Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Baby Hogs and Graduates

Eighteen years ago, Tom and I became grandparents. It was a beautiful Sunday in May. JT was the first boy we didn’t have to graft into the family through marriage. 

Add to it, the “T” stands for Thomas and that man I married was over the moon. It was at this time we discovered Tom was a “baby hog.” He would come into a room and snatch the baby away from you in an instant. It wasn’t limited to his first grandchild, either. He was like that with each and every baby. It didn’t matter who was holding the child at the time, he would reach with every expectation he was the only one to hold the little one.

We didn’t necessarily see being a baby hog as a flaw. Tom was a good man. He worked hard, played hard, and never neglected to pray for his family. Every. Single. Member.

This May that little baby boy, that first grandson, is graduating from high school. His parents have done a fine job. He’s grown to be a good man, too.

JT went from pushing Hot Wheels along a road he created on the carpet to driving his own car.

He no longer pretends to work. He has a real job.

The technology he grew up playing with is now the launching point for his college major.

But when I see this man-child, I see a lot of his grandfather in him, too. He is sweet and loving. He’s smart and thought-filled.

And he’s a great hugger. I don’t know if I’ll be around when JT has children or grandchildren of his own, but I can see him being a “baby hog” when that happens. 

It may be something in the name. Or the heart.

So much in our world has changed in those eighteen years. Tom died five and a half years ago. We added a new little one to our family four years ago. Now we’re facing a global health crisis. Then again, all that is really important hasn’t changed a bit. Love, care, and thoughtfulness. 

But the two most powerful pieces? Our family and our faith. It’s our infrastructure. Our family and our faith is what holds us…all of us… together through tough times and supports us as we grow and move forward.  

What are you glad hasn’t changed through all of this?
What does your infrastructure look like?

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Crazy, Quiet, Dragging, Fleeting, Treasured Time

Last week I offered advice to watch less television and spend more time outside. Then it rained. I mean it really rained. Buckets. Flash flooding. Puddles in the yard. I don’t even need the birdbath. The birds can find water everywhere they go. 

Still, I stand firm on the notion that the flood of mindless television to which we are exposed coupled with the buckets of frightening information poured out on us via media is worth limiting. Your weather, unlike mine, may be wonderful. Even perfect. For now. Be aware. Weather changes. 

This is why today I am sharing an indoor alternative to watching TV. I have a much larger list than what I’ll share here. I’ve been writing down all the things I would love to do “if I only had time” for years now. As a young mother, I thought of it as the incredible things I would do when I was no longer changing diapers and picking up toys. As a teacher I considered it my “summer list.” Then when my daughters grew older, I thought I would tackle the list when they left for college. 

The notebook of ideas grew thicker through the years. It morphed from a “summer list” to eventually the “retirement list.” Now it is the “isolation list.” During this pandemic there is no excuse. I have the time. It is my greatest commodity.

The very fact this period of being virtually alone will soon end lends a sense of urgency to check the boxes. 
I keep thinking I need to do these things now before I have to go back to the real world. Whatever that is…

Item 1: Family Photos
I realize I am the only person in the whole world who has boxes and tubs and envelopes with family photos stuffed inside. Still, I offer this as a much better way to spend time than watching face mask commercials. There is a mysterious element to it. Not only are there pictures of my own family with no dates written on them but I also have dozens of school pictures of children I don’t know. Not former students. These are pictures of kids belonging to friends or neighbors. They were likely tucked in Christmas cards. No names. No dates. No clue. 

I’m at the very least putting those unknowns aside and the pictures I recognize together by family member. The process is tiring and energizing at the same time. It is a job I’ve put off for many years. I can tackle it now because I am assured no one will come into my house and see the mess of photos strewn across the guest room floor.

Item 2: The Garage
The garage has become a dumping ground for every tool or odd item I find and don’t know what it is or what I might do with it. It isn’t that my garage is full of junk. I can still park my vehicles in it. It’s simply that along the walls, hanging from hooks, and stuffed on shelves you’ll find a collection of beaten and battered metal tools and a stash of building supply remnants I’ll probably never need. I also have partially used cans of paint, spray containers of who-knows-what, and an assortment of lawn food and weed killer. My garage is probably toxic. Definitely dangerous. So this area has been the target of time well spent during my isolation. A benefit of the work is a sense of accomplishment.

Item 3: That One Closet (or Cabinet or Drawer)
You know the one I mean. We all have that one area where we stuff things. The catch-all or junk drawer. I have more than one. There is the coat closet. Lots of odd gloves and hats I’ll never use along with a variety of odd jackets. Of course they are now gone. The “junk drawer” in the kitchen has been sorted and organized and cleaned twice during the pandemic. It could use another sifting through of things even as I type. I consider it a “hot spot.” I culled through my clothes closet and chest of drawers after reading Marie Kondo’s books on tidying up…though I refuse to talk to my clothes and ask them if they bring me joy.

