Monday, December 29, 2008

Uphill Both Ways

You know how as children our parents told us about walking miles to school in knee-deep snow, and we thought they were just exaggerating – and you never thought you’d tell those kinds of stories to your own kids. Then one day it happens, you find yourself telling your offspring how good they have it today - how when you were a kid you had to actually get up off the couch to change the channel, you only had 4 TV stations, and the only time cartoons and kids’ shows were on was on Saturday mornings. Yep, I’ve done it. Guilty as charged.

My latest transgression: generic Christmas gifts. When I was growing up, as you made the rounds to see family over the holidays you could be guaranteed that some relative that you only see once a year would generously hand you a gift. As your mom was telling Great Aunt Addie that it was so nice of her to think of you, you were eagerly unwrapping your gift to find – socks.

Now mind you, I have nothing against socks – I’ve enjoyed wearing every pair I’ve ever gotten (as much as anyone can enjoy socks anyway). And it really was very thoughtful of them to remember me (and my feet)!

My girls each received some “generic” gifts this year, and I have to confess – I’m jealous. No socks for kids today. No, my daughters got gift cards from Chipotle! and Starbucks! and iTunes! and cash!

Now those are gifts that are worth kissing dear Aunt Addie (even with her mustache) to thank her.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Deck the Halls

The decorating is done - all 21 boxes of decorations, garland, bows and wreaths. The tree is up and lit, complete with all of our many ornaments we've collected over the years. Our "collection" of Christmas golf characters (golfing Santa, snowmen and nutcrackers holding golf clubs) is displayed on top of the old library card catalog in the living room, along with a mini tree with all of the golf ornaments. My snowman collection is properly displayed and lit above the kitchen cupboards. The mantle is decorated and stockings are ready to be hung on Christmas Eve. Everything looks beautiful and festive.

And now ... nothing. I have no great drama, plot or moral to this post (hard to believe, I know). We have no company coming to stay with us over the holidays. No one is coming over to visit even - it is all for us. We just get to enjoy it.

So the purpose of this post? To send out an open invitation: if you have a free evening, or you're in town and want to get together, give us a shout, a call, or an email. We'll break out the eggnog, the cheese & crackers and the beef log ('cause you can't entertain during the holidays without 'em). We'll find a time - we'd love to entertain and spend time with all of you.

I was going to include some pictures of our decked out halls, but you'll just have to come over and get the full effect.

Fa la la la la, la la, la, la.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Tag - You're It!

I have never been tagged before now. Okay, so I wanted to do a meme.....and if I tag you below I hope you play!!! Post this on your blog, answer and then tag 5 other people.....ready....GO!

1) Wrapping paper or gift bags? Gift wrap for family, bags for friends/co-workers.

2) Real tree or artificial? Artificial for the past 3 years, always cut one down ourselves before that. Got to be a BIG hassle, so much nicer now.

3) When do you put up the tree? After Thanksgiving, on a weekend when we have time.

4) When do you take the tree down? First weekend in January. But I sometimes leave my snowman collection up longer.

5) Do you like eggnog? Yep, it’s a tradition in my family.

6) Favorite gift received as a child? I’m not sure … a Scrabble game maybe?

7) Hardest person to buy for? My niece.

8) Easiest person to buy for? D – she has a very precise list and there is quite a variety.

9) Do you have a nativity scene? Yes, one porcelain, another more like a child’s playset – love them both.

10) Worst Christmas gift you ever received? Cookie jar shaped like a barn with animals painted on it – not quite my thing, uh, yeah.

11) Favorite Christmas Movie? Elf – I always laugh out loud when I watch it. But I really like Heat Miser and Snow Miser, the Grinch (cartoon version) and Charlie Brown’s Christmas too.

12) Favorite Christmas song? Handel’s Messiah

13) Travel at Christmas or stay home? We stay in town for Christmas. We visit my parents on Christmas day, but they are here in town.

14) Have you ever recycled a Christmas present? Yes, why not? I’m all for recycling!

15) Favorite ornament theme or color? I like a variety of ornaments, handmade especially. I have a lot of snowmen ornaments, and any that say “Joy” on them are special of course.

I am going to tag...


Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Any Way You Slice It

Picture if you will: Christmas dinner at my grandparents’ house, everyone (even us kids) gathered around the long table complete with lace tablecloth, the family silver, Grandma's fine china, crystal stemware, candlelit centerpiece; table loaded with the holiday meal and all the trimmings, the cinnamon glazed apples, stuffing, rolls and potatoes, and of course a big golden roasted turkey; Grandpa at the head of the table holding a large carving knife, ready to slice The Bird.

Flash forward to the current day: separate tables are set up – one for the adults and another for the younger crowd; all of the wonderful holiday food served buffet style; the turkey has come out of the oven, golden brown and juicy. Now picture the carving knife … in MY hand. Yep, it’s true – I have become The Carver of the Meat in the family.

Though I happily take on this traditionally honored role, I can’t say I came into it through any great cutting skill or meat-related talents. (Uh, that didn't quite come out the way I meant.) It’s kind of my own doing though – I would watch my father carving the meat at the big holiday meals when we got together. He would grumble a bit in the crowded kitchen as all the food was prepared around him, Mom and my sisters and I bustling around getting everything ready. He continually struggled with the less than sharp knife – and I had a thought: electric carving knife! Brilliant!

So the next time we got together, I brought along my own electric knife that we had received as a wedding gift years before and had stashed in that cupboard above the refrigerator where small rarely used appliances go to collect dust. The time came for Dad to start slicing and I produced the electric knife and proudly presented it to my dad. This didn’t have quite the result I was hoping for - he gladly turned the job over to me and my electric carver. He stayed at my side and kept a watchful eye on me and gave some helpful fatherly suggestions to make sure I was doing it right. And I didn’t do too badly if I do say so.

