Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Fine Investment

I work at a place where we talk a lot about leadership through service. We not only talk about it, we believe in it, and we try to remember that this means us and not just the fine young people who have enrolled at our college, so a few months ago my working group signed up to deliver meals to some elderly folks in Small Town.

It wasn't a big deal--we cover the Thursday morning route, and since there are several of us it means my turn only comes around every couple of months. This morning it was my turn.

I didn't really want to go. It was pouring rain at 10:30, the time I would have needed to start the route, and I'd had an unusually good hair day. Plus it's grey and gloomy and I was deep in the post-deadline adrenaline deficit that always hits right after the alumni publication goes to the printer, and frankly, the food makes my car smell funny.

But service/leadership/commitments/blah-blah-blah, so I sighed deeply and picked up the two coolers (one for hot food, one for cold food) at the senior citizens' center.

I happened to look at my watch and it was 10:35 a.m. when I knocked on the first door. I checked it again when I returned my route list and coolers to the senior center, and it was 11:15 a.m. on the dot.

That means it took exactly 40 minutes to greet eight elderly people and comment on the nasty weather, stare down six yappy little dogs who love their people beyond comprehension and were going to protect them from the menacing lady bearing soup and sandwiches, chat about TV news with the guy whose chemo has now left him completely bald, and discuss how good soup is on a dreary day with the lady who was sitting beside the open door waiting for me. I had done just a little bit to keep eight  old folks living independently as long as they possibly can, and I had gained a perma-smile for the rest of the day.

Or in that same amount of time I could have played 40 games of Spider Solitaire.

Some investments of time clearly are better than others.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Two Things, One Cute and One Not

After Boy#3's graduation ceremony a couple of weeks ago we had a few hours to kill before the family dinner so we headed to the big University Paraphernalia Store. There, among the Powercat travel mugs and purple T-shirts was an item that boggled my mind and is pictured above. Can you read the label in spite of the not-so-wonderful photography?

This is a cheerleader dress, but not for your adorable granddaughter, which I could forgive (although if you are buying it for your own toddler, ewwww, nice job of encouraging her to aim high). This is a cheerleader dress FOR A DOG.

A cheerleader dress. For a dog. 

Yes. You can now spend a whole bunch of money (I'm sorry, I was so boggled I forgot to check the price) to dress your Peekapoo in an officially sanctioned cheerleading dress. I had to call Boy#3 over to complain.

As I stood there waxing indignant about the kind of world we live in where children are hungry but a DOG wears a CHEERLEADING DRESS, I noticed there was a child staring at my son. The kid was maybe eight or nine years old, wore glasses with green rims, and was mutely gazing at Three as if he'd just spotted Justin Bieber. It took a minute (I was waxing exceedingly indignant) but Three finally noticed the boy.

"Hey, I know you," he said to him. The boy nodded, still mute but now beaming. "Okay, give me a hint--what's your name?"

"Max," the boy whispered.

"Max! Of course! You did a great job learning your song on the recorder this week," Three told the kid.

At that point Max's mother joined the conversation. "Oh, you were Max's student teacher, weren't you? He really enjoyed your class."

After a few pleasantries, Max and his mother moved on, Max looking back to Three for a final wave.

University Paraphernalia Store, I forgive you. Because you were the location for this cutest moment ever I will repress my indignation about your pet cheerleader dress.

But please get rid of them before the next time I visit, or at least hide them behind concealing covers like the Cosmopolitan magazines at the check-out stand. I can't always count on having a Max appear to counterbalance the indignant.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Standing In a Different River

My first job after I graduated from college was on the staff of a small weekly newspaper. My title was "news editor" but in reality I edited obituaries, interviewed blue ribbon winners at the fair, took pictures of fender benders, and on Wednesday afternoons swept out the office.

This was not exactly what I had dreamed of doing when I first heard of Nellie Bly as a fourth grader, but it turned out to be a wonderful job.

I loved the work: I was writing all.the.time. Also, the number of interesting people found among the town's 1,800 citizens never ceased to amaze me. I also loved the town: I loved the old-fashioned courthouse square, I loved the way the geriatric guys teased me by calling me "Spin-Off," I loved the column I wrote each week by that name, I loved the rolling hills I drove through to get to the movie theater in the next town, I loved playing the old pipe organ at the Presbyterian church...I loved everything about living there--except...

