Saturday, April 30, 2011

Z is for ZZ's Last A-Z Challenge Post

Well, at last, I'm at ze end of ze A-Z Challenge . I will have to say it's been a great way to pick a topic to blog about. The challenge to post daily is not a challenge at all for me. Blogging is a fun hobby for me.

At the end of every adventure, I like to evaluate the pros and cons. In no particular order, here's a list of my thoughts.

1. It helped to choose a theme for the challenge. I chose memories.
2. I learned from taking this "trip down memory lane" that I didn't include as many high school memories as I could have.
3. Quitting was what I felt like doing at letter Q, but I had come so far and didn't want to give up.
4. "Meeting" other bloggers is fun and inspiring. The one I checked in with daily was Joyce, whose theme was travel. I'll be asking her advice for many things in the near future.
5 . Pictures would have made my posts more appealing, but so many of mine that include OLD memories were taken on OLD school film and are in OLD albums. It would have taken a lot more time than I was willing to devote in order to take them out and scan them, or even to shoot pictures of pictures in my albums. I will do that as time permits for future posts.
6. I am too wordy.
7. It was refreshing to me to jot down my memories, even though I'm sure most people skimmed or skipped my posts. At least now they're on record.

That's about it. I am ready now to get back to blogging in a more "normal" way. Thanks for sticking with me, if you did.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Y is for Yesterday's Weddings :Flashback Friday

Thanks to a meme I enjoy from Linda, I have great questions to help guide (and condense...maybe condense??) this post about family weddings. (She asked that we not include memories of our own wedding.)

1. What was the earliest family wedding you remember attending?

It was my Aunt Vesta's and it was outdoors and mostly a drizzly day with some sun peeking out now and then. I was probably about seven or eight years old. She was a tall, beautiful blonde and this was her second marriage, I think. She wore a hat, which I thought was not very bridal compared to a veil and I wondered if a wedding outside a church really "counted." I asked my mom if they were really married since they weren't in a church. She said yes.

2. Did your family attend many weddings? What do you remember of them?

We attended a few. I remember my Aunt Gail's, though. Since she was my idol in my early youth (she was sweet and beautiful) she was a storybook bride. Huge Catholic church wedding. I really only remember that I couldn't take my eyes off of her. Her gown had a cathedral train and big veil and I think it was at her wedding that I fell in love with lace and said, "Someday when I'm a bride, I want a dress like that!" (And I got it.)

3. What was typical of weddings, and were you ever in a wedding as a child?

Throwing rice at the happy couple between wedding and reception was typical. My mom, who hated the tradition because people threw it at her face way too hard, always said, "toss it lightly up--not at--the bride and groom!" I was never in a wedding as a child. The first one I was in ? My own. Second and only other? My sister Rachel's.

4. {As a young adult in weddings} what role did you play?

I was just a regular guest at my sister Andrea's wedding. Hers was a small garden ceremony at Steppingstone Museum overlooking the Susquehanna. My role was to help my husband keep our three kids on or near our laps and to keep their mouths from saying, "I'm hungry." "I'm bored." or "Is it over yet?"
At my sister Rachel's wedding, all three of my older kids were in the ceremony. Ben and Stephen were ringbearers, and Sarah (along with her cousin Emily) were flowergirls. I was Rachel's matron of honor.

5. Growing up, were you the one who planned your wedding repeatedly, or was it no big deal?

In my teens I remember thinking I could pick any day I wanted to get married (knew nothing of church master calendars, reception hall venue booking, or reasonable amount of time to put a big wedding together). I wanted to get married on April 18th because I thought the date sounded pretty, and that I would choose a lot of different pastel colors for my bridesmaids. One in lilac, another in yellow, another in green. I never thought that all of my grandparents would NOT be there. I don't think I thought much more about just that I would be a beautiful bride with a tall, handsome groom who would be a great daddy to lots of babies. I spent more time naming my future children and trying to figure out what kind of last name would be good with "Zoanna."

6. What is something that is different about today's weddings, and do you think it's for the better or worse?

Negatively: The number one difference that I see is how much more casually dressed some of the guests are at the more formal weddings. If the guests simply "don't like to dress up," they disregard decorum. I think ladies should wear dresses or skirts, and guys should wear jacket and tie unless it's sweltering hot outside.

Not different from today's and yesterday's weddings is the split between the sacred and the secular the moment the reception starts. It's like going from Westminster Abbey to the French Quarter on Mardi Gras.

Positively: It seems like grooms are more involved in the planning, so it's "their" day, not just "her" day. Brides seem to do things their way a bit more often (which I'm sure is the source of contention between mothers and daughters, particularly if mother and dad are footing most or all of the bill). The cakes are certainly more original in design, I think, or at least it's okay to have a robot cake or a Nascar cake or kissing iguana toppers if you want.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

X was for G-rated TV & Commercials in the 70s

We didn't get a TV set until I was in kindergarten, circa 1870....I mean 1970. It was a black & white number, probably 15 inches, with the "bunny ears" antenna that we put aluminum foil on to get better reception. Sometimes we had to find the perfect configuration for the bunny ears, usually an X.

I mean, when you only get three channels, you really want good reception. And when you can only watch one hour of TV a day, and the shows must be mutually agreed upon by your sisters, then reception is really important. (This was in the era when kids knew what the dial in "Don't touch that dial" was. Just like they knew that records were made of vinyl, and the difference between a 45 and a 78 was not a math problem resulting in 33, but 33 was reaalllly slow.)

Back in those days, we actually paid attention to commercials, too. (Unless we had to use them to do dishes in three-minute spurts.)

Here are some commercials I remember from my youth. See if you can come up with the product without help. I'll either quote the slogan or describe the part of the ad I can recall. Try for 10/10. ,okay?

1. "Brush your breath, brush your breath, brush your breath with __________."
2. "the Quicker Picker-upper"
3. "plop, plop, fizz, fizz, oh-what-a-relief-it-is"
4. "two all-beef patties, special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions on a sesame seed bun"
5. this was a luggage brand where an ape stomps on the hardside suitcase and/or it flies off the rooftop carrier of a van...and never is the worse for wear
6. "Let your fingers do the walking; it's a snap."
7. this is a smiling, larger-than-life clear pitcher filled with red sugar water, and if you were the kind of mom who served this to your kids and the neighborhood kids, you were the quintessential mom
8. "Where's the beef?"
9. "I can't believe I ate the whooooole thing."
10. "It takes a licking and keeps on ticking."

And for the extra credit question, "How do you spell 'relief'?"

What's your score? Remember any other commercials from the 70s?

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

W is for the Whistling Mr. W

We had a landlord (whose last name started with W) at a house we rented for two years when I was in junior high. He was a short, stooped, and industrious little man, at times generous with his greetings or compliments, and at other times quite the curmudgeon. But for all of his unpredictable social ways, the man never failed to be hard at work outdoors at 6:30 as soon as spring came along. Seven days a week, unless the weather was foul, Mr. W was "up and at 'em" with the sun.

That would have been okay with us, had he not strolled over to our house, which was next door to his, every morning whistling a happy tune. Our windows were old and thin, like him, and his whistling...well, it just started far too early. The worst accompaniment to this whistling was the banging of metal trash cans which he took to the curb for us on Mondays and Thursdays without being asked, if you get my drift. (Does anyone say "get my drift" anymore?) He said he liked doing us favors. Mmm-hhh.

Six-thirty on Saturday morning meant no sleeping in, no enjoying peace and quiet. Nor Sunday.

He was the man I'm sure Solomon wrote his proverb about, the one I read on this 27th day of April.

Proverbs 27:14

"If a man loudly blesses his neighbor early in the morning, it will be taken as a curse."

Wednesday Hodgepodge

Thanks again to Joyce, my newest regular blogging buddy and commenter. (Yes, it's always a boon to get a comment here in my day. Don't know why it's so important, but it is.) She has come up with some fun questions.

1. What is something that bothers you if it is not done perfectly?

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times: I hate seeing apostrophes used imperfectly. They are not supposed to be used to make plurals, as in "I love comment's." An apostrophe shows possession, as in "My blog's comments are scanty today." Yes, it's true, they are. Thanks to those of you who care enough to send the very best. Or at least say something. But I digress.

Be careful not to make "it" possessive with an apostrophe , as in "It's comment box needs love. " No! That means "It is comment box needs love." An apostrophe shows that something was left out. Or it shows ownership. The apostrophe should not be used as the puppy mill of punctuation, people!

Okay, I'm done. Finished? Both. I'm done like a good steak, almost burnt up over this grammatical grievance. And I'm finished my rant.

