Cold Enough for Ya?!

As of last Friday night, all 4 of us are together once again. 10 weeks our daughter was away at college in Savannah, GA. As the temperatures here have steadily dropped, we heard way too many times about the nice weather down there. And how she was wearing shorts the day before she came home. All I can say is: "Paybacks are hell!" This is SAW at home tonight:
Get used to it, babe! It's not even December yet and you are here until January 3!

Blowin' Smoke

Here is a link to a restaurant review I posted on my other blog, A Girl and Her Grill:

My Daughter is a Bee

A SCAD Bee. Savannah College of Art and Design Bee. According to the laws of physics, a bee should not be able to fly. The size of its wings in proportion to its body should deem flight impossible. Yet it flies. SCAD founders were told the same thing. "An art school in the South? It will never fly!" SCAD celebrates 35 years of educating and preparing artists and designers of all disciplines since the school first opened its doors to students in 1978. Enrollment continues to increase along with the accolades and awards. Big names in all industries regularly recruit SCAD graduates. Why? Because SCAD is innovative in the approach to student success. From the moment a student is invited to attend, a team of SCAD professionals surround the student to encourage, guide and mentor in order to convey that student to success. Ultimately, the student is responsible for his or her success; however, with the resources provided, success is not an impossibility. In the time that I, as a parent of a new Bee, have spent on campus, talking with students, alumni and staff (and I mean all staff-even maintenance staff are friendly and engaging!), I find SCAD truly cares about each student and nurtures each one to reach beyond his or her potential. SCAD, thinking outside the hive!

Pickin' Friends and Pickin' Noses

"You can pick your friends and you can pick your nose.  But you can't pick your friends' noses."  An internet search attributes this quote to many different people.  I first heard it on Saturday Night Live.  "Pick Your Friends" first aired in 1986.  Wikipedia says it is a popular saying in English speaking countries.  I find the phrase pretty funny, no matter how many times I hear it or repeat it.  Can you imagine the absurdity of reaching over to pick that hanging booger out of your friend's  nose or vice versa?  Saturday Night Live did.  And  it is just...ewwww!

There are plenty of other things we can't pick...someone else's pants out of his/her crack, spinach out of someone else's teeth, how much tax we pay, our parents and other family.  There is absurdity in all of those things, should we be given the opportunity to choose.  How much tax-who wouldn't choose to pay nothing?  Choosing family-how about that couple with the 7-figure income?  Life just doesn't work that way.  Some things just are, whether we like it or not.  Picking our friends is one thing we can control.  Choose well.

So, we don't get to pick our family.  Pick your haircolor, pick your job, pick out where you live, but  not Mom and Dad, brothers and sisters, etc.  Like them or  not, they are yours (I'm talking the family you are born into, not the one created with a significant other).  As a kid, there were times when I wished my friends' parents were mine.  You know the ones.  The parents that let you drink as much soda as you wanted, eat junk food, let you stay up past bedtime when you spent the night.  Other people's parents were always so much cooler (you know you had those times, too)!    And when a friend would say how cool your own parents were, you gave him/her a look like, "what drug are you on?" 

As adults, we can pick how much time we spend with our "born-into" family.  Some people move out and never see their family again.  Others move away and visit as much as possible.  Still others never move out at all! 

I'm one who moved away.  Our visits to our families are few and far between.  But we are not totally isolated from them.  Facebook, e-mail, cell phones (with texting) keep us in touch.  What we lack in actual time together, we make up for virtually.  We see each other's children grow up through pictures and posts.  We even sometimes still argue over petty differences.  One nice thing about being with my family virtually:  there is time to think things through before posting something that may be regretted later.  Live visits, not so much.  I have 3 sisters and 2 brothers.  When we are all together, the competition to be heard and understood still exists!  Some subjects are avoided completely (religion and politics-know what I'm saying?).

Love them, hate them, your family is all yours.  I didn't pick them, but I'm keeping mine.

