Accepting a Helping Hand

Accepting a Helping Hand

Due to a sequence of personal events this week, I had a lesson in asking for and accepting help from others.  During the last few days, I needed assistance with the activities of daily living, or ADL’s, as we used to call them when I was a nurse. It is an odd feeling to go from complete independence to being dependent on others for meals, transportation, and even getting to the bathroom.

I have never been good at asking for help.  I know there are many reasons for this but I suppose it boils down to being part of my perfectionist personality. Years of being able to do things on my own, and do them well, really cemented independence as one of my character traits.  I guess I thought needing help was a sign of weakness, so I never asked, even when I could have used some assistance in the past. In the process, usually do I  not only take care of myself, but others in my immediate family, as well.  So, this week has been a lesson for them, too.  Mom was “out of commission” so everyone else had to step up their game.

And, you know what?!  It happened without a hitch. Laundry has been kept up – even the daily grind of soccer uniforms and work out clothes. Meals have been graciously made and delivered by dear friends.  Unbelievably, the kitchen has been left cleaner than ever once the meals are finished. It was fun to have my 17-year-old (who keeps talking about being an adult in only a few short weeks) make my meal for me last night and clean up our dishes before starting homework. It became a time to talk and bond, allowing me an insight to the young man he is becoming and wants to be.

All this assistance allowed me to do what I was told this week by those who would thankfully only briefly touch my life but do so in a powerful and memorable way.  Over and over I was told “You Take Care of You.” And so, I have.

What Is Your Favorite Musical?

What Is Your Favorite Musical?

Over the coming weeks, I will slowly be returning to educationally based posts. After all, information and enrichment are both part of my purpose for writing. The sharing of ideas, knowledge learned from past experiences, current trends and issues in education, and my own return to classes for the fall semester will give me plenty to write about.

Today, I want to ask what your favorite musical would be if you had to choose. An entertaining way to provide a basis for discussion and enrich on a wide variety of subjects is to watch some of the classic musicals that have graced the stage and screen over the years.

When my oldest, soon to be 23-year-old son, was little we watched The Sound of Music and Peter Pan hundreds of times. Literally, hundreds of times! Over and over, the VHS tapes played and played. We had two versions of Peter Pan – the Disney Version and the Mary Martin version. Our family also saw Cathy Rigby, the once famous gymnast, in an off broadway production of Peter Pan on stage at the University of Buffalo Performing Arts Center. There, she flew over the audience, suspended only by a wire that was not always visible. It was a sight!  It is no wonder that our oldest is also our most musically inclined offspring.  Music enrichment started very early in his development.

Recently, he connected with his grandmother about musicals. She is another person in our family that really enjoys a well performed song and dance! She passed a list on to him, complete with ratings and comments, about which musicals were her favorite and why.  After finding out about this, I remembered she had recently given me a copy of Brigadoon, a Gene Kelly musical about a magically appearing town in Scotland made in 1954.  I sat down, watched it, and enjoyed myself. Surprisingly, my 15-year-old stayed on the couch with me throughout,  periodically taking furtive glances at the screen. Apparently, he was not repulsed!

While not a connoisseur of the musical genre, I consider myself well watched or well exposed to musicals. The classic musicals bear some of my favorites: Oklahoma, State Fair, The Music Man, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Mary Poppins, and White Christmas. You get the picture, a production with fabulous dancing and adequate singing.

White Christmas is probably my favorite muscial. It is very seasonal, but it is a must watch for me every year. Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and Sound of Music are right up there, one for the whimsy and the other for the story. There is much to discuss during or after West Side Story that still applies today.  The version with Rita Moreno is my favorite.  And, it just occurred to me that I left out The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast – more recent additions to musicals I would recommend.

In any case, musicals have been part of my life, our sons’ lives, and my parents lives. They have been part of my adult life, supporting the theater performances at the high school and college levels in our local community. Attending a musical gives a child a chance to be transported through live entertainment to a place that makes them think, wonder, be inspired, or just laugh.  Societal norms and manners are reinforced, such as turning technology off, being quiet during the production, applauding whether you have been thrilled by the performance or not, and appreciating the hard work of the actors and musicians.

