Friday, April 30, 2010

in the garden

White coral bells upon a slender stalk.
Lily-of-the-valley deck my garden walk!

I remember this little song from earliest childhood.
Mom sang it as a lullaby as I drifted off to sleep.

But it would be many years before I'd come to appreciate
the delicate beauty of lily-of-the-valley,
when my new daughter-in-love, Jenny, re-introduced them to me.
We transplanted some in my shade garden
three years ago. They are right at home there.

Thank you, Jenny!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010


There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

My sons Dan (2) and David (3)
having lunch in 1987.

Uncle Dave, holding Ari,
and daddy Dan, 2010.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

consider the clothespin

Ah, the clothespin: where would I be without it?

Have you ever been in someone else's home and marveled at the doo-hickies they use that you don't? And vice versa? So it is with clothespins. It seems that few people use them anymore. Or am I mistaken?

My most frequent use of clothespins occurs in the kitchen. We keep a stash of them for sealing bags of tortilla chips and pretzels. Those over-sized, awkward chip clips just won't do. The tension on those things is utterly pathetic. Of course our clothespins are put into service hanging wet rags and rubber gloves, too.

For the first five years of married life, I used clothespins for their intended purpose because we didn't have a clothes dryer in Florida. If we still lived in a sunnier, drier climate, I would still hang clothes outside to dry. It's a spiritual experience if you ask me.

In a pinch, I've used a clothespin instead of a paper clip, particularly on large stacks of paper.

In our family, we devised a game that is probably the dumbest ever; really more of a prank. The victim is anyone wearing a hooded sweatshirt. Over the course of an evening, the prankster clips as many clothespins on the victim's hood as possible without being discovered. This is a more sophisticated version of sticking a sign that says "kick me" on someone's back. Everyone except the victim knows what's going on. We've had some good laughs from it.

It seems to me that we used clothespins once for a tie-dying project, but I'm not certain.

As kids we derived hours of entertainment by clothes-pinning baseball cards on the spokes of our bikes. "Wackety-wack-wackety-wack" they went as we rode up and down our street. A really cool sound effect!

Thank you, Mr. David M. Smith of Springfield, Vermont, who in 1853 invented this functional wonder. You are a clever man. Surely your wife was elated that at last she could easily 'peg' the laundry out in the cool New England breeze!

How do you use clothespins? And if you have none, I recommend you pick up a bag, only about $2, and greatly improve your quality of life.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

my gray is here to stay

I'm going gray. I mean I've gone gray. Way gray. But when I look around, I see a lot of beautiful dye jobs on women my age, and a lot of gray roots, too.

"I'm gonna wash that gray right outta my hair." This peppy little jingle from 1985 seemed to turn 'gray' into a four-letter word. Clairol told us that gray was terribly, obviously undesirable. See a few strands? Wash them out!

In the last forty years, it seems to me, our culture became one of youth-is-best, advertisers instructing us to reverse the natural progression of aging. I remember an advertising class in college, impressed by "bandwagon" advertising in which the advertiser convinces consumers that "everyone's doing it, so you should, too."

I was amused at an article in the paper the other day: "Wash away touch of gray? No way!" Apparently the young and chic are showing off "gray lights" and "skunk streaks" as the hippest of fashion statements and breaking a fashion taboo. The likes of Kate Moss, Daphne Guinness (an apparent trend-setter), Pink, and American Idol's Siobhan Mangus have all caused a sensation by going gray.

Well, maybe I'm chic after all. Whew, what a relief!

I think what really drives my gray-all-the-way attitude is laziness. Had I begun covering the gray when the first ones appeared 20 years ago, well, the investment of time and money would be staggering. And had I decided mid-stream to cease with the dye, I can only imagine the weird patchwork of colors as it all grew out. The notion of regular dye jobs seems so ... tiresome.

Ok, I'm a rebel. And gray. My gray is here to stay.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.
Proverbs 16:31

Friday, April 16, 2010

don't poison the in-laws

Sadly, middle age has set in. While I find many satisfactory aspects of growing older, the one that trips me up is my eyesight.

Today it dawned on me, probably a few weeks too late, to sprinkle that pre-emergent weed-preventer stuff under our pine trees. Darn those weeds beat and confound me every year.

It was after the sprinkling that I glanced at the label to see if I'd done it correctly. I learned this from my mother: "when all else fails, read the directions," she used to say, and always with a self-indulgent chuckle.

And there on the label, I'm not kidding, I saw:

"Not for use on in-laws."

On closer inspection, of course, I realized it really said,

"Not for use on lawns."

Which is way more sensible. But a lot less humorous.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

happy birthday, little bro'

For the procrastinators, April 15 looms large: tax day! And 98 years ago today, the world's newest ocean liner met its final, frigid fate in the north Atlantic, taking more than 1500 lives with her.

