May 31, 2010

A day of remembrance

When I was growing up, Memorial Day marked the end of a frantic time in our family business.  It was the gateway to summer's long days, although in Colorado it was not unheard of to get snow in late May.

Nowadays, Memorial Day means we have arrived at the unrelenting heat and humidity that is a southern summer.  Lightning bugs are here, June bugs are next.  The croaking of the frogs gives way to the hum of the cicadas.  Spring storms have ceased and rain will become sporadic until the hurricanes unleash their fury farther south and push inland with enough force to bring us the cooling rains of autumn.

But more than the seasonal change, this holiday has become more precious to me as I've gotten older, and I've witnessed acts of terrorism on our soil, and wars that have no end in sight, fought to keep us free.  So now every day, but especially today, I stop to cherish my freedom

I go where I want, never wondering if I'm going to be detained.

I worship God freely and without worry, and I can share the gospel of Jesus Christ with others.

I can shop where I choose, buy what I wish, without fear that someone is monitoring my every move.

I am able to express my political opinions, unfettered and without equivocation.  I can choose which news broadcasts I will watch, and I have many choices to obtain the news, some of which I agree with, and others I do not.  But I can choose.

I enjoy these freedoms because for over 225 years, brave men and many women have laid down their lives to provide and protect these freedoms for the generations before mine, and I pray, for the generations that are yet to come.

May God's tender mercies and providence be with our armed forces and their families.  They have sacrificed in ways that are impossible for me to imagine.  We see the images, and they are poignant, but it is still difficult for us to fully grasp the full import of the loneliness, the fear, and the grief that are exacted as the price tag for my freedom and yours.

When we feel the need to assert our "rights," let us always remember to thank those who have stood at the ready to defend us and our way of life.

A blessed and peaceful Memorial Day to all.

May 23, 2010

Shades of summer

How can you tell when summer is approaching?  Well, the days get longer and hotter.  The A/C unit on something is going to stop working just when you have your first upper 80s day, today on our way home from worship services. (So much for fine Bavarian motor engineering. How DID our forebears forbear without air conditioning?)

Rising temperatures aside, there's just something about knowing you don't have carpool duty in the a.m. that makes Sunday evening stretch out in a leisurely fashion. Other signs of summer?  First swim practice (dryland but still...) and fireflies.  Girls giggling in the hot tub at 10 pm, with their pop music at a decibel level that's just loud enough to cause a mild irritation for neighbors who turn in early, but not so loud so as to result in a patrol car pulling up outside.  Sunday night sleepovers are a SURE sign of summer.

Other signs?  Crisp linen trousers with sandals, with toes peeking out that are tapping out a Morse code SOS for an emergency visit to the pedicure salon. A Sunday afternoon trip to the car wash/vacuum, followed by a driveby at Sonic for a happy hour diet cherry limeade.  Ahhhh, the taste of summer pops and fizzes and bubbles.

The countdown to the start of our all-summer Bible Vacation now stands at just under 2 weeks.  The new songs are recorded and being edited to a CD for copying.  The skits are in the hands of the teacher/actors.  Videotaping of our story lady ("Professor Peabody," with her sidekick "Sherman") has begun..

My office looks like Oriental Trading and Hobby Lobby are having a gangster-style turfwar, with props, posters, craft supplies and lists of to-do's stacked everywhere, I'm not sure who will win that one, but I know the ending won't be pretty.

It's a given the next few days will fly by in a dervish of frantic last-minute scheduling changes, the insane scramble to get everything moved in and set up, and making the rounds so everyone knows where they need to be, what they're supposed to be doing, and when they need to be in place. Flyers to the Christian school elementary kids before the last day of class?  Check.  Postcards to last year's attendees in the mail and a registration table up and running?  Check and check.

Hearing stories from teachers whose students can barely contain their excitement at the upcoming kickoff? Priceless.

The real question is, will this domestic dilettante be able to squeeze in much quality time in the kitchen between now and then?  What about time for Scadie-sitting?    Pedicure, even?  That remains to be seen.

May 18, 2010

Move over, Donna Reed

Last night, I made a casserole with crushed-up Ritz crackers on top.  How retro is that?  It was poppy-seed chicken, which is not my favorite, but my family seems to like it (and it always gets raves when I take it to new parents and shut-ins...guess it's creamy and bland enough to qualify as "comfort food.")  Disclaimer:  I only use a few tablespoons of butter, and I toss in some shredded cheddar for good measure.  What's a casserole without cheese?

Tonight's entree was stuffed peppers and mashed potatoes.  The stuffing for the peppers is a cross between my mom's stuffed pepper recipe and a friend's baked bean recipe - no rice involved but definitely another throw-back to old-school cooking.