Musicals can be very enriching. You can rent them, stream them, or borrow them from the local library. Try watching a musical or two with your children. Pick one they are familiar with, and then one you would like to see but share the experience with them. Do not use the production as a baby sitter, watch with your children. Talk about what you see and hear. Talk about the story, the music, the hard work that goes into making such a production. Then, after you watch a musical movie, go see one live! Local, community theater groups offer their performances at a reasonable cost. Check the local high schools and colleges for the upcoming season’s listing of productions. Then, enjoy!

What is your favorite musical?


Siding Sacrifice

Siding Sacrifice

This morning, just as I sat down to type up answers to a batch of new garden based math questions I developed for enrichment, I got distracted.

As I sat down, with my anniversary roses in front of me, out of the corner of my eye I saw my husband of thirty years outside our kitchen window chopping off branches from one of my hydrangeas that had just started to bloom. Coincidentally, the variety of hydrangea was named Little Lamb.  Quickly, I opened the window and moaned, “Really?”

“Yes,” he replied. I can’t get to where I need to work. “Sorry.”

I quickly made movements to go outside and gather up the cut branches that had now become sacrificial flowers for our siding job.  “Can I have them, then?” I asked.  And not waiting for a response, I went about trimming the woody stems and stripping the leaves, knowing I could make a lovely bouquet to enjoy for a few days inside the house.

They are lovely, white, and very pure in appearance – like the little lambs for which they are named. I trimmed as many as I could and put them in a vase with some water, placing them on our entryway table, a table made my handy husband.

This weekend is one of our local premier art events, Art Fair on the Green, held on the campus of UW-LaCrosse. It is a juried art show, one in which my husband has sold his handcrafted, solid wood, fine furniture at in the past. He will not be featured in the show this year. Besides having to work his requisite weekend shifts, he is also in the middle of this huge home improvement project – replacing our siding – the siding that has now accrued some sacrifices. Flowers and furniture for the art show are tangible sacrifices. But, there have been intangible ones as well – namely, time and energy.

The siding replacement looks fabulous and we are lucky my husband is handy enough to pursue a job as large as this one. Our home will have a new look to it come fall. The beautiful sacrifices are worth it.


Slice of Life and A Slice of Pie

Slice of Life and A Slice of Pie

It sometimes amazes me how fast my mood can change. Although I have experienced quicker mood swings, I definitely feel different today than I did yesterday. I am always left trying to figure out what triggered it or why I might be more grouchy one day than another.

Yesterday, I got up, did a few minor chores like making the bed and cleaning up the kitchen, and went to a coffee shop to have a latte while I caught up on some emails. In particular, I emailed one of my professors at the University where I am a graduate student in Environmental Education and Interpretation. I am trying to recruit a willing faculty member to mentor me while I conduct some research on my past garden club students and lessons. I would like to find out if their participation in garden club influenced them with regards to their environmental stewardship activities as young adults. I have a population of close to 500 students as a possible data collection base. This is the second time I have reached out to professors to see if they would take on the mentorship of  my project this fall.

I, then, had a fairly normal day. I went grocery shopping. I weeded my front perennial bed. I did some laundry. I wrote a blog post.  And, I picked just enough fresh blueberries from our bushes to add to the ones I already had in the refrigerator to make a blueberry pie. Those activities take us to almost 9pm last night.  My seventeen-year-old and a friend came back to the house from tennis practice and made omelets while we chatted in the kitchen. My husband took our youngest son to the activities code meeting for fall sports at the high school.  I watched about an hour of T.V. (the most I usually watch these days) and went to bed.

I did not sleep well. But, I had not slept well the night before, either. Still, I had a fine day yesterday – one full of activity, purpose, and even fun! So, why am I grouchy today?

Part of it might be that I heard back from one of the professors I emailed. She wants to see my research proposal to consider taking me on this fall for independent student credits. Her request to see my research proposal signifies some progress. But, beyond that, the remainder of the email was not encouraging.  So, I am left trying to decide whether I should just take another course instead of trying to involve people who are reluctant to invest in me. It is both frustrating and disappointing. There are few courses to choose from and the one I had planned on taking – Foundations of Gifted and Talented Education – is not being offered. It leaves me with Advanced Educational Psychology  or Collaborative Organizational Leadership. Neither thrill me like the prospect of taking the G & T course did.

