Tuesday, July 31, 2012

"Back to School" or "Who Stole Summer?"

I know it is July. It is steamy hot and the cicadas are singing their summer anthem. The swimsuit is drying on the line from last Sunday's boat ride and VBS is barely over. Yet I know. I feel it.

School is back in session. It is as if I can smell the new shoes and book bags. I seem to gravitate to the ads for glue, crayons and markers, and all the necessities on the supply list. Will my teacher radar ever retire? I left the classroom two years ago and I still remember not being able to eat breakfast on that first day of school. Yep. For thirty-two years, I was so excited and nervous that consuming food was just a passing thought. The kids were coming! I hoped they found my room, that their lockers opened (every time) and that "Tall Hall" was met with excitement and not dread. You never know. One year a kid walked in and said, "Hey. I heard you are mean. Are you?" I looked him square in the eye and I said, "I heard the same thing about you." He smiled, I smiled back and we played nice all year.

I sat on the porch this evening and thought of all the work that goes into that first day of school. My mother and I used to work for days to get my room 'just so'. My fondest memories are of she and I cleaning, organizing, doing bulletin boards. And re-doing bulletin boards ("Deborah...that is not straight and it is not staying like that!") And giggling when she put the letters of the alphabet in the wrong order...it was usually around 'p' and 's'. Guess she needed some fresh iced tea. But I was committed to making sure that the place kids were going to 'live' for 180 days was welcoming, dazzling, and theirs. We usually pulled it off, didn't we Mom?

But tomorrow is the first day of school for five of the grandkiddos. I will drive to both of their homes to hear the groans, "guess what?" and stories of the day. I will listen, smile and wonder where the years went...as it just seemed like yesterday that their parents were wiggling loose teeth, griping about homework, and laying out new school clothes for the next day. When my youngest went to kindergarten, he came home and proclaimed, "I'm not going back. I CANNOT get on her good side." Well, after he quit kissing little girls under the table and was moved away from the neighbor kid, things improved. Adjustments to school take time.

So....here we are. A 'balanced calendar' is in the making and summer has been stolen. Okay-so that is a bit dramatic. But July? Really? My best friend lives in Michigan. The state mandated that all schools return after Labor Day. Something about Michigan and all of their tourists, lakes, and such. Perhaps that is late and I am not so old-fashioned that I think kids need to be home to help out around the farm. But I would like to visit the State Fair without worrying about homework and bedtimes.

Maybe this teacher realizes the value in being a kid. How the school day must foster a sense of wonder, innate curiosity, and the thrill of being an excited learner. Watching children learn is like being under a magic spell---for both teacher and student. There is nothing like it.

So as you tuck your little ones in at night, do so with a prayer that the summer melts into a grand adventure called 'school'. And don't tell them this ole' educator thinks that someone stole their summer.  After all....back to school is just another date on the calendar.

Sure hope the wet swim suits don't drip on their homework.

Monday, July 30, 2012

"Look at Me When I am Yelling in Your Direction...:

So today my kid was yelling at her kid. And this kid is glad she is neither kid. Follow that? Let me take you back to those lovely moments when we see our offspring going off on their offspring. Here is my 'fly on the wall' observation of the exchange. Perhaps you will find yourself some place in this dialogue.

The Mom: "Look at me when I am yelling at you!!"

The Mom's Real Thought: "Actually, I don't want you to look at me because I don't want to look at you. What I'd like to be looking at is a 16 ounce bottle of red wine."

The Mom: "If you act like this in school, you will spend your whole day in the principal's office!"

The Mom' s Real Thought:"And if she likes you that much she can take you home and raise you. Guardianship papers are in your backpack, dude."

The Mom:"I am SO sick of your smart mouth!!"

The Mom's Real Thought: "I am even SO sick of your dumb mouth. In fact, I loathe the days I taught you to speak with that mouth! I should have just regarded it as a hole for nutrition and left it at that."

The Mom: "And another thing. Quit teasing your little brother!"

The Mom's Real Thought:"I wish your little brother was an only child. Then I would not be having this familial face-off."

The Mom: "And your attitude had better improve!"

The Mom's Real Thought: "Attitude....what is it with this kid? I never acted like this."

The Mom of the Mom: "Oh yes you did. And you did tease your little brother and you did have a smart mouth from time to time and ---oh you better look at me while I'm talking to you! And you DID end up in the principal's office once upon a time. Just saying. But the justice I am experiencing is better than any bottle of red wine. Or is it whine? Well, I'm leaving now."

The Mom:"Can I go with you? Please? I'll be good..."

The Mom of the Mom: "No dear. You must stay put until the youngest is about eighteen. Have fun with that."

I sure hope those boys survive. And that she does, too.

Hey...you better wipe that smile off your face if you know what's good for you!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Max and the Missing Crate by: Harper 'Black Lab' Lee

     Had to leave home for a week. This necessitated farming out my two dogs to two of my kids. My children didn't exactly jump up and down at dog sitting,  but they had farmed out their six kids on me countless times, so I called it even.
     I had disassembled the crate of Max, the Not-Quite-Right Rescue pup. Harper, The Intense Akita-Black Lab Mix was walking around processing these changes. He knew something was up. I called for Harper to "Go to bed" the universal signal for the dogs to retire to their crates. Now...Harper obediently bounded down the stairs and went inside his crate. Now dopey Max also ran down the stairs and ran to where his crate used to sit. He was clearly befuddled. I could hear the dialogue....

Max: "I can't find my crate!"
Harper: "Dude...it's gone. Can't you see that empty space where it used to sit?"
Max: "What happened to it?"
Harper: "You probably ate it. You eat everything."
Max: "I ATE it?? Oh my. I don't remember eating it..."
Harper: "You have the IQ and memory of a goldfish."
Max: "Now...I DID eat a goldfish once."
Harper: "Geesh. If you went to school you definitely would ride a short bus."
Max: "Can you eat on a bus?"
Harper: "Get your mind off food. Think. What do you think happened to your crate?"
Max: "It was right here when I went outside to poop."
Harper:"Dude. I do not want to hear about your bodily functions."
Max: "But we're dogs. That is what we do."
Harper: "I'm a dog. You? Well...."
Max:"Just because you are named after author, Harper Lee does not mean you are better than me."
Harper: "An amoeba is better than you."
Max:"I do not know if that is good or bad as I don't know what an 'amoeba' is. Can I share your crate until mine shows up?"
Harper: "Dude. No. You are not coming in here. And I think I know what happened to your crate. I think DogMom put it in her car."
Max: "I am going to live in the car???"
Harper: "No. You are going someplace else to live."
Max: "But I don't want to go SOMEPLACE else to live! Dog Mom rescued me and I belong here!!"
Harper: "You belong in a state hospital for retarded canines, but I am not sure one exists."
Max: slurping, walking in circles with his one floppy ear, "Do you think DogMom doesn't love me anymore?"
Harper: "Of course she loves you. You know what she always says, "If I loved you once I love you still."
Max: "Then why is she taking my crate and me to someplace else? And leaving you here?"
Harper:"She loves me more than you. Oh kid, I'm just teasing. I think she is going on a little vacation and she has to dump us on her kids."
Max: "What if they don't like me?"
Harper: "I don't like you, but they will put up with you like I do."
Max: "Will we ever come home?"
Harper:"Sure. She can't live without us."
Max: "I'm so glad you are my buddy. You are so wise."
Harper:"Hmmmmm. There might be hope for you yet."
Max: "Does this mean you won't hump me anymore?"
Harper:"Dude. We're dogs. That's what we do."

Sigh. I hope the kids are taking great care of my other 'children with fur'. After all, dogs are man's best friends. Even if they 'Max' out on being simple, a great dog is simply the best.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Let's Face It....

YIKES! I did it again! Somehow, on this fancy schmantzy laptop my son purchased for me I hit the icon for 'Face Time'. Now...I do not care to see my face anytime. Age has not been kind, nor have the scales. And I absolutely hate wearing glasses. So...all of a sudden I am typing away and boom! There I am looking back at me all scared and shocked and such. It is a traumatic thing to see me on the screen of a computer. I barely belong staring at the screen of a computer due to my incompetencies. And as Gomer Pyle would say, "Shazzam!" There I am looking at me with such utter technological befuddlement.  It is an eye-opening experience...and not a good one either. Kinda like one of those carnival mirrors...except the distortion is reality.

My son needed a computer when he was working in LA. So, I told him to get what he could use but that it would be my machine when he returned home. He said, "Mom you really would get more use out of a lap top." Guess he hadn't looked at my lap lately.  So...he made the purchase for me. I have a Mac Book Pro Laptop. Which is like buying me a Porsche when I am still catching the bus. More bells and whistles and Face Time than I will ever use. My favorite part of this thing is that when I send email, it looks like a paper airplane and makes a 'whoosh' sound. I absolutely love it!

