Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Changing Over



It's the end of the year, and many people are changing over a lot of things--calendars, tax numbers, insurance deductibles, license plates, etc. But in your personal life, what are you changing over?
--I walked for the first time at the community center a couple of weeks ago, something I have been fighting over in my mind. I began walking this last summer with some neighbors--quite enjoyable, but now we have inclement weather. One suggested we do the laps at the community center. I wasn't ready for that change over! I just retired over a year ago, and I'm not that old! I just couldn't do that. Well, the day came when that one friendly neighbor, Mary, invited me and caught me at the right time saying, "You don't have to, you know."
--"Yes, I have to!" I said to myself. The night before I was walking from the restaurant to our car, and I realized I wasn't walking as confident as I was when I did walk every day for about a mile.
--During my first walk at the community center, I met some other neighbors who were younger than I was, and others I didn't know were saying, "Good morning" to me-- nice. The Christmas tree festival adorned the halls of the community center, and it was nice having to pass them, too. I noticed something new every time I passed them.
--The town library connects to the center and two of just said, "I love the library!" We stopped in to check on things since we usually go there anyway. I found that a whole slew of new audio CDs were on the shelves--have to check one out now!!! To say the least, this change over wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. By the way, I've signed up for T'ai Chi ("Meditation in Motion") in January and February at the center. It just took a little push to get over this hurdle of change. Where will this journey lead me?
--My next change over is big! I started with my 11th writers notebook in June of 2010, and I'm at the end of days--end of pages, I mean. I have maybe 5 more pages to go. I love this writers notebook--full of favorite things and events, and the way it's made. I use to start over every school year, but that is not the case now due to retirement. I have just run out of pages, something I've never done before this notebook. The new year will begin in over a week and that would be a good time to start anew. I've been collecting new notebooks and some have been gifts. It's just hard to start over. A clean slate is a good thing, but it's just that--untouched, blank, no feeling of ownership. Which notebook will I choose? What event will lead me to my first entry?
--The third change over will be my word for the year. I chose "glass" this year, and it did well for me with ideas for posts. I found my word by looking at ice last January while shoveling snow, and now the year ends with me reading a book about a Russian ballerina in the cold St. Petersburg of the 1800's. I am reminded again of my grandparents who were from Russia and how they had endured the frigid and icy life style of that country which even now gives me another idea for a post. Funny, how just one word can bring up so many ideas or thoughts . What will be my new word? And what by-gone events, feelings, or reflections will be surfacing on my posts?
--The last change over is taking its time. I've gone from a full time teacher of 22 years to a retired person. It's been a year and a half since leaving the classroom, but I'm still maintaining my teacher friends through reading and writing groups. I visit my old school less and less, however, and am losing touch with the "school talk" I use to feel comfortable with. I don't know the new terminology/methods or see any school kids I know anymore at my old school. I'm becoming someone new--again. I'm not sure who yet. Who will I become even at this stage of the game?
--Change is never over, so I'll just keep riding the wave.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Hope







Holiday cheer abounds,



Or does it?




Commercials are cheery,



Stores are waiting for you,



Channels show holiday fare, but



I just wrote a check out for the hungry,



Phoned different people who I knew needed a phone call,



And checked the news on Google!!



"Climate Change Could Shrink Chocolate Production."



I didn't want to think about a creature comfort being liquidated.



As I read on, the author thankfully stated



"Climate change brings not only bad news



But also a lot of potential opportunities."



"The winners will be those who are prepared for change and



Know how to adapt."



I call this HOPE.


Along with peace for the season,



I wish you hope.















Tuesday, November 8, 2011

The Unknown Soldier


Born unknown into the world,
Humbly, obscurely,
Unheard of.
Slept sheltered in his cradle,
Openly, feebly,
Hushed.
Died unknown for the world,
Humbly, obscurely,
Unheard of.
Sleeps guarded in his chamber,
Secretly, strongly,
Muted.
Left unknown as to fiber and face,
Only a symbol to the human race.
If he, this soldier, only knew,
That he, unknown, was famous, too.
(May 8, 1965)

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Windmills vs. Koi






Last Wednesday was a field/road trip day for my husband Steve and myself. We were due to get out on the road! My husband has always had a hankering for windmills, so to the Mid-America Windmill Museum we went!

I myself have always just considered windmills just as decorative objects, not really considering their use--something to do with water?? Being a woman with no sisters, married to a man who had 6 brothers and no sisters, being a mother of 3 boys and no daughters, and being a grandmother to 3 boys and only 1 grandaughter (totally a new experience for me!), it was time once again to find out what the fascination was about these windmills, or was I thinking, "Okay, we're both retired, and we need to find some common interests that both of us can share in our days together."

Now that we're both retired, it's
a whole new world for us this year. Think about it. Never in our lives were we both without jobs at the same time!!! My mother-in-law told me this would not be a good idea--did she know something I didn't know? After all, she had a husband and still has 7 sons!!! I felt that if we had the opportunity to be retired and be in good health, that's what we should do! Why wait until you get sick before you head off for the sunset.

Our retirement, I'm finding out, is quite an adjustment. We're not travelers per se, and we don't pick up and go very easily--something we'll have to learn! We're lucky to have our own varied interests, but there needs to be some common ground to further promote the days spent together in our perfect state of marital bliss we have experienced our whole married lives! You got it right--I'm joking! Why should retirement be any easier than working and raising 3 sons! The work is just beginning, my friends, so thus the windmill museum!!! At the same, I feared going to the museum because Steve has always threatened to build his own windmill in front of our house!!!

Reflecting now, I learned a lot about windmills, about my husband, and about myself.
Windmills are not only used to bring water up from wells, but can be used for as a grist mill to grind grain into flour. They've been around for hundreds of years and the concept continues with wind turbines. Sorry, I can't really say this trip has made me anymore interested in windmills, but I did enjoy learning more about my husband.

I knew a little about some of these things, but reminded myself of one of the reasons I married this man--he has always had an easy way about him. "They" say why you marry your husband will drive you crazy and later, and it has (another story)!!! But that is part of Steve's charm--easy-going and pensive. Because he is a man, you won't find out everything you want to know unless a magical moment presents itself. The windmills did present the magical moment. I found out the fascination of windmills for him has always been in the wind that can drive this machine to supply water and flour. It also reminded him of his paternal grandfather's farm.