Today was cool and drizzly, so I'm planning a roast for tomorrow (in my apple green Lodge pan, of course) just watch: the temps will swing back into the 80s and I'll be sweltering all day.

Our congregation's all-Summer Bible Vacation  (we're knocking the old VBS model for a real loop) is approaching kickoff. I'm not sure how the months flew by, but we're down to just under 3 weeks before the sneak preview day on June 5.  Yes, the sound you hear is me hyperventilating.  One more major workday to paint and finish the props, then we move in over Memorial Day weekend, converting six classrooms into a bookstore, a museum, a movie theater, a radio station, an art studio and a game show set.

As with all such projects, there's lots to do, and never enough time to do it at a leisurely pace.  But we have such a fantastic group of volunteers at Highland Heights, I'm confident it will all get done somehow.  Every time I've asked for help, someone has been there to step up and do what needs to be done, and I'm thankful for that spirit of generosity, giving of themselves, their time and talents.

I've also found that proffering homemade cookies greases a lot of skids, too.  Hey, I'm not above a little bribery.   Besides, what else am I going to do with those two Ultimate Brownie Pans I got for Christmas?

May 16, 2010

No coffee outside this a.m.

I woke up to the pitter-patter of raindrops, so no moseying around on the deck with a mug of liquid sunshine this morning. As I pulled out of the drive this morning, I was informed we were under (another) tornado warning.   Fortunately, no tornadic activity came to pass.  After the rain, I thought I'd slip out and get a few pictures, just to remind myself what these things looked like when I first planted them.  Then I can see what they look like after I tend or neglect them for a while!  Here are the three pots that survived another winter, decked out with some purple pennisetum grass, fuchsia-colored geraniums, coleus in various shades of pink and red, some twinspur, gold creeping jenny and purple oxalis (the small pot has a clump of diamond frost euphorbia that will hopefully turn into a billowy mass of white flowers.  Now to find four additional planters to arrange around the deck's entrances, find plants to complement but not duplicate and of course, take care of all summer.

The sidewalk between the garage and deck is flanked with coral bells (technically Heuchera and some Tiarella, and maybe even a few X Heucherella tossed in for good measure), along with hostas, from tiny 'Kabitan' to tall blue 'Elegans' and a couple 'Guacamole' types that are large and getting larger, now in their third year in their new homes.  But once the coral bells are done blooming, the foliage gets a little boring (serenely so) and so I added some window boxes along the deck to introduce a little color on the way from the backyard to the deck.  This year's lineup includes a yellow/purple torenia, a purple-y calibrachoa (theoretically both should trail over the edges), some purple heliotrope in the middle for good smells, lobelia to fill in all the rest.  Looks like my cocoa fiber cutting needs a little fine tuning.

As I was snapping pictures, I realized a Clematis I planted (and forgot about) finally scrambled up the arbor on its own and is swathed in flowers right now.  I fed it this spring when I was weeding and mulching the bed so hopefully it will continue to grow and develop a nice sturdy root system - maybe next year's blooms will cover the entire arbor!  For now it does add a nice punch of color if you approach the yard from the side.  The oakleaf hydrangea is almost ready to let loose with her annual display of blooms. (Then it will be time to tame the beast once again...she quickly gets 8-10 feet tall and wide if I don't take the pruning saw and loppers to her annually.)

Last week's menu was in an uproar...again.  One of these days life will settle back down (no need for a laugh track there...I know that's worth a chuckle from those who know me.)  But I am eager to use the revamped grill this week, so I'll see what I can find for some innovative new meat or veggie flavor pairings and update the chalkboard with something more than a wish list.

In the meantime, I have a big dog/little dog picture I snapped last week when Scadie came to spend the day with us.  When it was her feeding time, I figured I better give Spice a little food as well, just to prevent an outbreak of WWIII in my kitchen.    I figure I should probably take pictures regularly...otherwise she'll soon be out of the puppy stage and growing into those massive paws of hers. A better shot would have been when I took them both for a walk, although I would have needed a third hand to hold the camera, since they don't walk at exactly the same pace.  I hope this Sunday afternoon finds all our family and friends enjoying a  peaceful day that God has made, whether the sun is shining or the rain is replenishing the land where you live.  And if you have any inspired ideas for container pairings, please drop me a note.  With four to fill, my biggest fear is that they all start to look identical, or they clash hideously.

May 15, 2010

I'm a transformation junkie

That explains a lot about me.  I get a big thrill out of a reorganized sock drawer or a totally clean refrigerator.  I probably waste a lot of energy opening that fridge when I have cleaned it out, just to admire the neatly arranged contents.

