Sunday, December 30, 2012

Colts Win! Coach Wins More!

If you're from Indiana, Chuck Pagano is a household name. If you are not a Hoosier, I will tell you two things. One: the original meaning of 'Hoosier' is widely debated and is not important. Two: Chuck Pagano is the coach of the NFL team, the Colts, which plays in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis for home games.

Now sports are usually not a topic I write about. Namely, because I know little about sports. My four kids played sports, but I was either chasing a toddler, working in the concession stand mixing up 'suicides' for thirsty players, or I was talking to other moms in the stands. Suffice it to say, I was better at laundering their uniforms than I was understanding the finer points of the game. Once my oldest son asked me: "Mom, how could you sit at all of our games and learn nothing?" Well, I learned plenty. None of which would ever help me understand why the NFL needs two kickers--one for punting and one for field goals. I mean...a football is kicked by, umm the foot. How hard can it be? But I digress.

Back to Coach Pagano. Today marked his first Sunday back on the sidelines after a rigorous treatment for leukemia. Now this guy had only coached three games here in Indy, before the Colts team docs addressed some fatigue and bruising Pagano had been experiencing. The diagnosis was made, a plan of treatment put in place, and the football world in Indy was on stand-by.

This afternoon, the coach returned to his team. And an amazing thing happened in that stadium. Everyone gave this survivor of leukemia a standing ovation-- even the visiting team and their coaches. I don't know what was more healing for the Coach; the radiation or the cheers radiating from the stands. His tear-filled eyes and solemn look of thanks said it all. It was the noisiest and most emotionally-filled 'Get Well' and 'Welcome Home' card in history.

And the Colts won. That's always good. But even better when it represents a victory off field as well. Cancer isn't choosey. It can ravage the body of a nine year old, a celebrity, someone's grandma, or the coach of a football team. Nothing brings one in touch with his inner self, faith, or mortality more than a bad diagnosis. But if the medical condition afflicts a person like Chuck Pagano, no amount of HIPAA privacy laws are going to work. Nope. If the person is well-known, the doctors' notes will be too. The public feels entitled to every detail. Funny, there's nothing so basic to humanity as puking in a basin, mustering the strength to shuffle to the toilet, or losing one's hair. Sick is sick. The protocol is the same: match symptoms with a diagnosis, form a plan of attack, say a lot of prayers. Kind of like that quote that says: "Expect the best. Plan for the worst. Take what comes."

It was a winning day in the stadium. And I think football had little to do with it. This Sunday, the disease was defeated. The victor appeared and claimed his prize: the love of a city. I know that Coach Pagano may have more health battles ahead, but there was such a spirit of healing in that stadium downtown and it was just the medicine he needed. 'Chuck Strong' was no longer a was    a reality.

Coach returns. Cancer loses. Colts win. City celebrates.

A well-played game coached by a man whose real game plan is wellness.

Monday, December 24, 2012

A Worldly World Awaits

Well, here we are. Christmas once again. Time for me to get in the shower and hustle over to the Christmas Eve service at church. I have a cold and my head feels like it is full of snow. Or snot. But no matter....the holidays are still steeped in joy. All because of that wee King born in a manger, oh so many years ago.

We lose track of that, don't we? Sometimes we make this holiday season so hard and it is so simple. A birth that would change our hearts and souls. An unlikely group of visitors-rich and poor- in a place that would never have been considered an appropriate birthing site. All of this unfolding at a time when the census made Bethlehem seem like the Indiana State Fair. A complicated mess, when you think of it.

But life is messy. New life, especially. I have tried to wrap my head around delivering a child in a stable/cave/barn and I can't get past the sticky prickly straw. And no trained medical staff. I mean, yeah, I did the natural childbirth thing with four kids, so I get the no epidural protocol...but there's just something about a young girl being attended by a man who is trying to process pregnancy by the Holy Spirit plan. That puts a whole lot pressure on those involved.

But I am a Christian and I don't doubt a word of the Christmas story. I get it. I live it. I love it. But when we go through the motions of this season, we think perfection. Of greeting card loveliness and Hallmark movie endings; of warmth, tenderness, and a star's bright light. Of love so rich and rampant that hate hovers at the outermost regions of our lives. that world we don't need a Savior. We don't need second chances and redemption. It is because of darkness that we are sent a great light. We are both rich and poor in spirit, depending on the day. Makes great sense that simple, poor shepherds and wise rich men gathered at the manger. This is all of us at various stages of our lives.

We need that babe in the manger, of simple parents and a divine plan. As our news feeds and headlines shout of slaughter, greed, and evil too heinous to comprehend, once a year we stop and peer into that stable. We pause, reflect, and take our own personal census. We gaze skyward at stars and realize how rich we are, as we pull our little lambs closer to our hearts. And maybe we accept the gift that we have been bows or pretty wrapping, just a little guy, swaddled and silent with salvation and hope within those tiny fists. I would have rushed out to see him. How about you? Every year someone asks me what I want for Christmas. I give them the 'Sears Clearance Aisle' standard response. But in my heart I know what I want and need: to make it to the manger.

You may be asking this Christmas: what is the world coming to?
But I would rather say: look who is coming to this world!

Don't miss His coming! Merry Christmas.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Christmas - Hurry! Boy...Do We Need It!

Well, it's been a while. Life gets in the way of my 'ponderings' and I see some of you folks have still been peeking on the blog to see what I am yammering about today. Thank you for your kind readership and loyalty to what the ole' girl is up to now.

I think that Christmas is coming rather quickly. Am I ready? Heavens no. But that's okay...neither were Mary and Joseph. Afraid of what the holidays may hold? Own those feelings. The shepherds were afraid too, and the angels calmed them down. Feeling lost? Yep...our culture can do that to us. I suggest you just look up. That's what the Wise Men did, and that star did not fail them.

That's the good thing about coming to the manger. You don't need an E-Vite or pass code. No ticket or GPS. Just show up. No shirt no shoes no service? No problem. Come just as you are. Frazzled, disappointed, worried, heartbroken, exasperated, joyless. Come into the barn, move the sheep out of the way, smoosh down the straw and make yourself at home. Gaze at the new life and accept the Christ Child's guidance and freedom from the daily chains of life. Lots of power packed in that little fist. Plenty of grace and mercy tucked inside that tiny King. Feeling brave? Lift that infant from its shabby crib and cuddle the Prince of Peace. Kiss the face of face of your Creator and smile at all the good He has done in creating you. And remember always: Emmanuel craves your attention.

I have heard some folks are muttering about forgetting Christmas.
The recent tragedies have extinguished the fire from our souls. Our nation's economy is going over the cliff like the Grinch's sled. Wallets are empty and worry is on overtime. Pantries are turning folks away as their cupboards are bare. The world is mean.

Hmmm. No Christmas? My small brain cannot fathom such thinking. Christmas cannot come fast enough! We need the hope that is found in the manger. Our techno-minds need to unplug and just wonder about the wisdom in the prophecy. This world needs the color, music, and dance that we call Christmas. Cancel Christmas? Absolutely not. Every soul needs that stirring, fire, lullaby that soothes our sagging spirits.

The requirement of Christmas is really this: just show up. Love those who have been walking the journey with you. No gifts, please. Ribbons and bows, while pretty won't do it. Authentic conversations, bubbly giggles, warm hugs....this is the essence of the holiday. We make it so hard and it is so simple: a birthday in a barn of one who would change the world.

Years ago, I was filling in for a Sunday school teacher with kids of pre-school age. I was desperate for a lesson idea. I scribbled out a poem, traced their handprints and made a grand mess with glitter. But many parents would hang such handprints on their Christmas trees for years. I still have my daughter's handprint ornament. She was about four then, and is in her thirties, now. The poem goes like this:

                              Baby Jesus was asleep
                              So I tiptoed to his bed;
                              No one saw me sneaking
                              As I touched His little head.

                              Jesus raised His little fist
                              And spread His fingers apart...
                              First He touched my little hand
                              And then He touched my  heart.

We need a tiny hand to touch our hearts and fill us with hope.
Come. We are waiting with expectancy and anticipation.

Christmas hurry! Boy--and I mean Mary's boy-- do we need it!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

'Stories of My Soul' FOR SALE!

Dear Readers of My Blog:

First of all, thank you for "looking over my shoulder while I ponder life" in this blog entitled, "Ongoing Stories of My Soul."

You are both brave and kind.

At the urging of my family, publisher, and checkbook, I am letting you know that if you would like to purchase my book, 'Stories of My Soul' which was published in 2007. It is available for the cost of $15. If I need to mail it to you---or to someone else, the cost is $17.

This might be just the gift you are needing for that special individual. I would be pleased to write a personal message to that dear person, if you so desire.

A book is usually more welcomed than Chia Pets or ill-fitting  underwear. Or, maybe more than an ill-fitting Chia Pet. Sigh.

Just contact me at: if you are interested.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Taking this Blog to the MAX!!

Sh-sh-sh. Promise you won't tell. If you do tell, I will be in my crate for a month....and I, Most Magnificent Max, the rescued canine wants none of that mess.

I just wanted you to know that what the DebLady says about me is not true. She thinks I am "not quite right" but I think that is quite wrong. I bring her glad tidings of great joy. I bring her the mail...sorted and in chunks. I organize her books...and remove the covers if they look tacky. I recycle all plastic by chewing as fast as I can. I chase the cat so she gets regular exercise. I trim the bushes to lessen the yard work. And now...this.

Holiday decorations! I saw her hauling them in over the weekend. She has a lot of stuff! I sat there and knew right then that this was going to take me into overtime. How in the world does she expect me to chew up one artificial tree, drag garland through the house, plus unwrap all of the gifts?? A dog only has so many hours in a day. Combine that with chasing Harper, barking at the mailman, and pulling down the curtains---my day is full!

