Tuesday, August 31, 2010

to school and back

Hi ho, hi ho, off to Indiana we go. Or went. It dawned on me that we've packed kids off to college a total of 15 times in nine years. What an outlandish load of clothes and shoes, shampoo and toothpaste, books and crammed-full crates.

It's typically 90 degrees or higher every move-in day and this one was no exception. Katie and I get silly on these drives. We sing. We laugh a LOT. We take pictures. She would want you to know these are NOT HER sunglasses.

Katie's cute red-headed roommate, Maria, welcomed us warmly.
Well, how else would she welcome us?
 To reiterate: it  was over 90 degrees and their dorm has no air conditioning.
Don't they look like big-girl juniors? Cuz they are.
(I kind of wish I could live in a dorm again.)

It's always a little hard to leave my girl; I get a little twinge of mom sadness, but my pragmatic husband reminds me how much she loves Taylor U and will have a great year. Alright, ok, I'll quit being sad. See? She's not sad!

We left campus in Upland, Indiana (pop. 3900 plus dogs, cows and horses) and headed east over even less-populated roads. Following a detour, we found ourself on "Road 600 North" in eastern Indiana. Rising in the distance sat this building, which I guessed to be an old schoolhouse-turned-barn judging by the newer sliding metal door.
And I got to thinking.

If it was indeed a school say, 120 years ago, what boys and girls attended?
How far did they walk to school? Where did their teacher live?
Do their great-great-grandchildren still farm this land?

They were farm children, raised on a land that still produces corn and soybeans. 
Every time I drive here, I am awed by such simple beauty of the tidy farms.

Did any of the students from this school go to college
and maybe end up in Chicago as an attorney or doctor?
Or did they follow the life path of their parents, working the land?

Don't know why I wonder about very old places
people I never knew whose lives have been lived
whether the children minded walking two miles to school
what their mothers packed for lunch in their metal pails.
if they wondered
if another mother might drive by their school
in 100 years
and think about them.
But I do.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Comet disclaimer

A reader has brought it to my attention that Comet can and does scratch and, obviously, bleach towels and clothing. Agreed. I generally do not scrub the shower with Comet ... but rather let it do its work undisturbed.

The reader recommends Barkeepers Friend as an alternative.

Thanks for reading!

Saturday, August 28, 2010

things Mom never taught me

Hallelujah glory be! After 32 years I finally discovered how to clean the shower floor. Pretty much by accident. Born of desperation, my method works sparklingly well.

Forget the battery-operated rotating shower sprays. This isn't a shared chore. My hubby plays the "I can't see in there without my glasses" card and so finally I get serious and say to myself, what would clean most effectively with the least effort on my part?

Comet, friends. COMET! After showering, I sprinkle the miracle bleachy-powder liberally on the shower floor. Spread around lightly with a scrub brush until it turns blue, all over the floor and up the cruddy edges.

Forget it til the next day. Use a scrub brush to (I'm not making this up) just loosen the globs, and rinse. You won't believe it. I didn't. I still don't. For huge build-ups, do it over and over.

My shower floor sparkles! Well, as nearly as a shower floor can sparkle. And what do you know, my scrub brush is dazzling white, too!

Now, you scientists or plumbers ... don't tell me that Comet will damage the drain or pipes. I don't really care. My shower is clean!

Mom also never taught me how to cut into an avocado, though I seriously doubt that an avocado every entered her kitchen. My daughter-in-love Jenny taught me this one. Instead of tediously peeling it (oh, duh), you cut through to the pit once all the way around, then twist apart as you would an Oreo. Scoop out pit and pulp. Yum and easy.

If Mom ever held peach pie-making class, I was absent. Never have made one, and it's my favorite. Tonight I enjoyed peach pie made by my daughter-in-love Jill: fabulous! Now she'll have to teach me.

