Thursday, August 28, 2008

School Daze

There's just something about the beginning of school - it brings a certain feeling to the air around me. I was only 5 when I began first grade. There was no kindergarten in our little Batesville, Arkansas town - and we lived way out in the boonies on a campground. But we had our own little built-in play group (which is what kindergarten was mostly in those days - now if they don't know their numbers, letters, colors, they're behind already!)


I have a September birthday, as does my sister, so we almost always got new dresses for school - usually some form of red plaid. I still get those feelings of excitement that are ingrained in my body when school starts - the smell of a school is the same everywhere, every generation.

My "official" first grade picture


Then the first day of college - oh, the excitement! Setting up the dorm room is top priority, of course.

When you're the teacher, there is another level of excitement and hard work - and panic! Especially that first year.


When you live in a neighborhood with lots of kids, as we did when our own family was growing, there is electrictricity in the air on that first day - especially when they all gathered and walked to school together. Those are our two blondies on the left.



Then I began working for the school district, so we all geared up for the first day of school together. I remember my first day at the middle school - I had worked there for a couple of weeks before school started, and thought it was a really neat place to work. Then the kids arrived! Oh, my, goodness - the energy in that building full of 6th-8th graders was palpable. I was exhausted every afternoon!

Sending your firstborn off to college - another huge school milestone and memory. We were on our way to church just before leaving Kristen there that afternoon.

The move to the position at the university was a good one - the excitement of the first day of school was still there, but we worked all summer, so there wasn't such a delineation for me. But that first day for freshmen - I put up brightly-colored signs to direct them to classrooms, or we didn't get anything done but give directions.

So now I'm retired. But the excitement in the air is still upon us - because the next generation is going off to school. The circle of life continues.

Care Bear's "First Day of First Grade" shot


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Monday Musings

The contest at the gym will be over in one more week! I think I'm doing about as well as anyone else, so will let you know if DC and I are heading to Mexico on a cruise. It doesn't seem possible that this small amount of weight loss is in the running, but maybe it's as hard for everyone else to lose as it is for me.

This is going to be one of those meandering types of posts - in fact Monday seems to be that way every week lately. I'd call it Monday Meanderings, except that Barb already has dibs on Sunday Meanderings. So I'll call it Musings --

So I think I have finished the "I Used To . . . " series - it was so much fun. I did it to remind myself that I used to be a very productive person! Susie, dear Susie, was so sweet when she asked me if there was anything I couldn't do. Oh, my - I think that should be my next series - things I CAN'T do, or don't want to do, or am afraid to do. That should be a good long series! To clarify one thing regarding the most recent one - I did not write any of the plays or musicals - I just picked them out, ordered them, did the casting, and directed them. Lots of work, lots of fun!

Thinking of all of those musicals was so much fun - and seems to have brought a lot of good memories to many of my readers as well. I'm glad for that. As you may have figured out over the past 2+ years of blogging, music is a huge part of my life (but only music that I like!). As I've told before, I started piano lessons at age 7 and began playing for this tiny little church at age 8. So many of the good old songs hold a lot of memories. Today, for instance - it was my week to play the organ (after 20+ years of being the only organist, now we have 3 and we take turns). We're a small church compared to the mega ones that many of you attend. We've been there for more than the 35 years of our marriage. Someday I'll write more about that subject. But today several songs took me back.

The first one was "Praise Him, Praise Him, Jesus Our Blessed Redeemer . . . " This is a rather fast song, and I'll never forget the first time I played the introduction - I was a young teen and was playing for Sunday night service. My fingers got so mixed up that the intro was a mess - so embarrassing!

Then there was "All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus." I can remember singing this song during college chapel - the rather sacriligious joke on campus was "Do you know how you can tell a hypocrite? It's someone singing 'All That Thrills My Soul is Jesus' while holding hands with his girlfriend." Now - I don't mean to offend anyone, either with the joke or with the gender picked on, but I remember it from so many years ago!