A windmill was a source of play for him and his 6 brothers when they visited Grandpa's farm. The windmill was definitely a form of play. When the boys continued to pump water to fill the overflowing bucket, Grandma would always complain they were wasting water--if Grandma could only see what goes on today!!!! If they weren't pumping the handle, the boys were climbing the cross members on the side of the windmill frame.

Just below the windmill veins was the mechanical platform that was used to help grease the gear box. This was a great place for boys to sit and dangle their feet until Mom screamed you down before you fell to your death!! If the windmill caught a sudden gust, the whole windmill could turn and off would come some little boys!!

For myself, I have learned that while my husband traveled all the paths of the outdoor windmill museum, I was following my own path--so usually like our interests. I was fascinated by the koi pond located at the beginning of the path and talking to the caretaker who noticed my fascination with the koi. I also noticed a frog on the shore of the pond and took pictures of him, too! Then I was reminded of the windmills when I looked up. Okay, where will I be lead to now? I never was really fascinated by windmills other than to notice their beauty in a farm scene. I saw my husband on his own path, as usual, following the windmills.

I sat down on one of the few benches on this utterly beautiful, fall day and took some pictures of the windmills and the colorful trees behind them. I noticed only two windmills were actually turning on this very calm day. One windmill was making a rusty, grinding sound, and another was doing a better job of rotating in the soft breeze, making a creaking sound. Both windmills said to me, "Look at me. Look at me. I'm still as good as I was 'in the day,' and I'm proud." That's me though at the windmill museum!

I heard my husband comment later, "I traveled through the whole path of windmills, and there she was mesmerized by koi!"

This is why I'm working so hard on our retirement!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cherish


Cherish
Watering the gardens,
Hoping the flowers will last as long as the frost keeps its bite.

Clipping the flowers,
Arranging them in a clear vase which will soon be empty.

Walking the path,
Reminiscing the warmth that enveloped sandaled feet.

Feeling the sun,
Remembering it in early morning and late at night.

Watching the campfire,
Burning bright as the moon.

Tasting the garden,
Relishing tomatoes, peppers, and pumpkins.

Rustling the leaves,
Changing with color to yellow and red.

Boating the lake,
Feeling the coolness more than ever.

Entering the night,
Opening the window to sleep.

Awaiting the crisp air,
Leaving the cherished warmth behind.



Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Quiet


I watched and read different things all weekend and yesterday about 9/11/11, and each time, I was lead to a quiet place. I remembered the quiet skies that day with no air travel after the devastation, and as members of my family watched the same things as I did on TV, they were quiet, also. Nothing needed to be said out loud.
 
 
Yesterday being the first day people could actually visit the Ground Zero memorial pools, I heard on the news that the sound of the water itself drowned out any noise around you creating its own silence.
 
 
Being outdoors in the beautiful warm weather of yesterday and today, I started to notice the quiet things that surrounded me, each having its own definition of silence and peacefulness.
 
 
Quiet is:
rippling water.
a light breeze.
an American flag's wave.
a sunset's color.
a sun's beam.
a blue sky's cloudlessness.
a butterfly's flutter.
a petal's fall.
a moon's glow.
a swan's swim.
a tied boat's dance.
a fish's jump.
a turtle's walk.
a bird's flight.
a fish bite.
a willow's weep.
a cricket's song.
a pier's creak.
a fishing pole's whip.
a dragonfly's hover.
a bee's buzz.
a worm's wiggle.
a mouse's nibble.
a dove's coo.
a bare foot's sound.
a child's breath.
a cat's purr.
a dog's whimper.
a humming bird's hum.
a loved one's sigh.
a tear drop.
 
 
I love the quiet and all it brings.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Routines



A lot can be said for a routine even though it can be very boring at times.


We do get bored by a routine if we keep having to do something. If we have to make one more sandwich and put it in a baggie, we think we will go daffy--try 40 years of doing that!!! But without that sandwich, we pay a lot more going out for lunch, so we continue to do it. Routine can save money.


If we do something long enough though, it does become part of us like brushing our teeth. If we go to bed purposely not brushing because we're too tired, etc., we feel guilty. We may get up immediately and brush, or tomorrow, we will do a better job of brushing because it's part of us and our good dental training as children. Routine can save us from harm.


Children rely on routine to feel secure. They want their blankies every night and the favorite cereal in the morning. We depend on coffee/tea/pop in the morning to get us off on the right foot. Without this routine, whole days can be ruined!! Routine gives us a sense of comfort.


As a retiree, I'm not getting much done--not as much as I expected to when I was working. It took me long enough to realize it, but I don't have a real routine! I still brush my teeth and drink coffee in the morning, but I don't have to make those sandwiches in a baggie anymore--woohoo!!! That is one routine I don't need to continue to survive this life!!! I do think I need some new routines, however!


I thought I would write more and I haven't. I intended to write a post this morning, and I have been working on one that just doesn't come together, but I get sidetracked as usual. I even read a few posts today to get me motivated. I read Elsie's (Elsie Tries Writing), and she talked about her routine of walking and this time finding a bunch of small bones--how interesting is that! She is going to share her findings with another teacher who might display them on her Wonder Table.


I walk in the morning, so my goal was to find something on my walk that I could write about. I did take a few pictures--nothing to move me right now. I then went on my nature walk in my garden and ended up pulling weeds and dead plants. I took more pictures. Now I'm at my computer deciding what to write about. I even made a list of things I could write about--when all else fails.


I think I have slipped back into my old routine of thinking a post should be earth shattering, bound book-worthy, and absolutely spell-binding. Some old routines can hurt you, too.


I forget a post is a slice of life story--wanderings and wonderings. I do need to come up with a writing routine and remember that the smallest things can be a post. Here's to a writing routine and small things once again!!!!





Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Twilight of Summer

Mornings come later.
Shadows cast early.
Cicadas play songs.
Petunias lose flair.
Veggies grow hardy.
Flowers go to seed.
Birds meet in flocks.
Grass begs for water.
Fairs bring their bounties.
Fireworks wane.
Schools replace sand toys.
Busses drone down roads.
Children opt for indoors.
Parents: "We made it!"

