Tuesday, June 28, 2011


Today we babysat for baby Caroline, who is now 20 months old. The cats entertain her. And she entertains the cats by reading to them. Whenever I take a picture of her, she asks to see "the baby." Today I was showing her the pictures on my iPhone when she began to use her index finger to scroll through them. She even pushed the arrow to start videos over and over again. At one point, she used her finger and thumb to enlarge the picture. She knows more about the iPhone than I do, thanks to her grandfather. With the iPhone, I can turn the camera around so Caroline can see herself. She must have taken 30 pictures of herself and some video too. She played peekaboo with herself on the iPhone. I'll try to load it.

First Paragraph Tuesday

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
I picked up this book after hearing about it on NPR: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman..
Lloyd shoves off the bedcovers and hurries to the front door in white underwear and black socks. He steadies himself on the knob and shuts his eyes. Chill air rushes under the door; he curls his toes. But the hallway is silent. Only high-heeled clicks from the floor above. A shutter squeaking on the other side of the couryard. His own breath, whistling in his nostrils, whistling out.
Faintly, a woman's voice drifts in. He clenches his eyelids tighter, as if to drive up the volume, but makes out only murmurs, a breakfast exchange between the woman and the man in the apartment across the hall. Until, abruptly, their door opens: her voice grows louder, the hallway floorboards creak -- she is approaching. Lloyd hustles back, unlatches the window above the couryard, and takes up a position there, gazing out over his corner of Paris.
She taps on his front door.

According to the book jacket, this book is "set against the gorgeous backdrop of Rome" and follows the staff of an international newspaper as they try to keep the newspaper alive. As a former journalist who loves to travel in Europe, this book should be perfect for me. So far, it's kind of depressing because the character Lloyd is 70, his wife sleeps with the man across the hall, he has no relationship with his daughter or son and he is broke, but I hope it improves.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Teacher's Pet

The thing I've always loved about teaching college is that I don't have to put up with bad students. High school teachers are stuck with students no matter how uninterested they are in the class. I can tell college students to leave if they are rude or disruptive.
Once the quarter begins, which it did today, students need my permission to join our class. I have one opening in an English Comp class and today I received three emails asking for permission to join.
The fair-minded teacher would allow the first student who asks to join the class. I'm tempted to allow the student who has the best grammar and punctuation because that will make my job easier.
Keontey said: "I would like your permission to be added to your English class." He/she spelled English with a capital E and even included the course number at the end.
The next message from Robert said: "Hi my name is Robert, i am a student going for mechanical engineering and i would like to join your english class on wednesday 12-2:15 if thats ok with you. i really need this english. w/b or give me a call at xxxx. thanks"
Capitalizations and periods are apparently not very important to Robert and the odds of him getting into my class just plummeted.
Paul wrote next: "I wanted to ask if there was a way I could get into your engl 100 hybrid class that starts on wednesday. I tried to register for it and it says that I need your approval to take the course since the quarter has already started."
Now Paul capitalized "I" so he gets credit for that, and he used a period at the end of his sentences, but he didn't capitalize engl or wednesday.
Maybe Keontey is smart enough to write a very short message to avoid mistakes, but his/her message is the closest to being correct. Lucky for me it came first so I can give permission to Keontey to join my class.
What would you do? Would you look for the better students or feel like the poor students needed your help more?