This lady is making me crazy! All I ever hear is "MAX! Why did you tear up the pillows? Max...why did you chew up the markers and the dish towel??" Never one word of thanks or a doggie treat. Just that constant yammering about why I did this or that. You want to know WHY I did all of those things? Because you left them out for me while you were gone all day. Are you a moron or what? Dogs chew. We chomp. We break things down from a finished and complete state to the original. Consider us canine engineers. Jeesh! Why is this so hard to understand?

Well, I had better hurry up. DebLady will be back in here and I don't want her to know we talked. A dog has to vent, you know. I thought about calling the Dog Whisperer but I did not feel like whispering---I wanted to yell! I am under so much pressure to keep this house in shape.

And now this. All of these extra doodads sitting around just begging to be covered in dog slobber and teeth marks. I hope that Santa Paws still brings me all that is on my list. I deserve those steak bones and bacon treats.

Being the Most Magnificent Max is not easy. I only want to be appreciated and loved for all the extra that I do on her behalf.

Okay...I'm done. If I can't figure out how to post this blog, I will just chew up her laptop and blame it on the cat.

And if that doesn't work....I am just going to blame it on you. She won't smack you with a newspaper.

Will she??

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Why? I Can Only Imagine...

In my teaching this past week, an old quote popped up. It goes something like this:
              "We are the only species who asks 'why'."
I would go a bit further and add,
                 "And we are the only species that imagines."
Now, the quantitive aspect of these bold quotes, is that if other species do indeed, ask why and imagine, we cannot measure such. And we all know that in science, it is what is measurable, observed, and can be proven that matters. As it should be. We can't look at an animal and say conclusively, " is sad." We can observe and conclude, "The animal's behavior is lethargic and without energy--this behavior is typical of an animal that is not interacting with its environment/caregivers due to a physical or mental occurrence." Then the process begins to look at what is known, the variables, and the evidence of such can lead to a conclusion.

Perhaps we will find out, one day, that we have been wrong. Our dogs might have imagined a day when we did nothing but play fetch with them, walk them, and fed that pesky cat last. The horse might have asked why getting shod was such a big deal. Or the salmon might have asked WHY swimming upstream was mandatory for spawning. Couldn't someone just have  let the term "go with the flow" apply to them?

And here is one I have pondered: why do we call all ladybugs 'lady'? We have some gender-confused bugs out there shouting from our overhead lights: "I am NOT a Lady bug...I am a Guy bug. Get it right!" And if a praying mantis is an atheist, he/she would not have been praying, but instead, just rubbing their legs together, just as some of us rub our hands together before diving into a steak or baked potato. It is about lunch, not religion. But let's not fault those early Greeks who peered up at the moon and called the dark spots 'Seas'. They knew water made dark patches on our planet, so there must be water on the moon. Still today, those regions are known as 'Sea of Storms' and 'Sea of Tranquility' and 'Sea of Vapors'. They weren't stupid; they just had limited access to proof.

I like asking why. And imagining. It takes us places we would never have gone without those mental springboards. The 'why' factor is the reason polio has been eradicated in most of the world. Once we ask 'why' something occurs, we can control its reason for being....thus a cure or improved quality of life. When we imagined what was over the Rocky Mountains--clear to the shores of the Pacific, we sent explorers like Lewis and Clark to see if what we thought was what existed. And in our focus to answer one 'why' we create countless tools to be used for civilization elsewhere. Been in a trauma room lately at your local hospital? Many of the monitors, computers, surgical tools, etc., were the result of 'spin-offs' from NASA's space initiatives. We don't waste what we discover...we imagine new applications for it. We're a pretty cool species, huh?

You may be snoozing through this blog. It isn't especially funny or poignant. But as I deal with youth on a daily basis....I am finding that telling them WHAT to think is, well, scary. But if I can empower them TO think....then questions will be raised, processed, and our species will be, oh so much better.

But there is a danger. What kids question and imagine can change lives. Ask Jonas Salk. Neil Armstrong. George Washington Carver. Sally Ride. Charles Drew. Harper Lee. Bill Gates. Steven Hawking. Robert Goddard. Oprah Winfrey. Benjamin Franklin. Robert Ballard. Beethoven. The Beatles. Eli Lilly. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Ask your own kid what they could change--and why. Then look at your grandkids and think about  the potential that is perhaps, silent now---but one day soon, will have a big voice.

Why? Just imagine.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

A Kid's First Look at Life: Kindergarten

Have you spent anytime recently in the presence of a kindergartener? Well, if so I hope you are as spellbound as I.

There is a certain magic about a kid mastering the sounds of letters and pronouncing words, as if sifting through a treasure chest of great toys. The energy that a little one exerts when puffing out initial sounds, medial vowels, and ending consonants is simply exhausting. Yet, it is fired by the thrill of 'owning' those words-- so when their little eyes spy them on the page the words are not strangers but friends.

Recent recollections of three particular kindergarteners has left me in a curricular euphoria. The wee-sized scientist who mystified his
older brother by showing three states of matter...solid, liquid, and gas with the well-known 'inflate the balloon with baking soda and vinegar' experiment. The curiosity and determination of building musical experiments with paper plates, peanuts, cardboard, glue, and chocolate wafers, was unmatched. Little fingers which shape the letters on a page with a determined pencil and outlook is their pathway to literacy.

And yes....the funny comments, too. Like the one grandson who came home the first week of school, tossed down his book bag, and pushed up his glasses and exclaimed: "Do you know that kindergarteners have to go ALL day? It's soooo long! I'm exhausted!" Bad day at the office, huh, kid?

It is announcing that the class gets a pizza party and when the parent said, "Yes, I know" (he had read it in an email), the little one inquired, "Was it on the NEWS?" Their world is so small yet so big. They know about trapezoids, acquiring mathematical theory as easily as a song about holidays. And just about the time we think their childhood is slipping away, they climb into your lap and beg for a story, wiggle their loose tooth, and tell you about Santa.

Kindergarteners learn by watching as much as doing. One of my grandsons was relating to his mom about the day of sharing pets. He was naming which kid brought what critter, when he finally said, "And Jacob brought a goldfish." When his mom asked how that went, our boy replied in all earnestness: "It was....quiet." So sincere, so straightforward, and so funny.

I have to hand it to those 'Early Childhood' educators. Anyone who thinks the younger they are the easier it is, has not been in a K-1 classroom. It is exhausting! While those little guys can be cute, they can be demanding, short-tempered, frustrating, and suck the life right out of ya! Everything is vitally important, must be shared at this very second, has to be fair, and cannot wait! This goes for everything from bladder control to 'what comes next after 19'. A kindergarten kid lives in the moment. No one is more important than the person speaking to them, and the glue can slide off the paper if they are engrossed in a tale from a pal. And if a band-aid is needed, in their mind it is time to call 911. Stat.

You know that poster that was around a few years ago that said, "Everything I need to know I learned in Kindergarten?" Think about it. The foundations of civilization are really rooted in these experiences: literacy, law and order, scientific principles, social interaction, mathematical equations, courtesy, honesty, creativity. A little kid sees worth in a broken crayon, a car with three wheels, the kid who cries. They are as forgiving as they are fun.

I could go on forever. Seeing the world through the eyes of a five or six year old is such an event of discovery. I don't want to miss a thing.

Thankfully, they won't allow it!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Jingle Turkeys & Merry Pumpkins

I'm out of time. Tomorrow is the 30th of November and I haven't even ventured out to the garage to unearth my Christmas decorations. I probably have decorated the tree, correlated your twinkling lights with the soundtrack from 'White Christmas' and hung the stockings by the chimney with care.

Happy for you.

My porch and yard is fully decorated with autumn leaves, scarecrows, pumpkins, and baskets of gourds. It looks so festive! So colorful! And in twelve hours, so out of season. Sigh.

I was thinking...maybe if I put a beard on the scarecrow, stacked up the pumpkins in white fabric, so they resembled snowmen, and just put a layer of tinsel over the leaves, it might look Christmassey. With a little imagination, couldn't a turkey resemble   a short, puffy reindeer? Okay....maybe not.

I like outside decorations. It tells everyone who drives by that I am  probably a former elementary teacher who is used to doing seasonal bulletin boards and can't break the habit. Not true. I can break the habit but prefer not to. And, now that I am back in the classroom for a spell (ha ha get that...for a 'spell'), I am quite busy.

And there's one other small issue. I have Max. You know, my rescue dog that eats most anything. I can't fathom what this canine will do with my festive displays. His menu this week has been the mail and devotional books. I guess he was inspired with that scripture, "Man and dog cannot live on bread alone." ( canine version). This dog would look at tinsel, garland, and ornaments as an 'all you can eat buffet'.

So enjoy your showplace of holiday house and hearth. I will be here contemplating how inviting those tacky window clings will make the place look.

Merry Christmas! Or maybe I'll just go with Jingle Turkeys and Merry Pumpkins. Max will never know the difference.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Fishing for a Mate/The Water is daughters have hinted to me that I should try an online singles matching thing. To humor them, I have given it a try. Now, remember that I am pretty content with my life. But if there is a guy out there who can pay for a dinner, tickets for the theater or symphony, I'm all about that. And if he can show up with a screwdriver and fix a couple of door knobs, install a storm window--all the better. Romance? Oh sure. But I am not that woman who needs a man or even wants one full time. However, if he bathes regularly, has teeth, and can speak in complete sentences, I will try him out.

Here's the problem. I decided to try a 'Christian' online match thing but decided I needed to lie to be competitive. before you send me to church, just know it was a little lie. I grew two inches and have started bicycling and gardening at the stroke of the keyboard. I mean, there was no category for 'Sitting and Talking on the Phone' so I just decided to check some things I might do.

My daughter and best friend argued on which photo I should submit. I was thinking along the lines of using somebody else's picture, but they nixed that idea right away. I was informed that I had lied enough. Fine!

Then we got busy. Could we get the reflections off my glasses? Could we photo-shop me to look, um, taller, younger, thinner?  Intelligent yet fun? Studious but goofy? The choices were endless.
Finally, we chose a photo that met this criteria: " don't look too bad in this one." Yeah, that speaks volumes to a girl's confidence.

