Monday, September 28, 2009

goodbye cottage

We said goodbye for a few months... to our cottage in northern Michigan. More than a building or a place, it's where our lives slow down.

No television blaring or microwave beeping. Just wind and waves and dishes piled in an old ceramic sink. It's sipping coffee while wrapped in a blanket and reading God's Word in the early morning. It's getting to know the hardy people who live there year-round. It's satisfaction in the physical work of preparing our little place for winter.

Goodbye docks.

And goodbye rocks.

Goodbye to painting

and painting

and painting some more.

And goodbye to campfires by the shore.

Goodbye boathouse, closed up tight.

Goodbye to lovely, quiet nights.

Goodbye to the sweetness of friends together,

goodbye to incredible Great Lakes weather.

Goodbye lighthouses, strong and tall.

Goodbye to birches welcoming fall.

Goodbye. We'll see you next year.

(Yes, I am inspired by Margaret Wise Brown's Goodnight Moon ... one of my favorite children's books...even though rhyming poetry isn't my favorite!)

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

a fine little fair

Local readers know all about "the fair." THE event of the year in Delaware, Ohio: The Delaware County Fair. Not only does it encompass the typical kids' 4H projects, prize pumpkins, steers and quilts, it's home of the Little Brown Jug, harness racing's equivalent of the Kentucky Derby. This Thursday, 50,000 race fans will descend on our little town!

Our fair gives me a perfect portion of fair life every year. Phooey: forget the Ohio State Fair, a mammoth August event just south of us. We took our four kids one year. ONE year. It left my head spinning.

Since our fair is within walking distance of our house, we can pop over every evening if it suits us. Which it usually doesn't. But I say, "oh, I'm not going to the fair." Then the race announcer's voice drifts through our windows, or I catch a whiff of corn dogs, and I want to skittle over to join the fun. And to nuzzle the horses.

If you're ever in central Ohio the third week in September, stop in. To a fine little fair.

(Cool fair photography by Katie Haller)

Sunday, September 20, 2009

93 years young

This post is exactly one year old. And I count that as a blessing! Enjoy ...

photo by Katie Haller

Isn't this the most marvelous photo? It says many things: the love three grandsons have for their grandma. The playful, affectionate nature of their relationship. Grandma is obviously tickled by these three towering grandsons. Her youthful spirit pours forth.

Elizabeth Haller. Born September 20, 1916. She hates most vegetables but loves most desserts. She loves the Cleveland Indians & Browns and watches a myriad of sports on TV.

Most people she meets cannot believe she is (today) 93. Why? It's her youthful spirit and attitude toward life. She's interested in others and loves to laugh. She's giving and meets each day gracefully, with whatever God hands her.

We would all do well to emulate her, whatever our age.

Happy 93rd birthday to my dear mother-in-love!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

a whirl of words

These are but wild and whirling words.
- Shakespeare, from Hamlet

As expected of a writer, I've always been a lover of words. Reading words. Learning new words. Crafting words. I taught my small children to speak their needs, not whine them. Words will fascinate me, I am sure, for life.

How pathetic that I never fully appreciated the power and privilege of the spoken word. Until now.

This year I've been humbled to experience something new: children who struggle to find even one word to express themselves. Children whose mental capacities delay their progress in speech and other areas of life.

Imagine being five years old and lacking the means to tell your mother that you are hot, cold, sick, tired, hungry or just plain bored. Your peers sprint ahead of you playing t-ball, learning math, and chatting on the playground. You want to, but most of the time you cannot join them at their level. Sometimes your frustration boils into tears and tantrums.

Still, your strong and noble family loves you for who you are and your many successes. Your huge efforts with a smile to match inspire me mightily. Each hour I spend with you, helping you work at finding words, makes me realize that I never knew the meaning of frustration as a mother.

I could talk all day about what you're teaching me and how much I admire you.

But really, you leave me at a loss for words.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

bumpy blogging

I've made three false starts on a post this week, none of which were completed. I type at my desk. I move to the porch. Then to my daughter's empty bedroom because I love her bed by the window. But the words don't flow. Madly frustrating.

Maybe I need to go here for creative inspiration ...

But there could, maybe, possibly be a guest blogger this week.

Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

self-imposed exile

Something's wrong with our dog, Ellie. I mean in her head.

About a year ago I bought a long-handled wool duster for those hard-to-reach places. Alas, it's super handy for dusting just about everything from baseboards to picture frames.

Well, Ellie doesn't get along with the duster one bit. In fact, she high-tails it whenever I pull it out.

We're stumped. I've tried looking at this from Ellie's viewpoint.

