Saturday, August 30, 2008

First Day of School #2

For veterans of the classroom, the first day of school can be memorable. I remembered the one year my 50th birthday fell on the first day of school. I warned my colleagues not to put ONE BLACK BALLOON in my classroom. You need to have quiet calm in the classrom on the first day of school. It may be the last day of calm for the rest of the year, so why complicate things with balloons in the classroom? It would set the tone for the entire year. They complied, but got back at me later that week!

For a former elementary school principal, the first day of school brings back special memories of things that need to be done. Is the school clean? Do I have all my teachers? Is there toilet paper in the bathrooms? Why am I so tired? (Could be I stayed up til 2 am typing that last draft of the parent handbook!) Will the cook fix something the kids will eat? (Chicken nuggets instead of casserole, that will start things off well!) Will someone register at the last minute and will we have enough books and chairs? What about that kindergartener who just can't say good-bye to mom and screams for her for 2 hours? And what about those moms who are out on the parking lot, crying their own set of tears as their little darlings move into another realm, that of being a full time student instead of "Mommy's little darling" hanging around home?

But now, I'm moving into a new circumstance. My little grandchildren are starting school! My oldest little grandson started kindergarten this year, riding the schoolbus and everything. Mom and Dad (they live far away from me, unfortunately) reported that everything went well. My second set of little grandkids are starting preschool this year. My daughter is nervous, and so is grandma! Will they get along with others? Will they like bringing their lunch and eating it at school? Will we get a call to come and get them if they throw a tantrum? (Still a threat of that once in a while!) Will Grandma remember what night is her night for pick up duty? Lots of questions swirl through my mind!

The preschool is right next door to my house, and has been in business for a very long time! These teachers are VETERANS! Remember that I told you I worked with some wonderful teachers at the Y in the 80's? Well, one of those wonderful ladies is still teaching at this preschool today! So I feel so great turning my grandkids over to her! She started teaching with me the year after my daughter finished preschool, so she didn't teach her, but I did teach her son. So it sort of comes full circle.

As veteran teachers, I know they've seen it all! Shy, bold, smarty-pants, cutie-pies, know-it-alls, and can't quite get its, all manner of students have darkened their doors! They've seen the glue-eaters, the erstwhile barbers, who try out their scissors skills by cutting a classmates hair! And wet pants, and beautiful paintings, and kids growing and changing day by day!

We attended "back to school night" last Thursday. Those veteran teachers could spot the "new parents" right away, and they took my daughter under their wing right away! They reassured us both that "everything will be OK, the kids will love it!" My daughter was smiling a little bit by the time we left, I think some of the apprehension was leaving her body. And I felt better about things myself!

So next week is the first day of school for both the grandchildren and their mom! She will probably cry her own brand of tears, bittersweet tears as evidence of her great parenting skills, having prepared her kids to move into a new experience. For all of my children they realize that time is passing quickly. Their children's years as toddlers have passed, and now their years as preschoolers and kindergarteners and real school have begun. As parents, they will begin that journey that all parents go down, each first day of school will bring its own set of joy and sadness!

We have family photos of the kids, standing in front of the garage door in their "first day of school clothes". We repeated this ritual over and over again, and as they inched up year by year, the panels on the garage door were a measure of their growth. Hopefully, my kids will record this momentous occasion of their own children with some sort of photo, so we will cherish these mementos for years to come.

First Day of School

The first day of school--I remember many of these days, even from my youth, which was a V-E-R-Y long time ago! They say you don't forget things like the smell of the newly waxed floors, scent of a new box of crayons as you open them, the crisp fall air, new shoes that make blisters on your feet before noon on that first day! And we hear the roar of the yellow school buses as they begin their rounds in the neighborhoods to bring the less than enthusiastic scholars back to the reality of nine months of learning, cutting short their summertime fun.

I've been teaching since 1980, so I remember the first days of school well as a teacher. I began my first paid gig as a teacher of preschool at the local YMCA. I developed this preschool program, and stuck with it for 5 years, until I needed to move on to finish my bachelor's degree. I worked with some great people as co-teachers, and I know that two of these ladies are still at it today! (See First Day of School #2) Then I became an elementary school teacher for 11 years, then an elementary school principal and teacher for 7-1/2 years.

The year I had to quit being a teacher was very disorienting. At this time, my dear hubby was very seriously ill, and needed medical attention several times a week. My decision to step aside as principal/teacher was based on the demands on my time that teaching took, which were seriously compromised by my need to attend to my hubby's medical needs. Also, this was the time in our lives when he and I needed to spend lots of time together, because time at this point was very precious, we knew we had limited time left to be together.

But my desire to teach never left me. The fall after I quit my elementary principal/teacher post, I was a lost soul. They say retirees from the teaching profession react strongly to the first day of school (seeing the yellow school buses roll again), especially the first year after they retire. They either have pangs of longing to experience that first day of school again, or are jumping for joy that they are no longer involved. For me, it was pangs of longing.