Except that I was 21 years old, single in a small town that by the nature of small towns was structured around families. Even though I was involved in clubs and had good friends, I knew that I had to leave. So after four years I quit my job and set out looking for adventure, eventually ending up in the Peace Corps.

This year the Presbyterian pipe organ is 100 years old and as part of the anniversary celebration organizers invited back all the church organists who have played it over the years. Sunday afternoon Husband and I sat in the back row and listened as these musicians, ranging in ability from willing to wonderful, coaxed music out of the clattery old pipes.

I didn't play; it's been so long since I played a pipe organ that I didn't want the stress of preparation. But I smiled and smiled, remembering the years I spent here so many decades ago.

It's not the same town, of course. Mom & Pop's Burgers (no, I'm not making that up) is gone and two new convenience stores now anchor the corners of the turn-off to the main drag. One of the two grocery stores is closed, and the newspaper office has moved down the block. And no one except the woman who had invited me to the celebration--not one person--remembered me from back then.

I knew who they were, though. They were the people who made me feel welcome and had jumper cables when my car wouldn't start. Driving past my old house gave me a glow as my instincts remembered how grown-up I felt to be out on my own. I ticked off the memories--this is where my beloved bosses lived, this is the post office where we dropped off the newspapers on Wednesday afternoons, this is the drugstore where we drank cherry Cokes on break every morning. The little town was filled with ghosts of people who had been kind to me, and in my memories, no one was any older and I was 21 again.

I was still smiling when Pearl headed south again, even knowing I'll probably never visit there again. Heraclitus famously said that you can never stand in the same river twice. This river has moved on and changed, just as I have moved on and changed, but it was lovely to get my feet wet again.

The water was warm.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Vote for Me

I cut up the cantaloupe myself.
After spending $272.11 for groceries just two days ago, what did the QueenBee family have for supper last night? That's right. Fifty-cent corn dogs from Sonic.

In my defense, who doesn't love a good corn dog, especially at the bargain price of 50 cents? And also, mmmmm.....corn dogs!

But when you vote for Mother of the Year, be sure to spell it correctly: MomQueenBee, with four e's.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Artist's Rendition of an Actual Event

Lawn chair dog.
I'm sorry I don't have an actual picture of the event, but the end of yesterday's pity party about the sheer bulk of provender necessary to nourish all the men for whom I now "cook" came when I pulled into the driveway with $272.11 worth of groceries under Pearl's hatchback. Normally I would grumble as I schlepped my purchases the half block down the sidewalk toward the kitchen door, huffing and puffing and fumbling for my keys.

Instead, there sat Husband and the Boys, lined up in lawn chairs in front of the garage door! It was so shockingly wonderful to have Sherpas to do the heavy lifting that I completely forgot I always have soul-capturing photographic equipment in my purse, and did not document the moment for today's post.

But then I found (and borrowed) this shot of a dog sitting in the lawn chair, and it made me almost as happy as having all those manly men available to carry in $272.11 worth of groceries IN ONE TRIP rather than in the multiple trips I would have made.

I can tell: I'm going to enjoy this summer almost as much as I would enjoy having a dog in a lawn chair.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Feed Me, Seymour

From here
I dreamed last night that I was grocery shopping. In my dream I ran from aisle to aisle, scooping entire sections of foodstuffs into my bottomless cart, frantically trying to keep a running mental total of what this would cost, wondering if the cashier would reject my debit card because I had overspent available funds by a factor of five, never reaching the check-out line because I remembered I hadn't even reached the cereal section yet.... It was a nightmare.


For the past several weeks we've had Boys in and out of the house before settling into our summer residency of four. It has been amazingly wonderful, and the thrill of having grown-up kids never gets old. They are so funny! And they mow the lawn without being asked! And they laugh at my jokes! And they take their own baths!

However, they also eat and I am completely out of the habit of cooking.

It's surprisingly easy to put food on the table when Husband and I are the only full-timers at the House on the Corner. One rotisserie chicken will feed us for a main meal and serve as the protein for two more casseroles, which provide enough leftovers for three lunches, as well as the topping for main meal salads. Or if I get home from work cross-eyed from proofreading, it only takes a call to Husband for someone else to put together the salads (thank you, Wendy's, for creating the Best Salad Ever).

The Boys, to their credit, do not complain that I am starving them. They look into the empty refrigerator, hoping I will have shopped since the last time they looked in the empty refrigerator, then announce the they're going out for a snack--anyone want to come along?