This year when we got together for yet another holiday meal, I “accidentally on purpose” forgot my electric knife. I thought maybe Dad would resume his carving role – but it turns out that he enjoys himself more hanging out with his sons-in-law in the living room in front of the t.v. discussing sports and fishing. I don’t mind though. While Mom and my sisters are busy with all of the other meal prep, I stand by, electric knife in hand, carving my place in our family tradition.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Rude Awakening

Thanksgiving is over and the Christmas season has officially begun. I love this holiday, but I have a grey cloud hanging over me this year. There is tension in our extended family, and I initiated it. This is not typical for me, usually I am the peacemaker - always trying to smooth ruffled feathers and make sure everyone gets along. This could be because I am a Libra – we are commonly known for a sense of fairness and equality. I guess you could say that I come by it “astrologically,” :) but when I see something that’s just not fair I sometimes can’t help but speak up. Last Christmas, I had finally had enough.

My parents taught me that respect for your elders is not suggested, it is expected. My husband and I are teaching our daughters the same values – “what you’re told, when you’re told.” When I see children - especially adult children - being rude to their parents I am appalled. Last Christmas season, my daughters and I witnessed a total lack of parental respect – by a guest in our own home. It provoked questions from our perceptive children, so I used it as a teaching moment with the insolent behavior as an example of what not to do. I later described the situation to my husband. We decided that even though this rudeness had for years previously gone unchecked, if either of us saw a repeat performance and our daughters were again spectators, we would be obligated to speak up.

Unfortunately, the next time was the very next day. My husband, daughters and several others were present. This time we could not overlook it. I had to voice our feelings about the rude display. I never want our children to think that that kind of behavior is acceptable. I told this “kidult” that they would not be welcome in our home again until some attempt was made to correct the offensive behavior.

Sadly, our disapproval and ban were met only with excuses. I have now gone from an “in-law” to an “outlaw.” No changes have been made, no reconciliations have been offered. This causes an internal struggle for me – I want balance and fairness, I want everyone to just get along – but we will not sacrifice our choice to abide by our strong morals and our desire to instill them in our daughters.

So here we are once again in the holiday season and this year for the first time we will not be gathering with that extended family. Disappointingly, our ex-communication has continued. We will miss seeing those loved ones. We will celebrate the season under this grey cloud – and I’m okay with it. I know we are being true to ourselves and confident in our convictions. We’ll spend the holidays with other family and friends, and everyone will respect one another – even us outlaws.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Virtually Speaking

You’re reading this blog so you are witness to - and an essential part of - my personal efforts to stay current. You may have come here because you follow me on Twitter, or maybe you’re one of my friends on Facebook. All three are new ventures for me just this year. Also new for me in 2008 - a cellphone. I don’t get very many calls - almost exclusively from my husband and daughters - many days I don’t get even a single call or text. My kids make fun of me because I text so slowly – but I do text. I even use the lingo and abbreviations.

Before I began this technological exploration of sorts, I thought each of these things was simply a novelty – unnecessary and just a way to kill time. But the usefulness and importance has become obvious. The connections I have made and social networking that has resulted would never have been possible without this new Web 2.0 community.

I have always been a shy person, and I’m very introverted. (Are those two different things? Can you be shy and an extrovert? Hmm – now I’m curious. How about a poll? Answer to the right!) I was so shy and insecure growing up that I couldn’t see why anyone would want to be my friend - I even suspected that my mom may have paid my friends to like me and hang out with me. (Whoa, did I actually just admit that? I really must be feeling more secure these days!)

Small talk is uncomfortable for me – and frankly, I think I suck at it. It’s so much easier for me to communicate in a written format. Now through my social networks I have reconnected with old friends, made new friends, and gotten to know casual acquaintances much better. Hopefully they’ve all gotten to know me better too. I feel like I’m included and I’m part of something.

This isn’t any kind of personal epiphany or great revelation. It’s just me finding a place where I can be myself. In the words of Kool Moe Dee (didn’t know I was a closet rap fan didja?): “How ya like me now?”

Saturday, November 15, 2008

10 Random Things About Me

I am trying to "learn & play" along with my old and new friends at the library. They were given an "assignment" to come up with ten random things - I thought this would make a good topic on my blog as well. So here they are - things you may or may not have known about me.

1. Fly-fishing is one of my favorite pastimes - any kind of freshwater fishing really. I love being around a pond with the cattails, frogs and dragonflies.

2. I didn’t go take my test and get my driver’s license until I was 25. I never needed to drive anywhere, I always had someone to take me where I needed to go. I could get to most of the places I needed to go by city bus - I lived right off of High Street, went to Ohio State, worked at Whetstone Library – all right on the bus line.

3. I made my own wedding dress. Lace inserts, pearl beading and all. I’ve made 2 other wedding dresses since then (and probably close to a hundred bridesmaid dresses).

4. I can’t swallow pills – when there is no liquid version available, I have to crush or dissolve them. I remember choking on a cherry Lifesaver in the backseat of a car when I was very young - maybe the reason.

5. Never had even a single puff on a cigarette, ever – honest!

6. I love Ohio Stadium: I was an usher for the home football games when I was in Girl Scouts; My mom bought a piece of the old turf when they tore it up years ago; I sat in Block O when I was in college; I used it as the subject of my photography class at OSU; I made sure I graduated in the Spring so the ceremony was in the stadium; We made a donation and have a commemorative brick at the south end still today.

7. My stupid human trick – I can name all 50 states in alphabetical order in less than 30 seconds.

8. When I was 12, I was the horseshoe champion in my age bracket for the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. (Unfortunately, I haven’t retained any of my horseshoe throwing ‘skilz’ though…)

9. I have become a germ-a-phobe. Hand sanitizer is never far away. (Especially right after punching the numbers on an ATM machine or handling the canister in the bank drive-thru. Gives me the heebie-jeebies!)

10. Someday I’d like to have an old house to refurbish. Home improvement projects, knocking out walls, laying tile, installing faucets, decorating, painting, design and layout – bring it on!

