small town

“I just want to live in some little town with about 2500 people. A small place so that when I have been there a year I’ll know just about everyone and they will know me. And there won’t be any drama. Everybody will just go about their business and get along.”

Our son uttered these words about a week ago.

He’s working toward his college degree in engineering and has been there long enough to be (just about) weary of the opportunities for constant social activities and a carefree lifestyle. He’s seen friends and acquaintances make poor choices and suffer the consequences. He’s learned that sometimes people learn from their mistakes and sometimes they don’t. He’s discovered that some people – but not all – are true friends through all situations.

He has figured out that you really do have to complete assignments and study to do well, and he has come to appreciate the good feeling that comes from doing all that and receiving a good grade. He’s experienced what happens when you don’t give your all to your work as well.

He’s learned life lessons about keeping money in your bank account and servicing your car regularly. He’s learned to cook and even to clean house (to some degree). He’s found professors that care about students and he’s learned to appreciate the experiences and wisdom of those who have been around longer than he has.

He’s been lucky in love and he’s had his disappointments there, too. He’s made good choices in how he spends his time and how he takes care of himself physically. He’s acknowledged that he is thankful for his childhood and our family values. He’s found part time jobs and he likes the feeling of earning his own money along the way.

But I’m not sure he’s learned enough about human nature to know that it’s going to be very hard to find a place like the small town Utopia where he’d like to live.

Yet I’m thankful he still has that idealism and hopeful spirit. So perhaps he’ll find that place – or help make that place – one day, after all.

May Day baskets

Years ago May Day baskets were a tradition in many parts of the country. These were baskets of flowers delivered on front doorsteps or hung on doorknobs of family, friends, or neighbors, always with an element of surprise. The idea was to get the flowers in place, knock or ring the doorbell, and run away so that the recipient would never know who left them this beautiful gift of blooms.

How thoughtful!

When I was a classroom teacher, my students learned about May Baskets and made some of their own.  Sometimes flowers were brought in from early gardens, and other times the students made colorful paper blooms. They would make baskets, too, and then would deliver them – in secret of course – to the teachers and staff in the school.

How fun!

Included was a card that said, “Happy May Day.”  The card also contained a poem that was actually the words from a song in the movie Babe:

If I had words to make a day for you,

I’d sing you a morning golden and true

I would make this day last for all time

Then fill the night deep with moonshine


You don’t see this tradition carried out much anymore. I suspect that if most people received a May Basket today, they would not know what it was all about.

How unfortunate!

Maybe this idea could be revived – and maybe it could start with you and me.


“This hot soup is making my nose run,” I complained to my daughter.

“It’s genetic, you know,” she replied.

“Not really for me. I think it skipped me and went straight to you.”

“Hmmmph,” she replied.

It has long been an understanding in our small family that we have several inherited and undesirable traits passed among us. A runny nose when we eat is just one of them. We also have “the Robinson arms” which are unflatteringly large, an unwelcome part in the back of our hair that refuses to be combed away for more than five minutes, and a “bad hip.” The hip has been either right or left and includes various ailments including weakness in walking, a “catch” when we sit too long, or aches and pains like arthritis. Sure, I have those traits, but never the nose… until now.

Years ago my grandmother used to have to blow her nose every time she ate a meal. It drove my mother and my aunt, my grandmother’s only children, nuts. They would go in the kitchen and ask each other, “Why does she always do that?” However, within a few years, my cousin and I (our mothers’ only children) noticed that our mothers were also starting to do the same. One or the other would have to get up from a family meal and blow her nose.

“That’s what you get for talking about Gaga blowing her nose at the table,” my cousin and I would say.

My mother and aunt would agree that they must have inherited this unwanted trait but at least, they would say, “We get up from the table to blow our noses!”

This continued for a few years and then once I noticed my cousin having the same problem. “I can’t believe it!” I said. “You have a runny nose, too?”

“We’re all cursed,” she replied. “You’re next.”

But fortunately this hasn’t afflicted me. And unfortunately my daughter seems to have taken it up after a skipped generation. This led to our conversation the other day, continued from above:

“So, this honestly never happens to me unless the food is really hot,” I went on to explain.

“Just wait,” my daughter said. “Once it starts there’s no going back.”

I really thought my hip and those Robinson arms were enough…

boats in trucks

Our family has always been a group of do-it-yourselfers. My husband is very knowledgeable about how to make, repair, extend, incorporate, build, plant, create, rejuvenate, craft, produce, design, construct, and generally get it done. He often hesitates to ask someone to do a job for us because, as he says, “I can do it better myself.” Which is generally true.

One of our unwelcome specialties through the years has been moving. My mother used to say that moving was one of the “dirtiest words” in the English language and I have to agree. Yet, out of necessity as well as thrift (i.e., being cheap), we have moved ourselves countless times. We started out our married life in a duplex, then an apartment, and then a starter home. After that we have been blessed to build three houses, and each time we sold our home and rented a house during the building process. (Are you counting the moves?)

Now we live in a home we did not build, but we still had to move here, too. We always hire the local small town movers for “the big stuff,” but that’s a relative term. We have also moved our children in and out of college living spaces, helped our daughter and son-in-law with a couple of moves, moved our parents two or three times each, and my husband’s grandmother twice. We have even moved from one cabin at the lake to another.

So, being both professional relocaters as well as do-it-yourselfers, you can imagine how we decided to get a couple of small boats from our home to our cabin at the lake. Both boats were acquired for a minimal price, and both were brought to our house by friends. We used their methods – shown below – and moved the boats in the back of a truck.