This morning I was late for work because I had to run to the store for milk, and I was reminded that not so long ago my grocery list included a gallon of milk and a box of cereal for every single day of the year. No, I am not kidding.

I'll be shopping after work today, and getting into a new/old routine of actually cooking meals. I'm also starting a tally of how many gallons of milk flow through the house this summer. Want to guess many how we'll consume between now and Aug. 15? Closest guess in a comment will win a prize! In case of a tie, earliest reply wins.

And now if you'll excuse me, I need to go check my bank balance. I was warned in a dream that  not doing so could be terribly embarrassing.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Knowledge Is Powerless

Those of us who live in the Midwest know what to do during a tornado.

We pay attention. We watch the skies and listen to the experts, and when they say to take cover, we take cover. We go to the basement, wear shoes with shoelaces, and be sure to have our wallets and flashlights with us.

We practice reacting to a bad storm, mentally checking off what we will do if the forecasters say we're in a storm's path. We find sturdy shelter if we're on the road. We garage our cars to minimize hail damage.

We know what to do, and we do what we know, and sometimes neither knowing nor doing is enough.

In the black hole of heartbreak that is Moore, Oklahoma, today, there will be some who wonder why all that knowledge didn't save everyone.

And as we weep with them we'll remind ourselves that knowledge is a tool but is not Power.

Monday, May 20, 2013

With Highest Praise

Every time he turned around on Saturday Boy#3 had to spit out a mouthful of graduation tassel.

He hugged his mom. (ptooey)

Greeted friends. (ptooey)

Wrestled his brothers (in a manly fashion, of course). (ptooey)

It's hard to keep that tangle of strings out of your mouth when you're wearing academic regalia and a smile from ear to ear.

He has been the kid who has put to rest Woody Allen's completely erroneous statement that 80 percent of life is showing up. Showing up is important, but so is working hard and being responsible and setting goals and then working even harder.

He's a smart kid, but it was not just being smart that made him smile Saturday morning after he walked across the stage to accept congratulations from the dean. All those late nights rehearsing then studying then writing a paper then heading for the library before it closed? Showing up was just the entry fee for the goals he had set.

And when the result was hearing his name read as a new graduate of a major university, with dual degrees, summa cum laude--well, it was impossible to not smile.

We're all smiling with you, Three. 

Friday, May 17, 2013

I Try to Learn Something New Every Day

Last night my boss threw out the ceremonial first pitch at the home opener of our sort-of-local minor league baseball team. (Or rather, he threw out the ceremonial fourth pitch--who knew there would be a string of such opening tosses?)

He did a fine job, as befits someone in a leadership position at a liberal arts college, but it reminded me (again) how very much I would not want to have his job. Because then I would have had to throw a baseball, in front of a crowd of people, and it would most certainly have been the most embarrassing moment of my life, even more embarrassing than the time the cutest guy in geometry intercepted and read the note my best friend was passing to me. Because he was also a nice guy he did not, mercifully, read it aloud to the entire class, but I still remember verbatim the text of the note, to wit: "Do you tweeze your eyebrows? I tried to last night, and it really hurt."

Yes. Throwing out a ceremonial first pitch would be even more embarrassing than this. Because saying I throw like a girl would be an insult to girl throwers everywhere. Have you watched the video clip embedded in this post? I throw like a huge-headed Charlie Brown, or a Tyrannosaurus Rex who doesn't even have forearms. Or Beyonce, without the cuteness to make up for the incompetence.

For years I've practiced throwing our newspaper up on the porch as I take my morning walk, and have watched it sail into the iris patch, or fly straight up in the air, or hit the limestone post next to the sidewalk. The only place it never hit was the spot in front of the door I was aiming for. 

I throw like this:

I never knew exactly why I threw like this until a few months ago when we were watching March Madness with one of the town's more enthusiastic sports dads and the Volkswagen commercial came on.

"Yeah, he's throwing off the wrong foot," he remarked.

I snapped to attention.

"What do you mean, 'the wrong foot'?"

"Don't you see it? If your arm and your foot are going forward at the same time, you'll throw like a girl."

I felt like Archimedes running naked through the streets yelling "Eureka!" That dad had described exactly how I throw, and it must be why I throw so very, very badly.

Since then, as I throw our newspaper up on the porch every morning, I make a conscious effort to throw like a guy. I stride forward on my left foot and fling the paper with my right hand, at which point it sails into the iris patch, or flies straight up in the air, or hits the limestone post next to the sidewalk.