College Search

Spencer will be a senior next year, which means it's past time for us to start looking for a college. We've made only one college visit and he was underwhelmed with the small college where I graduated. "Didn't seem very fun" was his observation. Okay, now we've established the parameters. College must be fun. Is that all we're looking for?
The thing is, even though I've sent one kid off to college, I don't know how to search for colleges. The summer between Grace's junior and senior year, she began to get letters from swim coaches. We looked at the colleges that tried to recruit her and that's how we chose. Maybe it wasn't our smartest move since she ended up dropping swim team, but she got into a great college and the swim coach probably helped coax the school to accept her.
Spencer is obsessed with basketball. He plays basketball every day or lifts weights. He is "the big guy" on the team at 6-foot, 4, 190 pounds. I had asked him before if he thought he would play basketball in college.
"Nah," he said. I couldn't tell if he felt afraid that he might not be good enough or if he genuinely didn't want to play. When we went on the college visit, he didn't want to meet the basketball coach.
Basketball must be harder to get into in college, since they only need five guys at a time, unlike swimming, which has teams of 20 or 30.If basketball is out, what do we look for, I wondered. He doesn't know what he wants to major in, so our only criteria is "fun."
Although it is June, high school basketball is going strong. On Friday the team had a tournament at a college outside of Columbus. Spencer took the bus with the rest of the team and reported when they got home that the team won 3 games, lost 1.
"Great," I said.
Later, as we sat together, continuing the two-week long grounding, he said, "Oh, the --- college coach asked about me."
He threw it out like no big deal.
The college coach approached Spencer's high school coach to ask whether Spencer was interested in playing college ball. The coach said yes.
"Even though we've never talked about," Spencer told me.
Of course the coach said yes. He knows Spencer is a gym rat. He can't imagine that a diploma will wipe out that passion.
I felt a relief, a joy, rush through me. Now our college search could be guided to certain universities that wanted Spencer to play ball.
Little details, rules, started to infiltrate my brain. That's right, college coaches can't approach high school students until after July of their junior year. They can talk to the high school coaches though.
Then I started wondering why my children are so competitive about sports, good enough to draw the attention of college coaches. Neither Earl nor I are particularly good at sports, but I was really good at school. I graduated from college magna cum laude. My kids seem to be fairly uninterested in grades. I'm sure they are just as smart as I am (was), but they aren't spurred to work hard for grades.
Let's face it, that can only be my fault. I homeschooled them through their formative years. Because I got good grades, I never pushed the kids, telling them they must get an A in class. And they seem to feel that a B for a little bit of work is better than an A for a lot of work.
At least they're motivated to work hard in sports and maybe that will transfer to their lives if they can find careers they are passionate about.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. If you are interested in participating, just post a photo (new or old), but make sure it's not one that you found online. Add your link to Alyce's Saturday post for all to enjoy.
On our trip to Florida, we crossed the Sunshine Skyway Bridge which connects St. Petersburg to the mainland south of it near Sarasota.
I know that these giant sails on the bridge have a structural purpose, but I love the way they look soaring into the air.

Driving across the bridge in a convertible is one of my fondest memories. We didn't have a convertible this time, but we still got some great photos of the bridge.
I love driving across and seeing the pelican cruising before they dive into the water. Tampa Bay is on one side and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. We've seen huge barges chug along and seen dolphins flip out of the water as we've driven over the bridge.
Plus, look at that sky! Maybe the impressionists should try the light in Florida next time.

Friday, June 24, 2011

What Alice Forgot

On Tuesday, I posted the first paragraph of the book that I hadn't begun yet. I finished What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty yesterday and truly enjoyed it -- maybe, because I haven't had time to do much reading this summer or maybe because the concept really made me think.
The book focused on Alice who wakes up lying on the gym floor. She passed out during spinning class. When she wakes up she has lost her memory. As far as she knows, she's a 29-year-old pregnant with her first baby and deeply in love with her husband. In truth, she's 39 years old, mother of three children and divorcing her husband. Because she doesn't remember the 10 years that have passed, she tries to figure out how she became this 39-year-old person. She discovers that she changed quite a bit, some for the better, but she also gained many personality traits that the 29-year-old Alice would not have approved of.
Of course, I've been thinking about paths a lot lately as Grace decides where she'll attend college in the fall and I celebrated 21 years of marriage. It's funny to consider where other paths might have taken me.
Some parts of the book are jarring -- the idea that dozens of petty actions by her husband led to divorce, but it's true that those things build up. The 29-year-old Alice is also surprised the way her friends talk about the other mothers -- so catty. And that's an easy trait to fall into as well.
So, although the book is a breezy read, it is thought provoking and fun. I already passed it along to a friend at 7:45 this morning when I dropped Spencer off to catch the bus for a day of basketball.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

21 Years

I can't remember how I felt 21 years ago when I married Earl. I was nervous, excited, happy. I think I jabbered nervously and forgot to apply lipstick when my Dad came to that upstairs room to escort me down to the wooden porch, down a few steps to stand in front of a tinkling waterfall, tiger lilies blooming thick along the bank.
I can't remember how I felt, but this expression on my face explains it.

