Wednesday, October 26, 2016

THESE Things

All the things in this life that aren't politics. 

Fifteen years of Winnie the Pooh....

Aren't newsworthy. 

Aren't on the television. Or social media. In font sizes over 48. 

That aren't the Cubs......

That still make life rich, memorable, vital, and individual.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.  
Phillippians 4: 8

Think on THESE things.

Lizzie.  At the helm of the auger wagon, bouncing over the bean field on her dad's lap, steering and singing in her pink t-shirt and John Deere green french terry pajama pants.  Pure happiness.

Abbie and Josh. With armloads of fake autumn leaves and weeds, stringing a garland here, setting a pumpkin there,  every vase with its flower, every bowl with its gourd.  Finally, the TA-DA moment as I'm led (close your eyes, Grandma!) to the dining room to ooh and aaah over their enterprise.  Lovely, indeed.

Ryan and Lee.  Lee with her foot bound up and her big toe stitched.  Ryan taking the laundry downstairs, bringing her drinks and ibuprofen and making brownies. Putting dishes away.  Lee: "That's not where those g....oh....just put them where ever you want to!"  When your wife is laid up, where ever those  clean dishes are stacked is the definition of commendable....

Gabe and Abbie, Aaron and Lizzie, Josh and Annie.  After school and after work, the "knackers" come help clean up the leftovers of the fall mum crop.  With high spirits and a Tom Sawyer attitude (make work fun!), they give the dead plants the old heave-ho into the back of the green pickup, roll up the irrigation lines, make big nosegays of fragrant bronze blooms, and stack up the used pots; all for a 6 ounce Sunkist orange pop!  Well, except for Aaron, who takes advantage of the opportunity to practice his mad manual transmission driving skills in the '95 Dodge Ram five speed....Worthy...worthy of praise!

Aaron. First junior high basketball game.  His mother calls..."Keep moving...use the backboard!" Aaron, to his credit, not only meets his mom's eyes, but mouths.."I know".   I remember junior high basketball....and the girl who shot the basketball just so her dad would shave off his beard.... Whatever is honorable....Whatever is just.

Josh. A font of information and a sponge for knowledge now that he's in kindergarten. "I can count to 100, Mom." from the back seat. "Yes, and I'm so proud of you..." from the driver's seat.  From the back seat...."One zillion and zillion and two....." Absolutely true... 

Levi.  At a fall hayride with his parents.  Riding the skid loader, checking out the John Deere tractor, watching the cattle in the pasture: "If this were a real farm, there would be a combine...." story telling anyway!

Think...and THESE things....

Bob the Builder circa 2005

Construction guy circa 2016

Froggie suit circa 2014
Froggie suit circa 2011

Froggie suit circa 2004

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Still Learning.....

'I am still learning.'..... Michelangelo's famous quote, one that takes its place on my refrigerator with the postcards of faraway places, the snapshots of adorable grandkids, and a legion of magnets ranging up and down the tacky scale. I used this quote long ago in a talk to the Tarkio National Honor Society banquet in hopes of persuading the graduating seniors that a future in Atchison county would be as rewarding and challenging as any farther afield.  Nothing up to this date in 2016 has proved this assumption incorrect!  But that’s part of learning, right? To recognize that work and creativity can walk hand in hand in the most mundane of circumstances, the most homely of surroundings.

I have not mastered night photography....or the lowest notes of a saxophone....chipping onto a green....or growing orchids. I haven't read Paul Johnson's "Art" or plunked out a Scott Joplin Piano Rag(not too fast!), thrown a piece of pottery or successfully cast a fly. I cannot seem to remember the sails on a boat or ship nor the stars in common constellations. There are so many places to read understand. And there are gardens to plan and plant, an old house to treasure, a family full of energy, anecdotes, adventures, and minor miracles, and a husband and friend with whom to carom and careen through life....or rest, reminisce, and share.

I want to paint hay bales.....

...and circumnavigate our country...

That's not all.....

As time wears on, Michelangelo's image of God bringing Adam to life holds a deeper meaning for me. I am still learning: still a student of what it means to be human and to aspire. Sixty is too old for lots of eyes will keep me from hitting a fast ball; my knees from downhill skiing; my nerves from drinking coffee all night like I did when I was twenty. But God's word tells us it is never too late to seek His face, to walk His path, or to meditate on His word. Adam's finger reaches for the life giving hand of God, but it could as well be mine. Six, sixteen, sixty or beyond, we can never learn enough...

Monday, October 10, 2016

Time Capsule ....or.....Now We Are Six(ty)

" I don't feel very different, she said, I know it's strange....."