Okay, so I don't throw any better than I ever did, but at least now I know why I'm so very, very bad at it.

Knowledge is a good first step. On the proper foot.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Soooo Tiiiiiired

Photo borrowed from here.
When the Boys were little, I was tired all the time. All. The. Time. Finally I decided to have my constant fatigue checked by our family doctor.

Dr. D was kind of a kooky guy who wore Hawaiian shirts instead of a white coat but he won the Boys' hearts by looking for rabbits in their infected ears. (You had to be there; it was adorable.)

"I'm so tired all the time," I told him. "I wake up tired, and I go to bed tired, and every minute in between I'm tired. There's never a minute in my day that I don't wish I could lay down and take a nap."

He looked at my chart, then at the children swarming around my feet.

"Let's see, how old are your boys now?" he asked.

"Five, four, two, and five months," I told him.

"And how many are in diapers?" Two.

"And how many still are nursing during the night?" One.

"And how many nap during the same time every day?" None.

"Well," he said, closing the chart, "I think we're closing in on the problem."

But he was wrong! I had low thyroid output! Bam! A prescription for Synthroid made me feel like a human being again.

Last night I was talking to some friends, and our conversation went like this:

Friend #1: "I'm so tired these days.

Me: "Me, too."

Friend #2: "Me, too."

Friend #3: "Me, too."

Everyone I know is tired, and would like nothing better than a long, long nap.

Then I looked back on the last six weeks, a span during which I have seen the conclusion of tax season, the decline and passing of my mother-in-law with its attendant ceremonies and responsibilities, the graduation of two children, increased responsibilities in two of my community activities, and the flurry of comings and goings that mark life transitions of new graduates. Oh, and a nasty bronchial virus that struck the day after my mother-in-law died and hung around until just last week.

I think we're closing in on the problem: Obviously my Synthroid dose needs adjustment.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

A Photo of the Speed of Light

I'm still cleaning out leftovers from the past month and came across this picture of the Boys I took in our local pizza joint.

What? You don't see my good-looking guys? Huh.

Maybe it's because this shot was taken as we were gathering in the local pizza joint and I noticed them, all four of them, with their phones out checking to see if any of their buds were doing anything more scintillating than waiting for extended family to arrive, and I wanted to get a picture because it was kind of FUNNY but the simple action of me pulling out my phone caused them all to disappear from the shot.

It appears they can move with great alacrity when they want to, although past performance in getting to the dinner table when called (thereby ensuring the hot food would be hot and the cold food would be cold) would not have predicted this outcome.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Solid Memories

Of all the tasks that would need to be completed after my mother-in-law's death, this is the one I had dreaded the most.

We had moved her things into storage as she progressed from apartment to assisted living to nursing care, and even though Husband had rented the largest space available, every inch of it was packed. It comforted his mother to know that her normal life hadn't been completely scattered, and she told us often how glad she was that we hadn't gotten rid of her belongings. "There are some people out here who don't even know where their stuff is," she would say, "but I tell them 'Any time I want something I know just where it is.'"

Three weeks after we gathered for the memorial service, her children gathered again this weekend to go through the storage space. We reminded ourselves on Friday night that stuff is just stuff and family relations are way more important than furniture or Christmas decorations. 

But we know that stuff isn't just stuff--stuff is memory solidified. This is the table where my Husband and his two brothers ate all of their Sunday dinners. That is the cedar chest that holds dozens of love letters in a pink ribbon-wrapped bundle. Over there are the boxes of dishes the family collected in antique shop scavenger hunts.

Some of the stuff has monetary value and some is measured in joules of sentiment. Would we be able to get through this distribution without hurt feelings and resentment? I was afraid that would take a miracle.

