Thursday, March 26, 2015


Yesterday was my second child’s birthday, and I went to see her on her supper break at work. I’d finished a quilted wall hanging, featuring cats because she’s a cat lover extraordinaire. It was fun to make and I was pleased that she loved it so much. (She later emailed that Squeaky, one of her furry friends, also loved the wall hanging.)
That got me to thinking about birthday gifts. When I was pretty young, around 5 or 6, my father used to take me to the cowboy show (western movie) at the Lincoln Theater in my hometown. It was years before I realized that he took me because he loved westerns, my mother didn’t, and this way he wasn’t embarrassed to be seen at what many considered a kid’s movie. I not only fell in love with the cowboys (the good guys, of course) but I needed a horse of my own. I even downsized my craving to a pony, Shetland ponies being quite popular in those days.

Never got one. I used to hold that against my dad. He’d promised me a pony (as I recall the story) and he broke his promise. Once I had kids of my own and realized what all was involved in taking care of a family, where the money went, and what a pony would actually cost to buy, never mind feed and care for . . . . Let’s just say, I forgave my dad. Breaking promises hurts, but understanding comes with the distance of decades. I did learn not to promise my kids things in order to shut them up. It’ll be interesting to hear how they remember it.
As I grew older and more experienced (you’ll notice I left out the word wiser, which was itself a wise decision), I still had covetous thoughts about what I saw in the stores. Trailing three or four preschoolers (one of which was in the shopping cart seat), I browsed the hardback books, record albums, clothes not meant for moms with sticky-fingered little rascals, a fancy new sewing machine, elegant fabric . . . . Yup, the list was never-ending, changing only as my interests grew and changed.

If you don’t recall those times—and I know the years create a comfortable forgetfulness that leads to nostalgia—to refresh your recollection, I suggest you borrow some preschoolers from a harassed mom—give her a break, but no more than an hour or two lest she pack a bag and dash for the nearest bus station, leaving you with  . . . well, no, not really. I’m just saying.
I can recall wanting a newer, perfectly clean, totally reliable car or station wagon (this was B. S.—Before SUV).

Heck, while I was in covet mode, I wanted a housekeeper, maid, and yard man/handyman—I liked to cook so didn’t need one of those. Oh, yes, and a nanny/governess/child minder so I could shop in peace, cook without burning the soup because I’d had to separate two strong-minded siblings who wanted the same piece of modeling clay . . . . In those days I read books that gave me ideas “above my station.”
Instead of all those material wants and desires, I got: a big (old) house, full of kids and mess, not enough time to make a meal fit for a king, with only stolen minutes to sew a half-hour here and there. But the kids and I did crafts, sang to the piano, read library books together, and cooked. I’m happy to report they go ‘way beyond Jell-O with fruit cocktail, hot dogs, and canned baked beans when they make meals nowadays. And they remember those years as good times that helped mold their talents and interests.

So what does all this have to do with Great Birthday Gifts, you ask?
Here’s what: I have four children, all grown up and housebroken, who actually like each other (this was in question 40 years ago), and enjoy spending time with their mom. Because we’re all doing things we love with our lives, our visits are far between, but when they occur, oh, what joy! Here are a couple of samples:

The first was my 60th birthday. My four children rounded up two of my close friends from college for an evening of good times and good food, laughter and silliness. I got a photo album of pics going back into our collective past—my woman friend’s wedding, the man friend’s casual dress while he helped us remodel the upstairs of the farm house we bought, the kids on vacation trips. Nothing like looking at ourselves 20 or 30 years ago. Did we wear that?! Yes, we did. And our hairstyles! Talk about retro.
The other time was my 70th birthday, when my four children then lived in three different states and several hours’ travel were required to reach Northeastern Indiana. They all managed to get here for a full day. The girls stayed the night, but my son had to leave because he had responsibilities the next morning at church. We watched hilarious animal videos on the computer, made stupid puns (always a family talent), ate too much, drank too much coffee and tea, and—as they used to say in the newspaper about community meetings—“a good time was had by all."

Those two birthdays will linger in my memory forever. At some point I gave up on wanting “things.” Hard to say when—but I know my priorities shifted and I learned the value of spending time with relatives and friends before one of us is no longer here, in body or mind, perhaps.
Today I celebrate birthdays—your, mine, the letter carrier’s, the newborn baby in my neighborhood. Hope it’s a happy one! And that you get what you most desire!


Thursday, March 19, 2015


Yes, it’s a day early—my calendars announce the vernal equinox for tomorrow, March 20—but now I’m ready to celebrate, on the eve of the arrival of Spring.
Apparently others are ready also. Here’s what I’ve noted so far:

·         Lawn service phone calls/mailings/trucks roaring down the street – in one seven-minute phone call I committed myself to a huge chunk of change to keep my landscaping beautiful (almost 15 years ago I had it first designed and installed—wow, does time fly or what?)

·         Squirrels digging up last autumn’s treasures in my mulch – they know they don’t bury acorns and peanuts in the mulch; why do they do that?

·         Lo-o-o-ng line at the car wash – I’ve seen more dirty vehicles this year than ever before. Was there a mud storm? Possible. Possible.