I Did

For better, for worse; for richer, for poorer; in sickness and in health; in good times and in bad.  I do. 

20 years ago, my husband and I looked into each other eyes and proclaimed before God, family and friends that we do.  There have been times in these 20 years when I thought we would never celebrate 20 years of marriage, yet here we are.  We have weathered the worse, the poorer, the sickness and the bad times.  The better, the richer, the health and good times have enabled us to keep our marriage thriving and intact.

Our marriage is richer and healthier than it could have ever been without the worse and bad.  That which does not kill, makes one stronger.  It is because of the tough times and our willingness to keep at it instead of giving up that we are here as a couple to celebrate.  Our bodies and minds become stronger and better through challenges.  Marriage is no less a challenge to one's sanity and well-being than an inquisitve toddler that doesn't like to nap, especially when Mommy needs one.  Living with another human being that is not a parent or sibling and trying to figure out each other's likes/dislikes and getting used to his/her habits is enough to test anyone's mental health!  So, here we are, having survived the storms of marriage.  For our daughters, witnessing Mom and Dad face and survive the turbulence and still love and enjoy each other, we are setting the example for them.  Our relationship will affect all relationships they have, have had and will have. 

20 years used to seem like a long time.  20 years ago, I graduated from college, married the love of my life a month later and bought my first brand new vehicle.  19 years ago, we bought our first house.  18 years ago, our oldest daughter was born followed by a move to another state just 2 years later and the arrival of her little sister the next year.  How could time have passed so quickly and yet so much happened?  One thing I know for sure:  I am supremely happy to have shared these 20 years with my husband.  God set each of us aside from our births just for each other.  Who better to spend the rest of my life with than the one person in the whole world saved just for me?  Ask me again, Handsome; I know exactly what I will say:  I DO!!

RIP Fr. Kendall

The Graduates

19 years ago, 2 sisters found out they are each expecting a baby.  The due dates for the babies were one day apart. The 2 sisters spend the next 8 months sharing pregnancy woes and joys.  Their husbands just shake their heads at the silliness and sometimes weepy moments the sisters experience in the 8 months.

One baby makes her appearance 3 weeks early, small, but healthy.  The other baby arrives 5 days past her due date, also healthy.  The early baby at 3 weeks and 4 days old is smaller than her newborn cousin! 

The sisters and their families spend many happy times together over the next years, raising their daughters and reveling in the babies' delight in the many discoveries the 2 make as they grow and develop.  Then one family moves 1200 miles away.  Distance keeps the girls apart, but visits home and phone calls keep the cousins close (ever listen in on a phone conversation between 3 year olds?  It's a hoot!).  Eventually, technology advances and Facebook comes along.  The cousins keep up with each other just about daily and share many common interests.  When face-to-face visits happen, it is almost as if the 1200 miles and the time between visits doesn't exist.

Now, here they are, 18 years old, high school graduates.  Time for the 2 cousins to move on to the next act.  What will happen next?  Whatever is in store for them, the 2 sisters hope the 2 cousins will stay just as close as ever.  Watch out world, here they come!

Baseball, Hot Dogs and Apple Pie

Americana.  That little slice of life that is uniquely American.  No where else in the world do people celebrate, mourn and remember the way we do here in the United States. 

I am a city girl.  Born and raised in the city.  I lived in the suburbs for awhile, but the city was just a short drive down the highway.  For the last 16 years, I have been living in the bedroom community of a much smaller metropolitan area than the one in which I was raised and lived for the first 26 years of my life.  I left the city; nevertheless, the city has never left me.  10 years ago, we went even more remote and moved out to the "country."  Natives kept telling us were going to go crazy driving back and forth from home to town and vice versa everyday.  They were talking to commuters who regularly drove 45 minutes one way on the interstate to work 5 days a week.  A 10 minute drive through the country to town is nothing!