I liken this whole silly process to fishing. put your line out there and make yourself sound so gooood. I am a writer. I know how to make myself and others look so good on paper/screen. And knowing I can do it makes me dubious of others.
Then, you wait until the bobber wiggles. In techno terms, you get an email that says someone has viewed your profile. Yikes!

Then you pull the line out of the water. It could be lovely catch or a slimy bit of weeds. Or an ugly catfish that has teeth and barbs. I have nothing against catfish, but sometimes it is better to just say, "Oh darn. He got my bait and got away." And this is how I am viewing his whole process. It is fun, but can take a lot of time re-baiting that line, sticking it in the water, and reeling in some interesting 'fish'.  Let's just say some of those folks should have been lying like me. And perhaps using someone else's photo. I sound heartless, don't I?

But really. If you are going to put yourself out there, why not try spellcheck so you don't say, "I way less than I look." Really? And were you absent from third grade when they taught homonyms?
And could you put your shirt back on? Ewww. We are not 25 year olds. And if you are trying to pick out a memorable user name, 'Felon Phil' is not going to do it for me.

I am not sure I am cut out for this singles online match thing. I also am not certain that I would actually want to go out with someone who is as desperate as I and has resorted to cyber-dating. Not that it hasn't worked for a lot of folks. And Lord knows, guys aren't falling out of the sky and landing on my front porch.

But the Lord knows that I am also not five feet tall and my idea of gardening is mowing the grass with loathing. I have always said that if God wanted me with another man, He would have to bring him to me. Well, guess maybe I will try this on-line match thing for another week or so.

Let's just hope 'Felon Phil' disappears from my profile page.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bullying: Pushing Back with Kindness

There's a lot of talk these days about bullying. The bad news? It has been around forever. The good news? We're talking about it. Plenty. Schools are teaching students strategies on how to recognize, report, and prevent being a victim of bullying. It is no longer cool to be a person of intimidation and meanness. And the consequences for such are getting much stiffer.

There are so many aspects of this bullying behavior that my little brain will not solve here. I have seen plenty of intimidation in schools. It isn't pretty and I have dealt with bullying in some 'creative' ways. Career secret? Nope. But I let the little darlings who felt victimized know that on my watch they would be kept safe. And that those individuals who came into the classroom with evil intent would be powerless. I'd like to think I fulfilled that promise.

But last week I was with a group of seventh graders. At the end of the day, once a week, all students come together to strategize ways of addressing the bullying phenomena. An amazing thing happened and I want to share it here. Consider it your 'feel good' story of the day.

As the group of 135 kids and teachers started their forum, the focus was on calling one another negative names---often the foot in the door for bullying. One young man in the back of the room got brave. He raised his hand and spoke, "I don't know why, but some kids have called me retarded." The teacher asked, "How did that make you feel?" The boy thought a moment and answered, "I felt unimportant."

Wow. I expected the typical answer of "I felt mad/bad/sad." But this answer clearly reflected a very wise response.

"Well," replied the teacher, "You are very important and you have value. We want you to know that."

And then the boy started crying.

Oh boy, I thought. Here it comes: the giggling and snickering of his peers. This kid is toast. The room, however was still. Except for the boy's sobs.

And then it happened. Very slowly, a group of boys started to clap. It was an authentic action of honor, for a classmate who was being emotionally naked. Then the applause picked up. It was heart-stopping and heart-warming to witness. It substantiated what I have held as one of my tenets of teaching: kids these days can be so amazing!

Watching the faces of the other adults, I realized that they were as spellbound as I. As I processed this event, which took perhaps four minutes at the most, I began to grasp what really had unfolded.

The young man did not cry when he said he had been called, "retarded." He started to weep when the teacher told him he was indeed, very important. That he mattered and was worthy.

Don't we all need to hear this? I once was asked why the students in my classroom tended to be successful. I had to think on that a moment. This was the best I could come up with: "When people are valued, they are empowered to do great things."

We know that hurt people hurt people. And it is the issue of being hurt, feeling unimportant, and undervalued that lies at the heart of the bullying issue.

I have no empirical wisdom on how to fix this bullying pox on society. But starting a dialogue with youth --one that is rich in authenticity and a climate for honesty--is a must. Especially when hemmed in with kind and sensitive adults.

I will not forget this experience. I am blessed and honored that I was a guest in that school when an ordinary exchange became a 'holy' moment.

When a lost lamb was ushered back to the fold by the kindness of the flock.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Elation in the End Zone

     There is nothing I enjoy more than planting myself down in front of my 60 inch television screen and watching a good NFL game. My family knows not to call me...I will not answer. Grandkids know better than to beg to spend the night when the Colts are playing. I will be wearing my Luck jersey, my horseshoe socks, and will even turn my cell phone to 'silent'. I am serious about my NFL games, to the point that I even study all of the rules, policies, draft choices, standings, and team lore.

      And if you really know me very well, you know that the very first paragraph is a total lie.

      I don't watch television as I don't have one any longer. I am not a fan of sports--unless it is a grandkid playing. I cannot tell you anything about professional football except one penalty call. I learned it existed, oh about five years ago. And if you want to look it up, it is in the NFL Rules and Policies, and is Rule 12, Section 3 under 'Unsportsmanlike Conduct', Article 1: "Prolonged or Excessive Celebration."  Now....this is my kind of call!!

     Let me get this right.  Players are encouraged to score, but prohibited to celebrate it. What's that about? The exact wording is:
      "Players are prohibited from engaging in any celebration or
       demonstration while on the ground. A celebration or
       demonstration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if
       a player continues to such after a warning from an official.
       This includes two or more players engaged in excessive
       celebration--premeditated or choreographed. Players cannot
       use extraneous objects or the ball as a prop or unnecessary
       physical contact with a game official."

        Well, somebody has their referee tighty-whities in a wad. I mean, do you really think bulky football players are going to run out in their tap shoes, grab a white cane, whip out a quickstep of "Puttin on the Ritz," grab the official's hand and say, "Join me?" when they land a pig skin in the end zone? And so what if they do? I is using up precious and expensive television time. But I think this is just what life needs: excessive celebrations and demonstrations.

        Since I am built like a dwarf from Snow White, I am in no position to pull on pads and a helmet and rush into the action. The field does not need another yard ornament. But they do need me. Really!! I am all about excessive. Like, saving stuff. Telling stories. Eating and sleeping. Buying books for the grandkids. So expecting me to waddle into the end zone and whip out some 'WOO HOOS' and audacious cheers and moves could really add some excitement to a rather bland event. How many folks fall asleep on the couch during a game. I rest my point. (No punt intended).

       I am thinking of contacting the NFL to put 'excessive celebration' on the books---not as a penalty but as moment of pure joy and delight. I do joy! My favorite phrase that my little brain thought up is this: "Don't let anyone steal your joy." And I believe that the NFL is doing just that. I can think of no better honor than being called out for 'excessive celebration'. In fact, I welcome it. Life is full of little victories and pausing a moment or two to hold them up to the light just makes us relish them more. And I believe, celebration is good for the soul as it enables us to treasure our blessings. And count them, one by one. With or without a scoreboard.

      Next time you see that player running like crazy, protecting that football like it is a newborn, and breaking that invisible plane that denotes TOUCHDOWN, let's just see if he is brave enough to tackle Rule 12. I am for that guy who dances, prays, struts, smiles, flips, and well, celebrates. He has earned it. And if the black and white shirts don't like it, they can just turn their sorry and serious heads and walk away.

       Life is short. Run into that end zone and celebrate all you want--with no penalties! And I will be in the stands, cheering you on.


Monday, November 12, 2012

Letters from Camp: "Your Son Does What?"

That last kid of mine actually listened to me. When I was floating around the house spouting off that old quote that said:
          "There are two lasting gifts we can give our children.
            One is roots. The other is wings."
he took it to heart. Yeah...his wings have taken him to various adventures that I just shake my head at. One....he tried studying film at the LA Film School. Living in the mix of Hollywood, he was never dazzled by seeing the likes of Patrick Dempsey or Robert DiNero, or other celebrities. His take on it was this, "Mom, they are just going to work." LA never consumed him as this mother feared it would. He came home to Indiana, realizing that film was not his passion, music was. I can tell you now, that I kinda knew that, but he had to figure it out for himself.

I took some heat as I watched his band, "My Hidden Track" perform around Indy. I mean, folks advised me to make him get a degree and THEN do music and such. I was viewed as irresponsible by not imposing a strict regimen of "go to college, get a degree, get a job, get into debt, put your passions aside..."

 Someone asked me if the band was good. My response was this: "I don't know. I'm the mom, so of course I think he's good. But look at the audience: they are loving it! They are buying the merchandise and cd's so yeah, I guess they think they're good." I still smile when I drive by the Emerson or Irving Theater and see kids lined up outside to see their favorite band. I told Nick, "I did not write my first book until I was fifty years old. I will never tell you to quit the 'band thing' until you decide." Music is still his first love. I will never be surprised if the world ends up on my doorstep looking for my son. I told him once, "You can be famous for a month and then it all has to go away!" HA! Fame was hardly in his game plan.

But LA was. Nearly seven years ago, when he was a student at IU, he was recruited by representatives of a camp for kids, called, Canyon Creek Sports Camp. He went out there for a summer job. By the end of the summer it was no mystery that he would return. And return. And return. As family, we looked over his shoulder at this 'job' that would soon become as important to him as music. I hinted that there were camps closer---like in Brown County---but his heart was in Lake Hughes, California, in the Angeles National Forest. Yeah...this adventure had 'wings' written all over it! The Hoosier roots had given my boy flight to the west coast. You can't imagine how much we miss him.

But there's a satisfaction when a mother knows that her offspring are living the life they feel has meaning. When this, my baby of four kids, welcomes hundreds of campers and counselors into the 'Creek' he is complete. Wearing different hats, he is on the administrative staff. He hires counselors from all over the world, organizes schedules, fundraisers for the Harold Robinson Foundation, (an arm of the camp that brings underserved schools to camp), is a kind of PR director, and a team member of an incredible staff at this camp. I got to see this up close when I was invited to do some science sessions recently.

