Thursday, February 26, 2015


Last week it was faraway places . . . this week it's back home again in Indiana.

My trip to Arizona was, overall, a good experience. What's not to like? Warm days, cool nights, sun-sun-sun. As I said last time, it's the getting there that's the bug in the oatmeal.

This time, it was the getting home. Less said, the better. I have no desire to relive the experience of hours upon hours in the airport, gate changes that required 1.5-mile walks (I managed to snag one of the carts that transport the old, the frail, and the frustrated--I was rapidly becoming all three), and  . . . . You get the idea.

But the time there! Wow--the things I learned. I now know how to download music to be put on my phone so I can listen to what I want to hear through headphones or ear buds. I learned about streaming movies and TV shows on my computer.

We went to a play and laughed for a long time afterward. Shopped at Bookman's (when I truly retire, I'm going to live at Bookman's), earth's best store for used books/CDs/DVDs/tapes/magazines and more.

Had a ball at a pizza joint, family owned, where my daughter and I could get a gluten-free pizza! I can make them at home, but this was special because (1) I was with my daughter, whom I hadn't seen for over a year, and (2) I didn't have to make it.

We were invited to a birthday party for the one-year-old daughter of my daughter's classmate. I met people who previously were only names and now have faces and personalities. One of them is going to have a baby soon--once we got home from the party, we started going through boxes and found a completed quilt top that needed only borders, backing, batting, and binding. We worked together and before I left we had the top finished, the layers sandwiched and spray-basted; it's now ready for quilting, trimming, and binding.

I got re-acquainted with Abby, the 13-year-old cat who lived with me for a while, and met Shu Shu, probably 2-3 years old. Sadly, I took Shu Shu's favorite room and kept the door closed so she couldn't get to a window she prefers. But I believe she's now forgiven me.

Southwestern weather being what it is, I got thoroughly warm and toasty before I flew back to the frozen, snowy Midwest. The memory of warmth and lightweight clothes is dear to me.

Hope you had a wonderful week also.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Back in my salad days, my mother had a recording of a song I loved to play:
     Faraway places, with strange-sounding names,
     Far away over the sea,
     Those faraway places with the strange-sounding names,
     Are calling, calling, me.

The tune was slow and near-mournful. I don’t know why I liked it, because we moved so often when I was in elementary school that I learned new town names and street names and people names every year. Just when I got them down pat, we moved and I had to start all over again. Didn’t take many moves before I learned to dread packing up and going to the next place.
I’ve never had wanderlust—travel is fine, but not high on my list of things I love to do.

This comes to mind as I prepare for a short trip—well, actually, the trip is long: Indiana to Minneapolis to Phoenix, via air travel—but the stay in Mesa, AZ is short, only four days. My journey to the Valley of the Sun will allow me to visit with my oldest daughter, snag a few rays to boost my Vitamin D content, and shut out of my mind (even a few days’ worth) the images of snow, more snow, and still more snow.
When I worked as a paralegal, I traveled fairly often—conferences, workshops—some in Indiana, some in big cities around the U.S. To make the event go smoothly, I kept a list in my computer of things I needed to pack (both long and short trips, warm weather or cool) and another list of things to do before I left home (stopping mail, turning off appliances, lowering the thermostat for the furnace).

This time I started a list on a steno pad—am onto the second page—keep adding things I know I can’t possibly do without. Really? As if Phoenix is the end of the universe and there are no stores?
The To-Do list is shorter—I have a friend picking up my mail, which is now, alas, mostly ads and other missives I can do without; I use almost no appliances (microwaves go off by themselves); and the thermostat had better stay right where it is because the temps here in northern Indiana will remain down in the chilly-to-downright-frigid range while I’m away.

Confession—I do not like to travel. But I like being there—wherever “there” is. When we get the teleportation business straightened out, and it’s only a matter of “Beam me up, Scotty!” I’ll sign on.
In the meantime, short trips, not too far away.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


If you’re an only child, as I am, you’ll know what it’s like to grow up as the only one of your age, size, and style in a family of adults.
If you have siblings—even one counts—then you may find what I’m going to say something of a puzzle. You’ll be asking, “But why didn’t you--?” Or, “How come--?” Or, “Really?”

Yes, really.
Here’s how it went for me.

I was actually the third child of the family, but my two brother had died in infancy three and five years before I made an appearance. Thus, I was born into a family of adults—two parents, two grandparents, eight uncles and aunts with spouses, about 20 cousins (there were five or six after me) on my mother’s side, three aunts with spouses and 10 cousins on my dad’s side, plus assorted friends of family. Not to mention dogs, cats, and livestock. But those came later.
Many only children become little adults very young, merely because it’s what the atmosphere is all about. My parents both worked, so my grandmother came to stay with me; that ended and my mother was a stay-at-home mom. (Very common in that era, so nobody thought it strange. Or commendable. Or worthy of comment at all.)

In my home, I didn’t learn to read as a three-year-old; my mother was busy homemaking—we had the cleanest house on the block and probably the best food (I always thought so). In lieu of reading early, I figured out how to use crayons to indicate what certain items were. I was allowed to play a phonograph (remember 78s?); to keep track of which ones I liked, I marked colored patches on the labels. Memory is forever buried so I don’t recall the names of the tunes I preferred. I wouldn’t be surprised, however, to learn they were cowboy songs, my dad’s favorites.
I do recall, when I was a four-year-old, lining up my dolls on the living room sofa, and telling them all about something or other. That was, to my recollection, my first lecture to a class. Afterward I served them tea with my doll-sized tea set.

