Saturday, January 30, 2010


My mother taught me to play...

Mom taught me to jump rope (complete with numerous chants I can recite today), draw a hopscotch board (and how to use it), tricks to tossing a mean game of jacks, strategies for pick-up sticks, as well as, the aesthetic of floating and executing a beautiful breast stroke. From her I learned how to shuffle cards like a shark and wind string around my fingers, forming a duet of geometric shape with the ultimate goal to reach the "cat's cradle." We spent hours playing board games and card games. Under her tutelage, I learned to roller skate, ice skate, and water ski. I rode bikes with her, played tennis with her, attempted the jitterbug, and reveled in the fact that my "mom" was the only neighborhood parent in the staid '50's who played "kick the can" well into the dusk of the day.

A physical education major (and graduate of Bethany College) who never formally taught, my mother's exercise regime often entailed a five mile walk from our house on South Pugh Street all the way to Penn State's Beaver Stadium and back. I am absolutely certain that if I feel grumpy and frumpy from a day without dedicated movement, it is because of the ethos of exercise she firmly implanted in me.

So I thought of her, a circle traced in the dust of the summer ground, and games of marbles, when I happened upon two boxes of marbles displayed in a Bellefonte antique market. That same evening on the telephone, my grandson and I chatted about marbles when I described to him the big "shooter" marbles I had seen that day. "Can you get me one?" he queried.

This week, Jim and I returned to Bellefonte, and I bought a handful of probably 60 year old marbles--4 shooters and 6 normal sized marbles. They really are quite lovely. It became clear to me that Alex needs a marble bag. Doesn't every little boy and girl (I loved my jacks' bag!) need one? I designed and made him one. I know his great grandmother would have been delighted, but not nearly as delighted as she would have been in him.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

The press of the day

subsides with an unexpected window glimpse of the setting sun. My friend Betsy posted these words today on her blog:

"There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,'and those to whom God says, 'all right then, have it your way.'" -C.S.Lewis

It was a "have-it-my-way" kind of day. But tonight I am reminded of a better design.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Mama's getting a brand new bag

Women come to be mothers in many different ways. My niece excitedly awaits the birth of her first-born, a daughter, any day now. After 40 weeks of pregnancy (why did it take only 9 months when I carried my children years ago?), she is quite ready to put her birth training to the test. Recently, a woman I know triumphantly birthed a baby, longed-for and conceived by in vitro fertilization. Now, due to science, egg and sperm can combine in a laboratory, with the resulting embryo placed into its mother's womb to grow and become a beloved baby. Early in the fall (and ongoing still), our small group prayed for another woman, whose own mother story is attached to horrendous headlines in our local paper. Her brother was murdered "by-hire," arranged by his own wife. Three innocent children remained. In the wake of this inexplicable tragedy, custody was awarded to the father's sister (the friend of a friend of ours) and her husband, together a childless couple totally unprepared for and blindsided by an instant family.

And then..there are the uniquely courageous ones, like my friend Shawna, who choose and then adopt children waiting for a home. Shawna joined our newly formed "9th grade team" many years ago. Four of us, two men and two women, a history teacher (Steve), a science teacher (Frank) , a math teacher (Shawna) and me (the English teacher), spent five years working with a sizable group of 9th grade students; we tried to teach them something while at the same time ushering them into the realities of high school. Shawna was the exact age of my daughter and so a sort of mother/daughter relationship augmented our collegial relationship. She moved, we lost touch a bit, and then she returned a little over a year ago. In the midst of her return, she was awash in the process of searching nationwide adoption banks for children to fill her childless home and her yearning mother's heart. She found three lucky children (a sibling group of two boys and a little girl) from Kansas City who needed her and her husband Mike as much as she and Mike desired them. Thus this family was pieced together, forming a beautiful new creation.

About this time last year, I started making bedtime bags for young children to keep their "jammies" and books together while hanging on their bedposts. But the one above is for Shawna, a "Mama bag," for one of the best Mamas I know. I filled it with three books (this and this and this, crafted by a writer/collage artist and an illustrator I admire), one for each of her three kids. May blessings rain gently on you all, Shawna, as you continue to grow together as a family.

Monday, January 18, 2010

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.
-- Martin Luther King, Jr.

Strength to Love, 1963

We cleaned, we organized, and we cooked (120 meals!) in honor of this man, this true American, this inspired visionary. We are tired but feeling fine...

Friday, January 15, 2010

The earth groaned and cracked

"Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” He said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?”
-Genesis 4:9

As we all surely know by now, this week a terrible earthquake shook and broke apart Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. I, along with the rest of the world, have been following the news, listening to and reading the stories coming out of already one of the poorest of the poor countries in our world. We still don't even know the tally of those who have died...people continue to search. I cannot fathom such destruction or such catastrophe. No words and no cameras are adequate to illustrate what happened Tuesday afternoon in Haiti. Now, stories abound of help flowing from a global community, of hope promised from a world people who care, and of planes landing bringing doctors, food, medicine, money, and skill to begin the process of bringing this country back to where it might stand once again. None of us know why such things happen, but I believe we are all responsible to do something, because we are, ultimately and divinely, our brothers' (and sisters') keepers. For those of us who cannot go, we pray, and help as we are able--we offer ours here and here.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The philosophy of Robert Burns

"The best laid schemes o' Mice an' Men,
Gang aft agley"

so said Rabbie Burns, Scotland's "Ploughman Poet" and the namesake for my brother-in-law, Robert Burns Campbell.
I believe I wrote only too recently that I was finished gift knitting for a while. But that was before a sweet friend of my niece's gave birth three weeks early to 3 1/2 pound little Caden, and before Benny, Barbara's dog, chewed up sister Margie's Christmas present. My purple, Big Sack Sweater awaits, sitting neglected on needles in my knitting basket while I make a few needed and necessary things for others. Can you imagine the tiny head that will fit into this little hat? Grow big and strong, little man.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

All of us

When two become one, two families merge, and then grow, and grow, and grow. This most rare photo illustrates the true expanse of the merger of the Campbells and the Hermans. This is our whole family. Pretty cool. Pretty good. Pretty wonderful.

(As you probably surmise, the wedding photos just arrived.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Something old, something new, nothing borrowed, but two things blue

I just finished a neckwarmer/headwarmer, matched it up with an old pin from a box of my mother's costume jewelery, and sent it off to my daughter, tucking in the package:
a Julia Child cookbook (that was her Nana's too), a calendar for Chris, and gloves that Alex left here.

Now, I intend to knit myself a sweater. A bit done with gift knitting for a while!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

2010 begins

“And now let us welcome the new year
full of things that have never been.”
-Poet Rainer Maria Rilke