For fall is peeking through
And winter's portal will open,
So celebrate summer's twilight
With all its warmth and beauty still.


Monday, August 1, 2011

A First



Aching foot, leg, and hip--



Bring them to the fingers that heal.






Dimmed lights lead to silence.



Soft music fed the ears.






Thirty minutes went way too fast--



Please, a place to sleep nearby?






Going outside shattered the calm, but



With a relaxing giggle, this was my reply,






"Why did I wait this long for a massage?"












Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Retirement

23 & 24 years old.
I do
In sickness and health
Til death do us part.

64 & 65.
Both retired
In health still
Til death do us part.

Reflection & renewal.

Fear & joy.

The journey continues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Never Too Young or Old






















Leaving the teaching field for retirement does not let one just ride off into the sunset as I thought I would.

More personal activities take precedence now which is the greatest part of retirement, and I find teaching is still a large part of me but on a different scale. I still want to create, read, write and be an influence. Trying to influence 80 students every day for 180 days a year was becoming quite an overwhelming task for me in the last few years before retirement. It was time to go to a different place.

My arena now consists of 2-4 children who are all different ages and have different needs--mainly 2 1/2 years to 6 1/2 years. There are 3 boys and one girl. I cannot be with them 180 days a year, but I can make a difference when I am with them. I am a grandparent, and I love being with them especially when they create.

We all have our writers notebooks now--some are writing, and some are just drawing. I am tickled to death especially when Lilly (4 1/2) finds and grabs her notebook without prompting and says, "I'm ready." We try to write/draw with "No walk, no talk"--really hard to do!!! Noah (4 1/2) likes to print his name and others words with his race car drawings. Lucas (6 1/2) prints sentences with many different drawings, and James (2 1/2) loves markers and circles!


Then we share and clap for one another. After that, we write/draw again because we want to.


This activity doesn't last long right now, but this is better than any sunset!!!

Monday, June 6, 2011

As a Result

As grandparents, we are always looking for something to catch the eye of our grandchildren, their attention, their minds, or their food palates to make our time with them special. Yes, we can always buy them something special. Buying is easy. It's the time spent with them that counts.


When:


buying them a game, we must play it with them.


purchasing trucks and cars, we must rev it up with them.


giving a fishing pole, we must fish with them.


making food for them, we must include them in the preparation.


buying coloring books, paper, markers, paints, and crayons, we must design with them.


getting out the Playdoh/Legos/building kits, we must build with them.


picking up a book, we must read to/with them.


choosing a writers notebook and writing utensil for them, we must write/sketch with them.


being a grandparent, we must really be with them when we are with them.


being with them, we will share our hearts, our minds, and our souls.


As a result, we will always be with them in their hearts.




Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Ten Apartments That Raised Me--Part 5

You might say that there was never a dull moment when you had 10 families all moving around you during the day. Everyone had their own stories, their joys, and their woes. Most tenants stayed for the duration of my days living there, but some did move on. When an apartment became vacant and cleaning and repainting followed, the apartment created another playground.


Remember, my Auntie Mary was the owner and sole caretaker of the building. This was her livelihood for sheltering and raising her daughter Sharon. She was not only to be a landlord, a mother, and an aunt but an angel of sorts to my brother and me. She was the glistening gem/rock of the building--strong, sensible, genuine, authentic, positive, Bible-reading, sweet, quiet, meek, calm, and always smiling. She never raised her voice--it wasn't in her to do so. And Auntie Mary had the largest apartment, Apartment 5, which allowed me to have my own room next to my cousin Sharon when I reached middle school. Where would I be today without my Auntie Mary?


My cousin Sharon kept us all entertained. She was full of energy, intelligence, creativity, curiousness, uniqueness, outlandishness, the unforgettable, the extraordinary, and quite the challenge for my Auntie Mary. As a child, I remembered Sharon's puppet shows, costume parties with skits, and treasure hunts with string leading each attendee to their own treasure!!! It looked like a roomful of laser lights only made of string. Sharon met Gene Autry, country singer and actor, on her own because she sought him out after a stage performance. She wrote Queen Elizabeth of England on her coronation day in the 50's, and so Sharon's life continued with adventures, sometimes including me, unwilling as I might be! Sharon was the opposite of me, but let me know there was more out there than what was in my small world.


My family had one of the smallest apartments, Apartment 8, with 3 rooms--kitchen, living room, one bedroom, and the tiniest bathroom you could ever find! If you stood in the middle of the bathroom, you could touch the sink, toilet, and tub without moving!!!! Yes, 4 people lived here day in and day out. I slept in a crib until I was 5 and then slept with my mom in the bedroom, and my brother slept with my dad on the pull out couch in the living room. I didn't think much of it because that was the way it was.


My dad was a mill worker until he got cancer, and the mill would not allow him to work there anymore--a liability, I guess. This did happen in those days. He was on disability the rest of his life, never having the desire to do anything else. He sat all day mostly in the living room, playing with his coins in his pocket. I don't think he ever recovered from losing his job, and there was no counseling services at that time either. My mom worked retail at W.T. Grants Co. in downtown Gary and then later as a clerk at the Lake County Library. My dad was home every day but not really "there." My mom was gone a lot with work, friends, and the like. My two-year-older brother Richard was a playmate when I was younger and then became involved with his own boyhood friends. Sadly, we never really connected until we were both in our fifties, and that was cut short upon his death at age 57.


In Apartment 2 in the basement, my Russian maternal Grandma Mary or "Baba" as we called her, lived with her son, my uncle, Walter. Baba knew best and was the best cook ever. She never knew how to write or read except for her name to become a citizen of the United States of America. Uncle Walter was known for his love of chess, cheese, apples, Coca Cola, fruit pie-making, and listening to the singer Dean Martin!!! I could really hold a conversation with him about anything. This apartment was a refuge for me--smelling/eating the hot soups, learning chess, and talking with someone about life and what was good for me.


Can't forget the basement and the coal room and furnace that heated the boilers to bring heat to all ten apartments. My aunt shoveled the coal most days until my brother got older to help out and me on a occasion. Coal was delivered through a small hole on the east side of the building. Then the shoveling of the coal began--into the metal bucket, open the fiery furnace with its latched handle, throw the coal in, and watch and feel the burning fire! Besides the coal bin and furnace and the weekly wash in the old agitating washers, the basement hosted roller skating and Halloween scares.