Speaking of music - the girlies and I were driving down the street with the Bible school cd playing - and me singing along. I don't know why all of a sudden, after all the many times we've done the same thing, Feisty pipes up, "Grandma, quit singing! You're not a kid!"

A few weeks ago, after retiring from my paying job, I also retired from the mission president position I've held at our church for close to 30 years. I was so pleasantly surprised when I was given a lovely award, called the Distinguished Service Award, a nice reception after church, and a gift - a one-hour, in my home massage - a deep, therapeutic massage by one of my newer friends at church. We were finally able to connect this week - it was wonderful! But was I ever sore the next day. She really found all of my "spots." I could use one of those about every week!

Someone asked me if I was ready for all the excitement around here this coming week. The answer is - I'll be staying as far away from Denver as possible when the Dems come to town for their convention - and I won't be watching the intense coverage on the networks - you can take from that whatever you wish! I do have to say, though, that I'm really proud of the churches in Denver that are coming together to feed 7500 "first responders" 3 meals every day, plus snacks. In case you don't know what that means (I didn't), this is how many police and firefighters will be on hand for emergencies. That's alot of food! What a ministry. I will never understand, though, the mentality of people who run around the country protesting. They have a huge jail cell ready for those who get out of hand. Pathetic!

My dear friend, Nancygrace, gave me this sweet award today - thank you, Nancy! I would love to pass it on to all of you wonderful friends, who have so enriched my life.


Remember last winter when I locked the keys in my car - with the car running - at 7:00 in the morning on campus? I had to call dear DC, who hadn't left for work yet. He trooped up 15 miles, gave me a key, and went on another 10 miles to work. That evening, before he came home from work, he stopped by his favorite store, Ace H*rdware, and picked me up one of these:


It lives underneath my car now and I don't even want to think of how many times I have used this gift - and I sure don't want him to know! I am so pathetic - I get distracted looking for something, or listening to the end of a song, or reading something that I forget to take out the keys. It is definitely the gift that keeps on giving!

My favorite time of the year is approaching - in fact, there's a hint of autumn in the air in the mornings. There is plenty of warm weather to come, I'm sure, since Indian Summer is common around here. But there is that different feeling that I just love. The flowers are enjoying it as well. Just come for a little walk around my yard with me --


Two colors of mums - does anyone recognize the little white ones?


Pink zinnias


Varieties of zinnias and impatiens




See the tomato peeking through the leaves? We're going to have BLTs some night this week.


And hopefully a few carrots someday, planted by the girlies.

And my very favorites - hibiscus



Have a wonderful week!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Friday Show and Tell - and Twin Update

Wow, what a week it has been for us - I am really tired, and have a little twin on my lap, keeping me company as I type. We'll have to see what happens here this evening!

This is #7, and probably the last episode, in my "I Used To . . . " series. When my kids were in the children's department at church, I realized that their cousins were having opportunities that my kids weren't because they were in a larger church. I could see how much fun they were having doing childen's musicals, so I decided that if we didn't have anyone filling that need in our church, I would take it on.

Our first attempt was small and very low tech. It was presented on Palm Sunday, and I still remember the thrill of the performance. This was before the days of even cassette accompaniment tapes - we had piano only. It was a wonderful story, and to this day I remember some of the songs. Two of them we used every Palm Sunday for years afterward.

I went to my favorite bargain store (predecessor to W*lmart, called Alco), and bought all varieties of cotton fabric, mostly striped. I made a dozen or so very simple costumes - just two straight pieces sewn together, leaving armholes and head opening. Add a simple tie belt, and you're good to go. I don't think I took any pictures of this first endeavor, or had anyone take them for me.

Then came the day that I went looking for those costumes for the next performance. They were nowhere to be found. After a considerable amount of sleuthing, I realized that boxes of used clothing being gathered for our Native American friends in Arizona and New Mexico had been gathered in the same room where I kept the props for the plays. I had a sickening feeling as I realized that our costumes had made their way to the reservation. I called the elderly woman pastor on our district, who had once worked with the Indian people and went down every year with the gifts, if she thought my suspicions were correct and the costumes had ended up down there. She said it could very well be, and if so, "Why, honey, they're probably wearing them and tickled to death to have them!" I knew I had to start all over again.