"Acccckkkkk!" she thinks. "There's that opossum that scared me the night I found my way to the humane shelter.... I'm outta here!"

Or, "ooooh, I'm sure that's the cat who scratched my nose a long time ago. I'm not taking chances!"

The color and size of the duster does strongly resemble a opossum. But for crying out loud, a 50-pound dog running from a wool duster??

Not only is Ellie terrified when she sees my duster, it seems to traumatize her for the rest of the day. In our backyard is a zip wire which is one of Ellie's potty methods. She typically will potty and come right back in. Yesterday she spent over two hours out on that leash, sleeping on the patio. I know it's the thought of the dreaded duster that keeps her outside.

Jeesh. Dogs!

Friday, September 11, 2009


Today I am remembering the events of eight years ago this day. Isn't it strange that today's elementary kids are too young to remember? I was homeschooling my daughter Katie, then age 11, when news of the attacks broke.

Later, I watched, dumbfounded, as the twin towers fell to a terrible, flaming heap in Manhattan.

As my own three sons reached young manhood, it struck me that countless other mothers have lost their own sons for my freedoms. I think that's when my heart became most thankful for these sacrifices.

I'm reflecting and giving thanks today for the men and women who sacrificed their lives on 9.11.01. I'm thankful for the strength and valor of the U.S. military, the families who support them, and all the other helping professions such as firefighters and police who have chosen to protect us all.

Monday, September 7, 2009

killing time and eating ice cream

Our Sunday bike ride began without a camera. I immediately bemoaned the situation with each bend in the road. We drove for nearly an hour to reach a rail-to-trail we'd never before ridden.

Bill said, "ok, state your case, then forget it."

So I'd say, "oh, that would make a great you-know-what. I wish I had my you-know-what." And we laughed.

We planned to bike Butler to Bellville, Ohio: a ten-mile round trip. There was reported to be an ice cream shop right beside the trail in Bellville. A good thing!

Ohio is blessed with a growing number of rail-to-trail bike paths. I love to ride them and imagine the people of years gone by who rode the trains of these same routes. Winding through farmland, along streams and through small towns, the trails are peaceful and scenic.

Nearly four miles out, I glanced at Bill's rear tire. Hmmmm. Looking low. In fact, looking nearly flat.

"Uh, your tire looks low," I called.
"It does?"

"Really low." Sometimes a wife treads carefully in matters of mechanics. I figured he'd KNOW if it was flat, and I needn't point it out to him.

"You might want to check it," I called.

And so he did. It was indeed flat, and two rounds of pumping didn't fix it. We walked/rode on to Bellville, parking by the 100-year-old train station and found the ice cream shop.

The Buckeye Blitz waffle cone was out of this world, and worth pushing a bike with a flat. And well worth dripping chocolate on my white shirt, too.

Even though three other bikers offered to repair the tire, we decided to have Bill ride back to Butler on my bike, get the car and come fetch me.

In a life accustomed to clock-watching and rushing around, my 45- minute wait seemed long. The sun was hot, my water getting warm.

Then. I relaxed on a bench. I watched all manner of bikers come and go. Families. Retirees. Serious bikers in training. Slow, leisurely bikers. All enjoying a Sunday afternoon through the Ohio countryside.

One family stopped near me for a break.
"We'll be having dinner soon; he shouldn't have ice cream," the mother said of her son.
"Oh, who cares; let him have ice cream," answered the dad.

I thought, yeah, let him eat ice cream. It's Sunday and lots of calories are being burned on that bike. Let the kid eat Buckeye Blitz as it drips down his arms onto his t-shirt. He'll remember this day for a long time.

But then, I would have said the same thing as a young mom. Always so serious about nutrition and stuff.

Soon Bill showed up with the van.

And my short 45 minutes were up.

Friday, September 4, 2009

self check-out

Oh how the self check-out line befuddles me. I love it. Then I hate it. Am I the only one?

When the self check-out made its debut, I still had kids at home. The technology intimidated me at first, but surely if I had a young teenager with me, all would go well.

So. In Meijer, I forged into their self check-out. Questions, questions. English or Spanish? Cash or credit? Gracious, the kids bombard me with questions all day. I don't need more. Then came, "do you have any coupons?"

"No," I answered dutifully.
"Mom, the machine can't hear you!" my mortified son admonished.

Oh. Of course not. I knew that.

Then today. In Kroger. Only one regular lane was open, with a long line of customers bearing bulging carts.

Ah ha! Self-check-out. I scurry over and make eye contact with the self check-out employee because I know absolutely, without a doubt, that I'll need her. So why is it called self check-out? I ask you.

I smile, nod, and say, "I know I'm going to need you!"