At first I did not get it. How can one make a career out of camp? But this camp is not just for kids; but also for businesses and spiritual retreats, private celebrations, and their underlying goal of 'team building' should be a requirement for all politicians and world leaders. As the country embraces an initiative that promotes health and fitness, there's no better way than to introduce youth to physical activity than rope courses, archery, fishing, zip lines, swimming, team sports, go carts, hiking, and on and on it goes. A nightly campfire is the stage for wacky and hilarious songs and skits, which takes extensive energy from the counselors. Entertainment that is non-violent and lacks rude and mean messages Now, that is rare. Oh yeah. No electronics as the area gets lousy reception. After a while you don't even miss it--no newspapers, no TV; just folks staying in the moment.

What I did in the classroom for 32 years, he and the staff of Canyon Creek Sports Camp are doing with outdoor education. Amazing! A kid's playground developing core lessons in cooperation, encouragement, and revealing a kid's hidden potential. Is it fun? Oh yeah! Do I get it now? Oh yeah!

This is my last letter from camp.

I have shared my various mis-adventures and such. But I just felt I needed to state some thoughts on this whole notion of camp. And how I am amazed and blessed that my boy is, to find such fulfillment in his life's work in a very non-traditional career. He is blessed to be surrounded by the most competent and loving folks whom he calls 'staff'. From the kitchen crew to the grounds' crew, to 'Jill the Camp Mom' and all of the 'naturalists' who reveal the hidden secrets of the universe; this camp brings such a balance to the 'dog eat dog' world of that old 9 to 5 work week. I would like to think that the 'roots' of Indiana shaped him into what he is today. Camp is not easy work; but it means so much to each kid and adult who leave there. I should know. I won't be the same. Funny thing....when the kid teaches the parent.

Roots and wings. Ever thankful that when this kid left the nest his wings took him to such an awesome adventure. Now when folks say, "Your son does what??" I just smile and say, "Camp." You get it now, don't you?

Thanks for reading my letters from camp. Your kind readership keeps my mind rooted in these blogs. But more, has given my heart wings.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Letters From Camp to the Cat and Dogs at Home: Why Animals Should Never Zip-Line (Nor Humans)

Dear Harper, Max, and Boo,

While mommy is gone to camp, I expect you all to behave. eating the mail. Harper...mind your caretaker, Michael and don't think you are too good to sleep in your crate. Boo, I know you are a cat, and convincing you of that will never happen in this lifetime. So go on acting like royalty while I am gone. But please don't refer to your canine brothers as "lower life forms." You all are my children with fur and I love each of you. When my own kids would ask me, "Mom...which one do you love the most?" And I would honestly answer, "Each of you--on a different day." Same goes with the three of you. that I have that out of the way, how are you three doing? I have not gotten a phone call from Indy to LA, so you all must be behaving! Let me tell you what Nick had me doing today!!

There is this thing at his camp called a 'ZipLine'. It is another way humans have fun. It stretches in the air from one location to the next. You climb up to a platform, strap to it, let go, and 'zip' on this line--in the air-- then come to a landing. Let me put it to you in ways you can understand.

Boo...first of all I had to climb a pine tree to about 45 feet in the air. You would have loved it! Me...not so much. My short non flexible legs, and no tail for balance, made the climb rugged. Sap in between my fingers was most annoying. I was not off to a good start. Up on the platform, I was hooked and tethered. Harper and Max, imagine your mommy with a harness between her legs, and a leash attached to that. don't imagine it. It was as ugly as it felt. And there we stood as Campmom Jill and naturalist helper guy, Jerry, was getting all set. We chatted. I had already put my safety helmet on backwards so I wasn't sure this was the experience for me.

Nick was going on this ZipLine after me, so he blocked my way of climbing down the tree. "Climbing down the tree?" you might ask? Oh yes. As I stood there peering over a 40-50 foot road/canyon, I decided that I was uninterested in this ZipThing. Kind of like when I take you guys to the vet; the car ride is nice but what is waiting next is dreadful. Anyway, there I stood. Finally, Jerry gave the signal. I was ready to zip. Like a postal code. Like a pair of pants. Or so they thought.

I backed out. I backed up. I told them, "Yeah, I am  not going to do this." Nick started the reasons I would regret not doing this. I knew he had his cell phone out and was going to record his mother's rebuttal. I would have liked him to have called my life insurance company to see if my policy was still in force in case of recreational accidents, but he was still going on about how "You will love this! The grandkids will be so proud of you. will have to climb down this tree and it is harder than climbing up."

Oh boy. He had me there. I cannot tell you Max, Harper, and Boo, how hard that climb was. So...I looked out over the Zipline, tugged on my 'leash' and muttered something I say when one of you poop in the house. Nick smiled, Jill uttered scripture and told me to just step off the edge of the platform, and to swing out so I won't hit my head.

Are you serious? Nick had that big smile and cell phone aimed. I hate that smile. It always works. Just as I was about to reiterate how much I was NOT going to do this, Jill said the one phrase that would seal the deal: "This is one small step for man; one giant leap for mankind." And children with fur, this is when I went from being an old lady pet owner to a bird. First, I prayed. Okay...let's just say as I dangled in the air, I said, "OH GOD!" But it was in a prayerful-type voice, so I am certain that He heard me.

Then it happened! I was zipping! I LOVED IT!! It was like flying and swinging and being so free that I could not even be afraid. My smile was so big that I thought my face would freeze. Kind of like when you guys pant so long it looks like your tongue will fall off. Okay...maybe not the same! But let me tell you, it was a great ride! You know the feeling when your head is out the window and the wind is blowing in your face and your fur is all in one direction?

Well, that was my big adventure, guys. Boo, I know you are disappointed in me, being fearful of climbing a tree. You do it with such skill. Proving once again, I am the inferior species. Harper and Max, whenever you go pulling me down the street when I am attempting to take you for walks, I will just look at it as 'ZipLining'   without the line in the sky. I can pretend can't I?

Mommy will soon be home. Be good until I get there. After all,
I can always string a line from the garage to the house and let you in for the big ride! Boo can take the photos. Until then, purr softly, bark loudly, and know that letters from camp are not to be appetizers from the mailbox. Are you listening, Max? See you soon!

Love, Mom

Letters from Camp: "I Held the Moon in My Hands!"

     When the phone call came that I was invited to teach an aerospace lesson at my son's camp, I was pumped! What could be better than seeing my boy, being in the mountains, and teaching kids? I have traveled more this summer than anytime in my life, and I admit, I was ready to stay home. I did not want my dog and cat to see the luggage come out again. But it is hard to hide one's feelings from my children with fur. I heard their whispers: "She's leaving us again. And we don't even get airport gifts." Sigh.

       But things fell into place. Since the students/campers would be out studying constellations, it was decided that I would present lunar science. Cool! I have been in love with the moon most of my life! But time was of the essence. I knew what I needed to pull this off. Hello, NASA! Soon a dear gal named Bridget, from NASA's Johnson Space Center was my new BFF, as she located my security info and got the Lunar Soil Sample, Disk #71 shipped to camp. It had been a while since I had gotten the famed 'moon rocks' and trying to get anything done with the government in a hurry is real work. But it all fell into place. Kind of like the stars being in alignment.

      Until the night before my presentation. I couldn't sleep. It had been several years since I had taught aerospace/lunar science. What if I forgot my facts? What if the kids were bored? I mean, after all, they were thrilled to be out of school, learning in a camp setting. Would I come across as some old lady discussing an Apollo mission that even their parents barely remembered? And what about moon rocks? These kids came from an 'underserved' school district in LA. With smog and light pollution, they barely  saw stars---even if they were allowed out at night in their precarious neighborhoods. This teacher was anxious. Why did I agree to this? I could be home, sleeping in my own bed, with no thought of the moon. But then, I am not a fan of missed opportunity. And this was big!

       The kids were busy at camp with archery, fishing, ropes courses, soccer, etc. And then, as part of their daily rotation, they came into my room, an area off the big lodge. The theme was set: "I Held the Moon in My Hands" was how I attempted to create a sense of wonder about this natural satellite of Earth. I started my babbling and promised if they listened well, I would answer the number one question kids ask astronauts: "How do you go to the bathroom in space?" I had them. Perhaps you have wondered the same thing: do we go to the bathroom in space?

       And soon the room became electric with student-instructor exchange. Their hands went up, my anxiety went down. The 'lunar facts neurons' began to fire with an enthusiasm I have when in the presence of young minds. They asked. I answered. The little guys marveled and soon, I had never left the classroom. They held the Lunar Disk and studied it and never ever uttered, "Boring!" Parents took photos with their cell phones, and said, "Can I have a turn?" Parents who needed translation from English to Spanish,  were eager to hear the counselor tell them facts I had shared about "Yo Tengo los Luna en Mi Manos."

      The moon belongs to all of us. You can gaze up at it in any language. It is the same moon that Abraham Lincoln looked at, the same moon the Greeks gazed upon--and named the dark patches seas; the same one that Apollo astronauts left their footprints on--and the same one Columbus navigated by. The moon looks down on the rich or poor. Colts player, Andrew Luck gets no luckier moon. Beyonce and Frank Sinatra have seen--and sung--about this one moon. President Obama has shared this same moon with President George Washington. The person you will marry, as I tell the kids, will gaze at this same moon. But perhaps, one day, our great grandchildren will wake up on the moon---just as we wake up on a new continent. It is a possibility; youth are ready to go. And especially this group of kids. They had witnessed the space shuttle, Endeavour, come through the street, right by their school, as it was being taken to the museum. I could have talked about the space shuttle for another hour---that is how much they wanted to learn about space exploration.

      But enough of that. This teacher is just so very thankful that the God that created this Earth and our Moon, smiled on me as I dragged out every tool in my box to make this lesson work. And ever thankful that my son had confidence in his mother to revisit her role as an educator.