2. What is one of your best childhood memories?

Getting to feed my Grandpa's three-day-old calf from a bottle --way, way out on the "back 40" of his farm, being warned by Grandpa not to make eye contact with the bull in the next pasture behind that electric fence, and then driving his truck back to the barn all by myself with the German shepherd and my sisters in the back. Grandpa had a way of making me feel like I was a pro at everything that I was really a greenhorn at.

3. Do you plan to watch the Royal Wedding and when was the last time you wore a hat?

I will, but not in real time. I wouldn't even get up at 4 for my own wedding, let alone what's-her-face's.

I tried on hats a few weeks ago just for fun, but they're not "me" and I always get laughed at when I try them on in front of my family.

4. Where do you fall in the birth order in your family? Do you think this has influenced your personality?

I'm second of three (four, technically, but baby Jill came along when I was 14, so she sort of started things over, having traits of both firstborn and baby).

I absolutely think there's a lot to be said for the influence of b.o. (birth order!). I can take direction and yet know how to boss/delegate (take your pick of word), and I adapt easily to change (or rather, to minor changes, like new curtains or hairstyles, but not like having precious people move away and adapting to heartbreak). Second-borns are good at taking cues from the mistakes of the first, so I didn't get in as much trouble as I could have/should have as a kid. Second borns also tend to be high achievers but not overachievers (I got an A in almost every subject, but I didn't bawl over my first "B" like my older sister did. I figured that knowing how to apply eye makeup was more useful than algebra in the future, so why sweat the small stuff? ) We "seconds" tend to go the social route, which I did. My older sister could be alone for hours or days with books. Me? I was antsy without friends and fun, borderline psychotic in isolation. I am more adventurous than my older sister, but not as adventurous as my third sister, who has camped in bear country, lived with one other soul in a remote cabin in Alaska for six months, joined the Air Force on a whim, and evaded more punishment than I ever did! I chose music, drama, and cheerleading to set myself apart from my brainy older sister and outdoorsy younger sister.

5. Where do you think you spend most of your money?
School tuition. Hands down. We are so thankful the kids take their studies seriously and that the oldest is graduating from college next month!! We see the light now...second one will be finished in December, third in a few semesters, but the last? Oy! Back into the dark tunnel we go...

6. When you need to confront someone would you rather communicate in person, on the phone, by email or by letter? Why?
I hate to confront. I grew up not being taught how to confront in love. I hate face-to-face encounters over touchy subjects unless there's a mediator. I can do the deed by phone, but I don't like to. I've drafted many an email I've never sent, but have found out the hard way that "tone" never conveys quite right when I do, and the problems get escalated instead of eliminated that way. I have written letters, but my husband warns me that the written word can often be misread in tone as well. Oh, this answer applies to people outside my immediate family. The ones inside these four walls would prefer much less confrontation.

7. Dodge ball, freeze tag, kickball or jump rope? You have to pick one.

You mean if I had to play NOW at my age and with my bladder? Freeze tag. I would purposely get tagged so I could stand still. But if you're asking what I loved in my youth? Dodge ball. I was a quick little squirt, rarely got "out." I was not strong, though, so most of my throws were less than ominous.

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I am excited about a new little classical Christian school starting up in my area this fall, Lord willing. It feels kind of cool to be in at the grass-roots level of this, seeing how two months ago I hadn't even heard of this school and was not feeling good about the alternatives, and how in two months they have 62 students with Intent to Enroll status. They need 68 to open, so this is one huge faith-building act that I'm eager to be part of. A school that is only fifteen minutes from home and about 1/4 the cost of the next closest Christian school around? A Godsend.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Think-Back Tuesday: Chores

Now that my older three children are scarcely here except to eat, sleep, shower, and do homework, many of the chores they once did are being slowly passed down to Joel. Lucky him. He is 9. I remember that turning 9 was a rite of passage when I was a girl: it meant that Mama taught you how to clean a bathroom and that weekly chore became yours. Woo-hoo! And to think that some girls got their ears pierced instead.

For today's Think-Back Tuesday, here are the questions. Feel free to copy-and-paste to your blog and link back here so we can read your answers.

1. What is the earliest chore you remember being taught to do? Did you like the chore? Did it make you feel grown up? Do you still do the chore the way you were taught?

I remember my mom teaching me how to make my bed. I was probably four or five. She's always been what I'd call "fussy" (perfectionistic) about bed-making. She does "hospital corners" when making a bed up with clean sheets. For the pillow part, she taught me to remove the pillows, take the top cover all the way to the top of the bed, turn it down generously, lay the pillows back on with a fluff and a smoothing--so much smoothing you'd think the things had been ironed--then cover the pillows and run your hand under the pillow one last time. I liked the way the bed looked with her method, but admit I don't do all that. I prefer taking sheet and cover to the top, standing the regular pillows on their narrow edge and then setting "sham pillows" in front of those. If I had my druthers, "I'd ruther" have a few decorative accent pillows on the bed as well, but my hubby despises them as useless clutter and a waste of money.

2. What chore(s) did you enjoy as a child or teenager?

None of them except taking the trash out to the big barrel to burn. (Rural Kansas ritual.) About every couple of weeks we'd have enough in there to start a fire, so Daddy did that while the rest of us cooked hotdogs and roasted marshmallows. It's sick now to think we were eating the ashes of trashes! But science tells me, like it told Mama, that temperatures that hot would kill all germs.

3. Did you have to do dishes, and if so, how regularly, and how were you taught to do dishes? (Seems everyone has their own "right way" of doing things.)

Here's the thing when it came to dishes and other chores. I was the middle child of three for most of my young life, and it was most unfortunate when my mother would say, "You two big girls need to do such-and-such, or you two little girls do such-and-such. " Think about it. I don't remember "Rachel and Andrea, you do such-and-such." No, I was always stuck as either a big girl or a little girl. But I'm not bitter.

As for dishes, my mom would tell one of us to clear the table, one to wash, and one to dry. That kept all three of us busy after dinner. The water had to be as close to scalding as we could endure, and the water changed often. If it wasn't clear and sudsy, it wasn't doing the dishes " a lick of good," Mama said. She has made me a hater of anything less than super-hot, clean soapy dish water. Rinsing, she insisted, also had to be under hot water. (I think she took a course in microbiology at KU Nursing School, and she was always seeing germs no one else could even imagine.) I still do dishes this way, except that I rarely towel-dry the hand-washables. God made air to help me out a bit on that one. Besides, as my aunt Belva says, "No towel will ever be cleaner than air."

3. What was your most dreaded chore? Why?

Cleaning the bathroom. Why? Because the tub had to be scrubbed with Comet till every last ring was off and all the porcelain was shining like baby teeth. The toilet had to be cleaned "all around the base real well." And you weren't allowed to be quick about it. In Mama's book, fast cleaners are not thorough cleaners. I have since outgrown that adage. The faster I can move about the chores, the sooner I can get on with stuff I actually like to do.

4. Did you "spring clean" and if so, what were the hallmarks of the annual event? What did you "have to do" for it to count as "spring cleaning"? What was your role and attitude?

Yes, we spring cleaned. The big things I remember: windows (inside and out, Daddy on the ladder outside), baseboards, and books. How I hated dusting Have I told you about my parents' library? Most people only dust their books when they're moving, right? Well, maybe the tradition of moving annually started this spring cleaning tradition as well. Oh, and we had to wash walls. Slowly. Thoroughly. Changing hot water often. Not all of us, just "you two big girls or you two little girls." Do I have to spell out my attitude toward spring cleaning back then?

5. Do you spring clean now that you're grown up?

Yes. Sort of. Not every cubic or square inch, but at least the things I rarely get to (things over my head, literally). Nowadays I like to throw open the windows on warm, breezy, sunny April days (of which there have been only three so far, and non-consecutive). For me the hallmark of spring cleaning is changing the window treatments, throwing out old makeup, and investing in new shoes. Because nothing says "Done!" like a trip to the shoe store. It puts the "merry" in "merry maid." Picturing a new pair of treads keeps me going when the going gets rough. Or when the scalding hot water has to be changed when wiping my ceiling fan down.

Your turn! Here's the rag...

V is for Very Funny

Normally I make my third grade son write his missed spelling words 10 times each, but on one particular day (like many) he needed consequences for some infraction. So I had him write the words 25 times each and then leave his paper on the table for me to check.

He did, but added a drawing before
getting up.

The boy makes me laugh.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

U if for Umph-less

Searching for a memory that started with "u" was tough. I was going to do "ubiquitous," as in my overflow of memories seemingly everywhere at once. Also thought about "uber cute," which describes the photos of my children way back when.

But those posts won't happen right now.