The Rest of the List:
I’m looking at all I’ve written for this post. I seem to have spent a lot of my time cleaning. It sounds like a lot of work. I haven’t put a dent in practicing my piano or learning a new language. I still have a stack of books to read, crafts to complete, a workshop to set up, and crocheting to do. 

So Little Time. So Much I’d Love to Do. So I’ll muddle along and do what I can with the time I have. At least while it rains. Anything is better than non-stop coronavirus overload.

How are you spending your time?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Turn Off the Television

I remember my mother telling me to turn off the television and go outside for some fresh air. 

I have friends my age whose parents told them too much television would “stunt their growth.”

In the fifties, television became known as the “idiot box,” suggesting that watching television was of no educational value and would reduce one’s capacity to think.

And we only had three channels. Seriously.

Now we have more channels than I can name. We have televisions in several rooms of our homes, TV programs accessible on our computers and smart phones, and restaurants with multiple screens so we don’t miss anything. Even my camper had a big screen TV.

And we pay for it. Dearly.
It's More Fun Outside Anyway

I’m not talking about money here. Actually, I don’t have cable so whatever my antennae picks up is what I have. It’s more than I had growing up. And more than I need.

Don’t misunderstand. I watch my fair share of television. I like it. I’m not addicted to any particular program. I like a variety of shows and movies. I generally check in to learn what the weather holds. When I ride the stationary bike, I flip through channels to see what the set in my basement will pick up to keep me entertained while I exercise.

When I say we pay dearly for the excess of television, I am speaking to the way we can get “sucked in” to news and programs that highlight evil and dysfunction. 

Moreover, for me anyway, television has, of late, been about as entertaining as a root canal.

We are experiencing an overload of the “new normal.” Even the commercials are so focused on selling masks, washing our hands, and showing how you can order your food online, I find them depressing reminders there is only “new” and no “normal.”

And as if we needed something else to drive us crazy, we are entering that season of a political pandemic when the normal ugliness of an election year is heightened to grotesque. 

So what’s a girl to do? Turn off the television. 

I’m not kidding. I urge you to join me. 
·      Limit how much COVID-19 news you watch.
·      Don’t watch before bedtime.
·      When you do watch television, balance the bad with something light and fun.
·      And in keeping with my mama’s advice, swap some of your TV time for a little fresh air.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

The Best Birthday Gift Ever

I recently celebrated my birthday. I didn’t exactly know what to expect. It’s a sign of the times. During this pandemic no one knows what to expect on a regular basis. I was afraid loneliness would threaten to overtake my usually positive attitude. 

Even though we live in isolation, we aren’t necessarily living alone.

Phone calls and Facebook messages dominated my morning. With a bit of prompting, my mother told me my birth story. I knew most of it, but there were a few details I don’t recall hearing before. It was a fun conversation. 

This year, one detail struck me as particularly interesting. I was born at 6:55 pm. I decided that gave me most of the day to finish out one year and move onto the next. Technically, I wouldn’t be another year older until nearly 7:00 that evening. 

It was like a gift! Not the only gift I would receive as it turned out. And not the best, by far.

My Granddaughter's Favorite Books
Around six in the evening, members of my family started arriving at my house. Everyone brought a lawn chair. Friends I know and worked with in Kosovo arrived as well. We sat outside around the area I hoped would one day be a fire pit. I have a portable one, but it was too warm and too windy to think about a fire. We talked and played games. Mostly though, we watched my 15-year-old grandson work at clearing the wooded root of honeysuckle from the area where I wanted to one day have a stone fire pit. 

Spencer was tenacious. He dug out what he could, chopped out roots with an axe, pulled, tugged, and hauled away the horrible weed. His was a gift of sacrifice. 

My Birthday Bouquet!
I had another gift of sacrifice that evening. Unable to shop for a gift, my nine-year-old granddaughter culled through her favorite books. “Has she read this one?” she’d ask her mother. “How about this one?” Ultimately, Nora chose three of her favorite books to give to me for my birthday: The Summer of the Swans, Where the Red Fern Grows, and Little House in the Big Woods. By the way, I often refer to my own house as the little house in the big woods. More about that HERE.

My friends, the Halversons, brought me a beautiful bouquet of flowers. I received a notebook from my youngest granddaughter (most appropriate for a writer), a family picture from our Disney cruise arrived in the mail from my daughter in Wisconsin. My oldest grandson drove out of the way on his way to work to wish me a happy birthday.

The gift of sacrifice..and time
Later in the evening after I was officially a year older, my daughters, mother, and I got online and Face Time to play a game. The next day, my son-in-law and grandson showed up at my house to build an honest to goodness fire pit in the newly cleared area.

So what was my favorite and best birthday gift? It was the one everyone gave me: the gift of TIME. A moment to type a message or make a call; a few hours to pull up a chair and laugh together; time sorting through books to give me “favorites;” time to play a game in the evening; time to build a fire pit. 

One of our most precious commodities is time. And people I love gave me some of theirs. What a perfect birthday.