Saturday, March 31, 2012

a smart phone for the confused

It wasn't quite unanimous, but by far the majority of my people recommended an Apple iPhone for my phone of choice. Yes, they are kind of expensive, IMO. They are even breakable. But they are very, very cool. And artsy. And I do aspire to be both.

I thought I wanted black. But when the little salesgirl put her last iPhone 4 (white) in this nifty blue Otter Box case, I fell pretty hard. I'm a sucker for blue and white anything, whether sailor dresses on little girls, or a phone in its case. That's perpetuating the pathetic stereotype of women who buy a car based on color, but who cares? Here's what else sold me:

1. Fabulous camera. On the back AND front! I just drool thinking of the photos of my granddaughters. (Oh and my kids ... sorry, kids.) Large and clear! Instagram, too. I can't exactly explain what that is, but it's a neat way to share your photography.

2. Face time. Like skyping on your phone.

3. GPS. Suffice it to say, there are times when a GPS would have saved me time, headaches and gas.

4. Weather at my fingertips, in case I don't want to step outside.

5. I got the "bottom of the line" iPhone 4. "Slower, less memory" some say. That sounds very compatible for me! And after a little flip phone, this one feels like I've gone from the Flintstones to the Jetsons.

I had another thought as we left the phone store. There might be a real niche for middle-aged phone sales people. Twenty-somethings try very hard and they know their stuff, but I'm not sure they know MY stuff. There came a time in our conversation when her eyes told me she just didn't quite understand my questions, needs and overall confusion. And I feel silly saying, "Wait, can you repeat all that again? Because I didn't understand any of it." Baby boomers need other baby boomers to sympathize with their confusion when it comes to technology. Remember this post?

So how about it, Verizon? Hmmm?

Thursday, March 29, 2012

All of us

This is the only photo I have of my mother looking directly into my face.  It's summer 1955 so I am about six months old. My handsome father, in his horn-rimmed glasses, is holding me, and my older brother, age three, is acting goofy for the camera. This was taken on the porch of my grandparent's house in Memphis. Their pride and joy, a new house.

I don't remember ever turning the photograph over and reading, in my mother's handwriting: "All of us 1955." As it turned out, there would be two more children added to "all of us." But for the moment, in the summer of '55, she probably was happy and grateful to have two healthy children.

Even all these years later, I feel loved to see my mother gazing at me. And I miss her love.

I take a minute out of my day to look into the faces of my children.
- the one-minute mother

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


Spring couldn't wait.
It is here in full force, not just pretending.
And about a month early!

Not only snowdrops and crocus, but we have daffodils out.
And tulips trying with all their might.

My lily-of-the-valley have become like a family reunion,
new members appearing every year.

And the ferns. Oh, the ferns!
Like tiny serpents, they rise and uncurl into green giants.

The rule is, don't plant annuals before Mother's Day.
But with all this spring-ing, who can wait?

Tuesday, March 27, 2012


Delaware at dusk

"Where is home?" You've heard this question. You might consider "home" as the town where you were born and/or grew up. Adults saying, "I'm going home for Christmas" sounds foreign to me because home is here, where we live and raised our children.

I don't claim a hometown and neither does my husband. This town, Delaware, Ohio, has been our home for 22 years, by far the longest either of us has lived anywhere.

I attended four different elementary schools in three states and moved again in the middle of high school, so I don't have an attachment to any school or town. Finally, my parents moved again when I was a freshman in college, ironically back to the city of my birth. I had no real friends there, having left at age 7. There was no going "home" for high school or family reunions.

Bill and I chose to give our kids something we never had: a childhood in one place where friends and memories and family times would all be rolled into one treasure chest rather than a series of moves and new towns.

Some might think a small town in the midwest to be boring. No mountains, no beaches, longer winters than in the south. But there is a quiet, understated beauty in the century-old homes and farms, lush cornfields, summer produce stands and excitement over a snow storm in our little town. Kids still deliver the local newspaper by bike. The downtown is more vibrant than ever, with shops and an independent movie theater. I almost always run into someone I know when I go to the grocery or library. Bill and I have an understanding: if either of us is running late, we don't worry. We know the other probably ran into someone we know and took time for a chat.