We drove my convertible from my parents' log cabin in Kentucky to the reception. That's a barn in the background, not the house! My best friend from high school, Tracey, was my matron of honor and Earl's brother Art was the best man. They rode in the front seat. It didn't matter because Earl and I had eyes for no one else.
Today, we went to Trattoria Roma and sat on the patio. We drank wine. We laughed. Earl said I looked beautiful, and I'm kind of amazed that 21 years passed so quickly. I don't mean to make it sound easy. We've had our share of days slogging through deep sand in the desert (I mean that metaphorically) and sometimes it feels like we're on opposite sides instead of the same side. Every time though, we return to each other with that loving look in our eyes.
As we left the restaurant, Earl took my hand in his and said, "Do you think we can have 21 more?"
I try to imagine us 21 years from now. My mind reels. But 21 years ago, I couldn't have imagined the life we created, the people we've become.
Happy Anniversary, Earl.

College Choices

The problem with picking a college, is that there are too many choices today.
When I went to school (long, long ago), I looked at some colleges around Ohio and Kentucky, then chose one. Today, kids get letters from colleges across the country, and they consider them.
Grace is deciding which college to attend this fall. She can go back to the one in north country New York.
Crisp, fall days. Adirondack chairs. Football games. Earl's favorite
Or she could pick a college closer to home with a good reputation that has shady green space and brick walkways.

It has music pavilions and impressive language programs.
Or, a student could be lured by the vacation feel and pick this college that we visited in Florida with its own private beach. Here's Tucker reluctantly dragged along on the tour.
The college also has a place where students can use kayaks and canoes, sailboats, fishing gear. Wouldn't this feel like a permanent vacation?Would my child get any work done?This is the theater set on a lake. The library is also along the waterfront with a wall full of windows.
In two months, Grace will be going off to college again. We just aren't sure where. The thing is, they are all good choices.
Each one will give her something different. Each one will send her life down a different path. There aren't right or wrong paths, just different journeys.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

First Paragraph Tuesday

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Here's the first paragraph of the book that is sitting beside me as I drive 16 hours today from Florida to Ohio. If I take a driving break to let Grace drive, I may even read some of it.
What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty
She was floating, arms outspread, water lapping her body, breathing in a summery fragrance of salt and coconut. There was a pleasantly satisfied breakfast taste in her mouth of bacon and coffee and possibly croissants. She lifted her chin and the morning sun shone so brightly on the water, she had to squint through spangles of light to see her feet in front of her. Her toenails were each painted a different color. Red. Gold. Purple. Funny. The nail polish hadn't been applied very well. Blobby and messy. Someone else was floating in the water right next to her. Someone she liked a lot, who made her laugh, with her toenails painted the same way. The other person waggled multicolored toes at her companionably, and she was filled with sleep contentment. Somewhere in the distance, a man's voice shouted, "Marco?" and a chorus of children's voices cried back. "Polo!" The man called out again. "Marco, Marco, Marco?" and the voices answered, "Polo, Polo, Polo!" A child laughed; a long gurgling giggle, like a stream of soap bubbles. A voice said quietly and insistently in her ear, "Alice?" and she tipped back her head and let the cool water slide silently over her face.

I like this beginning because I can imagine my friend Sheila saying, "Funny" which she frequently says. I like the peaceful feeling it evokes, even though I know this will end up being a dream because I believe the book does not begin well.
What I don't like about typing out the first paragraph is that I notice little details that I might have glossed over, like the fact that "bacon and coffee and possibly croissants" should have gone near the words breakfast or taste, rather than her mouth. That's just the picky writer in me though.
This book description says 29-year-old Alice is married and expecting her first child when she wakes up on the gym floor as a 39-year-old with three children. She can't remember those intervening 10 years to figure out how her life got to this point.
What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Maximizing the Sun