Many more people existed in the memories of my apartment home, but not as strongly as the people I've mentioned by name. These were the apartments and people in the building that raised me.






Tuesday, May 10, 2011

The Backyard That Raised Me--Part 4

What better way to recollect my childhood backyard behind the apartment building that raised me than to sit on my own porch today with my laptop, looking out into the full backyard that I "play" in today.

In my life after college, I've never missed a beat living with a full backyard. I am blessed and grateful for this. I watched my one set of grandchildren, Noah and James, play two days ago on the ground, tumbling, running, jumping, and laughing in the soft, green, sweet-smelling odor of dirt and grass!! Also, nothing can beat lying on your back and looking up into the big, blue sky, feeling and being a real part of the green earth. Lawns can never be underrated!


In May of 1965, the year I graduated from high school, I wrote an essay about My Backyard for English class. I had forgotten about some of these backyard memories I wrote about, and the essay helped me remember. I guess my backyard left an impression on me even into my high school days when the yard was vacated as a playground and traded for teenage tanning and Kodak photos.


I have alluded to my backyard in my post about The Clothes Line. The lines became the basis for huge tents out of blankets and clothespins besides being where the weekly wash hung. My yard also became a sandy beach when I wanted it to become one. The tide that came in was the slow descent of the sun behind a large tree that cast a shadow. The yard also became a ballroom where my partner, the hoola hoop, and I danced and twirled under the bright sun and breezy evenings. Countless tag games took place with neighborhood kids. I remember playing here and around the neighborhood in the summer evening, becoming sweaty and thirsty for water that tasted "Oh, so good!"

There was also a low point in the middle of the yard that became my caldron filled with a mixture of sour lettuce, mud, and green onion tops from the garden behind the white cement bricks that kept the raised garden from the grass. It was sometimes my job to plant the umpteen onion bulbs every year. There were also rose bushes, tulips, daffodils, and many other plants. Next to our yard was the property where Mrs. White lived with her sister. She had sweet smelling lily-of-the-valley plants galore. Bright, fragrant, fuscia four o'clocks grew by the back concrete steps which was a good place to sit and think or cry and wish.

Winter days were filled with heavy snows that led to snowball fights with my brother Richard and his friends. The snow was so high, we could build tunnels, caves, and forts.

As I write about my apartment home so far, I am realizing that I had praiseworthy, outdoor memories of the building on 6th Avenue. This leads me to my next and final part of my childhood home--the ten family apartments and the basement.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The Apartment Building That Raised Me--Part 3

Remember, we're on a youthful and unsophisticated tour of the best memories of my ten apartment childhood home on the banks of the southern most tip of Lake Michigan, of course, with the Gary Steel Mills between me and the beach! The closest accessible beach is ten miles away and called Miller Beach, a place to hang out like the corner drug store, or so it seemed.

Since the eastside of my brick building had a wooden porch, glider, and steps with access to the best alley playground ever with its dramatic rain flow to one of the city's sewers, many hours were played out during sunny or stormy days.


The front side of 517 East 6th Avenue definitely had its own glamour, and the west side presented itself as a place to play pretend and more games. I want to leave the backyard last as this was the best and largest playground ever!!


When you walked down the 6th Avenue sidewalk, coming from my school (2 blocks away), you noticed as you approached the red brick building, the east side porch, of course, and the three floors of windows. The building had two stories but also had a basement and three basement flats. These basement windows always had blinds or curtains, so people on the outside couldn't look down into the apartments--never liked this floor of apartments except for one thing. My grandmother or as we called her "Baba" lived there later with my Uncle Walter. It was below ground, lower than the world, dark, and gloomy. More on the basement later.


As you walked past the first set of windows, you could see the front door to the building. This was home. It was a heavy brown door with a large window at the top and small windows on either side. There were also paned windows above the door. The door opened heavily and closed itself with ease. On the right were steps going to the first floor and on the left were steps going down to the basement. Since both sets of steps were curved, I remember falling down and up them frequently.


Before you chose which stairs to take, a set of 10 golden-like mail boxes all in one row were right in front of you. The apartment numbers were on the front with the last names of tenants inside when the postman opened all of them at once. One had to have a key in order to get the mail. If you looked above the boxes, you would see a short runway of a hall with a wooden bannister and two apartments on either side. I rather liked the looks of the entrance--plenty of light, open, and 10 friendly mailboxes where birthday cards, Christmas cards, and letters arrived--a highlight to everyone's day!


Out the door again and on to the west side of the building, we had bushes instead of a fence surrounding this side of the yard. I remember having to trim them when I was older and keeping them even. I also had other jobs to do around the apartment building because my Auntie Mary owned it, and my family lived in it.


On this side was an enclosed porch on the first floor the second with a large set of 7-8 (?) concrete steps with concrete bannisters leading down and out of the building. The steps were where the game Captain May I was played over and over. It was also the best place to take group pictures for birthday parties or to just sit on especially on the bannisters. The enclosed porch housed a pretend store and newspaper office. One summer, we held play weddings because some how we gathered fancy and formal clothing.

We also waited for the Dixie Dairy Man there who gave us pieces of ice out of his truck and then delivered the gallons of milk to our apartment doors. We also watched for the ice cream man and bought banana popsicles! There was an egg man who also delivered "fresh" eggs in a basket to whomever, but who bought them, we don't know. The sidewalk in front of the west side was where one could be pretty much alone, playing under the trees or walking down the block.

Those are the good thoughts/memories of the front and west side of the brick apartment that raised me. Thanks for being with me as I try to picture my home as I remember it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Apartment Building That Raised Me-Part 2

I lived in a 6th and Maryland apartment building, the 6th formal street from the Gary Steel Mills which was on the southern shores of Lake Michigan. We are called "the children of the mill" by the author Ronald D. Cohen in his book The Children of the Mill, Schooling and Society in Gary, Indiana, 1906-1960.


My son Eric reminded me that I should look on Google Earth to find out what was left of my childhood home and neighborhood since the apartment fire and its demolition. I googled my old home address and discovered an empty, grass-covered space where the ten apartment, rectangular, 2-storied, red, brick building stood.