·         Swimsuits on the racks at Walmart – this one cracked me up. I’m wandering around in my winter jacket (lined, long enough to cover my tush) and there in front of me are rainbow-hued swimsuits, rack after rack of them, the kind that fit itty-bitty females (you know the ones I mean)

·         Winter-weight coats/slacks/sweaters/socks feel ‘way too warm—and heavy – I lose 5-10 lbs. just changing from winter clothes to spring ones.

Spring’s advent is so welcome! We’ve had a long, long winter here in Northeast Indiana, with lots of snow, day upon day of cold temps, wind that drove the thermometer down to arctic levels. (We never reached the levels of the Northeastern US, but we had our share.) Now--grass is greening up, my Surprise Lily stems are out of the ground nearly four inches, and there’s no snow on the ground. Not even on the north side of buildings where sun never reaches. (I’ve looked.)

So I think it’s time to look forward. Never mind that tonight’s weather forecast is for rain and snow—that stuff will disappear in a short while when the temp soars above 40. In the meantime--

Celebrate Spring!


Thursday, March 12, 2015


The rest of that phrase is “I die a little.”
It’s a two-stanza song (according to my limited research) written by Cole Porter. The song has been recorded by vocalists and instrumentalists for nearly 70 years. Two of my favorites are Oscar Peterson and his piano, and Ella Fitzgerald with her wonderful voice. Talk about universal messages….

I’ve been saying goodbye (or bon voyage) to friends and family quite a lot lately. Had to give my daughter in Arizona a big hug and kiss before I pointed my nose toward the loading ramp for the monster jet that would return me to Indiana. My good writing buddy of over 20 years is on her way—probably there already—to Florida for a few warm-up days away from Indiana’s cool reception to spring. Another friend leaves tomorrow for a couple of weeks, so I’ll not have a walking buddy at the Y.
Too bad I can’t say a hearty, “See you later!” and let them go with good grace. Instead, all I want to do is curl up in a big chair with a blankie and, well, snivel.

But I won’t do that. The people I leave, the people who leave me, all have needs as well. They all have lives just as I do.
The best thing about having friends, acquaintances, and relatives is knowing we belong to a community of people. Their joys are our joys, their tears are our tears. They care for me as I do for them. My life is richer for knowing them, and I hope and pray their lives are enriched by my presence.

So today I celebrate friends and family—those near and those far away—whose absence is noted, and whose return will be excitedly greeted.
See you later!

Thursday, March 5, 2015


Recently I had a lost day—a blah day. No energy, no enthusiasm, not really quite conscious. I felt as if I were under the skin of life, observing but not observed.
It should have been a regular day (I hesitate to say normal). I had my Today List—called and canceledtwo appointments because roads were too icy for my taste; sidewalks were broken hips waiting to happen. Okay—that meant two fewer commitments and those were rescheduled. Subject closed. Freed up some time, right? Good thing, right?

Then why didn’t it turn out to be a good thing to have extra hours?
I have to be honest here. I have WIPs (remember those? Works in Progress?) eyeing me every time I walk through my fabric and yarn areas. A couple extra hours are a huge gift. Think of the possibilities: a quilt farther along on its way to the recipient, an afghan closer to becoming a friend’s gift to her husband (she made more than half the sampler blocks, and my knitters and my daughter and I made the rest).

There were letters to write—a couple of gigantic emails filled that bill; new books to read—finished one, read a couple pages in book 2 of the series, and gave up.
Right then I should have caught on. When I don’t want to read, I’m on shaky ground.

The culprit? Mid-winter depression. The one that happens when spring is merely a word in the dictionary and has no relation to nice weather, tweety birds, and green stuff poking its head up through the ground for a look-see.
I know we’re only 16 days from the first day of spring. But that lost day was midwinter in my soul. (As an aside—do you know how many hibernating animals there are? I don’t either, but I wished I was one.)

From the distance of 48 hours, I’m beginning to see how it came about:
·         Gloomy weather: clouds, rain, sleet, freezing rain, icy conditions

·         Another day in the cabin (cabin fever doesn’t hit me until I’ve been cooped up for more than four days)

·         Remembrance of six warm days in Arizona

·         Dread of Daylight Savings Time (see last year’s post in early March—I don’t ever want to talk about it again; a good long snarl is very satisfying, though)
So here was the challenge—what’s to celebrate about a day like that?

Well, for starters, I’m still alive. I’m doing things I enjoy (when I’m not in a snit), some for myself (reading new authors, finding new TV series to watch) and some for others (playing the organ, knitting and sewing).
Best of all, my life is filled with people who bring me joy, challenge me to think, like my company. We may not see each other in person, but we have lively email exchanges.

No doubt another blah day will come. They’re not once-in-a-lifetime events. But I know, as surely as they come again, they’ll go away.

I don’t wish you a blah day, or a midwinter depression, or sadness of any kind. But when one of them catches up to you, I wish you courage and strength to ride it out, find a tiny silver thread in the cloudy day, and spend a little time communing with yourself. You may be surprised. Or, you may surprise yourself.