I know that God was watching out for me that year, because He dropped something I needed very badly right in my lap. I was attending college to attain another certificate of proficiency, this time in English as a Second Language teaching. I had about 1/2 of my course work completed. Most of my classmates were already involved in teaching, either in the regular classroom, or as an ESL teacher. So when the call came through our advisor that the local community college was looking for potential teachers of ESL, I was the only one who was available because I wasn't already employed. I went to the college and applied. It was the easiest job interview I've ever had! They welcomed me with open arms, made me feel like a queen! When can you start? That was the deciding question. I started the next day! I'm hoping they judged my resume as being a recommendation for giving me the job, not the fact that I had a pulse!

I was given the "less experienced" group to work with, so the challenges were great. But I learned so much from my students, a group of scholarship students from Central America. We all learned together, they learned the language, and I learned about their culture, about their love of learning and the struggles they had experienced getting to the point where they could actually attend college. They were a wonderful and unforgettable group to work with.

The other day, I had a little reminder of those first days of ESL teaching and of my first group of ESL students. A small note fell out of one of my books that I had used, it was written in careful English manuscript. "Thank you for being our teacher, you are patient and kind." Signed (one of the female students). I will cherish that note forever. It was written in a style similar to my young students that I taught for my first years of teaching in elementary school. But, it was so special to me.

We began our first day of school this week. City buses and cars have replaced yellow school buses to bring my students to school. No crayons in college, but new notebooks and supplies are brought out and used. I did get blisters on my feet before noon, wearing sandals all summer makes the transition to closed shoes a painful experience! So far things are going well, and I have a very talented group of students to work with. Again, for me it is a learning experience because of the mixture of cultures that are represented in my class. Their desire for education is also very evident. And as far as my teaching goes, I hope to always be patient and kind, but most of all, I hope to teach for a long time to come!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cattitude with attitude

There have been many fur-balls in my life. Most have been feline, with one 14 year session with canine. So, wearing fur hasn't been an option for me since I was a kid, because something always lived with me that shed. For a few years, we added guinea pigs to the mix. Now, I'm down to one cat with attitude.

You see, he can be loving and cuddly. But only on his own terms. Besides loads of Whiskas per day, he needs his taste of human flesh every now and then. A nip here on the calf, a tooth mark on the arm, all to keep his owner in line, and to make sure she plays by his rules.

Here are some rules that this cat with attitude has laid down in this house:

Rule #1--the bed is mine. If you should happen to think otherwise, a quick nip to the foot in the middle of the night will convince you of that fact! Better watch out when rolling over.

Rule #2--I claim the most comfortable of chairs also. One is particularly fascinating as I manicure my nails. Oh well, it's only upholstery.

Rule #3--when I want a drink, you'd better come over and turn on the faucet so I can have a stream of clean fresh water for my beverage. Oh, OK, when I'm in a pinch, fresh toilet water will do, but it's not my favorite.

Rule #4--Feet poked under the bed are just begging to be pounced upon. Why else would you poke feet under the bed? Surely you can't be making the bed, or just casually walking by. I can justify sinking my teeth in those ankles, after all, they are just standing there.

Rule #5--If purring were an Olympic sport, I would be a gold medal winner. I am loud, strong, and lay it on thick, when I'm in a good mood.

Rule #6--I generally rule the roost. You are allowed to live here, be my soft mattress when I want to lay on the chair that you are in, you are allowed to fill my food dish, clean my litter pan, and let me in and out at my whim.

Even though I have these hard and fast rules, you must know one other thing. I do cherish you. I miss you when you are gone a long time, meowing loudly for attention and rubbing my soft golden fur on your pants for an hour after you come home. You are mine, I will care for you. I will warn you when danger approaches. Just dive under the bed with me, and we'll both be safe.

What would we do without these little pea-brained fur balls in our lives?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bye-Bye, Monster Truck

My late Mr. loved trucks. I don't know when this love started, but it manifested itself when he was sent to Texas for an extended work gig. When he came home, he was wearing a cowboy hat, grew his handlebar mustache extra long, and had quite a wardrobe of cowboy boots, some very expensive! From a conservative man to urban cowboy in just a few months. Oh, and he was driving a Jeep Cherokee!

The love for truck and things cowboy continued for his remaining years. Our house was decorated in western themed art, the clothes we wore were western-influenced. We had bolos for every day of the week. And when the Cherokee lost all of its paint, and the bumpers were being knocked off by a teen age driver (well, I did a couple of dings myself), it was time to trade. And trade he did, he traded to BIG TRUCK!

Now we were into serious truck land, a Dodge Ram Pick Up 4 x 4, with extended cab and extra high. It even had a strange muffler that made it sound like it was extra souped up. You could hear that truck coming down the street from blocks away, that low rumble preceeded its return to the homestead. The thing couldn't be any bigger, well perhaps if it said "Mack" on the front. I had to grab both inside handles and haul myself up to get into it! Made quite a scene when I tried to get into it in a straight skirt! R-I-I-I-P!

