Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Honesty by a Nose

Cub Sweetheart and I are just off a week-long jaunt of keeping two of our younger grandkids - 24/7 and as the days rolled one into another, the kids got more and more comfortable with us.

Somewhere in the middle of that time we were driving down the road in our grey minivan. Us in the front, the two of them in the middle, strapped into sticky booster seats.

Riding along, they were chattering to each other and we were having some adult conversation. Out of the blue the 5 year old said in a loud, clear voice, 'Papa, I used to pick my boogers.'

Papa, with a straight face, said, 'really? Nahhhhh!'

'Oh yes I did, and brother did too.'

Then a laugh bubbled up out of her, til her whole face was stretched to the limits with a cheshire cat-like grin, and she clapped her hands in delight at the funniness of it all.

Remember Papa? Back when I was little Papa, and I picked boogers?

She proceeded to explain, 'but I don't anymore. And neither does brother. Because we're big. We're not babies anymore.'

In the front seat we kept looking ahead, thinking over her delight in confessing behavior that she thought only appropriate for someone far younger than she was now. Finally not able to be serious a minute more, we both busted out laughing over her confession, her delight over telling us, and her relishing the fact that she had actually participated in what she saw as awful behavior to begin with. Scandalous!

What if we were all as honest as a five year old? What if we held nothing back, admitted we are human, prone to failures and fears and doubts and all the disgusting and disappointing and completely human traits that make us just that - human? What if we felt safe enough and had the courage or audacity to speak aloud those things we never even whisper to anyone?

'I, Bev, used to pick my nose. I don't anymore, or at least not very often, and certainly not when I'm sitting at a red light, because now I'm big.'

Food for thought for sure. 

Monday, May 25, 2015


Growing up, I never once visited the grave of a relative who'd died. I don't remember ever standing in a cemetery, at a funeral. Whatever funerals our family had, the kids stayed home. We weren't the kind of family that had reunions in parks on holidays. The closest we came was Christmas at Grandma Fanny's house, where the kids ate as fast as we could, then went and played in the creek we'd been told to stay out of.

My husband grew up much differently than me. His relatives had moved around the country together, searching for work, finding it farming others' fields then their own. They stayed in one place for years and years, and there are cemeteries with groups of headstones that bear their family name.

The only cemetery I've visited where I saw my maiden name on a headstone is a national one, with rows and rows of white sameness. No bigger and smaller plots, no rose bushes planted, or little figurines left behind.

Memorial Day, for Cub Sweetheart, was a not-to-be-missed family day, spent cleaning up the family burial plot. Weeds were pulled and bushes and flowers planted, then a meal was spread in a park nearby. Consequently even in my adult years I came to think of Memorial Day as a day to remember family members who'd died.

Memorial Day for remembering family. Veteran's Day for soldiers.

If there ever was a lesson otherwise, I missed it.

Now I get it that what, according to Wikipedia, possibly started with a day of remembering departed family members and ended in cream pies, was actually intended to remember our armed forces - those who died serving and those who served at all.

Cub Sweetheart's family never missed a single Memorial Day together. Their family plots were cleaned up, tidy and boasting flowers to declare to anyone who saw that THEY had remembered. I have to suppose they lost men to war. Of course not all who went away to serve came home, even in pine boxes. My mother-in-law was a strong woman, of strong opinions and well-set patriotism, but I never once spoke with her about war and such. I wish I had. Looking back, I wish I knew what she thought, how she felt, and being born in 1912, what she remembered. A rich experience I missed out on, and now can't share with her grandkids and great-grandkids.

Although I don't have the memory of honoring that day, we had one cousin who went to war in Vietnam as a young man. He came back in a box. I can still recall standing outside my aunt's and uncle's house, all the young cousins,  talking about him. There wouldn't be a funeral because he'd been 'shot up'. I don't even remember his name, or which family branch he came from.

I won't be cleaning up any graves today, or spreading a meal in a park, but I do now understand what the day means. Especially in the world we live in today, one where wars run one into another, and many of us question if there will ever be true peace in the Middle East.  I will remember that many have died so that the mundane things that make up my day, my life, are mundane, expected. The taking for granted speaks a blessing in itself. Once a year it's good to remember that the mundane, routine, expected are not, and never have been, free. We'll fly a flag on our house to remember all those who paid a price, for my unnamed cousin and so many others.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Dream Comes True

Awhile back I posted that I was considering starting a book club in our neighborhood. I'd hoped we had one already up and running. Alas, we did not.

So I put the word out through our neighborhood website and the few women I knew. Was anyone interested? I gauged interest and read two books on HOW to start a book club, and scheduled a first get-together.

I'm so happy to say that as of this week we're up and running! We spent two and a half hours going through the mechanics of it all. Charter members get to decide the hows of everything, which we did while sipping wine and tea, and eating little frosted cookies. Everyone needs an excuse, now and then, to eat those cookies that are 25% butter and flour, and 75% thick, gooey frosting.