Homes all through the neighborhood were gone, and trees overtook the area behind this abandoned lot. The sidewalk in front of the building seemed to have been over grown with grass and weeds. I guess when a neighborhood goes into decline, structures are torn down and nothing more is built in the existing space. Strange as it may seem, my best friend Sally's house right across the alley is still standing. It wasn't the best house and was only made of wood. That would bring back some memories of the hours I spent in her house.


I just stared at the now empty space--just a vacant, unmarked lot that was once home to ten families, each with their own stories.


I then focused my attention to the still present "playground" of the alley next to the east end of the building where we splashed in the huge puddles during and after a heavy rain. That steady stream of water going down the alley into the street drain ferried our best homemade boats at rapid speed. We would also go barefoot, dashing through the water after our boats or whatever. The storms in Gary were known for their thunder and lightning since Lake Michigan was not far from us. At times, I would also grab my umbrella and skip around the building, loving those summer storms--they never scared me. Little did I know of the dangers of lightning then.


My brother Richard, my cousin Sharon, and I wouldn't find shelter in the apartment during the colossal storms, but sit on the glider of the wooden porch facing the alley and be in wonder at the slashes of lightning, waiting for the booming thunder. There were about 10 wooden steps leading down from the porch to the sidewalk. We played many games on these steps or just watched the cars that went by on busy 6th Avenue. There was a sidewalk and a small grassy area and then the busy street--no fear of the street either!? We always had access to the sidewalk and streets--only one gate on the east side which lead to the alley. Adults were usually inside and not outside much. I guess the three of us must have had each other's backs many times!


That's what I remember about the good times on the east side of the brick apartment building that raised me.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Apartment Building That Raised Me



I just read a "View" by Connie Schultz in Parade Magazine, April 17, 2011 in answer to the question,"What's your best memory of your childhood home?"

"The House That Built Me" was the title of her piece, and she started with this lead: "The plan was to drive slowly by the house and keep on going." Talk about a grabber lead--she caught me there!! I no longer have that opportunity to drive slowly or drive at all by the Gary, IN apartment building that I grew up in until I was 18 years old.

After college, I visited home very few times because my life was wrapped up in campus living and off campus living. My life was college. After I graduated in August of '69, I took a teaching job in Ft. Wayne, IN. A year after college, I married. I visited Gary, IN only once after that, but did not return to that apartment building because it was condemned and no one could enter. Later it burned to the ground--nothing to visit now, but maybe I should at least see the neighborhood. It probably would be a very sombering visit, however, due to the ongoing decline of the neighborhood. I saw online, inside pictures of my old Emerson School, K-12, where I attended my whole life, and it was a heartsick sight.

The author of the "View" had a picture of her old house and told of her memories, especially of her dad. She ended by saying, "Back then all I could think about was how scary it would be to leave home." I thought the same thing when I was younger. How could I leave the only home I knew, but yet I wanted to leave. I packed my bags for my new job and left my Gary, IN home forever. I cried the first few miles, feeling mixed emotions such as, "I'm leaving home, but I have to go." I would room with a girl whom I did not know and take on my first teaching job of 7th grade language arts classes! My rite of passage had begun.

The first thing I did after reading this Parade Magazine article was to sketch the apartment building I grew up in for 18 years; it had 10 apartments. I have no pictures of it--regrettable.

In my next few blogs I will describe what it was like to live in an apartment setting as I grew up. I guess, it's my way of making a photo of 517 East 6th Avenue.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Finally Rockin'


As a writer, I've been told,

I am clear, concise, and quirky.

I've also heard that rocks and shells are ever changing

And are beautiful pieces of the Earth.


I love rocks because they mean something to me

And could be bookmarks that help me remember.

I look for rocks in quiet wonder, for I now know

Rocks collect the stories, and I am only the sender.


Rocks are the threads that run through my life

Which bind me to family and continuing tradition.

Rockfinders are a special breed, drawn

To shape, size, and color--just part of their mission.


What am I thinking about when I'm looking for rocks?

What do they mean to me?

The rocks are a part of the story of my life and,

Rocks seem to give me peace and harmony.


I still have time to have that rock conversation,

And see if one answers if I hold it up high.

I find in Byrd Baylor's book Everybody Needs a Rock,

I'll be sorry if a rock is not a friend by and by.


Thanks to nurturingcuriosity, teacherdance, elsie, booksavors, Tammy,

Sharon, Sprice, Alice, Uncle E, Donna S., onesunflower, and the Ruths

Who have given me their thoughts and support

To find the meaning of rocks and their truths.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

What's With the All These Rocks Anyway??!!


At the top left of my blog, you see a picture of a bunch of rocks and above it, it says, "I Love Rocks!" Have I written about rocks? Created an ode to rocks? Made any indication that rocks are important to me? No, so what's this thing about rocks? Good question for you and me.


As a child, I remember collecting rocks from everywhere and being fascinated by them. What I did with them after I found them as a child, I don't remember. I just enjoyed finding rocks. I looked for smaller rocks as a rule and in all shapes, colors, and textures. I also remembered I had to "buy" a rock collection for the earth science course I took in college. I carried that collection wherever I went after college.


I got married and my oldest son found out that he liked rocks, too, and also asked for a rock polisher--I wasn't into that part, but he was. When we moved the family to another area, the college rocks were thrown into a drawer in the basement. My brother even collected rocks. What?


As I got older and settled down, my fascination started all over. I looked for smaller rocks as a rule and in all shapes. Some rocks reminded me of other objects or animals and people even--what would they say if they could talk? I finally just started putting them and my "college" collection in one area of our backyard near the bird bath and herb garden. Those college rocks finally found their way back home, at last--out in the elements.


I've caught my grandchildren playing with my rocks. They put them in pails, on the deck, and of course, would like to throw them. At first, I didn't want them to touch them--silly me. It was great they were playing with them!! At least they now had a purpose! Of course, they always had to put them back where they found them.


I went for a walk with 4 year old granddaughter Lilly a couple of weeks ago, and she started collecting rocks in her pocket. When she got home, she put them in a tupperware container that I got down for her, and she quietly took them up to her room. I just told her to tell her dad that she did this.


