Wednesday, May 25, 2011

He Lights Up My Life

Logan swept the awards ceremony last night. He was one of about a dozen (out of around 300) who won all three awards: President's Award for maintaining a high grade point average and for scoring above the 95th percentile on the annual standardized tests; Award for Academic Excellence; and an award for having been selected as Student of the Month. At the reception following the ceremony, several teachers came up to us (me, Steve, Julia, and Logan) and gushed about what a wonderful kid he is and what a pleasure it was to have him in their class. I think that meant even more than the pieces of paper! But no getting around it, no matter how you look at it, I love that boy, and I'm so proud of him. It's so encouraging to hear the teachers comment on what a bright future awaits him. I certainly hope so because when I told him he would have to take care of me in my old age, he promised to buy me my own hospital.

The news from Joplin continues to be horrendous. For now cash donations to Convoy of Hope may be one of the most effective ways to help. Their buying power far surpasses that of individuals, so it doesn't make any sense to buy goods to donate. And they are able to get in there now to distribute needed items. The desire to help and the resources that are available are heart-warming. It's just so frustrating that it all takes time. Time to restore infrastructure services, to remove downed electrical lines, to close leaking gas lines, and to make it safe for debris removal operations. Search efforts continue, many are still missing. My heart is filled with sorrow for all who suffer.

Ben boarded a bus (super-coach style, not school bus) this morning bound for Florida and Disney World. I think he packed everything he needed. I had to re-manufacture his swimming trunks to fit his tall lean body. I took in the size 28 waist an inch or so, just enough to keep them from slipping down over his hips (less than 28 inch hips???) and added a cuff to make them two inches longer and to cover more of his long legs. I loved watching his hyper-sleep-deprived frenzy this morning. They should have a wonderful time.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Milling Around

You know that awkward in-between time -- something just ended, something is going to start, but for now all you can do is walk in circles. That's how I feel.

Yesterday a monster tornado hit Joplin, just 70 miles away. I don't know anyone directly affected, but it's hard not to feel it in the gut when it could easily have been us, not them. Wanting to help, but not being able to do anything, is frustrating. We scraped together and donated all our coins -- a significant pile because I habitually stick them away and we just had a moderately successful garage sale and raked in lots of coin from items priced at 25 cents.

Thursday a disaster relief team from our church will go to Joplin to start moving and removing debris. Logan will go with them while Ben is in Florida with the band. Next week they can both work with the team. Summer school starts June 1, so they won't be able to make many trips, but at least it's something. I can imagine the work will continue for quite a while.

I wander in circles in anticipation of surgery. Today I attend my total joint replacement class and learned lots of gory details about the process and the recovery. I do feel enlightened and not as frightened as I was yesterday. But, I can't wait to have it behind me!

Gotta go -- feel the need to pace in circles.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

D-Day = knee day

D-Day, the allied invasion of Europe was on June 6, 1944, and the tides of WWII turned. On a much lesser scale, June 6, 2011, I will have my left knee surgically replaced. I don't expect a sea change, but I do hope for less pain, more mobility, and a speedy recovery.

I'm filled with dread, fear, trepidation and I'm scared shitless. But, I gotta do it. One of the wonderful benefits of this decision has been the outpouring of offers to help and support us while I'm incapacitated. And I'm going to take full advantage of them! On the calendar at this point, Kevin will be with me the during the surgery and for the first few days. Sister-in-law Kathy will come around the time I'm released from the hospital and stay for a week. Friends Sharon and Lois have volunteered to stay with me for the few days after Kathy leaves. That will get me to the second post-surgical weekend. I'm hoping I'll be feeling well enough that the boys can take care of themselves and anything I might need. I'll still need to call on some folks for transporting the kids, picking up groceries, etc. I have some volunteers, and I hope you know who you are, because I plan on taking you up on your kind offers. I'm so grateful to all of you who have stepped up!

As luck would have it, my first full week at home, June 13-17, will be a very hectic week for the boys. Both have summer school, Logan has football camp and Ben has band camp. The Maples boys' shuttle will be running from 7:00 AM till 8:30 PM every day. Meals will be impossible to plan. But, with a lot of help from my friends, we'll get through it.

Today I had my pre-op physical and on Monday, I go to a joint replacement class. Then it's just counting down till Knee-Day.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Blackberry Winter in the Ozarks

Today is nearly as cold as a summer's day in San Francisco (apologies to Mark Twain or whoever was supposed to have said; "the coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco").
Everyone who stopped in at our garage sale this morning had something to say about the weather, but one woman offered that it was "Blackberry Winter." I had never heard the expression which I learned refers to a mid-May cold snap after the blackberries have bloomed. So, today the heater is blasting, earlier this week it was the A/C. Doesn't seem like it is ever just right.
My new camera takes much better pictures than the i-phone, I'm sure you'll agree. This picture shows the portion of the quilt I have finished quilting. Here's a progress report: Approximately 30% done, 1,500 feet of thread, 150,000 stitches, and 600 hours spent hand quilting.
Grandson Robby sent me a beautiful piece of his original art work which had been printed on a piece of white fabric. I quilted it and framed it so I could easily show it off. Looks like fish swimming through kelp to me; I wonder what Robby thinks.