Forget all the other gadgets. The capabilities of this guy is beyond my little brain. But that's okay. I prefer to call this laptop a 'Plop Top' as I have plopped it down on the desk in my laundry room and there it sits. But, it gets me around my lil' network of email, Facebook, and blogging. It doesn't pay the bills, send me reminders, or send photos to friends. Nope...it just sits here and scares the bejezzus out of me when I hit Face Time. Now...accidentally hitting that icon is an annoyance, but the first time I about peed my pants. I wondered who out in cyberspace  had stolen my face. I mean, it's not much to look at but hey--it's mine. How relieved I was when with I started hitting buttons and I--it went away.

Wonder if there's a way to bring my image up on Face Time and erase some of the time from my face. Like, the chubby cheeks, wrinkles, and the bags under my eyes. Guess the technology has not advanced that far. So, be careful out there with your computer. One day you might hit a button and see yourself staring back at you. Or worse yet...it could be me!

If there is anyone who could get lost in the digital age out in some WiFi Wonderland, it would be me. Just send me home. And if you can....book me flight on that paper airplane from my email account. "Wooosh!" Or should I say "Shazzam!"

Thursday, July 5, 2012

"And the Password is...."

Ever watch the T.V. game show called 'Password'? It was hosted by Allen Ludden, who was married to Betty White. She was on there quite a bit and was just as cute and funny as she is today. Okay....she is funnier today. And oh, so much richer! Maybe richer makes one funnier. I would not know.

Anyway, the show had folks trying to coax out a synonym from their partner. Now, the awesome part of this game was that the card slipped into a leathery binder. And you could not read the clue word with the naked eye until the word appeared in a reddish-color plastic window. Then all the other gibberish cleared away like magic! We played Password at my Grandma's. She wouldn't allow a regular deck of cards because that was 'heathen'. But we could play word games that appeared due to a Magic Window. Go figure. 

I loved the game, but then I love words. And a lot of famous folks started on game shows. I can't think of any, but I know it probably happened. My son was on "The Price is Right" and he might be famous someday, so there. Too bad he wasn't on 'Password'.

But this is not 1968 it is 2012 and now the term 'password' is related to computer log-ins, pin numbers, and codes and such. I get so confused with this secret language. It all is so complicated. Why can't I just write a quirky phrase or a quote out of "To Kill a Mockingbird"-- that I could remember. But no! It has to be eight to ten characters of gobbledegook and funky typewriter symbols and your mother's maiden name, and your favorite restaurant and shoe size and the grade on your last Spelling test in third grade. Geesh.

Why can't I just type in: I will not remember this so don't ask me again. Because truly, that would score with my little brain. I forget pin numbers and pass codes the way guys I dated forgot my phone number. I carry important numbers in my wallet which every techno- savvy person says I should not do. I write log-ins in obvious places because I did not pass Secret Agent Man Class. And I am old. If I can't remember where I parked my car in the Target parking lot, there is no hope of me finding a hidden black book of important numbers. I tape log-ins to my computer. It is handy that way. Plus...if anyone hacks into my computer, they will die of boredom and scramble to get out of my rickety old network. 

Yeah...I am perfectly content to play the game 'Password' than trying to think mine up. And then have to remember them. Grr. Maybe the day will come when you can slide your pin numbers and log-ins  into a leathery blue binder and the red window will magically unlock all of the technology!! I'll bet Betty White thinks this whole technology game is just not simple enough. But then again, she probably knows all the 'Passwords'. Allen would be proud.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave

Is your flag out for the Fourth of July? Okay....I'll wait while you go anchor it to the porch. Mine is bungee-corded to the wrought iron support. I admit it looks a bit tacky, but it isn't going anywhere. So....how are you celebrating our country's freedom?

This year, I have to admit that I have a new appreciation for the 4th. Usually I just think of birthdays, as my daughter was born on July 5th, and I took her home from the hospital on my birthday, July 8th. Never got a better gift. She came a couple of weeks early as I thought it would be fun to play volleyball and laugh hysterically at a July 4th cookout. Birth with fireworks; now that is hard to top.

But I owe my humbling appreciation of this Fourth of July to my neighbor, John. On last Veteran's Day, my church was honoring those who had served in the military. Now, I knew John was a Purple Heart recipient, and invited him to come. He declined my invitation, but allowed me to take his hallowed medal and some photos to church. But the best gift was his story on how he came to earn such a medal.

