Thoughts that Linger

January 2, 2011

Today I will take down Christmas and pack it away for another year. At least most of it. Reluctantly.

I’m one of those that starts listening to Christmas tunes around Thanksgiving and counts the days until it is socially acceptable to deck the halls. I love opening the big green tubs filled with memories of Christmas past, and finding a place in my home for them to reside for a few short weeks. And I love the warm glow of the lights. Everywhere.

I don’t even mind shopping during the holidays, contrary to most other times of the year. Not even for groceries. It’s likely I will see people I don’t see very often when the stores are crowded. I am delighted to exchange good cheer with a stranger, when their day is full and their job is hard, and it would be easier for both of us to do otherwise.

I will probably leave the mantle of lights and snowmen over the kitchen sink. One last vestige which I will enjoy, and my family will tolerate, until all hope for snow is lost. And when the last of this holiday season is retired, it will be the thoughts that linger on.

Like the squeal of my grandson, when he walked into the house and saw the “Lights!” for the first time, and the second, and the third. Or the way he danced with glee when the otherwise rambunctious dog snuffled him on Christmas Eve. Although this was his third Christmas, it was the first for him to unwrap a gift with understanding, intent, and enjoyment. There is a quiet beauty in the eyes of a child as they experience something for the first time, without fear or expectation.

My granddaughter lay on the comforter underneath the tree, in the house that her great-grandmother and grandfather built. This I will think of when I close my eyes to sleep at the end of a long day. Time goes by so quickly.

I will remember something as simple as my daughter turning off the television on Christmas Eve. Surely not a big thing and not that anyone was watching, but it was a sign that we should not be distracted from the more important things at hand, like each other. Things that were important to her as well.

Miles separated my son and I, but the comfort of his voice was as close as the phone on a blue Christmas night. I am reminded how important it is for me to have time apart to appreciate the time together.

This will be the Christmas when I remembered how much enjoyment there is in gifting something made with my hands, and hoping it will last for lifetimes.

I will remember John’s children, now young adults, gathered on Christmas day in the kitchen with their faces as close to the windows as humanly possible, counting the numbers and kinds of critters that had come to the feeders that John filled the day before.

And John, sitting on the periphery of kids and electronic media, strumming a green ukelele with a smile on his face, from deep in a soul where youth springs eternal.

It’s not the things I hold in my hand, but the ones that are in my heart.

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Memorial Day 2010

May 31, 2010

“Wars are poor chisels for carving out peaceful tomorrows.”
-Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

dad.jpg

Here’s to my dad.

He was in the 34th Infantry, “Red Bull Division” during the end of the second world war and the liberation of the concentration camps. I know this only because of the pictures I found after he died. They were kept in an old shirt box along with other items that led me to verify what I had already believed; that what happened to him during his length of service was life changing.

They said he was not the same when he came home. How could he be?

He never talked about the war, but it was with him all the time. And so it goes with the multitudes that have walked in his footsteps.

We’ll hoist the flag again today, in honor of my dad, and those that share his story. He would have expected that.

And we’ll say another prayer for peace. He would have expected that, as well.

The roads in Michigan are so well marked. Really. Every single one of them. We’ve spent two days following maps, courtesy of Trout Unlimited, outlining all of the access points on the Upper Manistee and Au Sable Rivers and haven’t gotten lost once. And that’s saying something.

Granted, the majority of them are sand and gravel, but there’s always a sign marking every intersection. They even have real names, like River Road. If Hoosiers marked these roads they would have an occasional sign, and it would say something like 1000 West, or 250 North, and we would still be driving around.

The roads have been just about as empty as the one in the picture. I bet we haven’t seen more than four or five automobiles other than ours, which is probably why we came across the neatest thing. This was one of those times when I long for a super human lens for my camera.

We drove up slowly as we saw a huge “something” on the side of the road. As we got closer it moved into the bush. We thought it was gone, but it wasn’t. “It” turned out to be a huge turkey staring back at us from the woods.

Then one turned into three gobblers and four hens. The gobblers were in full strut, what I have found to be their mating regalia.

They let me get out of the car and snap a few pictures before they headed off deep into the woods.

This was almost as cool as watching some tiny little bugs hatch and drop into the river, and into the waiting mouths of some hungry fish. Well, no. This was way cooler, but don’t tell John I said that.