The other part of the change in my mood might be just the recognition that summer is half over and we are headed into a transitional phase again.  Typically, I do not do well with transitions. Summer sports have ended and are nearly over. Fall sports are gearing up. Paper work, digital or otherwise, needs completing. Uniforms need to be ordered.  Progress on online summer course work for my youngest has been steady but slowed this last week. He needs to take a mid-term exam by the end of the week or he will be seriously behind. We need to schedule a few more college visits for our son soon to be a senior.  He needs to start working on college applications since a few of them are already open.

Laundry greeted me on the kitchen table this morning, as it did not make to the respective closets last night. We are missing twenty-two socks! Twenty-two! Where are they all?

All if all, things are good. But, I am grouchy. Today, I will try to snap out of my grouchy mood. Perhaps I will go make some jewelry – a hobby of mine that is satisfying and somewhat profitable.  Maybe, I will go pick some more blueberries. Maybe, I’ll decide on a course, and just pursue the research on my own. Maybe, I will just sit and read a good book.

Right now, I am going to make a pot of coffee and have a slice of that blueberry pie I made last night that was still too hot to serve by 10:30 p.m.. Surely, my mood will improve after eating something so yummy!


Family Friendships & Destiny: Is that how it works?

Family Friendships & Destiny: Is that how it works?

I have been thinking a lot lately how some families gravitate towards one another.  Over the twenty some odd years’ we have been parents, I have noticed how both families and their children gravitate towards each other, especially when it is not forced.

My husband and I have friends that are primarily couples, married about the same length of time – some slightly less than our soon to be thirty years and some slightly more. They all have children, again some slightly older or younger than ours. These are the couples we socialize with, attending graduations, family gatherings, birthday celebrations, and extra curricular events the children find themselves involved in, such as theater, band concerts, or sports. Truly, it is a great group, one in which most of us “click” and conversation is easy.  I never feel like I have to “work” at our gatherings, which is a true blessing. We feel accepted for who we are, just as we accept the other group members for themselves, as well.

The group dynamics have never been forced, it just “happens”.  From experience, I know if the interactions were forced, we would not have continued to attend group functions.  So, how does this happen? I started to wonder. Is it an unspoken sense of shared values and beliefs that connect us?  Is it similar personalities or child-rearing philosophies?  Or, is it the differences that draw us towards one another?  Some of us have families near and some, further away.  Maybe we gain a sense of family by being with our friends.  I would like to think so.

The reason I started thinking about this is that our youngest son is an athlete. Actually, he has many of great skills in many areas.  However, athleticism, and truly loving the sports he plays, is somewhat of a novelty for our family.  This year he met a student through track who has a brother that was friends with our oldest son. He really gets along with this fellow student athlete, just as our oldest son really got along this athlete’s oldest brother. The older brothers met through band, theater and shared classes, not sports.  I guess the platform does not matter.  We find ourselves getting to know this family all over again because now, our two youngest boys are playing competitive soccer with each other! They even play similar roles on the team – defensive backs. Instead of seeing this family at band concerts and theater productions, we are seeing them at soccer games! This developing friendship is what started me thinking.

There are other examples. Our middle son has a great friend whose siblings are much older. The two boys spend a great deal of time together. Again, friendship has extended to this family to the point where I walk with the boy’s mother once a week for exercise. We have also shared some meals together or gotten together for conversation around the fire pit. We look forward to seeing them at the boys tennis matches and school events. If we did not have sons of similar age, I doubt we would get together with this family. So, is that it? Our children help us to gravitate towards other families through common interest and age? Maybe. I do not think that was true when we grew up.

In addition our oldest son has found families similar to these through his college roommates over the last four years. He has been included at family gatherings and we have included their sons at ours.

So, what are the attracting factors? Similarity? Common belief’s? Common values? Convenience? Having children the same age? Or, something more? Could it be possible it is something we have no control over, like destiny?  I will probably never know, and will definitely keep pondering over how it all works.  But, however it comes about, it feels good to know we can share in the lives of some wonderful families in our community – and have them be counted as wonderful friends.


Time for Some Summer Fun!

Time for Some Summer Fun!

It’s summer and I am ready for some fun. May was an incredibly busy month, as it usually is. School got out the first weekend of June. Usually, the release of our students means the beginning of summer, complete with a relaxation of schedules, sleeping in, and lazy days. This year has been anything but those activities.