Well, I'm here to tell you that Saturday we saw a miracle. Here's how to duplicate that miracle if you're ever in the same situation:
  1. Start with family members who love each other and want to do this well.
  2. Order up perfect weather, and kick off the morning with the world's best cinnamon rolls eaten off the tailgate of the pick-up.
  3. Do the easy stuff first--load the pre-bequeathed furniture into trailers and get it out of the way.
  4. Designate staging areas for things to keep (three brothers' worth) and another pile to go to Goodwill, and have several large trash cans for everything else. 
  5. Enlist Boy#1 and Lovely Girl to run the shuttle between the storage space and Goodwill throughout the day. You may think to yourself, "Oh, I'll just have a garage sale and get rid of that stuff," and then you will remember that the most you have ever made on a garage sale is about $100, and that you would gladly pay twice that to have a free Saturday, and you will heap more on the Goodwill pile.
  6. Have a table where your sister-in-law is unwrapping odds and ends of antique glassware. Every so often she will call everyone over to pick out any to put on their own piles, and the rest will be re-wrapped for Goodwill. 
  7. Remember that sentimental things are only sentimental to the person who knew the story, so be ruthless in discarding old newsletters, polyester baby sweaters, ticket stubs, old and unsafe Christmas lights, and anything else that makes your skin crawl (artificial flowers, anyone?). 
  8. Watch out for brown recluse spiders, because a bite from one of those could really put a damper on the day.
  9. Keep going and going and going until suddenly you realize there are no more boxes to unpack. 
  10. If in doubt, ignore numbers 2 through 9, and just concentrate on the first step. You'll find yourself at 9 p.m. having completed what you thought would take at least two, maybe three, days to get done, and you'll be exhausted but delighted. You'll part with hugs and smiles.
Then tell yourself this is the best Mother's Day gift this family ever had and your mother-in-law would have been so proud of her clan, because it was and she would have been.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Final Graduation Post -- Psych!

I'm assuming by now my faithful reader(s) are just about fed up with graduation posts and this week's oh-my-goodness-how-wonderful verklempt musings.

But since I have one more picture I simply can't resist using--and who could, with that Mortarboard Bear growing out of our new graduate's head?--I'm padding my graduation coverage to extend to a Friday rant. This rant can be extrapolated to encompass all kinds of public events, from concerts to church services to movies, and the rant is this:



Boy#1's graduation ceremony was a lovely thing, with a touching invocation and a funny faculty address and some rather rambling but heartfelt presidential remarks. And through all of the aforementioned presentations, one large family (not mine) traipsed in and out. In and out. In and out. In to deliver a bouquet of flowers and some signs to the rest of the group that was seated near the front. Out to find someone who hadn't arrived yet. In to (noisily) point out where the seats were saved. Out to take a phone call.

That occasion was not the only place I've noticed that audiences have trouble sitting quietly. The youngsters in my church, I'm sorry to say, seem to have alarmingly weak bladders, if we are to judge by the number of times they leave and re-enter the service. The family sitting behind us at the movie last week kicked my chair every time they reassembled after a trip to the lobby, to the point that I almost missed seeing Jackie Robinson make his major league debut.

What's up with this? Back in my day, my parents asked us before we settled ourselves if we needed to use the bathroom or get a drink, and that was it. Once we were seated it was hold it until the event had finished or...well, there was no "or."

Of course, the day I was back in was the Mesozoic Era and things have changed since then so maybe the beginning and ending lines for events are fuzzier, and it isn't considered rude to make a commotion when people around you are trying to pay attention. (That is a rhetorical statement designed to make you say "NO! YOU ARE CORRECT, MomQueenBee, AND WE AGREE!")

And with that I will stop posting about graduation--until next week, when we attend Boy#3's commencement exercises, where I'm sure everyone will be seated quietly and decorously.


Thursday, May 9, 2013

Traveling Without Kids

The lady at the next table in the hotel was traveling with three children, the oldest maybe eight years old or so. It was 9 a.m. and she looked exhausted.

Oh, honey, I've been there. I've gotten chocolate milk for everyone and brought our own box of (marshmallow-spiked) cereal. I've given permission for just one more mini-muffin. I have seen the ONE BITE taken out of the apple. Just thinking about the stress of trying to get everyone to LEAVE THAT TELEPHONE ALONE AND GO TO SLEEP in this alien environment makes my blood pressure spike. But I'm here to give hope--some day you will absolutely love traveling with your kids.