I will keep this post simple, since I am drained in many ways . Depression is a beast. Suffice this to say : I used to be happy, I used to enjoy my home, I used to love being with people, and I used to look forward to completing projects and stuff. Now I have no "umph"to write a thoughtful or funny post. I'm umph-less. My head is foggy, my heart poisonous. Not a good time to post.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

T is for Traffic Court

Continuing in this A-Z Challenge (which has been good, but I'll be glad to get back to "normal" blogging about whatever)...

I remember getting my first traffic ticket ever. The year was 2004 and I was pulled over on the way home from an exciting English class and apparently wasn't watching my speed. Normally I'm very cautious.

When the cop pulled me over, he told me I was doing 42 in a 30. I didn't argue; it's easy to go that fast on any road, but particularly a road with so many hills. I signed the ticket dutifully, my nerves keeping me from reading anything more than the big, fat $75 violation fee.

When I got home and calmed myself , I read the details. There, in small scribble from the officer's hand, was a figure 8 made dark over the "2" in 42. What? He told me 42. The kids who were with me remember he said 42. He had changed it to 48 when he went back to his car to write it up!

That sunuvva*b* , I thought. He falsely accused me! To do 12 miles an hour over the posted speed limit was wrong of me, but not a reckless speed considering the stretch of road I was on.
But I could not have, in good conscience, done 18 over without feeling like a bad mother at the wheel.

What was the cop thinking? What would make him jack up the speed on paper?

For the six weeks it took waiting till my court date, I wrangled with the injustice of it. Found myself cursing the police officer several times in my spirit. Hating him. First, he had ruined my perfect driving record. Second, he had embarrassed me in front of my kids. But worst of all, he had falsely accused me. He had no reason or right to cross out 42 and write 48 in its place.

When we got to court, my case was one of about twenty, mostly adolescent male speeders who barely had peach fuzz, let alone a high school diploma. There I was, a 40 year old mother of four, "on trial" (or so it felt to me) after 24 years of good driving. The judge called my name and I took my place about fifteen feet from the police officer, and was asked if I had anything to add what the officer said (that I was doing 48 in a 30 and that I was cooperative at the scene). I added that I was guilty of speeding, but not for doing 18 over the limit. She reduced my fine and court costs down about $53,
but didn't really "take sides."

Looking back, I see how wrong I was about almost everything. First, the cop didn't ruin my perfect driving record. I did. And it was never perfect before God! Second, he didn't embarrass me in front of my kids. My actions made me feel embarrassed for getting caught. Third, I honestly could have been doing 48 in a 30 (though to this day I doubt it with all my heart) and maybe the cop meant to say 48, not 42, when he came to my window. Either way, I was guilty of speeding. Period.

I took my paperwork to the cashier after stopping at the water fountain for a long drink after all that sweating!

As a Christian this situation makes me think of Jesus. Falsely accused. But he truly had done no wrong. Nothing. Nada. And he did not curse his accusers; he forgave them. He did not open his mouth against his torturers; he took the punishment handed down from the Judge, his own Father.
His fine was not reduced. He drank the entire cup of wrath so that I could drink the full cup of blessing.

Hallelujah! What mercy!

Friday, April 22, 2011

S is for Sarah's Birthday

I will write more later, I hope, and add some pictures of her, but for now I just want to wish my 22 year old daughter a very happy birthday.

Love you, Sarah!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

R is for River

When I was in the seventh grade I became fast friends with a girl named Cindy. She and I were the same age at the same church, and so were our older sisters. My sister Rachel is best friends to this day with Sondra, though Cindy and I lost touch.

I remember Cindy and Sondra's sheep farm. They taught me how to shear a sheep, trying to convince me that despite the looks on those poor sheep faces, they really loved losing all that wool in the summer. Cindy taught me that living on a farm means getting up at 5:30 to gather eggs. I learned that hens who don't like to give up their eggs can be as loud, mean, and nasty as any other mother when you tangle with her babies. Cindy was also a gifted musician; to hear her play the piano in the living room was akin to sitting in Carnegie Hall with front-row seats.

But what I remember best were the times I spent with Cindy and her family on the river. Her grandparents owned a simple little two-bedroom, 1950s cabin on Broad Creek (which is a tributary of the Susquehanna River). Many hot, Sunday summer afternoons they invited Rachel and me to "go to the river" with them after church. Their mom "Miss Jeanne" and dad "Mr. Jerry" fed us lunch before leaving home, then we all loaded up the truck, drove to the river, and carried our sleeping bags (for the overnighters), our mini coolers ,and other gear for about a mile through the woods, up steep hills, down ravines, crackling sticks underfoot and dodging branches ahead. It never seemed like a such a long hike because of the fun company.

The cabin sat at the top of a steep ravine. I'm talking maybe a 60 degree angle to the water. Climbing down the "steps" required skill, courage, and surefootedness which, of course, I had back then. I don't think I'd attempt it now, and understand why only the men accompanied us when it was time to swim or boat!

At the river they taught me how to dive, how to kayak, and almost how to water ski. Driving the speed boat was my absolute favorite activity! That, and swimming. We were outside until we could barely see to climb back up to the cabin. There, Miss Jeanne and the grandparents had prepared a big, hearty meal for the starving swimmers! And then we'd play board games or go to the bunks to talk and giggle till Mr. Jerry said "lights out." Sometimes we had to leave on Sunday before dusk in order to pack up the boat that took us to the landing where Mr. Jerry could easily access the truck. I remember few of the rides home because Cindy, Sondra ,Rachel, and I fell asleep in the bed of the truck before we reached the main road.

That summer I learned what it was to be part of a family who got together very often to make a lot of memories with extended family. I never knew what it was like to have my grandparents close by except for two years in Kansas. I think I missed out on a lifetime of learning from the older generation. There remains in my heart a deep yearning for more "grandparent time" that will never happen.

How thankful I am ,though, that God provided other people in my life who were willing and happy to sacrifice a great deal of time and energy to make sweet memories for me, much of which we made at "the river."

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Q is for Quintessential

Is there a certain word which, whenever you hear it, reminds you of a certain person? The word "intimation" (not intimidation, but intimation--"a hinting at"-- reminds me of a nun who taught Chaucer. She used that word a lot, while a pool of spittle foamed at the left corner of her mouth in excitement over what she was teaching. Who knew the Canterbury Tales could elicit such salivary surplus? When it came to teaching the tale of the Wife of Bath, look out below. When Sister couldn't contain her enthusiasm (or jaw juice) anymore, she'd lick and slurp simultaneously. Picture a carpet cleaning machine. This teacher's foamy spittle bubbled out slowly while she spoke in long, choppy sentences that read like the Amplified Bible, punctuated by the phrase, "What-hmmm?" For example, "Chaucer was intimating, what-hmm?" "that, that, that this wife had a reputation for, was known as, had an affinity for--because of the space between her front teeth--what, hmmm, a sordid habit as it were?" (And I pictured this nun teaching in sordid habit, which was equal parts comical and disgusting.)

The word "quintessential" is another such trigger word but for a polar reason. It reminds me of my delightful friend, Sandy S, who had no drool issues. I still remember the day the whole conversation over "quintessential" came up. We were sitting in the bleachers at a lacrosse game watching our FCA high school sons. The other team was killing us, and we parents were far from the field. Sandy and I kind of tuned out of the game in favor of gabbing.

Sandy has a joie de vivre that shines through her bright smile, and she is an absolute joy to be around. Energetic and athletic, talented and outgoing, she accomplishes more in a day than I accomplish in a week--and so I remarked, "Aren't you are the quintessential wife and mom!"

She said, "That sounds like a compliment, but could you please tell me what that Q word means?"

I said, "Oh, come on, you know. And I know you're the quintessential wife and mom!"

"Well, I have an idea about the word. Quints are five kids at once, but I only have two, and being a mom is essential. Other than that, help me out, Zo!"

I asked her if she wanted to hear the quick definition, or the teacher's manual version. I had just recently discovered the origin of "quintessential" while teaching an SAT vocab-prep lesson. Sandy said, "Well, considering we're only in the third quarter of the game, give me the TM version!

"Okay then. You are right that "quint" means five. In Medieval times, people believed there were four essences: air, water, fire, and earth. The fifth essence--or quinta essentia-- was the perfect embodiment of all four heavenly elements. That's you."

"No way!"

"Yes way!
Aristotle said the fifth essence was ether, since it was believed there was a trace of ether in everything. It permeates all other elements. What other moms today have read their Bibles before sun-up, run ten miles at dawn, come home and made strawberry smoothies with cheese frittatas, homeschooled a high schooler and a middler, put dinner in the crock pot, cut up 20 fresh oranges for the whole lacrosse team, helped her husband with some landscaping, and is here now perky as a spring daffodil for a 3 o'clock game on the north side of the Baltimore beltway? Most of us were proud that we took a shower, got through math before lunch, and found matching socks. As for dinner, the plan is either Burger King or McDonald's."