I'm beginning to perceive that gray hair has its perks ... I think gray hair alerts store employees: ALERT! OLD, HELPLESS PERSON! COME TO HER RESCUE! Ha, ha. I love it. Because they always come to my rescue in the self check-out.

But I do try to follow the program.

"Look up item and click done." Click.
"Click number of items." Three. Avocados. Click.

ACK! Would someone please tell me why the avocados must be weighed if I'm buying them by NUMBER, not WEIGHT??

I think I should stick to the regular, old-fashioned check-out lane that's worked just fine ever since grocery stores began.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

sand: the big deal

Yesterday I spent an hour at a park with a little friend of mine. We had a fun time. My little guy has a favorite slide, a favorite swing ... and usually enjoys digging in the sand pit.

My mind wandered back a few years, when we set up a sandbox in our backyard. It provided hours and hours of pouring, building, creating, and social interaction for my kids. When they'd had enough, they stood on the deck, removed their shoes and socks (if they even wore them that day) and got a good brush-down from mom. If any sand made its way to their hair, a good bath took care of it. I loved how the kids were occupied and entertained in the sand.

Apparently, other parents don't share my enthusiasm for sand.

No less than three parents rushed to 'rescue' their children yesterday from the sand pit.

"Oh, you'll get dirty!"
"Your shoes will have sand in them! You don't want THAT, do you?"

Maybe it has something to do with cats using sand as a potty, but gracious, you'd think the child was drinking toilet bowl cleaner.

Kids love to get down and dirty. It's how they learn. The benefits of sand play far outweigh the mess.

And last I checked, kids are thoroughly washable.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Happy Birthday, Mom

story time - 1960

I wrote this post one year ago today. Call it recycling ... but with a few edits I decided it's all worth repeating.

Today is my mom's 84th birthday. Born September 1, 1925, she died thirty years ago.

My mom had maybe the best sense of humor of anyone I've ever known. As a child, I loved to laugh with her. So I laugh a lot with my kids. I think people with no sense of humor are missing out.

Mom loved the unlovable, like the mentally disabled (and unpopular) girl she welcomed into our Girl Scout troop. So I try to be accepting of all people.

My mom knew without a doubt that God exists. She pointed this out to me when I was a teenager and questioning myself and the purpose of life. So I introduced my children to the creator of the universe.

My mom pretty much hated housecleaning. So I have followed suit.

Along the same lines, my mom secretly admired a relative she never met: "Aunt Betty," who was the scourge of the family for PLAYING THE PIANO DURING THE DAY INSTEAD OF DOING HER HOUSEWORK. So I look for fun pursuits in order to avoid housework.

My mom used to yell at us four kids. Unfortunately, I have yelled at my four kids, too. It usually didn't get the desired results.

One of my mom's favorite summer pastimes was taking us swimming at the town lake and "beach." So, I spent countless hours taking my kids swimming. (good for avoiding housework.)

She made the best southern fried chicken. I don't, but I'm sure I could make some since I spent many a dinner hour watching my mom fry chicken.

My mom embraced most new experiences with gusto: moving far away from her hometown, discovering the ocean, camping, road trips, hikes in the woods, welcoming new neighbors, ice skating and color TV. So I have tried to do the same because I think it's a good way to open kids' eyes and hearts to the world and people around them.

I'd say my mom was brave and I think I am, too, most of the time. I'd rather be a brave girl than a scared and cowardly girl.

Mom loved my dad. She found ways to express her lifelong commitment. So I learned what committed marriage meant, imperfect as it was.

My mom loved being a mom. I see this now but probably didn't then. Kids don't get that kind of stuff. Motherhood is the best job - and sometimes the worst - ever. And it's not even a job. It's like becoming a new person as you nuture new little persons.

Mom was excited about being a grandmother, but she didn't live long enough. Barring imminent catastrophe, it's looking like I will see grandmotherhood.

My mom didn't want a lot of stuff. Though she might have had some unrealized dreams, she was content with who, what and where she was. I strive for this, but don't always succeed.

I'm thinking of the best birthday gift I could give my mom and I've decided what she'd like. I will honor her legacy by loving life, my husband and children. And being content. Recognizing God is God. I think mom would like for me to forget the dog hair in the hall and instead walk the dog in the woods. To talk less and listen more. To read more books. She was a voracious reader.

She'd want me to love her grandchildren for her. So today, David, Dan, Mark, Katie, Jenny and Jill: know that I love you! Sometimes, the need to express this has unbearable urgency. I hope I've mothered - not smothered - you. Maybe, just maybe, God saved mom's unused love for me to pass on to you. So pardon me if I give too much.

And that's my happy birthday to mom.