Today it was the deck's turn.  I took the shop vac to the outside rug, which got rid of most of the ground-in winter detritus (still have some pesky moss problems that an oxygen-based cleaner should remove when I get the 9x13, 50-pound thing hauled out to the driveway for more indepth cleaning.)

I ditched the 3-year-old seat cushions in favor of new seems wasteful but the old ones had the double-fate of being mildewed and dry-rotted so it was time for new ones.

Three planters got the top foot of soil removed and replaced with fresh container mix and plants.  The 3-foot long troughs on the side of the deck got new coir liners (I discovered you have to make them yourself - no one in the 'boro carries this size...argh) and new plants were introduced as soon as the liners and soil were in place.

The grill got new innards:  new burner and flame diffuser, plus a new cover (the old one was suffering from dry rot, too.  The grates are sheathed in a foamy cloud of de-greaser for now.

That leaves just two final tasks to complete the deck:  replace four containers that have failed due to winter damage; I guess they will only hold up for so long if I don't make room for them in the garage.  I'm not sure what I want to replace them with, so the search is on.  And power-washing and sealing the deck.  That may have to wait a few more weeks.  But I can stroll out on my deck tomorrow morning with that first steaming mug of coffee, and enjoy the freshly planted flowers and sit in a chair whose cushion doesn't crunch when I touch it.  Hooray for transformations!  Pics coming soon!

May 11, 2010

Really random pictures

Last weekend was a busy one:  Saturday was another workday in preparation for our Summer Bible Vacation at Highland Heights  and our 2HERS group held a mother/daughter luncheon for us moms - don't they look great?

Of course, Sunday was Mother's Day, which we spent traveling back and forth to Lebanon (long story - let's just say my husband and his mama had a failure to communicate regarding schedules.)  Then it was back for evening services and home again, when I agreed to watch Scadie (pronounced "Sadie" - the c is silent) while the guys grabbed a bite to eat.  Suddenly the sweet sleeping princess puppy turned into an ornery and over-stimulated hyperactive bundle of energy racing back and forth through the house.  Didn't see that coming.  She tormented the cat and dog repeatedly by barking shrilly at them.  They're both way too old for that nonsense, and the looks they gave her said as much.  So she then proceeded to try to rip into everything she could get her sharp little milk teeth into.  When I left to get our daughter from a youth event, the mini-me had the big dog's one-and-only chew toy all slobbery. Which didn't make anybody too happy as you can see.

Hey, sweet husband of mine, do you suppose we can get down the missing trim in the background?  I don't notice it until I take a photo and it shows up, along with the smudge on the wall where the big dog likes to roll around and put her muddy paws on the wall.    I won't complain too loudly - he's commuting back and forth to Ashland City each day, helping supervise the mucking out of the offices.  A decidedly unpleasant job, made worse by the start time (6:30...tomorrow will be even earlier.)

And while I was downloading the other weekend pictures, I happened to come across this one I snapped of the cat the other day, when she was posing as mantel art.

She was quite good for a while up there, and then she got bored with the pose and down she came.  Of course, when I took the shot, she gave me a baleful glare to let me know she did not appreciate the attention.  Who knows what really goes on in the walnut-sized cranium of hers?  It turned cool on Monday, and we actually turned the heat back on for a couple days.  Today was warmer and tomorrow should be downright hot.  Back to A/C I guess.  Maybe the garden will soon be dry enough to actually plant...

Reflections on motherhood

Sunday was "Mother's Day" - a holiday set aside for us to recognize and honor our mothers.  Maybe it's because I've been a mom for almost a quarter-century, or maybe it's because there are so many ways for moms to express themselves now (Facebook, blogs, etc.), or maybe this holiday has truly changed in its focus.  It seems that most of what I heard and read from other moms was introspective, focusing on their thoughts on being a mom.  The sentiments expressed required a few hankies.

As for me, I love being a mom but if I look at it through the lens of realism, I'd have to say it is the hardest job I've ever had, by far.  It has consumed me, humbled me, worn me ragged, and brought me face-to-face with truths about my own childhood - the good, the bad and the ugly.  I have paced the floor with crying colicky babies.  I have paced the floor waiting for teenagers to get home.  I've been awakened in the night by feverish infants, and by telephone calls needing my help.

I have dealt with toddler insurrections and teenage rebellion.  I've compromised, negotiated, plea-bargained, punished, scolded, cajoled, mediated, rendered judgments, imposed sentencing, and reversed past decisions.  Sometimes all in a single day.

