Monday, January 31, 2011

a long, long time ago

A simple post on my daughter-in-love's facebook wall sent me flying to the basement, digging for a photo.

Jenny wondered if she should buy maternity overalls, aka Heidi Klum. Of course they were slim-legged and the model wore 4-inch heels.  She looked carefree and certainly didn't have two toddlers yanking on her legs.

I could picture the picture: pregnant with our third son, a smiling me basting a Christmas turkey in our old house in Defiance, Ohio. It took some digging because the photo wasn't in an album but buried in a box.

In 1987 I made two pair of corduroy maternity overalls that were so comfortable I might have chosen to stay pregnant just to legitimately wear them. Just kidding. When I found the snapshot, a flood of memories came back: the kitchen in that house I absolutely loved, the boys' art easel sitting in the middle of the kitchen, the old wall oven, and a much younger me only about six weeks from delivering our son. I think that shirt is my husband's. Hey, I'd lost most of my pride by the third pregnancy!

Can't imagine being pregnant now ... but it's fun, now as a grandma, to remember those sweet, exhausting days.

Friday, January 28, 2011

eyes to the skies

On February 20, 1962, my mother sat me down in front of our black and white TV and said, "watch this. You will tell your children about it someday. It's history!"

John Glenn's little capsule orbited the earth three times and splashed safely into the Atlantic ocean. I'm not sure I realized what I was watching, only my mother's words echoing in my mind: tell your children you saw the first American orbit the earth. Very exciting, very impressive in 1962.

Twenty-five years ago, January 28, 1986, space travel had become so routine that I didn't bother to watch the Challenger lifting off from Cape Canaveral. In fact, I was running errands with my one and two-year-old sons when my car radio delivered the horrific news: seven astronauts, including a public school teacher, had perished as the Challenger exploded just 73 seconds after lift-off into the deep blue Florida sky.

It shook us all. Sending astronauts into orbit didn't guarantee their safe return. Christa McAuliffe, ecstatically ready to instruct her students from space, never got the chance. Those children, watching as I had years before, witnessed a horrendously different outcome. As a mother of young sons, my heart broke for the seven families left to grieve.

Today, my tiny sons now grown, I pause and remember Ellison, Mike, Christa, Dick, Greg, Ron and Judith. I pray for God to comfort the hearts of their wives, husbands, and children who grew up without them. I trust they died doing what they loved most. Why else risk your life?

I thank them for sacrificing for something bigger than self.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

double take

    the daddy ~ 1986                                                      the daughter ~ 2011

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

his golden birthday: happy 26th, Dan!

Among the countless things my kids have taught me is the golden birthday: when your age coincides with your birthdate. Today, the 26th, my son Dan turns 26! His daughter Ari, born 1/1/10, just celebrated hers. Mine was 53 years ago: gone forever.

I'm not sure what else the golden birthday means, but I do have many memories of my birthday boy. He loved toilets when he was little. If left alone with a toilet, Dan made some trouble. But darn it, he was just so cute.

Since Dan and his big brother David were our only kids
for three years, lots of sweet memories come to mind.
They were terrific playmates.

Dan earned the reputation in our family for usually running late, misplacing things, and pushing deadlines to the limit. He's gonna hate me for this photo ...
but for his brother's Eagle ceremony,
Dan had to borrow some scout shorts
at the last minute - shorts which were a tad, um, short.

Dan went off to college and soon a cute coed named Jenny stole his heart.

We all know the rest of the story.
Dan and Jenny married right after college.
A baby girl (also stole Dan's heart) came along and, in a few months,
another little one is due. My son jumped into adulthood pretty darn fast.
I burst with pride at his diligence, compassion and steadfast love for his family and those who cross his path.

Happy golden birthday, Dan!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


For nearly ten years, we've sent kids off to college. Contrary to the empty nest, I call these the yo-yo years: send kids off, and reliably they come flying back. In and out, back and forth. Until - blessed day - they graduate, have JOBS and are independent.