We live in a  commonwealth state.  We have villages, townships and boroughs.  Our specific area has all 3.  The school district encompasses 40 square miles.  Despite this, the population is only large enough to support 1 high school, 1 middle school and as of the 2011-2012 school year, 4 elementary schools.  Class sizes average well under 300 students.  So we are talking small town.  Where I grew up, we had 5 public high schools, 1 Catholic high school and 1 Protestant high school, averaging over 300 students per class per public high school!  In 16 years, I have yet to get over the culture shock!

There is one big thing I have relished all these years in this small town:  the way the community celebrates.  Yesterday was Memorial Day.  Every year, a parade is followed by a Memorial Day service held in the Middle School auditorium.  I will be forever amused by some of the parade entries.  Besides the High School band, the churches, businesses, civic organizations and leaders of the community, every firetruck, ambulance and municipal/township service vehicles pass us by on the parade route.  If those vehicles ever fail to show, the parade would last about 30 minutes.  This is truly small town America and small town pride.

The Memorial Day service is expressly small town.  It opens with a prayer proceeded by the Pledge of Allegiance (led by a veteran) and the National Anthem.  A high school student from the graduating class and a dignitary speak.  Patriotic songs are played and sung.  Our veterans and current military service members are honored.  This year, a video was presented to memorialize those who died in service to protect our freedoms.  The tribute was very moving. 

I like the way small town America honors and remembers our military service members.  Respect, dignity and sanctity for life are at the core.  We as a nation desire peace, not war.  War is an ugly means, sometimes necessary, to achieve peace.  Our current enemies choose to "honor" their dead by shooting guns in the air and kidnapping, torturing and murdering our own.

Despite the fact that I have never really adjusted (or expect to at this point) to small town life, I am better able to appreciate it.  I will someday move back to a city with all its hustle, bustle and noise and will yearn for a weekend in the country.  Along with my husband, I have happily raised 2 daughters in a  small town.  It is a good life to live.

Now, pass me a slice of that apple pie.

Elizabeth I Murder Mystery Series

Similar to the Jane Austen Mystery Series, Karen Harper has written a series starring Elizabeth Tudor.  Ms. Harper (and Stephanie Barron) have taken two of my loves, history and literature and combined them into exciting adventures, worthy of my time and attention.

The first title in the series, The Poyson Garden, was released in 2000.  The most recent, The Hooded Hawke, was released in 2007.  The Poyson Garden takes place in the time just before Elizabeth gains the crown.  Subsequent titles follow Elizabeth's progress as Queen of England.  Each mystery weaves history and fiction, creating a tapestry for the reader as the mystery itself unravels. 

Elizabeth, while still in control as Queen and executing her duties as such, becomes a detective (as if she did not have enough to do!), solving each murder.  Elizabeth convenes a group of close allies to aid in exposing the murderer in each case.  She calls this group her "Privy Council."  Elizabeth delegates much of the leg-work, going out into her kingdom as she sees the need.  Her excursions give her council much cause for worry as her life is always under threat from rivals.  What if the murderer is really targeting our dear Queen?

I love the way Ms. Harper includes many real characters and events from Elizabeth's realm and time.  She is very thorough in her research of both.  It is easy to confirm and learn more about the people and historical episodes occurring throughout the stories.  Ms. Harper's author's note at the end of each book elaborates on the situations and historical figures.

A timeline of events in Elizabeth's life, a pedigree and a map detailing the area of each title's locations are included at the beginning of each book.  These have been a very helpful aid as London and surrounding environs have changed greatly since the late 1500's.  I am a map user and use the maps frequently as Elizabeth and her Privy Council go forth to nab a murderer and protect their beloved Queen.

I have not yet read all 9 books.  Our library system has the first 3 and 6-8.  If I cannot find the others to borrow, it will be worth it to purchase the others.  I have really enjoyed this series and look forward to reading all 9 books. 

Ms. Harper has other historical novels, some related to Elizabeth I, although perhaps only peripherally.  She also has a few titles set in the Amish country of Ohio in addition to other novels in contemporary settings.  She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author.  Ms. Harper formerly taught English at the college level and taught high school literature and writing.* 

*Source:  Karen Harper

Scars Tell a Story

Scars tell a story.  Injuries heal with time; scars remain. 