This thing never fit in any garage. Even if you could get it into a two car garage, the other car was out of luck trying to open the door to get out! The Dodge just took up too much space. So, to keep marital harmony, and to keep the paint new on my way-too expensive SUV (I had to have something big to live in the country, no little sedan would do here!), he kept the Monster truck outside on the driveway he had specially built to accomodate its length and width. It was happy there, lots of room for doors and tailgates, and life went on.

Well, when my sweetie passed, there was question as to what would happen to the truck. I could have found a buyer for it in the country, it seemed made for hauling hay, or pulling a horse trailer, or something beefy like that. But time passed, and I needed to make my move back to the city, so the truck went with me. After all, it was paid for, and if I just parked it, it wouldn't use much gas. The summer I moved was the summer that gas finally tipped over $3 a gallon, making those 4 weekly trips to bring stuff back to the city VERY EXPENSIVE. I put about 3000 miles on that truck that summer, but with each passing trip, I was becoming more and more uneasy with driving the monster, as the odometer ticked off the miles toward 100,000.

So that was the beginning of the money pit. The first big bad thing that happened was this--the very day I made my last trip from the country with a load of junk, the monster truck just couldn't hold its fluid one more minute, and flooded my driveway with transmission fluid. Luckily it was only a seal, and was fixed for a reasonable amount of money. Then later that year, a bad battery required not only a $100 battery but an expensive repair to the electrical system to keep the lights lit at night. Then stupidity took over my brain one day, and I left the back hatch door on the camper shell up, caught it in the garage door, and 1 million little pieces of glass spread all over my driveway and garage floor! This was a costly mistake, to the tune of $500+ to get a new door.

As I said before, fitting this monster in the garage is always a challenge. After ripping off the trim to my new garage during my first summer of trying to shoe-horn it inside, I was so careful. I went very slowly in and out, always checking not to whack off the mirror, not to clip the cute red convertible that shared garage space. And getting the door open to get out was still a challenge, this garage was even narrower than the previous one at our country house! I would get so nervous when I had to take the monster out, would it start? Would it rip the garage apart? Would it scratch my other car? Was it worth the anxiety?

So this week, some things seem to push the decision point toward saying goodbye to the monster. First, I noticed the swiss cheese appearance of the tail pipes (two of them to replace!) I started looking for a replacement vehicle. Then the Monster turned on me. The CHECK ENGINE light went on and stayed on, seeming to say, "If you are going to think about getting rid of me, I'll show you!" So I said back, "If you're going to do that to me, I'll fix you--you'll be relegated to the back of the used car lot, for some wild teenager with a couple of bucks in his pocket to purchase, then run you into the ground chasing his friends!" At least I know a teenager wouldn't get that far, what teen has $75 bucks in his pocket to fill the gas tank?

I had a twang in my heart as the used car guy kicked the tires, noted the dents, checked the odometer. He was a positive sort of fellow, said cheerily, "A little touch up paint, it'll be good as new!" What an optimist! But he was willing to look for a buyer, said it even looked good (no bad paint for an 11 year old truck), and went off to get me either the good or bad news.

He came back with OK news, which by this time, I had talked myself into taking very much less than I originally thought I could get for the monster. Besides, the thrill of new wheels causes your hard-nosed negotiating skills to become rather soft! But what he offered was reasonable, and I was so done with monster trucks by this time!

Tonight, there is a 2 foot shorter, 1 foot narrower, 18" less less tall, less garage-hogging vehicle sitting next to the red convertible. I can get in and out of the doors, I can walk completely around it without squeezing myself down to Flat Stanley size. It doesn't bump the front of the garage to get the door closed behind it. This new shiny beast isn't a monster. But it will do as my hauling vehicle. Yep, the bike fits inside, messy things like bricks, concrete bags, mulch can be carried in it. It even has room to haul people, and in some reasonable amount of comfort. Some day I hope to have a kayak to haul on its roof.

The days of Monster trucks are in my past. I hope my sweetie is looking down and giving a nod of approval. I need to look forward, not back. I hope he is OK with this.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

What's Wrong with your Face?

There are times each week when it is my pleasure to pick up my grandkids from the babysitter because Mom works late on that night. They usually greet me with wild enthusiasm, running and throwing themselves at me, thrilled to be in my presence.

Not so today.

You see, Auntie M (M for MonkeyGirl) was scheduled to pick them up because I wasn't sure I would be available for duty. So the little rugrats were fully expecting Auntie, not Grandma, when pick-up time came around.

You should have seen their faces, hanging down to the sidewalk they were so disappointed. No running toward me, jumping for joy, Bro M just turned around, no smile on his face, such keen disappointment I could feel it all the way across the street. Little Sis forgot and started to run and jump into my arms, then she remembered, THIS ISN'T WHO MOM SAID WOULD PICK US UP, IT'S JUST THE SAME OLD GRANDMA, NOT AUNTIE M!