The purported purpose of this visit, according to John, was to scope out the rivers in preparation for a trip later this year. I believe the true mission was to make me feel comfortable with a fly rod and reel, wearing all kinds of gear, waist deep in the river in a pair of waders. That’s right. Waders.

Mission accomplished. I’m ready. At least now I know I won’t be the only turkey out there.

my life according to dylan

February 20, 2010

or, listening to music like we did back in the day.

Dilling posted this meme few weeks ago, and today I had the time and good fortune to do the same. While fiddling around in the music, an interesting thing happened…

Using only song titles from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions…
Try not to repeat a song title. It’s a lot harder than you think!
Post as “my life according to (band name)”

In order to be successful, I would need to pick an artist that I liked, but more importantly, one that is a prolific writer. Bob Dylan fit the bill, although the true Dylan fan in our twodom is John. My taste in Dylan has progressed like my taste in wine. My friend Rita calls it “a more mature a palette”. I found a CD I really like a couple years back. That was all it took.

John sent me to My Back Pages, the ultimate website for Dylan fans, where I ended up in a mire of titles and lyrics. Then I had to listen to the songs. So we tapped his CD collection and he hooked me up to the links, by album. As I write, we are listening to Blood on the Tracks, Tangled Up In Blue. I love that song. Best of all, as we listen to the CD, I’m reading the lyrics. READING THE LYRICS! Flashback to the vinyl days when there was actually print large enough to read. Ah, those were the days!

In the midst of all of this, I sucked John into blogging again. He agreed to let me pull his blog into WordPress, and as I write, he is working on the same list I am. I can’t wait to compare his post to mine…

PICK YOUR ARTIST:
Bob Dylan
ARE YOU MALE OR FEMALE:
Just Like a Woman
DESCRIBE YOURSELF:
Tough Mama
HOW DO YOU FEEL:
Like a Rolling Stone
DESCRIBE WHERE YOU CURRENTLY LIVE:
Girl of the North Country
IF YOU COULD GO ANYWHERE, WHERE WOULD YOU GO:
On The Road Again
YOUR FAVORITE FORM OF TRANSPORTATION:
Down the Highway
YOUR BEST FRIEND IS:
Forever Young
YOU AND YOUR BEST FRIENDS ARE:
Shelter from the Storm
WHAT’S THE WEATHER LIKE:
Winterlude
FAVORITE TIME OF DAY:
New Morning
IF YOUR LIFE WAS A TV SHOW, IT WOULD BE CALLED:
Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee
WHAT IS LIFE TO YOU:
Simple Twist of Fate
YOUR CURRENT RELATIONSHIP:
If Not For you
YOUR FEAR:
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
A FOND MEMORY:
Summer Days
WHAT IS THE BEST ADVICE YOU HAVE TO GIVE:
Gotta Serve Somebody
THOUGHT FOR THE DAY:
The Times They Are A-Changin
HOW WOULD YOU LIKE TO DIE?
I Shall Be Released
YOUR SOUL’S PRESENT CONDITION:
Blowin in the Wind
MOST FAITHFUL COMPANION:
You Gotta Quit Kicking My Dog Around
YOUR MOTTO:
Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right

Road Trip

February 18, 2010

Traveling North last weekend was a great and wonderful adventure for us. We’ve been on many trips together, some with John’s children when they were younger, but for the most part it’s just been the two of us. We’ve developed a sort of a rhythm to traveling together. Up early, out on the road, usually without much of a plan. We stop when we find something interesting, eat when we are hungry, and are in bed pre-midnight, adjusting as needed. Footloose and fancy free. This was our first trip in many years with a toddler.

We made reservations a month ago at Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan, for four. And a half. We conceded to bringing Asher’s parents along for the ride. Just kidding. There’s no way I would have even attempted this without his parents. It would have been like traveling to a foreign land. Without a translator.

Thanks to a good friend, who has a son, who works for a car rental agency, we got a tremendous deal on a vehicle that would hold luggage, a pack and play, a stroller, food, four adults, and a car seat. And several bottles of wine on the return trip. John was in road warrior heaven. He began his period of mourning the minute we returned the auto Monday night.

It had eight cylinders, four wheel drive, and all kinds of bells and whistles that I was not the least bit interested in. It made a big roar when he stepped on the gas. He did, too. Even Asher couldn’t wait to get behind the wheel. It’s a man thing.