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A Thousand Words

I try to post with some regularity, but sometimes other projects take up most of my spare time and I don’t take the time to write a new post. Currently, I am working on a photo project.

I love photographs and especially the convenience and immediacy of digital photography. My husband’s generous cousin sent me a digital camera a couple of years ago - she was trying to inspire me to sell my handmade doll clothes on ebay (a future blogpost topic?). I keep the camera in my purse, so I have it with me most anytime a photo op presents itself. Downloading the pictures to the computer is so quick and easy with my digital memory card reader, I usually get the pics off the camera after each use. The photo editing software that is available today means every picture you take has great potential. I crop, remove red eye, adjust the contrast – whatever it takes to enhance the image to best capture that moment.

My photos are my screensavers at home and at work. They provide a slideshow every time I stop working for a moment. (Sometimes I’ll intentionally stop working just to watch a slideshow of some of my favorite people and times!)

But I was thinking about all of the pictures I have from before I went digital, sitting in albums in a trunk in our living room. There are some great pictures there, and some very important moments. I wanted to have them on my computer too. Knowing it was a huge undertaking, I started scanning photos. I started with the oldest pictures – photos of my ancestors.

Then I worked on my one album I have with pictures from my childhood. I didn’t sca n every photo, just my favorites and the ones that represent an important event or memory.

The old snapshots scan really well. Some that were too dark or fuzzy since the day they were taken on film and developed can actually be adjusted and fixed. The old prints that have faded can have the saturation adjusted and the color comes back to life. Shots that were so far away can be cropped - the subjects come to the forefront, bigger and clearer than ever. A couple have had marks and scratches and seemed worthless, but even those can be retouched and look better than ever.

Of the more "recent history" albums, I’ve only made it through from the time my husband and I met up to our wedding rehearsal. Obviously I have a long way to go – 18 years and 3 kids worth of pictures – probably about 30+ albums in all.

But when I’m through, it will all be worth it. I’ll be able to burn photo discs and make multiple copies to store in a fire safe and share them with my family. I envision the ease of creating graduation and wedding slideshows for the girls when the time comes. I’m certain I’ll be using more of them when posting to this blog – it may even provide new topics to post about.

I am really enjoying my trip down memory lane as I go through the old albums. As I add to my computerized pictures, the “old” photos start appearing in my screen saver slideshow – it really makes me happy to see them intermingled with the more recent ones.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Trick Or Treat

I don’t like going to haunted houses – I’ve never liked being scared. Jack-o-lanterns do have their charm I suppose, but carving them is messy and a lot of work for the short time you can enjoy them before they rot or hooligans bash them in the street. We’ve tried roasting the seeds to try to get more out of the whole thing and they just don’t taste good. But going Trick or Treating – what’s not to like? Beggar’s night is still my favorite part of Halloween.

When I was very little, I had one store-bought costume – sort of a rabbit I guess, probably made from some kind of highly flammable material, with one of those plastic masks that are more than likely outlawed now because they block your vision. Another year, after our 1st grade play (I was Mama Bear), I wore the homemade chocolate-brown terrycloth costume (envision something like brown footy pajamas complete with hood with ears, and a small tail tacked on the back). But beyond that my costumes were bits and pieces of things thrown together (not like today where parents spend outrageous amounts of money on rubber masks and complete costumes). Some of my many costumes I came up with were: a bum, a football player – uniform borrowed from a neighbor, and a gypsy – flowing skirt, a shawl and tons of my mom’s old jewelry. We’d go door to door filling a pillowcase with as much candy as we could carry. It seemed like we stayed out all night.

In trying to pass this experience along to our kids, we’ve only purchased minor accessories (a witch’s hat, fairy wings and such) to create their costumes over the years. I did sew parts of them, but we created their looks mostly from things around the house. No expensive masks – we used make-up when needed.

So we would get the kids sufficiently disguised and ready. Walking with them when they were younger, we’d go with them to the door till they got the hang of it. But as they got older and went to the doors without us, we’d stand on the sidewalk waiting for them – and my husband and I came up with our own holiday tradition: we take a 6-pack and 2 red cups in a bag. That way we can walk around with the kids, visit with neighbors as they follow their kids around, and enjoy a frosty beverage or two or three. As our supply diminishes, we empty the kids’ candy buckets into the bag. Ahh … the candy! The girls don’t notice when we sample their candy as we walk (especially the candy bars). Beggar’s Night may be geared toward the children, but it’s one of our favorite holiday events.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Lunches with Rules

I have a couple of friends at work that I go to lunch with a few times each month. (First rule: everyone pays for their own meal.) But each time, the predictable conversation would ensue: “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t care. Where do you want to go?” Then we’d drive around and end up at one of the usual 2 or 3 sit-down restaurants near our office. One of us came up with a suggestion – nothing very original or earth-shattering actually, but it put an end to our indecision. We each wrote 5 restaurant suggestions on slips of paper and put them in a jar. Now when we are planning to go out, we just pull a slip from the jar and the choice has been made – we have to go to that restaurant (that’s rule #2 and there are no re-draws). This added a little element of chance, and made our lunches less stressful and more fun.

After doing this a couple of times, we decided to add yet another rule. Rule #3: wherever we go, you have to choose something that you’ve never had at that restaurant before. No more ordering the same old thing you always get, try something new. You don’t have to order something crazy, just explore the menu, see what other choices you might like. We each have discovered new likes (and dislikes) that we wouldn’t have tried without rule 3.