One year I thought it would be fun to have a choir performance instead of a play - I hunted high and low and finally found a pattern that would work for kids' choir robes. We had a marathon session of our young mom's Bible study group, where we cut out the patterns. Then we seamstresses each took about 6 robes home to sew. I was amazed at the difference in how they turned out - we made large bows for the girls, and small knotted ties for the boys.


Then one year we used the robes again for a smaller choir and a pageant on the side. That's one of my nephews doing the solo.


This isn't my favorite shot of myself, but I loved this outfit I made for the occasion. You seamstresses, please note the carefully matched plaid on the bias! And that's Kristen in the left background. She had accompanied at least one song with her flute.

The robes lived on for years as angel costumes, by adding gold or silver garland around the neck and bottom of the robes, when other leaders took over the musicals - as my children aged out of the children's group I stayed on for a few more years, then felt it was time for someone else to have the privilege! It's kind of like pregnancy - the performance is rather like the birth of the baby, where you forget all of the pain and labor. You swear you'll never do THAT again, but soon you are ready to "birth" another performance.

We did this next musical twice - it was so much fun. It was called "Get On Board, Children," and was the story of Noah and the Ark, with the premise of "What do you do on a rainy day in an ark?" if there are lots of children on board. You can see the replacement costumes I had to make for the ones that went on a trip to Arizona or New Mexico. The animal costumes were loaned to us by a church in Illinois. The kids provided their own footie jammies and brought the great variety of stuffed animals. I just noticed Pink Panther leaning against the baptistry in the back - do you think he was really on the ark?? (Oh, great - now I'll be singing that song in my mind all day!)

Here is Yours Truly doing a very rare solo as Mrs. Noah.

Another nephew designed the cover for the programs -

I found some really great cookie cutters in all sorts of unusual animal shapes, so the Bible study group again pitched in and made hundreds of decorated sugar cookies for a snack time after the performance.

I'll never forget the Christmas one we did called "Ebenezer, Jr.", which was a take-off on the Scrooge story, of course. We actually did this one twice as well. The second one ended up being my Swan Song - my last hurrah. My favorite thing to say about that play - if it is true that a lousy dress rehearsal means a great performance, this should have been the best ever. Kev was playing the teen-age lead and wasn't thrilled with the idea. He waited till the very last minute to learn his lines - and had to be prompted on a few, as I recall. The woman playing the mother in the story got sick that day and had to be replaced at the last minute - and we didn't exactly have understudies waiting to jump in with lines learned! But nobody else noticed all the problems.

It has been so much fun watching others take on the mantel and keeping children's musicals a big part of our church.

The twins got some new toys this week and have had so much fun experimenting and learning - and being happy for more than two minutes at a time!

For more Friday Show and Tell stories, stop by Kelli's blog,
There Is No Place Like Home.

Have a great week-end!

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Comments on the Comments

Friday's Show and Tell was such fun for me - all of these "I Used To . . . " episodes have been fun, but for some reason the comments on this one have led me to want to respond to many of them.

As is quite obvious from these posts, I loved sewing. It was something I could do well, and it gave me a great feeling of accomplishment to wear my creations and clothe my children in them as well. I did sew for others at times. The most challenging jobs were when someone else started a project, couldn't finish it, and asked me to complete it for them.

I am in awe of the talent of some of our friends out there in blogland - Barb, who has created herself into a business on line; Denise, who designs beautiful cards for every occasion; Kelli, who hosts us every week with Show and Tell, and shows many of her creations during the week; Robin, who sews and knits for her new grandbabies; those who do wonderful quilts and wall hangings; my niece, Karen, who reminds me of myself at the same age, but who has taken it WAY beyond my skill level.

