Saturday, June 28, 2014

NYC, Part 3: Mystical Transport and other Impressions

 So, as I was saying...

we took this field trip to NYC with my son's sixth grade class--a very small class from a very small school.

One of the most memorable things we experienced was the absolutely beautiful, sensational  opera singer filling the subway station with her voice. I think it was undoubtedly the most mesmerizing, glorious sound I've ever heard. And I didn't understand one word of it. I was just enthralled. We all stopped to stare and listen, like snakes being charmed by  a flute.

Look closely and you'll see her standing alone in the third "frame" from the right.

The subway platform being her stage, she'd take large steps,  first stage right, then stage left, slowly, dramatically. Acoustics in a subway rival Carnegie Hall, no doubt.

Funny how the most memorable sights are not really sights at all. 
They go much deeper into your memory than anything visual. 

Music is a form of transportation all its own. 
Like the cars that take miners deep into the earth in search of coal or diamonds, music can carry our souls into places where treasures lie, 
mysteriously hidden below the surface.

But then there are the quintessential sights 
that leave impressions on our minds. 

One impression I had was that Lady Liberty has mighty masculine arms. 

 Another impression, tested in real time by yours truly: 

Trash cans on ferries are not the answer to the question "What can I hold on to?"

because the answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind.

Better to have a strong travel companion at your side. 

Better to have a strong travel companion at your side.  Preferably one with masculine arms. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Luzonu for Breakfast is the Best, Mss. Z

For all of the difficulties that led to my daughter's choosing to resign from teaching this year, 
a few things make us smile. 

One is always the creative spelling from little kids.  

This first grade assignment was to tell about their favorite birthday celebration. 
They had to have a "first, next, and finally" sequence in their writing. 

I walked around checking their work, grinning mostly. 
My favorite was one written about lasagna by a Vietnamese boy.

I need this kid's mom's recipe for "luzonu". 

On the back, he had written, "Finally for diner I got luzonu a gen. It was a grate britday."


I got to be in the classroom almost every Thursday, volunteering to help with phonics, reading, and writing, and sometimes math. Invariably someone would draw a picture or write me a note.   Here's one of the last I received.

They called my daughter "Ms.  Z."  I guess because I have more years on her,  the logical way to spell my married title is to is to add more S's.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Sunny Days Keeping the Clouds Away in the Hodgepodge

Ever since I read the HP questions yesterday, the Sesame Street theme song has been going through my head.

Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

No, but here's how to get to other Hodgepodgers when you're finished reading and commenting on mine. Commenting is like candy to me--a little goes a long way, but the more of it, the merrier I am.

1. What summer activity most takes you back to your own childhood?

Eating a Freezy-Pop.  Is that an acitivity? If not, then swimming in a horse-trough-turned-kiddie pool or playing Kick the Can or riding wild ponies. I have not done any of those things for a very long time and only foresee the eating a Freezy Pop as feasible for ever happening again.

2. What's your favorite summer smell?   

a salty ocean

3. It's beach season in the US of how do you feel about sand?

As long it's on the beach between my toes (and not scalding hot), I love it. Otherwise, not a fan.

4. Sun tea, SunChips, sunflower seeds, Capri Sun, Sunny Delight, Sun-Maid raisins, sun-dried tomatoes...your favorite food or beverage with sun in its name?

sundae, as in hot fudge

5. What's your favorite way to cool off on a hot summer day?

swimming in a private pool with only my family or girlfriends around

6. Share a favorite song with the word sun or sunshine in it's title.

The Noah's ark song from Sunday school has this fun line: 

"the sun came out and dried up the landy-landy, 
Everything was fine and dandy-dandy, children of the Lord."

7. Tell us about a time you had an exceedingly good or truly awful customer service experience. If it was awful, did you report it? Ever go back there again?

Very recently I had a mixed experience at the very same shop, oddly enough. For fun I went to a new-to-me store that sells sewing machines, quilting fabric, and big appliances.  I was going for the purpose of test driving a larger Janome sewing machine that I can actually quilt something larger than a doll quilt with ease. 

The lady there, Emily, was very helpful. She asked my needs and price point, and took me directly to the machine that would suit me.  Easy, breezy machine with a "big bed" (space from needle to body of machine on the right). Emily answered all my questions, didn't push, but showed me the fun and the wisdom of buying this particular model. They match the online price, plus give a year of free service and classes. Her enthusiasm was infectious, not annoying. However, as soon as the demo was over, she disappeared to the back, behind a partial wall to do some work, and only the men in the shop who were repairing machines were available. But they were eerily quiet and seemed disinterested.  I can be talked into a purchase if I'm in a good mood, if you chat with me, but as it turned out, I only purchased 1.5 yards of fabric and even then, the guy at the cutting table didn't say a word. I'll go back to buy the machine eventually, but won't go out of my way to shop there (and it is very much out of my way).