But it's also my younger brother's birthday. Mark is turning 53 today.

While I was only two and don't remember his arrival, our mom told the story that when she brought my pacifier-sucking newborn brother into the house, I immediately threw my pacifier in the trash. I love that story. Even though Mark's now a husband and father, I still think of him as my little brother.

Mark was - and is - as compliant and agreeable as I was bossy. An early memory involves stuffed animals and a hall closet. I dragged Mark through endless games, shoving the poor kid in the closet and ordering him to stand guard over our stuffed animals. He cheerfully complied, never questioning my authority.

One day at lunchtime mom perched us on tall stools to eat our lunch. Mark lost his balance and crashed to the floor, the leg of the stool puncturing his chin. My job was to hold a cloth diaper to his bleeding chin on the ride to the hospital. A little queasy, I put up a brave front as the dutiful big sister. It might have been the only time I was his servant rather than the reverse.

Because of his innate goodness, Mark overlooks the failures of others, including his bossy big sister. He has endured heartache in his life but manages to navigate the rough waters, patiently looking for the sun and smoother sailing.

Sunny skies and a happy birthday, Mark!

Monday, April 12, 2010

to spank, or not

Oh, thank goodness. I see that the "experts" have corrected me by revealing their scientific findings about spanking. I did it all wrong. I spanked. And I should have incorrigible, aggressive offspring as proof.


The folks at Tulane University and the American Academy of Pediatrics have the perfect discipline plan: time-outs. Simply place the child in time-out* and after a time he will realize the error of his ways and change his behavior. I am sorry, but time-outs don't work with all children any more than spanking works or is necessary with all children. At least two of my children loved nothing better than to be in their rooms. All day? All the better!

Alright. I agree it's a bad idea to spank in anger. And honestly, I sometimes did spank in anger. I yelled in anger and even slammed doors in anger. Not proud of that. But by golly our kids knew where we stood and did not rule the house. They were also loved, accepted, shown grace and forgiven. To me, discipline means to disciple a child .... to show him the way to go so that once he's grown he'll have standards by which to live. (My paraphrase: see Proverbs 22:6.) And that can include intentional, non-abusive spanking for willful disobedience. I preferred to call it "clearing the air."

I don't even agree with spanking during a tantrum, only escalating the fury. I recall dealing with only one temper tantrum in public, and found an effective way to end it without touching my child. So I'm not all about spanking frequently.

I suppose the experts are in a corner. If they say spanking's ok, then it gives license to the crazy parents who carry punishment too far and physically abuse their children. So the experts have no choice but to criticize all spankers and say any spanking is bad.

I realize this is a hot issue, and I have friends who disagree with my apparently unpopular position. I don't criticize anyone for choosing not to spank. But if all spanking is so ineffective and damaging, would someone please explain how it is that our children turned out quite well? And generations of other children?

What's your take on spanking? And if you're one of my children commenting,  remember: you're not too big to spank.

* Come to think about it, the most effective time-outs were when I put MYSELF in one when the kids were misbehaving.

Friday, April 9, 2010

the Richeys' bricks

Keith and Dorothy Richey, a lovely retired couple, live down at the corner. They've lived there as long as I can remember. If they moved in after we did, I don't recall, as I was busy changing diapers and making dinner.

The Richeys' corner just so happens to be a bus stop for the public school kids. When my kids were in school, that corner resembled a school playground every morning. Girls giggling and generally behaving well, and boys, well, being boys. Smacking each other with book bags. Yelling and whooping as boys do. Pushing - and yes I witnessed this - each other into the street. The other thing the kids did was to hold onto the street sign pole and mindlessly run around and around like hamsters on a wheel. This activity effectively killed a circle of grass there on the Richeys' corner. I'd remind my own children to refrain from this, because it was someone's yard, but seeing as how most kids suffer from amnesia and/or hearing loss, the spinning continued.

One day I saw Keith and Dorothy out by the street sign. Oh, dear: they're trying to plant more grass on that sad spot. But no.

The Richeys had assembled a small pile of bricks and were fitting them together on the ground around the pole. They fashioned a neat miniature "patio" for the kids to pound their careless little feet upon.

No calling parents. No fist-shaking. No yelling. No threats. Just a simple solution that conveyed an understanding of kids and a love-your-neighbor attitude. And it told this parent "it's no big deal."

All these years later, the bricks remain. And every time I pass, I think of how some people have it right in life. The Richeys know what's important and what's not. They showed that getting on a high horse about little stuff like dead grass is a waste of time. They cared more about children and being a good neighbor than their lawn.

Thank you, Richeys. I want to be like you, off my high horse.