     I hope with all my heart, that when the kids from 109th Street Elementary in LA, see that full moon, they will look at their hands and smile. They did indeed hold the moon in their hands-- and this teacher under their spell.

      (Thank you Canyon Creek Sports Camp and the Harold Robinson Foundation for an awesome experience at 'the Creek'--unforgettable for us all.)


Thursday, November 8, 2012

Letters from Camp: The Wall

     Picture this: a wooden wall, perhaps 15 feet high. It is smooth; no notches or handholds. Gathered at the base of the wall are folks, waiting.

     The object is to scale the wall, supported by pairs of hands lifted high. Peeking over the top are two counselors and the last two individuals who made the climb. It is a chain of human support. It is an amusing feat, I suppose. I smile and think of how I will write about this. I have no plans of participating. And then the whispers reach my ears: "You get a turn, Miss Debbie." Umm, no thanks. I like my hips unfractured, thank you very much. My son looks over the crowd and shouts to a woman who is scared to death, "My mom is doing this next! You can do it! Show her how it is done." Great. Now he's called me out and he knows I will not say no. I watch this lady's face go from grim to grinning. How hard can it be?

     Then, it is my turn. I face the audience...state my name and one or two goals for my immediate future. The folks cheer and I pivot and face the wall. This looked like child's play when I was standing on the perimeter, watching. Now, all eyes are on me. Usually the one up for a good adventure, I am fearful of failing. Of falling. Of looking dumb and disappointing all of those watching.

    I face the wall and there's nothing to grasp. I am at the mercy of those hoisting me up. This wooden wall looks so much taller now, and those peering over the top seem small and weak. What if my short status eludes their grasp? If I fall upon those children and adults below me, injury is certain. I should exit now! Camp is not for wimps. I am claiming wimpy-ness. But the yammering inside my head is drowned out by the noise of positive chants.

    My fingers touch the smooth wood and I am reminded of a quote that says: "A smooth mountain is impossible to climb. Rough obstacles are necessary for a successful ascent." This is my smooth mountain. My anxiety deepens.

    One foot is hoisted up. My sweaty hands try to read the wood grain in an odd style of Braille. My fingertip comprehension fails me. No intellect will do this job. Trust. Complete dependence on these kind folks who have owned this wall will have to do.

     I am moving! Rapid accession, wild cheering, hands grab mine! My feet dangle as does my comfort level. The wall is rough unforgiving and I'm cussing myself for the extra weight that affects---not just me, but every hand who is supporting my body.
Gravity does its best to make us fail. Yes, 'us'. There is no 'me' and 'them'---it is 'we'. 'We' will scale the wall. 'We' will not let one another drop. 'We' will be successful! 'We've' got this!

    I'm at the lip of the wall's top. My legs clamor to fasten over that top ridge. I cannot do any of this myself. My hands, clasped in a death grip with those folks trained to turn my "try into triumph." And 'umph' it is! My body is briefly in a horizontal lump and I realize that I'm being pulled, pushed, and permitted to do one thing: succeed.

     We've done it! I am at the top of my smooth mountain, peering down at those who lifted me up. My fearless graspers' hands are patting me on the back...but not for long. One person exits the platform and I am being called to turn around, look down, and help another climber make her trip to the top of the wall.

      I will not fail her. Strike that. We will not fail her. There is no 'I' in success and Lord knows, I could never have made it to the top without the support of others.

      And it took facing a wall to remind me of just how small I am until others lift me up. May I never forget this lesson.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

A 'Class' Act

     Had lunch with fourteen friends today. No big deal, really until I share this number: 444. Four hundred, forty four. This was the total accumulation of years we spent educating children. Now folks, that is a lot of lesson planning, report carding, and parent conferencing! So many young faces looking to us for answers as well as questions. And so many mornings of greeting youngsters at the door as they told us of loose teeth, bragged about birthday gifts, and cried because their dog ran away. We listened to each tale with kind attention, while motioning one kid to hang up his jacket, and shaking our head as another little darling decided to snatch the pencil off a classmate's desk. We took attendance, gave spelling tests and read countless stories. When a bandaid would not stop the hurting, we bandaged their souls in kind words and warm hugs.

      The student was never an intrusion in our day; kids made our day matter. Teaching was always so much more than averaging grades or processing curriculum. It was creating a sense of wonder, fostering a love for learning, and making sure each day held giggles and songs. We were story tellers and magicians, disciplinarians and number jugglers. And at the end of the day we were blessed. As well as very, very tired. Oddly, we could not wait until we woke up to do it all over again.

     I looked at the gals with whom I was breaking bread.  We laughed and storied, and shook our heads at the changes that were overtaking education. What? No time for holiday art lessons or cool units on owls? Constant pre-tests and post-tests that have crowded out the moments necessary for imagination? Classroom plays that held kids' excitement and joy, shelved for strangers coming in the room to offer 'interventions'. School days so rich that kids did not want to be absent--all this dumped so the data is streamlined and profitable? There was a balance between "skill and drill without the thrill" and hands-on activities which spilled over into each subject level. What looked 'fun' was 'fundamental' and the basics were never compromised; just served with neon green highlighters or power points. We fused technology into what the textbooks left out, and time-tested 'best practice' were our benchmarks.

     I have never heard a former student say to me, "Wow, Mrs. Hall, those weeks of practice leading up to ISTEP were life changing!" Nope. But they will remember the time we put 'Goldilocks on Trial,' built moon bases that showed how we could live on the lunar surface, and wrote so many stories, essays and poems, that some were bound and published. I get responses from schoolchildren who recalled making games based on math concepts when we did a section called, "Let's Get Board with Math." And those moments they would beg me for more time just to read silently, as they became lost in the Young Hoosier books or autobiographies. We took them to Australia and back to the Gold Rush. On the first snowfall of the season, we ran outside to catch the snowflakes on our tongue. And we taught under administrators who honored our commitment to all students.

     These pupils became authors, mathematicians, artists, scientists, and performed on those 'high stakes' tests because we had also infused personal pride, accountability, and a work ethic in between every worksheet, project, or packet. We expected our kiddos to spell, punctuate, and calculate accurately. And our day wasn't scripted, timed, and we were trusted as educators to do our job.

      With 444 years of instruction among us, we were entrusted with the awesome task of teaching a child. It was an enormous job which required patience, structure, and a mastery of the subjects we taught. Some of us spent every day with children afflicted with numerous disabilities. Many of us received awards and commendations. But really, we were only as good as the newspapers said we were. We taught children of children, and many who spoke no English. We have attended the weddings of our former students and sadly, bid our goodbye at some of their funerals. We spent 180 days a year molding clay...and in doing so, we were molded into  better human beings. What an exchange!

     The teachers of today have such a hard road. I substitute a few days a week, and I can feel the tension as I arrive in the buildings. I do not fault the staff, but of directives so misguided that educators are being forced to robotically turn out perfect little products. Kids are not a product. Just as their vital statistics follow its own path, so does learning. Numbers are only indicators, folks; it is the personal narrative that matters. The little person with knock-knock jokes and a yearning to please; who colors outside the lines and puts love notes on your desk, and always lets the new kid sit next to her or him---these are the individuals who made our 444 years so precious to us.

      I marveled at the gifts of my fourteen friends. How we shared such a history. Back in the day, we would sit in the hallway, lean up against the wall, and laugh at who got the first phone call after report cards arrived home. We built one another up, shared classroom strategies, and inside info on what worked with 'that kid'. School was the 'stuff' of our souls. It was not easy then, and it is not easy now. But my, what an honor, to say, "I'm a teacher."

       And when it all is added up, I have to conclude that we fourteen teachers with 444 years of combined experience have been blessed beyond measure. Thank you for allowing us to use our gifts in the public classroom.

       Lunch is over, so back to the classroom. But if you are really good, you may earn an extra recess. Class act, indeed.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Aprons and Crowns

     Two unusual topics collided in my brain this weekend. Are you surprised? Um, that I have a brain? Or that two topics occupied the same lone space? Kinda like two cats wandering around in a vacant warehouse, I suppose. Oh well. On with my two topics.

     Aprons and crowns. Now...stay with me on this. I truly think that some of us are 'apron' folks while others are 'crown people'. And there is nothing wrong with either---or being a bit of both. A closer analysis of the two is what kept my neurons firing this past Sunday. Let me share.

     Aprons are objects of service. They are a layer of protection fastened to protect our outer clothing. A crown is a thing of beauty and adornment, placed upon the head for no other reason than to point out royalty or distinction. Aprons invite dirt and grease, and actually may display the memories of previous tasks. Their pockets hold various rags or tools of cleaning or baking. An apron's
fate at the end of the day is the old dish towel drawer or the washer. A crown may be placed in a safe or a secure shelf, often on display. An apron is easily affordable...a crown, not so much.

      Aprons and crowns may be the essence of the ordinary and elegant. Yet, sometimes the line between the two can become fuzzy. My daughter was a '500 Festival Princess' and received a lovely tiara. She had to wear that lovely headgear and her sash the entire month of May. However, that tiara become part of her wedding day ritual as it fastened her veil to her head. That 'crown'  had always been lovely; yet now the shimmer and shine partnered with a sacrament of the church.

      My mother's apron got quite a workout!! She wore it often and it had put in a lot of hours in the kitchen. After her 'home going' to Heaven, my other daughter got the apron. The pocket of that apron held a tissue; if you knew my mom she always had a tissue. And that is kind of a telling as she was the 'tissue' that kept this family connected in love and commitment. But back to the apron. When my daughter slides that cloth over her head and ties the strings, she feels like she is touching a holy thing. Not in a creepy way...but with a heart of appreciation that her grandmother's ordinary apron served others for years.