Funny. I always thought I'd want to "get out of here" once our kids were grown. But for now I am content. I am ... home.

... I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances.
Philippians 4:11

Monday, March 26, 2012

down 3 pounds and $1 a month

Ellie at Christmas - her chubby season.
Ellie went to the vet this morning. Dr. Franks reported that Ellie is down three pounds over her last visit. This is good news: usually I get a good-natured lecture about letting her get a little too chubby. "Winter fat," I call it. Dr. Franks says dog owners never think their dog is overweight.

Better yet, by weighing exactly 50 pounds, Ellie saved me $1.00 a month for heartworm medication. Thanks, girl!

My kids are the real gauge of Ellie's weight and physique. Typically not seeing her for several months at a time, they greet her at the door and of course she greets them with mad exuberance. "Whoa, she's gotten fat!" they say without hesitation. Or, "Ellie looks pretty good, has she lost weight?" I take these comments very personally, since I'm the one who walks (or doesn't walk) Ellie ... it's almost as if they are commenting on MY weight.

Ellie gets downright svelte when we're at the cabin in Michigan. She tears around the property, romps with Coco the chocolate lab next door, and wanders along the shore and up and down our hill all day. Last summer she dug an enormous hole, sniffing out chipmunks, I suppose. She collapses by late afternoon.

Maybe I should take her to the vet at the end of the summer!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

hop on over to Jenny's blog

In case you don't visit my daughter-in-love Jenny's blog (supposed to be Dan's too ...) ... take a look. Some sweet photos of them with their girls Ari and Ashlyn. We were there during this photo shoot in a beautiful park in Charlotte, NC. We picked up pizza after church and ate it in the drizzle ... then my daughter Katie (talented photographer, IMO) took these photos between raindrops as their shoes got soaked.
Oh, these young kids are so flexible!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

photos day 3

Bright-eyed and brimming with life
is an 8-month-old. Our Ashlyn.

Playing with play-doh, minding her own business, until ...

... little sister joins in.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

photos day 2


Short, simple, and sweet.


Monday, March 19, 2012

photo week

I picked it up in college and after all these years, still love photography. It came in handy when my children came along, and now my granddaughters. Indulge me this week as I share a few recent favorites.

Playful, exuberant, impish Ari.

So Ashlyn ... she approaches her world with quiet seriousness.
(ok, this one's by my daughter Katie )

Saturday, March 17, 2012

the nightmare for old people

Saturday Night Live has done it! HA HAHA! This is exactly how I feel when I go online or take the tiniest step into today's world of technology and electronics and cell phones and all the rest. At the moment, I'm trying to figure out what phone to get. So very C-O-N-F-U-S-I-N-G. Gaaahhhh! Check this out ....

(And no commenting on how "easy" all this is unless you're over 55!)

Friday, March 16, 2012


It's the 16th of March,
but you wouldn't know it.
Not in Ohio.
Crocus and snowdrops make their debut in late March, at best.

Daffodils wait until April.
My very favorite, the daffodils.
In full bloom on the 16th of March!
I buried these tiny ones in the beds last fall
and here they are.
All sunny and smiling.

Spring looks to have arrived,
but snow could easily make a late appearance.
For now, I enjoy the daffodils.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March madness

Good gracious, people get in a tizzy over basketball. I care nothing for basketball (or football if you must know) but I do have some March Madness. On my bracket:

~ When it's too cold to go out and too early to dig in the flower beds, I nearly go mad after the long winter. Of course, as I write, we have crocus AND daffodils in bloom now which is insanely early for Ohio. Yesterday it topped 70 degrees!
~ So, in late February I usually spend considerable time looking at flights to Florida. Then I talk myself out of it, saying, "spring's just around the corner." Even if it isn't.
~ The windows of our house are coated in winter's grit. I haven't done much serious cleaning since Christmas, either. So just, just, just as the days are warming up, it's time to clean house. That puts me over the edge.
~ Once our kids started college and some were still at home, their spring breaks NEVER coincided. That's maddening.
~ There's a winter's worth of dog poop in the back yard and guess who's nominated to scoop it?
~ New phone conundrum! I'm inching ever closer to a smart phone. I'm not sure I completely want to, but it's seeming inevitable. I think I read that eventually, the ONLY choice will be smart phones. Sigh. Madness.

I believe we midwesterners really, truly appreciate spring. Particularly after a long, snowy winter, there's nothing like throwing open windows and doors and letting the winter musties blow out. I wear shorts and flip-flops on the first day it hits 60, and if possible I drag my lawn chair to the end of our driveway and eat my lunch in the sun. We grill burgers for the first time in months: what a treat! It's intoxicating. Life is renewed and the clean slate of spring and summer stretches before us.

Enjoy your March!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

nifty, thrifty: homemade iced coffee

It amazes me what some people must spend on life's little pleasures. As we've put four kids through college, I've become even more frugal than ever. Take chilled coffees, for instance. I used to sneak sips of my mother's iced coffee when I was a girl. She made hers from leftover morning coffee. Forty years later, you can drop what, $4 or so for a latte or iced capuccino or whatnot. If you bought 3 or 4 of those a week, that's a wad of cash.

So here's my thrifty recipe: homemade iced coffee. For fun, I saved a Panera cup from when Katie and I went there for lunch a few weeks ago. I wash and reuse it so it seems like I've gone to Panera for a fancy drink!

Barb's Iced Coffee

Fill a glass or cup half full with strong, cold coffee OR place a heaping teaspoon of instant coffee in the cup and about an inch of hot water. If you want it sweet, add sugar now and stir til dissolved. Add lots of ice (and some cold water if using instant coffee), almost to the top. Then fill with plenty of milk and/or half and half. Stir and enjoy. Put in your travel cup if you're leaving on errands. Especially good at your desk in the mid-afternoon!

How do you save money?

Monday, March 12, 2012

happy 100, girls!

A gaggle of Girl Scouts came to my door over the weekend, selling cookies, of course. Five little pairs of eyes opened wide when I flung open my door and said, "there you are! I've been waiting for you!" Poor things, they'd found a crazy lady.

The years of cases and cases of Girl Scout cookies in our house seemed interminable. My troop sold thousands. But four years ago I hung up my leader's hat and seldom do I see Girl Scouts at my door.

I babbled on with these little Daisy scouts, asking them their plans for the cookie earnings. Their leaders were friendly and helpful. And oh darn, I forgot to wish them a happy 100th birthday. That's today. One hundred years ago, March 12, 1912, Juliette Low formed the first troop in Savannah, Georgia.

I shared Girl Scouting with my mother, and then my daughter Katie and I followed suit. It was one of the few things I told her "we're going to do." And we stuck with it, along with the same group of girls which dwindled down as the years went on. We merged with another troop and I had the pleasure and hilarity of working with two co-leaders, Donna and Lisa.

Current Girl Scout literature will paint a lofty picture of what Girl Scouting aspires to be. But for me, it was simple things that couldn't be found in other girls' activities.

 It was going camping just after 9/11 and seeing girls roll down a hill under a blue September sky, forgetting the horror in the world.

It was hearing giggling girls who'd "adopted" a dog into their cabin on a camp-out.
And their leaders didn't mind a bit.

It was letting girls find a buddy for canoeing,
and being pleased when one girl agreed to be with the least popular girl.

It was imperfect flag ceremonies carried out by very proud girls.

It was cleaning the stinkiest latrines in Ohio, and laughing about it.

It was teaching a girl to chop potatoes and make her own dinner over a fire.

It was having time to make a friend, and be one.

It was growing closer to my daughter through the amazing adventures we shared.

And it was realizing that girls don't change much.
They want to have friends, have fun, and trust adults to listen to their dreams.

Happy birthday, and thank you, Girl Scouts.
It wasn't about badges or cookies.
It was about being together, laughing, loving and helping a group of girls to young womanhood.

one of my favorites ... our trip to Mexico, 2006.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

this 'n that

Lots of odds and ends going on and finding it hard to settle down for regular posting. Sorry!


About once a month or so we run to Columbus, the big city, for provisions
we can't get here in our town. We did that this morning, and got to see
Katie for about 30 minutes. She's on a retreat with friends. It's good to have access to the
city, but I still love our smaller town!


Since Lily's still very much a newborn, she exhibits all those newborn traits such
as crying for no apparent reason. So now and then I go over
and do my baby whispering thing. I don't think (old) moms ever forget how
to hold and console a crying baby!
Check out this adorable post of Lily meeting her great-grandmother Elizabeth.


Pretty soon we'll be heading south to spend some time with Ari, 2 and Ashlyn, 8 months.
Oh, and Dan and Jenny, too.
It will be a rambunctious good time, I'm certain of that!


Yes, I did get some writing done this week.
No, not to my satisfaction.


I'm still swimming at our new Y, about 3 times a week.
Slow and steady.


Glory be, my tulips, daffodils and crocus are coming up.
And one crocus is in bloom!


The forecast this week is spectacular.
Not exactly sit-at-my-desk weather.


Hope you're making the most of your weekend!

Thursday, March 8, 2012

"I don't like writing"

I switched direction
on some of my writing this week.
Thought I was going one way,
but it wasn't happening.
Changed direction completely today,
and now it seems right. I hope. Better, at least.
Other things get in the way.
Exercise, groceries, cooking dinner, laundry.
Do these necessaries get in the way of writing,
or is it the other way around?
"I don't like writing. I like having written."
- Ernest Hemingway

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

a sandwich, anyone?

I am the tuna salad on a whole wheat roll, mushed between the lettuce and swiss. I am the turkey in the middle of the club sandwich. Heck, I'm also the cheese, mayo and banana peppers. Most of the time, I feel grilled. I am part of the sandwich generation.

Four weeks ago I witnessed the birth of my third granddaughter. The mystery and wonder of new life, Lily is a tiny miracle. So are two-year-old Ari and 8-month-old Ashlyn. They call me Baba and I hope they will treasure their time with me. Together we'll pray, read, bake, garden, hike, swim, and eat ice cream. So much to look forward to.

My children now move in and out of my life like yo-yo's. With each passing year, they roll back to me less and less. As it should be. They are busy with families, careers, friends and figuring out adult life. With four of them, well six, there is frequent enough contact to keep me on my toes.

Then there is my father, age 87, unable to completely care for himself. He's imprisoned by dementia. While I'm not his caregiver, my visits and phone calls are highly emotional for me. Oh, he still knows me, but when I call, I get the feeling he's still trying to be my in-charge dad. The strong and smart provider he used to be.

"I had a meeting yesterday. Someone wanted to talk with me about my experience in franchising," he told me today. "And they served spaghetti! Can you believe that?" It's all at once endearing, and sad. I want to go spend a couple of hours with him, but 400 miles is a little far for that. And so I wonder how much farther he'll slip before my next visit.

This is the meaning of the sandwich generation. It's a huge hoagie of good and delicious things: layers of love from delicate newborns to frail fathers. From tall young men and blossoming daughters to mothers like me who feel unsure of our role. Our hearts drink in the tenderness of new grandchildren, and weep at the slipping away of our parents. At times, we are physically and emotionally spent. Other days, we are bursting with energy and joy.

I am reminded of Christ's words to Paul in 2 Corinthians 12:9: "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Paul responded, "Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." God met Paul's need, giving him the grace needed to meet his challenges.  And Paul didn't just make the best of it - he made the most of it. Grace does that.* Wow, what encouragement!

I navigate these years with acceptance, hope and the promise of God's grace. And when I am weak, it's ok. I know He is strong.

* these thoughts borrowed from With the Word by Warren Wiersbe.

Monday, March 5, 2012

writing week

Desk organized.
Papers pitched.
Books rearranged.
Shelves dusted.
Trash emptied.
Last year's planner put away.
This year's planner front and center.
Most-often used books: Bibles, dictionary, writer's market guide, journal
 lined up and ready.
Favorite pens & yellow highlighter at hand.

This week presented itself to me as open and available for - what?
Writing, of course.
An article is due at the end of the month for Heart of Ohio magazine.
I've been wanting to take a look at other writing opportunities that have caught my eye.

But. At times, I'm my own worst enemy.
I sit at my desk, watching the wind blow a light March snow around.
Finish coffee.
Wonder if Lily's napping or not.
Back downstairs for more coffee.
Throw in a load of laundry. 
Creating a huge anticipation to work and yet,
 I'm distracted.
I think it's less "writer's block" and more "writer's avoidance."

Two or three good hours put in today.
It will have to do.
Tomorrow. Tomorrow.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

senior show: a festive night!

Our daughter Katie brought it all together for her part in the senior art and photography show at Taylor University. The opening of the show was last night, featuring the work of ten artists. It was a gala affair with many amazing elements. First, a fabulous food buffet. Another photographer's mom put it together, for which I was thankful because it wouldn't have looked like this had I been in charge!
Fancy schmanzy, done by Nancy.

We arrived on campus late morning, at which time Katie whipped us into action helping her finish up a few last-minute details. My first job took massive brain power: cleaning the glass on the framed work. Ha. Then Bill and Katie hung them all.
Katie had already figured the layout, spacing and hammered in the nails.
I love this alcove space Katie has beside a stairway in the art building.
The show will run for two weeks.

Over lunch Katie finalized her mission statement and titles for each print. Then off to the print lab to print and mount them. (No, not the photos! Just the titles. Whew.) 
We gave the ok on her "pedestal" (far left in the photo above) which helped set the Michigan theme.
Michigan rocks, birch, evergreen sprigs, guest book, and new business cards.
This next photo is one of my favorites: the old fridge at our Michigan cabin.
And, judging by the comments, a favorite of many the attendees.
Katie named it 'Old Faithful.'

At last, Katie was ready. Her work was ready.
She seemed calm. Calmer than me.
She is "Miss Symmetrical." Interesting to see how photographers differ in that regard.

And then they came. Several hundred. Students, friends, profs, parents. kids and grandparents.
Overwhelming, really. And wonderful.
Live music floated down from upstairs: a student band. Nice touch!
The painters whose work was in the gallery were, um, running a little late
so there was some nervous anticipation as to when the doors would open.
But open they did.

Here's Katie with Kelsie, a Taylor mom/prof and friend of mine
who I'd have never known had it not been that our kids went to Ireland freshman year.
And we went on parents week, and the rest is .... well, it's FISP and you just had to be there.
Love ya, Kelsie. Thank you for being a mom to our kids these four years!

Not the greatest shot, but gives you an idea of Katie and her roommate
Brie's shared area for the show.

Katie with Brie and Norah, an amazing artist and
friend of Katie's since freshman year. (I don't think Norah slept at all the previous night, poor thing.)

Super cool: Katie chatting with Taylor's prez, Dr. Habecker.

Bill was bushed. This is another student's display!

Proud of you, sweetie. A job done with your usual skill and beauty.
Need an excellent photographer? Look no further.
Call on Katie.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

happy birthday, Anne!

Anne sends me off to Girl Scout camp, 1967

Fifty-one years ago today,
my dad called from the hospital to tell me
I finally (love my 2 brothers) had a sister.
That call made me the happiest 6-year-old alive!
Time, distance, raising families and taking different life journeys separated Anne and me until two years ago.
She reached out and we forged a new relationship.
We talk often and are now sharing a spiritual journey that's unbelievably deep, rich and real.
It's so great to share with each other
what God is doing in our lives. 
My sister is one of the bravest, most loving, honest people I know. Today I honor and wish my Anne a very happy 51st birthday!

With our dad in September