We were having fun with our lunches, and we even told some others at the office about our excursions and our rules. Now to take it the next step: Why not share the fun with others? But, who should we ask to join us? The jar idea worked to make our restaurant decisions, why not a jar for this too? There are 40-50 people in our office, so we put everyone’s name on a slip of paper (okay, so we actually cut apart our staff roster) and put them all in a cup. Now we choose our restaurant slip and see where we’re going, then (rule #4) draw a name and see who we’ll invite to come along. Okay, this could be a scary prospect – some invitees would see this as an opportunity to gossip or talk shop. So we instituted rule #5 – absolutely no talking about work or things related to our office. When we invite the “chosen” individual (who very likely is someone we don’t regularly interact with), the initial puzzlement becomes eager anticipation as we explain our lunches and the rules.

Our lunches with rules may seem a bit structured – but in actuality, they have become more enjoyable, it has become a game, and something we really look forward to each month. And since our game has us branching out talking to people we wouldn’t otherwise, we are finding out more about them on a personal level. As a bonus, it seems to also be creating more of a cohesive workplace.

If you ever find yourself struggling to decide where to go for lunch at work or for dinner with your spouse, try playing your own game. You don’t have to come up with rules. But, why not try out #3 – order something new? Or maybe #4 - invite someone along, someone you normally wouldn’t ask. You’ll break up the monotony and expand your horizons.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Strange Bedfellows

If you haven’t noticed (ha, ha – yeah, right), it’s election time. Many people use their blog as an opportunity for posting their opinions on their choice for president.

My political post is not to state my party preferences, but to share my presidential election pet peeves.

A. Political ads - Why do they advertise for a year (or more) ahead of time? Are there regulations about how soon they can start campaigning? I have such overload at this point that I tune them out and pay no attention to them.
B. Recorded phone messages - Shouldn’t you be able to put yourself on a “do not call” list for political calls? Why are they exempt from it? Does anyone even listen to those recorded messages?
C. Mailers - What about a “do not mail” list? I walk straight from my mailbox to the trashcan – they never even make it to my counter for later perusal. The amount of paper wasted on political ads mailed to my household alone is staggering, imagine the truckloads sent out nationwide over the course of the campaign.
D. Personal opinions - Why does everyone assume you’re voting for the same candidate they are? Neighbors, co-workers, friends – from both sides of the fence – they just start talking about the opposing candidate in a derogatory manner, slamming anyone who would vote for the other - without even knowing who I support.
E. Debates - What is the purpose of the debates? No one seems to actually watch them with impartiality or to gain insight on what a candidate’s stance is. They have their preconceived ideas, and look for every example that backs their ideas, pro and con.
F. Media - The media with their supposed fence-straddling – every story seems to have a particular slant, depending on which channel you watch or listen to, or which paper you read. Can’t someone just give the facts without bias?
G. Prejudice - Why does it play into it at all? Does race or gender really matter? Shouldn’t it be about what they stand for, not whether they’re standing in high heels or if they are descended from Africa? Their physical bodies - the color of their skin and whether or not they have a penis - should be totally irrelevant.

Someday, a presidential candidate will announce their candidacy and give their viewpoints. Then they will announce that they will not spend the typical small fortune for campaigning – they will not send mailers or make commercials. They will donate any campaign funds – to the American people, to the national debt, something. That’s a president I would vote for and support.

With the state of things in this country, whoever is elected in a couple of weeks, I will support them as they serve as President of the United States – they’re going to need it.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Spirit of Fire

This past weekend was Homecoming at the high school my daughter attends. As times are evolving, things are becoming more electronic and so much is geared around the internet and social networking, but I’m happy to say that some things haven’t changed at all. Long-standing high school homecoming tradition is alive and well!

The entire week featured various spirit days (dress like your favorite teacher day, “what not to wear” day, green and white day, etc.). As expected, Friday evening was the football game - and as their school’s tradition goes, they lost. Saturday was the dance - boys looking uncomfortable, girls in pretty dresses, corsages, going out to dinner - the whole bit.

But the part that impressed me took place on Thursday. Late afternoon featured a parade consisting of the marching band, guard, ROTC, cheerleaders, football team, homecoming queens and kings, and floats for various school groups and each grade. They paraded through the streets and wound up back at the school parking lot where everyone assembled in a huge circle. With the fire department looking on, the bonfire was lit. You could see the flames from blocks away. The marching band played various school fight songs. It seemed the entire community was there showing their support and cheering on the school.

I always thought these storied bonfires were a small-town tradition or something out of my parents’ high school years. The pep rallies we held in our gym during the school day were nothing to compare with the spirit and tradition I saw that night. I hope it is a tradition they will continue for years to come.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Homework - Help!

I was always a good student, in all subjects. For math, I took all of the college prep classes and passed the necessary math in college. Granted, there was not much of a math requirement for a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree, but I took what I had to. So I feel like I have a pretty good handle on it. I can balance a checkbook, figure square footage of a room, measure for curtains or for sewing dress hems.

(Reader: imagine a sufficiently ominous/scary music bit for effect here).
Then my daughter came to me with her 7th grade homework. (AAaaagh! Not that!)

I don’t remember there being so many different kinds of numbers: composite, prime, whole, rational, real, reciprocal, and integers. When did they come up with all of those? What do you need so many kinds of numbers for? A number is a number! Dividing fractions, common denominators, cube roots – remember how to do those? I don’t! Negative times a negative is a positive, positive times a positive is a positive, negative times a positive is a negative – it’s enough to make your head spin!

Okay, so I sit down and try to drag some recollection from my classes (so long ago!) and begin to try to help her understand the assignment. I think I get it and start to explain it to her.

This is when it really gets good (insert more ominous music here) – she tells me they don’t do it like that anymore!

What? Can they really change HOW you do math? Aren’t there formulas and equations and an order of operations? How do they expect us to help our kids to succeed with their schoolwork if they go and change it all on us? It’s hard enough to remember how we were taught, but to have to learn new ways of computing word problems? No thanks! And I don’t know about you, but how much of that stuff do you actually still use in your day to day life? None! I can honestly say I haven’t had to graph a parabola, or figure out how many apples and oranges Susie and Billy are sharing, or anything about trains leaving stations traveling in opposite directions. Of course this line of reasoning doesn’t go over real big with your kid’s teacher.