    Aprons sacrifice. They signify work. Become soiled, ripped, discarded. Crowns adorn. Their loveliness cause us to "Ooh and aah!" We appreciate their value and worth and know it is a special occasion when crowns are present. Yet, does the queen or king of a monarchy wear their crown when serving their constituents? When my son covers his precious heart with a bullet proof vest, is it not like a working apron as he goes into the streets to 'protect and serve'? Look to history and you can see the aprons of blacksmiths, meat cutters, scientists, shoe cobblers, store owners, bakers. Did these aprons not shape the face of industry just as crowns were writing legislation? Hmmm....perhaps aprons and crowns are not as dissimilar as this little brain once thought.

     I know that this comparison and contrast of aprons and crowns won't affect the Dow Jones, cure disease, or win the Pulitzer Prize. But I did find it interesting, and hopefully, you did, as well.

     Perhaps the greatest conclusion I can draw for myself is this: as the queen of this house, my apron serves me quite well! And that crown? Well, let's just say that I would have worn it while I typed this blog....but it really needs some scotch tape to hold on those gold stars. Paper isn't as sturdy as it used to be. But the safety pin holding the string to my apron is just perfect!

     Aprons and crowns. Now I know why England calls it her 'Royal Majesty's Service'---the queen wears her apron and crown while running a country. Or a sweeper, perhaps. Who knew?

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Scoop on Chickens (Urban Farming Comes to My House)

      Hey! What do you think about this new trend called 'urban farming'? You know....when folks in the city contribute to community gardens, have chicken coops, and the like? I think it is a great idea!! My heart's burning desire is to someday own a miniature donkey, and since I am kinda tied to a mortgage, guess I will have to bring the farm setting to my back yard. Sort of like, "Green Acres Meets Irvington." I have experience, you know. My grandparents owned a working dairy farm, complete with chickens and soybeans, and a hay mow (if you said 'mow' as in lawn MOWer you don't know what it is 'mow' that rhymes with 'now'). Back to the chickens. I used to collect the eggs with my grandmother and help her store them away in the cellar. The egg money was hers to keep. It was her own business venture.

       So....I like eggs. And I was thinking about having my own chicken coop. But I detect a small problem. I have two dogs. One that is vigilant in burying my socks and underwear; the other whose energy level would transform my backyard chicken coop. I think the discussion would go like this:

Inquiring Friend Who Wants to Know: "Hey Deb, heard you had a chicken coop. How's that working out for you?"
Deb: " chicken coop turned into an Eggless Chicken Scoop."
Inquiring Friend Who Wants to Know: "Don't know that I have heard of a Chicken to explain?"
Deb:"Well, built the coop. Bought the chickens. Let the dogs out. After a barrage of feathers, Max scooped up the chickens. Harper buried the eggs. Thus, an Eggless Chicken Scoop. Wasn't pretty."
Inquiring Friend Who is Sorry He Asked:"Oh my! What did your neighbors say?"
Deb:"Plenty. None of it I can repeat here. Let's just say that I have had a lot of 'out of city' dreams, being a misplaced country girl at heart. Sure do want that miniature donkey. But that will have to wait."
Inquiring Person: "Oh yeah...those dogs and the donkey would be a hot mess!"
Deb:"And the police visits are just a nuisance. Think I might have to wait until I meet a farmer and relocate."
Inquiring Person (Somewhat): "Oh....have you met a farmer?"
Deb:"No...just municipal authorities. But a girl can always hope. In the meantime, guess I'll just plan on installing an outside clothesline. My grandma used to hang out her clothes on the line. I loved that."
Inquiring Person: But won't Max attack the clothes and doesn't
Harper bury your socks and underwear?"
Deb:"Well, every great venture involves sacrifice. I'll just give up socks and underwear."
Inquiring Person Trying to Get Away: "Um. Oh. Okay. Well, I have to go now. Good luck with that clothesline."

     Sigh. Maybe I should accept the fact that I am a city girl with a country girl fantasy. Chickens, donkeys, clotheslines...guess a girl shouldn't put all of her dreams in one basket. Speaking of such, there will be socks and underwear in my clothes basket. Didn't want you to think I had truly lost all my scruples!

      I have to give Harper something to do while Max is looking for those chickens.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

I've Fallen for Fall

          Autumn. Fall. This is my season. "Colors of the wind" could honestly be the tag line for this time of year. The sweaty, draining heat of summer has exited and the brisk coolness whispers to my heart. The Creator decorates every tree and shrub with a coat of many colors, but bids us to look quickly; the loveliness will soon fade.

         All my life I have loved the change of seasons. And living in Indiana serves up all four. There is not one season that I do not like; however, fall has always owned my heart. The campfires and hayrides, falling leaves, and warm sweaters give my senses such a workout! And of course...there are holidays to frame my joy!

          Columbus Day. My fifth graders would bring to class sailing vessels to test the laws of buoyancy. Sailboats, canoes, rafts, etc., would hit the water as the craftsman watched his or her vessel with anxious eyes. Would it capsize? Could it hold twenty or more pennies? And we sailed right through basic scientific principles, and mastered them without--guess what--a test! Rich history sailing right before our eyes, full of wonderment and curiosity.

         And then there's Halloween....this author's favorite holiday!! Yep, I can remember counting the days until 'Trick or Treat' but never for Christmas. I love dressing up and pretending to be someone else for an entire evening! Many folks don't know this...but I still go out with the grandkids and trick or treat. In costume. With my bag. Lining up with the kids, eager to collect the loot. I can accomplish this feat, because in feet, I am only four feet, ten inches tall. I cannot change lightbulbs or paint ceilings, but I can outfit myself in a gorilla costume and collect the candy!! Of course the grandkids think it is kinda cool that I go out with them...and we all know I am just doing it for them. And chocolate.

        Autumn became my season of love. Once upon a time, many years ago, fall found me standing on a bridge in Paris, Indiana, with the man I loved. We had been there five years earlier, and now he was  carving our initials in the wood. Taking in the lovely hues of the forest, I spun around to see a box with a diamond ring sitting by our initials. I was beyond surprised! That October became my season of promise.

         Thanksgiving always calls to this soul to take a personal inventory of blessings. I do the best I can, but I keep losing count. Too many works of wonder, 'little victories', and evidences of love. Moments upon moments unfold...and giving thanks cannot keep up with the gifts. Same with you? This holiday is so much more than a big dinner. It is a feast of wonderful memories and experiences that are shared with those whose fingerprints cover our lives. A banquet of the soul, if you will.

           Fall may be foreboding for some; a precursor to cold weather and gloomy dispositions. It may give way to a guy you really don't want to welcome: ole man winter. But I beg you to envelope the loveliness of God's handiwork...and savor the flavors of apples, pumpkins, warm cider. Of the warmth of family and colorful memories of close friends.

            And just too, will fall in love with fall.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Life....Just Add Milk

Just the other day I was thinking a lot about Life. Cereal, that is. I love Life cereal. Always have. Even back in the day when the commercial featured little round faced, dark hair, Mikey. Remember the tag line? "Have Mikey try it. He'll eat anything!"

I have had an ongoing love affair with cereal. Probably comes with the fact that as a young child, I was a very picky eater. So my mom probably assuaged her guilt by loading me up with a bowl of cereal, fortified with this and that. It was quick, easy, and I was thrilled. Cocoa Krispies, Pops, Life, Raisin was a buffet of whole grains and milk. I used to tell my own four kids, "If you don't like what I made for dinner, then eat cereal. This is why God invented it."

Cereal is a favorite nighttime snack for the grandkiddos. No matter how much they inhale at supper, after baths and jammies, I usually hear that petition, "Mamaw....can I have a bowl of cereal?" I always comply. Even my sister will call me up and say she was just having her nightly bowl of cereal. I won't mention that she often slops the milk right down the front of her robe....but I have it on good report that she does just that.

Cereal. I could survive on it. Plain or with milk it is comfort food in a bowl. Speaking of bowls, I was given some bowls recently. They were square. are you supposed to drink the leftover yummy cereal-flavored milk with a square bowl? What moron invented that??? I put those bowls in the Goodwill faster than you could say, 'snap crackle pop'.

Back to real Life. Cereal, that is. I was very shocked to learn that my Grape Nuts Flakes has far more fiber than Life. Who would have known? Has anyone told Mikey? I'm just saying that at my age I don't get many surprises. Of course at my age, when fiber content is the big deal of the day, this is pretty pathetic.

Hey! Since I am writing about cereal, it reminds me of a Halloween a few years back, when my son's friend dressed up with a cardboard box that said Corn Flakes, and it had blood and knives stuck in it. Guess what he was? Yep... a 'cereal killer'!! HAHAHA! I digress.

I just want to warn all of you out there that the cereal you have love and trusted just might be a bit diminished. Hard to take, I know. But be strong. One can always fall back on Cream of Wheat or Oatmeal. (I would mention grits, but I think they are just whiney Cream of Wheat Wannabees).

Okay. You can go back to your real life and ponder grown-up issues like the stock exchange, presidential debates, and gas prices. But whatever you do....don't buy any of those square bowls!!

I am beginning to realize how my sister got all of that milk down the front of her. Just saying....

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kids at Heart

Recently, I got to spend the weekend with all four of my adult kids. It took a lot of planning, money, and sacrifice on the parts of the daughter and sons-in law to hold down the fort in my kids' absence.

We gathered in Tampa for a wedding set on a cruise ship. After the ceremony, my youngsters disembarked, and I set sail for about five days. That was a vacation like none other. Great moments of relaxation and activity--and meeting new people. I like altitude not depth, but I did okay on the big boat! Didn't fall off or get sick, and actually relaxed. Big stuff for lil' ole me.

But back to the weekend with my two sons and daughters. From Indy, L.A., and Alabama, we found ourselves together. The jokes, pranks, and such were quick in coming. As we lounged at the pool, my two daughters went to the room to change. In about 60 seconds, I heard my eldest of 35 years, holler to the youngest, of 25 years, and then--without discussion I saw the smiles and knew. They were out to get their sisters.