Shortly after the classroom adventure, we moved to the country where I had no neighborhood children nearby. Within a year or so I started my education at a one-room country school. Eight grades in one room. There were actually two other small rooms—one was a library and one we used as a storage room. I haunted the library room. It was worth getting all my workbook pages done quickly so I could go into the room with all the books—they had a fragrance all their own, mixed with wax crayons, pencil shavings, and sweeping compound. Heady stuff for a six-year-old.
That school year was first grade. It was the beginning of my lifelong love of books and all things schoolish. I've never lost that connection to books and learning. When my mother and I moved to town, I began a big-school career at Lincoln Grade School. For the first time I began to make friends and have other girls to play with after school. Funny thing, though—they weren’t much interested in playing school, which was all I ever wanted to do.

After fourth grade, my mother and stepfather moved every year for a while. One year I again attended a one-room country school in southern Missouri (no library room this time—just well-filled shelves of books, books, books), another year it was a big-city school (Wichita, KS), and then back to my hometown.

A peripatetic life gathers no lasting friendships. I was the equivalent of a rolling stone traveling through the forest and leaving the moss behind.

By the time I got to junior high and high school, I was beginning to make friends, and we stayed put for the last years of my public school education. In later years I was very grateful that we didn’t move again; when my mother died during my sophomore year in high school, I had friends and classmates to help me keep an even keel. Nothing much was said; but they were always there in the halls, the classrooms, and the cafeteria. We wrote on the newspaper together, played opposite each other in the Thespians, sat together at basketball games, danced the bunny hop (Lord, Lord, I am dating myself now) and the hokey-pokey. Fellow students, teachers, and the familiar halls provided a known backdrop—I didn’t have to memorize which hall my home room was in or look for my locker or get lost on the way to the gym. For a few years I could settle.

I still had no siblings, but I had people who cared about me—students, teachers, parents of my friends. Living a solo childhood may have bent the twig one way, but I learned along the journey how to accept help, and love, and thereby to give back by giving away.

Today I celebrate friendships—all through the ages of my life.


Thursday, February 5, 2015


Saturday will be the birth anniversary of my first-born. With this post I am wishing her a happy birthday a couple of days early, and the hope for her next year to be eventful, intriguing, delightful, fulfilling, and memorable.

We are now, in Northeast Indiana, in the throes of winter for sure--2-4 inches of snow is predicted every other day; on the off-days it's only 1-3 inches. Snow plows are a regular sight on our streets, and the lawn-and-landscape guys are out doing their thing with snow blowers, shovels, and blades. School is delayed two hours on the days it's not cancelled. Such is life in winter in my little corner of the world.

It was similar when my first-born made her appearance in public on Planet Earth. I don't remember details of the weather--cold, snowy, probably below zero temps--mainly because I was distracted by the process of giving birth. Never having done that before, I had no memories to call on, no experience of sisters (I have none), no mother to reassure me.

Until now, it never occurred to me that this is the pattern of my life--thrown in at the deep end of the body of water, sink or swim.

Now being thrown in at the deep end isn't such a bad thing if you've once or twice been at the shallow end, practicing how to keep yourself afloat; you then move on to deeper water, over your shoulders, then over your head . . . . Gradual advancement.

Uh-huh. But if you've never seen such a body of water except in pictures, you're not likely to have much sense of what's required for survival.

Here are some more samples.

My first day on the job as a legal secretary, I prepared the documents to open an estate. Having only the foggiest idea of what an estate was, I sat at the typewriter (you understand this was back in the Middle Ages, before computers) and inserted names, addresses, and other details on the forms handed me by the attorney who was going to see the clients.

Another time, years later, I thought I'd do a good thing (always a vulnerable moment for the fates to step in and take charge of your life)--anyway, I thought I'd do a good thing and volunteer to play at the Saturday night church service. It was played on the piano--I'd been playing the piano for, um, quite a few years, and had been a member of that church long enough to understand the liturgical cast of the service. Within a couple of years the organist retired, an organist was needed. I took lessons (about a year's worth altogether), and next thing I knew, I was the interim organist. Played Sunday services, funerals, weddings, mid-week special services . . . . (I still had  my day job, by the way, which was full time.)

A couple of years ago, I made a prayer shawl for one of our parishioners. (Different church from the above.) I had learned one valuable lesson--Don't Volunteer! Made no difference; one of the church pillars admired the shawl, told me they used to make such things years ago and could take it up again. Two weeks later she told the visiting bishop that I'd started a knitting ministry at their church--and I wasn't even a confirmed member then!

So here I am in retirement from the paralegal job. My eldest child is going to be celebrating her birthday in a couple of days' time. Got through those two without too much loss of sanity.

I am once again the available organist they depend on at my church, and the knitting ministry has expanded to include quilts, large and small, for a neo-natal ICU and for various charities in our area. Sanity is definitely in a precarious position.

But the best lesson of all is this: Learning can take place in any situation. It's a choice. I can either throw up my hands and say no-no-no. Or I can humble myself (hard one) and say, okay I can learn to do this, just give me a little time. It may not be good, but I'm willing to learn.

I wish you gentle learning curves and pleasant views from the ride.