I said earlier that I was a good student, I’m a fairly intelligent person. So I do what anyone would do in my situation – I yell to my oldest daughter to come help. She’s in 10th grade, they can’t have changed things in the 3 years since she learned it. Oh, but they can!

I don’t get it (and honestly, I don’t want to), but I have confidence my daughter will - it will just take time. In the meantime, she can call Uncle John who teaches math in high school.

And I’ll tell my daughters that I’m a whiz at English – unless they decide to change it on me.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

I’m With Stupid

Today is Ask a Stupid Question Day. Really, you can look it up! Ask away – this is your chance. Anything, no matter how dumb - today’s the day! Whatever has been nagging at you, find someone to ask.

Here are some things I’d like to know:

*Is Tweety bird a boy or a girl? (Well? Do you know? I’m taking a poll, look to the right. Make sure you give your answer!)
*How many licks DOES it take to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop?
*If “bra” is singular, why is “panties” plural?
*Why is there Braille on drive-up ATM’s?
*Can I ask you a question? (I think this is my favorite!)

So go ahead. You can ask anything – start it like this: “This might sound stupid, but…” Leave a comment on this post and ask your stupid question you'd like to know an answer for. (Maybe someone can come up with an answer!)

Now if someone can just tell me why hot dogs come in packs of 10 and buns come in packages of 8…

As Forrest Gump says, “Stupid is as stupid does.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Family Stories

When I was very young, my parents took an interest in tracing our family tree. My mother started doing historical research, interviewed family members, wrote to distant relatives and was able to come up with fairly detailed genealogies for both sides of our family. As part of the research of the paternal side we visited small cemeteries deep in the hills of Muskingum and Guernsey counties. Believe it or not, I have fond memories of running and playing tag with my sisters in the graveyards amongst the tombstones on many beautiful, quiet, hot summer days, while our parents took careful notes of dates and names, and sometimes took rubbings from the headstones of our ancestors.
An interest in genealogy is a family trait that I inherited. I enjoy research in general - with ~20 years spent at the library I’ve done more than my share of looking for answers, and have often been told I’m good at it. Even my current job requires quite a bit of research. The historical anecdotes of family trees are fascinating to me. So I took on the responsibility of maintaining and updating the family tree. Thankfully, in this computer age there are boundless resources available. My first task was to computerize the research that my parents had done into a genealogy electronic database program so I could easily identify any gaps. Then I turned to online resources. I discovered links to family lines that my parents’ research would never have uncovered. I located long-lost family members, and I met strangers who we are actually related to. Currently, our family history is rather detailed and complex. The software program I use allows you to print your family “story” which I printed out and presented to my dad a couple of years ago. To see the work that had been started years ago by my mom combined with my new exploration – well, it was a gift he still treasures.

While on vacation this summer as we walked through a wooded path to the lake, I spotted an old forgotten family cemetery through the trees. Making our way off the path through the forest, we climbed over a portion of rusted wire fencing. It was a beautiful, quiet, hot summer day. We wandered over the graves and explored the tombstones, many broken and leaning on others, some so old and worn they could not be read. We called out to one other the names and dates of soldiers, infants, families – each lost in our own thoughts. Looking back on the experience, the genealogist in me hopes that some descendent has documented their stories. But my thoughts that day were taking me back to another cemetery, another family, another story…

Sunday, September 21, 2008

High School Musings

High school seems like a whole other lifetime to me. I graduated over 25 years ago (now that's a statement that will make you feel old!). I have some good memories from those times, and bad memories too of course (high school girls can be so mean). It's such a short span of years that you spent there when you look back at it.

I signed up for Facebook recently, just to look at a friends' photos on her profile. I started looking around the FB site a little and discovered a few old friends from high school that I hadn't talked to in years. I've added them as friends now on FB and re-connected with them, and discovered that two of them have actually gotten together after all these years and are now engaged.

Then at a friends' house this weekend, she introduced me to their new neighbor. Amazingly, we had gone to high school together - I recognized her right away, after sooo many years. Though we hadn't been close back in those days, we did have some mutual friends. We spent some time reminiscing and talking about who ended up with who, the class couple that actually got married and are still together, all our old friends and what they're doing now.

Hopefully as my daughters go through their high school years I can offer some insight. Those years have an impact, but the dramas and relationships are easily forgotten over the years. Though it may be hard to believe now, any tragedies experienced - no matter how big or small - will recede from memory as they grow older. The friendships can continue through the various stages of life, but it will take effort. The boys that break their hearts are just stepping stones along the way to finding "the one." Things that happen now, friends and enemies they make in high school - they all help make you who you are, but they don't define you. Enjoy every minute of it - the good and the bad.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Going green, er... pink

Recycling again, but this time as inspired by "Pretty in Pink."

Remember that 80's teen movie? With Jon Cryer as the fabulous "Duckie," Molly Ringwald played "Andie," and Andrew McCarthy's wealthy character "Blane" ("His name is Blane? Oh! That's a major appliance, that's not a name!") was to take Andie to prom. Then when Andie's father buys her an awful second-hand dress and she gets another hand-me-down dress from her friend, she takes the dresses and reworks them into her own creation.

Great movie, awesome soundtrack, and perfect inspiration for K's homecoming dress. Instead of hitting the mall and trying on armloads of gowns looking for "the dress," a co-worker gave me some of her college-aged daughter's old dance dresses. K was instantly infatuated with one of them in particular. With some adjustments - cutting out excess fabric, sewing in some extra seams, getting rid of the puffy sleeves, and shortening it to tea-length - it is homecoming ready.

Now we just have to hope her date doesn't turn out to be a jerk like "Blane" in the movie, or her Daddy might make him the next recycling project!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Going Green

Like everyone else, we are recycling. And of course we are trying to instill it as a habit for our daughters to help save the environment. We save our pop cans, D crushes them as one of her daily chores, and they are later turned in for cash. We save and re-use paper for notes and quick print jobs. I pack the girls' clothes up and pass them on to my co-worker's young daughter. We do our part.