Well, I got the gist right away--what, do I look that dumb that I wouldn't know the difference? I asked Bro M if he was disappointed, and he told me he was. So I promised a trip to the park, a call to Auntie M to see if she could meet us there, and he agreed to get into my car. Luckily she was on her way home, so this all worked out.

Now in my dotage, I'm trying contact lenses again, and my lateness today was because I was coming back from the eye doctor with yet another try to get a pair that lets me actually see. Bro M looked at me and said, "Grandma, what's wrong with your face?" I was flabergasted, what did he see that I didn't know was happening to my face? Was it all the wrinkles, or the bags under my eyes? The dark circles from watching the Olympics til 5 am every morning? One thing glasses do is to hid those unpleasant features a little bit. I realized what he noticed that was different about my face, or "wrong" with it as he put it, was that he had never seen me without glasses. Ok, Bro M, you are going to have to get used to this, because I'm going to try this look for a while. And maybe one day, I'll actually be able to see clearly, both near and far away. Then I'll have to start to work on the wrinkles, bags and dark circles! Searching for the ultimate beauty certainly can be costly and time-consuming!

I hope he doesn't notice anything else that is wrong with my face!

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Harley Dreams

Ok, this whole Harley talk has gotten my long-remembered, but deeply buried dreams brought to the surface.

I dream of riding a big black and chrome Harley. I want flame tatooes writhing up my arms, from wrists to bulging biceps. I want black biker chaps and a black leather vest, with a skull cap helmet (just for safety!) on my head. Big wrap around aviator glasses. AND, where am I going on my Harley? Why to Sturgis, SD, of course.

My favorite show for a while was American Chopper. How did they build those crazy machines out of tubes and tires and some fancy paint? They were awesome.

What crazy things go through an old lady's mind as she passes way past youth, with youthful indescretions only a fleeting memory! We're just too sensible to be caught on a Harley at this age.

But we can dream our dreams!

However, most people I see riding Harleys have quite the silver glint at the temples. Maybe it is the age when you can finally afford a Harley, you've raised your kids and did you job, and now it's time to have some fun! My friend and I still talk about buying motorcycles as a response to the gas price crisis! We are the same age, so that would be quite a picture, the two of us on our motorcyles, riding down life's road together.

P.S. to children, no I'm not going shopping for a Harley tomorrow!

Where is Sewwhat?

So far, none of my posts have had anything to do with sewing. You see, I am a costumer for a couple of local theatre groups. I just got finished with costuming a big musical. Once you are finished doing that, sewing morning, noon and night for about 6 weeks without a break, you don't want to see the sewing machine for a while.

So my posts lately have revolved around the things I haven't been able to do this summer because of sewing.

I love to sew, and I love to costume, but every once in a while, a person needs a break. I have several quilt projects lined up to be worked on, once I get back to the sewing room. Hopefully I can get them finished before the next costuming gig comes along. I think that will happen sooner rather than later, so SEWWHAT? will be back at work giving her sewing machines all the attention they deserve. I have 5 machines to work with, and one in the closet, just in case I need another!

Biker Chick Grandma

I've always wanted to be a biker chick. Something about life on the open road, with the wind whistling through my hair, with a Harley purring under my body just seems to scream "wild and free". It is probably the antithesis of my life, which is tame and sedate now. Maybe I'm going through yet another mid-life crisis, but in about 3 weeks, my Medicare Card will be in force, so this birthday is having a definite effect on how I view life as it passes by oh-so quickly.

While we were on vacation, I looked with envy in my eyes at the Harley and Gold Wing beasts that we saw in the filling stations and flying around the curves in the beautiful Appalachain mountains, thinking of the freedom those folks had to ride the open road, unencumbered by metal surrounding their bodies. Oh well, reality sets in. Sometimes metal around you is a good thing, and I can't ride a Harley, I can't afford a Harley, and who would I go with? Nobody I know wants to ride with an old biker chick.

So the next best thing is a pedal powered bike. My Sis and Bro-in-law and I went on a famous local trail for a 15 mile bike ride last week. It was nice and flat, and the day was glorious and cool, unlike most August weather in the midwest. We had a great time. I must admit, after a few brews in the local brewpub at the half-way mark of the ride, I was willing to call the sag wagon to pick me up, but somehow I struggled home. That part of the ride wasn't nearly as much fun as the first half! Were we going uphill? Was there really a headwind? It seemed so to my weary legs. But the outing made a little idea that I had been cooking on in the back of my brain spring to the forefront of thought processes, and I had determined even before that ride that I wanted my own bike.