In two short weeks, the SAT was taken, Badger Boys State Camp was attended, the Tennis Banquet was held, and summer employment started. This is just for one of my adolescents.  My youngest started an online class that requires at least 2 hours a day of work, and the summer travel soccer season is in full swing. This constitutes driving to the Twin Cities for “away” games; a drive of no less than two and a half hours one way. The soccer game is an hour and a half and home we go – another two and a half hours. Last Tuesday, we rode a “bus” with the team and still got home at 12:30 a.m.. A soccer game took eight an a half hours of our day! Too much!

In the midst of this, I am taking a three credit graduate course (700 level), on interpretive  environmental/heritage signage. My learning curve for the course has been steep as I am not writing essays (which is a strength) but rather using software to design wayside panels and brochures! It is the first course I have had in graduate school that has a laboratory component! Needless to say, it has kept me on my toes!

This busy-ness is in addition to a huge home improvement project. We are re-siding our house! Gone is the vinyl siding reflecting the previous owners’ taste. Welcome to our new facade, a rich chocolate-brown engineered wood siding with shake shingle accents in a cedar (Canyon is the official color) brown.  It is coming along and our home of ten years is finally reflecting our personalities, not those we assumed when we moved in to the property. Our youngest has taken to removing the old siding when he needs a “break” from his online course. He is also learning to drive!

Since the siding job is so huge, and my husband is the person doing the “job”. I am trying to help. Revamping my garden beds around the house has become “my job”. One is done, the perennial bed by the garage that holds my beloved common milkweed. The bed got cleaned, new gladioli and dahlias planted, and mulch refreshed. Last night I found a monarch caterpillar on a leaf and you’d think I had found a piece of gold! To me, it was!

I moved on to the front bed where everything was ripped out and fresh soil was delivered – being shoveled into the space by both of my teens that are still at home.  I enjoyed looking for the red-twig dogwood that will be a specimen plant, opposite to my limelight hydrangea.  Three  weigelas were purchased for the front of the bed and the rest is undetermined.

We’ve gone through about 30 bags of mulch and will need more! The grass always seems to need cutting, and in an effort to help, I have jumped on our tractor several times to just “get it done”.

As you can tell, we have been extra busy this June. But, it’s summer! I am really feeling the need to do something fun! So, today we will take a break as we will go to some of our favorite places in the Twin Cities – prior to another “away” soccer game tonight. It will be another long day, but hopefully, a day of fun! I think we all need it.



via Daily Prompt: Hospitality

What a great day to write about hospitality! It is also Mother’s Day! Today, instead of gathering with family, we are going to a friend’s house for a college graduation celebration. It will be attended by mostly the graduate’s family members. Therefore, we are pleased to be included.  Our family celebration of Mother’s Day and other similarly oriented holidays have changed over the last twenty years, since we’ve lived in the mid-west.  Family gatherings of our own, previously attended by both my parents and in-laws, as well as our siblings is a thing of the past. Frankly, our holiday celebrations have become blunted. It is the partially the result of a husband who works holidays and various shifts due to being a health care system employee and not having family close enough to visit on the holiday – no matter what the holiday might be.  It is our fault, as much as anyone else’s, that our celebrations have become mostly private,  We all share the blame for not extending the invitation, not traveling, and not hosting.

Hospitality is something that grows when practiced. My friend is a gracious host. You always feel welcome and wanted at their home. Today will be no different. My friend has had many opportunities to practice her hospitality.  Her daughter, who we celebrate today, has spent time earning a theater degree at a local university. We’ve been pleased to attend and be entertained by her wonderful portrayal of many characters. Her mom, my friend, has gathered family and close friends for a meal prior to these performances. As I said, we’ve attended many.  It has been enjoyable to be in such hospitable and gracious company.

I remember the days of yesterday when my husband and I were hosts to family gatherings.  Both sides gathered for holiday celebrations like Christmas Eve and family picnics at our home.  I would like to think we were good hosts. Now, due to lack of practice, we probably need a little work.  My hope, on this Mother’s Day, is that my boys – now approaching young adulthood, will always know they are welcome to come home to celebrate any holiday or any day, for that matter!  I hope they will allow me the chance to practice the skill of hospitality and become good at it once again.

Inspired by: Daily Post: Hospitality