The end of this summer saw a huge recycling proposition from K & D. They gave up their swingset in the backyard. (OMG! I still can't believe they've outgrown it!) Our good friends S & A have an adorable daughter and cute little boy, and they were thrilled with the offer.

The day came for the playset to be taken apart and transported to their house for reassembly. K & D spent some time in the backyard that day, having a last swing and taking some pictures:

The dad, S, came over after work that day and began by taking pictures of his own - to show how to put it back together, and marking pieces for easy reassembly. His father-in-law and brother-in-law arrived and the three of them had it taken apart in no time. They left many pieces bolted together to make their job easier when they got it home, but it made the parts incredibly heavy to move from the back of the yard, over the fence and out to the driveway. My husband helped too when he got home from work, and the four of them managed to move even the tall tower part mostly in one big section. They loaded it all into their pick-up trucks and transported it 26 miles around the outerbelt to their house, looking very much like the Beverly Hillbillies or Sanford & Son in their junkyard truck.

As they drove away with their precarious load, I went and looked out at our backyard. The absence of the playset brought a tear to my eye - because my girls are growing up. I thought of all the fun times that so many children have enjoyed on that playset over the years - the daycare kids, birthday parties, friends, cousins and neighbors. Those days with my little daughters are past, but they'll always be my baby girls.

We received a thank-you note from S & A in the mail yesterday. They included pictures of their cute kids swinging and sliding on their "new" playset, with huge grins on their little faces. Those pictures were all the proof I needed that this recycling project definitely made a big difference!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Where were you...?

That's a question you'll hear this week for the rest of your life. Where were you on 9/11? Where were you when the planes crashed into the towers? Where were you when the towers collapsed? Those that lost someone that day will always have their personal loss, a hole in their heart and soul. But everyone has their own story of that day, and most are eager to share theirs. This tragedy didn't happen to them, but because of how it has changed who we are and where and how we live, everyone has taken it on as part of their own personal history.

Where were you...?

I was on a leave of absence from the library where I had worked for almost 20 years. I had a home daycare at that time so that I could be at home with my girls for a few years. Parents had dropped off their children that morning, we had finished breakfast and I had put my older daughter on the bus for school. The Today Show was on in our home office just off the kitchen. When they broke away for a report that something had happened at the World Trade Center and one of the towers was on fire, I woke my husband who was due to go into work in a couple of hours. As we watched in shocked disbelief, the plane hit the second tower. The daycare children and my youngest daughter were in the playroom, totally oblivious to the fact that the world had just undergone catastrophic change. I sat glued to the events unfolding on the screen and rocked one of the babies I was caring for (as much to comfort myself as the little one) and I watched stunned as the towers collapsed.

We were in contact with my daughter's school and were reassured that their day was to go on as planned, there was no need for early dismissal. The next concern was for my husband. As metropolitan areas across the country were closing offices downtown, I was certain my husband wouldn't have to go to work - they surely would close the library where he works (the same library I was on leave from) and show some concern for their employees at such an uncertain time. Unbelievably, the decision was made to be open regular hours and my husband was required to drive into downtown as everyone else was essentially evacuating the area. And I turned in my resignation - one month shy of 20 years working there. I was not going to go back and work there - I didn't want to work someplace that held that little regard for their employees and their families.

That date, those people, these events changed my life. Changed our world. Changed ... everything.

Where were you the day planes fell from the sky? I was rocking a baby.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Change is good

We were set on the idea that our daughters would go to parochial school. They were enrolled in a small, local pre-k thru 8th-grade private Catholic school beginning at age 4 for both of them. Looking back now, we don't regret them attending there - it was a good foundation to begin their education. The Christian values that were instilled in them at that young age are a big part of who they are today. However...

When the tuition was increased by over 50% in the course of two years, we felt it was time to analyze the situation - were we getting our money's worth? Were we happy with the education they were getting? After much discussion and observation, we realized there were a couple of problematic areas for us at the private school, the main one being how everyone was treated exactly the same - which may sound like a good thing, but... there was no enrichment, no honor roll, everyone was expected to do everything adequately - not to excel at anything. Essentially, students weren't pushed to strive for anything above mediocrity.

So we made the switch, and were second-guessing ourselves at first. But then... we saw the proof that we made the right decision.

(Prepare for the bragging to begin...)

D started 5th grade at a public intermediate school - only 5th and 6th graders, but there were about 1500 students in the building (big jump from the 250 total students they were used to). It was a fairly new building - bright, colorful, air-conditioned, and had a great computer lab, library, music room, art room, etc. - far exceeding the facilities at the old private school. The first week there, she was elected to student council. Friends were made and she loved her teachers. When grade cards came home - all A's. These were the first A's we'd seen since at the Catholic school they used the +, check, and - grading system (which is awful in my opinion). Then her classes went on a learning field trip to Exchange City and D's classmates voted her as the mayor for the day. The A's continued. At the end of 5th grade at an assembly with the parents, she was chosen by her teacher as the model student of their class. Sixth grade continued in the same manner - she was elected for student council again and made honor roll every grading period. She was in the choir and she started playing the trumpet and took to it naturally. She memorized 120 places of Pi and won a class prize. And at the end of 6th grade at the assembly with the parents, she was given an award as one of just 9 sixth graders that got straight A's the entire year (that's 9 out of 800 - pretty awesome accomplishment!).

(And the bragging continues...)