"Hey, I just had a lot to do today! That's all. And if I don't run, I'm a hyper mess!"

She and I still tease each other on Facebook. I told her I hope she has a quintessential birthday at the lake. She told me to have a quintessential date night. I asked her, "At Burger King or McDonald's?"

She replied, "Ether!"

Wednesday Hodgepodge: Easter and Speed Racer

BoldJoining Joyce again...From This Side of the Pond

1. What are your plans for Easter Day/weekend?
Good Friday--our 19-year-old son Steve is preaching. He will be one of three men in the pulpit (consecutively, not simultaneously, I believe). His topic is 'Pierced for our Transgressions." Saturday, I don't know, but Sunday we're taking our daughter out for her birthday which is actually this Friday.

2. Besides Jesus, what one person from The Bible would you most like to meet and why?
Oh, so many! I think I'd like to meet Martha and ask her if she learned to sit at Jesus' feet after she spouted off to Him that no one was helping her in the kitchen. And if so, could she teach me how not to get frazzled so easily.

3. What is one modern day convenience you didn't have as a child that was easy to live without?
Any of our technological gadgets that tend to stifle creativity and social skills rather than enhance them. We got our info from books, and most of our fun outside.

4. Are you more right brained or left brained? If you don't know what that means there is an interesting little quiz here.
According to that quiz, I'm 45% left-brained and 55% right-brained. That lines up with other such assessments I've taken. One career suggestion for me that was on that quiz cracked me up. Forest ranger. Seriously? I like trees and fresh air, but that's about where my desire to traipse around in the forest would end. I'm freaked out by bugs, snakes, owls, and sly foxes, and I hate to sweat.

5. What is something you intended to do today but didn't? Why?
Grocery shop. Because I didn't intend to be cleaning up after my dog so much. I am never in the mood to grocery shop, and if you couple that with frustration before leaving home, and add a heavy dose of rain when giving the errand across town some thought, and there is chicken corn chowder available to heat up...

6. Cadbury Creme Eggs or Reeses peanut butter?

7. Who was your favorite cartoon character when you were a child?
Speed Racer. I've always had a need for Speed, and his sidekick monkey was adorable. I admit to being slightly jealous of his girlfriend Trixie.

8. Insert your own random thought here.
It may sound silly, but I am praying for my dog Reilly to repent soon. That is, to turn from his wicked ways of peeing indoors, escaping the yard to run through the muddy stream, jumping on visitors, and stealing food from my youngest child. He had been doing so well, and has regressed.
I am convinced that prayer and training are key, but selfishly I just want prayer to fix him. It's too much like parenting a toddler, and I gave that up a long time ago.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

P is for PIt

This will be short. A pit stop, really.

He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along. Psalm 40:2 (NLT)

I was recalling in my journal today how many times the Lord has brought me out of "the pit." Six years ago today was one of the hardest days of my entire life. A figurative bombing of my own life's federal building. I won't go into detail, but something that I had feared six months prior happened almost as I had predicted. Whenever information is withheld from me, I go into panic mode if I feel the least bit unloved. If I feel disposable or replaceable, the feelings of foreboding bite into my very core, their sharp teeth bearing down into my soul and gripping me like a ... dare I say...a pit bull?

Although I have forgiven my offenders,I have clearly not forgotten. But I have learned lessons about myself and about other people, namely not to align too closely with humans I don't trust.

But more than that I learned that Jesus defeats the Enemy and can be trusted to lift me out of the pit. The night that that incident took place, April of 2005, I was so filled with anger and hatred that I was visited by creatures I can only describe as gremlins. They hovered near the family room ceiling, crossing swords like x's in front of themselves, mocking and jeering, telling me I had no right to call myself a Christian and that I deserved what I got, and look what God had done to me now! Still, in the midst of the lies, in the midst of shaking in fetal position on the couch, I cried out, "Help me, Jesus. Tell them to get out of here! Help me, Jesus." And within moments, the voices and the gremlin faces vanished. I eventually calmed down, and was "spent" from agony and crying; the evil left the room. The name of Jesus, though I hated what had been done IN His name (supposedly), was my strong tower. Jesus rescued me. He had rescued me many times before, and many times since, but this day every year reminds me of His saving grace. It's not a one-time deal to "get saved." It's daily a saving from myself and the lies of the Enemy and the evil in the world if I get too close to it.

I don't like to talk about the experience, and honestly it took me two years and a lot of hard counsel to get to the point of forgiving those who had offended me, and to confess my part in the ordeal as well. After that, the ground was "more steady as I walked along."

In some ways I feel I am almost there again, almost at the bottom of yet another pit. I am in a fight right now to believe Truth, and to love my Passover Lamb, Jesus. He will deliver me out of this pit. I am sure of it.

Monday, April 18, 2011

O is for Oops, Opps, Something like that

The summer after sixth grade, I met a boy named Kenneth while we were vacationing for a week in Alabama. (My dad was an engineer and was on "TDY" which meant work for him, fun for us when we got to go along for the ride.) Kenneth was a drummer in his school band, he had a younger sister, his hair was curlier than mine, and he had big brown eyes. That's about all I discovered about him that was important.

We fell in love at the hotel pool. You know how that goes. We talked about everything, including the future; he wanted to be a doctor. I was impressed more with his ambition than his compassion, to be honest. I pictured living the well-to-do life of a doctor's wife where I could spend all day every day at our very own pool. Shallow, I know. (My values, not the pool.)

The week ended, and we parted ways with promises to write. True to his word, he sent me a letter the next week. I was beyond thrilled. On the front of the envelope he messed up the zip code, crossed through it, and wrote "Opps" over it, with the corrected zip.

My older sister razzed me about that something fierce. "He wants to be a doctor, but he can't spell "oops"? Bwahahahahaha!"

To this day, when I say "oops" she says "opps" and we both snort.

My romance with Kenneth lasted until the new school year started. Even though he was a good pen-pal, he just wasn't everything I wanted in a husband.

I wanted ambition. He had it.

I wanted compassion. He had it.

I wanted a good speller.


And now, for the funniest video I think I have ever seen on YouTube. Maybe the caller is Kenneth?

The D&O Railroad Project

Announcing the
D&O Railroad Project.

As I promised Kelly in my previous post, I will join her in continuing to simplify the home through decluttering and organizing. I've wasted time trying to come up with a catchy little name for this endeavor, to no avail. The names I thought of, which I googled for originality, had already been taken. One of them even had something to do with smoking marijuana--clearly not the kind of buzz I wanted to participate in, let alone promote.

"Decluttering and organizing" is too long to write out, but that is what we're attempting here. So I've shortened it to D&O, which reminded me of the B&O (Baltimore & Ohio) Railroad. Staying on track, having a beginning and an end, and sharing the ride is the plan. Want to board with us?

I said it would be as easy as A,B,C. The way it works is to choose as few or as many areas to declutter as fits your energy, schedule, and priorities for the week. I will suggest things, but feel free to come up with your own. I've backed this challenge down to 4 weeks, not six,
since I know my personality and what is coming is May. I'm better with short-term goals.

April 18 - May 13

For this first week, choose one or more areas that start with any of the following letters:
A,B,C,D, E, or F.

For example:
A-archives, alcove, attic
B--bookshelves, basement, bedroom
C- corner, closet, cosmetics
D- dresser, dishes, drawer, desk
E- edibles
F- fun room, Fido's stuff, footwear

Start with something that's getting on your last nerve. For me, it's corners. I'm going to start with the corner in my bedroom that is supposed to house only my photo boxes and photo albums, but has become an impound lot for miscellany. (I have other corners that fit that description, but I'm starting with that one so I can sleep better.)

Be sure to take your "before" shot right away as you board the D&O train. We all like to know that we're not alone in our "stacks o' clutter." Then arm yourself with a trash bag, a Giveaway box, a Keep/Take Action box, and pen and paper. You will think of things you need to do or buy as you go along. Don't get sidetracked by leaving the area to jot down those things.

Ready? Leave a comment after picking your first stop on the D&O Railroad. Finish by Friday and post by Sunday.

Chugga, chugga, chugga, chugga...

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Continuing Where Project Simplify Left Off: You In?

Kelly at Through the Water noted that for every project like the ones we did for Project Simplify, there are at least five more we could do. Amen to that, sister! She asked me if I'd like to keep going, sort of buddy-up for more adventures in organization. Having a partner is always more fun and motivating for me than going alone, even if it's a virtual buddy. Sort of like Company Girls! Naturally I said "sure!'

My approach is going to include a bit of flexibility and creativity because our homes don't all have the exact same trouble areas. Stay tuned. I can tell you that choosing a "hot spot" (Tsh's term)
will be as easy as ABC.