They should hire me. Quilters are chatty folk. I would chat up customers until they spent at least $50 at the register!  Whatcha making? Oh, how nice. Do you have the backing for that quilt? Have you seen this ruler that would speed up the cutting? Our thread is on sale...

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

My friend who has cancer will be having surgery in the next couple weeks, and then chemo for several months.  This is reality and I can't believe I'm typing it. One of my closest friends. Cancer. Chemo. I'm going to be there for her--for prayer ,making meals for the family, taking her to appointments, cleaning, making her laugh when I can. 
Please pray. It's a tough road ahead.  I might pull back from blogging--or I might not. Sometimes it's what I need.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

To His Bride of One Year

Today marks the first wedding anniversary of our son Steve and daughter-in-law Ambrey.  He has written a beautiful blog post  that is just beyond sweet.

God has truly blessed us all with this young woman who loves, completes, and blesses our son every day as his wife.

His post inspires me to be a better wife by what he says about his wife.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Hard News in a Respectable Hodgepodge

After a much-needed break from posting the Hodgepodge questions (which leads to answering her own questions, also time-consuming) our hostess Joyce has come back with a throught-provoking-as-usual collection of questions. If you're new here, 
why not give this meme a whirl. There are no wrong answers. Gotta love that!

1. Since you weren't Hodgepodging last Wednesday, how did you pass the time?

I was waiting and praying for one of my three closest friends while she and her husband were at the doctor's office. 

Thursday her suspicions were confirmed: she has breast cancer.   I can't explain the shock and sadness in my heart.  I'd rather like to believe it's just a bad dream, or that it's not another one of my friends with this diagnosis. (I lost a friend, Diane, last September to this wicked disease.) 

But I have a peace that God is right here for with all of us as we walk this difficult journey together. 

My waiting was done with a heavy heart on Wednesday, then with busy hands Thursday as I helped my daughter pack up her classroom for good.  As in not coming  back because she resigned from teaching after just two years. 

She had gone into teaching believing she could make a difference in kids' lives; I truly think she did. But she was in a very difficult school (think inner city but in the county) with a toxic environment of distrust among staff, parents who (70 percent) showed no involvement in school life. Reporting child abuse, dealing with Common Core, having no social life to speak of because she was always planning lessons, collecting data, grading papers, or reeling from a harsh evaluation from superiors.  Crying herself to sleep after work for weeks on end.  Stomach issues and stress migraines most days after school. She couldn't take it any more.  

Cancer in a friend and heartbreak in a daughter. That's how I spent the first days of summer vacation.

2. What's the first word that comes to mind when I say marriage? Yes, one word. 


3. Summer officially arrives in the Northern hemisphere later this week. Does it feel like summer where you live? Describe your idea of the perfect summer day.

Yes, it absolutely does.  87 degrees, humidity, frizzy curls, a chronically panting dog, air conditioning, zero desire to cook...yup, feels like summer!  

My idea of the perfect summer day: 86 degrees, sunshine, on a speedboat, with family, without a schedule, getting tanned but not burned, and then having a crab feast with Maryland steamed crabs and 
corn on the cob.

4"Deep summer is when laziness finds respectability."(Sam Keen) Is laziness ever respectable? Do you have a lazy summer planned, or something semi-ambitious?

Gotta tell my age here: when I hear the word "respectable" I am immediately transported in my mind back to the year I turned 16 when the word "respectable" was the slang term for "awesome" or "really cool."   Example:  A souped-up Camaro was so respectable. Here comes the most respectable wave! Having a day off work --respectable. A sexy boyfriend is crazy respectable.  

So I'm gonna couch my answer in that sense of the word: laziness, once in a while, is uber respectable.  Ha!

As for my summer plans, funny you should ask. Yesterday I wrote a list of 50 things I want to accomplish this summer.  Most can't be done from the porch swing or on a speedboat, but I do like a relaxed summer routine.

5. Past or present, who's your favorite television dad? Why is he a favorite? Is he anything like your own dad?

Charles Ingalls.  Very much like my dad--handsome, smart, musically inclined, God-fearing, adored his wife, exalted his children, took good care of animals, loved to work the ground, sense of humor.  
6. June 18th is International Picnic Day...share a favorite picnic memory.