As Monkey Girl professed about her mother, once I get an idea, I usually move ahead and sometimes with speed rapid enough to make your head spin. I knew where I wanted to go to look for a bike, the place where I bought my last bike 30+ years ago. It still struggled to stay in business, and even though the inventory was sort of thin, he had just the bike for me. A "comfort" bike it is called, big wide cushy seat, 27 gears, lots of shock absorbers, no tricky gimmicks to make it go. I don't mind riding a "comfort" bike as opposed to a "serious" bike, I'm going for comfort, not to be a serious bike rider. Pain and I are not on friendly terms, so I want it to be as comfortable of an experience as it can be.

I picked her up last night, but couldn't really ride until this morning. I went to the local park that has a nice flat 3/4 mile circle driveway, that is the local running, biking, walking, doggie excercise path for 1/2 of this community. Luckily there weren't a lot of people walking this morning, so I couldn't threaten many lives with my wiggly steering. But it was glorious! I loved it, and every part of the body was comfortable. I was breathing rather heavily when I was done, but felt good about this new type of exercise.

My motivator to keep this up (besides the charge on the credit card!) is to get that view in the 3 way mirror to be not so horrifying. So it will take more than one day on the track with the new bike. I have high hopes for this new venture in exercise. And BIKER CHICK GRANDMA ain't ready for the rocking chair just yet!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Evolution of a cook

Monkey Momma/SewWhat can sometimes cook a decent meal. I've got to admit that I'm woefully lacking in practice lately. I have a summer menu, cooked on the grill, and a winter menu, cooked in the oven. This is what I fix for company, but for myself, nothing much exciting gets cooked.

I tried to pass on my culinary skills to my children. Each in their own way, they learned. Two learned through trial and error. Somehow the youngest one seemed to know what to do after watching me for a minute or two. She never wanted to work next to me, she would just watch for a minute and then shove me aside to finish the cooking project. She definitely would be chosen for the preferred cook during our family get togethers, because very little of what she makes is an utter failure. It is very tasty indeed.

Child number 2, middle child, a male child, began his gourmet experience perfecting brownie mix. We ate some hockey pucks and hard bricks before he got the hang of WATCHING THE CLOCK, and taking them out of the oven in time. But he can cook today, and does so ofen. I think he still makes the brownies at their house.

Oldest, Monkey Girl, tried and tried. She was the subject of more failures to get it right than anyone ought to have to endure. When she was just about 11, the local newspaper had a Junior Gourmet Club article in the paper on a weekly basis. The Junior Gourmets were supposed to try out the recipes and then either they or their parents would write in to tell how well the project went. Monkey Girl decided to give it a whirl, after a little prodding from her parents.

Now, this editor of the paper had a mean streak in her, and did she give them simple stuff to make like pigs in a blanket or ants on a log? (Never heard of either of those, then you weren't in Girl Scouts!) Any way, those would have been a cinch. Nooooooo, she had to start them out by making CARROT CAKE FROM SCRATCH!

Now, how many adult cooks ever make carrot cake from scratch? This was a time before food processors, so Monkey Girl began her project by shredding a pound of carrots the hard way, by using the knuckle-scraping hand shredder. After that was done, she had to chop the nuts and then assemble the other ingredients.

One of the caveats of the Junior Gourmet club was that the child was to do this on his or her own without help from an adult. We could be in the next room with the bandaids if blood started to flow, or the vacuum or mop for massive spills, but it was supposed to be the kid's gig from start to finish. Including cleanup.

She wasn't born yesterday, so she could find the basic ingredients in the kitchen. Flour, sugar, baking powder, milk, oil.......

She worked so hard on her cake, and after hours of labor, it was finally finished. It looked OK, but it had a peculiar smell. Sort of like fish! EWWWW, what happened? I asked her to show me the stuff she put into the cake, and she showed me the bottle of oil--uh-uh! Now I know why the cake smelled like that! She used the nasty oil I had saved from frying fish, she didn't know the difference, and since no one else in my family EVER tried to use the kitchen except to eat, I didn't mark the bottle. It never dawned on me that she would use it for her creation.

Well, dad and mom choked down as much of the FISH CARROT CAKE as we could, and apologized to her profusely for having contaminated ingredients in the kitchen where children/Junior Gourmets could reach them. Poor girl, this experience definitely dampened her ardour for cooking, and she promptly quit the Junior Gourmet Club!

She tried but things didn't work out so well as she attempted to learn how to fix other things. The meat on the grill was a sacrifice to the gods, totally immolated with smoke pouring heavenward. A simple Lenten meal of macaroni and cheese with tuna became a entire Lenten penance, that is for the college roommates who choked it down week after week, with one or two missteps along the way to make it less than pallatable. (When checking with Mom to see what happened, the answer was "Oh, was I supposed to drain the Macaroni after I cooked it in the water?" "Yes Dear, it tastes better without a quart of pasty water in it!") On Good Friday, they were all very thankful for the end of Lent, but by that time, it passed as a reasonable version of tuna casserole!

She has moved on, and has a husband who likes to cook, so that is good. They get to eat good stuff, which she sometimes fixes herself!

