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


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


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


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.