I was going to post a few pictures of a variety of scars.  Old scars, however, do not photograph well.  Maybe there is a reason why. 

Most scars fade with time.  Some scars that form are relatively insignificant and don't have much to tell.  I have many small, barely visible scars.  I don't even remember the injury behind their birth.  I have others such as the one from chicken pox that is clearly visible to all.  It is a reminder to me of my family's month long encounter with chicken pox as it spread throughout the household.  There are six of us children.  My poor mother!

Other scars remind me to appreciate the life God has given me.  One is from a bone marrow biopsy I had when I was a freshman in high school.  Another medical concern led to blood tests that revealed a bigger concern.  I had the bone marrow biopsy to check for leukemia.  Fortunately, it came back negative and I moved on with my life, left with the scar to remember that scary time.  A series of scars recently acquired are the result of relief from years of pain, but I choose to be reminded of the lives issued forth from my body by the grace of God. I can no longer sustain the life of another in my womb, but I can appreciate the two daughters in my life even more so.  The scars will forever remind me of the blessings they are to me.

Still other scars come from wounds that don't heal well or wounds that run deep, remaining raised and discolored.  However, the scars that run the deepest are the ones hidden from the world.  Scars developed from emotional wounds form in our hearts.  Sometimes, we don't even allow the wounds to heal to the point of scarring, purposefully or subconsciously.  Sometimes, the wound begins to heal and scar, but something happens to us and we rip the wound wide open again.  The deeper, hidden wounds we do allow to heal, leave scars that tend to continue to cause us pain.  The stories behind these wounds and scars make us who are.

Scars are testament to a life lived. 

Cabbages and Onions

Cabbages and onions.  Those two vegetables forever remind me of my Grandpa Clevenger.  Not so much the sight of them, but the smell.  His barn smelled of cabbages and onions with a hint of apples.  He sold vegetables and some fruit out of his barn that opened up into the road.  Even after he had left the property and before it was sold (and I think torn down), the barn smelled of cabbages and onions.  He had been working out of that barn for so long, the scent was a permanent part of the wood and atmosphere.  What wonderful memories those two vegetables invoke.

I loved my Grandpa.  He was 81 when I was born.  He was bald, skinny, had incredibly blue eyes and smelled of soil and country air.  He always seemed to be smiling about something.  My favorite thing was to jump up and sit in his lap.  By the time I was six or seven, he couldn't handle that anymore.  It saddened me, but I learned to be content with just sitting next to him or following him around.

He had a very small farmette, probably about an acre.  The patch of ground in which he raised his vegetables was nothing more than a really big garden, but he knew how to get the most produce out of that area.  There was also a small apple orchard and a permanent spot for rhubarb, a spot for corn and another spot with blackberry vines.  In one corner of the property, my Dad's Mom had a flower garden.  It was not tended in my memory-she passed away when I was about 2 years old. There were so many places to explore and hide.

Visiting Grandpa was my only real exposure to rural life as a child.  I grew up in a city.  The first time I ever saw a cow was at the zoo.  Yes, even though I am Kansas born and bred, I did not grow up on a farm!  Grandpa's place was on the southern edge of a small Nebraska town.  The town was about a quarter mile long and maybe 3 or 4 blocks wide.  The grocery store was an old building with a wide wood-planked floor and had the same kind of feel as Grandpa's barn.  So many decades of living leaving its mark forever. 

Grandpa was moved out of there when I was about 13 or 14.  I am certain my memories of the place are skewed by youth, but the memories of Grandpa and my Dad's family are real enough.  After he passed away, at the age of 99 years and 8 months, I realized I had so many questions to ask him; so much I wanted to know about him.  Some of my questions have been answered through genealogical research.  Those answers have only led to more questions.  One day, when it is my time to go, I will be able to jump up into his lap again and have forever to get to know the man I call Grandpa.