When we arrived in Florida yesterday, everyone in my family was fairly pale. Although Tucker is on two swim teams, they practice in the evenings so his bare back and chest rarely see the light of day. As he scrambled into the pool yesterday, I warned him that he needed sun block.
"Nena put it on for me," he said. Nena is what the kids call my mother.
Last evening as we were playing Monopoly, Tucker pulled up his sleeve to show a pink arm and shoulder.
"I think I got really burnt," he said and pulled his shirt up. His chest and back were pink too.
"I guess you needed to reapply," I said. "You were in the sun for a long time."
He stayed in the pool, floating on a raft long after the rest of us had abandoned the water and the sunshine.
This morning his burn had faded and we looked for sunblock to apply. He handed me a brown bottle.
"What is this?" I asked. "UV Amplifying Lotion? Dark Tanning Lotion?"
"That's what Nena put on me yesterday," he said.
And I read the bottle.
"Carefully blended natural oils work together to send reflected UV light back to the skin's surface for darker tanning without increased exposure time."
This wasn't sun block. It was made to amplify the sun.
"Mom!" I exclaimed. "No wonder he got sunburnt."
"Who is that stuff made for?" Tucker asked.
I suppose it's made for the busy people who need quick sun exposure and don't want to go to a tanning bed.
We won't be using it again, and it may disappear from my parents' house because I can't imagine it's healthy.

Happy Father's Day

To my husband, who is home alone on Father's Day.
We celebrated pseudo father's day last week and I gave Earl a new laptop computer for Father's day and our anniversary, which is this week. He probably doesn't enjoy being home alone as much as I would, but Spencer will be back from basketball camp later today. I'm sure he'll remember to wish Earl a happy father's day.
And, happy father's day to my dad, who is currently floating in the pool on a blue raft.
Grace, Tucker and I sped down to Florida on Friday. We have to be home on Wednesday, but we got to be here on Father's Day.
My brother Kevin and his family are here too. We both got my dad a box of yellow Bridgestone golf balls as a gift. He'll use them all eventually.
We made a big breakfast this morning, harkening back to Mom and Dad's southern roots. Sausage and bacon, scrambled eggs, biscuits and milk gravy. Good thing I went for a run and a swim this morning before breakfast.
But the best gift is getting to be all together -- well, that and getting to hang out at the pool and do nothing.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Saturday Snapshots

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. If you are interested in participating, just post a photo (new or old), but make sure it's not one that you found online. Add your link to Alyce's Saturday post for all to enjoy.
Here's mine:
I left Ohio Friday at 1 p.m. and drove all night. Now I'm in Florida. The world sure changes in the space of a day.
Here in Highlands Hammock State Park is a cypress swamp that looks so primitive.
I love the way the sky and water reflect each other so it's hard to tell which is which. The world is upside down.
And this guy reminds me that we're not in Kansas (or Ohio) anymore.

Friday, June 17, 2011

HCG Diet

A friend of mine has lost 30 pounds on the HCG Diet.
Meg is one of those friends I see during basketball season because she has a son the same age as Spencer. I hadn't seen Meg for a few months when we worked together at basketball concessions last weekend. She walked in and I said, "Wow. Have you lost weight?"
"I've lost 30 pounds. Thirty pounds to go," she said.
She is doing the HCG Diet, which involves taking HCG drops and limiting calories to 500 per day. Everyone at the school where she works was doing the diet, so she decided to try it.
"I'm not hungry at all," she said, "but I hate a lot of the food that you're allowed to eat, so a lot of times I'm not eating."
Anyone who knows me, understands that the thought of dieting sends me running for a mocha. Just the thought of deprivation makes me crave things. This HCG diet is also not for me because dieters are not supposed to exercise. Exercise is crucial to my mental stability, but I thought some readers might want to know that it has worked for my friend who tried it.
I don't have a lot of details about it, but Dr. Oz (whoever thought I would refer to Dr. Oz for medical info?) has an article about it and some shows about it.
Dr. Oz talks about HCG shots, but my friend Meg was taking HCG in either pill or drop form. The way she explained it, HCG is a hormone released during pregnancy that prevents the body from going into starvation mode. That way, people can eat very little and lose weight rather than their body preserving those calories.
Some people have tried the 500 calorie diet without the HCG, but their results were not as good.
As for Meg, when she loses 30 more pounds, she cannot wait to eat a Chipotle burrito.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Fun With Boxes