When Monkey Girl's Grandma passed away, Monkey Girl took posession of Grandma's recipes. I scoffed to myself, thinking, when will they be used? But she took it upon herself to perfect Grandma's chocolate cake, the one with the secret ingredient. Every body just loves this cake, and Monkey Girl is a whiz at making it. It is a scratch cake, something the rest of us never make! We love for the Chocolate Lovers in the family to celebrate a birthday, because she will make this extra fudgy, extra creamy, extra chocolaty cake and we can admire her prowess in the kitchen.

I could go on and one, but I'm sure she will share some of her newest adventures in Gourmet Living, we will all be anxious to test the product. Luckily, Mr. M got to try the first bite of the latest adventure, and saved the rest of the world from a cruel fate. Go to for more details.

Keep it up Monkey Girl, you'll make the cover of Gourmet Magazine yet!

Reflections in a Three-Way Mirror

In life, we often see things through our own filter of images, both mental and physical. Things may seem fine to us, but as others see us, certain anomolies pop out. Sometimes they are nice enough to not mention them, other times, they get brutally frank and blurt out the awful truth! It is then up to us to deal with that reality as seen from the perspective of our friends and acquaintances.

Two things happened today that brings a terrible reality to me that I have been avoiding for quite some time. This reality was something I've dealt with before, but I hoped to have put aside as a life issue that needed no attention right now. The reality is the tale of the tape measure as it encircles my mid section!

This morning, I dressed for church in new clothing, and although I convinced myself that that new size that I needed to get the skirt zipped was because "they just cut things small", it really was because I needed that much fabric to go around my middle section. And to top off the entire indignity of wearing such an awful size, I forgot to take that size strip off the back of my skirt. I was parading through the church going to recieve communion, and the cute redhead in the back row of our choir tapped me and mentioned that "the size tag is still on your skirt"! I felt back near my gluteus MAXIMMMUUUUSSSS, and was horrified to find it indeed was there, publicizing to the entire church just how many candy bars and french fries had been consummed lately! You can run, but you can't hide! Was there room under the pew to hide? Sorry, that wasn't an option.

The next thing that brings this whole issue to the light of day came about in my trip to Macy's. They advertised another ubiquitous sale of theirs, and I took the bait. So I had to investigate what wonderful bargains they were offering. It was my first vacant Sunday afternoon in a long time, and my Macy's charge card was growing stone cold after much neglect.

I found a few things to try on, and in the first set of dressing rooms, they have one mirror in each stall for you to check things out. OK, I could live with what I saw, and I found one outfit that would do. Not satisfied that I had unearthed every possibility, I combed every rack in all the ladies' departments, and finally found a few more bargains that were worth a try. I went into the big giant size dressing room to try them on, the ONE WITH THE THREE WAY MIRROR! Was that ever a mistake. Here, in the light of cold, blue fluorescent light was the unmistakeable evidence of my past sins of gluttony and sloth! Every Milky Way bar showed, and every french fry was evidenced by another bump of cellulite. Months of sitting around showed how wide things become when you sit on them constantly. I know now what those people seeing me parade through church with the size tag on my butt must have been thinking, IT'S TOO PAINFUL FOR ME TO PUT INTO WORDS!

So now, this is the jolt of reality that will send me back daily to the treadmill, elliptical and the streets around my house. I'm throwing the Milky Way bars in the trash, and I went to the produce store for fruits and veggies. I've thawed out the skinless chicken and will cook a low cal meal for dinner. Those cute little ice cream snacks that I bought will have to be for the grandkids, no more for grandma! I hope that the pants I bought today (to make it possible for me to dress for work and not split a seam or destroy a zipper) will soon be falling off.

One can only hope.

Is all of life like that? We see ourselves one way, but the reality of what others see is not quite the same as we envision. Do we really want to know the truth?

Friday, August 15, 2008

Girls Group Reunion Tour

One hobby of mine that I neglected to share with you is that I am a church musician. I have done this work since I was 10. Sister Mad Face took about 8 talented 5th graders, (my grade at the time), taught us all that hard Latin music, and had a permanent choir for 3 more years until we graduated. For her sake, it sure did beat trying to pound that stuff that was used one time a year into a new group of recruits every year.

I had been in church choirs off and on as an adult. Some gigs lasted longer than others, because in my young adult years, we moved around a bit. I only sang in these choirs, because I was just learning how to play the guitar. When we finally settled down in one place, I joined the church choir, and we had a great time together. But I like to learn things quickly, and in a traditional choir, you do a lot of sitting while all sections learn their parts. It drove me crazy, and I dropped out after a couple of years. I started a teen guitar group, which hung together for a while, but this also seemed to fizzle out.

In the 1980's, I was asked to become part of a church group of musicians that grew to include 5 permanent members. ALL GIRLS. We got to be very good, and we provided music for special occasions as well as for the weekend services. Our voices blended well, we had all ranges from high soprano to bass. We had 4 of the people who could play keyboard, and at times, we had 4 keyboards playing various parts of the music, bass, violin, flute, as well as a real piano. I'm the guitarist, but two of the keyboard people could also play guitar if we needed that for the songs we were playing. The joy of playing and singing in this group was that it was creative work, we were all good friends, and the people in the church really liked our music.

We saw each other through thick and thin, sickness and health, death of family members, divorces and remarriages, first marriages (our youngest member). We were together for 14 years, until people started to move away. This seemed to happen sort of at the same time. I left in 1997, and shortly afterward the group ceased to be a group, as only 1 person was left in the area.

Our days together were very special. As musicians, we knew each other's strengths and weaknesses, and we challenged each other to be better. Our fearless leader, our main keyboard player, kept us on track, and corrected us if we got sloppy with our playing and singing. She was a teacher, and used her teaching skills to hone the group into a tight successful musical ensemble.

When you move away from something so special, it is hard to replace it in your life. I became a parish musician at my new home, and our choir developed a wonderful rapport, but the only instrumentalists were myself and the organist. She and I developed a very close relationship, as she is older and a former professional musician with lots of formal training and many, many musical experiences. She, too, taught me many things. But it was never the same as it was with the Girls Group.

Now I have moved back to my old neighborhood, and although the look of the parish group has changed, (three parishs with diminishing populations combined to form one mega-church!), I'm back to the same group of people as fellow parishioners. However, I have not found the same musical niche as I had before.

Now the friends we knew for 30 years from the old church are dying, and our Girls Group has been asked to sing at two funerals this summer for friends of ours. Just being together is wonderful, we still listen to each other and play well together, and our voices find just the right range and place to be. Typical exchange--"Are you singing alto, no? Oh, then you sing melody and I'll sing descant..." and that happens in 15 minutes before the service begins.

The Girls Group came together for late Mr.'s funeral. It was so wonderful to have that music for this very special occasion. One funny note--several key members of the Girls Group always take a vacation together, and they were leaving the day after late Mr. passed away. So, I just postponed the funeral until they could get back, it was that important for me to have them sing.

As I said in yesterday's post, you make new friends, but you keep the old. We are all over a certain decade in age, but are quite young at heart. And when we get together, it is a marvelous day for all of us. Our Reunion Tour hopefully can continue, too bad it has to be scheduled around the loss of friends.

These are my golden friends, those whom I cherish deeply.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good Friends Together Again

11 years ago, I answered the call (definitely from above) to move to a small rural town to help the people start thier own small Christian school. I was a city girl, transported to the country, having to learn a new way of life. Some of the transition aspects were difficult for me to deal with (no shopping center nearby, everyone knowing your business, long drives from home to work), but the part about the experience that was the best was meeting new friends, who were and are my life-long partners as I walk down the long road of experiences.

Circumstances in life (lateMr.'s serious illness) made me move back to the big city. That meant that my wonderful friends that I met in Small Town, USA were farther away than would be feasible for me to see often. Thank heaven for computers, because that is how I have kept in touch with so many of them.

But every once in a while, God grants me the opportunity for a face to face visit with them. This summer has been full of opportunities, I returned to my cherished eye doctor several times for services from him, and I always manage to tack on a lunch with the gang to each visit. Luckily, the eye doctor wants to keep a close watch on my progress, so that means more trips and more lunches!

Even though I'm gone from my little adopted town for over 3 years now, every visit brings a meeting with someone, at the local Wal-Mart (some say it is the smallest in the US, but I could always find something to buy there!), at the filling station, walking down the street, at the eye doctor's office. I usually run into someone I've met while I lived there, and we open up deep and rich conversations that I cherish. These are people who I care deeply about, I am interested in their lives, and since I had a part in educating their children, I want to know how the kids are doing.

We (our friends in Small Town) had a tragic thing happen last May. One of the former students from our school was killed in a terrible auto accident. He was just 19, going on 20, driving his sweetie in his new convertible, and was broadsided by another car and killed. The death shook the community to the core, losing one so young and full of promise, and rallied the community around his parents and siblings in their shock and grief. That tragic event brought me down to Small Town several times, and even though we were together for a very sad occasion, it gave me a chance to see and speak to many, many of my friends. It was great time for making some re-connections.

And this past week, two of my best buds came to St. Louis to see my play that I costumed. They are my intrepid crew, they've been there for the final performance several times, helping me to pack up costumes to be taken home from the theatre. We are getting to be a regular team with it now, and got the big job done in record time after this performance. My one friend, who was my secretary and a great "data base" developer, suggested more than once that we make an inventory of costume elements, and made a data base on the inventory. She would be great at this, and it's too bad she doesn't live here to do that.

Another good friend, who is so great at photography, sent me many emailed pictures of her darling daughter, who is growing up so quickly into a beautiful young lady.

And then yesterday, a voice from the past, one of the original teachers I worked with at our school, came to St. Louis to pick up her son from the airport. Since his flight was due in at midnight, she needed someplace to hang out while waiting for him, thank goodness she picked my house! We had a great long chatty supper, then she visited for a while before going to the airport.

I remember the old song we used to sing at Girl Scout camp.

Make New Friends, but keep the old. One is silver and the other gold.

I consider these friendships to be golden, they have sustained me through many trials, and we have shared wonderful times together also. Thank heaven for weeks like this one, where good friends can reconnect and be together.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008


What is it about babies and young children that makes them not want to take naps? What do they think they are missing while they are sleeping? As we get older, and our energy level wanes more quickly, we should all get a chance to nap. I think naps are the greatest gift from God a person can get!

During the past two months, SEWWHAT? was involved with costuming a musical that had a cast of 31. That meant dressing these 31 beautiful talented people in one, or two or more costumes. Some things could be found at the local thrift shops (best bet of the month can be found at the closest one, last Wednesday of the month everything that you can wear is 1/2 price!) Some items were recycled from the costume collection owned by the theatre group, but about 65 items had to be made from scratch by moi.

When you get into this intense costuming routine, with only a few weeks to complete a lot of stuff, it's pretty well a morning, noon and nightime job that you are working on. My sewing machines of various sorts that I have around my craft room were whirring their little brains out for weeks preparing for the final dress rehearsal. This leaves very little time for naps when you are doing this. I would get a chance for 1 or 2 5-minute power naps to revive my spirits and get me over exhausted slumps, but NO REAL NAPS were to be had during this time.

The intense costuming period was followed by a 2500 mile road trip that TC (Traveling Companion) and I went on. Oh sure, there were times I nodded off in the vehicle while we were clicking off the miles, maybe more than I remember, but that's not the same as languishing in a comfy bed with my soft fur-ball maker at my side.

Then came a wonderful vist with the relatives. Napping didn't seem appropriate when people came 2000 miles to visit, so the naps were not in the daily agenda. But, they left at noon yesterday. I came home from the airport saying, now I get my long needed nap! My body responded to the invitation, in bed with the covers, many pillows and soft fur-ball maker nearby, and gloriously I got a 3 HOUR NAP! Hooray for napping, it should be a national pasttime, like it is in some countries.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dual Controls

I've always wanted to own a vehicle with dual temperature controls. None that I've ever owned have had that feature. Dual controls work so well in concept, you can personally select your own desired temperature level, and your traveling companion can select what suits him or her.

Traveling Companion (hereby referred to as TC) and I definitely have a different idea of a comfort level of temperature while traveling. 2500 miles under our belts and rubbing our backsides has proven that! I hope he was comfortable, because I sure wasn't! It was like the frozen Arctic tundra in the cab of his truck for most of the time! A blast of frosty air chilled us quickly, even on the hot days, I had to check to mirror to see if icicles had begun to form on my nose! Also, checked for blocks of ice at the end of my legs. My only defense was to grab a sweater or jacket, and hope for the best.

Now, in traveling down life's road, I've encountered more than one situation that dual controls would have worked well. The late Mr. liked it warm. Much too warm for my taste, as I went through about 15 years of "personal summertime" coming in flashes throughout that period. During that time, he needed more and more sun, and sunshiny days to make him happy. He always wore a long sleeve shirt or jacket, and had shivering down to a fine art! I think he was happiest when we traveled to Death Valley and it was 120 degrees! He revelled in it, and I about expired under a hot rock! So dual controls in our vehicles would have been a really great asset for us!

Now, I've passed on to a different season in my life, more toward the "perpetually autumn" or God-forbid, the "winter of discontent". I definitely choose somewhat warmer temps in which to feel comfortable. So this icy blast coming from the vents in TC's truck was not to my liking. TC had control of the trip, it was his vehicle, his itinerary, his plan, and he controlled the dials on the AC. One time when I dared to turn it down/up/make it warmer, he quickly corrected my attempts to warm things up by turning down the dials to "icy tundra". (Is there a picture of a polar bear on that end of the dial? There should be!) When on a rare occasion when I was given the keys, and his eyes closed for 5 minutes giving up control, I sneaked my hand over and turned it up, TWICE! Then I was able to survive the 11 hour drive as we returned home.

I'll talk about control in a later blog, but as for now, I recommend the all auto makers put dual controls in every vehicle. It would do a lot to calm down "road rage", them that like it hot can be happy, and those who need to be very cool will have their day. And in life's road, we all like to be able to have control of the dials.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Back in the saddle again!

I'm 900 miles from home. Even in this summer of high gas prices, I decided to take a roadtrip that will be 7 days long and put about 2000 miles on the odometer. This translates to putting that many miles on my backside! Ouch! One stop on my trip was to Nashville, where I toured the "Country Music Hall of Fame". Traveling Companion bought a copy of Gene Autry's Greatest Hits. Song NumberOne is "Back in The Saddle Again". Now each morning as we take off, that is our theme song. Tomorrow is the beginning of the circle back home--more numb bulbs!