"Okay," I said, "These rocks have a story to tell." I have read books on the different types of rocks--not interested in the nonfiction angle. I have collected the rocks from different places, but that's not the point I want to talk about either. I've read If You Find a Rock by Peggy Christain and other stories--nothing spoke to me.


Rocks are unique and have a story. I've tried to write a short story with rocks as a focal point of a young boy--the story's not going anywhere. Okay, no short story. How about a picture book? This is where I am--about a bunch of rocks, a boy or girl, and the uniqueness of rocks, uniqueness of the boy/girl? There's a real possibility.


As I write this post and look back at this year's writers notebook, I see notes from a fellow teacher/writer (the other Ruth, I do believe) I meet with sometimes, and she suggested that these rocks could be the strand in the story of my life............ I am discovering there is a strand here. Will this be my angle? (Thanks, Ruth, I'm seeing more of that.)


Can I ask for more ideas? Should I forget the idea since I can't settle with one, or wait until I figure it out eventually? These rocks have to go somewhere!!!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Epilogue


Ruth's post of March 31, "March Reminded Me," spoke to me in the line that said, "March reminded me ordinary days are my passion." I like ordinary days, too, being home, the small things. At the same time, because I think they all seem insignificant to others, I downplay them. In actuality, this is what makes each one of us unique in our personalities and our writing. This is what I discovered in March.


As bloggers, we knew we all loved to write, but what about it? Do we really have something to write about, to talk about, to share? I am not controversial or want to shout anything to the masses, I just want to write. I want to feel good about what I write, enjoy the process, and share it with people who I can give a lift, a laugh, or a sentiment. If this goes any further, I'm blessed, but I do want to share and talk about writing. It's like reading a good book.


I discovered yesterday, commenting on a post that blogging and commenting is like going back to that good book you're reading, your little world of enjoyment, your involvement in a story being told, your place in a community of readers/writers that are supportive, and make you want to come back because writing/reading is good for you!!! Where have I heard that before, Ruth?


I've discovered another me that's been waiting to be released, letting me know, it's okay. I have something to write about, something to offer whether it be a story or a post.


Ordinary days are also my passion, Ruth. Thank you for letting me know that secret within me is okay to write about.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Graduation and a Class of 4


I feel like I'm graduating after 31 straight days of writing!!!! All in 31 days:

I have written.

I have reflected.

I have learned.

I have laughed.

I have shared.

I have read.

I have moaned.

I have smiled.

I have realized.

I have uploaded.

I have regretted.

I have reminisced.

I have celebrated.

I have traveled.

I have skipped instead of walking or running.


So what does a retired person do after learning so much more about herself and her writing in just one short month? Continue writing, sharing, and working with my class of four very special students--Lucas, Noah, Lilly, and James, my grandchildren.


I make sure Lucas, Noah, Lilly, and James are reading some very good books. Every chance I get, I make sure they have a new writers notebook to fill with whatever and wherever they are at this moment. Soon, I must talk with them about what is in their notebooks and ask them, "How's It Going?" I will show them my notebook and my blog. We will talk more, and we will read and write together and apart. Writing is a record of our lives for now and evermore.


Congratulations, fellow bloggers!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Writing Wishes


Fortunate than most children? Yes, indeed I was.

I had a beach when other children only had a swimming pool.

I had a ballroom, they only had a family room.

I had a witch's den, they only had a sand box.

I had a huge tent, they only had a doll house.

You see, I had a big back yard.


I have been looking through some of my old writings. I came across the above piece entitled "My Backyard," dated May 4, 1965, the year I graduated from high school!!


I wrote a post for my Blog on March 1 of this year called "Clothes Lines." In that post, I only remembered part of the fun I had as a child making the tents from the clothes line in the backyard. I discovered in this '65 piece that my backyard was my daycare, my escape, my dreams. It went on to tell in detail what I meant by the beach, the ballroom, the witch's den, and the huge tents.


As I read, I said to myself, "Yes, I remember that. How could I forget that? I remember that now. And that reminds me of other games we played."


If only I had written more when I was younger, kept track of more events. I kept a diary at times growing up and after college, but always put it aside, got rid of them, in fact. Oh, I'm so sorry I didn't save/write more. I guess I didn't take my writing all that seriously, but I continued to write in little ways such as a free lance reporter for the Ft. Wayne newspaper's Northeast Neighborhood section. I had some tough fire stories to cover and some human interest stories. There was long gap then until I started writing workshop in my own classroom back in '01-'02. I discovered the love was still there, and now here I am retired, wanting to really write again.


The challenge to me now and to you fellow bloggers is to keep writing, writing, writing. Keep writing and keep everything you write. You won't remember all the precious details of your past if you don't. We're fortunate writing is so much easier now that we have computers. I can't believe I said that since I'm a firm believer in using the pen. I certainly didn't compose these posts on paper! Discovery time again!


So as we wind down from a month of writing every day, keep the fires burning within your mind and soul beyond the month of March and into your future as an author of works.

Monday, March 28, 2011

"Living on the Porch"


The "Living on the Porch" sign will soon be hung

With great anticipation and praises sung.


It announces that a table cloth will soon adorn

A picnic table full of meals with fresh peppers, tomatos, and corn.


The adirondacks and cushy wrought iron chairs

Wait for weary bodies who have left all their cares.


Impatiens, petunias, geraniums, and more

Will warm our craving spirits to the utter core.


Oh, how we long for the warmth of the sun,

To dry all those swim suits when swimming is done.


When on the porch, we'll raise our coffee cups and say,

"Here's to you Spring and Summer, we've come a long way!"


Realizations!!


It's a Monday morning, and this is the first time I haven't started a post by this time! I usually get an idea the night before and type it in as it comes out. Then I come back to it the next morning when the post is due, and revise, revise, and revise.


The reason why I have to revise so much is because (I just realized when commenting on an email and remembering my grief with my last post) I usually write my sentences backwards! What does this mean? Many sentences that come out with my thoughts are usually so awkward, discombobulated, and backwards that I have to slowly rearrange the words in the sentences. I blame it on getting ahead of myself, and my mind is just spitting out those thoughts at random! Mary Helen calls it "jumbled," I think.