On this day, 18 short years ago, our daughter surprised us and the world with her arrival.  It was a big surprise-she was not to due to make her appearance until March 27!  Unbeknowst to me, I had been having contractions just about the whole weekend and had no idea.  I had been having little twinges and did not realize they were contractions until after my water broke!  We still had 3 more childbirth classes to go, my bag was not packed and neither my husband nor myself were mentally ready for labor and delivery.  As I sat on the toilet while my amniotic fluid leaked out along with tears from my eyes, my wonderful husband made the call to the hospital and quickly packed a bag as I talked to the nurse.  We made our way to the hospital, 30+ minutes away in record time (with a stop by the Kansas Highway Patrol).  A mere 6 hours later, at 5:20 a.m. CST, I grunted and there she was.  Our lives were changed instantly and the world   became a better place with her departure from the womb.  My dearest, eldest daughter, I love you more than you can ever imagine.  Happy Birthday!
Footnote:  Just as it was 18 years ago, winter weather is making an appearance on her birthday.  My in-laws braved a four hour drive both ways in freezing rain to meet their first grandchild on the day of her birth.  They are not on their way now (just in case you are wondering).

Sisterhood of the Traveling Basketball Socks

It started with this picture:

I played 2 seasons of basketball in high school.  We were issued new socks every year and I still have both pairs.  I wear them in cold weather, usually when there is snow on the ground.  The socks are thick and keep my feet warm and dry and since they come up high on the shin, I don't feel any cold air that tries to sneak up the cuff of my pants. 

I was going out to shovel the driveway the day I took the picture and posted it on Facebook, tagging all of my former teammates with whom I still keep in touch via Facebook.  Someone came up with the idea of sending the socks out to each team member and posting a picture for all to see.  I have 2 pairs, not like I will be missing one pair all that much.  So we are.

The socks have been sent and a photo posted. 

Now they are on their way to the next teammate.  The ties that  bind.  As teammates back in the day, we got our butts kicked in marathon practices, bonded on the bus rides to away games and hung out at school before the home games.  Now, we have a pair of socks to revive those good times and remind of us how  funny life can sometimes be.  Pretty cool.  Go Sumner Sabres!!

I've "Bee"n Quilting

I've mentioned what my hubby calls my "funeral shroud" in a previous post or two.  This is it:

It's a bunch of t-shirts from concerts, places I have visited, etc.  The back is fleece and it is super warm.  When it's cold, I wrap myself up in it with just my face peeking out and have a nap in my recliner.  Or you might find me wrapped up in the corner of the couch reading a book.  Sometimes, I'm wrapped up in it napping in the hammock.  It's my cocoon.

I completed one for SAW a couple of  years ago.
Hers is much bigger.  I found plans online and somewhat followed them.  Hers is big enough to cover a queen size bed and then some.

Now I am working on JMW's.  She has been patiently waiting and will be waiting another year or so.  It takes a couple of years from start to finish.  The easy part is assembling the blocks and the backing.  What takes so much time is the quilting.  Hence, the quilting bees of the past-the detail work is painstaking and requires a lot of stitches and time.  I know JMW will be happy with the end result.  It's looking pretty cool so far.  4 rows assembled, at least 4 more to go!  The finished quilt will be about 8 feet by 8 feet.

A "Miserable" Date

It was a date in 4 Acts.  Act I started out the evening right.  We went to a Saturday evening worship service at Crosspoint UMC at their South Hanover location.  It's in a strip mall and fronted by a coffee shop, Perking Point.  Nice place, nice people and good worship.  Off to the movies for Act II and then dinner for Act III.  The movie, Les Miserables is nearly 3 hours long and we went for dinner afterwards.  I can't remember the last time we had dinner at 10:30.  Probably not since we left Kansas City 16 years ago.  Looks like this part of the world is starting to grow up.  Dinner in a restaurant that didn't close the kitchen before 10 p.m.!  My daughter couldn't believe we were just getting to dinner that late.  I told her this is what life is like before children and when children are big enough to handle Mom and Dad going out for a good time.  Hey, we are still young enough-dinner at Luby's Cafeteria at 4:30 can wait!