My son and I sat at the dining room table processing the horrors of his tour of duty in Viet Nam. But John smiled and put the injuries he sustained in an amusing narrative. I sat in awe as he described a high-ranking officer coming into his hospital room and pinning his Purple Heart to his pillow. John explained that his injuries were such that he could not wear a hospital gown, so that is what the Army did: pinned the medal to the pillow. He shared that he would work hours to angle his broken body so he could actually peer at his Purple Heart. I have never met such a forgiving soul. Sure, the disability has some perks; free medical care at the Indy V.A. Hospital, and two free pairs of shoes a year. John does not complain, but wants nothing to do with fireworks. Says he stays in with the TV up really loud....night terrors still plague him, and the booms of the fireworks mentally put him back in combat. If I could, I would silence every thunderous noise. He deserves this.

So here I am, decorating my yard with flags and feeling free. And oh, so humble. The guy two doors down, who helps me shovel snow, runs after my dogs when they get loose, or makes me smile with his quick wit...has paid such an enormous debt for me. When I was just a young girl, so very unconcerned with war, John was bravely ensuring my freedom. He suffered greatly, and yes, often silently, and came home to a country that hated much of his efforts. We should be ashamed. Following orders leaves no room for personal opinions or political argument. A good soldier wades through the jungle, watches out for his buddies, and when the land mine erupts, leaves half of his body--and sanity-- in the Asian soil.

And John's story reflects that of millions. I am certain that you have a similar experience of knowing individuals who came home from a war and settled back into a neighborhood without fanfare, handshakes, or thank you's. Unassuming heroes, you might say.

John and I wave daily and engage in neighborhood small talk.  But never will I forget his story, his sacrifice, and his courage. John is not just another Viet Nam vet; he is a distinguished Purple Heart Hero who has transformed all of my Fourth of July's, Veterans's Days, and Memorial Days into spans of time of sincere thanks and deserved awe. Land of the free and home of the brave, indeed; Thank you, John.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Decorating With Clutter

Is anyone else out there drowning in clutter? Off-loading one stack of memorabilia for another, and tripping over boxes of photos that depict smiling folks who are laughing at me for keeping those silly shots for all of these years. Sigh. Why do I keep this stuff? I have no hope of being on the 'Hoarders' T.V. show because I don't have that much stuff (in one place) and nothing in storage that is going to generate a lot of strangers casting lots on my lot. Huh?

I am just your typical mother/sister/daughter who has great difficulty parting with the past. And donating odds and ends of this and that just might eclipse that Future Great Project which calls for     buttons, ribbon, glass apothecary jars, felt, well you get the idea.
Creativity is a burden. I see hope in a broken crayon. I can visualize an ugly, black, garage sale chair being repainted white and trimmed with ribbon and tulle-- fit for decorating a bridal dressing room. Floral foam can be re-tooled into a nose for a rocket. Scraps of fabric can beautify the most gruesome eyesore. And seriously, how can anyone throw away Christmas decorations in July? Even Wise Men planned ahead.

But here I sit. Typing  a blog, wanting to take a nap to escape the stifling heat, while the clutter reproduces like spores on a moldy rag. Max, the Really Not Right Rescue Dog is chewing on a bone, yet sneaking in bites of a book I just may read. Tomorrow. And no, it's not a copy of the Reader's Digest, although if I am not careful, it will be digested by Max. Or buried by Harper, the Expert Sock and Underwear Handler Canine. All of this clutter to chew on...so little time.

Can you see that I have a lot of work and no energy to even fake progress? Tell me you are doing the same thing. Taking a break to read over my shoulder, when we BOTH know that this stuff is not going to organize itself. I bought work gloves to help me out, and they have not done one damn bit of work! They just lay there next to a box, bringing no end to this madness. These gloves should have been labeled 'Hardly Work at All Gloves'. Hmmm...maybe they are perfect for me...these hands are hardly working at all, either.

Maybe I can start a new blog entitled: 'Decorating with Clutter' or 'Therapy Through Rummaging' or how about this, 'How to Burn Calories While Sorting Photos'? I might contact Apple to see if they could create a 'De-Clutter ap! Am I on fire or what??
I had better get in a quick nap so I can sort through that old 'under the bed' storage box of the seventies. Tye dye is making a comeback! I so hope I have inspired you to get back to sorting through those boxes. After all....you really need to get rid of that stuff!