way there. I apologized and left asap because of course, Mary was embarassed and I think wanted me out of there fast. I decided I was going to go BACK the way they told me to come IN and find this intersection of Salt Creek Road and Gatesville Road. I found problem. If you'll look at the place I starred on the map....yep...uh huh...that's about the time I turned around and went all the way back to SR 46. I watched the odometer. It's about 6 miles from SR46 to Gatesville Road following Salt Creek Road. Yeah..yep...uh huh...I was about 5.5 or 5.75 miles north on Salt Creek Road. Sure 'nuff...if I had held out just another quarter of a mile or so, I would have come to the T.

After I took a second look at the map, I realized I should have known all along because whoever drew it, also shows Clay Lick Road (the normal route to camp) as a straight shot...NOT! Oh, by the way, when I finally did pull into camp from the north, the bridge that is right in the middle of camp is the one they are repairing, yes, but there was plenty of room on the other side to pull off and let Mary out. I could have taken the regular route anyway.

The story doesn't end here. Once I got back to SR 46 to head back east to Columbus, I got stuck in a long line of traffic...a complete stand still. I couldn't see far enough ahead to see what the hold up was, so I turned around and headed back toward Nashville and yep.....I WENT SHOPPING!!!! I got home around 6 p.m. this evening.

Part 2

To amuse myself through all of this, I just started being observant in and around Nashville and on my way home. I like to people watch, listen to conversations, and notice whatever I can for my writer's notebook. I just got to thinking about some of the names of things in southern Indiana. They really don't fit with the beauty of the surroundings. Between Columbus and Nashville you go through a place (which is a town I guess) called Gnaw Bone. Really...Gnaw Bone? What would it feel like saying on Jeopardy or Wheel of Fortune..."Yes, Alex (or Pat), I'm from Gnaw Bone, Indiana." There are also a lot of flea markets along the way, one of which is called Western 'Ho' kidding, that's what it's called...Western 'Ho'....I don't even want to know.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Un-Fourth of July

I decided to wait until the entire day was over before posting my thoughts on this Independence Day. I kept thinking maybe something exciting would happen. This July 4 really didn't feel like July 4 at all. For one thing, it rained most of the day, and was cool and dreary. It felt more like Labor Day. Erin is out of town, Caitlin is out of the country, Kelly was vegging at her apartment, and Mary was packing to go to camp on Sunday. We didn't go to Ed's brother's place in Michigan or his other brother's place in the Dunes. We just stayed home.

Ed and I were remembering the way we spent many Independence Days. From the time the girls were very small we typically would go to his brother's place in northern Indiana on Lake Michigan (Ogden Dunes). We'd walk to the beach and spend most of the day there. The first year with children, Caitlin would have only been six months old, the next year I would have had 18 month old Caitlin plus a five week old Kelly. Physically I was exhausted, handling a toddler and being the nursing mother of an infant. Ed was there of course, but babies have such a physical need for their mother. I spent more time at the house than on the beach those two years.

After the day at the beach, we'd walk back to the house and have a cookout and all the other chaos/fun that goes along with such a big family. Ed is one of seven siblings, plus a lot of aunts, uncles, and cousins live in the "region" so it just goes with the territory. So you can imagine...sand everywhere, sunburns, food on the grill, yard games, fireworks not only in the yard, but back at the beach, and of course....mosquitoes. Mosquitoes in the area of Lake Michigan seem far worse than the ones in central Indiana.

While these were amazingly fun times and we made a lot of memories, I also haven't forgotten how exhausted I was as a mother. Before we were finished, we added two more daughters, and if anyone has experienced more than two children, you know it suddenly becomes exponential. Three or four children feel more like six or eight children. Just the thought of how we packed, prepared food to contribute, and got together all the things you need when you have young children....well, it tires me to think about it. Of course we were all having our families at the time, so there were kids and babies everywhere.

Sometimes my now nearly grown daughters say "Mom, I don't know how you did it." When I think about it, neither do I. I guess that's because I have the memories, but I'm remembering in the context of now being 53 and I can't imagine doing it now. I usually tell the girls, "I just did what I needed to do," and I think that's the way it is for a mother. You love them beyond words. Instinct kicks in.

Being in the middle generation of three generations, I'm also aware of how my mother and mother-in-law seem to have forgotten all about the hard work. My mother-in-law in particular will frequently comment about the fact that I am always doing something (she's talking about now, not when I was busy with babies) and that I never sit down. When she says this I find it perplexing because I'm not doing anything stupendous. I'm usually filling the dishwasher, making a simple meal, etc., but to her it seems like a lot. My goodness, she raised seven children, without modern conveniences. I guess it's all relative. I'm just hoping I avoid feeling that way for as long as I can. I'd rather be 80 something and still active with my memory intact.

For now I remember fondly all the fun, and while looking at pictures of the girls when they were little makes me melancholy, I also remember the sheer physical exhaustion that goes along with being a mother. I remember it both ways, and that helps me to not be sad about my girls growing up because there are good things about it. We have so much fun together now, they affirm to me each and every day that I did a good job, and the most of the exhausting times are over. It is extremely rewarding to watch them develop into women and there is a real sense of pride thinking I had something to do with who they are.