Back When We Were Beautiful
Matraca Berg
I remember the '57 Chevy...and not just the pictures of it, either. We drove it a long time. Laura and I were very young, but it seemed very big, and the only thing keeping two little girls from rattling around the back seat was the bubbly vinyl seat covering my folks put in to protect the upholstery. We stuck to it pretty good; this was long before seat belts in the back. The '63 red Dodge Dart didn't have seat belts, nor did the '64 Volkswagen Beetle.
We had the Volkswagen while my mother was attending night school to get her teacher's certificate. While she was in class, my father took us to the laundromat. I learned my multiplication tables and long division to the swishing and sloshing of washing machines in Naperville, Illinois. When we had completed our lessons, we got to share a bottle of orange Fanta from the vending machine....or maybe a Tab...while we were folding the laundry. Tab was new and it tasted terrible, but I remember feeling quite adventurous trying it.

Afterwards, Laura would curl up behind the back seat and I'd stretch on the back seat. The Bug didn't have a radio, but my father hung his AM-FM transistor from the rear view mirror and listened to one of Chicago's classical music stations while we waited in the dark.

I was hanging my coat up in the hallway outside Mrs. Erdman's second grade class when I heard President Kennedy had been shot.

When I asked my father whether he thought Mr. Goldwater or Mr. Johnson should be President in 1964, he said one would probably be a better president and the other would be probably be better for his job.

In 1968, our class spring field trip to either the Museum of Science and Industry or the Field Museum was canceled because of the rioting after Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination.

Our family watched the first moon landing while gathered around a tiny black and white television  in the creek side rooms of a lodge in South Dakota when my father's work took him there for several weeks. We didn't watch much television that summer, nor did we stay up late: doing both in one night marked the occasion as momentous.

I remember when Harry Caray was with the Cardinals( til 1969); the first stumbling broadcasts of Mike Shannon(1972); our first air conditioned car, a 1968 pale yellow low slung Plymouth Fury with a cushy suspension but no power steering; and the epic collapse of the Cubs that broke the city's heart and paved the way for the Miracle Mets (1969). I got to see “The Sound of Music” on a theater trip with our Girl Scout group and “Mary Poppins” with our family at the theater in LaGrange." Dumbo" made me sad and "Pinocchio" made me scared.

We played whiffle ball in the driveway. I had a pair of roller skates that adjusted length and width-wise with a key; I loved to coast down the driveway and turn right onto the sidewalk of our long corner lot. After a while, sand and grit got into the bearings, or the metal spread and your wheels would either lock up or spill bearings into the street.

I got a social security number the summer I accompanied my father to practice and play several concerts with the Lemont Town Band under the direction of Mr. Nichols.  I dearly wish I could tell you more about Mr. Nichols.  My impression is that he had been a band director of some note in the hey day of John Philip Sousa and his peers. He was aged by then, a tall spare stooped figure of few words leading a smallish town band in the basement of the city hall.  His wheelchair bound wife always accompanied him to practice.  The sheet music was old, yellowed, black with fast notes and stamped with his name at the top.  When we played virtuoso chestnuts like “Norma”, “Carnival of Venice”, and original arrangements of “The Washington Post”, “Stars and Stripes Forever” and “Colonel Bogey”, the band barely hung together through the multiple repeats and the trio, but somehow maintained its force and plunged with a flourish and much relief to the coda. I knew no one could really hear one small clarinet or had time to notice me foundering in my search for the key signature, or the fingering for some accidental an octave above the staff, but the experience that summer left lasting memories of a musical past just out of sight behind me, and what technical quick wittedness was required to make all those notes bubble out effortlessly.

I got three checks in the mail…$6 dollars each for playing with the Lemont Band.  It seemed an immense amount of money at the time for a player no better than I was. Those checks, with their official looking Social Security number, undoubtedly went directly into my savings account.  

Kids my age got chicken pox...and German measles (what we called the three day measles).  My sister and I got one of the very first measles immunizations, which has lasted all these years.  We never did catch the mumps despite being exposed to them many times.
 We went to the dentist every six months like we were supposed to...but instead of a new toothbrush and tube of toothpaste, we left the dentist office with one of those fruity suckers on a looped string!

When our family lived in Orland Park, it was a town of 4500 people with an IGA, a lumberyard, a laundromat, a Dog 'n Suds, a library, the Orland Bank, a new Methodist church, our church, Christ Lutheran, and St. Michael's Catholic Church and parochial school. A harbinger of the growth to come, I attended both of the elementary schools, Orland Park,in town with its 1950s addition to the brick school and 1930s rock gymnasium, and Orland Center, with its one room schoolhouse and 1950s building addition, set between the sod fields and hog farms. I could walk to both from our subdivision...over the railroad tracks and through the older neighborhoods...
......or past the vacant lots flooded during the winter for ice skating and hockey, past the little league baseball fields, under the Osage orange trees and across 151st Street.

We can't stay Six...or Clever as Clever either for that matter.  But Winnie the Pooh is full of wisdom...for a bear "of very little brain"....and has a solution for all of us six to sixty.....

So be it....