Mom taught me a lot, but she missed a few. What has life taught you that your mom didn't?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

about August

August has me a little disconcerted.
It demands so much letting go.
I might have worn my swimsuit for the last time.
And I've just about given up watering my flowers.
Grilling out has lost its appeal.
On August nights the whir of cicadas and creaking of crickets
re-creates a tiny childhood panic: school around the corner.
Which I hated. Loved learning, but hated school.
Some of you will understand that.

As happened today, the summer heat begins to fade
and in skips a cool hint of autumn.
In about six weeks, I will enjoy walks in the woods like this ...

That will be mighty nice.

These days I'm not headed to school.
But our daughter, the youngest, will soon head to college.
Embarrassingly, I hang around her room,
curling up on her bed to read while she works and packs.
Holding on to her, to summer.
Does any other mother do this?
Before me lies autumn, my sabbatical-like season of
reading and writing.
But no arithmetic.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

back to school

back to school -1993

Goodness, it seems the whole world is starting school today. Oh, how I remember! Fill out reams of forms quadruple times, pack lunches, get haircuts, meet the teachers ahead of time (wouldn't they see them for the next 180 days?) and ... SHOP FOR SCHOOL SUPPLIES. After several years of this maddening exercise with four children clutching their lists and hollering at me, I finally learned to take just one or two children at a time to Wal-mart.

Countless memories of the school years come flooding back as I hear other, younger moms celebrating/lamenting the start of school. My biggest challenge was the homework ... helping/encouraging/monitoring my four little students. Don't miss that.

For years I participated in Moms in Touch, praying with other moms for our kids, their teachers and schools, and for children who have no one to pray for them. A powerful experience.

Today my son Dan begins his fourth year teaching fourth grade. He's in a new school with new co-workers, new students and schedule. We helped him set up his bright and roomy classroom. I hope and pray he and his students have a fantastic year. But I'm thankful I don't have to help him with homework!

Monday, August 23, 2010


You feel it the minute you step inside the gates. All who have come here before—Thomas Edison, Thurgood Marshall, Franklin Roosevelt, Susan B. Anthony, Helen Keller, Margaret Mead, Al Gore, Ken Burns, Bill Cosby [and countless others]: their presence is in this place. Their words, art, conversation, and passion linger in the air, the buildings, the landscape.*

Tucked beside Chautauqua Lake in the hills of western New York lies Chautauqua Institution, a unique summer community dedicated to spiritual growth, music, literature and the arts.  Founded in 1874 as the Chautauqua Lake Sunday School Assembly, it soon expanded beyond courses for Sunday school teachers to include academic subjects, music, art and physical education.*

Bill and I had the pleasure of a too-brief visit to Chautauqua over the weekend. Our dear friends Steve and Grace have spent the past two summers working, living and enjoying life at Chautauqua. So we went to check it out.

We found that Chautauqua holds reminders of the past ...

... and also is fully committed to today's people, ideas and issues.
(this amphitheatre holds 5,000 for daily worship, music and lectures.)

I absolutely loved the pace, the spirit, the quiet and
unassuming beauty of Chautauqua.

[Jenny, this photo is for you ...
next summer, one week's theme will be women!]

For those looking for an experience rather than amusement on vacation,
Chautauqua certainly fits the bill.
(thank you, Steve and Grace!)

* Some text and photograph from http://www.ciweb.org/, Chautauqua's website.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

tooth troubles?

Dear Ari,
What's this about your teeth causing such trouble?
Mom says you raised quite a fuss.
But while we visited, you rarely let out a peep.

photo by Jenny Haller

Why, you were charming at the Mexican restaurant ...

... showing off your new talent for drinking through a straw.

Mommy's watch or Baba's bracelet kept your mind off your teeth as we waited in line at the pancake house.

And oh, so much people-watching to do!

Those teeth were forgotten while we helped Daddy set up his classroom:
so much going on!

Lots of plain old playin' on the floor was a great teeth remedy.