The yo-yo years are bittersweet. I cried at first, then got all excited when they came home for breaks. But - rude awakening and is it just me? - kids coming home from college isn't the same as arriving home from soccer practice.

It's more like ... a houseguest arriving.

I catch myself ...
- cleaning out the freezer
- organizing the fridge
- sorting through mail and newspapers
- planning meals s/he'd like
- changing beds and running the vacuum
- clearing out snacks or fridge items that might have been here when they were last home ... because I've been chastised for "still having THAT?"

When did I put priority on what my kids thought of my housekeeping? Do I care if they care about pawprints on the storm door, dog hair on the stairs, or that the toilet in their bathroom hasn't been cleaned?

When did I go from making my way through kids and clutter underfoot to treating the same kids like guests at my bed and breakfast?

Can someone explain? I tell you, it's odd psychology.

But my daughter arrives home tomorrow, and I've no one to blame but myself. I've already asked her what she'd like for dinner.

Monday, January 24, 2011

America's authors

A piece in American Profile caught my eye this weekend: American Authors. Twenty of our country's "most celebrated and influential writers" are summarized with a photo or illustration and brief bio.

Emily Dickinson wrote nearly 1,800 poems in her lifetime and she died at 56: my age now. Margaret Mitchell, author of Gone With the Wind lived to age 49. Jack London wrote The Call of the Wild at age 27 and died at 40, as did Edgar Allan Poe. Walt Whitman was 73 when he died, though he looks 103 in his photo. Life was harder on people, or authors anyway, in the 19th century. I'm thankful I didn't live then!

Not meaning to obsess over death. But - pardon the cliche - life is short. While God knows the number of my days, it's up to me to serve Him and pursue the passions and gifts He's chosen to give me. And - most challenging at times for me - use my time wisely.

Speaking of time: did you know that Mark Twain's autobiography was just published? He died in 1910 and Twain's will stated that his autobiography could not be published until 100 years after his death. My brother Pat shared this with me.

Friday, January 21, 2011

mountain (of) music, part 2

When the weather's like this:

And, after sorting all the music in the house 
piling it on the dining room table:

[yes, family guitarists, I discovered lots of picks!]

then I just can't resist taking a little break at the piano,
trying - oh so rustily - to play
"Minuet" by Anna Magdalena Bach.

January's an excellent time to
catch up on the projects
that otherwise never get done!
Soon enough
I'll be poking in the flower beds.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

mountain (of) music, part 1

No whining over my new year's project of de-cluttering this house: just facts. I've walked this road before, usually in deepest winter: simplifying and de-cluttering. So why, every year, do I find more cluttered nooks and crannies? Must have something to do with six people living 21 years in this house: a lot of years to box, store, set aside, cram, fill bookshelves and so forth. In a word: too much saving and not enough letting go.

Resolve: declare war on clutter!

One little dark corner has hidden its dusty self for too long: the bookshelves in our living room. Oh, there are books there, to be sure. Old, dusty, unread books. But also, sheet music has snuggled on those shelves for years. A mountain of it.

So today I enter battle with a dust cloth, an open dining room table for sorting, and, lest I incite the wrath of the family's musicians: boxes for saving it.

Is this hopeless? Stay tuned.

Monday, January 17, 2011

love in a box

I call my dad two or three times a week. Now depending on others for much of his care, Dad's world is shrinking. It's hard for him to look outside himself and admittedly, I get a little heartache every time we talk. I couldn't call him on my birthday two weeks ago because I knew he wouldn't realize the day and, well, I just couldn't.

Today I pulled a box of letters from my closet. I lifted the lid and on top was a card - a birthday card dated 2002. In strong, even, handwriting it reads:

What an absolute joy it is to be the proud father of an ideal daughter. You are always there, no matter what role is involved: daughter, wife, mother, sister or friend. My only regret is that your mother didn't live to enjoy you as I have. May you never change.
Lots of love,

Thank you, Dad. Your love for me is still in your heart, but I'm thankful to have it in writing, in a box of letters.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

What's in a name ... happy birthday, Bill!