Ben is through performing and receiving awards for this school year except for the coup de grĂ¢ce - the band trip to Florida and a performance at Disney World. I've never been to Disney World (neither have Ben or Logan). I wish we could all go! Logan's award assembly and 8th grade celebrations are scheduled for all of next week. Look for better pictures with the new camera.


By the way, I forgot to post books I read in April:
Great Expectations: Charles Dickens -- this one is a little bit different, not quite such dramatic changes in fortune as Oliver Twist or David Copperfield, and a lot more symbolism. I liked it.

The Fiery Cross: Diana Gabaldon -- not quite as much sex and violence and a lot more early American history.

Bastard Out of Carolina: Dorothy Allison -- not sure whether the Bastard is the illegitimate girl, or her abusive step-father. Sad tale of Southern White Trash featuring a girl called Bone. This story evokes another of poor white folk: Winter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell in the telling of hard-scrabble lives that hit below the poverty belt.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Music to My Ears


Ben sings in the Chorale's spring concert even though a black lightning bolt is about to penetrate his skull. Unaffected by lightning and unlocatable in this photo is cousin Nick Cronin, also a member of the chorale. The music was amazing and Ben loves singing, it does something wonderful to his soul. In his audition for next year, he qualified for Varsity Singers -- the elite choir in the high school -- composed largely of seniors with some exceptionally (ahem) talented members of other classes. However, he won't be able to join them and will remain with the chorale one more year because of a schedule conflict with some other class he also wants to take.
The point of all this bragging is to say, he loves to sing and he does it well. And that makes my heart sing.


He also likes playing in the band. The two musical organizations form the backbone of his social sphere. (Block that metaphor and try to imagine a sphere with a backbone!) In this picture he is hiding behind a music stand, playing a mallet instrument of some sort, and is about to be struck by a bolt of orange lightning issuing from Mr. Perkins hand.
As a percussionist, he rotates among several instruments called the "front line" in marching season. In symphonic band they form the back line and he is playing the tympany in this piece (he's on the far right).

These pictures were taken with my new iphone -- I really do need a decent camera!

Also music to my ears was the news that my air conditioner was easily repaired by removing an ant's nest from its innards and replacing a wire chewed through by a mouse. Ah, the Missouri wild life!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Happy Mother's Day


Ruthanne Hatch Blair
1919-2002

My mother was pretty and resembled Lauren Bacall. She was also very smart and witty. I'm not sure she knew that and probably no one ever told her. Too bad.

I criticized the very ordinary foods she cooked while I was growing up. I now understand why the food was so plain. She fed us three meals a day every day; we almost never went out to eat, no one else helped, and the last thing she wanted to hear was a complaint from any of the five of her kids. So, she attempted the impossible -- she tried to please everyone. She always served dessert. Here's one of her typical recipes:
Lazy Daisy Cake

Ingredients

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • FROSTING:
  • 3/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 2 tablespoons half and half
  • 1 cup shredded coconut

Directions

  1. In a large mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until thick and lemon-colored, about 4 minutes. Combine flour, baking powder and salt; add to egg mixture. Beat on low just until combined. Heat milk and butter in a small saucepan until butter melts. Add to batter; beat thoroughly (the batter will be thin). Pour into a greased 9-in. square baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until cake tests done. Cool slightly. For frosting, blend all ingredients well; spread over warm cake. Broil about 4 in. from the heat for 3-4 minutes or until the top is lightly browned.



She had a beautiful singing voice and I have wonderful memories of her singing to us. She sang Irish songs and the popular music of the '30's and '40's. She also had a nearly hidden creative streak. I think of her life as a sad waste of wonderful potential.

Alcoholism destroyed her personality, her relationship with her children, her marriage, her creative talent, and her health. All she ever wanted to be was a mother, too bad she wasn't better at it. I pray that I learned something from her. Tomorrow I will celebrate the beautiful aspects of her.



Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Cell Phones Hate Me

In May, 2007 we were about to depart for a three week vacation to the east coast. I did one last load of laundry, including my cell phone. I wasn't using the cell phone much, but I needed it for emergencies while traveling. The first stop on our trip was the cell phone store where I purchased a new cell phone.
A year or so later, I dropped that cell phone on the kitchen floor, the back popped off and the battery disappeared. It was never found. The floor was carefully swept, all appliances were searched under, every lower level shelf was cleaned out. The battery never showed up -- still hasn't some three years later. I purchased a replacement.
A year later, I washed that cell phone and it never returned to life. By that time, I had grown a bit dependent on the cell phone and had several important contact numbers saved on it. Those numbers were lost because I had not saved them to the undamaged SIM card, but instead stored them in the phone's memory, which was wiped out in the laundry.
Last year, I got a new phone and had it set up so that my stored phone numbers were saved on my SIM card.
Today, my cell phone fell from the dining room table. It popped open and although the battery remained in place, the SIM card was dislodged and disappeared on the hardwood floor. It's a little bitty sucker and we've swept carefully, moved all the furniture with no luck. Now all my numbers are lost again.
Is it me? It's not a love/hate relationship with my cell phone -- it's more a dislike/hate situation. I dislike them, they hate me. One thing I like even less than the phone, is the phone store. And I think I have to go there tomorrow. Arrrrgggggghhhhh!