The indoor water park was outstanding. So outstanding that I didn’t stop to take any pictures. Fail, as Sarah would say. By time I realized I didn’t have any, it was five minutes to closing on the last night. But the pictures I have in my mind will last a lifetime. His trunks were bright blue and orange, and he wore a navy latex short-sleeved shirt. The lodge provided a bright yellow life jacket with an inflated collar, and a handy little black loop on the back that was just perfect for tethering a toddler. His smile was contagious, yummy, and forever. He never stopped, from the first time his little feet hit the water soaked floor, until we lifted him up for the last time to head back to the room. Each of us took turns following him from the toddler pool, to the fort – complete with all kinds of water filled fun, to the adult pool, back to the fort, then to the toddler pool, then to the fort…get the idea?

He spent most of his time in the room trying to get out the door to get back to the park. No kidding. We had to use the bolt, and when he figured that out, we used the latch, which allowed enough of an opening to make the longing even worse. Not to mention pinched fingers. We were pretty lucky to come away unscathed.

I would like to say that after considerable prodding, on the last evening I did go down one of the water slides in a double inner tube with John. Twice. Sarah said she could hear us screaming all the way down. Both times. I loved it. Naturally, he hit the slides as soon as we got there. That’s one of the things I love about him.

As for traveling with a toddler, I would do it again in a heartbeat. It took some adjustment, on his part as well as ours, but he was a trooper. As for John and I, a wise old soul named Jane once told me when I struggled with my first child, “The best parent is one that has been there before.” After all these years, it’s perfectly clear. We understand all of the bumps and grinds that are a toddler. We’ve been there before, and love going there again.

Father’s Day for Mom

June 21, 2009

This evening I’m basking in the glow of Father’s Day, through the eyes of a mother, stepmother and wife. I don’t know if any of you who might be reading this are from a blended family. If you are, I hope it is as much of a blessing for you as it is for me. Today I had the joy of seeing my husband with his sons, but additionally receive calls from his daughter and mine. It really is a special day, and I wouldn’t want to miss it for the world. I believe the expectation is second only to the joy when all pieces fall into place. What a great day for dad…and this mom, too. 2950_1066648984769_1182363124_30165279_2833349_n

Baskets and Buckets

June 18, 2009

Buckets and baskets. Words that have become a part of my “self-talk”. I don’t necessarily say them out loud, but I say them just the same. The frequency depends on the kind of day it is. I have shared their meaning, which on occasion has been a good thing.

My husband taught me about baskets during his days as an elementary principal. Originally it was presented as a parenting tool. The theory is that when working on behaviors with your child, you should imagine three baskets. Basket A is the “Safety Basket”, for behaviors that are a matter of life or death. Items in this basket demand immediate attention; hopefully there are few. Basket B is the “Compromise Basket”, for what you would consider to be high priority items that can be approached with communication and compromise. Basket C is for “Reduction of Frustration”. It should be full of items that can be ignored or sidestepped. Running into the street is definitely Basket A. Picking up dirty clothes could be Basket B, but may move quickly to Basket C when the homework doesn’t get done.

The baskets are a great reminder for me of what is worth my worry, and when I need to move on. Basket C is my favorite. I have used the baskets at work, and it is not unusual for someone to preface a statement by letting me know what basket they feel it falls into. Often I find myself chucking things into Basket C when I feel the frustration building. The baskets make me stop and think about when I can effect a change, and when I should call it a day.

Buckets are a reference to the book How Full is Your Bucket? It is a quick read, but well worth the time. The idea is simple. Everyone has an imaginary bucket that is full when they are happy and empty when they are sad. Other people can fill or empty your bucket by their interactions with you. In return, you are responsible for doing the same for them. Of equal importance is the idea of not letting people draw from your bucket. That’s the point where the buckets and baskets work in tandem. If you’re trying to draw from my Bucket, I’m going to put you in Basket C. Slam dunk.

What prompted this post? My husband came home with a new book today, and you know how I love children’s books. This one is How Full is Your Bucket? for Kids. Right up my alley. This one’s going in the book basket for Asher, my first and bestest bucket filler. If you don’t have time for the full blown adult version of the bucket book – this one will work just fine. I’d put it in Basket A.

bucket book