Sixty-six years ago today, a baby boy was born. He was given his father's name: Joseph William Haller, Jr., which later in life caused some confusion when it came to bank accounts, passports and telemarketers. The boy, my husband, was called "Billy" and later "Bill," but those who don't know him try for "Joseph" or even "Jay." He signs his name J. William.

Well, dear, it's a pleasure to describe you using all the letters of your signature!

Joyful - you find the positive and believe in the goodness of people.

Wise, and not just because of your age!
Intelligent. The really smart kid in school? That was you. I often get lost in your explanation of things.
Loving. On crazy days when our kids were small, you reminded me to "just love them." How right you were.
Linguistically brilliant: speaks fluent Spanish even though it's been nearly 40 years since he used it regularly.
Interested in most everything ... and that's why our house is filled with books!
Amiable ... you talk with anyone and could make a new friend every day.
Married me, for which I am very thankful.

I love you, Bill. Have a happy birthday!

photo by katie haller photography (c)

Friday, January 14, 2011


Though you might tire of my focus/fetish for the weather, for what it is or isn't doing ... I couldn't help but grab my camera this morning.

My step love-mom Sally gave me a beautiful orchid plant about a year ago. Blooming then, it soon stopped and has seemed, in my estimation, ready for the trash for months. But I dutifully gave it three ice cubes a week and in time new leaf appeared and a delicate stem or two.

Last week I noticed a plump bud at the end of a stem and last evening, voila! A brand new orchid bloomed to cheer a snowy January day. It gave me a little joy.

Isn't it just lovely?
Be joyful in hope. Romans 12:12

Thursday, January 13, 2011

happy birthday, Pat!

(This post is part of an essay that ran in the Columbus Dispatch in May, 2007.)

Only the most precious of mothers adopts the children of an absent mother.

I know such a woman. And she has made it her business to know me. Her name is Pat. She lived across the street from us in Connecticut and befriended my mother, who was born and raised in the Deep South.

No matter to this Boston-bred Irish Catholic: Pat might not have fully understood the “foreigner” who arrived in small-town New England, but she embraced her.

In those days, our families lived on shoestrings, and Mom carpooled with Pat and her preschoolers to the grocery store each week. They were riotous outings lasting several hours, with fidgety toddlers wedged between grocery sacks in the back of our station wagon.

The two spoke on the phone daily as they washed breakfast dishes or folded a load of towels. They cackled hysterically over who-knows-what.

Sharing first days of kindergarten, child psychology and recipes, Mom and Pat forged a sisterly friendship - one that lasted 15 years, well past our family's move in 1971 to Tennessee.

But when my mother died eight years later, she couldn't have imagined the extent to which Pat would honor their friendship. She slid unobtrusively into the roles of mother, mentor and grandmother for my three siblings and me and the 11 grandchildren my mother would never know.

Pat wasted no time demonstrating her devotion: The morning of Mom’s death, she dropped what she was doing to make arrangements for her two high schoolers, tend unfinished household details and book a flight to Memphis. Once there, she comforted us in small but memorable ways, like helping my sister and me clean out mom's closet.

Through the years, postcards from “Gramma Pat” arrived in our mailbox as she lovingly related a travel adventure to my children. Boston Globe articles were carefully clipped and mailed as only a mother does -- articles often about the Red Sox because Pat and her husband John share a love of baseball with our son David.

Birthdays, Christmases, graduations, and even the occasion of a new driver’s license – Pat remembers them all. She and her husband John have attended both my sons' weddings.

I treasure the phone calls and notes in which Pat still encourages and guides me by sharing wisdom from her seasons as a mother and grandmother. Even with a sizable family of her own, she has taken on another. Pat has doubled her love-output for over 30 years.