We ordered bean bag chairs for the basement and they came in big cardboard boxes. Just like when they were little, my kids decided the boxes were better than the chairs.
Tucker captured Grace under a box.
Then he climbed in the box himself.
My iPhone is taking grainy pictures when I use the zoom lens,
but I wanted to show you that the cats, and Grace also climbed in the boxes, before the boxes tore.
Aaah. Simpler days when kids could be entertained for hours with packing material that doesn't connect by an electrical cord or a cable cord to anything.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

All I needed to know about Parenting I learned from The Middle

Did I say I was tired of parenting? Well, I've only just begun my summer of intensive parenting. This time, I'm taking a page from the ABC television show The Middle. This show has been on for a couple of years and it makes me laugh. It has a teenage son, middle school daughter and elementary-aged son with some quirks. The family lives in Indiana (not too far from Ohio) and the parents both work. They're always rushing to kid activities and their house is a shambles. Dinner usually is fast food take out eaten in front of the television. It's fun to laugh at the things that are similar in my life (teenagers walking around in their underwear) and the things that are different (the fast food in front of the TV). Little did I know that I would employ one of their parenting techniques.
After I wrote about Spencer being in trouble a few days ago, I gave him the shortest bit of leash on Monday, and when I received a call from another parent, I knew that was a mistake. I have now instituted the Axl punishment. Axl is the teenager on The Middle.
Here are a couple of his lines that are so appropriately teenager-ish:
They sent home a note. But you're always talking about how busy you are so I signed if for you. You're welcome.
If you don't want to do anything for us, why'd you even have kids?
This is so not fair. When I turn 30, I am so outta here.

During one episode, Axl's punishment was to stay within 5 feet of a parent at all times. When his parents wanted to have a private conversation, they closed him on the outside of the sliding glass doors. It was hilarious to watch, not so hilarious to live.
I've given Spencer a similar punishment. He stays with a parent, which is fine when I work days and Earl works evenings, but got a little tricky when we both had work at the same time.
I took Spencer with me to a staff meeting Tuesday.
He came along while I measured for costumes at the Community Theater where Grace is working on Pride and Prejudice.
At one point while I was measuring sleeve length and neck size, I looked over and saw a woman talking to Spencer. He shrugged. I asked later what she said. "She asked what line they were on," he said. He had no idea. I think the woman was developmentally challenged, which probably explains why she didn't know Spencer wasn't actually in the play.
As we were leaving the theater, the 20-year-old co-director came running up to Spencer. I was talking to the woman in charge of costumes, but like one of those fuzzy television shots, I felt like we were in the foreground and the camera was actually focused on Spencer who loomed over the tiny 5-foot tall woman. She craned her neck to look up at Spencer's 6-foot, 4-inch frame. I heard her high-pitched voice then the deep rumblings of his reply. As we left, he told me she had asked him to join the play. They need more men.
"I respectfully declined," he said.
Wednesday morning, he got to go to weightlifting with the basketball team, but I asked the assistant coach to drive him home afterwards.
"If you'll drive him home, I won't have to stay during weightlifting and bring him home myself," I explained. The coach agreed, probably imagining that having a mom in the weight room would curtail a lot of swearing and guy talk.
Yesterday afternoon, Spencer heard me talking about going to the grocery. He asked if he could come along so he could get out of the house. He pushed the cart and helped unload groceries onto the belt. I can't remember the last time he went to the grocery with me.
Last night, I had to teach a class. Earl was at work, so Spencer came with me. I didn't introduce him to the class. For two and a half hours, he sat to the side chewing on his cuticles and checking his cell phone for text messages.
We walked out to the car. A couple of guys from the class yelled their goodbyes.
"Was it different than you expected?" I asked as we pulled the car doors shut.
"Yeah, the students were different," he said.
Then, "You're a good teacher, Mom."
"Thanks, Spencie," I said and rubbed his head. I didn't ask for more details. Maybe he was just trying to suck up, but sometimes he's still my little boy.
Tomorrow, he leaves for 3 days of basketball camp, so he's the coach's problem then, although he has taken vows of the straight and narrow.
And next week, I plan to ease back on the constant parenting time. He may be grounded for a few more weeks, but eventually he has to learn to make the right choices without a parent standing over his shoulder.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