Here's what I enjoy about traveling with older offspring:
  1. They carry their own luggage in from the car, pack the dirty clothes into the side pockets the next morning, and carry their own luggage back to the car.
  2. Also, they carry this luggage with the muscles of their body and don't insist it needs to go on a luggage cart that somehow, mysteriously, always seems to end up carrying at least one Boy and veering into a wall.
  3. No one says "But it's MY turn to sleep in the bed! I was on the floor the LAST time!"
  4. No need to pack two sleeping bags for the on-the-floor turn takers.
  5. If room occupancy is greater than number of towels in the bathroom, someone else can go down to the desk to ask for more.
  6. No fighting over the remote control. ESPN, and all ESPN, all the time, is just fine with everyone.
  7. You want six Texas-shaped waffles for breakfast? It's your digestive system. Knock yourself out.
  8. "Mom, want me to bring you a cup of coffee?"
  9. After emptying an apartment into two cars and traveling through three hours worth of road construction, supper can be a half gallon of cookies 'n cream ice cream, split five ways. Yes, it can. And it will be delicious.
And here's what I miss about traveling with little kids:
  1. .....
 Sorry. I got nothin'.

Lady at the next table, I feel your pain but in a couple of years they'll morph into fabulous traveling companions. Hang in there.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Government Economics

Usually when Husband and I are on our way to or from Distant Big University we are trying to make tracks. It's a good 7 1/2-hour drive, and normally there's a time crunch of some kind--a concert we're trying to hear from the beginning, or a sleep-induced crash we're trying to avoid by not driving too late into the night.

Monday was different. We had left Boy#1 and Lovely Girl in charge of getting Boy#2 to his plane on time and moseyed home with no pressing deadlines. That's how we ended up in an antique store in Ardmore, Oklahoma, standing next to the alluring item Husband is modeling above.

Know what it is? I'll give you a hint. It also can look like this:

It's a Murphy bath. 

(I'm sorry about the picture, which appears to have a blood alcohol of about 2.4.  I was so captivated by the item that I appear to have been aflutter--a better shot of a similar item is here.)

Have you ever seen anything more gorgeous? The gleaming copper. The silken woodwork. The anticipation of hot water and a long soak with a good book, then the knowledge that it can be folded away and tucked into a corner out of the way.  I have rarely wanted something in an antique store more ardently.

But then we looked at the price tag, and I knew we were not buying a $4,500 portable bathtub, not even the gleamiest, silkiest, loveliest bathtub in all of Oklahoma, and we walked away.

Later we were wandering through a fabulous locally-owned bookstore and I bought a $4 used paperback. Normally I don't buy books (my overdue fines could be the sole support of our public library but that's still cheaper than owning) but I told my accountant spouse that I felt entitled to this extravagance.

"I just saved us $4,500 by not buying that bathtub, so really, we're $4,496 ahead," I said.

He only rolled his eyes slightly as he considered my math.

"Congratulations," he finally said. "You've mastered government economics."

Yay, I think?

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Reaching the Top of the Slide

Lovely Girl and Boy#1
For most of his life Boy#1 has been the kid for whom school was easy. He approached each class, each year, each stage of his education, as if he were playing on a slippery slide. Some subjects were a little more difficult than others, but usually he was the one teachers looked to as the curve-setter, practically yelling "Wheeeeeee!" as he flew down the chute and vaulted to the next class.

That was true until he entered law school.

Even though Boy is analytical and thoughtful and a wonderful writer, law school had been different. Professors weren't just looking to teach, they were also looking to harden their students to the rigor of the courtroom, and a three-year boot camp that added intense competition and and a certain degree of intentional humiliation to the stress of upper-level academia turned One's normal love of learning into something completely different. The playground slide suddenly was reversed and instead of sliding with the wind in his hair, he was grabbing the sides of the chute and bracing the rubber soles of his sneakers against the metal to try to climb back up.

It was enough stress, in fact, that he had told us he wouldn't be going through commencement ceremonies; he just wanted out of town as quickly as possible. But he knew how difficult this spring had been for his father and me, so at the final moment he decided that he would walk across the stage to receive official recognition of graduation. The moment wasn't important to him, but he knew it was to us.

We didn't know until we were seated in the auditorium that One and his classmates had been given the opportunity to give personal shout-outs in the commencement program. Most were standard awards ceremony fare--"Thanks to mom and dad for their support, and hook 'em, Horns!" and "I couldn't have done this without my wonderful fiance."

We read through a few of them, then turned to the back page, the location to which alphabetical order has always doomed our family, and a lump came to my throat. Our son's dedication was a quote from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington," a movie he's watched countless times with his father:
"I wouldn't give you two cents for all your fancy rules if, behind them, they didn't have a little bit of plain, ordinary, everyday kindness and a little looking out for the other fella, too."  
Then the graduates began to process and our son was at the front of the group. He had been chosen by his classmates to deliver the invocation, the only student-elected representative on the dais. His prayer was thoughtful and inclusive, reminding these future attorneys that their focus must be on people and not on profits. He called on God to guide their attitudes as well as their endeavors.