So this year it was the Un-Fourth of July. About the most exciting thing that happened was comforting one of my dogs when she was hiding from the fireworks under the bed. I've decided that's really okay.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Book Smart People

Yesterday one of my daughters called me from the kitchen to say the dishwasher was leaking. I would consider this dishwasher new because we recently replaced the one that we purchased when building our house. When you are building a house, you try to cut every possible corner, and we didn't pick the highest grade of appliances. So I'm muttering a few choice things. I go to the kitchen and what I see is soap suds spewing out the sides of the dishwasher.

"Ok, who started the dishwasher?" It was another daughter who called from another room that she had.

"What soap did you put in it?"

"That liquid soap under the sink." (I'm thinking I didn't have any liquid dishwasher soap). I was right. I pulled out the bulk container of "dish" soap and asked her if that is what she used. By this time she had appeared in the kitchen (and I'm still trying to wrap my brain around the fact that someone besides me even started the dishwasher).

"Yes. That's what I've used before."

"No, it isn't. What you used before was liquid yes, but it was in a green bottle and it says 'Cascade' on the front."

In case you don't know, regular dish soap is made to produce a lot of suds. Dishwasher soap is absent that ingredient for the obvious reason. I wouldn't have known this except I remember the wife of one of Ed's law school buddies told us a similar story about her husband putting regular dish soap in the dishwasher and the mess it made. I really didn't grow up with a dishwasher, so might not have known that myself if I hadn't heard this story.

So, what is similar about these stories? Well, think about it. The man who did this to his wife was a law school graduate...he's smart. The daughter who did this to me graduated 13th in her class. She is going into the honors program at DePaul to study biology and chemistry, with possibly a minor in Spanish and/or Theater. She wants to maybe go to medical school. She just got a 4 in Calculus and a number of 3's in other areas on her AP exams and already has a good amount of college credit....she's smart.

There is another issue here. What does this say about me as a mother and how many times I've actually demanded that my daughter(s) do the dishes?

I'm now in the process of teaching her to do laundry, starting with the towels we used to sop up all the soapy hot water inside the dishwasher and all over the floor.

"But mom, this is clean water. Can't we just put the towels right in the dryer?"

Sleep and Other Things

What is it? What is it about that when you get a little older sleep doesn't come as easily, or even if you do get it, you still feel as if you hadn't any. For the last two or three days I have been so lacking of energy, felt like a zombie, and have wanted to do nothing but sit in a chair. Even when I do move, on top of feeling tired, my body hurts, my feet hurt...blah, blah, blah, whine, whine, whine.

Yesterday I talked to an acquaintance of mine and happened to ask...have you felt different the last couple of days, and I got a resounding yes as a response; so maybe it is the lack of sun, a change in the air pressure or something like that.

All I know is that I hate it, because summer just is so short and it is already July. I have a ton of house projects I want to get finished. I have house guests coming in just a few days, so that will motivate me to at least have things neat and cleaning looking (even if I know there are drawers and closets stuffed full). Following that we are heading to Florida for a week. After that I'll have to start getting ready to go back to school. Unbelievable. And I say this every year. It's just the way it is, and I have no control over the way it feels. Wish I did.

So I guess I'll go take a vitamin or something and stop whining. At least Ed took the dogs out this morning and the sun is shining. He's playing golf, so I can work on the things on my agenda, not his (and that's another story).

Thursday, July 2, 2009


I never stop learning new things about my children. Here are just a few. I can add more to the list later I'm sure.

One daughter nearly had another convinced she was adopted.

They used to hide behind the couch with an open container of cake frosting and spoons.

They used to pretend under the dining room table. That I knew, but I didn't know to what extent until recently when dusting the table legs I found numerous stickers on the underneath side of the table top. They are from years ago. Now you know how often I dust the table legs, or even if I do I rarely look up.

Even within the past few years, they managed to lose the location of an Easter egg. Even after the rotten smell reached its peak, I had trouble finding the source. Eventually I found an egg, dried up and past being odorous inside the chandelier hanging in the dining room.

On occasion one would decide to run away from home, pack a suitcase and head down to street with the intention of going to Mammaw's house (who lives much further than walking distance). I'd just let her head out (with a watchful eye). She came back because she was hungry.

I'm sure I'll continue discovering things and adding to this list.

The Paradoxicalness of Mother/Daughter Relationships

Number two daughter, number four daughter (the youngest) and I went to an R rated movie last night. There had been some discussion about whether mom would like this movie, especially by number three daughter who thought not. She I think wanted to protect my sensibilities.

I didn't really feel like going to a movie that was to start at 11 p.m. I had a bit of a headache and was tired. But being a mommy, and having been invited to a late movie by number two daughter who no longer lives at home, I wondered if perhaps she was restless and needed my company. Being the mommy I am, I agreed to go.