My most memorable picnic was the one to celebrate our engagement. It wasn't officially an engagement party, because no one had those back then in my circle  of peers.  But Paul had popped the question in January, and this was July, my grandmother from California was visiting and meeting him for the first time.  Paul and I had a romantic kiss on a footbridge at the local park where we were all picnicking.   

I have a picture of that somewhere but I am being lazy not to go find it. 
Am I still respectable?

7. The travel site Trip Advisor lists the top five islands in the world for 2014 as-Ambergris Caye in Belize CayesProvidenciales in Turks and CaicosBora Bora in French PolynesiaMarco Island Florida, and Lewis and Harris in The Outer Hebrides (Scotland). Have you been to any of these? Of those listed (and if price were not a factor) which would you most like to book for a holiday?

I've not been to any of those.  I would choose Bora Bora today if price were not a factor.
8.  Insert your own random thought here.

The good news for my daughter is that she feels a huge weight has been lifted off her shoulders. And she landed a full-time nanny job, has already met the 3 and 1 year old who live on the water. Not too shabby. Mama will be visiting them, you can bet!

The good news for my friend is that her cancer is "the normal kind," which I think means treatable and survivable. 

Oh, and one more sad thing we heard last week: the youth pastor is leaving.  Seems if you can count on something, it's change. Just as you're getting settled in...

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

From the New York Islands: For Better or For Wurst

Did you know that the Statue of Liberty sits on Liberty Island and that, together with Ellis Island, the two comprise one national park? They are just a ferry ride apart. Provided you have sea legs and iron clad innards, it's really a lovely ride.

Oh, I think I made too much of my very mild motion sickness in my last post. I really was fine.  The water was calm and the sun was shining and no middle schooler or their parents were complaining about a thing, so all was peachy-keen.  (Anyone remember that phrase from the 80's?) 

Upon reaching Ellis Island, we sort of moved as a herd with the masses through the museum . Rather symbolic, huh?

First stop: the bathroom.  Would you imagine that a place that once registered all those immigrants at the rate of up to 10,000 people a day might have a ladies' room with more than two stalls in it? 

Me too. 

Two stalls. Twenty ladies in the queue out the door. You do the math. This was after breakfast, a 3.5 hour car ride from home, some coffee, a hearty bag lunch,some water, and a long walk to the ferry. And then the ferry ride itself.

A mighty short venture compared to the one all our ancestors endured from other continents. But still, when you're a woman of my age, having birthed quads (not all at  once, but might as well have), you stay on the lookout for signs that feature a silhouette wearing a dress.

Anyway, enough about continents and incontinence;  shall I show a few pictures? Some of you actually asked to see more.

Really?  You want to see more of someone else's "vacation" pictures? Well, okay, then.

The inside of Ellis Island was much prettier than I'd expected.  Arched windows, grand chandeliers, lots of marble.  Somewhat museum-a-fied over the years, but the original "good bones" are there.

My son was "registering"  by answering questions about his health, age, mental acuity, work skills, gender and marital status, and willingness to work.  He correctly checked that he was healthy, of sound mind (debatable at times), able to build railroads (I'm just making that up), willing to work, and single. Unfortunately, he had accidentally checked that he was a 12 year old GIRL, so was immediately rejected for both employment and housing without a parent.

Had he checked that he was male over 18 and married, he might not have been deported.

Had he checked that he was single over 18, meeting a girlfriend here, he would have been required to marry her before leaving the island.

Depending on the girlfriend options, he might have chosen deportation.

Who knows how many couples got hitched here without getting to know each other better--or first?
Desperate times call for desperate measures, as they say.

He says he's glad he didn't have to worry about any of that. Being in a foreign country, jobless, homeless, and quickly saying "I do" in exchange for liberty was an idea he'd never had to entertain before.

Oh, the freedoms we all take for granted.

Sample menu: we told him with his Polish-German heritage, he would probably have chosen kielbasa
or wurst.

Faces upon seeing loved ones again for the first time in a very long time. Look at the little boy saluting on the front row.

Beauty now...

Not the same experience then...

We had to push through crowds. Couldn't stop too long at any one place. Acutely aware of the many languages I heard being spoken around me, though unable to understand any.  Hot. Hungry. Trying to keep an eye on the leader. Afraid of getting lost in the shuffle.

Again, mighty symbolic experience.