Since I have clutter aplenty to mortify (not manage), I will pick areas pertinent to my place and let you pick according to yours, but roughly all doing the same thing: improving our homes by decluttering.

I'll pick areas for the next two weeks in April and then I will ask Kelly to pick two for May. A ping-pong thing. We will conclude by Memorial Day and reward ourselves with something. I don't know what, but something! Does this sound like something you need or want to do? Whether you want to devote one hour or five days, it will be an accomplishment, right ?

I will also try to borrow Kelly's wise habit of including a Bible verse that helps her focus on what is more important than the physical labor of housekeeping.

Simple rules if you want to play:

1. You must post at least one "before" shot and one "after" shot to link up. Post on your blog.
2. You must finish by Friday.
3. Post by Sunday , 9 PM EST and leave a comment here so we can find you and your progress!

I'll announce Monday morning where we're starting. Meanwhile, make sure you have a trash bag, a give-away bag, an Elsewhere box, and a Keep box, along with pen and paper.

If you want to join, give a holler in the comment box. Love to have you along for the organizational ride.

N is for New House, New Baby

Paul and I got married in December of 1986 and lived in a small apartment in a Baltimore suburb. We started looking for a house the following summer, half recreationally, considering we were making about $12,000 a year. Home ownership was a dream, but we were young and full of dreams. We also loathed paying rent when we wanted to put down roots and start a family.

We looked at a few houses and then the realtor took us to this one you see in the picture. Paul and I are both capable of seeing potential and exercising our imaginations and muscles to transform places and spaces into our own special habitat.

Such was the case with this 1930s Ugly Duckling. Originally the whole neighborhood was built as army housing for WWII military, so I felt a strong sense of history in that home--something I like far better than "brand spanking new" homes. The streets around there ended in "ship" because of the proximity to the local shipyard. Our house was on Kinship Road; the name couldn't be lovelier. It was a duplex on a corner (the other half behind this one), so there was a decent little yard. Hardwood floors covered by hideous avocado carpet. Cotton candy pink paint on every.single.wall. A run-down kitchen with a stove in an alcove, and a bathroom whose sink was moments from falling off the wall. A basement with a secret room not unlike the attic I pictured Anne Frank hiding in. Two bedrooms: one for us and one for our future first two children. And the price? $44,000. I remember thinking the mortgage being $100 more than our rent would put us at $392/month. Could we handle that?

We could. We did. What a surprise to get the keys to our first home in June of 1987. And the greater surprise? Finding out the next month that we were expecting our first baby. My heart could hardly contain all the joy of promise .

In the four years there, we:

1. Remodeled the bathroom

2. Repainted every room in the house

3. Replaced the carpet

4. Ripped out the shrubs and planted colorful flowers

5. Repainted the awnings blue with white trim

6. Reunited with my foster sister, whom I hadn't seen since I was five! She and her family lived,

of all places, on the street just behind ours!

7. Reproduced three times, not two as we'd planned.

We had wonderful neighbors, including Mrs. DiProspero (whom everyone called "Mrs.D"). Her husband died within months of our living there, and we became fast friends as we shared our sorrow over losing him. Mrs. D was about 70 years old and had an Italian accent that endeared me. She ended every word with "-a": "Welcome-a to our streeta. You and Paul are so younga and already owna a housa? That'sa so nice-a."

Ben was born in March of 1988 and Sarah came along in April of '89. We lived in that home for four years until our third, Stephen, was born and the house was just a bit too tight for the five of us. With each baby-a borna, Mrs. D gave us her tender, grandmotherly advice. "Issa kinda cold-uh. You gonna putta some socksa onna his feeta?"

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Mailboxes

In high school I was homogeneous. Not a homo. Homogeneous. I blended in with whomever I was with at any given moment. You wouldn't vote me Most Likely to Know What She Values, but you probably would have liked me because I'd go along with your adventure.

For ill or for good.

One night I was hanging out with my friend Carla (not her real name). She and I were a year apart in school (I was older--and should have been wiser). Both of us were wholesome looking over-achievers. Some students in public school even teased me for knowing all the biblical allusions in literature class. Carla's work ethic impressed almost everyone. (She was one of the few students who held a part-time job while going to school.)

No one would have suspected that we were capable of vandalism.

And I don't mean toilet-papering a Ford truck on Halloween. I mean vandalism.

I still remember the night it happened. I was spending a Friday night at Carla's and we were listening to music and thinking about baking brownies, doing our nails, and watching TV to fill our evening. It was just the two of us upstairs, and her brother and his friend were in the basement. Carla's dad was often away on business trips, and I don't know where her mom was this particular night, but she wasn't home. (There is a theme to my "when-parents-aren't-home stories," huh?)

Carla and I made a pan of brownies and ate half of them ourselves. We shared a couple with her brother Connor and his friend Ricky, and then ate the rest, for what reason I don't know, other than that we could.

Friday Night. No Parents Home. Keys to the Car. The boys decided that this would be a good time to go for a ride. And take some baseball bats with us.

I was so naive I thought we were going to go find a lighted field somewhere at 11 p.m. and play baseball. Seriously, I was so dumb I should've been blonde.

"Hop in the back, girls!" and we did. Connor got behind the wheel and Ricky rode shotgun.

We drove through the neighborhood, Connor zig-zagging between parked cars. Windows rolled down all the way, Connor shouted, "That one, man! Get that one!"

Ricky stuck the bat out the window and started swinging. He clobbered six or eight mailboxes in a row before Connor changed streets and sped off to find other metal to mash. At one house that was completely dark, the boys got out and took turns bludgeoning the mailbox to a mangled heap on the ground. Their laughter creeped me out.

I sat in the back shivering with fear. I had never taken part in a crime before. All I could think about was those poor people would wake up to find their mailboxes destroyed on their front lawns.

Ricky handed the bat to Carla. She laughed nervously and said, "Nah...I'm not strong enough."
But they coaxed her into taking a slug at a plastic newspaper box. She cracked it wide apart with one blow. Then she handed the bat to me.

I shook my head.

"No, that's okay. Haven't we all had enough fun and destruction for one night? We'd better quit before we get caught."

"Aw, you scared, Zoey?" I hated being called Zoey, and they knew it. It made me mad enough to swing.

"No, I'm not scared. I just don't want to do this."

They shrugged and kept driving and smashing mailboxes, cackling all the while. After twenty minutes or so, I think I got numb to the destruction part and started seeing it as fun. Rick turned to me and said, "You know you want to. Take just one swing. That's all. Just one."

So I took the bat, held it out the window and purposefully just grazed the next mailbox.

"Took some paint off that one!" I bragged, probably lying.

By this time Carla was egging me on. "Hey, Zo. Let's show 'em what we're made of." And then, I took the bait. The competitor in me had to win, or die trying.

I don't remember doing any damage personally, but I remember cheering Carla while she smashed the boxes to smithereens.

And I remember the terrible stomach ache I had as I tried to fall asleep back at Carla's house. The guilt over my actions gave me crippling pains inside. It wasn't worth the so-called fun to realize I had taken part in ruining property. We never confessed. Never apologized. I never did that again, but the memory haunts me still. I have asked, and received, God's forgiveness for my foolishness, but there is no way of going back to make amends to those people. That happened thirty-two years ago and I have no clue where we were exactly in the darkness of that night.

I learned something about my friend Carla and myself that night. We were capable of destroying far more than a pan of brownies.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

L is for Long Letters

Getting a personal letter in the mail ranks up there with caressing soft baby skin and buying a new purse. I just love, love, love it. The joy of corresponding started when I was quite young, but I can't remember how. I remember being taught in fourth grade or so how to write a proper letter, complete with inside return address, salutation (a word which always reminds me of Charlotte's Web), and one of a myriad appropriate closings to choose from. "Yours truly" or "Sincerely" or "Respectfully yours" were closings which I spent an inordinate amount of time pondering.

My most memorable pen-pal of all times was Lola Steinmetz. She was in her sixties when we lived in Kansas, and she and her husband were faithful members of our little Methodist church. Often they invited us to their home for lunch, which I only remember one other person in the church doing--and it was Marion's sister, Stella Moore. You can tell they grew up with hospitable parents.

But I digress.

Marion and Lola loved each other dearly, saying sweet and kind and polite things to each other. Winking. He always called her "Katrina," and she called him "Butch." They'd tap the other's leg with affection when scooting past into the other room. I remember wondering how it would be to grow old with the same husband and still be so obviously in love. They moved to Charleston later to live with their son, and we moved to Maryland. Marion got cancer that took his voice, his beautiful white hair, and the stout farmer's build he once had. But it did not drain the twinkle from his eyes-- or his memory.