First Paragraph

Every Tuesday, Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea posts the first paragraph of her current read. Anyone can join in. Go to Diane's website for the image and share the first paragraph of the current book you are reading.
Here's mine for this week Anything Considered by Peter Mayle:
Something would turn up, Bennett kept telling himself. On the good days, the days when the sun shone and no bills arrived, he found it easy to believe that this sudden poverty was a temporary blot on the landscape of life, a hiccup of fate, no more than a passing inconvenience. Even so, he couldn't ignore the facts: his pockets were hollow, his checks were prone to bounce, and his financial prospects generally -- as his bank manager had pointed out with the gloomy relish that bank managers convey when imparting bad news -- were vague and unsatisfactory.

Peter Mayle, of course, is the author of A Year in Provence and this is a novel he wrote back in the 1990s, when France still used the Franc rather than the Euro. Still, since my life is a bit stressful right now, I'm running everyday and searching for some escapism in my reading material. Earl read this book and enjoyed it. If it can transport me to Provence for a few hours, I'm there.
What do you think? Would you read it?

Monday, June 13, 2011

Midnight in Paris Review

Manifique! Superbe! Charmante!
Imagine a movie filled with images of something you love and long for. I saw another reviewer explain that Paris is the main character in this movie, and I have to agree. The movie begins with shots of famous Paris monuments and tourist attractions.
At first, Earl elbowed me each time he recognized something in Paris -- Monet's gardens, the green metal book stalls along the Seine -- until I threatened him. After all, we had visited most of those tourist attractions.
I'm not a Woody Allen fan, but I loved this movie. From the previews,I could see that Owen Wilson, who plays Gil the main actor, yearned for Paris. He plays a writer, so already here is another connection. A writer who loves Paris -- I felt I could relate.
What I didn't get from the previews was that Gil goes back in time to the Roaring 20s, the time when Paris teamed with American writers like Fitzgerald, Hemingway and Stein; painters like Picasso and Dali; along with surrealist filmmakers.
The frenetic Gil itches to be in the Paris of the 20s until he is transported and finally learns that people, maybe writers and artists and philosophers, long for that time in the past when things were better. Yet each time period wishes to have experienced a previous, better time period.
It made me think of an episode of Mad Men where Don pitched the Kodak slide carousel. He explained, "...in Greek, nostalgia literally means the pain from an old wound. It's a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone."
Perhaps people are always nostalgic for that time they can't recapture. They remember it as a superior time.
I wonder if Woody Allen is nostalgic for a simpler time, or maybe, like me, he simply loves Paris and wanted to showcase it in a movie.
I'm so glad that he did.

Parenting, Still

I'm so tired of giving my boys "consequences" for their misbehavior. After 19 years of parenting, I want to be finished.
Spencer got caught in a lie this weekend so he's now dealing with the punishment, which means a lot of family time. For Spencer, who is the most social of all my kids, this is torture. He wants to hang with his friends any time he is not at work or basketball.
His friend Danny, who got caught in the same lie, did not receive any consequences, and that drives me crazy. Danny doesn't speak nicely to his mother and rarely spends an evening at home during the summer.
When Spencer woke up at 7:30 this morning to get to weightlifting by 8 a.m., I told him he could ride his bike to school for lifting.
"I'm supposed to give Danny a ride," he said.
"Yeah, that's why I'm making you ride your bike, so you don't spend extra time with Danny."
Because this boy doesn't have consequences, he never worries about misbehaving or getting caught. That makes him a bad influence.
I'm not one of those moms who believes my boys are perfect and being led astray by other boys. My boys know right from wrong and they are making mostly good, but some bad, decisions. When I find out about the bad decisions, they face consequences, as much as I would prefer to wave them out the door to hang with their friends.
This morning, as I saw my frustration level rise, I called Danny's mom just to let her know why I didn't let Spencer drive Danny this morning.
"Oh, Spencer didn't go to the turf last night?" she asked. "They were doing some live action role playing game."
"No. Spencer was grounded," I said. "He cleaned the basement and has to wash the cars."
"Oh. I told Danny he needed to be a better friend to Spencer and help him resist peer pressure," she said.
Yeah, I needed to hang up then, but I did give the mom some missing information about what happened this weekend. Apparently, surprisingly, Danny hadn't told his mom the entire truth.
And then when the mom started to cry because her husband never supports her and she's tired of parenting alone, I had to comfort her instead.
Earl was shaking his head at me as I finally got off the phone. I wanted this mom to understand why consequences are important even as our boys move toward their senior year of high school. This is our last chance to be sure they make good choices and give them simple consequences like being grounded. In the real world, the consequences can be greatly magnified.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Saturday Snapshot