Next up: Statue of Liberty ...

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Big Apple Trip, Part 2

This would be a trip involving multiple modes of transportation (mainly our feet), multiple bathroom stops for the moms, and multiple times when our leader, the sixth grade teacher (AKA Mr. B), would gather us together, do a head count, and then break into a huge smile when he'd say, "18! Yes! We've never lost anyone on a field trip."

First stop, Penn Station. I kept my camera tucked securely away.
Second stop, a bathroom for one of the moms. It wasn't me, honest!

So, we made our way through Penn Station, having issued the warnings to the kids to keep their electronics and money hidden, to stay close to their chaperons (ie mom or dad, since each student had one or more).

The day was beautiful. This overcast sky kept us comfortably cool for walking to our two main destinations of the day.

I saw our kids snapping photos left and right and thought how times had changed since I was their age. I would have had a Kodak Insta-matic with 24 exposures on it, or 36 since this was a special occasion.

Signs and sights to the left of this sidewalk reminded us of the damage brought to this area by Superstorm Sandy.  Lives and homes have been under reconstruction since that terrible event.

When you're twelve living two or three states away,  events like that seem like a long time ago in a land far, far away.

Aaaah.   The innocence of youth.

Next we boarded the ferry  that would take us to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty .
Funny how I had blocked out the memory of a ferry ride I once took
to Alcatraz Island.  Let's just say it felt like doing time.

I  tried to stay away from the edge of the boat so that my lunch would stay down. The pole had been my "base" to which I clung like a kid not wanting to be "it"in a game of tag.  Because "it" would not be pretty in my version of the game.

 But for a picture, I gave up my post because I wanted the flag and the harbor and part of the skyline in the background.  So I handed the camera to one of the gang and that was that.   Then I went back to my base.

I wasn't the only one on "base."  Here are two more bake sale moms trying not to toss their cookies.

Anyway, there was neither drama nor Dramamine on board, so hooray!

These silly girls pretended to be overcome with emotion upon seeing the Statue. 

So maybe there was a little drama. Hey, they're preteen girls. And this is New York. 
What do you expect? 

Next stop: Ellis Island, where there is a bathroom that doesn't rock.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

In a New York State of Mind with Sixth Graders

Perhaps the title should be "Were We Out of Our Minds to Go to New York with Sixth Graders?"

No, not at all. We (hubby and I) had a wonderful time, and I attribute much of it to the fact that there were more chaperons than students. My son attends a small Christian school and there are only nine kids in his sixth grade class. Eight of those kids were able to go on this overnighter to the city that never sleeps.

"I'm so glad that there is a 1:1 ratio of parents to children here," said the teacher before we took off.

My son leaned over to a friend and said, quite audibly, "Or in my case, 2 to 1."

I then leaned over to another mom and said, also quite audibly, "Some kids need 2 to 1."

Truth told, a trip to New York City has been on my 101 in 1001 list and I really wanted to make it a family memory. And for safety and navigational reasons, I wanted my husband to be with us. He was quite an asset to the leader when certain things didn't go as planned. My husband is good at flexing and thinking fast on his feet. He also has a terrific sense of direction and stamina extraordinaire.

One last bathroom break ("at least try" we perfunctorily tell the kids before leaving), a set of written directions,  a primer on safety,  and we're off! All those bake sales have put fuel in our tanks and wind in our proverbial sails.

We drove up to the New Jersey side of New York in five cars. I rode with a mom to get to know her better; hubby  rode with the leader  to get to know him better  because riding with two chatty women is not his idea of a fun trip   I suggested it.

Our son rode with his best friend and the friend's dad .   God bless that man. Those two boys talk as much as two girls. And they giggle as much, too, and they do guy stuff that's only funny to guys, and the dad didn't mind.  Or so he says.

The girls split up into various cars, ready for 3.5 hours of non-stop talk themselves. If there's one thing I never tire of, it's the happy excitement of children about to experience something new together.

---to be continued---

Thursday, June 05, 2014

Getting Ready for NYC: A Different Kind of Preparation H

We all know that the real Preparation H is a medicine to treat hemorrhoids.  I'm not talking about that; I'm talking about the preparation of Hair, Hound, and House when embarking on a trip.

Those three priorities take top slot even before packing. I won't dare discuss packing here; that's a whole 'nother post, and then some.

I made sure to get my own hair done a few days prior to our adventure in the Big Apple. After all, isn't New York all about hair?   I could at least pretend that the way I looked after Monica waved her magic wand would be the way I looked while marching through Manhattan with middle schoolers.