There are such gifted writers - those who think deep thoughts, those who give us devotionals, those who make us laugh - I guess my gift is telling stories, and it is fun to go back in time and write it down for posterity, and for fun. It's been great to bring back the writing enjoyment that I haven't used for years. In fact, I wish I still had the things I wrote in college. Unfortunately, I threw them away when they became mildewed in my crawl space!

I never thought of myself as talented, but as my sewing ability grew, I did feel good about that. I don't do crafts well at all. Our ladies' group at church used to have monthly craft nights. I always knew I wasn't going to be able to do the project well, but I went for the fellowship. If you don't believe it, let me tell you about the night that one of my friends was in charge of the project for that night. I kept telling her I wouldn't be able to do the project, and she would always tell me it was so easy anyone could do it. I always tried, but it never turned out right. One night she said, "You aren't kidding, are you?"

I learned the sewing basics in junior high and high school, but really took off when my college roommate sewed everything she wore and I began watching her and learning. It soon became not only a way to create, but a way to have a nice wardrobe without spending a fortune. Unfortunately, that doesn't seem to be true any more - the cost of patterns, fabric, notions, etc. has gone up so much that it seems to cost as much to sew an outfit as to buy it ready-made. Not to mention the fact that I can't see to thread a needle any more. If I decide to go with Lasik surgery, maybe I will be able to try again. So many wanted to know if I sew for the babies and the bigger girls - I don't for the reasons mentioned above - but especially the eye thing - and laziness! I guess I could get one of those threader dealies if I got serious about sewing again, couldn't I? It's the only thing I can't do with my near vision.

My little allowance wasn't much in those days, but it is amazing how far I was able to stretch it - I re-used patterns over and over, just changing them enough so nobody knew it was the same except me. And there was a store in town in those days that had great sales - I can remember buying yards and yards for kids' outfits for 50 cents to $1.00 a yard.

Someone mentioned the polyester double knit era - I remember the day I discovered it and the fact that it was 60 inches wide, and took much less material to make an outfit. It didn't need to be ironed. But - it was HOT!

Two people reminded me that the dresses in the one family portrait were Gunne Sax - thanks, I know I could count on you.

Some mentioned that it was as much fun to look at the things in the background of the pictures as it was the outfits - it's true - you can tell what era it was, can't you?? The records and stereo, the knick knacks, the colors - the shelves were created and built by DC, and served us well for many years. Sure beat the book shelves made out of boards and bricks that we started out with in our first little duplex.

I was noticing the Christmas tree in that one picture of Kristen and me in the red skirts and flowered blouses - I couldn't believe how barren it looked - not just the lack of branches (that was in the days when the kids and DC went and cut down the tree every year from the woods), but the amount of things hanging on the branches - we sure have added a lot of ornaments each year - and now have two trees' worth.

Changing the subject - someone asked me how I am enjoying retirement. I have not looked back, and have no regrets. I went up to visit my old office the other day, and took the girls along for "show and tell." It was fun to see everyone, but there were no twinges at all. I think I'm starting my 9th week already - I think. I've lost track of time. I do know that today all the faculty are back for their big "retreat" - which is a nice word for a long, all day meeting. Then tomorrow is orientation for the new MSW students that I admitted last spring. I had thought I'd go up and meet them, just for fun, and maybe help Peter with the orientation, but I'm rethinking that - we'll see.

I'm thinking of trying to get a little retirement job, if I could figure out how to go about it - when I'm exercising at the gym, sometimes I watched a bit of t.v. - the transcribed dialogue at the bottom of the screen - I would like to have a job doing that transcribing, because I simply cannot believe how badly some people mess up the spelling of what they're trying to say - I don't know if they can't hear well, or if they're just dumb. I think I could do it much better! Seriously, I don't really want to have a job at all, but if I did, and if I could do it at home, I think this would be a fun one - I just cannot believe they let such embarrassing mistakes go on the air and don't fire the person behind the scenes!