Motherhood IS wonderful.  It is God's best and greatest blessing for women.  But it is not for sissies, and it's not all sweetness and light, cooing and cuddling, photo ops and Hallmark card moments.

If I had known then (before children) what I know now, I would have still become a mother, but it would have been with more fear and trepidation.  Mothers go where angels fear to tread, and in my case, rushed in with foolish speed and abandon.  We just don't have enough foreknowledge or sense to see the tough road this journey will take.

On Mother's Day, I received honor and love from my children, whom I adore as precious gifts from God.  But it's not the time to post about how much I love them, wanted them, or my dreams for them.  I'll save those thoughts for another day.

On Mother's Day, it's my turn to look back and give honor and praise to my mother, because before I went through the trials and trevails of motherhood, she forged her own path as a mother, establishing boundaries and guidelines, showing love to the unloveable side of her children, standing up for her children and standing firm in her decisions for us.  Day after day, year after year, her actions and reactions shaped and molded us, and made us who we are today. She guided the development of my faith, my worldviews, my integrity, and my sense of self-worth. No doubt, there are many things I've said and done that I unconsciously borrow from my own rearing. 

I'm thankful I can talk to my mom and tell her how much she means to me, and I am so sorry for those who can't, whether it's distance, death or battle-scarred relationships that separate them from their mothers.

My children are precious, but so is my own mom.  Let me never take her for granted.

May 6, 2010

Big news: we're grandparents!

Well, not really - but until our children decide to settle down with a spouse and have real children, this 9-week-old bundle of fur will have to do. Last night, our oldest son adopted a "baby" - a pure white husky that looks a lot like our Samoyeds when they were puppies. As of yet she has no name, so we just say "here, pooch" when we want her attention. If anyone has a suggestion for a name, we're all ears (and so is she, as you can see in this picture.)

Our own dog wasn't too keen on the interloper's appearance this morning, but after a few minutes, they seemed to decide they could get along. They both agreed it was fun to play in the grass this morning, although having short legs meant "the pooch" got her belly tickled by the grass, which is nearly as tall as she is. She spent most of her time hopping instead of walking or running.

And like all good "grandparents" we immediately volunteered to watch "the baby" while Shea worked today. And like all new parents, he has called to check on her. So far, her routine is romp, stomp and nap (and a bathroom break thrown in for good measure.) Something tells me the rest of the day will be much of the same, plus food.

Let's hope my wool rugs are safe from puppy messes...which do tend to come with puppies. The cat is simply wondering what she did to deserve two dogs drinking out of *her* waterbowl, and skulking around with a bigger-than-usual scowl on her face.

May 4, 2010

Two telecommuters

So this is what it's like to have your better half home all day with you. Hmmmm. Tony's offices were flooded from the river next to the plant in Ashland City. It will be a while before they get them rehabilitated, or find alternate office space to rent. For the time being, he's telecommuting too. He has set up a command post in the den (all the better to see the stock market on the big screen TV, my dear.) I think we'll save a bundle on gas for his car while they figure things out. And it really is nice to have him home when there's still daylight left outside.

But it's funny how you don't realize that you have little routines (and you LIKE them) until something comes along that disrupts those little routines. To cause further disruption, schools here in Rutherford County (including MTSU) were closed earlier this week. So instead of Monday morning being a typical starting point to my week, it felt like...Saturday. Running, pshaw - who wants to do that when you can rise late, stretch out and enjoy a very leisurely cup of coffee to start the day?

When evening rolled around, they wanted me to start something for dinner. Really? What a sweet idea...but isn't it the weekend? No? Seriously? It felt like it.

This morning wasn't much better, but I did manage to remember to start dinner and get it on the table at a reasonable time.

Tomorrow MUST go better. A new routine must be established. One that has two people drinking from a single pot of coffee and not quibbling over who gets the last cup...

May 1, 2010

Rain, rain and more rain!

Wow...we knew it was a big front, but who knew it would create flash floods in Rutherford County and Nashville. I-24 and I-65 have both been closed today due to flooding. Tornado warnings all over the midstate.

It's a good thing we got our workday at Highland Heights done when we did. Even though we got drenched, we got 'er done thanks to some awesome men and women, including my husband, standing on a piece of furniture to stow an extra-long 2x4 away in the rafters.

We filled a 20-cubic-yard dumpster in no time flat with lots of non-salvageable stuff
then they loaded and took two pickups full of "stuff" to the dump, twice.

When all was said and done, we were left with one artifact that remains a mystery - if this belongs to anyone, you are welcome to come take it home. Hate to say it, but that new fishing boat may come in handy if this weather keeps up...we may need to row out of the neighborhood!