So I put on a half pot of coffee to get a cup in before arriving a half hour later at the theater, thinking I'd never stay awake. "Oh mom, this isn't a movie you could fall asleep to." The movie? Hangover. I laughed through the entire movie and all the way home. No worries number three daughter. I can't say I am always in the mood for that sort of movie, but my daughters have managed to include, or at least influence, their father and me to see such movies in the genre of Hangover, 40 Year Old Virgin, and Knocked Up. I can't say they are my favorite types of movies, and I can't say I'd see them without my daughters' influence, but what is the point of all this?

It's a surreal experience, a weird juxtaposition, a dichotomy. I'm not sure any word or phrase accurately describes what it feels like to view such a movie with someone I pushed out of my body and watched take the first breath of life. The same thoughts occur when we are in a bar or restaurant drinking a glass of wine with the two who are of age, or having one of them join my sister (their aunt), a former roommate of mine and me for a girls' night. While I can't really ever get past the strangeness of it, I celebrate that for now I am enthusiastically included. I'm not sure that will always be the case, and I'm flattered that they seem to enjoy my company and want me around. They talk to me about anything and everything.

When it comes to their father, it is even more strange and actually difficult for him. More often than going with the girls, Ed would see the movie with me separately at their encouragement. If they were with us, he would likely be covering his eyes or ears and not really see it. There is something inexplicably difficult for him to even be in the room with them when certain things are discussed (like women's natural body functions...the girls used to refer to it as "Aunt Martha visiting.") He'll squeeze his eyes shut, put his hands over his ears and drown out the discussion by singing loudly. But for now, I'm one of the girls, one of them, and I will bask in it for as long as it lasts.

I wonder what stage will come next; probably I'll be asked to babysit so the sisters can go out together. We aren't even close to that yet, but when it comes, I'm sure I'll enjoy that just as much.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

People Are Never What You Think

I just finished reading a biography of Stephen King, Haunted Heart, written by Lisa Rogak. I really only picked it up because I'm participating in my library's adult summer reading program which involves following a bingo list of various genres. It is managing to stretch me as a reader.

I was a huge fan back in the day of Carrie and The Shining, but fell away as King's novels became more gruesome and less "ghost story" to me. King is nothing like I, or my friends who were also fans, thought. We assumed he had to be a bit twisted to come up with his stories, and he sure looks that way; I discovered he has pretty much been labeled that way. After you read this biography his appearance becomes that of a gangly, goofy, and nerdy type of guy...a regular guy; he just happened to love horror films starting with the 50's classics and was writing stories for his classmates and his mother (who paid him a quarter for each one) at a very young age.

Except for the fact that his father literally went to the store to buy a pack of cigarettes and never came back, and aside from the fact that he did struggle with addiction for many years, he could live next door to you. As far as his writing goes, my inference after reading the bio is that he struggled a bit with not being as accepted into the "literary" circles as were other authors; but it seems he eventually gained that respect at least some of the time.

He was prolific no doubt, and I remember losing respect for him when he published book after book after book. Apparently, he really was just a writer whose work just naturally poured out of him. It was his process. Achieving financial success had to have been a great thing for him and thus his wife (who is also an author), and his three kids (two of whom are writers), after the life of extreme poverty he himself endured as a youngster. There were a number of times when he appeared and was paid, and gave the money right back; or published something new, only to give the proceeds to charity. He was a dad who coached his son's baseball team, and he gave the money to build a nice place for them to play in Maine where they live (part of the time).

He has a great sense of humor even in the midst of the macabre. I think that comes out in his stories...and you have to respect his story telling ability and imagination even if you don't like horror (which by the way isn't the only thing he writes). One of the funniest moments in Haunted Heart is when he is recuperating from the accident which nearly killed him; the nurses on duty were strictly told NOT to make any Misery jokes as he lay in bed waiting for his severely damaged leg to heal.

Reading about him also reminded me of my feelings about how middle Americans aren't really heard (previous post). He was someone who protested the Vietnam War which at the time was a rebelious thing to do, yet all along he has had rather conservative values in some ways. His daughter is a lesbian, yet his conservative side obviously didn't interfere with his acceptance of her. He isn't one of those conservatives. One of my favorite things he said is in reference to God.

"The idea of using God as a character in Desperation was the engine that made the book go. While I don't see myself as God's stenographer, He's always been in my books. It depends on the people I'm writing about. So I thought, what if I treat God and the accoutrements of God with as much belief, awe, and detail as I have treated evil. Some people say the God stuff really turns them off, but these guys have had no problems with vampires, demons, golems, and werewolves in the past. I've always believed in God. I also think that the capacity to believe is the sort of thing that either comes as part of your equipment, or at some point in your life when you're in a position where you actually need help from a power greater than yourself, you simply make an agreement to believe in God because it will make your life easier and richer to believe than not to believe. So I choose to believe."

I'm now inspired to go back and try many (and there is a lot) of the things I've missed from him, as well as try some of the things his wife and sons have also produced.