Last - and on an entirely different subject again -- You remember those 23 or more days of 90+ degree weather that broke that 134-year record? It finally ended, and in fact, got quite cool. I love it. There is a hint of fall in the air. I'm sure it won't last, but it's been great. In fact, we had 3 solid days of rain and 60-degrees or less - the nice, gentle, soaking kind of rain that can really help the farmers. Sorry, all of those who had outdoor weddings! We've been praying for rain.

Here are some pictures of the lake that lives in the middle of our town. It's a beautiful spot, and has been the catalyst for people on vacation to go back home, pack up their stuff, and move here - hoping to find a job when they got here!

This lake is beautiful - but unfortunately, it is somewhat of an illusion. It's not really a lake. It's a reservoir. And it belongs to another town east of us - a ditch company. It is the water that irrigates the farmers' fields when it doesn't rain. So here's what happens when the farmers need it, and there's not enough water in the river up the canyon to keep the water levels up. Not only that, but the only ones who can use their boats on this lake are those who own the houses on the shores - they pay a mighty price to have private access to the water for recreation.
If you look carefully, you can see a group of gulls lined up along the tiny stream of water trickling through the mud:
Here is a view of the small beach, which had to close down early this year (usually stays open until Labor Day) for obvious reasons:
It's sad. I always wonder what the tourists who come through here think when they see a sand hole instead of the beautiful lake of the brochures and Chamber of Commerce propaganda. At times they have emptied it purposely for maintenance - and then they find really interesting things that have been lost from boats, etc. There are some legends about what they might find, but mostly they're just that - legends. Hopefully when you come to visit me, the water will be back!
Have a great week!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Friday Show and Tell - and Twin Update

Today is #6 in my series called "I Used To . . . " It has been such a fun journey for me, and I hope you're enjoying it as well. This episode is about the matching outfits I enjoyed making for my family over the years. When Kristen was born, I began having fun making her outfits from the same fabric as mine. This was the first one when she was 4 months old.


The next one was for Mother's Day, when she was 5 months old. I can't get over how dark my hair got during each pregnancy.

This was our first Christmas with her - I'll never forget the excitement when I went shopping for this fabric and lace with my little monthly allowance - yes, I had an allowance. Sorry if you're young and think that sounds terribly uncool! That's the way it was.
When Kev came along, I didn't sew as much for him, but on occasion, I just couldn't resist matching the two of them. Kristen was 4 and Kev 2 in this first one.
We made this snapshot into a t-shirt for Daddy. Don't you just love the decorative garden hose??

I made these when Kristen was 5 and Kev almost 3.
I love this one of them standing in front of that Austrian Pine that's at least 30 feet tall now.

I should have shot this picture before they became a bit disheveled - they're trying on Uncle R's shoes - he's the tallest one in my sibling's shot that I showed in my last post - he wears about a size 13 shoe.


Then there was the Christmas when they were 5 and 3 - Daddy got into the picture this time. Doesn't Kev looked thrilled about his new plaid flannel shirt??

I don't have the year marked on this one, but I think they're about 7 and 5 in this picture - the outfits aren't totally matching, and I wish you could see them in their entirety - I think these are two of my favorite outfits I ever made - the patterns were extremely detailed (I am blanking on the name, but I know someone out there can refresh my memory - does Laura Ashley sound right?), and I was very proud when I finished them. That's our little dog, Fritzie, who was such a huge part of our family.
Last but not least, here is Kristen with two of her cousins and her Cabbage Patch doll, who is wearing an outfit matching hers. I hope to do a post on some more of the clothes I made to match her outfits for a different doll. She was 10 at this time.
The twins had their 7 month check-ups and they are doing just great - they are developmentally right on target - they aren't even talking about "adjusted age." The girlies are "talking" and blowing bubbles and rolling around, and Katie is really close to sitting up. They are about 10.5 and 11.5 pounds - are just about to grow out of 0-3 month clothes, and are in size 1 diapers. I love these two shots - holding hands . . .
. . . and playing footsie . . .
For more Friday Show and Tell stories, stop by Kelli's blog, There Is No Place Like Home.