Eight of us, so far, will start meeting this coming September, at each other's homes, and we'll spend half our time yakking and half of it talking about the book. At least that's the plan.

Here's our not-quite-completed book list:

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Rachel Joyce (available today on Kindle for $1.99 BTW)

The Borderland, Edwin Schrake (Texas history)

Beautiful Ruins, Jess Walter

All Girl Filling Station's Last Reunion, Fannie Flagg

Snowflower and the Secret Fan, Lisa See

Killing Lincoln, Bill O'Reilly

We've got two slots left, and two members who didn't make the meeting, so they'll get to suggest books for us. Our parameters were no science fiction (I just read Time Machine!), nothing gory, no bodice ripping romances, and avoid intense political and religious discussions if possible.

One of our members has been in another book club for 12 years, and she said one of the biggest benefits is that she reads books she'd never choose on her own. I've already read two of the books on our list, and will enjoy re-reading them, and discussing them. I've never read anything by Bill O'Reilly, so that should be interesting. The other books on the list I have never even heard of, and it's always fun to get to know a new author.

So there you go - our 18ish years old neighborhood has a book club for the very first time. Makes me feel a little like that girl, 50 odd years ago, standing at the corner of my street, and taking a step up into the Bookmobile. All those shelves full of books, and I could take any of them I wanted home with me, as long as it wasn't more than three at a time.

The club's readings for this year will take me to a small English village, through the state of Texas in the mid 1800's, the coast of Italy in the 1960's, throughout the midwest and beyond, during the 1940's, 19th century China and Washington D.C. during the spring of 1865.

All this for the cost of dinner for two at Chili's - under $40.

I have no memories of learning to read, of struggling over words, sounding them out. Somewhat like being married and being a mother, I barely remember otherwise. I do have vivid memories of hours and hours spent at the local library, walking up and down the aisles, pondering all the books on the shelves. The wonderment that I can take any of them home with me has never paled.  Indeed, being in a library or bookstore full of books, I feel a bit like the Dr. Seuss book, 'Oh the Places You'll Go'.

We've got two book slots left in our reading calendar. Any suggestions?

Off the top of my head I came up with Elegance of the Hedgehog (deep, abiding love), Orphan Train (took my breath away), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks (have but have not read), Me Before You (same).

Thanks again to all of you who left comments awhile back, when I was considering starting this. They were most helpful, and appreciated.


Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Deconstructing Penguins and Life

You know how you look forward to something for forever, then it flies by, and weeks roll by afterwards? That's where we are. We so anticipated our sort-of-impromptu-booked cruise, then it was here, and we spent a week sleeping, eating, reading and soaking up sun. Then we were back home, and life began to roll again.

That's the whole point, though, isn't it? We go away so we can come back home again.  Hopefully we come back with a renewed vigor for all the things that life consists of.

That renewed vigor led me to tackle a big ole book, Crime and Punishment, written forever ago with way too many Russian names, but I actually enjoyed it overall. Now I've picked up The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, another classic I somehow never read, but only 12 chapters versus the 41 that C&P boasted.

In the middle of those two, I grabbed another book - Deconstructing Penguins. The title comes from the book, Mr. Popper's Penguins, which I only read a few weeks ago, then I watched the movie with Jim Carrey, so if anyone out there is worried that I don't get enough variety in my reading or entertainment life, rest assured I do.

My daughter warned me I might not be interested in reading Deconstructing Penguins. It is, after all about teaching children to read, and my children are all grown readers, with children of their own.

It ended up fascinating me because it's about teaching children to really read, not as in learning to sound out the letters, and come up with words, but rather to read books and know what they are about. Read books and start thinking about life and how it affects them and the world all around them. It's all about figuring out protagonist, antagonist, plot, character, setting, etc through book clubs for elementary and middle school aged children, the thought of which never occurred to me. As dry as it might sound, it was actually really interesting, and mostly made me realize how little I know about really, really reading. Reading as in Deconstructing Penguins. Not just reading Crime and Punishment, but rather reading it to understand what the author was really trying to say.

I've kept a journal since the 1990's of almost every book I've read, and going back over the list I realized I've read very little that is substantial, or even memorable. The majority of my reads have been easy entertainment. Not that there's anything wrong with being entertained by reading, I'm all for that. I read three pretty much mindless books on our cruise because it was the perfect time for that very thing.

Reading Deconstructing Penguins made me realize children need to be taught, and can be taught, to really read in their early elementary years, not so they will understand the deeper meaning of books, but rather so that they'll start really thinking for themselves, pondering life in all its facets, as they are growing up.