Saturday Snapshot is hosted by Alyce of At Home With Books. If you are interested in participating, just post a photo (new or old), but make sure it's not one that you found online. Add your link to Alyce's Saturday post for all to enjoy.

My cat Tupi is bored, bored, bored, bored. If he gets any more relaxed, he may fall out of the chair.
He has those big paws because he's a Hemingway cat with extra toes on all four paws.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

iPhone Revolution

The inkling began when I saw this.
My blogging friend Corey had an iPhone and was posting fabulous photos from her home in Provence. Throughout the day she updated her blog. She took videos at the French brocante (flea market), spoke with her French husband, and shot a video at the edge of a cliff in Cassis. Okay, maybe Apple was paying her to sell the iPhone, but my mind began to plot.
With an iPhone, I could update my blog while I travelled. I could take pictures and videos without carrying along my clunky camera. I could use the iPhone as a reader rather than buying a separate eReader.
I needed a new phone. My phone was beaten and battered. It quit for no reason and sometimes I'd have to remove the battery and replace it to get the phone to work again. We had a credit I could get the iPhone for $99. I ordered it and anxiously watched for the FedEx delivery person.
Today my iPhone arrived. I set it up and waited for my life to change. I expected that I might look out the window and see a mountain soar toward a painfully blue sky just like Corey did with her first iPhone photo.
Instead my front porch is still here in Ohio, but the new cushions on my porch swing look a little French. I guess the iPhone won't change my life. It might take me awhile to figure out how to text and make calls, much less post videos on my blog.
Who knows, maybe this is only the first step toward a fabulous new life that Earl and I will have in Provence someday, and I'll take my iPhone with me.

Work Overload

Earlier this week, before the sun's heat became ferocious, Earl and I were sitting on the front porch when one of us mentioned iced tea. I volunteered to get some, but he shooed me away.
"Get your work done," he said. "How much more?"
And it seemed like such a simple question. How much work did I have to do before I was finished, able to read a book, walk to the coffee shop, have a glass of wine, relax?
For my husband, who works at a newspaper, each night he finishes his work. Sure, there's more when he returns the next day to put out another paper, but when he walks through the night or rides his bicycle along the bike path dodging rabbits, he has safely put the newspaper to bed.
For me, I see no end in sight.
I tried to list what was waiting in my paper grading cue -- both online and in person.
I had the 3rd essay for my in-person class, and most of them had already turned in their final essays. Then the two online classes had submitted assignments Sunday night. Plus their final essays were due Wednesday. Then I had the two classes from the other college and they had all submitted assignments Saturday night. One class did rough drafts, while another submitted two writing assignments, plus I had to grade their online discussions...
The number of students waiting to hear from me seemed too enormous to continue.
But once I slogged through those, I'd be finished, right?
Well, no, because more assignments are coming in on Saturday.
But the quarter is coming to an end.
True, grades are due Saturday for three of my classes, 9 hours worth of college teaching completed for Spring Quarter followed by a two-week break. Woo hoo!
The other college though meets during that two-week break and takes its summer break the week afterward, when I begin teaching again, 11 hours per quarter this summer.
So when will my work be done?
I think I get a break from both schools around Christmas time.
Let's do lunch then.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Ghost Touch