For that, and for her, I am grateful. A very happy birthday today, Pat Power!

Pat, with me, my brother Mark and sister Anne, and Pat's husband John
at my son's wedding in 2009.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

introducing: winter

Dear Ari:
You're a southern-born girl
and though this is your second winter,
you're only now getting a taste of it

because you're no longer so tiny
because snow has fallen generously 
in your part of the country.
How do you like it?
You seem to be taking it in stride

just as you do
most everything else in life.
Well, good for you, adventurous girl!
And thank your mommy and daddy
who fed and changed you,
bundled you up,
fashioned a makeshift sled
and took you out into the white, cold day
so you could taste and feel ...

love you forever, Baba

(photos borrowed, without permission, from

Monday, January 10, 2011

(s)no(w) days

Back in the 1960's, snow days (that is, no school due to snow) were announced over the radio, crackling into our kitchen on Fernwood Drive in Simsbury, Connecticut. It took a LOT of snow in New England for school to cancel, but when it did, the announcements droned on for - no joke - probably a half hour. The famed Bob Steele of WTIC radio, in his smooth baritone voice, would read the school closings so slowly and deliberately that I nearly fell back asleep while eating my oatmeal.

I remember coming in from hours of snow play and turning on - a special broadcast only on snow days - "Snowbound Theater" - on TV. Because, kids, we had no DVDs or T-Vo ya know!

Now, 45 years later, moms need only pull up the local listings online and instantly know delays or closings. It's taken the anticipation away, if you ask me. Darn kids don't even have to get out of bed before mom hollers, "no school today!"

My own kids floated somewhere in between the era of radio announcements and cyber-announcements. During the 90's, we'd flip on the local TV station and wait for the cancellations to zip along the bottom of the screen.

I know it's status quo for moms to complain about snow days, but I kind of liked them. We'd stay in p.j.'s all morning, leisurely eating homemade waffles. Then we'd mount a massive play-in-the-snow campaign in which all coats, hats, scarves, mittens and boots were called into service. And within a couple of hours, I'd be muttering and mopping up puddles from tracked-in snow. Those were some intense but fun days.

Well. Now I have no school kids at home. If I hear snow's on the way, I just make sure I have soup makings on hand and line up some reading and writing on my desk.

I heard from my peeps down south that today's a snow day. Enjoy some waffles for me!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

55 years ago today

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.
- Jim Elliot

(A post borrowed from one year ago.)

At four-thirty sharp Marj Saint eagerly switched on the radio receiver in Shell Mera. This was the moment when the big news would come. Had the men been invited to follow the Aucas to their houses? What further developments would Nate be able to report?

She looked at her watch again. No sound from Palm Beach. She and Olive hunched close to the radio. The atmosphere was not giving any interference. Perhaps Nate's watch had run a little slow.

In Arajuno, Marilou and Barbara had their radio on, too. Silence. They waited a few minutes, then called Shell Mera.

"Aranjuno calling Shell Mera. Arajuno standing by for Shell Mera. Any word from Palm Beach, Marj? Over."

"Shell Mera standing by. No, no word as yet. We'll be standing by."

Not a crackle broke the silence. *

This scene unfolded fifty-five years ago today in the jungles of Ecuador. Five men, spurred by a passion to share the good news of Jesus Christ, ventured deep into the Ecuadorian jungle in an effort to reach an isolated tribe known to attack all strangers: the Aucas.

At an agreed-upon time, their five young wives sat by their radios, waiting for a message that never came* ... for all five men had been savagely speared to death.

Elisabeth Elliot, the wife of one of the murdered martyrs, Jim Elliot, wrote the story of unconditional love and complete obedience to God in Through Gates of Splendor. It became the best-selling and most powerful missionary story of the 20th century.