Les Miserables is a must see.  For those of you who are hibernating in a cave for the winter, it is a filmatic opera, released Christmas Day.  Not a musical.  Huge difference.  A musical is action and dialogue interspersed by sudden bursts of song.  An opera is action and sung dialogue, with very little spoken word and  interspersed with arias.  Opera in film is quite different from operatic theatre.  For one, close-ups allow all to see the emotion in the singer, not just hear the emotion.  Another is the obvious difference in scenery, just as in any play or musical turned film.  This particular opera is not just a take your wife or girlfriend out kinda movie.  My husband liked it so much, he is reading the unabridged novel by Victor Hugo (he also wrote The Hunchback of Notre Dame).

Les Miserables is an emotionally charged story.  The short version:  parole breaker Jean Valjean is running from the law, in the form of policeman Javert, while raising and protecting an orphaned girl.  The story begins at the end of Napoleon's reign in 1815.  The story ends following the June Rebellion of 1832.  The movie is well cast, with powerful performances from all.  There is very little happiness (get a clue from the title!).  I can only imagine how physically drained the actors must have been after a day of filming. 

The film has won 3 Golden Globes and is nominated for 9 BAFTA awards and 8 Academy Awards.  It's really good.  I will watch it again some time.  But not any time soon.  I need to recover.  I can't handle that much emotional intensity again so soon.

So, Act IV of date night?  A lady never tells.

Happy New Year!

I can still say that.  It's only the 8th of January.  There must be a grace period allowing for the New Year greeting for at least a couple of weeks after January 1st.  If there isn't, there should be.  For people like me.  You know, procrastinators. 

I've only delayed writing my first post of 2013 because I haven't been sure about my subject matter.  I have composed many posts as I lay in bed at night instead of sleeping.  I think I should have just gotten out of bed and written them since I have now forgotten most of what I wanted to write.  Does that mean I'm getting older?  Nah, couldn't be. 

I lie.  This is the year for me to feel over 40.  My oldest turns 18 in March, graduates high school in May and goes away to college in August.  My husband and I celebrate 20 years of marriage in June.  It seems impossible that my husband and I could possibly be married 20 years and my first born has been on this side of the womb for 18 years.  It doesn't seem as if 20 years have passed.  20 years ago, 20 years was a long time away.  And it was only a short time ago that we found out I was pregnant.  Please don't mind my occasional outbursts of crying as those realities hit me every now and then. 

The end of 2012 had us in the air traveling to St. Louis and KC to visit our families.  Ahhh, the joys of air travel.  I truly believe some passengers forget they are going to be in an enclosed, self-contained tube with wings, sitting practically in the laps of the other passengers.  Fellow traveler, eating beans with onions and washing it down with a beer isn't always appreciated by your seat-mate.  Save that for when you get to your destination.  And did you know, they sell breath mints in most of the airport shops?  If my eyes are closed, that doesn't mean I'm trying to better concentrate on the narrative about the ails of the five hairy cats you acquired from the pound.  To the passenger sitting in front of me, did you know, suddenly reclining your seat right after the flight attendant has been around with drinks causes wet pants?  And it is always amusing to see the passengers who just have to be first to get off the plane, at the baggage carousel waiting with everyone else, including those of us who got off the plane last.  I witnessed on one flight a woman who practically walked over people in her hurry to get off the plane.  Maybe she was claustrophobic or refuses to use the plane's restroom.  Who knows?  Whatever the case, if you are in the back of the plane, you won't be getting off with the passengers in first class, so just cool your jets.

Despite all that, (and the seat-kicking kids) I still like to travel by air.  It beats being on the road for 10 hours one day and still having to face the same the next day.  I like wandering around the airports, too, when there is time.  What a great place to people watch.  Maybe I'll share those observations later. 

Blessings in 2013 to you and your families from me and mine.