Note: as I was taking photos of their bricks, Dorothy stuck her head out the door. "Whatcha doing, Barb?" And so we chatted and I met their new puppy, Dawn.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

yard puttering, 2010

This crazy Ohio weather. Within a week of a two-inch snowfall, the thermometer hit the 70's. Now I've worn shorts and flip flops all weekend. Winter jumped to summer with only a snippet of spring.

I suppose all this weather talk gets tiresome to some. Truth be told, I've posted 18 times on the weather, ranking ahead of my husband! Sorry about that, honey. But after slogging and shoveling through our 80-some inches of snow this winter, warm weather is a noteworthy event. And it's not completely out of the realm of possibility that we could see more snow this month, horrific as that sounds.

Last year I posted on yard puttering. Season after season, I love yard puttering.

Perhaps with the birth of my granddaughter this year, I'm extra-attuned to new life. So delicious! I LOOK for things to do outside for the sheer joy of welcoming spring. I notice the temperature, the earthy smells, bird choruses and the tender, delightful green shoots peeking through last year's leaves.

Inside pursuits suddenly seem dreadfully uninteresting. My neighbors, I am sure, notice me loitering about the yard, not doing very much at all.

Camera in hand, I squat amidst the leaves and shrubbery and snap evidence of new life. I feel a little silly, but also energized.

We were just in the south, where buds and blooms seem to charge out of the ground in early spring. Here, we patiently wait while new growth must be coaxed, oh so slowly from the ground.

A worthy wait!

Saturday, April 3, 2010

ready for Easter

This is the first year in many that I haven't colored eggs with kids or bought chocolate or searched the basement for baskets. It's a stripped-down Easter. Without all the trappings, I am forced to either go through the motions of a go-to-church-then-have-dinner Easter, or search my heart for the de-bunnied truth of this event. 

Over the past couple of weeks I've been challenged to renew my complete reliance on God. I've been stretched to the pitiful end of myself, reminded by God that obedience of him is the only way to peace. Over and over, he's orchestrated circumstances and conversations to present himself to me as the loving, attentive, sovereign, hope-giving, solid, one true God.

I am thankful to forget about bunnies, baskets and jelly beans. They are - and I rarely use this word - stupid in the big Easter picture. Instead, I cling to the God who sacrificed his one son (I'd never do that, no way) for me, for all of us. And then, kept his promise by defeating death. (Luke 24:1-12)

Chris Tomlin sings a powerful song about what God did and who he is and what it means for every human being, especially in the trials of life. Tomlin reminds me that God isn't an item on the smorgasbord of life that I can sample now and then. God's the main course. In fact, He's everything: good for everyone, cares about everyone, desires everyone to know Him, not just know about Him. I hope you do. Or will very soon.

A happy and meaningful Easter, jelly beans or not.

I Will Rise
by Chris Tomlin

There's a peace I've come to know
Though my heart and flesh may fail
There's an anchor for my soul
I can say "It is well"

Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead


And I will rise when He calls my name
No more sorrow, no more pain
I will rise on eagles' wings
Before my God fall on my knees
And rise
I will rise

There's a day that's drawing near
When this darkness breaks to light
And the shadows disappear
And my faith shall be my eyes
Jesus has overcome
And the grave is overwhelmed
The victory is won
He is risen from the dead


And I hear the voice of many angels sing,
"Worthy is the Lamb"
And I hear the cry of every longing heart,
"Worthy is the Lamb"


Thursday, April 1, 2010

April fooling

I couldn't come up with some wild, wonderfully believable April Fool's joke to post, so I am sharing some I remember from years past.

One morning, as a teen, my brother Pat came running upstairs yelling, "the basement's flooded!" His bedroom, most of our toys, our TV room and the laundry were all in the basement and our mother lived in fear of having to mop it all in the event of a flood. Just as she fell for it he said, "April Fool!"

I still boast of the year I 'got' all my kids in a simple prank. On occasion, deer would wander from the woods into our front yard. It was a most exciting event. So one April first, I went to the living room windows and hollered, "deer out front!" All four kids came trotting in. As they rounded the corner I said, "oh, they've run to the back!" And the children scampered to the back of the house, hoping to catch sight of the deer. By the time I fooled them into running to the front again, I squealed, "April fool!" and laughed hysterically.

Well, I just got my husband Bill. I went up to the washer, pulling the knob in and out and hollered, "great, the washer's not coming on!" And I snapped the knob a few more times for drama.

"What?" He bit. "I'll go down and check the circuits." After a few minutes of his rumbling around the basement, I tiptoed down.

"Find anything?" I asked.
"No," he was none too happy.
"Have you checked the calendar?"
"Huh?" Still clueless.
"It's April Fool's day!"

What April Fool's jokes do you remember, either as the fooled or the fooler?