We visited him in his Illinois hospital room on the way back to Kansas one year. Lola brought us in. I'll never forget how tiny and pale Marion looked. Did I gasp from shock? I hope not. What had happened to the big, Santa-like grandpa of a man I had known when I was in Alden? The man who loved to show us the constellations through an enormous telescope? The man who let us pump well water from the old metal handle right into a trusty tin cup that kept it ice cold? What happened to the man whose hearty laughter and keen intellect provided us entire afternoons of joy?

Lola gestured to my dad to come near as she spoke to her Marion.

"Butch, you remember Lyle?"

Before my dad could extend his hand to his dear old friend, Marion's eyes filled with tears. He could barely nod.

"Of course he remembers you, Lyle," Lola said, "He has always loved you and your family. Butch, look. Brenda and the girls came, too." His eyes, big blue pools, fixed upon each of us in turn, dripped with fond remembrance.

Daddy and Mama chatted with him (or with Lola, rather, including Marion with eye contact), thanking them both for treating us so generously while we lived in Kansas. They prayed. I sobbed. Then Daddy cut the visit short. He knew the emotions were awfully hard on everyone in the room. To love so deeply and to lose so quickly? Gut-wrenching.

Marion died a short time later. I think he was about 80.

Lola, however, lived to be 92, if I recall correctly. And for the first two years that I was in college at Seton Hill, she wrote faithfully to me--long letters to fill my journalistic inquiries about life during the Great Depression. Long letters to encourage me to keep the faith in hard times. Long letters to advise a young woman on how to pick the right husband.

I remember two sage pieces of her counsel.

1. "Never marry a man you have to apologize for."
2. "When you marry a good man, your heart won't always flutter when he walks into the room. But it will always beat steadily with love."

Lola always closed her letters the same way. Simply,


Wednesday, April 13, 2011

K is for Kindergarten and Kwestion Kornucopia, AKA Wednesday is for Hodgepodge:

I have few, but indelible, memories of kindergarten. The newness overwhelmed me, and for the most part I remember being afraid. I went to a public elementary school in Baltimore City, and only recall four things from that year:

1. The classroom had a piano in it, which I hid under during sing-time. I could see eight legs under there--the piano's front two, the bench's four, and the teacher's two.

2. The teacher's name was Miss Hart. It was a misnomer. (I hope she's not a blog lurker these 40 years later; if so, I apologize, Miss Hart. I'm just sayin', it doesn't hurt to smile at children once in a while. Even if they're curly-headed brats with weird names.)

3. We each had a nifty little cubby for our supplies. I've been a cubby nut ever since.

4. Miss Hart kept mispronouncing my name. She'd call me Joanna. My parents had taught me not to talk back, and I thought that correcting a teacher's pronunciation was "back talk." When I'd tell other students that my name was Zoanna, they must've thought I had a speech impediment.

That concludes my short, but not-so-sweet, memory of kindergarten.


Now for today's Kornucopia, aka Wednesday Hodgepodge, brought to you From This Side of the Pond (or New Jersey, as I recently discovered, where pumping your own gas is illegal in some parts of the state):

1. Would you rather talk to everyone at a crowded party for a short time or have a significant conversation with two people?

Significant conversation with two people. I tire easily of small talk and will "jump into" deep subjects by questioning people if I sense they might be open to it or by being rather transparent if asked important questions. For the most part, I don't like crowded parties; I prefer a max number of 12. I prefer to chat with just three other women at a time, or one other couple.

2. What objects do you remember from your parents' living room?

If you mean from my childhood living room, I remember a huge, long, very comfy orange nubby sofa that we got in the 1970s, an upright, kind-of tinny-sounding piano that I played for years, a 1970s console stereo (complete with turntable that played LPs!), and a gold recliner that they still have in their loft. They have always bought high quality furniture that lasts, and last, and lasts. And lasts. Oh, and books, books, books! Shelved, stacked, and scattered! A veritable library of everything from nursing textbooks to atlases to the ChildCraft series to volumes of children's poetry. Their living room is still jam-packed with books, as is every room in the house. Whoever said "There is no such thing as having too many books" was wrong. Believe me.

3. Do you hog the bed? Steal the covers? Snore?

Guilty on all three counts.

4. Speaking of Easter dinner....what is your favorite way to cook/eat lamb? Or does just the thought of that make you squeamish? If you're not cooking lamb what will be your entree du jour on Easter Sunday?

I've never cooked lamb. I've eaten it, but find it rather greasy for my tastes, except in Indian dishes. Growing up, my family didn't do a big Easter dinner. When I was young, my dad was a pastor and Sunday was the most tiring day of the week for him and my mom, and extended family just didn't get together, even though we were in the same state for two years. I never got it in my head that Easter was a big to-do (foodwise) but church was joyous and memorable celebrating the Resurrection of Jesus from the grave! Then we came home and hunted for Easter eggs. It's really funny in an odd way to write those sentences back-to-back. Celebrating the Resurrection + hunting dyed boiled eggs = Easter. Hmmmm.

But you didn't ask about all that, did you? Let me be concise now that it's too late: this Easter we are celebrating my daughter's 22nd birthday and she wants to eat out at Bahama Breeze!

5. Let's throw some politics into this week's mix-oooohhh...Do you know the whereabouts of your birth certificate and when was the last time you had to produce it to prove you're you?

Yes, I know where it is--I think-- but the last time I needed it was when I applying for a job as a teacher, c. 2008.

6. As a child, how did people describe you?

Kids who knew me said: shorty, shrimp, goody tw0-shoes, friendly, smart, soft-spoken, sensitive and over-sensitive, bossy, curly-headed, fast runner. In sixth grade someone called me Greasy Hair, so I started washing it every day and have had a grease complex ever since.

7. What do you complain about the most?
To God I complain mostly that I feel utterly ignored by those who claim to love me. To my husband and kids, I complain that they don't appreciate me. Isn't life all about me?

8. Insert your own random thought here.

I have become too much of a hermit lately. It's not good. There is an inherent selfishness in keeping too much to oneself. I need to get back to my old self who thrived on reaching out to others. I miss the classroom immensely. Usually I am refreshed by the company of others, but I find I have to initiate most get-togethers or else I spend my time with the same people over and over. My world has become too small and that needs to change. I want to start really "seeing" people and caring for them, but it starts with wanting to want that.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

J is for Jump Rope & Jacks on Think-Back Tuesday

The photo below is borrowed from a source other than my personal scrapbook. I have very few pictures of myself as a child. And maybe zero of myself on the playground, except in my mind. So, gracias, Google.

Once more you get a twofer here at A Penchant for Pens. I'm enjoying this nudge to intentionally chronicle my memories, but I enjoy reading others' also on the same topic.

Funny thing about memories: they are seldom chronological. On any given day, I find myself remembering my life as a mom with a five-year-old, and then I recall something when I myself was five, and in another flash I'm 27 or 15 or 42. The alphabet is guiding my thoughts for these memoirs via the A to Z Challenge.

Today I'm thinking back to playground games. One of my all-time favorite activities was jumping rope. It took me a little while to "find my rhythm," but once I did, I was hooked. It's hard to believe the stamina I had as a kid; where'd it go? I remember contests to see who could jump for the most minutes, who could jump rope on one foot, who could do it backwards, who could cross their arms and keep jumping the rope from that criss-crossed position. I remember how fun it was to have a friend jumping inside the rope with me! And how about multi-player games with a long rope to see how many people can jump in and stay in at the same time?

One thing I remember: it was a girls-only activity. If boys jumped in, it was only to make us mad. Which it did.

Now for some playground / "J" questions for Think-Back Tuesday.

1. Did you enjoy jumping rope, and if so, were you a competitive type like me, wanting to win contests?

2. Were you ever seriously hurt on the playground?

Yes. It involved a sliding board. I remember in seventh grade our entire Christian school junior high and high school went to Promised Land Camp for a weekend retreat. The first evening there, while waiting for dinner to be served, a bunch of us decided to use our spare time playing like "little kids" on the sliding board. When a backlog of bodies was first noticed, someone had the bright (testosterone-induced?) idea to see how many of us could fit on the slide. One, two, three, seven, 11, 19, 24...and counting. More and more until... the entire aluminum sliding board collapsed-- at the curve--where I was seated, my feet wrapped underneath it. I can still remember the pain I felt when I heard "Thirty-threeeeeeeeee!!"

Everyone was screaming and pushing and laughing and cheering and scrambling to either be part of --or free from the mass pile of teens on the ground. No one could hear me wailing. Beneath the heap of humans and twisted aluminum I lay, with my ankle seemingly crushed and swelling at the same time. It took quite a while to get the proper medical treatment because the school nurse was also the head cook (home ec teacher/jill-of-all-trades). To this day when I see idiots of any age squeezing themselves together on a sliding board, my ankle throbs. I spent the rest of the weekend hobbling around with an ice pack.