Soon my youngest boy was hiding in a huge bin which held towels. My oldest boy, who pulled off looking innocent all of his life, played it cool. No sooner than the girls had returned when they ambled over to get towels out of the bin. As child number three opened the bin, out jumped her brother, yelling and acting all monster-like. She screamed and barely avoided stepping off into the pool. We all laughed and I just shook my head. In the span of one prank I was transported back in time....when this behavior was ongoing. They were kids again, and I was the younger, thinner and wearier mother wishing for them to grow up. Now, I was cherishing every moment they acted like kids.

There were so many other 'just like yesterday' moments. One kid taking too long in the shower. A cute picture 'photo-bombed' by a stupid expression of an older sibling. One of the boys asking sweetly for a sister to iron their shirt and pants. Arguments over whose clothes belonged to whom. A lie being told prior to the wedding by two brothers which had an upset sister begging them to quit golfing and get in their seats. As she walked out and spotted the two right where they needed to be, she smacked them both. Even one boy had texted her feigning a hole in one. Yep, they had her going!

There is something about a mother's heart that is so elastic. But after a while, it loses its shape. It is as if my heart is a puzzle, and it is incomplete until the fit of each child is gathered to complete the picture. And that is how it was for me: I needed those four kids collectively to fill the the holes that occur when even one is missing. I cherished every minute we spent together, even refusing to leave the hotel room at night. I was not going to miss a sleepover with the offspring! Sure, the bed was crowded with the girls and myself wedged into a small space...but love made it comfy. Hearing the humorous retorts of my son and his brother's giggles made it Heaven.

And then they had the rest of Saturday and Sunday to just be siblings. To simply hang out, dance, and talk, before their planes took them back to their perspective realities. I would have rather had another 24 hours with them, than to have set sail to the Caribbean. But maybe some day, we can set sail and cruise as one big, spouses, grandkids. Wow!

Boy...I am not sure Carnival Cruise Line is ready for my family circus!! Guess we'll just have to keep the boys from jumping out of towel bins and scaring the passengers.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Caskets and Wedding Cake: A Strange Marriage

I did a wedding this weekend. No, no, I didn't perform the ceremony, but I helped coordinate the rehearsal and all of the bazillion things that a bride and groom must do to become married. You know...the wedding party, flowers, music, gowns, candles, etc. All of the details that make most folks crazy when they've already fallen crazy in love. And I'm the crazy lady who helps their day of love fall into place. It's just craziness!

It is exhausting work, but then I love weddings...and making simple things hard: which is exactly what a big wedding does. All that is really required are five people, (bride, groom, two witnesses, and an officiant) about ten minutes of their time, and a piece of paper from the county court house. But we take ten minutes at the cost of oh, maybe $40, and turn it into an affair of thousands of dollars, countless hours of planning, executing, and paying. get to have some ole church lady like me queueing folks up like they are in a parade wearing stuff that will hang in a closet, never to be seen again until your kids play dress-up or need a hideous outfit for Halloween. Well, hideous might be a bit harsh. But you know what I mean. Bridesmaid dresses do kinda push that 'hideous' envelope. My goddaughter has been in about twelve weddings. Her plan, when she marries, is simple: all of the gals whose weddings she was in must attend her bridal luncheon wearing the bridesmaid dresses she had to wear for their big day. Fair enough.

Weddings are big business. So are funerals. Umm...why those two thoughts came out together is a bit random. But true. I kinda like the wedding gig a bit better. There's a party atmosphere...and dj's, dancing, and it is usually prettier. Do you remember when wedding guests use to pile in their vehicles, follow the decorated car of the 'Just Marrieds' and drive around town honking their horns? I loved it!! And that is similar to a funeral....we follow that hearse with the blaring of the escort sirens. Just no sign or tin cans on the back of the hearse. Hey...when I die, I want that!! Yeah!! Put a sign on the back of the hearse that says, "Just Buried (Almost!)" and tie some of those cans and streamers, and let everybody just honk their horns and wave! That's the way to go! Guess I am still wanting to make noise as long as I can. Kinda sorta.

I am sure that some of you reading this may say that I am morbid. Naw...just not quite right. I just seem to draw parallels between things that most folks just wouldn't see. But think about it...weddings and funerals are both sacraments of the church. They are laced in emotion. One event usually takes place when you are young, the other when you are older. While there are certain protocols for both, both events are quite personal. (Yeah, that funeral deal is definitely pretty personal). Each involve certificates which are filed with the state. Folks gather, and mutter, "Seems like we only see folks at weddings and funerals." You usually dress up for the two, and are glad when they're over. Often, they both occur in a church, with a preacher presiding, Bible in hand. In the presence of flowers, tears may flow and music will fill the air. Folks in attendance are reminded of the reason that all have gathered, and how that trip towards the altar will be life changing.

Oh...and there will probably be a church lady like me organizing the funeral dinner or the wedding party, keeping things moving. Well, until it is my turn to move no longer.

When that day comes, you can order flowers and serve all the cake you want,  but please: don't bury me in one of those bridesmaid dresses.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11th: Hope has Arrived

September 11th....for most of America it was a day of tough memories, remembrance, service, and reflection. A day to utter prayers for those people whose lives changed forever. It matters not if we knew them personally; grief and loss are pretty universal. And as we remembered the victims, we honored those heroes...ordinary people who woke up, started their day, and were immersed in performing courageous and life-saving acts. Was it all years ago? Seems like yesterday, in so many ways.

My son-in-law-to-be was experiencing his first day on the job: as a firefighter. My daughter, soon to be his wife, decided to hang out with me in the classroom. As I walked by the television in the school cafeteria and saw the plane hit the towers, I quickly said to myself, "That was purposeful. No plane would ever fly that close to those buildings." Being married to a pilot had taught me a thing or two, and "see and avoid" was etched in my memory. Still it made no sense. Would it ever? But I said what I needed to say about September 11th in my book. It was the absolute hardest day as a teacher in the thirty-two years I taught. Explaining slaughter to little lambs is beyond comprehension.

But that was then. We were a victim of this crime collectively--and our personal security was snatched from us all. America is still "home of the free and land of the brave" but there is a new line....."but with greater caution." Life goes on.

This evening, my best friend welcomed her first grandchild into this world. This little guy will celebrate his birthday every year on a day overshadowed by doom. But as they say, "love wins." And I am reminded of that quote by Carl Sandburg which says, "A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on." And so it is. This is a joyous event for all of us who love him already. And I don't know if it was planned or not, but his name is Lincoln. Imagine that. A 'grand' child named after a great leader. See? That's how it is. Hope just seems to find its way home. And is there no greater joy than in an infant? He will wander through his childhood as an innocent boy, full of wonder and giggles. But for him, September 11th will become a gathering of family and friends, gifts, candles and cake. 

Welcome to this world, Lincoln Jonathan. With your coming, you push us into tomorrows laced with promise. Kids do that, you know. They take us adults by the hand, and lead us into the unknown, whispering, "Don't be afraid." Without this wisdom and promise we would be nowhere. The Scriptures say, "A little child will lead them" and this has proven to be true.

As I put my final thoughts on this page, the clock tells me that the eleventh has faded into the twelfth. September 11th will now begin another chapter for many of us....fresh with new life. 

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Lights! Action! Escape!

Took the three older grand-kiddos to the movie last weekend. Yep, the two kindergarten grandsons were uninvited. On purpose. Now before you go writing hate mail to me, let just say this: "Mr. Poppers Penguins."

See, I used to read that book when I taught second grade. So when the movie was released I called dibs on taking all five of the eldest grandkids to see this film. I was so excited!! I even figured out how to turn the movie booster seats upside down to serve as a tray for all the snacks. knew that already? Sigh. Well, the movie started and the thirteen year old, nine and eight year old and the fifty-something year old was chuckling at so many penguins creating chaos for Jim Carrey. The two five year olds were good as  gold. Until then.

'Then'. I don't know how to explain 'then' but the movie was nearly over and one five year old we will call 'Jack' and the other one will be known as 'Conner' both started moving. In opposite directions. As I was trying to sit one down, the other circled around. Before I knew what was happening, they escaped! Conner, with the mischievous smile and glint in his eye went one way. Jack, with his glasses on one end of his body and clomping fireman boots on the other end bolted down to the front of the theater. I started after them Sure of my skills as a parent and teacher, I was so confident that one scolding shout of "BOYS!" would suffice.

Umm no. Faster than a penguin toboggans across the ice, there were my grandsons running in front of the screen. I was mortified! And too slow. Couldn't catch them for anything. I tried. I would hide in the outside theater seat and sit low so I could catch 'em as they ran by. No go. Now the thing is, I am short. But they are shorter. So while they were really not being that disruptive, I sure was! My "faster than a speeding bullet" waddle was no match for run-away testosterone, even in the Pre-K size. They were having a ball. I was having a fit.  As I got close to them, I would hear a small voice proclaim, "There she is! Go this way!" Do you know how hard it is to chase small children in the dark? I was desperate. I decided I would move to the edge and trip them when they whooshed by. Nothing doing. I would zig and they would zag. I  sweated and they laughed.

My other grandkids sat wide-eyed and serious. Somebody was going to get in big trouble! The question was: will it be those two "awful, terrible no-good very bad" boys, or the lady running around the theater disturbing the other patrons?

Soon, I gave up. I grabbed the other kids, jackets, my purse and headed up that darkly lit ramp to the exit. Those three grandkids were in shock. One would say later, "I don't think he has ever been that bad for my parents." Gee, I have all the luck.

As we headed up the ramp, here come two little out of breath, yet quite proud of themselves boys, giggling to beat all. Wasn't that fun? Well, let me just say that "Mr. Poppers Penguins" drew an icy response from me and yes, there was some 'popping' going on with my hand on their fannies. Oh come on, you know I am old school and I don't play. None of that sugar coated, "I am so disappointed with you and your bad choices." Huh uh. And don't even think about a 'time out' chair. I was in the mood for an electric chair. I was wicked mad.