It is a book that moved me like no other, and I often encourage young women to read Elliot's writings. She is an incredible woman of God, wife, mother, and author.

If you've never picked up Through Gates of Splendor, do it. The sequel, Savage My Kinsman is equally riveting: the story of Elisabeth's journey back to minister to the Aucas, along with her three-year-old daughter Valerie. Valerie Elliot Shepard, now a pastor's wife, mother and grandmother, speaks around the country. My daughter heard her speak last year at her college.

 Elisabeth Elliot today (from

* from Through Gates of Splendor, by Elisabeth Elliot.

Friday, January 7, 2011

scratch yesterday's post

Very funny, God! Mere hours after yesterday's post, the snow arrived.

Innocent "snow flurries" and "snow
showers" were predicted, but by rush
hour the roads were slick as anything.

Today's high might reach 22.

Not expecting much from my flower bed!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

can't help it

The weather has given us a spectacular start to 2011. No snow whatsoever. Cold, but sunny and breezy all week. No slipping, no sliding. Great dog-walking weather!

I tiptoe into the yard, toward my flower beds, over hard, bumpy ground. 
I peer at one end of the bed, 
where crocus will appear soon, but not this soon. 
I see green, but realize 
it's a leftover pachysandra from last summer.

A little embarrassed, I hope my neighbor Lynn (gardener extraordinaire) 
doesn't see me peeping in the flower beds on January 5!

Snows are sure to come, but I can't help it. 
My flower beds hold promise and I can't be too sure
of when the first tender shoots might appear.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

go, Hogs!

I live in the thick of Buckeye country. "Go Bucks!" And all that jazz. Much ado, if you ask me.

So it is with trepidation that I announce I am rooting for the Arkansas Razorbacks in  tonight's game against Ohio State: the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans. I might even holler, "sooieeet!" as my dad used to do on September Saturday afternoons years ago.

I called my dad a little while ago. He's in a nursing home in Nashville, Tennesse and his world is pretty small. Dad graduated from the University of Arkansas over 60 years ago and one of his joys is rooting for his Arkansas Razorbacks.

Knowing Dad's early bedtime, I asked if he'd be watching the game.

"I've been waiting a long time for Arkansas to play in a bowl game, so I'm staying up for it," he answered in a sleepy voice.

I hope no one eggs our house, but my heart's with Dad so I'm rooting with him.
Sorry, Buckeyes.

Go, Hogs! Sooieeet!

Monday, January 3, 2011

new year, new calendar

Two years ago, in looking for a cute and simple calendar I could print, I ran across the Cottage Industrialist. Today I went back to the site and was pleasantly surprised to find the perfect calendar for my life - and my fridge.

Not only is it small (no longer do we need human-height calendars for our schedule) and free to print, this year's calendar highlights seasonal vegetables for each and every month. It will be a good reminder to eat more veggies!

I guess you could say I'm tiptoeing into using an online calendar. This one's printed online, but I'm still tied to pen and paper.

Check it out:

I printed mine on six sheets of card stock, using both sides, of course. Then tied them together with string. How good it feels to have a clean calendar stretching ahead, ready for a year of possibilities.

Do you have your 2011 calender?

Sunday, January 2, 2011


There was a time
when snapping a photo
with my four kids was no big deal.
But now it's rare to have my children
 beside me at the same time.
I treasure it.

If I could
choose my family,
I'd still choose
my family
to be my family.
Even when we make
each other a little

A few days with family:
a great way to start this new year!
Love you, David, Dan, Mark, Bill and
Katie, Jenny, Ari and Jill.

Oh, and check out Ari's adorable birthday dress
with the tiny cupcake on the front.

Happy new year to you and yours!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

one year old

Dearest Ari,
You made 2010 the happiest new year
I have seen in a long time.
From this on January 1, 2010 ...

to this, one year later ...

a giggling, crawling, climbing, smiling bundle of joy.

You are precious and I love you.

Happy birthday!