"Help us to remember the promise You made in Isaiah," he said.

I gasped. For as long as they've been able to read I've sent the Boys off to big events with Isaiah 41:10. If they were going to math contest, or taking a PSAT, or leaving for college, I reminded them of their roots by taping a verse card to the back of their calculators, sliding the reference into a backpack, tucking it into their hands. And as One read the words, tears leapt from my eyes.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you;
Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you, surely I will help you,
Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’
Boy#1 did not finish law school as the top-ranked student in the class, but he finished. When he could have quit, he didn't. He worked harder than he thought was possible, with kindness and looking out for the other fella, and as we wiped our eyes and watched him receive his hood Saturday we could not have been prouder.

He had reached the top of the slide.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I Already Know That
It's not snowing today in Small Town.

That's not exactly the kind of announcement I normally make on May 2, but in this year of weird weather (and the fact that people all over God's country are waking up to mandatory shoveling) I don't want to take anything for granted, so I'm telling you, it is not snowing.

This don't-take-anything-for-granted attitude is rampant at Small College, where I walked in our building to find the falling man caution signs out. This was not a surprise, because our maintenance folks scatter them EVERYWHERE if there is the slightest sign of damp weather.

For some unknown reason, I find them irritating.

I absolutely get the reason for caution when there is not the likelihood we would notice the floor is wet. Just mopped the floor? Put out a sign until it dries, because no one is expecting slick conditions. Roof leaking? By all means warn me that I should tread carefully.

But if it's raining, or snowing, and this is a foyer door that is the main entrance to the main administration building, don't most people know the floor is likely to be damp? And that damp tile tends to be slippery? Or are we all too dense to know that, even though we work at an institution that grants GRADUATE DEGREES?

Hmmm. I may be just a wee bit cranky. Naps for everyone.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Born, Not Made

Which one is the high wire artist?

Boy#3 is in his last few weeks of student teaching, and to be honest, he's ready to be done. He loved the weeks he spent with the high school and middle school bands, but the past few weeks in the early elementary classrooms? Not so much. (I believe his exact comment was "If I never have to sing 'Row, Row, Row Your Boat' again it will be too soon.")

This reminded me again that teachers truly are born, not made, and that they're born with affinity for certain age groups. My sister and brother-in-law were born to guide junior high students as they traverse the white-water rapids between elementary and high schools. The Boys were fortunate enough to have a kindergarten teacher (the same for all four) whose reaction to the frenzied chaos of the parent-hosted Christmas party was "I'm glad it's only one day a year, but look at the fun they're having." (That was in direct contract to my fortunately-repressed instinct which involved shouting words not normally allowed in the MomQueenBee household.)

My best friend from high school was a teacher perfect for first graders but I hadn't realized this until relatively recently.

The four of us who get together every year were sitting around working on a craft project when C. mentioned that one of her favorite things her students is the wide-eyed ability of that age group to accept the wonders of the world.

"Yeah," she said, "this year I had my class convinced I grew up in the circus. I told them my dad was the ringmaster and my mother was a trapeze artist, and I was learning how to walk the high wire when I decided I'd rather be a teacher."

We were slack-jawed in amazement. We knew C.'s father and mother and although they were dear people and exemplary parents, he taught math in the high school and she was a housewife, not exactly denizens of the Big Top society. Then we started to laugh.

And we laughed, and laughed, and laughed.

I'm not sure why this seemed to funny to us, but it still makes me laugh--the thought of my algebra teacher in red coat and top hat, "LADEEEEEZ AN' GEEEEN-TLEMEN! PLEASE DIRECT YOUR ATTENTION...." Or maybe we were reacting to the thought of the goggle-eyed first graders suddenly seeing their teacher in a completely different light. She wasn't just someone who was teaching them letters and numbers, she was a STAR. A star who had chosen to spend her twinkle on them.

That's why I loved seeing the picture of C. tagged on Facebook yesterday. She was hugging a couple of kids I didn't know, and the picture obviously was taken several years ago.

"This is Mrs. T., our first grade teacher. And now we're graduating from high school," the poster had written.

I had to respond.

"Did you know Mrs. T. grew up in the circus?"

"No! But I know she was the best teacher I ever had."

And I smiled again.