A worthy quote from the book really struck me:
'Kids' self-esteem comes from the same source as adults' self-esteem: taking on something that seems hard at first and then doing better at it than you ever thought possible. Kids are hip: they know when they're being dumbed down, and no child develops genuine self-esteem from being praised for something he or she didn't work at." 
So I'm not knocking all those Nancy Drew reads; I personally read almost every single one, and it developed a love of reading in me. That type of reading was a place for my soul to anchor down during some tough growing up years, a solace from the storms raging about me, but I have to wonder, looking back, if someone had cared if I actually used my brain, what difference might that have made in my life? In the lives of others around me? In how I raised my own children?

Food for thought.


BTW Mr. Popper's Penguins is a delightful read, and a great conversation starter with children on pursuing what is really fulfilling, no matter what anyone else thinks about it.....

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Leaving and returning home

I'm barely home from a week at sea. I love how that sounds - 'a week at sea'. It sounds mysterious and full of adventure, when it was actually full of laziness and hours and hours of sleeping, dinners by candlelight that lasted more than thirty minutes, and days of sunning ourselves by the pool.

It was all beyond wonderful, restful and restorative, and I loved every minute but the very best part of it was walking in our back door.

Leaving does that - it enables us to come back home again. It allowed me time to re-appreciate how nourishing the familiar in life can be. My coffee cup, my pillow, my rooms and stuff, and my little dog jumping into my arms, welcoming me home.

BTW, If you don't have a dog, you should consider getting one just for the joy of being greeted so. Everyone needs to be adored now and then.

So I'm home, restored, and today feels like January 1 all over again, room for a fresh start on life. There's laundry, groceries, and a stack of mail, but there's also a calendar with lots of white space, a trip to the library later today, and a considering of menus that will whittle away from our middles the pounds added last week.

One thing I've accomplished this year is tons of reading. I've got more than a dozen books under my belt, and I'll be back soon to tell you about my favorites. 

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Little Cheesecakes

I've been following this blog for a year or so. Heather's life is radically different than mine, and maybe that's why it fascinates me? Or maybe she eats the way I wish I did? Or maybe it's that the title of her blog has 'Beauty' in it, and we can all use more of that in our lives, can't we? (You can find her in my sidebar, "Beauty that Moves'). It's worth a trip to her website to see her beautiful photographs.

I also follow her on Facebook and a few days ago she posted about mini cheesecakes. Hers were healthier and prettier than mine, but that's quite okay.

It was fun to pull out baking stuff, get the counter messy, and heat up the oven. BTW, does anyone else feel like our society is taking pictures like crazy, but only on our phones, and they never leave the phone? I'm guilty of that too, and decided to dust off my beautiful camera. Taking indoor photos of food is a talent I've yet to master.

 I've found this is is a great way to crush anything like graham crackers, vanilla wafers, etc. Also a great way to work out aggression - beat, crush those crumbs!

 These canisters were a shower gift to my mother-in-law, back in the early 40's. I love that they ended up living in my kitchen, after she'd used them for 50 years, and I get to treasure them now. And yes, the canister is labeled "sugar". I love to label things.

As you can see, I'm not a neat cook. I'm actually not a neat anything. You should see the floor of my sewing room when I'm working in it - threads and scraps all over the place.

They won't make the pages of a food magazine, but they will make tummies happy. I've invited a neighbor over - we've never actually seen each other, but met on the neighborhood website. She's coming over today to be my first ever knitting student. I figure I am still only an advanced beginner at best, but I know more than she does, and she wants to learn, so we're grabbing yarn and needles and mini cheesecakes.

What do you know how to do, or want to learn? Who can you invite over? Ask to have you over and teach you something?

Making our neighborhood just a bit smaller today, and who knows who she'll eventually teach to knit? She has a 7 year old daughter, so I'm hoping she'll at least pass it on to her.

The recipe I used is found HERE on all recipes. Sweet little Easter dessert too I'm thinking, and small enough to snack on in the afternoon without being too guilt-inducing. Perhaps even Heather snacks on these?


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring and dead muskrats

We're blessed with wonderful parks nearby. Parks with

 branches bursting forth with sweet little green buds, and

 furriness with a sense of adventure (look Mom, no hands!) , and

 they know when to take a break, and

 visitors with wisps of natural highlights that fight taming, and

 little boys who still act like little boys, and

 woody sermons, preaching of life springing forth, and

 reminders to take a break, or go out on a limb now and then, and

 visuals that what some would call weeds, we can choose to call something else, and

 reminders to go out where it's a little deeper, but keep your head up, and 

 sometimes what we thought held life just doesn't, and 

there are lessons on diving in, full throttle, and

sometimes it's okay to stick close to shore, and

a bad day of fishing is still better than the best day at work. 

Spring, alive and well all around us. We just have to take time to look for it. 


P.S. Littles first thought our creature was a beaver. Checked out tail. Then a rat. Then a muskrat, and after a few minutes of no movement, a dead muskrat. They thought it much more interesting than a live one. Oh to have the eyes of a child.