Maybe I should just start to write by making a list of my thoughts and then numbering them in the order in which they should be. I think I do this already --some of my writers notebook pages look like chicken scratch! But I find I really like to revise, use my thesaurus, read my words over and over, read out loud, and make sure the sentences/phrases have a rhythm. My cousin Sharon said, "You're in love with words." I guess I am--realization!


I also realize I have more to say than I thought I would. I am more aware of my surroundings and the events in my life. I sometimes ask my husband or son what to write about, and they just throw some "things" out. Sometimes it is an idea I can use, but sometimes it's not exactly the topic they suggest. I may just turn one topic into another.


I also find that there are many excellent writers out there in this SOL community. I find that many of us writers share the same writing joys and difficulties. What better way to learn than from others--mini-workshops every day this month!! Sometimes I want to have more of a conversation with other bloggers. We've become penpals in a sense.


I get a kick out of family and friends finding out that I can and love to write, and that I have a blog! It's like letting out a secret that I've kept at bay.


In the end, I realize I'm skipping along more in my thoughts, rather than just walking through them.


Saturday, March 26, 2011

Watching and Wondering


For the first time in my life, I sighted a robin in early January! Was he lost? confused? Or did I just never notice robins during the winter??


Late in the morning or afternoon, the robin would perch himself on a small berry tree in our native plant garden in the backyard. I just thought this robin was a fluke. On January 21 in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette, a picture appeared of a robin with the caption of "A robin sings as it rests on a branch during snow showers Thursday afternoon in Fort Wayne." On January 26, I saw three robins!


In February, I started hearing family and friends talk of sighting flocks of robins! I also ended up seeing flocks of robins in trees in the front yard. I did an internet search and found that some robins do winter over, but so many? We had such a cold and snowy winter, especially in February. In addition, I read that robins will eat berries. I even put out some raisins, but nothing was touched.


Spring has finally arrived, and now many robins hop around the yard, trying to find worms in the grass. However, I still see one robin perched in the same tree every day mostly by himself. Is this the same robin that I sighted back in January? Does he have his eye on a nesting place?


I guess this is what you call bird watching and wondering!!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Lost in the Land of Dolls














A week ago, I tossed a little, old, bridal doll in the trash because she lost
her head! I couldn't fix it, and I've tossed her around in the old boxes so many times, I just got rid of her. Now I'm truly sorry I did.

The next week, my good friend Alice told me she was going to pick up her old doll from the "doll hospital" as she puts it for her grandchildren. "What? There's a doll hospital?" I exclaimed. "In New Haven, IN!!" I just had to go there! I've heard about places like this but never visited one.

I was in for a delightful surprise. On the side of the building was a huge mural of the basic concept of the store and in front, there was the store/hospital window!!!!

Alice and I walked in, and immediately saw the small metal kitchen sink that we both had as children! We just starting rambling on about our childhood, unaware of the store clerk who came to talk with us. I'm sure she has witnessed this many times before.

We saw other antique doll furniture and a wicker doll carriage. Glass cupboards held some very old dolls that were in great condition. There was a collection of old Storybook Dolls and Ginny Dolls. Middleton Dolls are the latest "real" life baby dolls that you can adopt. We saw antique and new doll clothing, doll shoes of all sizes, and doll hairpieces of all sizes and colors. What a find for a doll collector or anyone who wants to reminisce.

Some day soon, with my granddaughter Lilly, I am taking in another old bride doll whose dress crumbled with age and fit her with a new dress! I might even take something there to sell.

If you're interested, you can find Dolly Heaven at this website: http://www.repairmydoll.com/ It is also on Facebook as Dolly Heaven or Dolly Dearest and on ebay as Dolly Dearest.

Be sure to go in with a good friend and get lost.............................










Thursday, March 24, 2011

My Neighbors



We all help each other out along our private dead end street
where we live.

We share the cost of blacktopping our road.

We hook a water hose from one house to another if a well goes bad.

We share driveways for parking if anyone has a lot of company, and we always call first.

We share the snowblowing of the private road.

We snowblow each other's driveways when the need arises.

We look after each other's pets/homes when one is gone.

We get each other's mail at times.

We mow other's lawns if need be.

We attend each other's neighborhood get togethers.

Today, I got a dozen of yellow roses from the Kiwanis Club neighbor who bought extras from
the Kiwanis fund raiser for the ladies in the neighborhood!

These are my neighbors! God love them!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Ode to a Tomato







Oh, tomato, how we love you so.
We plant and water you to make you grow.


Full of vitamins A, C,
And lycopene--how healthy we will be.

Count the ways we consume you:
Spaghetti sauce, salsa, ketchup, and soups.

Whether sliced, tossed, diced, and even fried,
We praise you for your juicy, fleshy side.

One thing I did not know
Is that YouTube celebrates you so.

I heard the Tomato song that was fun,
But then you are a scrub to protect us from the sun.

Cherry or beefsteak grade,
We love you, great tomato, whom God hath made.






Tuesday, March 22, 2011

New York 1956

















I was getting ready to host my book club this month when I decided to bring down my mom's old collection of tea cups and saucers. She gave them to me when I started teaching because she said that I could get together with my teacher friends and have tea. At the time, tea was not on the menu for the teachers I knew, and I always laughed about that fact.

As I took the best tea cups and saucers down, I noticed my mom's name Lillian written on one cup along with the words "New York 1956." I knew my mom hadn't gone to New York City, but I had with my Auntie Mary and cousin Sharon.

The tea cup and saucer brought back a fond memory. I remember Radio City Music Hall where we saw "The King and I," the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the automats (Put in a quarter and get a sandwich of your choice--back then even!!), Central Park, and coffee and donuts in the morning in the Taft Hotel!! Yes, it was my first experience of drinking coffee, and I have loved coffee ever since, and I was only nine at the time!

So, not only did I recall a good memory but used my mom's tea cups and saucers with a group of teachers for the first time! I also used my mom's personal New York souvenir tea cup and saucer knowing she would be proud--finally!!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Motorcyle vs Writing





Congratulations to those fellow bloggers who have written every day for 22 days, give or take a few! We can also say, we are 71% in completion of our goal. We have 9 more days to go!


