Friday, November 29, 2013


It was an odd juxtaposition, two memorials to two lives occurring concurrently. One sung and spoken within the doors of this stately historical church centered right in the heart of town.  The other played out and celebrated on the high school football field directly across the street. 

Two men, one the father of a high school friend, the other a former student of mine who both died this past week, one day apart.  One man lived well into the fullness of time, leaving a legacy of a long and lettered life in academia, church service, and family devotion.  The other, a man still living the fullness of life, not yet 30, who leaves behind tales from varied fields, courage against insurmountable odds, and the abiding love of family and friends.  The contrast appeared dramatic as I walked the street between the two this morning, quietly praying goodbye blessings for Brandon as I climbed the steps to recite the same for Ann's beloved dad.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Looking back & moving forward

I returned to my former classroom this week, stepped back into that space of life where once I lived and breathed.  Best of all,  I saw two of my most beloved professional friends and proteges. It was oh-so-good to see these sweet women with their dual growing mama bellies. Whenever I worry about the future of public education, these are two of the teacher faces I summon to assuage those fears.  

As is often done, we gathered, we teachers retired and in active service, to toast, feast, and celebrate the upcoming birth of baby Dinsmore.  It was a glorious gala!

I loved being there for just those moments--quietly taking in my past, scanning the classroom to notice old familiar patterns with new twists. It is good to observe generations as they continue and unfold.   

p.s.  My gift for baby D was this soft pink sweater (knit from this old favorite pattern) and one more bedtime bag.  

Saturday, November 16, 2013


I consider myself a planner, someone who, still after two years of retirement, begins Monday morning by sketching out a weekly agenda, complete with daily tasks and weekly goals.  I keep both a handwritten and computer-based calendar.  I  assemble folders for all the projects and volunteer commitments in my life.  Simply put, I feel better and more secure assured that my life has a concrete system of organization. 

But I have not always been like this; in fact, my parents would chuckle to read the previous paragraph.  The second-born child, I was the random romantic to my extremely disciplined concrete-sequential, over-acheiveing elder brother. (Even today my best attempts at structure and organization pale in comparison to Dick's!).  My bedroom was more than frequently in a state of disarray, my school assignments were typically completed "just-in-time," and my social life swirled in spur-of-the-moment bursts of energy.  Serendipity seemed just right in my younger days.

This week, I hearkened back to my former self, the more freestylin' one.  Sunday night, my youngest son called to ask me to make some props for the show his theater students are mounting.  He needs six, roughly three feet by six feet, panels of fabric to be used in a variety of ways in choreographed movement pieces.  When my son asks, I rarely say no. So even though I already had my week planned with commitments and projects, I said yes and started sewing…and sewing…and sewing.  Housework, and plans and commitments were stuffed into that same box of time, and miraculously, they fit just fine.

Thursday night, I took a sewing class titled "15 Minutes of Play," based on the ideas found in the book of the same name.  Our task was to make fabric, stitching together with neither plan nor design leftover scraps of material.  It was liberating to approach a project without rules or pattern.  I made two swatches of fabric. Still unsure of what I will do with these swatches, I am certain that someday I will do something--sometime, when the muse appears to move me.

I have a friend who says that perhaps the interruptions in our days are, in truth, God's plans for us.  I spend a lot of time organizing my life, following comfortable routines and patterns, and for the most part, such practice helps me focus and be productive; however, it is good and important and perhaps even essential to allow oneself interruptions, improvisations, permission to color outside the lines, and the wisdom to listen to the beat of another drummer.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

O Brother

Listening to a child learn language is one of life's true treasures.  To witness a little person journey from using words for simple identification to connecting words and meanings into communication is magical indeed.  Our Jamie is doing that now, and thus a window into his personality unshutters.

Jamie, like all younger brothers, looks up to his older brother Alex.  He wants to be able to do what his brother does, and truth be told, his attempts are quite credible.  He rides his tricycle rather skillfully for a two year old, he assembles legos with the patience, dexterity, and the eye of an older boy. He can match his bigger brother admirably in their frequent and frequently rowdy wrestling matches.

Jamie defiantly stakes his claims with loud pronouncements of "mine!"  Yet, forming the multisyllabic, multi-consanant "Alexander" is challenging for his little two year old tongue, so Jamie calls Alex "brother," which is just so darn cute (and inventive!).

Having family nine hours away makes for carefully planned visits that sometimes have a few months in between.  It has been three months since last we saw these boys, and the changes are dramatic.  Alex received his first report card with grade letters instead of global descriptors. He is more confident, more measured, and more insightful--he is more mature.

Jamie is stronger willed (he needs to be as the youngest of two boys!), more independent, more observant, and more articulate.  He still possesses a heck of a sense of humor and a grand unfettered joy about life and people.

I wish we didn't live so far away. I wish we could hop in a car and in a mere hour or two we could pop into their lives.  But life in this postmodern world doesn't often gather families in the same community anymore, so we do what we need to do--we drive and drive and drive.  But it is always worth those hours on the roads of Virginia. It was so very very good to hang out and catch up with these boys, our dear grandsons and two devoted brothers.