Monica humored me when I said I waned a picture with her. She was slightly embarrassed by the irony of having her own bad hair day. The bobby pin holding back your bangs is not the look your stylist wants to be captured in, but I begged. Besides, I was having a  bad face day, so we were even.

I begged her and I asked her co-worker to take a shot because Monica has been an important part of my life for three years.

We always take pictures of family and friends, but someday we'll wish we had pictures of the special folks who made us feel like movie stars every time we stepped out of their chair.

I hate selfies, but I like the giggles we shared trying to get a decent one. 

Why do people look in two different directions at the same camera? 


Okay, so now that my hair was done, it was time to tend to the details of my four-legged friend.

When you have a dog, you have to either kennel the beast or have someone come in to look after him.
And his hair was out of control, too. He needed a complete makeover, so off to the groomer went Reilly.

Ears, feet, nails, and anals.  Boy, am I ever glad my beauty treatment doesn't include ALL of that. As I said, we're not talking about the REAL Preparation H.

Stay tuned for the "after" picture of my beloved hound.

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

15 Miles, 76 Trombones, and an 8-Question Hodgepodge

1. I've read several posts and status updates recently describing end of year school field trips. Do you remember taking school field trips as a kid? Where did you go and do you recall a favorite? For any parents responding today, have you ever chaperoned a school field trip, and if so where?

I remember only ONE field trip from my school days. Isn't that sad? Surely we took more, but really, all I remember is a trip to Philadelphia with my 5th grade class. I remember the crack in the Liberty Bell,  I remember the Planetarium, and I remember that it really was where I fell in love with American history. 

As for me, I've taken kids on umpteen field trips as a homeschool mom and a few as a 5th/6th grade teacher.  I'm a firm believer in them and so is the principal of our little Christian school .  This year alone I chaperoned  a trip to the Meyerhoff for a concert, to the nursing home to sing to the residents, and ...

most recently as a parent chaperon I went with my husband and 7 other adults with our son's 6th grade class to New York City!!!  That was just this past weekend, so I'll be blogging our wonderful experience in that  electric place. 

In two days, we walked more than 15 miles. Someone tracked it on her fitness app.

Here's a sneak peak:  (when we were only about 459 steps into our trip)

2. What's something you're tired of seeing online?

Self-promoting people.  I am tired mainly of people promoting their own book all over Facebook.  Every other status is about their book.  I also don't like when people with a business or a band will not give it a rest.  It comes across as very self-serving and arrogant.  If I ever publish a book or start my own business, please remind me of this very thing.

3. June is the month for roses. Which of the following expressions would you say has most recently applied to your life-'everything's coming up roses', 'there's no rose without a thorn', 'came out smelling like a rose', or 'wearing rose-colored glasses'? 

No rose without a thorn.  The "rose" I received last week was the diagnosis that was the best of the possibilities: I have a labral tear in my right shoulder.  A tear in the labrum is not as bad as a rotator cuff tear nor frozen shoulder. In my case no surgery is needed at this time. But the "thorn" I got was a cortisone shot (ouch!) and the prescription to start physical therapy, which I know is going to hurt. 

4. When grilling outdoors do you prefer gas or charcoal? Who does the grilling at your house? What's the last thing you ate that was cooked on a grill?

Gas.  Who has time for charcoal?  My husband does 75% of the grilling.  Last thing I ate that was cooked on a grill was on Mother's Day at my son's house. I had a burger. 

5. Are you afraid of the dark?

No and yes.  Not afraid of the dark for sleeping (in fact, the only way I can fall deeply asleep is in the pitch black darkness).  But I get freaked out if I don't or  can't see a darn thing or I've not got a clue where I am. 

6. Share a favorite song with a number in its  title.

"76 Trombones"  takes me back to being on stage playing Amaryllis in "The Music Man" when I was 11 years old.

7. "Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves."(C.G. Jung). Do you agree? Why or why not?

Absolutely agree. In fact, my mom always has always said, "Suspicion of others comes from the knowledge of oneself."   Chances are, everything that irritates me in someone else is only because the tendency toward it in myself and wish it weren't there.   A few examples: impulsiveness, overtalking, sometimes being obtuse, selfishness, a take-charge attitude that borders on controlling, a "that's just the way I am and always will be" statement that sounds like justification for a character flaw when there is one that needs to be changed. 

8.  Insert your own random thought here.

I took a picture of this placard at Ellis Island. What do you think of the "dilemma"?