3. Speaking of jills, did you play jacks?

I remember learning how in sixth grade, and giving it a try at school at recess for about a week. All that hand-eye coordination was rather nerve-wracking for me. My hands were small and I could only hold about four jacks at once. Like jumping rope, it wasn't easy to play jacks on the ground while wearing a dress.

4. Jack is usually a nickname for John. Are there any Jacks in your family, or anyone named John?

Yes, I have a brother-in-law named John. he is the third generation--as in John III, so he goes by Jay. I'm glad he doesn't go by Jack because he married my sister, Jill.

5. John III:XVI is the Roman numeral version of the Bible's most popular verse. Can you quote it? How about quoting it in a foreign language?

I can quote it in French, because it was required for our French II class in Christian high school. It goes something like this (please, you French readers, do not hold this against me. I'm going from memory here, and I haven't been in high school since the year aluminum foil was invented):

" Car Dieu a tante aime le monde, qu'il a donne son Fils unique...."

Oh, drat! I can pronounce the words, but I'm not recalling the spellings, and that could be sacrilegious if I messed up. I just remember the ending..."la vie eternelle. " Life eternal, and that makes me happy in any language! Ma vie eternelle began the moment that the unique (one and only) son of God entered my heart and forgave my sins--all of them, past, present, and future, and declared me righteous. Declared it the way he declares everything--with authority. Merci pour the mercy de Dieu!

---------- If you want to answer the preceding questions on your blog, simply leave a comment and link back to mine so we can find you. We can jump rope or skip from blog to blog -- or do a virtual (painless) pile-up on the slide. Can you say, "33"?

Monday, April 11, 2011

I is for I Spy my Former Self

Back in the day, I was a cheerleader from seventh grade through tenth grade at a Christian school. Don't look at the lower right hand picture. Our uniforms were just way too sexy. You could almost see our kneecaps if you play "I Spy."

Here is a picture of a scrapbook page I made. Yes, that would be me in the denim overalls. We were doing a pep rally with a "Hee Haw" theme. (Readers under 40 years of age might have to Google "Hee Haw TV show" to understand the reference. Ouch.)

The ankle-crossed-leaning-like-dominoes photo (L. to R.) shows Yours Truly, Louise D, Margaret Ann R., and Wendy E. I've lost touch with Louise and Wendy, but Margaret Ann and I still keep in touch a few times a year. I spent countless hours at her house when we were growing up.

The most fun that Margaret Ann and I had was on a certain Halloween night when we toilet-papered her neighbor's truck and lawn, and soaped his windows. The man--Mr. Knaub-- happened to be the boys' gym teacher at our school, and he was at prayer meeting with his family that night. I don't know where M.A's parents went, but they weren't home either.

She and I had never done anything so ornery as this little stunt, and we were loving every minute of it. Two "good girls" being very,very bad. Working swiftly, hearts pounding, we giggled harder with every roll we finished off. When we finally ran out of TP, we high-fived. What great mummifying skills!

We crossed the street and decided the better part of wisdom would be to go bed before her folks--or Mr. Knaub--got home. Of course, we couldn't really sleep, we were so "wired" from our escapade. We wondered how long it would before Mr. Knaub found the culprits. Surely we'd help him hunt them down; surely they were mean-awful-no-good hoodlums from the other side of the tracks.

Margaret Ann's parents got home around 10 pm. We were "asleep" so they didn't come asking about our evening. All looked normal, and besides, it was a school night, and we were tired cheerleaders. Ahem.

Ding-dong! I still remember the doorbell. We trembled and yanked the velvet bedspread up over our heads.

Mr. Reeves answered the door.

"Hey, Al, what brings you over?"

"Hey, Donny, uh--I was just wonderin' if you had any trouble tonight."

"Trouble? You mean Halloween trouble? No, why. You?"

"Yeh. Somebody papered the truck, all up the hood, around the wheels, in the bed, everywhere. Soaped my house windows. Grass is covered, every square inch of it."

"Really? Oh, Al, no. I'm surprised being right across the street we didn't get the same thing done, but no, we're fine. Margaret Ann and Zoanna were here, but they're in bed now."

"They are? Oh, I was gonna talk to them, see if they knew who done it."

"Well, I can ask them in the morning..."

"Thanks, Donny. I mean it's going to take a lot of work to clean it up, and I really want to find out if they know who it was."

We could hear every word through the thin walls of the small house. Margarent Ann's room was right behind the front door. It was all we could do to squelch our giggles under the covers.

As soon as the front door closed and Mr. Knaub was gone, we burst out laughing. So loud that Mr. Reeves came to his daughter's door and knocked. "Margaret Ann, I thought you girls were asleep. What're you laughing about? Al was over here just now. He wasn't in a real good mood. You have any idea who coulda--"

We opened the door, doubled over in ribs-hurting, face-cracking laughter.

Her dad started chuckling. "You two papered Al's truck? And soaped his house? While we were gone? I never woulda--"

The next day our consciences would not let go of us. We found Mr. Knaub at school and told him it was us. He knew. He knew? The good girls of HCS, his own sweet neighbor girl and her innocent friend?

He was right. It took a lot of work to clean that mess up.

Saturday, April 09, 2011

H is for Horrible Hairstyle

Hair is important to me. If you're a woman reading this, you're probably saying, "It's important to me, too! Isn't it important to every woman?" My husband says it's way too important to me. Our youngest son says, "Yeah, anyway, it's just dead cells, Mom!" (This from the child whose idea of brushing his hair means slapping water on it and pasting it down with his hands.)

I've been scrolling through my mind, trying to remember all the hairstyles I've had, for better or for worse. I will share the worst haircut ever. I wish I could say it when I was a kid ,but it wasn't. I was 23 years old. I had a 13-month old son, and a 3-week-old daughter. That's right. Two babies in 13 months. I felt homely, haggard, and housebound, and desperate for change. Post-partum depression was starting to take a deep hold on me. There was not much I felt in control of--not my anger, not my tears, not my children's digestion.

Only two things could I change easily--diapers and my hair. With a friend's graduation-from-law-school party coming up on Memorial Day weekend, I went for my cut on payday--May 15th. Money was tight, but I knew if I went to the Hair Cuttery, they'd ask me what I wanted and I'd walk out with the same-old, same-old. I wanted someone with professional and creative experience to tell me what would look good, not me plop down and tell them what I thought.

So I went to a "real" salon (read: expensive). The receptionist asked who I wanted, and I said it didn't matter, I was new here. So I got assigned one. It was the first time I'd ever had a male stylist.

He ran his fingers through my wavy, brown, shapeless hair, lifting and tossing and massaging and all those things that make you say, "I don't care what else you do, just more of that, please!" He said all the right things in his exuberant, flamboyant way to the hermit housewife in his chair. "You've got great texture and color. I just think if I do this, this, and this, it'll give you more volume, accent your eyes, and really make people take notice!" Then he proceeded to snip. And snip. And snip.

He cut out every last semblance of curl and femininity I possessed on my head. He parted the hair on the side, tapered it in back, cut out the ears, and then spun me around to look in the mirror.

"What do you think?" he asked, obviously proud of his art. I took one look and gulped. I ran my fingers through the top--the only place with much hair left--and gasped to myself I was too polite to tell him how I really felt. How could I have given him carte blanche! It's horrible! I look so....butch! What will Paul say? Nauseated and fighting back tears, I handed over precious money in a sum I had never forked over for a cut. It felt like a double whammy, having paid with hair first!

Well, Paul's reaction was worse than I expected. He really didn't get verbal about it. He did say, "Kind of short, isn't it?" For the next five weeks, he didn't touch my head. Before that, I had grown so accustomed to his gentle stroking of it at night that the abrupt absence of "hair affection" made me pick up his hand and place it behind my head. He quickly pulled back. I asked what was wrong. He then answered in words I only remember in staccato, "'sorry...can't...touch...stubble." I rolled over and just let the tears flow. And flow. And flow. He felt horrible, but it was an honest moment that I've never forgotten. I had let a total stranger have his way with my hair, and now my own soulmate couldn't even touch it.

Never again, I vowed. Never again will I give free rein to someone with scissors.

Friday, April 08, 2011

G is for God

Continuing with the A-Z Challenge,

today's letter is G. G is for God.

Here is what I believe about God, summarized in the Apostles' Creed. The words below were put to the beautiful music of Rich Mullins, who sings while playing the hammered dulcimer in this video clip. My husband and I were huge fans of this young man, and had the privilege of hearing him in concert twice before his fatal car accident in 1997. I will give Rich a big hug when I see him in heaven and thank him for his timeless tunes that speak to my soul.