Everyone recognizes sights or sounds that are familiar, that transport them back to another place and time. I didn't realize that the same could be true of touch -- until today.
Today I dressed in a knit pullover shirt that belonged to Grace. She put it in a pile of clothes to give away and that pile remained stacked in the hallway until one of the cats knocked it over. Then I spied the medium blue shirt and picked it up. Too short for Grace, who is half a foot taller than I am. I kept it for myself.
I slipped the shirt on this morning. It has four tiny buttons along the top and sleeves that stop just below the shoulders with knit ties.
All day today, I've felt the those ties brush on my upper arms and I've tossed my head to push back the ropy weight of my hair against my upper arms. But the feeling isn't my hair. It's the ties of the shirt.
My hair now falls in curls again, but they stop just below my shoulders. They don't stretch down to the middle of my arms like they once did, sometime maybe 8 years ago. My hair grew long, and I followed the Curly Girl advice and didn't wash it or comb out the curls. The curls fell like dreadlocks, but not locked in tight. When I ran, I'd reach behind my neck and secure the hair in a long braid. I still have a mark on my back, just above my running bra, where the pony tail holder rubbed a scar as it swung back and forth during my long runs.
Even as I conciously knew that the weight along my arms was the shirt rather than my hair, each time that I felt it, it took me back.

First Paragraph Tuesday

Diane at Bibliophile by the Sea started this Tuesday post where bloggers share the opening paragraph of their current read.
I picked up The First Husband by Laura Dave after seeing it on a book review blog but I chose it hoping to make my husband nervous since he is my first husband.
Here's the opening paragraph:
It feels important to start with the truth about how I got here. When everything gets messy and brutal and complicated, the truth is the first thing to go, isn't it? People try to shade it or spin it or fix it. As though fixing the facts will make the situation less messy and brutal and complicated. Not more. But there's no fixing this. The truth is that I brought it on myself. All of it. Everything that was coming next -- everything I couldn't have begun to imagine would constitute the next year of my life. After all, I was the one who did it that morning, knowing full well what could happen, what history had taught me would happen if I were reckless enough to go through with it. I went down to the living room, still wearing Nick's oversized pajama top, and snuggled myself under the blanket, turning on the DVD player. Like it was that easy. Like Roman Holiday was just any movie. Like it wasn't a bomb I was about to detonate right into the middle of my life.

I love Roman Holiday and Audrey Hepburn. I'm also a sucker for novels with a hook like old movies or old movie stars, like The Thing About Jane Spring which followed the premise that a woman would make all of her decisions based on what Doris Day's movie characters would have done.
I'm only on page 17 of The First Husband so the character is still wading into trouble. What do you think? Would you keep reading?

Monday, June 06, 2011

Grad Parties

We have some good friends from church who are wealthy and generous. This is a winning combination to have in friends.
Yesterday, their youngest daughter graduated from high school, so they celebrated with a mass and breakfast at a nice hotel in Columbus.
I have to admit to some jabs of feelings about "buying favors" that hark back to the Middle Ages when people could buy their way into heaven. I probably could not afford to pay a priest to come to a hotel and say a special mass for one of my children. However, these friends are so active in the church that they may not have paid. Perhaps the priest did it for free to repay them for all their work. And I know there was some consternation because the priest who was flying in from New York got kidney stones and the regular priest at our church had to take over.
At the end, all of the graduates were invited to come forward for a blessing, so our friends definitely spread around the godliness.
After mass, we moved next door for an elaborate breakfast buffet. The grad will attend OSU so I took her picture with the block O ice sculpture. We moved along the buffet picking croissants, pastries, egg souffles, Belgian waffles, fruit, cinnamon rolls, pecan rolls. Bottles of juice sat alongside the coffee urns and (my favorite part), a stick with rock candy on it to put in the coffee so it can melt and sweeten the coffee. A bowl of whipped cream sat beside the coffee too.
After we had eaten and visited with friends, Earl, Grace, Spencer and I squeezed into a photo booth to have our pictures taken for Sydney. Since she is going to Ohio State, we decided to do the O-H-I-O arm motions for her. Grace and I are very visible. Earl and Spencer, not so much. Sorry guys. Sometimes it pays off to be short.
I cautioned Spencer not to get his hopes up that we would throw him a similar graduation party next year, and, even though he said the food was "the best he's ever had," he thought he might be satisfied with some hot dogs on the grill.
Another friend's daughter who will graduate next year told her mom that she hoped they'd be able to afford something that nice for her wedding, nevermind the high school graduation.

Cockadoodle Doo or Cocorico?

 We stood in the middle of the road, having walked together 13 miles that day and Claudine grasped my forearm. "Mais non! It doesn'...