And oh, boy ... on our final night with you, Daddy wanted to
take you swimming: Baba's favorite! So into your suit and adorable robe ...

and off for an evening dip. Ahhhhh ... who worries about teeth?

What a blast!

So, Ari, I am very proud of your big-girl efforts to
show us a good time in spite of those brand new teeth.

 Until next time,
miss you and lots of love,
your Baba
p.s. only about 6 more years til the Tooth Fairy visits!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

the one-day screen

What a stinkin' hot summer. Typically we brag in Ohio about keeping the AC off during long cool stretches. Or short cool stretches. Not this summer. Blazing hot.

How hot is it? Well, the screen on the front storm door was in for ONE day: that would be yesterday. Other than Wednesday, August 18, that darn storm door has had the glass all summer as if it were January.

Bill has given up trying to convince me to keep the front door shut to keep the hot out and the cold in and vice versa. My light-craving, claustrophobic-leaning self simply must have the front door open during the day. In extreme temps, the glass panel's in the storm door. If and when the temps turn mild, the screen is in.

Sigh. I will hope for some September days when I can pop the screen back in and enjoy some cross-breeze through the house.

Does anyone else battle with the glass-or-screen issue?

Tuesday, August 17, 2010


I'm going to cheat and combine two themes into one post. I shot these photos on our most recent visit to our little spot up in Michigan over a week ago. Then home for just two days before heading south for a granddaughter-fix in North Carolina. Got that? Here goes.

Heard a message Sunday morning in Charlotte.
On margin. Margin is the extra in life.
Like "blanks" in our days with nothing penciled in.

A few curveballs were thrown into our summer, making it crammed full. But I do make choices. Am I saying 'yes' to things that might be very good but that aren't really where God wants me? 

As the pastor on Sunday said, we tend to forget that when we say "yes" to one thing, we're unwittingly saying "no" to something else. Christ was intentional and passionate in doing His father's will. That's all. (John 9:4) 
So. If I fill up my schedule and run willy-nilly through my days and forget to consult God, then it's a sure bet I'll .... well, run willy-nilly crazy.

I need to make a schedule based on what is 1. priority and 2. wise.

When I don't? Eventually my life resembles a morning shrouded in fog. A life reduced to only what's in front of my face.

I've found that when I desire what God desires, my life is one of more clarity and peace. Not perfect, just more purposeful.

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Ephesians 5:17

Thursday, August 12, 2010

like father, like daughter?

I am seeing a certain facial expression on my granddaughter
that I've seen on my son many times ...
it's in the eyebrows.

See what I mean?

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

s'mores and a wedding!

Well, someone has declared August 10 National S'mores Day ... I think it's the Hershey Company, no wonder. It's thought that s'mores originated with the Girl Scouts (yay, Girl Scouts!) back in the 1930's. I used to be able to eat a half dozen of those goodies, but these days even one is almost too much to stomach.

August 10 is also the date of my wedding, 32 years ago. I'm not really drawing any parallels to s'mores and my anniversary, maybe because I rode 400 miles in the car today. Bleh.

Anyway, my hubby Bill and I are going out for a little dinner right here in town. We'll eat. And reminisce. And marvel that we've stuck together for 32 years, raised four kids and welcomed our first grandchild into our lives this year.

Happy anniversary, honey. I love you.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

learn to swim ... and to save

Six teenagers from two families drowned over the weekend in Louisiana. Horrific. I cannot imagine losing three of my children on one afternoon.

Swimming lessons are great, but it's only the start of keeping our kids safe around the water. I failed beginning swimming three times, but my mother, an avid swimmer, kept taking me swimming throughout my childhood. In college, I finally learned to swim well by taking lifesaving and becoming a water safety instructor.

I believe everyone should learn to swim, but also learn the basics of water safety; what to do if you see someone in trouble in the water.

Had those who were out for an afternoon barbecue in Louisiana had some basic water safety skills, the results could have been less tragic.