K's introduction to public school was at the local middle school as an 8th grader. She was voted as student council rep (she ran every year at the old private school but was never elected). K was in the choir and selected for solos/duets, she made the Power of the Pen team (competitive creative writing), and was chosen by one of her teachers to receive a Pride Award for her positive attitude and leadership. She eagerly gave up her afternoons in the Spring to be a track statistician. Even with her busy schedule, K still managed to make honor roll every report card. Freshman year at high school saw more of the same - she joined the yearbook staff and Pencil Dust (the creative writing magazine). She was in the choir and each performance had a solo/duet. In the Fall, in order to go to all of the away football games, she volunteered to be the water girl for the varsity football team. She got to ride the bus with the sports med staff and got to watch each game from the sidelines. (And as a bonus she got to be around the upperclass football players!) If you know K, then you know how much she likes to perform - she auditioned for the Fall play and got a part with a monologue. She auditioned for the winter muscial and got a role in "Once Upon a Mattress," so she got to dance and sing - all while wearing a pretty princess dress and crown (a dream come true)! In the Spring she auditioned again and got a role in a one act play. All this stage time, as well as Saturdays that she gave her time to paint the set and props, earned her an invitation to join the International Thespian Society. You'd think all that would be enough, yet she still offered her time to the track coach back at the middle school and went to their meets and kept stats for them again. And her grades? Honor roll of course.

Currently, K is in her sophomore year of high school (for details on her schedule, see my earlier post: Back to Reality). This year D is at the middle school for 7th grade. She is changing classes for the first time and has a locker for the first time. Her schedule includes classes with 8th graders (pre-algebra, language arts, science) as she is in the accelerated classes because of her good grades the previous years. She's in the band playing trumpet again. We'll see what the rest of the year holds for Miss D, but I'm confident she will continue to thrive in public school.

Did we make the right choice? If they had been left in the private school, would they still be stagnant? Would they be satisfied being average? I think its evident that adequate just doesn't cut it for our girls!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Vacation, our way

Summertime last year saw many of our friends heading off on exciting (expensive) vacations to exotic locations. Plans for our time off were just to stay in town and find ways to keep everyone entertained, cheaply of course. But I really wanted to "get away" and it had been several years since we had actually been on a vacation, so I formulated a plan. I suggested to my husband that we could go on vacation even with our limited resources - I would come up with a destination (somewhere not too far since both of our vehicles are older) and activities (something for everyone), and still keep costs minimal. After spending a couple of days discussing ideas with friends and co-workers, and researching various possibilities online, I found the answer.

This would be our own version of vacation. To keep lodging cheap, camping seemed like the solution, but my husband had 2 requests - he must have a bed, and he needs air-conditioning. So maybe a cabin then - but the cabins I was finding weren't really very cheap. Then I stumbled on a website for a private campground by Cowan Lake State Park near Wilmington (only about an hour away). Beechwood Acres Camping Resort has "camper cabins" - these are very basic structures with electricity but no bathroom or running water inside, but much cheaper rates than other cabins. Since the camper cabins had the pre-requisites - beds (a full-size and a set of bunk beds) and A/C, and the price was right, we booked our stay and arranged for my parents to dog-sit. Everything worked out so well that we made a return trip this summer.

Since the cabin had electricity inside, there was a fridge with small freezer for the food, and we could take the all-important coffeemaker to start each day. We took a BIG tub full of adult beverages and with the great A/C (it was awesome, we were actually cold sometimes even on the hottest days) we only had to add ice one time.

The cabin is directly across from the heated pool complete with volleyball net, basketball hoop, and a bench for lounging around the edge in the shallow end. They have great tunes playing whenever the pool is open (9am - 10pm), and since it's a private campground we could have our red cup beverages with us while we relaxed in the pool.

We grilled dinner when we got hungry and sat around the campfire every night. There is a playground, basketball hoop, cornhole, a gameroom, and goats - Minnie and Maggie - that you can pet and feed. The lake and beach at the state park are just a very short walk away. We did attempt to fish last year, and even went on a short hike to see the water lotuses this year - beautiful! - but swimming is by far our preferred activity. The campground has tent and RV camping along with the camper cabins (the other cabins sleep 5, 6, and up to 10), and is very well maintained with beautiful flowers everywhere and palms by the pool.

We had perfect weather both years and spent hours relaxing, swimming, reading, playing cards, hanging out and re-connecting as a family.
This vacation may not have been expensive, but it was ... priceless!

Monday, September 1, 2008

Trip to the mall

I promised my girls a trip to the mall when we went school shopping last week. So with Daddy off golfing and Labor Day sales calling, we decided it was a perfect time to go.
When they hire those guys that work the kiosk booths lining the center of the mall, what are the requirements?
"Help wanted: Annoying Kiosk Salesman, must be willing to harass innocent people minding their own business that want absolutely nothing that you are selling."
Why do they have to be like carnies at the fair? Any other store, they wait for you to come in. You know what you're looking for, you'll stop in the stores you're interested in - that's the way shopping works. But for some reason having your booth as a divider down the middle of the mall (where everyone can plainly see what you have to offer) gives you the right to accost every passerby with your spiel. I think maybe they get bonus points if they ask you more than once, as you pass by in each direction.
Anyway, I digress.
Each girl had a particular item we were searching for - D wanted a new t-shirt from one of the popular stores (we'll just call them "AF," "H," and "AERO" for the purposes of this post) and K needed new jeans. According to K's friends, she just had to get her jeans at "H" if possible. If you've ever gone into "H" you know it's dark, cramped, hot, and loud. Even making it in the door, it feels like you should give a secret handshake or a password or something. But we made our way through the dim lights and pumped up music to the racks of jeans - only to find out that you have to be 1. a child, or 2. anorexic to fit in their clothes. K being a sophomore in high school is not either of those. Seriously, if you pick up one of their sweaters sized XS, hold it up and look at it - I don't think I know many kindergartners that it would fit. And even if they came in normal sizes, paying $60 for a pair of jeans that come complete with rips and worn spots wasn't going to make Daddy very happy. At "AF" there were similar selection/price issues, but at least it was well-lit and the entrance was wide open, no secret doors or handshakes here, we at least felt like we were allowed to shop there. We had success at "AERO." Pricing was very reasonable, and their sale prices were - surprising! They had jeans on sale, and racks of shirts 2 for $22 and some that were even $5 as a Labor Day special. Both girls came home happy.