My middle son asked after I told him I was writing a post a day for 31 days, "Why are you doing this to yourself?" I explained I like writing slices, have always liked to write, and now I can share my writings with others on a daily basis and also read their blogs, making comments. It's like a little writing workshop. He just nodded his head and smiled. I didn't know if I had really reached him.

When I got home, I emailed my son and referred back to his question he had asked about my every day writing. I said, "You know how you like to ride your motorcycle, shine it up, and fix it if it needs fixed? Well, that's how I feel about writing/blogging." He answered back, "Point well taken."

Writing is like a motorcyle--you love riding/writing it. Shining it up is reading it over to yourself, and then fixing it/revising if it needs it.

Blogging every day has also taught me that there is something always there to write about, insignificant as it may seem.

Writing is an appreciation of life.


















Sunday, March 20, 2011

Dresses and More Dresses




Why are weddings still a fascination for young and old alike? I'm in my sixties and love to watch "Say Yes to the Dress." I love to watch and attend weddings. My husband and sons just wonder what the fascination is. For me, it is the dress and "all" the things that go with it today.


I made my dress and I wasn't even a seamstress!!! My husband even helped me. Like I said, I'm pretty basic. My best friend/roommate at the time was getting married, and she made her dress and her bridesmaid's. If she could make hers, I could make mine! My bridesmaids had to make their own. Wow, this would be a lot to ask today! Times have changed so much. What else is new?


Brides are now buying two dresses--one for the vows and the other for the reception. What's important here? Is this now just an activity or a real vow of love and a lasting relationship?


William and Kate will take their vows April 29 in Westminister Abbey. I can hardly wait!! I wish them the best and think they have that love since they took their time with and away from each other. I loved seeing Charles and Diana marry witih all the hoopla. What was Charles and Diana thinking????


Where is this going? To me marriage is a beginning a new life with the person you love and respect and a hope that whatever comes, love can prevail. The rest is fun hoopla, and there's nothing wrong with fun!!!


But "you gotta have love."


Isn't there a song that has these words? Anyone know?






Saturday, March 19, 2011

Moon Over Matter



Full moon weekend--


last full moon for the winter


and first full moon for the spring.




Celebrated with our first campfire of the year


with fallen tree limbs, logs


and that old Christmas wreath.




Saturday was the last day of winter


with the sun even closer now


and spring arrives today!




Good-bye, Winter.


Hello, Spring.


See you next month, Full Moon!
















Friday, March 18, 2011

Because I Can




I wrote this once and deleted it because I didn't want anyone to feel bad about having to work and maybe never get to retire, but I have that opportunity. I feel blessed.


Because I'm retired


I can sleep in until 8:00 after going to bed at midnight.


I can skip the naps because I get 8 hours almost every night.


I can stay in my robe until noon (I never did that before!).


I can go out to lunch with friends.


I can be part of a retiree lunch bunch.


I can blog and enjoy it.


I can take care of family when they need someone to be there.


I can go shopping during the day all year long.


I can really enjoy weekends and rest on Mondays.


I can take care of my grandkids during the week.


I can enjoy Sunday nights.


I can be a better person because I'm not tired all the time.


I can choose how I spend my time.


I can enjoy trying new recipes.


I can read more books.


I can garden all day long this spring.


I can enjoy my coffee every morning.


I can feel blessed.








Thursday, March 17, 2011

Just Part of My Poem




I use to think the good times were going to a party, a wedding, a vacation,



Having a new outfit, or another bracelet.



Then I discovered



It was the small things/moments



That truly made up the Good Times.



Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Alive and Well





I took my first spring walk this afternoon--mighty fine day to be alive and well.

The general color scheme was brown, gray, yellow, and coniferous green with a pure blue sky and lake--yes, the lake is finally open from its frozen guise!!! I'll be watching for the brighter greens and colors as days go by.

I took to the beach and found two of the many swans that now inhabit our lake. They looked at me and then nestled their heads from the left into their right wing. It looked uncomfortable but with the long neck they have, the extra stretch seems to work well.

Two black dogs were running and jumping after each other on the beach when I spied a man in the distance calling out. I pointed to the two dogs, guessing that's who he was looking for. I could identify with the dogs' frivolity.

On the way back, I picked up large, downed tree branches and laid them near the backyard fire pit that soon will be lighted with large logs. The old Christmas wreath lies there as well with its piney scent. What a fire feast of aromas we will have!

As I returned to our deck and took one last look at our backyard of summer dreams yet to unravel, I remember all the things I was meaning to do this past winter. Oh, well, there's always next winter. I'm just ready to go out again, play, and enjoy the sun!!!










Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Cup Quest




Or Odd Things People Do






I am looking for the perfect coffee cup. It has to be the right size, have the right handle, weight, look, and microwaveable!

How did this begin? I had the perfect cup when I worked for Lincoln Life--it was a freebie, too. It broke, and I have been on a quest to replace this cup for quite awhile. It was a secret at first, and I didn't tell anyone I was doing this in my head. This is not to say this is all I do when I leave my house, but the thought is there when I spy cups at a store. And, of course, when you drink that special cup of coffee in the morning, it has to be an object of comfort!

I finally admitted to family and some friends that this is what I do. Knowing me, they just kept quiet and helped me locate cups when they were with me. I also had to tell them eventually that no one else but me can find it. Getting really strange now, huh? There is a good reason for this as there is with every odd thing I do--believe it or not!

As soon as you tell someone you are looking for that perfect cup, he/she wants to buy you one, maybe as a gift. This is where the problems begins in collecting things if that's what you want to call it. I call it a quest--not always sure if this will be the one, but it's fun, too.

When other people get involved, you begin to get things you would never buy for your collection, and then it doesn't become your thing per se. My mother-in-law has a collection of spoons which started out with every time she traveled somewhere, she bought a spoon. Soon everyone was buying her spoons of places she never went!! Whose collection is it anyway???

I started collecting pumpkins, and my mom went crazy buying them for me. No!! I ended up with grandma and grandpa pumpkins--not what I was doing really. Same with collecting sugar bowls and creamers--stopped that in the bud!

People want to please, I know. But a "collection" or quest is yours to find--where you were at the time, why you bought it, what it means for you, etc. Call it a little personal perk.