Now...I did call both of my own children and told them that I had to enact some tough love on their perspective offspring due to their horrible theater behavior. My son said very little. He knows. My daughter, however, was picturing all of this in her head, and was stifling giggles. Boy, was I mad. I told those two juvenile delinquents they were NOT going to the next movie, then sealed that promise with kisses. And hugs. My kids would tell me later, "Mom....I know you will see the humor in this one day. Maybe it will even be in a story."'s your story. I have seen the humor in all of it, even if I still lay awake at night and say, "When did it all go so wrong? When did I lose total control?" time you get to thinking about taking a herd of children to the movies, I warn you to reconsider.

Those little buggers are fast!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Child Proof: Thoughts on Raising Good Kids

Not so long ago, an acquaintance asked me what I had done to raise such great kids. Immediately, I started scrolling through my mind and could not come up with any quick or clever answers. I even smiled at how many moments I felt they deserved a better mother. One that wasn't tired, short-tempered, too busy, imperfect. I have failed each of them many times. I do harbor some regrets, but mostly I think of being bailed out by my God, my mother, and true friends. When I was at my worst, there was someone who came and sprayed a little polish so I would clean up pretty nice.

In fact, it could have been you. I am uncertain of a magic formula for taking kids from the crib to careers. From transforming mischievous little boys to men admired by their peers. I must say that daughters put a mother in her place. How satisfying it is to see my girls making their world a better place by their nurturing and giving spirits

I used to tell my kids: "I would like you guys even if you weren't mine." And that is still true today. I cannot tell you it was easy. I used to share with my students' parents on 'Back to School Night' some of my personal philosophies. Of course, there are a few thoughts I did not share with parents, but I am offering them here. You be the judge if they are sound principles or just pretty words:

*Parenting is hard. If you aren't overwhelmed you aren't doing it right.
*Your child will never speak to me in a tone of voice, or call me a name that my own four kids aren't allowed to.
*Don't tell me you are "too busy." I am very fact, I feel like I invented the concept.
*"Only believe half of what they tell you about me, and I will only believe half of what they tell me about you."
*Let your kids own their successes and failures.
*Be their parent. Not their friend. My kids had plenty of friends. What they needed was a mother that held them accountable, held them up to high standards, and held them when their world was falling apart.
*The best gift your kid can have is a best friend. If they have more than one, then they are blessed beyond measure.
*Be authentic. That means different things in various situations, but be a person of integrity. Do I get a 100% on this one? Hardly. But who I was did not waver; I was not one person at their parent conferences and a different one when I tucked them in at night.
*Do not build your world around your kid. Raise your kids to help build the world around them.
*Create a "Day Out" in which you spend time with only one kid. It does not need to be an expensive adventure, but time carved out for just that kid.
*Hardest yet....give your kids boundaries, limits, and be unafraid to  limit their TV, cell phone, and computer time. My kids were never allowed to have a TV in their rooms. We only owned one. Funny...some of my grandkids have TV's in their rooms, but they would rather mix with the family than be isolated in their rooms.
* is not what is easiest, most costly, or the latest trend that creates great kids. Investment of time is the greatest treasure in a child's world. Roosevelt said it best: "Do the best you can, where you are, with what you have."
*Expect failure...both in being the parent and in being the child. And remember the 'F' word: Forgiveness.
*Empower your kids with a self-worth that will not collapse under the pressures of the world. "If it doesn't feel right, it probably isn't" was my catch-phrase of judging a situation. Oh...and if something happens at a sleepover or party, always supply them with strategies to come home without losing friends or face. I told them they could always fake diarrhea. Nobody wants that kid around! And I would pick them up, no questions asked.
*Each of my four kids has a word: Laugh, Love, Learn, Live...assigned to them by me, based on their gifts and talents and what they brought to my life. Notice: each kid claims their word and two of them wear them proudly---tattoos they had inscribed on their wrists for me for Mother's Day. One day, I will do the same with all four words on my wrist. Why? A covenant to pray for them whenever I glance at my wrist.
*Never send your kids to church. Go with them. And be brave by not allowing them to work on Sundays. Hard, but workable. (Forgive the pun).
*Listen to their music. Save the notes they wrote to you. Help them with homework, but not every night. If they don't do it, let them face the teacher in the morning. 'Bail outs' are a kid's strategy to avoid consequences. I honored the parent who did not do the kid's project; it should look like a seven year old completed it. At my house, I gave them a 'frame' of ideas, and then I went back to folding laundry, grading papers, or reading/writing a book.
*I did not give my kids an allowance. But if I needed an extra hand with a chore, I would kind of 'bid it out' to one of the four who was willing to work for it. They worked for free, inheriting the privilege to contribute to the good of the family. Many folks do not agree with this, and looking back, I am not sure this was the right thing.
*I usually did not ground them. Why? Because it would punish me to have them around. I just assigned them the worst chores.
*I told them: "You can think it, but you can't say it." I pray I never become proficient at reading their minds. It would break my heart.
*Lastly, my one daughter put it quite eloquently. When visiting my classroom, one of the students asked what it was like having me for a mom. She replied, "Well, she's the kind of mom other kids want, be we don't." Enough said.

If you read between the lines I am sure you will see that my four children became great adults, in spite of me. I can ask for nothing more.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Escape to a Safe Place

Got a bill in the mail. that is a pretty boring way to begin a blog. And way too realistic. But let me continue. My house is old and I have a mail slot with a little wooden door and so the postal contents fall on the floor. Okay...when the bills spill out of the mailbox they pile onto the floor. Junk mail seems to stay put. Not Quite Right Rescue Canine Max, likes to pretend he is 'Jason Best Mailman Ever' and decided to deliver/devour one bill. By the time I rescued the envelope, all I could read was that I owed $45 to my credit union. I called them to find out what it was all about, and they answered that it was for my safety deposit box.

Ohhhhh that box. The one I decided to rent and forgot about. Yeah, there is nothing in it but dust..kinda like my wallet. But I gathered up some important stuff and headed off to pay my bill. Here is the cool part of the safety deposit box ritual: when you get your trusty container, you are led to a small little closet. It has a chair and a counter and a light. Then they close the door. I is private!! What I wouldn't have given for a little cubicle like this when I was raising four kids! A safe haven of quiet, calm, and privacy! No neighborhood ball team walking in when trying to nurse the baby. A respite from my son waking the girls up with his trumpet, and his standard stupid question, "What'd I do?" A break from my girls arguing about which one made the biggest mess in their room or why one sister cut the hair of the other one. I could have escaped the commotion when the four of them took a sleeping bag and engaged in 'stair surfing'.

One little room. And not a toilet stall. Yeah, I have tried escaping in those at the mall, but eventually they shoo you out at closing time. And the bank furnishes a chair! So....I don't know if you have a safety deposit box, or not, but I say to every parent who has begged for an island: call your bank. Pay the price. And it is soooooo appropriate to say, "Kids. Be good. Mommy (Daddy) has to go to the bank." And just take your little key, sign the paper, get the box, and escape into that little room. Hey...take along a snack...and if you don't finish it all, stuff it in the box. Who will know? So what if your property deed or will has a little bit of Cheetos crumbs on it. Nobody reads that stuff until you die.

Well, this is my new found respite from this crazy world....the Safety Deposit Box Lounge. Sigh. So...if you slip into your financial institution and hang out in the cool little cubicle, enjoy! Your secret is safe with me.

Ummm.....can you leave me some of your Cheetos? That important paper stuff is smashing my bag of chips.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

A Male Past-time: Passing Gas

If you have spent time with a male between the ages of five and, oh, say nine, then this story will make perfect sense. If you have only been surrounded by young ladies, and have had no brothers, skip this blog. You will roll your eyes and mutter, "I don't get it."

But this is about boys and their fascination with farts, farting noises, and the like. Let someone 'break wind', 'cut the cheese', 'pass gas' and the male gender will collapse with laughter. Oh...and this bodily function can be imitated by said males by putting their hands in their armpits and mimicking the farting sound. I don't this what is taught in boys' bathrooms as well as at recess? I should know....I spent 32 years standing outside the boys' room counting down for them to exit and learned more than 'knock-knock' jokes at recess. And I must admit, there is nothing that can disrupt the teaching moment more than a kid passing gas. Or the teacher. Just saying...

I truly think that trying to study a fetal ultrasound to see if it is a boy or girl is unnecessary. All that is needed is for the technician or dad to make a farting sound, joke about farts, etc. and watch the screen. If the fetus smacks its knee or starts bouncing off the womb's walls, then you know it is a boy. Which will grow up to be a man. And will still find farts funny.

This is why I recently purchased a special gift for my six year old grandson. I bought him a Whoopee Cushion. You know, that rubber pillow thing that has entertained youngsters for years. Well, this may be the day of electronics and techno-toys, but my three grandsons were over the moon (pardon the pun) with this ridiculous toy. I showed them how it worked, and let them loose. The room erupted with laughter when I um... 'surprisingly' sat on the Whoopee Cushion. I thought we would have to pull out riot gear, that's how delirious they became when Mamaw let out such 'gas'!!!

Well, the party was winding down and I decided I would sit on the Whoopee Cushion one more time-- very satisfied that such a simple, old toy could create such fun. So, I inflated the rubber device, and plopped my fanny on the thing. Either it was placement or my weight, but as I settled myself on the Whoopee Cushion, the sound was very, very different. It was like a fart gone postal. Seems that I had popped a hole in the darn thing! Well, the boys were irate but the adults---myself included---could not stop laughing. Leave it to grandma to break the birthday gift, and laugh until she almost leaked.

Sigh. So there you have it. Boys will be boys....and some grandmas will end their entertainment. Once, when I was about to read an article out of the paper, I summoned my husband and son, and said, "Listen to this!" But my gaseous state pre-empted my reading voice and what they heard was a female fart that made both males proud. Never did get to share the newspaper story. I am certain that when the merits of my life are recalled, someone will say, "Remember the time mom said, 'listen to this' and farted really loud?"

Well, I just want you all to know that on this day, I replaced the Whoopee Cushion that my big butt erupted. My grandson's world is now set straight by a silly toy of yester-year. And I can go to my house and do what any person living alone can do: fart with freedom.