Friday, August 29, 2008


My office closed early at noon today for the holiday. Labor Day
weekend - the weekend signalling the end of summer, the last chance to go to the pool before they close till Spring, having a final cookout and hanging out on the deck before cleaning up the grill and putting away the patio furniture, vacations are over and kids are back in school.
Many people mourn that summer is ending - especially the kids! But not me - I love fall, it's my favorite time of year. There's a feeling in the air, a crispness - the muggy stickiness of August goes away, it's cool in the evenings and mornings yet still warm during the day. Perfect evenings for sitting around a firepit or bonfire. Time to break out the jackets and sweaters.
Fall means my gardens are full of color (and the weeding is coming to an end - yay!). Spring flowers have their own appeal, but they seem so fragile, pastel-colored and short-lived. Flowers of the fall are bright, bold and hardy as hell. My perennials begin to display their structure as they drop the petals and foliage and show what they're really made of. The vegetable garden has produced a few zucchini and some cucumbers over the summer, and now with fall upon us all that remains is a veritable plethora (yes, plethora - look it up if you don't know it, it's a great word) of cherry tomatoes!
Of course fall brings college football, and with it the Saturday "tailgate" parties at friends' houses. As an OSU alum, the sound of the best damn marching band is music to my ears, and watching as they perform Script Ohio and the dotting of the "i" always makes me smile. When the team takes the field in that beautiful old stadium overflowing with scarlet and gray, they'll kick off another great football season. If all goes well, we'll be watching and cheering them on - hearing neighbors and friends shouts of "O-H," we'll answer with the requisite "I-O" - till the victory bell rings and the team sings Carmen Ohio on the field after the game.
Other bonuses of fall? The colorful leaves as they change and drop from the trees, pesky bugs start to die off, grass mowing comes to an end, my husband and I both celebrate our birthdays, and daylight savings time ends giving us a bonus hour of sleep.
It's obvious - I fell in love with Fall!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Which one are you?

Last night was D's turn to visit her school, get her schedule, find her locker, meet her teachers ... and WORRY. She is a worrier. What if I can't find my classroom? What if I can't get my locker open? What if I break my pencil? What if I don't have anyone to eat lunch with? What if..? what if...? what if? Aaaahhh! Needless to say, it was a bit stressful - for both her and me.
When we got home and I shared the story with her daddy, he asked her to come outside with him where he was grilling our dinner and had a chat with her. He tried telling her how a positive attitude can really make a big difference, but she wasn't quite getting it.
Then, being the good father that he is, he came up with a great analogy. He asked her, "Are you Eeyore? Or are you Tigger?" She completely understood what he was getting at, and thanks to my wonderful husband, overnight she has become the most bounciest tiggeriest Tigger there is and is truly looking forward to the first day of school tomorrow.
Which one are you? Are you Eeyore? Or are you Tigger?
Me? Definitely a Tigger through and through.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Back to reality

We've been home from our camping trip just over 48 hours, and I'm ready for another vacation! Arriving back in town in time for K's schedule pick-up for her sophomore year at high school, she was able to find out her classes and teachers, locate her locker (almost directly across from her "bestest" friend - what could be better) and finally see so many of her friends from school (lots of hugs and screaming all around). As for the Readin' and Writin' - she made the honors block for English and U.S. History (they combine the two classes together for some honor roll students upon the recommendation of their teachers) and she is very proud and excited. For 'Rithmetic, she has Geometry. Rounding out the curriculum courses, she has Chemistry, Health and
Spanish II. She has Symphonic Choir again this year, and in addition, she tried out for and made Show Choir - so now K will be dancing as well as singing. With all of that, she actually doesn't even get a lunch period (we had to sign to give our permission for them to go ahead and schedule it that way). But the choir teacher has given his okay for granola bars and small snacks to be eaten during his 3rd period class for these kids with overflowing schedules. (D has her schedule pick-up on Monday, so I'll provide a rundown of what she has going on next week sometime.) School starts on Wednesday, August 27th, and they can't wait.
That was just the beginning of the running since we've gotten home - both girls have already had friends over, gone to our parish festival at least once (we're going tonight and doing our duty as good parishoners and volunteering a couple of hours), and done a little school shopping. K went to the high school opening football game last night, and a pool party today.
I know we're just getting back into the swing of things, but I can't help but wish I was still sitting in the pool sipping a frosty beverage and looking forward to a nice campfire and s'mores later.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

To blog or not to blog...

Okay, okay. I give up. I'm trying to stay current, so I'm starting a blog.
Me! Netter! Can you believe it? I like computers, I can design spreadsheets, database management is my job, I like to Photoshop/edit digital photos, and I even create and maintain our foundation website, so why not?
Why not? Because I can't figure out why anyone would really care what I have to say. Anywhere you go online you can find someone ranting or giving their opinion about something they know nothing about. Why do they think anyone cares what they have to say?
But I think I've come up with my motivation. To come up with something interesting or relevant or humorous or important is challenging. And what do I have that challenges me? There are the usual daily hassles dealing with schedules and social dramas of my daughters (a 7th grader and a sophomore in high school). My husband is my best friend, and my marriage is wonderful - while he can be stubborn about certain things, there are no real challenges there. I enjoy my job, and even though some of the people I deal with on a daily basis aren't model employees, I'm not particularly challenged by them.
I am a quiet, thoughtful person. In social situations, I have always been an observer, rarely sharing my ideas. So for me to step out of my comfort zone and actually be introspective and say what's on my mind ... that is truly challenging.
This is an opportunity for me to gain some insight, share my thoughts, and on the practical side - keep everyone informed of what our family is up to. (If you know me at all, I am above all else, practical!)
I'm up for the challenge!