I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ
His only begotten Son, our Lord
He was conceived by the Holy Spirit
Born of the virgin Mary
Suffered under Pontius Pilate
He was crucified and dead and buried

And I believe what I believe
Is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me
It is the very truth of God and not
The invention of any man

I believe that He who suffered
Was crucified, buried, and dead
He descended into hell and
On the third day, rose again
He ascended into Heaven where
He sits at God's mighty right hand
I believe that He's returning to
Judge the quick and the dead
Of the sons of men


I believe it, I believe it
I believe it
I believe it, I believe it

I believe in God the Father almighty
Maker of Heaven and Maker of Earth
And in Jesus Christ His only begotten Son,
Our Lord
I believe in the Holy Spirit
One Holy Church, the communion of Saints
The forgiveness of sin
I believe in the resurrection
I believe in a life that never ends

Thursday, April 07, 2011

F is for Favorite Childhood Things

Favorite candy: Pop Rocks and Pixi Stix. My sister Andrea was always the most enterprising of the girls. I remember when Pop Rocks came on the market; she
would buy them for 10 cents each and sell them for a quarter because kids wanted them so badly. She capitalized on the principle of supply-and-demand at the tender age of seven.

Favorite Color: purple

Favorite room: At our farmhouse in Dublin, Maryland. I had a purple, crushed velvet bedspread. The only thing that spoiled it was a part near the pillow area where the cat had peed. That 12-inch round spot remained permanently crusty.

Now that I've whetted (wetted?) your appetite, let me tell you about my...
Favorite food as a kid. Grilled cheese and tomato soup that my mom fixed every Sunday after church at Alden.

Favorite pet: Brandy, our horse. She was a chestnut Morgan-Thoroughbred, technically a pony at 14.2 hands, who loved to run but hated to jump. Picture that love/hate relationship with a rider (me) on her back, approaching the jump at 462 mph. The thrill for both of us stopped when she did. Typically that was 18 inches in front of the jump. But truly, I loved her. Trust me.

Favorite vacation: We didn't take many, but I loved our trip to Colorado except for the camping. My parents didn't have experience with tents and such, but I remember the best part was breakfast. My mom bought those miniature cereal boxes --the kind that come in an 8-pack or 12-pack and are high in sugar. I still remember reaching for a dwarf-sized box of Sugar Pops (as they were called before Kellogg's changed it to Corn Pops) , and Frosted Flakes the next. We never got sugary cereals at home unless we put sugar on our Shredded Wheat. (You know, because everyone needs some sweet sandpaper to cleanse their palettes and colons from time to time.) In Colorado, we went horseback riding through Estes Park and my little sister Andrea pretended we were "real live cowgirls." We were higher than the Rockies on Sugar Pops, so high we probably could've ridden to Oregon without refueling.

Favorite toy: Lincoln Logs

Favorite celebrity: Olympic ice skater Peggy Fleming held regal status in my mind. I watched her on TV, read books about her, and pretended to be her as I skated around the linoleum kitchen floor in socks. I remember one day a boy at school asked me the riddle, "What's green and skates?...Peggy Phlegm." If it wasn't so funny, I might've smacked him.

Favorite fast food joint: I'm old enough to remember the first fast food restaurant I ever went to, which was fairly new: Wendy's. She looked like Pippi Longstocking. But fast food was a rare treat until we moved to Maryland. Then my dad started taking the family after church to lunch at Hardee's so that Mama wouldn't have to cook. One time we went with friends. The kids sat at one booth,the adults behind them at another. Well, the friends had two teenage boys, Kevin and Michael, who sat across from each other and thought it would be fun to squirt each other with ketchup packets. It would have been funnier--or maybe it was funnier because--Kevin missed. Phyoop! Deep red Heinz ketchup hit my mom instead--right in the bosom on her pale pink dress.

Favorite subject: penmanship

Favorite song:" Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" and "Fairest Lord Jesus." If you find the connection, do tell.

Favorite gifts: 1) a musical jewelry box with a ballerina wearing a pink tutu. 2) a multi-colored overnight bag and 3) vinyl rainbow-strap sandals with one-inch heels. I think the heels landed me the part of Amaryllis in "The Music Man." I actually looked more like Shirley Temple on the good ship Lollipop, what with my chubby cheeks and brunette ringlets.

How about you? Remember some favorite things from your childhood?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

E is for Epitome, Woven into a Wednesday Hodgepodge

E is for epitome,
With accent on the pit.
The man who stressed the "ep" instead
Was standing in the pulpit.

"Excuse me, Preacher," said my brain,
(my tongue stayed put, for once)
"Would you please say that again
for giggles, snorts, and grunts?"

Two for the price of one today, folks. I'm managing to combine my "E" word of the A-Z challeng with a meme I enjoy too much to forego during the challenge. Thanks, Joyce, for coming up with great Hodgepodge questions every week.

1. National Read a Road Map Day falls on April 5th. Would people say you have a good sense of direction? Do you rely on a GPS when you drive somewhere new? When was the last time you used a map?

People who would answer this question about me would say no, I don't have a good sense of direction. But I would say they're wrong. How can you be a geography teacher and not have a good sense of direction? Well, I will admit that I have called my husband on many occasions when driving to some of the very places I've been before. I call moreso because I'd rather double-check than double-back.

I have a good sense of direction in terms of knowing where things are in relation to outerspace. In other words, I can picture things from an aerial view. However, an aerial view is not all that handy when you're lost in a bad neighborhood after dark. On the ground. With your gas tank on E.

I hate the GPS. They're the epitome of frustrating technology. I've gotten lost using it to going to Ladew Gardens, a lovely sprawling topiary masterpiece here in northern Maryland. Had we not used the GPS, my sister and I would've gotten there in the usual 45 minutes. Good thing we had some "catching up time" to do as sisters separated by half a continent, because the two of us (and she is a master navigator) relied on the darn device and arrived in a mere 110 minutes.

I'd rather be given written directions from a local. They're the EPpy-tome of helpful in getting me from point A to point B.

2. What's your favorite cookbook?

Cookies & Bread Recipes, a collection of ...well, cookies and bread recipes...put together by a group of homeschoolers back in the mid-1990's (before h.s'ing was an acceptable educational form in modern culture). The darling little cookbook features my daughter Sarah's and my son Stephen's drawings when th
ey were just 6 and 4, respectively. The spiral-bound booklet, printed on heavy cardstock, was sold to the visitors at our Defender's Day Celebration in Fort Howard, Maryland. I seldom actually use the book; it's a priceless treasure for the artwork alone!

3. What painting would you like to "walk into" and experience? Why?

Part of me wants to walk into da Vinci's "Last Supper" and just grab Judas by the throat and yell, "Don't you get it, man? Do you have any idea what Jesus is saying to you? Are you a MORON? A DERELICT? A FOOL?" And then I think, "Watch it, Zo. You'd be on holy ground in that picture, and besides, how many times has Jesus NOT taken YOU by the throat when YOU are being every bit as moronic, derelict, and foolish?" (I was going to say "derelicious," but that wasn't exactly the nuance I was going for.)

4. What annoys you more-- misspellings or mispronunciations?

Oh, boy. I would say misspellings annoy me. Mispronunciations usually amuse me. You can always tell who reads widely but hasn't actually heard the word they're using. Right context, wrong sound . Or, in the case I always think of, "right church, wrong pew" is a fitting cliche. We had a pastor when we were first married who was talking about a "cuh-MUL-a-tive effect" of praying often for someone. To this day, my hubby and I tease each other when we hear the word "cumulative." He'll say, "Watch out. If you do that over and over, it'll have a cuh-MUL-a-tive effect." The same pastor talked about the Bible being the "EPpy-tome" of all written instruction on godly living. Granted, it is quite a big tome, but Paul and I still chuckle when we hear the word "epitome."

5. What is something your mother or father considered important?

Good spelling and proper pronunciation.

6. Do you like or dislike schedules?

I love my own, and like others' if they fit into mine. No, seriously, I like schedules that have "free time" built into them on purpose. I work better with deadlines as long as I can count on sanity breaks. However, I do NOT like getting out of the house before 9:30 a.m, so one day a week it's a real squeeze on my natural rhythm to get to my teaching job. Sundays can test my Christianity, too, given I have to be at church by 9:52 in order to get five seats together-- and I refuse to be ushered all the way to the front. My pride is harder to lose than weight.

7. Let's have some fun with National Poetry Month (that would be April)...write your own ending to this poem-

"Roses are Red
Violets are blue...
Can you pronounce "cumulative"
and "epitome," too?

Incidentally, if you'd like to read the history behind that little ditty you'll find it here.

8. Insert your own random thought in this space.
I'm starting to learn to use Picnik for photo editing, thanks to Lea. I hope to post new and better pictures soon and have fun playing with the various tools. It looks easy enough for a derelicious techno-moron like me.