Now it just remains to be seen how we will get the boats down to the water…


granddaddy’s world

When I was born, the only child of older parents, my family lived in an upstairs apartment over the house where my father’s parents lived. Both of my parents worked, so I spent a considerable amount of time with Granddaddy and Nana. I was their only grandchild, so you can imagine how they doted on me.

My grandfather spent many years working for the railroad. He was retired when I was born, as was my grandmother, who had been a church secretary for many years.  I can remember eating many meals on their white enamel table in the kitchen. The one food I distinctly remember was the rectangular glass dish of pickled beets that they always kept in the refrigerator.

Granddaddy was well known as a carpenter. Numerous church nurseries and several homes in our part of town had a children’s kitchen play set crafted by my grandfather. (Similar stoves and refrigerators sell for a LOT of money through Pottery Barn these days.) He routed out concentric circles for the eyes on the stove, and used real faucets – but no running water – for the sinks. We had a life-sized Santa and a three dimensional sleigh that he made for our front porch decoration during the holidays. He would enter his work in the state fair and always won blue ribbons. Every year he had a booth at the fair to sell his work, and he did very well with that.

Their home had a detached garage in the backyard, and behind that was my grandfather’s workshop. You had to step up one stair to enter, so the ceiling seemed a little lower than the one in the garage, even though there were open rafters above. It was small and dark with single bulb lights hanging by wires in strategic spots. The walls were lined with shelves that held unfinished projects, pieces of wood, supplies, baby food jars of nails and screws, and small tools. There was a table saw, a jigsaw, a workbench, and other well-used tools.

The workshop was always filled with sawdust. That smell remains with me and always reminds me of Granddaddy. Sawdust smells like wood, of course, and heat, and hands, and sweat. If it is fresh it fills the air, and your nostrils, with its dust, and if it has been there a while, it smells like something settled and content.

My grandfather was a hardworking man all of his life. When my grandmother developed what was then called “hardening of the arteries,” similar to Alzheimer’s, he cared for her in their home even when she couldn’t walk, talk, or swallow solid food. In his younger years he had been known to have a quick temper, but the years of caregiving mellowed that. After my grandmother died he moved into a garage apartment at our home (we had moved away a few years earlier). He continued to be industrious, and he was always working on something in the yard and around the house.

Granddaddy was born 124 years ago, into a world that would be almost unrecognizable today. He tried to change with the times all through his life, just as we do today. Even though he was always old to me, I appreciate the traditions he represented and the things he taught me to love.

that explains it

We were gone this past weekend and we came home to an astonishing sight.

We have a number of Stella D’Oro lilies in our yard. Their foliage is always a welcome sign of spring. I always know that when the buds appear, it is time for school to be out. But everything has been early this spring since it has been so warm. Still…

I was amazed when we drove in and saw, at the end of our driveway, that the buds on the lilies there had appeared and were almost ready to open. Honestly, there was no sign of them when we left two days earlier. (OK, I guess I didn’t look down into the foliage, but the stems had definitely not shot up like this!) I jumped out of the car and walked around to check the others. Yes, all had signs of forthcoming blossoms.

It seemed magical to me, that they could spring forth so quickly. Perhaps they do this every year and I am too wrapped up in year-end activities to notice. (Plus this makes me want it to be the end of the year NOW even more so than before.)

But I have a better explanation. I think the flower bud fairies came to our yard while we were away. I can see them as they lightly touched each mound of lily grass and brought forth the buds in an instant, just like that! (poof!) Did they have a magic wand? Of course. And in my mind I can see them, gleaming and glistening,  as their wings are shimmering with delicate movement. Almost unnoticeable. Only for a moment, and then they are gone. No wonder I missed them before.

Makes sense, don’t you think?

getting better

After I read perfect poetry in Guyku by Bob Raczka I was troubled by this piece I had written:


    After Spring Break

back to the routine

choosing necessary things

searching for surprise


Haiku is easy – right?  Maybe the syllable count is simple, but finding the passion can be tricky…

This one is just not right, especially the last line. So I have pondered, and thought, and imagined, and wondered, and mulled it over, and deliberated, and contemplated and sighed. The right words just won’t come.

What I wanted to say was that there was joy in the days I had some freedom to choose my activities during Spring Break. I didn’t take a trip, and yet I was never idle. And I could look back on each day and see how different it was from the others. I could find the joy in that day and be thankful for its uniqueness. And I guess I just wasn’t ready for that to end.

Here’s my new attempt:

After Spring Break

Back to the routine.

No more serendipity –

Expectations rule.


Better? I think so. Heartfelt? Oh, yes.

So now I can move on to other things.


A gift! A treasure! Perfection!

That’s what I found last week.

Well, actually my friend found it and left it on the table for me to find. And I did. And it is FABULOUS!! I’m talking about the book, Guyku, by Bob Raczka, illustrated by Peter Reynolds.

This little book is a collection of Haiku poetry written specifically for guys. As the author explains, the form is short (like a guy’s attention span for poetry), the poems are about nature (something guys love) and each poem is about something guys love to do. Here’s one of my favorites:

     In a rushing stream,

We turn rocks into a dam.

       Hours flow by us.

Hours flow by us” – I can feel it, can’t you?

The poems are divided into seasons, detailing guy activities for each one. Each poem is magical, using the most exact words. The illustrations by Peter Reynolds (The Dot, Ish, The North Star, etc.) make each perfect poem even more special. Here’s another one I love:

       With the ember end

of my long marshmallow stick,

       I draw on the dark.


You can see a preview of this book and get some other info at this website: