Friday, July 31, 2009

Looking Buffy in the Thigh

To my astonishment, when I weighed in and got measured at Curves today, my waist measurement had gone down three inches! Several people have asked me if I have lost weight, and it puzzled me. After all, five pounds can't be that noticeable. I have lost fat, and gained muscle apparently, and it shows in that the inches, not the weight are changing. I'm ready to do a Curves commercial!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Making an Impression

Chewing my gum,
Squinting my eyes,
Wishing I had sunglasses
In a great big size.
Bobbing my head
To an inner tune
Knowing I look cute enough
To make the girls swoon.
Wearing blue jeans
And a skin-tight tee
So the chicks can admire
Muscles rippling on me.
Walking with a swagger
past the coffee bar
To order a latte
I can sip in my car.
Stroll past the bookstore
Where a girl inside
Is the one I wanna ask,
"Can you go for a ride?"
Don't look in the window
But cruise on by
Hoping that she noticed
And pauses with a sigh.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Weeding and Wishing

There's a big difference between weeding the garden and wishing it didn't have weeds. Obviously the first takes some effort on a consistent basis. I spent some time today doing just that, and I've noticed a pattern in the process. First comes the wish: I wish I didn't have to do this. Then comes the resignation. Better get started. Then comes a determination to get a certain amount done. As I move along, I get more resolved to clear every single weed out, to the point that I really do actually pull poison ivy up with my bare hands. After I fill a bucket and dump it, I always go inside, wash up to my elbows with poison ivy scrub, get a glass of water, and decide to pull up just one more bucket. A sense of satisfaction increases with each bucket filled, and hope begins to rise. I survey my work with an eye for progress made and future projects to tackle. Some days I don't get beyond the wishing. They are not my better days. Today was a good one. I needed the weeds to challenge me. It's no good just wishing, but a little action can make that wish come true.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

There's a Song in My Head...

but I always sing off-key. It soars and enchants and entices me to joy as long as I don't try to express it in notes. Singing is not my gift. I must be content to be an audience and not a performer.

Art is the milieu where I am most comfortable, but I am a mere scribbler compared to most artistic talents. Art is a cerebral celebration of images, color, shapes and line.

Art is food for thought, but music is wine for the soul.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Silence is Golden?

Hope all you folks don't mind a moment of silence right now....

...that was for all the stuff screaming in my head about what I think lies ahead. If I said it out loud, you would write it off as another lunatic rant.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Quitting Time

Sparkling ripples
Of sun-touched leaves
Whisper an invitation to flee.
Softly, beckons its companion breeze
Which glides over rain-drenched lawn.
Late afternoon shadows yawn
From the day’s fatigue
Excusing a wistful sigh
As the willow weeps.

Time Travel

The older you get the more compressed time seems to be. You are incredulous at how long ago something was that seems like just yesterday. "Just yesterday" becomes a phrase synonymous with "sometime recently--I don't know for sure when."

This morning, in an attempt to organize my lesson planning, I sorted through some hanging files begging to be emptied to make room for my intended task. What should I discover but some drawings done in 1987 by my oldest son. He was five at the time. He is now 27! Twenty-two years of life were instantly compressed into "just yesterday"! It doesn't seem possible.

When you get really old sometimes you get confused about generations. My grandmother, as she developed Alzheimer's disease, got my mother mixed up with her grandson's wife. She was off by one generation. My grandfather thought my sister was his wife. He was off by two generations. Someday I may look at my grandson, and those pictures of 1987 will betray me--he will become John again and my travel in time will have made a complete circle.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Conspiracy Theories

I'm reading A Patriot's History of the United States right now by Larry Schweikart and Michael Allen. They definitely have a conservative bent on the story, but are also willing to give credit where it's due. People love conspiracies these days, so they made an interesting comment on the idea that FDR knew that the Pearl Harbor attack was coming. One point they made was that people accuse FDR of looking for an excuse to get into the war--as if he didn't have plenty of them already! Nazi U-boats had been killing American sailors, sinking American ships, and generally being hostile for some time. They also pointed out how Roosevelt had received intercepted information. But intercepting is one thing. The code must be broken, then translated, then analyzed. We did intercept information. Some of it received in 1941 didn't make it through this process until 1945. We weren't in the computer age yet.

I think people often mistake conspiracies for trends and sympathies. That is not to say that there aren't powers out there that want to increase their influence. We need to look at their actions and strategies before crying foul, and when we do, the evidence must be concrete--not hysterical hype.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In the Zone

Standing in front of a group of kids with a lesson plan in front of me and eager faces looking my way stirs up a thrill and zeal like nothing else. When I'm teaching, I'm "in the zone"--doing what I love best. New ideas come to me while I'm in the middle of it. "Okay, class repeat after me: Kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus, species. Great. Now in your deepest voice: kingdom... now in a squeaky voice: kingdom... Now whisper it: kingdom..." They have it memorized in no time, have had fun, and are eager to take on the next thing. When I teach, I'm doing what I know I have been created for, and because of that it glorifies God. Maybe that is why I am so happy when I teach...

So why am I procrastinating doing lesson planning?

Monday, July 20, 2009

Will the Miracles Never Cease?

I hope not. A modern miracle was unveiled to me just this morning. I had my hearing exam, and much to my dismay, the examiner was quite surprised at how much my hearing had "tanked" in the last few months. I am now referred to the U of M Hospitals for another cochlear implant evaluation.

But here's the miracle. They gave me a website to log on to and register my name and password for a free service. I log in and type in my phone number, and the number I want to call. Then I click to proceed. My phone rings. I answer it. It proceeds to dial the number I want and my computer simultaneously brings up a screen to print out the conversation instantaneously (almost). It's called caption telephone.

I called Jack right away to see if it worked. He begins laughing. The screen prints out (laughing)! As soon as I was done talking to him I called three other numbers--all doctor's appointments I have been unable to make because I couldn't hear on the phone! There are times I wish I was not born during this century, but this is not one of them. It's a miracle, albeit technological, but a miracle indeed for someone in need of one.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Why I Like Brownies

There are lots of kinds of brownies, and all of them have their merits. The cake-like thick ones contrast significantly to the dense fudgy kind. Some have walnuts and some don't. Some are frosted, but more aren't. But all brownies have one thing in common: chocolate. The variations in recipes are endless with optional additions: cinnamon, mint, chocolate chips, coconut, peanut butter. They are all interesting, but a purist prefers simplicity. I choose the basic recipe more often than not, but am open to variation on an occasional basis. Yes, there are things called blond brownies, or butterscotch brownies--which are really just another kind of dense bar cookie. I don't include them in this assessment.

My favorite brownie is a dense, fudgy one with chunky walnuts mixed in. The top of the brownie is a little flaky, but when your teeth sink in, the chewy base with the crunchy nuts takes over the texture experience. They should be moist erring toward gooeiness, sweet but not sicky sweet nor bittersweet, and intensely dark chocolate. They should also be large--at least two by two inches square, preferably a little bigger yet. Warm, not hot, from the oven is yummy, but they should also be wonderfully satisfying when completely cool.

Why do I like them so much? Chocolate and nuts are a hard combination to beat. The rich smoothness of the chocolate complements the crunchy roasted flavor of the baked nuts. They are honest and straightforward. You know what you are getting. They are hefty enough to satisfy, but not heavy so as to tax your digestive tract. They get along well with milk, ice cream, whipped cream, and chocolate sauce, but can stand independently with no apology necessary. They pack well for picnics and lunches. They don't stick around long enough to go stale. They aren't messy because you always want to catch the crumbs! They are American. They can be simple or complex. They can be elegantly plain or fussily dressed up. They are comforting.

Brownies are rarely disappointing. I always avoid brownies pre-packaged in individual wrappers, where you can see the nuts clearly pressed into the top of heavy dough. They are guaranteed to chew like play-doh and be an indigestible lump in your stomach. They will be sickly sweet to cover up the lack of chocolate intensity. Only in desperation will I eat them, and only after checking for mold on the bottom, since their freshness disappears with the sealing of their cellophane coffins.

Finally I like brownies because they are universally pleasing. It's hard not to like them. They are easy going, unpretentious and welcoming. Let's face it. We like brownies, because we all want to be one!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Tinwinkie Gurblied Me

It was a scrundipulous afterevening, and as I splandered through the queet, I bespied an optigunant tinwinkie following me. Quake I did, but it was unnoputually pointless, since the tinwinkie had no deligerent intentions toward my person. He merely gurblied me and plinktoed on.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Don't Worry, Be Happy

I've gotten some encouragement to not be so depressing in my blogs. Sorry about that, fan... (Temptation to insert smiley face averted.)

There is a lot to be happy about, laugh about, rejoice over, and we must not lose our focus when storms are brewing. I believe with all my heart that a perfect one is on the way. The three things we have which will carry us through, faith, hope and love, cannot be stolen from us. But we can surrender them. That should not be depressing, but perhaps sobering.

I got an opportunity this morning to speak some words of encouragement and truth to an acquaintance. It was a breakthrough moment. I was able to overcome my natural shyness to reach out; a bond was formed. It hardly matters what I said to her. What she heard was probably something like, "You are loveable, you are good, you are valuable," though the words were couched in anecdotes, experiences, and scripture. Five minutes of sharing heart to heart was all it was. Truth penetrates deeply. It pierces our hearts with exquisite love, intrepid courage, and undaunted hope. So, though there may be difficult times ahead, don't worry. Be happy. Truth will carry you through as long as you keep a firm grip on it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

You gotta suck that lozenge!

Life is short--I could fill this thing with cliches--grab life by the horns, live every day to the fullest, live up to your potential, go for it! How about some new ones that really say what you mean about all those just mentioned cliches? Play tennis like you're at Wimbledon. Smack that baseball like you mean it. Jog as if you already lost the extra pounds. Find joy in every missed opportunity. Find cherished moments in every over-packed closet. Find peace in every empty moment. Pray as if you were the only person in the world doing it. Converse as if you had twenty years of thoughts to catch up on. Read as if the book-burners are on the way to your house. Vote as if the decision were entirely up to you. Jump like a grasshopper on a hot sidewalk. Cook as if Emeril were coming to dinner. Celebrate Chinese New Year and Cinco de Mayo and Hanukkah and National Secretaries Week--because, man, there's so much to be thankful for. And while you're riding that wave, sucking that lozenge and sizzling like water droplets in hot grease, don't forget to soar like an albatross above a hurricane. Life is short.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Post Wedding Thoughts

I am now a mother-in-law. The whole wedding celebration is as dreamy a recollection as my own wedding thirty years ago. I recall walking down the aisle with my usher son, Patrick, to be seated. It didn't occur to me that others were watching me as the mother of the groom. My being seated was really the first thing to happen, the signal to go ahead as planned. Jack slid in next to me and before I knew it the procession was well underway. It was really a family affair, small, and intimate--all five of my children participated in some capacity. That left Jack and me alone in our pew. Almost as soon as it was too late to do anything about it, I wished that my extended family had all been seated closer. Although it was a joyful occasion, there were moments that I couldn't look different family members in the eye, for fear of causing either them or me to break down in tears. Change is hard. It is also often necessary and good.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Hurry Up and Wait

It's the day before my son's wedding, and I'm at home twiddling my thumbs. The house is clean, the flowers are freshly cut, my dress is hanging in the closet awaiting me. I even got caught up on the finances and cleared off my desk. Anticipation is such a sweet joy. There's a little anxiety mixed in with it, and a wondering amazement that it all pulled together. I know it's coming, but I can't visualize it in my mind. Somehow when I try I'm somewhere near the middle section of the church on the right side--the groom's side. I haven't put myself up front as the mother of the groom. I can't see myself being especially escorted down the aisle to be seated. I can't see my other son and daughter standing up with him, or the other brothers doing their parts. I'm always still picturing someone else's wedding. It is unreal, but coming, and good. And there's no hurrying it, so I'm trying to sit still at the moment, relax, and patiently wait.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

The Unique Scents of Summer

freshly clipped grass
insect repellent
charcoal grilling barbecue
moist spaded soil
savory fresh herbs rubbed between your fingers
wilted petunias blossoms plucked from the hanging basket
over-ripe cantaloupe
ballpark hot dogs
rotting compost on a hot day
grated cabbage becoming coleslaw
baseball glove leather
hot tar wafting up heat waves from the road
suntan lotion
acrid chemical whiff of fireworks
tomato plants
mildew on damp towels heaped up too long
chlorine soaked bathing suits

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

A New Day is Dawning

My son is getting married in three days. I'm gaining another daughter of whom I have become quite fond. It is a beginning and an ending. When two people get married they are a new family, but people tend to think of them as a couple until they have kids. That's how I felt when I got married. "Ah, we are a couple. Someday we will start a family..."

The change a marriage makes is really felt when the extended clan gets together and people need to take pictures. Distinctions are made: just the old nuclear family, now just the siblings, now the siblings with their spouses, now add the in-laws, now the kids with their children...

Eventually, if all the kids marry, you and your spouse are back to being a couple again. With an empty nest.

Life doesn't stop for you to adjust. You sit helplessly by while each child leaves, eager, excited to be on their own, and their empty room is full of past times never to return. You walk in it, look around, and walk out shocked at how quickly it was over. You wonder that anyone could celebrate the emptiness. Your heart aches. You wonder if the silence will kill you. Somehow that picture of the Waltons with all their kids and grandparents under one roof just will not die. As much as you love your spouse, the two of you created something together--and now your joint venture has become shrunken--withered like the skin on the back of your hand making veins pronounced and wriggly. You loved those withered, veined hands on your grandmother, but never expected to see them on yourself. You look at your spouse and hope that the two of you can fill your home and time with life in a new way.

So the wedding is coming up. I'm very happy. I will probably cry for joy. But all the same, a change has come. A new family unit is carrying off my son, leaving me for now on the outside and hoping that he will cherish and love the gift of family that has been given to him for a time...

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Shedding Some Light ...

He's shedding some light, blond fur. I just brushed my golden retriever. Although only an ounce or so of fur was collected, he looks ten pounds lighter. He's shedding so much I think more dog was in the wastebasket than was left standing on four paws in my basement. As I stroked his fur whole tufts of fluff floated off his body and drifted across the floor. I waved my brush at the escaping clouds, trying to catch them on the bristles, but that only sped them faster in flight. Every half minute or so I had to stop brushing to clean the wad of fur off the brush.

I can always tell when he needs brushing. He looks scruffy and his coat is uneven. Little cirrus clouds peek out from his tawny hide, waiting to slip off after the floor has been vacuumed. You can figure out where he is in the house by following his downy trail. Dust bunnies of fur have become dust sheep--whole herds wandering around the drafty floor. You sweep them up and an hour later new ones appear, timidly at first, and then a stampede of fluff begins. The whole floor appears in motion.

What is amazing to me is that he has golden brown fur, but everything that is brushed out is blond. It's all the stuff underneath--thick, cottony and dense--not like the coarse long hair on top. It takes some effort to soak this animal to the skin because of the insulating layers. It is also a wonder that it's coming out in July. You'd think he'd shed more in May--but perhaps the heat isn't intense enough then.

I always feel like I've done my dog a great kindness when I brush him. He seems to enjoy it if I let him lie down--but today I made him stand up so I could brush him sitting in a chair instead of sprawling on the floor myself. He felt ashamed somehow, and slunk off to his cage once I let him go. Why was that? While he was shedding a layer, was I shedding some irritation--scolding him silently with a brush for doing something he couldn't help? Were my strokes a little harder than they needed to be? Could I have been gentler? I don't remember being angry or irritated, but my act of kindness was in a spirit of merely getting the job done no matter how. I tell myself, "he's just a dog", but what better place to practice gentleness than with a dumb animal. It is not hard to shed fur. It is hard to shed habits. Being habitually brisk and efficiency-minded might get the job done, but it doesn't convey the intentions behind them.